Through a case study of the largest National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) election in the 1970s, the author challenges the dominant historical narrative that the entire decade was a period of decline for worker militancy. Instead, Lane Windham argues that workers were steadily forming unions in the private sector throughout the 1970s and their success rates dropped when they were met by markedly increased employer resistance. The author examines the successful effort by nineteen thousand workers at the Newport News shipyard in Virginia to win a NLRB election in 1978. The workers waged an eighty-two-day strike when the company, Tenneco Inc., would not honor its obligation to a union contract. The governor's guardsmen met workers on the picket lines and the city police stormed the union hall, beating strikers with abandon. The workforce was half white, half black, and included many women. Windham argues that the civil rights and women's movements energized, rather than enervated, the unionization efforts. This case study highlights the 1970s emerging corporate pattern of attacking workers' organizing efforts.
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Lane Windham; Signing Up in the Shipyard: Organizing Newport News and Reinterpreting the 1970s. Labor 1 May 2013; 10 (2): 31–53. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/15476715-2071688
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