Labor Studies Essays & Paper Examples

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Organized Labor Research Paper

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Organized labor, during the period from 1875 to 1900, was not as successful in improving the position of workers as one was hoping it would be. There are many results that arose from these organized labor attempts that prove how unsuccessful they actually were. These results include the collapse of many labor unions such as, NLU, Knights of Labor, and ARU, the failure of many strikes such as, the Great Railroad Strike, the Haymarket Riot, and the Pullman Strike, and the techniques used by management to defeat labor. The National Labor Union, otherwise known as NLU, was organized following the time of the Civil War. This labor union was created by William Sylvis. The NLU had a couple of main goals. One goal was to return to the ways of early America; the time when workers controlled the average workday and could actually make a decent living and not have to work their heart and soul out for pennies a day. They demanded eight hour work days, on average, eight hours for work, eight hours for rest, eight hours for what we will . They wanted equal opportunities for craft workers, skilled and unskilled workers, and even reformers. The only exclusions were those involved with banks, defending (lawyers), and the disbursement of liquor. At their height, more than 600,000 people were involved with this union, making it the first largest national union. By the early 1870 s, the NLU had created their own political party, a third party. But, to much disappointment, in the elections of 1872, they lost, heavily. With the Panic of 1872 and the Depression in the mid-1870 s, the NLU collapsed. The Knights of Labor was established in 1871 by Uriah Stephens, a Protestant. Many were drawn to this organization. These Knights were led by Terence V. Powderly and was open to any variety of the working class. In 1878, they fought for equal pay for women and even let them become members. These Knights wanted the same effects as the NLU, but were said to be sober, respectable, conservative, modest, non-opportunistic, lawful, respectful, and educated . They rarely supported strikes. Preferably, they focused on the frenzy in politics for graduated income tax, consumer and producer cooperatives, and used only boycotts and arbitration. Even though they despised strikes, in the mid-1880 s, they feuded with many railroad companies. Following this, the Knights had more than 700,000 members. They, too, failed do to loses in the strikes. The American Railway Union was organized by Eugene V. Debs in 1893. This was an industrial union. Debs was not in favor of violence and even ordered tat there be none used. The ARU was involved and supported the strike against the handling of Pullman cars. As quickly as the were involved in the Pullman Strike, the group was put under injunction for the disruption and threatening of the federal mail as directed by President Cleveland. Many strikes that occurred during this time added to the failure of the organized labor unions. The Great Railroad Strike of 1877 was the first nationwide strike in history. The Baltimore and Ohio Railroads cut the wages of the workers dramatically. This ignited the creation of the ARU. In Martinsburg, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, as well as Baltimore and Ohio, strikers stopped passage to trains and uncoupled locomotives. The strikes were attempted to be broken up by the police, militia, and even federal troops. A large number of strikers were killed and much property was destroyed. The Haymarket Riot began in Chicago. It was in protest to the killings of many workers by the police on May 1st at the McCormick strike. On May 4th, at a rally, anarchists were called to give speeches in support of the strikers. The riot began after seven policemen were killed when someone threw a bomb into the crowd. This riot caused many labor unions to become known as associated with radical and violent tactics which hurt the labor movement. The Pullman Strike was do to wages being cut, and the cost of rent and prices of materials being high. Railroad passages were blocked and traffic was disabled. The ARU helped the strike by boycotting trains with Pullman cars. But, when all was said and done, riots broke out and the Attorney General used court orders to stop this strike and protect the mails. Management tried every way to stop labor unions. One technique was the Yellow Dog Contract. These contracts state that anyone interested in re-employment by the Western Union company must leave any type of organization that tries to adjust circumstances of employment. Employees would be fired if they were to join any type of union. Another technique was the use of Pinkerton detectives. These were spies and protected strikebreakers sent out by the company to uncover newly coming rebellions by workers. Whatever the tactics, whatever the results, organized labor was a failure. Unions collapsed, strikes failed, and management did everything in their power to stop the working class from rising. Most of the attempts and actions made were failures from the start, and those that showed any promise turned out to be even.

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