Labor Politics in a Democratic Republic: Moderation, Division, and Disruption in the Presidential Election of 1928

By Vaughn Davis Bornet | Go to book overview
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Chapter 11
The Pattern of Labor's Party Allegiance

WHILE CONTEMPORARIES knew full well that the American Federation of Labor, as a national body, did not endorse a presidential candidate or political party in the election of 1928, it can now be shown (by assembling bits and scraps of data)1 that meaningful choosing of sides at lower levels did take place. Of course, the Executive Council of the A. F. of L. did not choose between Alfred E. Smith or Herbert C.Hoover, and it officially ignored the candidacies of Norman Thomas and William Z. Foster. But the formal "nonpartisan" attitude adopted after much debate by the Council and lived up to by President William Green by no means meant that many individual labor leaders, local unions, city centrals, some state federations, and a few international unions would refrain from outright partisanship. Cumulatively, their expressions of support are sufficient to provide a conclusion seldom given in general accounts of the election: substantial elements in the American trade union movement supported in 1928 the candidate of one party -- the Democratic Party -- well before the New Deal and its Wagner Act, the rise of the C. I. O., and the birth of

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To discover how the complex hierarchy of American organized labor divided in a past election campaign proved no simple matter. The degree of effort required to succeed in this for the 1928 campaign proved a distinct surprise, and may indicate why similar analyses for other campaigns have been long delayed.

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