Describe the changing relationship between business and organized labor in Minnesota from 1920 to 1940, explaining the factors behind both changes and continuities.

Describethe changing relationship between business and organized labor inMinnesota from 1920 to 1940, explaining the factors behind bothchanges and continuities.

Thefirst labor unions in Minnesota were formed in the 19th century,during the territorial period. After the civil war, the population ofgrowth in the region expanded significantly creating pressure on theavailable resources. A considerable portion of the populace in thearea depended on farming as the means of livelihood. The industrialrevolution led to a shift in the normal economic and social lifestylein Minnesota[CITATION Atk07 p 46 l 1033 ].People began to quit farming and joined the growing manufacturingindustry. The most primary manufacturing industries were the flourmining and lumbering that comprised of a substantial number of theentire population. Despite the lack of transport at the beginning ofthe industrial revolution, the construction of railroads facilitatedthe transportation of food produce, raw materials and finishedproducts for the factories.


Businessand organized labor

Inthe 1920s, there were significant changes between organized labor andbusiness in Minnesota. Women were granted the right to participate invoting exercise after the adoption of the 19th amendment. The movewas precipitated by a persistent agitation and demand for equalrights by a suffrage movement of women headed by Susan Anthony, amongothers. Moreover, the American Federation of Labor (AFL) supportedwomen’s outcry for their rights[CITATION Atk07 p 68 l 1033 ].The rail workers in Minnesota joined hands in a national shopmen’sstrike that led to the passage of the Railway Labor Act, providing acollective bargain for all employees working in the transportationindustry. On the other hand, union members and farmers merge togetherto create a political party named the Minnesota Farmer-Labor Party(MFLP). The primary goal of the party was to ensure workers get afair wage while farmers receive a significant price for their farmproduce[CITATION Atk07 p 95 l 1033 ].

TheMFLP elects various representatives including governors and Congressmen, becoming the most fruitful third party in American history. In1926, farmers established and opened a sugar processing plant in EastGrand Forks, making it the first plant to be built in SouthernMinnesota along the Minnesota-North Dakota border[CITATION Atk07 p 43 l 1033 ].In 1930, the Farmer- Labor candidate Olson was elected as governor.He holds the position for six years and suddenly dies of stomachcancer. The Congress passes the Davis-Bacon Act, renowned as theprevailing wage law. According to the law, contractors were requiredto pay no less than the prevailing wage rates in the region. The lawmeant to protect employees from economic disruptions caused bycontractors from outside the area paying minute salaries. The lawpushed the local and state government to adopt the prevailing wagelaws to ensure employees’ satisfaction. In 1932, William Mahoneywas elected to the position of St. Paul mayor. In his tenure, hemanages to lobby the federal government to assist the many of thelaid off workers during the great depression.However, business interests and the media challenge his policies andagenda, resulting in his defeat in 1934.

Factorsleading to the changes and continuities

Inthe midst of the economic downturn, Great Depression, FranklinRoosevelt was elected as the United States president. As a result ofagitation and demand for change from unions and other politicalorganizations, he sets up a plan, The New Deal. In this scheme,various programs such as the Social Security and jobs programs andcollective bargain of employment rights are addressed[CITATION Atk07 p 104 l 1033 ].The Congress enacts the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA)allowing employees to organize. Nevertheless, NIRA is declaredunconstitutional and replaced with the National Labor Relations Acts. The Hospital and Nursing Home Employees Union commences in the TwinCities with a total of 100 members. Currently, the union is referredto as the SEIU Healthcare Minnesota with over 14, 00 members. As aresult of the National Industrial Recovery Act, Union Organizationefforts commence among the Mississippi River employees.

Workersat the Pioneer Press and Dispatch and the Star merge to form Local 2of the American Newspaper Guild. In 1938, the organization heldstrikes and demonstrations, creating chaos within the streets[CITATION Atk07 p 84 l 1033 ].On the other hand, the Minneapolis Teamsters’ Strike is mostnoteworthy single labor in the American history. Minneapolisemployers and workers create a schism in the city, resulting ingovernor’s intervention. The striking group used a differentstrategy, roving pickets, and printed own daily newspaper toameliorate the dominated corporate press. The mine workers’president, John Lewis, led members of various unions to form theCongress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). The formation of the newlabor federation waspurposely to organize employees in the auto, steel, and otherindustrial operations that had been overlooked by the AFL.


Thenoticeable changes in business and organized labor in Minnesota wasas a result of public demand for fair and better working conditionsin the factories. The federal and state government implementedvarious laws to help smooth the sour relationship between employersand employees. Unionized workers played a significant role inensuring employees received fair remuneration and treated fairly inthe workplace. Finally, policies put in place after the GreatDepression helped restore the economy and brought development.


Atkins, Annette . Creating Minnesota: A History from the Inside Out. New York: Minnesota Historical Society, 2007.