Samuel Slater started the industrial revolution in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Slater's 1793 textile mill set-off a manufacturing boom in The Ocean State, which soon spread throughout New England. Nearby Fall River Massachusetts became one of the world's foremost textile manufacturing centers, generating untold riches for its masters. The human cost at the bottom of the social scale was immense. Immigrant labor– including thousands of children– worked in horrific conditions for minimal compensation, with little hope of a better life. No one who's ever fully contemplated the human misery inflicted on these workers would begrudge their right to form a labor union, to protect themselves from heinous exploitation. It's a story that played out across America, in a range of labor-intensive industries; including mining, construction and automaking. And yet, at some point, the balance of power shifted too far the other way. Unions controlled the cost, pace, scale and scope of labor, tying the hands of those who would organize it for commercial survival. As the local labor force became too expensive and unwieldy, the Fall River mill owners abandoned the town. All that's left are dozens of huge, empty mills, now occupied by laser tag, indoor golf and… nothing. It's the same right across America's northern states, the country's former industrial heartland. Could the exodus have been prevented? It's hard to know. Will it now happen to Detroit's once all-conquering automotive industry? It already has.
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