′S Essay, Research Paper
The modern American Labor Movement grew from an economic depression into a surging organization that has seen extensive corruption.
In 1932, Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected President of an economy that was in shambles. During his Presidency, he enacted several new programs that were part of his “New Deal”. One of the programs that were passed was the National Recovery Administration. In this program, Section 7a specifically placed on the statute books the rights of unions to exist and negotiate with employers. Although powerless, Section 7a was seen as permission by the government to join a union.
The NRA was soon declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, and with it, went Section 7a. However, in 1936, Senator Robert Wagner led the force that pushed Congree to enact the National Labor Relations Act a.k.a. the Wagner Act. The Wagner Act went beyond Section 7a in establishing a legal basis for unions, providing for secret ballot elections, and it protected union members from emplyer intimidation and coercion. The membership in unions during the early New Deal year showed a potential for unions in other important mass production industries like steel, automobile, rubber, textile and others. Heads of many of the industrial unions in the AFL called for increased spending in organizing campaigns in the nonunion industries. In 1935, Lewis, the head of the Mine Workers Union, announced the creation of the CIO – the Commitee for Industrial Organization. The CIO was created to carry on the effort to unionize the different industries. Lewis, an extremely effective orator, voiced increasingly bitter attacks against members of the AFL. In 1936, various CIO unions were expelled from the AFL. According to AFL President Green, they had ignored procedures and had broken the rules of the AFL. Lewis said that the CIO was expelled from the AFL because they favored industrial unionism. The growth in both of the organization’s powers’, along with Roosevelt’s domestic program, led to teh creation of a number of national social programs. These included social security, unemployment workers compensation, and a federal minimum wage-per-hour law.
After many years of disagreements, in 1955, the AFL and the CIO united at a convention in New York and became the AFL-CIO.
The 1960’s spawned the rapid growth of unions of government emplyees; federal, state, and local. This led to such developments as an Executive order by President Kennedy in 1962, emphasizing the rights of federal employees to join unions and negotiate on many issues. The Civil Rights Act of 1964, strongly supported by the AFL-CIO, was a significant forward step toward equal rights for blacks and other minorities, at the workplace and in the community. Civil Rights was always a major goal for teh AFL and CIO from the start. This breakthrough law paved the way for many other laws such as the Age Discrimination Act.
The unions weren’t perfect themselves. Corruption has scarred them over the years. The most famous of the corrupted union members was Jimmy Hoffa. The son of an Indiana coal driller who died when Hoffa was seven, Jimmy Hoffa moved with his family to Detroit in 1924. He left school at 14, worked as a stockboy and warehouseman for several years, and began his union-organizing activities in the 1930s. Initially the business agent a union office in Detroit, by 1940, Hoffa had become chairman of the Central States Drivers Council and by 1942 president of the Michigan Conference of Teamsters. In 1952 he was elected an international vice president of the Teamsters and five years later succeeded Dave Beck as international president. Known throughout the trucking industry as a shrewd and tough bargainer, Hoffa successfully centralized administration and bargaining in the international office of the union and played an imortant role in creating the first national freight-hauling agreement. Jimmy Hoffa helped make the Teamsters the largest labor union in the United States.
Known to have long associated with underworld figures, Hoffa nevertheless survived a series of governmental prosecutions, until 1967, when he entered the federal prison in Lewisburg, Penn., to begin a 13-year sentence for jury tampering, fraud, and conspiracy. Hoffa refused to resign as president of the Teamsters while in prison and kept his position until 1971. President Nixon commuted Hoffa’s sentence in December 1971, under the condition that Hoffa could not engage in any union activity until 1980. Hoffa, however, fought the restriction in court and was widely believed to have secretly continued his efforts to reestablish a union position. On July 30, 1975, he disappeared from a suburban restaurant near Detroit under circumstances that have never been fully determined. He was said to have had an appointment at the restaurant with Anthony Provenzano, a New Jersey Teamster official and former Mafia figure, and Anthony Giacalone, a Detroit mobster; both later denied having seen Hoffa, who was never seen again. He was legally declared “presumed dead” in 1982.