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Encyclopedia > Steel Strike of 1919

The Steel Strike of 1919 was an attempt by the weakened Amalgamated Association of Iron, Steel and Tin Workers (the AA) to organize the American steel industry in the wake of World War I. The strike began on September 22, 1919, and collapsed on January 8, 1920. The Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers (commonly known as the AA) was an American labor union formed in 1876 and which represented iron and steel workers. ... “The Great War ” redirects here. ... is the 265th day of the year (266th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1919 (MCMXIX) was a common year starting on Wednesday (link will display the full calendar). ... is the 8th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1920 (MCMXX) was a leap year starting on Thursday (link will display 1920) of the Gregorian calendar. ...


The AA had formed in 1876. It was a union of skilled iron and steel workers which was deeply committed to craft unionism. However, technological advances had decimated the number of skilled workers in both industries. by Leon CunninghamCraft unionism refers to an approach to union organizing in the United States and elsewhere that seeks to unify workers in a particular industry along the lines of the particular craft or trade that they work in. ...

Contents

Background

In 1892, the AA had lost a bitter strike at the Carnegie Steel Company's steel mill in Homestead, Pennsylvania. The Homestead strike, which culminated with a day-long gun battle on July 6 that left 12 dead and dozens wounded, led to a wave of de-unionization. From a high of more than 24,000 members in 1892, union membership had sunk to less than 8,000 by 1900. Carnegie-Illinois Steel blast furnaces in Etna, Pennsylvania (1941) Andrew Carnegie constructed a profitable steel mill at Braddock, Pennsylvania in the mid-1870s. ... Homestead is a borough in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, USA, in the Mon Valley, seven miles (11 km) southeast of downtown Pittsburgh. ... The Homestead Strike was a labor lockout and strike which began on June 30, 1892, culminating in a battle between strikers and private security agents on July 6, 1892. ...


The union attempted to organize workers in the tin industry, but a sudden wave of industry consolidations left the union facing the gigantic U.S. Steel corporation. In the U.S. Steel Recognition Strike of 1901, the union struck the fledgling company and won nearly all its demands. But the union's executive board wanted more and rejected the pact. U.S. Steel was able to muster its resources and break the strike. The United States Steel Corporation (NYSE: X) is an integrated steel producer with major production operations in the United States and Central Europe. ... The U.S. Steel Recognition Strike of 1901 was an attempt by the Amalgamated Association of Iron, Steel and Tin Workers (the AA) to reverse its declining fortunes and organize large numbers of new members. ...


By the end of World War I, the AA was a shell of its former self.


Strike

Shortly after Armistice Day, AFL organizers in and around Pittsburgh began to be harassed by the steel companies: permits for meetings were denied, meeting halls could not be rented (when they were, the local Board of Health closed the hall), Pinkerton agents stopped organizers at the train station and forced them to leave town, and literature was seized. The AFL sought assistance from its political allies, but the harassment continued. The anti-union pressure spread to the Midwest and West. As the post-war recession affected the economy, plant managers targeted union supporters and those with large families for dismissal in order to ensure that union efforts were stifled.[1] Armistice Day Celebrations in Toronto, Canada - 1918 Armistice Day is the anniversary of the official end of World War I, November 11, 1918. ... Pittsburgh redirects here. ... Regional definitions vary from source to source. ...


The AFL pushed back. On April 1, 1919, thousands of miners in Pennsylvania went on strike to demand that local officials allow union meetings. Terrified town mayors soon issued the required permits. The mass meetings whipped up pro-union sentiment. Steelworkers felt betrayed by the broken promises of employers and the government to keep prices low, raise wages and improve working conditions. is the 91st day of the year (92nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1919 (MCMXIX) was a common year starting on Wednesday (link will display the full calendar). ...


The AFL held a national steelworkers' conference in Pittsburgh on May 25, 1919, to build momentum for an organizing drive but refused to let the workers strike. Disillusioned employees began to abandon the labor movement. The National Committee debated the strike issue through June and July. Worried committee members, seeing their chance for solid membership gains slipping away, agreed to a strike referendum in the mills in August. The response was 98% in favor of a general steelworker strike to begin on September 22, 1919. is the 145th day of the year (146th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1919 (MCMXIX) was a common year starting on Wednesday (link will display the full calendar). ... is the 265th day of the year (266th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1919 (MCMXIX) was a common year starting on Wednesday (link will display the full calendar). ...


As the strike deadline approached, the National Committee attempted to negotiate with U.S. Steel chairman Elbert Gary. The committee also asked for President Woodrow Wilson's help. Telegrams and letters were sent back and forth, but Gary refused to meet, and Wilson—on his ill-fated tour to drum up support for the League of Nations—was unable to influence the company.[2] Elbert Henry Gary (1846-1927) was an American lawyer and corporation official, born at Wheaton, Ill. ... The League of Nations was an international organization founded as a result of the Paris Peace Conference in 1919–1920. ...


The steelworkers were forced to carry out their strike threat. The September strike shut down half the steel industry, including almost all mills in Pueblo, Colorado; Chicago, Illinois, Wheeling, West Virginia; Johnstown, Pennsylvania; Cleveland, Ohio; Lackawanna, New York; and Youngstown, Ohio. The steel companies had seriously misjudged the strength of worker discontent.[3] The City of Pueblo (IPA: //) is a Home Rule Municipality that is the county seat of Pueblo County, Colorado, USA. Pueblo is situated at the confluence of the Arkansas River and Fountain Creek. ... Flag Seal Nickname: The Windy City Motto: Urbs In Horto (Latin: City in a Garden), I Will Location Location in Chicagoland and northern Illinois Coordinates , Government Country State Counties United States Illinois Cook, DuPage Mayor Richard M. Daley (D) Geographical characteristics Area     City 606. ... Nickname: The Friendly City Location in Ohio County in the State of West Virginia Coordinates: Settled 1769 Established 1806 Incorporated 1836  - Mayor Nick Sparachane  - City Manager Robert Herron  - Chief of Police Kevin Gessler, Sr. ... Nickname: Location of Pennsylvania within the USA Johnstown, Cambria County, Pennsylvania, U.S.A. Coordinates: , Country State County Cambria Government  - Mayor Tom Trigona Area  - City  6. ... Cleveland redirects here. ... Lackawannas City Hall Lackawannas Veterans Stadium (formerly Ron Jaworski Stadium) Windmills At Former Bethlehem Steel Plant Along Lake Erie Lackawanna is a city in Erie County, New York, USA, located just south of the city of Buffalo in the western part of New York state. ... Location within the state of Ohio Coordinates: , Country State Counties Mahoning, Trumbull Founded 1796 Incorporated 1848 (village) - 1867 (city) Government  - Mayor Jay Williams (I) Area  - City  34. ...


But the owners quickly turned public opinion against the AFL. The post-war Red Scare had swept the country in the wake of the Russian revolution of October 1917. The steel companies took eager advantage of the change in the political climate. As the strike began, they published information exposing National Committee co-chairman William Z. Foster's past as a Wobblie and syndicalist, and claimed this was evidence that the steelworker strike was being master-minded by communists and revolutionaries. The steel companies played on nativist fears by noting that a large number of steelworkers were immigrants. Public opinion quickly turned against the striking workers. Only Wilson's stroke on September 26, 1919, prevented government intervention, since Wilson's advisors were loathe to take action with the president incapacitated. Political cartoon of the era depicting an anarchist attempting to destroy the Statue of Liberty. ... The IWW Label A Wobbly membership card The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW or the Wobblies) is an international union headquartered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, having much in common with anarcho-syndicalist unions, but also many differences. ... Syndicalism refers to a set of ideas, movements, and tendencies which share the avowed aim of transforming capitalist society through action by the working class on the industrial front. ... This article is about the form of society and political movement. ... is the 269th day of the year (270th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1919 (MCMXIX) was a common year starting on Wednesday (link will display the full calendar). ...


The federal government's inaction permitted state and local authorities and the steel companies room to maneuver. Mass meetings were prohibited in most strike-stricken areas. Veterans and tradesmen were pressed into service as deputies. The Pennsylvania state police clubbed picketers, dragged strikers from their homes and jailed thousands on flimsy charges. In Delaware, company guards were deputized and threw 100 strikers in jail on fake weapons charges. In Monessen, Pennsylvania, hundreds of men were jailed then were promised release if they agreed to disavow the union and return to work. After strikebreakers and police clashed with unionists in Gary, Indiana, the U.S. Army took over the city on October 6, 1919, and martial law was declared. National guardsmen, leaving Gary after federal troops had taken over, turned their anger on strikers in nearby Indiana Harbor, Indiana.[4] This article is about the U.S. State. ... This article is about the U.S. State of Delaware. ... Monessen is a city located in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. ... This article is about the city. ... The Army is the branch of the United States armed forces which has primary responsibility for land-based military operations. ... is the 279th day of the year (280th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1919 (MCMXIX) was a common year starting on Wednesday (link will display the full calendar). ... For other uses, see Martial law (disambiguation). ... Aerial view of Indiana Harbor. ...


Steel companies also turned toward strikebreaking and rumor-mongering to demoralize the picketers. Between 30,000 and 40,000 unskilled African-American and Mexican American workers were brought to work in the mills. Company officials played on the racism of many white steelworkers by pointing out how well-fed and happy the black workers seemed now that they had 'white' jobs. Company spies also spread rumors that the strike had collapsed elsewhere, and they pointed to the operating steel mills as proof that the strike had been defeated.[5] Languages Predominantly American English Religions Protestantism (chiefly Baptist and Methodist); Roman Catholicism; Islam Related ethnic groups Sub-Saharan Africans and other African groups, some with Native American groups. ... The ethnonym Mexican-American describes United States citizens of Mexican ancestry (14 million in 2003) and Mexican citizens who reside in the US (10 million in 2003). ...


The AFL sabotaged the strike in several ways. When the AA demanded that the AFL contribute to strike relief, Gompers sarcastically asked how much money the AA intended to contribute. Few unions on either the National Committee or in the AFL contributed relief funds.


As October and November wore on, many AA members crossed the picket lines to return to work. AA affiliates collapsed because of the member infighting this caused. Unions on the National Committee, squabbling over jurisdiction in the steel mills, publicly accused one another of failing to support the strike.[6]


The Great Steel Strike of 1919 collapsed on January 8, 1920. The Chicago mills gave in at the end of October. By the end of November, workers were back at their jobs in Gary, Johnstown, Youngstown and Wheeling. The AA, ravaged by the strike and watching its locals collapse, argued with the National Committee for a unilateral return to work. But the National Committee voted to keep the strike going against the union's wishes. is the 8th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1920 (MCMXX) was a leap year starting on Thursday (link will display 1920) of the Gregorian calendar. ...


The strike dragged on in isolated areas like Pueblo and Lackawanna, but the job action decimated the AA. AA president Michael F. Tighe demanded that the National Committee disband; his motion failed. Tighe withdrew from the National Committee. Absent the union with primary jurisdiction over the steel industry, the National Committee ceased operating.[7]


The steel strike of 1919 had been a complete rout for the American labor movement.


Impact

Almost no union organizing in the steel industry occurred in the next 15 years. Advances in technology, such as the development of the widestrip continuous sheet mill, made most of the skilled jobs in steelmaking obsolete.


When the AA considered calling a national strike in 1929 to demand that the new technology be rejected, nearly every AA affiliate returned its charter to the international rather than obey the strike order.


By 1930, the AA had only 8,600 members. Its leadership, burned by failed strikes in 1892, 1901 and 1919, turned accommodationist and submissive.[8] Year 1930 (MCMXXX) was a common year starting on Wednesday (link will display 1930 calendar) of the Gregorian calendar. ...


The AA, which had only a minor role to play in the steel strike of 1919, remained moribund until the advent of the Steel Workers Organizing Committee in 1936. The United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union (United Steelworkers or USW) claims over 1. ...


Notes

  1. ^ Rayback, p. 285-286; Brody, 1969, p. 231-33.
  2. ^ Dubofsky and Dulles, p. 220; Rayback, p. 286-87; Brody, 1969, p. 233-36.
  3. ^ Brody, 1969, p. 233-44.
  4. ^ Rayback, p. 287; Brody, 1969, p. 244-253; Dubofsky and Dulles, p. 220; .
  5. ^ Rayback, p. 287; Dubofsky and Dulles, p. 220-21; Brody, 1969, p. 254-55.
  6. ^ Brody, 1969, p. 255-58.
  7. ^ Brody, 1969, p. 258-62.
  8. ^ Brody, 1969, p. 277-78; Dubofsky and Dulles, p. 258.

References

  • Brody, David. Steelworkers in America: The Nonunion Era. New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1969. ISBN 0-252-06713-4
  • Dubofsky, Melvyn and Dulles, Foster Rhea. Labor in America: A History. 6th ed. Wheeling, IL: Harlan Davidson, Inc., 1999. ISBN 0-88295-979-4
  • Robert K. Murray. "Communism and the Great Steel Strike of 1919" The Mississippi Valley Historical Review, Vol. 38, No. 3. (Dec., 1951), pp. 445-466. JSTOR
  • Rayback, Joseph G. A History of American Labor. Rev. and exp. ed. New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1966. ISBN 0-02-925850-2
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  Results from FactBites:
 
Steel strike of 1919 - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (1843 words)
The Steel Strike of 1919 was an attempt by the weakened Amalgamated Association of Iron, Steel and Tin Workers (the AA) to organize the American steel industry in the wake of World War I.
The response was 98 percent in favor of a general steelworker strike to begin on September 22, 1919.
As the strike began, they published information exposing National Committee co-chairman William Z. Foster's past as a Wobblie and syndicalist, and claimed this was evidence that the steelworker strike was being master-minded by communists and revolutionaries.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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