New York Times May 4, 1896 “It is true that wealth has been greatly increased… but these gains are not general In them the lowest class do not share …. This association of poverty with progress is the great enigma of our times.” — American economist Henry George, Progress and Poverty Labor Reform Imperative to Progress — Ida Tarbell We are living in the grandest of times. There is nothing that Americans cannot do! We have seen so many great advancements in these past few decades. A mere two decades separate us from the Dark Ages, that is, the time before Thomas Edison’s invention of the light bulb. We know the American Dream is real, for we see it unfolding right before our very eyes. Men like John Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie are the real-life epitome of Horatio Alger’s ever popular dime novels. While the time we are living in seems to be gilded in golden dreams, there is a harsh reality that must be acknowledged. Today marks the tenth anniversary of the infamous Haymarket Riot, where on May 1, 1886, 40,000 Chicago workers joined together to strike against the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company, demanding an 8-hour work day. On May 3, a confrontation between police and strikers left 2 dead. May 4, the strikers called a meeting in the Haymarket Square. Peaceful and small, the rally was about to dissolve when 200 police arrived. A bomb exploded among the police officers, who responded with gunfire. When the smoke cleared, sixty officers were wounded, seven were dead, as well as one civilian. History books will call 1886 the Great Upheaval. In the past two decades, labor has increased by over 400%. Working conditions are atrocious. Children are working in sweatshops, often for twelve hours a day for next to nothing. In 1881 alone, over 30,000 men were killed or injured on the job. The economic depression that occurred in the early 1880s forced massive wage cuts for laborers. Company Towns do nothing more than force workers to pay exorbitant prices on the bare necessities, often times on company credit, sinking workers even deeper into debt. The dance labor unions are playing now seems to be one step forward, two steps back. To improve working conditions, unions have tried striking, collective bargaining, and arbitration. To which the owners must contend with blacklists, lockouts, scabs and injunctions. Often times, when the workers would strike, the intended effects and actual effects bore little resemblance to each other. In 1877, when railroad workers went on strike in reaction to a pay cut, President Hayes ordered federal troops into the area to protect the railroad. As far as labor unions go, Terence Powderly’s Knights of Labor seemed to be a shining beacon for the country. Any laborer was accepted into their ranks. But too many of their protests turned violent and the union that had over 700,000 members in 1886 began to fall apart. In the wake of the Great Upheaval of 1886, skilled workers broke ranks with the unskilled laborers and joined the American Federation of Labor (AFL) , a new union founded by Samuel Gompers that organized independent craft unions into a group that worked to advance the interests of the skilled workers. Today, we see the American Dream. We envy those who seem to feast on it in opulent banquet halls. We pity those for whom the American Dream is but a whisper that is drowned out by sound of the factories. Together, we must work for a brighter future for all.