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Union Busting in the 1980s

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Jarod Roll

on 28 April 2016

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Transcript of Union Busting in the 1980s

Union Busting in the 1980s

HIS 318
Dr. Roll

Reagan elected in 1980
--support from Business Roundtable (open shop movement)
--1950s had been spokesperson for 'free enterprise'
--broke PATCO strike in 1981; signaled new anti-union politics
Labor movement mobilized against Reagan:
--Solidarity Day, September 1981: 500,000 people to march in Washington
--Lane Kirkland replaced Meany in 1979 as head of AFL-CIO
--from South Carolina; promised new approach
--brought Teamsters and UMW back into the AFL-CIO
Kirkland opened the AFL-CIO a little more to social movements representing women and people of color, but still too far out of touch
Working-class politics still divided by race, gender
--white workers voted for Reagan in 1980 and 1984, roots in Nixon's and Meany's 'silent majority' -- but labeled "Reagan Democrats"
Legal push against labor union rights:
--Supreme Court decisions in the 1970s made strikes where contracts or arbitration mechanisms existed illegal
--NLRB: Reagan appointed anti-labor, pro-business members
--set arbitration mechanisms against unions
Union membership dropped by 3 million between 1980 and 1982
--unionized share of non-agricultural workforce down from 35% in 1955 to 20% in 1983 to 13% in 2002
Free Trade:
--Canada-US Free Trade Agreement, 1986
--North American Free Trade Agreement, 1993
--these measures accelerated deindustrialization, globalization
--despite North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation
World Trade Organization, 1995
--replaced GATT
--China admitted in 2001
--not the cause of rise of Chinese manufacturing
--imports from China doubled $55 billion to $110 billion a year between 1996 and 2001
Effects:
--Flint, MI: General Motors employees fell from 76,000 in 1978 to 35,000 in 1998
--bottom fifth of the working population lost income between 1977 and 1999
--in 1980s, incomes of blue collar workers: high school drop outs down 15%; high school graduates down 9%
--Many unions forced to accept two-tier hiring
--other negotiated contracts with worse pay, worse benefits, less security
Changing nature of the work force:
--Immigration amnesty in 1986
Changing nature of organized labor:
--Service Employees International Union: one of the largest, fastest growing unions in the 1990s: non-white, non-male workers
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