Flashcards in 1945-1969 Deck (15)
Economic and social changes in the 1950s
• GNP (economic activity) rose from $318 billion to $4888 billion
• By the end of the 1950s;
o 60% of American families owned their homes
o 75% owned cars
o 87% owned at least 1 television
o The average income was higher than in 1945 and way higher than the 1920s
• The prosperity was underpinned by scientific developments and new technology.
o Working hours and production decreased by half
o First nuclear power plant opened in 1957
o Chemical industry was the 4th largest in the US
Post-War Labour Problems
- End of wartime controls unleashed a massive wave of strikes. There was a growing belief that
the unions were becoming too strong and powerful
- 1947 Taft-Hartley Act (otherwise known as the Labour Management Relations Act) passed to
restrict union activities.
1947 Taft-Hartley Act
- Passed to restrict union activities.
- This made it illegal for unions to operate a closed shop and affirmed that the right of states to
pass ‘right to work’ laws.
- These were welcomed in Southern States where more conservative politicians were less
sympathetic to union organisation.
- President Harry Truman tried to veto this act in order to court the labour vote but was overruled
- 1949 ‘New Deal’ – Truman persuaded Congress to pass legislation raising the minimum wage
and extending access to local security benefits
- This was designed, in part, to reduce the propensity to take action and so control the unions
General gains for workers rights in late 1940s
- Pay code linked to standards of living costs introduced by General Motors (1948)
- Progress in car industry - General Motors agreed 5-year contract giving pensions and cost of
living increases to employees (1950)
Impact of new technology on labour rights in the 1950s
- Transition from manual labour to computer technology changed the nature and
composition of the workforce
- Decline in the number of blue-collar workers; increase in white-collar workers by 1960.
This reduction weakened the unions (by 1980, TU membership was a smaller
percentage of the total workforce than in 1953)
White-collar workers often in federal, state or local government occupations. They
signed no-strike agreements and were often barred from joining a trade union. These
restraints made white-collar workers difficult to organise
Created awareness among trade unions and there was a need for labour solidarity.
John F. Kennedy
- John F. Kennedy was a liberal president. He began with an ambitious programme of social reform.
- 1961 he introduced a bill to increase the minimum wage.
- Like his other reforms, this failed to be accepted by Congress.
- In his attempts to address the problem of inflation, he succeeded in persuading
steelworkers’ union to accept a non-inflationary contract with employers that included
acceptance of minimal raises in wages
- 1963 Equal Pay Act prohibited wage differentiation on the basis of gender
Lyndon B. Johnson’s ‘Greater Society’
- Johnson’s prime target was to reduce the number of people who were living below the
- Hence his War on Poverty became the most significant aspect of his domestic policy.
Between 1963 and 1973, number classified as living below the poverty line fell from
25% to 11%. This was achieved by the creation of millions of new jobs and increased
spending on social security benefits
- Civil Rights Act 1964 prohibited discrimination in jobs based on race, colour, religion,
sec or national origin
- 1968 Age Discrimination in Employment Act made it illegal to discriminate in hiring or
firing an individual between 40 and 65 on the basis of age
- Federal Law establishing health and safety regulations in the workplace
- The state of Hawaii became the first to give state and local officials the right to strike
Civil Rights Act 1964
prohibited discrimination in jobs based on race, colour, religion, sex or national origin
Age Discrimination in Employment Act 1968
Discrimination in Employment Act made it illegal to discriminate in hiring or firing an individual between 40 and 65 on the basis of age
1963 Equal Pay Act
prohibited wage differentiation on the basis of gender
Union gains in the 1960s
• AFL-CIO had the combined membership of 16 million workers
• American unions bargained over wages and working conditions
• Established unions were able to bargain successfully
• Wages rose by 2% a year
• Union workers earned around 205 more than non-union workers of similar age,
experience and education
• Unionised employers provided benefits worth 60% more than were given to non-union
Main Act passed in this period
Taft Hartley Act (1947)
Impact of women in the 1960s
- By the 1960s, the increasing number of women entering
the workforce and the aspirations of many for a career
and improved prospects, resulted in trade-union women
becoming more directly involved in union and strike
- For example, in 1962, women were active in New York Hospital workers strike and female pressure
contributed to the agreement by the state Governor to recognise the right of hospital workers to
- As a result, in 1968, the union was able to secure a minimum wage of $100 a week for all workers