Over the years, the labor union program has shaped the work place and how individuals work. Actually, the final two thirds of the 20th century proved to be a time of both opportunity and losses for both the workers and labor unions. Besides, 1930s and 1940s was a significant time for the unions has they got a lot of growth and freedom opportunities. Today, there are groups that view this unions has imperative element of workers wellbeing while others view them as a big problem to progress. The major significance of these unions was to bring together employed workers so that they could have the same platform for ultimate workplace intentions. This functions lead to a significant growth of unions in the 1930s and 40s. Despite these functions, its popularity has been significantly decreasing since 1960s to date. However, its relevance and importance continues to be evident with public education industries, journalism and politics. The final two thirds of the 20th century portray the state’s endeavors to tip the scales in the employer’s benefit leaving the workers at an utter loss. By acts and reforms, the state furtively retracted all the freedoms and benefits won by the worker’s hard work, resilience and sacrifice. Furthermore, until the mid-1940s, the state effectively protected worker power, but from the mid-1940s to 2000, the state tipped the scales in the employers’ benefit.
The late 1930s to mid-1940s was a golden time for the workers. This is so because people could openly discuss about the challenges they faced at work and the union would intervene for the workers by telling the management what they deserve (Taft, 1964). Thus, the first hundred days of President Franklin Roosevelt proved to be extremely important and fruitful for the working class. The president outlined the New Deal that was essentially a game plan to overcome the aftermaths of the Great Depression. This entailed abundant opportunities for the workers in the form of high wage-rates, a high-employment economy, rapid unionization and a stable federal presence (Philip, 2004).
The most vital component of the New Deal in relation to workers was the National Labor Relations Act of 1935, also known as The Wagner Act (NLR). This revolutionary act reformed the employer/worker dynamics for the better. The Act reinforced the concept of ‘collective bargaining’ which gave workers the freedom to become part of unions and speak up for their shared rights. The Act also established the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to oversee elections for labor union leaders and to take notice of company’s using unfair labor practices, and propelled an incredible growth of membership in the labor unions at that time (Shmoop, 2013).
In 1935, many labor parties were formed. It is imperative to note that this union acknowledged the New Deal and propagated it. On Saturday, June 25, 1938, to evade pocket vetoes 9 days subsequently to Congress being recessed, 121 bills were signed by the then president Roosevelt into law fragment to his New Deal. A revolutionary law in economic development and Nation’s social was amid these bills- the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). FLSA depression born has managed to survive in contradiction of opposition from judiciary. In its ultimate formula, the act was useful to productions whose collective employment signified merely around one-fifth in labor force. Therefore, the minimum wage was set at twenty five cent per hour and forty four hours of working per week at the maximum and the tyrannical child labor was banned.
However, this was the last piece of constructive legislation that President Roosevelt was able to enact under the banner of the New Deal because the conservative coalition of Republicans and conservative Democrats gained control of congress that year that was against many of the legislations enacted under the umbrella of the New Deal, including the Wagner Act. Congress tried to make several amendments to the said Act many a times but did not succeed until 1947 (Greene, 1998). Harry S. Truman, sworn in as the next president after Roosevelt, held true to many of his predecessor’s beliefs and ideologies. He proposed a 21-point agenda to the congress that included an expanded social security system, high minimum wage rates, new public work programs and full employment guarantees. However, before any of these reforms could come to fruition, a new phenomenon emerged in the form of the Cold War.(Shmoop, 2008)
The Cold War was borne out of the post-World War II power struggle between the US and the Soviet Union. It was borne out of a need to protect the cultural and legal integrity of the nation. The need to protect oneself from a former ally that had now resurfaced as a menacing enemy therefore it was essentially borne out of ‘fear’ (Sherer, 1998). It is therefore evident that groups of private meditation in settling disputes were preferred to strikes by unions. It was the duty of the third party to intervene and also suggest solutions and way forward (Mathia, Jackson, 2000). Thus, the ferocious strikes by textile workers, longshoremen, truckers, and auto workers in 1934 created the channel of the National Labor Relationships Act of 1935 (NLRA). This body on (NLRA) is the major relations governing body between private sector employers and the Unions. It provides the employees’ rights of bargaining and organizing collectively with employers. (NLRA) is administered by (NLRN), which is created by the federal and is independent. Strikes therefore continued to 1940s following NLRB’s direction. Some of these strikes were very long but peaceful. Therefore, by the 1940s, Communists controlled about 20% of the unions within the CIO (Schrecker, 1999). This proved to be one of the reasons why the working class and the CIO faced the greatest brunt of the Cold War Red Scare.
The Taft Hartley Act of 1947 was the final act of injustice towards the workers under the anticommunism regime. This Act not only took back all the basic rights and freedoms of the workers but also imposed many other restrictions and limitations on them. By this time, it was clear that there were other motives behind the anticommunist movement. The real motivation was to reverse the union gains of late 1930s and early 1940s and the Act did just that and more (Schrecker, 1999).
Taft-Hartley Act signified after war America climate in line with the anti-labor. The act lengthened the supremacy of the government and employers to avert union strikes and organizing, and made it challenging for unions to successfully take industrial action. To be allowed to take part in NLRB, union leaders were required to announce openly that they were non-communist and this was a difficult thing for many unions in the Taft Harley Act. However, the rejection of majority of union members did not stop Leon Sverdlove of New York’s union of Jewelry workers from accepting the act since they had a target of protecting the few union rights that were remaining. Nonetheless, this act did not protect unions and their members as they still suspended due to being accused of communism. Additionally, those who sympathized with them were enforced out of structured labor (Leon Sverdlove on the Taft- Hartley Act). Therefore, all union official to come open again that they did not sympathize nor be part of the communists by signing an affidavit as they were required by Taft Hartley Act. The leaders of the union thus succumbed as NLRB was no longer open for complains. Internal disagreements and rival unions also threatened the future of CIO (Schrecker, 199)
The CIO had to cut off many of its wings that consisted of unions led by Communists. Some of these heads publicly severed all ties with the Communist Party and retained their positions; others quit rather than sign something they did not believe in. The Leaders of the CIO United Farm Equipment and Metal Workers Union (UFEMW) decided with reluctance and repugnance today to observe the non-Communist provisions of the Taft-Hartley Act, and four executive board members quit rather than go along (CIO Union Will Observe Taft-Hartley Act). However, they were always the target of skepticism and employers refused to bargain with them.
So, the NLRB ensured that the right employers who had the responsibility of reaching an agreement by bargaining with relevant unions carried out their task. Moreover, additional legal protection was given to those who took part in strikes. Nevertheless, the strikes number significantly dropped in 1950s since one could easily predict the relationship between employers and unions. 1960s is characterized with a rise in strikes for public employees, that is, transit workers, teachers, nurses, and other workers of the government and the wildcat strike of 197, which involved more than 180, 000postal; workers marked the biggest ever walkout of employees in the history of United States (Moore, 1064).
Recession is attributed for declining number of strikes in 1970s and 1980s because deteriorating union membership, conventional political climate, and economic downtown do not go hand in hand with strikes. Most of the workers who strike in this time were replaced with new members who were not in the unions (Robert, 1988). One of these occurrences is when President Reagan replaced the air traffic controllers who were striking in 1980s. This continued to be the case as labor unions continued being less prestigious. In 1985, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) strike but the unions could not help much as the strikes went on up to ten months. However, things started changing again in the 1990, that is, after two decades as the unions started being successful in their campaign again. Viewing the United Parcel Service strike, their strike against the company using part-time workers instead of paying the existing workers benefits succeeded. This continued to be the trend in 2000 as the unions had matured and some cases they handled were being successful (Leon, 2000).
The final two thirds of the 20th century portray a time of both great advances and terrible pitfalls for the workers and labor unions (Leon, 2000). Where the New Deal provided a window of amazing opportunity for the labor unions, McCarthyism threatened to destroy the very foundations of the institution. President Roosevelt’s vision if recognized would have been a turning point for labor unions and workers (Mathis, 2000). It would have allowed workers throughout the USA an absolution from antagonistic employers and given them the power to fight for their rights. The constituents of the Wagner Act allowed the workers all these rights and opportunities. As a result, the labor unions became powerful and were able to get the employers to agree to their demands. This obviously did not sit well with the employers who were used to having everything go their way.
Hence, the hostile post-World War II environment provided just the right front to cripple the unions and take back all their gains. The anticommunist regime helped the State and the employers to decapitate the unions by uprooting their leaders and influential heads of their union office. Even though most of the CIO union heads were in fact Communists, they were not spies. Most of the communist union leaders held the interests of the union separate from their party work. Many of them even publicly resigned from their positions in the party to show where their allegiance truly lay. The incidents that took place during and after the Cold War are a testament to the fact that the State only had the interests of the employers and business leaders in their minds and paid no heed to the plight of the workers. Even today, labor unions throughout the United States Of America (USA) struggle to have their voice heard.
CIO Union Will Observe Taft-Hartley Act, The Washington Post (1923-1954); Jun 4, 1948; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Washington Post (1877-1996) Pg8
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