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The Great Migration
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Syracuse University Library, Special Collections Research Center [Margaret Bourke-White Collection #208:10]. Reproduced with permission from the Margaret Bourke-White Estate.

Margaret Bourke-White

The Assembly Line

Whether they worked in meatpacking, the auto industry, or the steel mills, workers had to adjust to the pressure of the assembly line and production quotas. Some left their jobs after a few weeks, in protest over their work conditions. But very few returned to the South. Even with the pressures and the higher cost of living in the North, migrants generally improved their real earnings. In Chicago, for example, unskilled laborers could earn a minimum of 42.5¢ an hour in the packinghouses to 61¢ an hour at Argo Corn Products and International Harvester. In the building trades, they could make up to $1.00 an hour. Most employees worked from forty-eight to sixty hours a week, so $25 was not an unusual week's wages. By contrast, many farm laborers in the South did not make more than 75¢ a day.

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