Friends and enemies : the impact of the 'labor problem' on political attitudes in America, 1919-1924
This thesis investigates the relationship of trade unions to the American political system from 1919 to 1924. It does so by Studying the state of industrial relations and the effects of contemporary events on their conduct. The President's First Industrial Conference is employed to examine the state of industrial relations at the end of the First World War. Changes caused by the rise of the Engineering movement, the Open Shop Campaign, the recession and recovery and by successive crises are then traced to reveal the nature of the problem with which politicians had to wrestle. The rest of the thesis studies the response of Congress and the administration of Wilson, Harding and Coolidge to what was known euphemistically as the 'labor problem' and analyses any trends in political outlook occasioned thereby. The research relied heavily on the private papers of contemporary politicians and official government, business and union documents falling within the dates which delineate the thesis and concentrates on the relationship aspect rather than purely political or labour issues. The thesis contributes to knowledge of the period by emphasising the complexity of the political landscape. It contributes to the understanding of trade unionism's role within politics. The major themes are the continuing development of progressivism during the early twenties, the consequent diminution of the importance of traditional partisanship and the political climate which resulted. The other major theme is the debate among unionists regarding their movement's political implications and the effect of this on the nature of unionism's relationship with progressives. The conclusions are that progressives remained a force in these years and drifted leftwards as Progressives understood and expounded the economic power struggle underlying industrial disputes. Unionists had many friends; economic factors, not political hostility, were its most damaging enemy. But the friends and enemies policy submerged unionism's political identity, hurting its own cause by contributing to the. ambivalence between unionism and progressives and thus aggravating the political confusion between 1919 and 1924.