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Labor and the Great War

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Jarod Roll

on 22 March 2016

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Transcript of Labor and the Great War

Labor and the Great War

HIS 318
Dr. Roll
What was government's role in the relationship between labor and employers?
--1870s, 1880s: troops
--1890s: troops, with backing from injunctions based on Sherman Anti-Trust Act (1890)
Progressive Era: 1900-1915
--new desire to use government to ameliorate social problems: poverty, violence between labor and capital, taming power of big business
--Erdman Act 1898: right of railroad workers to join unions, outlawed yellow-dog contracts (based on Interstate Commerce Act 1887)
Promise of arbitration:
--National Civic Federation, 1898: Gompers and Hanna
--Roosevelt and John Mitchell: Anthracite Coal Strike, 1902
Judges still conservative:
--Lochner v. New York (1905): overturned law governing limitation of working hours for bakers
--"freedom of contract"--rooted in "free labor" ideology
--Adair v. US (1908): struck down Erdman Act's outlawing of yellow-dog contract
--Loewe v. Lawlor (Danbury Hatters) (1908): AFL boycott ruled illegal restraint of trade
One exception:
--Muller v. Oregon (1908): upheld law limiting women's working day to 10 hours, but based on maternalist arguments; Brandeis ruling packed with social statistics
Triangle Shirtwaist Fire (1911)
--new cooperation between labor unions and Progressive activists: Women's Trade Union League, International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union (ILGWU), Al Smith, Frances Perkins, Robert Wagner
--NY Factory Investigating Commission
Progressivism gaining legislative momentum:

--Department of Labor (1913): signed by Taft; William B. Wilson, founding member of UMW, first Sec. of Labor
--US Employment Service (1915): placement agency for immigrants
--Office of Workers' Compensation Programs (1916): federal oversight over various federal and state programs
Clayton Anti-Trust Act (1914):
--signed by Woodrow Wilson
--strengthened terms of Sherman Anti-Trust Act
--BUT, granted labor unions an exemption
--Gompers called it "labor's magna carta"
Gompers had designed AFL to take advantage of this approach
Key issues during World War I, but years leading up to it crucial
World War I:
--fighting began late 1914, US neutral, but selling arms to UK
--industry, agriculture boomed: new demand for labor, especially in northern cities, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland
--Great Migration, both African American and white
--400,000 African Americans, 890,000 whites left the South in the 1910s
Early political resistance:
--National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), 1905
--pushing for the "open shop"
--recognition of unions deemed "the greatest danger"
Gompers positioned AFL to aid President Wilson:
--fully backed US entry, AFL officially against any resistance to war effort
--Wilson placed Gompers on Council of National Defense
US entry in 1917, about face that required immense work to gain public support
early on, chaos:
--thousands of workers went on strike during first six months of the war, taking advantage of labor shortages to gain higher wages
--problem of loyalty: Irish, German, Italian, eastern European Jews
War Labor Board (March 1918): under control of DOL, representatives from labor, management, public
--Gompers influenced policy: right to organize, 8-hour day, mediation and arbitration of strikes, high wages for all war contracts
--peak influence for Gompers and AFL in government
AFL membership soared:
--2 million in 1916
--3.2 million in 1919 (15% of the non-farm workforce organized)
--labor had new demands, high expectations for its influence as the war came to an end
Crackdown on radicals:
--Espionage Act, 1917
--Sedition Act, 1918
--IWW and SP suppressed, jailed (Debs jailed for violating Sedition Act)
--Gompers and AFL in full support, especially in targeting dissident in ranks
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