Yesterday, hundreds of employees of the Carnegie Library system in Pittsburgh voted to unionize with the United Steelworkers. HOW YOU LIKE THAT, ANDREW CARNEGIE, YOU OLD DEAD GHOST?
Andrew Carnegie, fabulously wealthy steel magnate of the 19th century and living symbol of the grotesque inequalities of the Gilded Age, hated unions. In 1892, amid huge profits for his company, Carnegie tried to force wage cuts on employees at his Homestead steel plants in Pennsylvania, and refused to negotiate. He wanted to smash the union entirely. There was a huge strike. Carnegie empowered his hardline deputy Henry Frick to break the strike, and Frick hired a private army of thugs. There was a gun battle, and the National Guard was called in, and the company won, virtually destroying the union, causing the wages of steelworkers to plummet even as profits rose for Carnegie. (During the strike, an anarchist shot and wounded Frick for being such an asshole.)
Instead of paying his workers a decent wage, Carnegie preferred to practice ostentatious philanthropy with his fortune. “Trifling sums given to each [worker] every week or month,” Carnegie said in defense of this choice, “would be frittered away…upon richer food and drink, better clothing, more extravagant living, which are beneficial neither to rich nor poor.”
So instead, Carnegie funded a bunch of libraries. And now, in 2019, in Carnegie’s adopted hometown of Pittsburgh, those libraries are unionized.
Rest in pieces Andrew Carnegie, you dusty old bitch!