Rise of Labor

The following notes will help you prepare for questions about the Rise of Labor on the AP U.S. History Exam.

  • With the increase in manufacturing in the U.S. in the late 1800s came the need for more unskilled labor. Many workers charged that businesses were not concerned with fair wages or safe working conditions, but rather were more focused on making a profit. As unions were formed to represent the workers, strikes occurred across the nation. In some well-known cases, the strikes turned violent, damaging the reputations of the unions.

  • In 1935, the American Federation of Labor split and formed a new arm called the Congress of Industrial Organizations, creating the AFL-CIO. The AFL wanted to organize according to skills or trade, while the CFO wanted to organize by industry.

American Federation of Labor : skilled craft labor union; formed due to dissent among some members of the Knights of Labor

collective bargaining : a labor union negotiates on behalf of a group of workers

Great Railroad Strike : national strike in 1877 instigated by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad reducing wages twice within a year; governors in 10 states opted to use state militias to reopen rail traffic due to negative effect the strike had on the national economy

Haymarket Affair : 1886 Knights of Labor protest that turned violent when a bomb was thrown into the crowd and police responded with gun shots; turned public opinion against the Knights of Labor

Homestead Strike : steelworker strike in 1892 at Carnegie Steel in Pittsburgh; workers protested wage cuts and a riot broke out when replacement workers were brought in; 10 people died

Industrial Workers of the World : wanted to unite all workers, including African Americans and the unskilled laborers; called "the Wobblies"

Knights of Labor : union open to all workers and a large membership, giving them more influence

Pullman Strike : 1894 strike by Pullman car factory workers due to declining wages; the far-reaching effects of the national strike led to President Grover Cleveland sending in federal troops to break up the strike, resulting in several violent clashes

Sherman Anti-trust Act : law forbidding restraint of trade; primarily used to counter labor unions in the late 19th century


Eugene V. Debs : leader of the American Railway Union; socialist; ran for president from prison after being arrested on charges of violating the Espionage Act in 1918

Samuel Gompers : leader of the American Federation of Labor

John L. Lewis : president of United Mine Workers and founder of the CIO

Related Links:
Rise of Labor Quiz
AP US History Quizzes
AP US History Notes
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Industrialization: c. 1750 - c. 1900
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The 1920s
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