The Labor Wars is what is commonly used to refer to the most violent period of the Lone Star Republic's labor movement. It is one of the most violent outbreaks of class warfare to occur in the world, due in part to the the virtual non-involvement of the government. Between 1909 and 1939 over 27,000 people were killed in armed, sometimes pitched, battles between laborers and business-hired soldiers.
The Labor Wars brought about dramatic changes in the Lone Star Republic. Some of the most obvious are serious restrictions on child labor, the 45 hour work week, Social Security, Medical Care, and the growth of the Labor Party.
Before the beginning of the Labor Wars, the Lone Star Republic had very few laws regarding businesses. Until the big population boom in the early 1900's, the LSR had a serious shortage of workers, having never been heavily populated. With the influx of workers, primarily immigrants, and the discovery of many of the natural resources the LSR, many industries experienced rapid growth. Companies found themselves in positions where they could dictate the terms of employment for the first time. Coupled with the lack of legal oversight, this led to very poor working conditions and serious economic struggles for many of the workers.
With its frontier mentality, the Lone Star Republic's populace have always valued handling problems personally. Their can-do attitude, as well as access to and familiarity with firearms, were final straws in the volatile situation.
The Early Years
What is commonly thought of as the first battle of the Labor Wars occured May 7th, 1909, in San Francisco. A group of cannery workers, who had been striking without success for a month over trying to insure medical care if they were injured on the job, a safer working place, and higher wages. The company employed a large number of scabs and refused to deal with the workers. The workers came armed to the picketline and fired on the scabs, killing nine and wounding twelve others. When the sheriff arrived, he attempted to arrest some of the organizers. The lead organizer challenged the sheriff to a duel, which was accepted. Both the sheriff and the lead organizer were killed. The next day eight of the workers on strike were killed by guards the company hired to keep them away.
Over the next five years similar scenarios played out across the Lone Star Republic, sometimes with the local official favoring the workers, but more often than not favoring the companies. There was little organization from place to place. Most incidents were independent revolts against companies. What began amongst cannery workers spread to other factory workers, miners, loggers... wherever there were people working as unskilled laborers for growing businesses.
There were occasional attempts by one side or the other to involve authorities on the regional level (in California) or the national level, but for the most part the people involved didn't want politicians getting involved in their personal business or to expand the limited role the upper levels of government played in daily affairs. Also, unlike in many other countries, trying to buy a politician was a risky venture since so many of them were proud indivualists and honor was so highly valued.
The Growth of the Labor Party
By 1915 many of the industries, threatened by the growing violence, began forming trade associations. The trade associations shared plans, finances, and even sharpshooters between the member businesses in a more concentrated attempt win whenever a squabble broke out. For the better part of two years the trade associations were wildly successful.
Towards the end of 1916 many of the laborers found themselves in worse conditions than ever before as industries began pressing their advantage. Until this time many efforts to organize workers came from those outside of the Lone Star Republic. These had failed, for the most part because they were outsiders and most of the workers wanted to handle things themselves. Now a generation of organizers grew within the Lone Star Republic with plans on how to fight back against the trade associations. Such ideas as orginized mass challenges to duels of business owners and direct organized disruption of production not just in one business but many in an area proved very effective in returning matters to near parity between the two sides. The formation of large unions which used orchestrated violence escalated the previous skirmishes into full-fledged war.
Between 1916 and 1919 the trade associations began turning to the regional and federal government finally, painting the growing labor movement as a threat to the existence of the country. With close to 3,000 dead in 1918, the bloodiest year of the Labor Wars, the trade associations began to make headway. The governor of California in 1919 began a campaign to impose laws against many of the most effective practices of the unions. Some national politicians, mostly those who came from business backgrounds themselves, also began pushing for some regulations.
In response, many of the unions began fighting back politically, officially forming the Labor Party in 1920 to back the run of John Gomez and Samuel Harrison for President and Vice President of the Lone Star Republic. Running against them were Andrew Smith and Timothy Sparrow claiming the federal government should not take a stand and that the government should never be run by anyone who would so clearly divide the country as Gomez and Harrison would.
In 1921, with a 53% - 45% vote, as well as a great deal of funding from the trade associations, Andrew Smith became the twelfth president of the Lone Star Republic with Timothy Sparrow as his vice president. Just over a year later Andrew Smith, under intense pressure from business-backed politicians signed the narrowly passed Labor Regulation Act. The next day Vice President Timothy Sparrow challenged President Smith to a duel, claiming damage to his personal honor, charging that Smith had violated the promise of neutrality under which Sparrow had agreed to run with Smith.
On March 17th, 1922, Timothy Sparrow killed Andrew Smith and took the office of President of the Lone Star Republic. In an executive order the same day he voided the Labor Regulation Act (under the "lame duck clause" of the LSR constitution). As the Constitution of the Lone Star Republic requires there was to be another election held. However, John Gomez, the obvious challenger, refused to run against Sparrow, noting that, "Timothy Sparrow is a man of honor who has proven himself a patriot of the Lone Star Republic to a degree unchallengeable. As far as I am concerned, he is the President of the Lone Star Republic." With public approval nearly unanimous, Congress passed an an amendment to the Constitution allowing Vice Presidents to claim office in the event of the death of the President without election if all those who previously ran against them back them for the office.
Many of the trade associations, finding no traction in the government after Sparrow took the office of President, began ceding some issues with the labor unions. The violence slowly dwindled over the remainder of Sparrow's presidency as, through tense negotiations, terms were reached with which both sides could live.
On some issues, common ground could not be reached quickly. Towards the end of 1925, violence began increasing again as the next series of federal elections approached. John Gomez and Samuel Harrison decided to run -- again representing the Labor Party. Running against them were Aaron Jaccobs and Harold Payton representing the Free Soil Party. In this election, Aaron Jaccobs ran as "the man necessary to end these Labor Wars," by facilitating the ongoing discussions betwen the unions and trade associations. He made no bones about believing that the unions were holding out for a Gomez win rather than settling things personally. Gomez, who had been an early favorite to win after an enormous popularity boost for his refusal to run against Timothy Sparrow, found himself in a very tight race. John Gomez and Samuel Harrison toned down their speeches from the previous election, invoking the example Timothy Sparrow had set over the past four years and promising to be "mediators rather than dictators," and to "not bring the power of the national government to bear unless absolutely necessary."
In 1926 John Gomez became the fourteenth President of the Lone Star Republic with a small victory of 50% to 48%. Despite his promises, it was Gomez's presidency which saw the largest increases in federal laws since the beginning of the Lone Star Republic. In 1927 the Social Security and Medical Care Act was passed, which guarantees pensions and medical treatment for all citizens who work for at least 40 years. Also passed while Gomez was president was the Fairness Act of 1928, which put in place many of the regulations on businesses in regards to child labor and medical treatment for injured workers as well as putting in place a 40 hour work week.
In a backlash following the massive growth of federal laws, the Labor Party did not hold the presidency again until 1946. Many of the laws proved popular however and were not removed. Some were altered, particularly the 40 hour work week was increased to a 45 hour work week in 1932. However, the Labor Party had found a great deal of support and continued to do well at running candidates for office, particularly at local levels.
An Uneasy Truce
While the growth of the influence of the Labor Party helped to quell the violence in many areas, in others it only increased the bloodshed. Some regions, particularly northeastern Texas, were bastions of people opposed to the controls for which the Labor Party pushed. Although the number of violent incidents decreased after the early 1920's, the violence of the remaining incidents often grew more fierce. The average death toll for skirmishes in 1931 was close to 200. The fact that there were only fifteen conflicts as opposed to ninety-six kept the total death toll of 2,783 in 1931 under the record high of 2,906 from 1918.
The primary reason, in fact the only reason, most modern historians believe, that the Labor Wars ended in 1939 is the Lone Star Republic's involvement in World War II. With such manpower overseas and resources stretched at home an uneasy truce was formed between the two sides that continues to this day.
Since World War II there have been few violent flare-ups. Both laborers and industry executives seem to have found ways to reach agreements, looking back uneasily at the loss of life during the Labor Wars. Neither side has made dramatic moves to change federal laws, content to focus on local scenes. When tempers become frayed, the threat of federal involvement is usually more than enough to bring both sides back to the table to resolve the matter themselves.
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