Terence V. Powderly Essay

2133 words - 9 pages

The development of change occurred as it progressed to proceed during post-Civil War America. Many people may define progress as moving forward, advancing, or the growth of a concept for the good of the people that it affects. Political leader, Terence V. Powderly, was both a talented and charismatic man, and created this vision of progress. Powderly himself earned national spotlight in the American Labor movement of the late 19th century as the country was in the midst of economic downturn. His succession of the Knights of Labor (KOL) led America to an enumerating number socio-political effect. Importantly, common laborers worked 60 hours per week with no pensions or injury compensations, because of this America had the highest rate of Industrial injuries. An average 35,000 people died on the job because of these objectionable working conditions being exposed. The culmination of these health hazards lead directly to labor unions such as the Knights of Labor managed by Powderly himself. Terence V. Powderly’s goal under his leadership organization was to unite the peoples of America to work toward bettering the nation's economy and the working and living conditions of its citizens. In a constitution adopted by the Industrial Brotherhood, he addressed his vision of what needed to be done for workers to ensure a better life for the citizens and advancement of the country.
In order for this progress to occur in post-Civil War America, the people had to see how the current conditions of the country, poverty, segregation and racism, and poor working atmosphere were hindering the potential progress of the free workforce. Furthermore, the Depression of 1873 hit the U.S. economy very hard, and Powderly was one of the countless workers laid off that year. He resolved to travel and get a job, but Powderly had become president of the local Machinists and Blacksmiths International Union shortly after he joined in 1871. (Powderly, 1901) Powderly was unsuccessful in making any money since his name was blacklisted. Overall, Prices did drop because of Industrial competition, which raised the cost of standard living of the average American making it the highest in the world. However, Powderly did not limit himself to his downfalls. Instead, he began to proclaim himself as a political activist for the equality of labor workers. As a result, he joined the KOL in 1876 and quickly gained the rank Master Workman. (Smith, 1914)
In 1886, the labor movement in America was united in the fight for the eight-hour
workday. The eight-hour workday was important to many Americans workers because they wanted shorter workdays in order to spend more time leisurely and with their families. All over the nation, workers were rallying for the eight-hour workday. The movement led the Knights of Labor to call for a nationwide strike as the first labor union. As more workers rallied for the eight-hour workday, an increasing amount of the workers joined the Knights of Labor in support...

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