Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Rich Get Richer and The Poor Get Poorer #2

In the effort to deepen my understanding of the theme, “People, Places, and Power,” and the topic, “Labor vs. Big Business,” I completed an interactive activity on the topic. The interactive activity, about the Homestead Strike of 1892, can be found at:
This activity provided many primary sources  about the strike from the perspectives of the strikers, the company, and the press. From this activity I was able to gather more information my topic, additional evidence to back up my enduring understandings, and also develop another enduring understanding.

Key Terms
Transcontinental Railroad- railroad going from east to west coast, example of poor treatment of workers and corruption by company
Immigrant Workers- used as cheap form of labor by many corporations
Mass Production- production in large quantities
Andrew Carnegie- Powerful and wealthy industrialist who created US Steel Corporation
Robber Barons- term used to describe powerful industrialists implying they built fortune by stealing from public
Captains of Industry- term used to describe powerful industrialists implying they had positive effect on nation
John D Rockefeller- Powerful and wealthy industrialist who created Standard Oil Company
Social Darwinism- extended Darwin's natural selection to society and economic success, argued society and government should not interfere with business
Oligopoly- market structure which is dominated by only a few large profitable firms
Monopoly- complete control of a product or service by one company
Economics of Scale- as production increases, cost per item decreases
Vertical Consolidation- control of the many different businesses that make up all phases of a products development
Horizontal Consolidation- bringing together many firms in same business
The Sherman Antitrust Act- outlawed any combination of companies that restrained interstate trade or commerce
Union- organization of workers that gave them power in numbers
Strike- organized refusal to work by workers as form of protest, often turned violent during the period
Scab- worker brought in to break strike
Great Railroad Strike of 1877- strike over wage cuts of railroad workers that began series of violent labor strikes
Haymarket Riot- labor demonstration that turned deadly when bomb exploded at police that resulted in many deaths and wrongful punishments of falsely accused conspirators. Well known example of tension between police and protesters
Homestead Strike- strike against Homestead steel mill in Pennsylvania.

Enduring Understandings

Those with great economic power and those with great political power tend to have aligned interests:
  • J.P. Morgan made sure his creation of US Steel Corporation was successful “by making sure Congress passed tariffs keeping out foreign steel” (Robber Barons and Rebels, 257).
  • The Central Pacific Railroad “spent $200,000 in Washington on bribes to get 9 million acres of free land and $24 million in bonds” (Robber Barons and Rebels, 254).
  • "Governor Pattison, being convinced that Sheriff McCleary is unable to restore order at Homestead, has ordered out the entire National Guard–8,500 men-all the available military force of the state, to Homestead for service. It is understood that the Governor's purpose in calling out the entire National Guard is to make sure that there will be no demonstration on the part of the locked-out men. He thinks that men will quietly submit before such an overwhelming force, while they might resist if one regiment was sent here" (New York Herald, July 11, 1892). 

People in power have little regard for the wellbeing of the lower class:
  • “The Union Pacific [Railroad] used twenty thousand workers- war veterans and Irish immigrants, who laid 5 miles of track a day and died by the hundreds in the heat, the cold, and the battles with Indians opposing the invasion of their territory” (Robber Barons and Rebels, 255).
  • “One Italian man, told he was going to Connecticut to work on the railroad, was taken instead to sulfate mines in the south, where he and his fellows were watched over by armed guards in their barracks and in the mines, given only enough money to pay for their railroad fare and tools, and very little to eat” (Robber Barons and Rebels, 266).
  • "The company would make no more agreements with the Amalgamated Association; it would itself determine the wages to be paid. In fact, he would not recognize the union at all. He would not treat with the employees collectively, as before. He would close the mills, and the men might consider themselves discharged. Thereafter they would have to apply for work individually, and the pay would be arranged with every worker separately" (Living My Life). 
People will do anything and risk everything to be heard and protect their rights.
  • Shows large force of strikers after defeating Pinkerton detectives, hired security brought in to stop the strikes. The violence of the incident and solidarity of strikers shows there determination to win the strike. (Cover of Harper's Weekly, July 16, 1892)
  • Now the troubles down at Homestead were brought about this way,
    When a grasping corporation had the audacity to say:
    "You must all renounce your union and forswear your liberty
    And we will give you a chance to live and die in slavery."
    Now this sturdy band of workingmen started out at the break of day,
    Determination in their faces which plainly meant to say:
    "No one can come and take our homes for which we have toiled so long,
    No one can come and take our places—no, here’s where we belong!" ("Song of Strike" by George Swetnam)
The people on the bottom of the power structure in the struggle between laborers and big business were the factory workers. Businesses only amassed there massive amounts of wealth at the expense of their workers. These workers faced low wages and horrible working conditions. If they spoke up, they were fired. Workers tried to form unions so they could unite and have more power to fight the corporations than they did as individuals. However, the companies did not want this to happen and many, such as at the Homestead factory, refused to recognize the unions (Living My Life). To try and be heard and have their  demands met, workers would go on strike. These strikes could become very violent such as the Homestead strike did where many were killed and both private mercenaries and the states entire national guard, 8,500 men, were brought in to stop it (New York Herald, July 11, 1892). These strikes were a display of solidarity for the strikers. They sang songs with lyrics like:

"Now, boys, we are out on strike, you can help us if you like,
But you need not till I tell you what it's about.
They want to lower our wages, we think it is not right;
So for union's cause I want you all to shout.
We will sing the union's praise while our voices we can raise" ("The Homestead Strike") 

While these strikes usually very large and well organized, they often reaped little reward because the corporations would break up the strikes or hire new workers rather than give in to the strikers demands and lower their profits. With little change occurring, the workers were horribly mistreated and powerless, so many workers suffered and remained in horrible conditions at the bottom of the power structure. They were victims of the power of the corporations. 

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