Labor in the

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					Labor in the 1890s
  Widening gulf between rich and
               poor

1890 – richest 9% held 75% of the nation’s
  wealth
Average working family made only a few
  hundred dollars/year
Necessary for most members of working
  class families to work in order to survive
Wealthy lived very well and ostentatiously
              Socialism
A political and economic theory of
collective government ownership of
factories and property
Goal – a fair distribution of wealth and
equality
Never a strong movement in U.S.
             Karl Marx
Criticized the capitalist economic system
and predicted its eventual overthrow by
the workers
American Reaction to Socialism
 Contrary to American ideals of free
 enterprise and private property
 Most Americans did not support
 However – growing discontent existed
 among the working class
 Union movement was an alternative
           Early Unions
Organized by trade
Helped members in hard times
Became a voice for demands for shorter
workdays, higher wages, and better
conditions
         Knights of Labor
Early – national union
Willing to organize virtually all working
men and women – farmers, factory
workers, white collar workers – included
African Americans
President – Terence Powderly
Goals: Equal pay for equal work – 8 hour
day – an end to child labor
American Federation of Labor
Samuel Gompers – President
Ignored politics – concentrated on strong
organizations of each skill
Organization – Loose confederation of
craft unions – organization of each skill
Philosophy – workers as a group had
more power than working individually
           Goals of AFL
Bread and Butter Issues – wages, hours,
and working conditions
Collective bargaining – workers negotiate
as a group with the employer
Closed shop – Wanted a shop that
employed only Federation members
   Friction between Labor and
           Management
Measures taken to stop unions – forbid
union meetings and fire union organizers
“Yellow Dog” Contracts – promise not to
join the union or to participate in a strike –
new workers were forced to sign these
Great Railroad Strike of 1877
Baltimore and Ohio RR
Cause: RR cut wages 10% and ran
“double headers” (long trains with 2
engines) as a means to cut workers
Reaction to wage cuts spread through
Pennsylvania to Ohio and the Midwest
Riot in Pittsburgh – state militia called in –
10 people killed – strikers fought back and
set fire to railroad cars and buildings
   Results of the RR Strike
President Hayes sent federal troops to put
down the strike
Precedent set: From 1877 on -
employers relied on state and federal
troops to repress labor unrest
         Haymarket 1886
Company: McCormick Reaper in Chicago
Cause: Workers wanted an 8 hour day –
called for a strike. Strikebreakers (scabs)
were brought in and there was a fight.
The police broke up the fight and several
people were injured. A protest rally was
called by anarchists.
Rally at Haymarket
      Rally at Haymarket
A bomb was thrown
7 policemen were killed and many
wounded
Police opened fire on the crowd
There were dozens of deaths
Results of Haymarket
             8 anarchists
             convicted of
             conspiracy
             Bomb thrower never
             found
             4 anarchists hung
             1 committed suicide
             3 pardoned by
             Governor Altgeld
   Homestead Strike - 1892
Company: Carnegie Steel – Homestead,
PA
Cause: The Union of Steel and Iron
Workers had negotiated a labor contract
with Carnegie Steel
Carnegie went to Europe
Carnegie’s partner – Frick – cut wages
The union went on strike
        What Happened?
Frick called in the Pinkertons (police force
to break strikes)
The strikers fired on the Pinkertons
An anarchist – Alexander Berkman – tried
to assassinate Frick
The governor called in state troops to end
the violence
The union acknowledged defeat
The Battle at Homestead
     Pullman Strike - 1894
Company – Pullman Sleeping Cars of
Chicago
Pullman built a company town – owned all
of the houses and shops
Depression – Pullman cut wages and did
not reduce rents
A team of workers went to Pullman to
protest and he fired them
The workers went out on strike
           Pullman Strike
Pullman refused to negotiate and shut
down the plant
The American Railway Union refused to
handle any trains that hauled the Pullman
Car
This became a national rail strike which
disrupted the western rail traffic including
the mail
           More Pullman
Attorney General Richard Olney argued
that the mail had to go through and the
union was in violation of the Sherman
Antitrust Act
Olney got a court order to end the strike
Union president – Eugene Debs refused
the order and went to jail
President sent in U.S. troops and 12
strikers were killed
            Precedents
From 1877 on – employers relied on state
and federal troops to repress labor unrest
People associated unions with the rising
tide of labor violence
Factory owners could get court orders
against unions as combinations in restraint
of trade and deny unions recognition as
legally protected organizations

				
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