What explains why the AFL rather than the Knights of Labor or the Wobblies were the dominant force in American labor prior to the 1930s? Today, just 12% of workers are unionized, and the level is substantially lower in the private sector. drought/dust bowl. The toll increased during the initial years of the Depression. Labor Unions were an important part of the labor movement in the 1920s. March was the record month, with about fifteen and a half million unemployed. The percentage of workers belonging to a union (or “density”) in the United States peaked in 1954 at almost 35% and the total number of union members peaked in 1979 at an estimated 21.0 million. A half century ago, American unions were a force to be reckoned with. Such difficulties included homelessness, dispossession, serial unemployment, discrimination, violence and even persecution. It gave the employee a voice. At the WPA’s peak, only about one in four persons actually gained employment. Interestingly, two of the three are not about farm workers: instead, they focus on the people who interpreted the California farm labor story of the 1930s. In 1936, most major groups of the unemployed merged, and a national poor people’s alliance was formed that agitated and protested to get legislation implemented. Of the 14.7 million wage and salary workers who were part of a union in 2018, 28% were Black and 25% were women. Labor gained much during the Depression, in part from FDR finally giving his backing to the development and existing unions, in return for campaign donations. The National Industrial Recovery Act (1933) provided for collective bargaining. During the 1930s, the Communist Party played a leading role in fighting for the demands of African Americans — who were devastated by the Great Depression — and helped mobilize them for their struggle. Joint rallies comprised progressive trade unions, communist activists and alliances of communities. This topic is important because it affected the way workers are treated. But in recent decades, union membership has plummeted. They held mass meetings and focused on a dual approach of community and trade union unity. In many places, CP activists organized squads to turn utility services back on. Beginning in 1929, Communist Party activists formed “Unemployed Councils” (renamed “Unemployment Councils” in 1934). A Civilian Conservation Corps, designed to stimulate the economy, provided jobs as well. Philip M. Dine, State of the Unions: How Labor Can Strengthen the Middle Class, Improve Our Economy, and Regain Political Influence (2007) Dine, who brings a clear pro-union agenda to his work, uses vivid contemporary examples to provide an overview of the labor movement and suggest ways for unions to regain influence. While the Great Depression skyrocketed the unemployment rate, it helped create pro labor laws that strengthened the union force. The cannery workers were initially organized under an AFL charter, but when the CIO formed in 1937 the Filipino-led union joined, at first affiliating with the United Cannery, Agricultural, Packers and Allied Workers of America (UCAPAWA), later becoming Local 37 of the International Longshoremen’s and Warehousemen’s Union (ILWU). The economic collapse also impacted those with low-wage jobs. Communist Party-led trade union organizations fought against the white chauvinistic policy of the American Federation of Labor, which excluded Black workers, and demanded a united labor movement based on equal rights for all workers. Demonstrations soon became more massive and well organized; they gained momentum and grew in size and frequency. During the 1930s, the Communist Party played a leading role in fighting for the demands of African Americans — who were devastated by the Great Depression — and helped mobilize them for their struggle. Thousands of them joined the CP. Members of the Black working class subsequently became leaders of the Black liberation movement. * Las… (quoted in Loftis, p191) Three recent books make important contributions to our understanding of farm labor issues in the 1930s. The reason for that is primarily the employers’ war against workers, using tactics both legal and illegal to bust unions and to deny workers their basic human right to join and form a … Protest movements emerged that pitted the rulers against those who were ruled — those whom the system had failed. The mid-19th century saw an ever-increasing number of new industrial unions created to fight for workers' rights. The ___ was the most important appliance in the American home in the 1930s. Protests in local communities originated in sporadic street demonstrations, rent rebellions and the disruption of relief centers. The Wagner Act, in particular, legally protected the right of unions to organize. Tens of thousands of people rallied in 1837, 1857, 1873, 1884 and 1893 to demand a public jobs program from the federal government. In the U.S. of the 1930s, the color "red" was most commonly identified with the foreign threat of the Communist Party, which presumably wished to destroy all governments and democracy. Entire families contributed to the production of goods (see History of Childhood). Unemployment was prevalent in the streets during the 1930s. American labor unions benefited greatly from the New Deal policies of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the 1930s. The Bureau of Labor Statistics later estimated that 12,830,000 persons were out of work in 1933, about one-fourth of a civilian labor force of over fifty-one million. The tremendous gains labor unions experienced in the 1930s resulted, in part, from the pro-union stance of the Roosevelt administration and from legislation enacted by Congress during the early New Deal. The jobless rebelled against the inequalities produced by capitalism, an institution of rising profits for the wealthy ruling class. The working class emerged during the 19th century in English Canada as a result of the spread of industrial capitalism in British North America. Conferences of unions and fraternal organizations were called in a number of states to plan further campaigns for the Workers’ Bill. The growing differentiation between rich and poor in the countryside, the expansion of resource industries (see Resource Use), the construction of canals and r… However, as many as one-third of migrant workers in 1930 and the subsequent decade were white-collar workers and professionals who had lost their jobs due to the Great Depression and moved west to seek a better life. Articles copyright 1995-2012 Workers World. In 1946, 35% of American workers were represented by unions. The NLRB could force employers to provide back … The Great Depression was a trying time for United States citizens in the 1930s. The 1930s produced the largest movement of the unemployed and poor that the country had ever known. The AFL, which was comprised mainly of skilled workers’ unions (many of them segregated), did not see itself as the representative for all American workers. Under the 1935 Social Security Act, the federal government paid a share of state and local public assistance costs. Many of the migrant workers had owned their own small farms in the Plains states and hoped to save enough money to start their own farms in California. As a result, the government took the stance that less had to be done for them. Unless unions rethink how they represent workers they will remain irrelevant to 21st-century employees. Unions formed a backbone element of the New Deal Coalition and of Modern liberalism in the United States. 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