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Organized Labor
By: Conor Brennan, Amber
Jones, Tram Le
Early Organizations
Late 19th and 20th century- the U.S.’s economy centered around
factories as a result of the Industrial Revolution
Laborers suffered unsanitary and dangerous working conditions in
Owners strategized against and attempted to prevent unions using
National Labor Union- first national labor union
○ Established by William Sylvis in 1866
○ Supported 8-hour work days, higher wages, legislation against
prison labor, inflationary greenbacks, and land reform laws
○ Active for 6 years and contained approximately 600,000
○ Accomplishments: 8-hour work days for federal employees and
the nullification of the Contract Labor Law
William Sylvis
Workers on strike for 8-hour work days.
Early Organizations
The Knights of Labor
○ Established as a secret society by Uriah Stephens in 1869
○ Supported the same causes as precedent unions and more, including immigration
quotas, child labor laws, and government ownership of railroads, telegraphs, and
○ Differed than the other unions because of its philosophy: everyone, regardless of
race gender, should earn equal pay
○ Reached its peak in 1886 with over 750,000 members
Colored National Labor Union
○ Established in 1869 with Isaac Myers as the union’s first president
○ Fought for equality for African Americans in the industry
○ Egalitarian philosophy: members included both men and women, skilled and
unskilled workers, and industrial and agricultural workers
The seal of the Knights of Labor.
The National Colored Convention in Washington, D.C.
Early Organizations
American Federation of Labor
○ Established by Samuel Gompers and other crafts union leaders in 1886
○ National association that unified smaller craft unions
○ Gompers served as president of the AFL every year, except one, until he died in 1924
Targeted basic needs: employers’ liability, mine-safety laws,trade agreements,clo
increased wages, and an 8-hour shift
AFL gained 500,000 members by 1900 and 4 million by 1920
The 1912 Executive Council of the
“Under Samuel Gomper’s strong stewardship, the federation evolved from
tolerating socialism during the early 1890s to vigorously opposing it a decade
later as an ‘industrial crime, against which the trade unions of America will
contend to the end.’… The AFL, having long since rejected industrial
organizations as a means and socialism as an end, stood for trade unionism,
pure and simple. Organizing had become a business, much like any other,
seeking ‘more, more, more’ under the existing economic arrangements.”
-Howard Kimeldof, Battling for American Labor: Wobblies, Craft Workers, and the Making of the Union
AFL’s symbol
Rebellion: Striking Back
The Great Upheaval: Martinsburg, West Virginia, July 16,1877
Workers prevented trains from leaving their stations and went on strike because of a 10% pay cutthe second wage reduction in 8 months
The mayor and police of Martinsburg were unable to stop the crowds of protesters, so the governor
of West Virginia sent the National Guard to move the trains out of town by force.
Workers refused to work and blocked freight trains in Baltimore and West Virginia and trains were
The Martinsburg Strike spread to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania other strikes from Maryland to California.
Great Upheaval - first mass strike spread over large land mass in America
Result: over 100 people were killed, more than 1000 imprisoned, property damage worth millions;
some demands were met, and future pay cuts were avoided
Powers in Labor: Workers vs Bosses
Workers asked for greater demands.
Went on strikes so companies would suffer financially and agree to their conditions
Encouraged townspeople to boycott certain companies
Sabotaged factory equipment
Bosses fought back with lockouts.
Lockout - tell workers not to show up until they agreed to the pay cuts
Yellow Dog Contract - new employee would sign swearing to never join a union
Scabs - took place of regular labor force
wanted to keep cost down because of
avoided closing factory altogether
thought workers’ demands were
higher wages
better working conditions
no more pay cuts
Eugene V. Debs and American Socialism
Eugene Debs (1855-1926) was a labor organizer and failed candidate for
POTUS five times
He is most famous for leading the Chicago Pullman Palace Car Company Strike
During his 6 month sentence he became heavily influenced by the works of Karl
In 1897 he helped establish the Socialist Party of America and ran for POTUS in
1900, 1904, 1908, 1912, 1920
One of the subjects he talked about on his campaign was to have no
involvement in World War 1
He was arrested for this under the Espionage Act and campaigned for POTUS
in 1920 from within prison
He is remembered as the father of modern socialism and often referenced as
the liberator of slave wages
Eugene Debs
Debs’s campaign poster from his 1912 Presidential campaign,
with Vice Presidential candidate Emil Seidel.
Immigration Policies
Naturalization Act of 1790
The first wave
The second wave
1900 to 1920
1882 Chinese Exclusion Act
"Irish immigrants had a rough time in the United States, stuck
in urban poverty and taunted by some of their neighbors. They
and their descendants overcame the obstacles and prevailed."
-Kevin Kenny, “Irish Immigrants in the United States”
A group of Irish immigrants on their way to New York
Of wasting toil for workingmen,
Less hours! Less hours! Less hours!
For this we hold, makes better men
When given to thought and deed,
There’s more work for every man.
Swell high the song; for man’s best powers,
More hours! More hours! More hours!
In factory, in jails and shops confining,
Less hours! Less hours! Less hours!
In all the walks where men are pining,
Where honest men for loved ones toil
To furnish bread for those most dear;
Or where ignorance glooms or penury lowers,
Less hours! Less hours! Less hours!
-Woodcarvers’ Journal
"The American Federationist." Google Books. Google. Web. 6 Dec. 2015.
"Eugene V. Debs | American Social and Labour Leader." Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web.
02 Dec. 2015.
Foner, Eric. "EUGENE V. DEBS." Http:// N.p., n.d. Web.
Kenny, Kevin. "Irish Immigrants in the United States." U.S. Department of State, 13 Feb. 2008. Web. 6 Dec.
Kimeldorf, Howard. Battling for American Labor Wobblies, Craft Workers, and the Making of the Union Movement. Berkeley: U
of California, 1999. Print.
"People: Eugene Debs (1855-1926)." PBS. PBS, n.d. Web. 02 Dec. 2015.
"Organized Labor." Independence Hall Association, n.d. Web. Dec. 2015.
"Rise of Unions." Study Notes, LLC. Web. 3 Dec. 2015.
Roberts, Bill. "Eugene Debs and American Socialism." Eugene Debs and American Socialism. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Dec. 2015.
Rondinone, Troy. "Colored National Labor Union." In Waugh, John, and Gary B. Nash, eds. Encyclopedia of American History:
Civil War and Reconstruction, 1856 to 1869, Revised Edition (Volume V). New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2010. Web. 03 Dec.