WHITHER LABOR: RECENT
DEVELOPMENTS IN THE
STRENGTH AND PHILOSOPHY
OF AMERICAN LABOR
A. H. Raskin
Some thirty years have gone by since the passage of the Wagner Act and other elements of Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal put a solid legal foundation under collective bargaining and opened the way for unionization of the mass-production industries. Ten years have passed since the two great power centers of United States unionism—the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations—pooled their economic, political, and social strength and merged into a single organization of 15 million members.
When Roosevelt entered the White House there were fewer than 3 million workers in unions. Today there are roughly 17 million. But it would not be accurate to present this as a picture of uninterrupted growth. On the contrary, the great upsurge was concentrated in the first half of the period. Since 1950, the number of workers in union ranks has stood still, even though total employment in nonfarm jobs has risen from 52 million to a present total of 66 million. The explanation for this sudden halt in the expansion of the American labor movement lies principally in the dramatic change that has taken place in the last decade in the character of the American economy.
The industries that have been the traditional backbone of union strength—manufacturing, mining, and transportation—have had such an increase in productivity that they can generate a much greater volume with many fewer workers. This decline in