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Essay On The Great Railroad Strike

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The Great Railroad Strike of 1877, which began on July 16th 1877, was the first national labor strike in the United States. The strike spread along the network of American railroad lines. Unorganized railroad workers, reacting to pay cuts and a loss of control to their company bosses demanded a work stoppage that was meant to halt all railroad traffic. Railway officials attempted to keep the trains running with militia and replacement workers but failed at the outset because of increasing popular support of the striking railroad workers. The Great Railroad Strike of 1877 ended by August 1st with the strikers really no better off. The workers did not gain an immediate pay raise or improved working conditions. They had successfully overthrown the control of the railroad officials but they were unable to sustain the momentum they needed to make the strike effective. Even though the strike had been unsuccessful, the action itself was significant because it highlighted a growing division between capital and labor in American society. The Great Strike had important repercussions; a rise of national labor unions, an escalation in labor conflicts, a rethinking of the role of state and federal governments in labor conflicts and the establishment of labor rights as a continuing political issue. The Panic of 1873 had triggered a severe economic depression and by the summer of 1877 the United States was still stuck in that depression. The Great Railroad Strike of 1877 was a result of the depression. Ten percent wage cuts added to earlier salary reductions led to the labor unrest which began on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad in Martinsburg, West Virginia and rapidly spread to other railroad lines around the country. Few of the strikers were ... ... middle of paper ... ...duced the railroad corporations' power. In 1894, after the Pullman Strike, Congress created a national holiday honoring American workers and named it Labor Day. The Great Railroad Strike of 1877, even though it had been unsuccessful, was significant. It highlighted a growing division between capital and labor in American society. It emphasized the issue of labor rights both socially and politically and functioned as a catalyst for the organization of American labor unions nationally. The Great Strike had several important long term repercussions. The number of national labor unions soared after 1877 and that growth led to an escalation in labor conflicts around the United States. The violence of the Great Strike led to a revised role of state and federal governments in labor conflicts and the establishment of labor rights as an ongoing political issue in America.
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