Labor History quiz




Labor History quiz


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Labor History quiz


     AFGE Labor History Quiz-Answer Key


1.         What is the U.S. law that gives all workers the right to organize?

            xThe Constitution                         r The National Labor Relations Act

qThe Fair Labor Standards Act   qThe Federal Labor Relations Authority

The right to organize a union comes from the right of “freedom of association,” found in the 1st amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, & to petition the government for a redress of grievance.”


2.         What is the FLRA (Federal Labor Relations Authority)?

x A federal authority set up to resolve labor disputes in the federal sector

o A certificate program in Labor-Management Partnership offered by the Federal  
Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS)

o An amendment to the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 that extends
collective bargaining rights to workers in the USDOL.

The FLRA was passed as part of the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 which codified labor relations in the federal sector, protected whistle blowers, and set up procedures for handling disputes in the federal sector workplace.


3.          In 1840, President Martin Van Buren signed an Executive Order authorizing a ten-hour day for government employees with no reduction in wages.  Why?

o He made a campaign pledge to government employees that he would improve
Their working conditions

x Between 1830 and 1836, workers in the private sector along  
With naval shipyard workers led numerous strikes and demonstrations in    
support of a shorter work day  

o In response to an 1839 U.S. Supreme Court ruling which upheld the shorter
workday in New York State

The history of labor in the U.S. is one of often violent struggles for union recognition and a shorter work day. General strikes and the fear of worker actions that could cripple the economy pressured the government, particularly in hard economic times, to enact pro-worker legislation.


4.         In 1962, John F Kennedy signed Executive Order 10988 which

x Exclusive recognition and bargaining rights to unions in the federal government

o Prohibited age discrimination in the hiring of civil service employees

o Expanded social security benefits to government employees

o August 18 as the officially recognized anniversary of the AFGE           

EO 10988 opened the door for collective bargaining for federal employees. It supported the constitutional right of workers to join labor unions, recognized unions for negotiations, required federal agencies to meet with unions regarding personnel policies and conditions of work, and established grievance & arbitration procedures. The order encouraged local and state government employees to take action to win negotiation rights as well.

5.         In 1868, Congress passed the first federal law establishing an 8 hour work day.  Who was covered by this law?

x Postal workers, mechanics, and workmen employed by the federal government

o Private shipyard workers in Boston, Seattle and San Francisco

o Unionized textile workers in Lawrence, Massachusetts

o All hourly workers employed in the private sector

Hundreds of eight-hour leagues formed coast to coast during and after the Civil War pressuring eight states to pass eight-hour day’s legislation and helping to persuade the U.S. Congress to create a law for federal employees in 1868.  This worker formation inspired the NALC in 1889.  It’s easy to forget that not so long ago, workers had no protection to stop employers from enforcing 12 hour shifts, sometimes 7 days a week.  If you could not keep up, you were fired.  When the law passed, the Post Office interpreted it to mean 8 hours a day for 7 days a week- or 56 hours a week.  The NALC (National Association of Letter Carriers) sued the federal government and the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the union.  It awarded the letter carriers a total of $3.5 million, settling thousands of overtime claims.


6.        What precipitated the establishment of the Federal Bureau of Labor in 1884?

o A  Congressional jobs bill to increase employment in the U.S

x Organized worker and trade union protests demanding a government response to 
the inhuman working conditions in America's factories

o Enactment of the Civil Service Act of 1883

Toward the end of the 19th century, there were many violent clashes between police and unions. In general strikes in Chicago and St. Louis, workers took over the city and 20 protesters were killed. In another labor dispute, 20 Irish miners died. In the 1880s, there were 500 strikes a year.  In 1879, The Knights of Labor organized workers except lawyers, bankers, stock brokers and professional gamblers.  In 1881, they joined other unions to form the Federation of Trades and Labor Unions.  The first Labor Day was celebrated in NYC in 1882.


7.         The AFGE was founded in:

x 1932                     o 1917                      o 1886                      o 1912

The AFL granted NFFE a charter in 1917. In 1886, the AFL was formed. And in 1912, the Robert Lloyd-LaFollette Act was passed which officially recognized federal workers rights to organize but denied them membership in unions which had the right to strike. NFFE (National Federation of Federal Employees) defected from the AFL in December 1931 in a dispute over organizing federal skilled craft employees, creating a rift in it’s leadership.  Those loyal to the AFL formed an organization first called the Joint Conference to Re-Affiliate which, when efforts at reconciling NFFE defectors and AFL loyalists failed, became the AFGE.


8.         Besides the U.S., what other countries deny civil servants the right to strike?

oCanada                             oHungary                            oFinland     
oFrance                               oHolland                             oIndia
oSpain                                 oNetherlands                     oSouth Africa
oGreece                              oZimbabwe                         xNone of the above

The biggest single difference between Labor Relations in the public sector and in the private sector is the right to strike. The Supreme Court has recognized the right to strike as the ultimate form of collective action to pressure the employer to recognize or bargain with the union.




9.         Between 1962 and the early 1970s, AFGE membership jumped with 200,000
government employees joining the union. What accounted for this growth?

oKennedy Executive Order 10988 issued in 1962

o$1 million grant from the AFL-CIO (worth over $5 million today) dedicated solely to organizing new members

oGrowth of the civil rights movement

xAll of the above

Membership in public-employee unions soared during this period as a result of all of these forces. Not only in the federal sector, but in the majority of the states, laws were passed enabling collective bargaining for state and local workers. This was a period when the labor movement, particularly among public sector workers, and the civil rights movement were clearly aligned. The march on Washington was headed by a coalition of African American labor and civil rights leaders.  MLK was assassinated during this period when he went to Memphis, TN in 1968 to support the sanitation workers, organized by AFSCME, who were striking for union recognition.


10.      What President was also a president of a national labor union?

xRonald Reagan              oFranklin Roosevelt

oLyndon Johnson             oAbraham Lincoln

Ronald Reagan was an elected President of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG).


11.        What is the mission and purpose of the AFGE?

oTo promote unity of action among government employees

oTo represent persons in all matters who provide services to the U.S. Government

oTo improve government service

xAll of the above


12.      What 1970 U.S. Federal statute regulates workplace safety?

oAmerican Workers Health Act              oFair Labor Standards Act

oFederal Employee Safety Act               xOccupational Safety and Health Act


OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Act) is considered one of the top 10

achievements or triumphs of the American worker.  It took nearly a century to sign the
first comprehensive federal legislation requiring employers to provide a workplace
“free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious
physical harm to employees.” The first workers compensation law for federal
employees was passed in 1916, The Federal Employee’s Compensation Act, ensured
that federal workers who were injured on the job would receive compensation and
medical benefits.  Before this, when any worker was injured on the job, they had no
guarantee of compensation for the injury.  In fact, the employer could actually sue the
injured employee for being careless.


13.        What 1935 law has been called the "Magna Carta" of organized labor?

oAmerican Labor Union Act                   oFair Labor Standards Act

oNational Industrial Recovery Act         xNational Labor Relations Act

Also called the Wagner Act, this law is the foundation for current U.S. labor law and paved the way for union growth nationwide. The law granted unions the right to organize  without employer interference and obligated employers to bargain collectively with unions on hours, wages, and other terms and conditions of employment. The National Labor Relations Board was created under the Act, creating a means of enforcement for the new law.  Before this, while workers had rights under the Constitution they were not protected from employer retaliation at least not in the private sector.  Employers were also not compelled by law to bargain.  The NRLA was the first federal law to compel employers to sit down and bargain with the union and made it illegal for employers to retaliate against workers for organizing a union or engaging in collective bargaining to protect their rights to representation and collective bargaining including the right to strike.


14.        What is the labor federation that speaks for organized labor as a whole? (Hint:
AFGE and its member locals are 100 percent fully affiliated with this group)  

xAFL-CIO                                                  oKnights of Labor

oNational Labor Relations Board                      oU.S. Department of Labor

Check out for more information on this labor federation.


15.      In what year did the AFGE Convention establish the Women's Department?

x1974                      o1968                       o1985           o1992



16.      In what year did AFGE and the AFL-CIO Government Employees Council fight to
overhaul federal retirement laws, providing retirement at 55 years of age with 30
years of service?

o1935                       o1970                       x1956                      o1965

This law assured nearly all government employees of a 20 percent increase in their basic retirement annuity.  The first federal retirement law, the Civil Service Retirement Act, took effect in 1920 which allowed federal employees to retire at age 65 with annuities ranging from $100 to $270 a year,  Before this, older federal workers had no choice but to continue to work.  There were no retirement pay or health benefits.  If an older federal worker couldn’t keep up with the work, they were fired.  In 1915, postal carriers went on strike to protest the firing of an older mail carrier.  The NALC and NFFE pressured Congress to enact the Civil Service Retirement Act.


17.      In 1902, the first "gag" rules forbidding government employees to "jawbone"
            or lobby for legislation were issued by President Theodore Roosevelt.  Why?

oTo support a 1901 Congressional Resolution limiting the political activities of federal
employees, individually or as a group

xTo reduce the power of well-organized postal workers who were successfully
challenging Roosevelt's anti-worker policies

oTo respond to government efficiency studies conducted by the OPM that showed
federal workers were spending more work time on political activities than on their  
regular jobs

In 1902, in response to the vigorous lobbying undertaken by the fledgling postal worker unions, President Theodore Roosevelt issued an executive order denying basic constitutional rights to all postal and federal employees by forbidding them to solicit members of Congress for wage increases or to influence any other legislation. This was followed by another EO issued by President Taft in 1909 prohibiting postal workers from answering any questions concerning their working conditions that might be posed by Congressional representatives. In 1939, Congress passed the Hatch Act, severely limiting government workers’ political activities and campaigning.  This law was finally reformed in 1993.


18.       In 1941, A. Phillip Randolph threatened to lead 250,000 African-Americans   workers on a march to Washington to protest racial discrimination in hiring in defense production.  How did FDR respond to this threat?

xIssued Executive Order banning employment discrimination in federal aircraft
plants and shipyards and established a Fair Practices Commission to monitor
employment discrimination in U.S. defense industries

oIssued an Executive Order banning worker stoppages in federal workplaces

oAppealed to CIO President John Lewis to persuade A. Phillip Randolph to stop
the March on Washington

On June 25, 1941 FDR signed Executive Order 8802 creating the Fair Employment Practices Committee (FEPC). The order banned racial discrimination in any defense industry receiving federal contracts by declaring "there shall be no discrimination in the employment of workers in defense industries or government because of race, creed, color, or national origin." The order also empowered the FEPC to investigate complaints and take action against alleged employment discrimination. Randolph, working with other civil rights activists, organized the 1941 March on Washington Movement to protest job discrimination in industry and the military and threatened to bring 250,000 African Americans to Washington to demonstrate against congressional resistance to fair employment. FDR sent his wife Eleanor and New York City Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia to negotiate with the March’s leaders. Eleanor returned, telling FDR that their plans were firm, that only an anti-discrimination ordinance would prevent what promised to be the largest demonstration in our capital's history.


19.     What was the Taft-Harley Act of 1947?

oAn amendment to the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 banning labor   unions use of secondary boycotts and sympathy strikes to pressure employers

oLegislation empowering the federal government to enforce “cooling off” periods  between employers and unions

oA law that outlawed the closed shop, gave non-union workers the right to work in union shops without joining the union, and allowed union members to decertify.

xAll of the above
The  Taft-Hartley Act impeded employees' rights to join unions, undermined the power of unions to represent workers' interests effectively, and authorized an array of anti-union employer activities.  After WWII, union membership climbed to 15 million, five times its size in 1933. At the war’s end, over 5 million workers had engaged in nearly 5,000 work stoppages to win back wages frozen during war time.  Big business fought back with a campaign against “big labor.”  In 1946, conservative Republican’s swept the congressional elections, and corporate interests lobbied for drastic reductions in workers rights. Taft Hartley forced union officials to sign affidavits that they were not communists.  Truman vetoed the bill but it was overridden. Unions have lobbied heavily for labor law reform (1978 and 1994) to restore workers rights were lost under Taft-Hartley but have so far not been successful.




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Labor History quiz



Labor History quiz


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