The Second New Deal
(adapted from Challenge of Freedom, Glencoe:
Overview Beginning in 1935, President Roosevelt backed a number of new reform laws. These laws became known as the Second New Deal. Some of these laws brought long-lasting changes to the United States. The Second New Deal also encouraged the growth of labor unions.
Objectives After reading this section, you should be able to:
identify the main reason for President Roosevelt to change the direction of the New Deal;
discuss the purpose of the Social Security Act;
explain the changes in American labor unions during the 1930's.
Changing the New Deal.
In 1935, President Roosevelt shifted the
direction of the New Deal. There were three main reasons for this change. First,
the United States was still in the midst of the Great Depression. The New Deal
had not yet achieved its goals. Second, many business leaders had withdrawn
their support from the President. They said that the New Deal would destroy the
American business system. In many cases, they were openly critical of the New
Deal. President Roosevelt was surprised and bothered by these remarks. Many of
his New Deal programs had been aimed at helping business. President Roosevelt
thus decided in 1935 that he could no longer count on the backing of business
leaders. He would look elsewhere for future support.
The third reason for change was that
the American public was making more demands on the government. Having suffered
through nearly five years of the depression, large numbers of Americans began to
think that the government should be doing more to help the average citizen.
Congress and the President began to move in this direction with a number of new
laws in 1935. This has become known as the Second New Deal. The laws of the
Second New Deal emphasized reform. They also called for greater government
Think about it...Which group of Americans no Longer supported President Roosevelt in 1935?
The Works Progress
Administration. One of the main programs
of the Second New Deal was the Works Progress Administration (WPA).
The WPA was a huge work-relief program. Between 1935 and 1938, the WPA put over
3 million Americans to work. The WPA undertook a large number of public
building projects. It also included projects for jobless artists, writers,
musicians, and actors. The work produced by these WPA workers brought some
excellent entertainment, literature, and artwork to the public.
One branch of the WPA was aimed at
helping the millions of young Americans who could not find jobs. This office
was called the National Youth Administration (NYA).
It served both men and women between the ages of 16 and 25. The NYA made it
possible for thousands of young people to stay in school by offering them
The WPA helped millions of
Americans. Yet, it was not a permanent solution to the problems of,
unemployment. It was clear that a large number of persons would remain without
jobs even when prosperity returned. The Second New Deal addressed this matter by
passing the Social Security Act.
Think about it...What was the purpose of the National Youth Administration?
Social Security. The Social Security Act of 1935 was one of the most far-reaching laws of the New Deal. With this law, the government took over new responsibilities for the wellbeing of citizens. One of the goals of the law was to protect workers against poverty during unemployment and after retirement.
The Social Security Act set up a
government-run system of old-age insurance. The program put a payroll tax on
workers and on their employers. This money was put into a fund that would be
used to give pensions - retirement incomes - to these workers after they
reached the age of 65. Disabled workers could also draw money from this fund. In
addition, this program provided for incomes to be paid to the families of
workers who died. The social security system continues today.
Think about it...What was the purpose of the Social Security Act?
Encouraging Unions. Workers
had been promised the right to form unions under the National Recovery Act of
1933. However, this law was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in
May 1935. Thus, unions lost the protection of the law. After this court
decision, President Roosevelt decided to back a law that had been put forth
earlier by Senator Robert Wagner of New York.
The Wagner Act-also called the
National Labor Relations Act-became law in July 1935. This law gave protection
to the organized labor movement. It did this by guarding the right of workers
to form unions. The act outlawed certain antiunion practices.
The National Labor Relations Board
(NLRB) was set up to oversee the act. One of its duties was to give workers a
fair chance to decide which union, if any, would represent them. To do this, the
NLRB would hold elections in which workers voted by secret ballot.
The Wagner Act gave organized labor
the backing of the federal government. Many business owners, however, did not
like the new law. Some business leaders believed that the Supreme Court would
declare that the Wagner Act was unconstitutional.
Think about it...What was one duty given to the National Labor Relations Board?
Union Growth and Change.
America's labor unions drew many new members
after the Wagner Act was passed. Workers in several large industries -such as
steel and automobile making - wanted to join a union. However, the craft union
did not suit the many unskilled workers in these factories.
Craft unions were made up of workers
who shared the same skill, such as carpenters or bakers. During the 1930's many
labor leaders backed a different kind of union-the industrial union. These
unions were formed by joining all workers in an industry. Both skilled and
unskilled workers could become members.
One labor leader who favored the
formation of industrial unions was John L. Lewis. Lewis was the leader of the
United Mine Workers. In 1935, he wanted the American Federation of Labor (AFL)
to take a stronger stand in favor of the new unions. The AFL was based on craft
unions. When the AFL refused to move toward industrial unions, John L. Lewis
founded the Congress of Industrial Organizations. The CIO's goal was to
organize all the workers in the country's largest businesses. Among the targets
were the steel, automobile, tire, and rubber industries.
Think about it...What is an industrial union?
The Sit-Down Strike.
In its fight for recognition, the ClO developed a new
weapon-the sit-down strike. In a sit-down strike, workers stopped working but
stayed at their posts. This prevented the factory owners from hiring
strikebreakers to take the place of striking workers.
The first large sit-down strike was
staged by union members at the General Motors automobile factory in Flint,
Michigan. The strike began on December 28, 1936. It lasted six weeks. The strike
forced the company to accept the union as the employees' representative.
The Wagner Act came under attack
soon after it was passed. But, in April 1937 the Supreme Court upheld the Wagner
Act. Thus, the court agreed that the government could protect the rights of
workers to join unions. With this protection, the AFL and the ClO both began
drives to get more members.
By forming industrial unions, the
ClO brought the benefits of organization to many American workers who had been
left out of craft unions. Black workers in coal mining, in the textile industry,
and in the steel industry joined ClO unions. The CIO took a part in the fight
for equal rights for blacks.
Think about it...What was a sit-down strike?
The Election of 1936.
The Republican party needed a strong candidate to run
against Roosevelt in the election of 1936. Governor Alfred M. Landon of Kansas
was the party's choice. Landon had a good record in state government. In the
campaign, Landon and Roosevelt called for similar programs. Landon, however,
claimed that he would also balance the government's budget.
The outcome of the election showed
that President Roosevelt had built a wide base of support. President Roosevelt
received the electoral votes of all but two states. In his victory, President
Roosevelt received an overwhelming number of votes from workers, farmers, the
jobless, and the elderly.