Hist 131 Discussion

This week we are looking at part two of the Gilded Age and the rise of industry. Much like today, the era witnessed an immense gap between the wealthiest and poorest Americans. As you read in the book, barons of industry such as Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, Cornelius Vanderbilt, J.P. Morgan, and those like them held autocratic power over employees. Far different from today, worker’s rights, such as an eight-hour workday or health benefits, did not exist. Organized labor groups or unions found strength in unity and fought for many of the rights workers enjoy today, and this is why we celebrate Labor Day every September. As your book states, “Gilded Age liberals feared that with lower-class groups seeking to use government to advance their own interests, democracy was becoming a threat to individual liberty and the rights of property.” (pg. 615) Similar arguments take place today, such as privately held businesses who contend that legislating health care for employees (specifically, plans that include contraceptives or abortion), increased minimum wages, or the right to unemployment benefits due to the pandemic is Marxist in nature. Moreover, employers argue that being forced to provide these benefits goes against the idea of free labor and enterprise. In contrast, employees might argue that by not implementing these assurances to their well-being, employers take advantage of those who make them their riches. Recent workplace issues with Amazon, Wal Mart, and Hobby Lobby are perfect examples of this. After conducting the assigned reading in the book and Cougar Courses, watch the video below and answer the following questions. For full credit, students will use at least two KEY TERMS from the book that MUST be highlighted:

–     Are labor unions necessary to ensure fair negotiations between workers and employers, or do they harm U.S. industry and threaten the rights of business owners? Why or why not?

–    To what degree is the Federal government responsible for protecting the rights of workers and why?