In 1860, there were only 1.3 million industrial workers in America. Then the Industrial Revolution changed everything with the rise in cheap labor and resources, employing 5.1 million industrial workers. To many Americans, getting this work was necessary for providing for their families, but the low pay, long hours, and dangerous conditions made this spike in employment a time of hardship. (Keene, Cornell, & O’Donnell, 2012, pg. 481)
The conditions industrial workers faced were very unsafe. According to Keene, Cornell, & O’Donnell (2012) every year between 1880 and 1900 35,000 workers were killed on the job and 500,000 were injured. (pg. 482) This statistic shows just how far employers were willing to go to make a buck. The wages these workers were paid to work in these conditions were just as unfair as the conditions. According to Keene, Cornell, & O’Donnell (2012) they only made 400-500 dollars a year when the standard of living was 600-800 dollars a year! (pg. 481) It astounds me that people didn’t ban together after even a year of this torture, but politics were so corrupt, that wasn’t even an option.
A very bittersweet advance was made in the late 1800’s. First, the sweet. According to Keene, Cornell, & O’Donnell (2012) only 13 percent of women worked outside the home in 1870, but 20 percent were working by 1900. Nearly all of these women were single and younger than 25. I find it interesting that the women working were so young and were single. (pg. 486) I think it’s because they had no other income, so they had to work. The bitter part of this is that these women were doing the same jobs as men, but they were only getting paid half, or even less, than the men! The part I personally hate the most about this is the fact that the corporation justified this by saying that the women were just working for extra money while men had families to support. This is outrageous! Of course most of the women were single and younger 25 so they might be on their own, but they also could have been daughters forced to work because their parents couldn’t support them from the ridiculously low wages they were already receiving. (Keene, Cornell, & O’Donnell, 2012, pg. 481)
As the wages got lower, the hours got longer, and the conditions got worse, workers finally created the Knights of Labor union. This union had 700,000 members at its peak and accepted all workers. They finally made some big impacts against child labor, long hours, and unsafe conditions. Corporations were scared of these types of unions because it gave them the strength of numbers to fight back against their mistreatment. (Keene, Cornell, & O’Donnell, 2012, pg. 481)