1. Why study history at all?

2. Civil war---"I can hire half the working class to kill the other," (Jay Gould)

3. 1870s---now more than 1/2 American workers are wage laborers.

4. 1880s

5. 1890s

6. Early 1900s -- abortive revolution in the Soviet Union.

7. World War I

8. The Twenties

9. The Thirties

10. The Forties and Fifties

11. The Sixties to Now

12. 60s and 70s saw an explosion of public employee unionism.

13. American Institute for Free Labor Development:


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 on war:

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 make profits".

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 base pay.

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