Unlikely Partners: Philanthropic Foundations and the Labor Movement

Unlikely Partners: Philanthropic Foundations and the Labor Movement

Unlikely Partners: Philanthropic Foundations and the Labor Movement

Unlikely Partners: Philanthropic Foundations and the Labor Movement


"For too long, the labor movement and philanthropic foundations have had little contact, even when their guiding principles are the same. The time is ripe for a new national conversation on where and how they can effectively work together. Richard Magat's new book focuses on the relationship between unions and foundations--its history, its dynamics, and its potential. This is a relationship that can and should be enormously valuable for both sides."--John J. Sweeney, President, AFL-CIO

An investigation into the little-known history of relations between organized labor and philanthropic foundations in America, this book reveals curious connections linking these important institutions throughout the twentieth century. Richard Magat examines these relations--whether indirect or direct, confrontational, supportive, or collaborative--in a wide variety of areas: research, the condition and status of black and female workers, the struggle of farmworkers, workplace health and safety, the union democracy movement, and the stake of union members in the global marketplace.

Unlikely Partners begins with the industrial and social ferment in which the great modern foundations arose in the early twentieth century. It covers such topics as the Russell Sage Foundation (the first to address labor conditions), the National Civic Federation, and manifestations of "enlightened" business practice, including welfare capitalism. The book lays out areas of future community, fiscal, and policy collaboration between unions and foundations.


A year or so after I began research on connections between philanthropic foundations and the labor movement, I bought at a flea market the twentieth edition of the D.A.R. Manual for Citizenship (published by theNational Society, Daughters of the American Revolution, in 1941, two years after the D.A.R. refused to permit the black singer Marian Anderson to give a concert in Constitution Hall in Washington). in a chapter called "What the Constitution Does for the Citizen" is the following (pp. 17-18):

The workingman enjoys the right of private property when he may own his tools and his savings . . . when he may put his earnings into a home and own it . . . when he may put his earnings into a little shop and own that . . . put the earnings of his shop into Government Bonds and own them. Thus the right of private property enables the workingman to become not only an employer, but also a bondholder--a capitalist with money to invest. in this way American industry has been built up. It is composed of workingmen who are on the different rungs of the ladder of prosperity. Those at the top are workingmen whom the Constitution enabled to climb by protecting them when they were at the bottom. . . . Those at the bottom . . . may go as high as their brains and hard work and good character will carry them. . . . [B]ut the Constitution does not supply an elevator to lift the lazy or incompetent to prosperity along with the industrious and skillful. . . . Without the workingman, without the employer, without those who have saved their earnings and so become capitalists, the nation could not be run . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.