Industrial Revolution Essay

Submitted By alissawells
Words: 1325
Pages: 6

The Steel Industry The late nineteenth century was an amazing time of growth in America. The population was growing at a staggering rate. In 1860 the population of the US was 31,443,321 and grew to 76,212,168 in 1900 and 92,228,496 in 1910. The industrial labor force tripled between 1880 and 1910. Large factories, which had existed only in the textile industry before the Civil War,became more common in many industries. Labor was in high demand to run these new industries. However,the continued high population growth spurred by immigration helped to keep the value of individual workers low as there was a large number of people to fill the jobs. In spite of this,workers continued to organize into unions and fight management against unfair treatment. The growth of railroads in the 1800’s created a large market for steel. It was discovered that steel rails were much more durable than iron rails, which had been used before this discovery. Even though steel railroads were more expensive and labor-intensive steel became the primary material used in railroad production. Three major inventions made it possible for steel to be mass produced cheaply: the Bessemer process, the Thomas process, and the open-hearth process. Andrew Carnegie recognized the importance of these processes and used them all in his factories. In the late 1880’s Carnegie was the largest manufacturer of steel in America. As the mills expanded so did the work force, especially unskilled workers. The Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers (AA) was an American labor union formed in 1876. It was a craft union representing skilled iron and steel workers.The AA had a strong presence at the Homestead Steel Manufacturing company in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The union negotiated national uniform wage scales on an annual basis; helped regulate working hours, workload levels and work speeds; and helped improve working conditions. The AA had two previous strikes at Homestead, one in 1882 and another in 1889. Both strikes had been successful. After Carnegie bought Homestead in 1888 he concluded that the AA basically ran the plant. The union contract contained 58 pages of footnotes defining work-rules at the plant and strictly limited management's ability to maximize output. At all his other steel plants unions had been eradicated. In 1881 Carnegie hired Henry Clay Frick to be in charge of all of his business operations. Frick was a strong willed businessman who was publicly against unions. In Public Carnegie was in favor of unions, even stating that no steel mill was worth a single drop of blood. But in private it was a different story. Carnegie agreed with Frick even stating, "reorganize the whole affair, and exact good reasons for employing every man. Far too many men required by Amalgamated rules." Carnegie believed that the AA was a hindrance to efficiency.It admitted only a small group of skilled workers. Carnegie felt it was an elitist organisation that discouraged progress. On June 30, 1892 the union contract at Homestead was due to expire. This launched the AA leaders and Frick into negotiations. The AA requested an increase in wages for the workers they represented. Frick responded with a 22% wage decrease. This decrease would affect nearly half of the members of the union. Frick also countered to remove a number of positions in the bargaining unit. Carnegie encouraged Frick to use these tactics to try and break the unions. The union did not accept this offer, and in response Frick closed the plant on June 30, 1892, effectively locking the workers out. The workers marched on the plant and seized control of it. Frick hired Pinkerton detectives to secretly enter the plant and secure control of it once again. The Pinkerton’s were given guns and put on specially equipped barges that were towed upriver to the plant. The invasion of the Pinkertons was supposed to be a surprise attack. However, the AA had gained knowledge of the Pinkertons and was ready for…