APUSH – Labor Unions-Laws-Strikes

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The Knights of Labor

This group, which peaked membership in 1886, grew rapidly because of a combination of their open-membership policy, the continuing industrialization of the American economy, and the growth of urban population; welcomed unskilled and semiskilled workers, including women, immigratns, and African Americans; were idealists who believed they could eliminate conflict between labor and managements. Their goal was to create a cooperative society in which laborers owned the industries in which they worked.

The Industrial Workers of the World

Led by "Mother" Jones, Elizabeth Flynn, Big Bill Haywood, and Eugene Debs; strove to unite all laborers, including unskilled workers and African Americans; its goal was to create "One Big Union;" embraced the rhetoric of class conflict and endorsed violent tactics; the organization collapsed during WWI.

The American Federation of Labor

Led by Samuel Gompers; an alliance of skilled workers in craft unions; concentrated on brea-and-butter issues such as higher wages, shorter hours, and better working conditions.

The Great Railroad Strike

1877, provoked by the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad’s decision to cut wages for the second time in a year; remembered as the first general strike in American history; paralyzed the nation’s commerce for 45 days; forced governors in ten states to mobilize 60,000 militia to reopen rail traffic.

Sherman Antitrust Act

1890, forbade only unreasonable combinations or contracts in restraint of trade; had little immediate impact on the regulation of large corporations; during the last decade of the nineteenth century, the primary use of the act was to curb labor unions.

Homestead Strike

1892, began as a dispute between the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers (the AA) and the Carnegie Steel Company; The AA refused to accept pay cuts and went on strike in Pennsylvania; the strike ultimately culminated in a battle between strikers and private security guards hired by the company.

Pullman Strike

1894, when the national economy fell into a depression, the Pullman Palace Car Company cut wages while maintaining rents and prices in a company town where 12,000 workers lived; halted a substantial portion of American railroad commerce; ended when President Cleveland ordered federal troops to Chicago, ostensibly to protect rail-carried mail, but in reality, to crush the strike.

The Anthracite Coal Strike

1902, a strike by the United Mine Workers of America in eastern Pennsylvania; it was arbitrated with the active involvement of President Theodore Roosevelt; this marked the first time the federal government intervened in a labor dispute as a neutral arbitrator.

Wagner Act

1935, also known as the National Labor Relations Act; often called the Magna Carta of labor because it ensured workers’ right to organize and bargain collectively; led to a dramatic increase in labor union membership.

The Congress of Industrial Workers

led by John L. Lewis; organized unskilled and semiskilled factory workers in basic manufacturing industries such as steel and automobiles.

The Split

The American Federation of Labor (AFL) split apart at its national convention in 1935; a majority of AFL leaders refused to grant charters to new unions organized on an industry-wide basis; the AFL favored the organization of workers according to their skills and trades; the CIO favored the organization of all workers in a particular industry.

Taft-Hartley Act

1947, the primary purpose was to curb the power of labor unions; supporters believed: 1) unions were abusing their power; 2) widespread strikes would endanger the nation’s vital defense industries; 3) some labor unions had been infiltrated by Communists; 4) employers were being coerced into hiring union workers; opposed by organized labor.

United Farm Workers

organized and led by Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, Philip Vera Cruz, and Larry Itliong; a union of farm workers; Cesar Chavez is recognized as a significant civil rights leader.

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