“How successful was organized labor in improving the position of workers in the period from 1875 to 1900? Analyze the factors that contributed to the level of success achieved. ” “It is impossible for capitalists and laborers to have common interest. ” The Second Industrial Revolution skyrocketed with new inventions and machines and changed how factories and jobs were worked. As the industries grew, so did the need for unions among the workers. To a certain degree the unions were successful in improving the position of the workers.
They were not highly successful as they would be defeated and have to go back to square one, but mildly a success. Developing from the needs, the effects of the workers’ unions were successful. Big business and industrialization were taking over the economic system and agriculture was becoming less important. Technological advances were booming and diminishing the need for laborers (Doc. D). A trade could have been divided into many small tasks which require much less skill. It then took 100 men what it took 300-400 men to do fifteen years ago.
Government was not helping laborers, in fact they used court injunction as a weapon against strikers. (Doc. H). They said that national government has the power to regulate interstate commerce and therefore can regulate the weaving rail line’s intruders and force obstructions to leave (Doc. H). Labor Unions viewed many practices of their employers to be unjust. They saw with their own eyes the excessive wealth and leisure of the upper class that resulted from their daily toil of at least ten hours of hard labor. Their own fruits of their labor amounted to barely enough to survive until the next paycheck.
Often they were abused and their wages were cut as low as $10/week. Even with these hours and wages many of them were perpetually in debt and went without some necessities. These abuses were targeted by the demand for a minimum (livable) wage law and the work day to be mandated to eight hours. Annual wages were close to $400-500. With these demands not being met, other factors were adding to the poor conditions. Many times, the working environment was dangerous and unstable. Injuries and mutilations at work resulted not in compensation but in being fired.
A new body was always waiting to take the job of someone who missed a single day of work or died prematurely from unsafe working conditions. A single illness could cut off the financial support of an entire family. There was nothing to aid them other than charities until they could find a new job, and the wages they had earned would not last long. Sixty percent of the industrial forces were foreign and there were plenty that were ready labor. The Labor Unions wanted job stability. Miners had been their own boss until the machines deprived them of their work and lost their control.
Without control they didn’t really have much. The workers had become a part of the machinery and had become dehumanized in the work place. Robber barons such as Rockefeller and Carnegie were men of business and had no problem throwing out men and replacing them if someone else could do their job just as well for cheaper. Approximately 11, 700 of the 14,300 employed for Carnegie were immigrants. Cheap labor helped bring success and also brought about strikes. These laborers worked to end slave wages and dangerous conditions that were inhibiting workers in their pursuit of happiness.
The workers raised awareness though Unions and showed their discontent through strikes, which both showed failure and success. There were several techniques used by laborers to strike attention and defeat management. Labor unions were set up to raise awareness such as the National Labor Union, the Knights of Labor, and the American Federation of Labor. Really the focus of the unions was on economics. The laborers wanted higher wages and shorter hours; and that is what they got. From 1886-1891 the average daily hours gradually decreased as the average daily wages were increasing (Doc A).
The Homestead and Pullman Strike ultimately did not succeed, however, but if the federal government had not joined in, they probably would have. In the Homestead, they were strong enough to get the Pinkertons to surrender. Strikes weren’t kind; people had died before surrendering (Doc G). With Rockefeller in oil, “workmen became truly their commodity; for in time of a strike, orders could be shifted to other factories in a different section of the country and these kept running full blast. ” Rockefeller worked around whatever strikes he encountered with his monopoly, and he was a success.
Those who associated with him, railroads, pipe lines, etc, in his company were blessed with wealth beyond their dreams. The companies competing against Rockefeller gathered together to form their own super pipeline to “outdo” him and beat him to the sea. They weren’t going to sit there and let him take over everything and put them out of business. The Standard Oil Company had its own form of union and through them they idea of a trust was formed, which evolved into huge aggregations of capital. In Document C, however, labor killed capital that was bearing the golden eggs.
You can’t have capital without the labor, labor existed beforehand. Labor regrets killing the capital because they benefit from the golden eggs (which are placed in the butcher’s apron and the basket of the woman). They aren’t benefitting if they killed it and Communism standing by waiting for his turn. “No man is able to get to where they are now alone; it is a combination of men. ” Laborers are nothing within a union if everyone is not together or if they are not prepared for a fight. They fought for better positions in the work force. They needed to support their families. Success came out from labor unions of different sorts.
However, not everyone was as successful as the next. These labor unions in general, of every sort, stood up and fought for what was right in making a better living. Not every strike will have fulfilled their needs, but they leave their mark. Small yet great changes can come about, not always immediately, through the labor unions. Though advantages lay with the management, and for all the blood spilt and sacrifices made, the unions went down in defeat, but will be remembered. They were a success in their own amount. The early unions created a foundation for the ones to come years later that would have lasting effects.