A strike by the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers against the Homestead Steel Works Company turned violent when Pinkerton agents and the state militia were sent to break the strike. This strike marked a new level of organization on the part of strikers but also resulted in the destruction of the union and its loss of influence in the Pittsburgh area steel mills.
Homestead, Pennsylvania, is an Allegheny County borough on the southeast border of the city of Pittsburgh along the Monongahela River. Andrew
These engravings from an 1892 Harper’s Weekly show a mob of people assailing the Pinkerton men (top) and the barges burning.
When the steelworkers’ contract came up for renewal in 1892, Carnegie was determined to take a stronger stand. He hired coke magnate Henry Clay
The Homestead strike began on July 1, 1892. The Pinkerton agents arrived by river on July 6. When the Homestead workers and residents learned about management’s plan to break the strike, they prevented the barges from landing. They poured oil on the river and set it afire. Stranded, the Pinkertons agreed to a truce, which permitted their safe arrival on shore. However, the crowd’s anger could not be contained. Nine strikers and seven agents were killed, and many of the rest of the Pinkertons sustained injuries. The Pinkerton agency’s reputation was permanently tarnished as antilabor. At the request of management, the governor of Pennsylvania sent the state militia to retake the Homestead borough and plant. On July 23, anarchist Alexander
The Homestead Strike broke the union and led to Frick’s successful removal of unions at the rest of the Carnegie steel plants. Although supportive of Frick’s management style, Carnegie regretted the violence; later, he secretly contributed to pensions for some of the strikers and offered a relief fund for former Homestead employees. Carnegie did not retire but instead resumed control over his steel empire and Frick’s management of it. Carnegie’s reputation as a progressive employer and champion of labor was destroyed. Homestead continued to have sporadic labor problems until 1899, precipitating a steady decline in production at the plant into the next century.
Krooth, Richard. A Century Passing: Carnegie, Steel, and the Fate of Homestead. Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 2002. Standiford, Les. Meet You in Hell: Andrew Carnegie, Henry Clay Frick, and the Bitter Partnership That Transformed America. New York: Crown Publishers, 2005. Whitelaw, Nancy. The Homestead Strike of 1892. Greensboro, N.C.: Morgan Reynolds, 2006.
Coal strike of 1902
Steel mill seizure of 1952