Workers Organize Lesson 14-3 The Main Idea Grim working conditions in many industries led workers to form unions and stage labor strikes. Reading Focus • What was the relationship between government and business in the late 1800s? • What were working conditions like for industrial workers? • How did workers seek change? Government and Business • Hands-off policy – Government did not interfere with business in the late 1800s, but as corporations expanded and gained power, that policy began to change. • Controlling the giants – The Sherman Antitrust Act was passed in 1890, making it illegal to form trusts that interfered with free trade. It prohibited monopolies and activities hindering competition. – The law was vague, however, and it was seldom enforced. • Workers – The government paid less attention to workers, who scraped by on small wages. By 1890, 10 percent of the population controlled 75 percent of the nation’s wealth. The rich were very rich, and many industrial workers made less than $500 per year. Industrial Workers The workforce • Many factory workers were immigrants or rural Americans moving to the cities for jobs. • The best jobs went to native-born whites or European immigrants. • Less well-paying jobs were open to African Americans, as household help or laborers. • By 1900, one in six children between the ages of 10 and 15 held factory jobs. Working conditions • Most unskilled laborers worked 10-hour days, six days a week. • They had no paid vacation and no sick leave. • Speed of production led to terrible accidents. Injured workers were replaced. • Sweatshops were common. These cramped workshops set up in shabby tenement buildings were common in the garment industry. Workers Seek Change Early organizing Nation Unions The Great Railroad Strike In 1794, Philadelphia shoemakers formed a trade union. Over decades, unions formed for skilled trade workers, but they remained small and local. After the Civil War, things changed. The Knights of Labor formed in 1869. Under the leadership of Terence V. Powderly in the 1880s, they began to accept unskilled workers, women, and African Americans as members. They campaigned for reforms, such as eight-hour workdays and the end of child labor through boycotts and negotiations. After wage cuts, the first railroad strike occurred in 1877. Initial strikes quickly spread, and state militias were called out. Violence ensued, lives were lost, and costly damage was done. The arrival of U.S. Army troops put an end to the strike. Strikes and Turmoil The Haymarket Riot • 1886 was a difficult year for labor. • One of the worst clashes was at Haymarket Square in Chicago. A bomb was thrown in a crowd gathered to protest violent police action. Gunshots rang out, and eleven people were killed and hundreds injured before it was over. • Foreign-born unionists were blamed for the violence, and the press fanned xenophobia. – Fear of foreigners The American Federation of Labor • Employers struck back at organized labor, forcing employees to sign documents saying they would not join a union. – Yellow dog contract • Blacklists of people deemed troublemakers were made and shared by employers, who refused to hire anyone listed. • Striking workers were replaced with “scabs,” or strikebreakers. • Eight men were charged with conspiracy, but no evidence connected them to the crime. • Samuel Gompers led a group of skilled workers to form the American Federation of Labor in 1886. • All eight were convicted and sentenced to death. After four hangings and one suicide, the last three were pardoned. • Using strikes and other tactics, the AFL did win wage increases and shorter workweeks. The Homestead Strike Unions made some gains, but conflicts continued. Carnegie Steel workers in Homestead, Pennsylvania, refused to work faster, and the manager tried to lock them out. The workers seized the plant. Gunfire erupted when private guards hired by the company tried to take control. After a 14-hour battle and fourteen deaths, the governor called out the state militia. The steelworkers’ union withered within months. The Pullman Strike After laying off a third of its employees in 1893, the Pullman Company cut the wages of remaining workers by 25 percent without lowering their rents. Workers went on strike with the support of Eugene V. Debs, the leader of the American Railway Union. The government ordered the strike be called off, but the union refused. President Grover Cleveland called in federal troops, and the strike collapsed. The late 1800s would remain an era of big business.