Posted by: kokoro | 10th Mar, 2009

Babson, Chapter 4

According to Babson, in the years between 1941 and 1965, the nature of the relationship between labor, management, and government regulators resulted in union legitimacy and permanence. However, reliance on bureaucracy and the political agenda of the Democratic Party led to a decrease in labor’s capacity for social and political change. Labor during this period was shaped by the war, the Cold War, and black civil rights.

Management often ignored the grievance process, resulting in “quickie” strikes. In 1940, the UAW-GM agreement led to the use of a neutral third-party umpire to arbitrate concerns between workers and management. The need for stability in production during the war created the National War Labor Board (NWLB) to solve disputes. The NWLB established precedents for the future. The board was made up of twelve members with workers, managers, and public citizens (who often broke ties between management and labor). The board forced companies to except a union shop, in which workers must join the union upon hiring, and third-party arbitration as alternatives to strikes. However, business leaders once again became prominent and were able to work the NWLB to their advantage.

The UMW strikes in 1943 led to the War Labor Disputes Act that enabled the president to end strikes on government property and take legal action against strikers, and it also encouraged more strikes during the war, despite labor’s pledge of cooperation to the government.

1945-47 had the biggest strike wave in American history, which represented some turning points. The companies brought in no strikebreakers, and as a result there was little violence. Strikers were not racially or ethnically fragmented. The fight was no longer over the right of union existence, but rather about the bargaining relationship between capital and labor. Finally, it proved that management could be forced to pay workers more, but it was not compelled to have negotiators or government regulators interfere with the running of the company. The 1947 Taft-Hartley Act, which overhauled the National Labor Relations Act into maintaining the status quo, passed as Republicans took control of the government.

The Cold War and the Red Scare led to a split between liberal and moderate labor and the leftist Communist Party minority. With the revival of competition between rival unions, labor unity dissolved between 1947 and 1950, and compliance with conformity by the labor movement created less mobilization of social change.

Challenging the status quo equaled unpatriotic, and unions past support of interracial quality came to mean Red support. These racial connections made postwar mobilization against unions especially strong in the South, and led to labor’s decline at the forefront of civil rights activism.

However, LBJ’s election and the return of a pro-labor Congress in the 1960s led to labor legislative victories in 1964-65, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964 with its fair employment practices. Nonetheless, the trends of support from the government resulted in passivity within the labor party and the demobilization of grass roots efforts for change. The changes in labor relations created by the New Deal gave labor legitimacy, but also made the movement vulnerable to political changes in the government, and the labor movement began to revert back to business unionist concerns for better wages and working conditions rather than industrial unionist concerns of social and political change.

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