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Workers and Politics in the 1960s

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Jarod Roll

on 21 April 2016

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Transcript of Workers and Politics in the 1960s

Workers and Politics in the 1960s

HIS 318
Dr. Roll

AFL-CIO merger, 1955
--in response to attacks on left and right
--George Meany, head of AFL became head of AFL-CIO
--Reuther also deeply involved (head of CIO at the time)
Institutionalization cut into dynamism, local organization, member activity
--lost much of the activism that made the CIO so powerful in the 1930s and 1940s
Not total disconnect:
--example, E. D. Nixon, Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters in Alabama; NAACP leader in Alabama, co-leader of Montgomery bus boycott, 1955-56
Dual labor market emerged:
--mostly male (who were mostly white) union workers benefited from high pay, security
--women, and most people of color still in low-wage, precarious employment; earning 50-60% of what union workers did
--mix shifting toward unorganized after union density peak in 1955
Women 34% of labor force in 1964; had been 20% in 1947--and rising
Structural economic changes
--automation: more machines, computers, robots
--labor now had to focus on workers who were replaced by machines: severance packages, retraining, early retirement
--Office of Manpower Administration (1952) and Manpower Development and Training Act (1962)
Relocation to the Sunbelt:
--logic of right-to-work laws, cheap labor
White collar and service sector jobs go up:
--1960s sees decline in mass production employment
--office and service workers not a traditional focus of labor movement
Also, new opportunities:
--public sector workers gain right to organize
--1958: New York City
--1962: federal employees
--more states follow
--American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME)
--National Association of Educators and American Teachers Association merger 1960s
--public section unionization an area of rapid growth in the late 1960s
--March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, 1963
--Civil Rights Act of 1964
--outlawed discrimination in employment (among other things, including public accommodations and education) on basis of race or sex
--Title VII of the law created Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
Craft unions for high skill workers:
--Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO), 1968
--Major League Baseball Players Association, first collective bargaining contract in 1968, first strike in 1972; led by Marvin Miller
Farm worker organization
--Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee, AFL-CIO
--migrant laborers in California
--Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta
--United Farm Workers
--non-violent protest, boycotts
--1966: signed first contract with big grower; national boycott gained contracts with most growers by early 1970s
1966: Fair Labor Standards Act expanded to cover agricultural workers
Vietnam crisis:
--Meany supported the war effort
--longtime anti-communist
--Reuther opposed
--childhood hero Eugene Debs; roots in socialist and CIO politics of 1930s
--UAW generally opposed
Meany and AFL-CIO propped up Confederation of Vietnamese Labor to keep ports open for American war materiel
--New Left students believed labor part of the establishment, corrupt, supporting American imperialism
--Meany: labor spoke for "silent majority" not long-hair hippies, dope smokers, draft dodgers, college kids
Civil Rights Movement turned toward issues of poverty and Vietnam war:
--King: Poor People's Campaign, 1966-68; highly critical of war
--Memphis Sanitation Workers' Strike, 1968
--almost all black workforce, poorly paid, terrible conditions
--King involved, with support from Reuther and UAW (gave $50,000)
--King killed there on April 4, 1968
Rise of black militant factions within some unions
--UAW-DRUM (Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement
--UAW-FRUM (Ford Revolutionary Union Movement)
--inspired by black power ideas (first announced in 1966 in Greenville, MS, by Stokely Carmichael)
Yet, within UAW: many white workers opposed to civil rights movement; move toward George Wallace in 1968 presidential primaries (won Michigan): attacking big capital but also blacks, seen as a dual threat
UAW split from AFL-CIO in 1968
--mainly over Vietnam, but also about civil rights movement, issues of social justice
Lordstown Rebellion, 1971
--counter-cultural protest within UAW against line speed-up
Reuther killed in plane crash, 1970
Hard hat riot, 1970
--construction workers, Teamsters attacked anti-war protest, then attacked city hall and a university in lower Manhattan
--AFL-CIO abandoned George McGovern (D) in 1972 election; support for Nixon, who ran as the candidate of the silent majority
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