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Labor union was marked a period of sharp decline in labor movement during 1920s. The economy was on track and industrial output would skyrocket in the next few years. At that time, labor union was considered as a threat organization which causes chaos in the society. Lots of public opinion turned against union. The 1925 novel The Great Gatsby written by F. Scott Fitzgerald describes sequence of events that happens in the West egg and East egg during a summer in 1922. This novel demonstrates a huge social gaps between the poor, Wilson’s family, and the rich, Buchanan’s family. Labor union strives to protect the social justice of workers which reduces economic inequality.
During the 1920s, there is a huge social unbalance between the rich and the poor. However, Gatsby fights for his dream and moves from low social status to high social status, which sounds impossible for his parents. In The Great Gatsby, Gatsby’s parents were described as “shiftless and unsuccessful farm people” (Fitzgerald 98). Even though Gatsby was borned in this poor family, he is not satisfied for his status. He climbs to the upper classes and holds lots of parties in his resplendent and magnificent house. The description of his house shows that he is extremely rich, Fitzgerald reveals that “as we wandered through Marie Antoinette music rooms and Restoration salons, I felt that there were guests concealed behind every couch and table, under orders to be breathlessly silent until we had passed through…through period bedrooms swathed in rose and lavender silk and vivid with new flowers, through dressing-rooms and poolrooms, and bathrooms with sunken baths” (Fitzgerald 91). Comparing his rich house with his parents’ social status, Fitzgerald demonstrates a strong and positive figure that fight for his higher social status and wages which relates to the purpose of labor union. According to Gary Burtless, “The top 1 percent of Americans … have seen their incomes almost triple [since 1979], with their share of national income reaching 20 percent, a figure not seen since the 1920s” (Burtless). Ultimately, what is at stake here is upper class is extremely wealthy and controls a huge percent of economic in the country compares to the majority of Americans. This problem concerns social mobility and inequality.
There are lots of workers that are poor and lives in a bad environment in 1920s. In The Great Gatsby, George Wilson is a representative of the poor. He is a car mechanic who lives in the Valley of Ashes. In the conversation of Wilson and Tom, Wilson asked Tom, “When are you going to sell me that car…works pretty slow, don’t he?” (Fitzgerald 25). Wilson keeps begging for the car, which shows that he needs financial support. He can not sustain his life by only rely on the earns of his job. A part of reason that Mrs. Wilson has an affair with Tom is Wilson’s poverty and uselessness. Mrs. Wilson complains that “the only crazy I was was when I married him. I knew right away I made a mistake. He borrowed somebody’s best suit to get married in, and never even told me about it” (Fitzgerald 35). In a sense, this also infers that George Wilson is not able to have a standard life. In sum, then, Mr. Wilson is a suitable fit for labor union. Writing in the article Working Conditions In Factories, Encyclopedia.com maintains that “Although the average standard of living for workers increased steadily during the last decades of the nineteenth century, many workers struggled to make ends meet” (Encyclopedia.com). No matter how hard these workers work, they can not change the circumstances of their life. Just like Wilson, he can not earn a higher wages by just working hard.
The labor union was formed in 1886 by Samuel Gompers. This is a institution that protects workers’ right and improves working condition, wages and hours. According to What So Proudly We Hail organization, “In a 1907 investigation of the steel industry, writer William B. Hard estimated that roughly 1,200 men—about 10 percent of the steel industry’s workforce—were killed or injured each year on the job. Of these, fewer than 250 of the men or their families were compensated for the loss of life or limb” (whatsoproudlywehail.org). During 1920s which is after industrial revolution, lots of industries began to hire more workers for making their products. However, some of these jobs are extremely dangerous for workers. In the article, “The Labor Movement in America”, What So Proudly We Hail reveals, “The union workers went on strike in an effort to secure higher wages” (whatsoproudlywehail.org). The labor union use ways like protest, march to gain attention from the government. They ask for higher status and equal right among American works. Union Plus organization states, “Union employees make an average of 30% more than non-union workers. Union workers are more likely to have guaranteed pensions than non-union employees” (Union Plus Organization). The labor union successfully helps workers gain advantages within the union. The labor union not only helps worker to speak up, but also equalize the social unbalance.
Overall, labor union plays an important role in our country’s workforce and ensures the equality of our life. In the Great Gatsby, Gatsby and Wilson fight and should fight for higher status which correspond to the purpose of the union that improve the working condition and wages. In sum, the labor union was depressed back in 1920s which results in a huge social gap and bad working environment for workers.
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