Unions and Discrimination

19 Pages Posted: 25 Apr 2013

Date Written: February 24, 2010


This article gives an account of the ways in which unions have used racial discrimination as an economic weapon. Before the Civil War, labor leaders claimed that the classical liberal, antislavery vision of “free labor” actually established “wage slavery” for white workers. The former slaves, excluded from white unions, often had to fight their way into industrial employment as strikebreakers. Organized labor lobbied for decades for special legislation that would enable them to make their strikes effective. When they finally achieved this in the New Deal, the federal government faced the problem of securing “fair representation” for black workers. This ended up producing affirmative action after the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Keywords: racial discrimination, segregation of african americans, discrimination in the workplace, affirmative action, union workers

JEL Classification: J15, J40, J50, J51

Suggested Citation

Moreno, Paul, Unions and Discrimination (February 24, 2010). Cato Journal, Vol. 30, No. 1, 2010, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2256183

Paul Moreno (Contact Author)

Hillsdale College ( email )

Hillsdale, MI 49242
United States

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