Unions before the Bar: Historic Trials Showing the Evolution of Labor Rights in the United States

By Elias Lieberman | Go to book overview

- 16 -
The Sit-Down Strike Boomerangs (1937-1939)

NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS BOARD V. FANSTEEL METALLURGICAL CORPORATION

I

For many years the metal trades were a stronghold of antiunionism. The hostility to labor unions among employers in those trades is manifest in a number of court cases, of which the celebrated case of Bucks Stove and Range Company v. Gompers was one. The National Metal Trades Association fought unionism skillfully and with varied weapons. One of those weapons was the furnishing of experienced industrial spies. Those spies would join union ranks, often assume leading roles in the union and act as agent provocateurs. They would gather information on the progress of union organization in a plant and report regularly to their agency or employer.

The Fansteel Metallurgical Corporation, located in North Chicago, was comparatively small as enterprises in the metal industry go, but it was quite an important company in its specialized field of manufacture of contact points, battery chargers, and alloy wires for radio tubes. In the summer of 1936 the company launched an efficiency campaign. It hired efficiency experts and those experts proposed new wage and production policies. The workers, who had never been organized in any kind of labor organization, not even a company union, realized that the new wage policy would undermine their earnings and they became aroused. About the same time, the Amalgamated Association of Iron, Steel and Tin Workers of North America was engaged in organizing workers in the metal trades, and it urged the workers of the Fansteel Corporation to join the union.

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