What a Union is...
Why Unions Were Needed...
What Happened With the Unions...
Bibliography
Jon Cox, U.S. History, Communications Academy

Why Unions Were Needed...

         During the Great Depression, which can be said to have lasted from the late 1920’s into the 1930’s, was a time when many lost their jobs, as well as a great deal of money. These events later caused a rise in the number of unions in America to rise. When this nation began its dip into the depression, so did the number of members of labor unions. In 1933 there were only around 3 million members of a labor union, compared to a decade earlier, when there were around 5 million. In 1928, the United Mine Workers Unions saw its membership fall from 500,000 in 1920 to 75,000 1. This drop in membership in the labor unions caused jobs that actually need unions to have the least members. Most of the union members during 1933 were skilled craft workers, jobs which usually do not need unions. Jobs that did need unions like the production steel, textiles, mining and automobiles though, could not get new members 2. Throughout the 1930’s unemployment percents in America went up and down, ranging from 24.9 percent in 1933 to 14.3 percent in 1937 1. There were many reasons for unions to be needed during this period, as in a time when everyone was having a hard time making money some security was needed.
         An incident early on that showed the need for unions was the “Coxey’s Army” incident, where the Hoover Administration decided to cancel their promise to World War One veterans that they would get a bonus for their military service. This decision resulted in veterans coming from all parts of the country and camping on the Washington mall green to make a statement. This was one of the first “major efforts at collective action” while also being one of the major contributors to “growing labor unrest” 3. This being in the depression and unemployment being high, employers needed to try to get the most work from their workers as they possibly could, for the least amount of money. This resulted in the speedup of assembly lines, bad working conditions and a lack of job security 4. All of the previous reasons for the workers being upset would be protected by a labor union, causing many to see the benefits that a labor union would bring to them. Corporations did not like these unions though, as they forced the bosses of the employees to meet their needs and give them more power over the company. This resulted in fights for labor unions to be accepted again by companies.

What Happened With the Unions...



1. Timelines of the Great Depression
2. The American Memory Society
3. The Context for Worker Unions
4. Labor Unions Rise

Last Updated January 17, 2002