What was the effect of the new industrial revolution on American laborers, and how did labor organizations attempt to respond to these new conditions?

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The main issue here lies in the wording. The term "new industrial revolution" is normally used in journalism to refer to the technological changes of the late-twentieth and early-twenty-first century, something that is contrasted with the initial Industrial Revolution of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. A common account divides the...

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The main issue here lies in the wording. The term "new industrial revolution" is normally used in journalism to refer to the technological changes of the late-twentieth and early-twenty-first century, something that is contrasted with the initial Industrial Revolution of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. A common account divides the Industrial Revolution into four phases:

The first Industrial Revolution was powered by the steam engine, which led to the creation of factories and a shift from agriculture to manufacturing. Labor became urbanized and moved out of the home into the factory.

The Second Industrial or Technological Revolution refers to the era of mass production powered by electricity that began in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. It was marked by the beginning of the assembly line, and in America it was a period of unionization and increasing protections for workers, which saw the passing of laws against child labor and saw the institution of reduced work weeks.

The third Industrial Revolution refers to the increasing combination of computer and communication technology that dominated industry in the late-twentieth century. It was the great era of globalization and represents a period in which wealth increasingly shifted from labor to capital. It was a period of growing income inequality as the success of the American Dream began to be eroded for many workers, as the highly skilled and educated made more money and people without college degrees fell behind.

As for the fourth Industrial Revolution, many describe the twenty-first century and era of network effects, platforms, and "uberization" of labor as a fourth industrial revolution. Increasingly, workers lack stable employment but work in a gig economy as private contractors where work is decentralized and mediated by platforms.

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The industrial revolution took place in western Europe and the United States from the late 1700s to the mid-1800s. It represented a major change in manufacturing processes across virtually all industries. Specifically, the introduction of new technological advances led to the complete upheaval of the way products were made. For example, before the industrial revolution, everything was made by hand. But after the industrial revolution, machines were central to manufacturing processes. People began to use new methods of powering factories, such as steam and hydropower.

American laborers were greatly affected by the industrial revolution. The impact on workers was a mix of good and bad. On the one hand, average wages, the American standard of living, and the country’s population all experienced a great deal of growth. But on the other hand, working conditions became much more dangerous, and laborers often had to work long hours to help factories meet the demand for their mass-produced goods. Child labor was also a major problem during this time.

As a result of these developments, labor unions sprang up in response to the poor working conditions in industrial factories. These early organizations included the Knights of Labor and the American Federation of Labor. Unions use their collective bargaining power to influence management. Because of their organizing efforts, early industrial working conditions greatly improved.

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The Industrial Revolution had a profoundly negative effect on workers during the early Twentieth Century. In the past, workers that crafted consumer goods were highly valued and respected. With the introduction of machinery for the mass production of goods, the American worker became expendable. Work became more dangerous and employees were exploited for profit. No laws or government oversight existed to guarantee worker safety. The skill level required to work in industry was very low, and, therefore, wages were not even paid at a subsistence level. Laborers were required to work very long hours for limited pay. Children were used to perform some of the most difficult tasks. If a worker were injured on the job and could not perform his duties, he was simply fired and replaced by another unskilled laborer.

To counteract the difficulties faced by laborers in manufacturing, labor unions formed. They fought for the right to bargain for wages collectively and pressured Congress to act. Unions would organize strikes and many of them became violent. One labor union, the Industrial Workers of the World even advocated the use of violence to achieve their goals. The violence of the labor movement caught the attention of the federal government which enacted sweeping legislation in the early part of the Twentieth Century.

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