It would be surprising indeed if the economic and technological revolution that characterizes the United States in the second half of the twentieth century was not to have a large influence on American labor. Rapid, head-long change is reshaping many institutions in our society. The research revolution is creating new products and materials at a fantastic pace and is also speeding up the obsolescence of established ways of working and living. The technological revolution, coupled with the computer and automation, is changing jobs and skills. Employment is declining in many industries. Railroads and mining, for example, provide less than one-half the number of jobs which these industries had only twenty-five years ago. A large proportion of the labor force twenty years from now will be working in occupations that have not yet been created. White collar employment is rapidly growing. Educational requirements, even for relatively low skilled occupations, is expanding. The less educated and marginal workers are already in economic difficulty.
Economic and technological change is not new to American labor. Change has been perennial. What is significant about these times is that change is pervasive. It is affecting every field of endeavor—economic, social, and political. We are growing, and the tempo, if not the rate of growth, is unprecedented. Percapita output is increasing. An average family income of ten thousand dollars, at 1965 prices, is not many years away. Living standards have been improving steadily. We are, in fact, beginning to be concerned with the problems of leisure during working life, as well as with security and activity during retirement.
These conditions of relative affluence prevailing simultaneously with the "war on poverty" coupled with a relatively secure legal position presents some serious challenges to American trade