In his book Working Class-New York, Joshua Benjamin Freeman draws the labor movements and way of life after the Second World War. The Book revolves around a sweeping history of the New York City. After the World War, the model city carved out an equitable and idealistic path to the future. Through the combined efforts of the working class, the city becomes the model city of the liberal America. Although the Second World War conferred many benefits to the city, the city had an equal measure of troubles too. Benjamin Freeman illustrates how the events of World War impacted on the city.
He shows how the labor movement ranks’ are decimated by the purges of anticommunism. In addition to that, the author brings into light the impacts of the Fiscal crisis on the Liberal ideals. In short, Working Class New York can be defined as a chronicle of a dead dream but one that may rise again. The book is clear and concise through its comparison of New York City with other parts of USA. The book takes us through a chronicle of what the working class in New York City goes through during the ten years of financial crisis.
It is barely a month after the end of the Second World War, the business activities of the NYC ground to an unexpected halt. In one month, more than a million workers stay at home or mail around the street. All federal activities such as tax collection and mail express services falls by eight million dollars each day. Well, these are some of the effects of the New York City workers. All workers fought hard for their grievances to be considered by the War Labor Board Panel. The world’s financial and business capital was slowly coming to a standstill.
In the first chapter, Freeman illustrates the rise and fall of the Manhattan working class. The chapter revolves around massive movement of workers and the struggle for equality and rights in all working places. In 1946, more than two million people were employed under the blue collar job category. However, by 1960, the number of white collar workers had greatly outnumbered the blue collar workers. Nevertheless, the latter grossed less income than the blue collar workers.
After five days of devastating economic damages, Thomas E Dewery, the governor agrees to arbitrate the two groups. However, the governor efforts do not yield any meaningful results to end the strikes. The talks are followed by a mammoth walkout which signals the start of the series of strikes. It is important to note that the strikes impacted in the way of life of all Yorkers. The governor advocated for the favorable settlement of the strike. Some of the memorable strikes include the painters strike, the American Communication Association workers strike. The latter brought to a standstill communication systems all over the city.
In chapter two, Freeman brings to light the organization and demands of the striking workers. It is important to note that the strikes neither had a formal organization nor a spokesperson. That notwithstanding, the strikes never incorporated any formal demands or grievances. However, with the aid of the communist regime, the striking workers formulated their grievances and leadership position as well. The most remarkable strike during this period is the five thousand workers of ILA (International Longshoremen’s Association. The latter were tasked with the management of the harbor.
In addition to that, it is important to note that New York City relied on other regions for coal and fuel especially during the winter seasons. The above products got in the city through the harbor, the striking workers led to a 65% and 95% decline in the amount of coal and fuel respectively. The devastating trend called for switching off of all advertising and street lights in the city. Many analysts argue that the Harbor strike accelerated other strikes in the New York City. The strike led to an increased cost of living all over New York City. For this reason, many workers demonstrated for an increase in the amount of their salaries and wages.
In response to the crisis, the Governor gave an order on the closure of all Museums, theatres, libraries, stores, and schools. In short, a big number of public facilities came to a sudden standstill-there was an inadequate level of energy to learn the facilities. That notwithstanding, all police departments were moved to the subways during the winter period. The increased number of national strikes captured the attention of Washington. In response to the increased crisis, the power given to the workers organization had to be curtailed.
After the end of the Second World War, the blue collar workers were heroically portrayed compared to the white collar workers. A recent report by the Regional Plan Association (RPA) portrays New York City as a manufacturing city. The latter boasts of the best production economy all over the America. The blue collar workers greatly outnumbered the white collar workers. A strike by the blue collar workers brought all financial activities on a sudden standstill. It is this fact that led to the devastating state of the economy. However, the devastating events in New York City can be blamed on the existing external forces.
The series of strikes came during the power struggle between the capitalist and the communist. It is important to note that the communist helped the striking workers better organize themselves and formulate their grievances. Ideally, the series of strikes can defined as a power struggle between the capitalist and the communist-America and the Soviet Union. It is important to note that USA had supported the striking workers in Germany’s military companies. For this reason, the communist may have used the same strategy to bring the economy of USA to a standstill.
In 1977, a lightening knocked out a major power line in the heart of NYC. The damage on the transmission unit caused a two day power blackout in the city. What followed was massive looting in groceries, stores and other business premises. It is estimated that the looting led to a loss of more than three hundred million dollars. The crisis was so intense that the then president, Jimmy Carter visited the area. The president appealed for federal help to help rebuild the city. Unlike other towns or cities, New York City economy fully relied on its production and manufacturing capacity.
New York City was faced by energy crisis for over ten years. The energy crisis brought many manufacturing firms on their knees. The black people played an indispensable role in the series of strikes. In addition to that, the situation was made worse by the assassination of Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King and John Kennedy. The assassination led to increased antagonism between the white and the blacks. Although the strikes started as a bargain for better wages, working conditions or promotions, the strikes later took a new dimension. The strikes provided an avenue where both the communist and capitalist sort to publicize their activities.
Nevertheless, Working Class New York City draws the struggles that the workers underwent to have their grievances legally recognized. Freeman puts more emphasis on the role of the organized labor unions. He highlights some of the achievements that the labor movements achieved in a span of ten years. The organized labor unions led to social democratic policy during the post war period. In addition to that, the progressive minded trade unions played a significant role in improving the working condition of workers. More to that, the labor unions greatly championed for equal civil rights of all workers irrespective of their origin or race.
It is important to note that during the post war era, America was greatly characterized by social and race discrimination. In his Book, Freeman states that the plight of the working class had been ignored. The bicoastal celebrities and elites took all senior positions and privileges at their respective work places. However, Freeman brings to light the cultural significance of the working class. Some of the achievements by the labor unions include the starting of May La Guardia music and drama center. Other major highlights include the Congress of Industrialization Organization and the rent control board
It is in this reason that the crises are seen as the foundation to social democracy in the United States of America. The series of strikes provided an avenue to unearth all types of discrimination taking place in different work places. The strikes brought different groups together; an example is Catholic, Christianity and Puerto Ricans. The American dream created a common base where all workers could relate with each other. The American dream championed for better homes, vacation, healthcare, higher education and a control on the amount of rent charged.
Although the strikes impacted negatively on the economy of New York City, the latter helped form a good foundation for the rebirth of a more successful NYC. Being a manufacturing city, there is a great need to protect the plight of all its workers. The strikes provided a platform where different workers rallied together to push for their grievances. As chapter six come to an end, Freeman put emphasis on the benefits of the strikes rather than the damages the strikes brought to the global economy. The Strikes came as a blessing to the workers but a death trap for the investors.
With two decades gone since the end of the series f strikes, businesses are slowly creeping back to global heights. The strikes led to increased civil rights and protection of workers at their respective workplace. However, it is equally true to say that the series of strikes dealt the global economy a major blow. Freeman successfully gives the reader a chronicle of all events-including the day, place and time. An example is the 1977 black out that formed the highlight of the strikes.
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