Labor History Quiz

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Question 1
Which state Supreme Court decision, issued in 1842, held that labor unions are legal?

A
West Coast Hotel v. Parrish
B
Debs v. United States
C
Commonwealth v. Pullis
D
Commonwealth v. Hunt
Question 1 Explanation: 
In 1842, the Suffolk County Attorney filed an indictment against the Boston Journeyman Bootmaker’s Society alleging that the organization was a criminal conspiracy. The society had organized several strikes in the 1830s in an effort to achieve higher wages for its members. The Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that labor combinations are legal provided that they are organized for a legal purpose and use legal means to achieve their goals. This case set an important precedent.
Question 2
What was the first national labor organization in the United States?

A
Knights of Labor
B
American Federation of Labor
C
Congress of Industrial Organizations
D
National Labor Union
Question 2 Explanation: 
Founded in 1866, the National Labor Union created a national federation of labor organizations, including skilled and unskilled workers. It pressed for an eight-hour work day along with other reforms. Several hundred thousand members joined the organization prior to its collapse in 1873.
Question 3
Which organization, supported largely by Irish miners in eastern Pennsylvania, was crushed in the 1870s?

A
Irish Republican Army
B
Fenians
C
Molly Maguires
D
Sinn Fein
Question 3 Explanation: 
The Molly Maguires was a secret society with members ranging from Ireland to Liverpool and eastern Pennsylvania in the US. The society focused on helping Irish natives to deal with unfair treatment. In 1877, following a series of violent conflicts, 20 members of the Molly Maguires were convicted of murder and other crimes and were executed by hanging.
Question 4
Which industry saw a major strike in 1877 that started in West Virginia before spreading across the country?

A
Coal
B
Railroad
C
Steel
D
Rubber
Question 4 Explanation: 
The Great Railroad Strike of 1877 began in Martinsburg, West Virginia. Workers went on strike against the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad after their wages were cut for the third time in a year. The strike grew to include more than 100,000 workers from New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Illinois, and Missouri. A combination of a state militia and federal troops clashed with strikers, culminating in a death toll surpassing 100 people.
Question 5
Which 1886 event, considered the origin of May Day, began as a peaceful demonstration for an 8-hour work day, but ended in a bombing that killed 7 policemen and 4 civilians?

A
Homestead Strike
B
The Haymarket Affair
C
Great Railroad Strike
D
The Hard Hat Riot
Question 5 Explanation: 
The labor demonstration at Haymarket Square in Chicago began peacefully on May 4, 1886. However, as police dispersed the crowd, an unknown individual threw a bomb. The explosion killed seven policemen. Gunfire erupted and four civilians were also killed. In response to the riot, officials further clamped down on labor unions, and eight anarchists were eventually convicted for the attack.
Question 6
What was the largest labor organization in the 1880s?

A
Western Federation of Miners
B
Knights of Labor
C
United Service Workers Union
D
National Labor Union
Question 6 Explanation: 
Formed in 1869, the Knights of Labor accrued nearly 800,000 members by 1886. The Knights' primary demand was for an eight-hour work day, but they also called for legislation to end child labor. Their organizational structure was weak, and after the Haymarket riot there was a political backlash against U.S. labor organizations. Most of its members abandoned the organization by 1890.
Question 7
Who served as the first president of the American Federation of Labor?

A
Eugene Debs
B
Robert Lafollette
C
Samuel Gompers
D
John L. Lewis
Question 7 Explanation: 
Born in London in 1850, Samuel Gompers and his family emigrated to American in 1863. He became a cigar maker and then founded the AFL in 1886. He served as the organization's president until he died in 1924.
Question 8
Which 1894 event led to the creation of Labor Day as a federal holiday?

A
Pullman Strike
B
Hard Hat Riot
C
Homestead Strike
D
Great Railroad Strike
Question 8 Explanation: 
The American Railway Union launched a strike against the Pullman Company in 1894 primarily in response to reduced wages. It began as a small, unionized strike lacking the support or approval of a leader, but eventually spread to include 250,000 workers in 27 states. After the death of 30 people and over $80 million in property damages, the army was called in to quash the strike. In an effort to appease the trade unions and work towards reconciliation, Congress approved Labor Day and declared it a national holiday.
Question 9
Which woman associated with the labor union movement was described as “the most dangerous woman in America” in 1902?

A
Emma Goldman
B
Mary Ann “Mother” Bickerdyke
C
Rosa Luxemburg
D
Mary Harris “Mother” Jones
Question 9 Explanation: 
Born in Ireland in 1837, “Mother” Jones emigrated to Canada and then the United states. She became a labor activist, focusing on labor representation and community organization. She facilitated many major strikes in addition to co-founding the Industrial Workers of the World. She was jailed several times and was denounced as the “grandmother of all agitators.”
Question 10
Which labor dispute marked the first time the federal government acted as a neutral arbiter rather than an active aggressor?

A
Railroad Strike of 1922
B
Coal Strike of 1902
C
Steel Strike of 1919
D
Steel Strike of 1959
Question 10 Explanation: 
In 1902, the United Mine Workers of America launched a strike in Pennsylvania. President Teddy Roosevelt intervened and helped negotiate an agreement. The miners bargained for a pay increase and a shorter work week while mine owners received an increased price for coal.
Question 11
With which organization was “Big Bill” Haywood most closely associated?

A
American Federation of Labor
B
Industrial Workers of the World
C
Knights of Labor
D
Congress of Industrial Organizations
Question 11 Explanation: 
Born in Salt Lake City in 1869, William “Big Bill” Haywood became a miner at a young age. He was a founding member and leader of the IWW. He saw industrial unionism, organizing all workers in an industry under the same union, as the best way to maintain leverage during potential strikes. He was convicted of opposing the draft during World War I and fled to Russia as a result. He died in 1928.
Question 12
Which 1921 West Virginia conflict was the largest labor uprising in United States history?

A
Everett Massacre
B
Westmoreland County Coal Strike
C
Ludlow Massacre
D
Battle of Blair Mountain
Question 12 Explanation: 
In 1921, Coal miners in West Virginia attempted to form a union. Mine owners resisted the effort, which culminated in an armed conflict between 10,000 miners and 3,000 police and strikebreakers. President Warren G. Harding authorized bombers to conduct aerial surveillance. The miners finally disbanded after federal troops arrived. Approximately 100 people were killed in the conflict and 985 miners were arrested.
Question 13
John L. Lewis was most closely associated with which of the following organizations?

A
American Federation of Labor
B
Congress of Industrial Organizations
C
Knights of Labor
D
Industrial Workers of the World
Question 13 Explanation: 
Lewis served as president of the United Mine Workers of America from 1920 to 1960. During his tenure as president of the UMWA, he also formed the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) in 1935. The CIO helped to organize millions of industrial workers; in 1955, it merged with the American Federation of Labor.
Question 14
What new labor relations tactic emerged during the 1930s?

A
Picketing
B
The implementation of sit-down strikes
C
The introduction of strike breakers
D
The usage of wildcat strikes
Question 14 Explanation: 
Previously, workers on strike organized protests outside of factories. During the 1930s, sit-down strikes became more common, whereby workers entered factories and occupied facilities. This tactic easily brought production to a halt while giving the strikers more bargaining power.
Question 15
Which New Deal law established the National Labor Relations Board?

A
Keating-Owen Act
B
Glass-Steagall Act
C
Taft-Hartley Act
D
Wagner Act
Question 15 Explanation: 
President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the National Labor Relations Act in 1935, which is often called the Wagner Act. This Act guarantees the right of private sector employees to unionize, engage in collective bargaining, take collective action, and to strike if necessary. It also established the National Labor Relations Board, which supervises labor union elections and investigates unfair labor practices.
Question 16
Which New Deal law established a minimum wage for workers, and required overtime for those who worked more than 40 hours a week?

A
Taft-Hartley Act
B
Executive Order 8802
C
Fair Labor Standards Act
D
Davis-Bacon Act
Question 16 Explanation: 
President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938. The bill established a minimum wage of 40 cents per hour and guaranteed “time-and-a-half” for most jobs if workers clocked more than 40 hours per week.
Question 17
Which law was passed to restrict the activities and power of labor unions?

A
Norris-La Guardia Act
B
Taft-Hartley Act
C
Keating-Owen Act
D
Davis-Bacon Act
Question 17 Explanation: 
The Taft-Hartley Act of 1947 amended the Wagner Act of 1935. President Harry S. Truman vetoed the bill, but Congress overrode his veto. The law restricts union activity and bans the use of closed shops, which are contractual agreements that require employers to hire only labor union members.
Question 18
Which two powerful unions merged in 1955?

A
American Federation of Labor & Congress of Industrial Organizations
B
International Workers of the World & American Federation of Labor
C
Service Employees International Union & Teamsters
D
International Workers of the World & Congress of Industrial Organizations
Question 18 Explanation: 
The AFL was founded in 1886, and the CIO was founded in 1935. The two organizations were fierce rivals during the 1930s, but found it preferable to merge in 1955.
Question 19
Cesar Chavez co-founded which of the following organizations?

A
Congress of Industrial Organizations
B
United Farm Workers
C
Industrial Workers of the World
D
American Federation of Labor
Question 19 Explanation: 
Chavez was born in Arizona in 1927. He dropped out of school in the 7th grade to become a migrant farmer worker. In 1962, he co-founded the National Farm Workers Association with Dolores Huerta. It was later called the United Farm Workers of America (UFW). The UFW organized boycotts and strikes in order to achieve higher pay and additional rights for farm workers and eventually transitioned into a union and became the United Farmworkers Union.
Question 20
In 1970, which conflict occurred between union members and students protesting the Vietnam War?

A
Stonewall Riots
B
Straw Hat Riot
C
Hard Hat Riot
D
Greensboro Massacre
Question 20 Explanation: 
Several hundred high school and college students in New York City protested shootings that took place at Kent State University, which killed 4 students. Many union members supported the war and they clashed with the anti-war protestors. At least 70 people were injured.
Question 21
In 1970, which group of federal employees initiated one of the largest wildcat strikes in US history?

A
Postal workers
B
Internal Revenue Service clerks
C
Federal Bureau of Investigation agents
D
Immigration agents
Question 21 Explanation: 
A wildcat strike is a strike undertaken by unionized workers without the authorization, support, or approval of the union’s leaders. Although it was illegal for federal employees to do so, postal workers went on strike for two weeks in 1970. During the strike, President Nixon ordered 24,000 military personnel to distribute the mail. The strike ultimately led to a reorganization of the postal service.
Question 22
In 1980, President Ronald Reagan famously crushed a strike in what transportation sector?

A
Railroad transport
B
Air traffic control
C
The Merchant Marines
D
Airline transport
Question 22 Explanation: 
The Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization was founded in 1968. In 1981, the union launched a strike and demanded both better pay and working conditions. However, it was illegal for federal employees to go on strike. President Ronald Reagan fired more than 11,000 controllers who refused to return to work. Historian Joseph McCartin has described the union’s defeat as “one of the most important events in late twentieth century U.S. labor history.”
Question 23
Which of the following professional sports associations has experienced multiple strikes or lockouts?

A
National Hockey League
B
National Basketball Association
C
All of the above
D
National Football League
Question 23 Explanation: 
Between 1995 and 1999, the NBA experienced three lockouts and a fourth occurred in 2011. The NHL has also had labor disputes in 1992, 1994–95, 2004–2005, and 2012–2013. The NFL has had eight labor disputes between 1968 and 2012.
Question 24
What is the function of “right to work” legislation?

A
It prevents employers from discriminating against minority job applicants
B
It prevents employers from firing employees without just cause
C
It prevents employees from forced union membership
D
It requires employees to join unions
Question 24 Explanation: 
As of 2016, 26 states have passed “right to work” laws, which prevent workers from being forced to join a union or pay union dues.
Question 25
Since the 1950s, labor union membership has generally experienced which of the following trends?

A
Decline
B
Growth
C
No change
D
Steady decline followed by growth starting in 2009
Question 25 Explanation: 
Union membership peaked in 1954 at 28.3% of the workforce, but has now fallen to 11.1%. There is substantial debate over the causes of this decline. Some possible explanations include:

  • Federal employment law has replaced traditional union roles.
  • Today's workers are less interested in the benefits of unionization.
  • Global competition and deregulation in traditionally unionized industries.
  • Company hostility towards unions supported by the Taft-Hartley Act.
  • Heavy industries like steel and autos now representing a smaller part of the economy.
  • Unions hurt themselves by demanding too much from employers.
  • Changing demographics of the workforce (more women, teenagers, and illegal immigrants).
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