Labor Research: Updates and Research Questions

In addition to working on grants, I have been researching labor conditions in South Carolina textile mills. In my research, I am trying to focus on Olympia Mills and the post-World War II era. However, I have expanded my research to include all textile mills in South Carolina and have enlarged my scope to the time period before World War II as well. This has been due to a dearth of research that has been done in the post-WWII era, as well as due to important labor changes that began to take place in the South in the 1930s and the general lag of the South in terms of labor conditions compared to the North.

A general understanding of labor conditions seems appropriate to understand how they have changed due to social and political changes throughout the region and how, in turn, they impacted Olympia Mills. In terms of labor conditions, I am including information on employees’ amount of hours, vacation time and pay, in addition to information about safety and health conditions in the mills. Additionally, I have included information about how child-labor law in South Carolina became an important aspect of labor conditions in the early 20th century. To answer my questions, I have thus far researched Department of Labor reports, several union documents and  articles and books on the subject. Based on my preliminary study, my research questions are as follows:

How did the organization of labor and the creation of unions change overall labor conditions in South Carolina textile Mills, particularly at Olympia Mills?

Did technological changes change the labor conditions at mills or did social movements or legislation have more of an impact?

What are the health risks of working in mills? How has state and national safety and labor legislation impacted the health risks?

How have labor conditions in cotton mills in South Carolina, particularly at Olympia Mills, compared to textile mill conditions nationwide?


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