North America's Strongest Union

The Depression: Hard Times, Strong Resolve

The catastrophic stock market crash of 1929 triggered a chain of misery and despair in North America. As banks collapsed, the jobless rate jumped from three percent to 25 percent. The depression hit Teamsters locals hard. By 1933, membership rolls hit a Depression-era low of 75,000.

n response, the union redoubled its efforts to organize the over-the-road trucking industry. The keystone of this organizing approach was the control of truck terminals, from which over-the-road truckers could be organized. In just two years, Teamsters membership nearly doubled to 146,000.

U.S. Teamsters embraced President Franklin D. Roosevelt because FDR fought for working families and won passage of a series of legislative initiatives designed to pull the country out of the Depression. He relied heavily on U.S. labor leaders, especially IBT President Dan Tobin, to make his case.

The National Recovery Administration (NRA) was the crux of Roosevelt’s plan. It established minimum wages and maximum hours of labor for each industry. Hours were reduced to spread employment over more workers. After the historic Teamsters strike in Minneapolis in 1934, where members stood firm in their belief in workers rights, despite ongoing brutality by police and thugs hired by a citizens committee, FDR was able to win passage of the landmark National Labor Relations Act. It codified in law workers’ rights to collective bargaining and protected them from management interference or intimidation aimed at union activity.


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