Principal St. James Encyclopedia of Labor History Worldwide: Major Events in Labor History and Their Impact

St. James Encyclopedia of Labor History Worldwide: Major Events in Labor History and Their Impact

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The 2-vol. St. James Encyclopedia of Labor History Worldwide provides in-depth analysis of more than 300 key events in labor history over the last 200 years, focusing on the relevance of these events to both the labor movement as a whole and to societal changes around the world. Each entry, written and signed by an expert in the field, is three to five pages in length and includes a description of the event, information about the key players involved and discusses the event in historical context. Events covered include:Abolition of Slavery Anarchists Lead Argentine Labor Movement Chartist Movement Equal Pay Act Equal Rights Amendment Grape Pickers' Strike Great Steel Strike Japanese Labor Unions Dissolved March on Washington Movement Minimum Wage Movement North American Free Trade Agreement Occupational Safety and Health Act Syndicalist Movement PATCO Strike Triangle Shirtwaist Fire And many othersAdditional features include alphabetical and chronological tables of contents; 300 photographs, maps and illustrations; a glossary; a bibliography; and a subject index.
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Major Events in Labor History
and Their Impact
With Introductions by
Willie Thompson, Northumbria University
Daniel Nelson, University of Akron

Neil Schlager, Editor

St. James Encyclopedia of Labor History Worldwide: Major Events in Labor History and Their Impact
Schlager Group Inc. Staff
Neil Schlager, editor
Vanessa Torrado-Caputo, assistant editor

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
St. James encyclopedia of labor history worldwide : major events in labor history and
their impact / Neil Schlager, editor ; with introductions by Daniel Nelson and Willie
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 1-55862-542-9 (set : alk. paper) — ISBN 1-55862-559-3 (Vol. 1) —
ISBN 1-55862-560-7 (Vol. 2)
1. Labor movement—History—Encyclopedias. 2. Labor unions—
History—Encyclopedias. I. Schlager, Neil, 1966HD4839.S74 2003

Printed in the United States of America
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1


PAGE vii
























Welcome to the St. James Encyclopedia of Labor History Worldwide. Our aim is to provide a scholarly, encyclopedic treatment of
the labor movement during the past 200 years. The encyclopedia covers 300 key events in labor history, from the struggle to abolish slavery both in the British Empire and in the United States during the 1800s; to the rise of trade unions later in the century; to
the often violent clashes between labor and management in the early twentieth century; and to the onset of globalization toward the
end of the twentieth century. Throughout the encyclopedia, events are placed in the context of the labor movement as a whole and
related to societal change and development worldwide.
Scope and Coverage
The encyclopedia includes 300 events from period from 1800 to 2000. Two-thirds of the articles focus on U.S. labor history and
one-third are devoted to international history. Because of this distribution, international events in particular were chosen for their
relevance to larger social movements and their impact on development of the labor movement in a country or region. The entries
were selected by an advisory board of expert labor historians, whose names and affiliations are listed elsewhere in this frontmatter;
more information about the advisers is available in the “Notes on Advisers and Contributors” section at the back of Volume 2. The
entries were written by labor historians, freelance writers, librarians, and journalists.
Format of Volumes, Entries
In response to feedback from public and academic librarians, we have arranged the volumes alphabetically by entry title. An alphabetical listing of the entry titles is included in the frontmatter. In addition, readers may also wish to consult the chronological
listing of entries elsewhere in the frontmatter as well as the detailed index at the back of Volume 2.
Within each entry, readers will find the following format:
* Entry title, location, and date. Although the location is typically the country where the event occurred, in some cases it refers
to the place where an organization or movement was founded.
* Synopsis: Brief overview of the event.
* Event and Its Context: In-depth discussion of the event and its impact.
* Key Players: Brief biographical notes on people who figured prominently in the event.
* Bibliography: List of sources used to compile the entry.
* Additional Resources: Other sources that readers may wish to consult.
In addition, each entry contains a chronology of key events in world history, so that readers may better understand the historical
context in which the event occurred. At the end of most entries, readers will find cross references to other entries in the encyclopedia that may be of interest.
Other Features
In addition to the main text, the encyclopedia features two lengthy introductions, one of which discusses international labor history
and another that covers U.S. labor history. In addition, users will find a glossary of labor terms; a general chronology consisting of
key events in world history combined with important labor events; a reading list covering English-language sources devoted to labor
history; and a subject index. The encyclopedia also includes more than 350 photographs as well as nearly 50 sidebars that provide
information on other subjects of interest.
The editors wish to thank the following individuals for their assistance in preparing the encyclopedia: Judson Knight, who compiled all of the sidebar material in addition to the chronologies; Caryn E. Neumann, who prepared the glossary; and Willie
Thompson and Daniel Nelson, who wrote the introductory pieces.
—Neil Schlager


The worldwide labor movement that was a central social reality of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries was formed from many
and diverse sources and traditions. Its development and history coincided with that of the growth and spread of factory industry and
of similar forms of capitalist and public enterprise, such as transport, primary production, and the many divisions of labor in societies economically connected to mass markets and advanced public utilities.
This labor movement originated in Europe. However, its spread around the world was determined less by imitation of the European
model (although that played its part) as by similar responses from industrial or quasi-industrial workforces to equivalent problems
of the workplace and living environment, and above all by conflict with employers.
Given the character of modern production, it was inevitable that organizations of workers aiming to defend their members’ interests would emerge sooner or later, unless repressively prevented, but the shape of the labor movement and its precise nature and
development were the outcome of contingent circumstances and actions that might well have taken place under other situations.
There was nothing inevitable about the structure of more-or-less nationally unified labor unions supporting labor parties, which
evolved as the general rule (outside the United States), not only in the original centers of modern industry, but also in what was later
to be termed the Third World.
Early Trade Associations
The decades of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries were eras of economic, social, and political transition and upheaval. In Western Europe and Britain, protocapitalist market forces (developing in Britain since the previous century, if not earlier) made growing inroads into traditional standards and practices. Handicraft artisans found themselves increasingly threatened
with deskilling, reduced incomes, and tighter subordination to the mercantile elements on whom they were dependent for supply
and marketing, and they protested vigorously as a result. The French revolutionary government of 1790 regarded workers’ coalitions as troublesome enough to outlaw them under the Le Chapelier law, and at the turn of the century, the Parliament of Britain,
where there had already been workers’ riots leading to fatalities, reinforced the already existing prohibition against “combinations
in restraint of trade” by means of the notorious Combination Acts of 1799 and 1800.
Combinations nevertheless continued, both in Britain and elsewhere. They were feared by the propertied classes, not only on account of their immediate objectives, but for the possibility they could be infected by the democratic virus of the French Revolution,
which, although defeated, continued to inspire many at the bottom of the social pyramid.
By the 1820s, with the accelerating penetration of steam-powered machinery into the production process, a further development became apparent—concentrated masses of factory operatives in expanding urban areas. The growing reliance upon coal required new
factories to be sited in towns for ease of transport, first by canal and subsequently by railway. The latter generated entire industries,
and coal mining also expanded prodigiously.
The Emergence of Modern Labor Movements
In these circumstances, a European labor movement of a more recognizably modern type began to evolve. A new social layer of
workers entirely dependent upon minimal subsistence wage payments as their sole source of income, lacking any alternative resources of land or capital, multiplied in the new industrial centers of the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, and Germany. Although
divided by age, gender, occupation, and cultural traditions, these workers shared the miseries of overcrowded slums bereft of space,
sanitation, clean water, and access to adequate diet or medical care. Plagued by adulterated foodstuffs, alcoholism, crime, violence,
and the narcotic substances of the time, they were also subject at unpredictable intervals to a total loss of income, whenever economic depression or an overstocked labor market produced long-term unemployment.
These circumstances, together with memories of the French Revolution—or rather its image of mighty elites overthrown and social
equality enforced for all citizens—combined to determine the shape of the European labor movement. Out of that revolution in its
later stages had been born the idea of socialism, with its core idea that the enormous productive forces that new technologies were
releasing should be collectively owned and operated for the common good rather than private profit. However, it was not predestined that socialism would come to dominate the consciousness of European labor in the nineteenth century, for other options were




available. Socialist ideas did not prevail among labor in the United States, and only by the narrowest of margins did they become
the accepted mainstream ideology of British labor in the twentieth century. It was even less inevitable that the Marxian variety
would emerge as the prominent form of socialism in most European countries, yet by the turn of the century, with the notable exception of Britain, it indeed had.
Marxism and Labor
The Manifesto of the Communist Party (1847), was written by the young revolutionaries Karl Marx and Frederick Engels. The
Manifesto sketched their vision of historical development, rational and purportedly scientific, which denoted the bourgeoisie as the
revolutionary class that through technology and market relations had transformed the world so that the society of universal abundance had moved from the realm of utopia to that of the possible. Having acclaimed the historical role of capital, Marx and Engels
went on to condemn its current reality as an obstacle to the great possibilities it had created. They pronounced that it was both
necessary and inevitable that the proletariat should displace the bourgeoisie and institute its own rule, making the transition to a
society of abundance feasible. Their text thus provided both inspiration and confidence that a historic role awaited the proletariat,
indeed the most momentous role of all time—in abolishing capitalism, this social class would abolish itself and all class-based
society. Marx’s analysis of economic relationships in the first volume of Capital (written in 1867, but not published until 1887) was
equally important. This analysis claimed to demonstrate how, under the misleading guise of freedom and equality, the wage contract was inherently exploitative, and the wage worker, although not bound like a serf to any individual capitalist, was just as tightly
bound to capitalists as a class.
It took time, however, for Marx’s influence to make itself felt. After the social and political traumas of early industrialization, which
had been marked by massive economic slumps along with intense discontent, the 25 years following the failed European revolutions of 1848 were years of comparative social peace, underpinned by relatively consistent high growth rates both in Britain and
the continent (the large-scale construction of railway systems had a lot to do with this). During this period Marx’s theoretical impact became evident, and labor organizations that based their programs on his analysis began to emerge.
Challenges to Marx
Marx’s theoretical superiority did not go unchallenged. It was contested by representatives of the anarchist movement, particularly
the French reformer Pierre Joseph Proudhon, in the 1840s, and Mikhail Bakunin, the Russian revolutionist, in the 1860s. Anarchism
established a strong presence among workers in Switzerland, Italy, Spain (especially), and to a lesser extent, France. The movement
was attractive principally to independent artisans and small farmers rather than factory workers, a reflection of the different positioning of these classes in relation to the state. A more substantial rival to Marx appeared in Germany. The radical lawyer Ferdinand
Lassalle, a brilliant demagogue, admired Marx and claimed he could recite the Manifesto by heart. However, Lassalle was the first
leader of a successful German workers’ movement, the German Workers’ Association, which he founded in 1863 in opposition to
the exiled Marx. Lassalle supported reform, rather than revolution, and was willing to make deals with the landlord-dominated
Prussian state led by Bismarck in opposition to the big capitalists. Given that Prussia was developing into the most industrialized
society on the continent, with an attendant growing factory proletariat, and would soon amalgamate with smaller German states in
1866 and 1871 to create the mighty Kaiserreich, this workers’ movement represented the greatest obstacle to Marx’s intellectual
Marxism Takes Hold
Lassalle’s death in 1864, without any significant political heir, left the field clear for Marx’s followers, who succeeded in bringing
the rapidly growing German labor movement under their aegis. They absorbed the dead leader’s very considerable following, establishing the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) in 1875. It was not, however, historical accidents like Lassalle’s death in
a duel that determined Marx’s ascendancy, but the depth and coherence of his comprehensive theoretical undertaking, which provided a ready-made understanding of the social world and a guide to action.
Marx was the moving spirit behind the establishment of the International Workingmens’ Association (IWMA) in 1864. Known as
the First International, the IWMA was an attempt to bring together political and trade union movements from a number of European
countries to concert their actions, especially against strikebreaking. In reality, although it alarmed a number of governments—particularly after the Paris Commune, the bloody insurrection of 1871 for which the IWMA was in no way responsible—it remained
small and marginal. Internal wrangles, above all between the followers of Marx and of Mikhail Bakunin, wrecked the organization
and brought about its dissolution in 1874. Matters were very different when a successor organization, the Socialist, or Second




International, was set up in Paris on the centenary of the French Revolution in 1889. By this time, significant labor movements, the
majority and most important basing themselves on Marx’s ideas, were well established throughout western and central Europe. The
Socialist International benefited from the fact that it was a loosely structured organization and that its headquarters in Amsterdam
served a coordinating, rather than executive, function. This reduced friction between its constituent parts that a more centralized organization would have found difficult to handle.
The Influence of the SPD
The flagship of the Socialist International was its German component, the SPD, with a million and a half voters. Although it had
been outlawed in 1878, and in 1889 was still formally illegal in its own country, the SPD was nonetheless thriving. It was clear that
the ban could not long be maintained, and it was lifted in 1890. The SPD was more than a political party, more even than a political-industrial organization. With its multiplicity of journals, its attached women’s and youth organizations, its cultural and athletic
societies, its cooperative retail network, and of course its mighty trade union arm, it provided an alternative subculture for the working masses. The SPD had rivals in the Catholic and Liberal workers’ unions, but these were a pale shadow of its own dominant
strength. No other labor movement in Europe could claim this breadth of support combined with depth of cultural penetration.
Historians generally agree that the main consideration behind the hegemony of the SPD in the German workers’ movement was that
the dominant classes and parties in the state disdained the working class and its organizations and provided no alternative avenues
for their political participation. This state of affairs was very different from that prevailing in other parts of western Europe, including the United Kingdom, where labor parties were much less hegemonic among their working classes. There is also general
agreement that everywhere the SPD succeeded in establishing itself, the labor movement—although only occasionally imposing
formal discrimination upon women—was institutionally misogynist (not unlike other societies of its time and since). How far that
attitude toward women retarded its progress is impossible to guess, but probably a good deal.
Labor Movements Outside Western Europe
By the time the International was founded, embryonic labor movements had already been established in North America and the
British settlement colonies, and were starting to appear in eastern Europe, Asia, and Latin America, where modern industry was beginning to be introduced. These embryonic organizations were frequently subject to persecution, often clandestine, and sometimes
more forcefully revolutionary than their formally Marxist (but generally pacific) counterparts in Western Europe, North America,
and Australasia. By the end of the 1890s they had become embedded in the working classes, combining trade union activities and
political propagandizing. By the beginning of the twentieth century, trade union organizations were beginning to form in India, and
in Japan, socialist ideas, albeit rather eclectic ones strongly influenced by Christianity, were appealing to circles of intellectuals.
Labor in the Twentieth Century
The Early Twentieth Century
At the beginning of the twentieth century, existing labor movements with an orientation toward political action as the long-term solution to labor’s problems—with socialism as their ultimate goal—were facing a serious rival in the form of syndicalism (the name
is derived from the French word for trade union). This trend of thought regarded political approaches, whether reformist or revolutionary, as inadequate to the vital interests of the workers. Instead, syndicalists envisaged taking direct action to overthrow capitalism. This action would involve the formation of wide-embracing industrial unions, followed by a general strike as the final act leading to the establishment of workers’ power. As frustration grew with the existing unions and labor parties in the United States,
Western Europe, the United Kingdom, and the British settlement colonies, the influence of syndicalism, taking as its icon the physically powerful male industrial worker, proliferated and strengthened. Its most effective and successful component was the organization called the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), popularly styled the “Wobblies.” The IWW put down strong roots in many
trade unions, becoming dominant, for example, among the Welsh miners, produced many notable agitators, and left behind a heritage of labor movement songs and legends.
The years between 1873 and 1914 were a period of long-term economic recession (although never of negative growth) punctuated
by short-lived inflationary episodes of boom conditions. This period also saw the introduction and initial development of major new
technologies, from electrical apparatus to motor vehicles. Industrial workforces increased in number and spread to new parts of the
world, as did workers’ organizations and working-class ideologies, along with dramatic working-class struggles. The climax of
European imperialism was reached with the partitioning of Africa and “opening” of China. Working classes in the imperial coun-




tries, their unions and parties, were inevitably drawn into these developments, for the most part giving them a qualified approval.
Increasingly frenetic imperial rivalry brought with it the threat of general European war. The danger was foreseen, and on more than
one occasion the Socialist International at its congresses committed its member parties to spare no effort in bringing such armed
conflict to a stop. Regrettably, when the long-predicted war finally arrived in 1914, these resolutions were consigned to oblivion,
and the International shattered. Various International sections in France, Germany, and Britain, along with labor movements, parties, and trade unions, with few exceptions, enthusiastically gave their governments all the support they could by voting war credits, suppressing strike action, encouraging recruitment, and the like. When the chips were down, each national component of the
International, whatever its reservations, viewed its existing national state as the best guarantor of its future.
The Rise of the Bolsheviks
This outcome was to have reverberations for global labor movements and for world politics during the remainder of the twentieth
century. Up to that point, the labor mainstream had been more and more accommodating to the realities of capitalist market
economies, the concern (in spite of bitter industrial struggles and ceremonial revolutionary rhetoric) being to obtain for labor a tolerable niche in terms of material resources and social opportunity within the structures of a capital-dominated universe. Certainly
there were elements like the Wobblies and some small parties who seriously envisaged the total overthrow of the existing state and
complete social overturn, but these were marginal groups, either politically or geographically or both. Among the latter were the
Russian Bolsheviks, one of the factions of what had been intended to be a unified Russian socialist (Social Democratic and Labor)
party, but immediately upon its foundation in 1903 had splintered over policy and organizational issues, reflecting support for or
disagreement with the unbending revolutionary will to power of the Bolshevik leader Vladimir Ilich Ulyanov, who had adopted the
pseudonym “Lenin.”
By the late nineteenth century, capitalist industry was developing strongly in parts of Russia amid the most miserable conditions for
its workforce (employers tended to pay minimal wages irregularly, whenever it suited their convenience). Illegal workers’ organizations soon sprung up, and these were encouraged and guided by circles of Marxist-influenced intellectuals. These same Marxists
promptly fell into bitter disputes regarding the correct interpretation of Marxism and its implications for revolutionary strategy in
the Russian Empire. The division in 1903 was a reflection of these disagreements; nevertheless, the Bolsheviks (the name means
“majority people”) and their principal rivals, the Mensheviks (“minority people”) were both part of the International, which vainly
struggled to reconcile their differences.
Lenin concluded that the collapse of the International’s parties into what he termed “social-patriotism” following the outbreak of
World War I took place because leaders at all levels of the European working classes had been seduced and debauched by profits
derived from imperial exploitation, but that the murderous European war now in progress would shortly open the eyes of the masses
to the way in which they had been deceived. Accordingly, from his place of exile in Switzerland, Lenin set out to establish a new
genuinely revolutionary International. In the circumstances it appeared to be a completely harebrained scheme, but the outbreak of
revolution in Russia in February and March 1917 transformed realities. Seven months later the Bolsheviks had taken control of the
Russian state.
The revolution of October and November 1917 was one of the workers, the only example in history. The Russian workers had transferred their political allegiance to the Bolsheviks, not because of mass conversion to Marxism, but because that party promised an
end to the war and the resolution of the urban supply crisis. The Bolsheviks also temporarily won the approval of the peasantry by
endorsing their seizure of the landlords’ estates, and that of the conscripted soldiers by promising peace. The revolution was contingent on a series of contingent events, a very unlikely outcome in historical perspective, but it set the agenda for most of the remainder of the century. Revolutionaries everywhere, especially Marxist ones, now had what they had previously lacked, a model
and a point of reference, as well as the material support of an established state. For the Bolshevik leaders, the revolution in Russia
was merely the initial episode in a workers’ world revolution that they regarded as imminent, and in the midst of a desperate civil
war to retain power, they established in 1919 a new, revolutionary International, the Third (Communist) International, or Comintern.
According to Lenin, the Comintern was to function as the general staff of the world anticapitalist revolution, and its first imperative was to establish Bolshevik-style parties in as many parts of the world as possible. The principal strategy for accomplishing this
was to hive off the more revolutionary elements from the existing labor movements and parties and form these into communist parties subject to the discipline of the International, although in a number of countries the Comintern had to settle for amalgamating a
number of small radical, left-wing sects to form its communist party.




The Failure of the Global Labor Movement
Overall this strategy was only moderately successful. Although within a few years communist parties made their appearance in most
countries and major colonies around the world, Lenin’s expectations were not realized, and no new revolution emerged out of these
developments. Instead the global labor movement was disastrously and irrevocably split; bitter hatred and rivalry, including bloodshed, became the prevailing relationship between the social democrat and communist contenders for the workers’ allegiance. A turning point arrived in Germany in 1919 when the working class there solidly supported the Social Democrat government (it had taken
office upon the Kaiser’s downfall) in using military elements of the old regime to crush communist revolutionaries led by Rosa
Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, who were both murdered thereafter. The Bolsheviks/Communists now rejected the Social
Democrat name they had accepted up to that point and left it to their constitutionalist labor movement rivals.
The experience of Soviet Russia (from 1924 the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or USSR), which emerged from the
Revolution and Civil War, demonstrated that whether or not a workers’ state was a feasible project, it certainly was not practicable
in the circumstances of an isolated and devastated Russia. Even before Lenin’s death in 1924, the regime had fallen into the control of a largely unaccountable bureaucracy and the labor organizations reduced to ciphers, their main remit being to exhort their
members to intensified production. The world revolution had been expected to make limitless resources available for Soviet
Russia’s desperately needed reconstruction. When the revolution failed to materialize, Lenin’s successors quarreled fiercely among
themselves over what should be done. The hitherto unimpressive Josef Stalin took advantage of this to quietly accumulate power
through the party’s administrative apparatus. He displaced and exiled his main opponent, Leon Trotsky, and by 1929 Stalin had established his own personal dictatorship.
The Interwar Years
The working classes in the developed economies of western Europe and the British white Dominions, where they were most numerous and best organized, preferred in the main to trust their political fortunes to parties that worked within the guidelines of the
constitutional politics of representative democracy and to unions that conducted industrial relations according to accepted constraints on the behavior of both sides, stretched though these bounds might be from time to time. The balance on the whole remained
in favor of the employers in the 1920s, as chronic recession and high unemployment greatly impeded industrial militancy, and workers had to compromise on the best terms they could get. Their parties also tended on the whole to be weak and on the defensive
within imperfectly democratic structures. In the 1930s, the situation worsened, except in Scandinavia (especially Sweden), where
social democrat governments and strong union movements were able to establish a regime that combined greater levels of welfare
than existed anywhere else in Europe, combined with a centralized system of wage bargaining not too disadvantageous to the unionized workforce.
However, even Scandinavia suffered from the economic hurricane that struck the world in October 1929, beginning with the collapse of the U.S. stock market. Elsewhere in the world the effects were catastrophic, both socially and politically. Italy had already
provided an indicator of what was to come, with the total destruction in the 1920s of political democracy and workers’ movements.
In the 1930s, the political system of fascism, which Italy’s elites had pioneered to mobilize terrified lower middle-class masses
against the left, spread throughout Europe in even more virulent forms, and analogous types of politics appeared elsewhere around
the globe, from Argentina to Japan. The years following 1929 were particularly calamitous for labor movements everywhere except
for Scandinavia (less Finland) and the United States.
A considerable part of the disaster was due to the policy laid down by the Comintern as a reflection of developments in the USSR,
where the workers of the workers’ state were being reduced to near-serf conditions in the breakneck industrialization demanded by
Stalin. According to the Comintern, the capitalist world was entering the paroxysms of a final crisis (an analysis superficially confirmed by the crash of the U.S. stock market), and capitalism was ripe for overthrow. Social democracy, allegedly deceiving the
workers, was stigmatized as the last obstacle to victorious revolutionary advance (“social fascists” indeed) and targeted as the deadliest enemy of the Communists and proletariat. The real fascists were dismissed as a near irrelevance. The unbridgeable antagonisms and divisions caused by this viewpoint greatly undermined the labor movement everywhere it had once flourished, and in
Germany produced unparalleled disaster, contributing in no small measure to the success of Adolph Hitler. Thus abstruse expositions of Marxist theory in the councils of the state and the Comintern produced calamitous consequences for workers on the ground
almost everywhere throughout Europe and perhaps further afield. Following these manifest catastrophes, the policy began to be relaxed (although without any admission of fault) and in 1935, at the final congress of the Comintern, it was replaced by the policy
of the “Popular Front,” a complete reversal that called for antifascist unity among all democrats, not merely among organizations
of the working class.




The embryonic labor movements of the Third World were also attacked and repressed during the interwar years. Throughout their
colonial sphere from Jamaica to Malaya, and especially in India, the British crushed labor unions and jailed trade unionists (although a general strike in the British Caribbean in 1938 won some concessions). The authoritarian military government in Japan,
entering into a project of aggressive military expansion, outlawed what had earlier been a significant labor movement. In China, the
workforce organizations of the coastal cities were annihilated and the workers massacred when the nationalist general Chiang KaiShek turned against his communist allies. The Communist Party, however, survived by abandoning its urban base and turning itself
into a peasant movement, and after many traumatic episodes embedded itself among the villagers of remote northwestern China,
where its military forces controlled an extensive territory.
Labor During the Cold War
Most labor movements were destroyed or driven deep underground in the years leading up to World War II and the period of Nazi
occupation. With the total defeat of the Axis powers in 1945, however, their situation was transformed. It would hardly be an exaggeration to suggest that in the brief period between the Allied victory and the onset of the Cold War, the world was moving to a
labor agenda, and communist parties (on account of their resistance records) were popular with wide sections of the liberated
European electorate, as reflected in their votes in the elections of that period. Social Democrats were also popular, and even surviving conservative parties such as the Christian Democrats in Germany and Italy were at pains to distance themselves from unregulated capitalism. A unified world trade union movement, the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU), was established in
Matters changed once the Cold War became an unmistakable reality from 1947, and the developed world was divided into two hostile camps, with the labor movements in the Third World assiduously courted by both sides, with varying outcomes. In 1949 China
was swept by communist revolution brought from the countryside to the cities, and its urban labor movements, paralyzed since
1927, came under state control as part of the communist bloc. The same happened to labor movements in eastern Europe, when in
1947 and 1948 the continent became divided between the spheres of the United States and the USSR. Not surprisingly, the international labor movement also split, when trade union centers aligned with the West broke away from the Soviet-dominated WFTU
to form the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) in 1949. In Western countries, such as Italy and France,
where significant communist movements survived, the parties and their associated unions and labor organizations became isolated
in a political ghetto, although they continued to exercise political leverage in legislatures, to control local authorities, and to carry
out the routine union functions of collective bargaining with employers.
The period of the Cold War was also an era of decolonization, as European empires disintegrated around the world. Economic development there, modest though it was by “first world” standards, resulted in the formation and development of trade unions, except in cases where they were forcibly suppressed. The trade unions participated in the independence struggles, although only very
occasionally, as in Kenya, were trade union leaders also major political figures. Paradoxically, once independence was achieved,
trade unionists, and industrial workers in general, tended to count among the privileged classes of the post-colonial regime, enjoying higher incomes and living standards than the mass of the rural peasantry. During the Chinese Cultural Revolution of 1966–1970,
wage demands by urban workers were denounced by the Maoist Red Guards—in a state theoretically led by the working-class vanguard—as “sugar-coated bullets.”
Since 1945, where workers’ uprisings or even insurrections have occurred, they were directed against the supposed workers’ governments of the Soviet bloc, from East Berlin in 1953 (and the less well-known simultaneous industrial unrest in Czechoslovakia),
through to the strikes in Poland in 1956, the Hungarian armed insurrection immediately afterwards, and to the mass strikes along
the Baltic coastline in 1970, 1975, and finally 1980. Of necessity, these actions, provoked by material, political, and national grievances, were spontaneous and inchoate, for the official trade union organizations were under tight regime control, and represented
the government to the workers, not the other way round.
During the 25 years or so following World War II, trade union organizations in Western Europe (even those controlled by communists) and in the Western sphere generally enjoyed unparalleled strength, prosperity, and prestige in what was later referred to as the
world “long boom.” With a labor market favoring the organized workforce, income levels reached unprecedented heights, and the
consumer society blossomed. Governments, even conservative ones, were careful to take account of labor demands and aspirations.
Social policy fell into a recognizably social democratic mode. Full employment and welfare characterized Western society during
the 1950s and 1960s.




Great changes occurred after the onset of a long-term recession following the fuel crisis of 1973. Although unions in Britain were
to overthrow a Conservative government in 1974, and in France the Socialist and Communist Parties entered government in coalition in 1981, the overall trend was toward a triumphant reassertion of neoliberal values, reduced taxation, and curtailed welfare,
combined with an intensification of corporate business power. Unions found their membership declining as unemployment rose,
business grew more hostile, and governments moved to curb their legal powers. Social democratic parties (and electorates) increasingly accepted the new climate of low taxation, market values, and minimum social intervention by government.
The End of the Cold War and Beyond
In eastern Europe, the peaceful revolt by the Polish workforce beginning in the Gdansk shipyards in 1980, although temporarily
suppressed, proved to be the overture to the collapse of the Soviet bloc and the USSR itself. With this collapse went not only the
command economy and the all-embracing state ruling ostensibly in the name of the working class, but the entire tradition of
the October Revolution (even among the purportedly communist parties that survived). Unregulated market capitalism became the
order of the day, and full employment and the basic welfare structure of these states were repudiated. In the less-developed of these
countries, including Russia, the living standards of the industrial workforce, despite their now-free trade unions, plunged catastrophically.
At the beginning of twenty-first century, labor movements around the world, whether industrial or political, were not facing happy
or promising circumstances. Nevertheless, they still retained very considerable assets—human, material, organizational, and intangible—and the rise of the Workers’ Party in Brazil beginning in the 1980s demonstrated that their potential was far from exhausted.
Of one thing it was possible to be sure: their future role and success would be determined by how far labor movements succeeded
in imaginatively facing up to the new challenges that confronted them—the recomposition of workforces everywhere, the reality of
globalization, and the environmental issues that increasingly dominated the beginning of the twenty-first century.
The history of the labor movement is extraordinarily convoluted, with more than its share of tragedy and horror as well as achievement and triumph. This volume is intended to highlight, recount, and explain in context the central episodes of that process and to
serve as a reference work for the benefit of scholars, of people who participated, and those of the general public who want to be
better informed about this remarkable social and political phenomenon.
—Willie Thompson


As the American labor force grew from perhaps three million at the beginning of the nineteenth century to nearly 200 million at the
beginning of the twenty-first century, the character of the work it performed changed as dramatically as the numbers. In 1800 most
American workers were farmers, farm laborers, or unpaid household workers. Many were bound (as slaves in the southern states
and indentured servants in the North). Most of the others were proprietors of family businesses. The majority were of British,
German, or African origins. Many workers received housing, food, and goods as part of their pay. A large percentage were unaware
of labor market conditions in other states or regions and had no reason to take a greater interest: competition was limited by geography, slow and costly transportation, and seemingly unchanging technologies.
Two hundred years later, farm labor had become insignificant, employees vastly outnumbered the self-employed, bound labor had
disappeared, and child and unpaid household labor had declined greatly. Family and other social ties had become less important in
finding work or keeping a job, large private and public organizations employed more than a third of all workers and set standards
for most of the others, the labor force had become more ethnically diverse, labor productivity and real wages were many times
higher, wage contracts and negotiated agreements covering large groups were commonplace, and workplace disputes were subject
to a web of laws and regulations. Increasingly American workers competed with workers in Mexico, Southeast Asia, or China.
The changing character of work was closely related to the classic technological innovations of the nineteenth century. Changes in
energy use were particularly influential. Thanks to the availability of numerous waterpower sites in New England and the midAtlantic region, American industry developed rapidly after the American Revolution. By the 1820s, the massive, water-powered
Walthan Mills of northern Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire were among the largest factories in the world. By midcentury, steam power had become widespread in manufacturing as well as transportation, and steam-powered factories had become the
foundation of the industrial economy. The advent of electrical power at the turn of the twentieth century had an even greater impact, making possible the giant manufacturing operations of the early twentieth century; the smaller, more specialized plants that
became the rule after the 1920s; the great versatility in machine use that characterized the second half of the twentieth century; and
the mechanization of stores, offices, and homes.
Steam and electrical power and related innovations in machine technology not only made it feasible to create large organizations
but also gave them an economic advantage over small plants and shops. Workers in the new organizations were wage earners, usually not family members, and often were not even acquainted outside the plant. They rejected payment in kind or in services (company housing and company stores in isolated mining communities became a persistent source of grievances), started and stopped
at specific times (the factory bell tower remained a powerful symbol of the new era), and became accustomed to rules defining their
responsibilities and behavior. Mechanization was also a stimulus to specialization. Elaborate hierarchies of pay and status grew out
of the new ways of work.
The industrial model soon spread to the service sector. Railroad corporations created hierarchical, bureaucratic structures with even
stricter lines of authority and more specialized tasks. Insurance companies, department stores, mail-order houses, and large banks
followed this pattern, though they typically used simple, hand-operated machines. The growth of regional and national markets (a
result of technological innovations in transportation and communication as well as the expanding economy) made the hierarchical,
bureaucratic organization profitable even when power-driven machines played little role in production.
Free Labor
Although almost one-fifth of the U.S. population was not free at the beginning of the nineteenth century, the institutions and practices that had made unfree labor economically advantageous in earlier centuries soon came under attack. Indentured servitude was
a victim of changing market conditions and falling transport costs. It had barely survived the turmoil surrounding the American and
French Revolutions and died in the 1820s as immigrants who financed their own transportation replaced bound servants. Slavery
was more entrenched and continued to be profitable to many slave owners through the first half of the century. Northern states abolished slavery with minimal controversy, but southern cotton, rice, and sugar growers remained intransigent. They devised elaborate
rationales for slavery and used their political power to thwart reform, foreclosing the possibility of a repetition of the northern
experience. Antislavery agitators succeeded in making abolition an increasingly important and contentious political cause. More




moderate opponents stressed the ill effects of slavery on free labor. By the end of the 1850s the impasse between proslavery and
antislavery groups had produced a political and constitutional crisis that quickly degenerated into war.
The Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution (1865) formally abolished slavery in the United States, but neither it nor the
Reconstruction measures that accompanied it effectively addressed the social and economic legacies of slavery. As a result, the
South remained an isolated, economically stagnant region, and most southern workers, white and black, remained significantly
poorer and less mobile than workers of other regions until the twentieth century.
Most workers who filled nonexecutive positions in the new industrial organizations of the nineteenth century were European immigrants or their children. The rapid growth in the demand for labor (interrupted by periodic economic downturns and mass unemployment, notably in the 1870s, 1890s, and 1930s) attracted a swelling tide of newcomers. At first it included many skilled workers from the British Isles and Germany, but by the latter decades of the century most immigrants were from the economic and technological backwaters of Europe and filled the low-skill jobs that better-situated workers, native and immigrant, scorned. By the
early twentieth century more than a million people were arriving each year, the majority from eastern and southern Europe.
An obvious question is why ill-paid American agricultural workers, especially those in the South, did not respond to the opportunities of industrial and service employment. Several factors apparently were involved. The regional tensions between North and
South and the post–Civil War isolation of the South discouraged movement to northern industrial centers. Racial prejudice and
lifestyle decisions were also important. In the midwestern states, where industry and agriculture developed in close proximity, farm
workers were almost as reluctant to take industrial or urban service jobs. Consequently, a paradox emerged: American farm workers seemed content to make a modest living in the country, while European agricultural workers and their U.S.-born children filled
new jobs in industry and the services.
Mass immigration was socially disruptive. Immigrants faced many hazards and an uncertain welcome. Apart from the
Scandinavians, they became highly concentrated in cities and industrial towns. By the early twentieth century, most large American
cities were largely immigrant enclaves. With few exceptions, immigrants and their children made up more than 60 percent of the
population, and in extreme cases, such as Milwaukee, the total was over 80 percent. To visitors from the countryside, cities were
alien places with a hodgepodge of different languages and mores. It is hardly surprising that observers and analysts bemoaned the
effects of immigration and especially the shift from “old” northern and western European to “new” southern and eastern European
In the workplace, native-immigrant tensions took various forms. The concentration of immigrants in low-skill jobs created a heightened sense of competition—of immigrants driving out old stock or “old” immigrant workers—and led to efforts to restrict immigrant mobility. One other result of these divisions may have been a lack of solidarity in industrial disputes. The relatively low level
of labor organization and the particular character of the American labor movement often have been explained in part as the consequences of a heterogeneous labor force.
The end of traditional immigration during World War I and the low level of immigration during the interwar years eased many of
these tensions and encouraged the rise of “melting pot” interpretations of the immigrant experience. World War I also saw the first
substantial movement of southern workers to the North and West, a process that seemed to promise a less tumultuous future. In reality, the initial phases of this transition increased the level of unrest and conflict. Part of the problem—repeated in the early years
of World War II—was the excessive concentration of war-related manufacturing in a few congested urban areas. The more serious
and persistent irritant was racial conflict, with the poorest of the “new” immigrants pitted against African-American migrants from
the South. Though the violence waned after 1921, tensions lingered. In most northern cities African-American immigrants were
more likely than any immigrant group to live in ethnically homogeneous neighborhoods.
By midcentury most Americans looked back at immigration as a feature of an earlier age and celebrated the ability of American society to absorb millions of outsiders. Yet at the same time, a new cycle of immigration was beginning. It had the same economic
origins and many similar effects. Most of the post–World War II immigrants came from Latin America and Asia rather than Europe.
By the 1990s the movement of Hispanics into the labor force was reminiscent of the turn-of-the-century influx of eastern Europeans.
They settled overwhelmingly in the comparatively vacant Southwest and West, areas that had grown rapidly since World War II. In
contrast, the Northeast and Midwest, traditional centers of industrial activity, attracted fewer immigrants. Most of the newcomers
were poorly educated and filled low-skill positions, but there were exceptions. Among the Asian immigrants were many well-




educated engineers, technicians, and professionals, who quickly rose to important positions, a development that had no nineteenthcentury parallel.
Employer Initiatives
Though managers of large organizations had enormous power vis-à-vis their employees, they also were dependent on them.
Turnover, absenteeism, indifferent work, and outright sabotage were significant threats to productivity and profits. Conversely,
highly motivated employees could enhance a firm’s performance. Uncertain about how to respond, nineteenth-century employers
experimented widely. A handful introduced elaborate benefits, such as company towns; others devised new forms of “driving” and
coercion. Most simply threw up their hands, figuratively, and delegated the management of employees to first-line supervisors, who
became responsible for hiring, firing, and other personnel functions. The results were wide variations in wages, working conditions,
and discipline; abuses of authority; and high turnover rates. Friction between supervisors and wage earners became a common cause
of labor unrest.
Growing public anxiety over industrial conflict resulted in numerous policy initiatives. In the last quarter of the nineteenth century,
state governments began to impose restrictions on employers, especially employers of women and children. By 1900 most northern and western states regulated the hiring of children, the hours of labor, health and sanitation, and various working conditions.
During the first third of the twentieth century, they tightened regulations, extended some rules to male workers, and introduced
workers compensation, the first American social insurance plans. The federal government was slow to act until the 1930s, when it
embraced collective bargaining (principally via the Wagner Act of 1935), created a social security system based on old age pensions
and unemployment insurance, set minimum wages, defined the workday and workweek, and restricted child labor. Nearly all of this
legislation, both state and federal, was designed to set and uphold minimum standards (the “safety net” metaphor of later years was
apt) rather than to supercede private decision making or to create a welfare state. It reflected both a distrust of government and a
belief that individuals could and should work out better arrangements for themselves.
Many employers also responded to the problems of the new industrial economy. Beginning at the turn of the century, a few of them,
mostly large, profitable corporations, introduced policies designed to discourage turnover and improve morale. One example that
spread rapidly was the personnel department, which centralized and standardized many of the supervisor’s personnel functions. By
the 1920’s, most large industrial and service corporations had personnel departments whose functions and responsibilities expanded
rapidly. Also popular were employee benefit plans that provided medical, educational, recreational, or other services. The employment crisis of the 1930s gave renewed impetus to these activities. The largest employers (often responding to union-organizing campaigns or collective bargaining demands) created even more elaborate benefit programs, and smaller and less generous companies
introduced rudimentary programs. The spread of collective bargaining and a more prosperous postwar economy further reinforced
this trend. The years from the early 1940s to the mid-1970s would be the heyday of welfare capitalism.
The American Labor Movement
As noted earlier, the growth of industrial and service employment in the nineteenth century introduced new forms of unrest and
protest. The years from the 1870s to the 1940s witnessed waves of strikes, which were widely viewed as a perplexing and troubling
feature of modern society. Yet strikes were only the most visible examples of the tensions and conflicts that characterized industrial
employment. In essence, dissatisfied wage earners could quit and search for more satisfying jobs, or they could try to improve their
current jobs through the use of their collective “voice,” that is, through protests, complaints, and negotiations. Most workers concluded that quitting was easier than trying to organize and sustain a union, the most obvious form of institutional “voice.” Still, the
history of organized labor (because it has been carefully documented) is the best available valuable measure of the tensions associated with modern employment and the ability of workers to express themselves.
Nineteenth-Century Unions
The American labor movement began in the early nineteenth century, grew fitfully during the antebellum decades, became an important force during the inflationary prosperity of the 1860s, and flourished during the boom years of the 1880s. The people most
likely to organize were “autonomous” workers, those who had substantial independence in the workplace. Most, but not all, were
highly skilled and highly paid. In any case, they were indispensable workers who could increase their influence through collective
action. Their strategic roles also made employers wary of antagonizing them, another critical factor in union growth. Regardless
of their particular jobs, workers were more likely to organize successfully in prosperous times and when they could count on




sympathetic public officials. Prosperity and a favorable political climate were critical determinants of union growth; recession conditions and state repression often made organization impossible.
Two groups dominated the nineteenth-century labor movement. Miners were autonomous workers who, though not highly skilled
or highly paid, worked alone or in small groups and faced extraordinary hazards. Organization was a way to express a sense of solidarity, increase or maintain wages, reduce the cut-throat competition that characterized their industries, and restrict the entrance of
less skilled, lower-wage workers. Miners’ unions began in the 1840s, flourished in both anthracite and bituminous coal fields in the
1860s and early 1870s, and emerged in the western “hard rock” industry in the 1870s. After numerous conflicts and setbacks during the recession of the mid-1870s, miners’ organizations became stronger than ever. Their success was reflected in the emergence
of two powerful unions, the United Mine Workers, formed in 1890, and the Western Federation of Miners, which followed in 1892.
They differed in one important respect: the UMW was committed to collective bargaining with the goal of regional or even national
contracts, while the WFM favored workplace activism over collective bargaining.
The second group consisted of urban artisans, led by construction workers and industrial workers, such as printers and molders.
Having established the legal right to organize in the 1820s and 1830s, they became a powerful force in the rapidly growing cities
of the antebellum period. Unions maximized opportunities for some workers and created buffers against excessive competition.
They also played an influential role in urban politics, adding a worker’s voice to local government deliberations. Citywide coalitions appeared as early as the 1820s, but neither the individual groups nor the coalitions were able to withstand the ups and downs
of the economy.
In this turbulent environment, highly skilled workers had obvious advantages. The railroad workers were a notable example.
Engineers and other skilled operating employees formed powerful unions in the 1860s and 1870s. The Brotherhood of Locomotive
Engineers became the most formidable and exclusive organization of that era. Through collective bargaining, the engineers and the
other railroad “brotherhoods” were able to obtain high wages, improved working conditions, and greater security, but they made no
effort to organize the vast majority of railroad workers who lacked their advantages. Most railroad managers reluctantly dealt with
the skilled groups, though the Burlington Railroad strike of 1888 demonstrated that even the BLE was not invincible.
The limitations of this approach inspired efforts to organize other employees. The notable example was the Knights of Labor, which
grew rapidly in the late 1870s and 1880s and briefly became the largest American union. The Knights attempted to organize workers regardless of skill or occupation. Several successful strikes in the mid-1880s created a wave of optimism that the Knights might
actually succeed, and membership rose to more than 700,000 in 1886. But employer counterattacks, together with the Knights’ organizational shortcomings, brought this activity to an abrupt halt. The Haymarket massacre of 1886, at the height of the Knights’
popularity, underlined its vulnerability. By 1890 the Knights of Labor had lost most of its members; it never again enjoyed the kind
of success it had experienced in the preceding decade.
In 1893 Eugene V. Debs, an officer of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen, and a handful of followers undertook another campaign to create a more inclusive organization. The American Railway Union, an industrial union of railroad workers, enjoyed a few
initial successes but suffered a fatal defeat in the infamous Pullman strike of 1894. The ARU’s failure was largely a result of the
anti-union policies of the federal government, which so outraged Debs that he henceforth devoted himself to the cause of political
change, notably as a candidate of the Socialist Party.
In the meantime, most of the established unions banned together to form a new labor federation, the American Federation of Labor,
which took a pragmatic approach to the issues of organizational structure and jurisdiction. Although the AFL initially consisted of
craft organizations that were hostile to the Knights of Labor and the American Railway Union, it soon demonstrated sufficient flexibility to become the locus of union activity. Dominated by President Samuel Gompers of the Cigar Makers, the AFL thereafter
guided relations between unions and between organized labor and government. It also maintained a staff of organizers who aided
individual unions.
In its early years the AFL confronted a strong employer backlash and a deteriorating economy. One of the most powerful AFL organizations, the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers, lost a decisive battle against the industry’s largest employer,
the Carnegie Steel Company, in 1892. The failure of the famous Homestead strike sealed the fate of the Amalgamated Association
and unionism in the steel industry until World War I. Other defeats followed as the severe recession of 1893–1897 encouraged employers to reject union contracts and agreements and reduce employment opportunities. The Pullman strike and a 1897 United Mine
Workers strike against most of the coal industry illustrated the plight of organized labor.




Twentieth-Century Unions
As the economy recovered, the labor movement began a long period of expansion and growing influence. Autonomous workers
groups, led by the coal miners and construction workers, dominated organized labor for the next third of a century. The debate over
tactics was decisively resolved in favor of collective bargaining, though a dissenting group, the Industrial Workers of the World,
originally an outgrowth of the Western Federation of Miners, rallied critics with some success before World War I. This decision
was effectively institutionalized during World War I, when the federal government endorsed collective bargaining as an antidote to
wartime unrest. The other major development of this period was the revival of the AFL. Under Gompers, who proved to be a wily
and articulate leader, the AFL promoted autonomous worker groups while professing to speak for all industrial workers. Gompers
and his allies disavowed socialism and efforts to create an independent political party, policies that led to an erroneous perception
(encouraged by their many critics) of indifference or hostility to political action. On the contrary, Gompers closely aligned the AFL
with the Democratic Party and created aggressive lobbying organizations.
Labor’s political activism seemed to pay off during World War I, when President Woodrow Wilson appointed Gompers to a high
post in the mobilization effort and the federal government directly and indirectly encouraged organization. The greatest gains occurred in the railroad industry, which was almost completely organized by 1920. Government efforts to limit unrest and strikes also
resulted in inroads in manufacturing, notably in steel, shipbuilding, and munitions. In 1920 union membership totaled five million,
twice the prewar level.
These gains proved to be ephemeral. The end of wartime regulations, the defeat of the Democrats in the 1920 national elections,
the spread of the anti-union “American Plan” in many industries, and the severe recession of 1920–1922 completely reversed the
situation of 1915–1920 and put all unions on the defensive. Membership contracted. The disastrous 1919–1920 steel strike, which
restored the open shop in most firms, was only the first of many setbacks. The decline of the coal and railroad industries in the 1920s
was an additional blow. By the late 1920s union membership was back to its prewar level. The one positive feature of the postwar
decade was the rapid growth of service sector unionism.
The dramatic economic downturn that began in 1929 and continued with varying severity for a decade set the stage for the greatest increase in union membership in American history. Why? Recessions and unemployment typically reduced the appeal of anything likely to provoke employer reprisals. This was true of the 1930s, too. Union membership declined precipitously between 1930
and 1933, as unemployment rose. It also plunged in 1937–1938, when a new recession led to sweeping layoffs. Union growth occurred in 1933–1937 and in the years after 1938, when employment was increasing. Yet even the generally unfavorable economic
conditions of the early 1930s had important indirect effects. Harsh economic conditions produced a strong sense of grievance among
veteran workers who lost jobs, savings, and status. They also turned many voters against Republican office holders. The 1932 election of Franklin D. Roosevelt, who had strong progressive and activist credentials as governor of New York, proved to be a turning
point in the history of the twentieth-century labor movement.
Union growth after 1933 reflected these factors, particularly in the early years. Roosevelt’s New Deal was only intermittently prounion, but it effectively neutralized employer opposition to organization and, with the passage of the Wagner Act in 1935, created
a mechanism for peacefully resolving representation conflicts and introducing collective bargaining. Though the goal of the legislation was to foster dispute resolution and increase wages, it indirectly promoted union growth by restricting the employer’s ability to harass union members. In the meantime, industrial workers, notably workers in the largest firms in steel and automobile manufacturing, reacted to the new political environment with unprecedented enthusiasm. A wave of organizing in 1933–1934 surprised
employers and public officials alike. Defeats in a series of spectacular, violent strikes in 1934 and other setbacks in 1935 seemingly
had little effect. One expression of the workers’ determination was the growing popularity of the sit-down strike, notably in the
Goodyear Tire and Rubber strike of 1936 and the General Motors strike of 1937. Though most sit-downs were union-led, they represented a degree of shop-floor militancy that shocked many employers and not a few outside observers. Another important expression of the changing industrial landscape was the emergence of the Congress of Industrial Organizations, a new federation of
unions devoted to aggressive organizing, especially in manufacturing. John L. Lewis, the creator of the CIO, was the veteran president of the United Mine Workers who had presided over the decline of that once formidable organization in the 1920s. Whatever
his shortcomings, Lewis grasped the possibilities of the moment. By the end of the decade he was closely identified with both the
revival of organized labor and the increasingly bitter relations between the CIO and AFL.
Although the Wagner Act (and other related legislation designed for specific industries) most clearly and explicitly addressed the
industrial relations issues of the 1930s, other New Deal measures complemented it. The move to regulate prices and production
n the transportation, communications, and energy industries, which dated from the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933 and




continued with a variety of industry-specific measures between 1935 and 1938, created additional opportunities for unions.
Regulated corporations had powerful incentives to avoid strikes and cooperate with unions. As a result, about one-third of union
membership growth in the 1930s occurred in those industries. If the United Auto Workers and United Steel Workers were symbols
of the new militancy in manufacturing, the equally dramatic growth of the Teamsters symbolized the impact of government regulation in the service sector.
Government regulations were more directly responsible for the even more dramatic growth in union membership that occurred during World War II, when aggregate membership rose from 10 million to 15 million members. Most new jobs during the war years
were in manufacturing companies that had collective bargaining contracts and, in many cases, union security provisions that required new hires to join unions. War mobilization thus automatically created millions of additional union members, including large
numbers of women and African Americans. Organized labor, in turn, opposed strikes, cooperated with the government’s wage-andprice-control programs, and promoted the war effort. By 1945 the labor movement had become a respected part of the American
Postwar Labor
By the mid-1940s full employment, high wages, and optimism about the future, based on a sense that government now had the ability to manage prosperity (together with awareness of the safety net that government had created since the mid-1930s), replaced the
depressed conditions of the 1930s. Most workers’ experiences in the 1940s and 1950s seemed to confirm the lessons of the New
Deal era. With the exception of a few mild recession years, jobs were plentiful, real wages rose, and public and private benefit programs became more generous. The labor movement also continued to grow, but with less dynamism than in the 1940s. Optimists
viewed the 1955 merger of the AFL and CIO as a likely stimulus to new gains.
In retrospect, however, those lessons were often misleading. The striking feature of the economy of the 1950s and 1960s was the
degree to which the character of work and the characteristics of the labor force changed. Farming and other natural resource industries declined at an accelerated rate, industrial employment leveled and then began to decline, and service industry employment
boomed. Formal education became even more critical to success. Married women entered the labor force in unprecedented numbers. Civil rights laws adopted in the early 1960s banned racial and other forms of discrimination in employment decisions.
One other major development also was little noticed at the time: organized labor stopped growing. Contrary to most predictions and
popular impressions, the labor movement lost momentum in the 1950s and 1960s and faced a host of obstacles by the 1970s. Three
problems, in reverse order of importance, were particularly notable. First were the unions’ internal difficulties. Adapting to an expanded membership and larger public presence was inevitably challenging, but it also could be damaging, as two well-publicized
incidents suggest. At the end of World War II the CIO included numerous (mostly small) communist-dominated unions. Though the
CIO soon expelled them and supported U.S. cold war policies, it was unable to prevent anti-union demagogues from loudly portraying it, and by implication unions in general, as subversive.
Even more harmful was the mounting evidence of union corruption and especially of abuses involving the now giant Teamsters organization. Revelations of Teamster misdeeds led to the U.S. Senate’s McClellan Committee investigation of 1957–1958 and the
subsequent passage of the Landrum-Griffin Act (1959), designed to protect union members from dishonest officials. Whether the
act was warranted or effective was beside the point: the scandals devastated the unions’ public image.
A more fundamental cause of union decline was organized labor’s association with industries (manufacturing, mining, transportation) that were growing slowly, if at all, and its tardiness in recognizing the overwhelming importance of the service economy in
the postwar era. Labor’s one significant breakthrough came in the 1970s and early 1980s, when it won collective bargaining rights
for most state and municipal employees. By the end of the 1980s unions increasingly were associated with public rather than private employment.
Finally, employer counterattacks grew more effective in the postwar years. Though some employer groups sought to challenge
unions directly (for example, in the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947 and state right-to-work legislation), others adopted a more subtle approach, attacking union power in the regulatory agencies and the courts and promoting employment policies that reduced the benefits of membership. These attacks gained momentum during the presidency of Dwight D. Eisenhower. One additional tactic, locating new plants in southern or western states, where there was no tradition of organization, also helped isolate organized workers.




The impact of these varied trends became inescapable in the 1970s, when the economy experienced its most severe downturns since
the 1930s. Major recessions in 1973–1975 and 1979–1982 led to thousands of plant closings in traditional industrial areas.
Unemployment reached levels that rivaled the 1930s. Productivity declined, and real wages stagnated. Exploiting anxiety over the
future of the economy, Republican Ronald Reagan ran successfully for president on a platform that attacked government assistance
to the poor and support for collective bargaining. Reagan left no doubt about his intentions when, in 1981, he fired air traffic controllers for striking in violation of federal law.
The experiences of the 1970s created a labor force that was more diverse in composition and overwhelmingly engaged in service
occupations. The return of favorable employment conditions in the 1980s was almost entirely a result of service sector growth.
Formal education, together with antidiscrimination laws and affirmative action policies, opened high-paying jobs to ethnic and
racial minorities, including a growing number of immigrants. At the same time, industry continued its movement into rural areas,
especially in the South and West, and unions continued to decline. Indeed, by the mid-1990s, the private sector of the American
economy was largely union free.
The decline of organized labor was associated closely with three other ominous developments. The first was a slowing in real-wage
increases, especially among low-income workers. The purchasing power of most manufacturing and service employees remained
largely unchanged between the 1970s and 1990s, eliminating an important source of social mobility. Second was a gradual decline
in welfare capitalism. A new generation of nonunion firms that paid high wages but provided few or no benefits initiated this trend.
Other firms followed, arguing that cost reductions were necessary for survival. Other employers reacted to the rising cost of medical insurance and to the lower costs of defined-contribution retirement plans (as opposed to the traditional defined-benefit plans).
Even the tight labor market conditions of the mid-1990s to late 1990s, which led to real-wage increases, did not result in expanded
benefit programs.
Third was the accelerating globalization of economic activity. The growth of international trade and investment were partly a consequence of the transfer of industrial technology to economically disadvantaged countries. It also was a result of a series of legal
and regulatory changes, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement of 1993, which liberalized economic relations between
countries and encouraged international activity. These changes had the potential to raise living standards, but their immediate effects were often painful, as employers moved some or all of their operations to lower-wage countries. Already many American manufacturers had moved labor-intensive assembly operations to Mexican border towns to take advantage of lower wages and other low
costs. In most cases Mexican employees replaced American workers. And while the Mexican employees earned more than most of
their neighbors, their jobs were extremely insecure. Indeed, by 2000 manufacturers were increasingly moving their operations from
Mexico to China and other Asian countries, where wages were even lower.
The results of these complex developments were at least superficially contradictory. On the one hand, by the 1990s many workers
enjoyed expanded opportunities and high wages. Severe labor shortages in some industries attracted a flood of immigrants and made
the United States a magnet for upwardly mobile workers. On the other hand, many other workers, especially those in agriculture or
industry or who had little formal education, found that the combination of economic and technological change, a less activist government, and union decline depressed their wages and made their prospects bleak. A recession that began in 2000 created additional
uncertainties. At the beginning of the new century the labor force, and American society, were divided in ways that would have
seemed unlikely or even impossible only a few decades earlier.
—Daniel Nelson


Michael Hanagan, PhD
Senior Lecturer
New School University
Alice Kessler-Harris, PhD
R. Gordon Hoxie Professor of
American History
Columbia University
Andrew H. Lee, PhD
Tamiment Librarian
New York University
Daniel Nelson, PhD
Emeritus Professor of History
University of Akron

Colleen O’Neill, PhD
Assistant Professor of Ethnic
California Polytechnic State
University-San Luis Obispo
Marcel van der Linden, PhD
Research Director
International Institute of Social
Zaragosa Vargas, PhD
Associate Professor of History
University of California, Santa


Don Amerman
William Arthur Atkins
Kimberley Barker
Bill Barry
Elizabeth A. Bishop
Lawrence Black
Mary H. Blewett
Timothy G. Borden
Jeffrey Bortz
John Boughton
Valeria Bruschi
William E. Burns
Dieter K. Buse
Robert Cassanello
Olivier Compagnon
Sylvie Contrepois
Richard Croucher
Evan Daniel
Jonathan Darby
Ralph Darlington
Hendrik Defoort
Dennis Deslippe
Thomas Dublin
Linda Dynan
Beth Emmerling
Lisa Ennis
Katrina Ford
Carol Fort
Kimberly F. Frederick
Paul Frisch

Kevin M. Gannon
Roberta Gold
Juan José Gómez Gutiérrez
Tom Goyens
Michael Hanagan
Jennifer Harrison
Jane Holzka
Roger Horowitz
Nik Howard
Lisa Kannenberg
Karla Kelling
Brett Allan King
Steven Koczak
Paul Le Blanc
James G. Lewis
David Lewis-Colman
Darren G. Lilleker
Martin Manning
Soe Tjen Marching
Joseph McCartin
David Lee McMullen
Lee McQueen
Greg Miller
Carl Mirra
Paul Misner
David Nack
Miriam C. Nagel
Daniel Nelson
Caryn E. Neumann
Mitchell Newton-Matza

Melanie Nolan
Jaime Ramon Olivares
Michael J. O’Neal
Melissa Ooten
Lee Ann Paradise
Linda Dailey Paulson
Luca Prono
Sean Purdy
Jonathan Rees
David Renton
Markku Ruotsila
Courtney Q. Shah
Emily Straus
Willie Thompson
Rebecca Tolley-Stokes
Patricia Toucas-Truyen
Marcel van der Linden
Michael T. Van Dyke
Geert Van Goethem
Yanic Viau
Joel Waller
Peter Waterman
Elizabeth Willis
Ronald Young



Abolition of Serfdom, Russia
Abolition of Slavery, British Empire
Abolition of Slavery, United States
Act to Encourage Immigration, United
AFL, CIO Merge, United States
AFL-CIO Expels Key Unions, United
AFSCME Strike, United States
Age Discrimination in Employment
Act, United States
Agriculture Workers Strike, Italy
Alliance for Labor Action, United
All-India Trade Union Congress, India
Amalgamated Society of Engineers,
Great Britain
American Association for Labor
Legislation, United States
American Federation of Labor, United
American Plan, United States
Anarchists Lead Argentine Labor
Movement, Argentina
Anthracite Coal Strike, United States
Apex Hosiery Co. v. Leader, United
Arbitration Act of 1888, United States
Bans on Labor Unions Lifted,
Barcelona Workers’ Rebellion, Spain
Battle of the Overpass, United States
Bituminous Coal Strike, United States
Black Codes, United States
Bloody Sunday, Russia
Boston Police Strike, United States
Bracero Program, United States and
Brotherhood of Locomotive
Engineers, United States
Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen,
United States
Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters,
United States
Bureau of Labor Established, United
Burlington Railroad Strike, United
Byrnes Act, United States

Calcutta General Strike, India
Cananéa Strike, Mexico
Carlisle Indian School, United States
Charleroi Confrontation Between
Miners and the Military, Belgium
Charter of Amiens, France
Chartist Movement, Great Britain
Chiang Kai-shek Purges Communists,
Child Labor Amendment, United
Chinese Exclusion Act, United States
Chinese Rail Workers Strike, United
Christian Trade Unionists Conference,
CIO Anticommunist Drive, United
CIO Expelled from AFL, United
CIO Joins, AFL Rejects WFTU,
United States
Civil Rights Act of 1964, United
Civilian Conservation Corps, United
Clayton Antitrust Act, United States
Clifton-Morenci-Metcalf Strike,
United States
Coal Mine Contract Signed, United
Coalition of Labor Union Women,
United States
Colored Farmers’ Alliance, United
Colored National Labor Union, United
Combination Acts, Great Britain
Committee for Industrial Organization,
United States
Commonwealth v. Hunt, United States
Communist Manifesto Published,
Confederación de Trabajadores de
América Latina, Latin America
Confederación Obrera Pan-Americana,
Western Hemisphere
Confédération Générale du Travail,
Congress of Industrial Organizations,
United States

Congress of South African Trade
Unions, South Africa
Coronado Coal v. UMWA, United
Davis-Bacon Act, United States
Department of Commerce and Labor,
United States
Department of Labor, United States
Dockers’ Strike, Great Britain
Dorr Rebellion, United States
Dover Textile Strike, United States
Eight-hour Day Movement, United
Employee Retirement Income Security
Act, United States
Equal Pay Act, United States
Equal Rights Amendment and
Protective Legislation, United
Equal Rights Party, United States
Erdman Act, United States
European Strike Wave, Europe
European Trade Union Confederation,
Factory Act, Great Britain
Factory Girls’ Association, United
Fair Employment Practice Committee,
United States
Fair Labor Standards Act, United
Federal Employees Gain Union
Rights, United States
Federation of Organized Trades and
Labor Unions of the United States
and Canada (FOTLU), United
States and Canada
First International, Great Britain
Five-Year Plan, USSR
Foran Act, United States
Forced Labor, Germany
Forced Labor, USSR
Ford-UAW Contract, United States
Ford-UAW SUB Agreement, United
Free Soil Party, United States
French Labor, World War II, France



Gabriel’s Rebellion, United States
Gallup Coal Strike, United States
General Agreement on Tariffs and
Trade, Worldwide
General Allotment Act, United States
General Motors Introduces Team
Concept, United States
General Motors Recognizes United
Auto Workers, United States
General Motors-United Auto Workers
Landmark Contracts, United
General Strike, France
General Strike, Spain
General Trades’ Union, United States
German Revolution, Germany
Gompers v. Bucks Stove, United States
Goodyear Strike, United States
Grape Pickers’ Strike, United States
Great Steel Strike, United States
Guatemalan Coup Orchestrated by
CIA, Guatemala
Guffey Act, United States
Harpers Ferry Raid, United States
Hatch Act, United States
Hawaii Collective Bargaining Law,
United States
Hawes-Cooper Act, United States
Haymarket Riot, United States
Herrin Massacre, United States
Homestead Lockout, United States
Hormel Strike, United States
Hot Autumn, Italy
Hungarian Revolution and Workers
Councils, Hungary
Indonesian Communist Party and
Trade Unions Suppressed,
Industrial Workers of Africa, South
Industrial Workers of the World,
United States
International Confederation of Arab
Trade Unions, Egypt
International Confederation of Free
Trade Unions, Worldwide
International Federation of Miners,
International Federation of Trade
Unions, Netherlands
International Labor Organization,


International Labor Union, United
International Ladies Garment Workers
Union, United States
International Transport Workers’
Federation, Europe
Interstate Commerce Commission,
United States
IWW Copper Strike, United States
Japanese Labor After World War II,
Japanese Labor Unions Dissolved,
Jim Crow Segregation and Labor,
United States
June Days Rebellion, France
Keating-Owen Act, United States
Knights Break Color Line, United
Knights of Labor, United States
La Follette Seamen’s Act, United
Labor Day Established, United States
Lancashire Textile Strikes, Great
Landrum-Griffin Act, United States
Lawrence Textile Strike, United States
Legalitarian Strike, Italy
Liberator Founded, United States
Lloyd-La Follette Act, United States
Lochner v. New York, United States
Lodz Uprising, Poland
London Workingmen’s Association,
Great Britain
Longshoremen and Miners Strike,
Loray Mill Strike, United States
Lowell Industrial Experiment, United
Luddites Destroy Woolen Machines,
Great Britain
Ludlow Massacre, United States
Maquiladoras Established, Mexico
March of the Mill Children, United
March on Washington Movement,
United States
Maritime Strike, Australasia
Mass Strikes, United States
McKees Rocks Strike, United States

Meany and Reuther Lead AFL, CIO,
United States
Mechanics’ Union of Trade
Associations, United States
Mediation Commission, World War I,
United States
Memorial Day Massacre, United
Mexican Labor Confederations,
Milan Barricade Fights, Italy
Millworkers’ Strike, United States
Miners’ and General Strikes, Great
Miners’ Strike, Germany
Miners’ Strike, 1922, South Africa
Miners’ Strike, 1946, South Africa
Minimum Wage Movement, United
Molly Maguires, United States
Muller v. State of Oregon, United
National Child Labor Committee,
United States
National Civic Federation, United
National Congress of German Trade
Unions, Germany
National Industrial Recovery Act,
United States
National Labor Union, United States
National Organization for Women,
United States
National Origins Act, United States
National Trades’ Union, United States
National Typographical Union, United
National Union of Iron Molders,
United States
National War Labor Board, United
National Women’s Trade Union
League, United States
Navajos Occupy Fairchild Plant,
United States
New Orleans General Strike, United
No-strike Pledge, World War II,
United States
Norris–La Guardia Act, United States
North American Free Trade
Agreement, North America
Occupational Safety and Health Act,
United States



Organización Regional Inter-americana de Trabajadores, Western
Organized Labor Established,
Osborne Judgment, Great Britain
Owen Model Communities, Great
Britain, United States
Panic of 1873, United States
Panic of 1893, United States
Paris Commune, France
PATCO Strike, United States
Pawtucket Textile Strike, United States
People’s Party, United States
Perkins Becomes Secretary of Labor,
United States
Perón Elected President, Argentina
Peterloo Massacre, Great Britain
Philadelphia Plan, United States
Popular Front, France
Popular Unity, Chile
Postal Workers’ Strike, United States
Potato Famine, Ireland
Power Loom Invented, United States
Poznan Workers’ Riots, Poland
Protocol of Peace, United States
Public Contracts Act, United States
Pullman Strike, United States
Railroad Strike of 1877, United States
Railway Labor Act, United States
Red Clyde Strike, Scotland
Red International of Labor Unions,
Red Week, Italy
Repeal of Combination Acts, Great
Revolutions in Europe, Europe
Russian Revolutions, Russia
St. Crispin Organizations, United
Salt of the Earth Strike, United States
Seattle General Strike, United States
Second International, France
Second Reform Act, Great Britain
Shanghai May Fourth Movement,
Shanghai May Thirtieth Movement,
Sherman Antitrust Act, United States
Shoemaker’s Strike, United States
Shop Steward Movement Originates,
Great Britain

Silk Workers’ Revolts, France
Sinclair Publishes The Jungle, United
Social Security Act, United States
Socialist Party of America, United
Socialist Unity Party of Germany, East
Solidarity Emerges, Poland
Steel Seizure Case, United States
Steelworkers Experimental
Agreement, United States
Stock Market Crash, United States
Strike Ban Lifted, France
Strike Wave, Italy
Strike Wave, United States
Strikes of Journeymen and Workers,
Sweeney Elected President of AFLCIO, United States
Syndicalist Movement, Worldwide
Taff Vale Case, United States
Taft-Hartley Act, United States
Tailors’ Strike, United States
Taylor and Scientific Management,
United States
Taylor Law, United States
Teamsters Union, United States
Ten-Hour Day Movement, United
Texas and New Orleans Railroad
Company et al v. Brotherhood of
Railway and Steamship Clerks et
al, United States
Tompkins Square Rally, United States
Trade Union Formation and
Suppression, Japan
Trades and Labor Congress of Canada,
Trades Union Act, Great Britain
Trades Union Congress, Great Britain
Tragic Week, Argentina
Transport Workers’ Strike, Worldwide
Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, United States
Truax v. Corrigan, United States
Union Federations Split Along
Ideological Lines, South America
Union Label Movement, United States
Unions Plan Merger, United States
United Automobile Workers of
America, United States
United Fruit Company Strike,


United Mine Workers of America,
United States
United Mine Workers Strike, United
United States Joins International Labor
Organization, United States
United States v. United Mine Workers
of America, United States
United Steelworkers of America,
United States
United Tailoresses Society, United
United Textile Workers of America,
United States
U.S. Government Seizes Railroads,
United States
U.S. Steel Defeats the Amalgamated
Association, United States
U.S. Steel Recognizes the Steel
Workers Organizing Committee as
an Official Bargaining Agent,
United States
USSR Collapse, USSR
Wagner Act, United States
Wagner-Peyser Act, United States
Washington Union Shop Law, United
Watsonville Canning Strike, United
Weavers’ Revolt, Silesia
Western Federation of Miners, United
Widowed Mother’s Fund Association,
United States
Wisconsin Unemployment Insurance,
United States
Women in Industry Service, United
Workers’ Congress, Mexico
Working Women’s Protective Union,
United States
Workingman’s Benevolent
Association, United States
Workingmen’s Party, United States
Workingmen’s Party of the United
States, United States
World Federation of Trade Unions,
World Free Trade Conference
Demonstrations, United States
World War II Labor Measures, United


1799-1800 Combination Acts, Great Britain
1799-1827 Owen Model Communities, Great Britain,
United States

Gabriel’s Rebellion, United States

1811-1813 Luddites Destroy Woolen Machines, Great

Power Loom Invented, United States


Peterloo Massacre, Great Britain

1820s-1850s Ten-Hour Day Movement, United States


Harpers Ferry Raid, United States

1860-1879 Molly Maguires, United States


United Tailoresses Society, United States


Mechanics’ Union of Trade Associations,
United States
Tailors’ Strike, United States


Dover Textile Strike, United States
Workingmen’s Party, United States


Liberator Founded, United States


General Trades’ Union, United States
Factory Act, Great Britain


1863-1865 Abolition of Slavery, United States

Strike Ban Lifted, France
Act to Encourage Immigration, United States
First International, Great Britain


European Strike Wave, Europe

1865-1877 Black Codes, United States

National Labor Union, United States


Second Reform Act, Great Britain
Chinese Rail Workers Strike, United States

1867, 1869 St. Crispin Organizations, United States

Abolition of Slavery, British Empire


Charleroi Confrontation Between Miners and
the Military, Belgium

National Trades Union, United States

Trades Union Congress, Great Britain

1834-1836 Factory Girls’ Association, United States

Working Women’s Protective Union, United
Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, United

1831, 1834 Silk Workers’ Revolts, France

Abolition of Serfdom, Russia

1861-1869 Bans on Labor Unions Lifted, Germany

Pawtucket Textile Strike, United States
Repeal of Combination Acts, Great Britain

Shoemaker’s Strike, United States

1860s-1900s Eight-hour Day Movement, United States

1823-1836 Lowell Industrial Experiment, United States

National Union of Iron Molders, United States

Workingman’s Benevolent Association, United

Equal Rights Party, United States
London Workingmen’s Association, Great



Chartist Movement, Great Britain


Coal Mine Contract Signed, United States


Strikes of Journeymen and Workers, France


Trades Union Act, Great Britain


Commonwealth v. Hunt, United States


Colored National Labor Union, United States

Paris Commune, France

Dorr Rebellion, United States


Panic of 1873, United States

Weavers’ Revolt, Silesia


Union Label Movement, United States

1845-1851 Potato Famine, Ireland

Knights of Labor, United States

June Days Rebellion, France
Communist Manifesto Published, England

Tompkins Square Rally, United States
1875-1902 Organized Labor Established, Argentina

Revolutions in Europe, Europe

Workers’ Congress, Mexico

1848-1854 Free Soil Party, United States

Amalgamated Society of Engineers, Great


National Typographical Union, United States

1853-1854 Lancashire Textile Strikes, Great Britain

Workingmen’s Party of the United States,
United States


Railroad Strike of 1877, United States


International Labor Union, United States

1878-1911 Taylor and Scientific Management, United




Carlisle Indian School, United States

1880-1964 Jim Crow Segregation and Labor, United States



Federation of Organized Trades and Labor
Unions of the United States and Canada
(FOTLU), United States and Canada


1898-1900 Shop Steward Movement Originates, Great

International Ladies Garment Workers Union,
United States
National Civic Federation, United States

Labor Day Established, United States

1900-1901 Taff Vale Case, United States

Chinese Exclusion Act, United States

1900-1910 Anarchists Lead Argentine Labor Movement,

Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen, United States
Trades and Labor Congress of Canada, Canada

1900-1920 Union Federations Split Along Ideological Lines,
South America


Bureau of Labor Established, United States


Foran Act, United States


American Federation of Labor, United States

U.S. Steel Defeats the Amalgamated Association,
United States

Haymarket Riot, United States

United Textile Workers of America, United States



Colored Farmers’ Alliance, United States


Anthracite Coal Strike, United States

Knights Break Color Line, United States


Teamsters Union, United States
National Women’s Trade Union League, United

General Allotment Act, United States
Interstate Commerce Commission, United States




Arbitration Act of 1888, United States

Department of Commerce and Labor, United

Burlington Railroad Strike, United States

March of the Mill Children, United States

Second International, France


National Child Labor Committee, United States

Miners’ Strike, Germany


Industrial Workers of the World, United States

Dockers’ Strike, Great Britain

Lochner v. New York, United States

International Federation of Miners, Worldwide

American Association for Labor Legislation,
United States

Maritime Strike, Australasia

Bloody Sunday, Russia

United Mine Workers of America, United States
General Strike, Spain


1890-1900 Trade Union Formation and Suppression, Japan
1890s-1920s Syndicalist Movement, Worldwide

Cananéa Strike, Mexico

Longshoremen and Miners Strike, Chile


Muller v. State of Oregon, United States

Homestead Lockout, United States

Agriculture Workers Strike, Italy

New Orleans General Strike, United States

Christian Trade

People’s Party, United States
Lodz Uprising, Poland


National Congress of German Trade Unions,


Charter of Amiens, France
Sinclair Publishes The Jungle, United States

Sherman Antitrust Act, United States


Socialist Party of America, United States



Osborne Judgment, Great Britain
Barcelona Workers’ Rebellion, Spain

Western Federation of Miners, United States

Widowed Mother’s Fund Association, United

Panic of 1893, United States

McKees Rocks Strike, United States

Pullman Strike, United States


Confédération Générale du Travail, France


International Transport Workers’ Federation,


Bituminous Coal Strike, United States


Erdman Act, United States
Milan Barricade Fights, Italy


Protocol of Peace, United States

1910s-1930s Minimum Wage Movement, United States

Gompers v. Bucks Stove, United States
Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, United States
Transport Workers’ Strike, Worldwide


Lloyd-LaFollette Act, United States
Lawrence Textile Strike, United States




1912-1950 Mexican Labor Confederations, Mexico

Shanghai May Thirtieth Movement, China


Department of Labor, United States


Railway Labor Act, United States


Ludlow Massacre, United States


Chiang Kai-shek Purges Communists, China
Five-Year Plan, USSR

Red Week, Italy
Clayton Antitrust Act, United States

Clifton-Morenci-Metcalf Strike, United States
La Follette Seamen’s Act, United States


Keating-Owen Act, United States


Russian Revolutions, Russia

1927-1966 Indonesian Communist Party and Trade Unions
Suppressed, Indonesia

United Fruit Company Strike, Colombia


Stock Market Crash, United States
Hawes-Cooper Act, United States
Loray Mill Strike, United States

Industrial Workers of Africa, South Africa
IWW Copper Strike, United States
1917-1918 Mediation Commission, World War I, United
1917-1920 U.S. Government Seizes Railroads, United States

Confederación Obrera Pan-Americana, Western


1930s Forced Labor, USSR

Davis-Bacon Act, United States


Norris–La Guardi