French Lick, Indiana – In 1892, the Homestead Steel Mill, owned by Carnegie Steel, was in lockout. It was to be the second largest Steel Battle in history.
Henry Frick, the second in command at the Carnegie Steel Company, decided that, to maximize profits, his workers would have to put in more hours a day-12, six days a week. The union had requested a pay increase, he had offered a decrease. Then he locked them out.
Sniper Towers were erected, and high pressure water cannons were placed near the entrances. The nearly four thousands employees were not getting back in without a fight. To give them that fight, the Pinkerton National Detective Agency, a private group which, according to the History Channel, could have “outgunned the United States Army” was brought in. In the fight that followed, nine of the laborers died.
The Pinkertons returned, and the fighting continued.
Labor wars have been a part of American history for a long time. They are mentioned in the Communist Manifesto as a good thing:
Here and there, the contest breaks out into riots. Now and then the workers are victorious, but only for a time. The real fruit of their battles lies, not in the immediate result, but in the ever expanding union of the workers…Law, morality, religion, are to him (the working man) so many bourgeois (capitalist) prejudices, behind which lurk in ambush just as many bourgeois interests…(Taken from part 1. Spelling modernized. Parentheses added.)
While the money magnets of the day, believed they themselves were destined for the power and the greatness. Suggesting that to get in their way was to “stand in the way of the destiny of God.”
In 1776, a Scotchman, Adam Smith wrote his famous book The Wealth of Nations. It is now famous as the father of economic textbooks, and the study of economics in general. Smith famously suggested that everyone is better off when everyone does what is best for himself.
To counter arguments that then everyone will break the law, Smith responded that society and the police make it in your best interest to simply keep the law.
The union fights at the Homestead Steel Mill had not begun the day of the strike but long before, and Andrew Carnegie and his company, was far from being out of hot water.
To be continued.
Andrew C. Abbott