The American Labor Movement, 1955-1995

The American Labor Movement, 1955-1995

The American Labor Movement, 1955-1995

The American Labor Movement, 1955-1995

Synopsis

With the merger of the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations in 1955, the American labor movement entered a new era. This marriage had many problems with which to deal including jurisdictional overlap, differences on economics and politics, and governance disputes. The solutions to these problems, along with problems of corruption and civil rights during the period from the Eisenhower presidency through that of the Clinton administration are discussed in this work.

Excerpt

The American Federation of Labor (AFL) and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) consummated a merger in 1955 after many years of fruitless negotiation. The AFL, which dated back to 1886 and was the traditional central body of American labor, had become the dominant organization after twenty years of conflict. The CIO was established in 1935 under the leadership of John L. Lewis, and by 1955 was clearly in second place.

A series of events facilitated the merger. Philip Murray, who had succeeded Lewis as president of the CIO, died on November 9, 1952 and was succeeded by Walter Reuther. Two weeks later, William Green, who had been president of the AFL for twenty-seven years, also died, and was replaced by George Meany. The changing of the guard made labor unity easier to attain.

But it still took two years of intensive negotiation before the merger was brought about. Its principal architect was Arthur J. Goldberg, who was at the time general counsel of the Steelworkers Union and later became Secretary of Labor and a justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. There had been a fight for the presidency of the CIO between Reuther and Allan Haywood, the executive vice- president of the CIO. The latter had been supported by David J. McDonald, the head of the Steelworkers Union, and relationships between him and Reuther were not of the best. Indeed, it was rumored that Reuther was cool to the merger but that McDonald was prepared to move his union and its allies into the AFL with or without Reuther, which would have left the latter with a relatively small remnant of the labor movement.

The merger agreement and the constitution of the new Federation provided for a president, a secretary-treasurer, and twenty-seven vice-presidents, all of whom were to constitute an executive council. George Meany became president and William F. Schnitzler secretary-treasurer, posts they had held in the AFL.

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