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Industrial Workers During The Gilded Age

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Similar to the farmers during the Gilded Age, industrial workers combatted poor working conditions, child labor, low wages, and long hours by forming labor unions and organizing strikes, ending as a massive failure. Early in the industrial era, there was no minimum wage, leaving it up to the factory owners to set the rate at which their workers were to be paid. Some owners did not pay their employees in cash but in company scrip which could be redeemed at the company store. For example, in Pullman, Illinois and in Hershey, Pennsylvania, the towns were owned by corporations, the Pullman Palace Car Company and the Hershey Company respectively, so their workers would receive vouchers to spend at the company store instead of hard cash.…show more content…
Initially a fraternal organization providing social events, sporting competitions, and education for working men and their families, the Knights of Labor soon advocated for the creation of cooperatives where members would serve as worker-owners who have input on the running of factories in hopes of making changes for the better of the working man. The Knights of Labor believed that the “alarming development and aggression of aggregated wealth, which, unless checked, will inevitably lead to the pauperization and hopeless degradation of the toiling masses” could only be stopped “through the unification of labor”. The Knights were open to all “producers” including skilled and unskilled workers and owners as well as women and African-Americans. Bankers, doctors, liquor manufacturers, lawyers, and stockholders were excluded because of their supposed lack in productive contribution to society. The union advocated for a national eight hour workday, the expulsion of Asian workers, the prohibition of immigration from the Far East, and an end to child labor. The Knights worked to make changes for all workers, regardless of affiliation with the group, and opposed strikes and boycotts. As the Knights of Labor began to fade away, another organization arose called the American Federation of
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