The industrial revolution is a time when America expanded in the industry and technology fields. This growth enabled wealth for business owners and Politian’s. Wealth came at the expense of the working class. As businesses grew financially and throughout regions they also grew in Power, allowing most workers to live below the poverty line. These workers felt powerless.
The perception given in the Gilded age is one that the employers held all the power. Their abundance in wealth allowed them to have a hand in the Politian’s pockets. They paid the courts to rule in their favor. The employers were allowed: to force long work days, place children in unsafe work places, and pay women less then men. There were no regulations for them to follow. Not all business owners were greedy, the most compassionate business owner was Andrew Carneigie he insisted “they were visionaries who built key industries that brought measurable benefits to Americans”. He also donated to charities and funding of libraries.
Even though the rise in industrial and technology industries brought more jobs it seems like a sad time for all workers. Some of the skilled workers lost jobs or received lower wages due their “skilled” job being done with new machines and technology. The industrial workplace was very dangerous. According to the book nearly 35,000 workers were killed per year. The poverty level was evident. Some workers made $300-500 per year when the cost of living ranged from $600-800. Women and children also worked to help support their families. They were paid wages that were lower than men. Along with poverty, race was still a major issue, whites felt they were superior to other races. They even went as far as to create a Chinese exclusion act that banned Chinese immigration. This ban shows that business owners weren’t the only ones that were greedy. The whites would do anything to keep other ethnicity from taking “their” jobs.
Unions were organized to help improve the working and living conditions. In 1866 William Sylvis founded the National Labor Union (NLU) with the intent was to establish laws to set an 8-hour work day. Most employers didn’t want to have unions, the business liked the control they had, and unions would limit that. They even went as far as to “black-list” workers that were known to be union organizers. The main concern for business would be less profit. They would be forced to pay “fair” wages and ensure a safe working environment resulting in lower profit margins. The workers were hopeful for more pay, less hours, and better working conditions. However, many Americans felt unions were “un-american.” While I wouldn’t go as far as to say that Unions are “un-american” my opinion of unions is not favorable. Working in an industry that is heavily unionized I have seen where workers have taken advantage of their employers.
Keene, Jennifer, Cornell, Saul, and O’Donnell, Edward Revel Visions of America: A History of the United States, Volume 2, 3E.
12 thoughts on “Industrial Revolution affect on employers and employees”
It is difficult to imagine what workers had to endure on a daily basis. Even though the industrial revolution brought many new advancements in technology which is a good thing, the new technology also brought with it more risk and less need for trained workers. Even today the speculation that some employers “ reach their hands in the Politicians pockets” still exist. It says that Andrew Carnegie may have been “the most compassionate business owner.” I believe that part of the reason was that he had humble beginnings. At the age of 12 Andrew and his family immigrated to the U.S., then he dropped out of high school, and took night classes. He must have seen how the lives of the workers were back then and wanted to change things. Although Carnegie was “nice” to the workers he still signed secret deals with the railroad and bought out his competitors. When workers went on strikes they weren’t messing around, and often during these strikes, they struggled to feed their families.
I wonder what work conditions would be like if unions were never allowed to form. I wonder if the government would have ever stepped in and helped the working class gain any respect in the business sectors. We should all be thankful for the sacrifices that the first union workers took. They most likely sacrificed their jobs, their integrity, and some even sacrificed their lives. It was definitely a crazy time, one that I am sure happy I do not live in.
I can see both sides regarding unions today. I think at this time in history when as you say “employers held all the power” the creation of unions was necessary. It made working conditions better and made employers realize they couldn’t treat people that way. However today I’m not sure how much good unions do. At a previous job I had to pay union dues but they really did nothing for me or my coworkers.
I agree that the start of unions was necessary at that time. Working conditions were unsafe and if your performance wasn’t what they thought was good enough you could be fired. The employers could lower the wages to the bare minimum because they knew that there would always be someone else willing to work for the minimum. At that time every employee was replaceable. Something had to be formed to protect workers even at the expense of being blacklisted. I don’t think unions are as important today as they were then.
I agree with the fact that unions now a days are nothing like what they were, but I think they are still a necessary part of the work force. They allow the workers to have a voice if the need ever arises.
It’s hard to imagine what life would have been like back then, especially for someone my age. If we were still in that industrial time where children worked 12+ hours a day, I would most likely have just been clocking out of my job in the factory.
Imagining yourself in those positions actually makes you feel for those people. Being a parent I could never imagine having my child work 12 hours a day, especially is harmful conditions. Makes me grateful that I didn’t have to grow up or raise a child in that era. Greed definitely got the best of people.
It’s hard to imagine how life in the workforce was like in the past. There were harsh conditions with a lack of laws to help reduce the extent of these conditions. Some of the major conditions included low wages, long hours, and dangerous tasks. Wages were a major issue throughout the Industrial Revolution, and women were being paid half of what men were receiving. There was a lack of job security along with children working at very young ages. All of these points add up when it comes to wanting to create a union. Union’s were a way for these workers to have a voice even though unions could end with consequences. One consequence of being in a union was being blacklisted. This made you unemployable and unable to support yourself and your family. The harsh conditions during the Industrial Revolution led to unions forming because of the change that needed to occur.
I agree with when you said, “Even though the rise in industrial and technology industries brought more jobs it seems like a sad time for all workers.” I talked about similar ideas in my blog post, but I thought if that when I was writing it as well. WHat a time it would be, that you be happier than you ever have with such plentiful work to provide for your family. But similar to today, the ones with all the the money ruin it with greed and neglect.
Looking back from then until now sure should make us all feel very grateful! I don’t want to know what it would have been like back then. I sure am grateful for the regulations that we have now especially when it comes to working conditions and wages. However, we still do have kinks in the system such as men still do get paid more than women but it has came a long ways.
Looking back at this time, no one truly realizes how important unions were. They basically shaped the way we work today. They helped clean up work spaces and made them safe for employees to work. They also helped get wages up to match the hours worked. The unions also allowed children to get out of working at a young age, which allowed them to get an education. Overall, without the unions, we may have seen the same work spaces back then in today’s society.
It is really hard to think of life back then and compare it to what we have today, thinking back to when children were put into the same situations as adults.