Scabs

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Mounted Police and Strikers Stand-Off.jpg
Fisher Body strikers attempting to block entrance of plant to scabs are confronted by mounted police, Cleveland, Ohio, Cuyahoga County, 1939.

Scabs is a derogatory name for union members who refuse to go out on strike or workers who are hired by businesses to replace striking workers. During the late nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries, strikes were commonplace within the United States. Numerous unions, including the Knights of Labor and the American Federation of Labor, originated during this time period. Many of these groups' members supported strikes to gain improved conditions for workers. Unfortunately for the strikers, an abundance of laborers existed within the United States during this era. Many people, especially recent immigrants, did not have jobs. When workers went on strike, businesses could easily hire new laborers, known as scabs, to replace the striking workers. Often, the new employees were willing to work for less pay than the laborers whom they were replacing. Violence often erupted between the strikers and the scabs. Strikers were unhappy with union members who remained at work and sometimes utilized violence against these scabs. Strikers also commonly utilized violence and verbal intimidation against new workers as well. While working conditions dramatically improved throughout the twentieth century, strikes still occur today. Businesses commonly hire scabs to replace the strikers, and violence and intimidation still occur, although much less regularly than before.

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