Blog Tools
Edit your Blog
Build a Blog
RSS Feed
View Profile
« September 2007 »
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
You are not logged in. Log in
Entries by Topic
All topics  «
Sunday, 16 September 2007
The American Labor Movement
Mood:  celebratory
The American Labor Movement Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket Labor history of the United States The Labor history of the U.S. involves the history of organized labor, as well as the more general history of working people. 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 history gained 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 Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket Early Unions Order of the Knights of St. Crispin The Order of the Knights of St. Crispin was founded in 1867 and claimed 50,000 members by 1870, by far the largest union in the country. But it was poorly organized and soon declined. They fought encroachments of machinery and unskilled labor on autonomy of skilled shoeworkers. 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 produces more shoes than hand sewing. The first local unions in the United States formed in the late 18th century, but 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. 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 cooperative ventures. Powderly hoped to gain their ends through politics and education rather than through economic coercion. Their big strikes failed and they collapsed in the wake of the Haymarket Riot) of 1886, when their message was confused with that of bomb-making anarchists. Rise of AFL The Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions began in 1881 under 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 Labor or 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 whom the workers could identify, and derived benefits in terms of insurance, fellowship, and bargaining power. Labor History 1900-1932 Coal Strikes 1900-1902 Coal Strike of 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 Roosevelt brokered 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. 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 unionism rather than craft unionism; in fact, they went even further, pursuing the goal of "One Big Union" and the abolition of the wage system. 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 organizers 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 The Socialist Party of America was 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 Debs ran 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 Berger of 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 Haywood on 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. See: 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. Railroad Brotherhoods One of the earliest Railroad Strikes was also one of the most successful. In 1885, the Knights of Labor led railroad workers to victory against Jay Gould and his entire Southwestern Railway system. The 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. 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. Antagonism 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 Murray at 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 coalition in Congress was able to pass anti-union legislation, leading to the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947. Walter Reuther and UAW The Flint Sit-Down Strike of 1936-37 was the decisive event in the formation of the United Auto Workers Union (UAW). During the war Walter Reuther took 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 negotiating 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 Pegler was 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 Prize for reporting, for his work in exposing racketeering in 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 Act The Taft-Hartley Act in 1947 revised the Wagner Act to 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 Taft and 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 agreement and 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 Board and the courts have added other restrictions on the power of unions to enforce union security clauses 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 South and 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 America in the 1940s, the President has used that power less and less frequently in each succeeding decade. Fighting Communism The AFL and CIO unions supported the Cold War policies of the Truman administration, including the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan and NATO. Left wing elements protested and were forced out of the main unions. Thus Walter Reuther of the United Automobile Workers purged 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 Action in 1947. In 1949 he led the CIO delegation to the London conference that set up the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions in 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. From: historical accounts & records

Posted by adjunctprofessor at 7:35 PM EDT
Share This Post Share This Post
Post Comment | Permalink

View Latest Entries