Civil Rights OCR ( Trade Unions)

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These are just a few notes on parts of the trade union module (Please be aware: not all the module is covered in these notes)

Trade Unions

Industrial development widened the gap between employers and skilled workers. Employees set up fledging craft unions to resist wage cuts and extend working hours. Skilled laborers formed citywide labor organizations in places such as Boston, New York and Philadelphia. However there was often limited city organization.


The knights of labor was set up in 1869 it initially was secret organization only consisting of garment cutters. It sought citizenship rights, social progress and co-ordination of the different races and craft unions to form a unionized movement. It also aimed for an 8-hour working day, equal pay fro women, the abolition of child labor, paper money, income tax and for railroads to become nationalized. Usually the organization strongly opposed strikes due to their distributive nature.


The Railroad Strike 1877

Powderly forced to reject his non-violent aims.

However following a compromise in 1877 in Martinsburg, West Virginia an announcement was made by the Baltimore and Ohio railroad company that saw a 10% wage cut. The protesters burned 39 buildings and destroyed 104 locomotives. It engaged 100,000 workers. 7 different states were forced to call for their own militia. This was never seen before apart from in New York 1850 when 2 died from police action. Between 1877- 1900 American presidents sent a U.S army into 11 strikes, governors mobilized the National Guard in between 118-170 labor disputes. A positive thing about the railroad strike was that some employees began thinking about implementing old age pensions, accident insurance and employee benefits. Most however sought to created stronger militia units. Cooperative leader such as Cyrus McCormick the founder of the international harvester funded these. He equipped the Illinois National Guard and Chicago businessmen. Business leaders in Chicago provided money to have a military base 20 miles from their city. The knights of labor decided to change their strategy after 1877 violence. They realized they lacked leadership and urbanization. They took a more active role in creating an organization that was not semi-secret but could counter industrial employers. They did not discriminate against races, gender, skilled or unskilled workers for this reason they fought they could create a unified movement. It's membership increased in 1883 to 50,000.


STRIKE!! the Haymarket Affair

The railroad strike continued there was another strike held for an eight-hour working day with over 1500 stoppages throughout the country involving several thousands of people. In Chicago police shot into a crowd of 30000 and shot 2.anarchists called for a massive rally which attracted 50,000 in Haymarket Square. A bomb was thrown at the police wounding 70 the police retaliated by shooting which killed a worker. They sought to get change though numbers. The strikes both failed for the KOL. Many employers and industrialist experts saw them as socialist. The organization collapsed loosing 90% of its membership in four


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