Major Strikes 1875-1900 Great Railroad Strike of 1877



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Major Strikes 1875-1900




Great Railroad Strike of 1877

First nationwide strike



Triggered by wage cut by the B & O

  • During the repression of 1873+

  • Martinsburg, West Virginia, Pittsburgh, PA

  • Broken by the local police, state militia and federal troops

  • Also a general strike

  • Many local militia refused to fire on strikers

  • Large number killed (100) – lots of destruction of property



Haymarket Riot 1886





  • In Chicago- start as protest against killing of workers by police at McCormick strike on May 1

  • Speeches given May 4 at Haymarket Square- by anarchists- police called

  • Bomb thrown and 7 police killed- then riot with both sides firing

  • 8 anarchists found guilty of conspiracy to murder, although the evidence was flimsy- sentenced to death (3 later pardoned by Altgeld)

  • Hysterical atmosphere – anti unions- Knights of Labor hurt since the most prominent union- collapsed

  • Cities increased police forces, states built national guard armories near workers

  • Hurt the labor movement- tarnished with “radical” level

  • Part of the eight hour day movement



Homestead Strike & Lockout 1892





  • Industrial union struck at Carnegie plant – AFL affiliate and divisions between skilled and unskilled laborers

  • Frick – manager for Carnegie – cut wages (beginning of depression 1893)

  • Attempted assassination of Frick by an anarchist – Alexander Berkman Use of Lockout technique

  • Co. brings in 300 Pinkertons – battle with workers – tar and feather Pinkertons

  • Bring in state troops, guard plant – workers lose

  • All fired, wages cut



Pullman Strike 1894





  • Pullman – company town – wages cut, rents and prices still high

  • American railway union (under Debs) helps strike by boycotting trains with Pullman cars

  • Railroad Managers Association – adds mail cars and Pullman cars to all trains

  • RR traffic paralyzed

  • Gov. Altgeld refuses to send in state troops

  • President Cleveland sends in fed groups to guard the mail trains

  • Riots break out (in part fueled by unemployed workers who came to build the Columbian Exposition)

  • Attorney General Richard Olney used court injunction – to protect the mails- Debs in jail

  • Strike failed – Debs turned to Socialism


Smaller Strikes


  • Knights of Labor assemblies to against Jay Gould’s railroad – he caved – secretly selling RR –

  • Led to other Knights strikes which failed (esp. Texas and Pacific RR)

  • Silver mines – Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, coal mines – Tennessee, Colorado


Labor Unions 1875-1900



National Labor Union (Fails in the 1870s)


  • Org. after the Civil War by William Sylvis – died depression of 1870’s

  • Craft Unions, skilled and unskilled, reformers – 1st large national union

  • Looked to earlier America – workers controlled workday, decent living]

  • Demand 8 hour workday

  • “Eight hours for work, eight hours for rest, eight hours for what we will”

  • Formed a third party, lost heavily in the 1872 elections

  • They excluded bankers, lawyers and liquor dealers

  • Height – 600,000, failed in depression of 1870’s



Knights of Labor 1860’s –1890





  • Start – Uriah Stephens, small secret, very Protestant

  • Terence Powderly – transforms 1879 –

  • Skilled, unskilled, men and women, natives and immigrants, all religions and races

  • Excluded liquor dealers, gambler, lawyers, bankers, stockbrokers and prostitutes

  • Goal- utopian- cooperatives run by workers, sponsored political candidates

  • 8 hour workday, regulate trusts, no child or convict labor, prohibition

  • No strikes – but local assembly struck against Jay Gould – trying to sell RR so gave in – huge increase in membership, lots of strikes, most failed

  • Destroyed by Haymarket riot – though Powderly supported trying the anarchists, people blame all unions as radicals; Failed by 1890



American Federation of Labor 1886-





  • Founded by Samuel Gompers 1886

  • Federation of skilled craft unions

  • Once a socialist, Gompers now pro capitalism

  • Bread and butter “pure and simple unionism” – wages, hours, working conditions

  • Bargain – strikes and boycotts last resort

  • No support for one political candidate or party

  • Few women only Cigar Makers Union and Typographers Union)

  • Restrict African American membership through high fees and discrimination

  • Survived depression of 1890’s – though reduced in numbers



American Railway Union 1893-1895





  • Eugene V. Debs organized

  • Industrial union

  • Debs order nor violence – just used to justify troops

  • Quickly got involved in Pullman strike – union broken

  • Debs became leading U.S. socialist



Molly Maguires – 1870’s






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