The United Steelworkers of America and Health Insurance, 1937-62
The main terms and consequences of a far-reaching accord between industrial labor and oligopolistic capital following World War II are well-known. In a series of postwar battles with organized labor, corporate management repelled demands for greater industrial democracy by the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) unions. Employers in basic industries successfully reasserted strong, often unilateral, rights to make decisions regarding production standards, technological change, investment strategy, and other important business matters. In return for abandoning their claims to participate in big decisions, unions accepted enhanced compensation as well as the promise of an added measure of employment security for their members. Managers strengthened their prerogatives; workers gained a higher standard of living. 1
Nelson Lichtenstein and Beth Stevens have insightfully analyzed one particular facet of this settlement, the emergence of a "private welfare state" for employees in the core of the economy. Lichtenstein and Stevens describe the gradual expansion of benefit packages in the 1940s and 1950s to include retirement pensions, life and disability insurance, health protection, and supplemental unemployment compensation. Both scholars accurately identify fringe benefits as one sizable part of labor's consolation prize for exclusion from strategic decision making. 2
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Publication information: Book title: American Labor in the Era of World War II. Contributors: Sally M. Miller - Editor, Daniel A. Cornford - Editor. Publisher: Praeger. Place of publication: Westport, CT. Publication year: 1995. Page number: 69.
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