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Working Class Structure and the Labor Movement

by: Carina Sauter

Working Class Structure and the Labor Movement HIST 2112

Marketplace > University of Georgia > History > HIST 2112 > Working Class Structure and the Labor Movement
Carina Sauter
GPA 3.79

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About this Document

These notes discuss the conditions for industrial workers and their actions to protect themselves and their wages.
American History Since 1865
Dr. Rohrer
Class Notes
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This 4 page Class Notes was uploaded by Carina Sauter on Monday February 15, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to HIST 2112 at University of Georgia taught by Dr. Rohrer in Spring 2016. Since its upload, it has received 45 views. For similar materials see American History Since 1865 in History at University of Georgia.


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Date Created: 02/15/16
Working Class Culture and the Labor Movement I. Working Conditions in US Factories in the late 1800’s/ early 1900’s • Laissez-faire: hands off government – money is concentrated • Working class Americans tried to challenge status quo o Many times they were successful • Working class = someone working for wages, not salary (not managers, business owners, farmers) o Daily or hourly wage o 2/3 of all Americans worked for wages o typical American • conditions are terrible o dirty, loud, unsanitary, fatal factories o highest job related mortalities rate than any other industrialized nation • long working hours o due to laissez-faire capitalism § do little to regulate working conditions o today’s 40 hour weeks seems easy to them o typical hours § 6 days, 10-12 hour days § some even 16 hour shifts 6 days a week • regimented and repetitive work style o era of craftsmen ended (own boss) due to major companies § good quality turns to cheap quantity and quality o regimented and routinized factory job rises o efficient = profit o scientific management: Taylorism = theory of management that analyzed and synthesized work flow § improve economic efficiently through labor productivity § first attempt of using science and business theory – new business schools § good for company, bad for employees § mindless – boring • perform one part of assembly/ construction process • ex. sew button on right color for years § turn working class Americans into machines • low wages o cities; always someone ready to take a job, even at a lower wage § eager industrial workers § supply of immigrants > job opportunities = even lower wages o no minimum wage law o child labor § no federal/state laws saying minimum age for work § 5 year-olds § no laws requiring school attendance § could give them lower wages § small stature and small hands can more effectively handle machines § laws implemented for children to go to school and work age restrictions (1920’s-1930’s) § made up 1/3 of family income § 1900 10-14 year old children: 1/5 were in workforce • dangerous working conditions/ poor sanitation o dirty, dangerous, unsanitary o no standards o little to no ventilation o poor smelling § carcinogens – dangerous o germs and disease § die from disease caught by other workers • little medicine • no assistance from companies • no health inspection/ health insurance o serious injuries § especially with children § lose fingers or hands o 35,000 people per year died from industry related causes o lung conditions o low life expectancy o effects workers, those living near factories, etc. o EX. Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire 1911 o Ex. Chicago Meat Packing industry 1860’s-1920’s § one of the world’s largest meat packing centers § most unsanitary § affected public water supply • spent time in stockyards – waste gets into water supply o animal blood, bones, unusable parts of animals are dumped in bodies of water – fecal matter from animals II. Working Class Demands • More competitive pay • Abolition for child labor • 8-hour work day • safer/cleaner working environment • health benefits III. Working Class Tactics • Labor unions: an organized association of workers by trade/profession forming to protect /further worker’s rights and interests o Dozens of unions o Ex. United Steel Workers o Wanted more rights/concessions: § Better wages § More reasonable hours § Safer working conditions § Fight to stop child labor § Health benefits § Pension • Retirement was foreign to these workers; worked until they were 65 which was incredibly old at the time, and there were no plans to help you once you could no longer work o 3 Large Scale National Wide Unions § Knights of Labor • Began as secret society of tailors as early as 1869 • Grew slowly during the 70’s (depression, panic of 1873) • Rocky start • Led by Terence Powderly • By 1869: has as many as 700 thousand members • Wanted: o 8-hour day § 8 hours labor, 8 hours recreational, 8 hours sleep o abolish child labor o equal pay for equal work o graduated income tax (rich pay more) • 1886 Hay Market Square Riot o death of the knights of labor o someone throws a dynamite at police o gun fire began o 7 police and 4 civilians died o many injured o reputation suffers and dies by 1890 § American Federation of Labor (AF of C) • Began December of 1886 • Steps in as Knights of Labor dies • Smaller craft unions – tailors, furniture, clothing, very diverse o Skilled workers • Bargain for more competitive wages • Moderate politically, economically and socially • Samuel Gompers – not radical o Did not want to strike o Unofficial labor leader of America • By 1900, more than 500,000 people • Moderate organization § Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) • More radical/extreme/liberal, anti-federal • Founded in 1905 in Chicago • Industrial union: all sorts of industries • Skilled and unskilled workers • Democratic union • Communist/socialists advocate for distribution of wealth • “wobblies” • protest singing, radicalism, violent, striking • support worker ownership of factories • fought for: o 40-hour week o sanitary conditions • declined after WWI § IWW: far left, AF of C: center, KoL: left of center § 1920’s: society is less regulated § 1840’s: peak of labor union membership • Strikes: a work stoppage caused by the mass refusal of workers to work o Bargain for better pay/conditions § Often, employees did not give in • Brought in new employees for same or lower wages o “Scabs” – people that come in for lower wages o strikers hated them o AF of L supported strikes o Not all unions strike o Pullman Strike 1894 § American railway union vs. Pullman company and federal government of US § Largest scale strike § Chicago – Pullman cars (passenger rail car) § Workers lived in company town • All stores/housing are owned by company/employer • Little freedom from employer o monopoly • Strike 1890’s (panic and depression cause lower wages but rents remain the same) o Lay off 1/3 of workers § Ugene Debs • Boycott of train cars organized in summer of 1894 • Nationwide railway workers refused to travel on trains o Key means of travel § Fastest/ most efficient § Severely disrupt American society § Government becomes involved and takes side of big business • Police sent in from federal government all over country o Arrested strikers and Ugene Debs o Media attention o Stops boycott


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