A Society of Employees!

Author: Sara Chavarria
Editor: Stephanie Nardei

Time: 30 minutes
Photocopy Handout 1 and Handout 2 . If photocopied separately, staple together.
Print Overheads 1 and 2.
Materials: Overhead 1: Classifieds and Pink Slips
Overhead 2: Questions for Handout 2.
Handout 1: The Industrial Revolution
Handout 2: Technology and Jobs


Having explored how industry is made up of a relationship between the business, the worker, and the landscape in the previous lesson, this lesson addresses how technology affects jobs and the implication for the business during a specific time period: The Industrial Revolution in America. It Explains how technology changed the relationship between the employer and employee. The point trying to be reached is that with the advent of the industrial age came an unfair system of economic production based on low wage jobs to the benefit of the business owner. 

Students will be able to:
1. Differentiate the employer/employee relationship before and after the introduction of new technology through note-taking research using the Industrial Revolution as a point of reference.

National Social Studies Standards
Historical Thinking Standards

  • Standard 2G: Draw upon visual data, literary, and musical sources.

United States History Standards

  • Era 6 Standard 1: How the rise of corporations, heavy industry, and mechanized farming transformed the American people.

Teacher Background
The previous 2 lessons help support the introduction of how the employer and employee relationship during the Industrial Revolution developed.

Resource Websites
A classification of American Wealth http://www.raken.com/American_wealth/Gilded_age_index.asp
What was the Industrial Revolution http://www.teachersfirst.com/lessons/inventor/ind-rev-open.htm
Industrial Revolution: http://www.ecology.com/archived-links/industrial-revolution/index.html
Background on Industrial Revolution (short tutorial): http://www.bergen.org/technology/indust.html
Industrial Revolution of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Industrial_Revolution
Open Directory Project on Industrial Revolution: http://dmoz.org/Society/History/By_Time_Period/Eighteenth_Century/Industrial_Revolution/
Internet Modern History Sourcebook on Industrial Revolution: http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/modsbook14.html
Documentary Series: The Day the World Took Off http://www.dspace.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/270
Making the Modern World: http://www.makingthemodernworld.org.uk/



Day 1
1. As students walk in, hand each student copy of Handout 1 to read. As they read, have them write on left side of the reading key concepts and words illustrating the discussion.

2. When done reading, have them write down the following question in their notes: 

    • Why do you think the new type of laborer got paid so little?
    • What does this idea of unskilled labor imply about work during the Industrial Period?
    • Answer: The laborer of little skill can be easily replaced and cheaper to employ.

3. Display Overhead 1

    • Does standardization have anything to do with the new employee qualifications?
    • Answer: Yes – since you don’t need to know how to do the complete machine but only a part of it, you don’t need to have all-around skills. Basically, mass production made it easy for anyone to work without the benefit of an education or training.

4. Supportive Notes to illustrate how much the factory as an employer of hundreds of workers increased after 1870:
In 1870, McCormick reaper plant in Chicago employed about 500 workers.
By 1900 in the United States:

  • There were 1000 factories that employed between 500-1000 workers each;
  • There were 400 factories that employed more than 1000 workers each;
  • There were 3 steel plants and 1 locomotive works that employed 8000 workers each.

5. Collect Handout 1 and give students a copy of Handout 2 to reference for answering the following questions (listed on Overhead 2).

    • While there are instances in which technology leads to job loss since a machine can work faster than humans, technology can also lead to job security. Explain.
    • What are the three characteristics of Production?
    • The factory represented the creation of an “on the job” existence. Workers could assemble one part over and over without needing to know how all the parts connected. This assembly line technique was revolutionized by whom and for what industry product?
    • Supervision and coordination of such large numbers of employees made close managerial control possible.
    • How was managerial control an important characteristic of production at the birth of the Industrial Revolution? Fill in the chart to answer.
Before the Industrial Revolution After the Industrial Revolution (answers)
Contract rules set by both employer and employee. Contract rules set by employer.
The laborer is skilled and an independent worker. The laborer is unskilled so is strictly regulated and given duties on need to know basis.
The employer and employee know each other. Impersonal relationship exists between employer and employee. They don’t know each other.
Work hours negotiated within daylight hours. Long shifts for a longer work day into the night.
Few managerial personnel between the employer and the employee. Extensive hierarchy with several managers in between the employer and employee.

6. Final Question: How did technology define business, the city landscape, and the American worker’s role during the Industrial Revolution?

    • Supportive questions:
    • What was the work day like?
    • How powerful was the manager’s role?
    • Who got wealthy from this system?
    • Was distribution of wealth fairly balanced?

7. Review possible answers with students and list on overhead for them to write in their notes. Make sure that their answers encompass the information given below.

Answer: One result of this new inter-dependence between jobs and technology was the advent of mass production. But as also noted, it meant that the worker was disenfranchised. The worker was another tool to achieve profit for the business. The manager’s role grew as the enforcer of work rules and control. But it was the business and its owners that truly became wealthy with this system. They managed to acquire wealth by increasing production through new technologies that allowed them to get away with hiring cheap labor, enforcing long working hours, and mass producing a desirable product for consumption.

8. The above answer to the final question is incomplete. It addresses the role of business and the worker but what about the landscape, of which, during the Industrial Revolution was primarily the city. It was in the city that the business was usually located and where the workforce could be found in large numbers. A final question must be posed: With increased production comes increased industrial waste, how does that alter the landscape and where does it go?



Embedded Assessment

PULSE is a project of the Community Outreach and Education Program of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center and is funded by:

NIH/NCRR award #16260-01A1
The Community Outreach and Education Program is part of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center: an NIEHS Award


Supported by NIEHS grant # ES06694

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Last update: November 10, 2009
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