1. Why study history at all?
b. Because its been hidden from us - why - who gains from
hiding history? We begin to see history as a function of
rich people, leaders, and ourselves as pawns or victims
of history rather than its shapers and creators. Leaders
are important but we must remember that history is the
story of peoples' struggles and their relationship with
the means of production, that is, the way goods and
services are created.
History moves forward. You will see a progression of
incidents but behind these incidents lies a steady
progression, like the gains made in the hours of work.
c. Karl Marx - Wrote Manifesto in 1848 with Frederick
and individual ownership of production. Are there
classes in the U.S.A.?
ii. Surplus value - Results from contradiction of
socialized means of production and anarchist means
of ownership. Workers collective labor creates the
value of a product but the workers are never paid
the full value of their work.
iii. Dialectical Materialism. The study of change in the
iv. Relationship of state to class struggle. The state
is a weapon of those in power.
v. The labor movement has never been the same. Because students of Marx, in many often surprising ways, carried his ideas into the formation and growth of the unions.
2. Civil war---"I can hire half the working class to kill the
other," (Jay Gould)
b. Slavery - the rich fought for profits (and stayed home -
Rockie, Morgan, Carnegie, et.al.) the working class'
fledgling unions enlisted.
c. Opening of the West - Dred Scott decision allowed slavery
to open up new territory.
d. John Brown - violence against slavery.
e. William Sylvis and short lived national labor union -
unique as national. Demanded 8 hour day.
f. A boom in the economy during the war - won by the north
and a new form of slavery instituted in south - was
followed by a bust in the 1870's. But in the 1860's the
U.S. became second only to Great Britain in industrial
output. There was, in 1860's, mass recruiting of European
workers who often came because of political repression.
g. 1867---10,000 Chines laborers struck the Central Pacific RR.
3. 1870s---now more than 1/2 American workers are wage laborers.
b. National railroad strike of 1877. First national strike shut Pittsburgh. "We were shot back to work" by troops reg. army and national guard. It was necessary to whip up fear and hatred for "radicals, anarchist, and bomb-throwers" in order to get working class troops to shoot their compatriots. In the same year, all federal troops were removed from the south after a 12 year period of "reconstruction," perhaps the high point of U.S. democracy.
b. Average work day - sixteen hours - child labor common.
c. Formation of the Knights of Labor, the International Working People Association and the AFL. (Craft Union) The war began between industrial and craft unions with employers aiding the crafts. K of L an industrial, but racist, union.
d. May 1, 1886, demo for the eight hour day. Peaceful parade of thousands. Later in day at a strike at the McKormick Harvester Plant, six workers fighting scabs on a picket line were killed. Chicago protest led by Parsons and Spies, the next day at Haymarket sq. Bomb -killed eight cops - Parson Spies, Engel & Fisher never accused of throwing bomb - no witnesses - but they were hanged for it despite a worldwide movement in opposition -- attack on whole labor movement and beginning of May Day as international holiday. May Day was shifted (by a compliant press) to a "foreign" holiday. Later, "Labor Day" was substituted for it. Later still, May Day became "Law Day." Today, outside the U.S., May Day stands as a workers holiday.
b. While industry organized, workers joined the splintered
craft oriented AFL which excluded black and women workers
and led by S. Gompers who opposed strikes and identified
wholly with the employer.
c. But some fought for unity. Eugene Debs formed the
American Railroad Union around 1894 and led the Pullman
Strike -- General Strike - leadership jailed all over
U.S., Attorney General was Clarence Darrow, first case he
won---for the wrong side.
d. War against Spain and another war:
e. The war against the miners in the West. Troop warfare
over 1,000 miners killed in five years trying to form the
Western Federation of Miners --- Big Bill Haywood.
f. Reader of Shakespeare, gunfighter, speechmaker, and
brawler, 6'2" 250 lbs, killed a man in gunfight, author,
Autobiog., and rank and file. By 1905 had led the WFM in
winning the eight hour day for miners and in 1905 helped
form the Industrial Workers of the World - IWW - Wobblies
-- a national industrial union opposed to the craft
organizing of the AFL -- free speech fights - IWW in
Michigan loggers -- a union on wheels -- Joe Hill (E.
Shapiro ) 1915 hanging in Utah don't mourn - do not get
caught dead in Utah. IWW sought to organize everyone,
including the unemployed. IWW had a big base in Mexico
and Canada. Fought everywhere by AFL. IWW weaknesses:
openness, no real organization,
no staying power, often organized transients. After IWW
was broken, many leaders remained radicals, but many also
just opened small businesses.
Gompers initiated the link between AFL and U.S
intelligence when he took money from Pres. Wilson to
develop a spy system against IWW in Mexico. Perhaps the
first true step in the development of labor imperialism.
g. Lawrence Strike - 1912 - women and children led strike -- Eliz Gurley Flynn - Bread and Roses is being played in New York - won strike after pouring in IWW's. John Reed and New York's bohemians supported the strike.
6. Early 1900s -- abortive revolution in the Soviet Union.
b. Big money still consolidating and labor still organizing.
c. 1914 - Ludlow massacre - led by J.D. Rockie Jr. -- Ludlow
Col, Easter eve torched striking mourners' tents drove
them out and shot everyone with machine guns.
d. Just 8% of U.S. workforce organized
7. World War I
b. Great Steel Strike of 1919 - organized by WZ Foster in
spite of Gompers under aegis of AFL -- 40,000 steel
workers out -- Army called out to fight "Bolsheviks" --after four months strike broken.
c. Palmer Raids - around 10,000 workers rounded up over US
for disloyalty by Atty. Gen. Palmer and aid J. Edgar
Hoover. One thousand arrested in Detroit where they were
held in fed building without food or water for six days
before they were transferred to Ft. Wayne. Many wooblies
deported. U.S. immigration policies tightened and
industry recruiters in the South. Broke wobblies.
d. Formation of Communist Party in U.S. in 1919 with
around 25,000 members, about 1/4 of them Russian
immigrants. Party was quickly attacked an much of it
driven underground. (John Reed---"Reds").
e. U.S. entered war as a debtor, exited as a creditor.
8. The Twenties
b. 1920-21 Sacco and Vanzetti - roaring red scared racist
20's - shoemaker and fish peddler - anti capitalists -
framed for murder - appeals lasted for seven years
despite a man confessing to the crime and demos of
millions all over the world they were electrocuted in
1927. But America was dancing and invading other
countries like Nicaragua. General Smedley Butler
denounced the military for using him as a tool for the
c. 1929 - Average work day was still 6 days 10 hours. KKK elected mayor of Detroit.
d. In 1929 the bubble burst - Depression - first bank
closing in Michigan by 1932, 15 million unemployed - CP
organized unemployed councils - fight don't starve - Ford
Hunger March 1932 - Dearborn - Demo of about 10,000 tried
to march on Rouge - Harry Bennett - six died - protest of
100,000 in Detroit.
e. Bonus March - called openly by CP - "we don't give a damn who called it, money isn't communist" - 25,000 in DC living in shacks attacked by fed troops led by Pershing, Patton, Eisenhower and McArthur - 8 died but bonus was eventually won.
9. The Thirties
b. FDR was sworn in and a strike wave swept the country --
"the President wants you to join the union." Out in
Michigan, union organizers were met by the Black Legion -
the Klan of the North - and Ford's Harry Bennett who
hired goons from Jackson Prison to bust the fledgling
trade union movement. Arbitrary firings - silence on the
line. The Cp was calling FDR a social fascist.
c. 1934 - San Francisco General Strike - Harry Bridges led
the strike despite the attempts of local AFL President
Ryan to break it. It was a grass roots strike truly led
by the rank and file. Police and troops murdered several
strikers but longshoremen won six hour day and union
hiring hall. Longshoremen on the west coast have been
one of the most supportive and "political" union ever
since. On the east coast, the mob runs the unions on the
d. 1935 Wagner Act which is the basis for nearly all labor
legislation passed. Gave people the right to CB. At
nearly the same time, the Social Security Act which
established welfare and other benefits passed. These
were not gifts to the people but made because of the
estimate that there might be a revolution without them.
e. 1936 - Formation of the CIO - John L. Lewis. After
knocking out another delegate, quit the AFL and took the
UMW with him along with the LLGWU and others to form the
CIO. Grew to two million in six months - primarily by
using a new tactic - the sit down strike -seizing the
factory. Sitdowns swept the country - the first in
Detroit was in Woolworths led by women fountain clerks.
Akron rubber workers won a 30 hour week with a sit-down
f. Flint Sit Down Strike of 1937 - led by CP - and Reuther
and his brother Victor - the fledgling UAW had been
trying for a year to organize GM - GM owned Flint body
and soul - from the cops to the judges to the press -44-day strike inside the plant - role of Womens Emergency
Brigade subject of film, "With Babies and Banners". GM
g. Steelworkers Organizing Committee led by CP and WZ Foster organized steel industry. Red baiting becomes a focus of the bosses and the press.
10. The Forties and Fifties
The AFL and the CIO both supported the war and deepened
their relationships with U.S intelligence agencies,
working especially in Europe and Latin America. Both AFL
and CIO agreed it was necessary to keep areas of markets
and raw material open to U.S expansion. When Germany
invaded the USSR in June, 1941, the CP leadership in the
unions, what was left of it after numerous line changes,
called for support for the war to defend mother Russia.
They led the parade to exchange no strike pledges for
guaranteed dues income. John L. Lewis and the mineworkers
struck throughout the war anyway.
Post war, the OSS/CIA poured money into Europe. They
began working with Nazis in 1943 and imported many of
them, like Wehner Van Brahn, into the U.S. The CIA gave
the French docks to the mob in exchange for driving out
the reds. This was the beginning of the modern drug
b. 20 Million Soviets died. The U.S. trade unions were
decimated by no strike pledges. The war ended the
depression but the economic good times only lasted about
2-3 years. Revolution brewed in China.
c. 1947 - Taft Hartley Act amended the Wagner Act - gave
courts the right to fine unions and gave them the right
to issue injunctions against them. Abolished the closed
shop and prohibited secondary boycotts. The economic
hard times also led to the intensification of red
baiting, particularly coupled with the Dulles created
cold war with the Soviets. A number of CP leaders were
arrested for violating the Smith Act.
d. In 1949, the CIO led by Reuther (whom his brother claimed was now on the payroll of the US intelligence community), expelled the "reds" - among them The Mine & Smelters Union ("Salt of the Earth"), UE and the United Public Workers Union. Then they created "alternative" unions like I.U.E. to raid the UE. Membership dropped from 6 1/2 million in 1945 to 4 1/2 million in 1954. Meany became the president of the AFL - his claim to fame was that he was never on strike in his life.
Revolution in China drove Chang Kai Shek into the sea.
In 1953, the French lost at Dien Bien Phu. The U.S.
moved to support the French.
e. 1955 - led by Meany and Reuther, the AFL and CIO merged.
Rosa Parks decided to sit in the front of a bus in
f. McCarthyism - as an attack on the unions - anti commie
clauses in constitutions. Blacklisting Common. HUAC
hearings. Hollywood ten.
g. In later developments, the Teamsters were expelled from
AFLCIO - UAW quit cause Reuther couldn't wait for Meany
h. Unions said virtually nothing about the Korean War - unless to support it.
11. The Sixties to Now
b. Probably the AFL did more harm than good - particularly
abroad during this period - AIFLD and ORIT American
Institute for Free Labor Development - serving as CIA
conduit to smash unions in Chile and ultimately the
presidency - trying to wreck dockworkers union which were
refusing to load ships bound for Vietnam.
c. Examine current TU leaders and their actions - Frazier - Woodcock - Wurf - Winpinsinger - Kirkland - Bieber.
12. 60s and 70s saw an explosion of public employee unionism.
Do public workers create value?
What causes inflation?
Does a shorter work week reduce profits?
Was Marx right on the government, class struggle, etc.?
13. American Institute for Free Labor Development:
b. Follow already established "Guatemalan Pattern." In
1954, CIA & ORIT overthrew Arbenez government which was
confiscating United Fruit land and installed Aramas.
c. AIFLD's first officers were: President Meany, Chairman of
the Board Peter Grace - owns 70% of land in Peru - and
d. AIFLD functions in nearly every country in Latin America.
Has no direct domestic function. AFSCME's Zander
directly involved in aiding CIA overthrow of Jagen government in Guyana. But now over 1/2 the AFL's
budget is spent overseas.
e. Chile - IT&T (telecommunication industry nationalized) and AIFLD.
AFL broke French Dock Strike (1949). French were leading the war.
$33 million channelled through Agency for International Development
to AFL for support of war. Three factors in shaping union opinion
(2) US domination of markets of the world is essential to US
economy and, therefore, workers.
(3) War against communism.
AFL goon squads attacked anti-war activists - usually with cooperation of the employers. Vietnamese ended all this by inflicting a massive military defeat.
U.S. entered Vietnam as the most powerful country in the world.
Exited in a permanent decline. Entered as a creditor nation, now
the world's largest debtor.
El Salvador -Nicaragua-Peru etc.
In the 80's labor led a full scale retreat of American workers. Beginning with Reagan's crushing of the PATCO
strike, and culminating with Eastern, the labor leadership simply
organized the demise of organized workers. By the end of the 80's
less than 12% of the workforce was organized. The UAW lost over 1/2
million members. In part, labor mimicked management in this period.
Major corporations in the U.S. abandoned their stated purpose,
production of basic materials, and opted to merge and take profits.
Perhaps the most glaring example was U.S. Steel which, after taking
a million dollars in concessions from its workers, invested the
savings in a liquor company. When asked, the company president
simply said, "I'm not in business to make steel, I'm in business to
The major corporations, from auto to steel, downsized and
outsourced their work. By the end of the decade, the industrial
base of the U.S. was destroyed and the banking system was in
trouble due to the boom built on sand.
The big unions, rather than lead any resistance (in 1988 there
were less strikes than any time in recorded U.S. history), simply
merged with one another in order to maintain their dues base and
staff jobs. The UAW and Teamsters reentered the AFL as did the
Mineworkers and any number of smaller unions. In the late 80's the
top leadership of the nations largest union, the NEA, began to
negotiate entrance into the AFL-CIO. Just as unions reflect the
industries from which they grow, so did the labor movement, which,
in a frenzy of mergers with no related creation of value, mimicked
capital's actions in the 1980's.
From the 60's to the mid-80's the wealth of 90% of America's families increased by 1/2---by adding a second wage earner.
In the same period, the wealth of America's richest families
shot up by 90%. Now the top 2% own 75% of everything. Most own
nothing at all. One major illness would wipe out most of the rest.
In the 70's, growth ended in private sector unions. All union
growth is in the public sector. Teachers are the most highly
organized people in the United States.
Also in the 70's, business accelerated its unity as a class.
In l978 business pac contributions ran about $8 million. By l980,
business pacs had $85 million. Their agenda was to gain
deregulation, wage erosion, to restrain government spending, and to
restructure taxation. They enjoyed success. Government, in the
words of former Budget Director David Stockman, "Became a trojan
horse for the rich."
In the wage gains that are now made by unions are self-limiting bonus arrangements which are monies not included in the
In many areas, health and safety and even job protection, and
certainly civil rights, the government is replacing the union as
both advocate and arbiter.
From '73 to '85, average weekly wages dropped by 14% Now we
see a situation of mass unemployment and underemployment while
others are working forced overtime.
In '91, the U.S., now the worlds leading creditor nation, is
fighting a war on money borrowed from nations that have a direct
interest in the outcome but will not fight.
Richard Gibson 1991