80 People, Events & Trends That Shaped HR

Article excerpt

With the inauguration in 1922 of The Journal of Personnel Research, Workforce magazine's first name, the fledgling field of personnel was officially born. Workers were leaving fields for factories, and businesses were swiftly learning about the complexities of managing people in an industrial world. For the past 80 years, the publication has served as a mirror of the U.S. workplace, and a bellwether for HR, helping it to find its way in a turbulent world. * To mark its 80th anniversary, editors, writers, and distinguished members of the business and academic communities have created a special issue chronicling 80 events that have shaped HR. Together the stories-offered without ranking-are an impressive collection of people, trends, innovations, and events that have had a profound impact on human resources and the workplace. * This magazine is one of the oldest and one of the largest continuously published periodicals in the country. What is less well-known is that it has been a family enterprise for most of its history. Workforce publisher Margaret Magnus succeeds her mother, Betty Hartzell, who was publisher of what was then called Personnel Journal from 1974 to 1990, and Hartzell's uncle, Arthur C. Croft, who bought the publication in the late 1930s. * "Human resources fundamentally deals with human nature," Magnus says. "HR strives to bring out the best in everyone." * With a history that spans the full life of HR, Work:force has covered sweeping changes in the field from the industrial revolution to the information age. Throughout its tenure, HR has been at the vanguard of social change. Workforce is honored to have participated in helping to create its vision, tell its story, and chart its course.

The Labor Movement

1 The history of organized labor in the 20th century is one of short periods of sharp growth followed by long periods of gradual decline.

When Workforce was launched in 1922, union power was declining, in part because of the successes of personnel officers in improving management practices.

The Great Depression, however, ushered in a new wave of union activity. In 1935, John Lewis created the CIO, the Congress of Industrial Organizations, and union activity swiftly spread to large sectors of American industry. Its counterpart, the American Federation of Labor, was equally successful in unionizing large segments of the workforce. These triumphs continued well past World War II.

"At the time, the labor movement represented the coming into citizenship of second-generation immigrants," says Professor Nelson Lichtenstein of the University of California at Santa Barbara. Unions helped Catholics, Italians, Jews, and other so-called "second-class citizens" to enjoy the full benefits of working in the WASP-dominated world of work. "Big spikes in union membership have always coincided with efforts to accord certain disenfranchised groups the full rights and benefits of American citizenship," Lichtenstein says.

Following World War II, unions fell into a long period of declining membership until the 1968 Memphis Sanitation Strike, when another marginalized group-African-American garbage men-refused to work until they were granted minimum wage. Their success led to a burst of union organizing among publicsector employees. As a result of the momentum generated by the strike, 30 percent of public employees are in unions today, versus 5 percent in the 1950s.

In the early 1980s, the Reagan administration initiated a political offensive that resulted in the breakup of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Association. This event, combined with the strengthening of anti-union political and management forces, launched the current period of union decline. Today, only 9.5 percent of private-sector employees are unionized, versus 33 percent in the 1950s.

The Kelly Girl

2 In 1946, after completing a stint as an Army auditor, an enterprising young man named William Russell Kelly came up with a novel idea. …