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Flashcards in 1915-1941 Deck (10)
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1

Impact of WW1 on trade unions

- WW1 Is incredibly important for the development of the USA
economy

- The US profited in loans and sales to the war in Europe

- Manufacturers boomed due to the need for more steel, textiles
and farming

- Because profits expanded – employers were more willing to be
nicer and facilitating towards workers

- Between 1914 and 1918, factory production increased by 35%

- Workers were generally content – first time that the Federal
Government recognised the unions – guaranteed the right to
join unions and to collective bargain

- Union membership increased during the war from 2.7 million in
1916 to 5 million 1920

- Government saw the need for production to carry on –
negotiated with unions through the National War Labour Board
(NWLB) – WW1 meant they gained recognition from government
– resulted in length of average working day limited to 8 hours,
but compromise with the loss of the right to strike

2

Impact of the 1920s

- The 1920s sees a rise in real wages as a result of WW1 and a drop-in
unemployment

- Therefore, workers do not feel much of a need for unions

- Sees the development of welfare capitalism – policy offers workers
benefits e.g. pensions in exchange for employer-controlled unions –
attempt to reduce industrial unrest

3

Gains during the 1920s

- Americans enjoyed a time of prosperity after the war due to increase
of production – rise in the economy
- Wage levels rose steadily
- Large increase of commercial goods
- High tariffs protected the US
- Upsurge in NATISM – obsessive fear of communism rendered union
leaders and any other kinds of industrial action open to suspicion and
accusation to subversion

4

Impact of the Great Depression

- The improvements in living standards that some workers had made
during the boom years were brought to an end by the Great
Depression

- Employers took a tough action against strikers during this period,
often calling on the police or their own striker breakers

- As a result, union membership fell, as being able to strike severely
undermined the workers’ position and union strength

5

Impact of President Roosevelt

- Roosevelt introduced a wide range of legislation, some of which was
beneficial to the labour movement, to tackle economic problems the
USA faced and get people back to work

- The collapse in world trade that followed the Great Depression
necessitated the introduction of a programme

- New deal legislation transformed the position of workers and
organised labour

- More government legislation not only helped reduce clashes between
employers and employees and thus maintained production, but also
gave the right workers to organise unions and take part in collective
bargaining, allowed closed shops, prevented companies from using
blacklists or company unions, and established minimum wage

- Introduced NIRA, Wagner Act and Fair Labor Standards Act

6

National Industry Recovery Act (NIRA)

- June 1933, Congress passed the NIRA

- This established the National Recovery Administration

- The aim of the NRA was to foster co-operation between the different
sides of industry by developing agreed codes of practice about issues
such as production levels, wage rates, working hours, prices and trade
union rights

- The most significant of these was a law giving workers the right to
organise trade unions and take part in collective bargaining

- However, employers such as Henry Ford refused to sign the NRA
code and those codes that were agreed generally favoured employers
more than employees

- The NIRA also came under the scrutiny of the Supreme Court, which
once again raised the issue of states’ rights over those of the federal
government when it declared the NRA unconstitutional in 1935

7

National Labour Relations Act (Wagner Act)

- 1935
- Most important piece of labour legislation enacted in the United
States in the 20th century

- Established the federal government as the regulator and the ultimate
arbiter of labour relations

- Act prohibited employers from engaging in such unfair labour
practices such as setting up a company union and firing or otherwise
discriminating against workers who organised or joined unions.

- It established the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which could
negotiate on behalf of workers and prevent companies from using
their own union. It also looked into accusations of unfair labour
practices and reached a judgement on issues brought before it

- Workers were given the right to elect their own representatives to
undertake collective bargaining

- Workers were given the right to join unions

- The Act recognised the role of unions, unlike any other legislation,
and this resulted in the rapid expansion of union membership, rising
from 3.7 million by 1933 to 9 million by 1938

8

The Fair Labor Standards Act

- 1939
- Created a $25 minimum wage and payment of time and a half for
hours worked in excess of 40 per week

9

Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO)

- Formed in 1935, was actively committed to organising labour,
regardless or race

- Randolph’s BSCP became affiliated, as did many other black
union organisations

- Above all, the CIO aimed to break down racial barriers to
uniting labour, especially in the mass production industries
that had begun to proliferate during the 1920s

10

Resistance from employers in the 1920s

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