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The Gilded Age. The Organization of Labor. Essential Question : How did workers & the U.S. government respond to the rapid changes of industrialization during the Gilded Age?. Changes of the Gilded Age. During the Gilded Age (1870-1900), the U.S. industrialized rapidly:

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The Gilded Age

The Organization of Labor


Essential Question:How did workers & the U.S. government respond to the rapid changes of industrialization during the Gilded Age?

changes of the gilded age
Changes of the Gilded Age
  • During the Gilded Age (1870-1900), the U.S. industrialized rapidly:
    • New technology led to a boom in railroads, oil, steel, electricity
    • Trusts, corporate mergers, & new business leaders led to monopolies
    • Mass immigration from Southern & Eastern Europe increased the size of American cities
  • But, problems during the Gilded Age led to demands for change
group activity gilded age theme analysis
Group Activity:Gilded Age Theme Analysis
  • Students will examine a series of three primary sources from the Gilded Age:
    • For each image, provide a one sentence summary of the image
    • Once all three images are revealed, determine how the images are related—What’s the theme?
theme 1 labor unions
Theme #1: Labor Unions
  • Industrial work was hard:
    • 12 hour days, 6 days per week
    • Received low wages; No sick leave or injury compensation
    • Industrial work was unskilled, dangerous, & monotonous
  • These bad conditions led to the growth of labor unions -- groups that demanded better pay & conditions through collective bargaining
theme 1 labor unions1
Theme #1: Labor Unions

Two Labor Union (types)

1) Trade Unions (skilled)

  • Limited to people with similar skills


  • 2) Common Laborers
  • (unskilled)
    • workers w/ little to no skills (paid less)
theme 1 labor unions2
Theme #1: Labor Unions

Industrial Unions

The unification of all trade unions and common laborers.

Opposed by business interests.

knights of labor
Knights of Labor
  • first major union founded in 1869
  • demanded sweeping reforms:
    • Equal pay for women
    • An end to child labor
    • 8 hour work day
  • claimed a substantial membership
    • Women
    • African Americans
    • immigrants

American Federation of Labor (AFL)

  • Samuel Gompers, creates union catered exclusively to skilled laborers and focused on smaller, more practical issues:
    • Increasing wages
    • Reducing hours
    • Imposing safety measures.
    • Pushed for closed shops
      • Company could only hire union workers
theme 1 labor unions3
Theme #1: Labor Unions
  • Some people turned to socialism: government control of business and property, equal distribution of wealth
    • Industrial Workers of the World (IWW, called the “Wobblies”) formed in 1905
    • Socialism seemed appealing to some Americans, but never became a major option for workers
  • By 1900, only 4% of all workers were unionized
theme 2 strikes labor unrest
Theme #2: Strikes & Labor Unrest
  • One of the tactics used by unions to gain better pay was to strike:
    • Strikes were designed to stop production in order to gain pay
theme 2 strikes labor unrest1
Theme #2: Strikes & Labor Unrest

Business Opposition

  • Blacklists
    • union organizers

put on do not hire


  • Lockouts
    • when union formed,

business locks out


  • Strikebreakers


    • replacement workers
the corporate bully boys pinkerton agents
The Corporate “Bully-Boys”: PinkertonAgents
  • Some business firms hired private police companies to deal w/ strikers
  • In some cases, violence broke out
theme 2 strikes labor unrest2
Theme #2: Strikes & Labor Unrest

During the Chicago Haymarket Strike (1886), unionists demanded an 8-hr day; When violence broke out, public opinion turned against unions, viewing them as violent & “un-American”

theme 2 strikes labor unrest3
Theme #2: Strikes & Labor Unrest

Violence erupted during the Homestead Strike (1892) at one of Carnegie’s steel plants; Federal troops were called to re-open the place with replacement workers

Steelworkers did not form a new union for 40 years

theme 2 strikes labor unrest4
Theme #2: Strikes & Labor Unrest

In 1894, Eugene Debs led railroad workers on a national strike when the Pullman Palace Car Company cut wages by 50%

President Cleveland sent the army to end the strike; Strikers in 27 states resisted U.S. troops & dozens died


Management vs. Labor

“Tools” of Management

“Tools” of Labor

  • “scabs”
  • P. R. campaign
  • Pinkertons
  • lockout
  • Blacklisting
  • open shop
  • boycotts
  • sympathy demonstrations
  • informational picketing
  • closed shops
  • organized strikes
  • “wildcat” strikes
after viewing the photos of child labor why do you think this image is called galley labor
After viewing the photos of child labor, why do you think this image is called “Galley Labor?”
organized labor loses strength
Organized Labor Loses Strength
  • The Supreme Court later upheld the use of injunctions against labor unions, giving businesses a powerful new weapon to suppress strikes.
organized labor loses strength1
Organized Labor Loses Strength
  • Lochner v. New York (1905)

Supreme Court ruled 60-hour work week limit unconstitutional

  • Freedom of Contract
  • Organized labor began to fade in strength, and did not resurge until the 1930s