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.