Labor Union - AmericanLipp210

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.