USA Civil Rights Trade Unions

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Knights of Labour

-Founded in 1869 by Uriah Smith Stephens

-Achieved some success (attracted membership of the National Labor Union

-Aimed to remove barriers of racial and cultural origin imposed by current unions

-Reputation was destroyed after the violence of the Haymarket Affair in 1886

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American Federation of Labor

-Replaced KOL after foundation in 1886

-1st successful national labour federation seeking to link all unions; became the largest

-Samuel Gompers was the leader- argued that they had to stand up to large corporations by use of bargaining power

-Sought reform through legislation but also striked and boycotted to gain momentum

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Industrial Workers of the World

-Set up in 1905

-Known as the 'Wobblies'

-Militant organisation

-Defended rights of poor and illiterate workers i.e immigrants

-Divisions in 1924 broke the strength of the organisation

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The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters

-Labour union organised by African Americans who worked for the Pullman Company

-From 1925, for 12 years they struggled to win their first collective bargaining agreement

-Accepted by AFL in 1935

-Led by A. Philip Randolph

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Congress of Industrial Organisations

-Formed in 1935 by unions within the AFL

-Black workers benefited from the opportunity to join this group

-Amalgamated with AFL which made it strong

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-Bargained successfully with leading firms in industries like autos and chemicals. Contracts were negotiated.

-Wages rose steadily so union workers earned around 20% more than non-union workers.

-Benefits like medical insurance, paid holidays and pensions were obtained.

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William H. Sylvis (1829-69)

-As secretary of the Journeyman Stove and Hollow-Ware Moulders Union of Philadelphia, he wished to build a national union of all iron moulder unions.

-He promoted dignityof working man and urged that membership shouldn’t divide along religious/racial lines- working class solidarity.

 -Created the NLU in 1866 which campaigned for the 8-hour day and ending of convict labour etc.

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Samuel Gompers (1850-1924)

-Marcus A. Hanna and J.P. Morgan worked with him (businessmen) giving workers right to mediated and conciliation.

-Persuaded Wilson to set up a Department of Labor and pass the Clayton Antitrust Act which limited the use of court injunctions against striking workers.


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Henry Clay Frick (1849-1919)

-Partners with Andrew Carnegie

-Tough and ruthless businessman always keeping his eye on profits.
-His actions destroyed AA’s reputation and Carnegie Steel remained non-union for 40 year- operated the closed shop policy.

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A. Phillip Randolph (1889-1979)

-Founding president of the 1st black trade union.

-1941 he won from Roosevelt an executive order “forbidding racial discrimination in federal government by threatening to lead a massive protest.

-Also managed to persuade Truman to end segregation in armed forces.

-Vice president of the merged of AFL-CIO.

-Had a motto of “Fight or Be Slaves”.

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Henry Ford (1863-1947)

-Good example of ‘welfare capitalism’ at work.

-Had biggest factory complex in the world.

-He appeased his workers with a higher wage, but only to prevent striking.

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Franklin D. Roosevelt

-New Deal creator.

-Introduced the NIRA which established NRA- national recovery administration (1933).

-Wagner Act was a turning point as collective bargaining was enabled and the National Labor Relations Board was set up to defend the workers.

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John F. Kennedy & Lyndon B. Johnson

-Kennedy was the promoter of ‘New Frontier’- Equal Pay Act in 1963.

-Johnson came up with an extension to the above policy called ‘Great Society’ which implemented Economic Opportunity Act 1964 and Age Discrimination in Employment Act 1968.

-Both started a new era for change.

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Ronald Reagan

-He took the hard line with trade unionists especially when the Air Traffic Controller’s Strike took place in 1981.

-Hostile towards organised labour.

-Marked the start of a downturn for the trade union movement.

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