As businesses grew more money
was needed to run them than 1 or 2 people could furnish. A new form of
business was developed called a
corporation. In the corporation, the people who started the
business would sell
A stock was part of the company. This raised money to run the company.
People who buy the stock have some say in how the company is run. Stock
owners get a share of the company's profits. The share is paid in dividends.
Stockholders pick a group of people to run the business called the
of directors. The board of directors hires a president and
managers to run the business. If the company does well, the stockholders
make money. If the company does badly, the stockholders can lose all the
money that they have put into the business. By 1900 the oil, steel, and meat
industries were controlled by giant corporations.
Some corporations grew so large
and powerful that they controlled entire industries. Some of these were
the Standard Oil Company begun by John D. Rockefeller and the steel
industry started by Andrew Carnegie. As owners grew richer, workers
became unhappy with the conditions in the factories and shops.
Many worked 15 to 16 hours a day,
6 or 7 days a week. These people earned only $30. or $40. a week. The
workplaces were dangerous and hot.
Unions were formed to help the
workers. A union is a group of workers who come together to help each
other. In 1869, the first nationwide union was formed. It was called the
Knights of Labor. This union was had secret membership until 1878. The
Knights called many strikes. A strike is when a group of workers decide
not to work until they get what they are asking for. The Knights lost most
of their strikes. They were not strong enough against the large
corporations. The only people who could not join a union were saloon
keepers, gamblers, lawyers, and bankers.
In May of 1886, the Knights held a
big rally at Haymarket Square in Chicago. About 3000 workers went to the
meeting. When the meeting was breaking up, a bomb was thrown into a group
of policemen. Some of the policemen were killed. Seven people were
arrested. Although none of these were Knights, people still blamed the
Knights. Membership in the Knights dropped.
In 1886 a stronger group led by Samuel Gompers
was formed. They were called the American Federation of Labor.
Only skilled workers could join. This group made some small gains for
In 1893 the company that made the
Pullman sleeping cars for the railroads fired 2/3 rds of its workers
and cut the pay of the others by 1/3. The American Railway Union called a
strike against the Pullman Company. The federal government took action
against the strikers since the trains carried the U.S. mail. The government
took the union to court. The court said the union had no right to strike.
Eugene V. Debs, the man who started the American Railway Union, was sent to
prison because he did not obey the ruling of the court. The strike stopped
without its leader.
In 1902, coal miners in Pennsylvania
went on strike. President Roosevelt sent troops to help keep the mines open.
It was not until the 1930's when new
laws were passed that workers began getting much of what they wanted.