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American Labor Movements and Strikes

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Illustrated and Designed By
Christian Alas
Sound By
Margarita Onofre

American Labor Movements and Strikes

Pullman Worker’s Strike In 1894, the workers of the Pullman Palace Car Company organized a strike to protest wage cuts. Another group, headed by Eugene Debs, declared a sympathy strike. A “sympathy strike” is one that is organized to show support for the cause of other strikers. In order to keep the mail trains running, United States troops were sent to end the strike.

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Although the courts generally eased restrictions on the labor strikes during the 19th century, legislators did not act to protect strikers. Violence between unions and employers became frequent as a result of this.In 1892, workers organized a strike at the Carnegie Steel Company plant in Homestead, Pennsylvania, after company manager Henry Clay Frick imposed a wage cut. Frick hired 300 Pinkerton detectives to run the plant. On July 6, an armed confrontation occurred resulting in several deaths. The state military was called in to protect non-union laborers who worked in the mills. The state militia controlled the situation from July 12 through November 29th, 1892, which resulted in the collapse of the strike.

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The nation’s union movement suffered a severe setback as a result of the Homestead Strike. This setback was compounded during the Pullman Strike of 1894.

This violent confrontation between the Pullman Palace Car Company of Illinois and the railroad workers tied up rail traffic all across the United States from May until July. The workers that lived in the company- owned town of Pullman protested and were later fired. Eugene V. Debs (1855- 1926), head of the Railway Union, organized a boycott of all Pullman cars. The Pullman Company responded to this action by having their lawyers use the recently enacted Sherman Anti-Trust legislation against the strikers.

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Farmers were also organizing while industrial workers were taking union action. After the end of the Civil War there was so much new land being farmed that the prices for produce rapidly fell.

Railroads were charging so much more for the delivery of produce that the farmers could not buy new machinery or pay their mortgages. Small local groups called alliances began to form. These alliances began merging into larger and larger alliances. These alliances or organizations, like the industrial unions, attempted to help the farmers by having new laws passed. The farmers insisted that Americans must remember the farmers as providers of the nation’s food.

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A group of political radicals and reformers met in Omaha, Nebraska, in July 1892. The purpose of the meeting was to form a new political party, which they called the Populist, or the People’s Party.

The party was largely led by union leaders, women’s-rights crusaders, farmers, and socialists. One of the reforms being sought by the Populists was the Federal control of the railroads. Another goal of the Populists was to have a graduated income tax. This meant that the more money a person earned, the more tax he or she would have to pay.

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Find the vocabulary words (in bold), write them below, and find the definition of each in a dictionary.

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Write 5 sentences using some of the vocabulary words.

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Write one sentence to describe the history of American Labor Movements and Strikes for each area below:

What?

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When?

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How?

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Where?

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Why?

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Who?

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Discuss:

1. Why were legislators not protecting strikers during the 19th century?

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2. What people made up the Populist Party?.

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3. Discuss the graduated income tax and its fairness to various groups in society.

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American Labor Movements and Strikes