Reconstruction and Political Misjudgment, 1918-1919
T he signing of the armistice on November 11, 1918, had a dramatic effect on the labor market and on the operation of the USES. Cancellation of war contracts began within a few days: $2.5 billion of the $6 billion in outstanding manufacturing contracts were cancelled in four weeks. The effect on specific communities was immediate. In Cleveland, Ohio, contract cancellations in the three weeks after the armistice put 13,000 out of work; in Connecticut, in the three weeks following Christmas 1918, 40,000 war workers were discharged.1 In November 1918 the USES had received calls from employers for 1,724,943 workers and had been able to find only 744,712; by February 1919, almost 10,000 more workers registered than there were calls from employers. Steps were taken immediately to discontinue the purely war activities of the USES and to shift the organization onto a peacetime basis.2
In the months immediately following the armistice, the actions of both the War Department and Congress were a sobering reminder of the weak p Åolitical position of the USES. However, officials in the Department of Labor chose to ignore these signals and attempted to revive the dream of a nationalist rather than a federalist USES. Again, this action reflected the ambition and determination of senior officials in the Department of Labor rather than pressure from interest groups in the wider society. These officials were trying, singlehandedly, to overturn the basic premise on which the USES had been reorganized in mid-1918. Although their effort was short- lived and Department of Labor officials quickly recognized their mistake, it alienated many potential supporters and delayed the subsequent campaign
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Publication information: Book title: Labor Market Politics and the Great War:The Department of Labor, the States, and the First U.S. Employment Service, 1907-1933. Contributors: William J. Breen - Author. Publisher: Kent State University Press. Place of publication: Kent, OH. Publication year: 1997. Page number: 133.