To what extent were the 1920s and 1930s the most important period of progress for organised labour in the USA from 1865-1992?

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  • 1. Plan To what extent were the 1920s and 1930s the most important period of progress for organised labour in the USA from 1865-1992?
  • 2. 1920s and 30s
    • 1920’s
    • 1930’s
    • Increase in unskilled workers
    • Mass production, credit, increased demand
    • Formation of giant corporations
      • Welfare capitalism
      • Yellow dog contacts
    • Rise in wages, fall in unemployment
    • Divided leadership
    • BSCP
      • Only legitimate union for porters in the Pullman Company
    • No real advancement
    • Some change
    • Greater conflict
    • National Industry Recovery Act
      • Blue eagle symbol
    • Wagner Act
      • National legislation
      • Constitutional
      • Right to join union
      • Spies banned
      • Expansion of union membership
      • National Labor Relations Board
        • Reinstate unfairly dismissed workers
      • Fair Labor Standards Act
        • Min weekly wage
        • Prohibited employment of children under 16
  • 3. The Flint Strike 1937
    • “ quantum leap for economic democracy”
    • GM workers had irregular work
    • Welfare capitalism – GM
    • Workers staged a sit-in but it seemed radical
      • Communist support unwelcomed
    • Violence occurred
      • Emergency Women’s Brigade
    • Unions worked with for the first time
      • Nationwide recognition
      • Steel industry followed (surprise)
  • 4. Technology – 1960s and 70s
    • AFL-CIO (1955)
      • Made unions more powerful and undivided
      • Bargain successfully
      • Wages rose
      • Won growing list of benefits
    • Increasing need for skilled workers
      • Wages rose significantly
      • Welfare scheme from employers
    • Unskilled protective of jobs and unwilling to strike
      • Divided culturally and ethnically
    • Fall in wages and a rise in unemployment
    • Increase in foreign competition
    • Reduction in the demand for home produced goods
      • Reduction in productivity
    • Affirmative Action and Occupational Safety and Health Act (1970)
    • Decline in need and thus membership
    • Unions still existed
  • 5. World Wars
    • WWI - Fed govt recognised unions and negotiated with them through the National War Labour Board
    • WWI - In return for workers’ cooperation and not striking, NWLB guaranteed rights of workers to join unions and to collective bargaining
    • WWI - Employers agreed to implement 8 hour working day
    • WWII – control of industry taken away from employers – tipped control in favour of workers
    • 1943 – President given power to seize control of any factory threatening to strike
    • 1943 – became illegal to instigate strike and unions required to give at least 30 days notice of strikes
    • More employment opportunities for women, the disabled and African Americans
    • FDR issued an executive order banning discrimination when it came to employment in Federal Government
    • After the war old tensions between employers and workers reappeared
    • Divisions between skilled and unskilled workers and gender and racial divisions remained as barriers which prevented workers from working together in solidarity as one united movement for their rights
  • 6. Pullman and Homestead Strikes
    • The Homestead Strike (1892): A Turning Point?
    • Most serious industrial dispute in American labour history
    • Relationships between workers and managers worsened
    • It was organised and purposeful - set standard for future industrial disputes to be settled by strike action
    • Workers in other Carnegie plants also went on strike in support of those at the Homestead plant
    • Men divided themselves into units along military lines
    • Managers fired at workers, killing two and wounding 11 – crowd responded by killing 2 and wounding 12
    • Strike broke AA as a force
    • 1900 – not a single steel plant in Pennsylvania was still unionised
    • strike had an adverse effect on getting rights for workers – impact wasn’t restricted to steel
    • Employers in other industries became nervous of accepting unionisation of workers
    • The Pullman Strike (1894): A Turning Point?
    • passenger trains began to pull mail cars
    • Federal govt and federal troops got involved in strike action to break it – was first time federal govt had gotten involved
    • leaders of strike weren’t given their jobs back after strike ended – showed employers couldn’t be trusted to hold up their end of a deal
    • shows lengths to which employers were willing to go to ensure workers weren’t granted rights
    • showed how employers refused to recognise rights of workers’ right to bargain collectively
    • shows how far federal govt was willing to go to suppress workers gaining rights
    • Supreme Court legalised use of injunctions – gave employers a powerful weapon to use against workers
    • aggressive conservative authorities and employers united to thwart attempt to build a working class movement
    • employers continued to use injunctions against workers until 1932
    • federal govt superseded authority of state govts
  • 7. Air Strike
    • Negative turning point, but v significant
    • showed Reagan’s hostility towards TUs – AFL-CIO called him a “union buster”
    • employers changed tactics in dealing with industrial disputes – deployed scab labour for first time
    • other workers showed no signs of solidarity – air traffic controllers were already quite well-paid
    • lack of public support for strike
    • caused dramatic fall in TU membership and no of strikes
    • workers broke 1955 law saying government workers cannot go on strike
    • employers gained upper hand over TUs
    • response of fed govt and FAA meant a redefinition in US labour relations
    • other unions were angry with PATCO for bringing all unions into disrepute
    • all striking workers were fired and replaced with other workers, leaders of strike sent to prison for breaking injunctions, and PATCO was destroyed