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History of Collective Bargaining in the United States. First Strike: Philadelphia printers in 1786 New York printers in 1790 First unions: 1792: Federal Society of Journeymen Cordwainers, Philadelphia 1794 Journeymen printers, New York. Employer and Union Tactics.

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history of collective bargaining in the united states

History of Collective Bargaining in the United States

First Strike:

Philadelphia printers in 1786

New York printers in 1790

First unions:

1792: Federal Society of Journeymen Cordwainers, Philadelphia

1794 Journeymen printers, New York

employer and union tactics
Employer and Union Tactics
  • Craft union approaches firm, asks for agreed pay. Strike employers who refuse.
  • Uncooperative workers ostracized, labeled rats, scabs
  • Early strikes successful
  • 1806: Philadelphia Cordwainers union broken by court injunction against strike
    • Srikes declared “criminal conspiracy to disrupt managerial prerogative to set wages”
    • Unions lose 4 of 6 similar cases in 1820s
  • Other constraints: Immigrants, slow growth, mechanization, local unions
history continued
History (continued)
  • Commonwealth v. Hunt legalizes strikes
  • First national union: printers
  • National Labor Union

Primarily political

Lasts 6 years

  • Knights of Labor

Emphasizes 3rd party actions

Combination of craft, industrial unions

Embarassed by strikes, but Wabash strike leads to rapid growth

history continued4
History (continued)


  • Molly Maguires in mining, Pennsylvania and West Virginia
  • Haymarket Riot, Chicago: Strike for 8 hour day

1892 Homestead Steel, Pennsylvania: Lockout when workers refuse wage cuts

  • Pullman Strike, Illinois: strike over layoffs, wage cuts

1914 Ludlow, Colorado mines, lockout when union presses for recognition

history continued5
History (continued)

Other constraints on unions

  • Sherman Anti-Trust Act
  • United Hatters of North America strike against Loewe and Company

Yellow dog contracts

Industrial spies


Company unions

Sweetheart deals

a tale of two unions
A Tale of Two Unions
  • - American Federation of Labor (AFL)

Samuel Gompers and business unionism

crafts only

instituted collective bargaining

support capitalism

audited books

use of strikes supported by national resources

a tale of two unions continued
A Tale of Two Unions (continued)

1905-1920 Industrial Workers of the World

Big Bill Haywood and Revolutionary unionism

Aim: overthrow capitalism, workers control capital

Industrial unions (agriculture, mining, loggers)

lax dues

Embezzlement by organizers

Great songs

a tale of two unions continued8
A Tale of Two Unions (continued)

By 1920, IWW all but gone (1,000 members today)

AFL had 280,000 members in 1898

1.5 million members by 1904

3 million members by 1920

13 million today

1926 railway labor act
1926 Railway Labor Act

1936Airlines covered under RLA

Include many of the features that were later added to the NLRA, Taft Hartley

  • Texas & New Orleans Railroad Co v. Brotherhood of Railway and Steamship Clerks

Validate unions under the Commerce clause

Congress shall have the power to regulate commerce…among the several states

Congress can make collective action “an instrument of peace rather than strife.”

1931 davis bacon act
1931 Davis Bacon Act
  • Must pay prevailing local wage on federal projects
  • Prevailing wage defined as the wage that separates the lowest 70% from the top 30%
  • Several states followed suit
    • Des Moines Iowa Events Center
  • Most federal government projects employ union members
1932 norris la guardia act
1932 Norris La Guardia Act
  • Invalidates use of Sherman Anti-Trust act in labor disputes
  • Declares “Yellow Dog” contracts unenforceable
1935 national labor relations act wagner act
1935 National Labor Relations ActWagner Act

Ushered in the era of the most rapid union gains in U.S. history

Between 1935-1947,

Union density rises from 13% to 35%

1700 company unions disbanded

76,000 workers fired for union activity reinstated

5,070 bargaining units certified

Other reasons?

nlra features
NLRA Features


Exclude: federal, state employees

agricultural workers

domestic servants

independent contractors


Include: U.S. Postal Service

Large private firms

nlra features14
NLRA Features

Section 7: Rights of employees

Employees shall have the right to self-organize, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection, and shall also have theright to refrain from any or all such activity except to the extent that such right may be affected by an agreement requiring membership in a labor organization as a condition of employment.

nlra features15
NLRA Features

Section 8: Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) for the employer

8(a)(1): to interfere with activities in Sect. 7

8(a)(2): to dominate or support a union

8(a)(3): to discriminate on the basis of union interest

8(a)(4): to punish worker(s) who file a ULP charge

8(a)(5): to refuse to bargain in good faith

nlra features16
NLRA Features
  • NLRB v. Jones Laughlin Steel upholds NLRA 5-4

Under Commerce clause, Proper for Congress to prohibit employers from interfering with the rights of workers to organize and bargain collectively because of the catastrophic effects that strikes could have on interstate commerce.

world war ii and its immediate aftermath
World War II and its immediate aftermath
  • Rapid union growth
  • Wage and price controls, no-strike pledges
  • UMW refuses, 2 strikes led by John L. Lewis
  • Pent-up wage demands
  • GM and Ford strike
  • Strikes in oil, lumber, textiles, electrical industry, steel, coal; railroad workers threaten to walk out

Truman responds

1947 taft hartley amendments
1947 Taft Hartley Amendments

Unfair labor practice for union

8(b)(1)(A): to coerce workers to join

8(b)(1)(B): to coerce employer regarding representation

8(b)(2): to coerce employer to punish employees

8(b)(3): to refuse to bargain in good faith

8(b)(4): to coerce “hot cargo” contracts

to engage in secondary boycotts

to compel firm to bargain when another union is already recognized

to strike over a jurisdictional dispute

1947 taft hartley amendments19
1947 Taft Hartley Amendments

Unfair labor practice for union

8(b)(5): to charge excessive fees

8(b)(6): to coerce employer to pay for services not performed

8(b)(7): restrictions on representational and organizational pickets

informative pickets are ok

14(b): to require workers join a union in a right-to-work state

1947 taft hartley amendments20
1947 Taft Hartley Amendments

Sect 202 Establishment of Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS)

Sect 206: Cooling off period in national emergencies

1959 landrum griffin act
1959 Landrum-Griffin Act
  • Workers bill of rights
  • Democratic elections
  • Rules for trusteeships
  • Rules for financial reporting
  • Allows a form of closed shop for building trades
other laws
Other laws
  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act

1967 Age Discrimination in Employment Act

1990 Americans with Disabilities Act

  • Affirmative Action

1938 Fair Labor Standards Act

  • Employee Retirement Security Act (ERISA)
  • Occupational Safety and Health Act

1986 Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act

union declines since 1947
Union declines since 1947
  • Taft Hartley?
  • Demographics?
  • Economic growth in nonunion sectors?
  • Economic growth in the West and South?
  • Federal labor legislation?
union declines since 194724
Union declines since 1947
  • Taft Hartley?
    • Mixed, perhaps it slowed growth
  • Demographics?
    • Women? Not a big effect. Bigger in some European countries
    • Education? Not a big effect due to increases in union strength in the public sector
    • Age? Unionization rises with age, so aging labor force should help unions
union declines since 194725
Union declines since 1947
  • Economic growth in nonunion sectors
    • Rapid growth in service, F.I.R.E., trade sectors that had low union density
    • Declines in manufacturing,
    • Also decrease in union density within sectors
  • Economic growth in the West and South
    • Strong evidence supporting role of regional growth
  • Federal Legislation
    • ERISA, OSHA, Title VII, SS, WC, UI, COBRA, ….