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The Railway Strike of 1946 Essay

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Updated: Dec 19th, 2021

The railway strike of 1946 had been contributed by the pledge to end strikes that most of the labor unions had taken during the Second World War. As a result of the pledge, labor conflicts accumulated to a point of exploding after the war. The members of the labor unions increased significantly from 7.2 million before the start of the war to around 14.5 million at the end of the war. We wouldn’t say that strikes were not experienced during the war, but there were some which were confined to a small area and none of them was about wage discrepancy. Most of them had been caused by management and disciplinary problems.

What happened at the end of the war was flabbergasting and would not be compared to what had happened during the period of war. For example in the year 1937, the total number of strikes was about 4,740 which involved more than 1.5 million employees over 28 days. In 1945, the number of strikes had increased by ten where almost 3.5 million employees were involved over 38 working days. This increased further to 4,985 strikes in 1946 where 4.6 million employees were involved over 116 working days (Johnson 3). The 1946 and 1945 strikes were the highest ever experienced in history with a very big number of participants and over long periods.

What happened in November 1945 would have been thought of as the most awful strike where almost 0.25 million workers left but what came in January 1946 would not even be imagined. This was the time when the official strike was called. In the early morning of January 3, 1946, all workers in Stamford reported working as usual. Their intention was not to resume their duties but had already agreed to form a mass rally. They were supported by many merchants who chose to close their shops for the entire day and others went to the extent of putting signs on their doors and windows declaring their support for the strike.

There was a musical band that was accompanied by 10,000 workers. They gathered by the town hallway with slogans that supported the Towne and Yale workers. Almost everything within the surrounding came to a standstill when all the theaters, streetcars, and stores closed down. Even workers from all industries took an off to support the workers. They all had one slogan “we will not go back to the old days”. By March the strike had become violent forcing the factory to close down. At the beginning of April Towne and Yale intervened and agreed to the terms and conditions of the union and promised a 30% salary increase (Alexander 259).

The united mine workers (UMW)’s president Lewis called about 350, 000 miners to join the millions who were already on the strike. In the month that followed, the railroad workers followed suit and threatened to bring to a standstill the operations of the whole nation. This was after the heads of engineers and trainmen’s heads unions rejected the pres. They were offered a settlement of which they rejected. This upset President Harry Truman who decided to apprehend the control of the railroads (Oinas-Kukkonen 100). Despite the government efforts to bring to a halt the strike, the workers were determined and continued with their strike.

The president was not happy with what was happening and he decided to issue an ultimatum announcing that from May 24, 1946, the government would take control over the railroads and the army would be used to break the strike. Before he had finished his speech he was given a note that stated that the strike would be settled on the terms which he had proposed. This followed the closure of the strike of the railroad workers and the coal miners called theirs off a few days later but the others were not ready to call off their strike. They were joined by the longshoremen from the west coast in September.

The strike that occurred in 1946 was the most dramatic of all the strikes that had happened in history. The United States was the most affected when all the activities were delayed for five days. There was no transportation since all the trains were inoperative and passengers were left stranded in all the stations. At the start of the railroad strike, the government of the US had taken control over all the railroads and Eisenhower was controlling the Far East. The economy had suffered a major blow with a period of recessions and depressions.

The Railway Strike effects

The tension between the North and the South Koreans intensified after the railroad strike. The cold war was set and the USSR and US were competing to dominate the world and rose against one another. The Korean War was part of the cold war which was described as a “war without a war” because it was not as violent as the other wars that had been experienced. The Americans fought with the Russians without the use of arms. At that time, communism had already set foot in the Far East and parts of Europe. This led to subdivision among the Koreans where some were for communism and the others were non-communists.

In early 1949, the North Korean leader Kim I1 Sung met with the leader of China to borrow permission to get into a fight with South Korea. In September 1950, North Korea defeated South Korea except for some parts in Pusan. Truman could not imagine the south Koreans falling to communism while the Americans if only one country would fall to communism; the other countries would follow (Meltzer & Princeton 137).

The Chinese were interested in what was happening and got into the war and drove the Americans. Even after the establishment of a front line, the war did not cease and continued for three years. MacArthur advised Truman to make use of arms and bombs in the war of which he declined. The communist groups were assisted by the Russian who emulated the North Koreans war of dressing (Anon. 8).

I chose to research the 1946 railroad strike because when I was growing I could watch my parents involve themselves in strikes. I used to ask myself questions why they could always use the strike as a way of putting forward their grievances. By the time I was able to read, I could search for all materials that were addressing strikes. That is where I came along the most devastating strike of 1946. Many workers participated in it and it moved from being peaceful to being violent.

Works Cited

Alexander, Michael A. The Kondratiev Cycle: A Generational. Bloomington: iUniverse, 2002.

Anon. “Cold war 1945-63: What was the cold war?” Johndclare, 2010. Web.

Johnson, Garrett. “Culture: the Great strike wave of 1946.” Koppin22 Media DA, 2007. Web.

Meltzer, Tom & Princeton. Cracking the AP U.S. History Exam, 2004-2005 Edition.

Princeton Review Series College Test Prep Series Princeton Review: Cracking the AP U.S. History. The Princeton Review, 2004.

Oinas-Kukkonen, Henry. Tolerance, suspicion, and hostility: changing U.S. attitudes toward the Japanese communist movement, 1944-1947.

Volume 101 of Contributions to the study of world history. Greenwood Publishing Group, 2003.

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