Iron and steel industry: Struggle to Unionize

Iron and steel industry

Iron and steel industry: Late Nineteenth Century Immigrants

Iron and steel industry: Life in the Steel Communities

Many native-born American workers believed that immigrants and their families would not fight against workplace and community injustice on their own accord, and that they would not strike or organize for better working conditions against an overwhelmingly powerful industry. Consequently, craft unions belonging to the American Federation of Labor were reluctant to recruit foreign-born laborers because of skill and ethnic prejudice. However, immigrant workers and their families proved many observers wrong with their participation during the Homestead, Pennsylvania, strike of 1892 and their spontaneous 1909 uprising against Pressed Steel Car in McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania. In the latter conflict, immigrant leaders seized the initiative and recruited organizers from the newly formed Industrial Workers of the World. They won some measure of success, until company officials set native-born against foreign-born workers and broke the unity of the strike.

Later struggles, especially the steel strike of 1919, witnessed even larger immigrant participation, despite successful corporate employment of nativist prejudice and armed force. It was the formation of the Steelworkers’ Organizing Committee and the support of the Congress of Industrial Organizations during the 1930’s, along with a government that did not support the use of armed intervention, that led to the second and third generations of workers enjoying the fruits of unionized labor into the 1960’s.

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