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The Growth of the American Labor Movement

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The Growth of the American Labor Movement. The Changing American Labor Force. Most factories demanded workers be on the job 10-16 hours a day, 6 or 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Wages were not good. 1899: average male made $498 each year ($11,000 today)

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The Growth

of the


Labor Movement


Most factories demanded workers be on the job 10-16 hours a day, 6 or 7 days a week, 365 days a year.


Wages were not good.

  • 1899: average male made $498 each year ($11,000 today)
  • 1899: average female made $267 each year ($6,000 today)

Death and injury on the job were common:

  • In the 1880’s an average of 25,000-35,000 workers killed in RR industry each year
  • In 1882 an average of 675 workers were killed in America each week.

National Labor Union (NLU)

  • Founded in 1866 by William Sylvis
  • Sought to bring together all workers, skilled and unskilled, into one big union
  • Worked for 8 hour day-got it for government workers only.
  • Women not welcome.
  • Blacks not welcome, formed their own NLU.
  • Discouraged strikes and violence as a way to force change. Preferred negotiation.
  • Union dies in the Panic of 1873-no clout in bad economy.

William Sylvis


The Great Railroad Strike of 1877

Why did the workers go on strike?


The Great Railroad Strike of 1877


-Pres. Rutherford B. Hayes sends federal troops to Pennsylvania to break up strike

-sets precedent for use of troops to break strikes

-Government not laissez-faire, but pro-business


Knights of Labor-1869

Terence V. Powderly

An injury to one is the concern of all!


Goals of the Knights of Labor

  • Sought to include all workers, skilled or unskilled, black or white, men and women, into one big union.
  • Eight-hour workday for all.
  • Worker-owned factories.
  • No More child labor.
  • Equal pay for men and women.
  • Safety codes in the workplace.
  • Discouraged strikes as a means to achieve goals, but used them when needed.
  • Preferred negotiation.

Haymarket Riot (1886)

  • Somebody chucks a bomb-8 police killed, 60 wounded. 8 civilians killed, 40 wounded.
  • Knights of Labor blamed—the and their unions dies as a result.

A.F. of L . Views/Goals

  • Only represented skilled workers-no unskilled workers, women, or blacks.
  • Tried to settle disputes between management and labor without strikes. Would only strike as a last resort.
  • Hated socialism. Believed in capitalism—just wanted workers to get more of the profits.
  • Pushed for closed shops.

Homestead Steel Strike (1892)

Homestead Steel Works

The Amalgamated Association of Iron & Steel Workers


Homestead Strike

  • Reason for Strike: Carnegie cut wages by 20%
  • Carnegie locks out workers, tries to bring in scabs
  • Workers surround factory, won’t let scabs in.
  • Carnegie sends in armed men (Pinkertons) to break up strike—violence ensues.
  • Pennsylvania governor sends in 8000 troops. Strike broken, workers replaced by scabs.
  • Steel workers union broken. Doesn’t recover until the 1930’s.

A “Carnegie Shield”


Pullman Cars

A Pullman porter


The Pullman Strike of 1894

  • Cause of Strike:
  • Severe economic depression in 1893 cut into Pullman’s profits
  • To save money, he cut workers wages by 35%.
  • Did not lower rents or food costs. Workers angry and go on strike.

George Pullman

the pullman strike and the american railway union a r u
The Pullman Strike and the American Railway Union (A.R.U.)
  • Largest union of its time.
  • Organize all workers, skilled and unskilled.
  • Went on strike in 1893 in support of the Pullman workers.
  • Stopped all railway traffic, including mail trains.

President Grover Cleveland

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

end of the pullman strike
End of the Pullman Strike
  • Mail stoppage induced Pres. Cleveland to send in Federal troops.
  • Federal Court orders workers to go back to work of face jail time.
  • Union leaders arrested, sent to prison

Significance of Pullman Strike

  • To many workers, the failure of the Pullman Strike was proof of an alliance between big business and government
  • After the Pullman Strike, many workers give up on capitalism—turn toward socialism!
  • Key-for the first time, the middle class has sympathy for the unions.

The Socialists

Eugene V. Debs-former president of the A.R.U.

international workers of the world
International Workers of the World
  • Founded in 1905 by socialists as “one big union”
  • Advocated the overthrow of capitalism
  • System should emphasize people, not profits
  • Cooperation over competition
  • Crushed by government during WWI because of socialist beliefs

I.W.W. Founders: “Big Bill” Haywood

  • Violence was justified to overthrow capitalism.

I.W.W. Founders: Mother Jones, “The Miner’s Angel”

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