The Second New Deal

(adapted from Challenge of Freedom, Glencoe: 1990)


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:

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 Second, many business leaders had withdrawn their support from the President.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 spending.

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 part-time jobs.

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.

Think about it...Who was the Republican candidate in the election of 1936?