Shifting Fortunes: The Rise and Decline of American Labor, from the 1820s to the Present

Overview

How and why have American labor unions grown in the century and a half since the industrial revolution? In this concise and illuminating history of the labor movement, Daniel Nelson traces the ebb and flow of union activity since the early nineteenth century. Rejecting an emphasis on individual leadership or the uniqueness of American “conditions,” he instead looks to three factors to explain labor’s record: the role of the autonomous worker, the threat of employer reprisals, and the influence of external forces ...
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Overview

How and why have American labor unions grown in the century and a half since the industrial revolution? In this concise and illuminating history of the labor movement, Daniel Nelson traces the ebb and flow of union activity since the early nineteenth century. Rejecting an emphasis on individual leadership or the uniqueness of American “conditions,” he instead looks to three factors to explain labor’s record: the role of the autonomous worker, the threat of employer reprisals, and the influence of external forces such as government policy. His chief concern is to describe and document the historical experience, especially the erratically rising level of union membership from the close of the nineteenth century to the 1960s, and the reversal of that phenomenon in recent decades. Mr. Nelson devotes special attention to miners’ unions in the years up to the 1950s, to government policy in the New Deal years and after, and to the development of sophisticated anti-union employer strategies in recent years. The strength of Shifting Fortunes lies not only in the scope of its coverage but in its evenhanded portrayal of employer-worker relations.
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Editorial Reviews

CHOICE
Excellent . . . the historic patterns of growth and decline are all here . . . well done.
Virginia Quarterly Review
Clearly and effectively presents the conflicts that have risen since the onset of American industrialization.
Library Journal
Balanced and perceptive
Virginia Quarterly Review
Clearly and effectively presents the conflicts that have risen since the onset of American industrialization.—
Choice
Excellent...the historic patterns of growth and decline are all here...well done.
Booknews
Surveys the history of American labor, looking for reasons why union activity has ebbed and flowed since the Industrial Revolution. Concentrates on the role of autonomous workers, the impact of employer reprisals on the willingness of workers to join or remain in a union, and the influence of external forces, such as the economic and political environment and the employer's business goals. Pays special attention to miners' unions, government policy in the New Deal era, and the development in recent years of anti-union employer strategies. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781566631792
  • Publisher: Dee, Ivan R. Publisher
  • Publication date: 9/28/1997
  • Series: American Ways Series
  • Pages: 192
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 7.46 (h) x 0.82 (d)

Meet the Author

Daniel Nelson teaches American history at the University of Akron. He has also written Managers and Workers, Farm and Factory, and Frederick W. Taylor and the Rise of Scientific Management.
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Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Union Growth in Perspective
Chapter 2: Miners and Organized Labor
Chapter 3: Urban Workers and Organized Labor
Chapter 4: New Environments, New Challenges, 1897–1930
Chapter 5: The Labor Movement at High Tide, 1930–1953
Chapter 6: The Decline of American Labor
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