Happened With the Unions...
Employers usually did not want their workers
to join a union because they knew it would cost
them extra money, and would give their employers
more control of the company. By them not wanting
to give over some of their control, it resulted
in situations similar to what happened when automobile
workers organized the United Automobile Workers
of America (U.A.W.) and General Motors would not
accept them as a "workers' bargaining representative."
General Motors was supposedly even considering "moving
work to factories where the union was not as strong"
to not be forced into allowing the union. This act
on General Motors led the union to start a sit-down
strike at General Motor' Flint Fisher Body Plant
on December 30th, 1936 7.
sit-down strike on General Motors was effective
as if they "walked off the job and picketed
a plant, the management could bring in new workers
to break the strike."
Since the workers stayed in the plant, they couldn't
be fired. During the strike women provided a first
aid station, child care and collected money and
food for the striker's families. At one point when
it was heard that the strikers had been gassed in
the building, allowing for a group of women called
the Emergency Brigade to smash the plant's windows
7. On March 12, 1937
the strike ended, in which General Motors accepted
the U.A.W. as their bargaining agent. Because of
this success, it led to the further growth of unions
across the nation. Now the U.A.W. is one of the
strongest unions in the world.
also continued to grow in the 1930's during the
Roosevelt administration who had a pro-union stance.
The actions taken by Roosevelt early in the New
Deal brought about programs such as the Rural Electrifications
Administration (REA), the Public Workers Administration
(PWA) and the Federal Housing Administration (FHA)
1. In 1933 Roosevelt
passed the National Industrial Recovery Act, which
allowed for collective bargaining as well as requiring
employers to sign a "President's Reemployment
Agreement" which forced them to "limit
work weeks to 40 hours, to pay a minimum wage of
$12-$15 per week (at least 30 cents/hour) and to
not hire children under 16," even though this
agreement was later gotten rid of 2.
Another strength for the unions was the 1935 National
Labor Relations Act (or Wagner Act), that made it
so businesses had to bargain with any union that
was supported by the majority of the employees in
their company 1. These
actions put together allowed
for unions to have new respect from businesses,
and forced them to live with them even though they
did not like the power it gave the employees over
the rise of these unions there were many conflicts
that resulted as well. Members of different unions
demanded of their employers to compy with new laws
concerning labor unions, but many refused as they
felt that the new laws were unconstitutional. Many
time times when a worker looked for recognition
they brought in strikebreakers, while also stockpiling
guns, ammunitions and year gas. Violence began in
many different cities during this time, including
"San Francisco, Minneapolis, Toledo and scores
of other cities as workers insisted on their newly
acquired rights" 8.
strikes came about during this time because of the
disagreements between the employers and the employees.
One such major strike was the San Francisco longshoreman
and general strike. It started in May, 1934 when
went on strike, being led by Harry Bridges 6.
After several months they began getting sympathy
from people, who were not minding as much that food
was not being delivered 3.
After awhile an article was written about the strike
stating that the necessities for everyday life were
not being met, and that it was "bloody insurrection."
People believed that Bridges' was a dangerous radical,
as the Chief of Police told "This strike is
just a dress rehearsal by the Communists toward
world revolution" 6.
Then on July 5, 1934, the police attacked the long
shore workers on the San Francisco waterfront 4.
In what later came to be known as the Battle of
Rincon Hill, two people, Nick Bordoise and Howard
Sperry were killed with 109 people being wounded.
This then resulted in a General strike, where many
different unions banded together in support of the
dockworkers, which almost every union in San Francisco
did 6. This strike was
one of the three great strikes of 1934, and it was
strikes that allowed the growth of these unions
to happen 5.
may have existed before the Great Depression, but
it was the dip that labor unions took during this
time, and then their sudden growth that resulted
in new interest about them as well as government
support. As more and more people saw the benefits
that unions gave to them like job security, especially
in a time of little protection, a union was a safe
place for them to be. With the efforts of those
beginning few like at the Flint General Motors plant
it only got easier as the more people began to become
interested, the harder it was for a company to turn
them away. Unions are an aspect of employment that
still exists today, and is still growing even as
they were then.
During the Great Depression and the New Deal
a Living Wage
Seldes on San Francisco's Press and the 1934 General
San Francisco General Strike
Unions: What They Are, How They Came to Be, How
They Affect Each of Us