The Industrial Revolution, such an era of new opportunities for big businesses, making the workforce a place of efficiency and production. We must look deeper though, was it truly a time of bettering the American people? Or did each person worry about their own gain? I want to take a moment to reflect on how this time in history impacted the people of that day.
First I want to point out how workers were affected by industrialism. Due to the rise in technology, many new machines were being produced. This meant many once skilled trades soon became low-skilled factory occupations, because of the production of machines that made the jobs easier. This meant big businesses could pay low wages and demand long hours for low-skilled labor. They could also simply fire or replace workers who complained or failed to keep up the pace with other unskilled workers. Which made for poor conditions for many employees.
This led to the rise of laborers creating and joining unions, they saw benefits within these unions. To them it was the only way to be heard, they had seen the way industrialism was taking them and did not like it. They saw it as a way to stand up for the ill treatment of workers, the unions gave them a ray of hope, a way that they could make a difference.
Though unions seemed so good to workers employers however found them to be objectionable, even dangerous. They saw the things the unions organized as illegal and wretched. It seemed to them that all the strikes accomplished was being despotic to their own members, being oppressive to the class in whose interest they pretend to have been established. Most employers saw unions as threats to their freedom to run their businesses, they saw them as trying to control something that wasn’t theirs to control.
Though the Industrial Revolution was a trying time for the American people, it did not pass without positive benefits. It brought change for American women, African-Americans and Immigrants. It transformed the workplace for many Americans and it made the United States a leading industrial power in the world.
Keene, Cornell and O’Donnell. Visions of America: Chapter 16