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The Age of Industrial Conflict Week 5 and 6
THE 1877 RAILROAD STRIKE • A contemporary artist’s rendering of the clash in Baltimore between workers and the Maryland Sixth Regiment during the Great Railroad Strike of 1877.
Significance of 1877 Strike The Great Railroad Strike of 1877 was the first major strike in an industry that propelled America’s industrial revolution. • It was the first national strike, stretching from Atlantic to Pacific. • In some cities, especially St. Louis, the struggle became one of the nation’s first general strikes.
Class Conflict in America • This was the first major strike broken by the U.S. military. • Probably in no other strike had so many working people met a violent death at the hands of the authorities.
The Strike Begins • The Pennsylvania Railroad had already slashed wages by 10 percent when it cut wages by another 10 percent in June 1877. • Meanwhile, on July 13, the Baltimore & Ohio cut the wages of all workers making more than a dollar a day, also by 10 percent. • On July 16 firemen and brakemen refused to work.
The Strike Spreads • The word quickly spread to Martinsburg, W. Va., where workers abandoned their trains and prevented others from operating them. • The railroad company appealed to the governor, who called out the militia. • Militiamen and workers exchanged gunfire.
Strike Becomes a National Issue • The Strike spreads to Pittsburgh, Chicago, and St. Louis • It eventually becomes a national Railroad Strike and comes to the attention of the federal government.
Federal Troops • The Great Railroad Strike of 1877 began on July 14 and ended some 45 days later after it was put down by local and state militias, as well as by federal troops. • President Hayes sent in federal troops to stop the strike.
Some 100,000 workers had gone on strike, and countless unemployed workers in numerous cities had joined the strikers in protests against intolerable conditions More than half the freight on the nation’s 75,000 miles of track stopped moving. More than 100 had died and 1,000 had been jailed,
Lessons Learned • Even as they agreed to some worker demands, bosses were determined to never again allow workers the upper hand. • "The railroads made some concessions, rescinded some wage cuts, but also strengthened their ‘Coal and Iron Police.’" writes one historian. "In several large cities, National Guard armories were constructed, with loopholes for guns."
Lessons Learned • Working people learned that without strong unions and nationwide organization they could not defeat the alliance of capital and government. • Knights of Labor
James Green, Univ. of Massachusetts • Ph.D., History, Yale University • Professor, History and Labor Studies • Professor Green has been teaching undergraduate courses in history and labor studies since he joined the faculty in 1977. • He created the Labor Studies Program in 1981 and served as the first director of the Labor Resource Center in 1995.
Death in the Haymarket • As Green thoroughly documents, the bloody Haymarket riot of May 4, 1886, changed the history of American labor and created a panic among Americans about (often foreign-born) "radicals and reformers" and union activists. • The Haymarket demonstration, to protest police brutality during labor unrest in Chicago, remained peaceful until police moved in, whereupon a bomb was thrown by an individual never positively identified, killing seven policemen and wounding 60 others.
Haymarket 1886 • The Haymarket affair on May 4, 1886 in Chicago began as a rally which became violent and was followed by internationally publicized legal proceedings. • An unknown person threw a bomb at police as they marched to disperse a public meeting in support of striking workers. • The bomb blast and ensuing gunfire resulted in the deaths of seven police officers and an unknown number of civilians.
Punishment • Eight anarchists were tried for murder. • Four were put to death and one committed suicide in prison.
May Day 1886 • The Haymarket affair is generally considered to have been an important influence on the origin of international May Day observances for workers
Police Monument • Workers finish installing sculptor Johannes Gelert's statue of a Chicago policeman in Haymarket Square, 1889.
The Monument • The site of the incident was designated as a Chicago Landmark on March 25, 1992. • The Haymarket Martyrs' Monument in nearby Forest Park was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and as a National Historic Landmark on February 18, 1997.
Haymarket: 100 Years Later • Utah Phillips speaking at Waldheim Cemetery, Forest Park (outside Chicago) in May 1986 during ceremonies commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Haymarket affair.
Anarchism • In popular literature, this event inspired the caricature of "a bomb-throwing anarchist."
Anarchist: Alexander Berkman Berkman Tries To Kill Henry Clay Frick in Homestead Steel Strike
Anarchist: Leon Czolgosz Inspired by Emma Goldman, the young anarchist shot and killed President William McKinley in Buffalo, NY in 1901.