Homestead Strike of 1892

The Company:

The company whose workers went on strike was the Carnegie Steel Company. At the time the company was one of the most powerful companies not only in the steel industry, but in the whole country. To make his business even more powerful, Carnegie used horizontal and vertical consolidation to gain control of almost all of the steel industry. Soon though the price of steel was dropping, so Carnegie and president of the company Henry Frick decided to cut wages.

Homestead Mill
Homestead Mill


The Workers:

Most of the workers at the Homestead steel mill were skilled craftsmen who belonged to a workers union, the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers (AAISW). In the old iron mills these workers were very valuable and could not easily be replaced, but new technology made theses workers easily replaceable. Because of this many workers feared losing their jobs, and they were also subject to pay cuts as well.

Cause of Strike:

The workers were beginning to get restless because of what was going on. They low wages were being reduced even more and if they refused to work they could be easily replaced. Also, in early 1892 Frick notified the AAISW that workers wages would be cut and that the union would no longer be accepted as a representative of the workers. Along with the loss of their union, the workers also lost their jobs and were replaced by non-union workers called scabs.

What Happened:

Frick new that the loss of jobs and their union would not sit well with the workers, so he hired 300 agents from the Pinkerton’s National Detective Agency and built a 12 foot high barbed wire fence around the mill. For years the Pinkerton agency had been supplying industrialists with private armies for situations just like this. On June 29, 1892 3,000 of the 3,800 workers at the mill voted to go on strike. They seized the plant to prevent job replacement, and set up a governing committee. The workers were able to hold of the Pinkerton’s for a while, but eventually the Pennsylvania State Militia came and broke the strike. The militia held the mill for four months while non-union workers were brought in, after those four months the workers could no longer resist and returned to their jobs.

Homestead strike
Homestead strike

State militia entering Homestead, Pennsylvania

Impact:

Since the strike was put down, the union was never able to gain control in western Pennsylvania, and was actually removed from the state all together. The union was not brought back into the state until 1933 with Franklin D. Roosevelt’s new deal policy.

Refrences:

"Homestead strike." Image. Library of Congress

"Homestead strike." American History. ABC-CLIO, 2011. Web. 16 May 2011.
Lens, Sidney. The labor wars: from the Molly Maguires to the sitdowns . [1st ed. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1973.

Johnson, Stephanie. "The Pennsylvania Center for the Book - Homestead Steel Strike." The Pennsylvania Center for the Book. http://pabook.libraries.psu.edu/palitmap/Homestead.html (accessed May 15, 2011).
Boardman, Fon Wyman. America and the robber barons, 1865 to 1913 . New York: H.Z. Walck, 1979.