1865-1915 (Reconstruction & the Gilded Age) Flashcards Preview

A Level History (Trade Unions and Workers Rights) > 1865-1915 (Reconstruction & the Gilded Age) > Flashcards

Flashcards in 1865-1915 (Reconstruction & the Gilded Age) Deck (22)
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What was the extent of union and labour rights in 1865

- In 1865, Union and Labour rights were limited to what
workers could negotiate with their employers in their
own workplace

- Unions were small and contained only skilled workers

- Work force became increasingly divided skilled workers
and unskilled/semi-skilled

- This side of the workforce had no representation or
protection so were often exploited by employers


Impact of Industrialisation

- By the 1880s, traditional skills were disappearing, and both
men and women workers were becoming increasingly
unskilled and underpaid

- 1890-35% of the workforce were women

- 1880s- 1/3 of workers in the railroad and steel industries
were common labourers

- Millions of workers had few rights

- Safety precautions led to high accident rates

- Railway workers- safety problems – 1889 2,000 rail workers
were killed

- Employers were resistant to introduce health and safety
standards on the grounds of cost


Haymarket Affair

- May 1886 – violence broke out between the police strikers
of the McCormick Harvester Plant in Chicago

- 8 workers killed, and 7 police men killed

- Violence blamed on German anarchists

- Americans stuck in a modern conspiracy and indicated the
extent of suspicion and animosity generated by new
immigration of the late 19th century and early 20th

- Deep division between existing white, protestant and skilled


Homestead Strike

- Began in 1892 and lasted 143 days

- Claimed to be the most serious labour dispute in American

- Between the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel
Workers (the AA) and the Carnegie Steel Company

- virtually bankrupted the two sides and resulted in a decline
in union membership from a high of 24,000 in 1891 to 6300
by 1909.


Pullman Strike

- 1894- Pullman Palace Car Company went on strike after
wages were cut by 25%

- The American Railway Union had been formed by unite
railway workers all over the country and was a militant

- Unions said they would allow trains to move but not pulling
Pullman carriages – however companies stressed that this
could not be done, and they appealed for federal help

- The strike was significant as it showed the lengths to which
employers and authorities were willing to go – Arose as
result of the refusal of the management to recognise the
rights of workers to engage in collective bargaining to
protect the standard of living or improve working conditions.


Give the three main events in this period

Haymarket Affair - 1886
Homestead Strike - 1892
Pullman Strike - 1894


Lochner v. New York

- 1905
- The Supreme Court rejected the law that limited the number
of hours a baker could work each day and week

- The court did not accept the argument that the law was
needed to protect the health of bakers and decided that the
law was an attempt to regulate the terms of employment,
which it described as ‘unreasonable, necessary and arbitrary
interference with the right and liberty of an individual to

- This judgement began a series which invalidated laws to
regulate working conditions during the period up to the
Second World War.


• Sherman Anti-Trust act (1890)

- 1890

- Outlawed business trusts. These huge companies came to
monopolise trade in a particular product or commodity.

- The act also declared illegal any contract or combination that
attempted to stop trade

- Employers did cut wages unexpectedly

- Strikes and protests were organised from time to time but
employers resisted any kind of unionisation in their business


Knights of Labour (KOL)

- Founded in 1869
- Intention to unite skilled and unskilled labour, and
remove barriers of race and origin imposed by existing
- Women were welcome
- Demanded 8-hour day, equal pay for women and
abolition of child labour
- By 1886, had reached a membership of 700,000 –
included 10,000 women and 50,000 African Americans
- Successful strike action was crucial in its growth
- However, after the Haymaker affair its membership had
fallen to just 100,000
- Unions broke away from the KOL and moved to the AFL


American Federation of Labour (AFL)

- Effectively replaced the KOL
- Founded in 1886
- Leader: Samuel Gompers
- Argued that to stand up to large corporations, labour
had to harness the bargaining power of skilled
workers, who were not easily replaced
- Gained support of some of USA's most influential
businessmen who were prepared to work with him in
an attempt to establish the machinery for giving
workers the right to mediation and conciliation
- By 1914 had over 2 million members


Industrial World of Workers

- Less effective
- Chicago, 1905
- More militant and had a reputation of violent affairs
- Defended the workers who were poor and illiterate –
- Membership peaked in 1923 at 100,000 members


Why can the Gilded Age not be regarded as a turning point

Gilded Age was not a turning point – violence plus militancy held them back, unions hindered own chance for growth due to divisions (white workers worrying about white jobs, workers meant perceived fear of threat to jobs, - ex slaves were cheaper so greater profit) –

cheap labour exploited, genuine threat as white workers offset as a pool of labour increased significantly due to immigration and freed slaves - refused to let new workers join so numbers can’t increase – divided not united


What had been achieved by 1914?

- By the end of the 19th were there 500,000 trade member
- By 1910, there were over 2 million and by 1920 there were 5
- However only represented 20% of the non-agricultural
- There were still non-unionised workers
- Too many employers were focused on profit margins rather
than workers
- Progress towards solidarity was hampered due to the
widescale divisions
- Increased employer attacks on labour pushed AFL towards
political action


What were the 5 main trade unions in this period

- Knights of Labour (KOL)
- African Federation of Labour (AFL)
- Industrial World of Workers
- Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel
Workers (Homestead strike)
- National labour Union


Main act passed in this period

Sherman Anti-Trust Act (1890)


William H. Sylvis

- Was one such leader who was first to promote the idea
of working class solidarity from his position

- To this end, he called a convention of workers leaders in
1866 and out of this came the National Labour Union

- This was an attempt to form a single association that
would cross craft lines and draw mass membership

- The new organisation campaigned for an eight-hour day,
currency and banking reform, the ending of convict
labour etc.

- However, the NLU was short lived, after a failed strike in


Who was the main individual responsible for the progression of workers rights in this period

- William H. Sylvis


What is laissez-fair capitalism

- The USA's industrial revolution was under way in the
1830s, but gained real momentum in the second half of
the century

- The process was characterised by exploitation of labour,
particularly that of women and children, long hours, low
wages and poor working conditions

- A key factor in explaining this was the governments
Laissez-faire policy

- This effectively empowered capitalists to form powerful
business corporations and to make huge fortunes.


Samuel Gompers

- Became a leading figure in the Union of Cigar makers

- He encouraged labourers to vote or politicians who
supported the concept of workers rights

- Leader of the AFL and campaigned for the eight hour
working day



Impact of immigration

- The arrival of immigrants in the middle and late
nineteenth centuries met the growing demand for labour
as industrialisation gathered pace

- In mines and factories, some were willing to take on
dangerous and dirty jobs.

- Poor, immigrant women, in particular, were prepared to
accept high levels of exploitation because they needed
the money

- Their acceptance of low wages angered many native-
born Americans, who believed that immigrant workers
kept wages low and reduced their own bargaining power

- This was only fostered further by the fact by 1910,
immigrants accounted for three quarters of the
population of many cities

- Trade Unions struggling to gain recognition and increase
their influence saw millions of African Americans and
immigrants as a serious threat and so discriminated
against them by refusing them admittance to their union

- Damaged labour unity


Woodrow Wilson

Woodrow Wilson’s campaign was supported by TUs and after he won he set up the Department of Labor with a former TU official at its head



Very anti trade union

Lochner v. New York

Sherman Anti-Trust Act