Home » Great depression » The Labor Movement

The Labor Movement

Despair Leading to Development in the Labor Movement By the end of World War II, millions of workers were union members, and collective bargaining had captured the industrial economy . The displeasure of manufacturing workers coalesced with New Deal collective bargaining legislature, carrying mass production to striking distance. Nelson Lichtenstein claims in, “The Union’s Retreat in the Postwar Era”, that the number of unionized worked had begun to increase. This is important because over fourteen million workers took part in strike movements that focused on union power in the workplace .

In the discussion from “How to Win for the Union”, it was believed that these unauthorized strikes complied of millions of workers contained the power to dictate the union as a whole . This is important because during the Gilded Age, laborers fought for a voice in the workplace, and did not have millions of laborers as solid backing for this movement. Selections from “White-Collar Workers Organize, 1938”, states that the white collar and other professional people were starting to join the forward march of employment . Another contrast from the Gilded Age, where large American labor unions consisted of lower class, blue collar workers.

According to the readings, “Who Built America? ” legislations were set in order to allow the growth from the great depression . The growth and successes of the American labor movement during the years of the Great Depression are owed to the pro-union standpoint of the Roosevelt administration, as well as from regulations authorized by congress during the initial “New Deal” era . Overall, legislation was the key determinant in the success and growth of the labor movement during the Great Depression. It took 100 days for President Franklin D.

Roosevelt to propose bill, The Hundred Days Legislation, to create the “New Deal”. In particular, The National Industrial Recovery Act, NIRA of 1933 was a major success of the American labor movement during this time, because NIRA was a law by which President Roosevelt aided the economic recovery during the Great Depression . This bill created many successes for the labor movement that were not previously evident in past decades. For example, in the Gilded Age, the union movement failed to establish much more laborers in productions like steel, fabrics, mining, and automobiles.

These, rather than skilled dexterities, were to be the foremost growing industries . The depression took a toll on white-collar workers as well, making them feel as apprehensive as the men who were unskilled . It took the years of the Great Depression to encourage enough legislation in order to command change. NIRA not only created new public work programs such as the Civil Works Administration (CWA) and the Public Works Administration (PWA), but also has additionally guaranteed the rights of organized labor for collective bargaining.

NIRA also created the National Recovery Administration (NRA), which is a program of government-organized collaboration among different businesses. The NRA required whole businesses to lower production, raise prices, and obtain certain criterions in regards to earnings and reasonable hours. In fact, “Congress offered one remarkably popular solution by proposing legislation for a thirty-hour workweek to force employers to hire millions of new workers” (WBA 425).

The hope in passing this legislation was that both businesses and government would overcome the devastating under-consumption and price competition, known as the Great Depression. Although this inspired many, it did not solve in Depression. The automotive industry said, “The stronger the organization behind you, the more powerful your arguments will be…” (UAW 298). What this means is that employees began to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing . This is an improvement from the labor movements during the Gilded Age because collective bargaining was not allowed.

In the Great Depression era, millions of more workers can come together and fight for what they believe in. The NRA proved to be far more than another administration; the NRA used government power to regulate the market, upsurge earnings, and increase prices . For example, many companies arranged to limit weekly work shifts, limit child labor, and set minimum wages. This was done to encourage self-ruling, which required a strong labor union . Employees had free reign from oppression of their employers and began to strike in the succession of the labor movement.

Thus, due to this, less horrific violence was seen during this era compared to the Gilded Age. In 1935, President FDR created his second round of reorganizations, the Second “New Deal”, including the most important and long-lasting legislation of the New Deal era, as well as new acts and initiatives. He did this in order to give unions an advantage when dealing with administration. The 1935 National Labor Relations Act (Wagner Act) was a piece legislation set in place to contribute to the growth and success of the labor movement during the depression by promoting membership within a union.

The main purpose of this act was to establish the permissible rights of most workforces to unite and join labor unions, as well as partake in collective bargaining with their employers . This gave unions the right to establish workforces without feeling apprehensive towards employers. The Wagner Act backed the labor-favored provisions of the NRA and established a National Labor Relations Board, which oversaw the collective bargaining that took place between union representatives and management. This encouraged the growth of trade unions, finally contributing a solution to the nations depressed economy .

Roosevelt hoped that the Wagener Act would stop income dormancy and under-consumption. Thus, “by encouraging the growth of trade unions, the Wager Act helped not only to raise incomes, but also to democratize the world of work by giving workers a collective choice with which to settle their grievances and organize themselves to bargain and take political action” (WBA 454). With that being said, workers were ensured the right to unreservedly establish their own unions and to strike against employers . Compared to the Gilded Age, this is another major growth.

Workers now have the National Labor Relations Board to protect them against unfair labor practices, which was not formed in previous decades. Industrial unions increased rapidly in the 1930s, due to legislation passed in the New Deal era. When the unions’ right to organize was legalized, surges of industrial union involvements transpired. The Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) was founded when the refusal of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) to consolidate unskillful and somewhat trained factory workers was established . After the split of the AFL, more than four million unionists joined the CIO.

This is a success since the time of the Gilded Age because the industrial union groups were much more confrontational than conventional craft unions. The CIO led to successes such as increased on-the-job dignity, greater salaries, enhanced benefits, and advancements in civil rights . The CIO also included more diversity, including black workers, women, and immigrants. Specifically, “Here was the essence of the CIO’s corporatist vision: organized labor would have a voice in the production goals, investment decisions, and employment patterns of the nation’s core industries” (Lichtenstein 386).

What this means is that the CIO became very aggressive in organizing the unskilled workers who had no been represented before by involving strikes—an organizational tool the CIO used . It was thought that, “To make democracy work, therefore, the steward or committeeman must be prepared to put a solid program before his men and, if need be, fight for its support. He must awaken and encourage his men to take part themselves in working of union policy” (UAW 299). There were many strikes and battles that built the CIO. Many employers were stubborn, and most strikes turned violent.

Among other things though, it needed organization. The industrial unions during the 1930s revitalized some social apprehensions that workers had in the early labor movement, during the Gilded Age, such as physically fighting and striking for equality in many forms. The United Automobile Workers (UAW) labor union said, “…every steward, committeeman and officer is duty-bound to fight for the observance of the Constitution and rulings of the International Executive Board for the elimination of all unauthorized stoppages and strikes” (UAW 299).

Union members continued to push for health care, unemployment insurance, pensions, and other benefits. The 1935 to 1942 period had marked a great succession of organizing and institutionalizing the CIO, leading to the growth of the labor movement during the Depression era . The 1930s was a time of extraordinary labor activism. American unions augmented their association, and partook in many strikes to increase their voice in the workplace. These strikes enhanced the lives of millions of people in the labor movement by resulting in better hours, high wages and other improvements for the workers.

Action and strong unionism during the Great Depression was to be altered for a positive change. The depression encouraged more individuals to join unions, which is a major growth of the labor movement. There was a mix of skilled works, unskilled workers, and middle class citizens all together—another achievement during this time. Legislation passed during President FDR’s time enhanced the labor movement during the great depression by enforcing different rules and policies that gave all laborers a foundation for growth and success in upcoming decades.

Cite This Work

To export a reference to this essay please select a referencing style below:

Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.