Notes on The Jungle Themes

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The Jungle Topic Tracking: Unfair Labor Practices

Chapter 5

Unfair Labor Practices 1: Jurgis witnesses the "speeding up" process whereby the bosses force a pace man to set a nearly impossible pace for the workers on the line, leading to dangerous exhaustion, physical ailments, and the author writes, even death. If the workers do not keep up, they are immediately fired.

Unfair Labor Practices 2: Dede Antanas, Jurgis's elderly father, is offered a job on the condition that he pays his boss a third of his salary. It is just the entry point to a vast system of graft (obtaining money or advantage through the dishonest use power) and Jurgis's first inkling that justice and honesty does not exist in the yards.

Chapter 6

Unfair Labor Practices 3: The workrooms at the meatpacking plants are unheated and dangerous in the winter. Men often suffer frostbite, and in desperation, stick their frozen feet into the steaming carcasses of cattle when the bosses aren't looking. The steam is so thick in the butchering rooms that it creates an extremely dangerous environment where men may be stabbed in a cloud of hot steam, or suffer other injuries. Some men slip on the frozen blood on the floors.

Unfair Labor Practices 4: Grandmother Majauzskiene tells the family that the waves of immigrants was completely designed by Durham of Durham's Meat Packing Plant, simply to supply his own labor needs. He, in essence, created his own immigration policy, bringing unsuspecting families to America under false pretenses, then leaving them to live in abject poverty.

Chapter 8

Unfair Labor Practices 5: Marija's factory closes down suddenly and she is out of a job. In the winter, the factory closed down without warning and without assistance to the workers, leaving them to starve. It reopens on a whim, with no reparations to those who were out of work.

Unfair Labor Practices 6: The bosses don't pay the men for "broken time," which means a worker who worked 50 minutes of an hour and then, in the last ten minutes, found no work available for the last 10 minutes, was not paid at all for the whole hour.

Chapter 11

Unfair Labor Practices 7: The plants bring in extra men, which brings wages down and creates a surplus of labor. It isn't until later that the workers realize the extra men were being trained as strikebreakers.

Chapter 12

Unfair Labor Practices 8: As he's searching for another job, Jurgis reflects that the big plants were in collusion with each other: running the worker ragged with the cruel "speeding up" process, then casting him aside when he became ill from the work, or weak and exhausted. It is a machine with no thought to the worker.

Chapter 15

Unfair Labor Practices 9: Ona confesses that she had been seduced, then blackmailed into becoming her boss's mistress. He had threatened to take her job from her, as well as the jobs from her family members, confronting the family with starvation if she did not comply. This was something that commonly happened to female workers in the yards. Often they ended up as prostitutes.

Chapter 26

Unfair Labor Practices 10: The plants begin rebuilding their work force with prisoners and African-Americans lured North from Southern states. Their living conditions are filthy, and they are often packed 700 to a room. The place is rife with vermin and disease.

Unfair Labor Practices 11: The plants refuse to re-negotiate a contract with the unions and hire scabs (workers crossing the picket line) to take their place. When they finally agree to go to arbitration, and the strike is settled, they refuse to hire union members.

This is illegal.

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