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Can Unions Survive?

The Rejuvenation of the American Labor Movement

Charles Craver

Publication Year: 1995

"Defines the challenges facing the movement and offers comprehensive prescriptions for its successful transformation."
The George Washington Law Review

A valuable analysis of the rise, fall, and--hopefully—the revival of unionism in America. [The book] distills into readable form a mass of legal and empirical analysis of what has been happening in the workplaces of the United States and other industrial democracies. Most important, Craver has drawn a blueprint of what must be done to save collective bargaining in this century—must reading for scholars, lawmakers, and, especially, union leaders themselves.
Paul C. Weiler, Harvard Law SchoolAuthor of Governing the Workplace: The Future of Labor and Employment Law

"A thoroughly researched, insightful, and readable look at why American unions have declined. . . . This is a very informative analyis of a vital topic, and it will have a multidisciplinary appeal to anyone interested in union- management relations.
—Peter Feuille, Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations, University of Illinois

When employees at firms like Greyhound and Eastern Airlines walk out to protest wage and benefit reductions, they are permanently replaced and their representative labor unions destroyed. Every year, the threat or drama of a high-profile strike—in air traffic control towers, at Amtrak, or at Caterpillar—makes national headlines and, every year, several hundred thousand unrepresented American employees are discharged without good cause.

During the past decade, employer opposition to unions has increased. Industrial and demographic changes have eroded traditional blue-collar labor support, and class-based myths have discouraged organization among white-collar workers. As the American labor movement begins its second century, it is confronted by challenges that threaten its very existence. Is the decline of the American labor movement symptomatic of a terminal condition?

In this work, Charles Craver presents an incisive analysis of the current state of the American labor movement and a manifesto for how this crucial institution can be revitalized. Journeying with the reader from the inception of labor unions through their heyday and to the present, Craver examines the roots of their decline, the current factors which contribute to their dismal condition, and the actions that are needed--such as the recruitment of female and minority employees and appeals to white-collar personnel--that are necessary to ensure union viability in the 21st century.

Craver thoughtfully discusses what labor organizations must do to organize new workers, to enhance their economic and political power, and to adapt to modern-day advances and to an increasingly global economy. He also suggests changes that must be made in the National Labor Relations Act. This book is essential reading for lawyers, scholars, and policy-makers, as well as all those concerned with the future of the labor movement.

Published by: NYU Press


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Title Page, Copyright Page

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p. vii


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p. ix


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1. Overview

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pp. 1-9

Every year, several hundred thousand unrepresented American employees are discharged without good cause. Millions more are laid off by companies that transfer their production jobs to lower wage facilities in the South or in Mexico and other developing countries. When employees...

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2. The Historical Foundation of American Labor

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pp. 10-33

During the Colonial period, there were relatively few free workers.1 The great majority of laborers were either slaves or indentured servants. As trade and commerce expanded, there was an increased demand for unconstrained workers. Skilled craftsmen who established small...

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3. The Extent and Causes of the Decline of the American Labor Movement

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pp. 34-55

Union membership figures have generally fluctuated over time due to the impact of economic cycles, industrial changes, immigration patterns, and other relevant factors. Between 1897 and 1904, trade union membership increased from 447,000 to over 2,000,000.1 By 1920, labor...


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4. The Need for Labor Unions to Organize Traditionally Nonunion Personnel

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pp. 59-88

The American labor movement has historically derived its organizational strength from northern blue-collar workers. As demographic and structural changes continue to deplete the ranks of these workers and to expand the traditionally unorganized sectors of the workforce, labor unions...

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5. Enhancing Organized Labor's Economic and Political Power

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pp. 89-125

Employees who select a bargaining agent under the NLRA are guaranteed negotiating rights with respect to issues pertaining to wages, hours, and conditions of employment. While their representative labor organization may insist upon negotiations concerning these "mandatory"...

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6. The Need to Reform the National Labor Relations Act

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pp. 126-155

Throughout the first 150 years of its existence, the United States officially discouraged collective worker action. When individual employees joined forces with other workers, they were subject to antitrust or criminal conspiracy liability.1 Courts did not hesitate to enjoin such collective efforts.2...

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pp. 156-157

Over the past two centuries, the American labor movement has demonstrated remarkable resiliency. Throughout the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, craft guilds flourished despite the absence of legislative support. During the second half of the nineteenth century...


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pp. 159-188


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pp. 189-201


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pp. 202-205


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pp. 207-213

E-ISBN-13: 9780814723715
E-ISBN-10: 0814723713
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814715123
Print-ISBN-10: 0814715125

Page Count: 213
Publication Year: 1995

OCLC Number: 45844060
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