Industrialization and Immigration: Labor at the River's Bend
The United States experienced considerable economic expansion and social transformations between the Civil War and 1900. Industrialization and immigration were important elements of the changes and contributed not only to the growing wealth of the nation, but also to an increase in the industrial labor force. As the size of the industrial workforce increased, so too did the number of workers who were dissatisfied with their conditions and rebelled through a variety of ways. But the widespread upheaval by workers never manifested itself into a unified labor organization or political party. This paper addresses the causes of a weak labor movement in one Midwestern community, South Bend, Indiana.
South Bend’s experiences mirrored developments in many other communities during the Gilded Age. Its economic growth and industrialization accelerated considerably after the Civil War, as did the number of foreign born who were employed in the growing factories. Deteriorating working conditions led to several attempts by South Bend’s workers to alleviate their condition through strikes or union organization, but with only minimal success. Though the Knights of Labor had a short lived presence in South Bend in the mid-1880s, there was never a widespread, persistent labor unity in the city. After examining the industrial and immigration developments in the United States as a whole, and South Bend, specifically, this dissertation concludes that South Bend’s labor movement was hampered by the presence of a labor force divided by ethnicity. There were divisions between the native population and immigrant population, but also divisions between the various ethnic groups. Most of the immigrant groups created ethnic communities at the expense of class cohesion. In addition, the management policies of several large employers exacerbated the barriers by favoring one group of workers over another, or manipulating the laborers to prevent unity in the shops. The result of the varied ethnic antagonisms and management tactics was a fractured workforce.
School:University of Toledo
School Location:USA - Ohio
Source Type:Master's Thesis
Keywords:immigration industrialization labor workers industry singer sewing oliver chilled plow studebaker manufacturing ethnic relations south bend indiana knights of
Date of Publication:06/16/2009