From 1875 to 1900, there was a new kind of city in America, one that was based on industry, and industry needs workers. The factories needed hundreds of workers to run machinery and other processes in manufacturing, but these workers were not treated properly and they wanted to do something to improve the way that they were treated. The organized labor, although it showed some minor successes, was overall very unsuccessful in improving the position of workers from 1875-1900, because the actions of the unions were mostly unsuccessful, and the results of the strikes were very unsuccessful.
The demographics of unions from 1875 to 1900 were mostly unsuccessful in improving the position of workers because they caused people to see them as a group of radicals, such as Anarchists or Socialists. One example of a group that was seen as Socialist were the Knights of Labor who worked to gain rights for the workers through legislation, and also believed in Arbitration. As seen in Document F, the Knights of Labor was one of the spoons that contributed to mixing the “Labor Interest Broth.” The Knights of Labor was considered one of the groups that led to the failure of unions because there were too many unions with too many different views and they were unable to get anything accomplished. Another group that was considered unsuccessful was the IWW. The IWW was a union chalked full of Wobblies, immigrants, blacks, and what people considered “radicals.” Document C shows that the public was accusing the unions of sucombing to communism saying that they barred a “red flag” against the United States. The IWW was full of workers who were chasing after the idea of communism, thinking that it would give them the rights that they wanted, but Document C shows that cutting open the duck to get the “golden eggs” wouldn’t show you any profit, it has to stay alive for it to lay more eggs, just like the government would have to continue the way it is for the people to gain any of the working rights that they wanted. However, some of these unions showed successes, such as the AFL, which ended up being the only union left at this time, because they achieved a functioning Craft union and Samuel Gompers was allowed to speak to the House of Representatives which had actually formed a committee to deal with the problems with the working conditions, as seen in Document I. However, this testimony by Samuel Gompers was not until 1899, which was at the very end of the push for improving the position of workers and did not have much success. Overall, the unions from 1875 to 1900 who were working to improve the position of workers were mostly unsuccessful.
Additionally, the strikes that occurred from 1875 to 1900, such as the Great Railroad Strike and the Homestead strike, were overall very unsuccessful due to the fact that these groups lost support because of the violence and job loss that came from their failures. There were also other strikes that occurred at this time such as the Pullman Palace Car Co. strike, where the Pullman workers boycotted and burned railroads cars, however there was an injunction and railroads traffic continued despite their efforts. However, the more infamous strikes, the Great Railroad Strike and the Homestead strike, had much greater consequences. The Homestead strike occurred at the Homestead plant in Pennsylvania when the steel workers were upset about how wages were being set because Carnegie and Frick wouldn’t negotiate. The Homestead Union was upset because Frick said that everyone had to become non-union and then proceeded to initiate lockout, and also brought in the Pinkertons for security. He also tried to bring in barges of scabs with the Pinkertons, but the workers broke into the factory and stopped them from coming in, which ended in a battle. Although the steel workers won this battle it was overall very unsuccessful because the steel union broke apart and all they lost a lot of support from the people because this strike was so violent, and also lost all their jobs.
As seen in Document G, the list of the people who died during this strike showed a lot of workers from the Homestead plant, which again attributes to the fact that the strikes bring violence and death. Secondly, the largest strike to occur in the United States at this time was the Great Railroad Strike. The Great RR strike involved the workers of the B&O railroad who were upset because of wage cuts, extended trains without adding workers, and also cutting the time that they had to finish their railroad. The workers decided to go on strike and refused to let the trains run. There were violent conflicts with the militia and riots all throughout the United States, and President Hayes was prompted to intervene. He used the constitutional concept that the national government had the right to regulate interstate commerce, and the railroads were involved with commerce. The media was also not in favor of this strikes which is possible to see in Document B, as was common for any strike that occurred during this time. In the end, the railroads started running again and the workers did not end up getting the rights that they had been asking for and learned that mob/violence was an ineffective way to work towards their rights. Although the strike resulted in the formation of the ICC and the creation of Labor Day, they were overall very unsuccessful.
In conclusion, unions, which in their part were mostly unsuccessful, and also strikes which were very unsuccessful, the organized labor, was in all very unsuccessful in improving the position of workers from 1875-1900 due to their multiple failures in both categories.
Courtney from Study Moose
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