American Railroad Labor and the Genesis of the New Deal, 1919-1935
Publication Year: 2010
Published by: University Press of Florida
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The 1920s have long been described as “the Lean Years” for American workers. They followed the dynamism of the progressive era and World War I as workers and social reformers attempted to remake America. In the wake of this activism, the 1920s seemed like a retreat (either forced or voluntary) for labor. These were...
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In the early stages of this project Daniel Nelson of the University of Akron offered advice and comments that helped me tremendously to clarify my argument, thinking, and prose. H. Roger Grant offered unfettered access to his personal collection of the...
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According to David Montgomery, prior to World War I, the American Federation of Labor (AFL) defined the parameters of legitimate trade unionism. The government crushed radicalism during and after the war, and the AFL lost the influence that it wielded during the Wilson administration. In the years between the end of...
2. Railroading Prior to World War 1
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By the time that World War I began, working for railroads had lost much of its frontier quality and romance. Railroading retained some of its luster, but the hard edge was gone. Increased government regulations, improved personnel practices, and a greater drive for efficiency and safety were largely responsible for these changes. Operating...
3. The Great War and its Aftermath
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World War I was a watershed for the railroad unions. It brought them together in an informal alliance, led by the BLE, BLFE, BRT, and the ORC. The other unions, most of which belonged to the RED, generally followed the lead of the brotherhoods. Their members were among the most skilled, best paid workers in America and...
4. Grassroots Political Organization
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The election of 1920 was a reversal of traditional political strategy for railroad unions. While they had engaged in lobbying, they had generally remained outside the fray of partisan politics. As recently as 1917, the BLEJ had urged engineers not to discuss politics in division rooms. The brotherhoods had broken with tradition...
5. The Road to Political Power, 1922-1924
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The fight to abolish the RLB occurred in two stages. The first stage began after the shopmen’s strike of 1922 and ended with the election of Calvin Coolidge in 1924. Until the shopmen’s strike, railroad operatives took a wait-and- see approach toward the RLB, but the strike convinced them that they had to act and eliminate it. Although the...
6. The Railway Labor Act
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The second stage of labor’s campaign to repeal Title III of the Transportation Act, which created the RLB, began in the autumn of 1924. Although the union-sponsored Howell-Barkley Bill did not become law in the spring, the unions remained optimistic. The election of 1924 offered unions another opportunity to promote labor...
7. Strengthening the Railway Labor Act
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During the progressive era, industrial leaders came to rely on the national government to act as a stabilizing force in the economy. Railroad labor and management expected that the RLA would have a similar effect. Yet because the law contained major shortcomings, the unions continued their activist tactics to gain...
8. Railroad Retirement and Social Security
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As the Great Depression deepened, revising the Railway Labor Act of 1926 was just one of the objectives of the brotherhoods. Simultaneously, the RLEA argued that changing conditions warranted industry-wide, federally sponsored retirement insurance. They argued that developing a national pension scheme would establish...
9. Railroad Unions and Labor Banks
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By 1919, the term industrial democracy was firmly established in labor’s lexicon, and it animated its political activity. As explained in the previous chapters, railroad labor vigorously pursued industrial democracy through the ballot box in the interwar years. Railroad unions, particularly the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers...
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About the Author
Page Count: 208
Illustrations: 12 b&w illustrations
Publication Year: 2010
Series Title: Working in the Americas
Series Editor Byline: Richard Greenwald, Timothy J. Minchin