At the beginning of the novel workers were powerless over working conditions because of the power of industrial leaders in their ability to prevent workers from forming unions and controlling workers political beliefs and values. Andrew Carnegie and his manager Captain Jones refused to open the steel mills in Braddock unless workers under the Knights of Labor accepted a wage cut and a twelve-hour workday. Due to the power that Andrew Carnegie had as an industrial leader he kept the steel mill locked. Five months later the workers surrendered, which ended the union in Braddock. Industrial owners did everything in their power to destroy unions and prevent workers from fighting for industrial democracy. The Homestead strike resulted in victory for industrial leaders such as Andrew Carnegie and Henry Clay Frick because union leaders were arrested. This emphasizes how industrial owners used their power against workers.
Industrial workers were powerless politically because there were no unions that could protect them, and companies used this to their advantage. Companies threatened workers with their jobs, saying ‘anything that hurts the company hurts you.” They installed fear and anxiety in workers to prohibit them from voting for another political candidate other than who the company supports. George Kracha advised Mike Dobrejcak by stating, “think what you like, but keep your mouth shut.” George Kracha explains how workers’ votes never count, even those that were born in the United States. This explains how companies dominated politics and hindered workers from expressing themselves politically.
Workers gained victory towards the end of the novel because of Dobie Dobrejcak’s involvement in unions as the secretary of the Braddock Lodge. Dobie fulfilled his father’s wishes by joining a union and advocating for industrial democracy. Dobie attended the A.F.L. Amalgamated Association meeting and persuaded five hundred men to join the union. As a result, the union was able to form in Braddock after fifty years. John L. Lewis was also an important part in securing economic and political justice for workers because he formed the C.I.O (Committee for Industrial Organization), which promoted the organization of unorganized workers in mass production and other industries on an industrial basis. After the C.I.O. was formed, the S.W.O.C. (steel workers organizing committee) was created, the ERP surrendered, and all its union members resigned. Workers were finally able to have freedom and gain back their rights. This was the change that many steel workers hoped for.