Begin with the End in Mind

Aim: What was Life Like to the Industrial Workers of the early 20th Century?

  • Life was hard for the industrial age worker.
  • Industrialization caused many skilled workers to lose their jobs or to work as unskilled workers for low wages.
  • Child labor also led to a decrease in wages for workers.
  • Many workers took jobs in dangerous factories called sweatshops.
  • These workers had to endure low wages, long hours, and dangerous working conditions.

Who were the Industrial Workers?

Sweatshops were factories in which a middleman, the sweater, guided workers in clothing production. The sweatshops left many experienced tailors without a job, because the cheap clothes were preferred by many people.

Working Conditions and Sweatshops

Child Labor

  • During the Industrial Revolution families migrated from the rural farm areas to the newly industrialized cities to find work.

  • To survive in even the lowest level of poverty, families had to have every able member of the family go to work.

  • This led to the high rise in child labor in factories.

  • Children could worked up to 19 hours a day with only one, one hour break.

  • Many children were killed or injured in accidents involving industrial machinery

Working Conditions for Women

  • During the Industrial Revolution, the economy depended on women to work in the factories.
  • Women mostly found jobs in domestic service, textile factories.
  • The women that worked in these factories faced unsanitary working conditions and dangerous work.
  • The average wage in New York state in 1926 for women employees was $17.41, and for men $31.47. Statistics show that women's wages were from one-third to one-half less than men's wages.
  • The majority of women working in the industrial revolution faced a life of hardship.

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

Result of The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

Labor Unions

The Knights of Labor

  • Labor unions were formed when dissatisfied workers formed into groups to demand better pay and working conditions.
  • In 1869 garment cutters formed the Noble and Holy Order of the Knights of Labor.
  • The members of the labor union met secretly and had handshakes so that their employers wouldn’t find out about them.
  • The union included African Americans, women, and unskilled laborers.
  • The inclusion of unskilled labor and minorities made the union weak and it eventually gave way to the AFL (The American Federation of Labor.)

Labor Unions

The American Federation of Labor (AFL)

  • In 1886, the American Federation of Labor was officially formed.
  • It represented many skilled workers in various crafts.
  • The President of the American Federation of Labor was Samuel Gompers.
  • The organization worked for higher wages, shorter hours, better working conditions, and the right to bargain collectively with employers.

Samuel Gompers

  • Samuel Gompers was the first and longest serving president of the American Federation of Labor.
  • Under his leadership, the American Federation of Labor became the largest and most influential labor federation in the world.
  • It grew from a small association of 50,000 in 1886 to an established organization of nearly 3 million in 1924 that had won a permanent place in American society.

Collective Bargaining

  • Collective Bargaining is a negotiation between organized workers and their employer or employers to determine wages, hours, rules, and working conditions.
  • The American Federation of Labor pressed for the right.

Unions Take Action:
Strikes and Strikebreakers

  • Many strikes took place when unions responded to low wages and fired employees.
  • Many of these strikes ended in violence.
  • Many of the companies hired strikebreakers to replace the striking workers.
  • Until the 1930s the government sided with the business owners hindering the efforts of workers.

Anarchists &

The Haymarket Riot


  • Scabs were brought in to break the strike at the McCormick Factory.

  • Striking workers became associated with Anarchism making unions and workers unpopular with the public.

The Homestead Strike

The Pullman Strike


Eugene V. Debs

  • Eugene Victor Debs was an American labor and a political leader. He was one of the founders of the International Labor Union and the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).
  • He was also five-time Socialist Party of America candidate for President of the United States.
  • In 1893 Debs was elected the first president of the American Railway Union (ARU). During the Pullman Strike in 1894, Debs was arrested and charged with contempt of court. He was sentenced six months in prison.
Industrial Workers 2016-2017 - Google Slides