• Education

Lessons from labor history, part 1

Some people love British Naval history, some folks reenact the Civil War; Sara Horowitz, our founder, is a labor history buff. She even graduated from Cornell's School of Industrial and Labor Relations. Here at Freelancers Union, Sara's leading some staff members in a series of discussions we're calling "Lessons from Labor History." As we progress, we thought we'd share the lessons with readers of our blog. Our first meeting was yesterday, and we read chapters from Charles Heckscher's The New Unionism in preparation. Our first discussion covered the transitions in the role of unions throughout American labor history. We discussed the differences between craft unions, where workers organized based on their specific skills, and later industrial unions, which were created when large industry became a force in the American economy and workers began to organize around industry lines, rather than on the basis of skill. From early craft unions, to larger industrial unions, organized labor has had to adapt to changing social and economic forces. The next form of unionism must accommodate workers in an increasingly flexible, mobile, technology-driven labor environment. In our next discussions we will focus on specific pieces of legislation that contributed to changes in the labor movement, and how lessons from this legislation can inform our efforts to improve the lives of contemporary workers.

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