Fruitless Unions from 1875 - 1900

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Chris Camacho
4th Period APUSH
Fruitless Unions from 1875 - 1900
Late 19th century America was a time of both industrial prosperity and poverty among workers. It was run by grasping corporations and proprietors. Workers found themselves alone, amidst the rest of the nation, merely individuals under the control of the lavish Rockefellers and Carnegies. Entire families found themselves working 10 hours a day, 7 days a week in unsanitary conditions just to have enough money to pay for simple necessities like food and rent. The issue of lowering working hours, increasing wages, and humanizing working conditions quickly became indispensable. While organized labor groups such as the National Labor Union, The Knights of Labor, and the American Federation of Labor all strived to resolve these issues, victories were seldom. The crusade towards organized labor from 1875-1900 was unsuccessful in improving the position of workers vastly because of the initial failure of strikes, the grueling feelings of superiority of employers over employees and the lack of support from the government.

Beginning in the 1860’s, labor unions began to sprout in hopes of making reforms by unifying workers to fight for higher wages, and 8 hour work day, and various other social benefits. The National Labor Union (1866) was the first assembly established to take part in this fight. Strikes would have to be effective in order to initiate any major changes but at a time like this, more harm was being done than good. In 1877, many workers participated in the first great American strike which resulted in mass violence and little reforms. Afterwards, an editorial in the New York Times stated that “the strike is apparently hopeless, and must be regarded as nothing more than a rash and spiteful demonstration of resentment by men too ignorant or too reckless to understand their own interests…” (Document B) This editorial, which clearly favored labor unions, was acknowledging that...