Teamster History: 1931, Hard Times, New Opportunities

Posted: May 30, 2015
Source: Teamster.org

Bread Line in front of mural proclaiming that America has the world's highest standard of livingIn the April 1931 issue of the International Teamster, Dan Tobin takes to the page to address members with one of his most forward-thinking editorials yet. The depression, still in full force at this time, has left Tobin impatient. He wants change – both economic and social – and he wants it quick. In the article, Tobin writes of the times from a historical, and somewhat philosophical, lens to provide context to their current struggle, writing, “Old cultures, inseparable from slavery, are serviceable to the industrial autocrat. … It is the work of trade unionists to demolish this theory and vitalize the doctrine of individual freedom that is given but lip service by those who oppose labor.”

The article then went on to use the crisis as an opportunity for a change, calling the nation to put an end to racial discrimination in the workplace and within the unions. It was time to attack racism and segregation in the South, the article warned, reminding readers that “doctrines that are woven into the social fabric can only be replaced by long, tedious effort.” The beginnings of the Great Depression, however, like so many other events in human history, gave union leaders the opportunity to cut short the “long, tedious effort.”

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