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#182: Roosevelt Re-elected in 1936

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Strikers in New York City around 1937. Laws proposed by the Roosevelt administration helped strengthen the labor movement.
Strikers in New York City around 1937. Laws proposed by the Roosevelt administration helped strengthen the labor movement.

MARIO RITTER: Welcome to THE MAKING OF A NATION - American history in VOA Special English.

Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal policies during the nineteen thirties changed the face of American government. The new president and the Congress passed legislation that helped farmers, strengthened the banking system and supplied jobs for millions of workers.

One of the results of Roosevelt's policies was a stronger movement of organized labor in America.

This week in our series, Sarah Long and Doug Johnson continue the story of the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal policies during the nineteen thirties changed the face of American government. The new president and the Congress passed legislation that helped farmers, strengthened the banking system and supplied jobs for millions of workers.

One of the results of Roosevelt's policies was a stronger American labor movement.

SARAH LONG: Labor leaders had little success in organizing workers in the United States during the nineteen twenties. Three Republican presidents and a national wave of conservatism prevented them from gaining many members or increasing their negotiating power. In nineteen twenty-nine, organized labor fell even further with the beginning of the great economic depression.

By nineteen thirty-three, America's labor unions had less than three million members. But by the end of the nineteen thirties, more than ten-and-a-half million American workers belonged to unions.

DOUG JOHNSON: New laws proposed by the Roosevelt administration made the labor growth possible. The National Industrial Recovery Act of nineteen thirty-three gave labor leaders the right to organize and represent workers. The Supreme Court ruled that the law was illegal. But another law, the Wagner Labor Relations Act of Nineteen Thirty-Five, helped labor unions to increase their power.

Most of the leaders of America's traditional labor unions were slow to understand their new power. They were conservative men. They represented workers with certain skills, such as wood workers or metal workers. They did little to organize workers with other kinds of skills.

But a new group of labor leaders used the new laws to organize unions by industries, not by skills. They believed that workers would have much more power if they joined forces with other workers in the same factory to make common demands. These new leaders began to organize unions for the automobile industry, the steel industry, and other major industries.

SARAH LONG:The leader of the new movement was the head of the mine workers, John L. Lewis. Lewis was a powerful leader with a strong body and strong opinions. He had begun to work in the coal mines at the age of twelve.

Lewis rose to become a powerful and successful leader of the mine workers. But he was concerned about workers in other industries as well. And he believed that most of the leaders in the American Federation of Labor were doing little to help them.

For this reason, Lewis and the heads of several other unions formed their own group to organize unions by industry, not by skills. They called their group the Congress of Industrial Organizations, the CIO. And they tried immediately to gain members.

Members of the Unemployed Union march in Camden, New Jersey, in 1935
Members of the Unemployed Union march in Camden, New Jersey, in 1935

DOUG JOHNSON: The CIO successfully organized the workers in several major industries. But it succeeded only by hard work and struggle. The CIO's first big battle was against the giant automobile company, General Motors. Late in nineteen thirty-five, workers at several General Motors factories began a "sit-down" strike at their machines to demand better pay and working conditions.

After forty-four days, General Motors surrendered. It recognized that the automobile workers' union had the right to represent GM workers. And it agreed to negotiate a new work agreement.

SARAH LONG: The struggle at the Ford Motor Company was more bitter. Ford company guards beat union organizers and workers. But the Ford company finally agreed to negotiate with the new union.

The same story was true in the steel industry. But the new labor leaders succeeded in becoming the official representatives of steel workers throughout the country.

By nineteen thirty-eight, the C.I.O. had won its battle to organize major industries. In later years, it would join with the more traditional American Federation of Labor to form the organization that remains the most important labor group in America today, the AFL-CIO.

DOUG JOHNSON: President Roosevelt was not always an active supporter of organized labor. But neither was he a constant supporter of big business, like the three Republican presidents before him. In fact, Roosevelt spoke out often against the dangers of big business in a democracy.

These speeches caused great concern among many of the traditional business and conservative leaders of the nation. And Roosevelt's increasingly progressive policies in nineteen thirty-five made many richer Americans fear that the president was a socialist, a dictator or a madman.

Former president Herbert Hoover, for example, denounced Roosevelt's New Deal policies as an attack "on the whole idea of individual freedoms." The family of business leader JP Morgan told visitors not to say Roosevelt's name in front of Morgan. They said it would make his blood pressure go up.

SARAH LONG:This conservative opposition to Roosevelt grew steadily throughout nineteen thirty-five and thirty-six. Many Americans were honestly worried that Roosevelt's expansion of government was the first step to dictatorship.

They feared that Roosevelt and the Democrats were trying to gain power as the Nazis did in Germany, the Fascists in Italy or the Communists in Russia.

Alfred Landon
Alfred Landon

DOUG JOHNSON: The Republican Party held its presidential convention in the summer of nineteen thirty-six. The party delegates chose Alfred Landon to oppose Roosevelt for president.

Mr. Landon was the governor of the farm state of Kansas. He was a successful oil producer with conservative business views. But he was open to some of the social reforms of Roosevelt's New Deal. Republicans hoped he would appeal to average Americans who supported mild reforms, but feared Roosevelt's social policies.

The Democrats nominated Roosevelt and Vice President John Garner to serve a second term.

SARAH LONG: The main issue in the presidential campaign of nineteen thirty-six was Franklin Roosevelt himself. Roosevelt campaigned across the country like a man sure that he would win. He laughed with the cheering crowds and told them that the New Deal had helped improve their lives.

President Franklin Roosevelt accepts his renomination at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on June 23, 1936
President Franklin Roosevelt accepts his renomination at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on June 23, 1936

In New York, Roosevelt made a major speech promising to continue the work of his administration if he was re-elected.

FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT: "Of course we will continue to seek to improve working conditions for the workers of America.

"Of course we will continue to work for cheaper electricity in the homes and on the farms of America, for better and cheaper transportation, for low interest rates, for sounder home financing, for better banking, for the regulation of security issues, for reciprocal trade among nations ...

"And, my friends, for all these we have only just begun to fight."

DOUG JOHNSON: The Republican candidate, Alfred Landon, began his campaign by saying that many of Roosevelt's New Deal programs were good. But he said that a Republican administration could do them better and for less money. However, Landon's words became much stronger as the campaign continued. He attacked many of Roosevelt's programs.

The campaign became increasingly bitter. Roosevelt said his opponents cared only about their money, not about other Americans. "I welcome their hatred," he said. Landon's supporters accused Roosevelt of destroying the nation's economic traditions and threatening democracy.

SARAH LONG: The nation had not seen such a fierce campaign in forty years. But when it was over, the nation also saw a victory greater than any in its history.

Franklin Roosevelt defeated Alfred Landon in the election of nineteen thirty-six by one of the largest votes in the nation's history. Roosevelt won every state except Maine and Vermont.

The huge election victory marked the high point of Roosevelt's popularity. In our next program, we will look at the many problems he faced in his second administration.

(MUSIC)

MARIO RITTER: Our program was written by David Jarmul. The narrators were Sarah Long and Doug Johnson. You can find our series online with pictures, transcripts, MP3s and podcasts at www.666321.live. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter at VOA Learning English. Join us again next week for THE MAKING OF A NATION -- an American history series in VOA Special English.

___

This is program #182

19世紀30年代羅斯福新政改變了美國政府的形象,這位新總統和國會通過立法,幫助了農民、鞏固了銀行體系,為數百萬失業者提供了就業崗位。羅斯福新政的一項重要成果是推動了工會運動。

十九世紀二十年代,美國工會領導人在組織工會方面沒有取得什么成功,連續三位共和黨總統和全國范圍內的保守浪潮阻礙他們招募工會會員,阻礙他們加強與企業主談判的力量。1929年大蕭條的來臨,使工會更趨衰落,1933年,美國工會會員只有不到300萬人。但到了19世紀30年代末,美國工會會員人數已經超過了1500萬人。

羅斯福政府提出的新法案為工會的發展壯大創造了條件。1933年的《全國工業復興法》賦予工會領導人組織工會,代表工人的權利。美國最高法院裁決該法違憲,但1935年通過的另一部法律,即《瓦格納勞動關系法》壯大了工會的力量。

當時,美國大多數傳統工會領導人對法律賦予他們的新權利認識不足,他們大都是保守派,代表的是有一定技能的工人,如伐木工或金屬加工工人,很少去組織其他各種技能的工人。

但一些新興的工會領導群體,則充分利用這一法律來組織行業工會,而不是按照技能來組織工會。他們認為,如果一家工廠的工人能聯合起來,就會擁有更大的力量,提出共同的要求。這些新的工會領導人開始組織起汽車行業工會、鋼鐵行業工會以及其他主要行業的工會。

這場新的工人運動的領導人是礦業工人約翰.劉易斯,劉易斯是一位非常強勢的領導人,身體強壯,觀點鮮明,他12歲就開始在當地的礦上干活。劉易斯逐漸成為一位強有力的、成功的礦業工人領袖,他同樣關心其他行業的工人,他認為美國勞工聯合會的大多數領導對工會沒有起到什么幫助。

正因為如此,劉易斯和其他幾個工會領導人把那些按行業,而不是按技能組織起來的工會聯合起來,稱為美國產業工會聯合會,并立即吸收會員。美國產業工會聯合會在幾個主要行業取得了成功,但這些成功來之不易。

美國產業工會聯合會的第一大戰役是與美國汽車業巨頭,通用汽車公司的較量。1935年下半年,通用汽車公司一些工廠的工人開始在機器旁"靜坐"罷工,要求資方提高工資,改善工作條件。經過44天的斗爭,通用汽車公司終于屈服了,它們承認汽車業工會有權代表通用汽車公司的工人利益,而且同意與工會談判,達成了新的工作協議。而工會與福特汽車公司的斗爭則更為激烈。福特汽車公司保安毆打工會的組織者和工人,但福特公司最終還是同意與新工會談判。

鋼鐵行業也出現了類似的情況。經過努力,這一批新的工會領導人成功地成為全國鋼鐵行業工人的正式代表。到1938年,美國產業工會聯合會已經成功地爭取到了在美國各大主要行業組織工會的權利。此后,這個工會組織與傳統的美國勞工聯合會聯手,成立了至今仍然是美國最重要的工會組織,即美國勞聯產聯。

羅斯??偨y并不是工會的堅定支持者,但也不像他前面三任共和黨總統那樣支持大企業主。事實上,羅斯福經常公開對民主體制內大企業所帶來的威脅提出警告。這些講話引起了美國許多傳統企業界領袖和保守派領導人的極大關注。羅斯??偨y1935年日益激進的政策讓許多美國富人擔心總統是個社會主義者、獨裁者,抑或是個瘋子。例如,前總統胡佛就公開指責羅斯福新政是對"個人自由主義思想"的攻擊。家族企業摩根公司高層對來訪者說,在摩根面前千萬不要提羅斯福的名字。他們說,一提羅斯福,摩根的血壓就會升高。

1935年到1936年間,這股反對羅斯福的保守勢力日益強大。許多美國人真地擔心,日益膨脹的羅斯福政府是向獨裁邁出的第一步,他們擔心羅斯福和民主黨會像德國的納粹、意大利的法西斯和俄羅斯的共產主義一樣,試圖奪取權力。

1936年夏天,共和黨召開總統候選人提名大會,推選阿爾弗雷德.蘭登為總統候選人,挑戰羅斯福。蘭登是農業州堪薩斯州的州長,也是一位成功的石油商,思想保守,不過,他對羅斯福新政中的一些社會改革政策持接受的態度。共和黨希望蘭登能夠吸引那些主張溫和改革,但對羅斯福的社會政策感到擔心的美國人的支持。與此同時,民主黨提名現任總統羅斯福和副總統約翰.加納競選連任第二個任期。

1936年總統大選的主要話題是富蘭克林.羅斯福本人。羅斯福在全國各地競選演說,儼然一副志在必得的樣子,他和歡呼的人群一起歡笑,告訴他們說,新政已經幫助他們改善了生活。羅斯福在紐約發表了一個重要演說。他許諾,如果當選連任,他將繼續完成現政府的工作。

他說:"當然,我們會繼續設法改善美國工人的工作條件。當然,我們會繼續為美國家庭和農場提供更便宜的電力、更好、更便宜的交通運輸、更低的利率、更健全的家庭理財、更好的銀行體系、更規范的安全保障、與別國的互惠貿易。朋友們,所有這些,我們還只是剛剛起步。"

共和黨總統候選人阿爾弗雷德.蘭登在競選開始的時候,對羅斯福新政中的一些項目表示贊揚,但表示,共和黨政府能會做的更好,而且更省錢。然而,隨著競選的深入,蘭登的聲音也變得越來越強硬,他對羅斯福新政中的許多項目發起攻擊。選戰日漸激烈。羅斯福說,他的反對者只關心自己的腰包,不關心美國人民。他說:"我歡迎他們對我的仇恨。"蘭登的支持者指責羅斯福毀滅了美國的經濟傳統,威脅到了美國的民主。

1936年總統大選是四十年來美國最激烈的選戰,但一切塵埃落地后,美國人得到的是歷史上最偉大的勝利。富蘭克林.羅斯福在1936年總統大選中擊敗阿爾弗雷德.蘭登,贏得了除緬因州和佛蒙特州外所有州的選舉人選票,這一巨大勝利也標志著羅斯福個人支持度的頂峰。

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