Labor’s Changing and Turbulent Environment

Part of the Springer Studies in Work and Industry book series (SSWI)


Before the New Deal, the fortunes of the American labor movement were shaped primarily by the labor market and management’s efforts to contain union growth. Union membership began to climb in the twentieth century, reaching a peak of 19 percent of the nonagricultural labor force in 1920. The Great Depression caused membership to sink to 12 percent in 1932, just before the New Deal. Then, under the protection of the NLRB, membership soared to an all-time high of 36 percent in 1945. It began to decline almost unnoticed for a decade but thereafter dropped steadily to about 17 percent in 1990 (Kochan, Katz, and McKersie 1986, p. 31; U.S. Bureau of the Census 1990, p. 418. Despite the early percentage decline, the situation looked promising for 40 years because from 1930 to 1970 membership continued to grow from 3,401,000 in 1930 to 21,248,000 in 1970. Then it leveled off for a decade and declined to about 17 million by 1990.


Central City Union Member Union Membership Democratic Party Party Leader 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1995

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