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

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

by Joseph A. McCartin

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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781469617039
Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
Publication date: 11/01/2017
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 320
File size: 4 MB

About the Author

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

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

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

This is the best book ever written about American labor in the era of World War I. McCartin illuminates how workers and their adversaries battled over the meaning of 'industrial democracy' and how the outcome of that contest shaped our labor politics for decades to come. This bold and vigorous narrative is just the kind of synthesis of changing ideas and social forces we need.—Michael Kazin, author of The Populist Persuasion: An American History

[Highlights] the war years as a cauldron in which a new labor relations arrangement in America was forged. . . . A superb historical narrative."Business History Review

A book well worthy of the attentions of any serious student of twentieth-century labour and industrial relations history. . . . It certainly demands a reconsideration of the nature and importance of the transformation of the social relations of work in the second vital decade of the 'American century' and, in particular, of the role of the Wilsonian wartime state in these developments.—Journal of Industrial Relations

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