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Brief History
of the American
Labor Movement
U.S. Department of Labor
W. J. Usery, Jr., Secretary
Bureau of Labor Statistics
Julius Shiskin, Commissioner

Bicentennial Edition
>ulletin 1000

For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office,
Washington, D.C. 20402, GPO Bookstores, or BLS Regional Offices listed
on inside back cover. Price $1.45. Make checks payable to
Superintendent of Documents.
Stock number 029—001—01955—6


The development of the American labor movement is an integral element
in the history of democracy and freedom in the United States. In this
bicentennial year of 1976, it isfitting and timely that the succinct descrip­
tion of the two centuries of continuing evolution set forth in the Brief
History of the American Labor Movement be made available to the gen­
eral public once again. For those who wish to pursue the subject in
greater detail, a list of selected references relating to various historical
aspects is furnished at the back of this publication.
This is the fifth edition of the Brief History. Following its initial
appearance in 1950, it has been recast and updated for each new edition
as subsequent developments and perspectives have required. The pres­
ent edition has made such adaptations and revisions to reflect the past
decade. These are, of course, subject to reexamination and revision in
future editions.
The revision was prepared in the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Divi­
sion of Industrial Relations, under the supervision of Harry P. Cohany,
Chief. Past and present contributors include Theodore W. Reedy, John
M. Brumm, Nelson M. Bortz, Witt Bowden, Joseph W. Bloch, and Joseph
P. Goldberg of the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Professor Albert A.
Blum of Michigan State University.




Early Organization


............................... 1

Early local craft unions .......................................................................
Employer opposition ...........................................................................
Early efforts of unions in politics .......................................................
Formation of city centrals and national unions ...............................
The era of "utopianism ” .....................................................................
An unsettled decade ............................................................................
Emergence of national unions ...........................................................
Industrial strife .....................................................................................


II. Development of the Modern
Labor Movement .......................................... 10
The Knights of Labor ...........................................................................
The American Federation of Labor .....................................................
Membership growth, 1890-1920 ........................................................
Renewed industrial conflict .................................................................
Labor’s "nonpartisan” politics ...........................................................
Radical opposition ...............................................................................
Labor and the First World War ...........................................................


III. Between Two World Wars ...................20
Open shop era and depression ..........................................................
New labor laws .....................................................................................
Revival of unionism .............................................................................
Division in the labor movement .........................................................
Formation of Committee for Industrial
Organization ........................................................................................


IV. The Second World War and
Reconversion ...............................................27
The war years, 1942-45 .........................................................
Labor-management relations, 1945-47 ............................................. 29
New labor legislation: The Taft-Flartley Act ....................................... 31




V. Changes in the Labor
Movement, 1947-75 .................................... 34
AFL and CIO clean house ....................................................................
Steps toward merger ............................................................................
Merger achieved ...................................................................................
Continuing problems ............................................................................
New directions ......................................................................................
Union relationships.................................................................................


VI. Trends in Collective
Bargaining .................................................... 55
Wages ................................................................................................... 56
Fringe benefits ...................................................................................... 58
Other bargaining issues ....................................................................... 61
Strikes .................................................................................................... 62
Collective bargaining in transition ...................................................... 64

VII. Some Outstanding
Features of the Labor
Movement ..................................................... 68
Outlook and aims ............................................................................
Collateral union activities .................................................................. 69
Foreign affairs ....................................................................................... 72
In perspective: Changes over 90 years .............................................. 74

Appendix. Important Events in
American Labor History ............................. 78
Labor Union Membership, Selected Years,
1897-1974 ...........................................................................................


1. Trend in Union Membership .........................................................
2. Structure of the AFL-CIO ..............................................................



Part of the mural in the lobby of the AFL-CIO building in
Washington, D.C.


Chapter I

Early Organization
Unions have a long history in the United States. Even before the Declara­
tion of Independence, skilled artisans in handicraft and domestic indus­
try joined together in benevolent societies, primarily to provide members
and their families with financial assistance in the event of serious illness,
debt, or death of the wage earner. Although these early associations had
few of the characteristics of present-day labor unions, they did bring
workers together to consider problems of mutual concern and to devise
ways and means for their solution.

Early Local Craft Unions
Crafts such as those of carpenters, shoemakers, and printers formed
separate organizations in Philadelphia, New York, and Boston as early as
1791, largely to resist wage reductions. These unions were confined to
local areas and were usually weak because they seldom included all the
workers of a craft. Generally, they continued in existence for only a short
time. In addition to their welfare activities, these unions frequently
sought higher wages, minimum rates, shorter hours, enforcement of
apprenticeship regulations, and establishment of the principle of exclu­
sive union hiring, later known as the “ closed shop.”
Many characteristic union techniques were first developed in
this period. The first recorded meeting of worker and employer represen­
tatives for discussion of labor demands occurred between the Philadel­
phia shoemakers and their employers in 1799. The printing crafts of
Philadelphia and New York rapidly followed suit.
A forerunner of the union business agent grew out of the need
to check on shops to see whether they were adhering to the union wage
scale. The early “ tramping committees” and unpaid representatives later
led to specialized, paid agents known as “ walking delegates.”
Strikes, during which workmen quit their employment in a
body, paralleled the development of organization and collective bargain­
ing. The New York bakers were said to have stopped work to enforce
their demands as early as 1741, although this action was directed more
against the local government, which set the price of bread, than against

Early Organization


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The courts came to the defense of early 19th-century employers
by charging the new unions with conspiracy in restraint of trade.


History of American Labor

the employers. The first authenticated strike was called in 1768 by the
New York tailors to protest a reduction in wages. A sympathetic strike of
shoe workers in support of fellow bootmakers occurred in 1799 in
Philadelphia. In 1805, the shoemakers of New York created a “ perma­
nent” strike benefit fund, and, in 1809, these same workers participated
in what was perhaps the first multiemployer strike when they ex­
tended strike action against one employer to include several others who
had come to his aid.

Employer Opposition
As unions became stronger, the wage question increased in importance
and employers organized to resist wage demands. Where circumstances
appeared favorable, employers attempted to destroy the effectiveness of
a union by hiring nonunion workers and by appealing to the courts to
declare the labor organization illegal. The legal fight against unions was
carried through the courts in Philadelphia, New York, and Pittsburgh
between 1806 and 1814. Unions were prosecuted as “ conspiracies in
restraint of trade” under an old English common law doctrine that
combinations of workmen to raise wages could be regarded as a con­
spiracy against the public.
The attem pt of courts to apply this conspiracy doctrine
aroused a controversy which lasted throughout most of the nineteenth
century. Slowly, judicial attention was shifted from the question as to
whether a mere combination of workmen was a conspiracy to one as to
the means they used to gain their ends. Thus while unions, as such,
became regarded as “ lawful,” strikes, boycotts, and other attempts of
workers to secure their demands were the subject of legal action in the
courts for many decades.
The early conspiracy cases, combined with a business re­
cession following the Napoleonic wars in Europe, seriously affected the
trade unions, many of which passed out of existence. After a low point in
membership in 1820, however, worker organizations again sprang up in
the larger cities among hatters, tailors, weavers, nailers, and cabinet­
makers. Organizations of factory workers also appeared for the first time
during this period.

Early Efforts of Unions in Politics
Between 1827 and 1832, workers’ organizations gradually turned to
independent political activity. The factors leading to this development

Early Organization


are explained by the historian Mary Beard, who, in A Short History of the
American Labor Movement, says:
In the first place, property qualifications on the right to vote, which had been
imposed by the first State constitutions, were abondoned and the ballot put into
the hands of practically every workingman. In the second place, the prosecu­
tions of labor unions in the courts of law had driven workingmen to a concerted
action which rose above trade and craft lines. In the third place, the industrial
revolution brought about by steampower and the factory system was making
swift headway in creating great cities. It added rapidly to the number of
industrial workers and created closer associations among them. In the fourth
place, the idea was being advanced that the hours of labor should be fixed
universally at 10 per day by legislation rather than by the painful method of

This movement among workers seeking to improve their
status by political action spread to many leading industrial communities.
In Philadelphia a number of craft unions formed the Mechanics’ Union of
Trade Associations in 1827. The citywide group soon began to nominate
and elect candidates to "represent the interests of the working classes’’
in the Philadelphia city council and the Pennsylvania State Legislature.
Local labor parties organized by workers also sprang up in many States.
Political programs, supported by 50 or more labor papers,
included such demands as the following: The 10-hour day, restriction of
child labor, abolition of convict labor competition, free and equal public
education, abolition of imprisonment for debt, exemption of wages and
tools from seizure for debt, the right of mechanics to file liens on prop­
erty to secure payment of their wages, and the abolition of home and
factory sweatshops.
For a short time, these labor organizations were successful in
electing their candidates to various public offices, but in general, they
failed to attain their aims. Nevertheless, they called the attention of the
regular political parties and the public at large to the social and
economic inequalities experienced by workers and by so doing helped to
shape the course of much future legislation. Eventually, State legisla­
tures prohibited imprisonment for debt, enacted the 10-hour day for
women and children, and laid the foundation of the American free public
school system.

Formation of City Centrals and National
In the early 1830’s, the interest of workers in reform movements and
political action declined. To offset the rapidly rising prices between 1835


History of American Labor

and 1837, they turned with renewed vigor to the organization of craft or
trade unions. By 1836, for example, over 50 local unions were active in
Philadelphia and New York City. Workers also organized craft unions in
other cities, such as Newark, Boston, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and Louis­
ville. This rapid growth led to the formation of union groups on a citywide
basis. These “ city central” organizations, or “ trades’ unions,” as they
were called at the time, gave primary attention to the discussion of
problems of common interest and to the promotion of union-made
Organizations of union groups beyond a single local area
began to emerge. In 1834, city central bodies from seven cities met in
New York to form the National Trades’ Union. Later, in 1835 and 1836, the
cordwainers, typographers, combmakers, carpenters, and hand-loom
weavers endeavored to set up countrywide organizations of their sepa­
rate crafts. These experiments in federation, however, did not withstand
the financial panic of 1837 and the period of depression and unemploy­
ment which followed during most of the forties.

The Era of “ Utopianism”
As the depression of the 1840’s took its toll of local as well as national
unions, workmen in many places turned their efforts toward forming
producers’ and consumers’ cooperatives. Others were attracted by vari­
ous schemes for cooperative communities stimulated by the “ utopian”
ideas spread by the followers of the French Socialist Charles Fourier, by
the English reformer Robert Owen, and by many other intellectuals of the
Community ownership of land and productive tools, like that
tried in the well-known Brook Farm venture in Massachusetts and at the
New Harmony colony in Indiana, was urged as the solution to poverty,
unemployment, and the other social and economic ills besetting labor.
Although widely discussed in labor groups, these schemes received little
direct support from workers themselves. However, they did divert some
workers’ efforts from union activities into disputes over political and
economic theories.
In this period, also, the “ homestead movement” was born.
This proposal authorized the Government to give plots of undeveloped
public land to persons for settlement and cultivation. This movement,
according to Selig Perlman in A History of Trade Unionism in the United
States, had as one of its goals that the Government “ open an escape to
the worker from the wage system into self-employment by way of free

Early Organization


An Unsettled Decade
By the late 1840’s, industry had revived, labor was in great demand,
prices were climbing upward, and trade unions once more showed signs
of activity. Workingmen again focused attention on establishing rules
governing apprenticeship, minimum wage scales, control over methods
of wage payment, initiation fees, dues, strike benefit funds, union hiring
procedures, the closed shop, and the exclusion from membership of all
persons not working at the trade. As industries spread, new locals were
formed and by 1854 most important trades showed some degree of
organization in the larger cities. Many of these unions collapsed only to
be promptly revived and crushed again in 1857 in another downward
sweep of the business cycle.
During the 1850’s, several national unions were founded. The
Printers’ Union held a national convention in 1850. By 1859, the
Stonecutters, Hat Finishers, Molders, Machinists, and Locomotive En­
gineers also had created national organizations. The decade was
marked by many strikes which, at one time or another, involved almost
every known craft and most American cities, collective bargaining be­
tween unions and management, however, was slowly becoming more
prevalent in several leading trades.
By 1860, there was a definite trend toward higher wages and
shorter hours for workers. Adequate data are lacking to prove that this
trend was a direct result of union activity. However, scattered bits of
evidence indicate that the combined efforts of workers were responsible
for at least a part of the improvement in working conditions. For exam­
ple, a letter written by President Martin Van Buren in 1840 to certain
political inquirers states that: “ The 10-hour system, originally devised by
the mechanics and laborers themselves, has by my direction been
adopted and uniformly carried out at all public establishments.” A report
of the Massachusetts Legislature for 1850 also tells that “ the mechanics
and laboring people have established by mutual arrangement with their
employers the ‘10-hour system’ of labor.”
Specifically, the workday, often from sunrise to senset early in
the century, was shortened to 10 hours for most skilled artisans in the
large cities by 1850. At that time, factory workers worked from 11 to 12
hours a day. By 1860, the average workday for nonagricultural em­
ployees was estimated at 11 hours, while the building trades aver­
aged about 10 hours. Wages, which ranged in 1820 from 75 cents to
$1.25 a day for common labor, depending upon the locality and season,
were from $1 to $1.25 a day in 1850. Wages of more skilled artisans and
mechanics in the cities advanced from $1.25 and $1.50 a day in 1820 to
between $1.50 and $2 or more by 1860.


History of American Labor

Emergence of National Unions
The armed c o n flic t between the Northern and Southern States
(1861-65) required large quantities of munitions and other factory
goods. Prices rose, profits were large, and many new industries were
started during this period of civil war. New railroads brought the country
closer together. Factory goods from Massachusetts, New York, and
other Eastern States were shipped by rail to the West. Other factories
were built in the cities emerging along the Great Lakes and down the
Mississippi Valley.
Unions sought to organize the skilled workers employed by
these new enterprises. In 1863, there were approximately 80 local unions
in 20 Northern States; by 1864, these States had almost 300 local unions.
City centrals (local federations) followed soon after the organization of
local unions. A short-lived effort toward a countrywide labor federation
was made in 1864 when several of these city centrals established the
International Industrial Assembly of North America. National and inter­
national unions1 developed more slowly but steadily year by year; 13
appeared between 1861 and 1865. The unions formed in these years
became relatively strong and permanent organizations which in a few
cases (the plasterers, cigarmakers, bricklayers, and masons) have con­
tinued to the present day.
The 15 years following the Civil War was an important forma­
tive period for the American labor movement. During two cycles of
economic recession and revival, 14 new national unions were formed.
Union membership rose to 300,000 by 1872, and then dropped to 50,000
by 1878. Three unsuccessful attempts were made to unite the various
craft organizations into national labor federations. This period also
marked the rise of the 8-hour-day movement and the first signs of the
long, bitter, and sometimes violent industrial warfare which charac­
terized the struggle of American unionism for recognition and survival.
Establishment of the National Labor Union (NLU) in Baltimore
in 1866 was a response to a growing demand for unification of labor
groups throughout the country. Basically a loose federation of city cen­
trals, it included also national and local unions and various social reform
organizations. Although one of the purposes of its founders had been to
encourage industrial peace through the promotion of collective bargain­
ing, the National Labor Union soon veered from “ pure” trade unionism.

1Unions first called themselves “ international” when some of the affiliated locals
were outside the United States, usually in Canada. Today, the terms “national unions”
and “ international unions” are used interchangeably.

Early Organization


After first concentrating on the 8-hour-day movement, it later tried to
stimulate a revival of labor interest in producers’ cooperatives.
The driving personality behind the NLU was William H. Sylvis,
of the Molders’ Union, who believed in cooperation as a means of freeing
workers from the “ control” of capitalism. The example of cooperative
production undertaken by Sylvis’ own union was followed on a limited
scale by others, such as the bakers, shipwrights, machinists, tailors, and
printers. Because such cooperative enterprise required capital and cre­
dit, the NLU was prompted to support the various politically inclined
farm groups in the “ Greenback” movement which favored large issues
of paper money and easy credit at low interest rates.
The year 1872 saw the end of the NLU after its brief and rapid
evolution from trade unionism to a body which sponsored cooperatives
and supported political groups. The National Reform and Labor Party,
which it sponsored in 1872, failed to survive even one election, and by the
end of the seventies few of its cooperatives remained. However, the
emphasis which the NLU had placed on State and Federal legislation had
borne some fruit. In 1868, Congress established an 8-hour day for Fed­
eral employees. A Federal Bureau of Labor, which had been advocated
by the NLU, was provided by law in 1884. Originally named the Bureau of
Labor, this Federal agency evolved into the present Bureau of Labor
Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor.

Industrial Strife
In 1873 and again in 1876, several leading craft unions attempted unsuc­
cessfully to revive interest in a federation basedon a strictly trade union
program. Trade union membership, meanwhile, was being seriously
reduced by a new economic depression. Industrial workers were in­
volved in a series of violent strikes and lockouts which their organiza­
tions were financially too weak to endure. The cigarmakers, textile work­
ers, ironworkers, coal miners, and others fought bitterly against wage
In 1877, the railroad strikes, which originated in Pittsburgh
but spread throughout the country, produced riots, martial law, interven­
tion of State and Federal troops, and some fatalities. A notorious secret
association known as the “ Molly Maguires” gained control of lodges of
the Ancient Order of Hibernians in the anthracite regions of Pennsyl­
vania. A product of the distress and poverty of this period, the “ Molly
Maguires” used terroristic methods against employers and strikebreak­
ers. This group was finally broken up by State authorities when several
ringleaders were arrested, charged with a series of murders, and con­


History of American Labor

Despite the failure of workers to win their immediate objec­
tives, this turbulent period brought a growing recognition of the nation­
wide significance of the labor movement and of the social and economic
ills which it was attempting to remedy. Selig Perlman observed that the
experience of these years "nationalized” the labor movement, develop­
ing within it a consciousness of solidarity and common purpose. For the
first time also, unskilled workers— on the railroads, in the mines, in the
textile mills— played a significant role in industrial conflict, and the
organized labor movement was no longer identified exclusively with the
craft groups. Nevertheless, unions continued to represent mainly the
skilled; the semiskilled and unskilled did not join to any vast extent until
the New Deal period in the 1930’s.
When economic conditions improved, new locals o f skilled
workers appeared and new city centrals were formed because few of the
old had survived the depression. Some 18 national unions had survived;
9 others were soon established. By 1885, total union membership again
reached the 300,000 level in spite of the economic recession beginning
in 1883 which had brought on a wave of strikes against wage reductions.
During the union-employer struggles of this decade, the labor
movement itself became the scene of a decisive contest over its future
structure. The Knights of Labor championed a nationwide organization
of labor based upon the direct affiliation of local unions and city centrals
cutting across trade lines. This approach had been tried unsuccessfully
several times. After its founding in the 1880’s, the American Federation of
Labor favored a national federation based primarily on existing national
trade or craft unions.

Early Organization


Chapter II

Development of
the Modern Labor
Labor’s past has been a prelude to its present. The growth and develop­
ment of the modern labor movement is an oft-repeated story of inter- and
intra-union squabbles, sometimes bloody clashes between the organiz­
ers and management, and continuing political activity by organized
labor. On the other hand, differences within the labor movement have
led to unique organizations to pursue labor’s goals and philosophies.
Just as the Noble Order of the Knights of Labor had within it the seeds of
the American Federation of Labor, the Federation had within it the be­
ginnings of a rival group (chapter III).

The Knights of Labor
The Noble Order of the Knights of Labor was founded by Uriah S.
Stephens in 1869 as a small local union of Philadelphia garment workers.
It expanded slowly as various other craft unions joined. For some years it
functioned as a secret society with an elaborate ritual, a practice best
understood in the light of the difficulties experienced by unions at the
time when, as one contemporary labor leader wrote, "a great deal of
bitterness was evinced against trade union organizations, and men were
blacklisted to an extent hardly ever equaled.” Most of the secrecy, how­
ever, was abondoned by 1881.
From an estimated membership of 10,000 in 1879, the Knights
of Labor grew rapidly until by 1886 it claimed over 700,000 members
throughout the country. Structurally, the Knights consisted of a national
body or general assembly exercising centralized control over numerous
district assemblies, each of which was composed of five or more local
assemblies. Local assemblies were of two kinds, trade and mixed. The
former included members of only one craft while the latter admitted a
wide range of occupations and professions. The first general assembly,
called in 1878, elected Stephens as General Master Workman. He re­
signed shortly thereafter and was succeeded by Terence V. Powderly.
The Order had a broad aim: the replacement of a competitive
society by a cooperative one which would give workers the opportunity
to enjoy fully the wealth they created. This was to be achieved primarily


History of American Labor

Frank J. Farrell introduces Terence V. Powderly, the “ General Master
Workman,” to the 10th annual convention of the Knights of Labor,
held in Richmond, Va.

through reducing the “ money power” of banks, not through battles with
individual employers. More concretely, the Knights’ program called for
the 8-hour day, equal pay for equal work by women, abolition of convict
and child labor, public ownership of utilities, and the establishment of
cooperatives. Reliance was placed on educational and political methods
rather than on collective bargaining. Strikes were to be employed only as
a last resort.
During the eighties, however, when the “ practical trade
unionist” forces gained influence, the Knights engaged in a series of
strikes for better wages and made wage agreements with employers.

Modern Labor Movement


Their most successful struggle, with the powerful Gould railway system
in 1885, brought them particular prestige.
An internal conflict led to the decline of the Knights of Labor.
Leaders who favored processes of collective bargaining clashed with
those committed to political means and basic social change. Moreover,
the immediate interests of the skilled and unskilled workers whom the
Knights attempted to unite were not so easily reconciled. The stronger
craft unions resisted affiliation and by 1886 came into open rivalry with
the Knights of Labor.
After formation of the American Federation of Labor (AFL),
the Knights steadily lost ground. In 1890, the Knights reported only
100,000 members. Thereafter, the Order continued to lose members and
ceased to be an influential factor in the labor movement, although con­
tinuing in existence until 1917.

The American Federation of Labor
By 1881, the nucleus of a new organization had taken shape. Devoted to
"pure and simple unionism,” its main goals were higher wages and
improved working conditions. The craft unions surviving the depression
of 1873 were absorbed almost exclusively in problems of their respective
trades. Many of these unions developed strong, centralized, national
organizations supported by an increasing number of local lodges. Be­
nefit funds also were collected to assist members or their families
during strikes and times of financial stress due to unemployment, injury,
or death.
In 1881, six prominent craft unions— those of the printers, iron
and steelw orkers, m olders, cigarm akers, carpenters, and
glassworkers— and a variety of other labor groups met in Pittsburgh and
established the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions
(FOTLU). Its leaders were Samuel Gompers and Adolph Strasser, both of
the cigarmakers’ union. At the start, the Federation had approximately
45,000 members; for 5 years it remained weak and was overshadowed by
the Knights of Labor.
When the Knights at their annual convention in 1886 refused
to agree to respect the jurisdiction of the large craft unions, several of the
latter met at Columbus, Ohio, and founded the American Federation of
Labor. The FOTLU, also in convention at Columbus, amalgamated with
the new group. Gompers was elected first president of the new Federa­
tion, a position he held, except for 1 year (1894— 95), until his death in


History of American Labor

The strength of the AFL resided primarily in the unions of
carpenters, cigarmakers, printers, iron and steelworkers, and iron molders. It began with a membership of about 138,000 in 1886 and slowly
doubled that number during the next 12 years.

Membership Growth, 1890— 1920
In the three decades following 1890, the AFL consolidated its position as
the principal federation of American unions. The first decade of growth

Modern Labor Movement


was slow, but from 1900 to 1904 membership rose rapidly, from half a
million to a million and a half, and then increased irregularly to 2 million
by the outbreak of World War I. During and immediately following the war
years, membership again rose rapidly and reached more than 4 million in
During this entire period, an estimated 70 to 80 percent of all
union workers were in the American Federation of Labor. The most
important unaffiliated group of unions was the four “ railroad brother­
hoods” which usually maintained friendly relations with the AFL af­
filiates. The other nonaffiliated unions were a mixed group. They fre­
quently were rivals of the AFL unions. Some were AFL secessionist
groups. Membership among this “ independent” or unaffiliated group
rose from approximately 240,000 in 1900 to almost a million in 1920,
according to estimates Leo Wolman made for the National Bureau of
Economic Research.
Before World War I, the principal union gains had occurred in
the coal mining, railroad, and building trades unions. The most impor­
tant union of coal miners was the United Mine Workers, an industrial
union which, after a strike in 1902, established itself as the largest and
one of the most completely organized affiliates of the AFL. In other
industries, organizations of crafts or amalgamated crafts still prevailed.

Renewed Industrial Conflict
The emergence of labor as an influential national economic group did
not occur without opposition or setbacks. In the 1890’s, large corpor­
ations which had appeared on the economic scene vigorously fought the
efforts to unionize their employees. At times, these clashes resulted in
violence, injuries, and even death. For example, the unsuccessful strug­
gle of the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers against
the Carnegie Steel Co. at Homestead, Pa., in 1892 was climaxed by a
pitched battle between company-imported Pinkerton detectives and
strikers. Ten deaths resulted before the National Guard intervened to
restore order.
The strike of the American Railway Union led by Eugene V.
Debs against the Pullman Palace Parlor Car Co. at Pullman, III., in 1894
provoked sympathetic walkouts on many railroads serving the Chicago
area. Federal and State troops were used and court injunctions were
obtained against the union. Twenty-five persons were killed and 60 were
injured during this controversy. Elsewhere in the country industrial dis­
putes sporadically flared into open violence.
After 1902, following a period of rapid union growth, employer
opposition stiffened and became more highly organized. Carroll


History of American Labor

Pinkerton agents, hired by the Carnegie Steel Co., battling with
strikers at the company’s Homestead, Pa., plant in July 1892. The
strike was broken when the company brought in 2,000 strikebreakers
protected by the State militia.
D augherty, in s u m m a riz in g th is tre n d in his b ook Labor Problems in

American Industry, w ro te :
Most of the powerful ones [employers], believing that unionism was grow­
ing too strong and fearing further encroachments on their control of indus­
try, decided to break off relations, and the years from 1902 to World War I
were characterized by a definitely increasing antiunionism.

Modern Labor Movement


Daugherty then added:
Scientific management and "efficiency” systems were introduced in many
plants, much to the discomfiture of many skilled craft unions. A variety of
union-smashing tactics were adopted by employers. Vigilante groups and
citizens’ committees were fostered to resist unionization activities. Court
decisions upheld as a rule most of the employers’ antiunion practices. In
the face of these new difficulties, the membership of the AFL at first fell off a
little and then resumed growth at a much slower rate than before 1902.
However, despite general employer opposition to unions, an
increasing number of "trade” or collective bargaining agreements were
resulting from direct negotiations between unions and employers. The
stabilization of industrial relations and the attainment of job security are
considered by many authorities as important factors in the success of
AFL trade unionism in that period.

Labor’s “ Nonpartisan” Politics
Between 1900 and the beginning of the First World War, unions concen­
trated on raising wages, establishing the 8-hour workday, and securing
other improvements in working conditions through collective bargain­
ing. On the whole, they resisted the efforts of various political forces in
the labor movement to obtain union support for partisan programs. The
political role of organized labor was debated in various conventions of
the AFL at the turn of the century when, according to Lewis Lorwin, "The
principle of nonpartisan politics, summed up in the dictum "to defeat
labor’s enemies and to reward its friends,’ received official sanction.”
The AFL focused mainly on issues which affected only workers and as a
body rejected arguments which required its commitment to broad social
or political reforms. In practice, these principles meant that the AFL
opposed any "independent labor party” but officially supported mea­
sures and candidates of the regular political parties favorable to the
interests of labor. The AFL continued to be particularly active in city and
State politics by acting through State federations and city centrals.
As a consequence, labor was frequently successful in ob­
taining legislative reforms. During the first two decades of the century,
for example, a number of States passed laws regulating the employment
of women and children in industry and providing for protection against
industrial hazards. Most States adopted workmen’s compensation laws.
In 1913, the U.S. Congress created a separate Department of Labor.
Clauses inserted in the Clayton Anti-Trust Act of 1914, at the
insistence of the AFL, exempted unions from prosecution on the ground


History of American Labor

of engaging in restraint of trade and sought to limit the issuance of
injunctions by Federal courts in labor disputes. This law was hailed by
Samuel Gompersand others as the “ Magna Carta” of labor. Enthusiasm
aver the Clayton Act was short lived, however, since subsequent court
interpretations virtually nullified labor’s anticipated gains. In 1915, Con­
gress passed the Seamen’s Act, regulating many of the conditions of
employment for American sailors; the Lloyd-La Follette Act, giving pub­
lic employees the right of lobbying and affiliating with labor organiza­
tions; and, in 1916, enacted the Adamson Act, establishing a basic 8-hour
workday for railroad workers engaged in interstate commerce.

Radical Opposition
Although the AFL under Samuel Gompers’ leadership was successfully
developing along the lines of “ pure and simple” unionism, a series of
unions, more or less revolutionary in character, rose to challenge it.
These unions were committed to the doctrine that labor was engaged in
a class struggle, and that a political or revolutionary offensive was the
best way to advance the interests of labor. On the other hand, the AFL
championed the philosophy that gradual improvement of the economic
condition of the worker was the only useful course of action to follow,
and that collective bargaining was the chief tool to use. After a long
struggle, which continued from the 1890’s to the First World War, the
philosophy of the AFL clearly emerged as the expressed views of the
great majority of the country’s organized workers.
Opposition to the strict trade union policies of the AFL unions
came from the Socialist Labor Party, the Socialist Party, and the Indus­
trial Workers of the World (IWW). The Socialist Labor Party (SLP),
founded in 1874, was a product of the American section of Marx and
Engel’s International W orkingm an’s Association, or “ First Inter­
national,” formed in 1864. This group attempted in 1895 to form a rival
body to the AFL— the Socialist Trades and Labor Alliance. Those within
the SLP who believed in winning workers to socialist philosophy without
resort to “ dual unionism” broke away in 1901 and formed the Socialist
Party whose members then sought, unsuccessfully, to change tradi­
tional AFL policies from within the Federation.
The Industrial Workers of the World was formed in 1905 by
several dissident union and political groups. It was pledged to the “ aboli­
tion of the wage system” and to the organization of the great mass of
unskilled factory workers and of migratory or “ casual” laborers. The
IWW organized workers primarily on an industrial basis and was partly
successful for a limited period in some areas throughout the country,
notably in the wheat fields, mines, and lumber camps of the West as well

Modern Labor Movement


AFL Executive Council in 1909: Front— John B. Lennon, Tailors:
James Duncan, Granite Cutters; President Samuel Gompers; John
Mitchell, Mine Workers; Secretary-Treasurer Frank Morrison;
rear— Denis A. Hayes, Glass Bottle Blowers; John R. Alpine,
Plumbers; William D. Huber, Carpenters; James O’Connell,
Machinists; Max Morris, Clerks; and Joseph F. Valentine, Molders.

as in a few o th e r scattered areas of in d u s tria l ten sio n . The m ilita n t ta c tic s
used to press its dem ands, p a rtic u la rly d u rin g the F irst W o rld W ar,
b ro u g h t the IWW into p u b lic d is fa v o r and caused several States to o u tla w
the o rg a n iza tio n . Many o f its leaders w ere pro se cu te d and sentenced to
long te rm s in priso n . O nce co n sid e re d a p o ssible c o n te n d e r to the AFL
fo r suprem acy in the la b o r m ovem ent, the IWW d e clin e d rapidly after
A m e rica 's entry in to W orld W ar I.

Labor and the First World War
D uring W orld W ar I, increased in d u s tria l a c tiv ity and la b o r sh o rta g e s
b ro u g h t a rapid e xp a n sio n o f u nions. A N ational W ar L a b o r B oard was
created to p ro m o te u n io n -m a n a g e m e n t c o o p e ra tio n and to aid in the
se ttle m e n t of se rio u s d is p u te s w h ic h m ig h t in te rfe re w ith the effective
c o n d u c t of the war. For the firs t tim e in the h isto ry o f th e co u n try , a
Federal la b o r agency set fo rth the rig h t of w o rk e rs to o rg a n ize in trade
u n io n s and e n co u ra g e d c o lle c tiv e b a rg a in in g w ith e m p lo ye rs th ro u g h
chosen representatives.
In a d d itio n to serving on the N ational W ar L a b o r B oard, re pre­
sentatives fro m o rg a n ize d la b o r p a rtic ip a te d on o th e r G o ve rn m e n t
b oards and co m m itte e s d e a lin g w ith specialized w a r pro b le m s. T h e ir
co o p e ra tio n w ith G overnm ent, on a scale th e re to fo re u n p re ce d e n te d ,


History of American Labor

secured for labor a hearing on specific complaints about industrial
conditions as well as a voice in the determination of broad national
Union membership increased in the mining and shipbuilding
industries and also on the railroads, which were operated by the Federal
Government during the war. Notable gains were made also in the pack­
inghouse, textile, men’s clothing, food, leather, and metal trades indus­
tries. Large groups of semiskilled and unskilled workers were, for the
first time, brought within the trade union movement.
As a result of organizing activity in the favorable climate of
Federal protection, union membership increased to more than 5 million
by 1920.
More important than the numerical gain in union membership
were the economic gains made by the workers, particularly during the
years of, and immediately following, the First World War. Average hourly
earnings in all manufacturing industries, which were about 15 cents in
1890, rose slowly to 22 cents in 1914, then jumped to 47 cents in 1919. In
1923, they were about 52 cents. At the same time, average hours worked
per week in all manufacturing declined from more than 60 in 1890 to 49 in
1914. In 1923, the average workweek approximated 46 hours.

Modern Labor Movement


Chapter III

Between Two
World Wars
During the years following World War I, a combination of events occurred
which led to an increase in the number and severity of industrial dis­
putes. Following a brief downswing in business immediately after the
war, there was a quick revival, accompanied by rising prices. By
mid-1919, labor was faced with the mounting cost of living. Real wages
lagged. At the same time, withdrawal of the Government’s limited protec­
tion of labor’s right to organize and the termination of wartime govern­
mental labor agencies removed restraints which had kept industrial
relations running more or less smoothly during the war years. As a result,
numerous employers refused to recognize labor unions which had been
organized in their plants. So, to protect their recently won gains and to
combat the victories of antiunion employers, many labor leaders called
for more aggressive action.

Open Shop Era and Depression
In September 1919, a strike was called in the steel industry by the AFL
Iron and Steel Organizing Committee composed of the presidents of the
24 international unions that had jurisdiction in the industry. The strike
was called off in January 1920, after most of the strikers had drifted back
to work; the unions failed in their attempts to gain recognition in the
industry. A strike by the United Mine Workers in the coal-mining industry
began on October 31,1919, but was called off on November 10 after the
court granted the Government a permanent injunction against it. In some
localities, the strike continued into December 1919, when the union
agreed to the Fuel Administrator’s proposal for an immediate 14-percent
wage increase and to President Woodrow Wilson’s offer to appoint a
tripartite coal commission to pass on further demands.
The economic recession in 1921 and 1922 resulted in many
serious work stoppages, such as the railroad shopmen’s strike in the
summer of 1922. These protests, however, failed to check a general wage
reduction movement which also marked the beginning of a decline in
union strength. Many unions continued to lose ground despitethe rise in
business activity which occurred in the late 1920’s. Professors Millis and


History of American Labor

Montgomery in their book Organized Labor stated that the 1920’s were
years which should “ according to historical precedents, have witnessed
labor militancy, aggressiveness in conquering unorganized areas, and in
entrenching more strongly job control already obtained.” Instead, this
period “ found old and established unions experiencing difficulty in
maintaining past gains and something akin to inertia, pacifism, or dis­
illusionment pervading the movement as a whole.”
The successes of antiunion employers in many industries
(metal, automobile, railroad, etc.) gave this period its popular title— the
“ open shop era.” To weaken or disrup labor organizations employers in
these years introduced a variety of welfare measures, ranging from
athletic fields to pension plans, as well as such repressive measures as
the use of spies and strikebreakers. Company unions dominated by
employers were likewise established. “ Yellow dog” contracts, requiring
a worker to promise, as a condition of employment, that he would not
join a labor union, were also used effectively.
The varied effects of this period on the union movement are
described by Lewis Lorwin in his book The American Federation of
A considerable part of the membership was able to obtain higher wage rates,
increased earnings, and shorter hours. The 40-hour week in unionized plants
was widely accepted, wh i le about half a m i 11ion un ion members obtained the 5day week. This was notable in the building trades, in some branches of the
transportation industry, in the printing trades, in Government employment, and
in some of the professions, such as teaching and acting. But where unions were
unable to meet the new conditions they suffered a decline in membership, a
loss of income, and a weakening of their benefit systems; and they could
enforce their standards over smaller areas.

From 1920 to 1923, total union membership fell from about 5
million to slightly over 31/2 million. It still remained at this lower level in
1929, at the height of the country’s “ prosperity.” Of the 105 AFL inter­
national and national unions active in 1929, only 44 had held their own or
expanded their membership after 1925. Most of these were in the build­
ing and printing trades, transportation, Government service, and
The economic depression and widespread unemployment
which followed the 1929 stockmarket crash further reduced union mem­
bership to 31/4 million by 1932. This decline was particularly pronounced
in industries where machinery was displacing skilled hand labor and in
the “ sick” industries of mining and textiles, as well as in other industries
which had been artificially stimulated by the war. Many unions were hard
pressed to survive and maintain some semblance of effectiveness.

Between Two World Wars


New Labor Laws
Although the decline in union membership was a serious blow to the
labor movement, about 3 million workers retained their membership
during the depths of the depression. These workers provided the vital
centers of growth ready to respond to improved economic conditions,
especially when many of the obstacles to union growth were removed by
changes in public policies.
The Railway Labor Act of 1926, although limited to railroad
transportation, was a significant beginning of these new policies. This
act was based on the premise that peaceful labor-management relations
should be maintained by free collective bargaining between employers
and unions. Railroad workers were assured the right to organize and join
unions without employer interference. As a measure drafted by repre­
sentatives of the railroad companies and the unions, the 1926 law has
been described as "in effect a collective agreement sanctioned by Con­
gress." Another act indicative of the new trend was the Davis-Bacon Act
of 1931. Not so directly related to collective bargaining, this act deter­
mined the prevailing rates of pay for workers engaged in the construc­
tion of public works paid from Federal funds.
Next came the Norris-LaGuardia Act of 1932. It brought to an
end what has been called, in the history of labor-management relations,
the era of "government by injunction." It drastically limited judicial
restrictions on strikes, picketing, and boycotts. The act also forbade the
use of the "yellow dog" contract whereby workers, as a condition of
employment, would agree not to join a union, and it limited the liability of
unions and their officers and members for unlawful acts of individual
officers, agents, or members.
A year later, in an effort to revive business and reduce wide­
spread unemployment, the incoming administration of President Franklin D.
Roosevelt obtained the passage of the National Industrial Recovery Act
(NIRA) in the spring of 1933. This law included a provision, section 7 (a),
which guaranteed the right of employees to organize or join unions of
their own choosing and to bargain collectively with their employers. The
NIRA was invalidated by the Supreme Court in May 1935, but in July of the
same year the principle of the labor section was incorporated in the
National Labor Relations (Wagner) Act.
The Wagner Act was the most significant labor law thus far
enacted in the United States. It guaranteed employees "the right to
self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain
collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to en­
gage in concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or


History of American Labor

other mutual aid or protection.’’ The act went beyond a statement of
principles; it created the administrative machinery of the National Labor
Relations Board. As a Government agency, the Board was given, among
other duties, the following functions: (1) To prevent and remedy em­
ployers’ “unfair labor practices’’ which discouraged or interfered with
the self-organization of employees or with the practice of collective
bargaining; and (2) to determine the bargaining unit in cases of con­
troversy and hold secret “ representation’’ elections to decide which
union, if any, the employees wanted to represent them for bargaining
purposes, and with which the company, by law, had to bargain collec­
This trend toward a more favorable Government policy was
undoubtedly one of the main causes of the success of unions in the
organizing work which followed in the mid-thirties. This Government
attitude was also reflected in the enactment of measures other than
those for regulating labor-management relations, such as the principle
of minimum wage and maximum hours standards of the National Indus­
trial Recovery Act, later reflected in the Fair Labor Standards (WageHour) Act of 1938; the Social Security Act (1935); the Walsh-Healey
(Public Contracts) Act (1936) for maintaining basic labor standards for
materials or supplies furnished on Federal contracts exceeding $10,000;
and improved State workmen’s compensation laws.

Revival of Unionism
Increases in union membership following the enactment of the NorrisLaGuardia Act in 1932 and the National Industrial Recovery Act in the
spring of 1933 were most conspicuous in the mass-production indus­
tries. New unions in these industries were organized on an industrial
rather than a craft basis. No corresponding international unions existed
to absorb them, and they were therefore chartered directly by the AFL as
federal labor unions. Many of the older national and international unions
made large gains in membership during the same period. Growth was
slowed down to some extent by the widespread increase in the formation
of “ employee representation plans’’ sponsored by employers mainly to
check the spread of unions. The Wagner Act, however, established a
basic code to encourage free collective bargaining and virtually ended
company-dominated unions and employer-controlled employee repre­
sentation plans.
The 2-year expansion of total union membership brought
about a rise from less than 3 million in 1933 to 3% milion in 1935. In the
following 2 years (the first 2 years of the Wagner Act), membership
almost doubled, advancing to 71/4 million. The largest gains during the

Between Two World Wars


latter period were made in the automobile, rubber, and aluminum indus­
tries, in which workers were organized on an industrial basis. Many of the
older organizations, including such unions as the International Ladies’
Garment Workers’ Union, the International Association of Machinists,
and the In te rn a tio n a l B ro th e rh o o d of Teamsters, C hauffeurs,
Warehousemen and Helpers, also registered substantial membership
increases. The extent of these gains is even more impressive when it is
realized that the total labor force increased only 2 percent between 1935
and 1937, and that nonagricultural employment, the main source of
union membership, increased less than 15 percent.

Division in the Labor Movement
Growth in union membership was accomplished even though an internal
struggle developed in the American Federation of Labor, primarily over
the question of whether unions should be organized to include all work­
ers in an industry, or strictly on a craft or occupational basis. The San
Francisco (1934) convention of the American Federation of Labor un­
animously adopted a report of its resolutions committee which declared
that in the mass-production industries new methods had been devel­
oped for organizing workers who were "most difficult or impossible to
organize into craft unions.’’ The report continued:
To meet this new condition, the Executive Council is directed to issue charters
to national and international unions in the automotive, cement, aluminum and
such other mass-production and miscellaneous industries as in the judgment
of the Executive Council may be necessary to meet the situation.
The resolution also stated that the jurisdictional rights of
existing trade unions would be recognized. Craft unions would continue
in those industries where skills and work assignments were distinguish­
able among crafts.
During the following year, the American Federation of Labor
granted charters to organizations of workers in the automobile and
rubber industries. In defining the jurisdiction of these unions, however,
the AFL Executive Council excluded certain skilled craftsmen and main­
tenance employees coming under the jurisdiction of other unions.
The industrial or craft organization issue, however, was not to
be settled that easily. It rose again at the AFL’s Atlantic City (1935)
convention. A minority report of the resolutions committee protested the
Executive Council’s interpretation of the San Francisco declaration on
industrial unionism and called for the granting of "unrestricted char­
ters’’ to organizations set up in mass-production industries. Defeat of the


History of American Labor

minority report after lengthy debate left the issue unresolved and led to
the schism in the labor movement which lasted until December 1955.

Formation of Committee for Industrial
A few weeks after the 1935 convention, six AFL affiliated unions and the
officers of two other AFL unions formed a “ Committee for Industrial
Organization (CIO).” Its stated purpose was to promote the organization
of workers in mass-production and unorganized industries and to en­
courage their affiliation with the American Federation of Labor. The
committee was later joined by four additional AFL unions.2
The Executive Council of the American Federation of Labor
characterized the activities of the Committee for Industrial Organization
as “ dual” to the AFL and in January 1936 requested the committee to
disband immediately. The CIO rejected the request. The “ dual” unions
were suspended later in the year. Efforts at compromise and conciliation
failed, and in May 1938 all but one of the unions in the committee were
expelled. The lone exception was the International Ladies’ Garment
Workers’ Union (ILGWU), which had remained friendly to the Federation
and which had attempted to bring the disputing factions together. The
ILGWU rejoined the AFL in 1940.
The CIO held its first constitutional convention in Pittsburgh,
Pa., in November 1938. At this convention, the Committee for Industrial
Organization was reorganized as a federation of national and inter­
national unions under the name “ Congress of Industrial Organizations.”
The new federation included the 9 unions expelled from the AFL and
some 32 other groups or “ organizing committees” established to recruit
workers in various industries.
John L. Lewis, president of the United Mine Workers, was
elected to lead the CIO. The constitutional structure of the new organ-*

*The unions active in the formation of the CIO were: United Mine Workers, represented
by John L. Lewis, who was chairman of the committee; Amalgamated Clothing
Workers; International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union; United Textile Workers; Inter­
national Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers; and International Association of Oil
Field, Gas Well and Refinery Workers. Two union presidents, Charles P. Howard of the
International Typographical Union, who became secretary of the committee, and Max
Zaritsky of the United Hatters, Cap and Millinery Workers, participated as individuals
without committing their organizations to the movement. The following four unions
joined shortly after the formation of the committee: International Union of United
Automobile Workers; United Rubber Workers; Amalgamated Association of Iron,
Steel and Tin Workers; and Federation of Flat Glass Workers.

Between Two World Wars


ization resembled that of the AFL. It provided basically for a loose federa­
tion of autonomous national unions governed by an executive board
composed of a representative from each affiliated union, a board of nine
vice presidents, a secretary-treasurer, and a president, all elected at
annual conventions of delegates from affiliated unions.
The difficulties between the AFL and CIO did not prevent the
growth of unionism. On the contrary, the rivalry generated by the two
large federations stimulated the organizing efforts of the unions in each
group. By the end of 1941, union membership had climbed to between 10
and 11 million. This was more than double the membership at the time
the Committee for Industrial Organization began its campaigns in the
large steel, automobile, and textile industries.
During the first flush of this new growth, enthusiasm and emo­
tions ran at a high pitch. As workers poured into unions, many employers
were overwhelmed by the ground swell. When companies resisted,
strikes frequently occurred. New tactics were used. Some unions dem­
onstrated their militancy by staging “ sitdown” strikes during which
striking workers stayed inside the plant but refused to work or permit
strikebreakers to enter the buildings. Sitdown strikes, for a short period,
dramatized the attempts of auto and rubber workers to organize several
large companies. Some employers, on the other hand, sought to use
strikebreakers or “ scabs” to replace their union employees and stored
guns, tear gas, and other weapons in their plants for ready use in com­
bating strikes or organizing efforts. These actions provoked occasional
outbursts of violence but seldom on the scale that had been experienced
during the formative period of unionism before World War I. As the newer
unions gained maturity and employers recognized them as representa­
tives of their workers, relations between labor and management gradu­
ally improved. More and more workers were protected by written agree­
ments setting forth their wages, hours, and working conditions.
Despite these gains, which were real and substantial, the
number of strikes remained relatively high. In 1941, as prices moved
upward and production and profits rose, stimulated by the war in
Europe, stoppages became more frequent. A few of these controversies
were provoked by Communist sympathizers who, before Hitler’s attack
on Russia in June 1941, favored an “ isolationist” policy for the United
States. (After the German invasion of the Soviet Union they became
full-fledged “ interventionists.” ) Most of the prewar labor-management
conflicts, however, revolved around demands for better wages and
greater union security.


History of American Labor

Chapter IV

The Second World
War and
The attack on Pearl Harbor brought labor and management together in a
common cause. Three years later, the war’s end signaled the beginning
of a new round of battles between the unions and employers. During
reconversion, management said unreasonable wage demands were
being made of them; labor unions complained that Federal legislation,
newly enacted, would effectively cripple them.

The War Years, 1942-45
Shortly after the declaration of war on December 8, 1941, President
Roosevelt called a conference of union and industry leaders. At the
conclusion of the meetings, the President announced a voluntary pledge
from union leaders not to sanction strikes for the duration of the war in
return for a pledge by management representatives not to sanction
lockouts. These pledges were parts of an agreement leading to estab­
lishm ent of a National War Labor Board to consider all labormanagement disputes affecting the war effort, and to provide proce­
dures for their peaceful settlement. This Board, set up in January 1942,
was composed of representatives from labor, management, and the
general public. Regional boards were organized on a similar basis to
handle local controversies. As in the earlier National Defense Mediation
Board, which functioned from March to November 1941 to adjust dis­
putes affecting the rearmament program, labor representation was
equally divided between the AFL and CIO. By October 1942, it had
become necessary to put into effect widespread controls over prices and
wages, and the War Labor Board also became the agency for the stabili­
zation of wages.
In December 1942, representatives from three major labor
groups (AFL, CIO, and Railway Brotherhoods) were appointed to the
Management-Labor Policy Committee, a consulting body for the War
Manpower Commission. Similar joint committees were appointed in the
regions and local areas to assist in the overall program of providing
workers for war industries. These committees gave practical advice and
suggestions in the training, recruitment, and transfer of workers.

Second World War and Reconversion


Two Gl’s watch construction of Philadelphia’s USO-Labor Plaza
during World War II. AFL and CIO unions donated their labor to the
O rganized la b o r also played an active role in many phases of
the G o v e rn m e n t’s w ar p ro d u c tio n pro g ra m . It was represented on the
firs t defense agency— the A d viso ry C o m m issio n to the C o u n c il o f Na­
tio n a l Defense, e stablished in May 1940. W ith the cre a tio n of the O ffice of
P ro d u c tio n M ana g e m e n t (OPM) in January 1941, Sidney H illm an, p resi­
d e n t of the A m algam ated C lo th in g W o rke rs of A m e rica (CIO), was ap­
p ointed by P resident R oosevelt to share a u th o rity w ith the D ire cto r
G eneral o f OPM, W illia m S. K nudsen, p re sid e n t of the G eneral M o to rs
U nder the a uspices o f the W ar P ro d u c tio n B oard, a successor
agency to the OPM, la b o r-m a n a g e m e n t co m m itte e s w ere established in
many pla n ts to s tim u la te o u tp u t and reduce absenteeism . In a d d itio n ,
m ost o f the o th e r w a r agencies e stablished plans w hereby th e u n io n s
p a rticip a te d in va rio u s Federal program s.
W ith the m arked rise in em p lo ym e n t, and w id e r u n io n re c o g ­
n itio n , u n io n m e m b e rsh ip increased. A ssurance th a t u n io n s w o u ld not
be unde rm in e d by fo re g o in g th e ir rig h t to strike o r by w a rtim e sh ifts in
e m p lo y m e n t fo u n d e x p re s s io n in th e W a r L a b o r B o a r d ’s
“ m a in te n a n c e -o f-m e m b e rs h ip ” fo rm u la applied in a n u m b e r of key s itu ­
ations. In lieu of the closed o r u n io n shop s o u g h t by u nions, th is provided
in general th a t w o rk e rs did not have to jo in the u n io n to retain e m p lo y­
m ent, but, once c h o o s in g to becom e m em bers, they had to m aintain
m em bership fo r the d u ra tio n of the agreem ent. D uring th e war, union
m em bership ste a d ily increased at the rate of a b o u t a m illio n w o rke rs a
year; the greatest ga in s w ere in the steel, s h ip b u ild in g , a ircra ft, a u to m o ­
tive, and o th e r w a r in d u strie s. B etw een 1941 and 1945, m any u n io n s in
the m etal tra d e s d o u b le d and trip le d th e ir m em bership. The United
A u to m o b ile W orke rs (CIO) in 1945 reported a to ta l d u e s-p a yin g m em ber­
ship o f 1,052,000, the largest re corded by an A m erican u n io n up to that
tim e.
Wage increases were la rgely held in check by the G o v e rn m e n t’s


History of American Labor

stabilization policy, as exemplified by the War Labor Board’s “ Little
Steel’’ formula which sought to confine general increases in wage rates
to not more than 15 percent above the level on January 1,1941. Although
wages were controlled, workers obtained various so-called “ fringe ben­
efits,’’ such as paid vacations and holidays, shift differentials, and
insurance and pension plans.
Collective bargaining agreements were negotiated or extended
over large sections of industry during the war. Strikes occurred, but
union leaders and Government representatives sought their speedy set­
tlement. Some issues were postponed when it was found that they could
not be settled within the existing framework of controls; thus pressures
were built up which erupted after the war.
Extension of union membership to workers without regard to
race, creed, or nationality, which had been gradually gaining support,
was accelerated during the war. Expanded employment of black work­
ers, particularly in the mass-production industries, necessitated their
acceptance into the unions on an equal basis if standards of wages and
working conditions were to be maintained. In many unions, prejudices
which had existed through the years gradually broke down as white and
black workers learned to respect each other as fellow workers on the job.
Some unions which had previously refused to admit black workers to
membership relaxed their rules and removed racial restrictions from
their constitutions. The Federal Government’s Fair Employment Prac­
tices Committee aided in eliminating some of the more severe instances
of discrimination in industry.

Labor-Management Relations, 1945-47
The end of hostilities in 1945 confronted organized labor and employers
with a host of new problems. More than 10 million service men and
women were demobilized in the 12 monthsfollowing V-J Day, August, 14,
1945. Thousands of factories retooled to meet the demands of a civilian,
peacetime economy.
Many factories cut their scheduled hours from wartime levels of
48 or more a week to the prewar level of 40. Some shut down temporarily
or permanently. Wage earners, confronted with losses in “ take-home’’
pay, sought to maintain their wartime earnings which had included
substantial overtime pay at premium rates. Union demands soon crystal­
lized into requests for wage-rate increases of about 30 percent— the
approximate advance the workers deemed necessary to preserve their
former weekly earnings. Many employers, uncertain of the speed with
which reconversion could be accomplished and opposed to the con­
tinuation of price and other wartime controls, voiced their inability to
meet these wage proposals.

Second World War and Reconversion


This conflict between labor and management was further ag­
gravated by the partial termination of stabilization restraints which had
held within moderate bounds the upward movement of the cost of living
and rates of pay during the war years. Both labor and management
wanted to bargain, free of these restrictions. These desires were express­
ed by many representatives of labor and management as the war neared
an end and were reflected in Government policy as hostilities ceased. On
August 16, 1945— less than 48 hours after V-J Day— President Harry S.
Truman announced that the National War Labor Board would be termi­
nated by the end of the year. During the war, the Board had weathered
numerous crises, but pressure for revision of its ‘‘Little Steel’’ formula, or
for outright abandonment of stabilization controls over wages, rose
steadily in 1945. On August 18, the President issued an order permitting
wage increases without specific Government approval, provided the
increases would not serve as a basis for higher prices or added cost to
Federal agencies purchasing goods or services from contractors. Al­
though a successor agency to the National War Labor Board was estab­
lished to carry on the wage stabilization function, conditions in the
postwar period were such that the efforts of the new National Wage
Stabilization Board had limited effectiveness. The Board went out of
existence in early 1947.
Beginning in the autumn of 1945, a number of strikes occurred
in the oil, automobile, steel, and coal industries. The widespread unrest
prompted President Truman to call a national labor-management con­
ference in November 1945, with the hope that some formula for industrial
peace could be reached. The conference produced few tangible results,
and controversies continued. Altogether, 42 large strikes, each involving
10,000 or more workers, occurred between V -J Day and July 1946.
Out of these disputes, a wage increase “ pattern” of 181/2 cents
an hour evolved for some major mass-production industries, particularly
those producing automobiles, steel, electrical equipment, and rubber
tires. In resisting postwar wage increases, many employers pointed to
the difficulties of absorbing such increases as long as prices of their
products remained subject to Government control. Partly as a result of
these protests, the Office of Price Administration (OPA), which had
“ policed” prices during the war, was permitted to expire on June 30,
1946. Although the OPA was revived a month later on a limited basis, by
the end of the year virtually all price controls were ended.
The “ second round” of postwar renewal of union contracts
began in the autumn of 1946. Production by that time had reached record
peacetime levels and business was generally prosperous. For the most
part, management and labor came to terms without the costly stoppages
which had marked the preceding year’s bargaining. Workers in the heavy
mass-production industries obtained in many instances “ package” in­


History of American Labor

creases estimated to be worth 15 cents an hour, including the value of
added holidays with pay, health and welfare provisions, or other ‘‘fringe

New Labor Legislation: The Taft-H artley Act
There were many causes of industrial unrest and work stoppages in 1945
and 1946. Collective bargaining was still comparatively new in many
situations; a considerable measure of employer opposition to unions
existed; some unions, recently formed or growing rapidly, could not
maintain union discipline under the accumulation of wartime griev­
ances, or accustom themselves to the less militant methods of collec­
tive bargaining after winning recognition. Neither group adjustment nor
individual self-discipline was aided by the wholesale shifting of workers
to war industries and new industrial centers and then to other jobs and
locations during reconversion. The quick withdrawal of wartime public
controls over labor-management relations and also over production,
prices, and wages placed additional responsibilities upon both unions
and employers at a time when the cost of living was rising rapidly.
The series of postwar work stoppages symbolized serious
industrial unrest in the public mind. Strike idleness as a percentage of
total working time (perhaps the best measure for comparison over a
period of years) began to rise^soon after the war from the unusually low
wartime levels. Even in 1937, a prewar year of above average strike
activity, strike idleness had been less than 0.5 percent of total working
time; in 1946, it was 1.43 percent— the highest ever recorded.
The unsettled labor-management situation after the war re­
vived and greatly strengthened opposition to the Wagner Act. Senator
Robert A. Taft, a leader in the demand for change, argued that although
the act had been passed to aid unions in maintaining an appropriate
“balance” of rights and responsibilities between workers and em­
ployers, it had gone ‘‘far beyond” such a balance in its actual administra­
tion. He and Congressman Fred A. Hartley sponsored a rewriting of the
act. The resulting measure, the Labor Management Relations (TaftHartley) Act, gained such widespread support that despite strong objec­
tions by organized labor and a Presidential veto, it became law on
June 23, 1947.
Some provisions of collective agreements which many
unions had obtained or sought were banned or limited under the revised
law. Provision for the so-called ‘‘closed shop” could no longer be in­
cluded in agreements. Other widely adopted provisions of agreements,
such as the union shop, checkoff of union dues, welfare funds, and
contract termination arrangements were regulated.

Second World War and Reconversion


The concept of striking a ‘ balance” between unions and
employers led to the inclusion of a list of ‘‘unfair labor practices” apply­
ing to unions, along with a list applying to employers. Among various
other practices, refusal to bargain in good faith, engaging in secondary
boycotts, stopping work over a jurisdictional or interunion dispute, and
charging excessive initiation fees to keep new members out of a union
were considered by the law to be unfair. Employers, as well as workers,
were permitted to appeal to the National Labor Relations Board against
unions in connection with such practices. Certain practices could be
penalized by court action and law suits for damages. Restrictions on the
use of injunctions were eased. One section (14b) of the act allowed the
States to adopt more restrictive legislation against union security
clauses than was provided in the Federal law.
Special rules were written into the Taft-Hartley Act for han­
dling controversies or strikes which, in the judgment of the President,
create or threaten emergencies by imperiling the national health or
safety. In any such dispute or strike, the President was authorized to
appoint a ‘‘board of inquiry” to investigate the facts. Thereafter, a court
injunction could be obtained forbidding the occurrence or continuance
of a stoppage for a period of 80 days. During that ‘‘cooling off” or
‘‘waiting” period, further efforts were to be made to settle the dispute. If
no voluntary agreement could be arranged within 60 days, the em­
ployees were to be polled by secret ballot as to whether they would
accept the ‘‘final offer” of the employer. After all these steps were taken,
however, the injunction had to be dissolved whether or not the dispute
was settled. By the end of 1975 this procedure had been used 34 times.
The Taft-Hartley Act also removed the Federal Mediation and
Conciliation Service from the Department of Labor and established it as
a separate agency of the Government. This Service offers assistance to
labor and management in arriving at peaceful settlement of labor dis­
putes, particularly if they threaten substantial interruption of interstate
commerce. Possessing no law enforcement authority, the Service oper­
ates through mediators who rely wholly on the persuasive techniques of
mediation and conciliation to perform their duties.
Federal law does not prohibit workers from striking, except
for employees of the Federal Government. Some State and local gov­
ernments restrict the right of public employees as well as employees of
certain public utilities to strike.
Union opposition to the Taft-Hartley Act was intense in the
first few years after its passage. The act was denounced as a ‘‘slave
labor” law and its repeal became a major goal of the labor movement.
Many proposals were made for changes in the new law by its critics and
also by its sponsors— changes which, for the most part, would ease the
restrictions on unions. Revision proved to be difficult, partly because of


History of American Labor

the problem of reconciling the views of those who were fearful of going
too far in modifying the law with the views of those who felt that any
obtainable amendments would not satisfy their objections. By 1951,
practical circumstances had brought about general agreement to repeal
the requirement that elections be held to validate union-shop agree­
ments. Experience had shown that large majorities of workers in nearly
all cases voted for the union shop. Accordingly, the law was amended to
eliminate this requirement.
Unions, in the meantime, directed renewed attention to re­
strictive legislation in the States. Against union opposition, laws in some
of the States, particularly in the South, went beyond Taft-Hartley Act
restrictions by prohibiting not only closed-shop contracts but also
union-shop agreements, maintenance-of-membership agreements, or
related forms of union security. This State action was permissible under
section 14 (b) of the Taft-Hartley Act. Measures of this type were de­
scribed by proponents as "right to work" laws; union officials called
them "right to wreck" laws. In 1975, these laws were in effect in 19 States,
not including Louisiana which repealed its law in 1956 but retained
union security restrictions for agricultural laborers and certain farm pro­
cessing workers.
The Taft-Hartley Act was again amended in 1959, through the
Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act, which is described in
chapter V.

Second World War and Reconversion


Chapter V

Changes in the
Labor Movement,
1947— 75
For about 10 years after the passage of the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947, trade
union membership expanded at about the same rate as nonagricultural
employment was increasing. At the same time, an aggressive collective
bargaining approach opened up new vistas for American workers. (See
chapter VI.) The Korean emergency brought labor leaders again into
prominence. The prestige of the labor movement seemed at its highest
when the AFL and CIO merged in December 1955, and after 20 years of
often bitter and costly rivalry. Public fear of Communist domination of
unions had been allayed before the merger, and the new Federation set
its sights on other vexing problems.
Yet, in the years immediately following the merger, the largest
union in the Federation (Teamsters) was expelled; the Labor-Manage­
ment Reporting and Disclosure (Landrum -G riffin) Act brought the Gov­
ernment directly into the regulation of union affairs on a broad scale;
union membership began to decline, both in absolute and relative num­
bers for the first time since the depression; a host of writers began to
discuss what they felt was a growing crisis in American labor; and the
Auto Workers (UAW), another of the larger AFL-CIO unions, left the
AFL-CIO in July 1968 and, with the Teamsters, formed the short-lived
Alliance for Labor Action.
By the midsixties, however, union membership had begun to
rise again, particularly as public employees turned to unions in increas­
ing numbers. Equally prominent was the influence of the AFL-CIO in
securing significant legislation on private pension and welfare plans and
the workplace environment.

AFL and CIO Clean House
In the postwar reappraisal of the labor movement, charges of Communist
or corrupt influences in union ranks were thrown at the CIO and AFL, and
the two Federations were compelled by pressures from within and w ith­
out to deal forcefully with disruptive elements. Their actions on these
issues diminished one of the obstacles to merger.
Unions often have advocated political and social change, but,
with minor exceptions, by “ due process’’ in the sense of dependence on


History of American Labor

legal, constitutional, and democratic methods. Communists, therefore,
in their efforts to make use of unions, usually disguised their own real
motives. Organized Communist activity in the labor movement began in
1920, when the Trade„Union Education League (TUEL) was founded. The
TUEL at first rejected dual or competing unionism and adopted a policy
of “ boring from w ithin’’ the established unions. Its efforts failed. The
Trade Union Unity League, formed in 1928 as the successor to the TUEL,
for a time gave up the idea of “ boring from w ithin’’ and undertook to
organize industrial unions outside of the AFL. That effort to split the
labor movement failed.
After the CIO was formed, the Communists shifted their atten­
tion mainly to that organization because its rapid growth provided op­
portunities for infiltration. Some Communists became organizers and
union officials. However, they were less interested in union activities
than in support of the “ party line.’’ Their espousal of Soviet Russia
became increasingly obvious and at the same time increasingly distaste­
ful to CIO leaders and members.
In 1949 and 1950, 11 unions charged with Communist domina­
tion were expelled from the CIO. The majority of the members of the
expelled unions were not in sympathy with their leaders, however, and in
the following years formed or joined other unions affiliated with the AFL
or the CIO. As a noteworthy instance, the International Union of Electri­
cal, Radio and Machine Workers was chartered as a CIO union to replace
the ousted United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers. Only 2 of the
11 unions forced out of the CIO still survived as unaffiliated unions in
1975 — the U nited E le c tric a l Workers and the Longshoremen’s and
Warehousemen’s Union.3
The AFL was not involved with communism among the of­
ficers of its affiliated national unions. The Federation, however, had to
contend w ith another kind of problem . The In ternatio nal
Longshoremen’s Association (ILA), a long-time affiliate, was accused by
the New York State Crime Commission of corruption, racketeering, and
other objectionable practices affecting operation of the Port of New
York. Efforts by the Executive Council of the AFL to get the union to clean
up its affairs were unsuccessful and, in an unprecedented action, ex-

3The other nine unions expelled by the CIO were the Fur and Leather Workers; the
Office and Professional Workers; the Food, Tobacco, Agricultural, and Allied Work­
ers; the United Farm Equipment and Metal Workers; the Fishermen and Allied Work­
ers; the Public Workers; the Marine Cooks and Stewards; the Mine, Mill and Smelter
Workers; and the American Communications Association. All of these unions have
merged with other unions or have disbanded.



Samuel Gompers

William Green

John L. Lewis

Philip Murray


History of American Labor

Four Secretaries of Labor meet to celebrate 50th anniversary of
Department of Labor, March 1963. (James P. Mitchell,
Frances Perkins, Arthur J. Goldberg, W. Willard Wirtz.)



pulsion of the union, by the Federation convention, followed in 1953. A
new union was chartered by the AFL, but it failed to dislodge the old ILA.
After a bitter contest on the docks and in the courts, the ILA was certified
by the National Labor Relations Board as the collective bargaining
representative for the New York area dock workers. In 1959, the ILA was
readmitted (on a 2-year probationary basis) to the merged AFL— CIO
after satisfying the Executive Council that it had cleaned house. The ILA
affair, however, was just the beginning of an involved series of development$ w hich ultim ately, th ro u g h the enactm ent of the LaborManagement Reporting and Disclosure (Landrum-Griffin) Act of 1959,
brought the Federal Government more directly into union practices.

Steps Toward Merger
The drive for amalgamation of the two Federations, thwarted many times
since 1935 by unyielding attitudes and problems, was set on course three
years— almost to the day— before its fulfillment. On November 25,1952,
George Meany was elected president of the AFL by the Executive Council
to succeed the late William Green. On the same day, the Council took
unanimous action to reactivate a committee authorized to seek the road
to unity with the CIO. Less than 2 weeks later, the 14th CIO convention
elected Walter P. Reuther to the presidency vacated by the death of
Philip Murray and likewise authorized its officers to explore the path of
unity. Past failures, notably the dissolution in August 1951 of the United
Labor Policy Committee, formed by the AFL, CIO, and railroad unions
in December 1950 during the Korean hostilities to present labor s views
to the Government on national problems, were submerged in the hope
that the new leadership would be able to make a fresh start.
The foundation for unity was laid with the negotiation of the
no-raiding agreement in June 1953 and its approval by both Federation
conventions in the fall of that year. This agreement declared that a union
affiliated with one organization would not try to recruit members and
organize a plant or shop where bargaining relations already existed with
an affiliate of the other organization. It became effective on June 9,1954,
for the 65 AFL and 29 CIO affiliates which, up to that time, had approved
its terms. The 1954 AFL and CIO conventions hailed this accomplishment
as a constructive step in ending wasteful interunion jurisdictional con­
flicts and set their sights for the creation of a single trade union organiza­
tion through the process of merger.
The “ Agreement for the Merger,” setting forth the procedure
by which merger would be effected and establishing the framework for a


History of American Labor

Walter Reuther and George Meany celebrate the historic merger of the
AFL-CIO in 1955.

new c o n s titu tio n , was a dopted by a J o in t U nity C om m itte e com posed of
key AFL and CIO leaders on February 9, 1955. It was ra tifie d by the
executive g ro u p s of the tw o F ederations s h o rtly the re a fte r. The d ra ftin g
of the proposed c o n s titu tio n c o n tin u e d th ro u g h 1955; the fin a l version
was approved by th e A F L ’s E xecutive C o u n cil and the C IO ’s E xecutive
B oard on the eve of the fin a l c o n v e n tio n s of each o f the Federations. The
pro b le m of nam ing the m erged F ederations so th a t b oth p a rtic ip a n ts
w ou ld feel equa lly h o n o re d was resolved in m idyear in the tra d itio n
associated w ith n e w sp ap e r m ergers, namely, the c o n tin u a tio n of both
o ffic ia l names.



Merger Achieved
A new era in American labor history opened on December 5,1955, in New
York City with the formation of the American Federation of Labor and
Congress of Industrial Organizations, the AFL-CIO. The merger of the
two Federations, rivals since 1935, brought into one organization unions
representing approximately 16 million workers, including Canadian
members, or between 85 and 90 percent of the membership claimed by
all unions in the United States.
The first convention of the AFL— CIO adopted a constitution,
elected officers, and conducted its carefully planned business with a
unanimity which was openly recognized as an expression of unity rather
than as an indication that all disputes were settled and all problems
solved. The merger was a combination of top structures and a recon­
ciliation of broad outlook and policies. Consolidation of unity down the
line, as all the delegates knew, was yet to come. Optimism that this too
could be accomplished appeared high on this eventful occasion.
The December 1955 founding convention of the AFL— CIO es­
tablished a policy and administrative structure generally similar to that
which existed in the two former Federations. The convention of dele­
gates representing the affiliated unions continued to be the policy for­
mulating body. Conventions, however, were scheduled at 2-year inter­
vals, instead of annually. The governing body between conventions was
an Executive Council composed of the president, secretary-treasurer,
and 27 vice presidents. A sm all o ffic ia l body— an E xecutive
Committee— was created to “ advise and consult with the president and
the secretary-treasurer.” The Executive Committee, composed of six
vice presidents (initially three from the AFL and three from the CIO) was
scheduled to meet bimonthly but was abolished at the 1967 AFL— CIO
convention. Finally, a General Board, consisting of the 29 members of
the Executive Council and a principal officer of each of the affiliated
unions and departments, was created. This larger group met at the call of
the president. Its function was to consider policy matters referred to it by
the Executive Council and the Executive Officers.
George Meany, former AFL president, and William F. Schnitzler,
former AFL secretary-treasurer, were elected president and secretarytreasurer, respectively, of the new Federation. Lane Kirkland replaced
Schnitzler as secretary-treasurer in 1969. Walter P. Reuther, former CIO
president, became head of a newly created Industrial Union Department
and a vice president of the AFL— CIO. When Reuther’s union left the
AFL— CIO in 1968, I. W. Abel, president of the Steelworkers Union, be­
came head of the Industrial Union Department.


History of American Labor

Headquarters building of the AFL-CIO in Washington, D.C.

The In d u stria l U nion D e partm ent was form ed to p ro m o te the
interests and deal w ith the p ro b le m s of u n ions having m em bership
organized on an in d u s tria l basis. This d e p a rtm e n t to o k its place a lo n g ­
side the e xistin g fo rm e r AFL d e p a rtm e n ts — b u ild in g and c o n s tru c tio n
trades, metal trades, u n ion label and service trades, m aritim e trades, and
ra ilro ad em ployees.
O ther s tru c tu ra l changes w ere made. A D ep a rtm e nt of O r­
g a n iza tio n was e stablished to c o o rd in a te drives fo r union m em bership.
In a d d itio n , vario u s sta n d in g com m ittees, such as those on civil rights,
c o m m u n ity services, and e th ica l p ractices, now had m em bers fro m both
the AFL and CIO on them . W hen the m erger to o k place, sta ff d e p a rtm e n ts
in the AFL and CIO, such as those fo r p o litic a l ed u ca tio n , in te rn a tio n a l
affairs, p u b licity , e c o n o m ic research, e d u ca tio n , and others, w ere c o n ­
solidated. F orm er State and local bodies of the tw o F ederations were
required to m erge w ith in tw o years, but in many cases a lo n g e r period
was necessary.



For the merger of international union affiliates of the new Fed­
eration, the constitution encouraged but did not require such amalga­
mations. Existing concepts of “ autonomy” were preserved. Conflicts
between unions competing in the same industry, craft, or area were to be
adjusted voluntarily, with the assistance of the president and the Execu­
tive Council. The no-raiding agreement and the AFL and CIO arrange­
ments for resolving internal disputes among former affiliates were con­
tinued for all those unions which had signed separate pacts.
The Federation’s constitution took a strong stand against
“ Communists, Fascists, and other totalitarians” and denied affiliation to
any union “ officered, controlled, or dominated” by them. Workers were
to share equally in the full benefits of union organization “ without regard
to race, color, creed, national origin, or ancestry.” The Federation fur­
ther promised to protect the labor movement from corrupt influences.
The constitution provided for a Committee on Ethical Practices, to assist
the Executive Council in keeping the Federation free from any taint of
corruption or communism. This committee was empowered to recom­
mend suspension or expulsion of any union in which undesirable in­
fluences gained control.
As part of its function, the committee in 1956 and 1957 drafted
six codes which were approved by the AFL— CIO Executive Committee.
Designed to guide member unions in the conduct of union affairs, these
codes related to local union charters; health and welfare funds; rack­
eteers, crooks, Communists and Fascists; conflicts of interest in the
investments and business activities of union officials; financial practices
of unions; and union democratic processes. The codes were formally
approved by the 1957 convention.

Continuing Problems
Despite the high hopes, optimism, and public good will attending the
merger, subsequent years found the AFL— CIO deep in vexing internal
problems and increasingly on the defensive on several fronts. Old probmens— corruption and irregularities among union officials, jurisdictional
conflicts, and charges of racial discrimination— remained. Although sub­
stantial progress later was made toward their solution, many persons
within and outside of the labor movement continued dissatisfied with the
AFL— CIO’s program, particularly in the area of racial discrimination.
During the latter part of the 1950’s and early 1960’s, the public became
more interested in the problems of increasing unemployment, and be­
ginning in 1966, growing inflation; the effects of rapidly advancing tech­
nology on the organized and organizable sectors of the labor force; and
the inability of the Federation to put into effect the organizing pledges of


History of American Labor

the merger. The charge that the AFL— CIO was failing to meet these prob­
lems, old and new, resulted in increasing criticism of the organization
from those outside the labor movement.
The concern of the AFL— CIO with unethical and corrupt
practices was greatly heightened by revelations flowing out of the work
of two Senate committees, first the Senate Subcommittee on Welfare
and Pension Plans in 1954-56 and later the Senate Select Committee on
Improper Activities in the Labor or Management Field, which held hear­
ings in 1957-59. The AFL— CIO moved quickly against offending affili­
ates. During 1956 and 1957, six unions were brought before the Ethical
Practices Committee and, after hearings, were ordered by the Executive
Council to purge themselves of corrupt influences. Subsequently, the
December 1957 convention of the AFL— CIO expelled the Teamsters,
Bakery Workers, and Laundry Workers, with a combined membership of
approximately 1.6 million, for failing to accept and carry through the
recommendations of the Executive Council. The Distillery Workers re­
mained on probation, and the United Textile Workers was restored to
good standing. The Allied Industrial Workers, by the time of the conven­
tion, had complied with Executive Council orders.
Immediately after the expulsion of the Bakery Workers, a new
charter was issued to dissident locals of this union to form the American
Bakery and Confectionery Workers’ International Union (the two unions
merged in late 1969). Similarly, the jurisdiction formerly held by the
Laundry Workers was assigned to the Laundry and Dry Cleaning In­
ternational Union. However, no new union was chartered to compete
with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which continued as an
unaffiliated union.
Although AFL— CIO leaders attempted to deal with corrupt
elements within the Federation to the extent of their authority, pressures
for legislative remedies built up as the congressional hearings pro­
gressed. In August 1958, the Congress passed the Welfare and Pension
Plans Disclosure Act, and, in September 1959, the Labor-Management
Reporting and Disclosure Act. The latter act marked a significant turning
point in the involvement of the Federal Government in internal union
Protection of the large and rapidly growing sums of money
handled in the administration of welfare and pension plans received the
first attention from Congress. The Welfare and Pension Plans Disclosure
Act was originally a simple disclosure statute, rather than a regulatory
measure, which required administrators of all health, insurance, pen­
sion, and supplementary unemployment compensation plans covering
more than 25 workers to file descriptions of their plans and annual
financial reports with the Secretary of Labor. (Union officials administer
or participate in the administration of only a small proportion of the plans



covered by the act.) These reports were to be made available to plan
participants, and were also to be open to public inspection. In passing
this law, Congress believed that the responsibility and accountability of
management and union officials might be improved by making these
records available for examination. Experience with the law in actual
operation demonstrated that it was relatively ineffective in carrying out
these aims. In 1962, with the support of the AFL— CIO, the law was
amended and strengthened materially, with new rules for reporting,
bonding of fund officials, and penalties for its violation, both as to
reporting and the conduct of fund affairs. Reporting requirements for
small plans were eased. In 1974 a more comprehensive law, the Employ­
ment Retirement Income Security Act, further affected the administra­
tion of welfare and pension funds.
The Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure (Landrum-Griffin) Act of 1959 had significant implications for the labor
movement. This far-reaching act was based upon findings by Congress
of a need "to eliminate or prevent improper practices on the part of labor
organizations, employers, labor relations consultants, and their officers
and representatives which distort and defeat the policies of the Labor
Management Relations Act, 1947, as amended, and the Railway Labor
Act, as amended.’’ The act contained seven titles. Title I, the Bill of Rights
of Members of Labor Organizations, was designed to protect certain
rights of individuals in relations with their union. These rights generally
related to participation in union affairs; protection from unwarranted
financial burdens; and the right to testify, to be informed of union
agreements, and of fair hearing in disciplinary actions. The rights under
this title could be enforced by suits in Federal district courts.
Titles II through VI dealt with reporting by labor organizations
and their officers and employees, and by employers and their labor
relations consultants; prevention of abuses in union trusteeship; stan­
dards for union elections; and safeguards for labor organizations, among
other matters. Severe penalties were provided for violation of several of
these provisions. Title VII amended the Labor Management Relations
Act, 1947, to eliminate the "no-m an’s land’’ in Federal-State juris­
dictions, perm it voting by econom ic strikers, control secondary
boycotts, limit hot-cargo agreements, and regulate organizational and
recognition picketing. The act also eliminated the requirement for nonCommunist affidavits from union officials.
The problem of jurisdictional disputes, particularly as related
to organization and representation claims of competing unions, carried
over from before the merger of the AFL and CIO and was aggravated
thereafter by declining job opportunities. An attempt to deal with the
issue was made at the 1959 AFL— CIO convention, but a plan of action
foundered on disagreement between the Industrial Union Department


History of American Labor

and the B u ild in g and C o n s tru c tio n Trades D epartm ent. A peace fo rm u la ,
su p p o rte d by all but one of the a ffiliates, was agreed upon at the 1961
co n ve n tio n . It provided fo r a system of m ediation and a rb itra tio n , and
was su p p o rte d by sa n ctio n s to be im posed by the Executive C o u n cil. The
plan re p o rte d ly has had a high degree of success. Yet, ju ris d ic tio n a l
p ro b le m s rem ain— fo r exam ple, in o rg a n iz in g w h ite -c o lla r em ployees. A
d isp u te has co n tin u e d over w ho s h o u ld represent clerks w o rk in g in
in d u stria l firm s — the O ffice and P rofessional Em ployees U nion w h ich
has ju ris d ic tio n over w h ite -c o lla r em ployees, or an in d u s tria l u nion
w hich has ju ris d ic tio n over w o rke rs in a given industry.
Just a year before the m erger of the AFL and the CIO, the
S uprem e C o u rt ord ered the end of se g re g a tio n in schools. This d e cisio n
m arked the b e g in n in g of a m a jo r m ovem ent to in tegrate the b lack citize n
into A m erican society. Part of the m ovem ent involved c ritic is m s of the
A FL— CIO. Som e la b o r leaders w ith in the A FL— CIO, led by A. P hilip
R andolph, then p re sid e n t of the B ro th e rh o o d of S leeping Car Porters,
c riticize d the Federation fo r at best d o in g very little to help b la ck w o rk ­
ers, and at w orst, fo r d is c rim in a tin g against them . This c ritic is m was
echoed o utside org a n ize d la b o r by o rg a n iz a tio n s such as the N ational
A ssociation fo r the A d vancem ent of C olored People. These c ritic s ar­
gued th a t the A FL— CIO had not acted on its ow n in itia tive to end d is ­
c rim in a tio n ; th a t m uch of w h a t had been done involved g o o d in te n tio n s
but little a ctio n ; and th a t even the good in te n tio n s w ere m ainly fe lt at the
top of the la b o r m ovem ent, not at the local un io n level. A lth o u g h the
A FL— CIO had taken firm actio n against C om m unism and c o rru p tio n
w ith in labor, it was charged th a t it had not acted as firm ly against
d is c rim in a tio n . P a rtic u la rly in the c o n s tru c tio n industry, the u n io n s had
actively d is c rim in a te d against b lack w o rk e rs — fo r exam ple, in m aking
entra n ce to a p p re n tic e s h ip p ro g ra m s d iffic u lt.
The A FL— CIO answ ered these attacks by ta kin g va rious ac­
tio n s: At c o n ve n tio n after c o n ve n tio n , it re a ffirm e d its tra d itio n a l o p p o s i­
tio n to all fo rm s of d is c rim in a tio n based on race, creed, color, or n ational
o rig in . C om p lia n ce m achinery w ith in the AFL— CIO was s tre n g th e n e d
a lth o u g h e xp u lsio n of u n io n s w h ich c o n tin u e d to d is c rim in a te was re­
jected. The A FL— CIO le adership argued th a t the way to solve the p ro b ­
lem was to keep the re c a lc itra n t union w ith in la b o r’s house. In su p ­
p o rtin g c iv il rig h ts and a n tip o v e rty le g is la tio n , th e A F L — CIO in ­
creasingly broadened its em phasis on the w id e r scope of the civil rig h ts
issues in the c o m m u n ity and the c o u n try at large. Steps were taken to
fa c ilita te p re a p p re n tic e s h ip tra in in g p ro g ra m s fo r the disadvantaged, to
enco u ra g e black citize n s to sign up fo r a p p re n tic e s h ip program s, and to
enco u ra g e u n io n s to take in such p o te n tia l a p prentices. It helped brin g
a bo ut the s itu a tio n in w h ich no natio n a l un io n any lo n g e r has a C au­
casian-only clause in its c o n s titu tio n or segregated locals am ong its



affiliates. The AFL— CIO supported those unions and managements
which signed antidiscrimination clauses into agreements.
The direct action approach often used by civil rights activists
in the sixties, with picketing of sites, particularly construction, manned
by union members, has been replaced in the seventies by resort to
complaints filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The AFL— CIO, which helped get Title VII establishing the Commission
into the Civil Rights Act of 1963, has been in favor of effective legal power
for the Commission, with recourse to the courts only after conciliation
efforts have failed to insure good faith negotiations to eliminate dis­
criminatory practices. The AFL— CIO has expressed concern over what it
views as the Commission’s primary recourse to the courts in recent
years, with court decisions taking the place of effective investigative and
conciliatory efforts by the Commission.
A little more than a decade after the merger, the AFL— CIO’s
promise to organize the unorganized remained largely unfulfilled. On the
contrary, the proportion of employees in nonagricultural establishments
who were union members had dropped from 33.4 percent in 1956 to 27.8
percent in 1968. However, in absolute terms, membership, after de­
clining every year between 1956 and 1961, began to increase slowly
again so that in 1968 unions had about 1.4 million more members than
they had in 1956. The forces at work making organizing more difficult or
reducing the number of union members included: (1) The changing
composition of the labor force, that is, the increasing number and
proportion of white-collar workers who historically have been difficult
for American unions to organize, and the relative decline in the number
of manual or blue-collar workers; (2) the effect of technological change
on existing centers of organization, particularly the mass-production
industries; (3) the growing sophistication of management in dealing with
personnel relations, thereby lessening the desire of workers to join
unions; and (4) a continuation of organizational rivalries.

New Directions
By the midsixties, new developments in organizing the unorganized and
significant new legislation resulted in progress toward labor’s goals. The
AFL— CIO coordinated a number of unionization campaigns in specific
areas, and gave financial assistance and moral support to organizing
drives among farm workers and public employees.
Encouraging notes in organizing included the growth of unioni­
zation in the public sector. By 1974, membership in government em­
ployee unions had increased by almost 2 million members over 1956, to
2.9 million. Of this total, 1.5 million were State and local government


History of American Labor

employees and 1.4 million were Federal workers. In recognition of the
growing importance of organizations of public workers, the AFL— CIO in
1974 established a separate Public Employee Department, one of the
largest departments in the Federation.
The reasons for this growth were numerous. They included the
growing acceptance of unionization in American life; favorable actions,
such as President John F. Kennedy’s Executive Order on EmployeeManagement Cooperation in the Federal Service issued in January 1962,
and similar steps taken by State and local authorities; organizing drives
by unions; greater receptivity of reapportioned legislatures to union
demands; civil rights movements supporting unions for the disad­
vantaged public worker; unfavorable conditions for public employees
compared with those of employees in the private sector; and the growth
of the number of employees working at public jobs.
Large numbers of public employees such as teachers, and some
professional employees such as athletes and nurses, joined professional
associations which performed many of the functions of unions, includ­
ing collective bargaining. Among the most important of these associa­
tions are the National Education Association, the Major League Baseball
Players Association, and the American Nurses Association. In 1974,
these associations had more than 2.6 million members.
Public unionism, however, provided new problems for unionmanagement relations. Questions continually debated and studied have
dealt with the determination of the appropriate bargaining unit; the
scope of bargaining; the source of ultimate decisionmaking power in
collective bargaining and in personnel relations; grievance and arbitra­
tion procedures; and strikes. Procedures proposed to handle collective
bargaining impasses received the most publicity when public employees
struck and closed down facilities such as schools and welfare depart­
ments, and prevented garbage collection. But as public employee strikes
increased, from 15 in 1958 to 384 in 1974, so did the number of signed
agreements peacefully arrived at. By November 1974, for example, more
than 2,000 agreements had been negotiated covering about 1.1 million
employees in 44 Federal departments and agencies.
Until the sixties, the general policy concerning State and local
employees had been State legislation prohibiting strikes by public em­
ployees. Following the issuance of Executive Order 10988 in the Federal
sector in 1962, there emerged a variety of legal authorizations by State
and local governments for dealing with organizations of public em­
ployees. The most notable development was the enactment of laws in the
majority of States relating to collective bargaining. Some were com­
prehensive, broadly covering all classes of employees, defining the
scope of bargaining and establishing administrative machinery. Others
dealt only with specific groups of employees such as police, firefighters,



or teachers. There were variations in the status accorded collective
bargaining— mandatory in some instances, permissive in others, and
with “ meet and confer” provisions in others. This diversity, and the
absence of laws in some States, has led to a continuing discussion of the
need for a national labor policy governing State and local employees.
There are differences over whether national policy should take prece­
dence over actions by the individual States, as well as differences in
approach among national policy advocates. Alternative proposals by the
latter include coverage of public employees by the Labor Management
Relations (Taft-Hartley) Act, the development of separate and special
national administrative arrangements for public employees, or the set­
ting of minimum standards for State legislation on public employee bar­
Effective organization among postal workers and growing or­
ganization among hospital and farm workers have also prompted new
legislative approaches fo r these groups. In 1970, the Postal Re­
organization Act was enacted establishing the United States Postal Ser­
vice as an independent agency of the U.S. executive branch. The labormanagement provisions of the act flowed from agreement between the
Post Office Department and the AFL— CIO postal unions after the first
mass walkout of postal employees, involving one-fourth of the Nation’s
mail carriers for about a week, followed by a Presidential declaration of a
state of national emergency and assignment of troops to New York City
post offices. Under the statute, wages and working conditions were to be
determined by collective bargaining, with jurisdiction over unit determi­
nation, union recognition, and adjudication of unfair labor practice
charges assigned to the National Labor Relations Board under pro­
cedures comparable to those in the private sector. However, the strike
impasse question, in view of the Federal ban on such actions by
Government employees, was met by the provision of mediation, followed
by a 90-day cooling-off period for factfinding, with final and binding
third-party arbitration if the impasse persisted.
Employees of private nonprofit hospitals, included in the broad
coverage of the National Labor Relations Act of 1935, were exempted
from this coverage by the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947. In 1974, the 1947 act
was amended to restore to the approximately 1.5 million employees of
nonprofit hospitals the same rights as those enjoyed by the 1.2 million
employees of proprietary hospitals and most other employees in private
industry. Special procedures for employees of all health care institutions
were put into effect. In recognition,of the public interest in the continuity
of health services, a new provision made it an unfair labor practice for a
union to strike or picket a health care institution without first giving 10
days’ notice. Another innovation was the requirement of a 30-day notice
to the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) and appro­


History of American Labor

priate State agencies in the case of initial contract negotiations. Prior
written notice of contract termination or modification to the other party
was increased to 90 days for health care institutions, with 60-day notice
to the FMCS, whereas the general requirement was 60 and 30 days,
respectively. A special conciliation procedure was established for the
health care industry, under which the Director of the FMCS, in the case of
a threatened or actual strike or lockout which might substantially inter­
rupt the delivery of health care in the locality concerned, may establish
an impartial Board of Inquiry to report to the parties within 15 days. The
report is to contain findings of fact as well as recommendations which
the parties are free to accept or reject.
Farm workers have remained exempt from the provisions of the
Taft-Hartley Act. A major development affecting the organizing of farm
workers was the enactment of the Agricultural Labor Relations Act of
1975 in the State of California. For the first time, provision was made for
the holding of secret ballot elections in bargaining units composed of
agricultural employees. The representation elections were to be ad­
ministered by the State Agricultural Labor Relations Board. Unfair labor
practices of employers and labor organizations were set forth in the law.
The experience with the administration of this statute will undoubtedly
influence the consideration of Federal and additional State legislation
for agricultural employees.
New legislation affecting the pension rights of all workers was
passed in 1974. As the limitations of the Welfare and Pension Plans
Disclosure Act became increasingly apparent, demand increased for a
more equitable and comprehensive arrangement for providing for work­
ers’ economic security during retirement. A Presidential committee re­
port in 1965 and continued Congressional interest led to the passage of
the act. Complaints had come from participants in private plans pointing
to stringent limitations on age and service requirements to obtain pen­
sions, on insufficient employerfunding, plan terminations, and diversion
of pension funds for private purposes by the employeror union involved.
The new law, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974,
covered some 35 million workers under about 350,000 private pension
plans and dealt for the first time with substantive elements of such plans.
In addition, the act’s extensive reporting and disclosure provisions and
new strict standards for responsible administration by fiduciaries ap­
plied to welfare plans affecting 150 million people— workers and their
dependents— under 1V2 million plans. The law was applicable to existing
and newly established private plans but did not require the estab­
lishment of such plans.
In the face of complaints from long-service employees that
requirements were set so tightly that they could not qualify, the statute
set forth specific standards for vesting, which gives the participant the



right to receive a pension at retirement age whether or not he or she is
then employed under the plan. Three alternatives were offered, with
vesting credited for past as well as future service: 100 percent vesting
after 10 years; 25 percent vesting after 5 years of service, with increases
of 5 percent up to 10 years of service and 10 percent annually thereafter
until full vesting is reached at 15 years of service; or 50 percent after 5
years of service if age and service equals 45, increasing 10 percent for
each year of additional service. Employers were required to fund pension
credits for current service as employees earned them. Mandatory form­
ulas were also established for funding past service liabilities over a
specified period. A federally chartered insurance corporation, the Pen­
sion Benefit Guaranty Corporation, was established in the Department of
Labor. Premiums were to be paid by plans of the defined benefit type to
obtain the Corporation’s guarantee that participants would obtain their
vested benefits if the plan terminated.
The workplace environment came in for intensified scrutiny in
the late sixties. Attention centered on the more than 14,000 deaths
caused by occupational accidents each year, the over 2 million workers
who suffered disabling injuries, and the 400,000 who were stricken by
occupationally related illnesses. State governments had led in the field
of occupational safety and health protection. Federal legislation covered
the workplaces of those businesses holding Government contracts
(Walsh-Healy Public Contracts Act of 1936, as amended) and those
supplying services to the Government (Service Contract Act of 1965).
Health and safety standards were set in especially hazardous industries:
The Longshoremen’s and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, 1958; the
Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act, 1965; and the Construction
Safety Act, 1969. In recognition of the persistent and widespread prob­
lem, Congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970,
widely viewed as the most significant statute dealing with the work
environment of the American wage earner. With a declared purpose “ to
assure so far as possible every working man and woman in the nation
safe and healthful working conditions and to preserve our human re­
sources,’’ it was in effect a safety and health bill of rights for the worker.
Directly affecting 60 million workers in about 5 million workplaces, the
act places joint responsibility for its administration on the Secretary of
Labor and the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare. The Depart­
ment of Labor promulgates and enforces job safety and health stan­
dards; research and related functions are performed in HEW. Occupa­
tional safety and health inspections are made by inspectors located in
offices established in many communities throughout the country.
Other important legislative targets sought by the AFL— CIO
were achieved in the early seventies. The long-sought $2.00 minimum
wage was enacted in 1974, with further increases to $2.30 for most
employees in 1976, and coverage was extended to nonsupervisory gov­


History of American Labor

ernment employees and to certain domestic service workers. Social
Security benefits were increased, provision was made for automatic
cost-of-living adjustments, and adjustments were made in the social
security tax base and rates.

Union Relationships_____________________
There were a number of developments in union relationships worthy of
note in recent years; some of these received national attention, including
the United Mineworkers; election and the jurisdictional issue over ag­
ricultural workers between the United Farm Workers (AFL-CIO) and the
A little more than a decade after the AFL— CIO merger, one of
the largest unions, the United Auto Workers, formally disaffiliated. The
UAW had become increasingly critical of the AFL— CIO’s handling of
such problems as organizing the unorganized, unemployment and pov­
erty, civil rights and racial discrimination, and foreign policy. The split
also reflected differences in viewpoint between George Meany and Wal­
ter Reuther, head of the Auto Workers. The UAW and the Teamsters, who
had been expelled from the AFL— CIO in 1957, formed the Alliance for
Labor Action. The Alliance remained largely quiescent and, following
Reuther’s death in an airplane crash in 1970, was dissolved early in 1972.
The UAW, under Leonard Woodcock as President, has remained outside
of the AFL-CIO, but the two organizations have cooperated on major
The independent United Mine Workers Union passed through a
period of turmoil following a bitterly contested election for its presidency
in 1969. Shortly after the murder of the challenger, the Secretary of Labor
ordered an intensive investigation of the election. The Department of
Labor instituted a suit on the basis of the investigation, alleging that the
union had failed to provide adequate safeguards to insure a fair election
and spelling out a number of specific charges of massive violations of the
union’s election laws. A Federal court decision ir* mid-1972 upheld the
Department of Labor charges and ordered a new election. The decision
also set strict procedures to govern the union’s activities in the interim,
with Department of Labor representatives stationed in union offices to
oversee financial and pre-election activities as well as the actual polling.
In December 1972, the insurgent presidential candidate, Arnold R. Miller,
together with his running mates on the Miners for Democracy slate, won
the election.
The merger of the AFL and CIO in 1955 was expected to set a
precedent for the voluntary merger of affiliated unions with common
jurisdictional interests. For a decade thereafter, there was little activity
along these lines. However, since the midsixties a number of notable
mergers .have taken place. The independent Mine, Mill, and Smelter



Workers merged with the United Steelworkers in 1967. A major historical
event was the merger of four railway operating unions into the United
Transportation Union in 1969, followed shortly by additional railway
union mergers. The merger of the United Packinghouse Workers with
the Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen was, in part, a
response to reorganization by major meatpacking companies to meet
the growing competition from smaller, nonunion producers. The Bakery
and Confectionery Workers Union, expelled from the AFL— CIO in 1957,
merged with the American Bakery and Confectionery Workers Interna­
tional Union (AFL-CIO) in 1969. In July 1971, five postal worker unions
merged into the American Postal Workers Union. The printing industry,
undergoing substantial technological change, has been the focus of
merger discussions among the unions, and two mergers have been
consummated in recent years. The International Brotherhood of Book­
binders and the Lithographers and Photoengravers merged into the

L a b o r U n io n M e m b e rs h ip , S e le cte d Y ears, 1 8 9 7 -1 9 7 4 1
[In thousands]


all unions



of Labor

Congress of





includes members outside of the United States, primarily in Canada.
Organized in 1938.
Data compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics from various sources.


History of American Labor

Chart 1

Trend in Union Membership

25 -T-









Graphic Arts International Union in 1972; and the International Printing
Pressmen and the International Stereotypers and Electrotypers formed
the International Printing and Graphic Communications Union in 1973.
District 50, formerly affiliated with the United Mine Workers, merged with
the United Steelworkers Union in 1972, and the United Papermakers and
the Pulp, Sulphite and Paper Mill Workers merged into the United
Paperworkers International Union.
The long-term organizing efforts of the United Farm Workers,
with the support of the AFL-CIO, appeared to have achieved a major
breakthrough in 1970, when agreements were negotiated with many
grape growers in California and Arizona. When these contracts expired,
many growers negotiated agreements with the Teamsters. Efforts by
George Meany to reach agreement with the Teamsters on recognizing
the jurisdiction of the United Farm Workers were unsuccessful.
By 1974, 173 national and international unions with head­
quarters in the United States had approximately 21.6 million members,
including about 1.4 million in areas outside the United States, primarily
in Canada. One hundred and eleven AFL— CIO affiliates, plus directly
associated locals, had 16.9 million members, and 66 unaffiliated national
unions had 4.7 million members. There were more than 2.6 million
members of 36 professional and State public employee associations
reported in 1974. Union membership in the United States, excluding
Canada, constituted 21.6 percent of the country’s total labor force in
1974, and 25.7 percent of all employees in nonag ricultural es­
While overall union gains have slackened in recent years, con­
siderable growth has taken place in the number of women members— an
increase of more than 650,000 between 1968 and 1974. Women now
account for about one-fifth of all members. Nevertheless, they have
remained rare in union governing bodies and high appointive positions.
To strengthen their role, women unionists formed a national organiza­
tion, ‘‘Coalition of Labor Union Women” (CLUW), in 1974 to serve as a
vehicle to rally support for the Equal Rights Amendment and for affirma­
tive action programs at the place of work.


History of American Labor

Chapter VI

Trends in Collective
The lifeblood of trade unionism in the United States has always been the
representation of members in negotiations with employers. After World
War II and the readjustment period, collective bargaining, which in the
major mass production industries was still a young institution, had the
opportunity to mature. While the controversies and problems described
in the previous chapter swirled about the trade union movement and
occupied much of the attention of top officials, the national unions and
their locals devoted their efforts to seeking "good” contracts, an expan­
sion in the scope of their agreements, and fair administration of agree­
ments in day-to-day work. Innovation followed upon innovation and
improvement upon improvement, and a way of life was forged by Ameri­
can workers and their employers unknown to previous generations in
this country. The strike continued to play its traditional role in collective
bargaining, but the trend was toward the peaceful resolution of disputes.
The Taft-Hartley Act defined collective bargaining as "the per­
formance of the mutual obligation of the employer and the represen­
tative of the employees to meet at reasonable times and confer in good
faith with respect to wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of
employment, or the negotiation of an agreement, or any question arising
thereunder, and the execution of a written contract. . .’’The statement of
a legal duty to bargain collectively and the phrase "other terms and
conditions of employment” required interpretation, which was one of
the primary functions of the National Labor Relations Board. What
seemed to be a simple concept in the beginning evolved through the
years into a detailed, complex, and changeable legal framework sur­
rounding collective bargaining and internal union administration. In
general, however, established collective bargaining relationships ad­
justed to the legal formalities and continued from year to year with the
responsibility for basic decisions regarding wages, hours, and condi­
tions of employment resting with the parties involved rather than with the
By 1974, more than 175,000 collective bargaining contracts
were in force in the United States. About 2,000 of these each covered
more than 1,000 workers. Most agreements were single employer ag­
reements, negotiated with a local of a national union and covering a
single establishment or plant. However, most of the workers covered by

Collective Bargaining


the 2,000 major agreements were accounted for by multiplant and multi­
employer agreements; the latter were concluded with employers com­
bined into associations for bargaining purposes. Thirty-two unions had
more than 1,000 agreements each. Moreover, the concentration of agree­
ments among a small number of unions has been growing. The
proportion of agreements held by unions having 5,000 or more agree­
ments each climbed from 32 percent in 1962 to 66 percent in 1974.
Agreements have increased not only in number and coverage,
but in breadth and complexity. This has reflected the broadening of the
scope of collective bargaining and a tendency toward increased contract
detail so as to leave as little as possible open to dispute. The relatively
simple agreements of the 1930’s thus evolved into elaborate contracts, in
some cases over 300 pages in length and covering such issues as: (1)
Wages and wage administration; (2) benefits supplemental to wages
— holidays, vacations, pensions, health and insurance plans, etc.; (3)
working conditions, safety, shop rules, and related subjects; (4) work
schedules, hours, shifts, overtime provisions; (5) layoff procedures,
seniority, promotion, transfers, etc.; and (6) operative provisions, such
as grievance and arbitration procedures, definition of bargaining unit,
union security, discipline, duration of contract, etc. Since there was no
central union policy regarding any of these issues (the Federations were
not directly involved in collective bargaining), and since collective bar­
gaining has always been highly decentralized in the United States,
agreements on the whole have continued to reflect substantial differ­
ences among U.S. industries in practices and procedures. However, a
recent tendency has been to coordinate bargaining, with a number of
unions sitting down at the same bargaining table with one company.
General wage increases and the adoption and liberalization of
supplementary fringe benefits have dominated collective bargaining
throughout most of the last three decades. Some of the highlights of
collective bargaining during these years are described in this chapter,
but it must be remembered that the complete history of collective bar­
gaining is recorded in the experience of tens of thousands of employers
and local unions, millions of workers, and countless communities across
the Nation.

In the midst of a great diversity in practices among unions and em­
ployers, certain trends of wage bargaining have emerged. The first and
second postwar “ rounds” of wage increases, already mentioned, were
followed by a third “ round” in 1948, which also brought widespread
increases and a discernible pattern of wage actions. Thereafter,


History of American Labor

A union-management collective bargaining session.

“ ro u n d s ” o f w age increases gave w ay to g re a te r d iv e rs ity o f w age
change am ong in d u s trie s and com p a n ie s, a lth o u g h pa tte rn b a rg a in in g
has persisted in ce rta in in d u s trie s such as a u to m o b ile s and basic steel.
Between 1968 and 1971, la rg e r ga in s in w ages and b e n e fits w ere secured
in m ajor c o lle ctiv e b a rg a in in g se ttle m e n ts than in any o th e r c o m p a ra b le
period fo r w h ich in fo rm a tio n is available. For exam ple, w o rk e rs covered
by se ttle m e n ts a ffe c tin g 1,000 w o rk e rs o r m ore in private in d u s try re­
ceived average w age a d ju stm e n ts of 7.2 p e rce n t in 1968 to 12.2 p e rce n t
in 1971, com pare d w ith 3.1 p e rce n t in 1954.
Tw o in n o v a tio n s w h ic h w ere to have a stro n g in flu e n c e upon
wage bargaining were in corporated into a p a rticu la rly n o te w o rth y agree­
m ent n e g otiated in 1948 by the General M o to rs C orp. and th e A uto
W orkers. T his ag re e m en t esta b lish e d fo r th e firs t tim e d e fin ite fo rm u la s
relating w ages to general p ro d u c tiv ity increases and also to ch a n g e s in
c o n su m e r prices. An annual increase o f 3 ce n ts an h o u r (raised in later
c o n tra cts), called an an n u a l im p ro v e m e n t fa c to r, w as to be added to the
base rate o f each w age c la s s ific a tio n fo r the d u ra tio n o f the agreem ent. It
assured w o rke rs th a t th e ir w age rates w o u ld increase at the sam e rate as
the N a tio n ’s in d u s tria l g ro w th . The ag re e m en t also pro vid e d fo r a u to m a ­
tic c o s t-o f-liv in g w age a d ju stm e n ts every 3 m onths, based on ch a n g e s in
the Bureau o f L a b o r S ta tis tic s C o n su m e r Price Index. T his p ro v is io n
pro te cte d the w o rk e r’s standard of livin g a gainst p rice rises. These
p ro visio n s did not spread to o th e r c o m p a n ie s u n til the o rig in a l c o n tra c t

Collective Bargaining


was renegotiated in 1950. Thereafter, formal wage "escalation” became
more widespread and by 1958-59 about 4 million workers under major
agreements were covered. During subsequent years of price stability,
interest in wage escalation declined, but with the increase in consumer
prices beginning in 1966, worker coverage under escalator clauses in
major agreements rose to almost 6 million by 1975. The importance of
deferred annual wage increases can be seen by the numbers covered. In
1975, more than 6.7 million workers were scheduled to receive a deferred
wage raise.
The promise of an annual productivity increase was the more
profound change; the real significance of this innovation was not re­
flected solely in the number of agreements that explicitly followed this
example (which were many), but by the extent to which the concept of
raising wages in line with advancing national productivity spread in
wage arbitration, in minimum wage legislation, and in economic think­
ing and planning. Assured annual increases also provided the basis for
the gradual increase in the duration of agreements to 2 or 3 years, or
longer, and contributed greatly to the growing stability of labormanagement relations.
Although the major concern of unions and employers centered
on changes in general wage levels, day-to-day wage administration prob­
lems also entered into collective bargaining to a greater extent. Rate
structures, wage differentials, allowances, incentive systems, time
studies, production standards, job classification, and job evaluation
required wider union responsibilities and training for union officials. In a
significant achievement, the Steelworkers and the basic steel companies
carried through a joint job evaluation program that has been maintained,
with necessary modifications, to the present.

Fringe Benefits
The trade union drive for fringe benefits and related practices has added
new dimensions to compensation and to the economic and social status
of the wage earner. Under the trad itional wage system, wage earners had
been paid for the number of hours worked or pieces produced; if they
stopped working because of fatigue, need for a vacation, holiday shut­
downs, sickness, disability, old age, or death, income from the employer
ceased. Under the comprehensive programs of fringe benefits now pro­
vided for in most collective bargaining agreements, wage earners have
certain assurances and protection off the job as well as at work. Some
practices reflect acceptance of the principle long advocated by unions
that, when workers are unable to work for reasons beyond their control,
their income or security must be sustained, for a time at least, to meet


History of American Labor

family needs. Certain contract provisions recognize rest and recreation
as a part of the employment relationship. To an increasing extent, wage
earners are being compensated for lost working time due to personal
reasons, such as a death in the family, or for attending to civic duties, as
in serving on a jury. If they continue to work for the same company long
enough, or otherwise qualify for a private pension, they may earn some
degree of financial security for life.
No longer, then, when unions ask for more, are they asking
only for wage increases. They are also demanding an increasing number
of fringe benefits. Not everyone agrees on the definition of fringes, but
those negotiated by unions and management can be placed mainly in
three categories:
1. Extra pay for time worked. This provision covers such
items as overtime pay; shift differentials; premium pay for Saturday,
Sunday, sixth orseventh day of work, and holiday work; call-in pay; profit
sharing and bonuses.
2. Pay for time not worked. Included are such items as holi­
days, vacations, military leave, sick-leave pay, personal excused ab­
sences (death in family), jury duty, rest periods, wash-up time, lunch
periods, severance pay, Christmas bonuses, education and training sub­
sidies, pay for time spent on grievances and negotiations, and sup­
plementary unemployment benefits.
3. Payments for health and security. These benefits include
such items as pensions, group life insurance, hospitalization, group
accident and health insurance, and medical insurance covering normal
medical care plus dental care, eye care, mental health care, alcoholism,
and allowance for prescriptions.
The first step in the drive for fringe benefits was to bring the
new practices into the collective bargaining agreement; thereafter, ef­
forts were directed to broadening the scope and liberalizing the benefits.
Provisions for paid vacations for manual workers started to spread dur­
ing World War II and became almost a universal practice in the next
decade. For long-service employees, length of vacations grew from 1
week to 5 weeks or more. Extended vacation plans providing 3 months
off every 5 years for long service workers in the top half of the seniority
roster were negotiated in the steel industry in 1963. In addition, the 1968
negotiations resulted in steelworkers in the bottom half of the seniority
list becoming eligible every 5 years for an extended vacation of 3 weeks
plus their regular vacation. One fifth of each group, therefore, could take
an extended vacation each year. Other unions secured vacation bonuses
for their members whereby workers, on vacation, received extra pay.
Paid holidays were introduced into the auto industry in 1947, but did not
reach the steel industry until 1952. This practice, too, became standard in
agreements, while the number of paid holidays increased.

Collective Bargaining


Pension plans providing a lifetime supplement to Federal
social security benefits to qualified workers, and health and insurance
plans providing life insurance, accident and sickness benefits, and hos­
pital, surgical, medical, and maternity benefits for workers and their
dependents, have been perhaps the outstanding innovations of the re­
cent past. The growth of these practices was stimulated by a favorable
tax policy which lessened their costs; the lag in benefit levels of the
Federal Social Security program behind living costs; the U.S. Supreme
Court’s affirmation, in 1949, of a National Labor Relations Board ruling
on the employer’s legal obligation to bargain on pension plans; and the
1949 report of the Steel Industry Factfinding Board which supported the
union position that industry has a social and economic obligation to
provide social insurance and pensions to workers. The negotiation of
pension and insurance plans gathered momentum in 1950. In 1945, only
about a half million workers were covered by any type of health and
insurance or pension plan under collective bargaining; by 1972, more
than 16 million were covered by negotiated health and insurance plans
and about 14.5 million by negotiated pension plans. Nine out of 10
nongovernment workers under union contract had a negotiated health
and insurance benefit while 4 out of 5 had retirement plan coverage.
Increases in pensions being paid have been so marked, according to one
BLS 1968 survey, that retirement income, including private pension and
social security payments, will approach preretirement income after taxes
for long-service employees. Moreover, after Medicare was passed in
1965, changes were made so that more negotiated plans would cover
retired workers and would integrate Medicare with the negotiated health
insurance plans.
Another significant innovation was the supplementary unem­
ployment benefit plan (SUB) negotiated by the Ford Motor Co. and the Auto
Workers in 1955. Similar plans subsequently spread to cover about 2.5
million workers, largely in the auto and steel industries, while about 1
million more workers are protected by guaranteed wage or employment
schemes. Although SUB has not spread to new industries after its initial
upsurge, existing SUB programs have been liberalized. Thus, beginning
in December 1968, a Ford worker who has 7 years of seniority is entitled
to 95 percent of normal pay for up to a year during layoffs. Some of these
plans are related directly to the effects of technological change. For
example, as of August 1969, steelworkers who lost earnings as a result of
technological changes or for other reasons would receive a payment
from the supplementary unemployment fund which would bring their
income upto 85 percent of their average quarterly income in the previous
Although severance or dismissal pay plans developed slowly
during postwar years, they began to spread when the concern over


History of American Labor

layoffs developed in the early 1960’s. Provisions covering other prac­
tices, such as formal rest periods, reporting pay, funeral leave, shift
premium pay, and jury duty pay, also found their way into more collective
bargaining agreements. In addition, job training programs, tuition re­
funds, and increased contributions to apprenticeship programs are
being negotiated more frequently.
Some of the benefits new to wage earners had long been
available to many salaried workers and executives. The fringe benefit
movement, by encompassing the welfare of wage earners and their
dependents, has had profound social implications, and many unions
considered these practices not only as a part of worker remuneration but
as obligations which society places upon the employer. Workers in other
industrialized countries have protections similar to those available to
American workers, but nowhere else are these matters left, to such an
extent, to the determination of labor and management rather than to law.

Other Bargaining Issues
Among the dozens of other matters that have come within the range of
collective bargaining in the last quarter-century, a few merit special note.
As previously mentioned, the Taft-Hartley Act banned the
closed shop in industries affecting interstate commerce but permitted
union shop and maintenance of membership clauses, subject to State
“ right-to-work” laws. Through collective bargaining, thereafter, the
union shop supplanted the closed shop. Union shop provisions ap­
peared in half the agreements in effect in 1950, exclusive of the railroad
and airlines industries. Another 20 percent had maintenance of member­
ship clauses. Since 1950, the proportion of agreements without any
union security clause has declined to less than 20 percent. About 9 out of
10 agreements in States without “ right-to-work” laws have a union
security clause, while the union shop supplanted most of the mainte­
nance of membership clauses. Except for the introduction of the agency
shop principle, where the nonmember pays a fee to the union, little
activity has taken place on this front in recent years other than in the
public sector. In 1951, the Railway Labor Act was amended to permit
negotiation of union shop agreements.
While change followed upon change in collective bargaining
agreements, hours of work and premium rates for overtime were rela­
tively stable elements. The 40-hour week and time and one-half for
overtime, which were also embodied in Federal legislation applicable to
interstate commerce, became the standards. Some industries not cov­
ered by legislation reduced hours to 40 through collective bargaining; in
1949, about a million nonoperating railroad workers had their workweek

Collective Bargaining


reduced from 48 to 40 hours without a reduction in take-home pay. Some
industries, particularly apparel, construction, and printing, reduced
hours below 40, but the 40-hour straight-time workweek prevailed for
most workers under collective bargaining. In recent years, the trade
union movement has given some attention to the issue of reducing hours
of work and increasing overtime penalty rates to combat unemployment,
but no significant change, either in collective bargaining or in legisla­
tion, had been achieved by the end of 1975. There have been a few
exceptions. For example, Local 3 of the Electrical Workers (IBEW) se­
cured a 25-hour week in 1962, while a number of other unions in printing,
apparel, and construction have negotiated reduced workweeks.
Reflecting the labor movement’s increased concern with civil
rights, the negotiation of antidiscrimination clauses has become promi­
nent in recent years. These clauses, which generally are directed to
hiring and on-the-job discrimination, remind the parties of their obliga­
tions, encourage minority group and women members to assert their
rights, and guide arbitrators in settling grievances. The real effectiveness
of these provisions, however, depends on the good faith of the parties.
Certainly one of the great innovations in labor-management
relations was the almost complete acceptance of provisions establishing
formal grievance procedures and, as the final step in the process, the
arbitration of grievance disputes. The achievements of these procedures
are beyond measure. A grievance procedure enables a worker or a group
of workers, with the help of a union representative, to express a griev­
ance arising out of day-to-day employment and be assured a fair hear­
ing, all the way up the line if necessary. If such a dispute cannot be settled
by mutual agreement, final and binding arbitration by an impartial per­
son selected by the parties provides for a peaceful resolution of the
issue. Some countries have labor courts for such problems; the strength
and versatility of collective bargaining in the United States are reflected
in the development of such flexible alternatives to legal procedures.

The strike and the threat of strike, or a lockout, have continued as
integral parts of the collective bargaining process. In the years following
World War II, strike activity appeared to have declined generally, but in
1967 and in 1968 it began to increase. The decline resulted from a
combination of several influences: The growing maturity of labormanagement relations; the dilution of the antagonisms carried over from
pre-World War II organization campaigns; strengthened Federal and
State mediation services; and public and Government pressures to avoid


History of American Labor

or shorten strikes for economic reasons. Pressures for strikes stemmed
from a number of causes: The desire for a greater voice in negotiations
has caused workers to reject more agreements reached by management
and union representatives; strong wage demands in the face of inflation;
and the presence of unresolved issues in newly organized fields such as
government, where strikes increased from 42 in 1965 to 384 in 1974.
The period following World War II opened with the year of
greatest strike activity in U.S. history. Then, in 1961 and 1963, stoppages
dropped to the lowest peacetime level since the depression, but sub­
sequently began to climb. In 1946, strike idleness constituted 1.43 per­
cent of estimated total working time, or more than twice as much as in
any other year on record. On the other hand, in 1960-63, all 4 years of
which were relatively low strike years, strike losses, averaging about 18
million days a year, amounted to only 0,12 percent of total working time.
Persistent inflation in the period from 1966 to 1970 helped make it the
longest period of high strike activity on record, with approximately 5,100
strikes per year. Annual strike losses averaged over 45 million days, af­
fecting 0.26 percent of total working time, climbing from 25.4 million
days in 1966 to 66.4 million in 1970. The latter figure was higher than in
any other year since 1959, when 69 million days wre lost. After 1970, the
number of work stoppages continued to be high, reaching more than
6,000 in 1974, although total time lost through strikes generally declined.
The high points of strike activity between 1946 and 1975 were
1949 (0.44 percent of total working time lost), marked by major strikes in
the coal and steel industries; 1952 (0.48 percent), also a year of coal and
steel strikes; and 1959 (0.50), the year of the 116-day steel strike, the
largest strike of all time in the United States as measured by total days of
idleness. Thousands of stoppages occurred each year, but in any one
year the number of stoppages was but a small percentage of the number
of agreements in existence and the number renegotiated.
The favorable strike record in the early 1960’s was attributable
largely to the lessening frequency and effect of large strikes, signifying,
as in the steel industry, that old patterns of conflict in some major
situations were breaking up. On the other hand, the persistence of
strikes among smaller companies and the sharp increase in stoppages
after 1967-68 indicated that the strike was not yet obsolete, particularly
in a period of inflation, nor was the implied or open threat of strike likely
to be displaced from negotiations by another motivating force as long as
decentralized collective bargaining in a free society prevailed.
The national emergency machinery provided under the TaftHartley Act to investigate disputes threatening to “ imperil the national
health or safety” was invoked by the President in 34 situations from the
time of its enactment in 1947 through 1975. The stevedoring industry was
involved ten times; aircraft-aerospace, five times; atomic energy instaiia-

Collective Bargaining


tions, four; the bituminous coal and the maritime industries, three each.
Other industries also were involved, including the basic steel industry in
1959. Injunctions were obtained in 29 of the 34 cases, and in the time
thus gained strikes usually were ended or prevented. High Government
officials outside the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service also be­
came involved in similar types of “ emergency” disputes which could not
be covered by Taft-Hartley procedures, either because of the act’s defini­
tion of a “ national emergency” dispute or because of the formal proce­
dures were held to be inappropriate to the situation. As the pressures of
international affairs and national economic issues increased, the possi­
bility, and in some situations the likelihood, of ultimate Government in­
volvement, should a strike develop, became more and more a fact of
life to union and management representatives in major industries. The
bill providing for compulsory arbitration of the complex work rules dis­
pute between major railroads and five operating unions, enacted in
August 1963, marked the deepest penetration of Federal Government
authority into collective bargaining in times of peace.

Collective Bargaining in Transition
Toward the end of the 1950’s, the economic base upon which postwar
collective bargaining had largely rested was shaken by several interre­
lated forces of steadily mounting effects: Accelerated technological
change or automation; an increase in foreign competition; changes in
the work force, in particular the relative decline in organized manual
worker occupations and the rise of unorganized white-collar worker
occupations, which weakened the trade union structure; a high rate of
unemployment; and a scarcity of jobs for which displaced workers and
workers in vulnerable occupations and ages were fitted. Some industries
felt these pressures more than others, and in these industries collective
bargaining began what promised to be a long-term readjustment and
New techniques for collective bargaining were devised.
“ Human relations” committees and other types of joint study or continu­
ing bargaining committees were established by companies and unions
in many industries, including steel, autos, meatpacking, rubber, and
electrical equipment. Neutral advisers were brought into some groups.
Experiments developing out of committee discussions, such as the
Kaiser Steel “ long-range sharing” plan and the steel industry’s extended
vacation plan, were widely acclaimed. In some measure, the need to
avoid strikes in major industries was the spur to labor and management,
but recognition of the complexity of the new problems and of the need
for extensive discussions was also an important factor.


History of American Labor

Perhaps one indication of the flexibility of collective bargain­
ing was its response to technological change. For a number of years,
when the public was concerned about the negative effect which new
technology might have upon employment, unions and management
negotiated many provisions to cushion its effects upon the worker. Some
of these provisions included: the requirement for management to con­
sult with unions before the installation of laborsaving equipment; attri­
tion plans to protect employed workers; the phasing of the installation of
new equipment; the organization of special study committees to analyze
the implications of such changes; special automation funds to which the
employer contributes; various forms of guaranteed employment or
guaranteed minimum income; extended seniority units to protect the
transfer rights of affected workers; company paid retraining; moving
expenses for relocated workers; severance pay; supplementary unem­
ployment benefits; fewer hours of work through shorter workweeks,
more holidays, and longer vacations; and earlier retirements.
Evidence of the continued success of collective bargaining in
arriving at innovative solutions can be found in the experience of the
basic steel industry. For years the industry was beset by unstabilizing
production and employment problems arising out of the uncertainties
surrounding periodic protracted contract negotiations and exacerbated
by inroads of foreign steel products. At the 1972 United Steelworkers
convention, President I. W. Abel announced that "the time has come for
the steel industry to sit down with this union and explore the practical
advantages and the social benefits of smoothing out the production
cycle so that, once and for all, we can get rid of the needless boom and
slump that now attends our contract negotiations." The result in 1973
was the Experimental Negotiating Agreement (ENA) which provided for
voluntary final and binding arbitration for unresolved industrywide bar­
gaining issues in the 1974 negotiations. The union retained the right to
strike at the local level over unresolved local issues. Minimum wage
increases of 3 percent were provided for each of the following three
years; in addition, each worker employed as of August 1,1974, received a
one-time bonus of $150. The 1974 negotiations were concluded success­
fully and the parties agreed to readopt ENA for the contract negotiation
scheduled in 1977. Another development of the 1971 steel negotiations
was agreement on the formation of joint advisory committees on produc­
tivity at each plant in the industry. These committees, continued under
the 1974 agreement as "Employment Security and Plant Productivity
Committees," were given various functions in addition to improving
productivity. They were to promote orderly and peaceful relations in the
plants; promote the use of domestic steel; achieve desired prosperity
and progress for the company and its employees; and, consistent with
the terms of the agreement, review matters of special concern.

Collective Bargaining


There were other innovations in collective bargaining in the
early seventies. Agreements covering aluminum and container produc­
ers and the United Steelworkers, reached in 1974, provided for a formula
for automatic adjustments in pension benefits related to rises in the
Consumer Price Index. Another new feature was the negotiation of
employer-financed prepaid group legal plans. This fringe provision was
made possible for employees and their dependents by a 1973 amend­
ment to the Labor Management Relations Act which permitted employer
contributions for such a purpose.
Important developments in the structure of collective bargain­
ing relations were also apparent in the seventies. The National Labor
Relations Board and the courts set forth ground rules for coordinated
bargaining by groups of unions having separate agreements with single
companies. Originally sought by the unions as “ coalition bargaining,’’
particularly in the electrical equipment manufacturing industries, but
opposed by the companies, coordinated bargaining has grown and has
contributed to improved labor-management relations in the electrical
manufacturing industry. A major innovation occurred in telephone in­
dustry bargaining in 1974 when negotiations were conducted between
the American Telephone and Telegraph Company and the Communica­
tions Workers of America on a national basis, rather than on the longestablished individual telephone company basis. National bargaining
covers wages, pensions, insurance, and like fringe benefits; working
conditions continue to be covered by negotiations with individual com­
Important developments bearing on bargaining in the con­
struction industry flowed from the establishment of a stabilization pro­
gram for the industry in early 1971. A tripartite Construction Industry
Stabilization Committee (CISC) was established by Executive Order to
administer a wage stabilization program with the aid of Craft Dispute
Boards made up of labor and management representatives for individual
trades. The boards reviewed negotiated wage agreements to assess their
acceptability under the stabilization standards; unacceptable increases
were referred to the Committee. When a national incomes policy was
established a few months later, the CISC became part of the overall
stabilization machinery. The rate of construction wage increases di­
minished under this program, but there was concern over the prospects
of resumption of higher wage increases, with resultant increases in
construction costs, following the termination of controls in 1974. In 1975
Congress passed legislation which would establish tripartite machinery,
with an enhanced role for national labor organizations and national
contractor organizations, to review wages and deal with the problems of
collective bargaining structure, productivity, and manpower develop­
ment in the construction industry. This legislation, however, was vetoed
by the President.
The general stabilization program from mid-1971 through


History of American Labor

early 1974 was marked by an initial wage-price freeze, followed by the
setting of standards for approval of wage and price adjustments. When
the Pay Board majority voted to cut a negotiated increase for West Coast
longshore workers, AFL-CIO members of the Pay Board resigned. A Pay
Board made up entirely of public members was then established. When
mandatory wage and price controls were terminated early in 1973, ex­
cept for those on food processing, health care, and construction,
AFL-CIO participation was resumed, on a Labor-Management Advisory
Committee to the Cost of Living Council. One feature of collective bar­
gaining developments during this period, influenced particularly by ris­
ing consumer prices, was, as previously noted, the extention of cost-ofliving escalator coverage.
Nevertheless, the realization grew that, while unions and
management had to use collective bargaining more imaginatively, it had
limitations. Collective bargaining was more effective in helping the em­
ployed than the unemployed, the low-paid workers in some segments of
the economy, the underemployed, or the new entrant into the labor
market. Consequently, the labor movement, like many groups outside
organized labor, moved to the legislative halls to work toward helping
these disadvantaged groups. As a result, the AFL-CIO has supported
large-scale increases in public service employment so that the unem­
ployed would find work; the rising of the statutory minimum wage to at
least $3 an hour and the expansion of the groups covered by the
minimum; a national job-training program; a nationwide Federal em­
ployment service authorized to grant relocation allowances; enforce­
ment of antidiscrimination legislation; improved education for all; lowincome housing; increased health care; comprehensive national health
insurance; more day care centers; better social services; comprehensive
and expanded social insurance programs, including old age, survivors’,
and disability insurance, unemployment insurance, and workers’ disa­
bility compensation; and an improved public welfare program.
Although the labor movement continues to be primarily con­
cerned with collective bargaining, it is also concerned with public issues.
Moreover, the labor movement no longer takes positions only on public
issues which affect its members solely as union members, as in the early
days of the AFL, but it now supports issues which affect its members as
citizens. Just as the labor movement has expanded the meaning of the
term "m ore” in collective bargaining, it also has widened the scope of
the "m ore” it seeks in the political field.

Collective Bargaining


Chapter VII

Some Outstanding
Features of the
Labor Movement
The American labor movement, as it has grown and evolved, has been
fashioned by the character, spirit, and aspirations common to the work­
ers of the United States. American unions have rarely expressed either
utopian or revolutionary aims. They have usually been animated by the
same philosophy that guided Samuel Gompers, leader of the AFL until
his death in 1924. Gompers sought to have unions recognized by em­
ployers as representatives of their employees; and he constantly tried to
convince the public at large that unions should be accepted as ‘‘an
integral social element” seeking labor’s advancement in a manner con­
sistent with general reform and progress and with ‘‘a better life for all.”

Outlook and Aims
These concepts and aims are likewise emphasized in the AFL— CIO
constitution. The first aim set forth is the securing of “improved wages,
hours, and working conditions.” The Federation should encourage un­
organized workers to form ‘‘unions of their own choosing.” All workers,
“without regard to race, creed, color, national origin, or ancestry,”
should ‘‘share equally in the benefits of union organization.” Partici­
pation in the Nation’s political affairs is strongly favored, but unions
should not come under the control of any political party. Workers are
encouraged ‘‘to exercise their full rights and responsibilities of citizen­
ship.” International interests are recognized in the constitution’s com­
mitment to promote ‘‘the cause of peace and freedom” and ‘‘to aid,
assist, and cooperate with free and democratic labor movements
th ro u g h o u t the w o rld .” Finally, the c o n s titu tio n declared the
Federation’s intent to seek the fulfillment of the hopes and aspirations of
workers ‘‘through democratic processes within the framework of our
constitutional government and consistent with our institutions and tradi­
Unions have won acceptance, both nationally and in most
local communities. This recognition is evident in the day-to-day relation­
ships between workers, their local union officials, and employers. It is at
this basic level of job relations that the democratic processes of collec­
tive bargaining and union-management joint action to settle disputes
and work together are best demonstrated. At the local and community


History of American Labor

level, many unions have formed special committees or groups to parti­
cipate in community activities. Increasing numbers of union members
are elected or appointed to local government organizations, such as
school boards, city councils, and libraries, and many other civic enter­
Unions have always encouraged labor’s participation in na­
tional affairs and have sought to strengthen labor’s influence on national
policy. They took an active part in bringing about the establishment of
the Department of Labor in 1913. They have strongly supported changes
in public policy for dealing with economic crises and modern industrial
and social needs, although their interest in such changes has increased
in recent years compared with their more limited concern with such
problems during the early years of the AFL. During World War I, World
War II, and the Korean war, many union officials served on public agen­
cies. More recently, unions and their leaders have participated on various
government boards or commissions. Trade union representatives serve
on advisory committees to various agencies of Federal and State gov­
ernments, are elected to public office, and appointed to posts of respon­

Collateral Union Activities
Organizing unorganized workers within their jurisdiction continues to
be a basic aim of American unions. Historically, of course, this was the
principal and most challenging union objective. In this area, many hardfought struggles occurred. Decades ago, unions and employers had
bitter and occasionally bloody disputes, for example, the railroad up­
risings of 1877, the Homestead steel strike of 1892, and the conflicts in
the anthracite and bituminous coal fields in the early 1900’s. In later
years, widespread conflicts were avoided, although a serious one occur­
red during the organizing campaigns of the Steel Workers Organizing
Committee in 1937 when a number of workers lost their lives and many
others were injured.
Today, violent clashes of union organizers or strikers and
company guards or strikebreakers are rare, although occasionally a
tense struggle is precipitated by an obdurate employer or overly militant
or undisciplined union. Organizing activity, however, is still vital to union
health and growth, especially in an expanding or a rapidly changing
economy. Unions have found special need for organizing activities when
employers or industries shift to new localities where unorganized work­
ers in establishments are competing with unionized plants which have
higher wages and labor standards. Moreover, the special needs of
white-collar people have prompted the labor movement to reevaluate

Outstanding Features


Union members learn the principles and techniques of time and
motion study at a training class.

Union summer school sessions are an important part of worker


History of American Labor

some of its organizing techniques. The drive for unionization among
farm workers has received the support of unions as well as segments of
the public. But, as discussed earlier, the overall result of this union
activity has not been particularly successful: Union membership, as a
percentage of nonagricultural employment, has continued to de­
Among the traditional functions of unions was the main­
tenance of mutual benefit funds. Public social security programs and the
supplemental or fringe benefit clauses of collective agreements have
eliminated the earlier importance of the fraternal benefit functions based
on member contributions. A few unions, however, especially among the
older crafts, continue to provide sickness, death, old-age, disability, and
other benefits. Recently, more and more unions have developed pro­
grams to enrich the lives of their older, retired members. In some in­
stances, these programs have included recreational and cultural
facilities and the construction of homes or even planned communities.
The AFL— CIO, in addition, is developing programs to en­
courage union members to appreciate and enjoy the arts through or­
ganizing demonstration arts projects in a number of cities.
Educational facilities for their members are provided by many
national unions. Certain craft unions support trade schools to help
members develop or improve their skills. Educational programs con­
ducted as part of regular union meetings or in special classes or "insti­
tutes” have a more general purpose. Some educational work is aimed at
training officials in union work: accounting methods, for example, for
treasurers; or techniques of handling shop grievances for shop stewards
who represent the workers in a particular factory or establishment.
Classes are provided also to study parliamentary law, public speaking,
and American government and democracy. When, for example, unioni­
zation began to expand in the public sector, labor educators had to
provide training for the new unionists in this field about the nature and
functionsof public unions. In addition, unions aredirecting some of their
educational programs toward the young worker. Some of the larger
unions maintain extensive training schools that provide formal teaching
and field work for candidates for official union positions.
Many universities and colleges now provide special facilities
and scholarships for union workers, often in cooperation with unions.
The number of such programs has increased greatly in recent years, thus
attesting to the importance the union movement attaches to educational
activities. In fact, the universities have developed long-term nonresident
programsto which unions send members to study an integrated series of
subjects. A growing concern has developed for educating top officials
and staff of unions. The Brookings Institution in 1963 started a series of
"Public Issue Conferences for Selected Union Officials” at which top
academic and government officials discussed these issues with top

Outstanding Features


union officials. Moreover, in September 1969, the AFL— CIO inaugurated
a National Labor Studies Center in Washington, D.C., to develop trade
union leadership and carry labor’s philosophy to the community through
educational programs.
Most unions publish newspapers or journals. These range in
size from leaflets to full-size magazines containing, in addition to union
news, special departments and articles on national and international
issues. Unions also publish a wide variety of pamphlets and special
reports. These, and their radio and television programs, are designed to
inform the public, as well as members, of union activities and objectives.
Closely associated with union educational and publications
programs are research activities, which have also expanded greatly in
the last three decades. Most of the larger unions now have research
departments, although some engage independent specialists to prepare
economic briefs and other needed data. The AFL— CIO also maintains a
research organization as do some of its departments. The status of
research and educational work in the national and international unions
and the State Federations was indicated broadly by a study made in 1974.
Among the 185 unions reporting to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 123
unions had research directors and 115 had education directors. Most of
the unions not employing such staff had fewer than 10,000 members.
The growth of research and educational facilities reflects the
increasing use of data on wages, employment, prices, and profits in
collective bargaining and in public relations. The increased union test­
imony and appearances before public agencies and the widespread use
of arbitration emphasized the need for accurate data and for clear
analysis to meet both management scrutiny and public evaluation of
economic issues of interest to unions.
Other types of professional employees frequently found on
the staffs of national unions include lawyers, accountants, editors, and
others. Occasionally, specialists in such fields as public reflations, insur­
ance or health programs, and political action are employed.

Foreign Affairs
The longstanding union interest in world affairs was intensified by
World War II and postwar problems. Unions were particularly active in
programs for rehabilitating war-torn countries and for reinforcing resis­
tance, especially among workers, to the inroads of communism.
The CIO, late in 1945, joined with labor organizations of 54
countries, including the Soviet Union, to form the World Federation of
Trade Unions (WFTU). The AFL refused to join because the Soviet unions
were state-dominated, not free unions. It soon became apparent that the
Communist unions were determined to make use of the WFTU as a tool of


History of American Labor

the Communist governments. In 1949, therefore, the CIO and other
non-Communist unions withdrew from the WFTU.
Shortly thereafter, the AFL and the CIO agreed to joint par­
ticipation in a new organization, and on December 7, 1949, the Inter­
national Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) was formed by
delegates from 51 countries representing unions with nearly 50 million
members. By the time of the AFL— CIO merger, unions of 76 countries
with about 54.5 million members were represented in the ICFTU. In 1969,
however, the AFL— CIO left the ICFTU because the ICFTU was consider­
ing for membership the application of the UAW (which had left the
AFL— CIO) and because of AFL— CIO criticism of ICFTU leadership.
American unions also joined with the labor movement in Latin American
countries in the Inter-American Regional Organization of Workers
(ORIT) as part of the ICFTU. Steps were taken to support democratic
union movements in areas such as Southeast Asia and Africa. Union
opposition to communism continued unabated.
The American labor movement has taken an active part in the
International Labour Organization (ILO) since 1934, when the United
States became a member. The ILO is a worldwide organization— now
affiliated with the United Nations— and has 126 member states. Each
country has tripartite representation in the ILO and sends delegates from
government and national organizations of workers and employers to its
annual meetings. The ILO seeks to raise labor standards and improve
working conditions by recommendations and conventions subject to
ratification by each country; by technical guidance and assistance for
increasing productivity, especially in underdeveloped countries; and by
the spread of inform ation and m utual understanding on labormanagement problems. The Versailles Treaty established the ILO after
World War I; Samuel Gompers, then president of the AFL, was one of its
founders. It celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in 1969.
AFL— CIO misgivings over the role of the Communist nations
in the ILO have persisted ever since their entry in 1954. A basic concern
has been growing politicization as a result of Communist efforts to take
over control of the organization in violation of the tripartite and technical
orientation of the ILO constitution. In recent years the U.S. Congress has
also examined the political flare-ups in the ILO.
Culmination of the longstanding issues occurred at the 1975
International Labour Conference when the Palestinian Liberation Or­
ganization was admitted as an official observer and participant in the
affairs of the ILO. The U.S. tripartite delegation had opposed this action
on the grounds that admission of an entity that had no standing under
the ILO constitution would further politicize the organization and sub­
vert ILO goals. Subsequently, as required by the ILO constitution, Secre­
tary of State Kissinger submitted a letter of intent to withdraw from the
ILO within two years of November 1975. Stating that the United States

Outstanding Features


“does not desire to leave the ILO’’ and “ does not expect to do so,’’ the
intent was expressed to promote the conditions in the ILO during the
period of notification which would facilitate continued U.S. partici­
pation. A Cabinet-level committee of the U.S. Government would work
toward this goal, in consultation with worker and employer repre­
sentatives and with the Congress, in the development of a “ unified and
purposeful American position.’’ Matters of fundamental concern over
the lapse of ILO goals set forth in the letter included: “ the erosion of
tripartite representation,’’ selective rather than universal concern for
human rights, increasing disregard of due process required under the
ILO constitution in examining alleged violations of basic human rights by
member states, and the increasing politicization of the ILO.
Representatives of the U.S. labor movement also have parti­
cipated in the conduct of labor affairs in the U.S. Agency for International
Development and its predecessor agencies. This agency provides funds
and technical assistance to countries throughout the world that want to
strengthen their economy. Individuals from union ranks also serve as
labor advisers or attaches to American embassies in a number of coun­
tries. In this role, they interpret the labor movement in this country to
government officials and workers abroad as well as acquaint U.S. of­
ficials with significant developments in the country in which they are
But there has been criticism of the AFL— CIO’s role in foreign
policy from both inside and outside organized labor. Differences over
labor’s position on foreign policy were among the reasons that Reuther
and the UAW left the AFL— CIO in 1968. Although both Meany, speaking
for the majority of the AFL— CIO, and Reuther, for the UAW, were firmly
opposed to communism, they differed on particular issues: the walk-out
of the AFL— CIO’s delegation at the annual conference of the ILO when a
Communist was elected as presiding officer; the role of the AFL— CIO in
Latin America; and the attitude of organized labor toward the war in

In Perspective: Changes Over 90 Years
In 1885, the labor movement, though small and torn by dissension, was
on the eve of formal organization of the AFL. The status of unions and the
conditions of workers have improved significantly since then.
As a rule, workers in 1885 worked 10 hours a day. The 6-day
week was prevalent except for workers in employment requiring con­
tinuous operation. Many workers in these industries had a 7-day sched­
ule. In 1885, premium pay for overtime, paid vacations and holidays, and
income upon retirement were almost unknown. By 1975, supplementary


History of American Labor

benefits were customary, and departures from the prevailing 40-hour,
5-day weekly work schedules found in manufacturing and most non­
manufacturing industries were generally in the direction of shorter work­
ing time. Even in trade and service industries, where long hours had
tended to persist, substantial progress had been made toward the
40-hour week.
Valid comparisons of wages require consideration of price
changes over the years. Although prices have risen substantially, real
wages or the purchasing power of the worker’s income have increased
even more since the mid-1880’s. The buying power of wages in 1975 was
over 3 times as great as in 1885. In addition, fringe benefits which today
are common were virtually nonexistent when Samuel Gompers first
embarked on his efforts to build an enduring labor movement in the
United States.
Throughout the 90-year period, union members shared the
generally prevalent American preference for self-help— individually and
by association with their fellow workers. Nevertheless, as bearers of the
brunt of competitive wage cutting, sweatshop conditions, depression,
and unemployment, they led the way in support of corrective measures
which needed the helping hand of government. Limitations on child
labor, protection of women and children as workers, the public regu­
lation of workplaces for maintenance of safety and sanitation, tax re­
forms, and enforcement of employers’ liability for accidents and indus­
trial diseases gradually were adopted by the States or by the Federal
Government. In those early measures, as in the more recent adoption of
social security, legal minimum wages, and laws safeguarding basic
rights and collective bargaining privileges, labor’s influence and labor’s
gains have been conspicuous.
For the most part, however, the Government’s role in times of
peace normally remains supplementary to private action— to establish
the basic rules and to set minimum standards for wages and labormanagement relations. To resolve their problems, workers continue to
rely upon their initiative and skills as individuals and upon their group
activities and collective strength. Through such efforts unions have
grown and gained acceptance by employers and the public as an integral
and important part of the country’s economic and social structure.
Labor’s philosophy has broadened. Adolph Strasser, a union
leader in the 1880’s, accurately described organized labor’s goals then
when he declared, "We have no ultimate ends. We are going on from day
to day. We are fighting on for immediate objects . . . We are all practi­
cal men.’’ This approach still continues but added is the view of a more
recent spokesman, Walter Reuther, who argued that "The kind of labor
movement we want is not committed to nickel-in-the-pay envelope phi­
losophy. We are building a labor movement, not to patch up the old world

Outstanding Features


Chart 2

Structure of the AFL-CIO

Meets biennially


...... .......

President, Secretary-Treasurer
and 33 Vice Presidents
Meets at least 3 times a year


Executive Council members and
principal officer of each inter­
national union affiliate
Meets upon call of Federation
President or Executive Council


President and Secretary-Treasurer


Organization and
Field Services





Building Trades
Industrial Union
Maritime Trades
Metal Trades
Public Employees
Railway Employes
Union Label



4 k




National ar^d International Unions
Local unions affiliated directly
with AFL-CIO


History of American Labor

so men can starve less often and less frequently, but a labor movement
that will remake the world so that the working people will get the benefit
of their labor.’ Both themes, business unionism and social unionism, vie
for support within the American labor movement. The differences be­
tween them, however, are only a matter of degree, not of kind. Most
present-day unions seek to better the conditions of workers through
collective bargaining, political action, and social reform— all within the
framework of the American democratic society.
Fundamentally, the American labor movement has been
pragmatic rather than ideological and as Philip Taft in his “ Theories of
the Labor Movement” has concluded: “ Such a philosophy is not as
ostentatious and lacks the architectonic grandeur of philosophical sys­
tems such as Marxism . . . . However, the absence of these qualitites
helps to make the American movement more democratic, tolerant, and
flexible. Trade unionism in the United States is a means of protecting the
individual against arbitrary rule and raising his standard of living. While it
may not rank high for philosophy, it deserves high score on the latter

Outstanding Features


Important Events in
Labor History

Journeymen printers of New York City combined to demand
an increase in wages. After the increase was granted, the
organization was abandoned.
The earliest authenticated strike of workers in the United
States in a single trade occurred when Philadelphia printers
gained a minimum wage of $6 a week.
Philadelphia carpenters struck unsuccessfully in May for a 10hour day and additional pay for overtime. This was the first
recorded strike of workers in the building trades.
The first local craft union formed for collective bargaining
was organized by Philadelphia shoemakers. It disbanded in less
than a year.
The Federal Society of Journeymen Cordwainers was formed
in P hiladelphia by the shoew orkers. It lasted until 1806,
when it was tried and fined for conspiracy. (See below.)
The Typographical Society was organized in New York by the
printers. It remained in existence for 101/2 years.
A Journeymen Cordwainers union in New York City included a
closed-shop clause in its constitution.
Members of the Philadelphia Journeymen Cordwainers were
tried for criminal conspiracy after a strike for higher wages.
The charges were (1) combination to raise wages and (2) com­
bination to injure others. The union was found guilty and
fined. Bankrupt as a result, the union disbanded. This was the
first of several unions to be tried for conspiracy.
The United Tailoresses of New York, a trade union organiza­
tion for women only, was formed in New York City.
The Mechanics’ Union of Trade Associations, made up of
unions of skilled craftsmen in different trades, was formed in
Philadelphia. This was the first city central type of organiza­
tion on record.
The Workingmen’s Party, including wage earners, craftsmen,
and farmers, was organized in Philadelphia in July. It went out
of existence in 1832.
The National Trades’ Union was formed in New York City.
This was the first attempt toward a national labor federation
in the United States. It failed to survive the financial panic of


History of American Labor


The National Cooperative Association of Cordwainers, the
first national labor union of a specific craft, was formed in
New York City. There is no further record of this organiza­
tion after 1837. Other trades which formed national organiza­
tions within the next few years were the printers, comb makers,
carpenters, and hand-loom weavers.
An Executive Order issued on March 31 by President Van
Buren established a 10-hour day for Federal employees on public
works without reduction in pay.
In the case of Commonwealth v. Hunt, the Massachusetts
Court held that labor unions, as such, were legal organiza­
tions, and that “ a conspiracy must be a combination of two
or more persons, by some concerted action, to accomplish some
criminal or unlawful purpose, or to accomplish some purpose
not in itself crim inal or unlaw ful by crim inal or unlawful
means.” The decision also denied that an attempt to establish
a closed shop was unlawful or proof of an unlawful aim.
Massachusetts and Connecticut passed laws prohibiting chil­
dren from working more than 10 hours a day.
The first State law fixing 10 hours as a legal workday was
passed in New Hampshire.
Pennsylvania passed a State child labor law setting the
minimum age for workers in commercial occupations at 12
years. In 1849, the minimum was raised to 13 years.
The Typographical Union, the first national organization of
workers to endure to the present day, was formed.
The firs t law lim itin g w o rkin g hours of women to 10
hours a day was passed in Ohio.
The Iron M olders’ Union, the forerunner of the present
Molders’ and Allied Workers’ Union, was organized in Phila­
The ‘Molly Maguires,” a secret society of Irish miners in
the anthracite fields, first came to public attention. The “ Mollies”
were charged with acts of terrorism against mine bosses.
They went out of existence in 1876, when 14 of their leaders
were imprisoned and 10 were executed.
The present-day Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers was
Laws providing fines and imprisonment for strikers preventing
other persons from working were passed in Illinois and Min­
The National Labor Union, a national association of unions,
was organized. A federation of trades’ assemblies rather than
of national craft organizations, it included radical and reform
groups. Drifting into social rather than trade union endeavors,
it lost craftsmen’s support and went out of existence in 1872.











The Knights of St. Crispin was organized on March 7 to
protect journeymen shoemakers against the competition of
“ green hands” and apprentices in the operation of newly
introduced machinery in the shoe industry. The last vestige
of the order disappeared in 1878.
The first Federal 8-hour-day law was passed by Congress.
It applied only to laborers, workmen, and mechanics employed
by or on behalf of the United States Government.
The first State labor bureau was established in Massachusetts.
The Noble Order of the Knights of Labor was organized
in Philadelphia. It maintained extreme secrecy until 1878, then
began organizing skilled and unskilled workers openly. By
winning railroad strikes against the Gould lines, and advancing
the program for the 8-hour day, the Knights of Labor gained
many followers, claiming over 700,000 members in 1886. It de­
clined rapidly thereafter with the emergency of the AFL.
The first written contract between coal miners and operators
was signed on July 29. It provided for a sliding scale of pay,
based on the price of coal.
The Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen
was organized.
The Cigar Makers’ International Union made first use of the
union label.
The Greenback-Labor Party was organized by a fusion of the
Greenback Party and W orkingmen’s Party.
The Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions
(FOTLU), which later became the American Federation of Labor,
was organized in Pittsburgh in November with 107 delegates
present. Leaders of 8 national unions attended, including Samuel
Gompers, then president of the Cigar Makers’ International
The United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, later to
become one of the largest AFL unions, was organized.
The first Labor Day celebration was held in New York City
in September.
The Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen was organized.
A Bureau of Labor was established in the Department of
Interior. It later became independent as a Department of
Labor without Cabinet rank. It then was absorbed into a new
Department of Commerce and Labor, which was created in 1903,
where it remained until the present Department of Labor was
established in 1913.
Under the initiative of the Federation of Organized Trades
and Labor Unions, some 340,000 workers participated in a
movement for an 8-hour-day.
The Chicago Haymarket riot, in which one policeman was
killed and several others were wounded, aroused public

History of American Labor

opinion against unionism and radicalism and for several
years stopped the movement for the 8-hour day. The meeting
in Haymarket Square had been called as a peaceful protest
against the killing of four strikers and wounding of others
during the strike for the 8-hour day.
The American Federation of Labor was organized at a con­
vention in Columbus, Ohio, in December as successor to the
Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions. Other
trade unions and city co u n cils w hich had failed to gain
autonom y w ithin the ranks of the Knights of Labor also
joined the AFL.
The Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees was
The first Federal labor relations law was enacted. It applied
to railroads and provided for arbitration and Presidential boards
of investigation.
The International Association of Machinists was organized in
Atlanta, Ga.
The United Mine Workers was organized in Columbus, Ohio.
The Homestead strike by the Amalgamated Association of
Iron, Steel & Tin W orkers at the Carnegie steel m ills in
Homestead, Pa., resulted in the death of several strikers and
Pinkerton guards. The strike failed and the union was ousted
from most mills in the Pittsburgh area.
A strike of the American Railway Union led by Eugene V.
Debs against the Pullman Co. was defeated by the use of
injunctions and by Federal troops sent into the Chicago area.
Debs and several other leaders were imprisoned for violating
the injunctions, and the union’s effectiveness was destroyed.
Congress passed the Erdman Act, providing for mediation
and voluntary arbitration on the railroads, and superseding the
law of 1888. The act also made it a crim inal offense for
railroads to dismiss employees or to discrim inate against
prospective employees because of their union membership or
activity. This portion of the act was subsequently declared in­
valid by the United States Supreme Court.
The International Ladies’ Garment W orkers’ Union (AFL)
was formed.
The International Federation of Trade Unions (then Inter­
national Secretariat of National Trade Union Centers) was
formed on August 21. The AFL affiliated in 1910, disaffiliated
in 1921, and reaffiliated in 1937. It remained a member until
IFTU was formally dissolved in 1945.
The Amalgamated A s s o c ia tio n s Iron, Steel & Tin Workers
(AFL) lost 14 union contracts after a 3-month strike against the
United States Steel Corp.
The United Textile Workers of America (AFL) was organized.












The United Mine W orkers of America ended a 5-month
strike on October 21 against anthracite operators, agreeing to
arbitration by a Presidential commission. The Anthracite Coal
Strike Commission, appointed on October 16, recommended on
March 18, 1903, a 10-percent wage increase and conciliation
machinery, but denied union recognition.
The Department of Commerce and Labor was created by an
act of Congress, and its Secretary was made a member of
the Cabinet.
The Industrial W orkersof the World wasorganized in Chicago.
The Supreme Court held that a maximum hours law for
bakery workers was unconstitutional under the due process
clause of the 14th amendment. (Lochner v. New York.)
The International Typographical Union (AFL) struck success­
fully in book and job printing establishments for the 8-hour
day, paving the way for extension of shorter hours in the printing
Section 10 of the Erdman Act applying to railroad employees,
whereby the “ yellow-dog” contract was outlawed and an em­
ployer was forbidden to discharge a worker for union mem­
bership, was declared unconstitutional. (U.S. v. Adair).
The boycott by the United Hatters of Danbury, Conn., against
D. E. Loewe and Co. was held to be in restraint of trade under
the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. In January 1915, the individual
union members were held responsible for the union’s acts and
were assessed damages and costs totaling $252,000. This was
the first application of the treble damage provision of the act
to a labor union.
The 2-month strike of the International Ladies’ Garment
Workers’ Union (AFL) was settled by providing preferential
union hiring, a board of grievances, and a board of arbitration.
This laid the foundation for the impartial chairman method of
settling labor disputes.
The Supreme Court upheld an injunction ordering the AFL to
eliminate the Bucks Stove and Range Co. from its unfair list
and to cease to promote an unlawful boycott. A contempt charge
against union leaders, including AFL President Samuel Gompers, was dismissed on technical grounds. (Gompers v. Bucks
Stove and Range Co.)
The Triangle Waist Co. fire in New York on March 25,
which caused the death of 146 workers, led to establishment
of the New York Factory Investigating Commission on June 30,
and eventual improvement in factory conditions.
Massachusetts adopted the first minimum wage act for women
and minors.
The (Walsh) Commission on Indusrial Relations was created

History of American Labor






to investigate industrial unrest. In 1916, it rendered a com­
prehensive series of reports on the status of labor-management
The United States Department of Labor was established by
law. It included the Bureau of Labor Statistics (created in 1884
as the Bureau of Labor, see above), the Bureau of Immigration
and Naturalization (created in 1891), and the Children’s Bureau
(created in 1912). Power was given the Secretary of Labor
to “ act as mediator and to appoint commissioners of con­
ciliation in labor disputes,” and in 1918, the Conciliation Ser­
vice was established as a separate division of the Department.
William B. Wilson, a trade unionist and Member of Congress,
became the first Secretary of Labor.
The Newlands Act set up a Board of Mediation and Con­
ciliation to handle railroad disputes.
The Clayton Act was approved, limiting the use of injunc­
tions in labor disputes and providing that picketing and other
union activities shali not be considered unlawful.
On December 1, the President appointed the Colorado Coal
Commission, which investigated the Ludlow Massacre and labor
conditions in Colorado coal mines following an unsuccessful
strike by the United Mine Workers.
The Amalgamated Clothing Workers was formed by a seceding
group of the United Garment Workers (AFL).
The LaFollette Seamen’s Act was approved, regulating
conditions of employment for maritime workers.
A Federal child labor law was enacted (declared unconsti­
tutional on June 3, 1918); followed by an act of February 24,
1919 (declared unconstitutional on May 15, 1922); followed by a
proposed child labor amendment to the Constitution on June 2,
1924. Only 28 of the necessary 36 States ratified the amend­
The Adamson Act, providing a basic 8-hour day on railroads,
was enacted to eliminate a threatened nationwide railroad
A strike led by the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) in
the copper mines of Bisbee, Ariz., was ended when the sheriff
deported 1,200 strikers.
The President appointed a mediation commission, headed by
the Secretary of labor, to adjust wartime labor difficulties.
The “ yellow-dog” contract was upheld and union efforts to
organize workers party to such contract were held to be un­
lawful. (Hitchman Coal & Coke Co. v. Mitchell.)
The Federal Government took control of the railroads from
December 1917 until March 1, 1920, under existing Federal







legislation which provided for Government railroad operation in
The President named the Secretary of Labor as War Labor
Administrator on January 4.
The President created the National War Labor Board on April 8
“ to settle by mediation and conciliation controversies . . . in
fields of production necessary for the effective conduct of the
war.’’ It went out of existence in May 1919.
The minimum wage law of the District of Columbia was ap­
proved September 19. (Declared unconstitutional on April 9,
Led by President Gompers of the AFL, a commission created
by the Peace Conference at its second plenary session in Janu­
ary recommended the inclusion in the Peace Treaty of labor
clauses creating an International Labour Organization.
The United Mine Workers of America struck against bituminouscoal operators on November 1. In December, the union agreed
to arbitration by a Presidential commission. The Bituminous Coal
Commission appointed by the President on December 19
awarded a 27-percent wage increase, but denied the 6-hour day
and 5-day week.
The AFL Iron and Steel Organizing Committee ended an un­
successful 31/2-month strike in the steel industry on January 8
after most of the strikers had drifted back to work.
The Women’s Bureau was established in the Department of
Labor by an act of Congress.
The Kansas Court of Industrial Relations provided the first
experiment in compulsory arbitration in the United States.
(Held unconstitutional in part in 1923.)
The Transportation Act provided for a tripartite Railroad
Labor Board and terminated Federal Control of railroads on
March 1.
The Supreme Court held that nothing in the Clayton Act
legalized secondary boycotts or protected unions against in­
junctions brought against them for conspiracy in restraint of
trade. (Duplex Printing Press v. Deering.)
An act restricting the immigration of aliens into the United
States and establishing the national origin quota system was
The International Seamen’s Union (AFL) and Marine Engi­
neers Beneficial Association (AFL) lost a 52-day strike against
wage reductions.
The President’s Conference on Unemployment placed the
main responsibility for unemployment relief upon local com­
The Arizona law forbidding injunctions in labor disputes and

History of American Labor

permitting picketing was held unconstitutional under the 14th
amendment. (Truax v. Corrigan.)
The United Mine Workers was held not responsible for local
strike action, and strike action was held not a conspiracy to
restrain commerce within the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. Labor
unions, however, were held suable for their acts. (Coronado Coal
Co. v. UMWA.)
A 21/2-month unsuccessful nationwide strike of railway shop
workers against wage reductions began July 1.
Samuel Gompers, president of the AFL, died on December 13.
The Railway Labor Act required em ployers to bargain
collectively and not discriminate against their employees for
joining a union. The act also provided for the settlement of
railway labor disputes through mediation, voluntary arbitration,
and factfinding boards.
The Longshoremen’s and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act
was enacted.
The Journeymen Stone Cutters’ action in trying to prevent
purchase of nonunion cut stone was held to be an illegal
restraint of interstate commerce. (Bedford Cut Stone Co. v.
Journeymen Stone Cutters’ Association, et al.)
The Hawes-Cooper Act governing the shipment of convictmade goods in interstate commerce was approved.
The Communist-inspired Trade Union Unity League was
formed in September. It was dissolved in 1935.
The Railway Labor Act’s prohibition of employer interference
or coercion in the choice of bargaining representatives was
upheld by the Supreme Court. (Texas & N.O.R. Co. v. Brother­
hood of Railway Clerks.)
The Davis-Bacon Act provided for the payment of prevailing
wage rates to laborers and mechanics employed by contrac­
tors and subcontractors on public construction.
The Anti-Injunction (Norris-La Guardia) Act prohibited Federal
injunctions in labor disputes, except as specified, and outlawed
“ yellow-dog” contracts.
Wisconsin adopted the first unemployment insurance act in
the United States.
Frances Perkins became Secretary of Labor, the first woman
named to the Cabinet.
Section 7(a) of the National Industrial Recovery Act pro­
vided that every NRA code and agreement should guarantee
the right of employees to organize and bargain collectively
through their representatives without interference, restraint,
or coercion by employers. (Title I of act declared unconsti­
tutional in Schecter v. U. S. on May 27, 1935.)
The Wagner-Peyser Act created the United States Employ-



merit Service in the Department of Labor.
The first National Labor Legislation Conference was called by
the Secretary of Labor to obtain closer Federal-State cooperation
in working out a sound national labor legislation program. An­
nual conferences were held until 1955.
The United States joined the International Labour Organiza­
The National Labor Relations (Wagner) Act established the
first national labor policy of protecting the right of workers to
organize and to elect their representatives for collective bar­
The Bituminous Coal Conservation (Guffey) Act was passed
to stabilize the industry and to improve labor conditions.
(Labor relations provisions declared unconstitutional on May 18,
The Federal Social Security Act was approved August 14.
The Committee for Industrial Organization (later the Congress
of Industrial Organizations) was formed on November 9 by
several AFL international unions and officials to foster indus­
trial unionism.
In the first large “ sitdown” strike, the United Rubber Workers
(CIO) won recognition at Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.
The Anti-Strikebreaker (Byrnes) Act declared it unlawful
“ to transport or aid in transporting strikebreakers in inter­
state or foreign commerce.”
The Public Contracts (Walsh-Healey) Act established labor
standards on Government contracts, including minimum wages,
overtime com pensation fo r hours in excess of 8 a day or
40 a week, child and convict labor provisions, and health
and safety requirements.
General Motors Corp. agreed to recognize the United Auto­
mobile Workers (CIO) as the bargaining agent for its members,
to drop injunction proceedings against strikers, not to discrimi­
nate against union members, and to establish grievance pro­
United States Steel Corp. recognized the Steel Workers
organizing Committee as the bargaining agent for its mem­
bers. A 10-percent wage increase and an 8-hour day and 40hour week were negotiated.
The National Labor Relations Act was held constitutional.
(NLRB v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp.)
Ten people were killed and 80 wounded in a Memorial
Day clash between police and the members of the Steel
Workers Organizing Committee at the plant of the Republic
Steel Co. in South Chicago.
The Railroad Retirement Act of 1937 was approved, followed



History of American Labor

by the Carriers Taxing Act of 1937. (Similar laws of June 27,
1934, and August 29,1935, had been declared unconstitutional.)
The 5-week ‘‘ Little S teel” strike was broken on July 1
when Inland Steel employees returned to work without union
recognition or other gains.
The National Apprenticeship Act was passed, establishing the
Bureau of Apprenticeship in the U.S. Department of Labor.
The Merchant Marine Act of 1936 was amended to pro­
vide a Federal Maritime Labor Board.
The Fair Labor Standards Act provided a 25-cent minimum
wge and time and one-half for hours over 40 a week. Sub­
sequent amendments raised the minimum wage, so that as of
1976 it was $2.30 an hour for most employees.
The Railroad Unemployment Insurance (Crosser-Wheeler)
Act was passed.
A sitdown strike was held not to be an illegal restraint of
commerce under the Sherman Anti-Trust Act in the absence of
intent to impose market controls. (Apex Hosiery Co. v. Leader.)
Actions by the Carpenters’ union in jurisdictional disputes
were held to be protected by the Clayton Act from prose­
cution under the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. These actions were
construed in light of Congress’ definition of ‘‘labor dispute”
in the Norris-La Guardia Act.
The UAW (CIO) won recognition at Ford Motor Co. after a
10-day strike. The union and the company signed a unionshop agreement— the first with a major automobile manufac­
The President on December 24 announced a no-strike pledge
by the AFL and CIO for the duration of the war.
The United Steelworkers of America was organized. It re­
placed the Steel Workers Organizing Committee, which was
first established by the CIO in 1936.
The President established the National War Labor Board to
determine procedures for settling disputes.
The NWLB laid down the ‘‘ Little Steel” form ula for war­
time wage adjustments (i.e., based on a 15-percent rise in living
costs from January 1, 1941, to May 1, 1942).
The Stabilization Act authorized the President to stabilize
wages and salaries, as far as practicable, based on September
15, 1942, levels.
The President created by an Executive Order a Committee
on Fair Employment Practices, empowering it to ‘‘conduct
hearings, make findings of fact, and take appropriate steps to
obtain elimination” of ‘‘discrimination in the employment of any
person in war industries or in Government by reason of race,
creed, color, or national origin.”



The War Labor Disputes (Smith-Connally) Act, passed over
the President’s veto, authorized plant seizure if needed to
avoid interference with the war effort.
The Railway Labor Act, authorizing a labor union chosen
by a majority to represent a craft, was held to require union
protection fo the minority in that class. Discrimination against
certain members on grounds of race was held enjoinable. (Steel
v. Louisville & Nashville Railroad.)
The CIO affiliated with the newly formed World Federation of
Trade Unions. (It withdrew in 1949.) The AFL, which held that
the labor organizations of Soviet Russia were not “ free or demo­
cratic,’’ did not affiliate with the WFTU.
The President’s National Labor-Management Conference con­
vened in Washington, D.C., but produced few tangible re­
The United Steelworkers (CIO) ended a 1 -month strike and
established a “ first round’’ wage pattern increase of 1 8 1/2
cents an hour.
The Employment Act of 1946 committed the Government
to take all practicable measures to promote maximum em­
ployment, production, and purchasing power.
The United Automobile Workers (CIO) ended a 3 1/ 2-month
strike against General Motors Corp. by negotiating an hourly
wage increase of I 8 V2 cents, after a Presidential factfinding
board had recommended 191/2 cents.
Locomotive Engineers (Ind.) and Railroad Trainmen (Ind.)
ended a national 2 -day strike following an injunction and under
threat of legislation to draft the workers. They accepted the
181/2-cent-an-hour increase recommended by the President.
The UMWA bituminous-coal miners won a health and welfare
fund from the Federal Government, which had seized the mines.
The President provided for the termination of all wartime
wage and salary controls.
The Norris-La Guardia Act prohibition against issuance of in­
junctions in labor disputes was held inapplicable to the Govern­
ment as an employer. (U.S. v. John L. Lewis.)
The Portal-to-Portal Act was approved, “ to relieve employers
and the Government from potential lia bility. .. in ‘portal-toportal’ claims.’’
The Labor Management Relations (Taft-Hatley) Act was
passed (June 23) over the President’s veto.
General Motors Corp. and the United Automobile Workers
(CIO) signed the first major contract with an “ escalator” clause,
providing for wage increases based on the Consumer Price
The President appointed the Commission on Labor Relations


History of American Labor

in the Atomic Energy Installations, which, on April 18, 1949, re­
commended establishment of a panel to protect free collective
bargaining in atomic plants.
The Federal Government’s first national conference on indus­
trial safety met in Washington, D.C.
An amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act (1938) directly
prohibited child labor for the first time.
The Supreme Court, by denying review of a lower court’s ac­
tion, upheld a decision that the Labor Management Relations Act
requires employers to bargain with unions on retirement plans.
(Inland Steel Co. v. United Steelworkers of America.)
Settlement of a steel industry-United Steelworkers (CIO) strike
on the basis of noncontributory $100 monthly pensions at age 65,
plus death, sickness, and accident benefits, followed a recom­
mendation by a Presidential factfinding board.
The CIO anti-Communist drive culminated in expulsion of two
unions at its annual convention. Trial and expulsion of nine other
unions followed early in 1950.
The International Union of Electrical, Radio and Machine
Workers was founded at the CIO convention following the ex­
pulsion of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers.
Free, democratic trade unions of various countries, including
the CIO in the United States, withdrew from the World Federation
of Trade Unions, which had become Communist dominated.
A new worldwide labor organization— the International Con­
federation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU)— with the AFL, CIO, and
United Mine Workers participating, was formed at a meeting in
December at London, England, of labor representatives from 51
A 5-year contract with no reopening provisions was negotiated
by the United Automobile Workers (CIO) and the General Motors
Corp. It provided for pensions, automatic cost-of-living wage
adjustments, guaranteed annual increases, and a modified union
A United Labor Policy committee composed of representatives
of the AFL, CIO, and railroad unions was formed in December for
the purpose of presenting labor’s views to the Government on
problems arising from the national emergency. The AFL withdrew
from the committee in August 1951, thereby dissolving the group.
The Defense Production Act authorized the President to curb
inflation and promote defense production.
The International Association of Machinists reaffiliated with the
AFL in January after being independent since 1945 due to juris­
dictional disputes. In August, the American Federation of Hosiery
Workers, formerly an affiliate of the AFL United Textile Workers,
rejoined the AFL as a separate union.





The Inter-American Regional Workers Organization (ORIT) of
the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions was es­
tablished at a meeting in Mexico City in January. It claimed to
represent 17 m illion workers in North, South, and Central
Labor representatives withdrew in February from all participa­
tion in the Government’s mobilization and stabilization program
in protest over what they felt was labor’s secondary role in its
operation. They voted to return in April after being given a
stronger voice in policymaking.
The CIO participated with the AFL as part of the United States
delegation to the International Labour Conference of the ILO for
the first time since 1946.
The first amendment to the Taft-Hartley Act, permitting negoti­
ations of union-shop agreements without previous polls of em­
ployees, became law in October. The union shop for workers on
the nation’s rail and air lines had previously been approved under
the National (Railway) Mediation Act in January.
A Presidential emergency board, in February, recommended
agreement on the union shop between the railroads and
nonoperating railroad unions representing about 1 million work­
Three unions of railroad operating employees and the carriers
reached an agreement on wage increases and working rules in
May. Federal operation of the railroads was brought to an end,
after being in effect since August 1950.
A strike of nearly 8 weeks’ duration ended in July when the
United Steelworkers of America (CIO) signed agreements with
basic steel producers employing about 500,000 workers. Follow­
ing the companies’ rejection of Wage Stabilization Board rec­
ommendations, the Government seized the steel industry. The
strike began after a district court granted an injunction restrain­
ing the seizure order, but it was halted at the request of the
President pending review of the decision by the Supreme Court.
The strike was resumed after the Supreme Court held that the
President exceeded his constitutional powers when he ordered
the seizure.
Presidents of the principal labor federations, Philip Murray of
the CIO and William Green of the AFL, died in November. The AFL
Executive Council elevated George Meany, former secretarytreasurer of the Federation, to the presidency. Walter P. Reuther,
president of the United Automobile Workers, was named presi­
dent of the CIO by the CIO convention.
The Supreme Court upheld the right of the International Typo­
graphical Union (AFL) to compel a newspaper to pay for the


History of American Labor

setting of type not used, and of the American Federation of Musi­
cians (AFL) to demand that a local "standby" orchestra be em­
ployed when a traveling orchestra was hired for an engagement.
The Court said that neither practice violated the "featherbed­
ding" ban in the Labor Management Relations (Taft-Hartley) Act.
The AFL and CIO, meeting in their respective conventions,
approved a no-raiding pact to extend for 2 years from January 1,
1954. The agreement was binding only upon those member
unions accepting it. Both organizations hailed the pact as the first
step towards organic unity.
The convention of the AFL revoked the 60-year-old charter of
the International Longshoremen’s Association, charging corrup­
tion within the union. A new union was immediately chartered by
the AFL. A bitter struggle for representation in the east coast
longshore industry, between the old ILA and the newly chartered
AFL union, took place on the docks, in the courts, and in NLRB
hearing rooms during the last 3 months of 1953. (Following a
representation election in which the AFL union was defeated, the
unaffiliated ILA was certified by the NLRB in August 1954 as
collective bargaining agent for the dock workers.)


A "no-raiding" agreement was activated by the AFL and CIO in
June. After a series of meetings, unity committees of the two
federations agreed in October upon merger without resolving in
advance the jurisdiction of competing AFL and CIO unions. (Unity
committees and the executive boards of the AFL arid CIO ap­
proved the terms of the merger in February 1955.)
Proposals for guaranteed annual employment or wage plans
were developed by the United Automobile Workers, the Steel­
workers, the Electrical Workers, and the Rubber Workers.
In June, the Ford Motor Co. and the United Auto Workers (then
CIO) negotiated a new 3-year agreement which established a
supplementary unemployment compensation plan financed by
company contributions of 5 cents an hour. By the end of 1955,
similar plans were negotiated for more than a million workers,
including the remainder of the auto industry.
The founding of the American Federation of Labor and Con­
gress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) on December 5,1955,
brought under one roof unions representing approximately 16
million workers— over 85 percent of the membership claimed by
all unions in the United States. The last conventions of the sepa­
rate organizations, held on December 1 and 2, approved the
merger agreement, a new constitution, and an implementation
agreement designed to combine the two federations without dis­
solving either organization. The first convention of the AFL-CIO



elected its president (George Meany), secretary-treasurer (Wil­
liam F. Schnitzler), and 27 vice presidents, of whom 17 had been
proposed by the AFL and 10 by the CIO. Under the constitution,
these 29 officers constituted the Executive Council, the govern­
ing body between the biennial conventions.
Mergers among AFL-CIO affiliates, while encouraged, were not
to be dictated by the Federation; conflicts among unions compet­
ing in the same field were likewise to be adjusted voluntarily.
Existing State, territorial, and local bodies previously established
by the CIO and the AFL were required to merge within 2 years. The
constitution provided for an industrial union department to pro­
mote the interests of unions organized on an industrial basis. It
was organized during the convention week with 69 affiliated
unions, including 38 former AFL unions.
In the first year of unity, former AFL and CIO State labor organi­
zations merged in 19 States. The Brotherhood of Locomotive
Firemen and Enginemen— unaffiliated throughout its 83-year his­
tory— joined the AFL-CIO in September. Although several inter­
national unions proposed and discussed mergers, only a few
were carried out. On the other hand, a number of unions signed
m utual assistance pacts or n o -ra id in g agreem ents. The
Federation’s Ethical Practices Committee recommended to the
Executive Council after hearings, that three unions (the Allied
Industrial Workers, the Laundry Workers, and the Distillery Work­
ers) should show cause why they should not be suspended be­
cause of domination by “ corrupt” influences in the administra­
tion of employee welfare funds.
Amendments to the Federal Social Security Act provided that
disabled industrial workers could qualify for disability benefits at
age 50, and women could retire at age 62 with reduced benefits.
Railroad Retirement Act benefits were increased. Benefits were
increased and the waiting period lowered for disabled workers
coming under the Longshoremen’s and Harbor Workers’ Com­
pensation Act. Benefits for Federal employees under the civil
service retirement system were increased. Old-age and survivors’
insurance benefits were extended to additional self-employed
persons and the uniformed services.
The biennial convention of the AFL-CIO expelled the Team­
sters, Bakery Workers, and Laundry Workers, having a combined
membership of approximately 1.6 million, on charges of domina­
tion by corrupt influences. This action followed upon a refusal on
the part of the three unions to accept the corrective recommenda­
tion of the Executive Council.
Three formerly independent railroad unions became affiliated
with the AFL-CIO during 1957; The Brotherhood of Railroad


History of American Labor


Trainmen, the American Train Dispatchers Association, and the
American Railway Supervisors Association.
Federal legislation passed during 1958 included a Welfare and
Pension Plans Disclosure Act, which required administrators of
all health, insurance, pension, and supplementary unemploy­
ment compensation plans covering more than 25 workers
(amended 1962) to file with the Secretary of Labor descriptions
and annual financial reports, to be available for public inspection.
Reports also had to be made available for plan participants. Other
laws included one for optional Federal loans to States for a
temporary 50-percent extension of unemployment payments to
workers who had exhausted their benefits under Federal and
State programs.


The Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959,
designed to eliminate improper activities by labor or manage­
ment, was signed by the President on September 14. The act
provided certain protection for the rights of labor organization
members; provided for the filing of reports describing the organi­
zation, financial dealings, and business practices of labor organi­
zations, their officers and employees, certain employers, labor
relations consultants, and unions in trusteeship; safeguarded
union election procedures; set standards for the handling of
union funds; amended the Taft-Hartley law to eliminate the
“ no-man’s land’’ in NLRB cases; closed previously existing
loopholes in the protection against secondary boycotts; and lim­
ited organizational and jurisdictional picketing. The statute was
to be administered by the Department of Labor, except for the
provisions amending the Taft-Hartley Act, which were to be ad­
ministered by the National Labor Relations Board.
The longest major strike ever to take place in the steel industry
began on July 15. Attempts to resolve the dispute through negoti­
ation continued until October 21, when the national emergency
provisions of the Taft-Hartley Act were invoked. After an unsuc­
cessful attempt on the part of a board of inquiry to promote a
settlement, a back-to-work injunction was issued. After a court
battle over the constitutionality and applicability fo the injunc­
tion, the Supreme Court upheld the injunction on November 7,
the 116th day of the strike. Workers then returned to their jobs for
the 80-day “ cooling off’’ period. (Negotiations were successfully
completed and new contracts signed early in January 1960.)


The Nation’s railroads and the five operating brotherhoods
agreed to refer their longstanding dispute involving work rules
and practices to a tripartite Presidential commission for study
and recommendations.



An agreement which opened the way to relaxation of restrictive
working rules and the increased use of laborsaving equipment on
the waterfront was signed by the Pacific Maritime Association
and the International Longshoremen’s and Warehousemen’s
Union. In return for the union’s acceptance of the changes, the
association agreed to contribute $5 million a year to a fund to
provide each of the 15,000 registered longshoremen $7,920 upon
retirement at age 65 with 25 years of service, and to guarantee
union members certain minimum weekly earnings and no layoffs
as a result of decreased work opportunities under the new con­
tra c t pro visio n s. However, the fund would not p ro te ct
longshoremen from reduced earnings resulting from a decline in
Amendments to the Fair Labor Standards Act went into effect
September 3, extending coverage to an additional 3.6 million
workers, mostly in retail trade and construction. Minimum wage
rates of workers already covered were increased. Newly covered
workers were brought gradually under the overtime provisions of
the act until they received time and one-half pay for hours after 40
per week by September 1965.
The Southern Pacific Railroad and the Order of Railroad Tele­
graphers negotiated an agreement guaranteeing each tele­
grapher his job or equivalent wages during his lifetime.
The fourth biennial convention of the AFL-CIO approved a
constitutional amendment setting up a procedure for the peace­
ful resolution of jurisdictional disputes, a problem that had been
disruptive since the 1955 merger. Constructive steps were also
taken by the convention in the campaign to eliminate all vestiges
of racial discrimination in the ranks of the AFL-CIO.
The Manpower Development and Training Act was approved
on March 15. It required the Federal Government to determine
manpower requirements and resources and to “ deal with the
problems of unemployment resulting from automation and tech­
nological changes and other types of persistent unemployment.”
The act was to be administered by the Secretary of Labor and the
Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare.
Federal employees’ unions were granted the right to bargain
collectively with Government agencies under an Executive Order
signed January 17. The order guaranteed to unions of Federal
workers certain rights of organization, consultation, and proces­
sing of grievances.
The Equal Pay Act of 1963 was signed by the President on June
10. This act prohibited wage differentials based on sex for work­
ers covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act.


History of American Labor



After negotiations to resolve the longstanding railroad dispute
involving operating railroad workers failed to produce any con­
crete results, Congress passed legislation calling for arbitration
of the two principal issues: the use of firemen on diesel locomo­
tives in freight and yard service, and the makeup of train crews.
The report of the arbitrators, issued on November 26, provided for
the gradual elimination of firemen in 90 percent of freight and
yard service. The crew "consist issue" was returned to the unions
and carriers for further negotiations, and arbitration, if necessary.
The 41/2-year dispute between the railroads and operating
brotherhoods over work rules and other collective bargaining
issues ended when final agreement was reached on all issues not
resolved by the arbitration award of November 1963. The
Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen ratified the
agreement on June 25, the last of the five operating unions to do
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed by the President on July
2, to become effective a year later. Title VII— Equal Employment
Opportunity— barred discrimination on the basis of race, color,
religion, sex, or national origin in hiring, apprenticeship, com­
pensation, and terms, conditions, or privileges of employment,
and union membership. An Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission was charged with investigating and adjudicating
complaints under this title.
The inability of the International Longshoremen’s Association
and the New York Shipping Association to agree on the terms of a
new contract and the union’s rejection of recommendations
made by a special Board of Mediation on the basis of a Depart­
ment of Labor study of labor utilization and job security led to a
strike of all East Coast and Gulf Coast ports on October 1. The
strike was immediately halted when the President invoked the
80-day injunction provisions of the Taft-Hartley Act. This was the
sixth application of the national emergency provisions of the act
to East Coast longshoring.
The Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 was signed into law on
August 20. The measure provided for work and education pro­
grams, loans to low-income farmers and businesses, and various
other national community antipoverty programs.
The longshore dispute erupted into a strike beginning January
11, after New York longshore workers voted down an agreement
reached just before the injunction expired (see entry in 1964.) The
strike lasted about a month in major ports, but all East and Gulf
Coast ports were not back to work until another month had



The Hosiery Workers union was formally dissolved after 50
years of existence, and its members were absorbed by the Textile
Workers Union of America (AFL-CIO). Once a union of 50,000
members, the Hosiery Workers union had declined to around
The enactment of the McNamara-O’Hara Service Contract Act
on October 22 provided wage standards for employees per­
forming work on Federal service contracts. These standards were
similar to those long applicable to employees on Federal con­
struction and supply contracts.
Agricultural employers became subject to revised regulations
governing applications for temporary foreign agricultural work­
ers under the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952. In addition
to making a “ reasonable effort” to recruit domestic workers, a
grower was required to offer American workers minimum wages,
varying by State, before foreign labor was permitted to be used.
Beginning April 1, 1965, “ nonadverse” higher wages became
effective. The revised regulations were issued after expiration of
the Mexican farm labor program.
Social security amendments of 1965 included the so-called
“ Medicare” plan, which provided partial coverage for those over
65 for hospitalization, nursing home care, home nursing, and
diagnostic expenses. An optional supplementary plan provided
coverage for most major medical expenses. Benefits became
available on July 1, 1966.
In November, the Industrial Union Department of the AFL-CIO
arranged with 10 insurance companies to underwrite a pooled
pension plan for employees of small companies. The program
was available in 1966 for employers having fewer than 100
Two transportation strikes tested the adequacy of legislation
designed to prevent work stoppages. New York City’s transit
system was shut down for 12 days in violation of a State law
banning public employee strikes. Union leaders were subse­
quently jailed for violating a court injunction. Five major airlines
were struck on July 8, after the Machinists rejected the recom­
mendations of an emergency board.
The 1966 amendments to the Fair Labor Standards Act, the
most far-reaching in the history of the act, extended minimum
wage protection to some 10 million workers previously excluded
from the benefits of the law.
Coalition bargaining, that is, the coordination of strategy and
action among different unions having contracts with the same
company, passed a major test when General Electric Co.




negotiated a new agreement with the Electrical Workers (IUE) in
the presence of representatives from 10 other unions.
Delegates representing the U.S. trade union movement walked
out of the 50th session of the International Labour Conference in
Geneva when a delegate from Communist Poland was elected as
presiding officer. The boycott led to an open argument between
Walter Reuther, who protested the action, and George Meany,
who defended it, over the international program of the AFL-CIO.
Professional workers employed both their own independent
associations and traditional trade unions during the year in in­
creasing collective bargaining activity. AFL-CIO unions which
organized professional workers moved towards closer coopera­
tion. In March, they formed the AFL-CIO Council of Scientific,
professional, and Cultural Employees (SPACE), dedicated to en­
hancing organizing, collective bargaining, legislative, and public
relations activities for the member organizations.
Early in the year, the unaffiliated Mine, Mill and Smelter Work­
ers merged with the United Steelworkers. In mid-July, the merged
unions and 25 others joined in a strike against major copper
producers which continued through the remainder of the year.
A 5-man arbitration board, established by Congress in July after
a 2-day railroad stoppage, imposed a 2-year settlement within the
framework of previous bargaining on railroads and six shopcraft
unions when the parties were unable to reach agreement within
the time limits specified in the legislation.
A 3-year agreement calling for higher wages, a greatly in­
creased supplemental unemployment benefit (SUB) plan, and
other benefits ended a nationwide walkout at Ford Motor Co.
which idled 160,000 auto workers for 7 weeks. Costs of the set­
tlement were estimated at 90 cents an hour. Similar settlements
were subsequently reached at General Motors and Chrysler with­
out major shutdowns.
In its biennial convention, the AFL— CIO explicitly rejected the
application of guidepost formulas to collective bargaining and
reiterated its support of double time as reimbursement for over­
time. Earlier in the year, Auto Workers’ President Walter P.
Reuther and other top UAW officials resigned most of their AFLCIO posts, protesting the “ complacency" of the Federation’s
On June 12, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, signed
by President Johnson the previous December, went into effect.
The act made it illegal for employers, unions, and employment
agencies in interstate commerce to discharge, refuse to hire, or
otherwise discriminate against persons aged 40 to 65.


On November 27, the Secretary of Labor, in response to a
requirement under the statute, recommended that no changes be
made in these age limits.
Provisions restricting wage garnishment— the practice of at­
taching portions of a debtor’s salary or wage for satisfaction of
creditors— were enacted as part of the Consumer Credit Protec­
tion (“ Truth in Lending’’) Act of 1968.
A major Fair Labor Standards Act case was decided by the
Supreme Court in Maryland v. Wirtz. The Court that coverage
of employees of State and local government hospitals and
schools was a valid exercise by the Congress of article 1, sec. 8
(the commerce clause) of the Constitution.
The AFL-CIO created a new department to coordinate its urban
rehabilitation programs, and pledged cooperation with business
and government in placing the hard-core unemployed in jobs.
The Federation’s Building and Construction Trades Department
announced a new program to facilitate minority-race entry into
trades apprenticeships. A number of AFL-CIO affiliated and inde­
pendent unions also announced programs to aid underprivileged
The United Mine Workers of America expelled its affiliate, Dis­
trict 50, in April, in a dispute over the latter’s endorsement of
atomic energy.
In July, the Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen
of America and the United Packinghouse, Food and Allied Work­
ers, with a combined membership of about 500,000 completed a
Following a long series of policy disputes and an earlier sus­
pension, the United Automobile Workers formally disaffiliated
from the AFL-CIO in July. The event marked the first major schism
in the labor movement since 1957, when the AFL-CIO expelled the
Teamsters and two other unions, charging corrupt practices.
Shortly thereafter, the UAW and Teamsters formed the Alliance
for Labor Action, to coordinate their efforts toward organizing,
bargaining, community, and political goals. When other labor
organizations were invited to join the new group, the AFL-CIO
charged the two unions with attempting to set up a rival federa­
tion, and warned its affiliated unions that supporting or joining
the ALA would be grounds for suspension. In November, follow­
ing charges and countercharges of raiding, the ALA stated that it
would be willing to enter into negotiations for a no-raiding pact
with the Federation.
A 2-week nationwide telephone strike, the first in 20 years,
occurred when the Communications Workers rejected company
offers under a wage reopener clause.


History of American Labor


The long copperstrike, which had begun the previous July, was
settled on a company-by-company basis, with the bulk of the
workers finally returning to their jobs in late March, when the
unions and larger copper producers came to terms.
Labor unrest among public employees, particularly in New
York City, continued to mount. The city managed to avert a
threatened transit strike, and to reach peaceful agreement with
its non-uniformed employees (other than teachers), but experi­
enced a 9-day garbage collectors’ strike in February, a shorter
strike by incinerator workers, and a bitter and prolonged walkout,
beginning September 9, of its public school teachers over the
issues of job security and school decentralization. The city and its
teachers reached an uneasy truce on November 17. Teacher
strikes also took place in Pittsburgh, Albuquerque, San Fran­
cisco, Hartford, and other cities. A 9-week garbage collectors’
strike in Memphis ended shortly after the tragic death of Dr.
Martin Luther King.
Four railroad brotherhoods— the Brotherhood of Railroad
Trainmen, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen, the Switchmen’s Union of North America, and the Order of
Railway Conductors and Brakemen— merged to form the United
Transportation Union (AFL-CIO), having a combined member­
ship of over 200,000. At the same time, the 2,500-member Railway
P atrolm en’s International Union merged with the 270,000
member Brotherhood of Railway, Airline, and Steamship Clerks.
The 8th biennial convention of the AFL-CIO voted to expel the
90,000-member Chemical Workers Union, which had joined the
Alliance for Labor Action (considered by the AFL-CIO to be a rival
federation) despite AFL-CIO warnings.
In December, the Bakery and Confectionery Workers, expelled
from the AFL-CIO in 1957, returned to the Federation by merging
with the American Bakery and Confectionery Workers’ Interna­
tional Union (AFL-CIO).
The UAW-Teamster sponsored Alliance for Labor Action held
its first convention. The ALA resolved to “ revitalize the labor
movement,’’ organize the unorganized, and campaign for social
and political action, tax reform, national health insurance, urban
renewal, and cuts in military spending.
In February, the AFL-CIO withdrew from the International Con­
federation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), in disapproval of ICFTU
attitudes toward Soviet bloc nations and for ICFTU failure to
comply with AFL-CIO demands to reject admission of the United
Auto Workers to the world labor organization.
After expiration of an 80-day Taft-Hartley injunction on De­
cember 20, East Coast dockworkers shut down major Atlantic and



Gulf ports in a dispute over wages and benefits; "containeriza­
tion" was a key issue. Settlement was reached in New York City in
mid-January, 1970, and strikes at other ports ended shortly after­
A new Department of Labor drive to open construction jobs to
minorities began and focused first on the Philadelphia area. Build­
ers were asked to submit specific minority hiring goals. The joint
Department of Labor-National Alliance of Businessmen JOBS
program announced expansion from 50 to 125 cities. The NAB
reported in early 1969 that firms participating in JOBS had hired
120.000 hard-core unemployed. The program’s goal was to hire
On October 29, the President issued Executive Order 11491,
Labor-Management Relations in the Federal Service, which re­
placed Executive Order 10988, Employee-Management Coopera­
tion in the Federal Service, issued in 1962. Changes made by the
new order included the establishment of a Federal Labor Rela­
tions Council to administer the program, and a Federal Service
Impasse Panel to resolve disputes over new contract terms.
The first mass work stoppage in the 195-year history of the Post
Office Department began March 18 with a walkout of letter car­
riers in Brooklyn and Manhattan, and soon involved nearly
210.000 of the Nation’s 750,000 postal employees, virtually para­
lyzing mail service in New York, Detroit, and Philadelphia, and
affecting service in other major cities. Agreement was reached
after 2 weeks, but not before the President declared a state of
national emergency, assigned military units to New York City post
offices, and promised to begin discussions of all issues including
Hawaii became the first State to allow State and local govern­
ment employees the right to strike. Strikes were to be permitted
only if efforts to reach an agreement failed and if the public health
was not endangered.
After a 41/2-year boycott of California table grapes, the United
Farm Workers Organizing Committee (AFL-CIO) reached agree­
ment with most producers. In August, the UFWOC and Teamsters
signed a no-raiding pact giving the UFWOC jurisdiction over all
field workers, while the Teamsters retained the right to organize
food processing and cannery workers.
In December, following expiration of an emergency strike ban,
a nationwide rail strike— the fourth since World War II— was
called by four rail unions. The strike was ended after 1 day by
issuance of a Federal injunction, and Congress hastily voted to
extend the strike ban until March 1,1971, and to increase retroac­
tive pay.


History of American Labor



On December 29, the President signed the Occupational Safety
and Health Act, which authorized the Secretary of Labor to es­
tablish occupational safety and health standards in the Nation’s
workplaces. Under provisions of this law, effective April 28, the
Secretary and an independent review commission appointed
by the President were given authority to impose civil penalties
and fines. Criminal action was permitted in cases of willful vio­
lations that resulted in death and in certain other cases. The
review commission was to hear appeals of citations and of pro­
posed penalties for alleged violations. The party losing the appeal
could seek further review by a U.S. court of appeals. The law also
provided for State development and enforcement of occupa­
tional safety and health standards, subject to approval by the
Secretary of Labor.
Five postal unions— the United Federation of Postal Clerks, the
National Association of Post Office and General Services Mainte­
nance Employees, the National Federation of Post Office Motor
Vehicle Employees, the National Association of Special Delivery
Messengers, and the National Postal Union (Ind.)— merged to
form the American Postal Workers Union (AFL-CIO), having
nearly 300,000 members.
The Alliance for Labor Action, formed by the Auto Workers and
Teamsters in 1968 to coordinate their organizing efforts and
other common objectives, was disbanded in December.
On January 17, West Coast longshore workers resumed a strike
that had been halted by a Taft-Hartley injunction issued in Oc­
tober 1971. The strike ended February 19 after 139 days, making it
the longest dock strike in the Nation s history.
One of the longest labor disputes in U.S. labor history was set­
tled by a July agreement between the United Transportation Union
and major railroad companies to gradually phase out firemen’s
jobs on diesel freight locomotives. The dispute began in 1937,
and at various times involved arbitration boards, presidential
panels, Congress, and the courts.
Three mergers of major unions took place during the summer.
District 50, Allied and Technical Workers, once a division of the
Mine Workers, merged with the United Steelworkers, bringing
Steelworker membership to more than 1.2 million. The United
Papermakers and Paperworkers Union combined with the Inter­
national Brotherhood of Pulp, Sulphite, and Paper Mill Workers
to form the 345,000-member United Paper Workers International
Union. The Lithographers and Photoengravers International
Union and the International Brotherhood of Bookbinders com­
bined to form the Graphic Arts International Union, with more
than 120,000 members.





The United Steelworkers and the Steel Industry Coordinating
Committee, representing 10 major steel producers, approved an
‘‘ Experimental Negotiating Agreement” designed to avert crisis
bargaining and stockpiling in the steel industry. Affecting 300,000
workers, the agreement provided for voluntary final and binding
arbitration of unresolved issues in the 1974 negotiations.
Under a law effective June 1, Washington became the first State
to allow the union shop for civil servants.
As a result of an agreement reached on June 1, the International
Printing Pressmen and Assistants Union of North America and
the International Stereotypers’, Electrotypers’, and Platemakers’
Union of North America merged on October 2, forming the
135,000-member International Printing and Graphic Communica­
tions Union (AFL-CIO).
On June 13, as a prelude to Phase IV, the President announced
a freeze of up to 60 days on prices. Wages, interest, and dividends
continued to be exempt from controls. Phase IV, implemented on
June 18, reaffirmed the wage standards of Phase II and III on a
voluntary basis and required prenotification of price increases in
key industries.
The International Union of Brewery, Flour, Cereal, Soft Drink
and Distillery Workers approved a leadership decision to merge
with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, ending a long­
term rivalry between the two unions. Local unions representing
about 25 percent of the Brewery Workers’ 40,000 members re­
jected the merger, however, preferring direct affiliation with the
AFL-CIO. The Federation had averted possible legal obstacles to
direct affiliation by revoking the Brewery Workers’ charter during
the AFL-CIO convention in October.
The President signed the Comprehensive Employment and
Training Act of 1973, designed to consolidate and decentralize
the numerous and sometimes overlapping Federal employment
programs. Under the law, the Federal Government was to provide
funds to State and local governments, and the latter, as prime
sponsors, were to determine the type of employment services to
be provided within their jurisdictions. Additional Federal funds
were to be made available to communities having dispropor­
tionately low earnings or high unemployment.
On January 3, the President signed amendments to the Social
Security Act. For the first time, the bill provided for automatic
cost-of-living adjustments whenever the Consumer Price Index
rose 3 percent. The bill also raised the taxable base from $10,800
to $13,200 in annual earnings effective January 1,1974 (the taxa­
ble base had been scheduled to increase to $12,600).


History of American Labor

About 3,000 women unionists from 58 labor organizations as­
sembled in Chicago in late March to establish the Coalition of
Labor Union Women. The Coalition was dedicated to promoting
equal rights and better wages and working conditions for women
workers. The organization was to work toward increasing union
membership of women, greater participation by women in union
affairs and policymaking, and favorable legislation affecting
women workers.
In May, the New York Times and the New York Daily News
signed an 11-year agreement with the International Typographi­
cal Union. The contract gave the newspapers the unrestricted
right to introduce automated typesetting procedures, in return
for lifetime security for current employees. The companies were
obligated to retrain employees displaced by new processes, and
the work force could be reduced only through attrition. The pa­
pers agreed to encourage retirements through paid 6-month
productivity leaves (trial retirements) and retirement bonuses.
On June 1, the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America
(AFL-CIO) called theirfirst nationwide strike since 1921, involving
110,000 workers in 30 states. The union reached agreement with
the Clothing Manufacturers Association on June 8.
On June 3, the 2,500-member Cigar Makers’ International
Union of Am erica (AFL-CIO) was merged into the Retail,
Wholesale and Department Store Union (AFL-CIO). One of the
oldest national unions, dating back to 1864, the Cigar Makers
once numbered Samuel Gompers, first president of the American
Federation of Labor, among its members.
On Labor Day, the President signed the Employee Retirement
Income Security Act of 1974, which regulated all private pension
plans and, to a much more limited extent, all private welfare
To assure workers that pension promises will not be broken,
pension plans were required to observe certain'funding stan­
dards to assure the payment of adequate contributions and to
purchase termination insurance. The insuragce, provided by the
Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation headed by the Secretary
of Labor, was to pay pensions up to $750 a month if a plan
terminated without sufficient funds to pay all of its nonforfeitable
A new Public Employee Department of the AFL-CIO was
formed. It included 24 affiliated unions representing 2 million
public employees, including those of the U.S. Postal Service. The
30-year-old Government Employees Council was merged with the
new organization.




On January 2, the President signed the Trade Act of 1974. The
Act was designed to help workers who lose their jobs because of
imports, as well as to provide financial and technical assistance
to companies and communities hurt by foreign competition. It
provided displaced workers with up to 52 weeks of payments (78
weeks for workers 60 or older), and assistance in retraining,
placement, and relocation.
About two-thirds of the 3,000 physicians represented by the
Committee of Interns and Residents struck 22 New York City
hospitals for 3 days in March. Long working hours and other pres­
sures associated with hospital training were at issue. A 2-year
agreement with the League of Voluntary Hospitals achieved im­
provement in hours, working conditions, salaries, and fringe
benefits. The walkout was backed by the American Medical
Association, which said it was the first by interns and residents in
the Nation’s history, excepting minor “ job actions.”
The highest unemployment rates since 1941, reaching 9.2 per­
cent in May, inspired considerable union criticism of administra­
tion policies. Heavy layoffs caused by declining auto sales re­
sulted in depletion of Chrysler’s supplementary unemployment
fund in March, and that of General Motors in May. Financial crises
of city governments in New York and other major cities forced
service cutbacks and wide-spread layoffs of municipal em­
Early in July, the Nation witnessed the first legal large-scale
strike of State employees, involving mroe than 80,000 employees
of the State of Pennsylvania. The majority, represented by the
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees,
reached agreement and returned to work within a week, partly as
a result of court injunctions claiming danger to the public. Em­
ployees represented by the Pennsylvania Social Services Unions
and the Pennsylvania Nurses Association reached agreement
later in the month.
In August, California became the first State to pass legislation
covering farm labor relations. Its Agricultural Relations Act pro­
vided for secret ballot representation elections and established
machinery to resolve unfair labor practices complaints.
In November, the U.S. gave the required 2-year notice of its
intention to withdraw from the ILO. This step would be taken
unless the ILO reversed its increasing involvement in political


History of American Labor

Noted below are a few of the many publications which discuss in
greater detail than is possible in the Brief History the development of the
labor movement in the United States. The listing is provided for general
reference purposes.

Bernstein, Irving. The Lean Years: A History of the American Worker,
1920-1933. Boston, Houghton Mifflin Co., 1960; Baltimore, Penguin
Books, paperback, 1965.
Bernstein, Irving. The Turbulent Years: A History of the American Worker,
1933-1941 . Boston, Houghton Mifflin Co., 1970; Boston, Sentry Edi­
tions, paperback, 1971.
Brooks, Thomas R. Toil and Trouble, A History of American Labor. New
York, DeJacorte Press, 1971.
Commons, John R., and Associates. History of Labor in the United
States. New York, Macmillan Co., 1918 (4 vols.); New York, Kelley
Publishers, 1966.
Dulles, Foster Rhea. Labor in America, A History. New York, Thomas Y.
Crowell Co., 1966.
Galenson, Walter. CIO Challenge to the AFL: A History of the Labor
Movement, 1935-1941. Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press,
Goldberg, Arthur J. AFL-CIO: Labor United. New York, McGraw-Hill Book
Co., Inc., 1956; New York, McGraw-Hill Book Co., Inc., paperback, 1964.
Gompers, Samuel. Seventy Years of Life and Labor, An Autobiography.
Revised and edited by Phi Ii p T aft and John A. Sessions. New York, E. P.
Dutton & Co., Inc., 1957.
Pel ling, Henry. American Labor. Chicago, University of Chicago Press,
1960; Chicago, University of Chicago Press, paperback, 1961.
Perlman, Selig. A History of Trade Unionism in the United States. New
York, Macmillan Co., 1922.
Rayback, Joseph G.A History of American Labor. New York, Free Press,
Taft, Philip. The AF of L in the Time of Gompers. New York, Harper &
Bros., 1957.
Taft, Philip. The AFL from the Death of Gompers to the Merger. New
York, Harper & Bros., 1959.
Taft, Philip. Organized Labor in American History. New York, Harper and
Row, 1964.


The photographs in this bulletin are reproduced through the courtesy of Chase,
Washington; Fabian Bachrach; Merkle Press; American Federation of Labor and
Congress of Industrial Organizations; United Mine Workers; International Ladies’
Garment Workers’ Union; International Association of Machinists; General Motors
Corp.; and the Library of Congress.
Except for photographs from private sources and quoted passages, material in this
publication is in the public domain and may be reproduced without the permission of
the Federal Government. Please credit the Bureau of Labor Statistics and cite the
name and number of the publication.