Workers in Industrial America

Workers in Industrial America : Essays on the Twentieth Century Struggle

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Product details

  • Paperback | 270 pages
  • 134.62 x 200.66 x 12.7mm | 249.47g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • 0195024915
  • 9780195024913

Review Text

A mix of old and new studies of major turning points in the history of American organized labor, by the author of Labor in Crisis (1965) and earlier volumes. The themes and arguments are familiar: how Taylorism was used to wrest control of the work process from the workers; the collusion of government and employers to destroy the syndicalist (IWW) and Socialist unions; the brief rise in the 1920s of "welfare capitalism" - employer paternalism that, Brody claims, might have snuffed out independent trade unionism but for the Depression. Brody gives less importance than most historians to differences of principle ("craft" vs. "industrial" unionism) between the AFL and CIO, attributing the 1935 break to the AFL's "crisis of will" in regard to organizing mass production workers. Government intervention, in the form of the Wagner Act, New Deal judges sympathetic to labor, and finally the National War Labor Board (in World War II) gave labor organization the stability it could not have achieved by labor militancy alone; but the price was integration into and subordination to the state regulatory apparatus. The two new essays - on "The Uses of Power" by labor in industrial relations and politics, respectively, since World War II - seek to explain how a movement that "had at last become 'a power in our land'" can be too weak today to secure passage of even moderately pro-labor legislation (e.g., the 1978 bill to reform the National Labor Relations Act) or to win its long organizing struggle against such as the blatantly anti-union J. P. Stevens company. The answer, he suggests, is related to labor's failure to continue the struggle for comanagement (never widely embraced though promoted for a time by Walter Reuther) and for an independent labor party (never seriously attempted after 1948). Instead, the labor movement accepted the status of junior partner to management and the Democratic Party, getting little in return. Brody gives scant attention to the reasons for American capital's great power to resist union demands - in brief, its postwar position in the world economy - and but little more to the ways in which the radical activists were isolated or driven from the movement. Although the essays individually are informative, collectively they make up a disjointed history that disappoints the reader by leading to a conclusion that is not offered: what next for the labor movement? (Kirkus Reviews)show more

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