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Unions

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The political cartoon Unions by David Fitzsimmons uses well recognized connotations to depict civil tension that still remains today much like it did during the Great Depression. This cartoon captures how the GOP continues to take more and more from public servants, claiming everyone must sacrifice, yet the rich seem to get richer.  As is reflected with the theme of the John Knott cartoon Nice Kitty, Nice Doggie, this cartoon conveys the same message as the one portrayed almost 80 years ago: socioeconomic tension leads to civil unrest.

 

Though the United States emerged from the Great Depression into an economic upswing (Steindyl 1). The feeling of unease seems to be a cyclical trend that political cartoonists can expound upon no matter the decade. In our current economy, public servants, such as teachers seem to be having more and more of their rights restricted. In 2015 the GOP proposed a cut of 5 billion dollars to America’s educational system (Brown 10). Yet after the GOP decided that educational funding would be cut, they also seemed to find a way to help themselves. For example, recently President Trump released a tax plan that one journalist described as a plan that “would be ridiculously good for rich people” (Carter). This new plan cuts top tier business taxes from 39 to 15%. Furthermore, it proposes an elimination of the alternative minimum tax. This would cut our own presidents federal income tax from 37 to 5 million. (Sahadi 4). The outrage of this disparity is what cartoon illustrator David Fitzsimmons conveys with his witty cartoon.

 

As Knott depicted the right to unionize in Nice Kitty, Nice Doggie published in 1938, Fitzsimmons depiction reflects our countries’ current economic struggles.  While there are many differences between the two, there are also similarities to be found. Though much has changed in our country in the past 80 years, economic uncertainty continues to effect unions and their influence upon government (Kebbi 4). While the labor unions in Knott’s cartoon were fighting for the right to unionize, teachers unions today have used their right to unionize to influence policy and form political action comities.  (Teacher Unions). It appears as though Knots cartoon highlighted the struggles of earning the right to unionize, while Fitzsimons depicts that, even though the right to unionize has been won, unions are still a threat to big government.

 

Comparing Knott’s and Fitzsimmons’ political cartoon demonstrates that the humor has not really changed, however the imagery used to tell the cartoonists’ story has evolved. In today’s society, poking fun at political figures as just as humorous today as it was in the 1930’s. In Knott’s cartoon the image of a housewife used to portray Secretary Perkins is central to the cartoons theme. However, if used today, the depiction of a housewife with an apron would no longer be relevant, verging on offensive. Conversely, using well known imagery to provide connation is just as prevalent today as it was in the 1930’s. Knott uses a cat and dog fight to depict the rising tension, while Fitzsimmons uses a bulbous elephant to depict the GOP. Rather than towering above the public servant the elephant is at eye level, diminishing his power. This growing disdain for republican controlled congress could be a reflection on the proposed voucher system which will gravely effect public school funding (Lauter 2.)

In both cartoons the artists seem to both have to portray an antagonist. In John Knott’s cartoon, he portrays the aggressor “Industry” as the antagonist. However, in Fitz’s cartoon he portrays the antagonist to be the rich man standing in the back. One thing to be noticed is how Fitzsimmons’s draws the clothing of both of these figures. The public servant is in baggy clothes and just a white t shirt, on the opposite end we see the rich man in a very nice tailored tux. This portrayal highlights how these cuts effect both parties even down to the way the dress. This can even be known when looking at an article by Lam that states in a very recent study done that the top 1 percent of Americans still hold 20 percent of the nation’s wealth.

 

 

Fitzsimmon’s political cartoon Unions demonstrates that unrest between the public servants of the middle class and the elites in government are still prevalent in modern society. As John Knott once portrayed with his political cartoons, we can assume that civil unrest will not cease until socioeconomic tension is dispelled.

 

 

References

Dallas Morning News. Nice Kitty, Nice Doggie. 1938. Print.

Fitzsimmons, David. Unions. 2017. Print.

Kebbi, Yann. “The Decline Of Unions And The Rise Of Trump”. NY Times 2016. Web. 26 Apr. 2017.

Kirkpatrick, David. “Teachers Unions”. Encyclopedia of Education 2002: 2475-2482. Print.

Lam, Bourree. “How Much Wealth and Income Does America’s 1 Percent Really Have?” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 12 Mar. 2016. Web. 14 May 2017.

Lauter, David. “Education: Trump Wants More Money For Vouchers, Cuts Elsewhere”. LA Times 2017. Web. 22 Apr. 2017.

Steindl, Frank. “Economic Recovery In The Great Depression”. : 1. Print.

 

 

 

Nice Kitty, Nice Doggie

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Nice Kitty, Nice Doggie is a political cartoon by John Knott depicting the rising tension between labor unions and industries during the Great Depression. Published in the Dallas Morning News in April 1937, this kitchen bout contextualizes the Hershey Pennsylvania Strike of 1937 between peaceful union workers protesting for their right to unionize, while Frances Perkins, the US Secretary of Labor, mitigates between these two parties two with the enactment of Fair Labor Standards Act  (Grossman 1).

In 1937 in the wake of civil unrest and growing unease with the American Economy, the workers at the Pennsylvania Hershey Chocolate Factory began to formulate their plan of strike. Just four months before the strike a note entitled “Chocolate Bar-B” circulated the factory. Signed by the Communist Party of Hershey, it brought attention to poor working conditions and highly encouraged them to unionize (De ‘Antonio 3). Furthermore, after owner Milton Hershey fired many workers without apparent reason, union leaders felt they were being punished for unionizing and decided to have no more. On April 2nd the strike began with the union president’s signal and over 600 workers abruptly stopped there. What they were doing was perfectly legal and they gave no reason for them to be forced out. Several days later Hershey sent a message to the protesters “Evacuate by 12 or face the consequences”. Workers did exactly that however as they began to exit the building disgruntled farmers and antiunion members that were affected by the strike attacked the protestors with clubs, bats, and pitchforks. Twenty-five workers, were severely beaten to the extent they had to be transported to the local hospital (Chocolate Workers 2).

 

John Knott cleverly and comically depicts each entity in this cartoon with specific and deliberate details. For example, the labors right to strike being depicted as a cat. The labors well thought out strike was almost cat like in the sense that they just sat their peacefully. With constant food coming to the protestors it gave them no reason to move from their place. They were able to just dwell in their spots.

 

Also Knott depicts the aggressor the Industries right to operate as a dog. He brilliantly draws the dog with its teeth shown and claws out, pointy like the pitchforks they used to beat the protestors. Furthermore, unlike the cat with open eyes Knott draws the dog with x’s where his eye would belong. This could symbolize the dying industry of unorganized labor and the rebirth of unionized labor unions.

 

Lastly and what I believe most canny was John Knotts depiction of Frances Perkins. With a masters from Columbia and an extensive public service resume Frances Perkins was more than qualified to fill her position as Secretary of Labor. Frances Perkins was the first woman to ever be appointed to the United States Cabinet; she represented a milestone in American history (Frances Perkins 1). Still, John Knott uses a patronizing and misogynist tone when depicting her. John Knots bias is explicitly shown as he reduces her to the stereotype that women are expected to fit at the time; a housewife who is confined to the walls of her kitchen. Trying to get the pests underfoot to simmer down.

John Knotts Nice Kitty, Nice Doggy makes light of the tension between labor unions and industries during the Great Depression.  It uses the imagery of a cat and dog fight to reveal the growing tension between industry and labor unions. Furthermore, it uses obvious undertones to make fun of Secretary Frances Perkins. The political cartoon serves to comment on how this outbreak at the Pennsylvania Chocolate Factory is a significant event for the unionizing movement during the Great Depression.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

“Chocolate Workers’ Sit-down Strike Historical Marker.” ExplorePAHistory.com. N.p., 2011. Web. 23 Apr. 2017.

D’Antonio, Michael. Hershey: Milton S. Hershey’s extraordinary life of wealth, empire, and utopian dreams. New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2007. Print.

Biography.com editors. “Frances Perkins.” Biography.com. A&E Networks Television, 07 Apr. 2016. Web. 25 Apr. 2017.

Grossman, Jonnathon. “Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938: Maximum Struggle for a Minimum Wage.” United States Department of Labor. N.p., 09 Dec. 2015. Web. 25 Apr. 2017.