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The Growth of the American Labor Movement. The Worker – Immigrants. Farmers Depression, Debt, Crop Prices Irish and German (Pre 1880s ) “Old Immigrants” Potato Famine, Jobs, Instable Govt Eastern/Southern Europeans (Post 1880’s) “New Immigrants”

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The Growth

of the


Labor Movement

The worker immigrants
The Worker – Immigrants

  • Farmers

    • Depression, Debt, Crop Prices

  • Irish and German (Pre 1880s)

    • “Old Immigrants”

    • Potato Famine, Jobs, Instable Govt

  • Eastern/Southern Europeans (Post 1880’s)

    • “New Immigrants”

    • Religious, Racial, Political Persecution

    • Labor Contract Laws

      • Free Passage  Deducted from paycheck

        Why do Industrialists encourage Immigration?

        What is this going to lead to?

The worker the issues
The Worker – The Issues

  • Low Income

    • Avg. $450/yr  “Poor Line” $600/yr

    • Women paid 20% less than men

  • Harsh Conditions

    • 10-12hrs/6 days per week

    • Little to no safety regulations

  • Child Labor

    • 15% of kids between 10-15 yrs work

      • 60% in Agriculture

    • Early Child Labor Laws

      • Only set minimum of 12yrs

      • Usually Ignored

Emerging unionism
Emerging Unionism

  • Little success in early 19th c.

  • Craft Unions

    • Grouped by specific skills

    • Too small and often isolated

  • National Unions

    • Often Trade Unions

    • Begin to grow in late 19th c.

    • Often lacked support due to violence

The Molly Maguires (1875)

  • Secret organization of miners

  • Known for violent tactics against Industrialists and management

  • Exposed by James McParland



The Corporate “Bully-Boys”: Pinkerton Agents

  • Private “security” agency

  • Used as spies within labor groups

  • Often called in as “Strike Breakers”

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

Remember Me!

Uriah Stephens Founder (1869)

Terence V. Powderly Leader (1879-93)

Knights of Labor (1869)

  • Originally a secret organization

  • Considered first “National” L. Union

  • 700,000 member at its peak (1886)

  • Rapidly declines due to violence and disorganization

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 labor”.

    • Supported Chinese Exclusion

The American Federation of Labor: 1886

Remember Me Too!

  • Emerged out of dispute in K of L

  • Organization made up of Craft Unions

  • Focused on Wages, Hours, & Conditions

  • Also sees decline and lack of support due to violence but remained active until 1955

Samuel Gompers

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.

Major labor disputes and violence
Major Labor Disputes and Violence

  • 1877 – Great Railroad Strike

  • 1886 – Haymarket Riot

  • 1892 – Homestead Strike

  • 1894 – Pullman Strike

The Great Railroad Strike (1877)

Legacy: First major national labor conflict

The Great Railroad Strike of 1877

  • Cause: 10% Wage Cuts

  • Strikes stretch from Baltimore to St. Louis

  • Rioting in major cities

  • Destroyed Equipment

  • Rutherford B Hayes forced to call on state and federal troops to suppress troops

  • Result: 100 people dead

The Tournament of Today: A Set-to Between Labor and Monopoly

Haymarket Riot (1886)

Legacy: Negative/violent view on Labor Unions.

Haymarket Riots

  • Cause: K of L and AFL Call for 8 Hour workday

  • Peaceful strike turned violent when police fired on the crowd killing 2 strikers

  • Next Day: Strikers and Anarchists rally to protest killings

  • 7 police officers killed and 67 wounded by dynamite bomb after harassing strikers

  • Several strikers killed in the following days

  • Result: Society demands retribution for killed Officers

  • 8 “anarchists” arrested for murders

    • - 4 executed, 1 suicide, 3 later pardoned

  • Anarchy and labor unions seen as similar – Red Scare?

Homestead Steel Strike (1892)

Homestead Steel Works

Legacy: One of the largest labor disputes ever

The Amalgamated Association of Iron & Steel Workers

Homestead strike
Homestead Strike

  • Cause: Carnegie Steel innovations put large number of skilled steel workers out of jobs

  • Carnegie orders Henry Clay Frick to cut wages in hope of forcing skilled workers to quit.

  • 300 Pinkertons called in to break strike

  • AA strikers refuse to let strike breakers through… Battle ensues

  • Result: After 3 agents and 10 strikers are killed, Pinkertons retreat

  • Soon after, Pennsylvania calls in state militia to end the strike (4 months)

  • AA gradually gives up.

A “CompanyTown”:

Pullman, IL

Pullman Cars

A Pullman porter

The Pullman Strike of 1894

Legacy: Sets precedent of Federal Government involvement in breaking up strikes

Pullman strike
Pullman Strike

  • Cause: 25% wage cuts and high rent

  • Pullman Company gains support of American Railway Union (Led by Eugene Debs)

  • Strike centralized outside of Chicago but stretches across 27 states

  • Result: Debs and several strike leaders arrested after Federal troops are called in

  • Grover Cleveland claimed strike prevented the delivering of mail and was therefore a federal crime

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!

Legacy of 19 th century labor movement
Legacy of 19th Century Labor Movement

  • Positives

    • 8 Hour workday for government workers

    • Abolition of Contract Labor

    • Some child labor laws

    • Some workers compensation

Legacy of 19 th century labor movement1
Legacy of 19th Century Labor Movement

  • Negatives

    • Overall, little effectiveness

      • Many historians claim workers have less rights in 1900 than they did in 1860

    • Labor Unions earn negative/violent name in middle and upper class America

      • Related to Anarchy and Socialism (Communism)

  • Why?

    • Majority of workers not in (not allowed in) major unions

      • Immigrants, African Americans, Children, Women

    • Growing Corporations = Too much $ and power