Influence of Social Issues in the History of the Manufacturing Industry

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INFLUENCE OF SOCIAL ISSUES IN THE HISTORY OF MANUFACTURING INDUSTRY Michelle Gilruth The Social Issue of Unions There are many social issues that have affected manufacturing over the years. Many of these issues led to the formation of unions. Before unions, unskilled workers did not fair well. They received half the pay of skilled workers like craftsmen, artisans, and mechanics. Many people moved to cities to work in industry and about 40 percent of those workers were low-wage earners.1 As industry grew, women, children, and poor immigrants found themselves the main targets for work in factories. With the birth of unions, workers have a voice at work. They negotiate contracts so that they can work in a safe and fair workplace. Better wages, retirement packages, and vacation time are other things for which a union works.2 A Brief History of Manufacturing Before manufacturing, people made what they needed on their own or traded with people nearby. Because of this, people became specialized in certain skills. Trade was mostly local so businesses were small, and family-owned.3 Water and steam power were soon discovered and machines began to take over human labor. Next came electricity, allowing factories to be built anywhere power was available.3 Most factories ended up being built near cities and railroads so that they could trade. Next, came trade via large shipping containers. Today, much manufacturing is done abroad using materials from all over the world. A Brief History of Unions Labor unions can trace their history back to the merchant guilds of medieval Europe. In these guilds, workers would come together to share expertise, support charities, form rules for trade and commerce and lobby local governments.4 Some of these guilds found their way to America. In 1886, Samuel Gompers, a legendary labor leader, formed the American Federation of Labor
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