Industrial America: the Need for Unionization


Prior to the Industrial Revolution, work was provided on farms. Those farms provided for families’ financial and food needs. When the desire for material items increased, Industrialism flourished, and more jobs were offered in different professions. This should’ve been a good thing, however, through the exploitation of workers by their bosses, a worker had no say in anything that he or she did. The employers had the only say in anything regarding wage and working hours, and despised the idea of unions. The rise in Industrialism also caused a raise in ill-supervised child labor, putting the children at risk for seriously injuring themselves while working.

Children were paid a fraction of what adult workers received, which wasn’t much. Female children got paid about half of what their male counterpart was paid, which amounted to about one dollar a week. Before children started working in factories, they worked on the family farm and were often supervised by their family members. However, when they began working in the factories they were just left to do their jobs and the dangers within their jobs were brushed under the table.  Safety for both adults and children was not a huge concern, and when workers were inevitably injured, the court system would find some roundabout way to blame the injured person or his or her fellow coworkers for the situation. Workers were trapped, because if they ever tried to ask for an accommodation, they could risk being fired. If they did ever end up getting fired they would have to endure the same type of abuse elsewhere. Unions were and are a necessity because they provide a way for employees to have a voice in their jobs.

The laws a union tried to pass were based off of the collective voice of the workers. Unions provided safer working conditions, shorter work days, and also realized employees were being underpaid. Overworking resulted in employees being more likely to make a mistake if he or she was working long hours. By providing safer working conditions and safety regulations, accidents could be more avoidable. Employees were breathing in sawdust and working around metal with no protective eyewear.  Unions gave an opportunity for higher wages, which would mean that low income parents wouldn’t have to send their children to work, and could instead support their family on their own.

Employers viewed unions as a threat to their control over a business. They would have to follow rules and regulations made by the unions instead of being able to create rules for their employees. Employers were opposed to the idea of unions because they failed to realize the benefits of spending money on necessities in their business such as safer equipment, and more appropriate working hours and conditions. Employers despised unions so much that they had Union supporters put on blacklists and those lists were spread around to different companies and they were refused a job. If employers spent more money on safer equipment for their employees, they would eventually save money over time. Should a worker get his or her hand stuck in unsafe machinery, the employer would in turn have to spend money to replace it. By cutting employees’ work hours they will be less fatigued during the work day, be less likely to injure themselves, and be more productive. This benefits employers because cutting hours would result in a more productive worker, and save the employer money on wage expense in the long run.

 

8 thoughts on “Industrial America: the Need for Unionization

  1. As i look at today’s farmers i agree that most of them get the farm and then get it keeps passing down and so fourth. I really like the way you incorporate the statistics and show how it was then and how it is now. As we go over the rules and regulations to create a new set of rules and regulations to put into place we as a society refer back to them and improvise on what we thought worked and what didn’t work and then created the new slate of rules and regulations. Corporations say to their employees to come to them if they feel something isn’t right versus going to a union. As we also go back and look at the legal age to work and what it is now and how it changed society for the better.

  2. It is very unfortunate that employees were treated so poorly. Children especially shouldn’t have been working long hours unsupervised doing a job that could kill or seriously injure them. Workers deserved a change and the unions gave them a voice and allowed them to do that. I’m also glad that we’ve made so much progress.

  3. It is so sad to know how poorly employers treated their employees. To know that children had to work in the same harmful conditions as their parents for little to no money at all is heart-wrenching. Unions are one of the best things that could have happened in the work place. I like the idea that employees finally found a way to get their employers to listen to their concerns. Without union, we would not have any change in the work place

  4. I can’t imagine being forced to work in such horrid and dangerous conditions every single day for 10-12 hours a day while still being paid hardly anything. It’s awful that employers cared so little about their employees and refused to pay them better and implement safety regulations. They are people too.

  5. I believe, like with anything in life, there are pros and cons to unionization. Employers still to this day do not like the idea of having a union established within their business. Unions back then are what regulated the aspects of what are employee rights today.

  6. Believing that someone would treat children in such ways is terrible. To call them human should be considered a privilege to them for how awful they were to children. Working less than minimum wage for work that was considered just as dangerous as what adults were already doing. None of it makes sense to a working class citizen but to employers, it was their cheap way out. To make more money at less of the cost. It was disgusting but it was life back then.

  7. The industrial Revolution and following Gilded Age is precisely why the working class must organize itself. Those above us will never work in our favor. Greed and the need to exploit us for greater profit drives them. The protection of the working class is a job for the worker alone

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