The Development of Labor Movements
The economy of America significantly improved in both agriculture and industrial development during the last quarter of the 19th century between the years1865 and 1900. During this historical period that acted a transition from the previous civil wars that the states encountered and the development era the nation recorded a significant progress that was spearheaded by political leaders and lead businessmen who collaborated with the pool of employed individuals. The drastic reforms that came about as a result of this steady transition that were wide ranging from economic, political and social, illustrates the need of a society to engage in positive activities that provide for even distribution of opportunities in terms of both service provision and wealth. This period presented to the entire world the rise of great politicians, employed individuals and business people’s contribution to the successes of the then future of America which came about in the middle of the 20th century making it the century of America.
For the Americans this period enabled them to understand the nature of individuals ranging from their interests in regard to the development of the nation and more importantly, their greed. The grounds presented displayed evidence of increased practices of corruption and greed for power. It also expressed severe cases of monopolistic displays due to the dominating self interests from the business fraternity by expecting unrealistic profits and engaging in dubious market integration mechanisms. Politicians on their side didn’t display extremist leadership characters due to the lack of election framework that was to act as a guide for selecting local leaders. They carried themselves around as if they were bosses and laid ground for the coming political duels. They also devised other mechanisms which they used to manipulate the vast population and the labor forces to amass exorbitant wealth in their favor. The wealth they make would later serve as capital to either bribe or buy the individuals in future while ascending though power.
The working groups that were present in this interlude saw the need of better pay and provisions of job security. With the ongoing developments that businesspeople brought about, employment opportunities were efficient for the immigrants who worked on industries and railroads. They occupied cities that were not ready to receive them since the initial occupants were those that worked in the public service. Though the effects of the increased population had a significant impact the federal government did not enact clear policies that would ensure a steady and effective growth of business but rather devised laws that allowed sudden growth of businesses. With the varied classes of individuals, the wealth officials were comfortable with the urban inhabitation and therefore didn’t engage themselves in carrying out reforms that would address the poverty ratio and the poor state of health in the urban areas.
The 1893 strike by workers of the Pullman Palace car company acted as a pivot as it set of the trend by which workers would make their grievances addressed at length. Not only had the workers worker’s salary reduced by 25%, it had also retrenched a number of its employees. With the inventor, George Pullman not ready to negotiate with the workers and in return shutting down the plant and firing 3 workers, the workers later staged a strike against Pullman leading to the stoppage of mail delivery as well as traffic on the rail road. The strict measures that Pullman made his employees go through such as controlling rents and setting prices for goods the workers used were quite dictatorial. It took the efforts of the federal government under President Grover Cleveland, who instructed the troops, to disperse the striking rowdy workers to end the strike. The lead activist Eugene Debs who started working for Pullman since his teenage hood and later formed the American railway union that brought together all railroad workers regardless of their posts had a belief that only unions could exert the much needed pressure to employers to listen to their workers’ grievances. After failing to call off the Pullman strike despite government orders over the same, he was arrested and confined in prison for conspiring and in the process interfering with the commerce of alternate states. The appeal on the government’s lack of influence over affairs of the union and its employer by intervening and stopping the strike was conversely denied.
The fundamental duty the unions put up in agitating for the rights and privileges were not welcomed by the government. Appeals by employers were frequently approved terming unions to be unprotected organizations by the law while downplaying their achievements in the previous years. As the 19th century came to an end, workers and their employers had conflicts over various labor related issues with better terms of service and improved wages prevailing most negotiations that the two parties were engaged in. the industries were frequented with strikes making the union leaders rise to stardom as socialists such as Debs who later contributed to the formation of Industrial Workers Union in the beginning of the 20th century. Though the workers had genuine reasons for the strikes, in most cases local militia and troops were called to suppress the strikes irrespective of the issues they intended to address.
The fact that majority of this movement had illiterate members who were at some instances unable to present their grievances posed a great danger on their part since some of them participated in strikes in which they even didn’t know what was being addressed. The socialists mostly acted as the lead protesters and for this case the spokesmen of the workers, on instances where personal interests arose in the middle of the strike could result in the strike to abort. Since most f the workers were naïve, they did not know their rights and freedoms thus didn’t see the need to join a union. Most individuals were also unaware of the existence of labor movements thus were not able to either credit or downplay it in regard to its ability to effectively address the problems they faced.
The union’s decision to engage in the railroad road strike unlike the other engagement received the support of the public due to the company’s treatment of its employees. This strike addressed increased acts of wage reduction and frequent firing. As fate would have it, the public joined the workers in agitating for increase of wages and sudden retrenchment without notification. It was also observed that the local militia enforced to suppress the rioters had sympathy and resisted from going stopping the workers. Not even the government directive that threatened local form engaging in the strike could stop the public from aiding the workers. However the various shortcomings of the early labor movements were brought up displaying characteristics such as disorganization where the labor movements did not organize a strike but started it then it spread. The workers involved in the protests and negotiations were punished making the protests not to serve their purpose but put some individuals’ jobs in jeopardy.
It was however evident that the unions served a purpose as some industries were careful with their employees due to the destructions they experienced during protests with cases on insurance covers as some of the improvement the workers enjoyed. Lead protestors also became favorites to occupy political seats since they were seen vocal in represented the vulnerable in the society. The grounds for bargain for those seeking elective seats during elections also changed to fit those favourable to the workers such as reduced working hours as well as stoppage of oppressive labor acts. The rise of the day of the worker is some of the major achievements the labor union brought fourth. These strikes set precedent for the unions and the government of the day to consider the power of the worker in agitating against malpractices that affect them. The government presented with the need to have a comprehensive legislation that clearly outlined the role of the unions played as well as their part in term of employee-employer relations. The efforts by labor unions in the 1980s were likened to political duels where workers and employers were engaging though they were not coming into agreement. Lack of proper legislation to govern this labor movements also formed a stumbling block in their quest for addressing their employers. Forms of agreements that these two groups could relate to were not available making each group regard itself as superior.