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When Were Labor Unions Legalized in the United States

Union membership had declined in the United States since 1954, and since 1967, when union membership rates declined, middle-class incomes have declined accordingly. [51] In 2007, the Ministry of Labour reported the first increase in the number of union members in 25 years and the largest increase since 1979. Most of the recent increases in the number of union members have occurred in the service sector, while the number of unionized workers in the manufacturing sector has declined. Most of the increases in the service sector are seen in West Coast states like California, where the unionization rate now stands at 16.7%, compared to a national average of about 12.1%. [52] Historically, the rapid growth of public sector unions since the 1960s has served to mask an even more dramatic decline in union membership in the private sector. Stepan-Norris, Judith and Maurice Zeitlin. 2003. Exuberant: The Red and American Industrial Unions. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Roosevelt`s decision to create an auto labor committee, coupled with the watering down and imminent defeat of the 1934 version of Wagner`s bill, was deeply discouraging to militant trade unionists and opened up to Marxist-inspired activists. The result was a series of violent strikes that broke out in April and May in San Francisco (where communists joined forces with trade unionists and independent radicals to lead the way), Toledo (where small Marxist groups triggered confrontation) and Minneapolis (where Marxist-Leninists who followed Leon Trotsky played the leading role). At the same time, under enormous pressure from the business community, the Senate rejected Wagner`s attempt to codify the practices and jurisprudence developed by the National Labour Council (see Brecher 1997 for a detailed discussion of these strikes that gives a full account of left-wing leadership and police violence). The fact that the business community and the Senate opposed the first version of Wagner`s bill in an era of strong activism does not match the frequent assertion that business leaders were shaking in their boots at the time. The ensuing confrontation resulted in the deaths of ten workers and three of the 300 armed Pinkerton Detective Agency guards deployed to attack the strikers (Bernstein 1969, pp. 432-434; Scheinberg 1986, pp. 7-9). Eight thousand members of the Pennsylvania National Guard occupied Homestead at the time; national unity was then an empty shell (e.g., Dubofsky and Dulles 2004, pp. 153-170). In 1893-1894, when approximately 150,000 railway workers went on strike in the midst of a severe depression to protest wage cuts, some 32,000 state soldiers were called up in 20 of the 27 affected states, as well as nearly 16,000 federal soldiers out of an available regular force of 20,000 (e.g., Cooper 1980, pp. 144-164; Lambert, 2005, pp.

58-63). However, the conservative coalition in Congress continued to look for ways to impede unionization throughout the war. He found the opening sought when Lewis, who had refused to sign the strike ban, ordered miners to strike for an age increase of $2 a day in early June 1943. In response, Congress passed the War Labor Disputes Act, which gave the president the power to take control of industries essential to the war and threatened with strikes. It also prohibited unions from using membership dues for campaign contributions to political candidates. Roosevelt vetoed the bill, but the conservative coalition and its moderate allies on the issue reversed the veto slightly. Despite his veto, Roosevelt used the law a year later when 10,000 transportation workers went on strike to protest a Fair Employment Practices Commission ruling that the city`s Department of Transportation should employ African Americans as streetcar and rapid transit operators. This action by white workers was one of many signs during the war years that racial segregation would remain a major problem for unions in the postwar period. In fact, let`s put it right away: The age-old problem of racism has been a key, if not the key, factor in the rapid decline of unions in the face of opposition to the civil rights movement and the integration of neighborhoods and schools by at least a significant minority of white workers.

These and other decisions drew immediate protests from the business community, but the majority of the NLRB dismissed these protests as the usual exaggerations of ultraconservatives. They did so on the basis of the false assumption, widespread in liberal and academic circles at the time, that the largest and most reasonable companies had accepted collective bargaining as a stabilizing influence, especially if they could raise prices after the execution of a contract to a level that more than offset the higher wages and benefits they had to pay. But these decisions were not for the business community compared to the decisions of the National Labor Relations Board in 1963 and 1964, which took the dispute to a new level that posed a far greater threat to the business community. Although the issues received little media attention in the context of the emerging civil rights movement, they offered new opportunities for unions to participate in management decisions, including controversial issues such as outsourcing some internal functions, closing entire factories, and relocating factories to new locations. In the eyes of all members of the business community, the Labour Authority`s decisions on these matters called into question their „right to administration“, a term used since the 1940s to indicate that a sacrosanct line had been crossed (Harris 1982). From this limited perspective, the NCF and other moderate enterprises appeared to have at least some success in their first two years. The leaders of the new employers` associations not only signed agreements with their workers, but also spoke positively about the FCN and its work. However, none were in a large mass production industry, and the new era did not last very long. As the number of union members increased and they began to make more demands, employers` aversion to unions resurfaced.

In other words, class conflicts resurfaced, which quickly led to organized resistance to unions within the same employers` associations that had been formed to promote trade agreements. This sequence of events shows the difficulties in maintaining cross-class coalitions, which will continue to break more frequently in the decades to come. Either workers try to impose conditions that employers consider unreasonable, or some employers, then known as „chisels,“ try to gain market share or make higher profits by undermining the terms of the agreement. The unions were clearly on the defensive in light of the revelations during congressional hearings, but AFL-CIO leaders were confident they could limit the damage. Their confidence was boosted because they had contributed to the campaign and money for the Democratic Party`s success in the 1958 midterm elections, giving the party a 64-36 lead in the Senate and 283-153 in the House of Representatives in the context of a sluggish economy (McAdams 1964, p. 1).

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