Labor Unions

Rally at Madison Square Garden to repeal Taft-Hartley, 1947

Rally at Madison Square Garden to repeal Taft-Hartley, 1947

Courtesy of AFL-CIO, Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries

One Big Union

With the merger of the AFL and the CIO in 1955, organized labor reached the apex of its power; almost one third of American workers were union members. Unionized workers enjoyed wages and benefits that gave them a greater stake in consumer society and allowed them to pursue “the good life.” Yet business interests and conservative legislators sought to dismantle unions through right-to-work legislation, erecting barriers to organizing workers and threatening collective bargaining.

The AFL-CIO merger was, in part, a response to the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947, which curbed collective bargaining rights and allowed right-to-work laws that prohibited unions and employers from requiring union membership to gain employment.

AFL-CIO merger, 1955

AFL-CIO merger, 1955

Courtesy of AFL-CIO, Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries

United Auto Workers pin, May 1955

United Auto Workers pin, May 1955

UAW matchbook, about 1950

UAW matchbook, about 1950

Anti-union comic book, 1950

Anti-union comic book, 1950

Pro-union, anti-Taft-Hartley buttons, about 1955

Pro-union, anti-Taft-Hartley buttons, about 1955

Button, “Trick – Titled Right to Work,” about 1955

Button, “Trick – Titled Right to Work,” about 1955

Leaflet, 1952

Leaflet, 1952

“Vote Labor,” 1950s-1970s 

“Vote Labor,” 1950s-1970s
 

“God Bless America and the Union Label,” 1950s-1970s

“God Bless America and the Union Label,” 1950s-1970s

“Buy Union Label,” 1950s-1970s

“Buy Union Label,” 1950s-1970s

 “First Convention, AFL-CIO, NY City, December 5, 1955”

 “First Convention, AFL-CIO, NY City, December 5, 1955”

“Guest – First Convention,” 1955

“Guest – First Convention,” 1955

Guest badge, 1955

Guest badge, 1955

United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, about 1956

United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, about 1956

A. Philip Randolph, vice president of the CIO, with President Eisenhower, 1958

A. Philip Randolph, vice president of the CIO, with President Eisenhower, 1958

Courtesy of Library of Congress

First AFL-CIO convention, 1955

First AFL-CIO convention, 1955

Courtesy of University of Massachusetts, Amherst

AFL-CIO merger, “U.S. Labor: Rich and United,” Life, December 12, 1955

AFL-CIO merger, “U.S. Labor: Rich and United,” Life, December 12, 1955