Work in Industrial Period Factory system ended personal relationship between employer and worker Big. biz. cut corners to maximize profits Long hours Low Pay Rigid Timetables Strict discipline Frequent layoffs Reduced wages for women and children Machines replacing workers Unsafe, unsanitary, and poorly lighted factories
Urban Working-Class Average workday 11-12 hours In some cities averaged about 10 hours Wages: Employers believed that workers should not earn more than a subsistence income. Why? High wages hurt profits Moral reasons Prevented wasting money on alcohol, gambling, prostitutes, etc. 1890: Subsistence income: $530 Average annual wages for family of four: $380
Labor Organization before Civil War 1820s-1830s First attempts to organize in major cities Attempted to influence politics with third parties (“Workingmen’s Parties”) City based Farm migrants to cities; Skilled Laborers Little experience with labor in cities Followed middle- and upper-class leaders Goal: Organize labor as a tool to reform society NOT for benefit of laborers No feelings of oppression No class consciousness
Labor After Civil War Unskilled labor Status of labor changed “De-skilling” of the labor force emerged Urbanization and the lure of the city brought many rural citizens into urban areas Sources of labor: Women, children as young as five By 1910: 25% of U.S. children employed full-time
The Two Main Labor Groups Knights of Labor (1866, Terrence Powderly) First significant, national organization Membership? Wide ranging, included black laborers, women, skilled/unskilled (except. Chinese and non-producers) Goal? Economic and social reform get rid of capitalism w/ worker owned businesses 8 hour work day Tactic used? Strikes, boycotts, mass meetings Aroused public anger. Why? Use of violence and anti-capitalist agenda 1,000,000+ members in the 1880’s
American Federation of Labor (AFL) Founded in 1886 by Samuel Gompers “Mainstream” voice of labor Membership? only skilled workers, a federation of various existing trade unions under the umbrella of the AFL. Not open to individual to join. Goals? Higher wages, shorter hours, improved working conditions. Closed shop? Meaning all union labor Tactic? Strikes, but refrained from alignment w/political parties Public disapproved of AFL collective actions but saw them as less of a threat than Knight of Labor Why?
Discussion: What are the biases of the following groups/individuals: Capitalists Nativists Horatio Alger (‘luck and pluck’) Anarchists Socialists American Public
More Discussion In what ways do the biases actually strengthen American capitalism. In what way did the biases weaken the American labor movement? According to Judge Jenkin, does the right of the property owner of laborer take precedence. In what way does the “violence” cartoon reflect his decision? How did government actions in the Homestead and Pullman strike also reflect Judge Jenkin’s decision.
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