Essay on The Role of Labor in American History

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This brief history of more than 100 years of the modern trade union movement in the United States can only touch the high spots of activity and identify the principal trends of a "century of achievement." In such a condensation of history, episodes of importance and of great human drama must necessarily be discussed far too briefly, or in some cases relegated to a mere mention.

What is clearly evident, however, is that the working people of America have had to unite in struggle to achieve the gains that they have accumulated during this century. Improvements did not come easily. Organizing unions, winning the right to representation, using the collective bargaining process as the core of their activities, struggling against bias and
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Through these decades, the labor movement has constantly reached out to groups in the American society striving for their share of opportunity and rewards..... to the blacks, the Hispanics and other minorities..... to women striving for jobs and equal or comparable pay . . . to those who work for better schools, for the freedom of speech, press and assembly guaranteed by the Bill of Rights ... to those seeking to make our cities more livable or our rural recreation areas more available . . . to those seeking better health for infants and more secure status for the elderly.

Through these decades, in addition, the unions of America have functioned in an economy and a technology marked by awesome change. When the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions gathered in convention in 1881, Edison had two years earlier invented the electric light, and the first telephone conversation had taken place just five years before. There were no autos, no airplanes, no radio, no television, no air conditioning, no computers or calculators, no electronic games. For our modest energy needs-coal, kerosene and candies-we were independently self-sufficient.

The labor movement has seen old industries die (horse-shoeing was once a major
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