Labor Market Politics and the Great War: The Department of Labor, the States, and the First U.S. Employment Service, 1907-1933

By William J. Breen | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SIX
A Federalist U.S. Employment Service

B y the fall of 1918 the nation was gradually becoming accustomed to the idea of a centralized labor market for war industry under USES auspices. The USES itself had improved its image by accepting the internal reorganization proposed by Croxton's committee, by appointing a number of senior executives from the private sector, and by taking steps to improve the professionalism of the service. The bold decision to create a nationwide system of community labor boards also contributed to a growth in public acceptance of the USES. These boards elicited a surprising degree of public support for the politically sensitive program of moving labor from nonessential to essential industries. Doubts about the administrative capacity of the USES on the part of other government departments and agencies, although not eliminated, began to wane.

The internal changes in the USES started at the top. As part of the administrative reorganization in August, six top administrators -- the assistant director-general and the five directors of the new functional divisions- were appointed. Of this group only two were recruited from within the Department of Labor; the other four were effectively dollar-a-year men from the private sector.1 By early September, the number of dollar-a-year men in this group had risen to five out of the six. This emphasis on recruiting administrative talent from outside the department reflected the influence of the War Labor Policies Board, which was acting, in effect, as a national advisory board to the USES. The steady pressure of the WLPB chairman, Felix Frankfurter, resulted in the selection of administrators who were not only trusted by business and the employment professionals but who had

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