American Labor Movement

Tabi Swenson

Rags to Riches - Andrew Carnegie

Carnegie got a job at Pennsylvania Railroad. He became Thomas Scott's personal telegrapher and assistant. Thomas Scott was the superintendent of the Pennsylvania Railroad's western division. He learned the ins and outs of the railroad industry very quickly, and made changes like having the telegraph office open for 24 hours, all day. Carnegie also learned that burning railroad cars following accidents cleared the tracks pretty quick and got the trains moving again faster.

Andrew Carnegie led the huge expansion of the steel industry. Control of the steel industry became the source of his wealth and fortune.

Knights of Labor

Knights of Labor was one of the largest and most important labor organizations. Terence V. Powderly was probably the most important leader of the Knights of Labor. They promoted the cultural and social rise of the normal working man and rejected Socialism and radicalism. Knights of Labor demanded eight-hour work days. They also promoted republicanism. Some say it acted like a labor union because they negotiated with employers. However, the Knights of Labor were never well organized and after a great expansion, they lost new members and became a small organization once again.

Pullman, Illinois

Pullman, Illinois was a town within a company. Everyone that lived there was brought in for work. Pullman's Company was the Pullman Palace Car Company. They manufactured rail cars and the sleeping car. People stayed in the Company Town called Pullman.

There was a strike named the Pullman Strike of 1894. In this strike, workers and company managers battled for rights of workers, role management and the role of government in mediating labor unrest.

Homestead Steel Works Strike of 1892

The Homestead Steel Works Strike of 1892 was one of the most violent episodes in the American labor struggles. On July 6, 1892, a planned occupation of the Homestead Plant turned bloody. Hundreds of men from the Pinkerton Detective Agency confronted workers and townspeople with gunfire on the banks of the Monongahela River. The battle ended with a truce but it took militia a week to settle things to the favor of the company. Two weeks after that, the anti-labor manager of Carnegie Steel tried to assassinate Henry Clay Frick in his office. He shot Frick twice but Frick survived. Other labor organizations rallied to help in the defense of the union at Homestead. For a long time, the public opinion seemed to side with all the workers. The attemped assassination of Frick and other happenings were used to discredit the labor movement. In the end, Carnegie Steel won.

State of Labor Unions in the U.S. today

The State of Labor Unions in the US today revolve around collective bargaining. This could be over wages, benefits and working conditions for members. They represent members in disputes with management or violations of contracts. Some of the larger unions host activated and electioneering at the state and federal levels.