Essay The Early 20th Century Labor Movement

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The early 1900s was a time of many movements, from the cities to the rural farms; people were uniting for various causes. One of the most widespread was the labor movement, which affected people far and wide. Conditions in the nation’s workplaces were notoriously poor, but New York City fostered the worst. Factories had started out in the city’s tenements, which were extremely cramped, poorly ventilated, and thoroughly unsanitary. With the advent of skyscrapers, factories were moved out of the tenements and into slightly larger buildings, which still had terrible conditions. Workers were forced to work long hours (around 12 hours long) six hours a day, often for extremely low pay. The pay was also extremely lower for women, who made up a…show more content…
Workers had simple demands, such as a 52-hour workweek, a 20% pay raise, and the right to organize (von Drehle, 59). The strikers dealt with many problems, such as fierce strikebreakers, and when brought to the attention of the police, strikers tended to be the ones arrested (von Drehle, 64). This strike brought the support of many wealthy people including Anne Morgan (Von Drehle, 71), Alva Smith Vanderbilt Belmont (Von Drehle, 66), just to name a few, who helped bring attention to the strikers cause. This helped in bringing attention, but was not enough to keep the strike going and formally ended in winter 1909. The strike did not lead to very many gains, and it would take the death of 146 workers (Von Drehle, 265) for any actual change to be brought about. The biggest benefit to labor that came out of the fire was the Factory Investigating Commission, which was born officially in June 1911 (Von Drehle, 212). The commission had virtual self-governance, and had investigators that would personally check the conditions of New York factories (Von Drehle, 213). The commission had a small set of cities it investigated, but was later expanded throughout the state of New York (Von Drehle, 214). The commission was the product of Wagner and Smith, the so-called “Tammany Twins”, and also brought in Frances Perkins, who would later become the Secretary of Labor
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