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During the amount of time between 1865 and 1900, the United States was going through a tough time. The country had just come out of a war and, at the same time, was making an attempt to industrialize. The plight of laborers throughout this time was a horrible one. Not only were the working conditions godawful, the employees’ wages were meager, and they had no benefits or retirement options.
The Civil War had produced lots of tasks for inexperienced employees. Jobs such as digging trenches for the troops, transporting the dead and wounded, and offering food for the South.
At the conclusion of the war the majority of these jobs ended up being unnecessary, for that reason putting countless individuals out of work. Most families were big because of the Agrarian society that existed prior to the War. This put a lot of people in a circumstance in which they merely required a job, any job. Owners of newly established factories benefited from these people.
The concept of industrialization had hit America by storm. The owners of factories justified poor conditions by saying that they were doing the “bad” individuals a favor which they should be grateful. They were attempting to keep labor and production costs down. Therefore, they had no qualms about paying them meager wages and providing them no benefits. The typical factory worker made $400.00 each year. The quantity required to survive was $600.00 each year. This required numerous women and children to go to work for the factories as well. This had far reaching effects.
Mothers were not home to care for their kids and older kids dropped out of school and did not receive an education.
Kids as young as eight and 10 years of age went to work in factories. This was done merely to feed the other members of the household. Ladies and kids were paid just a small percentage of the wage that a guy gotten. Advantages for factory employees were nonexistent. If the dad, the head of the home, fell into a piece of vulnerable equipment and was killed, the children would most likely need to go to an orphanage.
Even though the working conditions were terrible, there was still stiff competition for these factory jobs. Many immigrants would work longer hours for less money than the white people. Employers also took advantage of this by hiring the immigrants instead of the whites. I believe that immigrants were exploited even more than the original workers. Most of these immigrants did not speak English, and felt very privileged to be in America and have a job. This was their dream. In the novel by Upton Sinclair, The Jungle, a worker named Jurgis was made to do horrible things and work in unimaginable conditions. I think that this is a prime example of the exploitation that took place during this time period.
Many different labor unions and organizations arose during this time to aid the workers in their plight. Perhaps the most famous were the Knights of Labor. The ideals that this group strove for are some of the same things we are still fighting for today. Things such as equal pay for men and women, the abolition of child labor, and safety codes for factories. Although the changes were not immediate, there was a gradual change for the better for the plight of the workers.
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