An American Industrial Revolution Unit

for Middle School Students and their Teachers

home inventions horrors of workplace big business labor production

The Birth of the Union
1877

 

Workers came to realize that with the Industrial Revolution and the growth it caused, they needed to band together to demand better wages and working conditions. This was the beginning of the American Labor movement.

During economic depressions, workers had especially hard times. They either faced pay cuts or lost their jobs, causing them to not have enough money to pay their rent or buy food.

As workers looked for ways to voice their dissatisfaction, they realized that the railroads made ideal targets for strikes. All of America's industry depended on the railroads.

In 1877, workers at the Balimore and Ohio Railroad walked off their jobs when the company decided to cut their pay.

This strike was not organized. It just happened.

The strike spread to the Pennsylvania Railroad. Mobs of workers destroyed the railroad yard. They tore up track, smashed cars, and set fire to the Union Depot. A thousand federal troops were called in to restore order.

The riot spread to Boston, Chicago, and Buffalo. In two weeks, more than 100 people were dead, and 500 were injured.

People realized that the struggle between management and labor would get worse before it got better.

 

 

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Strike!!

Using the set of clues, try and identify the famous strike.
Strike One

1984

Inventor of Railroad Sleeping Car cut wages, but not rent

President Cleveland sided with the owner of the business.

Eugene Debs eventually went to jail for contempt, after he refused to go back to work after a federal injunction was issued for workers to return to their jobs.

 

Strike Two

1892

Carnegie Steel vs. Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers

Plant manager, Henry Clay Frick began by locking workers out of the plant after the union would not accept higher production demands

July 2, all workers were fired.

8,000 militia arrived on July 12 to break up the strike

The strike ended on November 20, and the union was destroyed.

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The Knights of Labor
1869

to

1890

The Knights of Labor began as a secret society of tailors in Philadelphia in 1986. The organization grew slowly until the railroad strike of 1877, when workers began to speak out and fight for the rights of the working man.

When Terence Powderly took office in 1879, the membership began to flourish and by 1886, the membership had grown to 700,000.

Powderly did away with the secrecy and committed the organization to finding solutions to the eight hour work day, child labor, equal pay for equal work, and the graduated income tax

The Knights of Labor were different from other trade unions; they included all laborers, regardless of the industry. They also accepted workers of all skill levels and both men and women. They began accepting African Americans after 1883. The down side, is that they excluded workers who were immigrants, mainly Chinese, becasue they felt they needed to protect American workers and their jobs.

Powderly was against strikes and chose to use boycotts and arbitration, but sometimes he was overruled, and the union did strike. The union participated in the railroad strike of 1877, and then did so again in 1886. During this strike, a bomb went off in Haymarket Square during a workers' rally. After this happened, the labor movement suffered some setbacks, and because the Knights of Labor were held responsible, although unfairly, for the bombing, the organization finally collapsed.

 

 

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American Federation of Labor
1886

The AFL was organized in 1886 under the direction of Samuel Gompers. Gompers believed that in order to be effective, the union must organize as a craft union: just include the skilled workers in a single trade, unlike the industrial unions of the past who were open to all the workers in an industry.

By 1904, the union claimed 1.7 million members,althought the union represented the more priveledged members of the countries workforce.

The union is still in existence today. They are known as the AFL-CIO, which is a combination of the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations.

 

 

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Connection to Today

 

Find out about joining a labor union today.

What are the issues the unions are concerned about?

What strikes are happening now?

Which businesses are the unions boycotting currently?

Do we need unions today?

 

http://www.igc.org/igc/labornet/

http://lcweb.loc.gov/lexico/liv/l/Labor_unions.html

http://www.ahandyguide.com/cat1/l/l171.htm

http://www.simmons.edu/~phisalph/index/l1.htm

http://www.aflcio.org/

http://www.usatoday.com/elect/ec/ecd/ecd063.htm

 

 

 

 

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Student Activities

ACTIVITY ONE:  Divide into six equal groups .

GROUP 1

Research Knights of Labor on the Internet.  You will need a researcher and a note taker on one computer.  You will need 2 Designers, someone that's familiar with Claris Slide Show on the computer next to you and one that knows how to write bibliographies.  If you can't agree on jobs, play rock, paper scissors.

Knights of Labor sites

 GROUP 2

Research Pullman Strike on the internet.  You will need a researcher and a note taker on one computer.  You will need 2 Designers, someone that's familiar with Claris Slide Show on the computer next to you and one that knows how to write bibliographies.  If you can't agree on jobs, play rock, paper scissors.

Pullman Sites

 GROUP 3

Research American Federation of Labor on the Internet.  You will need a researcher on one computer, a nwith a note-taker.  You will need 2 Designers, someone that's familiar with Claris Slide Show on the computer next to you and one that knows how to write bibliographies.  If you can't agree on jobs, play rock, paper scissors. 

AFL Sites 

labor 

GROUP 4

Research Coal Strike on the Internet.  You will need a researcher on one computer, a nwith a note-taker.  You will need 2 Designers, someone that's familiar with Claris Slide Show on the computer next to you and one that knows how to write bibliographies.  If you can't agree on jobs, play rock, paper scissors. 

Cal Strike Sites 

GROUP 5 

Research HAYMARKET RIOT on the Internet.  You will need a researcher on one computer, a nwith a note-taker.  You will need 2 Designers, someone that's familiar with Claris Slide Show on the computer next to you and one that knows how to write bibliographies.  If you can't agree on jobs, play rock, paper scissors. 

Haymarket Sites 

GROUP 6 

Research HOMESTEAD STRIKE on the Internet.  You will need a researcher on one computer, a nwith a note-taker.  You will need 2 Designers, someone that's familiar with Claris Slide Show on the computer next to you and one that knows how to write bibliographies.  If you can't agree on jobs, play rock, paper scissors. 

Homestead Strike Sites

Activity 2:  Interview an adult about his or her workplace. You might ask them the following questions: 

  • What is it like where you work? 
  • List the pros and cons of your work environment. 
  • Do the demands of your job affect your lifestyle outside of work? 
  • What changes do you feel would improve your working conditions and lifestyle--for example,
    • more-flexible work hours
    • an on site daycare
    • parking
    • a cafeteria. 

Describe your ideal workplace. 

 

 

 

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