Vairma: What happened to FDR’s legacy?

During the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a wealthy and socially prominent New York political leader, the Democratic Party became the ally of the working class. The unlikely bond between the blueblood president and a blue collar work force lasted from 1933 until Roosevelt’s death during his fourth term in office in 1945.

It began with the establishment of the Civilian Conservation Corps as part of FDR’s New Deal, a series of economic proposals designed to pull the United States out of the Great Depression. The CCC put three million young, unemployed men to work in public works programs throughout the country.

Two years later in 1935 FDR signed the Wagner Act, which allowed workers to organize into labor unions, giving them unprecedented workplace rights. The Wagner Act later became the National Labor Relations Act, and has been weakened somewhat over the years by anti-worker amendments.

Roosevelt believed in labor’s philosophy:

“No business which depends for existence on paying less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country. By living wages I mean more than a bare subsistence level- — I mean the wages of decent living,”” he said.

“If I went to work in a factory, the first thing I’d do would be to join a union,” is another quote from FDR.

Vice President Harry S. Truman became president when Roosevelt died in 1945, shortly before the end of World War II. He also supported the right of workers to unionize.

“It is time that all Americans realized that the place of labor is side by side with the businessman and with the farmer, and not one-degree lower,” said Truman.

A great Republican president also got into the act. President Dwight D. Eisenhower said:

“Today in America, unions have a secure place in our industrial life. Only a handful of reactionaries harbor the ugly thought of breaking unions and depriving working men and women of the right to join the union of their choice. I have no use for those — regardless of their political party — who hold some vain and foolish dream of spinning the clock back to days when organized labor was huddled, almost as a hapless mass. Only a fool would try to deprive working men and women of the right to join the union of their choice.”

For many years, the alliance between labor and the Democratic Party was good for working men and women. Laws granting the 40-hour week, overtime pay, worker safety and many other workplace rights were passed, as well as Social Security and Medicare.

John F. Kennedy was mostly pro-union, but he was burdened by his brother’s vendetta against James R. Hoffa, a great labor leader. After Kennedy, the Democrats’ solid support for the labor movement began to slowly erode.

Lyndon Johnson and Jimmy Carter were hampered by a historic southern bias against trade unionism, although Johnson was a great force for civil rights. Under Carter the trucking industry was deregulated, which made so-called “independent contractors” out of 200,000 truck drivers.

Bill Clinton was largely responsible for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) which has killed thousands of American jobs.

Obama’s heart seemed to be in the right place, but labor issues never appeared to be number one on his priority list. The proposed Employee Free Choice Act, strongly supported by the unions, was killed with help of Democrats in 2009.

And Hillary Clinton? She didn’t even have time to campaign in the union- dense industrial states of Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania, which were all won by Donald Trump.

‘Nuff said?

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