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#182: Roosevelt Re-elected in 1936

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Strikers in New York City around 1937. Laws proposed by the Roosevelt administration helped strengthen the labor movement.
Strikers in New York City around 1937. Laws proposed by the Roosevelt administration helped strengthen the labor movement.

MARIO RITTER: Welcome to THE MAKING OF A NATION - American history in VOA Special English.

Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal policies during the nineteen thirties changed the face of American government. The new president and the Congress passed legislation that helped farmers, strengthened the banking system and supplied jobs for millions of workers.

One of the results of Roosevelt's policies was a stronger movement of organized labor in America.

This week in our series, Sarah Long and Doug Johnson continue the story of the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal policies during the nineteen thirties changed the face of American government. The new president and the Congress passed legislation that helped farmers, strengthened the banking system and supplied jobs for millions of workers.

One of the results of Roosevelt's policies was a stronger American labor movement.

SARAH LONG: Labor leaders had little success in organizing workers in the United States during the nineteen twenties. Three Republican presidents and a national wave of conservatism prevented them from gaining many members or increasing their negotiating power. In nineteen twenty-nine, organized labor fell even further with the beginning of the great economic depression.

By nineteen thirty-three, America's labor unions had less than three million members. But by the end of the nineteen thirties, more than ten-and-a-half million American workers belonged to unions.

DOUG JOHNSON: New laws proposed by the Roosevelt administration made the labor growth possible. The National Industrial Recovery Act of nineteen thirty-three gave labor leaders the right to organize and represent workers. The Supreme Court ruled that the law was illegal. But another law, the Wagner Labor Relations Act of Nineteen Thirty-Five, helped labor unions to increase their power.

Most of the leaders of America's traditional labor unions were slow to understand their new power. They were conservative men. They represented workers with certain skills, such as wood workers or metal workers. They did little to organize workers with other kinds of skills.

But a new group of labor leaders used the new laws to organize unions by industries, not by skills. They believed that workers would have much more power if they joined forces with other workers in the same factory to make common demands. These new leaders began to organize unions for the automobile industry, the steel industry, and other major industries.

SARAH LONG:The leader of the new movement was the head of the mine workers, John L. Lewis. Lewis was a powerful leader with a strong body and strong opinions. He had begun to work in the coal mines at the age of twelve.

Lewis rose to become a powerful and successful leader of the mine workers. But he was concerned about workers in other industries as well. And he believed that most of the leaders in the American Federation of Labor were doing little to help them.

For this reason, Lewis and the heads of several other unions formed their own group to organize unions by industry, not by skills. They called their group the Congress of Industrial Organizations, the CIO. And they tried immediately to gain members.

Members of the Unemployed Union march in Camden, New Jersey, in 1935
Members of the Unemployed Union march in Camden, New Jersey, in 1935

DOUG JOHNSON: The CIO successfully organized the workers in several major industries. But it succeeded only by hard work and struggle. The CIO's first big battle was against the giant automobile company, General Motors. Late in nineteen thirty-five, workers at several General Motors factories began a "sit-down" strike at their machines to demand better pay and working conditions.

After forty-four days, General Motors surrendered. It recognized that the automobile workers' union had the right to represent GM workers. And it agreed to negotiate a new work agreement.

SARAH LONG: The struggle at the Ford Motor Company was more bitter. Ford company guards beat union organizers and workers. But the Ford company finally agreed to negotiate with the new union.

The same story was true in the steel industry. But the new labor leaders succeeded in becoming the official representatives of steel workers throughout the country.

By nineteen thirty-eight, the C.I.O. had won its battle to organize major industries. In later years, it would join with the more traditional American Federation of Labor to form the organization that remains the most important labor group in America today, the AFL-CIO.

DOUG JOHNSON: President Roosevelt was not always an active supporter of organized labor. But neither was he a constant supporter of big business, like the three Republican presidents before him. In fact, Roosevelt spoke out often against the dangers of big business in a democracy.

These speeches caused great concern among many of the traditional business and conservative leaders of the nation. And Roosevelt's increasingly progressive policies in nineteen thirty-five made many richer Americans fear that the president was a socialist, a dictator or a madman.

Former president Herbert Hoover, for example, denounced Roosevelt's New Deal policies as an attack "on the whole idea of individual freedoms." The family of business leader JP Morgan told visitors not to say Roosevelt's name in front of Morgan. They said it would make his blood pressure go up.

SARAH LONG:This conservative opposition to Roosevelt grew steadily throughout nineteen thirty-five and thirty-six. Many Americans were honestly worried that Roosevelt's expansion of government was the first step to dictatorship.

They feared that Roosevelt and the Democrats were trying to gain power as the Nazis did in Germany, the Fascists in Italy or the Communists in Russia.

Alfred Landon
Alfred Landon

DOUG JOHNSON: The Republican Party held its presidential convention in the summer of nineteen thirty-six. The party delegates chose Alfred Landon to oppose Roosevelt for president.

Mr. Landon was the governor of the farm state of Kansas. He was a successful oil producer with conservative business views. But he was open to some of the social reforms of Roosevelt's New Deal. Republicans hoped he would appeal to average Americans who supported mild reforms, but feared Roosevelt's social policies.

The Democrats nominated Roosevelt and Vice President John Garner to serve a second term.

SARAH LONG: The main issue in the presidential campaign of nineteen thirty-six was Franklin Roosevelt himself. Roosevelt campaigned across the country like a man sure that he would win. He laughed with the cheering crowds and told them that the New Deal had helped improve their lives.

President Franklin Roosevelt accepts his renomination at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on June 23, 1936
President Franklin Roosevelt accepts his renomination at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on June 23, 1936

In New York, Roosevelt made a major speech promising to continue the work of his administration if he was re-elected.

FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT: "Of course we will continue to seek to improve working conditions for the workers of America.

"Of course we will continue to work for cheaper electricity in the homes and on the farms of America, for better and cheaper transportation, for low interest rates, for sounder home financing, for better banking, for the regulation of security issues, for reciprocal trade among nations ...

"And, my friends, for all these we have only just begun to fight."

DOUG JOHNSON: The Republican candidate, Alfred Landon, began his campaign by saying that many of Roosevelt's New Deal programs were good. But he said that a Republican administration could do them better and for less money. However, Landon's words became much stronger as the campaign continued. He attacked many of Roosevelt's programs.

The campaign became increasingly bitter. Roosevelt said his opponents cared only about their money, not about other Americans. "I welcome their hatred," he said. Landon's supporters accused Roosevelt of destroying the nation's economic traditions and threatening democracy.

SARAH LONG: The nation had not seen such a fierce campaign in forty years. But when it was over, the nation also saw a victory greater than any in its history.

Franklin Roosevelt defeated Alfred Landon in the election of nineteen thirty-six by one of the largest votes in the nation's history. Roosevelt won every state except Maine and Vermont.

The huge election victory marked the high point of Roosevelt's popularity. In our next program, we will look at the many problems he faced in his second administration.

(MUSIC)

MARIO RITTER: Our program was written by David Jarmul. The narrators were Sarah Long and Doug Johnson. You can find our series online with pictures, transcripts, MP3s and podcasts at www.unsv.com. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter at VOA Learning English. Join us again next week for THE MAKING OF A NATION -- an American history series in VOA Special English.

___

This is program #182

19世纪30年代罗斯福新政改变了美国政府的形象,这位新总统和国会通过立法,帮助了农民、巩固了银行体系,为数百万失业者提供了就业岗位。罗斯福新政的一项重要成果是推动了工会运动。

十九世纪二十年代,美国工会领导人在组织工会方面没有取得什么成功,连续三位共和党总统和全国范围内的保守浪潮阻碍他们招募工会会员,阻碍他们加强与企业主谈判的力量。1929年大萧条的来临,使工会更趋衰落,1933年,美国工会会员只有不到300万人。但到了19世纪30年代末,美国工会会员人数已经超过了1500万人。

罗斯福政府提出的新法案为工会的发展壮大创造了条件。1933年的《全国工业复兴法》赋予工会领导人组织工会,代表工人的权利。美国最高法院裁决该法违宪,但1935年通过的另一部法律,即《瓦格纳劳动关系法》壮大了工会的力量。

当时,美国大多数传统工会领导人对法律赋予他们的新权利认识不足,他们大都是保守派,代表的是有一定技能的工人,如伐木工或金属加工工人,很少去组织其他各种技能的工人。

但一些新兴的工会领导群体,则充分利用这一法律来组织行业工会,而不是按照技能来组织工会。他们认为,如果一家工厂的工人能联合起来,就会拥有更大的力量,提出共同的要求。这些新的工会领导人开始组织起汽车行业工会、钢铁行业工会以及其他主要行业的工会。

这场新的工人运动的领导人是矿业工人约翰.刘易斯,刘易斯是一位非常强势的领导人,身体强壮,观点鲜明,他12岁就开始在当地的矿上干活。刘易斯逐渐成为一位强有力的、成功的矿业工人领袖,他同样关心其他行业的工人,他认为美国劳工联合会的大多数领导对工会没有起到什么帮助。

正因为如此,刘易斯和其他几个工会领导人把那些按行业,而不是按技能组织起来的工会联合起来,称为美国产业工会联合会,并立即吸收会员。美国产业工会联合会在几个主要行业取得了成功,但这些成功来之不易。

美国产业工会联合会的第一大战役是与美国汽车业巨头,通用汽车公司的较量。1935年下半年,通用汽车公司一些工厂的工人开始在机器旁"静坐"罢工,要求资方提高工资,改善工作条件。经过44天的斗争,通用汽车公司终于屈服了,它们承认汽车业工会有权代表通用汽车公司的工人利益,而且同意与工会谈判,达成了新的工作协议。而工会与福特汽车公司的斗争则更为激烈。福特汽车公司保安殴打工会的组织者和工人,但福特公司最终还是同意与新工会谈判。

钢铁行业也出现了类似的情况。经过努力,这一批新的工会领导人成功地成为全国钢铁行业工人的正式代表。到1938年,美国产业工会联合会已经成功地争取到了在美国各大主要行业组织工会的权利。此后,这个工会组织与传统的美国劳工联合会联手,成立了至今仍然是美国最重要的工会组织,即美国劳联产联。

罗斯福总统并不是工会的坚定支持者,但也不像他前面三任共和党总统那样支持大企业主。事实上,罗斯福经常公开对民主体制内大企业所带来的威胁提出警告。这些讲话引起了美国许多传统企业界领袖和保守派领导人的极大关注。罗斯福总统1935年日益激进的政策让许多美国富人担心总统是个社会主义者、独裁者,抑或是个疯子。例如,前总统胡佛就公开指责罗斯福新政是对"个人自由主义思想"的攻击。家族企业摩根公司高层对来访者说,在摩根面前千万不要提罗斯福的名字。他们说,一提罗斯福,摩根的血压就会升高。

1935年到1936年间,这股反对罗斯福的保守势力日益强大。许多美国人真地担心,日益膨胀的罗斯福政府是向独裁迈出的第一步,他们担心罗斯福和民主党会像德国的纳粹、意大利的法西斯和俄罗斯的共产主义一样,试图夺取权力。

1936年夏天,共和党召开总统候选人提名大会,推选阿尔弗雷德.兰登为总统候选人,挑战罗斯福。兰登是农业州堪萨斯州的州长,也是一位成功的石油商,思想保守,不过,他对罗斯福新政中的一些社会改革政策持接受的态度。共和党希望兰登能够吸引那些主张温和改革,但对罗斯福的社会政策感到担心的美国人的支持。与此同时,民主党提名现任总统罗斯福和副总统约翰.加纳竞选连任第二个任期。

1936年总统大选的主要话题是富兰克林.罗斯福本人。罗斯福在全国各地竞选演说,俨然一副志在必得的样子,他和欢呼的人群一起欢笑,告诉他们说,新政已经帮助他们改善了生活。罗斯福在纽约发表了一个重要演说。他许诺,如果当选连任,他将继续完成现政府的工作。

他说:"当然,我们会继续设法改善美国工人的工作条件。当然,我们会继续为美国家庭和农场提供更便宜的电力、更好、更便宜的交通运输、更低的利率、更健全的家庭理财、更好的银行体系、更规范的安全保障、与别国的互惠贸易。朋友们,所有这些,我们还只是刚刚起步。"

共和党总统候选人阿尔弗雷德.兰登在竞选开始的时候,对罗斯福新政中的一些项目表示赞扬,但表示,共和党政府能会做的更好,而且更省钱。然而,随着竞选的深入,兰登的声音也变得越来越强硬,他对罗斯福新政中的许多项目发起攻击。选战日渐激烈。罗斯福说,他的反对者只关心自己的腰包,不关心美国人民。他说:"我欢迎他们对我的仇恨。"兰登的支持者指责罗斯福毁灭了美国的经济传统,威胁到了美国的民主。

1936年总统大选是四十年来美国最激烈的选战,但一切尘埃落地后,美国人得到的是历史上最伟大的胜利。富兰克林.罗斯福在1936年总统大选中击败阿尔弗雷德.兰登,赢得了除缅因州和佛蒙特州外所有州的选举人选票,这一巨大胜利也标志着罗斯福个人支持度的顶峰。

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