Workers’ Istanbul, Istanbul’s Workers
Wealth Tax
Changing Society, Changing Professions
June, 15-16 Incidents

Economic Life

Workers’ Istanbul, Istanbul’s Workers

Large-scale manufacturing industry was not present in Istanbul before the 19th century. The areas of industry in Istanbul included construction, porterage, viniculture and gardening, maritime work and boating as well as milling, bakery, weaving, leather trade, etc in small-scale enterprises. Towards the end of the 19th century, various companies began to be founded in Istanbul and the population working in those companies was more than 50 thousand. At the time, when working conditions were quite severe, working hours lasted at times 14-16 hours.

From the declaration of the Republic to 1950s, working conditions and living standards did not change much for the workers in Istanbul. The conditions became even more severe during the Great Depression (1929-1933). In 1950s, when industrialization entered the scene, Istanbul started to be a city of workers as well as one of trade. Having started first in districts such as Zeytinburnu and Kazlıçeşme, and having continued to spread in the shanty areas such as upper Haliç, Çeliktepe and Gültepe, industry became widespread in parallel with migration and the increase in the number of workers in Istanbul. In time, hundreds of shanty districts formed to become districts of workers around industrial zones. Though Istanbul-centered industry helped other cities grow in industry when part of the workplaces in Istanbul was moved to the outside of the city in 1980s, Istanbul ranks still the first in the national industry. Such high levels of labor force and industry in a city bring about organization of the working class. Along with the increase in activities of unionization after 1960, workers gained many rights, but the dynamism between 1960 and 1980 has never been recaptured after the destruction in the organization, which occurred as a result of the 1980 coup d’état.

 

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