A Living Wage: American Workers and the Making of Consumer by Lawrence B. Glickman

By Lawrence B. Glickman

The struggle for a "living salary" has a protracted and revealing heritage as documented right here via Lawrence B. Glickman. The hard work movement's reaction to wages exhibits how American staff negotiated the transition from artisan to patron, beginning up new political percentages for prepared employees and developing contradictions that proceed to hang-out the exertions flow today.

Nineteenth-century staff was hoping to develop into self-employed artisans, instead of everlasting "wage slaves." After the Civil battle, besides the fact that, unions redefined working-class id in consumerist phrases, and demanded a salary that will present staff commensurate with their wishes as shoppers. This consumerist flip in hard work ideology additionally led staff to fight for shorter hours and union labels.

First articulated within the 1870s, the call for for a residing salary used to be voiced more and more by way of exertions leaders and reformers on the flip of the century. Glickman explores the racial, ethnic, and gender implications, as white male employees outlined themselves not like African american citizens, ladies, Asians, and up to date eu immigrants. He indicates how a old standpoint at the notion of a dwelling salary can tell our realizing of present controversies.

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Years before. had simi­ larly suggested that workers should be emanCipated through wages. not from them: 'The repeal of . . slavery . . was an Indirect way of deciding. that laborers should have some more wealth. How much more is the great unanswered question. " 53 This consumerist reading of emancipation went hand In hand with a view of slavery as poverty and poverty as enslaving. In this vision. living wages marked a kind of eternal emancipation. 2 Idle Men and Fallen Women American workers, labor leaders, and reformers expressed acute anxiety about the dangers of the encroaching market In the years between the CiVil War and World War 1 Wage labor, they feared, threatened to tum everything Into a commodity, with dangerous ramifications for the repub­ lic and the working people who constituted it "As a rule everything a poor man has is for sale," wrote Ira Steward.

For most of the century. In fact. labor reformers had expressed little sympathy for lifelong wage earners. blaming them for their own condition. " said Lincoln. "It Is not the fault of the system. but because of either a dependent nature which prefers It. or Improvidence. " And the re­ former E. L. Godkin InSisted that only those exhibiting "vice or miscon­ duct or Ignorance or want of self-restraint" would be locked Into perma­ nent wage labor; "honest and Intelligent and self-denying" workers could reasonably expect to set up on their own.

For much of the nine­ teenth century. wage labor-payment to an employee based on hours or days worked-had posed a fundamental threat to working-class con­ ceptions of liberty. Drawing on two powerful antebellum political dis­ courses. " most la­ bor leaders. indeed most Americans. defined freedom precisely as the ability to avoid a lifetime of working for wages: the very word "wages"was. to quote one worker in the 1850s. '" Langdon Byllesby. a printer. "2 To earn wages. in the view of these workers.

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