American Labor Movements and Unions

Jonathan Perry

The Great Railroad Strike of 1877

The Great Railroad Strike of 1877, also known as the Great Upheaval, began on July 14 in Martinsburg, West Virginia and ended 45 days after the start. It was put down by local and state militia as well as federal troops. Labor Unions actually had nothing to do with these strikes. There were numerous outbreaks of violence against railroads throughout the United States. The reason these strikes happened was because building the railroads involved capital investment which brought financial risk.

John D. Rockefeller

John D. Rockefeller was an industrialist and a philanthropist. He was involved in the oil industry, and was co-founder of the Standard Oil Company. The Standard Oil Company was also the first big U.S trust. He changed the petroleum industry and defined the structure of modern philanthropy. He made his fortune through as kerosene and gas grew more important. He was once regarded as the richest man in history. He spent most of his wealth on targeted philanthropy and this had major effects on medicine, education, and science. He founded three colleges. The University of Chicago, Rockefeller University, Central Philippine University.

Knights of Labor

The Knights of Labor, also known as the "Noble and Holy Order of the Knights of Labor", was the largest and one of the most important labor unions in the United States at its time. Terence V. Powderly was the most important leader of the Knights of Labor. They demanded 8 hour days and rejected socialism and radicalism. After a large expansion in the 1880's, they went back to a small organization due to disorganization.

Pullman, Illinois: A Company Town

Pullman, Illinois was a industrial town. This town was an idea born in the mind of George M. Pullman, President of Pullman's Palace Car Company. He hoped that by building the town meant for workers that there wouldn't be any strikes. Construction of the town was executed by Pullman employees. Structures were made of brick. Pullman shops produced component parts used throughout the building of the town. Each building had gas and water, access to complete sanitary facilities. Front and back yards gave everyone personal lawns. Maintenance was included in the rental prices, as was daily garbage pickup. These factors brought Pullman to be voted the world's most perfect town at the Prague International Hygienic and Pharmaceutical Exposition of 1896.

Labor Unions Today in America

Today, unions continue to serve the same purpose for which they were originally founded. 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. Unions are important because most corporations focus on creating profits at the expense of employees. Today and in the future, labor unions will continue to play an important role in our country’s work force and the quality of life for working families.