- Labor history of the United States
Labor history of the United States involves the history of
organized labor, as well as the more general history of working people in the United States of America. Pressures dictating the nature and power of organized labor have included the evolution and power of the corporation, efforts by employers and private agencies to limit or control unions, and U.S. labor law. As a response, organized unions and labor federations have competed, evolved, merged, and split against a backdrop of changing social philosophies and periodic federal intervention.
The history of organized labor has been a specialty of scholars since the
1890s, and has produced a large scholarly literature. In the 1960s, as social historygained popularity, a new emphasis emerged on the history of all workers, with special regard to gender and race. This is called "the new labor history". Much scholarship has attempted to bring the social history perspectives into the study of organized labor.
Organized labor to 1900
The first local unions of men in the United States formed in the late
18th century, and women began organizing in the 1820s. [Alice Kessler-Harris, Out to work : a history of America’s wage-earning women in the United States, Oxford University Press, 1982, pg 82] However, the movement came into its own after the Civil War, when the short-lived National Labor Union(NLU) became the first federation of American unions.
Some of the earliest organization by women occurred in
Lowell, Massachusetts. In 1845, the trade union of the Lowell millssent representatives to speak to the Massachusetts legislature about conditions in the factories, leading to the first governmental investigation into working conditions. The mill strikes of 1834 and 1836, while largely unsuccessful, involved upwards of 2,000 workers and represented a substantial organizational effort. [Alice Henry, The Trade Union Woman, Lenox Hill pub. & Dist. Co. (reprint), pgs 4, 12]
Order of the Knights of St. Crispin
Order of the Knights of St. Crispinwas founded in 1867 and claimed 50,000 members by 1870, by far the largest union in the country. A closely associated union of women, the Daughters of St. Crispin, formed in 1870. In 1879 the Knights formally admitted women, who by 1886 comprised 10% of the union's membership. [Kessler-Harris, Out to Work, pg 85-6] But it was poorly organized and soon declined. They fought encroachments of machinery and unskilled labor on autonomy of skilled shoe workers. One provision in the Crispin constitution explicitly sought to limit the entry of "green hands" into the trade. But that failed because the new machines could be operated by semi-skilled workers and produce more shoes than hand sewing.
Knights of Labor
The first effective labor organization that was more than regional in membership and influence was the
Knights of Labor, organized in 1869. The Knights believed in the unity of the interests of all producing groups and sought to enlist in their ranks not only all laborers but everyone who could be truly classified as a producer. The acceptance of all producers led to explosive growth after 1880. Under the leadership of Terence Powderly they championed a variety of causes, sometimes through political or cooperativeventures. Powderly hoped to gain their ends through politicsand educationrather than through economic coercion.
Their big strikes failed and they collapsed in the wake of the
Haymarket tragedyof 1886, where an unidentified person in a crowd threw a bomb into a crowd of police men. The city and police department used the incident as an excuse to repress the labor movement and arrest 8 influential anarchist labor leaders. The police and city admitted that there was no evidence connecting the anarchist labor leaders to the bombing, but Judge Joseph Gary allowed them to be convicted on the theory that their speeches had encouraged the unknown bomber to commit the act. The trial has been characterized as one of the most serious miscarriages of justice in United States history. [Dave Roediger, "Haymarket Incident".] Most working people believed Pinkerton agents had provoked the incident. [Frank Morn, "The Eye That Never Sleeps, A History of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency", 1982, page 99.]
The rally began peacefully under a light rain on the evening of
May 4. August Spiesspoke to the large crowd while standing in an open wagon on Des Plaines Street. [ [http://www.ci.chi.il.us/Landmarks/S/SiteHaymarket.html 163 North Desplaines Street] ] According to many witnesses, Spies said he was not there to incite anyone. Meanwhile a large number of on-duty police officers watched from nearby. The crowd was so calm that Mayor Carter Harrison, Sr., who had stopped by to watch, walked home early. Some time later the police ordered the rally to disperse and began marching in formation towards the speakers' wagon. A bomb was thrown at the police line and exploded, killing policeman Mathias J. Degan. [ [http://www.odmp.org/officer.php?oid=3972 Officer Down Memorial Page, Inc.] ] The police immediately opened fire. While several police officers aside from Degan appear to have also been injured by the bomb, most of the police casualties seem to have been caused by bullets. About sixty officers were wounded in the riot along with an unknown number of civilians. In all, seven policemen and at least four workers were killed. However, it is unclear how many workers were wounded since the injured were afraid to seek medical attention, fearing punishment for their part in the riot. cite web|url=http://www.chicagohistory.org/dramas/act2/act2.htm |title=the bomb |accessmonthday = March 30 | accessyear=2007|work=Haymarket Affair Digital Collection |publisher= Chicago Historical Society ] The explosion was caused by a dynamite bomb which was thrown into our ranks from the east sidewalk, and fell in the second division and near the dividing line between the companies of Lieuts. Stanton and Bowler. For an instant the entire command of the above named officers, with many of the first and third divisions was thrown to the ground. Alas many never to rise again. The men recovered, instantly, and returned the fire of the mob. Lieuts. Steele and Quinn charged the mob on the street, while the company of Lieut. Hubbard with the few uninjured members of the second division swept both sidewalks with a hot and telling fire, and in a few minutes the Anarchists were flying in every direction. I then gave the order to cease firing, fearing that some of our men, in the darkness might fire into each other.cite journal|title=Inspector John Bonfield report to Frederick Ebersold, General Superintendent of Police |journal=Haymarket Affair Digital Collection|date= May 30, 1886|first=|last=|coauthors=|volume=Additional Manuscripts|issue=Chicago Police Department Reports|pages=2|id= |url=http://www.chicagohs.org/hadc/manuscripts/m03/M03.htm|format=|accessdate=2007-03-30] I saw a man, whom I afterwards identified as Fielding, standing on a truck wagon at the corner of what is known as Crane's Alley. I raised by baton and in a loud voice, ordered them to disperse as peaceable citizens. I also called upon three persons in the crowd to assist in dispersing the mob. Fielding got down from the wagon, saying at the time, "We are peaceable," as he uttered the last word, I heard a terrible explosion behind where I was standing, followed almost instantly by an irregular volley of pistol shots in our front and from the sidewalk on the east side of the street, which was immediately followed by regular and well directed volleys from the police and which was kept up for several minutes. I then ordered the injured men brought to the stations and sent for surgeons to attend to their injuries. After receiving the necessary attention most of the injured officers were removed to the County Hospital and I highly appreciate the manner in which they were received by Warden McGarrigle who did all in his power to make them comfortable as possible.cite journal|title=William Ward Capt. 3rd Prect report to Frederick Ebersold, General Superintendent of Police |journal=Haymarket Affair Digital Collection|date= May 30, 1886|first=|last=|coauthors=|volume=Additional Manuscripts|issue=Chicago Police Department Reports|pages=7|id= |url=http://www.chicagohs.org/hadc/manuscripts/m03/M03.htm|format=|accessdate=2007-03-30]
During the major economic downturn of the early
1890s, the Pullman Palace Car Company cut wages. A delegation of workers complained that the corporation that operated the town of Pullman did not decrease rents, but Pullman "loftily declined to talk with them."Anthony Lukas, Big Trouble, 1997, page 310. Discontented workers joined the American Railway Union(ARU), led by Eugene V. Debs, which supported their strike by launching a boycott of all Pullman cars. The strike effectively shut down production in the Pullman factories and led to a lockout. Railroad workers across the nation refused to switch Pullman cars (and subsequently Wagner Palacecars) onto trains. The ARU declared that if switchmen were disciplined for the boycott, the entire ARU would strike in sympathy.Anthony Lukas, Big Trouble, 1997, page 310. The boycott was launched on June 26, 1894. Within four days, 125,000 workers on twenty-nine railroads had quit work rather than handle Pullman cars.Anthony Lukas, Big Trouble, 1997, page 310.
July 5, in an act of arson that may or may not have been related to the strike, the buildings of the World's Columbian Expositionaround the Court of Honor were torched. Buildings caught in the blaze included the administration hall, the manufacturer's hall, the electricity hall, the machinery hall, the mining hall, the agricultural hall, and the fair's train station. This increased national attention to the matter and fueled the demand for federal action.
The railroads were able to get Edwin Walker, general counsel for the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railway, appointed as a special federal attorney with responsibility for dealing with the strike. Walker obtained an injunction barring union leaders from supporting the boycott in any way. The court injunction was based on the
Sherman Anti-Trust Actwhich prohibited "Every contract, combination in the form of trust or otherwise, or conspiracy, in restraint of trade or commerce among the several States". Debs and other leaders of the ARU ignored the injunction, and federal troops were called into action.Anthony Lukas, Big Trouble, 1997, page 310-311.
The strike was broken up by
United States Marshals and some 2,000 United States Armytroops, commanded by Nelson Miles, sent in by President Grover Clevelandon the premise that the strike interfered with the delivery of U.S. Mail. During the course of the strike, 13 strikers were killed and 57 were wounded. An estimated 6,000 rail workers did $340,000 worth of property damage.
Rise of AFL
Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unionsbegan in 1881under the leadership of Samuel Gompers. Its members were different unions. Its original goals were to encourage the formation of trade unions and to obtain legislation, such as prohibition of child labor, a national eight hour day, and exclusion of foreign contract workers. Samuel Gompers of the Cigar Makers Union was chosen as the chairman of its Committee on Organization and as a member of its Legislative Committee.
The Federation made some efforts to obtain favorable legislation, but had little success in organizing or chartering new unions. It came out in support of the proposal, traditionally attributed to Peter J. McGuire of the Carpenters Union, for a national Labor Day holiday on the first Monday in September, and threw itself behind the eight hour movement, which sought to limit the workday by either legislation or union organizing.
In 1886, as the relations between the trade union movement and the Knights of Labor worsened, McGuire and other union leaders called for a convention to be held at Columbus, Ohio on December 8th. The Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions merged with the new organization, known as the
American Federation of Laboror AFL, formed at that convention.
The AFL was formed in large part because of the dissatisfaction of many trade union leaders with the Knights of Labor, an organization that contained many trade unions and which had played a leading role in some of the largest strikes of the era. The new AFL distinguished itself from the Knights by emphasizing the autonomy of each trade union affiliated with it and limiting membership to workers and organizations made up of workers, unlike the Knights.
The AFL grew steadily in the late nineteenth century while the Knights disappeared. Although Gompers at first advocated something like industrial unionism, he retreated from that in the face of opposition from the craft unions that made up most of the AFL. The emphasis made for much stronger locals with which the workers could identify, and derived benefits in terms of insurance, fellowship, and bargaining power.
The unions of the AFL were composed primarily of skilled workers; unskilled workers, African-Americans, and women were generally excluded. The AFL saw women as threatening the jobs of men, since they often worked for lower wages. The AFL provided little to no support to women's attempts to unionize and affiliate themselves with the parent union. [Alice Kessler-Harris, Gendering Labor History, University of Illinois Press, 2007, pgs 24, 27, 29]
Labor history 1900-1932
Coal Strikes 1900-1902
The United Mine Workers was successful in its strike against soft coal (bituminous) mines in the Midwest in 1900, but its strike against the hard coal (anthracite) mines of Pennsylvania turned into a national political crisis in 1902. President
Theodore Rooseveltbrokered a compromise solution that kept the flow of coal going, and higher wages and shorter hours, but did not include recognition of the union as a bargaining agent.
Women's Trade Union League
Women's Trade Union Leaguewas formed as a result of a meeting of interested parties during the 1903 AFL convention in Boston. The League maintained a loose affiliation with the AFL and provided support to unionized women similar to that of other trade union umbrella organizations. It was composed of both workingwomen and middle-class reformers, and provided financial assistance, moral support, and training in work skills and social refinement for the women it represented. [Kessler-Harris, Gendering, pg 33] [Henry, Trade Union Woman, pg 62-3]
Debs, Socialists, IWW and Dual Unionism
The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), whose members became known as "Wobblies", was founded in 1905 by a group of about 30 labor radicals. Among their most prominent leaders was William “Big Bill” Haywood. The IWW organized along the lines of
industrial unionismrather than craft unionism; in fact, they went even further, pursuing the goal of "One Big Union" and the abolition of the wagesystem. Many, though probably not all, Wobblies favored anarcho-syndicalism. Much of the IWW’s organizing took place in the West, and most of its early members were miners, lumbermen, cannery, and dock workers. In 1912 the IWW organized a strike of more than twenty thousand textile workers, and by 1917 the Agricultural Worker's Organization (AWO) of the IWW claimed a hundred thousand itinerant farm workers in the heartland of North America. Eventually the concept of One Big Union spread from dock workers to maritime workers, and thus was communicated to many different parts of the world. Dedicated to workplace and economic democracy, the IWW allowed men and women as members, and organized workers of all races and nationalities. At its peak it had 150,000 members, but it was fiercely repressed during, and especially after, World War I with many of its members killed, about 10,000 organisers imprisoned, and thousands more deported as foreign agitators. The IWW proved that unskilled workers could be organized and gave unskilled workers a sense of dignity and self-worth. The IWW exists today with about 2,000 members, but its most significant impact was during its first two decades of existence.
Socialist Party of Americawas a coalition of local parties based in industrial cities, and usually was rooted in ethnic communities, especially German and Finnish. By 1912 they claimed more than a thousand locally elected officials in 33 states and 160 cities, especially the Midwest. Eugene Debsran for president in 1900, 1904 and 1908 primarily to encourage the local effort, and he did so again in 1912.
The party was factionalized. The conservatives, led by
Victor Bergerof Milwaukee who promoted progressive causes of efficiency and an end to corruption. The radicals wanted to overthrow capitalism, tried to infiltrate labor unions, and sought to cooperate with the IWW. With few exceptions the party had weak or nonexistent links to local labor unions. Immigration was an issue--the radicals saw immigrants as fodder for the war with capitalism, while conservatives complained the immigrants lowered wage rates and absorbed too many city resources.
Many of these issues were heatedly debated at the First National Congress of the Socialist Party in 1910, and the national convention in Indianapolis in 1912. At the latter the radicals won an early test by seating
Bill Haywoodon the Executive Committee, by sending encouragement to western "Wobblies," and by a resolution seeming to favor industrial unionism. The conservatives counterattacked by amending the party constitution to expel any socialists who favored industrial sabotage or syndicalism (that is, the IWW), and who refused to participate in American elections. They adopted a conservative platform calling for cooperative organization of prisons, a national bureau of health, abolition of the Senate and the presidential veto, and a long list of progressive reforms that the Democratic party was known for. Debs did not attend--he saw his mission as keeping the disparate units together in the hope that someday a common goal would be found.
There was little money--his campaign cost only $66,000, mostly for 3.5 million leaflets and travel to rallies organized by local groups. Debs criss-crossed the country, His biggest event was a speech to 15,000 in New York City. The crowd sang the "Marseillaise," and "International" as Emil Seidel, the vice-presidential candidate, boasted, "Only a year ago workingmen were throwing decayed vegetables and rotten eggs at us but now all is changed....Eggs are too high. There is a great giant growing up in this country that will someday take over the affairs of this nation. He is a little giant now but he is growing fast. The name of this little giant is socialism." Debs said that only the socialists represented labor; he condemned "Injunction Bill Taft"; ridiculed Roosevelt as "a charlatan, mountebank, and fraud, and his Progressive promises and pledges as the mouthings of a low and utterly unprincipled self seeker and demagogue." Debs insisted that the Democrats, Progressives and Republicans alike were financed by the trusts. Party newspapers spread the word--there were five English-language and eight foreign language dailies along with 262 English and 36 foreign language weeklies. Debs won 900,000 votes, about 6% of the total cast. The great majority of labor union members voted, as always, for one of the major parties.
Government and Labor
In 1908 the U.S. Supreme Court decided the
Danbury Hatters’ Case. In 1902 the Hatters’ Union instituted a nationwide boycott of the hats made by a nonunion company in Connecticut. The owner Dietrich Loewe brought suit against the union for unlawful combinations to restrain trade in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act. The Court ruled the union was subject to an injunction and liable for the payment of triple damages. In 1915 Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, speaking for the Court, again decided in favor of Loewe upholding a lower federal court ruling ordering the union to pay him damages of $252,130. (The cost of lawyers had already exceeded $100,000, paid by the AFL). This was not a typical case where a few union leaders were punished with short terms in jail, but that the life savings of several hundreds of the members were attached. It was a major precedent for lower court ruling and a grievance for the unions. The Clayton Act of 1914 presumably exempted unions from the antitrust prohibition and established for the first time the Congressional principle that, "the labor of a human being is not a commodity or article of commerce." However, judicial interpretation so weakened it that prosecutions of labor under the antitrust acts continued until the enactment of the Norris-LaGuardia Act in 1932.
Loewe v. Lawlor", 208 U.S. 274 (1908), 235 U.S. 522 (1915)
State legislation 1912-1918: 36 states adopted the principle of workmen's compensation for all industrial accidents. Also: prohibition of the use of an industrial poison, several states require one day's rest in seven, the beginning of effective prohibition of night work, of maximum limits upon the length of the working day, and of minimum wage laws for women.
AFL and Gompers
The AFL was Founded in 1881 by
Samuel Gompers, like the NLU the AFL was a federation of unions. The AFL was a union of Skilled workers only, unskilled workers, women and African Americans were not allowed to join. From 1890 to 1917 the unionized wages rose from 17 dollars and 57 cents to 23 dollars and 98 cents and the average work week fell from 54.4 to 48.9 hours a week. The problem was that skilled workers were only 30% of the work force and that wasn’t enough to keep the AFL going.
One of the earliest Railroad Strikes was also one of the most successful. In 1885, the
Knights of Laborled railroad workers to victory against Jay Gouldand his entire Southwestern Railway system.
Great Railroad Strike of 1922, a nationwide railroad shop workers strike began on July 1. The immediate cause of the strike was the Railroad Labor Board's announcement that hourly wages would be cut by seven cents on July 1, which prompted a shop workers vote on whether or not to strike. The operators' union did not join in the strike, and the railroads employed strikebreakers to fill three-fourths of the roughly 400,000 vacated positions, increasing hostilities between the railroads and the striking workers. On September 1 a federal judge issued a sweeping injunction against striking, assembling, picketing, etc. colloquially known as the "Daugherty Injunction."
Unions bitterly resented the injunction; a few sympathy strikes shut down some railroads completely. The strike eventually died out as many shopmen made deals with the railroads on the local level. The often unpalatable concessions — coupled with memories of the violence and tension during the strike — soured relations between the railroads and the shopmen for years.
World War I
War Labor Administration
*Bernard Baruch and WIB
*AFL membership 2,371,434 in 1917.
National Origins Formula
Norris Laguardia Act
Organized Labor 1932-1955
New Deal Labor Policy
Wagner Act 1935
John L. Lewis and CIO
John Llewellyn Lewis(1880-1969) was the autocratic president of the United Mine Workers of America(UMW) from 1920 to 1960, and the driving force behind the founding of the Congress of Industrial Organizations. Using UMW organizers the new CIO established the United Steel Workers of America(USWA) and organized millions of other industrial workers in the 1930s. A powerful speaker and strategist, Lewis did not hesitate to shut down coal production—the nation's main energy and heating source—to get his demands.
Lewis threw his support behind FDR at the outset of the
New Deal. After the passage of the Wagner Act in 1935 Lewis traded on the tremendous appeal that Roosevelt had with workers in those days, sending organizers into the coal fields to tell workers that "The President wants you to join the Union." His UMW was one of FDR's main financial supporters in 1936, contributing over $500,000.
Lewis expanded his base by organizing the so-called "captive mines," those held by the steel producers such as
U.S. Steel. That required in turn organizing the steel industry, which had defeated union organizing drives in 1892 and 1919 and which had resisted all organizing efforts since then fiercely. The task of organizing steelworkers, on the other hand, put Lewis at odds with the AFL, which looked down on both industrial workers and the industrial unions that represented all workers in a particular industry, rather than just those in a particular skilled trade or craft.
This dispute came to a head at the AFL’s convention in 1935. Lewis called together leaders of seven other unions within the AFL to form a group known as the Committee for Industrial Organizing to push the AFL to change its policy opposing industrial organizing. William Green, now President of the AFL, treated this group as an enemy within the AFL. Anatagonism escalated until the CIO, now calling itself the
Congress of Industrial Organizations, formally established itself as a rival union federation in 1938, with Lewis as its first president. Lewis, in fact, was the CIO: his UMWA provided the great bulk of the financial resources that the CIO poured into organizing drives by the United Automobile Workers(UAW), the USWA, the Textile Workers Union and other newly formed or struggling unions. Lewis hired back many of the people he had exiled from the UMWA in the 1920s to lead the CIO and placed his protégé Philip Murrayat the head of the Steel Workers Organizing Committee. Lewis played the leading role in the negotiations that led to the successful conclusion of the Flint sit-down strike conducted by the UAW in 1936-1937 and in the Chrysler sit-down strike that followed.
The CIO's actual membership (as opposed to publicity figures) was 2,850,000 for February 1942. This included 537,000 members of the UAW, just under 500,000 Steel Workers, almost 300,000 members of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers, about 180,000 Electrical Workers, and about 100,000 Rubber Workers. The CIO also included 550,000 members of the United Mine Workers, which did not formally withdraw from the CIO until later in the year. The remaining membership of 700,000 was scattered among thirty-odd smaller unions. (Galenson, p. 585)
Upsurge in World War II
Both the AFL and CIO supported Roosevelt in 1940, with 75% of more of their votes, millions of dollars, and tens of thousands of precinct workers. However, John L. Lewis opposed Roosevelt on foreign policy grounds. He took the UMWA out of the CIO and rejoined the AFL. All labor unions strongly supported the war effort after June 1941 (when Germany invaded the Soviet Union). Left-wing activists crushed wildcat strikes. Nonetheless, Lewis realized that he had enormous leverage. In 1943, the middle of the war, when the rest of labor was observing a policy against strikes, Lewis led the UMWA out on a twelve-day strike for higher wages; the depth of public dismay—even hatred—of Lewis was palpable. In November 1943 the "Fortune" poll asked, "Are there any prominent individuals in this country who you feel might be harmful to the future of the country unless they are curbed?" 36% spontaneously named Lewis. (Next came 3% who named Roosevelt.) [Cantril and Strunk 561] As a result the
Conservative coalitionin Congress was able to pass anti-union legislation, leading to the Taft-Hartley Actof 1947.
Walter Reuther and UAW
Flint Sit-Down Strikeof 1936-37 was the decisive event in the formation of the United Auto Workers Union(UAW). During the war Walter Reuthertook control of the UAW, and soon led major strikes in 1946. He ousted the Communists from the positions of power, especially at the Ford local. He was one of the most articulate and energetic leaders of the CIO, and of the merged AFL-CIO. Using brilliant negotiatiating tactics he achieved high pay and high benefits for his members, and high profits for the Big Three automakers. The formula was fatal when the Germans and Japanese started exporting cars in the 1970s, and led to a series of crises and shrinkage of the union.
PAC and Politics of 1940s
New enemies appeared for the labor unions after 1935. Newspaper columnist
Westbrook Peglerwas especially outraged by the New Deal's support for powerful labor unions that he considered morally and politically corrupt. Pegler saw himself a populist and muckraker whose mission was to warn the nation that dangerous leaders were in power. In 1941 Pegler became the first columnist ever to win a Pulitzer Prizefor reporting, for his work in exposing racketeeringin Hollywood labor unions, focusing on the criminal career of William Morris Bioff. As historian David Witwer has concluded, "He depicted a world where a conspiracy of criminals, corrupt union officials, Communists, and their political allies in the New Deal threatened the economic freedom of working Americans." [David Witwer, "Westbrook Pegler and the Anti-union Movement" "Journal of American History" 92.2 (2005): 551]
Taft-Hartley Actin 1947 revised the Wagner Actto include restrictions on unions as well as management. It was a response to public demands for action after the wartime coal strikes and the postwar strikes in steel, autos and other industries were perceived to have damaged the economy, not to mention a threatened 1946 rail strike that would have shut down the national economy. It was bitterly fought by unions, vetoed by President Harry S. Truman, and passed over his veto. Repeated union efforts to repeal or modify it always failed.
The Act, officially known as the Labor-Management Relations Act, was sponsored by Senator
Robert Taftand Representative Fred Hartley. President Truman described the act as a "slave-labor bill" in his veto, but he did use it. Congress overrode the veto on June 23, 1947, establishing the act as a law.
The Taft-Hartley Act amended the
Wagner Act, officially known as the National Labor Relations Act, of 1935. The amendments added to the NLRA a list of prohibited actions, or "unfair labor practices", on the part of unions. The NLRA had previously prohibited only unfair labor practices committed by employers. It prohibited jurisdictional strikes, in which a union strikes in order to pressure an employer to assign particular work to the employees that union represents, and secondary boycotts and "common situs" picketing, in which unions picket, strike, or refuse to handle the goods of a business with which they have no primary dispute but which is associated with a targeted business. A later statute, the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act, passed in 1959, tightened these restrictions on secondary boycotts still further.
The Act outlawed
closed shops, which were contractual agreements that required an employer to hire only union members. Union shops, in which new recruits must join the union within a certain amount of time, are permitted, but only as part of a collective bargaining agreementand only if the contract allows the worker at least thirty days after the date of hire or the effective date of the contract to join the union. The National Labor Relations Boardand the courts have added other restrictions on the power of unions to enforce union securityclauses and have required them to make extensive financial disclosures to all members as part of their duty of fair representation. On the other hand, a few years after the passage of the Act Congress repealed the provisions requiring a vote by workers to authorize a union shop, when it became apparent that workers were approving them in virtually every case.
The amendments also authorized individual states to outlaw union security clauses entirely in their jurisdictions by passing "
right-to-work" laws. Currently all of the states in the Deep Southand a number of traditionally Republican states in the Midwest, Plains and Rocky Mountains regions have right-to-work laws.
The amendments required unions and employers to give sixty days' notice before they may undertake strikes or other forms of economic action in pursuit of a new collective bargaining agreement; it did not, on the other hand, impose any "cooling-off period" after a contract expired. Although the Act also authorized the President to intervene in strikes or potential strikes that create a national emergency, a reaction to the national coal miners' strikes called by the
United Mine Workers of Americain the 1940s, the President has used that power less and less frequently in each succeeding decade.
The AFL and CIO unions supported the Cold War policies of the Truman administration, including the
Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Planand NATO. Left wing elements protested and were forced out of the main unions. Thus Walter Reutherof the United Automobile Workerspurged the UAW of all Communist elements. He was active in the CIO umbrella as well, taking the lead in expelling eleven Communist-dominated unions from the CIO in 1949. As a prominent figure in the anti-Communist left, Reuther was a founder of the liberal umbrella group Americans for Democratic Actionin 1947. In 1949 he led the CIO delegation to the London conference that set up the International Confederation of Free Trade Unionsin opposition to the Communist-dominated World Federation of Trade Unions. He had left the Socialist party in 1939, and throughout the 1950s and 1960s was a leading spokesman for liberal interests in the CIO and in the Democratic party.
Labor History since 1955
AFL and CIO merger 1955
Jimmy Hoffa, Teamsters and issue of Corruption
Civil Rights Movement
Rise of Public Sector Unions
Reagan and Corporate Attacks on Unions
Although most unions threw their support to Reagan in the
1980 presidential election, one of his first acts as President was to betray them. In August 3 1981, the PATCO union went on strike. They thought that by keeping the nation’s planes grounded, they could quickly work out a deal. Unbeknownst to them, Reagan had hired a bunch of scabs to replace them, and said that if they didn’t return to their posts within 48 hours, he would have them all fired and ban them from again working in a Federal capacity. Since only a few returned to work, thousands lost their jobs, and the wages remained stagnant.
Decline of Private Sector Unions
The UAW's numbers are representative of the manufacturing sector: 1,619,000 members in 1970, 1,446,000 in 1980, 952,000 in 1990, 623,000 in 2004.
NAFTA and threat of International Trade
The situation for the automotive industry and UAW members worsened dramatically in 1973. Gasoline prices shot up and, worse,
Volkswagenand Hondastarted flooding the American market. For the first time major American industries had foreign competition for the domestic market. This started years of layoffs and the UAW found itself in the position of giving up some benefits it had won over the decades. This peaked with the near-bankruptcy of Chrysler in 1979 and actual bankruptcy of Delphi in 2005. By 2005 the total labor costs per employee had reached $65 per hour at General Motors, so in November 2005 it announced it would shut down more plants, costing 40,000 unionized jobs.
United States labor law
Labor unions in the United States
*David Brody. "In Labor's Cause: Main Themes on the History of the American Worker" (1993).
*David Brody. "Workers in Industrial America: Essays on the Twentieth Century Struggle"
*John R. Commons and Associates. "History of Labour In The United States. [1896-1932] " (4 vol. 1921-1957), highly detailed classic to 1920.
*Melvyn Dubofsky. "Labor Leaders in America" (1987).
*Melvyn Dubofsky and
Foster Rhea Dulles. "Labor in America: A History" (2004)*
*Melvyn Dubofsky and Warren Van Time. "John L. Lewis" (1986) best biography of key 20c leader.
*Philip Foner. "Women and the American Labor Movement from World War I to the Present" (1980).
*Steve Fraser. "Labor Will Rule: Sidney Hillman and the rise of American labor." (1993).
*Julie Greene. "Pure and Simple Politics: The American Federation of Labor and Political Activism, 1881-1917" (1998)
*John H. M. Laslett. "Labor and the Left; a study of socialist and radical influences in the American labor movement, 1881-1924." (1970).
*Nelson Lichtenstein. "State of the Union: A Century of American Labor" (2003).
*Harold C. Livesay, "Samuel Gompers and Organized Labor in America" (1993)
*Gwendolyn Mink. "Old labor and new immigrants in American political development: union, party, and state, 1875-1920." (1986).
*David Montgomery. "The Fall of the House of Labor: The Workplace, the State, and American Labor Activism, 1865-1925" (1987)
*Philip Taft. "The A.F. of L. in the Time of Gompers" (1957)
*Philip Taft. "The A.F. Of L. From the Death of Gompers to the Merger" (1959)
*Christopher L. Tomlins. "The state and the unions: labor relations, law, and the organized labor movement in America, 1880-1960." (1985)
* Robert H. Zieger. "The CIO 1935-1955" (1995).
* Robert H. Zieger and Gilbert J. Gall. "American Workers, American Unions: The Twentieth Century" (2002).
*Samuel Gompers, "Seventy Years of Life and Labor" (1925, 1985 reprint)
*"The Samuel Gompers Papers" (1986- ) definitive multivolume edition of all important letters to and from Gompers. 9 volumes have been completed to 1917. The index is online. For details and more on Gompers see [http://www.history.umd.edu/Gompers/index.htm]
*Terence Vincent Powderly. "Thirty years of labor, 1859-1889" (1890, reprint 1967).
* [http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Trade_unionism_of_the_United_States Category:Trade unionism of the United States] on Wikimedia
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