Events In Labor History
1930 to 1945

The Economics


In 1935...

  1. A pound of bacon cost 41 cents                                                                 

  2. A dozen eggs cost 38 cents

  3. A loaf of bread cost about 8 cents   

  4. 5 pounds of sugar was 28 cents and a 1 3/8th oz. Hersey bar was 5 cents.                                                                                                    

  5. A half-gallon of milk cost (delivered) cost just over 23 cents and a box of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes

    (8 oz.) was 8 cents.

  1. The average cost of a new house was $3,450 and gasoline cost 10 cents per gallon. 

The average hourly wage for production workers was 54 cents; the same as it was in 1920

and up from .45 cents (1932).  The National Recovery Act which provided for a 40-hour workweek

and a minimum weekly wage of between $12 and $15 dollars is ruled unconstitutional in Schecter

Corp. v. United States.

The unemployment rate was 20.1 percent and union membership was 13.8 percent and on the rise.

$5.89 had the same purchasing power as $100 in 2013.  


click on either image to see the Library of Congress photographic documentary on the Great Depression


1931  Congress establishes the Davis-Bacon Act which provides contractors working on government projects must be paid the prevailing wage.

1932  Congress enacts Norris-LaGuardia Act declaring it to be public policy that employees be permitted to organize and bargain collectively free from employer coercion.

1935  Congress passes the Wagner Act  (the National Labor Relations Act) declaring in Section 7, workers’ right to self-organization, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.
1941 R.I. legislature enacts the R.I. State Labor Relations Act (R.I.G.L 28-7-2), declaring that “it is in the public interest that equality of bargaining power be established and maintained.”

1934  United Textile Workers lead striking mill workers in what has been termed the Great Textile Strike of 1934.  National Guardsmen, activated by Governor Theodore Green murder four workers and wound over 100.

Click on image to the right to watch Pathe News coverage.

1947  Congress passes Taft-Hartley Act.

1938  Fair Labor Standards Act signed into law by President Roosevelt.  When initially passed, the law covered minimum wages, overtime pay, and child labor.

1933  John L. Lewis and the United Mine Workers demand a 30-hour week and a $5 daily wage

1937  Rhode Island sets minimum pay at .35 per hour for women and children in the garment industry.

Reuther and Frankensteen after being attacked.

Strikers use new tactic at Goodyear and Ford plants:  The Sitdown Strike. 


       Click on image to the right to read Senator Wagner’s comments

1937  U.S. Steel recognizes the Steel Workers Organizing Commmittee as the bargaining agent for steelworkers.  Workers win a 10% pay increase and a five-day, 40 hour week.

Click on image to read the complete article

Click on image to read the complete article

Anne Burlack, an organizer for the National Textile Workers Union, rallies strikers in 1931.

Click on image for more on Anne Burlack

1941-1945  Women, who comprised 1/4th of the workforce at the outset of the war (12 million women workers) comprise 1/3rd of the workforce (18 million women workers) by the war’s end.  

Click on image to read more about women working during World War II

Click on image to read about labor organizing and the mills (RILHS Member Richard Rupp’s interview with Union President and Organizer Norman Rawlinson).

Click here.  R.I. Labor History Society remembers the Saylesville workers on the 75th anniversary of the massacre



click on image to read

1942  Textile Workers of America (CIO) organize Harris Mill in Coventry, Rhode Island.

1937  Textile Workers of America (CIO) organize Interlaken Mill in Coventry, Rhode Island.

Click here to read RILHS Society Board Member, Brother Jim Riley’s 2011 Labor Day Speech.