Strike! by Jeremy Brecher

Strike! by Jeremy Brecher

Author:Jeremy Brecher
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: PM Press
Published: 2014-07-11T16:00:00+00:00

Mounted police clashing with strikers outside an electrical plant in Philadelphia, 1946.

U.S. postal worker on strike, 1970.

Chapter 7

The Unknown Labor Dimension of the Vietnam War Era Revolt

THE LATE 1960s AND EARLY 1970s ARE REMEMBERED IN AMERICAN HIStory as an era of revolt. University struggles that started with the Berkeley student strike of 1964 became a virtually national student uprising at the start of the U.S. invasion of Cambodia in 1970. Forty-five percent of high school teachers polled in 1970 reported “student unrest” in their schools. Black ghetto rebellions began with the Watts riot and became a nationwide movement in the 1967 upheaval following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Direct action developed over rent strikes, housing, and welfare issues in dozens of cities. The women’s liberation movement launched a direct assault on the institutions of male dominance. Many American soldiers in Vietnam turned against the war and increasingly engaged in acts of resistance. In 1970 alone, the Pentagon reported 209 incidents of American servicemen using fragmentation grenades to kill other Americans, usually officers or non-commissioned officers.1

Often ignored in accounts of the Vietnam War era is the fact that it was also a period of labor revolt. The number of workers striking and the number of work days lost to strikes reached the highest level in the past half-century.2 Despite the merger of the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations in 1955, the proportion of workers in unions gradually declined. Most employers accepted unions as part of the system, while unions made few attempts to challenge the status quo. As a result, workers’ action in the late 1960s and early 1970s was increasingly independent of union leaderships, with wildcat strikes, contract rejections, informal direct action on the job, and rank-and-file caucuses all reaching their highest levels in the post–World War II era.


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