See a timeline of labor history in the 1910's
Steel, Steel and More Steel
After a long hard days work a man walks down the crowded streets of Homestead, PA. He's got dirt so thick on his face he can hardly be recognized. His body aches from head to toe and he can't wait until he makes it to Chiodo's Tavern where he can meet up with his buddies from work. Chiodo's Tavern is the place that many Steel workers in the Homestead area would go to after work to talk about their bosses and how things went at work while having a drink or two.
You sit in the corner talking amongst a small group of people you aren't quite as happy as everybody else. You think about your job and how you feel very mistreated there. You don't feel the rewards of your hard work. You talk to some others. You come to a mutual agreement that things at the mill need to be changed.
There are talks of a union, but some are scared to join a union because of stories they've heard in the past about union organizers being evicted from their homes, beaten and even killed in some situations.
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The next day at work you become more and more angry about the situation as you are shoveling black soot from the blast furnaces that are used to heat coal ore to make into steel. Suddenly there is commotion among the workers. Everybody rushes down to the center of the plant. You see a man laying there on the ground just moments away from death. Liquid metal has spilt on him he dies within minutes. You are enraged, but your boss tells you to get back to work.
The Country Music Highway and Hostelling is Pittsburgh
After long consideration you decide to join a union and are motivated to get as many people as possible to join with you. You join up with the American Federation Of Labor who was looking into the violation of worker's rights all across America at different Steel Mills.
As the AFL organizes you continue to work in the mill. It's extremely hard work. You work 12 hours a day. They keep changing your schedule. You couldn't go on strike to demand your rights because you couldn't afford it. The AFL contacted your mill and several other steel and iron mills throughout the country requesting a conference between management and the workers. The AFL was denied several times to have a conference with the management.
The worst has come to surface; it's time to strike. The AFL sends out a date for the strike September 22, 1919. They get several thousand workers to participate in the strike. So on the day of September 22, 1919 you and your fellow co-workers didn't go to work at the mill. You took to the streets demanding better pay and better working conditions.
The strike was the biggest labor strike in history to that point in time; it consisted of nearly 365,000 workers nationwide. It was big news and the Corporations were shocked they had no idea that it was going to be this big and have such a huge impact all across the nation. Up until now they thought they did a very good job by stopping any union organization.
The steel factories imported strikebreakers from Mexico and the Southern United States. In most cases the strikebreakers themselves didn't know that a strike was even going on. They were just told there was work that needed to be done and most being poor and unemployed took the chance whenever it was offered. 20 people were killed during strike violence. The strike was ended after 15 weeks. The AFL and steel workers all across America had lost that battle and were right back where they started.
No real changes would come until 1936 when the Steel Workers Organizing committee (SWOC) the steel workers of the area started to build a solid Union and now the first time by law the workers in the Steel Industry had the legal right to unionize. So they did and still the corporations of United States Steel fought long and hard against the unions even once they were formed.
Throughout the years the Steel Industry In America has declined. There are several reasons why the steel industry declined so much. Multinational corporations have taken their business overseas to make better profits. Now most of the Steel that we use in our country comes from overseas. It makes you wonder since the corporations have moved overseas are they doing the same thing over there that they did here?
The Steel Industry and the unions still exist here in America. They struggle to hold on to what they have. John Mazzoni the President Of The United States Steel Workers Of America chapter 1219 in Braddock, PA said that the "communication level between the Union and the United States Steel is better and has made progress through the years, because now it's beneficial to USS. Because if a worker gets hurt the company has to pay. So the union and USS currently work together on ways to make a safer environment for the workers."
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Jennifer - Letters home from the frontlines of America's worker strikes
Neda - Are you a foreigner? Well, go to jail!
Stephen - When the "Company" is on your back it's time for a gunfight!