Workers Protest Factory Conditions

Will their dream of a 10-hour workday come true?

Workers Fight For a Better Workplace

Many workers in the New England area are trying to protest the work environment in textile mills, demanding more regulations on working and better rights for the workers. The United States is currently going through a period of rapid growth in industry, but now some laborers are saying that factories should have a shorter workday, better wages, and limitations on child labor. Workdays are currently 16-18 hours long, with night shifts common. Wages are usually less than three dollars a day, with about half of it being spent on company supplies and food.

As a result, many workers are forming groups called trade unions that lobby for better conditions. Many workers are even walking off the job (called "striking") until the government gives them what they demand! Employers and managers of mills say that forming a trade union isn't allowed. However, the Massachusetts Supreme Court has ruled in Commonwealth v. Hunt that forming one is not illegal. A woman named Sarah Bagley led a major labor movement, and successfully convinced the Massachusetts legislature to lower the working hours from 16-18 to a maximum of 10 after much negotiating.

Despite this, most of these efforts to reform mills have not been successful. Children as young as 12 are still allowed to take adult jobs, many states' workdays have only been slightly shortened to a 12-hour day, and some haven't lowered the hours at all. Wages have not increased for the most part, and strikers might suffer a deduction from pay, especially if their effort fails. Even so, many people still come to work in the mills, despite the unfavorable conditions. As one man said, "It provides more money than working on the farm."

The North and South Times