Does Labor Have a Future?

By Dubofsky, Melvyn | The New Leader (Online), January/February 2010 | Go to article overview

Does Labor Have a Future?


Dubofsky, Melvyn, The New Leader (Online)


FOR THE THIRD TIME during the past 30 years - after experiencing only two regime changes since its origins in the 1880s- the AFL-CIO in September 2009 installed a new leadership team in an effort to reverse decades of decline. On the eve of a similar shift in 1979, astute observers wondered whether "the last days of the American labor movement" were at hand. As A.H. Raskin, the highly regarded New York Times labor beat reporter, put it, "far from serving as the cutting edge of social change . . . trade unionism appears to be a largely spent force in the national life." Even one union president conceded that "the American labor movement is having less and less impact on society."

In 1955 the reunification of the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations terminated a 20-year labor civil war. Many hailed the creation of a united movement as an opportunity for unions to recapture the spirit and vitality that had enabled them to organize more than 1 0 million workers between 1935 and 1948. Yet the reunion proved much like that of the North and South following the Civil War. Between 1955 and 1979 two distinct cultures operated within the AFL-CIO. The CIO unions, centered in the organization's Industrial Union Department, remained a distinct minority alongside a majority dominated by the traditional AFL trade unions, especially those clustered in the building and metal trades.

Although the CIO unions had purged their "Reds" years before the merger, Leftist influences were still strong in most of the industrial unions, whose leading officials had been Communists or close to the Communist Party. The most prominent of the former Leftist CIO leaders, Walter Reuther of the United Automobile Workers (UAW), chafed at existing in the shadow of AFL-CIO President George Meany, whom Reuther considered a smug, self-satisfied, intellectually shallow old style labor baron.

Reuther and his allies desired a labor movement committed to unionizing the unorganized, participating fully in the civil rights movement, and acting decisively to foster more progressive influences in the Democratic Party. Meany and his old guard allies preferred servicing existing union members to funding a hunt for new ones, keeping their distance from the civil rights movement (Meany 's clashes with A. Philip Randolph, the foremost African- American labor leader as head of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, were legendary), and cooperating with the Democratic Party while holding lines open to the Republican Party. To Reuther's chagrin, it became common for labor economists to dismiss the Meanyled AFL-CIO as a "sleepy monopoly."

The social and cultural upheavals of the 1 9 60s, when the civil rights movement fractured, cities burned, campuses rioted, and an anti- Vietnam War campaign arose, brought Reuther's dissatisfaction with the AFL-CIO to a boil. Unable to tolerate his existence in a Meany controlled organization any longer, he marched the UAW out of the AFL-CIO in 1 968 and formed a strange alliance with the Teamsters' Union, already expelled from the AFLCIO because of its corrupt practices. Predictably, the marriage of the nation's two largest unions, the UAW and the Teamsters, created an extremely odd couple doomed to dissolution. As for the AFLCIO, if no longer a "sleepy monopoly," by the end of the 1 960s it lacked the ability to resist the forces about to deliver a series of setbacks to workers and their unions.

SHORTLY AFTERWARD Meany 's world - in which white male blue-collar workers personified union members and labor exercised its influence through the Democratic Party - collapsed. The fiscal crisis of the mid-1970s ended the movement's one arena of post-1 95Os success, the unionization of public employees. By 1975, as state and local governments faced budget deficits and their citizens rebelled against taxes, mayors and governors demanded that unions accept wage and benefit reductions. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Does Labor Have a Future?
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.