What is the wide range of ways workers respond
The U.S. is an
agricultural country until the industrial era.
In Colonial America, the work force consists mainly farm labor
including indentured servants who can become independent farmers
after they work off their debt. In the coastal cities there are
some low level industrial jobs in shipping and businesses. The
beginning of worker associations in response to harsh conditions.
After the American
America is not a classless society. In the North the merchants in
urban areas are the Master Class with its underclass workers called
Mechanics. In the South planters are the Master Class with poor
whites and slaves as its underclass.
At the end of the 18th and beginning of 19th centuries mill towns
spring up along the rivers. The rivers are a source of power,
transportation, source to dump manufacturing wastes, and
paradoxically, a source of drinking water.
Beginnings of labor
Women are recruited to work in the Lowell mills from the age of 15
until 30. Men are working in nearby factories. Labor associations
begin to organize for bread-and-butter issues, leaving a history of
The Civil War is a
for major industrialization, with the rise of technology and the
birth of the factory system, especially in the last 1/3 of the 19th
to fill labor needs, 1880 to early 1900s, mainly from southern and
eastern Europe and Irish peasants. Competition for jobs including
railroad building and coal mining with earlier immigrants from
western and southern Europe. Catholics are despised by earlier
Protestant arrivals. The issues behind the draft riots of 1863 by
Blossoming of the
Now there is a full-fledged industrial labor, including housing for
workers. Workers are living in primitive conditions. Working
conditions are very harsh -- long workdays and workweeks with
extremely low wages, and child labor. There is no protection from
or compensation for disease or accidents. Factory tasks are
fragmented, offer no pride in work, in contrast with farming.
Workers respond to
with apathetic hopelessness, upward aspirations (although there is
little prospect for improvement in the early industrial era),
rags-to-riches fantasy reflected in the popularity of the Horatio
Alger stories, and also resistance.
to provide collective leverage not available to individual workers.
Reconstruction ends in the South in 1877 and federal troops are
shifted for strike-breaking in the North.
The violent episode
of the Molly McGuires.
The AFL is formed in
incorporating skilled workers, and led by Samuel Gompers for 40
years. It accepts the capitalist system, wants a bigger piece of
the pie. Gompers is enticed to cooperate with newer more
sophisticated business leaders which emerge later in the 19th
from Europe, utopian or individual, believe the capitalist system is
inherently unjust, is also homegrown by Eugene Debbs.
The pattern of
repeated strike violence
by either side, but always blamed on the workers by upper
class-controlled media, turns the public against labor. Pullman Car
workers strike in 1894 during a then depression and are joined by
railroad workers. The governor of Illinois chooses not to intervene
but President Cleveland finds a reason to send troops. Violence
occurs and union leaders are jailed. Debbs comes out of prison,
runs for President and shows surprising strength early in the 20th
The union defeats
in 1886 Chicago Haymarket strike and especially the Carnegie iron
and steel plant strike in Homestead, Pennsylvania, set back union
efforts until1919 when they are defeated again, not to succeed until
Early 20th century.
The 1902 Anthracite Coal Strike is led by John
The number of
children in higher class families decreases. Family size increases
in working class families because a child is put out to work at the
age of 6 to add family income.
Family church attendance.
Despite the comfort of religion promising an after-life, family
church attendance declines. The sermon's messages include: obey the
owners, life is suffering, living in sin, accept your fate.