Labor Rights Movement in America By Josiah Guzman

Labor Rights in America

In the history of the United States there has been many social changes that have helped shape the America we know today. The Labor Rights Movement was one of the most significant and important movements for the equality of working class citizens country wide. The discrimination of workers rights in the United States have been going on for hundreds of years, but the movements roots began when Uriah Smith Stephens and Terrance V. Powderly founded the Knights of Labor in 1869. Many important events involving discrimination against working class citizens preceded the era known as the Labor Rights Movement. Many strikes and protests started take place across the country. For example, the Great Southwest Railroad Strike of 1886 was a labor union strike involving more than 200,000 workers. Railroad workers in five states began a strike against the Union Pacific and Missouri Pacific railroads, owner Jay Gould. Organization of labor unions under the leadership of various working hard Americans, helped launch a resistance against big monopolies and robber barons alike; who were under paying them, and taking advantage of their workers by forcing long, harsh, working conditions. As a result of the Leadership of working class citizens in our country, the Labor Rights movement was able to show how Americans aren’t afraid to stand up for their beliefs and fight for what they believe is right. Furthermore, the Labor Rights Movement is important to US history, establishing that discrimination in the work field is unjust and will no longer be tolerated in this country.

Reasons for why workers started a movement

December 28, 1869- Knights of Labor founded : secure and maintain the rights of workingmen, in respect to their relations to their employers.

March 1, 1886- Great South West railroad strike: The Great Southwest railroad strike of 1886 was a labor union strike involving more than 200,000 workers. Railroad workers in five states began a strike against the Union Pacific and Missouri Pacific railroads, owner Jay Gould.

May 4, 1886- Haymarket Square: During a protest demonstration for the killing of a striker from the day before; protesters and policemen collided when an unknown individual threw a bomb into a squad of police officers. The police responded by opening fire into the crowd, killing around twelve individuals and wounding over one-hundred.

Working conditions before labor disputes

The Jungle: Upton Sinclair: wrote the novel to portray the harsh conditions and exploited lives of meat packing industries in the United States in Chicago and similar industrialized cities. ¨There were the men in the pickle-rooms, for instance, where old Antanas had gotten his death; scarce a one of these that had not some spot of horror on his person. Let a man so much as scrape his finger pushing a truck in the pickle-rooms, and he might have a sore that would put him out of the world; all the joints in his fingers might be eaten by the acid, one by one. Of the butchers and floors men, the beef-boners and trimmers, and all those who used knives, you could scarcely find a person who had the use of his thumb; time and time again the base of it had been slashed, till it was a mere lump of flesh against which the man pressed the knife to hold it. The hands of these men would be criss-crossed with cuts, until you could no longer pretend to count them or to trace the poem.¨ A little excerpt from The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair.

World War 1 wage controls Protest in Seattle: In February, to protest two years of World War 1 wage controls, 65,000 workers went on strike in Seattle. 40,000 other workers joined them in solidarity, shutting down the city of Seattle.

April 5, 2001 - April 25, 2001: 13,000 teachers and 3,100 faculty members went on strike due to negotiations breaking down over pay raises. 183,000 public school students and 42,000 university students were affected by the strike.

How did companies and big businesses respond?

Although only 750 of the 3,800 workers at Homestead belonged to the union, 3,000 of them met and voted overwhelmingly to strike. Frick responded by building a fence three miles long and 12 feet high around the steelworks plant, adding peepholes for rifles and topping it with barbed wire. Workers named the fence "Fort Frick." This is just one example on how Robber Barons and big business responded to workers joining unions and rallying against them.

How has this movement help shape America today?

Over the long and lengthy time period of workers unionizing, there have been major efforts in order to please both sides. For example in 1890 the Sherman Antitrust Act was passed by congress on July 2.

The Sherman Antitrust Act prohibits business activities that federal government regulators deem to be “anti-competitive”, and requires the federal government to investigate and pursue trusts.

In 1947, the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947 a.k.a “Taft Hartley Act” was put into effect. Became a law after president Harry S. Truman Veto was overturned by congress.The Taft Hartley Act is a law that restricts the activities and power of labor unions.

Does this movement still affect Americans today?

If you take a look at the Acts and Executive Orders that were signed by various presidents throughout my timeline, you would find how those decisions still affect Americans today. For example, President John F. Kennedy issued executive order 10988 giving federal workers the right to join unions and bargain wages/ working conditions.


Created with images by ** RCB ** - "windy labor day"

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