General Vocabulary

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Name: _____________________________________________________________________________Comparing and Contrasting Labor Unions

General Vocabulary

Collective Bargaining = Collective bargaining is the name given to negotiations between employers and labor unions over working conditions and wages. (CB)
Closed Shop = A closed shop is a company in which all the employees are union members, and being a member of a union is a condition of employment. The employer is required to hire only union members except in cases where a union member is not available. In such situations, a nonunion worker may be hired with the requirement that he or she become a union member once employed. (CS)
Lobbying = The most common method of shaping public policy in the United States, lobbying embodies the formal, organized attempt to influence legislation. Lobbying is carried out through a variety of means, but for the most part, lobbyists directly contact legislators and their staffs in an attempt to influence congressional votes. (L)
Sit-Down Strike = the sit-down strike was part of a new strategy adopted by labor organizers in the 1930s; as the name implies, workers simply sat down in the factory and refused to leave. Workers at companies like General Motors and Firestone effectively used the sit-down strike, as did glass and textile workers, electricians, dressmakers, and waitresses. (SDS)

Directions: Your task is to learn about the four primary labor unions of the Second Industrial Revolution and compare and contrast their membership, leadership, tactics, successes and failures (outcomes). Use the handout reading as well as textbook pages 244-249 to complete the information organizer on the back of this page.

  • Membership = What groups of people filled the ranks of this union?

  • Leadership = What were the names of the union’s leaders?

  • Goals = What changes/reforms did the union hope to achieve?

  • Tactics = What specific actions did the union take to meet their goals?

  • Outcomes = What were the successes/failures of the union? What happened to the union over time?

National Labor Union

Knights of Labor

American Federation of Labor

Industrial Workers of the World


City trade assemblies, national trade unions, reform organizations

Men, women, whites, blacks, skilled, unskilled, citizens, immigrants

Skilled workers from many industries,

Socialists and trade unions, unskilled and exploited workers, immigrants, minorities, women, migrant farmers


William Sylvis, David Davis

Uriah Stevens, Terence Powderly, James Sovereign

Samuel Gompers, William Greene

Bill Haywood, Eugene V. Debbs, Mother Jones, Daniel De Leon


Better working conditions, 8-hour work day, equal pay for equal work

Abolishing child labor, equal pay for equal work, 8-hour work day, creation of a Bureau of Labor Statistics in the federal government

Higher wages, shorter hours, other economics issues

One big union to control the means of production and distribution (Marxist/communist struggle), abolish divisions among workers, achieve fair and equal working conditions and government support for labor


Legislative reform, lobbying, no strikes

Arbitration, boycotts, cooperatives, though they did not support strikes they did use strikes sometimes, legislative pressure (used after Haymarket)

Distanced itself from communist and socialist organizations, negotiated labor contracts, strike only when necessary, focused on day-to-day working conditions instead of social or business practices, collective bargaining, closed shop

Direct action, strikes, (general strike in the future to overthrow the capitalistic system, smaller strikes in the short term), educational campaigns, songs, graphics, speeches, literature, sit-down strike, chain picketing, car caravans


Transformed into the National Labor Reform Party, nominated David Davis for president, lost the 1872 election, was disbanded in 1873

Second strike against Jay Gould’s railroad empire and the Haymarket Square Riot in May 1886 destroyed the reputation and support of the union, most members joined the AFL or local trade unions comprised of skilled workers

Congress passed labor laws, but the Supreme Court overruled some, merged with the CIO (Congress of Industrial Organizations) in 1955, did achieve better working conditions (minimum wage, maximum working hours, workers compensation, end to child labor = all during the 1930s)

Civil rights advances, fought against the government for protection of 1st Amendment rights, anti-military and anti-war stance caused them to be unpopular in WWI, legacy of organizing tactics for groups, led to the mass union of the CIO and inclusion of women in labor leadership and membership

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