The Intersection of Industrialization, Labour Exploitation & Henry Ford

The Intersection of Industrialization, Labour Exploitation & Henry Ford

Backtrack to... somewhere in the 1800s. Advances in coal power, technical innovations, and mechanized production - translated to a lot of stuff made in very little time. One would think something like that would improve working conditions, right? 

Wrong! Laborers were treated like crap. Factories were drunk on power at the ability to produce THAT much. 

It was common to have laborers working 12 hours a day, sometimes even 7 days a week, in unsafe and terrible conditions!

They did all the work but held no power with absolutely no leverage to ask for better conditions. 

Of course, this led to unionization, strikes, and riots but, nothing changed. 

Then came Mr. Henry Ford. 

Henry Ford adopted the 40-hour workweek early in his factories. He believed that working people to death and paying them unfairly, reduced productivity (Go figure). 

According to Mr. Ford, "It is high time to rid ourselves of the notion that leisure for workmen is either 'lost time' or a class privilege." 

Mr. Ford, however, didn't do this out of the goodness of his heart. Terrible working conditions were harming his business. 

His business was facing a high turnover of employees. Workers would leave thanks to the shitty working conditions and, re-training new people, again and again, was costing him more money. 


Slowly, and gradually though, things did get better for workers in the West. Things getting better translated to higher pay, fewer working hours, and safer and better working conditions. 

And.. well, this gets in the way of profits. 

Cheap labor is always in demand. So, no capitalism didn't get ethical. 

Did cheap, slave-labor just shift from the west to the east? From the rich countries to the poor? From the developed to the developing? 

From the UK to Bangladesh? 

Now, you must be wondering why the hell we're talking about this. Well, sustainability is people, planet & profits. So today, we're talking about people. All these years and we STILL haven't learned how to value labour. Workers are STILL denied their rights. Be it fashion, agriculture, mining, leather, sanitation, or...well most industries are horrifying for the people who are at the lower economic strata. 

Work that requires physical labor isn't valued. There is just no denying that. 

It's done by the marginalized communities and the poor. The disparity in respect for work is classist and bigoted. Unfortunately, not much has changed. Amazon warehouse workers work grueling hours, with high targets and low pay. Even bathroom breaks are discouraged. People can’t take a leak while Jeff Bezos's wallet gets fatter and fatter. 

We've grown up in a world that considers physical labor to be dispensable when in reality, it should be rewarded. Convenience for end consumers is prioritized over basic human rights for the people behind the product. This is something to keep in mind when we're delighted by Amazon's 1-day shipping, or H&M's dirt cheap prices. 

Again, we reiterate, sustainability is People, Planet, and Profits. While capitalism has a dirty history and a dirty present, let us do what we can to ensure that it doesn't have a dirty future.

Back to blog