As industrialization boomed, the gap between the rich and the poor expanded. As the workforce grew and became more diverse, many workers worked long hours in unsafe conditions for very low pay. Many young children also worked in these harsh conditions and there was no compensation for workers injured on the job. 😓
With a surplus of cheap labor, management held most of the power in its struggles with organized labor. Strikers could easily be replaced by bringing in strikebreakers, or scabs – unemployed persons desperate for jobs. They also used the following techniques for defeating unions:
Lockout: closing a factory to break a labor movement before it could get organized.
Blacklists: names of pro-union workers circulated among employers.
Yellow-dog contracts: workers being told, as a condition for employment, that they must sign an agreement not to join a union.
Calling in private guards and state militia to put down strikes.
Obtaining court injunctions (a court order to stop a strike) against strikes.
In an effort to protect their rights, workers created labor unions. The first of these groups was the National Labor Union, which formed in 1866. This group fought for eight-hour workdays, greater equality in the workplace, and the right to organize. 🛠️ Unfortunately, the economic Panic of 1873 led to decreased membership for the National Labor Union.
The Knights of Labor formed in 1869. They too championed for 8-hour work days and the ability to organize, but also aimed for the abolishment of child labor and monopolistic trusts.
Image Courtesy of Wikimedia
The 1886 Haymarket Riot, 💣 in which a Chicago labor protest turned violent, was the downfall of the Knights of Labor. Chicago had a small anarchist population at the time and, to this day, nobody knows who threw the bomb that killed eight people.
What is clear 🔍 from the Haymarket Affair is that labor unions suffered from it. The incident led many to view labor unions as radical, anarchist organizations, which was further fueled by the growing Nativist sentiment of the time.
The American Federation of Laborers, led by Samuel Gompers, focused on narrower goals: better wages and better working conditions. They grew to become the largest labor union by 1901. Even so, their initial success was limited.
These unions would sometimes organize their efforts in strikes. However, more often than not, the federal government supported big business and, in some instances, forcefully ended workers’ efforts.
The most notable example of this is the Great Railroad Strike of 1877, in which federal troops intervened to end the strikes. Years later at the Pullman Strike of 1894, the federal government used a court injunction to bring worker resistance to a halt. In the image below, titled “The Condition of the Laboring Man at Pullman,” the employee is slowly crushed between low wages and high rent.
Image Courtesy of The Gilded age
In the Homestead Strike of 1892, Henry Clay Frick (manager of Carnegie’s Homestead Steel mill) incited resistance by reducing workers’ wages. The workers went on strike and Frick responded by locking the workers out of the plant. The workers surrounded it and Frick hired a small private army, the Pinkertons, to drive them off. Workers spotted the Pinkertons and pinned them down with gunfire and forced them to surrender. The Pennsylvania governor ordered the militia to impose peace at Homestead.
🎥 Watch: AP US History - Industrialization and Gilded Age
🚀 Thematic Guides
Theme 1 (NAT) - American and National Identity
Theme 2 (WXT) - Work, Exchange, and Technology
Theme 3 (GEO) - Geography and The Environment
Theme 4 (MIG) - Migration and Settlement
Theme 5 (PCE) - Politics and Power
Theme 7 (ARC) - American and Regional Culture
Theme 8 (SOC): Social Structures
📑 Document Based Questions (DBQ)
🌽 Unit 1: 1491-1607
1.1Context: European Encounters in the Americas
1.6Cultural Interactions Between Europeans, Native Americans, and Africans
🦃 Unit 2: 1607-1754
2.0Unit 2 Overview: Contextualization
2.3The Regions of the British Colonies
2.5Interactions between Native Americans and Europeans
2.6Slavery in the Colonies
🔫 Unit 3: 1754-1800
3.6The Influence of Revolutionary Ideals
3.10Shaping a New Republic
🐎 Unit 4: 1800-1848
4.2The Rise of Political Parties and the Era of Jefferson
4.3Politics and Regional Interests
4.8Jackson and Federal Power
4.9The Development of an American Culture
4.10The Second Great Awakening
4.11The Age of Reform
4.12African Americans in the Early Republic
💣 Unit 5: 1844-1877
5.5Sectional Conflict: Regional Differences
5.6Failure of Compromise
5.7Election of 1860 and Secession
5.9Government Policies during the Civil War
🚂 Unit 6: 1865-1898
6.2Westward Expansion: Economic Development
6.3Westward Expansion Social and Cultural Development
6.6The Rise of Industrial Capitalism
6.7Labor in the Gilded Age
6.9Responses to Immigration
🌎 Unit 7: 1890-1945
7.0Unit 7 Overview: Contextualization
7.3The Spanish-American War
7.5World War I: Military and Diplomacy
7.6World War I: Home Front
7.81920s: Cultural and Political Controversies
7.9The Great Depression
7.10The New Deal
7.11Interwar Foreign Policy
7.12World War II: Mobilization
🥶 Unit 8: 1945-1980
8.2The Cold War from 1945-1980
8.3The Red Scare
8.4Economy after 1945
8.6Early Steps in the Civil Rights Movement
8.7America as a World Power
8.8The Vietnam War
8.10The African American Civil Rights Movement
8.11The Expansion of the Civil Rights Movement
📲 Unit 9: 1980-Present
9.0Unit 9 Overview: Contextualization
9.2Reagan and Conservatism
9.3The End of the Cold War
9.6Challenges of the 21st Century
🧐 Multiple Choice Questions (MCQ)
📋 Short Answer Questions (SAQ)
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