The Industrial Era (1865 – 1900) witnessed the formation of the first labor unions and the outbreak of a number of major strikes. It is important to be familiar with key labor unions, union leaders and strikes.

1. THE GREAT RAILROAD STRIKE OF 1877 – First general strike in
American history; paralyzed rail service across America for 45 days;
provoked by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad’s decision to cut wages
for a second time in a year; occurred 9 years BEFORE the founding of
the AFL. See Podcast 29.1 (on this website) for more information on this
often tested event.

2. THE KNIGHTS OF LABOR – adopted an open-membership policy that
included skilled and unskilled workers as well as African Americans
and women; during the late 1800s federal law did NOT protect labor’s
right to organize

3. INDUSTRIAL WORKERS OF THE WORLD – believed that owners and
workers had nothing in common; workers have a historic responsibility
to abolish capitalism

4. THE AFL AND SAMUEL GOMPERS = Led by Samuel Gompers, the AFL
organized skilled workers into craft unions; focused on bread and butter
issues ie wages, hours, and working conditions; middle-class reformers
supported the AFL

5. HOMESTEAD, HAYMARKET SQUARE, AND PULLMAN – all sites
of labor conflict between owners and workers

6. HAYMARKET SQUARE RIOT, 1886 – Labor unions organized a strike
at the McCormick reaper factory in Chicago to demand an 8-hour day;
demonstration in Haymarket Square was called to protest police actions
at the McCormick factory; unknown anarchist ignited a bomb in
Haymarket Square causing the police to panic; the public mistakenly
blamed the Knights of Labor; public outcry led to the precipitous decline
of the Knights

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