The essay tells about labor history of the United States, economic depression's positive role in worker solidarity, the Cold War's effect on union gains, movement alliances during the 1960s, labor history's continuing presence, business's exploitation of internal union divisions…
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It would seem that high unemployment and a bleak economic outlook would discourage workers from uprising. However, worker solidarity will prevail over fears of economic outcome.
During good economic times, the capital is benefiting more than the worker is. This puts the capital in a position of authority and the attendant perks that come with it. There are political considerations, a favorable judiciary, and enforcement techniques that discourage organization. Business has law enforcement and the system to back up their position.
When difficult times hit with the economic downturn beginning in 1932, the unions were able to become more solidified. Union members were able to speak for the unemployed and disadvantaged and gained more interest and support. It was the direct connection between the union and the working class that was able to mobilize the unions during the depression.
The Cold War decade of the 1950s brought about greater cooperation between workers and management which was more likely due to conciliatory attitudes than worker satisfaction. The unions had made strides through the ability to organize in the 1930s and the war effort of the 1940s. However, the post-war period brought about some dissatisfaction among the public for the head of the AFL-CIO, John Lewis. A successful strike in 1943 at the height of the war had sparked public outrage that he had broken the war efforts no-strike policy. This anger would not be forgotten when Congress overrode Truman's veto of the Labor-Management Relations Act, known as the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947.
The Labor-Management Relations Act set the stage for union activity during the 1950s. It severely limited the union's ability to organize and strike. Business was pushing for greater productivity at the expense of the workers. Strikes were generally short-lived, local, and quickly suppressed. The closed shop was outlawed and companies would move plants to locations that were less labor-friendly.
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