During the 1892 strike at the Homestead Steel Works, plant manager Henry Clay Frick attempted to defeat the strikers forcibly by hiring three hundred armed agents of the notorious Pinkerton Detective Agency. The strikers fought back, and, after casualties and deaths on both sides, the Pinkertons surrendered. This tragedy happened when the introduction of machinery, speed-up in production, exhausting working conditions, rising profits and falling wages, and the growth of labor organizations characterized the new industrialism. The frequent adjustments were painful, violent, and costly.
Reviewing the management’s motivations to lower cost, I notice there is a reduction in the minimum wage, another reduction on the proportionate rate of pay (thus making a double reduction), and that the scale terminate December 31, instead of June 30. As Mr. Frick claimed, the business of his company was also affected by the fall in market price of steel, and furnished quotations.
While I believe the company seems justified in cutting the wage to improve its profitability, the way the company’s management team or largely, Mr. Flick, communicated and handled the situation is questionable.
First, in the negotiations with the committee of amalgamated workmen for the renewal of the contract, the management failed to conduct open and efficient dialogue by showing them specific reasons and the true state of the company’s affairs behind the wage cut. Such poor communication left the workmen impression that the officers of the company showed impatience and carelessness in their proposal. Their negotiation style was perceived as stern, brusque, and somewhat autocratic, which led to a rather abrupt termination of the negotiations.
Second, all of these negotiations had been made by Mr. Frick merely in anticipation of trouble which might occur, and not upon anything which had occurred. He also made no direct appeal to the county and State authorities for protection in the first...