2018 -October through December, the “One Job Should Be Enough” nationwide-strikes against Marriot, the world's largest hotel chain involving 7,700 workers at 23 hotels in Boston, Detroit, San Jose, Oakland, Honolulu, San Francisco and San Diego organized by locals of UNITE HERE over wages & other shared issues such as job safety and security, automation and technology.
The national wave of teachers' successful strikes, referred to as Red for Ed Strikes because the striking teachers often wore red shirts to show solidarity; and the “Red States Revolt” because of a majority of the strikes being in predominantly Republican Party-controlled, conservative states. Beginning in West Virginia between February 22 and March 7, when local activists compelled the leadership of the state branches of the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association into taking a strike vote. The West Virginia teachers staged “walk-ins” at schools and protests at the West Virginia Capitol.
Similar, statewide strikes were waged in Oklahoma (April 2-12) and Arizona (April 26- May 3) and protests by school staff in Kentucky, North Carolina (May 1 and May 16), Colorado (April 27- May 12), including a school bus driver strike in Georgia.
2005 Seven major national unions, representing six million workers, disaffiliate from the AFL-CIO and, in September, form a new coalition called “Change to Win”, devoted to organizing.
2004 70,000 Southern California grocery workers strike Safeway to protect their health benefits and stop imposition of a vicious two-tier wage system.
UNITE HERE is formed by the merger of UNITE (the Union of Needletrades, Industrial, and Textile Employees) and HERE (Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union), creating a mreged national union with 400,000 active members.
March 29, the 500,000-member United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners announced that it was disaffiliating with the national AFL-CIO because of differences in the direction of the labor movement.
April 5, 10,000 Public school teachers and 3000 state university faculty in Hawaii shut down all public education in the State in the nation's first state-wide education strike.
1997 In a big win for their members and all of organized labor, the Teamsters reach a new five-year agreement with United Parcel Service (UPS) on Aug. 18, ending a two-week strike over abuse of part-time workers and health care for retirees.
1995 The 123,000-member I.L.G.W.U. and the 129,000-member A.C.T.W.U. merge to form the new Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees (UNITE).
1994 The longest players' strike in sports history (232 days) is conducted by the Major League Players Association against National and American League owners.
1993 a five day strike of 21,000 American Airlines' flight attendants, virtually shutting the airline down is ended when Pres. Clinton persuades the owners to arbirate the dispute.
1993 The Family and Medical leave Act is passed.
1992 The founding convention of the AFL-CIO's Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA) is held from April 30 to May 2 in Washington D.C.
1991 On September 3rd the Imperial Food Products fire in Hamlet, North Carolina where, despite a federally approved state OSHA program, 25 poultry processing workers are killed, 49 injured.
1990 7500 hotel worker and members of HERE, Local 5 strike 11 major hotels from March 3 to March 24 to protect their pension benefits.
June 15, LAPD officers attacked a group of 400 non-violent demonstrators in the SEIU “Justice for Janitors” campaign in the Century City strike against that high-rise commercial office area of Los Angeles.
1989 The United Mine Workers of America wildcat strike of the Pittston Coal Group in Virginia spreads across the eastern coalfields involving up to 50,000 miners in 11 states. Using non-violence and civil disobedience, the miners win a contract after a bitter nine-month struggle.
1981 The Professional Air Traffic Controllers Association struck in defiance of the law. Newly elected President Ronald Reagan fired all the strikers and broke the union, sanctioning the practice of hiring “permanent replacements” for striking workers. Solidarity day labor rally draws 400,000 to the Mall in Washington D.C.
1979 Douglas Fraser becomes first labor leader elected to board of directors of a major corporation (Chrysler).
1978 The Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute [p.l. 95-454, 5 U.S.C. §7101 et seq.], also known as Title VII of the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978, grants by statute collective bargaining to federal workers which had been subject to executive order.
1976 January 2, President Ford vetoes Common Situs Picketing Bill; in aftermath Dunlop issues statement of resignation.
1975 July 1, Cesar Chavez and sixty supporters of the UFW embarked on a thousand-mile march across California to rally the state's farm workers.
July 30, former Teamsters union president Jimmy Hoffa disappears from the parking lot of the Machus Red fox Restaurant in suburban Detroit. Although presumed dead, his remains have never been found.
1974 March 22, the founding convention of the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW) in Chicago elects Olga Madar its first president.
September 2, Employee Retirement Income Security Act.
November 13, Karen Gay Silkwood, a lab tech at the Cimeron plutonium plant and officer of the Oil, Chemical, and Atomic Workers Union local in Oklahoma City dies mysteriously en route to a union meeting with a newspaper reporter.
1973 May 30, Crystal Lee Jordan (aka “Norma Rae”) is fired for trying to organize a union at the J.P. Stevens plant in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina.
1972 In Harlan County, Kentucky Coal operators again try to break the United Mine Workers and a bloody coal-field war erupts.
1971 April 28, Occupational Safety and Health Act.
December 23, Jimmy Hoffa's prison sentence is commuted by President Richard Nixon on the condition he not participate in union activities for ten years.
1970In March, 200,000 U.S. Postal Workers starting in New York City, without the approval of their union and with no legal right to strike engage in the largest “Wildcat” strike in U.S. History. It resulted in the passage of the Postal Reorganization Act.
Under the leadership of Cesar Chavez, United Farm Workers start boycott of 25 major growers in California.
1969 Mary Moultrie organizes the successful strike of 550 black women hospital workers for union representation in Charleston, South Carolina.
1968 During an AFSCME Sanitation Workers' strike, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. is assassinated at his motel in Memphis.
November 20th, a gas explosion at Consolidated Coal Company's No. 9 mine at Farmington, West Virginia trap 81 men, 78 of whom are killed in the mine.
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act makes it illegal to discriminate against people 40 to 65 years old.
1967 December 15, Age Discrimination in Employment Act.
1965 September 8, Delano Grape Strike began when the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee, mostly Filipino farm workers in Delano, California, walked off the farms of area table grape growers demanding wages on level with the federal minimum wage. One week after the strike began, the predominantly Mexican-American National Farmworkers Association led by Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta joined the strike, and eventually the two groups merged, forming the United Farm Workers of America. Quickly, the strike spread to over 2,000 workers
October 22, Service Contracts Act.
1964 July 2, President Johnson signs Civil Rights Act of 1964; Title VII bans discrimination in the workplace.
Teamsters President Jimmy Hoffa succeeds in bringing virtually all North American over-the-road truck drivers under a single national master freight agreement.
1963 June 10, Equal Pay Act.
1962 President Kennedy issues Executive Order 10988 giving federal workers the right to join unions and bargain for wages and working conditions.
1960 ILWU signs Mechanization and Modernization Agreement, which pioneers the tradeoff of members' job security for the employers' right to introduce labor-saving equipment.
1959 Longest steel strike in U.S. history, shut down 90% of US steel production for 116 days.
September 14, Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (aka Landrum-Griffin) regulating union elections and finances.
1957 Jimmy Hoffa is elected president of the Teamsters.
AFL-CIO expels the Teamsters, Bakery Workers, and Laundry Workers for “unethical conduct.”
1955 The American Federation of Labor merges with the Congress of Industrial Organizations, to form the AFL-CIO, the world's largest labor federation.
1953 AFL expels the International Longshoremen's Association for corruption
Louisiana Sugar Cane Workers' Strike
1952 55 day steel workers strike is ended by Federal Government intervention authorized by Pres. Truman.
UAW president Walter Reuther elected president of CIO
1949 ILWU leaves CIO rather than be ejected for “Communist domination.” Ten other CIO unions are kicked out.
Child labor is finally prohibited through an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act. Previous attempts had not been successful.
1947 June 23, The Taft-Hartley Act passed over President Truman's veto, drastically amending the Wagner Act of 1935 reducing rights of workers to organize labor unions. State “right-to-work” laws appear..
1946 A national railway strike stops all trains. President Harry S. Truman takes over railways and settles the dispute.
1943 Congress passes the Smith-Connally Act to restrict labor bargaining and organizing. It would have required 30 day “cooling off” before strike, criminal penalties for encouraging strikes, Presidential seizure of struck plants, prohibitions against union campaign contributions. It is vetoed by President Roosevelt.
1942 National War Labor Board established with labor representation on the board
1941 President Franklin Roosevelt announces a no-strike pledge by AFL and CIO for duration of World War II.
5-week animators' strike at Walt Disney Studios to end the paternalistic relation between Disney and his animation staff, cemented the studio's derogatory nickname of “the mouse factory.”
1938 June 25, Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA); established Wage and Hour Division in DOL.
Lewis, seeking to organize steelworkers, secures a labor contract with the president of the world's largest steel company, United States Steel, but the smaller companies that collectively were known as “Little Steel” brutally fought steelworkers. Scores of deaths and injuries occurred as the United Steelworkers of America struck at Little Steel plants across the industrial northeast.
1937 May 26, The Battle of the Overpass: United Auto Workers bloody confontation with Ford security forces. Published pictures of badly beaten UAW organizers Walter Reuther and Richard Frankensteen swayed public opinion in favor of the UAW.
The Memorial Day Massacre: Chicago police attack three hundred men picketing Republic Steel, killing ten and brutally maiming many others.
In Harlan County, Kentucky, Sheriff Deputies in the pay of the coal operators shoot unionists in a violent effort to break the United Mine Workers.
1936 December 28th, a “sitdown strike” of auto workers (UAW) supported by the Women's Emergency Brigade at the General Motors plant in Flint, Michigan.
June 30, the Walsh-Healey Act sets safety standards, minimum wage, overtime pay and child labor provisions on all federal contracts.
The Executive Council of the American Federation of Labor votes to expel all labor members who claim affiliation with the Congress of Industrial Organizations, or CIO, which was being led by the UMW president John L. Lewis.
1935 July 5, National Labor Relations Act (Wagner Act), establishing the National Labor Relations Board.
Six affiliated unions of the AFL form a Committee for Industrial Organizing to expand the scope of the AFL beyond its craft-union orientation.
August 14, the Social Security act is approved.
1934 San Francisco General Strike: the key event of modern west coast industrial unionism, led by longshoremen and sailors; Alameda County workers go out too, including streetcar drivers, calling for the municipalization of the privately-held streetcar company; general strikes in other cities. On July 5 (Bloody Thursday) two pickets are killed by the police.
The strike of 400,000 textile workers from New England, the Mid-Atlantic states and all over the southeastern United States and lasting twenty-two days. The strike's ultimate failure and the union's defeat left the southeastern portion of the United States an unorganized and anti-union region for the next 50 years.
July 16, Minneapolis Truckers Strike, 5000 men go out in a strike that established the Teamsters as a nationally significant labor union. Four men are killed–two on each side–and martial law is declared before an agreement is reached.
1933 Section 7(a) of the National Recovery Act (NRA) is passed by Congress to give most private sector workers the right to join a union and bargain collectively with their employers. Shortly thereafter the Supreme Court holds Title I of the Act unconstitutional.
Workers at George A. Hormel and Company stage the first sit-down strike in the U.S., taking over the Austin meat-packing plant for three days. The tactic works: Hormel agrees to submit wage demands to binding arbitration
1932 March 23, Norris-LaGuardia Act (Anti-Injunction Act) passes, prohibiting some federal injunctions in labor disputes and outlawing “yellow-dog” contracts – agreements where an employee agrees not to join a union.
Wisconsin enacts the nation's first unemployment insurance law.
1931 March 3, Davis-Bacon Act, providing for payment of prevailing wage rates to laborers and mechanics employed by contractors and subcontractors on public construction.
September 1, Clara Holden, National Textile Workers' Union organizer is abducted and beaten by vigilantes in Greenville, South Carolina.
1927 November 21, the Columbine Mine Massacre of striking coal miners in Colorado who were attacked with machine guns.
1926 May 20, Railway Labor Act; required employers to bargain collectively and not discriminate against their employees for joining a union and outlawing “yellow-dog” contracts.
1922 July 1 to September 1, nationwide railroad strike of 400,000 shop workers caused by the Railroad Labor Board's wage cut. The railroads hired strikebreakers, increasing hostilities between the railroads and striking workers. On September 1 federal judge James H. Wilkerson issued a sweeping injunction against striking, assembling, picketing, and a variety of other union activities, colloquially known as the “Daugherty Injunction.”
1921 January 21, national conference of state Manufacturers' associations in Chicago develop the “American Plan” to combat union oganizing.
The U.S. Supreme Court held that nothing in the Clayton Anti-trust Act protected unions from injunctions brought against them for conspiracy in constraint of trade. (Duplex Printing Press v. Deering)
1920 Palmer Raids, part II: on January 2 Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer ordered another round of raids by the Federal Department of Justice to arrest and deport suspected 'anarchists' many of whom were labor union activists and leaders. This time about 6,000 were rounded up, arrested and whnever possible, deported.
Baldwin-Felts guards invade Matewan, West Virginia to break up a coal miners strike. The mayor, a small boy, a miner and four guards were killed in a show-down.
Lewis is elected president of the United Mine Workers of America, at the age of 40, taking control of the largest labor union in the nation.
1919 The Seattle General Strike of February 6 to February 11, 1919 by over 65,000 workers in several unions, dissatisfied after two years of World War I wage controls.
August 26, United Mine Workers' organizer Fannie Sellins, a widowed mother of four, is shot to death by coal company guards while leading strikers in Brackenridge, Pennsylvania.
September 9, A strike by 1,100 police in Boston is the first ever by public safety workers. It was broken when Governor Calvin Coolidge summoned the entire Massachusetts Guard.
The Great Steel Strike against U.S. Steel Corp. led by the Amalgamated Association of Iron, Steel and Tin Workers. Starting in Chicago, it spread to 350,000 workers throughout Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia and lasted from September 1919 to January 1920. It was broken by massive use of scabs.
Palmer Raids: on November 7 Attorney General A.
Mitchell Palmer ordered raids by the Federal Department of Justice in 30 cities across the United States to arrest and deport suspicious immigrants (so called “alien reds”) many of whom were involved in US labor unions.
The raids were coordinated by a young J. Edgar Hoover, Palmer's chief investigating officer. In all, he rounded up about 10,000 and deported many as foreign agitators, anarchists, communists.
The History of Unions in the United States
Labor unions have existed in one form or another in the United States since the birth of the country. They were created in an effort to protect the working population from abuses such as sweatshops and unsafe working conditions.
On the other hand, they have also been accused of crippling industries and consorting with organized crime over the decades.
But in one way or another, labor unions have been woven into the political, economic and cultural fabric of America, and their influence has played a colorful role in its development.
The first hundred years of U.S. history saw relatively little in the development of labor unions. A few were organized in scattered fashion, but many of those simply disbanded after they had achieved their goals, such as when the printers briefly unionized in New York City in 1778.
The first successful strike in building trades took place in 1791 when Philadelphia carpenters campaigned for a 10-hour workday.
The need for both skilled and unskilled labor mushroomed during the Industrial Revolution and the Civil War and the subsequent discontinuation of slavery helped to illustrate the right of workers to receive a fair wage for their labor.
The National Labor Union was created in 1866 to convince Congress to limit the workday for federal employees to eight hours, but the private sector was much harder for unions to penetrate. The continual flood of immigrants coming into the country further diluted the workforce, and the price of labor declined as a result.
Poor pay and working conditions in the 1890s and early 1900s led the Pullman Railroad workers and United Mine workers to lay down their tools in protest, but both strikes were broken up by the government. The Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions was formed in 1881, and the American Federation of Labor (AFL) was founded five years later.
Congress became more sympathetic toward the labor force as time passed, which led to the creation of the Department of Labor.
The Clayton Antitrust Act of 1914 allowed employees to strike and boycott their employers and was followed by the Public Contract and the Fair Labor Standards Acts, which mandated a minimum wage, extra pay for overtime work and basic child labor laws.
Labor unions grew in power and number from the Civil War through World War I, as the need for factory workers and other laborers continued to increase.
They lost ground during the Roaring '20s, however, when the economy grew so much that the need for unionization seemed irrelevant. But the Great Depression quickly reversed this trend and unions grew stronger than ever under Roosevelt's New Deal policies.
Union membership grew exponentially as the depression wore on and workers sought employment and protection through their local trade unions.
The power of the labor unions was somewhat curtailed during World War II, however, as some unions, such as those in the defense industry, were forbidden by the government to strike due to the impediment that it would present to wartime production.
But the end of the war saw a wave of strikes in many industries and it was at this point that union power and membership reached its zenith.
The unions were a controlling force in the economy during the late '40s and '50s, and the AFL merged with the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) at this point to spearhead the American labor force.
But the strength of the unions during this era led many union leaders into corruption and complacency, and the power of the unions began to decline in subsequent decades. As additional laws were passed outlawing child labor and mandating equal pay for equal work regardless of race or gender, unions became less important to workers who were able to rely on federal laws to protect them.
Despite the erosion in their power and influence, labor unions continue to prove their importance, as they were instrumental in getting President Obama elected in 2008 and reelected in 2012.
The unions hoped that Obama would be able to pass the Employee Free Choice Act, a measure of legislation intended to streamline and shorten the process that unions must use to bring in new members.
This act would have shifted the balance of power in the workplace in the unions' favor and allowed their memberships to grow rapidly but failed when Democrats were unable to collect the necessary votes.
Union membership ended up decreasing during this time, which many say led members to switch their support to the Republican candidate, Donald Trump, over Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential election. Although the effect the Employee Free Choice Act could have had on the economy is unclear, there's no question that unions will continue to play a role in the U.S. labor force for decades to come.
A Brief History of Unions
The origin of labor unions dates back to the eighteenth century and the industrial revolution in Europe. During this time there was a huge surge of new workers into the workplace that needed representation.
In the United States history of unions, early workers and trade unions played an important part in the role for independence. Although their physical efforts for the cause of independence were ineffective, the ideas they introduced, such as protection for workers, became part of our American culture.
The Most Famous Labor Union in History
In the history of America's trade and labor unions, the most famous union remains the American Federation of Labor (AFL), founded in 1886 by Samuel Gompers. At its pinnacle, the AFL had approximately 1.4 million members. The AFL is credited with successfully negotiating wage increases for its members and enhancing workplace safety for all workers.
The Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) under John L. Lewis and the larger AFL federation underwent a huge expansion during World War II. The AFL-CIO merger occurred in 1955.
Union membership and power peaked around 1970. At that time, private sector union membership began a steady decline that continues today. However, membership in public sector unions continues to grow consistently.
According to the Department of Labor, the 2015 union membership rate was 11.1% and the number of workers belonging to unions was 14.8 million.
Unions and Benefits
In 1986, the AFL-CIO created Union Privilege to offer Union Plus benefits to union members and their families. Union Plus offers over 20 benefits, including:
The Rise And Decline Of The American Labor Union
We look at roughly two centuries of labor unions in the U.S.
The lifespan of American labor unions is shaped like a bell-curve: struggling to climb at first, then riding high, and finally crashing out.
The whole up-and-down took about 200 years total. We need to go back to the 1830s. UC Santa Cruz Professor William Domhoff writes, “Industrial development in the early nineteenth century slowly widened the gap between employers and skilled workers, so the workers began to think of industrial factories as a threat to both their wages and status.”
Craft unions began to form but stayed mostly local, focused on clout and working conditions. Then in 1869, Domhoff says, the Knights of Labor was founded as “a secret society by a handful of Philadelphia garment cutters, who had given up on their own craft union as having any chance to succeed” and turned to galvanizing other workers through meetings and parades.
Eventually, violence became part of the picture. The Great Railroad Strike of 1877, sparked by railroad companies slashing wages by 10% and doubling some workers' responsibilities. The University of Houston explains employees walked off the job and blocked commercial routes.
It “was the country's first major rail strike and witnessed the first general strike in the nation's history.
The strikes and the violence it spawned briefly paralyzed the country's commerce and led governors in ten states to mobilize 60,000 militia members to reopen rail traffic.”
With similar disputes ongoing, the American Federation of Labor, or AFL, was founded in 1886 and became the largest union.
The Library of Congress says Samuel Gompers formed the AFL and tried a new tack: “Instead of trying to reshape the fundamental institutions of American life, the AFL focused on securing for its members higher wages, better working conditions, and a shorter work week.”
1935: a turning point. The National Labor Standards Act passes, making union busting illegal and telling businesses they could not “dominate or interfere with the formation or administration of any labor organization.”
Didn't last long. By 1978, the Labor Law Reform Act was being debated in Congress. And while no major law ultimately clamped down on the groups, “unions came under attack — in the workplace, in the courts, and in public policy. As a result, union membership has fallen and income inequality has worsened — reaching levels not seen since the 1920s,” says the Economic Policy Institute.
Feature The Early Labor Movement
The industrial revolution stands out as a time of great prosperity and expansion as America entered the modern era. But what were the pitfalls of such rapid growth and who turned out to be the victims of the country's success?
Between 1860 and 1910 the population of the US tripled, and so too did the industrial work force. New types of commercial enterprise sprung up to stand alongside the pre-Civil War textile factories.
Naturally the demand for workers was high, but in this time of heightened immigration the supply of laborers keen to make their way in a new country was even higher. This helped empower industry bosses and meant working conditions were far from ideal.
However there were many who were unwilling to accept the way big business was run, especially since it was making profit at the expense of the little people. The first organization acting as a federation to encompass American unions was the National Labor Union which truly came into force after the Civil War but was reasonably short-lived.
The largest union of the time was the Order of the Knights of St. Crispin. Representing the shoe industry, the Order attempted to halt the rising trend for the mechanical or unskilled production line which looked set to replace master cobblers.
Inevitably the march of progress prevailed and the faster, more efficient machines soon took their place in the industry. The Knights of Labor union founded in 1869 took the movement to a new level drawing a national membership.
The ethos of the Knights was to include anyone involved in production, which helped its numbers swell. The union was well organized under the control of Terence Powderly and enlisted politics to help fight its various causes.
Events took a turn for the worse in 1886 when the Haymarket riot saw the message of the Knights overshadowed by the death of a police officer in a bomb blast. Public opinion turned against the anarchist movement in general and the union collapsed.
It was only after the advent of the American Federation of Labor, set up by Samuel Gompers in 1886 and acting as a national federation of unions for skilled workers, that the labor movement became a real force to be reckoned with and took on more of the shape we see today.
Brief History of American Labor — Mirror Site of UnionWeb History — Originally from the American Federationist
This brief history of more than 100 years of the modem trade union movement in the United States can only touch the high spots of activity and identify the principal trends of a “century of achievement.
” In such a condensation of history, episodes of importance and of great human drama must necessarily be discussed far too briefly, or in some cases relegated to a mere mention.
What is clearly evident, however, is that the working people of America have had to unite in struggle to achieve the gains that they have accumulated during this century. Improvements did not come easily.
Organizing unions, winning the right to representation, using the collective bargaining process as the core of their activities, struggling against bias and discrimination, the working men and women of America have built a trade union movement of formidable proportions.
Labor in America has correctly been described as a stabilizing force in the national economy and a bulwark of our democratic society.
Furthermore, the gains that unions have been able to achieve have brought benefits, direct and indirect, to the public as a whole. It was labor, for example, that spearheaded the drive for public education for every child.
The labor movement, indeed, has served as a force for American progress. American Labor's Second Century
Now, in the 1980s, as the American trade union movement looks toward its second century, it takes pride in its first “century of achievement” as it recognizes a substantial list of goals yet to be achieved.
In this past century, American labor has played a central role in the elevation of the American standard of living.
The benefits which unions have negotiated for their members are, in most cases, widespread in the economy and enjoyed by millions of our fellow citizens outside the labor movement.
It is often hard to remember that what we take for granted-vacations with pay, pensions, health and welfare protection, grievance and arbitration procedures, holidays never existed on any meaningful scale until unions fought and won them for working people.
Through these decades, the labor movement has constantly reached out to groups in the American society striving for their share of opportunity and rewards….. to the blacks, the Hispanics and other minorities….. to women striving for jobs and equal or comparable pay . . .
to those who work for better schools, for the freedom of speech, press and assembly guaranteed by the Bill of Rights … to those seeking to make our cities more livable or our rural recreation areas more available . . .
to those seeking better health for infants and more secure status for the elderly.
Through these decades, in addition, the unions of America have functioned in an economy and a technology marked by awesome change.
When the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions gathered in convention in 1881, Edison had two years earlier invented the electric light, and the first telephone conversation had taken place just five years before.
There were no autos, no airplanes, no radio, no television, no air conditioning, no computers or calculators, no electronic games. For our modest energy needs-coal, kerosene and candies-we were independently self-sufficient.
The labor movement has seen old industries die (horse-shoeing was once a major occupation) and new industries mature. The American workforce, once predominantly “blue collar,” now Jinds “white collar” employees and the “grey collar” people of the service industries in a substantial majority.
The workforce in big mass production industries has contracted, and the new industries have required employees with different skills in different locations. Work once performed in the United States has been moved to other countries, often at wage levels far below the American standards.
Multinational, conglomerate corporations have moved operations around the globe as if it were a mammoth chessboard. The once thriving U.S. merchant marine has shriveled.
A new kind of “growth industry”-consultants to management skilled in the use of every legal loophole that can frustrate union organizing, the winning of representation elections, or the negotiation of a fair and equitable collective bargaining agreement-has mushroomed in recent years, and threatens the stability of labor-management relationships.
A group of organizations generally described as the “new right” enlist their followers in retrogressive crusades to develop an anti-union atmosphere in the nation, and to repeal or mutilate various social and economic programs that have brought a greater degree of security and peace of mind to the millions of American wage earners in the middle and lower economic brackets.