History of Employers' Associations in the United States

By Clarence E. Bonnett | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 10
THE BOOM IN ORGANIZING UNIONS AND ASSOCIATIONS: THE LAW AND ORDER LEAGUES CRUSH THE KNIGHTS OF LABOR.

WHILE THE YEAR 1884 was relatively quiet in organizational activities, it was laying the bases and furnishing the arguments for these activities in the following years. The years 1885-86 marked the height of the boom in both unions and associations; in fact, the unions began their decline in the early part of 1886 and remained relatively weak until their growth was greatly stimulated by the Boer War and the Spanish-American War.

Association Attitudes Varied in 1884 . That some unions in 1884 were similar to the Molly Maguires was readily inferred by the recurrent references to the destruction of those gangsters. Undoubtedly, as a part of the reaction and counteraction, workmen who petitioned for changes or against abuses were summarily discharged by many manufacturers, as actual or potential agitators. Unionists then argued against arbitration in any form; they favored only "industrial conciliation" -- later called "collective bargaining." While some associations agreed not to employ any members of specified unions -- notably, of the Knights of Labor -- the Board of Trade of Cincinnati appointed a committee to try to persuade employers and workmen to confer over differences in order to avert strikes. Strictly speaking, it was a mediatory organization, as a "conciliatory" organization is made up of the parties to the dispute, and an "arbitration" board is made up of "outsiders," usually with an umpire to settle the dispute between the contending parties. The Master Builders' Association of New York was formed to resist a strike. Manufacturers in California organized a state association.

The association movement was beginning to become extensive throughout the year -- to meet the expansion in union activities. Local associations were very active, especially in taking stands which caused unionists to strike, like reducing wages.

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