Industrial Workers in the New Economy

Immigrants, women, and children significantly
expanded the labor force
Machines increasingly replaced skilled artisans
Large bureaucratic corporations dominated
the American economy
Corporations developed national and even
international markets for their goods
For workers, industrialism was a double-edged
› Standard of living was up but at the expense of
deteriorating conditions in the workplace
U.S. population triples in the
late 19th c.
› 1850  23.2 million
› 1900  76.2 million
› Growth fueled by immigration
Push Factors: poverty,
overcrowding, joblessness,
religious persecution
Pull Factors: economic opportunity, reputation for
political & religious freedom, cheap transportation
› Labor Contract Law  allowed businesses to pay in
advance for the passage of workers
› Willing to work for low wages
› Tension between foreign workers and American labor grew
Old Immigrants
New Immigrants
Came before the Civil War (pre-1860)
From Northern & Western Europe (Britain,
Ireland, Germany)
High level of literacy & occupational skill
Perceived to have blended more easily
Came after the Civil War (post-1865)
From Southern & Eastern Europe (Italy, Russia,
Not Protestant  Jewish, Catholic, etc.
Poor and illiterate
Unaccustomed to Democratic traditions
Settled in poor ethnic neighborhoods in
Northern cities
25% = birds of passage
Work was routine &
 10-hour days, 6 days a
 Increasing use of women
& children
› Scientific management
lowered need for skills;
also transferred control
form workers to managers
› Textile industry = largest
employer of women
Many families could not survive
without additional income from
women & children
These groups considered vulnerable
to exploitation and injury
Their labor was increasingly viewed
as a social problem
38 states passed childlabor laws but most
were ineffective and/or
poorly enforced
The workers response to
these problems mirrored their
employers’ tactics – they
attempted to form
combinations in a search for
“Tools” of
“Tools” of
 “scabs”
 boycotts
 P. R. campaign
 sympathy
 Pinkertons
 lockouts
 blacklisting
 yellow-dog contracts
 informational
 closed shops
 court injunctions
 organized
 open shop
 “wildcat” strikes
Strong-arm tactics used by
Public view of unions as unAmerican and in league with
Government support of
Only represented small % of
national labor force
Divisions among labor itself
on goals and tactics
Ethnic tension& mobility of
the workforce made
unionization difficult
A striker confronts as scab
First attempt at a national labor union
› Tried to organize ALL workers in ALL states
› Skilled, unskilled, agricultural, industrial
› 1868  640,000 members]
Fought for better wages & an 8-hour workday
› Won 8-hr day for government employees
Had a broad social program
› Equal rights for women & blacks
› Monetary reform
› Worker cooperatives
Lost support after the Panic of 1873 &
unsuccessful strikes in 1877
James McParland
Pinkerton agent who
infiltrated the Molly
Radical and violent
Their terror tactics turned
public opinion against
the union
Blamed for murder,
brutal assaults, arson,
and sabotage in the
coal mines of
RRs companies announced a 10% wage cut
› Strikers stopped rail service, destroyed equipment, and rioted
in several cities
President Hayes used federal troops to restore order
as a
Terence V. Powderly
Moderate union
› Under Powderly’s leadership, membership peaked at
730,000 in 1886
Grew rapidly because of their openmembership policy, continuing industrialization,
and growth of urban population
› Welcomed ALL workers; women immigrants, and
African Americans
Broad social program
› Believed they could eliminate conflict between labor
and management.
› Wanted to create a cooperative society in which
laborers, not capitalists owned the industries in which
they worked
Eight-hour workday.
Workers’ cooperatives.
Worker-owned factories.
Abolition of child and prison labor.
Increased circulation of greenbacks.
Equal pay for men and women.
Safety codes in the workplace.
Prohibition of contract foreign labor.
Abolition of the National Bank.
80,000 Knights show up for May
Day Labor Movement in
› Also wanted to lend support to
strikers at the McCormick
Harverter Company
Bomb thrown at policemen
killing 7
Police open fire on the crowd
killing 4 more
Middle-class America horrified
8 anarchists convicted of
murder on the basis that their
statements incited the bomb
Anarchism became the new threat to social
order and private property
› Was linked to the labor movement in America’s mind
Spelled the demise for the Knights of Labor
unions 
socialists 
anarchists =
immigrants !!
Alliance of skilled
workers in craft unions
Concentrated on
bread-and-butter issues
› Higher wages
› Shorter hours
› Better working conditions
Samuel Gompers,
By 1901, largest union in
the U.S.
Nicknames Wobblies
Strove to unite ALL workers
Embraced the rhetoric of
class warfare and endorsed
violent tactics
› “An injury to one is an injury to
Never had more than 150,000
› Collapsed during WWI
Henry Clay Frick
Union at Andrew Carnegie’s steel
plant went on strike after wages
were cut
Plant manager & Carnegie saw this
as a chance to break the union
Frick locked out the workers and
hired Pinkertons to protect the
After battling workers, Pinkertons surrendered
and ejected from the town
Company asked the National Guard to step in
and protect its property & strikebreakers
Union was successfully broken
Panic of 1893, led
Pullman Company to
cut wages while
maintaining rents and
prices in the company
town at the same level
› 12,000 workers lived in
this town
Workers went on strike
Eugene V. Debs, leader of the American
Railway Union, has his union join the strike
Substantial portion of American RR commerce
shut down
Court issues injunction against
prevented transportation of
› Debs & other union leaders
Cleveland orders federal
troops in
› “If it takes the entire army
and navy to deliver a postal
card in Chicago, that card
will be delivered!”
Strike crushed
“Solidarity Forever!”
by Ralph Chapin (1915)
When the union's inspiration
through the workers‘ blood shall run,
There can be no power greater
anywhere beneath the sun;
Yet what force on earth is weaker
than the feeble strength of one,
But the union makes us strong!
Solidarity forever,
Solidarity forever,
Solidarity forever,
For the union
makes us strong!
Come On and
Sing Along!!
“Solidarity Forever!”
Is there aught we hold in common
with the greedy parasite,
Who would lash us into serfdom
and would crush us with his might?
Is there anything left to us
but to organize and fight?
For the union makes us strong!
Solidarity forever,
Solidarity forever,
Solidarity forever,
For the union
makes us strong!
“Solidarity Forever!”
* * * *
Through our sisters and our brothers
we can make our union strong,
For respect and equal value,
we have done without too long.
We no longer have to tolerate
injustices and wrongs,
Yes, the union makes us strong!
Solidarity forever,
Solidarity forever,
Solidarity forever,
For the union
makes us strong!