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Join the Union, girls, and together say, Equal Pay for Equal Work! Susan Brownell Anthony, 1820-1906
And together they begin to make their voices heard. In October 1836 women from the Lowell Mills gather after work and organise. Their protest against wage cuts is one of the first strikes in US history. And they will win. The mill bosses backed down. A generation of young women go on to become teachers, writers and college graduates. Harriet Robinson would become a leading suffragette. America: The Story of the US: Division, History 2010
Where trade unions are most firmly organized, there are the rights of the people most respected. Samuel Gompers
What does labor want? We want more schoolhouses and less jails; more books and less arsenals; more learning and less vice; more leisure and less greed; more justice and less revenge; in fact, more of the opportunities to cultivate our better natures, to make manhood more noble, womanhood more beautiful, and childhood more happy and bright. Samuel Gompers
You can’t do it unless you organize. Samuel Gompers
We will stand by our friends and administer a stinging rebuke to men or parties who are either indifferent, negligent, or hostile, and, wherever opportunity affords, to secure the election of intelligent, honest, earnest trade unionists, with clear, unblemished, paid-up union cards in their possession. Samuel Gompers, ‘Men of Labor! Be Up and Doing’, 1906
So long as we have held fast to voluntary principles and have been actuated and inspired by the spirit of service, we have sustained our forward progress, and we have made our labor movement something to be respected and accorded a place in the councils of the Republic. Where we have blundered into trying to force a policy or decision, even though wise and right, we have impeded if not interrupted the realization of our own aims. Samuel Gompers
And what have our unions done? What do they aim to do? To improve the standard of life, to uproot ignorance and foster education, to instil character, manhood and independent spirit among our people; to bring about a recognition of the interdependence of man upon his fellow man. We aim to establish a normal work-day, to take the children from the factory and workshop and give them the opportunity of the school and the play-ground. In a word, our unions strive to lighten toil, educate their members, make their homes more cheerful, and in every way contribute an earnest effort toward making life the better worth living. Samuel Gompers
Our movement is of the working people, for the working people, by the working people ... There is not a right too long denied to which we do not aspire in order to achieve; there is not a wrong too long endured that we are not determined to abolish. Samuel Gompers
We have a very violent labor history. Hundreds of American workers were being killed in the late thirties. Finally they got labor rights ... There is always challenge and struggle. Noam Chomsky, Is Capitalism Making Life Better?
Labor Unions are the leading force for democratization and progress. Noam Chomsky
One of the most effective democratizing forces has always been the labor movement – labor unions – the history on that is completely clear. In countries that have a strong labor movement, there is also a very strong tendency or correlation with a real-live functioning social contract that includes not only rights for working people but for people who need help and protection, for the defenseless, for children, for women, for families, for people who need assistance generally and for the general public. And there’s also a culture that goes along with it – a culture of solidarity and sympathy and mutual aid and support ... Here as elsewhere unions have been a leading force, probably the leading force, for democracy and human rights. Noam Chomsky, Class War: The Attack on Working People, 1998
From 1985 to 1992 the United States went from highest labor costs to second lowest in the industrial world, and this was described by the Wall Street Journal as, ‘a welcome development of transcendent importance’. ibid.
US and other foreign corporations forced the Labor Ministry in 1988 to continue the government’s long-standing prohibition of unions in the electronics industry by threatening to shift their jobs and investments to another country. Noam Chomsky, Deterring Democracy
In part, the dismissive assessment of Japan's prospects was based on the failure of Japanese industrial recovery prior to the economic stimulus of military procurements for the Korean War. In part, there was doubtless an element of racism – illustrated, for example, in the reaction of the business community to the democratic labor laws introduced by the US military occupation. These laws were opposed by business generally. They were bitterly denounced by James Lee Kauffman, one of the influential members of the business lobby that worked to impede the democratization of Japan. ibid.
Militant labor action was barred, including some attempts to establish workers’ control over production. Even these partial steps towards democracy scandalized the State Department. ibid.
These pressures led to the ‘reverse course’ of 1947, which ensured that there would be no serious challenge to government-corporate domination over labor, the media and the political system. ibid.
Leftists who had been jailed under Fascist rule were excluded, the normal pattern worldwide. Labor was suppressed with considerable police violence, and elimination of the right to strike and collective bargaining. The goal was to ensure business control over labor through conservative unions. ibid.
While Japanese corporate conglomerates were reinforced, labor was weakened and splintered, with the collaboration of US labor leaders, as elsewhere in the world. ibid.
Britain itself was to face a similar attack on unions and the welfare system, as did the United States itself, beginning with the assault on labor in the early postwar period, renewed by the bipartisan consensus of the post-Vietnam period in support of business interests. ibid.
The main problem, again, was the [German] labor movement and other popular organizations that threatened conservative business dominance. ibid. p340
After the war, German workers began to form works councils and trade unions, and to develop co-determination in industry and democratic grass-roots control of unions. The State Department and its US labor associates were appalled by these moves towards democracy in the unions and the larger society. ibid. pp340-341
The postwar destitution was exploited to undermine the French labor movement, along with direct violence. Desperately needed food supplies were withheld to coerce obedience, and gangsters were organized to provide goon squads and strike-breakers. ibid. p343
In Italy too, US labor leaders, primarily from the AFL, played an active role in splitting and weakening the labor movement, and inducing workers to accept austerity measures while employers reaped rich profits. In France, the AFL had broken dock strikes by importing Italian scab labor paid by US businesses. The State Department called on the Federation’s leadership to exercise their talents in union-busting in Italy as well, and they were happy to oblige. The business sector, formerly discredited by its association with Italian Fascism, undertook a vigorous class war with renewed confidence. The end result was the subordination of the working class and the poor to traditional rulers. ibid.