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American Labor and the Cold War

Edited by Robert W. Cherny, William Issel, and Kiernan Walsh Taylor

Publication Year: 2004

The American labor movement seemed poised on the threshold of unparalleled success at the beginning of the post-World War II era. Fourteen million strong in 1946, unions represented thirty five percent of non-agricultural workers. Why then did the gains made between the 1930s and the end of the war produce so few results by the 1960s?

This collection addresses the history of labor in the postwar years by exploring the impact of the global contest between the United States and the Soviet Union on American workers and labor unions. The essays focus on the actual behavior of Americans in their diverse workplaces and communities during the Cold War. Where previous scholarship on labor and the Cold War has overemphasized the importance of the Communist Party, the automobile industry, and Hollywood, this book focuses on politically moderate, conservative workers and union leaders, the medium-sized cities that housed the majority of the population, and the Roman Catholic Church. These are all original essays that draw upon extensive archival research and some upon oral history sources.

Published by: Rutgers University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v-vi

List of Abbreviations

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pp. vii-viii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xii

The idea for this volume originated at a meeting of the program committee of the Southwest Labor Studies Association, when it met to choose a theme for the 1999 annual meeting of the organization in San Francisco. The editors would like to thank David Brundage, Susan Englander, and Don Watson, who also attended that meeting, ...

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pp. 1-6

The American labor movement seemed poised on the threshold of unparalleled success at the beginning of the post-World War II era. Fourteen million strong in 1946, unions represented 35 percent of non-agricultural workers, and federal power insured collective bargaining rights. ...

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Labor and the Cold War: The Legacy of McCarthyism

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pp. 7-24

The political repression of the McCarthy period had a deleterious impact on American labor. Only the Communist Party was as deeply affected. Not only was the entire left wing of the labor movement destroyed, but many of the people who came under fire had union ties, such as the Hollywood Ten, or the thousands of maritime workers thrown out of their jobs ...

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Uncivil War: An Oral History of Labor, Communism, and Community in Schenectady, New York, 1944–1954

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pp. 25-57

During the first half of the twentieth century, Schenectady—lying at the eastern boundary of New York’s Mohawk Valley— was a small, bustling, and ethnically diverse industrial city that depended on two major industries for its economic survival and growth: the behemoth General Electric (GE) Works located at the center of the city, ...

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Mixed Melody: Anticommunism and the United Packinghouse Workers in California Agriculture, 1954–1961

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pp. 58-71

Varieties of labor anticommunists emerged during the Cold War. Leaders as diverse as George Meany, Philip Murray, Walter Reuther, Father Charles Owen Rice, and Roy Brewer, plus thousands at shopsteward level played roles. Many had concerns about Stalin. Many fought over political and religious ideology and union turf. ...

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The United Packinghouse Workers of America, Civil Rights, and the Communist Party in Chicago

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pp. 72-84

When the United Packinghouse Workers of America (UPWA) formed in 1943, workers in Chicago’s meatpacking industry supported interracial and militant unionism. This union culture was characterized by a largely white ethnic leadership that openly reached out to black and white ethnic workers, ...

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“An Anarchist with a Program”: East Coast Shipyard Workers, the Labor Left, and the Origins of Cold War Unionism

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pp. 85-117

For East Coast shipbuilding trade unionists, the Cold War began before the end of World War II. A broad left-wing developed in the major Atlantic Coast shipyards of the Northeast during the early 1940s that became the target of anticommunist business, government, and union leaders. ...

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The Battle for Standard Coil: The United Electrical Workers, the Community Service Organization, and the Catholic Church in Latino East Los Angeles

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pp. 118-140

In 1952, the United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers (UE) battled the newly chartered International Union of Electrical, Radio and Machine Employees (IUE) in East Los Angeles. The two unions struggled for the right to represent electrical workers at Standard Coil, a secondary supplier that provided parts for the Sabre Jet. ...

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Popular Anticommunism and the UE in Evansville, Indiana

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pp. 141-154

Following World War II, Evansville, Indiana, proudly proclaimed itself the “refrigerator capital of the world.” In 1946, International Harvester purchased the Republic Steel Plant and began producing refrigerators, supplementing the refrigerator production at Servel, Inc., and Seeger-Sunbeam. ...

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“A Stern Struggle”: Catholic Activism and San Francisco Labor, 1934–1958

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pp. 154-176

On 24 November 1936, twenty-one-year-old Joseph L. Alioto delivered a prize-winning speech in San Francisco. A future mayor of San Francisco, Alioto would soon graduate from St. Mary’s College and go on to earn a law degree at the Catholic University in Washington, D.C. ...

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Memories of the Red Decade: HUAC Investigations in Maryland

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pp. 177-189

The fall of the Soviet Union and the collapse of international Communism have prompted historians to reevaluate many aspects of Cold War America. Some of the recently published works, such as the Yale University Press series The Annals of Communism, or Allen Weinstein’s The Haunted Wood, are based upon newly released documents ...

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Negotiating Cold War Politics: The Washington Pension Union and the Labor Left in the 1940s and 1950s

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pp. 190-204

Though it was often vilified in the mainstream press for its Communist leadership, the Washington Pension Union (WPU)—a state-level welfare rights lobby—remains scarcely known, even in histories of the American left. The pension union’s predecessor, the Washington Commonwealth Federation, has been hailed ...

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The Lost World of United States Labor Education: Curricula at East and West Coast Communist Schools, 1944–1957

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pp. 205-215

As the tide of battle in World War II swung decisively against the Axis in 1943–1944, the United States Communist Party transformed and upgraded its main East and West Coast labor schools—the Jefferson School of Social Science in New York City, and the California Labor School in San Francisco/Oakland. ...

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Operation Dixie, the Red Scare, and the Defeat of Southern Labor Organizing

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pp. 216-244

Historic possibilities for changing the South seemed to exist at the end of World War II, based on new hopes for organizing southern workers. Just as the war galvanized the American economy, pulling it out of the Depression of the 1930s, it also accelerated industrialization and urbanization in the South. ...

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“A Dangerous Demagogue”: Containing the In.uence of the Mexican Labor-Left and Its United States Allies

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pp. 245-276

Through the last decade of the twentieth century, coalitions of Mexican and U.S. activists worked to address the tangled issues of workers’ rights, inter- and intra-American inequities, and racial and ethnic discrimination. Their work echoes that of a previous generation of Mexican and U.S. activists, whose efforts marked the beginning, ...

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pp. 277-280

Kenneth C. Burt, Carey McWilliams Fellow at the University of California at Berkeley, is the political director of the California Federation of Teachers. A board member for the Southwest Labor Studies Association, Burt publishes in the academic and popular press, and is writing a book on the emergence of Latinos as a political force in California. ...


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pp. 281-297

E-ISBN-13: 9780813555058
E-ISBN-10: 0813555051

Page Count: 312
Publication Year: 2004