Labor Markets, Unions, and Government Policies

By Everett Johnson Burtt Jr. | Go to book overview

8
THE DEVELOPMENT OF UNIONISM FROM THE 1930's TO THE PRESENT

DURING THE TURBULENT DECADE of the 1930's the labor movement of the United States entered a new era. With new government attitudes toward labor and a breakthrough of industrial unionism into the mass-production industries came a vastly changed position of organized workers in American economic and political affairs.

This chapter will review the rise of industrial unionism, the craft-industrial conflicts that led to the formation of the CIO, and the events that brought forth the merged AFL-CIO in 1955. The emphasis will again be on the policies and organizational structure of the "peak" organizations, including those of the new federation.


The CIO

Rise of Industrial Unionism

The depression that began in 1929, one of the worst in the country's history, set the stage for the boom in unionism. At first the A.F. of L.'s very basis of existence was undermined as industrial production and gross national product fell precipitously to about half of the 1929 level before an upturn came in 1933. Unemployment rose to an estimated 12,800,000 workers, or a fourth of the civilian labor force; in the building trades, where much of the federation's membership was located, new construction dropped off by more than 70 per cent in the years from 1929 to 1933.

But the depression created the conditions out of which came a new labor "upheaval." As important as the wage cuts, reduction in hours, unem

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