Upton Sinclair was born on September 20th 1878, in Baltimore Maryland. His life was spent alternating between politics, writing and in civil rights movements. His first major book was written in 1903 Manassas, but it is The Jungle that would throw him into instant fame and make known his stand in the complications brought forth by capitalism. He was a socialist and tried running for office in 1906, having a go at the congress in New Jersey through the socialist party of America where he lost slightly. His literary works are full of critical writings where he would mirror authoritatively many of the issues affecting the Americans.
He was a socialist and was always at clash with conservative politicians who were painting him as a violent communist despite the fact that he had denounced communism. His writings are not only political or social but he also gave a shot at psychic (William J. helm, 1994). His most recorded success in elections was in 1934 when he was nominated to run in office, this time not with the socialist party but with the Democratic Party. He was however to lose as his most conservative people in California could not buy his political ideas.
The communists thought of him as a capitalist while the capitalist believed he was a communist and was out to change the state for the worse. An analysis of his accomplishments would reveal that they did not lie in politics but in his advancement of civil rights. His notable achievement however is in the labor movements. His writings and campaigns were strong injection to the labor unions. This shall remain the focus of this paper as it seeks to establish the impact and significance of Upton Sinclair on the American workers and the labor movements.
Of particular interest in this paper will be his novel The Jungle and its impact of food legislations. The epitome of Upton Sinclair criticism of the capitalist system in the United States can be captured in The Jungle. It is here that he exposes many of the social evils that were being perpetuated in the society especially against the low-income earners. It exposes many scandals that before had remained hidden from the public’s eyes while at the same time urging for change (Jon Blackwell, n. d).
The story is based on an emigrant family that moves to the United States, Chicago, in search of the American dream and prosperity only to be raped by the ruthless capitalist system. The whole family has migrated in to Chicago in the hope of a better life but the unscrupulous employers including corrupt officials gives the family no piece and they start dying one after the other. The working conditions of the stockyards in Chicago are intolerable. The situation is exacerbated by rampant corruption that thrives. For one to get something done, it is a must that an official be bribed in the process.
The key character in The Jungle is one Jurgis and it is through him that the woes of the workers are brought to the fore. His family is on the verge of extinction as a string of deaths have caught the family. He is a troubled man and totally devastated by the employers and the farmers who keep turning employees away. This novel is a clear attack of industrialization and the intense mechanization of America. It portrays the fast waning optimism of people especially the workers who have to survive a life of bondage and wage slavery.
The spotlight of the jungle is on the hard conditions that workers in the Chicago’s meat factories have to undergo. Workers of all ages including women and children are being exploited. It gives a vivid account of how farmers were being ground after having fallen accidentally in to the processing tanks with the full knowledge of the owners of the factories. The Jungle caused a major row pitting the public, the government and meat processing factories. The cleanliness of the meat was in question. This novel had exposed much of the evils and the malpractices that were being subjected to the workers.
Sinclair intent and purpose of the novel was mostly to be centered on the woes of the workers, it was just that the publics attention become focused more on the hygiene of the meat. The Meat Inspection Act for example was passed after this novel had brewed enough uproar. To Sinclair, The Jungle did not just contain empty words, but they had to be followed up by real actions. He sent a copy of the book to the then president, Theodore Roosevelt. His was not on the hygiene of the meat but rather was on the wage slavery now dominant in American factories. The workers were being mistreated and poorly paid.
However the authority’s attention was not on the “wage slavery” but on the meat quality and hygiene. The working conditions of the workers were ignored and instead the investigators focused more on the cleanliness of the processing factories. This would lead to his famous statement later to the effect that his works were intended to strike at the care of the matter and rather not the “stomach” this indicates the passion through which Sinclair was committed to securing the welfare of the workers to a point that he would confront the powers that were there then.
Roosevelt only agreed to respond to the meat factory allegations after immense pressure from the civil societies including Sinclair himself. His efforts to secure the rights of the workers and improve their welfare can be seen in his campaigns for the seat of governor of California. His political ideology was being centered on the workers. His EPIC movement (End Poverty in California) was promising to alleviate the situation of the workers (Deibre Donahue, 2006. ). The Flivver King, a story of Ford America a book by Upton Sinclair in 1937 also roused and sensitized the workers on the woes facing them in their workplaces.
It traces the origin of the Ford Motor Company and how after it was established it was treating its employees well as it only employed qualified workers, its focus in on the scientific management of the Ford Motor Company factories. After sometimes, the Ford Company took to breaking down the labor and introduced specialization meaning that even the low skilled workers could do the job with low pay (http://www. amazon. com/flivver-king-story-ford-america/dp/0882860542). This book traces how the Ford Company has over time phased out the skilled labor and in its place with the low skilled people and exploiting them.
The workers in the Ford Company would wish to start a union but there were set backs as Ford’s “spies” are working to undermine their efforts each time they try to congregate. It explores how Ford was transformed in to selfishness by maintaining the same small pay but continuing to wreak billions. This book was of great significance as it led to great inspirations to the workers and also led to the formation of the United Autoworkers Union. It would result to a wave of workers movements and unionization that hit the big companies in the 1940s.
It indicates the harsh realities that the workers had to contend with as they tried to form unions that would collectively agitate for their rights (Philip S. Foner, 1964). Upton Sinclair works are popular not for their qualities as novels but for their social impact. He is able to capture workers conditions and the low pay that characterized their remuneration. In the jungle he gives the heartrending details of stories of the workers who fell in to the vats and not being retrieved in time, they would die in there with no efforts by the factory owners to retrieve the bodies.
These books went a great deal in inspiring the formation a workers union. By focusing at the problems facing the laborers, they were able to bring them together under a communality of purpose. The situation as it was in the factories for example in the, Ford Company, was that the owners were not taking any efforts to coalesce the workers interests lightly. The confrontations between the two would sometimes turn bloody. Unlike the communists who were expecting to push the ideas of the workers suffering down their throats, Sinclair takes a far much smoother approach through a well-researched story.
The inspiration of Sinclair’s works upon the foundation of the workers union in America cannot be underscored. They made a great deal in presenting the reality in the factories. The United Workers Union is one such labor movement alongside others that were directly inspired by the novel on the Ford Company.
William J. helm, 1994. Upton Sinclair: overview. In reference guide to American literature 3rd ed. Edited by Kamp. St James press. Amazon Com, 1996. The Flivver King: A story of Ford –America. Retrieved on http://www. amazon.com/flivver-king-story-ford-america/dp/0882860542 Jon Blackwell. 1906: rumble over ‘The Jungle’ retrieved on 24/11/07 from http://www. capitalcentury. com/1906. html Jacob powers. Upton Sinclair, the flivver king. Retrieved on 24/11/07 from://upinmichagan. org/ver-sinclair. html Deibre Donahue, 06/23/2006. ‘Radical’ Life, times of Upton Sinclair USA TODAY. Retrieved on 24/11/07 from http://www. usatoday. com/ife/books/eviews/2006-06-21-radical-innocent-x. htm Philip S. Foner, 1964. History of the labor movement in the United States. International publishers co.