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Labor Unions

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Labor Unions

The Labor Movement generated opposition from both the government and the public since they both saw unions as violent and lawless. The government used force to control the unions showing their disgust for the views and actions of these organizations. Well, organized and growing businesses took the advantage in the struggle with labor, so the workers started labor unions. It is easily argued both ways whether or not unions formed were beneficial to workers. With great evidence though, it is proven that although beneficial in many ways, for the most part unions were very negative towards the progress of our country.

1. The very first labor union, The National Labor Union was started in 1866. This union lasted for six years and had 600,00 members. Its main principle was social reform. Its greastest victory was the eight-hour day for government workers. In 1869 the knights of Labor was formed, first as a secret society than it expanded to include all workers. They campained for econimic and social reform among these were codes for safety

and health, and producers' cooperatives. Terence V. Powderly, the leader of the Knights, helped them win the eight hour day for other industries. He was known for saying we (the Knights of Labor) work not selfishly for ourselves alone, but extend the hand of fellowship to all mankind. (Doc. K) This quote was twisted around by many people to misrepresent the Knights.The downfall of the Knights was a violent one. In 1886 they were involved in some May Day strikes, at about half of which they were failing. Tension was building in Chicago where 80,000 Knights lived along with a few hundred Anarchists. Then on May 4 labor disorders had broken out in Haymarket Square and the police were called. Suddenly a dynamite bomb was thrown that killed or injured several dozen people. The people wrongfully connected the Knights with the Anarchists, and the power of the Knights of Labor came to a dismal end.

The Homestead strike in 1892 was the first major strike to take place after the downfall of the Knights. It started at Carnegie's steel plant in Homestead, PA. when workers refused to accept new wage cuts. Henry Clay Frick shut down the plant and surrounded it with guards to protect the property. The infuriated workers soon ran the guards out when they realized that Frick had intentions of reopening the plant with strikebreakers. After a thirteen hour struggle Carnegies Company persuaded the governor of Pennsylvania to provide help, the state militia was summoned to restore peace. The company began to bring in strikebreaker to replace employees who had walked out. Many of the leaders of the strike were prosecuted for rioting and murder. The steel workers' union was detroyed. Some members of Congress were sympathetic to Homestead strikers. The public in general felt little sympathy for the strikers because they felt that the working person should remain free to sell services as an individual and not through a union. Many thought that the right to work was sacred. They felt that union organizers had no business interfering with the employees decision to accept offers made by the company. The readiness of the federal government to enter disputes on the side of the business was firmly supported by people throughout the United States.

The Pullman Strike also played a major role in the labor movement. George Pullman, inventor

of the sleeping car, built a model town for

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