The Success of Organized Labor in the late 19th Century

Topics: Strike action, Employment, Trade union Pages: 3 (913 words) Published: April 18, 2012
The Success of Organized Labor in Improving Working Conditions in the Late 19th Century The late 19th century was a time of great change in America, a time of rapid industrialization and great improvements in the quality of life for the majority of people. The industrialization that occurred however led to a large working class who began to feel oppressed by the capital interests; this ted to the formation of unions and banding together of workers for mutual benefit. Despite this, organized labor was largely unsuccessful in securing improved positions for workers in the late 19th century, however they were marginally successful at first in forcing the employers to make considerations for their workers, if not accept all demands directly. Organized labor was a relatively new phenomenon in the late 1800's: it arose out of the massive industrialization of the time and the growth of a working class. However as with most new movements, labor did not achieve nearly any of its popular goals. Capital squashed labor during this period through various means, but especially through government intervention, evidenced by the except from In re Debs, from the US supreme court “[F]or it has always been recognized as one of the powers and duties of government to remove obstructions from the highway under its control...” This doctrine of the government removing the obstructions to business from the 'highway of commerce' using federal and state troops was backed by legislation that was originally intended to weaken trusts (specifically the Sherman anti-trust act) led to the quick and merciless end of many strikes including the Great Railroad Strike of 1877 and eventually the homestead steel strike. Samuel Gompers protested this intervention to a House commission by stating: (in regards to greater profits) “Unless [the workers] occasionally strike, or have the power to enter upon a strike, the improvements will all go to the employer...”. The industrialists also used private...
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