Industrialism and workers; a love hate relationship


How did industrialism affect workers?

Industrialism affected workers in multiple ways, it made some professions that up to this point in history had been considered skilled trades, such as the cobbler or blacksmith into low or no skill jobs through the use of new machinery and technology. Secondly, Industrialism made it possible for workers to work around the clock through the invention of electricity and Edison’s Lightbulb. Industrialism monetized peoples time, you no longer needed a marketable skill to earn money, rather you just needed to have the Braun and will to work in industry repeating the same task daily.




Why did employers find unions so objectionable, even dangerous?

The list of grievances that employees held against their employers was massive mainly, long working hours, poor workplace safety, next to no job security and no set wage laws.  Employers saw unions as dangerous because they gave the power of numbers to the workers. A single person or even a group of 5 or 10 walking out of a factory isn’t a big deal as they are easily replaced, but if you lose the entirety of everyone in your employ, your production comes to a grinding halt. Unions made this threat very real, anyone who threatens a business’s profits is obviously going to be objectionable and may even be seen as dangerous by business owners.



What benefits did workers see in unions?

Workers saw in unions the ability to negotiate instead of beg. They saw a vehicle that could carry them to a reasonable and safe work environment. They saw a chance to achieve “The American dream.”  A tool to find a solution to the list of grievances I mentioned above is the main thing that propelled people to attempt to unionize. The best illustration of the need to organize is an illustration of a fish eating many smaller fish, but if the smaller fish work together they can form a school that can’t possibly be eaten. Unions organized the smaller fish and made them into a formidable opponent to big business.

9 thoughts on “Industrialism and workers; a love hate relationship

  1. I totally agree with your blog on why employees liked the idea of unions while employers might not have. There is no doubt that during the times before unions, the workplace was rather unsafe and the treatment of employees was not ideal. This makes it obvious that people would want a strong union to help them negotiate favorable deals about work environments and pay. Although you have to look at it through the perspective of the owners too. I believe I watched a documentary about Henry Ford not too long ago. Mr. Ford raised the pay for his workers so they could in turn afford the cars they were producing. He honestly believed he was helping to give them a better life. This is why he was very hurt when he first found out about the want to unionize his factories. He believed that he was already doing a lot for his employees and this is how they were going to treat him?! I too would probably be upset.

    1. Thanks for your comment! I definitely see where you’re coming from, in that Ford believed he was already treating his workers well. I don’t understand his animosity towards unions though. if Ford truly wanted the best for his workers it would seem that the union would be a nonissue. if the workers were being treated fairly, working in safe conditions, and given a good standard of life through their employment a union would have no objections. that’d just the thought that came to mind!

  2. The two very different ways unions where seen by employees and employers is so interesting. Employers saw unions as a threat. If unions banded workers together and went on strike their companies production would come to a halt. On the opposite side, workers saw unions as (in a way) a possible “salvation” from the horrid working conditions they were faced with. Today if workers were faced with the same unfair treatment (long working hours, poor workplace safety, next to no job security and no set wage laws) I can only imagine the massive outcry from people who would want policy reform for the workplace. Of course, back then there was a massive outcry for policy reform in the workplace yet, the courts, and legislatures sided with the employers. How and why they could have done this still boggles my mind.

  3. Your picture is a very accurate representation of how the unions helped the common working man and woman come together and stop the big business from treating them like they are worthless. I totally understand why employers were so scared of the unions. But, I do believe even if the employers would have paid their employees better to start there still would be unions and strikes because every American wants to be rich, or at least have enough money to provide for their family and afford luxuries. The employers knew that no matter how much they paid their employees it was only a matter of time before they wanted more. They themselves wanted more. Even today we fight with our employers for a pay raise and we have come a long ways since the 1800’s.

    1. Thanks for the comment! I see your point as to people are self interested and will seek more eventually, but its just that, human nature. Unions in my view help to keep these wants in check by, number one ensuring a living wage to those who work in union shops, and number two by standardizing the pay scale for a job. equal pay for equal work.

    2. I agree with the picture being an accurate representation. I also thought it was very unique that you used something of this nature instead of a picture from that time period. It is bizarre for me to think of the time where there were no regulations, whereas today there are so many laws in place for both employee and employer to keep them both safe and well regulated.

  4. I agree with you completely. Employers hated the thought of unions because all they could see is money going down the drain. It was great for the employees so they could live normal lives instead of working 12 hour days.

  5. I believe that the industrial surge helped paved the path for what we have now. Yes, it was dangerous and employers exhausted people out, but without it, we couldn’t have advanced as a nation.

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