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Labor's Great War: The Struggle for Industrial Democracy and the Origins of Modern American Labor Relations, 1912-1921 / Edition 1

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Since World War I, says Joseph McCartin, the central problem of American labor relations has been the struggle among workers, managers, and state officials to reconcile democracy and authority in the workplace. In his comprehensive look at labor issues during the decade of the Great War, McCartin explores the political, economic, and social forces that gave rise to this conflict and shows how rising labor militancy and the sudden erosion of managerial control in wartime workplaces combined to create an industrial crisis. The search for a resolution to this crisis led to the formation of an influential coalition of labor Democrats, AFL unionists, and Progressive activists on the eve of U.S. entry into the war. Though the coalition's efforts in pursuit of industrial democracy were eventually frustrated by powerful forces in business and government and by internal rifts within the movement itself, McCartin shows how the shared quest helped cement the ties between unionists and the Democratic Party that would subsequently shape much New Deal legislation and would continue to influence the course of American political and labor history to the present day.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
McCartin history, SUNY, Geneseo has written a comprehensive account of American labor relations during the World War I era, bringing into sharper focus a period of union-management struggles that has not been dealt with as fully up to now. His major theme is the struggle for industrial democracy in the workplace. Linked to this effort was organized labor's drive to unionize the mass production industries and to bring the federal government's regulatory authority in on their side. Although many of organized labor's gains during World War I were lost in the aftermath, McCartin believes that much of the New Deal labor legislation had its origins in the events of this earlier period. Recommended for labor collections of academic libraries.Harry Frumerman, formerly with Hunter Coll., New York
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807846797
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 2/9/1998
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 6.15 (w) x 9.27 (h) x 0.86 (d)

Meet the Author

Joseph A. McCartin is associate professor of history at Georgetown University.
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Table of Contents


Abbreviations Used in the Text
Introduction. Reconsidering American Labor in the Era of the Great War
1. Building a Politics of Industrial Democracy
2. War and Order in the Workplace
3. The Battle to Shape War Labor Policy
4. Toward the "De-Kaisering" of Industry
5. The Dynamics of Wartime Labor Militancy
6. The Tentative Rise of Mass Unionism
7. Reconstruction and Reaction
8. Making Industrial Democracy Safe for America
Epilogue. The Origins of Modern American Labor Relations

Samuel Gompers between Woodrow Wilson and William B. Wilson, July 4, 1916
Frank P. Walsh, 1913
Political cartoon about the Committee on Industrial Relations
Wartime workers at Westinghouse Electric, ca. 1918
Black worker in an Ohio rolling mill, ca. 1918
President Woodrow Wilson in Alexandria, Virginia, ca. 1917
"War Cabinet" of the secretary of labor, 1918
War Labor Conference Board with Secretary William B. Wilson, March 14, 1918
Workroom in a munitions plant
Poster praising the war efforts of American workers
U.S. Army Ordnance poster
William H. Johnston, ca. 1921
NWLB shop committee ballot, October 17, 1918
Midvale Steel workers outside their plant, ca. 1918
Secretary of Labor Wilson, October 6, 1919
Company poster about grievance procedures, ca. 1921

1. Strikes by Industry, April 6-October 6, 1917
2. Strikes by Proportion of Union Members in Workplace, April 6-October 6, 1917

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