Because of the National
Labor Relations Act, the ranks of unionized laborers
grew exponentially. Yet one of the most significant
effects of labor reform was intangible: Through the
labor movement, employees were learning they could
express their viewpoints every day--not just on a
single afternoon in November. Lizabeth Cohen, a
professor of history at Harvard University, says
workers began to feel more invested in society as
the government created a class of worker-citizens
that now "looked to Washington to deliver the
Invisible no more.
This new "industrial democracy" touched
members of society who had previously been all but
invisible; thus the labor movement gradually
expanded to embrace civil rights, immigration
issues, and women's liberation. By the end of
the 1930s, the number of women in the labor force
alone tripled from the decade before. Minorities,
too, found new voices in the Congress of Industrial
Organizations (CIO). And in 1941, Roosevelt
officially wedded the plight of African-Americans to
the labor question with Executive Order 8802, which
prohibited discrimination in the defense industry.
From that point on, civil rights would rarely be
discussed absent some talk of labor.
But in the
years following the New Deal, cultural fears and
political opposition began to gradually dismantle
much of labor's progress. Southern Dixiecrats
split from New Deal Democrats when they realized
blacks were profiting from the reforms as much as
whites. And in 1947, the government passed the
Taft-Hartley Act, which severely eroded the
protections in the National Labor Relations Act.
By the 1980s, the NLRB had suffered a defining blow
when President Ronald Reagan boldly broke a
two-day-long strike of the nation's air-traffic
controllers by firing them and replacing them with
scabs. "Government is not the solution to our
problem," he told American workers.
"Government is the problem."
labor-union membership is at a modern low: Only 13.2
percent of workers carry a union card, compared with
33 percent in 1960. But labor is still making waves.
In recent years, the movement's leaders pushed
109 city councils to adopt living-wage ordinances,
guaranteeing workers enough money to support a
family of four at the poverty level. And the
movement has actively embraced new constituencies:
Hispanic immigrants and homosexuals. "Labor
will never vanish from the American stage,"
says Sean Wilentz, a professor at Princeton
University. "This is a changed America, and
we're just waiting for unions to catch up."
Secrets Of The Buck?
The symbols on backside
of the dollar bill have inspired a variety of
conspiracy theories, some complete with their own
Web sites. Alas, the official explanation, offered
by the State Department, is straightforward and not
the least bit nefarious. The partially built pyramid
with an eye on top comes from the reverse side of
the Great Seal. The pyramid is said to symbolize
strength and durability. It is unfinished to
indicate that the country will forever be a work in
progress--growing, building, improving. The eye is
all seeing, indicating divine guidance. The words
Annuit Coeptis, hovering above the pyramid,
translate as: "God has favored our
undertakings." Underneath the pyramid are the
words Novus Ordo Seclorum, meaning "A new
order of the ages." -Katy Kelly