Organized Labor and the New Deal

February 16, 1935

Report Outline
Rift in Relations on Administration with Labor
Organized Labor and the National Recovery Act
New Deal Machinery for Settling Labor Disputes
Increasing Unionization and Threat of Strikes

Rift in Relations on Administration with Labor

Labor's Opposition to Renewal of Automobile Code

The open clash of the American Federation of Labor with the Roosevelt administration at the beginning of February, over renewal of the automobile code and continuation of the Automobile Labor Board, served to indicate the existence of a broad rift between organized labor and the New Deal. Dissatisfied with the limited realization of the gains which it had anticipated under the National Industrial Recovery Act and disappointed because it had not been accorded a more prominent place in formulating the labor policies and executing the labor provisions of the recovery program, the A. F. of L. had found itself more and more at odds with the President and his principal advisers on labor matters. Its main fire in the automobile case was directed against S. Clay Williams, chairman of the National Industrial Recovery Board, Leo Wolman, chairman of the Automobile Labor Board, and Donald R. Richberg, executive director of the National Emergency Council, the latter being denounced by John L. Lewis, president of the United Mine Workers of America, as a “traitor to organized labor.”

Following this outburst, the members of the executive council of the A. F. of L. were received on February 11 at the White House, where at least the semblance of cordial relations with the administration was reestablished. President Roosevelt on that occasion declared that “cooperation with labor as well as with business is essential to the continuation of the programs we are working out for a more stable and more satisfactory industrial life in this country.” He praised the principle of collective bargaining, advocated the voluntary organization of both employees and employers, and counseled patience in treatment of the difficulties which had arisen chiefly in the totally unorganized field.

Labor Policies and Impending Revision of N. I. R. A.

Whether or not the renewed amity between the administration and organized labor endures, the flare-up over the automobile code gave a hint of the difficulties which may be expected to attend revision of existing emergency legislation during the present session of Congress. Both the National Industrial Recovery Act and the legislation under which the National Labor Relations Board was established expire by limitation on June 16, 1935. The problems raised by the automobile code will come before Congress in framing new or revised statutes to take their place. In addition, a fight on the floor of the Senate is in prospect over organized labor's demand that employees engaged on the administration's new work-relief projects be paid at prevailing rates of wages rather than at the proposed $50 monthly figure. The whole question of the relations of government and labor under the New Deal is thus due for a thorough airing in the weeks to come. The threat of strikes in several major industries, including the automobile industry, raises the possibility that this task may have to be undertaken in an atmosphere of tension.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
New Deal, Great Depression, and Economic Recovery
Feb. 20, 2009  Public-Works Projects
Jul. 25, 1986  New Deal for the Family
Apr. 04, 1973  Future of Social Programs
Nov. 18, 1944  Postwar Public Works
Apr. 12, 1941  Public Works in the Post-Emergency Period
Mar. 08, 1940  Integration of Utility Systems
Feb. 26, 1938  The Permanent Problem of Relief
Jun. 08, 1937  Experiments in Price Control
Jan. 05, 1937  Credit Policy and Control of Recovery
Nov. 27, 1936  New Deal Aims and the Constitution
Oct. 16, 1936  Father Coughlin vs. the Federal Reserve System
Sep. 25, 1936  Roosevelt Policies in Practice
Feb. 11, 1936  Conditional Grants to the States
Dec. 11, 1935  Capital Goods Industries and Recovery
Sep. 25, 1935  Unemployment Relief Under Roosevelt
Jul. 17, 1935  The R.F.C. Under Hoover and Roosevelt
Jul. 03, 1935  Six Months of the Second New Deal Congress
Jun. 04, 1935  The Supreme Court and the New Deal
Mar. 05, 1935  Public Works and Work Relief
Feb. 16, 1935  Organized Labor and the New Deal
Dec. 04, 1934  Rural Electrification and Power Rates
Oct. 26, 1934  Federal Relief Programs and Policies
Jul. 25, 1934  Distribution of Federal Emergency Expenditures
Jul. 17, 1934  Debt, Credit, and Recovery
May 25, 1934  The New Deal in the Courts
Mar. 27, 1934  Construction and Economic Recovery
Mar. 19, 1934  Price Controls Under N.R.A.
Feb. 15, 1934  Federal Promotion of State Unemployment Insurance
Jan. 10, 1934  Government and Business After the Depression
Jan. 02, 1934  The Adjustment of Municipal Debts
Dec. 12, 1933  The Machine and the Recovery Program
Dec. 05, 1933  Winter Relief, 1933–1934
Nov. 11, 1933  Power Policies of the Roosevelt Administration
Oct. 28, 1933  Buying Power under the Recovery Program
Oct. 19, 1933  Land Settlement for the Unemployed
Sep. 20, 1933  The Capital Market and the Securities Act
Jul. 18, 1933  Public Works and National Recovery
Jul. 01, 1933  The Plan for National Industrial Control
May 03, 1933  Economic Readjustments Essential to Prosperity
Apr. 26, 1933  Government Subsidies to Private Industry
Mar. 25, 1933  Rehabilitation of the Unemployed
Feb. 17, 1933  Federal Cooperation in Unemployment Relief
Nov. 16, 1932  Systems of Unemployment Compensation
Nov. 09, 1932  Policies of the New Administration
Aug. 18, 1932  Emergency Relief Construction and Self-Liquidating Projects
Dec. 28, 1931  Relief of Unemployment
Aug. 01, 1931  National Economic Planning
Jul. 20, 1931  Dividends and Wages in Periods of Depression
Feb. 19, 1931  Insurance Against Unemployment
Jan. 19, 1931  Business Failures and Bankruptcy Administration
Jan. 01, 1931  Federal Subsidies to the States
Dec. 08, 1930  Federal Relief of Economic Distress
Sep. 25, 1930  The Extent of Unemployment
May 16, 1930  Politics and Depressions
Dec. 20, 1929  The Federal Public Works Program
Jun. 08, 1929  The Federal Reserve System and Stock Speculation
Apr. 14, 1928  The Federal Reserve System and Price Stabilization
Feb. 25, 1928  The Federal Reserve System and Brokers' Loans