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Workers' Organizations

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Working Conditions

Living Conditions

Workers' Personal Experiences

Bibliographic Credits


Relations With Employers

David Duncan

    In reading the book for this assignment, there is a strong sense of thankfulness that comes over me for being born in so-called modern times. In reading the accounts of the people that are in this book, you have to feel thankful. Many of these people had no choice but to work during their childhood. I couldnít imagine having to punch a clock at the ripe old age of 7 or 8. Due to the poor backgrounds that most of these people came from, they had no choice but to pitch in to ease the financial burden the family had. There are examples in which workers were treated fairly by their employers. There are also examples from the book that lead you to believe that some of the employers were cruel, heartless individuals.

    When reading the entry by Bede, you get the feeling that he experienced the good and the bad in relation to his employers. When Bede first moved to Tours, the relationship with his employer was initially good. At first the work was plentiful, so much so Bede was allowed to bring his wife in to work at the shop as well. As a result, Bede stayed in Tours for about three years.

    When a drought hit, everything slowed down economically. The master asked if Bede could cut back production to one-half of what he had formerly produced. From one vantage point, this move was purely a business decision. The market had slowed, and the master was left with no alternative. Because of this economic slowdown, Bede was forced to pack up and move his family to Paris.

    Once in Paris, Bede found work immediately. He worked on the street in which most people in his trade worked at that time. Bede worked on Rue de Clery, a street that was a center for chair producers. In 1813 the work came to a screeching halt. This setback reduced many workers to nothing. As a result, many people couldnít provide for their families. The bad fortunes did not last long. In 1814 business expanded, but the masters did not want to increase the pay of the workers. The workers pleaded with the masters for a pay increase but they refused. Many of the workers left to work in surrounding areas in hopes of earning a competitive wage.

    The masters from the city were upset that their competitors were hiring their former workers. The masters agreed to a 3 franc increase per dozen of chairs that were produced. Many of the workers decided to move back. The increase in pay lasted only a short while, and once the market slowed down the masters took back the raise. The workers were told that this increase was only temporary, but it wasnít. The masters were also forcing their workers to perform unpaid tasks. There was a push to eliminate the unpaid tasks, but it failed. From this view, the workers were the victims. The masters were taking advantage of the workers.

    Suzanne Voilquin was another person who had tough working experiences. As a young girl she had a job in which she had to be at work at 7:00 a.m. If she was late, she was forced to make that time up at the end of the day. At one point she was making decent money, and was able to help her father out. But when the work slowed, so did the pay. She also worked as a maid. The man of the house constantly harassed her. She really didnít feel safe, but she really needed the job. Agricol Perdiguier had a very unique first job. He worked for his father. If you provide a service for someone and they pay you in return for that service that constitutes an employer and an employee. It doesnít matter if the two people are related. He would work for 3 days and at the end of the week has was paid 3 sous.

    Agricol went to work for a man who was a friend of his fatherís. The work was long and hard. He worked from 5a.m. until about 8 or 9 at night. He worked for a long time with out getting paid. At years end he was poorly compensated. He grew tired of that routine, and went on to work for another man. This man housed him, fed him, and paid him 3 francs per week. By all standards, this was a very fair arrangement.

    Based on the accounts of the people that we read, the worked seemed very hard and the pay seemed very low. Every once in a while, you would encounter an employer who would come along and pay a competitive wage and treat them fair. But by and large the employers mistreated the workers. They took advantage of the workers, and rarely were they willing to compromise.




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All essays copyright students of History 541,  University of Kentucky 2002

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