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For All These Rights

For All These Rights: Business, Labor, and the Shaping of America's Public-Private Welfare State

Jennifer Klein
Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 384
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  • Book Info
    For All These Rights
    Book Description:

    The New Deal placed security at the center of American political and economic life by establishing an explicit partnership between the state, economy, and citizens. In America, unlike anywhere else in the world, most people depend overwhelmingly on private health insurance and employee benefits. The astounding rise of this phenomenon from before World War II, however, has been largely overlooked. In this powerful history of the American reliance on employment-based benefits, Jennifer Klein examines the interwoven politics of social provision and labor relations from the 1910s to the 1960s. Through a narrative that connects the commercial life insurance industry, the politics of Social Security, organized labor's quest for economic security, and the evolution of modern health insurance, she shows how the firm-centered welfare system emerged. Moreover, the imperatives of industrial relations, Klein argues, shaped public and private social security.

    Looking closely at unions and communities, Klein uncovers the wide range of alternative, community-based health plans that had begun to germinate in the 1930s and 1940s but that eventually succumbed to commercial health insurance and pensions. She also illuminates the contests to define "security"--job security, health security, and old age security--following World War II.

    For All These Rightstraces the fate of the New Deal emphasis on social entitlement as the private sector competed with and emulated Roosevelt's Social Security program. Through the story of struggles over health security and old age security, social rights and the welfare state, it traces the fate of New Deal liberalism--as a set of ideas about the state, security, and labor rights--in the 1950s, the 1960s, and beyond.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3566-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. iii-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-15)

    Early in the twenty-first century some of America’s best-known corporations went bankrupt or teetered close to the edge of economic viability. Among them were Bethlehem Steel, National Steel, Polaroid, Enron, Lucent Technologies, and WorldCom. As their financial solvency disintegrated, so too did the promise of social welfare support and long-term economic security these firms had offered workers and their families.

    Old-line steel companies, once the keystone of twentieth-century American capitalism, now claimed they could no longer survive under the weight of company health insurance and pension benefits. For Bethlehem Steel, for example, with 75,000 retirees on its pension rolls—more...

  6. 1 Mass Marketing Private Insurance: THE ORIGINS OF A PRIVATE EMPLOYEE BENEFITS SYSTEM, 1910–1933
    (pp. 16-52)

    The American system of firm-based social welfare has, until the recent proliferation of managed care, been anchored in group insurance. In its familiar, post–World War II form this system encompassed hospital and medical benefits, pensions, disability coverage, life insurance, and supplemental unemployment benefits. These postwar social welfare benefits grew out of the group life insurance plans first created by commercial life insurance companies in the 1910s. Insurers devised these policies so that employers could provide life insurance coverage for a large group of employees under one group risk factor; individual employees did not have to pass a medical examination...

  7. 2 Industrial Pensions: EFFICIENCY AND SECURITY
    (pp. 53-77)

    While group insurance laid the foundation for the modern system of private, employment-based social welfare, industrial pensions did not immediately develop from group insurance. Insurance companies were not the only source of old-age and disability benefits in the early decades of the twentieth century; in fact, they were a relatively insignifi-cant source, covering only 2 percent of the employees under industrial plans. Instead, American workers enrolled in pension plans provided by fraternal societies, labor unions, and self-insured employers. While each offered something unique in administration and employee choice, these schemes all shared an overriding characteristic: unsound, unplanned financing. It was...

    (pp. 78-115)

    The momentum propelling the passage of a national social insurance program came from mass movements like the Townsend movement, while the design of the program came from social insurance experts.¹ With the passage of the Social Security Act, the grass-roots movements and New Dealers generated anideology of security, as well as a new policy of government intervention in the wage relation, of which business had to take note. As the insurance industry journal theSpectatorobserved in 1936, “In the present time ‘security’ is the word that is being bandied about on every tongue. A pension must be provided...

    (pp. 116-161)

    The federal government’s new role in economic security matters had a ripple effect among community and economic institutions. New Dealers, progressives, and labor activists expected the Social Security Act to mark a breaking point with the past, to inaugurate a new era in which individual concerns would be social concerns, and social concerns new rights enforceable by the state. After 1935 labor liberals and social welfare New Dealers eagerly laid plans for expanding the realm of security. In the late 1930s different ideas about family security—advanced by social workers, child welfare advocates, consumers’ unions, women’s groups, labor and farmers...

  10. 5 Economic Security on the Home Front: HEALTH INSURANCE AND PENSIONS DURING WORLD WAR II
    (pp. 162-203)

    World War II stimulated massive population upheavals, as workers and farmers uprooted themselves and migrated to new production centers. Twenty-five million Americans, one-fifth of the total population, moved to a new town, county, or state between 1940 and 1947. The intensified pace of production, as well as the pressures of overcrowding on housing and local services, brought new health problems and increased the risks of industrial accidents and diseases. Responding to the social demands of wartime mobilization, the federal government became an instrumental agent shaping the spatial and social relations of war boomtowns and communities, not only through military production...

    (pp. 204-257)

    America’s private social security system would reach full fruition after World War II. Threatened by the potential expansion of the New Deal state—its regulatory apparatus, its welfare support, and its endorsement of trade unionism—business firms acceded to the pervasive ideology of security and provided unprecedented levels of social welfare benefits. The private social security system flourished because of a political climate that simultaneously supported the New Deal welfare state but increasingly defended it as a basic system of support upon which private institutions would build. The conventional narrative regarding the inclusion of fringe benefits in collective bargaining begins...

  12. Chapter 7. Epilogue: The Limits of Private Security, 1960s–1990s
    (pp. 258-276)

    For two generations the public and the private welfare systems grew in tandem, offering a growing level of benefits to millions of Americans. Private pensions, firm-based unemployment benefits, and some forms of disability compensation supplemented the Social Security System. In some areas, supplementation actually became substitution. In the 1950s, private health insurance became the primary means for obtaining medical and hospital care; subsequent developments in health policy and public programs would supplement the private, employmentbased system. Between 1945 and 1970, participation in private pensions increased from 19 percent to 45 percent. Most of that growth actually occurred between 1945 and...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 277-340)
  14. Index
    (pp. 341-354)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 355-355)