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Labor in America: A History, 8th Edition

ISBN: 978-0-88295-273-4
520 pages
January 2010, ©2010, Wiley-Blackwell
Labor in America: A History, 8th Edition (0882952730) cover image

Even since the last edition of this milestone text was released six years ago, unions have continued to shed members; union membership in the private sector of the economy has fallen to levels not seen since the nineteenth century; the forces of economic liberalization (neo-liberalism), capital mobility, and globalization have affected measurably the material standard of living enjoyed by workers in the United States; and mass immigration from the Southern Hemisphere and Asia has continued to restructure the domestic labor force.

Yet even in the face of anti-union legislation, a continuing decline in the number of organized workers, and the fear of stateless, if not faceless terrorism—the shadow of “911” in which we still live, in preparing this new edition of his classic text Professor Dubofsky has hewn to the lines laid out in the previous seven in seeking to encourage today’s students of labor history to learn about those who built the United States and who will shape its future.

In addition to taking the narrative right up to the present, a recent history that includes the election of 2008 as well as the tumultuous blow suffered by the U.S. and world economy in 2008-09, this eighth edition features an entirely new (fourth) bank of photographs and, in light of the avalanche of new scholarly work over the last decade, a complete overhauling of the book’s extensive and critical Further Readings section in order to note the very best works from the profuse recent scholarship that explores the history of working people in all its diversity.

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Preface ix

1. Colonial America 1

Life and Labor in the Colonies 6

Workers, Politics, and Revolution 15

2. The First Unions 20

Early Unions 23

Law vs. Labor 28

Growth of Labor Organization 30

3. The Workingmen’s Parties 33

Leadership 37

Political Action 42

4. Labor Strength in the 1830s 48

Union Growth 49

A National Labor Movement? 53

An Urge to Strike 54

An Employer Counterattack 57

The National Trades Union 60

The Decline of Unionism 64

5. The Impact of Industrialism 66

Industrialism, Technological Change, and Reform 69

Rebuilding a Union Movement 79

6. Toward National Organization 85

The National Labor Union 90

The NLU and Social Reform 95

Depression and Union Decline 99

7. An Era of Upheaval 102

Unrest and Conflict 103

The Great Railroads Strikes 106

The Haymarket Riot 110

8. The Rise and Decline of the Knights of Labor 114

Origins of the Knights of Labor 116

The Rise of the Knights 125

The Decline of the Knights 131

9. The American Federation of Labor 135

Triumph of Business Unionism 136

Samuel Gompers and the New Unionism 138

Emergence of the AFL 141

AFL Principles and Policies 145

10. Homestead and Pullman 149

The Great Pullman Strike and Boycott 154

Labor, Populism, and Socialism 161

Labor in Ebb Tide 164

11. The Progressive Era 166

Employers and Unions: A New Understanding 168

The Anthracite Coal Strike, 1902 170

Employers Fight Back 175

AFL and Political Action 180

Organizing Immigrant Workers 185

12. Thunder on the Left 189

The Wobblies 190

The Spirit of the IWW 194

The Lawrence Strike 195

Repressing the IWW, 1913-1919 199

The Meaning of the IWW 202

13. The First World War – and After 204

Postwar Labor Upheaval 209

Year of Strikes, 1919 219

Labor Militancy 218

14. Labor in Retreat 221

The American Plan and the Open Shop 225

Welfare Capitalism 229

Labor and Insurgent Politics 233

The AFL after  Gompers 235

The Demoralization of Organized Labor 237

15. The New Deal 242

Section 7 (a) 243

A New Unionism and Its Limits 245

The Wagner Act 264

The New Deal Political Order 264

16. The Rise of the Congress of Industrial Organizations 264

John L. Lewis and the CIO 268

The Impact of the CIO 281

17. Labor and Politics 286

War, Lewis, and the Election of 1940 292

18. The Second World War 303

The National War Labor Board 313

The 1945-1946 Strike Wave 317

A New Industrial Relations System 323

19. From Taft-Hartley to the Merger of the AFL and the CIO 325

AFL and the CIO 325

Labor, Taft-Hartley, and Politics 329

A United Labor Movement 337

AFL-CIO: A “Sleepy Monopoly” 342

20. Disappointed Hopes 344

Labor’s Decline 345

Corruption, Politics, and Labor’s Travail 348

Race, War, and Agricultural Workers 361

A Satisfied Labor Movement 364

21. Hard Times: Workers and Union, 1973-2000 365

An End to Economic Growth? 366

Restructuring the Labor Force 370

The Rise of Public Employee Unionism 374

Labor and Politics 377

The Crisis of Unionism 385

Lane Kirkland and Dashed Hopes 389

Union Troubles in Mass-Production Industries 392

Deregulation and Union Decline in Transportation 395

A Mixed Bag 397

A New Labor-Left Alliance 401

A Dim Future for Labor? 403

22. Hope and Despair: Workers and Unions Since 2000 405

Labor and Politics 405

A New Unionism 410

Hard and Dangerous Work 412

A New War Economy 414

Toward an Unequal Society 415

The Wal-Mart Effect 418

Labor’s Travails Cause Dissension 420

Triumph and Tribulation 425

Whither Labor? 433

Further Reading 435

Index 463

Photos Following Pages 32, 188, 324, 364

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“However grim the present may seem for workers and the labor movement, their future—as the last half-century testifies—remains open. As has happened several times in the past, a revitalized labor movement may yet emerge in the course of the twenty-first century.”
—Melvyn Dubofsky

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