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The Growth of the American Labor Movement

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The Growth of the American Labor Movement. Labor Force Distribution 1870-1900. The Changing American Labor Force. Child Labor. Child Labor. “Galley Labor”. Conditions. Long hours Less than $1.00 per week Difficult, dangerous and unhealthy work Heavy machinery

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The Growth

of the


Labor Movement

  • Long hours
  • Less than $1.00 per week
  • Difficult, dangerous and unhealthy work
    • Heavy machinery
    • Could lose finger, arm or be scalped by machinery
    • Dusty, cold/hot respiratory conditions
  • Corporal punishment
labor video
Labor Video
  • Video start at 7:21
political and social opposition
Political and Social Opposition
  • Workers who wanted to organize a union faced several major problems.
  • There were no laws giving workers the right to organize or requiring owners to negotiate.
  • Courts often ruled that strikes were conspiracies to stop trade and organizers could be fined or jailed.
  • Unions also suffered from the perception that they threatened American institutions.
  • In the late 1800’s the ideas Karl Marx, called Marxism, had become very influential in Europe.
  • Marx primary argument was that the basic force shaping capitalist society was the class struggle between workers and owners.
  • He believed that workers would eventually revolt, seize control of the factories, and overthrow the government.
  • Marx claimed that after the revolution, the government would seize all private property and create a socialist society where wealth was evenly divided.
  • Marx believed eventually the government would fade away leaving a Communist society where classes did not exist.
marxist and anarchist
Marxist and Anarchist
  • Many labor supporters agreed with Marx, however others supported Anarchism.
  • Anarchists believe society does not need government. Some at the time believed that a few acts of violence could ignite a revolution to topple the government.
  • In the late 1800’s, anarchists assassinated government officials and set off bombs all across Europe hoping to trigger a revolution.
  • The tens of thousands of European immigrants brought these ideas with them to the United States.

Nativism or anti-immigrant feelings-was already strong in the United States.

  • People began to associate immigrant workers with revolution and anarchism, they became increasingly suspicious of unions.
  • These fears and the governments duty to maintain law and order led officials use courts, police and the army to break up strikes and unions.

Management vs. Labor

“Tools” of Management

“Tools” of Labor

  • “scabs”
  • P. R. campaign
  • Pinkertons
  • lockout
  • blacklisting
  • yellow-dog contracts
  • court injunctions
  • open shop
  • boycotts
  • sympathy demonstrations
  • informational picketing
  • closed shops
  • organized strikes
  • “wildcat” strikes

Knights of Labor

Terence V. Powderly

An injury to one is the concern of all!


Knights of Labor

Knights of Labor trade card


Goals of the Knights of Labor

  • Eight-hour workday.
  • Workers’ cooperatives.
  • Worker-owned factories.
  • Abolition of child and prison labor.
  • Increased circulation of greenbacks.
  • Equal pay for men and women.
  • Safety codes in the workplace.
  • Prohibition of contract foreign labor.
  • Abolition of the National Bank.

Haymarket Riot (1886)

McCormick Harvesting Machine Co.


How the AF of L Would Help the Workers

  • Catered to the skilled worker.
  • Represented workers in matters of national legislation.
  • Maintained a national strike fund.
  • Evangelized the cause of unionism.
  • Prevented disputes among the many craft unions.
  • Mediated disputes between management and labor.
  • Pushed for closed shops.

Homestead Steel Strike (1892)

Homestead Steel Works

The Amalgamated Association of Iron & Steel Workers


Attempted Assassination!

Henry Clay Frick

Alexander Berkman


Pullman Cars

A Pullman porter


President Grover Cleveland

If it takes the entire army and navy to deliver a postal card in Chicago, that card will be delivered!


The Pullman Strike of 1894

Government by injunction!


The Socialists

Eugene V. Debs


“Big Bill” Haywood of theIWW

  • Violence was justified to overthrow capitalism.

Mother Jones: “The Miner’s Angel”

  • Mary Harris.
  • Organizer for theUnited MineWorkers.
  • Founded the SocialDemocratic Party in 1898.
  • One of the founding members of the I. W. W. in 1905.

The “Bread & Roses” Strike


  • 15¢/hr. wage increase.
  • Double pay for overtime.
  • No discrimination against strikers.
  • An end to “speed-up” on the assembly line.
  • An end to discrimination againstforeign immigrant workers.

The “Formula”

unions + violence + strikes + socialists + immigrants = anarchists


“Solidarity Forever!”by Ralph Chapin (1915)

When the union's inspiration through the workers‘ blood shall run,There can be no power greater anywhere beneath the sun;Yet what force on earth is weaker than the feeble strength of one,But the union makes us strong!

CHORUS:Solidarity forever,Solidarity forever,Solidarity forever,For the union makes us strong!


“Solidarity Forever!”

Is there aught we hold in common with the greedy parasite,Who would lash us into serfdom and would crush us with his might?Is there anything left to us but to organize and fight?For the union makes us strong!

CHORUS:Solidarity forever,Solidarity forever,Solidarity forever,For the union makes us strong!


“Solidarity Forever!”

* * * *Through our sisters and our brothers we can make our union strong,For respect and equal value, we have done without too long.We no longer have to tolerate injustices and wrongs,Yes, the union makes us strong!

CHORUS:Solidarity forever,Solidarity forever,Solidarity forever,For the union makes us strong!