American Workforce: Make it, or break it.

There is no doubt that the Industrial Revolution was a was a crossroads for the American workforce. With new technology coming into age and new ways to utilize natural resources, employees thought that the work and value that they were creating for their employers was high above their pay grade. Employers saw their employees forming unions to strike against employers, demanding more money. With the two sides at a disagreement, things needed to be sorted out between the two sides. And surely enough things eventually worked themselves out.

Industrialism affected workers in a very big way. After the civil war is really when industrialism took off. America at the time, had few legal restrictions, seemingly endless amounts of natural resources, and a rapidly growing workforce according to Dr. Jennifer D. Keene. This positively affected the American Labor Force by providing thousands, and probably millions of jobs to American people. Of course giving the American Labor Force jobs made them all too smart to realize what was going on right in front of their own eyes.

Eventually the workers in this time period started to realize the amount of work they are doing, the amount of time they are putting in to their work, and the value they are creating for their employers, is worth far more than what they were being compensated. In light of this realization, workers started to form unions and hold strikes against their employers until they were to be paid more than they were currently earning. Dr. Jennifer Keene found that factory workers in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s suffered from terrible work conditions such as: long hours, low pay, dangerous conditions, and frequent downturns. Keene also reports that workers responded by forming unions and strikes. They saw the benefits of unions would be that if they were persistent enough that employers would change their school of thought and pay them more.

Employers found unions dangerous because it went against the best interest of their company. Just imagine you ran a business and you figured out labor costs, and what it took to keep your company profitable. When workers all of the sudden strike against you and demand more money, that goes against the cohesive setting you would like to establish in an organization. At least in today’s world, those are the kind of values a organization should instill in it’s workers.  Back then, employers may have tried to underpay people to earn bigger profits, but I do not know that for certain.


     Keene, Jennifer D. Visions of America: A History of the United States. 3rd ed., vol. 2, Pearson, 2017.

8 thoughts on “American Workforce: Make it, or break it.

  1. Industrialism was the start of a different America. As you said, “Industrialism affected workers in a very big way,” it is still affecting the way we work today. Without the growth of new technology and machines back then, we would be missing very important items such as: phones, cars, and our factory machinery. Industrialism is still affecting America’s productivity.

  2. Your emphasis on the strikes and unions truly show how big of an influence they had. Without either of them the changes to labor in the United States would have been greatly delayed or never had happened. The fact that companies found unions dangerous truly shows their greed for maximized profit. They cared more for profit than they did safety and living wages for their workers.

    1. Do you believe that the employer’s frustration towards unions and the strikes that were developing truly only results from their greed for maximized profits? While this may be true, I can also see where the employers may have been worried that they were going to have to close their doors if they had to pay their workers the amount of money that they were fighting for. Employees may have been paid unfairly for what they were doing, I do not doubt that. However, I could also see where businesses may not have been as profitable as employers or business owners were hoping. Therefore, maybe the money was truly not there to be paying their employer’s higher wages. While this does not make underpaying the employees right, it may have been part of why employers and business owners were so nervous about the unions and strikes.

  3. The Industrial Revolution was a crucial part of American history. It “industrialized” the work force forever and was the start to many new technologies. Although it was a prosperous time in history, it is unfortunate that throughout the Industrial Revolution, so many workers faced hardships. I agree that all employers cared about was making a profit, not the well-being of their employees. I could agree that some companies today still have this mindset and it is quite unfortunate. Sometimes the importance of money, trumps the rest of society.

  4. I can only imagine how the business owners felt when their employees started to form a union. After being able to treat, and pay their employees whatever they wanted must have been a huge change when the employees finally were able to fight back for fair treatment and fair pay. How unfortunate it is that to this day, some employers are still in the mindset that their profits matter more than their employee’s basic rights as a human being.

  5. Hello Michael,

    Even though it might have been a tough process, the workers had to fight for their rights.

    Like you said in your article, “the workers in this time period started to realize the amount of work they are doing, the amount of time they are putting in to their work, and the value they are creating for their employers, is worth far more than what they were being compensated”. Employers were trying to figure out how to make the most profit, so they did not compensate their employees well.

    Business owners must have been furious when their employees started to unionize, but it had to be done, employees are humans too, they needed to be treated better.

  6. You stated about the worker finally realized that they working so much and harsh conditions, that was really good point. Then you explained how they worked together to and created a union. Nice Job!

  7. I always find this time in american history interesting. What it created for future americans was amazing but they way the people were treated was down right disturbing. Unions and the people who started them where a real turning point for the united states.

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