Tag Archives: Labor Unions

Daily Dose of Government

A man in the labor union  is protesting while a woman is trying to reach President Roosevelt on the phone.
A man in the labor union is protesting  via sit-down strike while a woman is trying to reach President Roosevelt on the phone.

 

John Knott depicts the United States crisis regarding labor unions and striking in a cartoon titled “Chronic Disease” for the Dallas Morning News published on March 23, 1937.  The image shows a man sitting hunched over with his hands on either side of his face.  He appears very burly and very defeated. He has the word “labor” printed across his shirt sleeve. Behind him is a woman wearing an apron. She is on the telephone and has the word “public” printed on her apron. She is speaking into the telephone.  Her quotation bubble reads, “Is this Dr. Roosevelt?” The cartoon demonstrates the disparity between government action and the labor unions.

 

In the United States history, the Great Depression is regarded as one of the worst economic crisis the country had ever seen. The Great Depression spanned from 1929 with the stock market crash until about 1939. Within these ten years,1937-1938 featured a massive spike of unemployment rates and a decline of industrial production rates (Auerbach, “The General Motors Strike”). These declines were greatly related to the labor unions and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (Rosswurm, “Congress of Industrial Organizations”).

 

The Congress for Industrial Organization (CIO) was formed in November 1935 (Rosswurm, “Congress of Industrial Organizations”) due to an utter need. Companies were overworking and underpaying their employees. (Terrell). Workers congregated into unions and began to fight for a better work environment and more benefits. John L. Lewis along with many others formed the CIO to “organiz[e] framework for [workers’] mobilization and unionization” (Rosswurm, “Congress of Industrial Organizations”). The organization campaigned against employers with strikes and picket lines.

 

One of the most notable movements that the organization pursued was the sit-down strike movement. A sit-down strike is when workers spontaneously and simultaneously stop working and sit down. The first recorded sit-down strike was in November of 1935 (Smith, “The sit-down strikes”). Because of the strike, the workers involved received what they asked for from their management: higher wages. Other workers noting the success began to partake in the sit-down strike movement. (Smith, “The sit-down strikes”). By the end of 1937, over half a million workers were involved in sit-down strikes. In 1936 and 1937 over 1000 strikes were recorded (Smith, “The sit-down strikes”). These massive strikes stretched for hours at a time and caused loss of production in completely unprecedented ways (Jones, “Labor and politics”). This began to affect the United States as a whole. Trade levels were decreasing and the country was faced with a lot more than simple unemployment.

 

As a result, President Roosevelt knew that he could not simply allow for the country to self-destruct. He began to implement laws to ban these sit-down strikes and hopefully cause the country to get back on its feet. President Roosevelt received enormous support from the public (Jones, “Labor and politics”). According to author Thomas Jones’ extensive research, the public saw the strikers as “‘housebreakers’ and elected officials [as] ‘policemen’ who ‘should protect [their] rights’”(Jones. “Labor and politics”).

 

This is very clearly demonstrated in John Knott’s cartoon. The labor unions (represented by the man) are upset because sit-down strikes are forbidden and the general public (represented by the woman) are pleased because government officials are taking action against the labor unions. The woman is speaking into a telephone and is asking if “Doctor Roosevelt” is there. The public is very pleased with Roosevelt’s actions and  thus they call him doctor. This title is highly respected and alludes to the fact that doctors prescribe medicine. The allusion is made that Roosevelt is prescribing laws and policies to these “sick and insane” strikers.

 

The general public’s true feelings are displayed even further in an editorial published in the Dallas Morning News in conjunction with Knott’s cartoon. The editorial titled “General Strike Threat” gives a specific example of a sit down strike that took place in Detroit. The author comments on this strike as “the spread of [an]…epidemic” (“General Strike Threat”). Not only that, the author notes that the continuation of sit down strikes will certainly lead to a “condition of anarchy” (“General Strike Threat”) in the United States. The author further addresses the ‘epidemic’ by writing about foreign countries’ approaches to striking (“General Strike Threat”). These examples of foreign countries are used to exemplify the perceived excellence in President Roosevelt’s action towards the United States sit down strikes.

 

John Knott analyzes two sides in his cartoon. He looks at how the labor unions felt towards the sit-down strikes and showcases that with the slumped over union worker and looks at how the general public feels and showcases that with the woman calling ‘Doctor Roosevelt.’

 

 

Auerbach, Jerold S. “Sit-Down: The General Motors Strike of 1936–1937. By Fine Sidney. Ann Arbor, The University of Michigan Press, 1969. Pp. Ix 448. $12.50.” Business History Review, vol. 44, no. 2, 1970, pp. 259–260., doi:10.2307/3112371

Rosswurm, Steve. “Congress of Industrial Organizations.” Encyclopedia.Chicagohistory. 2005, http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/326.html

“General Strike Threat.” Dallas Morning News. 23 Mar., 1937, http://infoweb.newsbank.com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/iw-search/we/HistArchive/?p_product=EANX&p_theme=ahnp&p_nbid=R5CW51LFMTUxMTMyNzczNi45NjUwMDk6MToxMjoxMjguODMuNjMuMjA&p_docref=image%2Fv2:0F99DDB671832188@EANX-10425AEFA0793BDD@2428616-10425AF05B18162F@17-10425AF4CA9CAABC

Greene, Julia, and Julie Greene. “International Labor and Working-Class History.” International Labor and Working-Class History, no. 48, 1995, pp. 206–209. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/27672271.

Jones, T. L. (1999). Labor and politics: The Detroit municipal election of 1937 (Order No. 9929854). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (304516286). Retrieved from http://ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/304516286?accountid=7118

Smith, Sharon. “The sit-down strikes.” Socialistworker. 10 June, 2011, https://socialistworker.org/2011/06/10/the-sit-down-strikes

 

 

 

Raise the McMinimum

After raising the minimum wage, fast food prices rise and many workers are laid off.
After raising the minimum wage,  some workers are satisfied whereas consumers are not after the effects of the raise cause prices to go up and other workers to lose their jobs.

 

Cartoonist A.F. Branco published a cartoon titled “Minimum Wage Rage” for the Liberty Alliance organization in 2013 that depicts a man ordering a meal at a fast food restaurant. He is complaining about the high price of a hamburger meal to the cashier. The cashier notes that although the price is high, at least he, the cashier, is making fifteen dollars per hour. There is another worker in the background upset that he was just laid off from his job.

This cartoon is about the protests that began in 2013 in the United States regarding the minimum wage. The United States minimum wage was set at $7.25 in 2009. Americans have found that this hourly wage, which many are forced to live off, is insufficient. Minimum wage workers work on average 40 hours a week (“What are the Annual Earnings”). This pay translates to $290 a week (based off of the federal minimum wage) not including taxes. With roughly 4 weeks in each month, the average worker makes a little more than $1,000 a month. This is where problems arise. The average rent in the United States is about $1,200 a month (Glink, “Top 10 Cheapest Cities”).  The average worker cannot afford this based on their pay. This is rent alone. Then the cost of food and travel expenses must be accounted for. As a result of this, workers are protesting to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 an hour.

As of 2013, the poverty rate in the United States was approximately 14.5 percent (DeNavas-Walt and Bernadette, “Income and Poverty”). In 2016, the United States poverty rate featured a decline to 12.5 percent (Semega, Fontenot, and Kollar, “United States: 2016). However, despite this obvious decline, living conditions worsen and inflation causes prices to rise for the United States in 2017.  Many working class citizens survive off of government issued food discounts and healthcare. The citizens that find themselves in poverty cannot find a way out with current wages (Chiarito, “Hundreds Protest Over Minimum Wage”). Minimum wage workers cannot keep up and demand for wage increases. Labor unions have taken it upon themselves to protest major corporations in hopes that one might listen. In May of 2017, hundreds of fast food workers marched outside the headquarters of fast food giant McDonald’s Corp (Chiarito, “Hundreds Protest Over Minimum Wage”). This protest is just one of many and the labor unions across the United States are not going to stop.

 

Protests against major corporations have been occurring for decades. In 1937-1938, situations for workers were similar back then to how they are now in the United States from 2013-2017.  In 1937, workers were underpaid and congregated into unions to fight for a better work environment as well as benefits. John Knott, a political cartoonist, in 1937 produced several cartoons depicting the struggles workers had to face. He drew one cartoon in particular titled “Chronic Disease” that is similar to A.F. Branco’s cartoon “Minimum Wage Rage.”

John Knott depicts the United States crisis regarding labor unions and striking in a cartoon titled “Chronic Disease” for the Dallas Morning News published on March 23, 1937.  The image shows a man sitting hunched over with his hands on either side of his face.  He appears very burly and very defeated. He has the word “labor” printed across his shirt sleeve. Behind him is a woman wearing an apron. She is on the telephone and has the word “public” printed on her apron. She is speaking into the telephone.  Her quotation bubble reads, “Is this Dr. Roosevelt?” The cartoon demonstrates the disparity between government action and the labor unions in that the President Roosevelt banned sit down striking and the labor unions were highly upset.

The cartoon depicting the fast food workers connects very easily to John Knott’s cartoon. Both demonstrate the effects of the government action on the working class. In Knott’s cartoon, the government restricts the working class by banning sit down strikes and in Branco’s cartoon the government restricts the working class by having a low minimum wage.

A.F. Branco’s cartoon depicts the struggle minimum wage workers and labor unions have had against the government in attempting to raise the minimum wage in the 2013-2017 era.

Works Cited

Chiarito, Bob. “Hundreds protest over minimum wage at McDonald’s stockholder meeting.” Reuters, 24 May, 2017, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-wages-protest/hundreds-protest-over-minimum-wage-at-mcdonalds-stockholder-meeting-idUSKBN18K2EB

DeNavas-Walt, Carmen and Proctor D. Bernadette. “Income and Poverty in the United States in the United States: 2013.” Census,16 Sept. 2014, https://www.census.gov/library/publications/2014/demo/p60-249.html

Glink, Ilyce. “Top 10 cheapest U.S. cities to rent an apartment.” Cbsnews. 20 July. 2013, https://www.cbsnews.com/media/top-10-cheapest-us-cities-to-rent-an-apartment/.

Semega, Jessica L, Fontenot, Kayla R., and Melissa A. Kollar. “Income and Poverty in the United States: 2016.” Census, 12 Sept. 2017,

https://www.census.gov/library/publications/2017/demo/p60-259.html

“What are the annual earnings for a full-time minimum wage worker?” ucdavis, 30 Aug. 2016, https://poverty.ucdavis.edu/faq/what-are-annual-earnings-full-time-minimum-wage-worker.

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

Hatching Another One for the Ax?

FDR shields a New NRA egg, as the Supreme Court awaits for its inevitable denial.
FDR shields a New NRA plan in the form of an egg, as an old man representing the Supreme Court awaits with a ready ax for its inevitable demise.

“Hatching Another One for the Ax?” is a political cartoon published on March 4th, 1937 by John Knott, that exemplifies the unconstitutionality conflict between the contents of the National Recovery Administration(NRA) and the Supreme Court.  FDR hoped that the new NRA would revitalize the business industry, which was badly damaged by the severity of the Great Depression.  The Great Depression was historically considered one of the greatest economic disasters the United States has ever sustained, so understandably, its ripple effects are still in effect. Its magnitude was so noticeable, that it made sense for legislation to be introduced as quickly as possible.  It was desirable for legislation to be introduced because the U.S had never encountered such widespread economic disaster in its history.  As part of then president FDR’s first 99 days, he implemented the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA) on June 16, 1933 (history.com).  He also established the National Recovery Administration (NRA) to enforce it. Unemployment rate was one contributing factor to the NRA’s creation, but others included minimum wages, shorter hours, the ability to join labor unions, better working conditions and greater regulation for competition between businesses.  The unemployment rate was up to nearly 25% by the time the NIRA was introduced, and by 1933 the economy had produced half as much money as it did only 4 years back ($57 million to $105 million)(history.com).

 Within John Knott’s political cartoon, Knott portrayed FDR, the Supreme Court(represented as an old man), and a chicken with a “New NRA” egg under it.  FDR appears to be attempting to hide the egg from the Supreme Court in the background, but based on the title of the cartoon, it appears inevitable that Supreme Court will terminate the New NRA as soon as they see it.  As expressed in the editorial, Haste Made Waste, the NRA attempted to basically do too much to o fast because of the urgency of the situation, but FDR would still not be given a pass when attempting to produce a new NRA.

The editorial touched on one of the main issues with the introduction of the NRA, which was the debate in the readiness of all the industries for its policies.  Roosevelt wanted to do what the steel industry had already done, with regulation over wage and hours.  The value of the NRA came into place with its regulation over a more widespread level of industries, thus impacting the economy in a more immediate and in depth fashion.  But again, the editorial discussed how difficult it was to put something like that in place, given the failure of the first NRA.  That previous failure, combined with the need for economic reinvigoration were the two butting heads in FDR attempting to pass a second NRA(along with the desire for it to be constitutional this time around).

When it first came into existence, the NRA was based on industrial codes that could change the formatting of how business was done.  One overarching example of this was the attempt to completely eliminate any chance of monopolies, or one company dominating an entire industry.  The NRA preached fair trade and fair competition between business, and went to the lengths of code implementation to reach their goal.  What perhaps was underestimated by FDR before he went ahead and installed this code system all across varying industries, was the fact that the regulation aspect of the NRA became exceedingly difficult to accomplish(Buchholz).  Bigger name industrialists didn’t like the regulations of the codes that forced minimum wages and shortened hours, so the leadership of the NRA was tested.  Companies began to alter codes in their favor, and essentially continued the path of unfair competition that the NRA had hoped to stop in the first place.  General Hugh Johnson was the man set in charge of overseeing the NRA, but his lack of awareness clearly forced the NRA downhill.  This sequence of events led to the legality conflict that is alluded to in the cartoon (Knott), with the Supreme Court being the only real opposing force in FDR getting away with the “New NRA.”

A couple of points were made by the Supreme Court to invalidate the NRA, but one of the major points revolved around the new law making power of FDR.  When the NIRA and NRA began, the codes that FDR basically forced on businesses came across as a power that should only be distributed to members of Congress(Buchholz).  That alone, violated a major cornerstone of the U.S. government, in the individual branches knowing their responsibilities and not crossing boundaries.  The other point of emphasis by the Supreme Court was Congress’ freedom that they gave to FDR in order to put his codes in place. FDR was essentially given lawmaking powers, which should only ever be in the hands of the legislative branch . Also, Congress had become too involved in interstate commerce, when in reality the states know best on how to regulate their pricing, wages and hours (brittanica.com).

The NRA was eliminated May 27th, 1935, but parts of its legislation continued in the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) of 1935 and Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, which stood for the better parts of what the NRA represented, in labor unions, fair pricing, wages and hours.  Prior to any regulation, businesses weren’t forced in any way to have an hour limit for their workers, or a set wage.  Also, without any labor unions, workers couldn’t establish any control over any of those wage and hour issues they dealt with.  Even with these acts created to rectify an economy in bad condition, the long-term effect of something like the Fair Labor Standards Act can be for the worse in modern times(sites.gsu.edu).  The reason for this, is because the FLSA was, in short, an act put into place to install a minimum wage and bring more equality to workers through actions such as overtime compensation standards (brittanica.com). Minimum wage is seen as a beneficiary in allowing a certain amount of income to be received by those who are working jobs.  However, the ability for the minimum wage to be included in society, paved way for issues to arise in labor unions, like the common desire to raise minimum wages.  For example, smaller businesses of today will be forced to close down if the minimum wage is raised from a number like maybe $10 to $15.  That amount could be too much money for those individual small businesses to pay their employees, thus initiating a vicious cycle of firing workers and not being able to produce to a high enough level will ensue, hurting the economy.  This adjustment is one of the problems associated with how the NRA has left its legacy, but a balance in how workers are treated and how businesses can simultaneously be sustained is still a major goal for future economic growth.

Works Cited:

History.com Staff. “The Great Depression.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 2009, www.history.com/topics/great-depression.

Buchholz, Rogene A. “National Industrial Recovery Act.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 7 Feb. 2014, www.britannica.com/topic/National-Industrial-Recovery-Act.

The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. “National Recovery Administration (NRA).”Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 14 Feb. 2017, www.britannica.com/topic/National-Recovery-Administration.

“National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA).” Powered by Sites@Gsu – Blogs for Georgia State University, sites.gsu.edu/us-constipedia/national-industry-recovery-act-nira/.

Knott, John. “Hatching Another One for the Ax.” The Dallas Morning News, 4 March 1937.

 

Strikes Against Walmart Lead to Legal Action

 

Discrepancy in status of Walmart heirs and Walmart employees leads to strikes against Walmart. (Bagely)

This cartoon by Pat Bagely was published on November 19, 2013 and refers to the poor treatment of Walmart workers, as well as shows support for those who went on strike due to these conditions. On of the most famous strikes occured on November 29, 2013 by workers at Walmart because it is notoriously anti-union, doesn’t provide healthcare to about half of their workers, and does not adequately pay their workers (Weissman). Sixteen people were fired from their jobs at Walmart for striking, but an administrative judge ruled that the workers be allowed back and compensated for their time (Malcom). Walmart has cited the laws created which rule strikes illegal in the National Labor Relation Act in order to justify its actions and is still fighting a legal battle to this day (Malcom).

In this cartoon, there are two juxtaposing sides. One, labelled “Walmart Heirs”, depicts a clearly affluent woman named Christy auctioning off a painting of a can of soup. In order to understand this image, one must first know who “Christy” is.  Christy Walton is the widow of John T. Walton, one of sons of Sam Walton (the founder of Walmart)  (“Christy Walton”).  As of today, she is currently one of the wealthiest women in the world (“Christy Walton”).  What further establishes the idea of providence on this side of the cartoon is the specific painting being referenced. The cartoonist is alluding to the painting by the famous artist Andy Warhol (his name can be seen scrawled under the image of the can of soup) titled Campbell’s Soup Cans. This painting last sold for 11.7 million dollars (Heinrich). Clearly, the cartoonist is attempting to represent the amount of wealth linked to the Walmart brand.

The other side of the cartoon, labelled Walmart employees, stands in stark contrast to the left side of the cartoon. It depicts a disheveled woman in a break room picking through a bin labelled “food donation for hungry fellow workers”. In her hand is a can of what looks to be Campbell’s soup. This is clearly a commentary on the inadequate pay for Walmart workers, because it is suggesting that they can barely afford a can of soup. Additionally, the security camera conveys the idea that the workers are constantly under surveillance and have little room for error despite inadequate pay and awful working conditions. The humor in this cartoon is clearly derived from the wealth discrepancy between the two sides of the cartoon. While on one hand, the Walmart heirs are capable of possessing a painting of a can of soup worth 11.7 million dollars, Walmart employees are barely able to afford an actual can of soup, which are worth approximately 2 dollars. Because this cartoon was published in the midst of the Walmart strikes, it is an expression of the opinion that workers went on strike for good reason, and deserve to have their needs met.

While it is easy to understand the cartoon at a surface level by ascertaining that Walmart heirs are rich and Walmart employees are poor, it is beneficial to know how these conditions came to be and why they were eventually met with such discontent. One aspect which contributed to these feelings is Walmart’s continuous anti-union sentiment. For many years, Wal-Mart has taken a fiercely antagonistic stance towards organized labor, keeping its stores union free by using every ounce of leverage Congress has given employers — so much so that, in 2007, Human Rights Watch called the company “‘a case study in what is wrong with U.S. labor laws.” (Weissman).  Walmart kept its workers in constant fear of joining unions, and was not afraid to take extreme actions in order to keep it that way. One example of this is when a group of Texas butchers voted to unionize in 2000, the company responded to the only successful U.S. union drive in its history by switching to selling pre-packaged meat company wide (Weissman). No more butchers.

As a result of this anti-union sentiment, Walmart has managed to keep pay and working conditions less than ideal. The median retail worker for a large chain earns $14.42 an hour, but independent analysis pegs the figure much lower for Walmart, closer to $9 (Hiltzik). This is not a living wage. Across the country, many employees of Walmart were living at or below the poverty line. In 2009, Ohio officials disclosed that more than 15,200 Wal-Mart employees in the state were receiving Medicaid, and 12,700 were on food stamps (Hiltzik). In 2013, a company executive disclosed that more than 475,000 of its employees earned more than $25,000 a year (Hiltzik). Unfortunately, this means that half of a million people were earning wages which put them below the poverty line.

In response to their treatment by Walmart, employees gathered together to form OUR Walmart, an employee advocacy group focused on pressuring Walmart to improve pay and working conditions (Eidelson). When workers went on strike on November 29, 2013, sixteen employees were eventually fired due to their participation in the strike (Malcom). Upon investigation, it was found that Walmart’s actions against striking employees was a direct violation of labor laws (Malcom). This reveals a direct correlation to the cartoon “Not a Good Place to Sit” by John Knott. In both cases, an issue was brought to the National Labor Relations Board due to strikes caused by inadequate pay and bad working conditions. Because of the legislation set up in the era of the John Knott cartoon in response to the General Motors strikes, it was ruled that Walmart was not legally allowed to fire employees simply because they were striking (Malcom). Had the employees been subject to the laws presented by Texas Senator Dies in the 1930’s, they would have been fired without dispute. Because the laws have changed since then, strikers are protected in the way of employment and felony charges. However, Walmart is still trying to find loopholes in the National Labor Relations Act in order to justify their actions (Malcom).  As a result, the legal battle between Walmart and its employees continues to this day.

In Conclusion, this cartoon is a show of support for those workers who went on strike and continue to fight Walmart in court. It points out the clear disparity between the owners and the employees of Walmart, and alludes to much deeper issues. Finally, it provides a direct correlation between the labor laws established in the late 1930’s and those which we have today, and how they aid or harm workers when they go face to face with an extremely powerful company such as General Motors or Walmart. One day, we may see the fault in actions taken against workers which have time and time again resulted in discontent and copious amounts of legal work. This shows that issues we had more than half a century ago are still unresolved and need to be seriously reconsidered if we are to look towards a more desirable future for our nation’s workers.

 

Bagely, Pat. “Walmart Welfare Queens.” Cagle Post. Cagle, 19 Nov.
2013. Web. 12 Jan. 2017.

“Christy Walton.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 2 Jan. 2017. Web. 14 Jan. 2017.

Heinrich, Will. “$71 Million Can’t Be Wrong! ‘Andy Warhol Colored Campbell’s Soup Cans’ at L&M Arts.” Observer. Observer, 01 June 2011. Web. 2 Feb. 2017.

Hiltzik, Michael. “Wal-Mart’s Raise Underscores the Poor Condition of Most Low-wage Workers.” Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 19 Feb. 2015. Web. 23 Dec. 2016.

Eidelson, Josh September. “Walmart Workers Plan ‘Widespread, Massive Strikes and Protests’ for Black Friday 2013.” The Nation. The Nation, 29 June 2015. Web. 9 Jan. 2017.

Malcolm, Hadley. “Judge Rules Walmart Unlawfully Fired Workers on Strike.” USA Today. Gannett Satellite Information Network, 22 Jan. 2016. Web. 16 Dec. 2016.

Weissmann, Jordan. “Who’s Really to Blame for the Wal-Mart Strikes? The American Consumer.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 22 Nov. 2012. Web. 16 Feb. 2017.

 

Not a Good Place to Sit

 

“Not a Good Place to Sit” (Knott)

The cartoon Not A Good Place to Sit by John Knott refers to the Sit-Down Strike Law proposed by Texas Democrat Senator Martin Dies and its continuation within Texas, which made it a felony for workers to perform sit-down strikes. Sit-down strikes are a form of civil disobedience in which an organized group of workers, usually employed at factories or other centralized locations, take possession of the workplace by “sitting down” at their stations. (Encyclopedia Britannica) These strikes occurred throughout America in the 1930’s as a result of unsafe labor conditions and inadequate pay. (Encyclopedia Britannica) The cartoon is a supplement to an editorial published in the Dallas Morning News titled Texas vs. Illegal Strikes published on April 7, 1937.

The cartoon itself is visually simple. It depicts a prickly pear cactus with the words “sit-down strike law” written on it. The cactus is growing out of the center of Texas. The humor in this cartoon can be found through the use of the cactus because if can be interpreted in two ways. At the most basic level and without knowledge of the sit-down strike law, it is obvious that Texas, a place with an abundance of cacti, is not a comfortable place to sit. Additionally, because the cactus is specifically a prickly pear, the name adds to the idea that Texas is inhospitable and prickly. It also strengthens the link to Texas because the prickly pear cactus has a long association with Texas and other southern states, and was even named the official state plant of Texas in 1995. (Cain) On a deeper level, it is clear that the cartoon is referring to the sit-down strikes and legislation taken against them at the time in the state of Texas. It is specifically referring to Texas because Texas legislation took the national sit-down strike law one step further. This made it, quite literally, more dangerous to “sit” in Texas than in other places in the United States.

Sit-down strikes were met with such intense opposition due to their ability to render huge businesses entirely helpless. They effectively prevented their employers from moving production to other locations because the strikers would need to be physically moved in order to continue production (Encyclopedia Britannica). Furthermore, this form of protest prevented their ability to bring in “strike breakers” (Encyclopedia Britannica). These were people brought into the company to replace the workers on strike alleviated pressure on the companies being protested against (Encyclopedia Britannica). Because sit-down strikes made it impossible for companies to get back on their feet without adhering to the strikers’ wishes, they were extremely controversial throughout the United States.

The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) were the first American union to use the sit-down strike (White). On December 10, 1906, at the General Electric Works in Schenectady, New York, 3,000 workers sat down on the job and stopped production to protest the dismissal of three fellow IWW members (Authors of History.com). A decade later, the United Auto Workers staged successful sit-down strikes in the 1930s, most famously in the Flint Sit-Down Strike of 1936-1937 (Authors of History.com).  GM argued that the strikers were trespassing and got a court order demanding their evacuation; still, the union men stayed put (Authors of History.com). GM turned off the heat in the buildings, but the strikers wrapped themselves in coats and blankets and hunkered down (Authors of History.com). On January 11, police tried to cut off the strikers’ food supply; in the resulting riot, known as the “Battle of the Running Bulls,” 16 workers and 11 policemen were injured and the United Automobile Workers (UAW) took over the adjacent Fisher Two plant (Authors of History.com). On February 1, the UAW won control of the enormous Chevrolet No. 4 engine factory. GM’s output went from a robust 50,000 cars in December to just 125 in February. Despite GM’s enormous political power, Michigan Governor Frank Murphy refused to use force to break the strike.
Though the sit-ins were illegal, he believed, he also believed that authorizing the National Guard to break the strike would be an enormous mistake. “If I send those soldiers right in on the men,” he said, “there’d be no telling how many would be killed.” (Authors of History.com) As a result, he declared, “The state authorities will not take sides. They are here only to protect the public peace.” (Authors of History.com). Meanwhile, President Roosevelt urged GM to recognize the union so that the plants could reopen (Authors of History.com).  In mid-February, the automaker signed an agreement with the UAW (White).  Among other things, the workers were given a 5 percent raise and permission to speak in the lunchroom. A wave of sit-down strikes followed, but diminished by the end of the decade (White). This was due to legislation proposed by Texas senator Dies, which led to the courts and the National Labor Relations Board holding that sit-down strikes were illegal and sit-down strikers could be fired (“Texas vs. Illegal Strikes”).

The editorial Texas vs. Illegal Strikes focuses on the legislation passed specifically in Texas in order to take the sit-down strike law a step further (White). The national anti-sit-down strike law had already been passed, but the Governor of Texas, James Allred, wanted to make sit-down striking a felony (White). This was a generally agreed-upon stance in Texas, so when the Welmert bill to make sit down strikes a felony was proposed, it was immediately and unanimously accepted by the Texas Senate (White).

Although this legislation was widely supported by Texans, it caused others to become fearful of being charged as felons for past actions. One of the most prominent dissenters of this legislation was John L. Lewis,  the driving force behind the founding of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), which established the United Steel Workers of America and helped organize millions of other industrial workers in the 1930s (White). At the time, Lewis was attempting to organize the vast Texas Oil Industry and was worried that his unionizing activities would be stopped if he were to be charged for organizing any sort of sit-down strike.

The growth of the CIO was phenomenal in steel, rubber, meat, autos, glass and electrical equipment industries (White). In early 1937, Lewis’ CIO affiliates won collective-bargaining contracts with two of the most powerful anti-union corporations, General Motors and United States Steel (White). General Motors surrendered as a result of the great Flint Sit-Down Strike, during which Lewis negotiated with company executives, Governor Frank Murphy of Michigan, and President Roosevelt (White). U.S. Steel conceded without a strike as Lewis secretly negotiated an agreement with Myron Taylor, chairman of U.S. Steel (White). The CIO gained enormous strength and prestige from the victories in automobiles and steel and escalated its organizing drives, now targeting industries that the American Federation of Labor (AFL) have long claimed, especially meatpacking, textiles, and electrical products (White).

Harvey C. Fremming, a colleague of Lewis in Texas, demanded that Governor Allred look into Lewis’s activities and exonerate the CIO organizers completely (“Allred and Peery Against Sit-Downs”).  This was based on the grounds that the CIO had only fostered sit-down strikes in states other than Texas, and should therefore still be allowed to operate within Texas (“Allred and Peery Against Sit-Downs”). Lewis was never charged with as a felon, but the  entire CIO group was expelled from the AFL in November 1938 and became the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), with Lewis as the first president (“Allred and Peery Against Sit-Downs”).

In conclusion, this cartoon is a commentary on the sit-down strike law and the turmoil it caused in Texas. It shows how the Texas government caused sit-down strikes to become almost non-existent due to legislation passed which made such strikes felonies. It clearly shows that this legislation made it exceedingly dangerous to attempt to perform a sit-down strike. In all its simplicity, the cartoon fully conveys the prickly climate of Texas at the time and all the turmoil that would come out of a group of workers simply wanting to be paid a decent wage. Though this seems ridiculous, echoes of this time are still heard today and these issues continue to fester in the broken labor force of America.

Works Cited:

“ALLRED AND PEERY AGAINST SIT-DOWNS.” New York Times (1923-Current file): 40. Apr 04 1937. ProQuest. Web. 22 Feb. 2017 .

The Authors of History.com. “Sit-down Strike Begins in Flint.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, 2010. Web. 16 Feb. 2017.

Cain, Delman. “Prickly Pear Cactus, Our State Plant.” Native Plant Society of Texas. Native Plant Society of Texas, 03 Aug. 2015. Web. 2 Jan. 2017.

The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. “Strike.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 17 Sept. 2010. Web. 20 Dec. 2016.

Knott, John. “Not a Good Place to Sit.” Dallas Morning News [Dallas] 7 Apr. 1937: 6.America’s Historical Newspapers. Web. 2 Dec. 2016.

“Texas vs. Illegal Strikes.” Editorial. Dallas Morning News 7 Apr. 1937: 6. America’s Historical Newspapers. Web. 2 Dec. 2016.

White, Ahmed A. “The Depression Era Sit-Down Strikes and the Limits of Liberal Labor Law.” Seton Hall Law Review 40.1 (2010): 1-82.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.