Why were there so many strikes between 1875 and 1900 if the real wages of workers were rising ?
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Many American workers experienced the economic transformations of the late 19th century in terms of a wrenching loss of status. For free white men, pre-Civil War America, more than any previous society, was a society of independent producers and property holders. Farmers, shopkeepers, and craftsmen generally owned the property they worked. About four-fifths of free adult men owned property on the eve of the Civil War. High rates of physical mobility combined with the availability of western lands to foster a sense that the opportunity to acquire property was available to anyone who had sufficient industry and initiative.
After the Civil War, however, many American workers feared that their status was rapidly eroding. The expanding size of factories made relations between labor and management increasingly impersonal. Mechanization allowed many industries to substitute semi-skilled and unskilled laborers for skilled craft workers. A massive influx of immigrants from southern and eastern Europe saturated labor markets, slowing the growth of working-class incomes.
Echoing earlier debates over slavery, many working men and women feared that the great industrialists were imposing a new form of feudalism in America, which was reducing "freemen" to "wage slaves." They demanded "a fair day's wages for a fair day's work" and an eight-hour work day. Native-born workers, fearing competition from low-wage immigrant workers, sometimes agitated for immigration restriction. Many observers feared that the United States was on the brink of a ruinous class war.