American Labor Movement & Unions

By: Cody Alan Bell

Cornelius Vanderbilt

His father had a ferrie business, Cornelius helped run some of the boats and later became part time boss of it. He later got full control over it. While he was running his family business he was very successful and got offered a job by Thomas Gibbons asked Vanderbilt to captain his steamboat from New York to New Jersey, he also kept his business running. He later became Gibbons business partner and became very good at it. He later took over. He also invested lots of money into rail service to keep his fares down and make more of a profit. His ships hauled people and cargo. He used his newly owned railroads to help ship over land what his ships couldn't so he could control what it cost him to haul is cargo across the country.

The Knights of Labor

The Knights of Labor began as a secret society of tailors in Philadelphia in 1869. The organization grew slowly during the hard years of the 1870s, but worker militancy rose toward the end of the decade, especially after the great railroad strike of 1877, and the Knights' membership rose with it. Grand Master Workman Terence V. Powderly took office in 1879, and under his leadership the Knights flourished; by 1886 the group had 700,000 members. Powderly dispensed with the earlier rules of secrecy and committed the organization to seeking the eight-hour day, abolition of labor, equal pay for equal work, and political reforms including the graduated income tax.

Knights of Labor seal

Life in the company town of Pullman

Life in the town was generally like every other boomtowns of that time. But there was a catch lived next to the same people you worked with. You also had to obey Mr. Pullman's rules because he was the law. He also made money off of you because you had to buy stuff from his stores inside his town. The also couldn't drink or gamble. He believed that not allowing them to socialize in saloons and other gathering places. He thought that when the men would get together they would talk about work and how unfair it was and start a riot. At first people loved it because it was a nice clean environment for a family to live and work in. But later found it hard withstand the coast of living there. So they protested and later became a riot.

The Great Railroad Strike of 1877

It is known as the first labor strike in the United States. It happened because of works thinking they were being pushed to hard and underpaid. It is also known as the first railroad strike ever to happen. When the strike occurred in 1877 the countries railroads were expanding at a pace so rapidly it was hard to keep up with demand. This lead to companies having their workers work extra long hours and get paid the same as they did before or working for less. This lead many workers and family members outraged. The U.S railroad system consisted of only 23 miles of rail in the year 1830. To 35,000 miles by the end of the civil war. And by the year 1916 246,000 miles of track were laid and operating. With this demand in labor there was not enough people to apply for these jobs that need filling. So the Bosses started to make their workers work longer hours for less pay to fulfill the jobs need to meet the demand.

In May 1877 the Pennsylvania Railroad still feeling the financial epidemic of 1873 had to cut wages and salaries by 10% and another 10% by June and others followed suit. This lead to very mad workers because they were know earning 20% less than they were two months ago and the railroad didn't pay much they basically gave a pair of clothes and food and maybe money if you held a job good enough. On July 13 the Baltimore & Ohio railroad had cut the wages of all there workers who maid more than a dollar a day by 10%. This went on for 2-3 days, then 40 angry locomotive firemen walked off the job. By the end of the day angry workers blockaded railways from Baltimore to West Virginia only allowing passenger trains through. Then it turned to violence in Pittsburgh when angry workers were rioting the local militia was called in and 30 people lay dead.