January 11, 2012
The Gilded Age was a period of horrendous labor violence, as industrialists and workers literally fought over control of the workplace. Workers organized the first large American labor unions during the Gilded Age, such as the KOL, AFL. Employers were just as determined to stop unionization as workers were to organize unions, leading to mass conflict, eventually causing the middle class to become fed up with the situation. In response events such as the railroad strike of 1877, Haymarket Riot of 1886, Homestead strike of 1892, and the Pullman Strike of 1893.
Workers quickly learned that they would have to come together and form organizations in order to over power the industrial owners. The Knights of Labor (KOL) was the first large labor union to be established. Founded in 1869, the Knights sought to build an organization uniting workers of all races, genders, ethnicities, and occupations. They lobbied government for the eight hour day and restrictions on child labor. However when rallying for the eight hour day in Chicago Haymarket, violence occurs when a bomb is thrown killing six policeman.
More enduring gains were sought by organizations that focused on specific crafts and industries, in order do aid unskilled and skilled workmen. The American Federation of Labor was the most effective union in this area. Following the fall of the KOL the AFL became the largest organization of that time. Then again the AFL only admitted one skilled Whiteman. It mainly focused on achieving higher wages and shorter work hours for its people.
Also forming after the fall of the KOL was the American Railways Union. The ARU organized all railroad workers regardless of craft or job. Surprisingly the ARU was the first industrial Union. Success came quickly in this union; in August of 1893 the Great Northern Railroad cut wages for workers in what they called a strike.
`Ultimately, the violence of these strikes...