Unions and the Labor Movement

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Regarding the homestead Strike in 1892, were the news stories in The Illustrated American sympathetic or unsympathetic to the cause of the strikers?

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The workers' strike at the Carnegie steel plant in Homestead (across the river from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) resulted in numerous deaths and hundreds of injuries on both sides. While the outcome temporarily set back labor union efforts in the entire country, the strike and related violence also focused attention on labor...

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The workers' strike at the Carnegie steel plant in Homestead (across the river from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) resulted in numerous deaths and hundreds of injuries on both sides. While the outcome temporarily set back labor union efforts in the entire country, the strike and related violence also focused attention on labor conditions as well as wages, which ultimately led to improvements. Press coverage was initially divided in its support, but as the strike and related violence advanced, the published accounts tended to criticize the strikers' tactics and support the owners, who were largely backed by law enforcement.

The workers' union, the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers, had called for a strike after negotiations broke down with the owner, Andrew Carnegie (who was abroad), and his manager, Henry Clay Frick. As the union rejected a proposed cut in wages, the owners' determined to break the union as steelworks elsewhere had recently succeeded in doing. Carnegie and Frick fired all the workers and locked them out of the plant.

The Knights of Labor members, who worked in the transportation area, struck in sympathy as did workers at steel plants in other locations. The strikers, determined to keep out the strikebreakers in an effort to bring the company back to the bargaining table, effectively surrounded the entire mill complex. After armed assailants, contracted by the Pinkerton agency, fired on the strikers, a riot quickly ensued. However, representatives of the plant, the Pinkertons, and some local law enforcement insisted that the strikers had opened fire first but hit no one.

The New York Times was among the papers backing the account that the Pinkertons fired first. One influential factor in the press coverage was Carnegie's tremendous financial power. Pittsburgh was largely a steel town, and Carnegie was the main employer, so local coverage was bound to be skewed toward the company.

The Illustrated American was among those that distinguished between Carnegie, one of the nation's wealthiest men, and the "hireling" Pinkertons who were hapless pawns that he sacrificed as his shock troops.

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