WWII/Rosie The Riveter/The Black Worker - World War Two turned America in the world's greatest manufactoring power, and created a desperate need for labor to fuel the war effort. A second wave of migration to northern cities brought more African-Americans into factory jobs. Women also found opportunities in manufacturing jobs that were previously held by men.
The Red Scare - As fear of a communist threat swept America suspicion fell upon labor unions. MAny labor unions purged socialists and anyone with ties to the American communist party from their ranks. Along with the purge went many of the most progressive thinkers.
The Taft-Hartley Act (1947) – After WWII, largely due to the Wagner Act, twenty-five per cent of American workers were members of labor unions. In response, anti-labor forces pushed through passage of the Taft-Hartley Act that restricted the activities and power of labor unions.
The AFL-CIO (1955) – The merger of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) represented the end of a long struggle to merge skilled craft workers and unskilled industrial workers. From 1955 through 2005 the AFL-CIO represented almost all unionized workers in the United States.
American Prosperity – The 1950's and 1960's were a time of increased prosperity for white male American workers, and a time of growth for the labor movement. This section will study how labor reacted to the civil rights and anti-war protests of the 1960s.
The Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike/Martin Luther King (1968) The largely African-American strike of Memphis sanitation workers was intertwined with the civil rights movement. Martin Luther King came to Memphis to support the strikers. While there he delivered his "I've Been To The Mountaintop" speech. The following evening King was assassinated on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel. On April 8th, an estimated 42,000 people led by Coretta Scott King and union leaders silently marched through Memphis in honor of King, demanding that the mayor give in to the union's requests.
Cesar Chavez – In 1961 Chavez cofounded the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA). During the 1960s and 70s he became the leading voice for farmworker's right and Latino civil rights. His aggressive, but non-violent tactics included 'spiritual fasts' as a form of protest. Chavez led the Salad Bowl in the early 1970s, which was the longest farmworkers strike in U.S. history, and led to the passage of the California Agricultural Labor Relations Act.
The Powell Manifesto – The 1970s were a time of change. The oil embargo of 1973 led to an economic downturn, and the resignation of President Nixon brought widespread skepticism of American institutions. On August 23, 1971 Lewis Powell, a corporate lawyer and Supreme Court Justice, wrote a call to arms for corporations. The manifesto laid down a plan to undo the gains of labor unions and those who worked to limit corporate power. As directed in the manifesto, throughout the 1970s corporate interests worked to build organizations to promote their agenda. In the 1980s their work would begin to bear fruit.