5
THE REACTION OF
AMERICAN LABOR TO
TECHNOLOGICAL CHANGE

Ralph Helstein

Given the pragmatism of the American Labor Movement in this society in which less than 7 per cent of the population is engaged in agriculture, it should not be surprising to find that American labor has not only accepted industrialism, but has encouraged vast and continuing technological change. The modern labor movement has flourished and grown as industrialization and technology have constantly advanced.

Only through intensification of industrialization and vast technological change has it been possible to distribute the benefits of industry's tremendous capacity to produce among an ever‐ widening circle. This has been done, however, not through any redistribution of either wealth or power, but rather by creating an ever larger supply of goods and services. In this way, each group retains its relative share, but the share of each gets bigger. American labor, particularly its organized sections, can look back and say without hesitation that the last several decades have seen organized workers reach higher standards of living than ever before known by those who work with their hands. These standards are represented in housing, both rented and owned, or in the process of purchase; by the kinds of personal property in their possession such as automobiles, household appliances and furnishings. In more important ways, this higher standard of living is reflected in the number of children of industrial workers who now find it possible to attend college and who go on to advanced educational achievements. The average worker would

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