Practically overnight, carpenters who built wooden bridges became ironworkers by the 1880s. It was seen as a new, exciting job for pioneers in America, despite its dangerous drawbacks. A worker could risk his life on high structures for about two dollars per day.
The production of cast iron parts in larger and larger sizes brought about the use of cranes. This heavy equipment was used in the early 1900s to construct high structures and buildings. They used cranes to lift steel girders into place and used rivets to connect the girders to the columns of a structure. The mortality rate of men working in this trade was the highest of all trades and they would be lucky to go 10 years without a serious or fatal injury.
In the late 19th century, workers formed the International Union of Ironworkers because of concerns they had about safety on-the-job and the lack of protection from employers. The union's first order of business was to give widows of ironworkers $50 to cover the costs of a funeral and to give disabled ironworkers $5 a week to compensate for lost wages. With the increase in benefits from unionization, the Union greatly increased its presence in numbers in the early 1900s. Approximately 10,000 workers were considered Union Ironworkers.