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The Labor Movement

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America, still in its “infancy” in the late 18th century / early 19th century finally began to grow as a nation. The Labor Movement emerged from the direct response to the rise of “industrialization” after the Second World War ( Spalding, 2008, p. 100 ). The labor movement is a broad and still going effort to organize workers into unions in order to gain collective strength in negotiations with employers about wages and working conditions ( Riggs, 2015, p. 57). This threat of work stoppage—or striking—gave workers a collective power to compel concessions from business owners ( Riggs, 2015, p. 702 ). The labor movement in the United States of America began to increase from the need to protect the common interest of all workers. For those who worked in “industries”, these labor unions fought for better wages, reasonable hours and safer working conditions ( Riggs, 2015, p. 1484 ).

The labor movement made efforts to stop child labor, give health benefits and provide help to workers who were injured ( Riggs, 2015, p. 1484 ). Throughout history, labor worker unions continue to struggle for equal opportunities, treatment, and fair wages, sparking social criticism through films, magazine articles, and news soundbites.

In Rigg’s article “Labor Movement”(2015) it says the causes of the labor movement were that there were large numbers of potential workers available in cities, manufacturing increased in the rural United States, and the country entered a long-term of industrialization after the Civil War. Job conditions in the United States remained difficult, employers would use “draconian” work rules and would apply them randomly ( Labor Movement, 2015 ). Work hours were as long as twelve to sixteen hours a day, six days a week including very few safety precautions, and occupational diseases made a serious threat in many of the industries ( Labor Movement, 2015 ).

Between 1870 and 1900 the number of children in the workforce had doubled, and the United States had the highest worker death rate in the industrialized world ( Labor Movement, 2015 ). The United States manufactures paid little attention to worker safety for the most part in the early nineteenth century and due to lack of workers trying to obtain a reasonable compensation for their injuries in the workplace, these accidents were cheaper than actual production “ slowdowns ” ( Riggs, 2015, p. 1485 ). A shocking average of 35, 000 workers died per year in industrial accidents from 1875-1925 ( Chaplin, 1885 ). In Riggs article “Working Conditions in Factories”(2005) it says “ U.S. industries were subjected to minimal government regulation, and most courts denied worker injury claims if employers could demonstrate any degree of employee negligence.” The film “Remembering the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire of 1911” depicts the start of how workers labor was becoming a huge conflict. It was late in the afternoon on a beautiful spring Saturday, March 25th, 1911, 4:40 p.m., almost the end of the workday at “ Triangle Shirtwaist Factory ” in New York’s Greenwich Village ( Remembering the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire of 1911, 2016 ). Someone dropped a match or cigarette, and within minutes the factory, which occupied the top three floors of a ten story building, became an “inferno” (Remembering the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire of 1911, 2016 ). The author “James Green” wants the reader to feel the sadness of the people who died in the factory that day, the sound the film plays is quiet and includes a long melody, which gets the viewer into the actual mood of the film. Objects such as this factory, represent the wrongly treated workers and shows us how the people who died didn’t have any fire safety routines that could’ve saved them.

Out of the ashes of the “Triangle fire” came new safety and fire regulations, child labor laws, and “workman’s compensation (form of insurance providing wage replacement and medical benefits to employees injured in the course of employment in exchange for mandatory relinquishment of the employee’s right to sue their employer for the tort of negligence) (Remembering the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire of 1911, 2016 ) ” due to the sparked unions. The flowing support for working people incited the fledgling American labor movement ( Remembering the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire of 1911, 2016 ). In this case, unfair treatment lead to not being prepared for incidents in the workplace, which caused thousands of people to die from being trapped inside the “Triangle shirtwaist factory”. These workers rebelled and pushed for change so incidents like this one wouldn’t happen again (Remembering the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire of 1911, 2016 ).

In Riggs article “Working Conditions in Factories”(2005) it says “Through the remainder of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first century, worker injuries and fatalities in the United States remained low. Analysts have attributed this decline to the maintenance of acceptable safety standards in the U.S. workplace as well as to a shift from manufacturing to retail.” It seems that throughout this period in history, unions have influenced the change of official workplace regulations and the way workers are treated. On May 4, 1886, a bomb went off in Chicago that ignited one of the nation’s first Red Scares ( promotion of widespread fear by a society or state about a potential rise of communism, anarchism, or radical leftism) ( the Haymarket Riot Remembered, 2006 ). The blast, unfortunately, killed seven police officers and led to the hanging of four anarchists accused of plotting the attack ( the Haymarket Riot Remembered, 2006 ). The author of the audio,“The Haymarket Riot Remembered” wants us to remember and realize that the Haymarket Riot was an incident that sparked the nation’s first Red Scare.

The host “Debbie Elliott” talks to the guest “Mr. Green” about this period of paranoia in American life, and the ways the violence helped to shape the modern labor movement. Conversations about the death of police officers and speech of the bomber are said to make the listener feel fear and realize the intensity of this situation. Employers fiercely drove to undermine wages and living standards, in 1886 workers from around the world responded with an aggressive campaign of their own: an international movement for less work and more pay ( the Haymarket Riot Remembered, 2006 ). Extreme, unfair treatment of workers can cause them to rebel and in some cases, in violent ways throughout history. In order to improve working conditions, workers began to form unions that would increase their clout with employers, however any single worker could be fired for demanding higher wages or better conditions, but a united workforce could shut down a factory’s production by choosing not to show up for work ( Riggs, 2015, p. 702 ). The song “ PAINT ‘ER RED ” is saying to go against your boss’s and raise your union flags, this song is saying for working men to come and give a helping hand and march together.

The two main noticeable things about this song are the repetition of “ For ONE BIG INDUSTRIAL UNION! ” and how the song begins saying “ let’s come together/rebel ” ( Chaplin, 1885 ). This passage makes the reader feel angry due to its bold words and exclamation points. The image “With ONE BIG INDUSTRIAL UNION!” is significant because it is repeating in every paragraph and shows importance due to the words mentioning the “one”, big industrial union, which means that all industrial unions need to unite and work together for the better good. The author is speaking from the view of a worker from back then and is speaking to all related workers, also the author wants us to react to this song by realizing what conditions workers were under and how they needed to stand up for one another. The metaphors in this song are presented in a specific order to show the listener how big of a deal this uprising is and how important it is to come together, “Red’s the color of our flag, it’s stained with blood and tears.” This struggle for “freedom” changes in history when there are huge groups of people working against a wrong power, the right ends up proving to come through, when bosses don’t pay their workers equally, history shows that it will motivate people to realize how they should get paid more for their hard work.

Even though Workers did not have benefits like “ workman’s compensation ”, their conditions were still hazardous and sometimes deadly, they worked long hours for little pay and often times the workers were still young enough to be children. With these drawbacks the workers learned to fight with general strikes, today a fight rages between workers and employers. The industrial period, a few centuries ago was when that fight began, even though companies have made the worker feel more “important” and “accepted”, there is still a need for unions because companies are doing everything they can to save their money. If the companies win then they will underpay and abuse their employees, it is critical that unions recruit more aggressively today, or a lot of the progress they have made will surely be lost.

It has been proven that throughout this course of history, unfair and corrupt treatment to any worker with ultimately motivate and make the common working joe determined to strive for equality and form unions to make better chances of succeeding their goal.

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