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Labor Under Siege

November 6, 1981

Report Outline
Labor's Maturity Pains
Closing Unions' Ranks
Future Coalition Building
Special Focus

Labor's Maturity Pains

Gompers Centenary and Kirkland Strategy

When somebody who is 95 years old — and looks and feels it — starts pretending to be 100, you might suspect that he's trying to make the best of a bad situation. Some people think that American labor leaders are acting that way. They have designated 1981 the labor movement's centennial year, and on Nov. 15 representatives of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations will celebrate the occasion at the biennial AFL-CIO convention in New York. But it isn't the federation's 100th birthday, and some say there isn't much to celebrate.

What this year's convention commemorates is the emergence of Samuel Gompers, the father of the American labor movement, as a top union leader. On Nov. 15, 1881, Gompers was among a small group of men who met at Pittsburgh, Pa., to found the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions, the predecessor of the AFL. Five years later, when the AFL itself was founded at a meeting in Columbus, Ohio, Gompers was elected its first president. It was Gompers who modeled the American unions on the British trade union movement, shying away from the broad social and political objectives pursued by working class organizations in continental Europe.

A cigar maker by trade, Gompers believed that the labor movement's future depended on the unionization of skilled craftsmen — those whose services society could least easily dispense with. Instead of trying to organize all workers into a disciplined political force capable of remaking society, Gompers made it the AFL's principal mission to win higher wages, benefits and improved working conditions for union members.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Labor Unions
Sep. 02, 2005  Labor Unions' FutureUpdated
Jun. 28, 1996  Labor Movement's Future
Jun. 14, 1985  Organized Labor in the 1980s
Nov. 06, 1981  Labor Under Siege
Mar. 24, 1978  Labor's Southern Strategy
Aug. 20, 1976  Labor's Options
Oct. 27, 1971  Organized Labor After the Freeze
Oct. 19, 1966  Labor Strife and the Public Interest
Jan. 30, 1963  Strike Action and the Law
Sep. 20, 1961  Conflicts in Organized Labor
Aug. 04, 1960  Labor, Management, and the National Interest
Dec. 16, 1959  Future of Free Collective Bargaining
Nov. 04, 1959  Featherbedding and Union Work Rules
Feb. 18, 1959  Public Intervention in Labor Disputes
Jul. 09, 1958  Suits Against Labor Unions
Nov. 13, 1957  Right-To-Work Laws
Oct. 31, 1956  Union Organizing
May 01, 1954  State Powers in Labor Relations
Oct. 02, 1953  Toward Labor Unity
Apr. 11, 1953  Industry-Wide Bargaining and Industry-Wide Strikes
Sep. 03, 1952  Labor and Politics
Mar. 25, 1950  Labor Injunctions
Jan. 25, 1950  Trade Unions and Productivity
Sep. 26, 1949  Fact-Finding Boards in Labor Disputes
Mar. 05, 1949  Closed Shop
Dec. 01, 1948  Revision of the Taft-Hartley Act
Jan. 01, 1947  Labor Unions, the Public and the Law
Oct. 09, 1946  Revision of the Wagner Act
Sep. 25, 1946  Labor Productivity
May 29, 1946  Labor Organization in the South
Jan. 30, 1946  Compulsory Settlement of Labor Disputes
May 18, 1945  Labor Policy After the War
Mar. 29, 1945  Union Maintenance
Feb. 02, 1945  Labor Relations in Coal Mining
Oct. 12, 1944  No-Strike Pledge
Sep. 16, 1944  Political Action by Organized Labor
May 30, 1944  Unionization of Foremen
Apr. 01, 1944  Dismissal Pay
Apr. 29, 1943  Labor in Government
Apr. 09, 1943  Public Regulation of Trade Unions
Nov. 19, 1941  Labor Policies of the Roosevelt Administration
Oct. 23, 1941  Closed Shop Issue in Labor Relations
Mar. 29, 1941  Labor as Partner in Production
Feb. 12, 1941  Labor and the Defense Program
Feb. 23, 1940  Labor in Politics
Jan. 17, 1939  Settlement of Disputes Between Labor Unions
Jul. 01, 1938  Three Years of National Labor Relations Act
Nov. 12, 1937  State Regulation of Labor Relations
Jul. 10, 1937  Restrictions on the Right to Strike
Apr. 28, 1937  The Labor Market and the Unemployed
Mar. 26, 1937  Control of the Sit-Down Strike
Mar. 13, 1937  Collective Bargaining in the Soft-Coal Industry
Jan. 22, 1937  Responsibility of Labor Unions
Nov. 11, 1936  Industrial Unionism and the A.F. of L.
Jul. 30, 1936  Federal Intervention in Labor Disputes
Jul. 14, 1936  Labor Relations in the Steel Industry
Apr. 17, 1934  Company Unions and Collective Bargaining
Feb. 07, 1934  Settlement of Labor Disputes
Sep. 12, 1933  Trade Unionism Under the Recovery Program
Feb. 17, 1932  Wage Concessions by Trade Unions
Oct. 01, 1929  Status of the American Labor Movement
Jul. 20, 1929  Trade Unionism in the South
Aug. 31, 1928  Organized Labor in National Politics
Feb. 04, 1928  The Use of Injunctions in Labor Disputes
Sep. 09, 1927  Organized Labor and the Works Council Movement
Oct. 12, 1923  The A.F. of L. and the “New Radicalism”
BROWSE RELATED TOPICS:
Unions and Labor-Management Relations
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