Labor Force (Reconstruction and Civil War)

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Those who lived through the Civil War and Reconstruction period recognized that the nation had passed through perhaps the single most significant transformative period in its history. Technology and Labor unions had a profound effect on Industrial workers in the nineteenth century. As technology advanced, it forced workers into monotonous positions that led them to form labor unions to fight for changes in their work. These factors opposed each other under a strained economy where employers didn't recognize worker's rights.

The growth of technology and technological innovation made the rapid territorial expansion of American cities at first technologically feasible, and then socially and economically necessary. The nation's cities grew because they became centers of industrialization which combined extensive urban construction and development with the consequent growing demand for factory workers. The nation's rural areas in this period entered an era of decline as sources of individual opportunity. Because of the growing cultural emphasis on cities as the place to make one's fortune, the nation on witnessed a large and growing population shift from rural to urban areas. The war had dramatically confirmed that it was possible to run large enterprises (e.g., armies, transportation systems, manufacturing enterprises) on a national scale to fulfill national demand and thats why industrialization expanded.

The growth of immigration in this period was spurred, as were so many other social phenomena, by technology. The development of ocean-going steamships and the rise of a great trans-oceanic trade spanning the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans made it possible for tens of thousands of men, women, and children to seek a new life in America and, despite the lure of the large eastern cities, to spread out across the continent to do so. Moreover, the rise of American industries and the growth of the railroad system created thousands of jobs (both in factories and in the construction trades) that offered powerful inducements to prospective immigrants seeking a new life.

The massive European immigration that was one of the key facts of this period first inundated great cities such as New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and Chicago. But the growth of cities ran head-on into a long-standing American prejudice against urbanization as somehow European, corrupting, and dangerous to democracy. Just as labor's response to industrialization seemed threatening to prized American values of individualism, free enterprise, and social mobility, so, too, did urbanization seem to endanger the individual's ability to own his own home, the cherished doctrine of self-reliance, and the prospect of democratic government. But this anti-urban sentiment was only partly the latest outbreak of a venerable American intellectual tradition. It also was a direct response to the specific facts of American urban life, spread throughout the nation by the growing network of American newspapers and magazines. Americans throughout the nation read of the overcrowding of slums, the ghastly sanitary conditions that beset most urban areas, and the growing corruption of urban political life. Americans' anti-urban sentiment was fed by prejudice against one of the principal reasons for urbanization.

Although the idea of having a regular paying job was pleasing the conditions of industrial labor were often appalling, and at times life-threatening. Moreover, as the new industrial workers came to discover, they were unable to bargain over salary and working conditions weren't on equal footing with prospective employers. They soon came to discovered that they were just another interchangeable part of a machine in the ever-growing industry.

American workers realized that the individual worker was no match for the emerging economic world of large-scale corporate employers. They began to consider how to organize themselves to meet the challenge posed by the employers'...
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