New Deal Labor Policy and the American Industrial Economy

By Stanley Vittoz | Go to book overview
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6

Codified Capitalism, II

As we have seen, it was not unusual for trade unions to be viewed by a certain managerial element in the bituminous coal mining and garment manufacturing industries as an agency through which to stabilize labor costs and limit business competition. Efforts on the part of some mine owners and clothing manufacturers to employ this regulatory strategy reached their peak during the Great Depression. It must be recalled in this connection, however, that a strong union presence had been an economic fact of life in both of these industries long before the coming of the New Deal. The aim of gaining effective control over the competitive realm with the help of organized labor was seldom a purely elective option for management during the 1930s. As I pointed out initially in Chapter 4, the adoption of such a strategy almost always was a choice born of necessity, with an unmistakable correlation between prior subjection to union power or otherwise rigorously enforced rules of employment on one hand and management's willingness to advance the idea of universal adherence to such standards on the other. This clearly was the pattern in the garment trades and the mining of bituminous coal, the particular circumstances of which can be contrasted with the virtual absence of any such constraint on management in the cotton textile industry. In cotton textiles, the politics of industrial stabilization were unique because the economics of interregional competition bore a comparatively weak legacy of institutionalized union power.


Labor and the Cotton Textile Code

The leaders of the cotton textile industry had worked behind the scenes during the weeks immediately preceding the adoption of the NIRA at least as diligently as any other business group to bring about a new "partnership" between government and business dedicated to the alleviation of economic difficulties which had crippled that industry for the better part of a decade. Accordingly, when it became known—certainly no later than the

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