Working Americans Since the 1800s

Since the period of study, I believe Americas working standards have greatly improved. Working conditions today are usually quite safe. The government has made laws saying that employers have to look after the workforce and provide safety equipment and other things for them. This improvement in the workforce started back as early as the 1800s where organizations such as the AFL ( American Federation of Labor) concentrated on improving work conditions, paying higher wages, and working shorter hours. ( Voices;#18 )

The workforce for Americans wasn’t always this industrialized back in the early 1800s, the working class experienced many hardships in the work environment. Workers were forced to work harder and with lest rest. Wages for their services were really low. The lower classes were kept on the low classes in order to supply an able workforce. There was always more people looking for jobs than there were jobs. Many women and children (as little as 10 years of age ) worked for less than men did. The working conditions in the factories were horrible. The machines were unsafe. People sometimes got caught in the machine, losing limbs and lives.

The mortality rates were quite high in the factories. The factories had dim lightning and mines sometimes had none at all. Added to the dangers of the workplace was the long hours ( 12 or more ) shifts these workers had to endure. ( Bandit;10/3/2007 ) Workers could do little to improve their conditions. The working conditions of the working class did start to gradually improve during the 1800s. Many workers started to form trade unions. Many workers also went on strike or rioted. In these riots, unemployed workers destroyed machinery in an attempt to gain revenge against the employers they blamed. ( Text; pg. 35) In 1769 Parliament began to act in the interests of the working class. It repealed the law forbidding trade unions and passed other laws regulating factory conditions. There were many reforms that came about. Some of them included Acts such as: •Factory Act 1819: Limited the hours worked by children to a maximum of 12 hours per day •Factory Act 1847: Maximum of 10 hours per day for women and children •Factory Act 1850: Increased hours worked by Women and children to 10 and a half hours a day, but not allowed to work before 6am or after pm. •Factory Act 1874: No worker allowed to work more than 56. hours per week. Working conditions today are now governed by both state and federal law. There are national provisions against child labor, many states set the minimum age for employment at 16. There are also national and state laws that govern the number of breaks employees are entitled to and issuers of work safety. The standard workweek now consist of 40 hours with overtime pay equal to one-half times regular salary, and most American workers receive 2 weeks vacation per year and 2 weeks sick leave. Compared to the 1800s Americas working standards have significantly changed for the better.

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