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6.05 A New Deal for Workers

A voter registration drive by District 65, a union of retail, warehouse, clerical, professional and light manufacturing workers in New York City. The union was a strong supporter o fthe civil rights movement and of the political mobilization of workers. (August 1964)

Labor would see some of its greatest gains during the Depression, when unions and workers became prime members of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal Coalition. Spurred on by passage of the National Labor Relations (or Wagner) Act in 1935, millions of workers organized into unions in America's great industries. Unions would use this strength to marshal their financial resources and members' activism to elect candidates sympathetic to labor interests, such as Minnesota Senator and later Vice-President Hubert Humphrey and Herbert Lehman, governor and later senator of New York.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt campaigns for the votes of West Virginia coal miners.

Union endorsements became very powerful - President Harry Truman's unexpected victory in 1948 was achieved with strong backing from the labor movement. Unions used this political power to advance legislation including the creation of Social Security, unemployment insurance, the minimum wage, Medicare, and mandatory disability insurance. A number of unions, such as the United Auto Workers, played a prominent role in the fight for civil and voting rights in the 1960s.

Labor played a critical role in the election of President Bill Clinton and committed unprecedented resources to the 2004 presidential election. While labor's influence has waned as the percentage of workers organized into unions declined in the late 20th century, the labor movement still plays an important role in the political landscape.

American Labor Party poster in support of Congressman Vito Marcantonio's 1949 bid for mayor of New York City. The A.L.P. was founded by labor unions in New York State in 1936 to support Roosevelt's re-election.


A. Phillip Randolph (left), president of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Posters, Eleanor Roosevelt (center), and New York City Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia (right) at a Madison Square Garden civil rights rally in 1946.






























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