The Gilded Age
The Gilded Age consisted of many inventions that modernized the factory system in Post-Civil War American. The need for labor unions arose and resulted with minor changes. From 1875-1900 the successes of improving the conditions of workers mildly changed; however, for the most part within the years the circumstances failed to correct the positions of the workers. Several skilled jobs were replaced with lower paying jobs due to new technology and business structures. Labor unions normally favored an eight-hour workday, resulting with little improvement in cutting the hours worked.
From 1875- 1891 the hours worked only decreased from 9. 9 hours a day to 9. 4 hours (Doc. A). Due to the subdivision of workers tasks the hours did not have a chance at being cut. Since the jobs of laborers were sectioned into smaller actions, the workers status of being considered “skilled” was stripped from them (Doc. D). The increased amount of untrained jobs in many factories resulted with a lack of power in labor unions to change the conditions. As a result of the sectioning of jobs, unemployment was high, which left many people in poverty.
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Although the technological improvements made the factories more efficient, the new systems failed to decrease hours for workers, and also placed many out of employment. Laborers often acted upon strikes in hopes to achieve what they had desired. However, in an editorial in the New York Times, the writer explains how strikes are useless, because many workers do not even know what they are fighting for (Doc. B). The strike that is referred to by the writer was the first massive American strike, the Great Railroad Strike of 1877. The huge vengeful crowds attacked the armed forces that were sent in by President Hayes to end the strikes.
However, the Pittsburg militia sided with the strikers. The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Co. weakened the revolts by stating that communists caused the strikes. Reporters often were aggressive towards labor unions and strikers, thus resulting with an organizational outlook. The Supreme Court granted the national government to control interstate commerce; therefore, it is government’s responsibility to keep the railways free from strikes (Doc. H). Eugene Debs was imprisoned for his conversion to socialism after he led the Pullman strike in 1894. As shown with Debs, the government found a new way to disassemble strikes.
For example, the government asserted authority over Illinois. The Supreme Court was extremely moderate and antagonistic to organized labor in the years 1875-1900. Labor Unions failed to improve conditions of workers not only within the factory system but also through the government. Laborers would strike back, but would immediately be dismantled by militias or the government. Due to the unemployment of many workers, the hours had to made up for by the few who did work in the factories. Overall, the positions of the workers were not improved with the new modernization of many inventions.