Sunday, March 20, 2011

Life before unions

There was a time during your grandparents' lifetime that life was much harder. What we take for granted now was not so back then. A work day was long. Fourteen hours was quit common then and there were no breaks. If you had to use the restroom your pay was docked a nickel (an hours' wages). Weeks were six work days with Sunday off.
When you punched in in the morning the doors were locked behind you to prevent you from leaving. Nice idea unless there was a fire which happened. Don't consider calling in sick because that would result in your termination. Many industries were mill towns where the mill rented out homes to their workers. Pay was given out as script that could only be used at the company store and no where else. Food could cost up to 50% of a weeks pay. With little extra left over it's no wonder people paid the doctor with chickens. Outhouses were common even in big cities. Garbage was thrown in the street that was until sanitation laws were enacted.
There was no minimum wage or child labor laws. No safety rules either. Workers never used a safety harness and hard hats didn't come into use until they built the Bolder Dam. Even then it was the workers who made the first versions by gluing and doping two baseball hats together. It made for a hard double billed hat with hard shell to protect against falling rocks.

And we wonder why the life expectancy back then was 48 years. All of the advances and benefits we enjoy today as workers union or not was due to the fights of the unions. Take away that bargaining power and we'll return to that not so good yesteryear that I'm sure grandpa would like to forget.


Roger Owen Green said...

Do you know what was 100 years ago this week?

the Triangle Shirt Waste factory, killing 146 in NYC.

jadedj said...

I posted about this very thing a couple of weeks ago. The reason I did so was my astonishment at how many people don't remember these work rights won for us by labor unions. You can bet, they will be not so slowly eroded away if this anti-union madness continues in state legislatures.

The Koch Brothers and their cohorts are foaming at the mouth over the prospects.

The Blog Fodder said...

I just figured out how to post this on my blog site as a link to your post.
The more noise everyone can make about life without unions, the better.

S.W. Anderson said...

And if we make that return, it will be thanks to people blissfully ignorant of just what this good post describes. Ignorant or sure it wouldn't happen because, you know, today's businessmen and women aren't like they were in those bad old days.

Kulkuri said...

Had a strange thought last week. Could it be that one of reasons the South is so Anti-Union is because of the unpleasantness of 150yrs ago that they call the "War of Northern Aggression"?? They were fighting Union troops and maybe subconsciously they transfer it to unions.

Like I said a strange thought, but still there may be something to it. That and the party of the Uber-Rich have been using divide and conquer tactics in their class war.

BBC said...

I have mixed feelings about unions, they are needed but they also get greedy and this drives up costs for everyone.

They just finished a new bridge over the river so you no longer drive over the dam, on busy weekends it could at times take you half an hour to go over the dam.

Tom Harper said...

As SW Anderson said, if this GOP kill-the-unions campaign succeeds, it'll be because of millions of ignorant gullible voters allowing it to happen.