Rise of Industrial Unionism

Topics: Trade union, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Industrial unionism Pages: 5 (1710 words) Published: April 24, 2006

In 1935 the citizens of the U.S. were still struggling to put together loss of due effects of the depression, leaving people to questioning the ideas of the American dream. Where what was once the land of hope and optimism became the land of despair. The American people were questioning all the maxims on which they had based their lives - democracy, capitalism, individualism. The economy during the depression had been significantly damaged, thus in 1935 and through out the 1930's economics dominated political discussion and policy. Commissions were set up to regulate Wall Street, the banking industry and other business enterprises. The U.S. became a nation of high expectation of government, in terms of control, insurance and welfare. Although more than any thing the citizens of the U.S. wanted change, change from what had brought them so much misery not to many years ago.

John L. Lewis, labor leader in the AFL in the 1935, sensed this need for change, in a new form of unionism, industrial unionism. Just over 10 years earlier unionism had suffered its biggest defeat, with the success of government and employer "union-busting". The AFL was static in its approach to organize labor, not following labor need and taking risk, focusing purely on organizing skilled workers. Yet a man would fight against this direction and start his own direction, this man was John L. Lewis. Lewis, who was a labor leader in the 1935, sensed this need for change, in a new form of unionism, industrial unionism. He felt organizing mass production workers was the new form of unionism, yet the president of the AFL, William Green felt otherwise. However Lewis' conviction with his vision and attitude would not allow any impediment in accomplishing his goal. Therefore in October 1935, during the annual AFL convention Lewis realized the perfect time for change, and speaking to a confidant declaring "a union drive in the basic industries in the past would have resulted in complete failure. But now the time is ripe; and now the time to do things is here. Let us do them." John L. Lewis noticed a variety of factors which made him conclude in the fall of 1935 that the time was "ripe", these factor were the changing climates in the U.S. economically, politically, legally and socially.

The U.S. economy in the 1935's was in recovery from the ‘Great Depression' of 1929. Many people lost everything and were in the process of rebuilding, this included blue-collar workers, to investors, to large and small employers. Conversely the American people were optimistic and in the 1935 people were even more optimistic, because the economy was consistently improving and getting further out of depression each day. So in John Lewis' perspective, when assessing the fall of 1935 as the "ripe" time for industrial unionism, companies can't afford to fight too hard or long with workers. Companies are striving and focusing all there efforts in improving fiscal position after the depression, thus labor disruption will be more costly then the actual concessions. Lewis knew that he would have more negotiation leverage if the companies were extremely scared of any labor disruption. Principally the industry that primarily benefits from the economical improvements was the manufacturing sector, such as large companies like U.S. steel which hasn't made a profit for years. John Lewis was looking to unionize the workers in the manufacturing sector, making the companies optimism and reliance on profit making his means to threaten the companies to listen and make concessions in order to organize workers and increase the conditions for workers.

After the depression any the economy was the focus of the U.S. people and they were not going to have any interference with the economies development and growth. Unions were perceived as an economical interference and if allowed to progress they would impede on the American economic frame work of capitalism....
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