American Labor Movement and Unions

Sarah Peterson

Andrew Carnegie

Andrew Carnegie was called the steel leader and a master at utilizing the new business strategies. He saved his money from his earnings and borrowing from others to begin to invest in stock. Carnegie hired the best people and used the most modern machinery. He reduced production costs by buying supplies in bulk and producing goods in large quantities. He acquired companies that provided the materials and services upon which his enterprises depended, also known as vertical integration. "From the moment these crude stuffs were dug out of the earth until they flowed in a stream of liquid steel in the ladles, there was never a price, profit, or royalty paid to an outsider," Andrew Carnegie.

Knights of Labor

The Knights of Labor started out as a secret society of tailors in Philadelphia in 1869. Terence V. Powderly, the group leader, abolition of child labor, equal pay for equal work, and political reforms including graduated income tax. The organization supported the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and the Contract Labor Law of 1885. Powderly believed in boycotts and arbitration, but he opposed strikes. The Knights had a successful strike against Jay Gould's southwestern railroad system in 1884. They attacked the Gould system again in 1886, but they were beaten. A bomb explosion at a workers rally, in Chicago in 1886, were to be blamed for this destruction. The widespread repression of labor unions in the late 1880's was an impact for the Knights of Labor.

Life in the Company Town

Women and children regular house chores and cooked meals. There was an all purpose store, but the prices were higher than stores in a regular city. They were threatened to be evicted from their house.

Homestead Steel Works Strike of 1892

The Homestead Steel Works Strike of 1892 because of the steel price dropping, so the wages dropped too. Carnegie supported Frick on his plan to cut the wages of workers. The workers started a strike against their wages being cut. Frick built a wall, Fort Frick, to keep the strikers out of the steel company. On July 5, the workers and the army fought each other. The workers won the battle after 14 hours of battle. The strikers took over the steel mill. The strike leaders were sentenced to trial for their actions. "Nothing... in all my life, before or since, wounded me so deeply. No pangs remain of any wound receiving in my business career save that of Homestead," (Carnegie),

Today's Labor Union

The labor unions we have today have the same purpose as what they were when they were founded. While the middle class suffers from layoffs, unemployment and stagnant wages, the average CEO total compensation at S&P 500 companies is over $11 million. The current union agendas include increasing wages, raising the standard of living for the working class, ensuring safe working conditions, and increasing benefits for both workers and their families. Employers are trying to shed responsibility for providing health insurance, good pension coverage, reasonable work hours and job safety protections, but instead, companies are making workers' jobs and incomes less secure through downsizing, part-timing, contracting out, and sending jobs off-shore.


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  • Foner, Eric, and John A. Garraty. "Knights of Labor." History. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1991. Web. 15 Nov. 2013.
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  • PBS. PBS, 1999. Web. 17 Nov. 2013.
  • "Union Plus." Labor Unions Today. Union Privilege, 2013. Web. 17 Nov. 2013.