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Flashcards in 1970-92 Deck (11)
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1

Decline in organised labour in the 1970s

• mid-1970s economic growth slow

• Increase in foreign competition

• by 1979, prices had risen by 13%

• reduction in productivity

• fall in real wages of 80%

• expansion of high-tech industries shrunk the workforce

• increased need for skilled workers

• wage gap broadened between 1970s and 1992

• executive salaries rose by 340%

• minority got poorer

• reduction in productivity and increased competition resulted in rationalisation of
large manufacturing industries

2

What changes occurred in the composition of the workforce in this period

• Greater dispersal and fragmentation of the workforce
• No solidarity
• Concentrations of large numbers of workers in one place was a thing of the past
• Trade union requirements made difficult
• Increasing numbers of female workers who were generally lower paid, part-time and for
the most part un-interested in union membership
• Unskilled divided culturally and ethnically
• By 1980, there were 50.5 million white-collar workers compared with 30.5 million in 1960
• White-collar workers benefited from generous welfare schemes provided by their
employers

3

Shift in balance between unions and employers in this period


• Faced competition and a reduction of profits
• Increased determination to gain the upper hand in their dealings with the unions
• Non-unionised firms were more flexible when it came to negotiations
• Kept production costs low
• Increased profit margins
• Employers could get away with saying no as they had a tendency to flout the law in their
dealings with workers by denying them their rights- particularly in wage agreements
• Complaints to the NLRB were processed slowly
• Fewer union leaders in the NLRB
• ‘balance of power’ in the 1980s swung from the LU to the Employers
• PATCO strike provided further encouragement to employers

4

Changing Political attitudes in the 1970s

• Unions could no longer rely on the same level of support from politicians that they had
previously

• Traditional supporters of the Democrats- appreciated close associations with the unions-
usually guaranteed the working-class vote

• 1970s membership declined and they no longer represented the masses, value to the
Democrats diminished

• 1970 Nixon’s policy of affirmative action did benefit black Americans and immigrant
workers

• OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY ACT 1970 established health and safety
regulations in the workplace

• Jimmy Carter and Congress established the minimum wage

• 1978 attempts made by AFL-CIO to persuade Carter to introduce reforms to the NLRA
(1935) failed

• Reagan curbed the power of the unions

5

What conclusions can be made

• Can be argued that by 1992, organised labour had retained most of its rights

• Eroded away by weakness of trade union movement

• The right to join a TU remained in law- stronger position of employers and non-union
enterprises forced to accept

• Right to collective bargaining remained

• Right to strike remained with some exceptions

• Shift in public opinion

• Hostility of the Republicans

• Changing economic organisation and structure and the falling number of workers joining
unions further weakened the labour movement

• Many sectors of employers either no longer recognised the need for union representation
or were encouraged to reject it

• Women made some advances towards equal pay/opportunity and status

• Much of the population hadn’t experienced the protection of a union

• Predominately African- American and Hispanics remained in low paid, service occupations
and were more vulnerable to unemployment

• Formed the majority of the 11% of Americans who existed below the poverty line by 1992

6

Development of unionism among women and public sector employees

- Coalition of Labour Union Women formed in Chicago.

- AFL/CIO created a public service department in response to growth in unionism among
public employees

- 1975 American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees organised a strike of
80,000 members. This was the first large-scale, legal strike of public employees

7

1981 Air Traffic Control Strike

• Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organisations called a strike in 1981

• Brought air traffic to a standstill

• Wanted $10,000 wage rise and a shorter working week (32 hours instead of 40 hours)
and better retirement benefits

• Out of 17,500 members, 13,000 obeyed the call

• During the summer- holiday traffic stopped

• Reagan responded quickly

• Announced if strikers didn’t return to work within 48 hours their contracts of employment
would be terminated

• Non-striking controllers were augmented by 3,000 supervisors and 900 military air traffic
controllers to minimise disruption

• Strikers received little sympathy

• Leaders of AFL-CIO condemned Reagan as a ‘union buster’, other unions were angry
because of the illegal actions of PACTO

• Can be seen to some extent as a turning point in the history of organised labour in the US.
Argued that it was a response to the Federal Government and the FAA led to a
redefinition of labour regulations in the US- evidence: strike action plummeted

• Changes were taking place

o Hostility of the RG to OL
o Change of employer’s tactics in dealing with disputes
o Lack of solidarity from other workers
o Negative public opinion

8

Impact of women in the 1970s

- In many respects, issues that affected women in the trade union movement were also incorporated into
feminist demands

- As more married women entered the workforce, for example, the provision of child care facilities and paid
maternity leave were common causes

- However, generally, working class women did not identify with the feminist movement since they did not see
them as fighting for equality for all women.

- Instead they turned to union action

- The process was boosted in 1974 by the formation of the Coalition of labour Union women - they took a more
militant approach and in 1972 Mexican-American women at the Farah manufacturing plant company went on
strike demanding the right to belong to a union

9

Nixon

Nixon brought in the 1970 Occupational Safety and Health Act, which aimed to provide a working environment which was free from hazards and insanitary conditions and reversed the position whereby health and safety of workers was largely ignored.

Moreover, the Department of Labor set the standards, which meant that employers had little influence.

10

Carter

Carter’s presidency saw the establishment of a minimum wage,

But attempts by unions to persuade him to reform the National Labor Relations Act failed, showing there were still limits to the government’s willingness to support workers.

This would become more evident under Reagan

11

Impact of Cesar Chavez on agriculture

- Farmworkers had been one group of workers who had
not gained from the benefits that organised labour in
industry had gained

- However, from the 1960s there were attempts to improve
the position of farmworkers.

- Chavez was influential in the of the United Farm Workers
union in 1972 (UFW)

- Adopted a policy of non-violence and turned struggle of
farmworkers into a moral cause, which won national
sympathy

- In the early 1970s, the UFW organised strikes and
boycotts, including the Salad Bowel strike, the largest
farmworker strike in US history, which won higher wages
for those working for lettuce and grape growers