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Republicans and Labor

Republicans and Labor: 1919--1929

Robert H. Zieger
Copyright Date: 1969
Pages: 320
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt130hzmz
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  • Book Info
    Republicans and Labor
    Book Description:

    At no other time in American history had labor unrest been more evident than the period immediately after World War I. Robert H. Zeiger here recounts the labor problems that faced the Republican administrations of Presidents Harding and Coolidge -- massive strikes, antiracial hysteria, and the hardening of class attitudes throughout the nation -- and describes the programs and policies of Republican leaders -- particularly those of Herbert Hoover -- to solve them. Zeiger finds that while suspicion and animosity between the Republicans and the union leaders persisted, the rising prosperity of the nation, together with the adroit efforts of Hoover and his associates, tended to lessen the influence of extremists in both groups. Labor reached an accommodation of sorts with the Coolidge administration; and when, in 1928, Hoover defeated Al Smith, the substantial labor vote he received was among the factors that lent stature to his victory.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6499-1
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. 1 The Labor Problem
    (pp. 1-16)

    In the century between the 1830s and the 1930s America underwent industrialization and acquired a labor problem,¹ but produced no consistent and unified national labor policy. Although the industrialization and urbanization of American life alarmed many Americans, and although strikes, unemployment, and industrial violence aroused protest and dismay, it was not until the 1930s that most of the country’s basic national labor laws were written. Throughout this period Americans sought continually to resolve the labor problem. Scores of court cases, the efforts and proclamations of governors and presidents, many state enactments, and voluminous congressional hearings and a few federal statutes...

  5. 2 Labor and the Election of 1920
    (pp. 17-50)

    Labor problems loomed large in 1919 and 1920 as the Republican party struggled to recapture control of the federal government. The American Federation of Labor had participated in the Wilsonian coalition, and labor’s advances under the Democrats had antagonized many Americans. Moreover, the industrial unrest and violence of the postwar years discredited even nonsocialist and nonrevolutionary labor organizations in the public eye. Hence, Republicans attacked the Democratic party through its connection with the afl and other unions, especially at the beginning of the campaign. As the contest progressed, however, the gop softened these attacks on organized labor, and by election...

  6. 3 Interim: November 1920 to March 1921
    (pp. 51-69)

    The gop won a resounding victory in 1920, but the campaign had done little to clarify major issues. Among the ambiguities Warren Harding and his party left unresolved during the campaign was the labor problem. While foes of unionism interpreted the election as a repudiation of labor, the attitude of the candidates and the party during the campaign made it impossible to predict with confidence the course that the gop and its new administration would follow. Harding’s cabinet appointments and the pronouncements of Republicans in the months between the election and the inauguration, rather than dispelling the uncertainty, deepened it...

  7. 4 The Open Shop and Immigration Restriction
    (pp. 70-86)

    The harding administration was a time of hectic activity in the field of government-labor relations. As Secretary of Labor Davis later recalled his first months on the job, “In those days we worked day and night.… It seemed then that the whole universe had business with the Secretary of Labor.”¹ While unemployment continued at high levels, the campaigns to deflate wages and to hobble labor unions reached their peaks. Labor strife racked the soft coal fields of West Virginia. Strikes rocked the meatpacking and maritime industries, and the railroad unions chafed under the heavy hand of the Railroad Labor Board....

  8. 5 The Hoover Approach
    (pp. 87-108)

    The open shop and immigration were largely political issues, but two major industrial labor situations in the Harding administration provided Hoover with chances to demonstrate the efficacy of his concept of governmental action in labor matters. The massive unemployment that troubled the country offered one test of the Hoover approach, and the clamorous debate over the twelve-hour day in the steel industry provided another. The activities of Hoover and his associates with regard to these situations revealed the Hoover approach in practice: The government, led by Hoover himself, gathered information, coordinated the activities of diverse groups and individuals, generated publicity,...

  9. 6 Industrial Crisis of 1922
    (pp. 109-143)

    In the spring and summer of 1922 the most explosive strikes of the 1920s shook the country. In April more than 500,000 coal miners left their jobs. On July 1, about 400,000 railroad shopcrafts workers struck. Throughout the summer coal stocks dwindled, transportation sputtered, and violence flared, as America seemed, in the words of James J. Davis, to be “on the verge of industrial collapse.” From Washington, at the height of the trouble, Mrs. Harding wrote, “The days are most trying, and I have made up my mind that the days of the war had no harder problems to meet...

  10. 7 Transition
    (pp. 144-157)

    When Warren Harding died on August 2, 1923, Calvin Coolidge became president. Coolidge’s succession occurred just as a major crisis in the anthracite coal industry was developing. Thus, even while the nation mourned Harding, the new chief executive faced a knotty and dangerous labor situation, which immediately began to assume significant political overtones, for many political observers regarded the impending strike as the first test of Coolidge’s leadership abilities. The slight Vermonter met the challenge effectively, if undramatically. By resisting the public clamor for executive action, Coolidge successfully avoided the unpleasant repercussions that followed the strike’s settlement, leaving for Governor...

  11. 8 Labor, Progressives, and Republicans
    (pp. 158-189)

    The republican party from 1919 to 1924 wrestled with the labor problem amid frequent and dangerous industrial crises. Adding still another dimension to the GOP’s efforts to produce a labor policy was the revival of the progressive movement and the association of prominent labor groups with it. The insurgent political activities of laborites and progressives between 1922 and 1925 produced sharp criticism of the Republican party’s labor policies and forced Republicans, progressives, and unionists to reevaluate their conceptions of the role of labor in politics. While efforts to forge a permanent labor-progressive party failed, labor leaders effectively used their involvement...

  12. 9 The Railway Labor Act of 1926
    (pp. 190-215)

    In the general debate during the 1920s over the relationship between government and labor, no issue was more significant than that of railroad labor. The railroads had long been the subject of federal interest, and since the 1870s the problem of peaceful settlement of railroad labor disputes had often demanded the attention of Congress. More recently, the Adamson Act, federal operation of the railroads, the 1920 Transportation Act, and the 1922 strike had made this issue among the liveliest in American politics. The political and economic power of the major railroad unions, their gains during the Wilson administration, and their...

  13. 10 Labor Policies in the Soft Coal Industry
    (pp. 216-247)

    No labor problems throughout the 1920s so sharply challenged the nation as those arising in the soft coal mining areas. Chronic overdevelopment, intermittency of operations, unemployment, fluctuating markets and prices, incomplete unionization, and technological change joined to make bituminous coal mining the most distressed major industry in America. Strikes erupted in 1919, 1922, and 1927-1928. Violence exploded in southern Illinois in 1922, and labor warfare raged throughout the fields of the upper south as the United Mine Workers of America attempted to organize the miners there. Essential to the economy and available in abundance throughout the country, soft coal intruded...

  14. 11 The Late Twenties
    (pp. 248-278)

    Republican labor policy reached maturity in the late 1920s. In an apparently healthy economy, strikes and open labor unrest declined sharply. Labor unionists became ever more concerned with proving the economic and social benefits of unions to the public and to businessmen than with voicing protest and extending organizational efforts. As Herbert Hoover captured his party’s nomination, two significant labor issues, the problems of the soft coal industry and the labor injunction, still claimed public attention. But the party’s response, coupled with good fortune, insured that neither would play an important role in the election. The lack of labor issues...

  15. Bibliographical Note
    (pp. 279-288)
  16. Index
    (pp. 289-303)