Unions before the Bar: Historic Trials Showing the Evolution of Labor Rights in the United States

By Elias Lieberman | Go to book overview

- 25 -
The Open Gates of the Closed Shop (1947-1949)
a. LINCOLN FEDERAL LABOR UNION No. 19129 v. NORTHWESTERN IRON AND METAL COMPANY
b. GEORGE WHITAKER V. STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA
c. AMERICAN FEDERATION OF LABOR v. AMERICAN SASH & DOOR COMPANY

I

From days immemorial employers considered themselves free to deal with their employees as they deemed best. They considered it their "natural right" to set wages, to hire and fire, and to decide upon the terms of employment for each of their workers as their conscience dictated or as their best interests prompted them. They knew from experience that they could get the best of the bargain when they dealt with workers as individuals.

With the development of the industrial system the individual worker became an insignificant cog in the wheel of production. The bargaining power of the individual worker dropped with the corresponding development of machinery. The value of human skill was greatly diminished by the efficiency of the machine. Mass production became the dominant cry of industry. But with the development of mass production came mass organization of workers. Unions appeared on the industrial horizon.

Employers resented any encroachment on their natural rights. They resented the collective voice of the labor union and preferred the barely audible voice of the individual worker. When the unions claimed a right to organize, to strike, and to bargain collectively, there developed a struggle between two clashing rights -- the em-

-330-

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