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'Bread and Butter' vs. Bullets: The World of the AFL, Homest

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Jarod Roll

on 1 March 2016

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Transcript of 'Bread and Butter' vs. Bullets: The World of the AFL, Homest

'Bread and Butter' vs. Bullets: The World of the AFL, Homestead, and Pullman

HIS 318
Dr. Roll
Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions (FOTLU), founded 1881

American Federation of Labor (AFL), founded from FOTLU, 1886
Craft unionism, skilled and semi-skilled workers
--accepted wage system of industrial capitalism, work for better deals within, not replace
Examples of unions at founding of AFL:
--boilermakers and iron shipbuilders, cigar makers, carpenters and joiners, granite cutters, hatters, iron molders, typographical workers, electrical workers, garment workers, glass bottle blowers
--1886: 13 unions, 50,000 members
Spreads soon to include other craft workers:
--by 1890, 36 unions, 200,000 members
Led by Samuel Gompers
--born in the UK
--work background in the cigar makers
--dedicated craft unionist
Gompers and 'bread and butter unionism,' 'pure and simple unionism':
--craft autonomy
--adapt to technological change, not resist it
--believed in strikes to improve bargaining position
--unions build war-chests with dues to fund strikes
AFL unions tended to be overwhelmingly composed of white men
--not friendly to African Americans
--no good way to include women
--often linked "skill" to ideas of racial and ethnic superiority: unskilled immigrants also looked down upon
Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers (AFL):
--Homestead Steel Workers, Pittsburgh, PA -- Carnegie and Frick
--won union contract and unofficial recognition in 1889
--contract expired in 1892, Carnegie and Frick determined to break union
--recognition as important as wages or hours
Counter-examples:
--1892 strike of warehouse, teamsters, and transportation workers associated with the AFL in New Orleans, black and white workers
--United Mine Workers, founded 1890 (industrial union)
--Western Federation of Miners, founded 1893 (industrial union; joined AFL in 1896)
1893: national economy returned to depression, worst won yet--spread across the country
American Railway Union, independent union of unskilled workers founded in 1893
--led by Eugene Debs
--industrial unionism (AFL vs. ARU; also UMW)
--125,000 members by 1894
--Pullman strike (Chicago, nation)
--Gompers and AFL did not support
--1890 Sherman Anti-Trust Act
--conspiracies in restraint of trade
--injunction backed by federal soldiers
Full transcript