New Deal Labor Policy and the American Industrial Economy

By Stanley Vittoz | Go to book overview

7

Politics: The Wagner Act

When the National Industrial Recovery Act was adopted in June 1933, the nation's trade unionists believed that they had secured, via the recovery measure's controversial Section 7a, certain fairly substantial guarantees in furtherance of organized labor's interests in the American political economy. Indeed, although the NIRA had been formulated with the cooperation and guidance of some of the country's most influential corporate spokesmen, neither the business lobbyists nor the Roosevelt administration ever fully anticipated, or in any way encouraged, the inclusion of the labor provisions as they were finally interpreted by union officials. Rather, as David Brody has astutely observed, "Once it was shoved into the recovery bill [essentially] at labor's initiative, Section 7a proved impossible to dislodge—partly because it fitted so well the [elementary] logic of the Recovery Act, [and] partly because the underlying principles [of the provision] had been gaining acceptance for some years before." 1

The fortunes of industry varied immensely under the impact of the NIRA. Some enterprises floundered helplessly between 1933 and 1935, despite the efforts of the National Recovery Administration. But several of the industrial codes instituted under the auspices of that agency, as was demonstrated in the two preceding chapters, proved at least partially successful in attaining the recovery program's primary goal: to regulate competition, put a floor under falling prices, and thereby effect an eventual restoration of business profits. By the same token, workers' wages either increased moderately or were prevented from diminishing radically in relation to profits in key industries such as bituminous coal mining and garment manufacturing, in which the extent of union penetration and the advent of near industrywide collective bargaining worked as an organizational adjunct to the general regulatory aims of the NRA code apparatus. This, naturally enough, tended to enhance the competitive position and market security of certain segments of industry at the same time that it provided a boost to the prestige of specific unions.

Nevertheless, there should be no mistake that labor's organizational gains under Section 7a were, on balance, exceedingly modest. From the point of

-137-

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New Deal Labor Policy and the American Industrial Economy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • New Deal Labor Policy and the American Industrial Economy *
  • Contents *
  • Acknowledgments *
  • New Deal Labor Policy and the American Industrial Economy *
  • Introduction 3
  • Part One - Economic Foundations of Industrial Politics Before the New Deal *
  • 1 - Lean Years 15
  • 2 - Protocol of Peace 34
  • 3 - The Miners' Bargain 47
  • Part Two - Labor and the Nira: a Concert of Interests *
  • 4 - Legislative Odyssey 73
  • 5 - Codified Capitalism, I 97
  • 6 - Codified Capitalism, II 119
  • Part Three - Labors "Second" New Deal: a Matter of Equity *
  • 7 - Politics: the Wagner Act 137
  • 8 - Economics: the Stakes of Power 153
  • Conclusion 165
  • Notes 175
  • Bibliography 217
  • Index 237
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