Whilst production increased,
wages did also so workers were
For the first time, the government
recognised labour unions and
negotiated with them through the
'National War Labour Board' asking
that they wouldn't strike.
In return they'd guarantee
the worker's right to join
unions and would
Union membership practically
doubled between 1916-1920.
Employers agreed to
conditions and form an
8 hour day as well.
Post WW1: violent outbreaks followed the
war, these were race riots but also fuelled by
the influx of returning soldiers into the labour
market and the 'Red Scare' of communist
Employers were responding
drastically to any labour unrest with
accusations of anarchy, even when
they were exerting their rights, so a
series of strikes broke out in 1919.
In the 1920s 'nativism' towards the
old whilte Americans was high
alongside fears of Communism, so
actions of union leaders were
The increase in production because
of the introduction of the assembly
line led to powerful employers,
especially giant corporations like
There was a dramatic fall in unemployment
and high spending power, removing many
Although employers improved
working conditions, reduced
working hours, made pensions
etc. It was so that they could
prevent strikes lowering
Welfare Capitalism and Ford
Included setting up 'company unions'
who couldn't strike or negotiate wages,
but they could discuss grievances.
Workers were forced to sign 'yellow
dog contracts' that prevented them
Employers hire spies to
suppress any attempt at
Ford had one of the biggest factories in
the world. He hired strong, armed security
men to intimidate and assault his workers if
they weren't obeying.
Ford didn't recognise any union for
collective bargaining until 1941.
Randolph and the
Brotherhood of Sleeping
Car Porters and Maids
Fighting to be recognised as a
union by the Pullman company.
Thid was opposed by Pullman and
also the AAs themselves.
Pullman denounced this union as
an outside agency with foreign
ideas and drew for a company
union opposing BSCP. Local
authorities allowed Pullman to ban
the BSCP meetings. They kept
They decided that the only way to
force the issue was to strike, but
leadership was divided, some wanting
to show strength and others like
Randolph wanting to force negotiation.
But by 1934 the law had changed somewhat, and they were able
to claim to be the only legitimate union for Pullman Company.
Randolph demanded that the National Mediation Board (the federal
means for labour relations in the railway trade) certify this, and
they successfully won in 1935.
Pullman was the largest employer of AAs
in the 1920s and 30s. Although it
appeared a lucrative job, they were
reliant on tips for their wages and they
were humilated by the white passengers.
They had to pay for their own food,
uniforms and lodgings, also for anything
that was stolen or broken by passengers.
Offered no promotion aspects for AAs.
Chose Randolph as a leader because
he was an outsider and they were
launching this in secret, company spies
wouldn't know him.
~In 1941 he had Roosevelt to ban racial
discrimination in the federal government
with the threar of a massive protest in
Washington during the wartime
He was a prominent
member of the 'socialist
party', limiting his support.
The Great Depression 1929
Led to the closure of factories and
bankruptcy of most businesses and this
meant mass unemployment that left most
families below the poverty line, particularly
Those with a job were happy to have one, but there
was more employee-employer conflicts. Desperate
workers would strike, sit-in and occupy factories. By
1933 only 10% of workers were in unions as they had
no right to strike within one, yet when they striked
most employers sacked them.
The New Deal 1932-38
1933 the National Industry Recovery Act
(NIRA) formed the National Recovery
Set the precedent for working hours,
wages, production levels and trade union
rights, agreed by both employer and
employee, yet it tended to favour the
Complying companies were allowed
to display the NRA Blue eagle
symbol, however many like Ford
Was deemed unconstitutional in 1935.
1935 National Labor Relations Act / Wagner
Act: Set up to provide a structure for collective
bargaining, as to avoid picket line violence
and the disruption caused by strikes. Wagner
believed that only legislation could stop
employers from preventing any labour rights.
The first piece of legislation that recognised the
workers rights to take part in collective bargaining, also
they gained the right to join trade unions and elect who
represent them in bargaining. It ended 'closed shops'
and employers' spies and blacklisting 'agitators'.
Trade union membership rapidly grew,
and even into many industries that
previously had resisted the unionisation of
their workers, like Chrysler.
Divisions in trade unions when considering
unskilled workers meant that many however
were still deprived of their rights, especially in
mass production industries. e.g. AFL was still
excluding unskilled labor, amalgamating skilled
craft unions. Even with the CIO many unskilled
workers had low wages and no voice.
This led to the breakaway group of CIO from the AFL, in 1937 with John Lewis as it's leader, this
stood for organising the unskilled workers in the mass production industries. CIO
used the new methods of 'sit ins' to get recognition of car workers' right to join
unions. Ford held out until 1941.
They operated like the AFL, but with the CIO African
Americans, women and immigrants were welcolmed.
The idea of equality for labor gave the AAs confidence to
Set up the 'National Labor
Relations Board' NLRB to bargain
for workers and sto companies
from creating company unions. It
also had the power to stop unfair
dismissals of workers.
The Fair Labour Standards Act of
1938 set a minimum weekly wage
and time and a half pay for excessive
overtime. It also prohibited child
employment. This still upheld wage differences for women.
The Second World War 1939-45
Control of industry was taken away from
employers, hence shifting the balance into
favouring the workers for their essential war effort
for a brief period.
High levels of production in
industry and agriculture occured,
by set production targets.
Government established the National War Labor
Board (NWLB) in 1941 to aid wage disputes,
permitting a wage increase due living costs and
boosted overtime pay during the war. This was a
result of unions' agreement not to strike during war.
The President could sieze any plant
that threatened striking and it made
spontanious strikes illegal, unions had
to give 30 days notice.
There was such a need for labor,
unemployment decreased and there
were even opportunities for
women, AAs and the young. Pay
was still different for women.
End of the War: Led to immediate strikes following the
end of wartime restrictions. Politicians believed that trade
unions were becoming too powerful and the
anti-Communist feeling of the 1940s made them
suspicious of labor, since the Communists were active here.
The Taft-Hartley Act in 1947 restrained the
powers of unions and sought to end the
Communist labor support. Union leaders were
made to swear that they didn't ally with
Communists before they could vote for members
in the NAtional LAbour Relations Board.
Weakened the CIO as many of the unions
were Communist, others weren't, so CIO
expelled the Communist unions in 1949,
reducing their numbers by 1/3 and deprived
their message of uniting the interest of the
unskilled. Leading to them rejoining the AFL in 1955.
Showed how Republicans didn't want
to get the support of unions, hence
why President Truman's veto of this