Essay on American Labor Movement: Development of Unions

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Pages: 10

The American Labor Movement of the nineteenth century developed as a result of the city-wide organizations that unhappy workers were establishing. These men and women were determined to receive the rights and privileges they deserved as citizens of a free country. They refused to be treated like slaves, and work under unbearable conditions any longer. Workers joined together and realized that a group is much more powerful than an individual when protesting against intimidating companies. Unions, coalitions of workers pursuing a common objective, began to form demanding only ten instead of twelve hours in a work day. Workers realized the importance of economic and legal protection against the powerful employers who took advantage of them. …show more content…
He also thought the unions should be primarily concerned with the day-to-day welfare of the members and should not become involved with politics. He also thought that socialism would not succeed in the United States. "Bread and butter" unionism was the term given to his philosophies that higher wages and fewer working hours could achieve the goal of a better life for the working people. (, 2)

Laborer's goals and the unwillingness of capital to grant them resulted in many violent labor conflicts and strikes. The first of these occurred with the Great Rail Strike of 1877. Rail workers all over the United States went on strike due to a ten percent pay reduction. (, 2) Rioting and destruction of several cities surfaced with the efforts to stop the strike. Federal troops had to be sent in at several locations to end the strike such as Baltimore, Maryland; Chicago, Illinois; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Buffalo, New York; and San Francisco, California. (Department of Humanities, 2)

The Haymarket Square incident took place nine years later in 1886. On May 1, many workers struck for shorter hours. A group of radicals and anarchists became involved in this campaign. Two days later, a death occurred from shooting during a riot in the McCormick Harvester plant in Chicago when police arrived and tangled in the chaos. On May 4,