Industrial Workers in the New Economy

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by Cathyv
Last updated 7 years ago

Social Studies
American History

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Industrial Workers in the New Economy

Industrial Workers in the New Economy

The Immigrant Workforce

At the beginning of the 20th century, the average income of the Americanworker was $400-$500 per year, below the $600 figure widely considered the minimum for a reasonable level of comfort. Labor Workers also lacked job security. Wages could be cut at any given time, and whether or not you would be fired by the end of the week was a complete mystery. Most workers lost their jobs due to the technological advances or because of the cyclical or seasoned nature of their work.

There was a great wave of immigration from Mexico, Canada, and Asia, as well as rural Americans, moving towards factory towns and cities. 25 million people migrated to the United States in the years between 1865-1915, which is more than four times the number who had arrived in the 50 years before. In the 1870's and 1880's, immigrants from England, Ireland and Northern Europe were flocking to eastern industrial cities. By the 1890's and well towards the end of the century, mass amounts of Southern and Eastern Europeans (Italians, Poles, Russians, Greeks, Slavs, etc.) had come to America and found their way into the Industrial Work Force. Meanwhile, in the West, an estimated 1 million Mexicans entered the United States, many of them swelling the Industrial work-force of Western Cities. And until the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, a large amount of Asians had immigrated to the Western United States as well.

Most of the foreign immigrants made the move to America in part to escape poverty and oppression in their home lands. One of the major reasons however was the expectation of new oppurtunities for the already-struggling immigrant workers. Railroads would distribute misleading advertisements overseas, luring in immigrants with a sense of false hope. Industrial employers recruited immigrant workers under the Labor Contract Law- which until its repeal in 1885- permitted them to pay for passage of the workers in advance, and then deduct it from their wages later on.

Photographed in the mid-1990's, this picture depicts a machine shop in West Lynn, Massachusetts. It's suggesting something of the growing scale of factory enterprise in the late 19th century, as well as the dangers workers faced in these early manufactoring shops.

Wages and Working Conditions

The decreasing need for skilled workers caused the large amount of unskilled women and children to join the work-force, being hired for less than half the wage of the average male laborer. By 1900, women made up 17% of the industrial work-force. 20% of all women (well over 5 million) were wage earners. Women industrial workers were mainly white and 75% of them were under 25 years of age. The vast majority were immigrants or the daughters of immigrants. Women worked wages as low as $6 to $8 a week (well below the minimum for survival.) The textile industry remained the single largest industrial employer of women, although there were some women in all areas of industry. For many working class families, two incomes were required to support even the most minimal standard of living. At thebeginning of the 20th cenutry, the average annual wage for a male industrial worker was $597; for a woman, it was $314. Although there were pro-labor (for women) women and men, the topic was such a controversial issue that there were families who would rather struggle on inadequate wages than see a wife and mother take a job.

Women and Children at Work

A minimum of 1.7 million children under 16 years of age were employed in factories and fields in 1900. Some familes were so desperate for additional wages that both the children and parents alike were pressed into work. (Also because in some families the reluctance to permit wives to work led parents to send their children into the work-force to avoid forcing mothers to go.) 38 state legislatures passed child labor laws in the late 19th century, but they had limited impact.

When the alarm goes off in the blue morning dark, you know its 5 A.M on the Pacific Rim. With your eyes wide blind, into a bathroom light,the news wire line says join the workforce boy,made of stalwart stock, made from the earths own salt,did you put your luck in North America.well it is 7 bills 7 days to fills take in line And join the workforce boy. Chorus: join the workforce boy if you want some more you might find what you’re looking for x2 so Come from state money in university you find yourself in adversity its 7 bills 7 days to fill so join the fire, And join the workforce boy. Chorus: Join the workforce boy if you want some more, you might find what you’re looking for x2 soIts Sunday to Monday leaving money to money when the clocks don’t stop running and the break is not comingseperate history , the credentials are mystery,the colour you're seeing, it goes deeper, believe me,made from stalwart stock, from the earths own salt, well i tell you why you join the workforce boy,you're made from stalwart stock, made from the earths own salt, did then why you join the workforce boy,Chorus: x2In the workforce boy, hey, join the workforce boy You might find what you’re looking for Come from country to country to city.You are a Paki, samali, west indie.You come from India, Malaysia, Ukraine, or Asia, Jamaica join the workforce boy.

Most Factory laborers worked 10-12 hour days, 6 days a week. In the Steel Industry, laborers worked 12 hours a day. Factory conditions were usually unhealthy and appallingly unsafe. Industrial accidents were frequent and severe. Compensation for victims was very limited until many states started passing workmen's compensation laws in the early 20th century.


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