Industrialization and the Working Class
|Labor in the Age of Industrialization||Next|
|Digital History ID 3185|
Labor conflict was never more contentious or violent in the United States than during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when bloody confrontations wracked the railroad, steel, and mining industries. During the early 1880s, there were about 500 strikes a year involving about 150,000 workers. By the 1890, the number had climbed to a thousand a year involving 700,000 workers a year, and by the early 1900s, the number of strikes had climbed to 4,000 annually. Some 500 times government sent in militias or federal troops to put down labor strikes. While most labor clashes took place in the mines and mills of the east and Midwest, bloody incidents involving private police forces, state militias, and federal troops also took place on the New Orleans and San Francisco waterfronts and in the mining districts of Colorado and Idaho.
During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, labor struggles were more acute in the United States than in many European countries. Today, in contrast, labor relations in the United States are more cooperative and less conflict-ridden than elsewhere. The story of how the United States forged an enduring and workable system of collective bargaining after more than half a century of bitter struggles is one of the most important themes in modern American history.