The Impact Of Disruption Of Labor In The 19th Century

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Early in American history, refusing to work and trying to prevent others from working in an attempt to improve working conditions was considered a criminal offense, and could be tried as a criminal conspiracy. Disruption of labor was seen as harmful to society, and philosophies such as social Darwinism and laissez faire economics discouraged government action. This political atmosphere slowly began to change over the course of the 19th century due to changes in the American workforce. An influx of immigrants and working women changed the makeup of laborers, and early trade unions focused more on skilled workers than industrial ones. In the 1830s, juries found that combining efforts to raise wages was legal, ten-hour days became the norm,…show more content…
As industrialization and banking began to truly take off, wealth was increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few wealthy individuals. When over half of Americans owned no property and had an annual income of $500, below the cost of living for a family of four, Andrew Carnegie alone earned $23 million (u-s-history.com). The surplus of child, woman, and immigrant laborers created competition for work in large new factories, hampering union efforts. Dehumanization and wages as low as 10 cents for a 10-hour day led to revolts (u-s-history.com). In 1905, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) was formed in part by the activist Mother Jones and became a popular industrial union. As the influence of the laissez faire philosophy declined, legislation began being passed to address these issues. The Clayton Antitrust Act of 1914 included a section declaring that unions could not be considered unlawful and that strikes, boycotting, and picketing were not violations of the law (u-s-history.com). Labor, which had typically been viewed as a left-wing issue associated with the Socialist, Populist, and other progressive parties, began to take a more nonpartisan approach. By the 1920s, moderate Republicans were gaining traction and trade unions waned in power

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