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.