Industrialization and Captains of Industry

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Describe some of the challenges facing working people in the late 1800s. What did workers do to improve their situation? How successful were they?

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Working people faced several challenges in the late 1800s. One of the challenges was the working conditions they faced in the factories. Factories were often very unsafe places to work. There were few laws regulating the working environment. Workers were often injured on the job. When they got injured, they often lost their jobs. There were few laws dealing with safety issues in factories. Fire escapes were often locked, which became an issue when a fire occurred. The quality of the air in the factories was poor. There were few laws dealing with proper ventilation in factories. Workers had long hours and received very little pay. It was common to work between ten and fourteen hours a day. There were no overtime laws and no minimum wage laws. Working conditions were far from ideal.

Another issue working people faced was the economic and social condition of their lives. Many working people were poor. They had trouble getting enough food to feed their families. They lived in overcrowded apartments, called tenements, and had little access to medical care. Their children were forced to work to help make ends meet Some kids didn't attend school.

Workers tried to address these undesirable conditions. They formed labor unions that tried to improve their working conditions and their pay. They went on strike to protest theses conditions. In most of the cases, workers weren’t successful in achieving their goals. There were no laws that recognized the right of unions to exist. The courts usually sided with company owners, rather than with unions, in legal disputes. Most strikes were also not successful. Many strikes turned violent leading to a reputation that many workers in unions were radicals or were anarchists. Because they weren’t able to improve their financial conditions, they also weren’t able to improve their living conditions. It wasn’t until the Progressive Movement began in the early 1900s that things began to change and to improve for working people.

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