The Stockyards

Slaughterhouse Jobs

Workers went on strike and attempted to unionize in an effort to improve their harsh working conditions, however the early attempts were relatively unsuccessful. Two significant efforts were made in 1894 and 1904, but both failed due to strikers' inability to form a cohesive, effectual group.

1904 Union Stock Yards strike. (CHS DN-936)

In 1894, stockyard butchers went on strike to demand higher wages, but their solitary effort was doomed without the support of their unskilled co-workers. Because of this, the meatpacking conglomerates had little problem finding strikebreakers to fill the vacant positions.

African American workers at the Swift meatpacking company.
(CHS ICHi-21357)

In 1904, the Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen's (AMC) attempt to unionize was foiled by the leaders' inability to join people of various ethnic groups into a unified group. To further complicate the union's problems, employers hired African Americans as strikebreakers, prompting social conflict and riots between black and white workers. The employers were right to assume that unions would have difficulty organizing across racial lines. This proved problematic for many years to come.

Cooler in packinghouse, 1892. (CHS ICHi-04077)

The hardship workers endured throughout the Great Depression helped break down barriers between different ethnic groups and races, making union organizing more successful. In addition, the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 guaranteed workers the right to organize and bargain collectively and outlawed practices used by employers to discourage unionizing. The Congress of Industrial Organizations' Packinghouse Workers Organizing Committee, established in 1937, did much to unify laborers and better their working conditions.

Al Capone
Black Sox
Century of Progress
Chicago Fire
World's Columbian Expo
Parades, Protests and Politics
THe Pullman Era
The Stockyards
The Stockyards Photos
The Stockyards bibliography
Fort Dearborn

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