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How did management respond to the efforts of workers to form unions?

The terrible conditions faced by industrial workers during the gilded age resulted in the call for the creation of unions. These efforts, however, were strongly, and often violently opposed by management.

Workers efforts to form unions were strongly and often violently opposed by management. Factory owners used a variety of methods such as:

1. Firing union organizers.

2. Placing union organizers on what was known as a blacklist. The blacklist was circulated and those on it would not be hired by other factory owners. The blacklist was eventually made illegal.

3. New hires were forced to sign a yellow dog contract. The yellow dog contract made a new employees promise he would never join a union as a term of employment. This was also eventually made illegal .

4. Factory owners where granted injunctions by the courts. An injunction is a court order barring a certain activity. If the court granted an injunction against a unions activities then the union had to stop that activity.

The courts used the Sherman Anti Trust Act which made illegal any "conspiracy in restraint of trade" to justify the injunctions. While the Sherman Act was not written with this use in mind the courts who sympathized with management interpreted unions to be a "conspiracy in restraint of trade."

5. Striking workers where often fired and replaced with scabs.

6. The police and hired thugs would use violence to break up strikes and union rallies. In the Great Railroad Strike 26 workers where killed. Most strikers were fired and wages were eventually restored.

Perhaps the most telling event was the Haymarket Square Riot. The Haymarket Square Riot was confrontation between police and protesters that took place on May 4, 1886, in Haymarket Square in Chicago. A strike was in progress at the McCormick reaper works in Chicago, and on the previous day several men had been shot by the police during a riot at the plant. A meeting was called at Haymarket Square on May 4 as a protest against police violence by a group of mainly German-born anarchist workers living in Chicago. The police attempted to disperse the meeting, and in the ensuing riot a bomb was thrown, which triggered another gun battle. Seven policemen were killed and many injured; so were many civilians. Eight anarchists attending the meeting were arrested and charged with being accessories to the crime, on the ground that they had publicly and frequently advocated such violence. They were tried and found guilty on a variety of charges (the identity of the bomb thrower was never discovered); seven were sentenced to death and one to imprisonment. Eventually four were hanged, one committed suicide, the sentence of two was commuted to life imprisonment, and one received a 15-year term. In 1893 the three in prison were pardoned by the governor of Illinois, John Peter Altgeld, mainly on the ground that no evidence had been presented actually connecting the defendants with the throwing of the bomb.


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