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Citizen Employers

Business Communities and Labor in Cincinnati and San Francisco, 1870–1916

Jeffrey Haydu

Publication Year: 2008

The exceptional weakness of the American labor movement has often been attributed to the successful resistance of American employers to unionization and collective bargaining. However, the ideology deployed against labor's efforts to organize at the grassroots level has received less attention. In Citizen Employers, Jeffrey Haydu compares the very different employer attitudes and experiences that guided labor-capital relations in two American cities, Cincinnati and San Francisco, in the period between the Civil War and World War I. His account puts these attitudes and experiences into the larger framework of capitalist class formation and businessmen's collective identities.

Cincinnati and San Francisco saw dramatically different developments in businessmen's class alignments, civic identities, and approach to unions. In Cincinnati, manufacturing and commercial interests joined together in a variety of civic organizations and business clubs. These organizations helped members overcome their conflicts and identify their interests with the good of the municipal community. That pervasive ideology of "business citizenship" provided much of the rationale for opposing unions. In sharp contrast, San Francisco's businessmen remained divided among themselves, opted to side with white labor against the Chinese, and advocated treating both unions and business organizations as legitimate units of economic and municipal governance.

Citizen Employers closely examines the reasons why these two bourgeoisies, located in comparable cities in the same country at the same time, differed so radically in their degree of unity and in their attitudes toward labor unions, and how their views would ultimately converge and harden against labor by the 1920s. With its nuanced depiction of civic ideology and class formation and its application of social movement theory to economic elites, this book offers a new way to look at employer attitudes toward unions and collective bargaining. That new approach, Haydu argues, is equally applicable to understanding challenges facing the American labor movement today.

Published by: Cornell University Press

Cover

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pp. 1-2

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. iii-iv

Contents

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p. vi-vi

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Preface

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pp. ix-x

At first I had planned to write a book about employer conceptions of workplace justice. What did American employers believe they owed their employees? What worker rights did they feel obliged to respect? Pitching this idea to friends and colleagues elicited a common response: “That will be an awfully short book.” Although my topic has evolved over time, I continue my effort to take employers’ ...

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Introduction: Business Ideology and Class Formation

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pp. 1-25

Businesspeople are no more fond of taxes than the rest of us. Their objections, however, are anything but personal. “It’s dumb to tax investment capital,” one Connecticut manufacturer recently complained when the legislature opened the door to property taxes on machinery. The state is “discouraging us from hiring new people,” another employer argued, and “preventing us from being more ...

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Part I. Solidarities

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pp. 27-34

Businesspeople are no more fond of taxes than the rest of us. Their objections, however, are anything but personal. “It’s dumb to tax investment capital,” one Connecticut manufacturer recently complained when the legislature opened the door to property taxes on machinery. The state is “discouraging us from hiring new people,” another employer argued, and “preventing us from being more ...

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1. Business Unity in Cincinnati

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pp. 35-60

The dilemmas of capitalist class formation are well displayed in post–Civil War Cincinnati. Individual firms, generally of modest size, could hardly discipline markets, train future workers, or fend off unions single-handedly. Cooperation did not come easily, however. Efforts to join forces were regularly undermined by competitive rivalries, status conflicts, and mutual indifference. At the same ...

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2. Race and Class Alignment in San Francisco

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pp. 61-81

San Francisco in the summer of 1907 was worlds away from Cincinnati. Employers in most sectors recognized and bargained with unions. That summer, even the metal trades—one of the most resolutely open shop industries in Cincinnati—fell into line. There were holdouts, notably Patrick Calhoun’s United Railway Co., which waged a violent battle with streetcar operators from ...

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Part II. Identities

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pp. 83-89

There is a familiar image of the Gilded Age capitalist. His stomach is round, his watch chain is gold, and his God is Mammon. In defense of his stature and wealth, he invokes the basic tenets of laissez-faire liberalism. That ideology erects a thick wall between economy and state. The government has minimal responsibilities, the most important of which are preserving order and protecting ...

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3. Business Citizenship in Cincinnati

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pp. 91-111

At Cincinnati’s 1882 Industrial Exposition, ward residents constructed parade floats to celebrate “the Queen of the West.” The Twenty-first Ward’s contribution captured several key features of the city’s history and self-image. Labeled “Paris of America,” the float arranged beer kegs and packing crates in the form of a music stand; from atop the kegs and crates, a giant pig wielded his conducting ...

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4. Practical Corporatism in San Francisco

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pp. 112-131

Speaking to dinner guests at San Francisco’s Commonwealth Club in early 1908, Stanford University president David Starr Jordan lent his authority to a view widely shared among his business audience. “The coolies that come from the class of the homeless laborers of Japan [and] China . . . can not for the most part be made free men and free citizens.” Assimilation might eventually occur, but at ...

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Part III. Transposition

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pp. 133-143

Part 2 focused on businessmen’s collective identities and civic ideologies. Part 3 shows how these identities and ideologies crossed institutional borders. For San Francisco, where relations between capital and labor in city politics and the workplace mirrored one another, the empirical question is whether businessmen applied a single model of class representation across a range of industrial and ...

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5. From Politics to Work

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pp. 145-177

In praising Julius Dexter as an “ideal citizen” of Cincinnati, his fellow Commercial Club members found in his devotion to the public good “the very life of the Republic and the hope of its perpetuity.” They added that Dexter was “a man who did not have one conscience for private matters and another for public . . . affairs.”1 Such consistency in the application of moral codes counted as ...

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6. From Work to Politics

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pp. 178-201

San Francisco’s civic leaders launched yet another charter reform campaign in 1910. The agenda of the Charter Reform Convention included familiar Progressive proposals, such as improved procedures for initiatives, referenda, and recalls; nonpartisan elections; and greater government control over city franchises. A Committee of Nine took charge, composed mainly of prominent business figures ...

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Conclusions

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pp. 203-216

This book identified sharp contrasts between two cities in businessmen’s solidarity, civic discourse, and views of labor. Each part of the book took up the corresponding puzzle. How did businessmen with varied interests achieve substantial unity in Cincinnati while their San Francisco counterparts remained divided? Why did these two business communities take republican tradition in such different ...

Notes

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pp. 217-238

Works Cited

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pp. 239-259

Index

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pp. 261-268


E-ISBN-13: 9780801461620
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801446412

Page Count: 280
Publication Year: 2008

Edition: 1