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Working Hard for the American Dream: Workers and Their Unions, World War I to the Present



Working Hard for the American Dream: Workers and Their Unions, World War I to the Present

Randi Storch

ISBN: 978-1-118-54149-4 April 2013 Wiley-Blackwell 304 Pages


Working Hard for the American Dream examines the various economic, social, and political developments that shaped labor history in the United States from World War I until the present day.

  • Presents an overview of labor history that also considers women workers, ethnic America, and post-World War II workers
  • Incorporates the most recent scholarship in labor history
  • Takes the story of labor up to the present day in a readable and accessible manner

List of Illustrations vii

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction: Back to the Future 1

1 “Everyone Was Ready For Unionism”: The Precursors, Promises, and Pitfalls of Industrial Unions in the 1930s 10

Political Prelude: Industrial Democracy Betrayed, from Wilson to Hoover 12

Corporate Prelude: The Unintended Consequences of 1920s Corporate Policies 25

Working-Class Prelude: Activism 32

A New Deal for Workers: A Failed and Flawed Start 41

Fighting for Unionism in the 1930s Without Meaningful Federal Protection 44

The Wagner Act and Industrial Unionism 48

Corporate Resistance and Workers’ Unity 58

Extending the New Deal for Workers 61

Assessing Workers’ New Deal and Industrial Unionism 65

Conclusion 68

2 Big Wars, Big Labor, Big Costs 70

Wartime Mobilization, 1939–1941 73

Government Intervention: War Industries and Labor Policies, 1941–1945 87

Wartime Demographic Developments 93

Crisis in Industrial Relations, 1945–1946 103

Postwar Politics and Taft-Hartley, 1946–1948 108

Political (Mis)calculations: Operation Dixie, CIO Purges, and International Alliances, 1946–1950s 114

Big Labor, Big Costs, 1955–1960s 120

Conclusion 127

3 Civil Rights Versus Labor Rights, 1960s–1970s 128

Expanding Public and Service Sectors 131

Public Sector Workers and Union Rights 133

New Laws and Workplace Challenges 141

Women and Workplace Rights 151

The Push and Pull of Changing Times: New Unionists, Rank-and-File Movements, AFL-CIO Leaders, and Nixon 157

Unionists Divided and Under Siege 169

Conclusion 172

4 Working More for Less and Other Troubles for Workers in the Late Twentieth Century 174

Profit Making in a Global World 176

The Human Price of Modern Capitalism 182

The Political Shaping of the Economy 189

The AFL-CIO Leadership’s Resistance to Change 199

Innovation and Possibilities 205

Change from the Bottom-Up 216

Conclusion 222

Epilogue: The Illusive American Dream: A Personal Journey 224

Bibliographical Essay 253

Index 278

 “Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels of students; faculty and researchers; professionals; general readers.”  (Choice, 1 October  2013)