Workers in the New Deal

  • Created by: EllaBowe
  • Created on: 23-02-21 19:21

Workers in the New Deal


  • (June 16, 1933) Congress passed the National Industry Recovery Act (NIRA) which established the National Recovery Administration (NRA)
  • Aim was to foster co-operation between the different sides of industry by developing agreed codes of practice about production levels, wage rates, working hours, prices and trade union rights
  • By 1934, 557 codes had been agreed by joining companies, coverung 23 million workers
  • The Wagner Act of 1935 gave workers the right to elect their own  representatives to take part in collective bargaining and the right to join unions
  • A minimum weekly wage was established by the Fair Labour Standards Act of 1938
  • A National Labour Relations Board was established, which had the power to bargain on behalf of workers
  • Industries that had resisted unions changed their position e.g. General Motors recognised the United Automobile Workers' Union in 1936 and US Steel recognised the Steel Workers Organising Committee in 1937
  • Recognition of union encouraged growth in union membership, which rose from 3.7 million in 1933 to 9 million in 1938
  • The nature of unions also changed with the establishment of the Committee of Industrial Organisations (CIO) in 1937. This organisation encouraged whole-industry unions and encouraged ethnic groups to join unions


  • The BSCP leadership was divided on what a strike could accomplish
  • The BSCP defeated the company union in the election held by the NMB and was certified on June 1st 1935
  • Total collapse of the economy during the Depression led to factory closures and bankruptcy for a large number of businesses. Unemployment was 3% in 1929 but increased to 25% in 1933
  • African Americans badly affected as unemployment was double that of white Americans
  • Voluntary relief organisations were unable to cope with huge tide of destitution
  • By 1933, only 10% of the workforce was unionised because although workers had the right to join unions they didn't have the right to take strike action
  • Henry Ford didn't recognise the NIRA or the Wagner Act
  • The NIRA was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1935
  • Some employers, taking advantage of the available workforce, intimidated workers, used violence against workers and took action to break strikes
  • Unskilled workers, particularly those in agriculture or domestic work and at the lower end of the pay range, did not benefit from the improvements
  • Women did not make gains in pay, as pay differentials were upheld by the NIRA and the Fair Labour Standards Act
  • Welfare reforms were not always successful in helping the position of those on lower pay because of conflicts between state and federal rights


The changes meant that by the end of the 1930s there had been some improvement in the position of workers, but the extension of rights to all workers had not been achieved by the start of WW2. The continued use of violent strikes by workers was surprising during a period where job security was limited and many were happy simply to be in work.


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