American labor history: National labor congress of 1870

The organization of labor as a political force culminated in the National Labor Congress of 1870, which formulated demands for cheap money, the creation of a labor department, the exclusion of Chinese immigrants, and an eight-hour working day. The Department was formed in 1888. Many causes contributed to the disturbances, some being veritable labor wars, which began in the seventies. Among these were unwise immigration facilities, demagogism, and short-sighted policy by some large employers. Workmen combined against wholesale importation of illiterate foreigners who were content with a wagescale which meant humiliation if not starvation to American competitors. Employers combined to assert and maintain their legal right to buy labor in the cheapest market. The conditions made bad blood inevitable. It showed first and fiercely in the mining districts of Pennsylvania. A few years before these outbreaks there had been a government investigation in England into a series of deliberate atrocities perpetrated at the instance of certain tradesunion leaders in the cutlery district, where employers and workmen had been killed by explosions and air-guns for disregarding the organization's rules in the matter of wages, apprentices, and "scabs." A number of the suspects came to this country, and, as a coincidence, the same machinery of intimidation soon got at work in Pennsylvania.

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