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Overview:

Labor Related Issues of the Period

  • The Great Depression was devastating to the common working man but saw dramatic growth in the labor movement.
  • Use of the sitdown strike strategy brings recognition of unions in several large industries including the auto industry.
  • Many of the la bor movements battles were fought and decided in the courts.
  • Conditions in the South caused a massive migration of the region's Blacks to northern cities.

Labor Related Events of the Period

1929
The stock market crash in October began the longest economic period in American history.
1930
The Supreme Court upheld the Railway Labor Act's prohibition of employer interference or coercion in the choice of bargaining representative (Texas & N.O.R. Co. v. Brotherhood of Railway Clerks).
1931
In the Davis-Bacon Act, Congress provided for the payment of the prevailing wages to employees of contractors and subcontractors on public construction.
1932
The Anti-Injunction Act prohibited Federal injunctions in most labor disputes.
Wisconsin created the first unemployment insurance act in the United States.
1933
Francis Perkins becomes the Secretary of Labor and the first women named to a Cabinet position.
The Wagner-Peyser Act created the United States Employment Service within the Dept. of Labor.
1934
500,000 Southern millworkers walked off the job in the Great Uprising of '34.
The first National Labor Legislation Conference was called by the Secretary of Labor to obtain closer Federal-State cooperation in working out a sound national labor legislation program.
The US joined the International Labour Organization.
1935
The Wagner Act (National Labor Relations Act) establishes the first national labor policy of protecting the right of workers to organize and to elect their representatives for collective bargaining.
The Guffey Act passed to stabilize the coal ind ustry and to improve labor conditions. Later declared unconstitutional (1936).
Social Security Act approved.
Committee for Industrial Organization (CIO) formed within the AFL to foster industrial unionism.
1936
The United Rubber Workers (CIO), in the first large sit-down strike, won recognition at Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co.
In Flint, Michigan, United Auto Workers make effective use of the sit-down strike in a General Motors plant.
The Anti-Strikebreaker Act (Byrnes Act) declared it unlawful to transport or aid strikebreakers in interstate or foreign trade.
The Public Contracts Act (Walsh-Healey Act) established labor standards, including minimum wages, overtime pay, child and convict labor provisions, and safety standards on all federal contracts.
1937
General Motors agreed to recognize the United Auto Workers (CIO) as the bargaining agents for auto workers and not discriminate against union members following a year of sit-down strikes.
US Steel recognizes the Steel Workers Organizing Committee as the official bargaining agent of the steel workers. Workers also earn a 10% wage increase and a 8 hour day/40 hour week.
The Wagner Act (National Labor Relations Act) was declared Constitutional by the Supreme Court (NLRB v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp.).
In south Chicago, 10 people were killed and 80 wounded in the Memorial Day Massacre during the "Little Steel" strikes. Police attacked an unarmed crowd of men and women who were supporting the strike between the Steel Workers Organizing Committee an d Republic Steel.
The 5 week strike "Little Steel" strike was broken when Inland Steel employees went back to work without union recognition or other gains.
The CIO is expelled from the AFL over charges of dual unionism or competition.
The National Apprenticeship Act passed which established the Bureau of Apprenticeship within the Dept. of Labor.
1938
A Federal Maritime Labor Board is created by the Merchant Marine Act.
The Fair Labor Standards Act created a $.25 minimum wage and time and a half for hours over 40 per week.
The CIO becomes the Congress of Industrial Organizations with John L. Lewis as its president.

Important Concepts.

collective bargaining, Fair Labor Standards Act, Memorial Day Massacre, overtime pay, sit-down strike, Social Security Act, Wagner Act

Integrating Labor History into Effective Teaching of the Period.

Have students interview their grandparents for information on their work experiences during this period. Students can find out how their grandparents were affected by the Depression and the policies of the New Deal. Students can then present this inform ation in short oral reports while you tabulate the findings to compare with the statistics of the period.
U.S. Unemployment (1933) 25%
U.S. Unemployment (rest of 1930s) 15 - 20%
Cleveland, OH Unemployment (1932) 50%
NYC Black. Unemployment (1930s) 50%
"And I long to see the day when Labor will have the destiny of the nation in her own hands and she will stand as a united force and show the world what the workers can do." --- Mary Harris "Mother" Jones, 1830-1930
 

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