Friday, December 28, 2007

How successfull was the trade union movement in the post-Civil War Era?

The Civil War indicated a turning point for the United States. In addition to triggering reformation, it would eventually lead to the rise and development of industrialism in America. However, with industrialism came great issues within the workforce including gender and racial equality as well as wage issues. In an attempt to address these problems, labor unions arose. However, they were quite in unsuccessful. This is evident in their failure to achieve their economic goals, and to truly make strikes count.

Perhaps the only success of the trade union movement was the organization of workers. The American Federation of Labor was open only to skilled workers, whereas the Industrial Workers of the World were for those with radical ideas. The greats successes in organization were those of the National Labor Union, which was the first in admitting both skilled and unskilled workers. The Knights of Labor also succeeded in this field, for it consisted of nearly 750,000 members.

With a great deal of individuals, these trade unions were expected to thrive. And in some cases, they did. The National Labor Union manage to reduce the daily workday by two hours. That is when an eight-hour workday became the norm.

Trade union failures clearly outweigh their successes. Their failure to increase wages was shown at the eve of several strikes. The Railroad Strike of 1877 was an attempt to rebel against lowering wages of the Baltimore and Ohio company. They strikers were quickly suppressed by the US Army upon President Hayes's command. The Homestead Strike of 1892 and the Pullman Strike of 1894 were also protests against wage cuts. They too, were unsuccessful upon the involvement of federal powers.

Wage cuts, however, were only one of the reasons trade unions went on strike. The Haymarket Square Riot of 1886 protested poor treatment of workers. This strike only gave labor unions a bad name, for they were blamed for the bombing and killing of police officers.

Trade unions were successful at getting together and organizing strikes. They even shaved two hours of the normal workday. However, little progress was made with regards to gender and racial equality and wage issues.

1 comment:

Mr. Brush said...

The first sentence of the 2nd paragraph should have been in your thesis. Plus your essay is way too short for your caliber.