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Labourers’ Treatment at the Turn of the Twentieth Century.

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Introduction

Labourers' Treatment at the Turn of the Twentieth Century Tyler Herrington 10B Socials 10 Mr. Lawson May 6, 2003 "The years 1900 to 1919 were characterized by widespread unrest and violence in Canada." (Wejr and Howie; pg.5) The above quotation explains what it was like to be a labourer during the early 1900's. Canadian employers during this era would act out violently towards striking or under performing labourers. Hiring secret police was a common practice used by retaliating employers against strikers. Labourers had no say in their wages and had no one to back them up; not even the government. There were unions started up in this era to protect the workers but they were fairly weak and easily shut down by the employers of the company. Labourers worked long hours with low earnings. Employers did not care about their workers safety and as a result, numerous work-related injuries occurred. Labourers hired in this era were underpaid and mistreated thus unions needed to be formed to rectify the situatuion. (Wejr and Smith; pg. 5-19) Labourers worked long hours with little pay. Labourers in a cotton mill factory, in the early 1900's, were paid one dollar a day and worked nine hours per day. The following poem vividly describes the easy time the employers had compared to the labourers' hard work and poor treatment. ...read more.

Middle

(Desmond; pg.77-81, Lipton pg. 98-103) Safety measures in the mines and factories during this time period were very poor. In a case of a child labourer, The "Farry Boy"; "He was put to work at thirteen by his widowed mother. On his first morning, the boy was put on the sharpening machine, a primitive tool that even to veteran hands would be considered dangerous. Within four hours, he was under chloroform having the stumps of his fingers bound up. His employer denied any responsibility." (Desmond; pg.86) In another case, a Brantford girl, while working in a factory, was caught by an unfenced, moving, wire rope and killed instantly. Vancouver Island coalmines during the early 1900's were known for their high quality coal, but very dangerous working conditions. (Desmond; pg. 83-87) Employers did not care about their labourers. In 1890, safety measures, respect of employees, and fair wages were diminished. This was all because of rallying employers who wanted their own rules for their factories. They did want external factors invading their factories and establishing standard rules. Employers did what ever they wanted to their employees. There was no established minimum wage to pay their employees, thus, the employers would pay their employees very low wages. In addition, there were no labourer rights therefore the employers had their labourers work long hours with a standard, low cost wage. ...read more.

Conclusion

This was due to the fact that the government wanted a better economy, and therefore usually favoured the capitalist earning employers to the labour unions. The thought being that If the employers kept earning money, Canada's economy would rise. If factories had to modify their rules and wages, or had to be shut down, Canada's economy would suffer. (Desmond pg. 87-93) It is clear that labourers had a tough time during the early 1900s. They made very little money and could not acquire any pay raises. "While capitalists have amassed riches, the condition of the toiler has remained little changed. While one class lives in luxury, and the other exists in comparative poverty, there can be no harmony between capital and labour; for capital in its modern character too often consists of unpaid labour in the form of profits." (Williams; pg.99) The above quotation easily shows the power of the employee over the labourer and how he would use this to his advantage to accumulate large profits. With employers not caring about the safety of their employees there were many work related injuries and deaths during this time. There would need to be an outside body to help the labourers with their troubles. Unions were started up, but the profit-hungry employers easily demolished any unions. Secret police were hired by the employers to arrest any suspected union member, which in turn caused any forming unions to collapse. For these reasons, labourers hired in this era were underpaid and mistreated, thus unions needed to be formed. (Williams pg.99) ...read more.

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