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Labor in America: A History, 9th Edition

ISBN: 978-1-118-97685-2
496 pages
May 2017, Wiley-Blackwell
Labor in America: A History, 9th Edition (1118976851) cover image


This book, designed to give a survey history of American labor from colonial times to the present, is uniquely well suited to speak to the concerns of today’s teachers and students. As issues of growing inequality, stagnating incomes, declining unionization, and exacerbated job insecurity have increasingly come to define working life over the last 20 years, a new generation of students and teachers is beginning to seek to understand labor and its place and ponder seriously its future in American life. Like its predecessors, this ninth edition of our classic survey of American labor is designed to introduce readers to the subject in an engaging, accessible way. 

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Table of Contents

List of Figures ix

List of Abbreviations xiii

Acknowledgments xv

Preface xvii

1 Conditions of Labor in Colonial America 1

Life and Labor in the Colonies 8

Workers, Politics, and Revolution 15

2 Varieties of Worker Resistance and the Emergence of the First Unions 19

The Origins of Worker Organization 20

Early Unions 24

Law versus Labor 28

The Growth of Labor Organization 30

3 The Growth of the Market and Labor’s Response 33

Workingmen’s Parties 34

Leadership 38

Political Action 42

4 Labor Organizing in the 1830s 47

Union Growth 48

A National Labor Movement? 50

An Urge to Strike 51

An Employer Counterattack 54

The National Trades’ Union 56

The Decline of Unionism 60

5 Free Labor in an Emerging Industrial Economy 62

Industrialism, Technological Change, and Reform 67

Rebuilding a Union Movement 75

The Coming of War 77

6 Toward National Organization 81

The National Labor Union 87

The NLU and Social Reform 92

Depression and Union Decline 95

7 An Era of Upheaval 97

Unrest and Conflict 98

The Great Railroad Strikes 101

The Haymarket Square Riot 104

8 The Rise and Decline of the Knights of Labor 107

The Origins of the Knights of Labor 108

The Rise of the Knights 117

The Decline of the Knights 122

9 The American Federation of Labor 126

The Triumph of Business Unionism 126

Samuel Gompers and the New Union Model 128

The Emergence of the AFL 132

The Principles and Policies of the AFL 135

10 Labor Conflict and Economic Crisis in the 1890s 139

Worker Resistance and Industrial Conflict 140

Labor, Populism, and Socialism 151

Labor at Ebb Tide 153

11 The Labor Question in the Progressive Era 155

Employers and Unions Experiment with Accommodation 157

The Anthracite Coal Strike of 1902 158

The Employers Fight Back 163

AFL Political Action and a Nascent Labor–Democratic

Alliance 167

Organizing Immigrant Workers 173

12 The Rise and Repression of Labor Radicalism 177

The Rise of the IWW 178

The Spirit of the IWW 181

The Lawrence Strike 183

The Decline, Repression, and Lasting

Legacy of the IWW 186

13 The Great War's Ambiguous Legacy 191

Postwar Labor Upheaval 195

The Last Throes of Postwar Labor Militancy, 1919 to 1922 202

14 Economic Change and Union Retreat in the 1920s 206

The American Plan and the Open Shop 209

Welfare Capitalism 213

The Failure of Insurgent Politics, 1922 to 1924 216

The AFL after Gompers 218

The Demoralization of Organized Labor 220

15 The New Deal 223

Section 7(a) and the Revival of Organizing 223

The Wagner Act 230

The New Deal Political Order 233

16 The Rise of the Congress of Industrial Organizations 242

John L. Lewis and the CIO 245

The Impact of the CIO 257

17 Labor and the New Deal State 264

War, Lewis, and the Election of 1940 269

18 World War II 279

The NWLB and Labor Politics 289

Wartime Racial Conflict 293

The Postwar Strike Wave, 1945 and 1946 295

A New Industrial Relations System 300

19 Retrenchment, Cold War, and Consolidation, 1946 to 1955 302

Labor, Taft-Hartley, and Politics 305

The Purge of Labor’s Left Wing 312

A United Labor Movement 314

AFL-CIO: A “Sleepy Monopoly” 319

20 Turbulent Years, 1955 to 1972 321

The Onset of Organized Labor’s Decline 321

Corruption and Deepening Conflict 324

Automation and Alienation 330

Labor, Civil Rights, and the Great Society 334

The Rise of Public Employee Unionism 339

War and Division 341

21 The Great Reversal: Workers and Unions, 1973 to 1994 344

Economic Crisis and Its Aftermath 344

Restructuring the Labor Force 346

The Rise of Conservative Politics and Neoliberal Policy 350

The Emerging Crisis of Unionism 359

Harbingers of Deepening Crisis: Mass Production and Transportation 365

22 Workers and Unions at the Millennium 369

Rising Resistance and Its Limitations 369

A Change of Direction for Labor 373

Economic Troubles, Political Setbacks, and War 376

Improvising in Difficult Times 380

Walmart, the “Fissured Workplace,” and Weakened Regulation 382

Dissension, Schism, and Political Breakthrough 386

23 A Precarious Moment 393

Bailouts, Job Insecurity, and Lowered Labor Standards 394

Toward an Unequal Society 397

The Obama Presidency’s Mixed Legacy 399

A Renewed Assault on Unions and Collective Bargaining 404

Death Throes or Birth Pangs? 406

Epilogue: An Uncharted Path 413

Further Reading 416

Index 447

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