The transition of labor from slave to free labor changed the dynamics of labor in the United States. This was following the end of the Civil War and the enactment of the Thirteenth Amendment which disallowed enslavement and any other forms of abuse of power. The new shift resulted in the freedom of slaves, and an influx of workers in the United States, especially in the South. The Thirteenth Amendment did not anticipate the crisis that would come with free labor and thus did not put measures of wage payment. The free laborers were expected to set a convenient wage with their erstwhile slave masters. While many went to self-employment the demands of industrialization pushed them to get into wage-based types of employment. The paradox of free labor led to mass discontentment, as the employment relationships and rules of engagement were controlled by the masters. Lacking a right platform to argue their case, the laborers started organizing and striking.

The first major industrial strike took place in West Virginia in 1877. The industrial strike included the stopping of Rail Roads, and chaos (Brecher). The period would mark the beginning of a long period of labor strikes. Various factors played to the strike, one of them being the unity among employees to seek better wages, and treatment in industries.

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