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Here is the scenario…
San Francisco, California, 1934.
The Great Depression began in 1929 and will last until 1941. People are struggling to eat and to work. Poverty is rampant. People are skeptical about labor movements, unions, and worker’s rights advocacy because they may suggest the influence of anti-American communism.
Imagine that you are the union leader for the Longshore workers, and—as the San Francisco Crabicle article outlines—many of the workers you represent have chosen to go on strike to protest unfair treatment by their waterfront employers—but some have expressed concerns that the strike will backfire, and the community of San Francisco has had a very mixed response (see “Statements from the Community”).
As a paid, elected leader of the Longshore union, you represent all members of the constituency: those who want to continue the strike, those who want all members to go out on strike, and those who want to continue working because they have families to feed and can’t afford to lose pay. As a leader, you answer to all of these groups. As a member of the San Francisco community during the Depression, you also have a vested interest in the well-being of the city.
The union members have asked you to meet with them and address the group with a solution to their disagreement about the best way to address their concerns about the workplace issues: their safety, their pay, and their hours. They are mad. They want a solution.
Keep in mind:
You are in an elected leadership position and would like to keep your job, so you don’t want to alienate any of the worker constituency groups;
You don’t want to cause rioting, provoke an attack by the police or National Guard (that’s what really happened), or create divisions within the union;
You don’t want the business to go bankrupt (thus losing jobs).
You are in the union hall, onstage, facing angry workers who are demanding a response from you.
Topic: (Note that this is the question for the final exam)
For the final exam, you will be asked to write a speech (using Rogerian-style argument of at least 5 paragraphs) to be delivered to the workers—who are divided about these issues—in which you propose what you believe to be the best solution to the Longshore strike dispute.
Remember that Rogerian essays do not take sides but seek to find a compromise that resolves differences without obviously favoring any one side.
Therefore, in your essay, be sure to include the following, which may be used as an outline for a Rogerian Argument:
A brief and objectively phrased statement that defines the issue.
A complete and neutrally worded analysis of one side’s possible position with comments about the benefits of this position.
A complete and neutrally worded analysis of the other side’s position with comments about the benefits of this position. You should carefully avoid any suggestion that you are more moral or sensitive than your audience.
An analysis of what your positions have in common and what goals and values you share.
A proposal for resolving the issue in a way that recognizes the interests of both parties.
Terminology You Should Know:
1. Longshoreworkers: The people who work on the docks loading and unloading products from the ships.
2. Stevedore Company: Shipping companies hire stevedore companies, also known as waterfront employers, to load and unload cargo on and off their ships. These stevedore companies then hire gang bosses who hire longshore workers.
3. Gang boss: The person who is directly in charge of the longshoreworkers. Before the strike, the gang boss would hire the longshoreworkers and tell them how long to work. This boss was hired by the waterfront employer (a.k.a. the stevedore company owner).
4. Hiring Hall: Before the strike, the place where longshoreworkers wait to be hired by the gang bosses.
5. International Longshore Association: The union or workers’ organization formed by the longshore workers to workers deal with the power of the waterfront employers with collective action.
6. Union recognition: When an employer agrees to negotiate the wages, hours, and working conditions of the business only with the union instead of with individual workers.
7. Picket Line: A group of workers gathered at the company(ies) that they are striking against, to inform the public that they are on strike, and sometimes to physically stop strikebreakers (“scabs”) from entering the workplace to work.
8. Scab: An insulting name people on strike call a person who crosses a picket line to take the job that a striking worker usually does.
9. Communist: A person who believes that workers should “communally” (or collectively) own and run business and government, as opposed to capitalists (private individual business owners). Also called socialist.