From 1870 to 1890, the laborers of America came to realize the dangerous conditions and unfair pay they were working for. These conditions developed out of the expansion of industry which required more laborers to work for less pay in order for the employer to achieve the same profit. Employers were in a sense, cheating their workers with long work days and very few benefits. In response, workers began to form large unions, both nonviolent and violent, such as the Knights of Labor and the American Federation of Labor (AFL). Smaller unions were also formed but they were short lived and held no substantial power to improve the working environment of the laborer.
American workers, however, were becoming more and more dependent upon their wages; a fear of unemployment also stemmed from this. Workers didn’t share in the benefits that their employers reaped. In a chart representing the hours and wages of industrial workers, from 1875 to 1891, it shows that even though their wages were subtly increasing, their 10-hour work day remained the same (Doc. A). Factories were headed by large corporations; this, in turn, meant that new machines lessened the amount of workers in certain fields.
Haywood’s unconventional methods and uncompromising stands frequently put him at odds with allies and opponents alike. And the Socialist Party of America led by Eugene Debs had potential to improve the lives of workers everywhere but do to internal conflicts was unable to truly make a difference. Had these three organizations been able to play off one another they may have been able to realize their ultimate goals. The AFL containing the skilled workers was the most powerful, the IWW took what the AFL did not want giving the unskilled worker a voice and the Socialist Party went in to politics, using political offices to gain power for the working class. Ultimately because of the different outlooks of these three groups the American labor movement, though it gained some ground, was a loss.
The Labor Movement generated opposition from both the government and the public since they both saw unions as violent and lawless. The government used force to control the unions showing their disgust for the views and actions of these organizations. Well, organized and growing businesses took the advantage in the struggle with labor, so the workers started labor unions. It is easily argued both ways whether or not unions formed were beneficial to workers. With great evidence though, it is proven that although beneficial in many ways, for the most part unions were very negative towards the progress of our country.
By the year 1886, the Knights of Labor had over 730,000 members ("Knights of Labor"). American mechanist Terence Powderly was elected president of the Knights of Labor. Their goal was to improve working conditions, earn minimum wage, have an eight hour workday, and prohibited child labor. They wanted to be granted equal opportunities. The Knights of Labor participated in the Haymarket Strike.
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 working class remained relatively poor and because of this, everyone in each family needed to bring home some type of income (Foner, Eric 601). Between 1860 and 1910, the population of the United States grew three times its size and along with it, the industrial work force did too. There was a high demand for workers during this time, which caused the amount of American workers and immigrants needed for labor to grow greatly. Between all of this happening, it empowered many of the business owners and bosses which intern caused working conditions to be horrible. It was because of the way that the industry was ran, that many people were unwilling to accept the treatment that they were getting, especially since those businesses were getting such a big profit for the expense of laborers ("F... ... middle of paper ... ...xample, Roosevelt’s Second New Deal, and the Social Security Act.
History from the 1870’s to 1900’s. The first national union founded in Philadelphia in 1869 in the pre-Civil War period was the Knights of Labor, which “intended to include all workers” (Encyclopedia, 1996, p. 630). For a decade, this organization grew at a slow pace due to operating in secrecy until the failure of railroad strikes that increased membership to over 700,000 in 1886 (Robinson, 1985). Their advance and efforts had persuaded legislation to enact the following laws: “abolition of convict-made goods, establishment of bureaus of labor statistics, and prohibition of the importation of European labor under contract” (Encyclopedia, 1996, p. 630). In 1890, the Knights of Labor membership had declined to only 100,000 members and the number of members continu... ... middle of paper ... ...oney on trying to crush organizing plans than they did even a decade ago.
Adding to the surplus in available labor was the boom-bust cycle. The depression of 1873 undermined the position of many worke... ... middle of paper ... ...ctuals to the conditions laborers faced. This would lead to the progressive movement at the start of the twentieth century. The railroad was America's first big business. It pulled people from farm labor and individual proprietors to working for wages for a large corporation.
Farmers, who were once self-employed, were rapidly becoming factory workers. In 1860 half the nation was self-employed, but by 1900 two-thirds were dependent on wages. This trend caused the rapid urbanization of America, which brought out some issues. Wages were rising, so it was good to be working, but with dependent wages the workers we’re susceptible to economic downturns. The workplace also became much less personable as people began to move to factory jobs.