Management Fights The Unions

How did management respond to the efforts of workers to form unions?

The terrible conditions faced by industrial workers during the
gilded age resulted in the call for the creation of unions. These
efforts, however, were strongly, and often violently opposed by

Workers efforts to form unions were strongly and often violently
opposed by management. Factory owners used a variety of methods such

1. Firing union organizers.

2. Placing union organizers on what was known as a
blacklist. The blacklist was circulated and those on it would
not be hired by other factory owners. The blacklist was eventually
made illegal.

3. New hires were forced to sign a yellow dog contract. The
yellow dog contract made a new employees promise he would never join
a union as a term of employment. This was also eventually made
illegal .

4. Factory owners where granted injunctions by the courts.
An injunction is a court order barring a certain activity. If the
court granted an injunction against a unions activities then the
union had to stop that activity.

The courts used the Sherman Anti Trust Act
which made illegal any “conspiracy in restraint of trade
to justify the injunctions. While the Sherman Act was not written
with this use in mind the courts who sympathized with management
interpreted unions to be a “conspiracy in restraint of trade.”

5. Striking workers where often fired and replaced with

6. The police and hired thugs would use violence to break up
strikes and union rallies. In the Great Railroad Strike 26 workers
where killed. Most strikers were fired and wages were eventually

Perhaps the most telling event was the Haymarket Square
. The Haymarket Square Riot was confrontation between police
and protesters that took place on May 4, 1886, in Haymarket Square in
Chicago. A strike was in progress at the McCormick reaper works in
Chicago, and on the previous day several men had been shot by the
police during a riot at the plant. A meeting was called at Haymarket
Square on May 4 as a protest against police violence by a group of
mainly German-born anarchist workers living in Chicago. The police
attempted to disperse the meeting, and in the ensuing riot a bomb was
thrown, which triggered another gun battle. Seven policemen were

killed and many injured; so were many civilians. Eight anarchists
attending the meeting were arrested and charged with being
accessories to the crime, on the ground that they had publicly and
frequently advocated such violence. They were tried and found guilty
on a variety of charges (the identity of the bomb thrower was
never discovered)
; seven were sentenced to death and one to
imprisonment. Eventually four were hanged, one committed suicide, the
sentence of two was commuted to life imprisonment, and one received a
15-year term. In 1893 the three in prison were pardoned by the
governor of Illinois, John Peter Altgeld, mainly on the ground that
no evidence had been presented actually connecting the defendants
with the throwing of the bomb.

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