Analyzing the industrial revolution
The industrial revolution brought with it a raft of changes to both skilled and unskilled workers. Before the industrial revolution, small cottage industries filled the needs of the people. Skilled artisans cultivated a set of specific skills that they passed on to new generations through apprenticeship. The industrial revolution brought with it mass production that made it possible to purchase previously expensive items very cheaply. Among skilled and unskilled workers, the biggest winners were the unskilled workers as they found plenty of work operating machines that needed no special expertise, factories employed lots of unskilled labor. Skilled workers found themselves going out of business, as people preferred the cheaper items produced by factories; consequently, the art of apprenticeship became less relevant and the number of artisans and skilled workers dwindled.
In the early years of the industrial revolution, mechanization had a drastic impact on the daily work, leisure time, and economic well-being of workers. Factory owners viewed workers as easily dispensable and pushed them to work for long hours under harsh conditions. Because no skills were necessary to operate machines, workers who complained found themselves out of a job. The harsh working conditions ate into the worker’s leisure time.
One positive change of mechanization is that it made it possible for many unskilled workers to find employment; however, the harsh working conditions necessitated the formation of unions to protect the interests of employees.
One key labor organization was the American labor union, the American railway union agitated for better wages and working conditions for railway workers. The American railway union made heavy use of strikes and is known for the famous Pullman strike. The challenges that the union faced include federal injunctions that declared the activities of the union illegal and union busters hired by businesspersons to break up strikes. Another union was the American Federation of Labor; this union consisted of artisans and agitated for better wages and working conditions.