Results of the Labor Struggle

by Andrew Carnegie
Reviewed date: 2007 Feb 1
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Carnegie responds to a series of violent incidents involving striking workers by writing an essay about the struggles of the workingmen. Interestingly, Carnegie seems to agree wholeheartedly with the demands of the workers: "the revolt of labor occurred in New York city, where the employees of the Third Avenue Railway struck for fewer hours and better pay. If ever a strike was justifiable this one was. It is simply disgraceful for a corporation to compel its men to work fifteen or sixteen hours a day."

Carnegie noted that while he agreed with the goal of the strikers, he found their actions counterproductive. First, they asked too much: they should have asked for half-hour reductions in working hours, rather than demanding an immediate shift to 8-hour days. Second, the strikers turned violent--at which point they lost the public sympathy any hope of winning concessions. Carnegie blames the violence on anarchists who used the strikes as an opportunity to stir up trouble, not on the labor movement in general. Further, he criticizes business owners for hiring scabs: it incites the strikers to violence, and it betrays a trust between employer and workingman.

Regardless of who is responsible for the outbreaks of violence, the result is clear: "Labor won while it was reasonable in its demands and kept the peace; it lost when it asked what public sentiment pronounced unreasonable, and especially when it broke the peace."

And Carnegie believes their complaints are valid. He makes a big deal about how, at a 24-hour factory, a move from two 12-hour shifts to three 8-hour shifts benefits both the workers and the employers. "I trust the time has gone by when corporations can hope to work men fifteen or sixteen hours a day, and the time approaches, I hope, when it will be impossible, in this country, to work men twelve hours a day continuously."

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