There were many major instances of labor unrest during the Industrial Revolution era in the United States. In this answer, I will briefly look at four such instances. The first of these occurred in 1877 and the last in 1902. The first three were clear losses for the unions while...
There were many major instances of labor unrest during the Industrial Revolution era in the United States. In this answer, I will briefly look at four such instances. The first of these occurred in 1877 and the last in 1902. The first three were clear losses for the unions while the last was at least a qualified victory for them.
The first of these strikes was the Great Railroad Strike of 1877. This strike was caused when railroads cut the wages that they paid their workers after the Panic of 1873 and the depression that followed it. The workers did not like having their wages cut and they went on strike. Unions across the country staged strikes in sympathy with the railroad workers. There was a great deal of violence and federal troops were called in to restore order. The strikes ended in utter failure for the unions.
The second strike that I will examine is the Pullman Strike of 1894. This, too, was a railroad strike. The strike started with workers at the Pullman Palace Car Company, which manufactured railroad cars. The workers were all housed in a company town. They became upset when their wages were cut but the company did not cut the rents and other prices that it charged them. Other railroad workers joined the strike by refusing to handle any Pullman cars. Once again, federal troops were sent in, this time to break up the strike because the strike had been declared to be illegal. This strike, too, ended in failure for the unions.
The third strike is the Homestead Strike of 1892. This strike occurred at a steel factory in Pittsburgh that was owned by Andrew Carnegie. The strike occurred when the company tried to reduce the number of workers at the plant. It wanted to use labor-saving machinery to replace them. This strike, like the railroad strikes, ended in violence and the appearance of troops (this time from the state militia). The union lost this strike as well.
The final strike is the anthracite coal strike of 1902. This strike occurred when mine workers asked for higher wages, shorter work days, and recognition of their union. The company refused and the workers struck. This time, the government was more pro-union. President Theodore Roosevelt pushed the company to give in and accept an arbitration commission that he would name. The arbitrators gave the workers shorter days and higher wages, but no union recognition. In this way, the strike was at least a partial success for the workers.