DURING the World War, there began to gather on the industrial horizon a cloud no bigger at first than a man's hand, but one that grew fast in size until it broke in a storm the effects of which made themselves felt in every corner of the globe.
This was a general feeling of unrest and dissatisfaction, by no means confined to one country or one class of people, but having its most virulent manifestations among the laboring classes, the proletariat. This unrest was fostered and seized upon by radical leaders everywhere to further their own ambitions, their object being the overthrow of capital, the nationalization of industry, and their own aggrandizement.
Nor were they without considerable success in some countries. Russia, of course, provided the most notable example, and England today is suffering by reason of the same forces; but the United States, notwithstanding its aloofness from the centre of disturbance, its prosperity, and the general high average of common sense among its inhabitants, did not entirely escape.
Here the radical manifestations took the form of industrial strikes which broke out sporadically in all quarters. It was natural that the steel industry should not be immune. In fact, it was inevitable that steel, more than any other industry, should be selected for especial attention by those who hoped to do away with private ownership and to establish mob rule.
Among the reasons that may be cited for the selection of the steel industry, and the United States Steel Corporation in particular, for a grand attack by the radical forces were the following:
Steel was "open shop." Since 1892, when the Carnegie Steel Co., in one of the bloodiest and bitterest industrial conflicts in history, crushed the Homestead strike, the labor leaders' unions had never succeeded in regaining a foothold in the trade, and it was looked upon as a lost province by labor leaders who never abandoned the hope of some day organizing the steel workers. This fact gave the radicals in the labor ranks confidence that they could count upon the support of the usually conservative heads of organized labor in America to further their plans if steel were chosen as a battleground. And the events proved that their confidence was not misplaced.
Further, the physical necessities of steel making are hard on the worker. Although employers have done much to ameliorate conditions in the mills and mines, it is impossible to make the work really pleasant and it was therefore comparatively easy to give verisimilitude to distorted statements regarding the hard lot of the steel worker.
Again, a large percentage of the common labor in the steel plants was of alien birth, usually lacking in education and easily influenced by inflammatory doctrines.
Labor leaders, doubtless, also believed that the long litigation which the Government had conducted against the Steel Corporation had turned public sentiment____________________
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Publication information: Book title: The Steel Strike of 1919. Contributors: Colston E. Warne - Editor. Publisher: D. C. Heath. Place of publication: Boston. Publication year: 1963. Page number: 4.
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