• Labour unions in America get a bad rap
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Green, Marguerite. 1956. . Washington: Catholic University of America Press.

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The court setbacks for unions seem all the more unusual because the "Warren Court," overseen by chief justice Earl Warren, was an anathema for ultraconservatives and Southern Democrats. They had come to believe that it was a hotbed of liberals and radicals because it had allegedly destroyed the country's foundations through its earthshaking 9-0 ruling against school desegregation in 1954. Moreover, it had further inflamed ultraconservatives North and South with its "one man, one vote" reapportionment rulings between 1962 and 1964, which outlawed the thinly populated rural House districts that greatly favored the conservative coalition. It also outraged ultraconservatives between 1962 and 1966 by outlawing mandatory school prayer, extending the right to privacy into the bedroom, and giving new rights and protections to those arrested for alleged criminal acts. The court seemed to be remaking America in many ways.

31/07/2017 · Labour unions in America get a bad rap

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As shown in the next section, this analysis is supported by the decline in the importance of the National Labor Relations Act after 1938. The Southerners turned against the act in 1937 when the new CIO unexpectedly tried to organize integrated industrial unions in the South, raising the possibility that they would make use of a tactic, the sit-down strike, that was proving to be very effect in the North. This sudden and very adamant change of heart on the part of Southern Democrats meant that the entire ownership class became united against the National Labor Relations Act. At the same time, the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations entered into an intraclass war, which meant that the working class was divided at a time when the ownership class was united. When the Republicans gained enough seats in the House and Senate in 1938 to forge an effective conservative voting coalition with the Southern Democrats, which could stop any legislation that employers North and South did not want, the handwriting was on the wall for the development of a strong union movement in the United States. In fact, it was only World War II that saved the union movement and hampered the corporate community for the three decades after the war ended.


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Credit unions have become a major force on the financial landscape of America.
King and Rockefeller were not the first to propose employee representation plans as a way to deal with labor conflict in the United States. In a discussion of several similar efforts in small American companies well before King came on the scene, historian Daniel Nelson (1982) concluded that the origins of the idea go back at least to 1905 when the liberal Filene family, owners of William Filene & Sons, a major department store in Boston, offered their employees a way to discuss the management of the store, even though there was no labor conflict with their primarily female workforce. However, King and Rockefeller were the first to develop a systematic plan, publicize it widely, and install it in major corporations. When workers at Colorado Fuel and Iron voted for the plan and it seemed to work, Rockefeller received considerable praise in the media as a statesman and reformer. He then urged its adoption at the other companies in which he had major stock interests. (Shortly thereafter, Colorado Fuel and Iron endured the first of four strikes by the United Mine Workers over a period of 15 years before it was unionized in 1933.)

With the NAM openly attacking unions, and Rockefeller trying to woo workers away from them through employee representation plans, there were only two bright spots for organized labor in the 12 years of Republican rule from 1920 to 1932. The Railway Labor Act of 1926, which proved to be an important precedent for the National Labor Relations Act nine years later, showed the leverage skilled workers could generate in the most critical means of freight and passenger transportation between the 1850s and 1950s. Setting the stage for this legislative triumph, railroad workers had gained strength during the war because the railroad owners were forced to accept collective bargaining and government regulation, as well as an eight-hour day at the same wages that workers had received previously for a ten-hour day. Furthermore, the federal government had to take over the railroads in 1917 because their owners could not make deliveries in a timely and efficient way, thereby hampering the war effort. As a result of this series of events, skilled railroad workers took the opportunity to organize and gained a greater role in railroad operations.

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Railroads were returned to private ownership after the war, but both owners and workers were forced to accept a Railway Labor Board in 1920, which had the power to issue non-binding proposals to resolve labor disputes (Nelson 1997, pp. 99-100). The result was several years of renewed conflict that led to a stalemate due to a combination of the skills of many rail workers, the need for timely delivery of industrial goods and passengers, and the vulnerability of expensive engines and train cars to sabotage and destruction. Faced with a standoff due to the government's involvement, the corporate executives in the Association of Railway Executives finally agreed in 1926 to accept legislation creating a government mediation board. The new board proved able to deal successfully with labor disputes in the industry. The representatives of the four railroad craft unions were not crazy about the idea of a mediation board either, but most of them realized it was the best they could do at the time. The new legislation passed against the wishes of the NAM, which opposed it on principle because it contained "the first explicit congressional endorsement of the right of collective bargaining" (Zieger 1986, p. 34). At the same time, the law in effect permitted the continuation of attacks by the railroad corporations on organizing efforts by the unskilled labor force in the railroad yards and on track repair crews, reinforcing the cleavage between skilled and unskilled workers.

Labor unions in the United States - Wikipedia

For all that Rockefeller and his many personal employees and foundations did to aid in the general development of the policy-planning network, their most direct contribution to the New Deal was the creation of experts and policies that were financed in reaction to the violent labor conflicts in not one, but two, Rockefeller companies between 1913 and 1916. As explained a few paragraphs ago, Rockefeller's personal concern with new policies for dealing with labor strife began unexpectedly when Colorado Fuel and Iron became involved in its murderous labor struggle with striking miners in 1913. As the tensions and violence escalated, Rockefeller resisted appeals to intervene because he firmly believed the company's managers were protecting an inviolate principle he shared with his father: employees should have the right to resist joining a union when they are being pressured by outside agitators that want to exploit both the men and the companies. All of this and more has been documented through work in the Rockefeller Archives by a properly cautious historian, Howard M. Gitelman (1984; 1988, Chapter 1), but it hasn't gotten much traction. In essence, he tells us, Rockefeller claimed that union leaders run a protection racket.