Tag Archives: Collective Bargaining

The Little Steel Strike of 1937 Forges Lasting Progression for the Working-Class.

 

Steel Workers and their employers come to fair resolution following the violent and widespread strikes of 1936-1937
Steel Workers and their employers come to a fair resolution following the violent and widespread “Little Steel Strikes” of 1936-1937.

 

The Star of Bethlehem and the Wise men by John Knott depicts a seemingly “peaceful” resolute to the Little Steel Strike of 1937, which was a violent eruption of outrage from decades of tensions between the unionized, to the de-unionized, to the then again re-unionized steel industry. These eruptions particularly dealt with steel firms in the late 1930s dubbed as “Little Steel,” because they were smaller than the U.S. Steel Corporation. The cartoon depicts the worker now holding the more modern and civil idea of a “40-hour week, pay increase and collective bargaining,” in his own hand, this is an important commentary that is developed through the use of a commonly recognized biblical symbol, the star of bethlehem. Knott portrays his viewpoint of Bethlehem Steel’s resolution of the Little Steel Strike of 1937, particularly by utilizing the idea of ‘wise men’ that is personified as the men seen in this cartoon labeled ‘Employer’ and ‘Worker,’ and of peace, as seen through the genial nature of the two men’s handshake and expression.

Beginning in the 1870s the steel industry began to take shape, and nearly immediately The Amalgamated Association of Iron, Steel and Tin Workers, the first national union to include steelworkers, formed in 1876 (Rees 544). However the main issue with the union was that it remained exclusively powerful only in the iron industry. The Amalgamated Association lost major power in the steelmaking industry during the Homestead Lockout of 1892. Carnegie Steel, the largest firm in the world at that time, began to sabotage competition by starting conflicts and strikes to better compete with rival union companies. This eventually lead one of the most famous incidents in American labor history, the gun battle between Pinkerton guards and strikers in 1892 (Rees 544). With much unrest and the union’s inability to salve the violent conflicts, The Amalgamated Association dissipated by 1901. By 1909, U.S. Steel and other major firms were practically union free, allowing for vulnerable and unprotected steelworkers at the mercy of greedy, industrialist steel firms at the turn of the century. John L. Lewis, an American Congressman, formed the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) to get the American Federation of Labor to accompany and protect steelworkers and others who were not protected by a Union. In 1936, Lewis appointed Philip Murray, United Mine Workers vice president, as the head of the SWOC. This institution became a vital lifeline for those who worked in the steel industry, especially since U.S. Steel recognized the SWOC without retaliation in 1937 (Rees 546). However, “Little Steel” firms did not recognize the union’s demands, thus strikes arose against these individual corporations, and their deadly and violent tendencies defined this uneasy period until the coercive power of congress and FDR were able to amend the issues. By the end of World War II, almost every steelworker in America was represented by SWOC’s successor, The United Steelworkers of America, drawing an end to nearly half a century of violent uproars against the oppressive and powerful steel corporations.

Bethlehem Steel, a “Little Steel corporation,” was a major steel firm that dominated the American Economy from the early to mid 20th century. Bethlehem Steel purchased and restructured the Lackawanna Steel Company in 1922, doubling its production capacity and becoming the second-largest steel corporation in the United States. Still to this day it is difficult to name a famous building that wasn’t constructed by Bethlehem Steel. In New York City, many iconic buildings and structures can be named such as the Woolworth building, the Chrysler building, the Lincoln Tunnel, and Madison Square Garden. In San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge is a major icon that was birthed by Bethlehem steel. And in Washington, D.C., the Supreme Court building is another recognizable example (Ferrara 42). Bethlehem steel, as powerful as it was however, vigorously fought back against the SWOC until late february of 1937, when war-time demands and pressure from the National Labor Relations board forced the steel firm to cave to the ultimatums of their steelworkers. Prompting the cartoon displayed above.

John Knott, was a Dallas Morning News cartoonist from 1905 to the mid 1950s (Perez 1). He played an important role as commentator and humorist on major national and Texas specific issues during his career. The Little Steel Strike of 1937 was one of those major issues. As seen above, the most prominent and most easily understood images are the large star in the sky, the words “peace,” two men titled “employer” and “worker,” and a large steel mill in the background titled “Bethlehem Steel.” There are obvious biblical allusions, such as the “Star of Bethlehem,” which is largely applicable because of the parallel between the name of the corporation and the birthplace of Jesus and to the cartoon’s audiences’ national sense of religious morality that was widely apart of American Society in the early 20th century. The cartoon also serves as Knott’s viewpoint on the peacefulness and of the new beginnings that were brewed from the deal that Bethlehem steel struck up with their workers. Another reason Knott probably chose to use biblical allusions for capturing this situation is because in the 1930s, large steel firms seemed to have this god-like power over the livelihood of their employees, which justifies the idea of violent uproars by the steelworkers against the bearers of their fate. Knott also utilizes the idea of “wise-men,” as mentioned in the title, to editorially praise the men involved and claim their resolution as not only common sense but wise. The Little Steel Strike, was horribly violent, making this image a juxtaposition against the understood chaos that these events entailed, which is important to understanding how revolutionary this resolution between employer and worker truly is.

Overall, through the ebb and flow of the relationship between the employer and worker in the steel industry in the early 20th century, and through deadly trials and tribulations, there is still a hopeful image of resolution that beckons a sense of new beginnings, peacefulness, and common sense that is depicted by John F. Knott.

 

Works Cited:

“Bethlehem Steel Corporation.” Corporate Disasters: What Went Wrong and Why, edited by Miranda H. Ferrara and Michele P. LaMeau, Gale, 2012, pp. 42-44. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CCX4020500019&it=r&asid=89be82520b2ea4e993b8c33628615967. Accessed 28 Sept. 2017

Canedo, Eduardo F. “Little Steel Strike.” Encyclopedia of the Great Depression, edited by Robert S. McElvaine, vol. 2, Macmillan Reference USA, 2004, pp. 584-585. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CCX3404500332&it=r&asid=8b076c129bf09ed7dd11d8f66aa8a344. Accessed 28 Sept. 2017.

Stark, Louis. “Organizers Rally: ‘Encircling Movement.’” The New York Times, 04 Mar. 1937, pp. 1, ProQuest Historical Newspapers. http://ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/102301231?accountid=7118.

Ben, Adler. “Labor Unions and Lawmakers in California Agree on Minimum Wage Increase.” All Things Considered (NPR), 28 Mar. 2016. EBSCOhost. ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nfh&AN=6XN201603282119&site=ehost-live.

Rees, Jonathan. “Steel Strikes.” Dictionary of American History, edited by Stanley I. Kutler, 3rd ed., vol. 7, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2003, pp. 544-546. http://go.galegroup.com/ps/retrieve.do?tabID=T003&resultListType=RESULT_LIST&searchResultsType=SingleTab&searchType=AdvancedSearchForm&currentPosition=3&docId=GALE%7CCX3401804038&docType=Topic+overview&sort=RELEVANCE&contentSegment=&prodId=GVRL&contentSet=GALE%7CCX3401804038&searchId=R1&userGroupName=txshracd2598&inPS=true

THE RAILROAD INDUSTRY HAS A LABOR POLICY

The railroad industry has a labor policy                                                                                  Labor in America has shaped the industrial industry to create jobs for every American but it is our right, granted to us by ourselves, to strike for the means of a better life. The Railroad Industry has been been very prominent throughout history as it has been the most influential in linking the United States together. In this cartoon “The Railroad Industry has a Labor Policy” depicts a man, which says “Public” on his wiast, talking to Abraham Lincoln saying “Why not try it in other Industries”. He is pointing to three man sitting around a table and each of them are labeled differently. From left to right these words are branded with each of these men respectively: Collective Bargaining, Voluntary Arbitration, and Mediation Board. The men which have the names “Collective Bargaining” and “Voluntary Arbitration” disputing a big paper named “Settling labor disputes”. The man directly to the right named “Mediation Board” is watching them look at this paper throughtly. There is one final phrase above these men around the table indicting “No serious strike in over ten years in the R.R Industry”. As these men are around the table something to note is that there is a frame around them and that last quote foreshadowing what needs to take place in society.

As Abraham Lincoln was not alive in 1937 there would be no way for him to solve labor disputes that where apperent. Abraham Lincoln was also a friend/lawyer setting the foundation to the Transcontental Railroad. He was sadely not alive when this was built but as the “Public” wants to ask him for advice for how to deal with anything railroad affilated it could not happen. His knowledge will be most useful in helping any labor disputes between unions and the major companies behind these people.

 

By Jane Seaberry Washington Post,Staff Writer. “Legal Dispute Arbitration Service Opens.” The             Washington Post (1974-Current file): 2. Oct 25 1980. ProQuest.Web. 30 Nov. 2016 .

“Collective Bargaining.” Gale Encyclopedia of American Law. Ed. Donna Batten. 3rd ed. Vol. 2. Detroit: Gale, 2010. 516-521. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.

“Collective Bargaining.” The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Management. Ed. Susan Cartwright. 2nd ed. Vol. 5: Human Resource Management. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2005. 61-62. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.

Knott, John. “The Railroad Industry has a Labor Policy” Dallas Morning News  9 Apr. 1937. Print.

Shmoop Editorial Team. “Abraham Lincoln in Transcontinental Railroad.” Shmoop. Shmoop University, Inc., 11 Nov. 2008. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.

 

Come Down and Be Organized

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At first glance we see a worker sitting a top a tower in what looks to be an oil field.  He is eating a sandwich and he looks pretty happy and content with his current situation.  At the bottom of the picture we have a more powerful man that looks as if he is angry with the worker.  The powerful man could be possibly yelling at the worker.  When we read the text given in the picture we see “East Texas Oil Fields” posted on the tower.  So we know that our location of this cartoon is most likely in East Texas.  Right next to the sandwich in the worker’s left hand says, “Liberal Wage” which could possibly mean that the workers are only getting paid enough to eat.  There is a bucket of food sitting next to the worker on the tower and the text next to that says, “Harmonious relationship with employers.”  As we look at the man at the bottom he is holding a paper that says “John L. Lewis” at the bottom and “C.I.O.” on the top.  We can assume that this man is in fact John L. Lewis.  The cartoonist John Knot does a wonderful job in this piece by simplifying what is going on and still creating a brilliant cartoon.

Let’s start with who John L. Lewis is.  John L. Lewis was considered to be one of the most powerful men in the U.S. during his time.  He was described as something of a maverick because he made sure that the CIO ignored sex, color, and race when it came to employing workers.  This persuaded women, immigrants, and blacks to join his new organization.  The CIO stands for the Committee for Industrial Organization.  This is an organization that helped changed our country in a great way.  This was somewhat a start to equality though at the time, equality was far for from being true.

The article that goes along with cartoon comes from The Dallas Morning News on April 4th, 1937.  The article entitled “Oil and the C.I.O.” states that it is the beginning of John L. Lewis’s committee’s plan to unionize a great East Texas oil field.  The writer expresses the worry of East Texas and Dallas workers that unionization or any attempt to unionize might prolong ongoing labor problems in the oil industry.  In the past, attempt to unionize has failed.  East Texas is a section of the C.I.O.’s plan to bring together 1,000,000 workers in its efforts to produce, transport, refining, and distributing petroleum.  The C.I.O. looks to be a good organization in creating jobs for East Texas residents.  There was no attempt made to match John L. Lewis’s competition by other companies.  The consequence, working with a field that has not been touched or worked on, and having inexperienced workers in the work force from the East Texas area.  The writer expresses his opinion on the possible hazard that workers would neglect and be late on signing up and paying their union dues.  The article in all shows that there are mixed feeling on whether East Texas oil fields should follow the path of unionization. In the grand scheme of things, John L. Lewis is attempting to make things more organized in East Texas.

As we can see from the article and the cartoon itself,  John L. Lewis has an agenda.  The cartoon is funny because it shows that John L. Lewis is growing impatient while East Texas workers just go about there day as if there is no need to be rushed or organized.  The cartoon’s depiction of John L. Lewis represents the C.I.O., John L. Lewis and his determination to execute the plans on his agenda.  The depiction of the man atop the tower in the field represents the East Texas community.  The community is not making it exactly easy for the C.I.O. to go about their plans.  When I look solely at the cartoon, I see a simple, uneducated looking man sitting atop an oil rig getting yelled at by an angry, powerful man.  It is just a funny site to see because it looks like a father yelling at his innocent child to get out of a tree.

The cartoon is entitled “Come Down and Be Organized.”  This is basically saying  that John L. Lewis wants East Texas to change and become unionized.  The C.I.O. believes that unionization is organization in a sense.  A big part of Lewis’s plan was to helping non-skilled workers through collective bargaining.  Some of these non-skilled workers were the people of East Texas.


Work Cited:

“The CIO and the Triumph of Unionization.” American Decades. Ed. Judith S. Baughman, et al. Vol. 4: 1930-1939. Detroit: Gale, 2001. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 1 Dec. 2014.

“The Cio, 1936–1938.” Social History of the United States. Ed. Daniel J. Walkowitz and Daniel E. Bender. Vol. 4: The 1930s. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2009. 196-216. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 1 Dec. 2014.

“Oil and The C. I. O.” Dallas Morning News 4 Apr. 1937. NewsBank/Readex, Database: America’s Historical Newspapers. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <http://infoweb.newsbank.com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/iw-search/we/HistArchive/HistArchive?d_viewref=doc&p_docnum=-1&p_nbid=S53J5EFRMTQxNzQ3MTk1MS42NjgyMTQ6MToxMjoxMjguODMuNjMuMjA&f_docref=v2:0F99DDB671832188@EANX-10425511E33C878E@2428628-10425511EEFC6D5F@0&toc=true&p_docref=v2:0F99DDB671832188@EANX-10425511E33C878E@2428628-104255127303FD76@21-10425517179ED9FB>.