Organized Labor from 1875-1900

1972 Words8 Pages
The movement in organized labor from 1875 to 1900 to improve the position of workers was unsuccessful because of the inherent weaknesses of unions and the failures of their strikes, the negative public attitudes toward organized labor, widespread government corruption, and the tendency of government to side with big business. After the Civil there was a push to industrialize quickly, and the rushed industrialization was at the expense of the workers as it led to bigger profits for big business and atrocious working conditions for them; conditions that included long working hours, extremely low wages, and the exploitation of children and immigrants. In an effort to organize themselves to better their situation, laborers created unions…show more content…
The Amalgamated finally called for a strike when Frick announced another wage cut and gave the union two days to accept it. In response to the strike, Frick shit down the plant and called in guards from the Pinkerton Detective Agency (well-known strikebreakers) to enable the company to hire nonunion workers. The mere presence of the hated Pinkertons was enough to incite the workers to violence. As the Pinkertons approached the Homestead plant by river, strikers prepared for them by pouring oil on the water and setting it on fire and meeting the guards at the docks with guns and dynamite. The Pinkertons surrendered after several hours of pitched battle that left three guards and ten strikers dead, but the workers' victory was temporary. 8,000 National Guard troops were called in to protect the strikebreakers and production in the plant resumed. Public opinion turned completely against the strikers when a radical attempted to assassinate Frick. Defeated, strikers slowly drifted back to their jobs until Amalgamated had no choice but to surrender. Amalgamated membership shrank from 24,000 to 7,000, a decline symbolic of the general erosion of union strength as factory laborers became increasingly unskilled, and so increasingly easy to replace. Public opinion came to reflect the belief that labor unions were dangerous attempts by radicals to promote, at best,
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