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Leynes 1
Labor Unions have become an important factor in our industries.
For many years, labor unions have served as the main voice of the
workers to their employers. The continuous effort of labor unions in
helping the laborers ensure their rights in their jobs, acquire all the
benefits they need and to eliminate the injustice experienced by
workers in their workplace is still an ongoing process until now even
though there are a lot of issues that American unions face in
today’s industry. In order to understand labor unions in general,
knowing the roots of it is the best way to start. In this paper, the
progress of the labor unions throughout history, the issues faced
the developments it achieved, laws passed and the problem faced
by today’s unions will be tackled.
Workers are the most important aspect in the business world
because no business can function without their employees. In return,
employers should fulfill their workers needs and in order to negotiate the
workers demands, they need a certain sort of representation who can
negotiate with the employers and their fellow workers. The representation
that every worker asked for was fleshed out by the creation of labor
unions. Labor unions become the main voice of the workers throughout its
long run. The historical developments of the labor unions brought up what
Leynes 2
unions really are about. By following the chronological timeline of how
unions emerge and develop into what they have become today, it is easier
to understand its concept of unions and the problems it faced during the
era of modern industries.
Looking up where unions actually originated can be traced back to
the early history of America. Throughout time, unions did their best in
acquiring the rights needed by their members and having a power in the
workplace. The events that labor unions have participated and contributed
a lot in the history of the United States.
The first workers who fought for their rights did play a very
important role in America’s fight for independence. Carpenters disguised
as Mohawk Indians were the active participants at the Boston Tea Party in
1773. Also, the Declaration of Independence was signed by the
Continental Congress who met in Carpenters Hall in Philadelphia during
1776. In 1827, the Mechanics’ Union of Trade Associations was formed by
several trade unions in Philadelphia, which is said to be the first U.S labor
organization that united workers in different crafts.1 The first nationwide
federation called the National Trades Unions was founded in 1834 but was
short lived because of the economic crisis of 1837 and the resulting
depression, which led to a drastic loss in union membership.
“Labor Unions in the United States.” MSN Encarta 1993-2002
Leynes 3
After the Civil War, large enterprises were developed, which
employed thousands of workers, resulting in an increase in unionization.
By then, William Sylvis founded the National Labor Union (NLU) in 1866.
NLU persuaded the Congress to pass an eight hour day for federal
workers, but since they were not considered a strong union, several
unions under it withdraw their affiliation, causing the NLU collapse in 1872.
After the NLU collapsed, five years later, a new union called the
Knights of Labor, said to be the first significant national labor organization
emerged2. The Knights of Labor was formed by Uriah Stephens in 1869.
Their goals were to have equal pay for equal work, the abolition of child
labor, and an 8-hour workday. Because its leaders concentrated so much
on the social and economic change, not recognizing the effects of
technological change, they lost public interest and members declined
rapidly, bringing the demise of the group.
In 1881, some leaders of the Knights of Labor, led by Samuel
Gompers organized a new group called Federation of Organized Trades
and Labor Union of The United States and Canada. By 1886, the
federation was reorganized and re-established with the name American
Federation of Labor (AFL) with Gompers as the first president. AFL had
stressed wage increases and other job demands such as improved
Business. (Pride, Hughes, Kapoor). Page 381
Leynes 4
working conditions and job security instead of political issues. AFL’s tactic
was to achieve their goals by collective bargaining and to use marks
called “union labels” to identify goods manufactured by its members.3
Because a lot of workers and labor leaders become dissatisfied by the
conservative policies of AFL, radicals formed a new group called the
Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) in 1905. Also known as “wobblies”,
they work to overthrow the capitalist system and replace it into socialism.
Since the progress of labor movement is relatively slow and most
newly formed union groups were not successful, most employers took
advantage of it. Some employers move their businesses to places with
less union traditions or force their workers to sign yellow-dog contract.
This action brings a tremendous meltdown in union membership, wherein
from 5.1 million members in 1920’s to a drop of 3.5 million in 1929.4
Unions gained strength through the implementation of some of the
most important pro-labor laws in the history of America. The creation of
the Department of Labor gave assurance to workers that they could
receive the best considerations as possible. The Department of Labor did
become the advocate of all unions in the United States by bringing up
laws that were in favor of the workers. The first one is the Norris-La
Guardia Act, which the Congress passed in 1932. This act made the
The World Book 2005. “Labor Movement”
“Labor Unions in the United States”. Microsoft Corporation 1993-2002.
Leynes 5
yellow dog contracts unenforceable and curtailed the use of injunctions in
labor disputes. One program of President Franklin D. Roosevelt called the
National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933 (NIRA) also created in favor of
the workers. One controversy that NIRA faced is that according with this
Employees shall have the right to organize and to bargain
collectively through representatives of their own choosing,
and shall be free from the interference, restraint, or coercion
of employers…in the designation of such representatives.5
Because of the controversies NIRA faced, it was declared
unconstitutional, it was then replaced by a new act called the National
Labor Relations Act of 1955. Also called as the Wagner Act, it worked
almost the same as the overturned law but it established the National
Relations Board that had the power to punish unfair labor practices and
determine which union group should represent the workers. The NLRA did
eliminate the company-dominated employee associations that hinders
many workers in joining unions.
During the early 1900’s, the automobile, steel and other industries
that use mass-production techniques, had increased rapidly, but since
they lacked union representation, several AFL leaders established the
National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933.
Leynes 6
manufacturing industries unionized by CIO were iron and steel,
automobile, rubber, electrical and radio, and shipping.6 Because CIO has
more members in the entire federation, they demanded much control
which increases the disputes between the AFL and CIO. This makes the
AFL to expelled CIO in the organization, which leads to the establishment
of the CIO independently. The name of CIO was then changed into
Congress of Industrial Organization.
The continuous success of organized strikes increase the power
and membership of unions, making most Americans think they were a big
threat to the nation. People demanded a new law that could curb the
power of organized unions.7 This gave rise to the Labor-Management
Relations Act of 1947, also called the Taft-Harley Act, which imposed
government control over unions. The objective of this act was to provide
balance between union power and management.
After 20 years of separation, the AFL and CIO realized that merging
together can both benefit more from each other than standing separately.
Even though the two federations have a lot of differences from each other,
the old tensions and issues have died out and been resolved through time.
The merger brought the virtual elimination of jurisdictional disputes
“Labor Unions in the United States”. Microsoft Corporation 1993-2002.
“Labor Movement”. The World Book 2005.
Leynes 7
between unions that have plagued the labor movement and alienated
public sympathy in the earlier years.8
Despite the enforcement of the Labor-Management Act and the
continuing controversies against unions, the movement continues to soar.
Unions bring a lot of provisions especially the “fringe benefits, which
insurance, pension, health, welfare plans, and automatic wage increase.9
Fringe benefits had become one of the most important points that unions
pursue during a collective bargaining process. It was said that most unions
often accept a good fringe benefits than higher wages since most benefits
were not subjective to income tax for the employees.
In 1959, the Congress passed a new law called the LaborManagement Reporting and Disclosure Act. Also known as the LandrumGriffin Act, it was designed to regulate the internal functioning of labor
unions and guarantees the rights of union members to union meetings,
free speech and assembly, and vote through secret ballot at periodic
elections for union officers.
Knowing the concept of labor union through their development now
enable us to understand what labor unions do in was that they provide
more ways to communicate with the management like for example, when
“The Labor Movement in America.”
“Labor unions in the United States.” Microsoft Corporation 1993-2003
Leynes 8
a worker is having certain problems about his/her job, instead of quitting
unexpectedly, unions can present formal grievance procedures to the
management in order to resolve the issues since losing a job or losing an
employee is not beneficial for both parties.
Despite the numerous success labor unions had in its flourishing
years, union representation declines in the recent decades, which only
implies that unions today fail to capture the hearts of worker population in
America. According to the U.S Department of State, during 1945, more
than one-third of employed people belong to unions, and then it fell into
24.1 percent in 1979 and to 13.9 percent in 1998.10 Some reasons linked
to the decline of union membership were the shift to service industry
employment, the employers’ ability to hire strikebreakers when unions go
on strike, the industrial shift towards technology, the increasing
employment of women and teen agers who were not so interested in
joining unions. Also, it was said that the most possible important reason
was that unions were victims of their own because of their continuous
increase in union wages that cuts back production, which makes many
workers lose their jobs.11
“The Decline of Union Power.”
“The Labor Movement inAmerica.”
Leynes 9
Unionism in today’s society is not as powerful as it was many years
ago. As explained by a union advocate named David Bonior, “Because of
union busting and the changing economy, outsourcing and globalization,
we are on a spiral downward on benefits and wages. A race to the bottom
so to speak.”12 Unions fail to adapt to America’s ever changing industries,
leading more and more workers choose not to join labor unions anymore,
making labor unions lost their power. What unions should do is to be
ready with according to Stephen Sleigh, the five challenges that will shape
what unions do in the future which are:
1. Continuing employer hostility to relinquishing control of
corporate and workplace governance.
2. Slower growth and aging workforce.
3. Increasing application of information technology in
4. Continuing increase of globalization of production, and
5. The increasing skills for many occupations at the same
time there is downward pressure on wages of unskilled
“Decline of Labor Unions Linked to Rise of Globalization”.
Sleigh, Stephen. “What Do Unions Do?”
Leynes 10
Labor union’s history does play a very important role in the lives of
the American laborers. As people say “Human resources are the most
important aspect of a business” so it’s just fair to let them have a voice
their need on their jobs. Without workers, a business cannot function
normally and could paralyze the entire industry. Through unions, workers
demands cannot be voiced out in their workplace. Unions provide security,
benefits and also protect workers from the injustices that most employers
do to their employees. The Labor movements achievements and failures
did not only become a part of the workers in America, but also to the entire
history of the United States, even though there’s a significant difference in
what labor unions used to be during its flourishing years compared to what
it is today. The membership decline was skyrocketing in number because
more and more workers are losing hope with the credibility of their labor
union By looking at the set-up of today’s businesses, it is obvious that
unions fail to adapt to America’s changing economy.
“Labor Movement.” The World Book Encyclopedia. 5th ed. 2005. 4-13.
“Labor Unions in the United States.” MSN Encarta. 1993-2005. 25 Oct. 2007.
Pride, William, Robert Hughes, Jack Kapoor. Business. Boston: Houghton Mifflin
Company, 2007.
Sleigh, Stephen R. "What Do Unions Do?--A Unionist's Perspective." Journal of
Labor Research 26.4 (Fall 2005): 623-640. Business Source Premier. EBSCO.
La Guardia Comm. College, Long Island City, NY. 21 October 2007.
“The Decline of Union Power.” Economics. 2 Nov. 2007
“The Labor Union Movement in America.” The Social Studies Help Center. 2
Nov. 2007. <>
Table of Contents
I. Introduction………………………………………………………….…1
II. Historical Development of Labor Union in the United States
a. The first unions………………………………………...…….…2
b. After the Civil War…………………………….……………….3
-The NLU
c. The Knights of Labor…………………………………………….3
d. 1880’s -1900’s
-The AFL.....................................................................................3
-The IWW....................................................................................4
- The Department of Labor and Laws formed.............................4
· Norris-La Guardia Act…...……………………....……4
·National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933......................5
· National Labor Relations Act of 1955...........................5
·Taft-Harley Act...............................................................6
·Landrum-Griffin Act.......................................................7
-The CIO......................................................................................5
e. AFL-CIO Reunification.................................................................5
f. The Decline in Union Membership.................................................8
III. Conclusion...............................................................................................10
The Historical Development of Labor Unions
Past, Present and Future of Unions
Mariel Leynes
November 5, 2007
Professor Leff
Labor Unions Graphs and Tables
United States
Current Unions
(The American Federation of Labor - Congress of Industrial Organizations)
Associated Actors and Artistes of America (4As)
Actors' Equity Association AEA (
American Federation of Television and Radio Artists AFTRA (
American Guild of Musical Artists AGMA (
American Guild of Variety Artists AGVA
Hebrew Actors' Union Inc HAU
The Guild of Italian American Actors GIAA (
Screen Actors Guild SAG (
Air Line Pilots Association ALPA (
Amalgamated Transit Union ATU (
American Federation of Government Employees AFGE (
American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada AFM (
American Federation of School Administrators AFSA (
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees AFSCME (
District Council 37 DC37 (
Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (AFSCME) (PATCO/FPD)
Civil Service Employees Association, (Local 1000 AFSCME)
American Federation of Teachers AFT (
Education Minnesota EM (
Health Professionals and Allied Employees HPAE (
New York State United Teachers NYSUT (
United Federation of Teachers UFT (
American Postal Workers Union APWU (
American Radio Association ARA (
American Train Dispatchers Department ATDD (
Atomic Trades and Labor Council ATLC (
Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union BCTGM (
Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen BRS (
California School Employees Association CSEA (
California Nurses Association CNA (
Communications Workers of America CWA (
Association of Flight Attendants-CWA AFA-CWA (
International Union of Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers (IUE-CWA)
The Newspaper Guild (
News Media Guild (
Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) (
Federation of Professional Athletes
National Football League Players Association NFLPA (
Glass, Molders, Pottery, Plastics and Allied Workers International Union GMP (
International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees IATSE (
International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers IW
International Association of Fire Fighters IAFF (
International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Asbestos Workers (
International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers IAM (
International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Blacksmiths, Forgers and Helpers
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers IBEW (
International Brotherhood of Painters and Allied Trades IBPAT ( [8])
International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers IFPTE (
International Longshore and Warehouse Union ILWU (
International Longshoremen's Association ILA (
International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots MM&P (
International Plate Printers, Die Stampers and Engravers Union of North America
International Union of Allied Novelty and Production Workers
International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers BAC (
International Union of Elevator Constructors IUEC (
International Union of Journeymen Horseshoers and Allied Trades IUJHAT
International Union of Operating Engineers IUOE (
International Union of Painters and Allied Trades IUPAT (
International Union of Police Associations IUPA (
Union Millwrights (
National Federation of Independent Unions NFIU (
National Postal Mail Handlers Union NPMHU (
Marine Engineers Beneficial Association MEBA (
National Air Traffic Controllers Association NATCA (
National Association of Letter Carriers NALC (
National Nurses Organizing Committee NNOC (
Office and Professional Employees International Union OPEIU (
Operative Plasterers' and Cement Masons' International Association OPCMIA (
Seafarers International Union of North America SIU (
Sheet Metal Workers International Association SMWIA (
Transport Workers Union of America TWU (
Transportation Communications International Union TCU (
United American Nurses UAN (
United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing, Pipefitting and Sprinkler Fitting Industry
of the United States and Canada UA
United Automobile, Aerospace & Agricultural Implement Workers of America International Union UAW
National Writers Union NWU (
United Mine Workers of America UMWA (
United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers
International Union USW (
United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers (
Utility Workers Union of America UWUA (
Writers Guild of America, East WGAE (
Change to Win Federation
International Brotherhood of Teamsters IBT (
Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers BLE (
Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees BMWE (
Graphic Communications International Union GCIU (
Laborers' International Union of North America LIUNA (
Service Employees International Union SEIU (
Committee of Interns and Residents/SEIU CIR/SEIU (
National Association of Government Employees NAGE (
United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America UBC (
United Farm Workers of America UFW (
United Food and Commercial Workers UFCW (
Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union RWDSU (
Armco Employees Independent Federation AEIF
Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association AMFA (
Association of Pizza Delivery Drivers APDD (
California Correctional Peace Officers Association CCPOA (
California Nurses Association CNA (
National Nurses Organizing Committee NNOC (
California Teachers Association CTA (
Coalition of University Employees CUE (
Directors Guild of America DGA (
Field Staff Association (FSA) ([9])
Independent Pilots Association IPA (
Independent Steelworkers Union ISU (ISU Homepage)
Industrial Workers of the World IWW ("Wobblies") (IWW Homepage)
International Union Security * Police * Fire Professionals of America SPFPA (SPFPA Homepage)
Major League Baseball Players Association MLBPA
Massachusetts Correction Officers Federated Union (
Massachusetts Nurses Association (
National Education Association NEA (
NHL Players Association NHLPA (
National Rural Letter Carriers Association NRLCA (
National Treasury Employees Union NTEU (
National Weather Service Employees Organization NWSEO (
Professional Lacrosse Players' Association PLPA (
Progressive Organization for Workplace and Employee Rights POWER (
Union Millwrights m/w (
Association of Western Pulp and Paper Workers AWPPW (
United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America UE (
UE Local 222 - Connecticut Independent Labor and Police Unions (
United Transportation Union UTU (
Writers Guild of America, west WGAw (
National Emergency Medical Services Association (NEMSA) (
Staff Unions
Field Staff Association (FSA) ([10])
Historical Unions
Amalgamated Meat Cutters see United Food and Commercial Workers above
American Federation of Labor (see AFL-CIO above)
Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions
American Railway Union
Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters
Cigar Makers' International Union
Congress of Industrial Organizations (see AFL-CIO above)
Drug, Hospital, and Health Care Employees Union
General Trades Union
Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union see UNITE HERE above
International Fur & Leather Workers Union
Knights of Labor
Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical & Energy Workers International Union (PACE) See United Steel, Paper and Forestry,
Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union above
Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (1968) (PATCO)
Retail Clerks International Union see United Food and Commercial Workers above
Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees UNITE! see UNITE HERE above
Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees UNITE!
Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union ACTWU
Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America ACWA
International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union ILGWU
Textile Workers Union of America TWUA
Laundry and Dry Cleaning International Union
United Packinghouse Workers of America see United Food and Commercial Workers above
Western Federation of Miners see United Steelworkers above
International Union of Mine, Mill, and Smelter Workers - important left-led union of the '30s
Workingmen's Benevolent Association
Union Reform Groups
Association for Union Democracy AUD (
Labor Notes "Putting the Movement Back in the Labor Movement" (
Members for Democracy MFD - Canadian union reform and worker empowerment group (
Research, Educate, Advocacy, People REAP - UFCW reform group (
Short Circuits IBEW local reformers (
Teamsters for a Democratic Union TDU (
Other Union Organizations
A. Philip Randolph Institute (
Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (
Change to Win Coalition (
Coalition of Black Trade Unionists CBTU (
Coalition of Graduate Employee Unions CGEU (
Coalition of Labor Union Women CLUW (
Committees for Occupational Safety and Health COSHs
Jewish Labor Committee (
Jobs with Justice JwJ (
Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (
Pride At Work PAW (
Working America (