Unions Were Needed...
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
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.
Happened With the Unions...
the Great Depression
American Memory Society
Context for Worker Unions