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"The Steel Strike Of 1959 V. The Kroger Strike Of 2004" This Essay Compares The Two Strikes.

1464 words - 6 pages

In this essay I will show how the conditions surround the 1959 Steel Strike negotiations were much more favorable to the union then the conditions surrounding the negotiations between Kroger and the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW). In 1959 the union was able to establish these favorable conditions through a strong labor movement, political involvement, public opinion, and a weak economy. In 2004 the circumstances were much different. Their unfavorable conditions included a weak labor movement, an inactive government, a lack of public opinion, and a strong economy. The best way to think of the differences between the two negotiations is to understand that there has been a shift in ideology from 1959 to 2004. Unions in 1959 had a great deal of strength and numbers. In 1959, unions represented 33% of nonagricultural workers.1 By 2004, the amount of workers represented by unions had dropped to 14%.2 This dramatic change in union membership shows how the power has been shifted to management. The lack of union members has also made the labor movement less important to the government and to the public. In 1959 most households were affected by the labor movement. This is no longer the case. Regardless of the strength of the recent labor movement I do feel that there is light at the end of the tunnel for organized labor in 2009 and the future.The conditions surrounding the 1959 Steel Strike were very favorable towards the union. Companies feared the unions and not the other way around. During 1959, the labor movement was strong around the entire country. One third of workers were represented by unions. The steel workers alone accounted for 500,000 workers which was 1% of the total labor force, and produce 90% of domestic made steel.3 This means that a steel strike would be equivalent to the US unemployment rate going up by 1% in one day. Unemployment is one of the key economic indicators for a country, and in a time of a recession, which they were in, an increase of 1% could be devastating to an economy. This 1% increase came from a significant sector of the market. So many industries relied on Steel that it was known as the heart and soul of the economy. Many industries such as car manufacturing and construction could not function without steel. For this reason, the steel strike was such a publicized event, and also gained a significant amount of political attention. Gaining public and political attention also worked to the union’s favor. An example of this is a meeting that Vice President Nixon and Labor Secretary Mitchell had with steel industry officials on December 30. The meeting reminded them that management like the labor-management legislation a Democrat ran Congress would produce. On January 5, an agreement had been reach, and the New York Times front page headline read, “Strike ends on terms of recommended by Nixon and Mitchell; USWA wind major demands.” 4 What made the Steel Strike of 1959 unique is that management...

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