Labor Workers, Strikes, Organizations and Job Programs


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This is an example of one of the many strikes occuring during the Great Depression. This was the sit-down Woolworth Workers Strike.
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Franlkin D. Roosevelt's New Deal program was aimed at helping the unemployed find jobs. It helped to create new job opportunities for the jobless.

Labor Workers and Strikes


Times were not made easier for any working class citizen. Many people were laid off of their jobs and many more could not find work. Many workers were going on strikes due to poor pay and working conditions. Workers were striking for all types of reasons.

Despair triggered strikes on Labor Day in 1934. On this day 500,000 garment workers launched what would stand as the largest strike in the Nation’s history. Workers went on strike to protest the WPA’s refusal to pay wages equal to those of the private sector. Many more strikes would follow in that year. Critics were attacking the president for not doing enough to help the working men.

A major strike during 1934 was the Waterfront Workers’ Strike on May 9th of that year. It caused all major ports up and down the Pacific Ocean to freeze. They were demanding higher wages and a shorter work day. This strike included the entire maritime shipping on the west coast. During the strike that last two and a half months it made front page the entire time of the port closure. This only added on to the depression. The strike caused losses of $200,000,000. On June 20th police forcibly came to open the ports; however it wasn’t until July 31st that the strike was officially over.
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This is an example of a button that a Waterfront worker would have been wearing during the major strike of 1934.





Organizations and Job Programs


While there were some programs and organizations to help the work force there were not many. Organizations were coming up with ideas and programs to help kick start the economy and work force. The PWA (Public Work Administration) provided people with money to spend on industrial products. In six years they spent $6 billion on things such as; the port in Brownsville, Texas, the Grand Coulee Dam, and a sewer system in Chicago. However this still had yet to significantly reduce unemployment rates. The CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) was perhaps the New Deal’s most famous job program. In 1933, 300,000 men ages 18 through 25 were hired to work in parks and forests around the nation. They received a pay of $30 a month which was sent back from the camps where they lived, to their families back home. By its end in 1942, 2.5 million men had served. However even still it did not make a big enough impact. It also excluded women. They had rigid quotas on blacks wanting to serve, also keeping them segregated at times. The CCC only helped a small amount of men. Another organization, the Civil Work Administration (CWA) established in November of 1933 put 2.6 million men to work in the first month. By two months 4 million men were put to work. It was run by Harry Hopkins. The men built 250,000 miles of road, 40,000 schools, 3,700 play grounds and 150,000 privies. However it came to an end in March of 1934 because the president did not want to run a budget deficit or create a permanent dependent class. This was much of Hoover’s thoughts also. This caused the depression to deepen yet more in 1934. This caused Roosevelt to create more federal jobs for the unemployed.

The Works Progress Administration of 1935 which Harry Hopkins lead, employed 3.5 million “security wage” workers, this meant they were paid twice the level of welfare. It created make shift jobs that were inefficient. Critics would refer to it as the “We Piddle Along” agency. However during the first five years of service they improved 2,500 hospitals, 5,900 schools, 1,000 air port fields and roughly 13,000 play grounds. By 1941 it would have pumped back $11 billion into the economy. This was done by spending the money on cultural programs. This included the arts, which 5% of profit when into. The Farm Security Agency (FSA) employed photographers to take pictures. The WPA created the Federal Writers Project and hired writers to find tall tales. All types of jobs were being created to support men in any way, many jobs of which were unnecessary. However it provided work for writers, artists, actors, creative people and thousands of others. It would lay the groundwork for future federal programs. The WPA spent approximately $2.2 billion (which would amount to $30 billion in today’s economy) a year. They would cost three to four times more than the cost of the private work. A 1939 Gallup Poll asked what people liked best and what they liked worst about Roosevelt’s New Deal, most answered “The WPA, the Works Projects Administration.”
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The WPA helped to provide jobs for many jobless men during the Great Depression.


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("Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC)." United States History. © 1995-2005 Online Highways, LLC. , n.d. Web. 19 Sep 2011. <http://www.u-s-history.com/pages/h1586.html>.)



(Mintz, S., & McNeil, S. (2011). Jobs Programs. Digital History. Retrieved Monday, September 19, 2011 from

http://www.digitalhistory2.uh.edu/disp_textbook.cfm?smtID=2&psid=3443)