Apush Essay "How Successful Was Organized Labor in Improving the Position of Workers in the Period from 1975-1900?"

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Matt Strigenz Mr. Haindfield, pd. 5 1/22/13 APUSH Reaction Paper #10 The chief political issue of the late 1800s was working conditions for laborers. Big businesses, having sought to cut costs however possible, created horrible working conditions for laborers. In an effort to improve these conditions, workers waged strikes and formed labor unions, so that they might gain some semblance of bargaining power. However the fight to improve conditions for workers was largely ineffective thanks to public support of big business, disorganization amongst labor unions, and the negative connotation that came to be associated with labor unions. The American public supported big business in almost every conflict involving big business and…show more content…
This was even truer in the 1870s-1890s because many big businesses had been successful in removing the skills required to do many jobs in manufacturing, tailoring, and other industries (Source D). Many workers were also forced to sign “yellow-dog contracts” saying they would not associate with or join a union while under their employ (Source E). By the end of the 19th Century, most Americans saw labor unions as comprised of radical communists and anarchists. The problem started with the idea that labor unions and collective bargaining was seen as un-American. With the American focus on individual freedoms, the idea that a group of people should get together to demand what they want was communistic. This fear can be directly shown in one of Thomas Nast’s political cartoons from 1878, which shows labor unions killing capitalism in order to appease communism (Source C). It also didn’t help that this group of people were workers, who controlled the means of industry in a communist state. The people who supported labor unions often were socialists or communists themselves as well. Eugene Debs, for example, was a well-known socialist and proponent of worker’s rights. His beliefs that the US should work within its political system in order to gradually give way to a socialist state didn’t sit well with Americans. Neither did Daniel DeLeon’s ideas, for that matter, who believed that workers should lead the way in a revolution to overthrow the

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