The Coolie and the Making of the White Working Class
coolie -- 1. By some considered to be originally Tamil, and identical with the word kuli 'hire, payment for occasional menial work". . . [a] hireling, labourer, man who does odd jobs. . . . A variant of Kuli or Koli, name of a numerous aboriginal tribe of Gujarat, formerly noted as robbers, but now settling down as respectable labourers and cultivators. . . . 2. a. The name given by Europeans in India and China to a native hired labourer or burden-carrier; also used in other countries where these men are employed as cheap labourers.
The Oxford English Dictionary
In November 1885, The Wasp, an illustrated weekly, published a lithograph titled "The Consequences of Coolieism," bearing a detailed caption. 1 The picture, together with its caption, densely encapsulates the racialization of proletarian labor through the creation of the category of coolie labor. Coolie labor is identified as cheap Chinese labor, while its opposite, Free Labor, is identified with the white workingman's family. In the Wasp's view, the problem of "coolieism" is not narrowly economic but extends to every member of the workingman's family. The caption calls for the old animosities between Saxon (English) and Celt (Irish) to be put aside in favor of the common cause of a "white" struggle in opposition to Chinese labor.