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US Workers: Resurgent or Waging a Rearguard Action? - by Stephen Lendman
For decades, organized labor has been hammered after painful years of organizing, taking to the streets, going on strike, holding boycotts, battling police and National Guard forces, and paying with their blood and lives before real gains were won.
Important ones included an eight hour day, a living wage, essential benefits including healthcare and pensions, and the pinnacle of labor's triumph with passage of the landmark 1935 Wagner Act, establishing the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). It guaranteed labor the right to bargain collectively with management on equal terms for the first time, what's now sadly lost.
After signing it on July 5, 1935, Franklin Roosevelt said:
"This Act defines....the right of self-organization of employees in industry for the purpose of collective bargaining, and provides methods by which the Government can safeguard that legal right....A better relationship between labor and management is the high purpose of this Act....it seeks for every worker within its scope, that freedom of choice and action which is justly his....it should serve as an important step toward the achievement of just and peaceful labor relations in industry."
Grassroots activism won important gains. Management gave nothing until forced nor did government, siding always with business, yielding only to stop sustained disruptive work stoppages, street violence or possible insurrection.
In 1935, a worried Congress and administration acted. After WW II, however, organized labor declined. Passage of the 1947 Taft-Hartley Labor-Management Relations Act was the first major blow. Harry Truman vetoed it, calling it a "slave labor bill," then hypocritically used it 10 times, the most ever by a president to this day.
Under Reagan, labor rights declined precipitously, beginning in August 1981 by firing 11,000 striking PATCO air traffic controllers, jailing its leaders, fining the union millions of dollars, effectively busting and declaring war on organized labor by a president openly contemptuous of worker rights.