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    « “The Loss of Labor Unions – A Threat to Our Economic Survival?” | Main | “The End of the American Dollar and … American Sovereignty” »

    “The End of Labor Unions in America” 

    The Deliberate Destruction of the Middle Class: Part Four

    This series has described numerous, but not all of the detrimental behaviors and policies that are precursors to the destruction of the Middle Class in America. All of them present significant danger to this class of people and it would be difficult for me to prioritize a threat assessment as to what will be the most destructive.

    In the final part of this series, we will look at a problem that will be most controversial. Most of my conservative compatriots may disagree with this portion of the series, but please take the time to notice the history – that will provide a substantive argument to support my position.

    The controversial issue to which I refer is the destruction of the labor unions in America. It should be quite obvious to almost everyone that labor unions have lost power and support. In fact, currently, there is outright hostility toward the unions. Of course, that hostility is not new to the concept of unions; America has had difficulty accepting labor unions from the very beginning.

    History makes it clear that from the very start of the Industrial Revolution in England and its counterpart in America, that industry created massive numbers of jobs which led many people to abandon farms and move to cities. The population shift was massive and rapid. Cities were unprepared for this population boom and that often created terrible living conditions and circumstances for the masses. Lifestyles and circumstances for the average individual were only marginally different from the base existence that existed under Feudalism. People who lived in cities often found themselves in squalid conditions at best. Cramped accommodations in filthy, disease-infested, “fire trap” hovels were the ubiquitous norm.

    People worked, if they were fortunate enough to find jobs, in factories for starvation wages of one or two dollars per week. For this pay, they worked twelve hour days, seven days per week. Children worked in the factories, as well. In fact, children were highly-desired in many cases because they were small enough to climb inside and under machines and equipment to retrieve lost parts or tools.

    Tragic accidents were common because employers never considered safety equipment and protection against hazards. It was not unusual for people to be killed or severely injured on the job. Limbs might be lost due to the dangers of the poorly-designed or maintained equipment. Compounding the tragedy was that their companies did not compensate the injured for treatment. In fact, if a worker lost a hand in an industrial accident, he would be fired because there were plenty of people with two good hands waiting outside to take the job.

    Under these kinds of working conditions, it is obvious that employees were at risk for other workplace dangers. Hazards, such as toxic fumes and chemicals, improper ventilation, lack of heat or too much heat in the work area. Physical exhaustion was commonplace and no doubt contributed to many of the accidents.

    Some of the saddest stories of this period of history revolve around children who worked not only in the factories, but in America’s coal mines. There is documentation that shows these boys worked in the dark mines all day long (again, children were preferred because they could fit into smaller tunnels). There they worked day after day, year after year, never seeing the light of day and never learning anything except the difference between coal and slag. Many children died before they reached adulthood from the common disease among coal miners known as “black lung” disease, the result of constant inhalation of coal dust. No heed was ever given to proper ventilation or developing any means to protect miners from this deadly dust. Children were just a commodity; if they died, there were always more child workers to take their place.

    It should be noted that, at first, people did not object to children working in factories and mines. Families needed the income the children could earn and they had always been accustomed to children working on the family farm. People did not seem to recognize the significant difference from working alongside parents on the family farm from working for a factory or mining task master who really had no concern for the health or well being of the child.

    It is no secret that England and America took different courses with respect to the problems faced by labor during the industrialization period. In England, the views of Karl Marx became predominant and there was a push toward Socialism. In America, labor problems were addressed by unions which held to some, but not all of the positions of Marxism. The unions were not well received in America because of the concepts of Marxism and because Americans still held to the concept of “rugged individualism.” It was the common feeling of Americans that it was acceptable for individuals (known as Industrialists) to own the means of production and to exploit the labor of men, women and children as long as the opportunity existed for anyone in America to rise to that level. In fact, one of the most common detractors to the proliferation of labor unions were the “rags to riches” stories that talked of the many industrialists who went from nothing to magnificent wealth through their hard work and ingenuity.

    Nevertheless, labor unions began to develop and fight for recognition, membership and improvements for the American worker.

    Next Monday, in Part Five, we will look at the development of the labor unions, the difficulties they faced in building the power necessary to make changes for labor, their eventual decline and the consequences for Middle Class America.

    John Wayne Tucker

    © TBP Publishing 2011, The Bold Pursuit®. All Rights Reserved.

    Reader Comments (4)

    This has been an amazing series you have written John. As a long time union member here in British Columbia I saw the New Democratic Party (one I supported in my younger years) get into bed with the unions here. We started having business and companies moving out of out Province because there was no ability to compete with the wages and benefits that the unions demanded of them. In essense the unions ran this Province almost into the dang ground for a number of years. Not far into it I became against this. When unions go beyond representing the everyday worker and think they can use the power of the numbers of the people they are supposed to be protecting to dictate government policies - we all lose. We lose as union members. We lose as a people and we lose in the end as a country. Unions were never meant to be poltiical dictators. Never.

    January 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCam Vallee

    "People worked, if they were fortunate enough to find jobs, in factories for starvation wages of one or two dollars per week. For this pay, they worked twelve hour days, seven days per week. "

    If the employers were such scoundrels, then why did the people move to the cities? You say they were "led" to move there. By whom? Did the king's men drive them into rail cars?

    By the way, $2 from that time is $150 in today's (2011) dollars. That's far more than most people in the world earn today.

    April 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSean

    Thanks for your comment Sean,

    People moved to the cities because farming was beginning to give way in America to Industrialization. The benefits of these two lifestyles had been argued from the time of Hamilton and Jefferson. Jefferson always supported an agrarian lifestyle for America while Hamilton supported an industrial America. Hamilton's ideals were winning out and people had no future on the farms. That is still true today. There are many kids growing up in rural communities today, working on farms that have been in the family for many generations; but they will be moving to the cities after college to make their way in a completely new environment. Farms are still disappearing and so they have no choice.

    There are many ways to calculate the comparisons of wages from previous times to modern times. I will defer to your accuracy on that. That may be more than most people in the world make today, but it is certainly not the ideal for Americans. However, if Americans find those wages acceptable, then that is what we shall have. Personally, I find it unacceptable that we already receive wages that will not allow people to purchase the goods that are available. If we were making those goods, perhaps we could afford them. But we were willing to buy into a global economy that chases the lowest wages so that we not only do not make the goods, we have been forced to lower our wages to compete with the Chinese and others to the point that we cannot afford the goods that are no longer made here.

    I have simply presented the historical facts. What we choose to do with them will prove to be, for us, a good or an unfavorable history for future generations to argue.

    John Wayne Tucker

    April 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Wayne Tucker

    So you are for labor unions John? That's odd for a conservative. Thank God my business is in a Right to Work state. I like to think I treat and protect my employees just fine and that if I don't they will leave or let me know. What I know for certain is that before I'll ever have a union telling me who I can promote or what I have to pay my employees I'll close up shop.

    The only purpose of a union in today's world is to push democRAT socialist agendas, give mo-rons job security, and screw the free market. Oh and I guess they are pretty good at driving businesses to Right to Work states like mine.
    There is a reason there even had to be a case like that ^

    September 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterScott

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