Essay on Student: Minimum Wage and Workers

Submitted By Rgrider
Words: 1785
Pages: 8

An Era Unrealized

America’s workforce rides a path that labor unions have paved. Many of the privileges we take for granted today are a result of hard work that laborers of the past strived to make a reality for us. Simple rights such as minimum wage and non-discrimination are the fruit of people who fought for them during a time when they themselves did not experience such liberty. Many employees of the eighteen and nineteen hundreds worked in conditions that would be considered inhumane in today’s culture. The American dream of freedom, prosperity, and a home of one’s own was not always what immigrants found in “The New World”. The American icon of the cowboy riding free on the range, with a pleasant farm house, herds of cattle, and happy, healthy children was far from reality for the new arrivals to this country. America offered a better life to immigrants and maybe even wealth. While some families made a decent life for themselves and their families by working hard with great determination, some families seemed to struggle simply to put food on the table. In either case, the chance to come to America was truly a golden opportunity. It is estimated that about 10 million immigrants arrived in America between 1865 and 1890, most of those from Europe. People from the Middle East, and Asia also began migrating to America, the land of opportunity. Families set out to build a new life, free from religious oppression. In America, men were free to think and dream as they wish. They set out for a land where dreams come true, or so the stories told, and they found themselves at a loss when they arrived with little money, no land, no livestock, and no other means of survival. Upon landing in this new country they began their upward struggle with few resources and few friends. The poverty they experienced in their home land had not suddenly disappeared from their lives upon reaching American soil, in fact it appeared larger than ever. Most of them were uneducated “commoners” who were sometimes robbed soon after their arrival. Because they trusted, they were easily swindled, and some were promised false help for their new adventurous life. Realizing their circumstances: poor, without a home, and without a job, they stirred their hope, and set to work. They joined the flock of people working in thriving factories at the birth of the industrial age. However, few workplaces paid well, and many were unsafe. Lighting and ventilation were often poor and the machinery noise could be deafening. But the factory jobs were desired because they paid more than other industries. Long twelve hour days were expected, six days a week in most cases. This resulted in a great measure of fatigue. Workers were poorly trained and machinery was often faulty. All of these factors created dangerous and unhealthy conditions where injuries and sickness were common. Not only the immigrants suffered, poor families already living in America suffered the same. Once in poverty, it was difficult to break free. Opportunities to achieve more were not as abundant as they are today. Today you can find “help wanted” signs in many store windows and just about every street corner. Employers are required to pay well; even the least trained employees receive a minimum wage that will enable them to survive. Working conditions must be safe and clean according to the law, but this was not true for workers just 100 years ago. Today’s generation takes employment liberties for granted and has little, if any, idea what struggling really meant to folks of that day. Neither are we aware of a life where neighbors died from poverty and disease. Poor families of 1890 relied on the additional income of their children in hopes of making their lives in America good. Children went to work as young as ten. The children’s jobs made the difference between going hungry or having food for their families. Factories were especially hard on children whose