U.S. Labor Movement


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Dr. Robbins' PowerPoint Review of the history of the Labor Movement in the U.S.

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U.S. Labor Movement

  1. 1. The LaborMovement Review
  2. 2. The Rise of Trade Unions in the 19th Century Corporate strategies to squash labor:  High-priced lawyers, pressure politicians  Hire “scabs” (strikebreakers)  State & federal troops brought in  Lockout (workers shut out)  Yellow dog contracts (forced promise not to join union)  Black list  Company towns
  3. 3. Early Unions National Labor Union, 1866  600,000 members: skilled & unskilled laborers  No Chinese allowed; little encouragement for women & blacks  Worked for arbitration of industrial disputes and the 8-hour day  Won the 8-hour day for government workers Colored National Labor Union
  4. 4. Knights of Labor Started as secret society in 1869:  The Noble & Holy Order of the Knights of Labor For all skilled and unskilled labor, men and women, blacks and whites Focused on social & economic reform, not politics Haymarket Square Bomb episode seriously weakened Knights
  5. 5. American Federation of Labor Founded by Samuel Gompers in 1886 Skilled labor only Truly a federation, combining variety of skilled labor unions for overall strategy Took a moderate approach (not socialist) Major goal: agreement to authorize closed shop (union only) Strategies: walk-outs & boycotts
  6. 6. Sherman Anti-Trust Act (1890) After abuse of 14th Amendment, Congress finally passes Sherman Anti-Trust Act Prohibited any contract, combination (i.e., trust) or conspiracy that “restrained trade” Not enough enforcement power: federal attempts to dissolve trusts stopped by Supreme Court till Teddy Roosevelt’s time Used primarily against Unions!!
  7. 7. Recognition of Labor By 1900, public opinion of labor had improved Labor Day established by Congress in 1894 Some employers realized the benefits of working with labor, but most did not Next major steps forward with Progressivists and TR
  8. 8. “Wobblies”: Industrial Workers of the World Founded in 1905 & led by “Big Bill” Haywood Favored industrial unionism—union membership for all workers in an industry, not just skilled workers Favored strikes over political action (sometimes violence) Associated with socialist groups At the time, only union to welcome all workers: women, African Americans, immigrants Angered US govt. by supporting strikes during WW1, and lost much of its legal status Survived, though diminished, until 1950
  9. 9. Congress of Industrial Organizations Founded in 1936 by John Lewis, leader of the United Mind Workers union Started as Committee of Industrial Organization within the AF of L in 1935, but rejected by AF of L Continued as a rival organization to AF of L Focused on representing unskilled workers More open to accepting blacks and women More militant than AF of L
  10. 10. New Deal for Labor Wagner Act aka National Labor Relations Act, 1935  Created National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)  Replaced function of NRA  Affirmed labor’s right to organize & bargain collectively with own representatives More support from Congress with Fair Labor Standards Act, 1938  Minimum wages & maximum hours were to be set by industries involved in interstate commerce  Goal was 40 cents/hour & 40 hours/week (!)  Only applied to industrial workers  farm & domestic workers excluded, mostly women & minorities Overall, tremendous expansion of labor movement, & greater public & government support
  11. 11. Taft-Hartley Act (1947) Taft-Hartley Act drastically reduced labor unions’ power  outlawed all-union (closed) shops  made unions liable for damages resulting from jurisdictional disputes among themselves  required non-Communist pledge of union leaders  allowed the government to get injunctions to postpone serious strikes
  12. 12. AFL-CIO AF of L and CIO joined together in the AFL- CIO in 1955 under George Meany Tensions between the two groups gradually subsided as they worked together
  13. 13. Miscellaneous Unions United Mine Workers Teamsters: truck drivers UAW: United Auto Workers
  14. 14. Late 20th Century Some union organizations succumbed to corruption and were investigated by the government Anti-union legislation and union corruption both weakened the labor movement  Union membership began to decline after reaching a high of about 22 million American union members in 1980