The Industrial Workers of the World: the Union’s Relationship with Ethnic Minorities

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Industrialization in the United States occurred rapidly in comparison to other nations and also produced drastic changes in the nation’s economy, social structure, and, most importantly, in labor. One factor of industrialization that aided in changing the nation was rapid urbanization. Throughout the first half of the nineteenth century, Americans slowly urbanized and industrialized but by the beginning of the twentieth century urbanization boomed. For example, in 1870 only about one out of every four Americans lived in urban areas and by 1920s more than half of the population resided in urban areas.1 On top of rapid urbanization, the United States experienced rapid population growth from approximately 31,000,000 in 1860 to 92,000,000 in 1910. This increase was partly due to an influx of immigrants. 2 Immigration increased the U.S. population and it also created a new source of laborers. In addition to social changes, there were dramatic changes in the labor movement which happened between the years 1877 and the 1920s. With the end of the Civil War, industries began booming and the railroad industry especially increased: in fact, the railroad industry was the second largest industry in the United States and agriculture was the first largest. The year 1877 is famous for the Great Upheaval which is also known as the Great Railroad Strike of 1877. Second wage cuts that year induced the strike and it lasted for forty-five days.3 This strike was the beginning of a tumultuous labor movement. In direct correlation with the labor movement, perhaps even as a result of the labor movement, labor unions started to develop and played important roles in labor policy. The first national labor organization to appear in industrial America that held significant importance was the Knights of Labor. The Knights of Labor union was made public and national in 1878. It 1 Melvyn
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