New Deal Labor Policy and the American Industrial Economy

By Stanley Vittoz | Go to book overview

Conclusion

Both General Motors and the United States Steel Corporation settled with union labor early in 1937 for compelling economic reasons, not when business was bad but as it was getting better. There has been no lack of speculation since as to the possible implications of this timing, particularly among analysts for whom recognition of the UAW and SWOC by these two corporate giants appeared to signal the beginning of a more advanced phase in the routinization of conflictual behavior in the American industrial economy. But if a rough-hewn Weberian view of such developments is perhaps not completely without foundation, the actual dynamics of change to which it alludes were at best still being manifest in a radically haphazard fashion, with an outcome that in the late 1930s was entirely unpredictable. In the short run, certainly, the arguably more "rational," accommodative capitalist posture toward labor was no match for the contradictions and pitfalls of industrial economics, and especially for the tremendous setback of 1937-38, when the collapse of the trend toward recovery once again allowed the most virulent forms of antiunionism to rise to the fore. This situation eventually was relieved not by an ideological revitalization of corporatism, or even so much by the continuous reinforcement of a new legal framework more favorable to unions, as by the fortuitous circumstances of war. 1

With the exception of U.S. Rubber's recognition of the United Rubber Workers at the corporation's central facility in Detroit late in the summer of 1937, the only significant instance of a major industrial employer acceding peacefully to the demands of labor after the onset of the "Roosevelt recession" came in the form of Gerard Swope's long-awaited national agreement with the United Electrical Workers (UE), which took effect officially on I April 1938. By that time, however, even though Swope personally might still lay claim to a genuinely pioneering "corporatist" approach to the basic problems of business, the level of dramatic excitement accompanying the compact was greatly diminished because the CIO had already won a series of momentous concessions from other, far less "liberal," industrial employers. And however one may wish to judge that point, it is also worth noting for the sake of perspective

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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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