How Did Andrew Carnegie Affect The Labor Unions ?
Andrew Carnegie was a typical rag to riches story. He was envied for becoming rich after starting from humble beginnings and he was also admired for his business acumen. Andrew was responsible for changing the way industries in the US worked. He set an example by using modern technology to increase production. He supplied the country with steel for its growth and expansion. However, all this came at a cost. And, it is claimed that the practices that Andrew Carnegie used came at the expense of the laborers working for him.
When Carnegie set up by steel manufacturing units across the US, there were no laws to govern the rights of workers. However, this did not mean that Andrew was against unionization of workers. Rather, he supported the formation of unions and was also instrumental in getting his partner, Henry Frick, to come to a settlement with striking workers. But all this was forgotten when Carnegie Steel Company saw a strike at its Homestead unit located in Pennsylvania in the year 1892.
When this strike broke out, Andrew was in Scotland. Initially, he asked Frick to reach a settlement with the striking workers, who wanted higher wages. However, Frick was adamant that he would not bend and would do away with the labor union altogether. At this point, Andrew decided to remain silent on the issue. So, on 6 July 1892, 300 security guards entered the work area with the aim of breaking up the strike. However, things went drastically wrong. There was fight between the striking laborers and the security men and this cost the lives of 5 laborers and 3 security guards. Also, several others were injured.
As a result of this bloody encounter, the Homestead manufacturing unit was protected by military that was supplied by the state militia. This standoff continued for 2 months till the labor union called off the strike.
The strike not only ruined Andrew Carnegie’s reputation as an employee, many held him directly responsible for the bloody fight that broke out. The Carnegie Steel Company itself did not have a union after this incident till the middle of the 1930s, and hired just immigrant workers in the area. And, because of this strike the unionization of steel workers across the country came to halt for nearly 40 years.
Hence, it could be said that Andrew Carnegie had a direct effect on labor unions across the country, as it was a time when steel companies were being formed in the US and many did not want a repeat of the incident that occurred in Homestead.
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Biography.com: Andrew Carnegie Biography