The Labor Movements In The United States And The United Kingdom


  • Hany H. Makhlouf Professor School of Business and Public Administration University of the District of Columbia Washington, D. C. 2008



The Combination Acts, Knights of Labor, American Federation of Labor (AFL), Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), union density, closed shop, union shop.


The rise of the labor movements in the United Kingdom in the 17th century and in the United States in the 19th century, their growth through most of the 20th century, and their steady decline since the 1970s reflect several similarities and differences in their experiences, strategies, tactics, and goals. Both movements faced many early challenges that threatened their survival, and went through growth periods, followed by the current decline phase in which they are struggling to prove their worth and relevance in changing economies and new labor market realities. This article examines the similarities and differences in these labor movements’ experiences, and in their past and current environments. It argues that labor unions are not likely to face the destiny of the dinosaurs, but they may have to continue to evolve, adjust, and innovate to stop their decline and appeal to a changing labor force. Their bread and butter focus, however, is likely to remain as the core of their existence.


“A Beginner’s Guide to the History of Unions”. Retrieved from: http://www.grahamstevenson, =6…

American Federation of Labor (2014).” Organized Labor”. U. S. History. Retrieved from:

Boudette, N. (2014, February 15). Union Suffers Big Loss at Tennessee VW Plant. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from:

Bryson, A. (2014, July 1). “Union Wage Effects: What are the Economic Implications of Union Wage Bargaining for Workers, Firms, and Society?”. National Institute of Economic and Social Research, UK. IZA World of Labor, 1-8.

Bureau of Labor Statistics (2014). Union Membership Summary. Economic News Release. Retrieved from

French, W. (2003). Human Resources Management. 5th Edition. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Griffin, R. (2013). Management. 11th Edition. Cengage Learning, p. 384.

“How Margaret Thatcher Turned Great Britain’s Labor Market Around” (2013, April 9). Forbes. Retrieved from Margaret-Thatcher-turned…

Johnson, S. (2008, Spring). “Battle of the Monogahela: Homestead Steel, 1892”. Retrieved from:

Kennedy, R. C. (2001). “On This Day”. New York Times. Retrieved from:

Logan, J. (2009, December). “The Union Avoidance industry in the United States”. British Journal of Industrial Relations, 44 (4). P. 651-675.

Loomis, E. (2011, December 5). “The Day in Labor History: December 5, 1955”. Retrieved from: 1955.

Marglioth, S. R. (1998). “The Significance of Worker Attitudes: Individualism as a Cause for Labor’s Decline”. Hofstra Labor and Employment Law Journal. 16(1), 133-150.

Mokyr, J. (200l, January 1). “The Rise and Fall of the Factory System: Technology, firms, and Households since the Industrial Revolution”. Paper Prepared for the Carnegie-Rochester Conference on Macroeconomics, Pittsburgh, Nov. 17-19, 2000.

Osmont, G. (2003, October 11). “The Combination Acts, 1799-1800”. Retrieved from:

Reynolds, M. (2009, July 17). ”A History of Labor Unions from Colonial Times to 2009”. MISES Institute. Retrieved from: 2009.

Sano, J., and J. Williamson (2008). “Factors Affecting Union Decline in 18 OECD Countries and their Implications for Labor Movement Reform”. International Journal of Comparative Sociology. Sage Publication, 49(6), 479-500.

Striking Women (n.d.). “Claiming Rights: Role of Trade Unions in the United Kingdom”. Retrieved from: https://www, responsibilities/claiming-rights-role-tr...

The Economist (2015, July 16). “Why Is Britain Making It Harder to Strike”. Retrieved from:

Wright C. F. (2011, September). “What Role for Trade Unions in Future Workplace Relations?” ACAS Future of Workplace Relations Discussion Paper Series, 1-10.

Yellowitz, I. (1989, July).” Samuel Gompers: A Half Century in Labor’s Front Rank”. Monthly Labor Review, p. 27-33.