The Gilded Age | Workers Revolt! | 5

The Gilded Age | Workers Revolt! | 5

As the century came to a close, labor unrest reached explosive new heights. Industrial expansion made businessmen and bankers rich. But workers faced low wages, long hours, and dangerous conditions. They sought strength in numbers, fighting for basic rights against the power of big business—and often faced violent pushback.

In May 1886, a bomb exploded at a peaceful labor protest in Chicago’s Haymarket Square. Police fired their guns into the crowds. Panic engulfed the city. And the nation’s most powerful labor union suffered a devastating blow. 

In Homestead, Pennsylvania, steelworkers waged a bloody battle against private security forces. And in Pullman, Illinois, railroad workers laid down their tools, sparking a nationwide railroad shutdown—one that President Grover Cleveland would crush with brutal force.

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