Labor Poster: WPA Art Program, [1941]

Labor Poster: WPA Art Program, [1941]
Image: Courtesy of Library of Congress

Vocabulary: The Labor Movement

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1) Periodic Unemployment: Seasonal loss of jobs due to market forces and supply of raw materials. Panics and depressions are included in this type.

2) Structural Unemployment: When plants shut down for an unknown period of time because of lack of demand for their product. Any loss of job would be a serious setback since no government aid existed.

3) William Sylvis: He organized the NATIONAL LABOR UNION In Baltimore in 1866. As its president, he wanted to unite skilled and unskilled workers, women as well as blacks. He called for an 8-hour day, tenement reform, and education for workers.

4) Ira Steward: He continued the fight for an 8-hour day. Due to his efforts, 6 states passed 8-hour work-day laws. He also believed having more time off would improve the economy.

5) "Molly Maguires:" A secret society of mineworkers in PA. aimed to spread terror among mine owners. Named after an Irish anti-landowner, they murdered mine bosses and owners. Due to the work of James McParlan, 24 of the "Mollies" were convicted and 10 were hanged, which hurt the effort to organize the coal industry.

6) Knights of Labor: Founded by Uriah S. Stevens, it was a secret union that demanded 8-hour day, equal pay for men and women, and an end to prison and child labor. He preached mutual respect for worker and boss and opposed strikes. Their membership rose as high as 700,000 by 1885.

7) Cooperatives: Businesses owned and operated by the workers themselves, the Knights owned their own coal mine and shoe-making plant. Stevens favored cooperatives over the strike as a weapon.

8) Terrence V. Powderly: He followed Stevens as Grand Master Workman of the Knights of Labor in 1879. His beliefs were similar to those of his boss, but he was forced to support them as the organization began to die out in the early 1890s.

9) Haymarket Square Riot: After four strikers died at Chicago's McCormick plant, a rally in Haymarket Square became violent when a bomb killed seven more workers. A member of the Knights was hanged, Albert Parsons, which linked the Knights to violence in the mind of the public. The riot caused the downfall of the Knights.

10) Anarchists: People who support the abolition of all forms of government. They were accused of the Haymarket Square bombing, for which eight were convicted.

11) Sweatshops: Factories that were crowded and poorly ventilated run most often by the garment industry. The chance of injury and disease was great, and workers were poorly paid.

12) Samuel Gompers: He headed the cigarmakers union, and helped create the AFL. He treated the union as a business, and wanted to maintain the capitalists system while increasing fairness for workers. He was a Dutch-Jewish immigrant who later became the AFL's president. He fought for workers' rights before Congress.

13) American Federation of Labor (AFL): This skilled worker's union supported workers' contracts. Rival of the Knights of Labor, it led the nation's workers with almost 2 million members by 1904. It barred the unskilled as well as blacks and women.

14) Industrial Workers Of The World: An international union that hoped to overthrow capitalism and control industry. Nicknamed "the Wobblies," they were led by Vincent St. John and William Haywood. They accepted all workers, and many were arrested during WWI. They were active among workers in the western industries.

15) Blacklist: This was a method of keeping workers out of unions. It involved circulating names of unionists around town. Employers would refuse to hire workers on such lists.

16) Yellow Dog Contracts: These were contracts workers were forced to sign that stated workers were not union members and would not become such.

17) Injunction: A court order issued by a judge that promised government action if a strike, boycott, or picket line took place.

18) Lockout: A company could shut down to prevent a strike. The lockout was effective because most workers did not have much savings and would have to return to work in a short period.

19) Homestead Strike: Workers at Carnegie's steel plant in Homestead, PA were locked out by Henry Frick in 1892. When Pinkerton detectives arrived, armed workers fired on them, killing 10. The state militia restored peace, and the power of the steel-workers' union was broken. The public supported the government's intervention.

20) Pullman Strike: After the Panic of 1893, Pullman cut wages and increased prices. In 1894, 4,000 Pullman workers struck, which stopped rail traffic in the west. When the federal government used special deputies to handle the mail, violence broke out. An injunction smashed the strike and the Union.

21) Eugene V. Debs: Leader of the American Railway Union, he led the strike against Pullman. Even though he opposed violence, he was jailed for six months. A Socialist, he ran for president against Teddy Roosevelt in 1904.








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