Employers’ Associations and Open Shops in the United States
Summary and Keywords
Employers began organizing with one another to reduce the power of organized labor in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Irritated by strikes, boycotts, and unions’ desire to achieve exclusive bargaining rights, employers demanded the right to establish open shops, workplaces that promoted individualism over collectivism. Rather than recognize closed or union shops, employers demanded the right to hire and fire whomever they wanted, irrespective of union status. They established an open-shop movement, which was led by local, national, and trade-based employers. Some formed more inclusive “citizens’ associations,” which included clergymen, lawyers, judges, academics, and employers. Throughout the 20th century’s first three decades, this movement succeeded in busting unions, breaking strikes, and blacklisting labor activists. It united large numbers of employers and was mostly successful. The movement faced its biggest challenges in the 1930s, when a liberal political climate legitimized unions and collective bargaining. But employers never stopped organizing and fighting, and they continued to undermine the labor movement in the following decades by invoking the phrase “right-to-work,” insisting that individual laborers must enjoy freedom from so-called union bosses and compulsory unionism. Numerous states, responding to pressure from organized employers, begin passing “right-to-work” laws, which made union organizing more difficult because workers were not obligated to join unions or pay their “fair share” of dues to them. The multi-decade employer-led anti-union movement succeeded in fighting organized labor at the point of production, in politics, and in public relations.
Employers across America’s diverse industrial landscape have demonstrated a consistent and deep dislike of organized labor throughout the nation’s history. They have developed numerous techniques to prevent labor unions from forming in their workplaces, campaigned to establish anti-union laws, and have promoted ideas that encourage and celebrate individualism over collectivism. The reason for their animosity is understandable: labor unions, which make demands on employers and organize protests, have prevented them from managing their workplaces unilaterally. Employers want the right to hire and fire employees’ at will. Labor unions prevent them from enjoying this unilateral flexibility, since unions fight for contractually guaranteed rights for all workers; such contracts cover issues such as pay, hours, benefits, and job duties. Many union activists have insisted that employers hire only union members, an industrial relations system known as a closed shop, or that all employees join the union after getting their jobs, which is called a union shop. Throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, workers have staged a series of strikes to establish closed and union shops. Beginning in the late 19th century, employers seeking greater control over hiring and firing policies have called for the establishment of open shops, which means workplaces where employers enjoy the exclusive right to hire and fire whomever they want, irrespective of union status. In practice, employers invoked the phrase “open shop” as an excuse to discriminate against union members. The open-shop principle has remained enormously popular in management circles.
Employers’ collective campaigns to weaken the labor movement found clear expression in the years and decades after the Civil War, when employers representing different industries of various sizes began organizing local, national, and trade-based organizations to address what they routinely referred to as “the labor problem” or the “labor question.” It is unclear precisely when the phrase “open shop” emerged in the English language, but one can identify the development of a national, open-shop movement in the 1890s. Faced with crippling strikes, boycott campaigns, and workers’ demands for collective bargaining rights, employers established a multiregional movement designed to solve this multidimensional problem. From its late-19th-century beginnings to the 21st century, employers have succeeded in breaking strikes, busting unions, and securing anti-union laws on the state and federal levels. In the process, employers have traditionally secured help from influential individuals and organizations outside of industrial relations settings, seeking to show that the open- shop principle was good for society as a whole, not just for the nation’s most economically privileged members. They received support from politicians, lawyers, judges, journalists, clergymen, and even novelists. The decades-long employer-led movement sought to address labor challenges in the areas of the workplace, politics, and public relations. Some open-shop proponents viewed the labor problem as the biggest threat facing the nation. As N. F. Thompson, a leading open-shop activist from Huntsville, Alabama, put it in 1900, labor unions constituted “the greatest menace to this government.”1
In more recent years, employers and their allies have described organized labor as a threat to the individual freedom of managers, employees, and job seekers. Profoundly annoyed by organized labor’s legislative and workplace victories during the 1930s, many sought to find ways to reduce the power and popularity of labor unionism. Teaming up with lawmakers, employers enjoyed many successes in the second half of the 20th century. Beginning in the 1940s, some states passed “right-to-work” laws, which allowed workers to refrain from holding membership in, or paying their “fair share” of dues to, unions. Exactly when employers and their allies first used the phrase “right-to-work” is unknown, but we do know that numerous late-19th- and early- 20th-century opponents of organized labor invoked it in the context of violent picket-line confrontations; they usually employed it when referring to the plight of anti-union laborers denied access to workplaces traditionally run as closed or union shops.2 In the era of World War II, the phrase took on a more explicitly political meaning to describe state laws that protected the rights of workers to refrain from joining, or to provide financial contributions to, unions. Unions that operate in right-to-work states are nevertheless required to represent these so-called free riders. Under these circumstances, employees often find little reason to pay dues voluntarily, which reduces organized labor’s financial resources and its overall power; because free riders do not contribute financially, organized labor’s representation activities become more difficult. Employers benefited from such workplace fragmentation. As of the late 2010s, the United States has twenty-eight right-to-work states, and only 11 percent of America’s workers enjoy labor union representation.
Class struggles are older than capitalism itself, but the rise of the open-shop movement marked a distinctive chapter in management history. The movement, which influenced official politics, public affairs, and labor relations, involved organizing, lobbying politicians, disseminating anti-union messages to the public, and breaking strikes and busting unions in workplaces. Support was widespread. The New York Times noted in 1904 that “the open-shop is the first issue ever presented to employers upon which they could combine in entire agreement.”3
Enthusiasm for the open-shop principle was not the same as participating in the open-shop movement. Several mostly elite men from the Northeast and Midwest took on the task of building this movement by writing letters to fellow employers and by speaking at meetings hosted by English-style gentlemen clubs, engineering societies, and manufacturers’ associations. Philadelphia’s William Pfahler; Sedalia, Missouri’s J. West Goodwin; Detroit’s John A. Penton; Cincinnati’s Ernest F. Du Brul; Grand Rapids’ Walter Drew; Bridgeport, Connecticut’s Daniel Davenport; and several others visited many parts of the nation in the period between 1896 and 1906, when they built numerous citizens’ alliances and employers’ associations, including the National Founders’ Association (NFA), the National Metal Trades Association (NMTA), the National Erectors’ Association (NEA), and the American Anti-Boycott Association (AABA). Organizers were ambitious. As AABA founder Davenport put it, “I traveled more miles than even Saint Paul traveled in his fourteen journeys to found the infant church.”4 Their organizational efforts paid off: by early 1903, employers in over a hundred cities had pledged their support for the open-shop movement.5
In that year, Indianapolis’s David M. Parry, owner of a large wagon manufacturing establishment, delivered an iconic speech at the National Association of Manufacturers’ (NAM) annual meeting in New Orleans where he urged his fellow employers to help “thousands of men to shake off the shackles of unionism.”6
Here he had put the call out to establish open-shop workplaces throughout the nation in the name of protecting the rights of ordinary people. The NAM’s membership increased significantly as a result; it grew from 1,900 members in 1902 to 2,700 the following year.7
These organizational developments were reinforced by numerous state actions. Judges routinely granted employers injunctions during strikes, local police forces typically sided with strikebreakers and employers during industrial disputes, and politicians helped prevent the passage of pro-union legislation, including organized labor’s demand for laws to reduce hours and to limit the use of injunctions against picketing. Most importantly, in late 1902 Theodore Roosevelt oversaw the establishment of a pro-open-shop industrial commission to investigate and resolve the issues that had led to the massive anthracite coal strike in northeastern Pennsylvania. Against the wishes of the United Mine Workers of America, the seven-person commission called for open-shop conditions in the coalfields. Roosevelt referred to the agreement as the “Square Deal,” since it allegedly protected the rights of both unionists and non-unionists.8
The Square Deal and the NAM’s evolution under Parry’s leadership helped to inspire many others, including those outside of industrial relations settings. Many interested in expanding the movement joined citizens’ alliances, organizations led by an assortment of elites. In October of 1903 roughly three hundred members of manufacturers and citizens’ associations met in Chicago to build a national, highly inclusive organization. After some debate, former Montana-based U.S. Senator and meeting delegate representing the Citizens’ Alliance of Helena, Wilber F. Sanders, proposed that the gathering call themselves the “Citizens’ Industrial Association of America” (CIAA). Sanders’s proposal passed unanimously. Inspired by his NAM work, the delegates appointed Parry to head the new organization. Parry believed that this employer-led struggle marked the opening of a fundamentally new chapter in the history of industrial relations, a major departure from an earlier period supposedly marred by employer passivity and weakness. “Under the do-nothing policy of the employers up to a few years ago,” Parry observed at a meeting in 1904, “the growth of unionism was magical.”9
Parry was wrong when he said that this cohort had done “nothing” in earlier periods. Many had fought on both sides during the Civil War; some had campaigned for “free labor” as Union soldiers, while a few had struggled to protect slavery. Others, including Montana’s Sanders and Alabama’s N. F. Thompson, had previously led vigilante organizations.10 Sanders was a leader of the Montana vigilantes, an organization that hanged several horse and gold thieves in the 1860s. During that same decade, Thompson had served as a Confederate soldier and then as a Ku Klux Klan head. J. West Goodwin, a delegate representing Sedalia, Missouri, was active in the “law and order” committee that effectively fought Knights of Labor activists during the great 1886 Southwest Railroad strike.11 And Wyoming’s Hugo Donzelmann, a regional movement leader, had worked as a lawyer for the Wyoming Stock Growers Association during its violent campaign against small homesteaders as part of the Johnson County War in 1892.12
Vigilantism continued during the Progressive Era. In Tampa in 1901, citizens’ alliance members kidnapped roughly a dozen leaders of a cigar workers’ strike and sent them on a boat to Honduras. During the so-called Colorado mine wars of 1903–1904, members of the state’s citizens’ association collaborated with police forces and, in some cases, got their own hands dirty fighting Western Federation of Miners members. In Cheyenne, Wyoming, the local citizens’ alliance armed themselves against striking railroad workers. In Cleveland in 1906, John A. Penton gave his print shop strikebreakers guns to use against strikers. In western Louisiana and the eastern part of Texas in the years between 1911 and 1913, lumbermen—including John Henry Kirby, a member of the NAM and the Southern Lumbermen’s Association—collaborated with local police forces, which violently fought Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) members. Southern Lumbermen’s Association supporters kidnapped labor leaders, destroyed union headquarters, and murdered several activists.13
Employer-organizers seldom drew attention to their own use of extralegal force. Any repression, they insisted, was a justifiable response to labor violence. They claimed that they had a duty to defend America’s economic and political institutions as well as to care for those uninterested in joining unions. They sought to protect the so-called scab, which Harvard University president and open-shop advocate Charles Eliot repeatedly referred to as “a hero.” Others called them “free workers.”14 The CIAA’s letterhead contained the words, “For the protection of the common people.” C. W. Post, the famous cereal manufacturer and CIAA president after Parry’s brief tenure, was responsible for popularizing this phrase. The inspiration came from Abraham Lincoln, Post’s one-time neighbor in Springfield, Illinois: “Mr. Lincoln said one time, ‘I believe in the common people; there are so many of them.’ It was to protect the common people that the Citizens’ Industrial association was organized.”15
Indeed, public relations was a central part of the movement, and the CIAA recruited some of the nation’s most ambitious propagandists and writers, including George Creel, the Kansas City newspaper owner and future head of Woodrow Wilson’s pro-war propaganda campaign, to spread its messages. Another well-known figure was novelist Owen Wister. Wister, appointed to the CIAA’s propaganda committee in 1907, was famous for authoring the bestselling The Virginian, a 1902 novel based loosely on Wyoming’s Johnson County Wars.16 Most importantly, the CIAA began publishing a monthly magazine in 1905 called The Square Deal, named in honor of the industrial relations outcome advocated by Theodore Roosevelt’s coal strike commission.17
Several prominent economists offered the movement intellectual legitimacy. The most important was J. Laurence Laughlin, a founder of the Journal of Political Economy and frequent speaker at employers’ association meetings. Laughlin, one of Theodore Roosevelt’s Harvard instructors, insisted that closed and union shops violated capitalism’s natural laws: “The union scale of wages can be kept only by driving all other competitors from the field.”18 Laughlin judged unions harshly for what he considered both their economic and moral shortcomings. Yet he was no dispassionate scholar, condemning union activists for, as he put it, breaking the “heads of non-union men” and for the “burning of property” during strikes. In his view, employers who bargained with labor unions suffered from “sheer stupidity.”19
Open-shop proponents enjoyed a largely favorable judicial climate, illustrated by two well-known Supreme Court cases: the Danbury Hatters’ affair and the Buck’s Stove and Range Company controversy. In 1902 members of the United Hatters of North America, a nine-thousand-member union, called for a nationwide boycott against the Danbury, Connecticut–based D.E. Loewe and Company to coincide with an organizing campaign at the company. The open-shop workplace appealed to the court, which issued a unanimous decision in 1908 against the union for violating the Sherman Anti-Trust act.20 A similar result occurred in St. Louis, where the American Federation of Labor (AFL) placed the Buck’s Stove and Range Company on its list of businesses to boycott in 1907 after the company fired striking workers. The company’s head, James Van Cleave, was the NAM president at the time. Van Cleave appealed to the Supreme Court, successfully winning a comprehensive injunction against the boycott.21
Regional open-shop organizations, seeking to attract business, sought to prove that their communities were committed to business prosperity, characterized by widespread respect for law-and-order and largely free from labor troubles. Regional and national papers, including trade publications, mainstream newspapers, and blatant propaganda organs, touted the open-shop conditions found in various parts of the country. For example, in Cleveland, the Cleveland Employers’ Association launched a pamphlet called Facts in 1909: “We can invite outsiders within our gates and say to them, ‘Here we have no Chicago Teamsters’ strike, no Toledo Labor Unrest, no New York Taxicab Disturbances, no Eastern Hat Workers’ Difficulties, no May Day uneasiness.”22 Southern-based open-shop advocates advertised the lack of union power in their regions in publications such as Manufacturers’ Record and The Tradesman. The Chattanooga-based The Tradesman, edited by N. F. Thompson, proclaimed in 1906 that “public sentiment” in the South embraced “the open shop.”23
The World War I Era
Yet during World War I, many unionists in both the North and the South succeeded in winning representation rights and pressuring their employers to improve workplace conditions. The draft and the federal government’s needs for production increases pushed wages up, reduced the unemployment rate, and provided organized labor with leverage. Open-shop forces enjoyed less bargaining power and confronted serious setbacks. The Woodrow Wilson administration requested that employers recognize moderate unions such as the AFL, especially because its leader, Samuel Gompers, pledged the organization’s support for the administration’s war aims.
The Wilson administration encouraged employers to recognize and work with “responsible” unions. He oversaw the creation of the National War Labor Board (NWLB), a twelve-person arbitration committee consisting of business and labor representatives. Led by the open-shop-supporting former president, William Taft, the NWLB pressured employers to recognize unions. In return, union leaders promised not to disrupt production. A few veterans from earlier open-shop wars joined Taft, including the NAM’s C. Edwin Michael and W. H. van Dervoort, a NMTA member.24
Yet employers and their allies repeatedly expressed annoyance in the face of organized labor’s increased power, especially its push for closed shops. Walter Drew, speaking before a sympathetic audience in Boston in 1917, referred to “closed-shop propaganda” as “the greatest menace confronting American industry.”25 Others pointed out that organized labor’s influence in this context created managerial uncertainties, which scared away businesses. Writing in early 1918 to John Henry Kirby, the powerful East Texas capitalist, B. H. Wilkins, owner of the Tennessee Overall Company and a Tennessee Manufacturers Association official, explained that investors remained reluctant to establish operations in regions where unions enjoyed strength: “Thousands of manufacturers will stay away from Texas, as they have from California, so long as the manufacturing interests of the state is controlled by Union Labor, for this reason alone, I refused a flattering offer to open a factory in your state.”26
Employers also fought labor militants during World War I. Although many reluctantly accepted the AFL’s legitimacy, they remained completely intolerant of labor and political radicals, including those in the IWW, the Socialist Party, and anarchists generally. In Bisbee, Arizona, in 1917, a mixed force of vigilantes and policemen forcibly removed a thousand copper mine strikers to New Mexico. In that same year, a group of unidentified masked men kidnapped and ultimately hanged IWW leader Frank Little in Butte, Montana; he had referred to soldiers as “Uncle Sam’s scabs in uniform.”27 And in 1918, authorities arrested socialist leader Eugene V. Debs in Canton, Ohio, for claiming that World War I was a capitalist ploy incompatible with workers’ interests.
The benefits non-radical laborers enjoyed were temporary, and employers anticipated postwar conflicts. Just days after the allies’ victory, NFA President William H. Barr, irritated by dozens of pro-labor NWLB decisions, declared in a meeting to 250 open-shop proponents that “when the Government ceases to be the great common employer, and Government money no longer pays the present extravagant wages, can private industry so order its affairs as to continue to furnish employment to the millions of our workmen?” “This question,” Barr maintained, “is the labor problem which will come with the end of the war.”28 Barr, like others, was most likely unprepared for the “labor problem” that followed. In 1919 hundreds of thousands of workers, including longshoremen, coalminers, and steelworkers, shut down production, prompting employers to scramble for replacement workers while seeking help from the police and judges.
These strikes constituted an extraordinary challenge to the open-shop forces, but employers defeated most of these. Their efforts took on regional, national, and patriotic organizational forms. In Seattle, following a massive general strike led by longshore workers, the Waterfront Employers’ Association helped to establish the Associated Industries of Seattle and celebrated the formation of “the ‘open shop’ plan” on wharves and docks.29 Inspired by wartime nationalism, the architects of the postwar anti-union campaign wrapped themselves in the nation’s flag, proclaiming their support for what they called the “American Plan.” They established American Plan Associations in many cities, and leaders declared that closed and union shops were fundamentally un-patriotic. This campaign, inspired partially by intense opposition to the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, involved both national anti-union groups, including the five-thousand-member NAM and dozens of local employers’ associations. Anti-union campaigners saw their fight linked to the country’s earliest struggles. In Barr’s view, it represented “the same spirit which brought about the freedom of the thirteen colonies.”30
Some second-wave movement participants were as aggressive and violent as their 19th-century predecessors. William Foster, one of the labor organizers responsible for staging the steel strike of 1919, complained bitterly about what he called the vicious actions of “Chamber of Commerce mobs.”31 Take the case of Cincinnati, where members of the NMTA helped mobilize a 300-person “mob of young businessmen and young rowdies from the best families” in a raid of the Socialist Party’s headquarters in November 1919. Some socialists were International Association of Machinists (IAM) members who had participated in the recent strike. The “young gentlemen” removed left-wing literature from the headquarters and burned it in front of several policemen who “acted as ushers” during the stampede.32 Public authorities continued to assist those in the private sector, demonstrating to employers that they could use violence against labor agitators without facing meaningful legal consequences. Anti-union figures in the post–World War I years continued the vigilante tradition established by self-described law-and-order advocates in the Midwest, West, and South during the late 19th century.
Employers won most of their battles during the great 1919 strike wave. Chambers of Commerce and businessmen associations in the nation’s cities proclaimed their support for the open-shop principle, and some viewed its existence as necessary to prevent the spread of Bolshevik-inspired labor radicalism. Open-shop advocate George W. Armstrong of Fort Worth put the contest in rather stark terms in a letter to his local Chamber of Commerce in 1920. “There are but two possible outcomes of the contest,” he maintained: “a Soviet Government of industry and of the Country, or the ‘Open Shop.’”33
Not all employers saw the options as starkly as Armstrong viewed matters, but most nevertheless strongly supported the open-shop system. The movement’s second wave was as influential as the original, Progressive Era crusade. Organized employers had helped to transform cities such as Atlanta, Dallas, Louisville, Oklahoma City, Pittsburgh, and others into places dominated by open shops. Spokespersons expressed pride following these hard-fought developments and insisted that their victories helped the communities, not simply the bosses. H. V. Kahle, the Oklahoma Employers’ Association’s secretary, was especially boosterish—and guilty of overstating the weaknesses of the region’s labor movement. In 1920 he explained, “To-day all our principle industrial cities are virtually 100 per cent open shop. Unions have not won a single strike in this State.”34 Plenty shared Kahle’s enthusiasm. By September 1920, The Iron Trade Review reported that 1,665 separate employers’ and business associations throughout the country officially supported the open-shop system.35
To discourage workers from joining unions, employers did more than use force or disseminate propaganda. Recognizing the popularity of the union idea, some developed “company unions.” Unlike closed or union shops, where employees enjoyed class-based contractually guaranteed rights following negotiations or strikes, employers overseeing company unions were under no obligation to sit down and formally bargain with their workers. But they nevertheless met with bodies of workers informally to discuss a range of workplace-related matters. Some talked about, and in many cases sponsored, company outings, sports teams, and workplace-based drama clubs. Managers figured that workers would, in return, show loyalty to their employers. The purpose, a leader of the AABA explained in 1919, was to create “factory solidarity” rather than “class solidarity.”36
Yet many continued to find value in “class solidarity.” This was clear in 1922, when a great railroad strike, involving 400,000 craft workers, broke out in many parts of the nation. Prompted by sharp pay cuts and the employers, led by the Pennsylvania Railroad, demand to impose open-shop conditions on their workers, union members shut down numerous lines. Violent clashes erupted in many communities between strikers and scabs. In an unambiguous sign that the state backed the employers, federal authorities’ imposed injunctions against protestors. In the words of historian Colin Davis, the outcome marked “the ascendancy of railroad management.”37
Employers were mostly pleased with the results of their managerial activities. By 1923 the number of workers in unions stood at 3.5 million, a decline from a wartime high of 5 million.38 And although millions held membership cards, many employers refused to bargain (or even recognize) unions in their workplaces. This remained a point of pride, and numerous employers celebrated their managerial freedom and power. Speaking at the annual NAM meeting in 1924, economist and association staff member, Noel Sargent, reported that 90 percent of the nation’s workplaces were run as open shops. Some delegates reported even better results. Those from Milwaukee, New York, and San Francisco, which were traditional centers of labor activism and union power, stated that all manufacturing establishments in these cities were open shops.39 The lesson was clear enough: direct union-busting, effective propaganda distribution, and political lobbying worked. Relieved of collective bargaining agreements and leftist agitation, employers anticipated many years of prosperity and dominance.
Their predictions were entirely incorrect as the nation entered the 1930s, a decade marked by an unprecedented economic crisis, the reemergence of strong leftist currents, the establishment of a moderately pro-labor political establishment, and the broad development of combative labor movements that broke out in the nation’s industrial centers. Employers faced a series of major defeats in the 1930s. The resilient labor movement, articulated most forcefully by the establishment of the highly inclusive and combative Committee of Industrial Organizations (later the Congress of Industrial Organizations), led to the dramatic collapse of many open shops throughout much of the nation, forcing employers to regroup. Following sustained periods of labor pressure, including strikes and mass picketing, employer after employer agreed to recognize unions and negotiate contracts. But employers never ceased fighting, and sometimes their battles were as brutal as the actions unleashed by vigilantes in earlier periods.
Labor activism was not their only source of anxiety; most remained intensely opposed to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, which included several pro-labor policies. The first was the 1933 National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA), which included a clause, section 7a, that permitted workers to form labor unions. It also allowed employers to continue to organize company unions, which reinforced, rather than alleviated, workplace hierarchy, since bosses had the final say over policies. And a wide variety of employers, including managers of cotton pickers in California to textile mill owners from New England to regions of the South, simply ignored the state authorities tasked with the job of encouraging collective bargaining.40
Employers were generally undeterred by their setbacks. The NAM and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce continued to challenge labor unionism and government programs that promoted collective bargaining. Employers attacked politically, launched public relations assaults, and they continued to harass union activists. In fact, the Roosevelt administration did little to quell employer-organized strikebreaking and union busting. In the South, employers formed a new organization, the Southern States Industrial Council (SSIC). Established partially by former NAM president John Edgerton of Lebanon, Tennessee, in 1933 to fight the pro-union features of the NIRA, the SSIC informed the larger business community that the South remained “the World’s best Investment.”41 This required maintaining a low-paid, fearful, racially divided, and easily exploitable workforce.
Yet many employers could not ignore working-class militancy, which resulted in the defeat of open-shop forces in several cities. In 1934, frustrated by employers’ unwillingness to respect workers’ demands for collective bargaining, labor activists staged a series of huge, community-wide strikes in Minneapolis, San Francisco, and Toledo. Led by socialists of various stripes, these actions forced employers to reluctantly sign contracts and improve conditions.42
Neither employers nor New Deal liberals such as Roosevelt approved of outbursts of working-class militancy, and both sought to establish labor peace. Most businessmen remained committed to the open-shop principle, believing that they must enjoy the right to hire and fire at will, rather than negotiate with bodies of workers. Roosevelt supported give-and-take bargaining, not lockouts and strikes, and assumed that capitalism functioned best when employees enjoyed some say over their conditions of employment. Shortly after the 1934 strike wave, employers and their political allies enjoyed a significant legal victory: in 1935, the Supreme Court declared the NIRA unconstitutional.
Yet the First New Deal, as historians have called it, was followed by an even more pro-union Second New Deal. The period’s most notable development was the establishment of the National Labor Relations Act, also known as the Wagner Act (named after New York Senator Robert Wagner). In a severe blow to open-shop supporters, the 1935 Wagner Act encouraged collective bargaining activities, prohibited Yellow Dog Contracts (contracts that employees signed promising to refrain from joining unions), and banned company unions, correctly insisting that such unions were dominated by management. A third blow to the open-shop forces was the creation of the La Follette Committee (1936–1941). Led in part by liberal Wisconsin Senator Robert La Follette Jr., the committee investigated the long history of union-busting, strikebreaking, and blacklisted activities overseen by many of the nation’s most powerful capitalists. Representatives of core open-shop and strikebreaking organizations, the NMTA, the NAM, the Pinkerton Detective Agency, and numerous citizens’ alliances, were put in the hot seat, forced to reveal the often-lurid details of their spying and sabotaging activities before Congress. Listeners of these testimonials discovered blatant cases of thuggery and dishonesty, demonstrating that the various citizens’ committees were far from sincere in their desire to protect “the common people.”43
Some of these employer activists tasked with the job of protected “the common people” seemed genuinely undeterred by the negative publicity, and at least one fondly recalled earlier times.
At one hearing, William Frew Long, the leader of the Associated Industries of Cleveland, a powerful open-shop organization, expressed nostalgia for a period characterized largely by employers’ extensive and unapologetic use of force: “There are things happening today that if they had happened 50 years ago you and I and everyone else would have grabbed a shotgun and gone out and done something. But we are getting apathetic and soft . . . Where the people of a city or town rise in righteous indignation about a situation they don’t like, it is a very healthy sign.”44 It is noteworthy that Long continued to describe the struggles of “the people,” not the challenges of the capitalist class. Employers, the foremost beneficiaries of the open-shop principle, remained unwilling to speak honestly about their obvious class interests.
Organized employers continued to profess their support for the rights of “the people,” rather than discuss the narrower interests of their own class, during dramatic industrial disputes. During strikes in the second half of the 1930s, they set up additional “citizens’ committees,” formed alliances with municipal authorities, and paid large sums for public relations purposes. The Iron and Steel Institute, an employers’ association that challenged the Steel Workers Organizing Committee’s (SWOC) drive to organize thousands of Midwestern-based steelworkers, paid $500,000 for advertisements in 382 newspapers where it explained its reasons for supporting the open-shop principle. In numerous strike centers during the SWOC’s battles, anti-union public-private partnerships organized “back to work” campaigns, which sparked numerous clashes between union and company men.45 At this point, the federal government’s support for organized labor appeared tepid at best. Refusing to accept the Wagner Act’s encouragement of collective bargaining, managers routinely collaborated with police forces, who periodically beat and shot strikers. On Memorial Day in 1937, Chicago policemen fatally shot ten strikers. Roosevelt responded coldly: “A plague on both your houses.”46
In this period, numerous anti-union activists thought about more than simply winning immediate battles against mass production strikers. The NAM continued to pump money into advertisements, seeking to discredit pro-union federal programs and labor unionism while promoting the supposed virtues of “free enterprise.” In 1937, it spent $793,043 on public relations.47 One of the major figures to emerge in this period was Vance Muse, a disciple of John Henry Kirby, the powerful lumber and oil magnate. A former union member who had participated in the 1907 strike against Swift and Company in Fort Worth, Muse had followed the lead of the citizens’ alliances by forming his own Astroturf organization, the Christian American Association in 1936. Like the public relations schemes concocted by earlier open-shop advocates, the name of Muse’s organization suggests that he wanted to draw attention away from the class interests of those fighting organized labor.48 The Christian American Association combined a toxic mix of racism and anti-Semitism to its anti-union campaigns. The CIO, Muse warned, threatened to further unite workers across racial lines, and “white women and white men will be forced into organizations with black African apes whom they will have to call ‘brother’ or lose their jobs.”49
World War II Era
While regional groups such as the Christian American Association and the Southern States Industrial Council campaigned to maintain a hostile climate for union organizers in the South, the nation was hit with a series of massive industrial disturbances. In 1941, 150,000 mineworkers as well as many laborers from the Federal Shipbuilding and Drydock Company and Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company staged strikes for union recognition. Organized labor remained popular and powerful, and many achieved union security agreements from their employers. By 1942, 4 million labored in closed or union shops. In that year, roughly 12 percent of the nation’s labor force enjoyed union protections.50 The National War Labor Board emerged in this period to promote union-management cooperation. The NAM reluctantly accepted this arrangement.51
Yet powerful anti-union forces continued to criticize collective bargaining and labor union activism generally. On Labor Day in 1941, Dallas Morning News columnist William Ruggles published an essay calling for a constitutional amendment protecting the non-unionists “right-to-work,” which aimed to abolish closed shops. Muse was inspired by Ruggles’s call, prompting him to organize with other Southern-based anti-union businessmen and politicians. Pushed by activists such as Muse as well as by broad sections of the business and political community, ballot initiatives led to the passage of right-to-work laws in 1944 in Florida and Arkansas, two Jim Crow states.
Following the war, the employer-led movement continued to fight labor on picket lines, in politics, and in the public sphere. In 1946, residents in Arizona, Nebraska, and South Dakota, responding to a climate of anti-union propaganda, voted for the adoption of right-to-work laws in these states. Meanwhile, some employers formed additional Astroturf outfits, including an anti-union lobbying and strikebreaking group called the Veterans Industrial Association, which was led by Little Rock’s James T. Karam. Karem—one of the figures who would later lead mobs of whites against the integration of Little Rock High School in 1957—collaborated with Muse and George S. Benson, the president of Arkansas’s Harding College in the 1940s.52 Established employers’ associations assisted by helping to influence the nature of legislation on the national level, climaxing with the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act, named after Ohio Senator Robert Taft and New Jersey Congressman Fred Hartley. The Act, a pro-business modification of the Wagner Act that was pushed aggressively by the NAM, called for a ban on sympathy strikes, declared that employers have the right to dissuade workers from joining unions, demanded that union leaders sign statements promising they were not Communists, prohibited foreman from collective bargaining activities, banned closed shops, and allowed state legislators to pass laws prohibiting union security agreements, further legitimizing the right-to-work principle.53
The Modern Era
Organized employers felt emboldened following the Taft-Hartley Act’s passage. The most visible sign of their confidence was reflected by the creation in 1955 of the National Right to Work Committee (NRTWC), an employer-led organization masquerading as a cross-class group committed to fighting “the union bosses” and “compulsory unionism.” Led partially by Fred Hartley, this organization lobbied politicians, published and disseminated newsletters, organized public speaking events, produced and distributed anti-union films, and offered legal assistance to anti-union workers. The organization’s central messages were generally recycled talking points taken from Progressive Era anti-unionists; spokespersons emphasized the unfairness of “compulsory unionism,” the supposed propensity of labor activists to resort to violence, and the necessity of protecting the individual rights of ordinary, non-union workers.
Like earlier configurations, the NRTWC sought to demonstrate that it was a class-neutral, mainstream organization, not a businessmen-led group. It further wanted the public to view it as a national organization that enjoyed widespread geographical support. Consider a 1957 statement:
Spokesmen for organized labor continue to raise a hue and cry that right to work laws are supported only by such organizations as the Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers. They also claim that support for such laws comes largely from the South, noting that a majority of the eighteen states with right to work laws are in that area. A recent public opinion poll on this question definitely refutes that position, indicating that if the voters were asked to decide by referendum the odds would greatly favor widespread adoption of the law.
Based on this report, the public supported the right-to-work concept by wide margins: 63 percent for; 27 percent against. Ten percent remained undecided.54
Despite the alleged extensive support for the right-to-work principle, anti-union organizations such as the NRTWC and the NAM continued to disseminate propaganda and train managers about how best to defeat union organizing campaigns.55 In 1958, the NRTWC released the short film. . . And Women Must Weep, a fictionalized account of an International Association of Machinists’ strike in southern Indiana in 1956–1957. The twenty-six-minute tale portrays the story of hot-headed union leaders leading a violent strike, which led to the near death of a sleeping baby. Employers, seeking to convince workers to vote against unions during organizing drives, routinely showed this film, which depicts union leaders as unreasonable, boorish, and ultimately un-American. And the NRTWC promoted several non-employers, including Frederic C. Fowler, a leader of the Christian Freedom Foundation, to leadership positions. The NRWC also enlisted the help of several anti-union priests and rabbis.56
Employer-backed politicians, especially Republicans, continued to push for the passage of right-to-work laws in the years following the NRTWC’s formation. Older anti-union forces, including the American Chamber of Commerce and the NAM were joined by newer organizations such as the American Taxpayers League, the Southern Tariff Association, and the National Council of State Legislatures. These campaigns were not always successful in convincing voters to support the establishment of right-to-work laws. The results in 1958, when the question was put to voters in six states—California, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Ohio, and Washington—showed that a majority did not agree with the employers or their political allies. Only Kansan voters supported the proposal. Some critics of the NRTWC’s campaigns saw the movement as nothing new. Herbert Hill, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s labor director, explained that “The simple truth is that the slogan ‘Right to Work’ is nothing more than the old phrase ‘Open-shop’ which the powerful industrialists of America used in the early days of the 20th Century to prevent trade union organization.”57 More recently, in 1978, pro-union activists in Missouri defeated a proposal to become a right-to-work state.58
But since the 1970s, organized employers experienced more victories, both in workplaces and in politics, than defeats. Many succeeded in preventing unions from establishing a presence in their workplaces, oversaw numerous decertification drives to stop collective bargaining activities altogether, and enjoyed help from politicians bent on ensuring that labor organizing remained difficult. In 1978 Utah’s conservative U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch helped defeat labor law reform, which would have made organizing easier, by using the filibuster.59 Political momentum, generated by the aggressive mobilizations of anti-union organizations such as the Business Roundtable, Americans for Prosperity, and the American Chamber of Commerce, has led to a series of meaningful business victories in the aging industrial areas that had given birth to the modern labor movement decades earlier. Indiana (2012), Michigan (2012), Wisconsin (2015), West Virginia (2016), and Kentucky (2017) have all become right-to-work states. The current number is twenty-eight. Business success has coincided with signs of public ambivalence about unions. According to a 2014 Gallup poll, 71 percent of respondents indicated a willingness to vote for right-to-work legislation if they could. Yet a smaller majority of these same individuals, 53 percent, claimed to support organized labor.60
The postwar decades also saw many employers challenge organized labor in both the private and public sectors by direct union-fighting and by relocating plants to low-wage areas outside of the United States. Business spokespersons have traditionally insisted that outsourcing was necessary to remain “competitive” in the global economy. In a sign of class collaborationism, many union leaders representing workers in the manufacturing sector have agreed with this assessment, and numerous labor officials have signed concessionary agreements with management for this purpose. Employers have generally appreciated the political environments under presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush and, to a lesser extent, Bill Clinton. Organizations such as the Business Roundtable approved of Reagan’s destruction of the 11,000-member Professional Air Traffic Controllers Union (PATCO) in 1981, when the union defied a back-to-work order. In the private sector, Phelps-Dodge in Arizona broke the unions of its mostly Latino cooper workers following a strike in 1983; unsurprisingly, after management replaced the strikers with scabs, the scabs voted to decertify the multiple unions that had once represented the labor force. Business organizations have also applauded free-trade agreements, including the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement, which makes it easier for employers to shut down high-paying, often unionized jobs in the United States, and open new workplaces in low-wage regions in Mexico. Furthermore, employer-backed governors such as Wisconsin’s Scott Walker succeeded in passing a law limiting the number of issues pubic-sector workers could negotiate over in the face of large and angry labor-led protests in Madison in 2011. Anti-union policies such as those in Wisconsin have been pushed forcefully by organizations such as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative organization founded in 1973 that enjoys close relationships with business leaders and Republican state legislators, including Walker. Direct attacks on unions, combined with trade agreements such as NAFTA, helped further weaken organized labor while leading to increases in business profits and a growing pay gap between CEOs and ordinary workers (see anti-right-to-work cartoon published in 2014 by Hurwitt/Public Employee Press).61
Employers have continued to discredit unions by insisting, for example, that union activists deserve blame for hampering what business leaders consider the naturally harmonious relationships between labor and management. As Don Tyson of Tyson Chicken explained in 1989, “Why should you and I as individuals, have to have somebody work between us. It’s like hiring a lawyer, and both of us paying him, when we could have thrown him out the window.”62 But many workers remain unconvinced by this type of good-guy talk, choosing to back organizing campaigns. Seeking to remain union-free, employers in these circumstances often hire anti-union law firms. In consultation with lawyers, employers routinely hold threatening captive audience meetings with workers to encourage them to vote “no” during elections overseen by the National Labor Relations Board. Additionally, managers regularly fire union supporters during organizing campaigns, creating a climate of intimidation.63
Politically, employers’ associations typically support the Republican Party, whose members remain, for the most part, reliable allies in campaigns to weaken labor’s bargaining power. Democrats generally do not offer much opposition, often standing aside as conservative forces seek to help their allies in the business community. Although Barack Obama had pledged to support organized labor’s goal of making organizing easier by backing the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) during his 2008 election campaign, he refused to raise the issue during his tenure as president.64 And groups such as the American Chamber of Commerce and the NAM expressed excitement in summer 2016 when Democratic Party presidential candidate Hillary Clinton picked Tim Kaine, a friend of anti-union organizations and a supporter of the right-to-work principle from Virginia, as her running mate.65 Business-backed campaigns in the areas of politics, public relations, and in workplaces have succeeded in dramatically damaging the power of organized labor. Today, roughly 11 percent of the nation’s workforce is unionized, and it is highly likely that union density will continue to decline thanks to the continued efforts of organized employers.
Discussion of the Literature
Traditionally, scholars of organized employers and anti-unionism have explored and debated several different questions, including the relationships between workplace size and the question of unions, whether employers tended to conduct their managerial activities peacefully or violently, the ways race and ethnicity intersected with this question, and the political ideologies embraced by supporters of open-shop workplaces. Some historians have offered rather straightforward rise and fall—or rise, fall, and rise again—accounts of the open-shop movement. These studies stress the power of the movement in the Progressive Era and during the 1920s, followed by employer defeats in the 1930s. Historians of more recent periods in history have offered multidimensional accounts of post–World War II employers, noting that such figures were central players in the rise of conservative campaigns that weakened organized labor and New Deal liberalism.
The first scholar to write a general account of organized employers and labor relations was Clarence Bonnett. His 1922 book divided employers’ associations into two camps: negotiators and belligerents. For Bonnett, groups such as the NFA, the NMTA, and the NAM constituted belligerent organizations, since its members refused to recognize or negotiate with labor unions. Groups such as the National Civic Federation (NCF), an organization consisting of employers, unions, and members of the public, constituted an example of a “negotiatory” organization, because its members engaged in collective bargaining. Additionally, Bonnett believed the small and medium-sized firms were more inclined to join the “belligerent” organizations while the large, capital-intensive workplaces were more likely to hold membership in the NCF.66
The relationship between workplace size and the question of unions continued to interest scholars throughout much of the 20th century. This was particularly true for New Left historians such as James Weinstein and Martin Sklar. These historians have argued that the smaller, often family-run proprietary capitalists were uniquely hostile to organized labor while the larger corporations showed more tolerance, effectively practicing in a form of “corporate liberalism”—an industrial relations system in which representatives of labor, business, and the public shared power.67 “Most scholars would agree,” historian Larry Gerber maintained in 1997, “that small firms” were “more vehement in their opposition to unions than the corporate giants of the economy.”68
But not all shared this view. Some, including Andrew W. Cohen and Robert Johnston have drawn different conclusions. Both have depicted businessmen overseeing smaller workplaces as somewhat accommodating of organized labor. In his important study of industrial relations in Chicago, Cohen argues that many such employers were once employees themselves laboring away on the factory floor. Their previous experiences as workmen, Cohen maintains, “helps explain” what, in his interpretation, were “collegial relations between organized craft employers and craft workers.”69
Many of the most useful studies of organized employers and the labor question explore employers’ involvement in class struggles on the community-level. Studies of employers in Detroit by Thomas Klug, in Philadelphia by Howell Harris, in Minneapolis by William Millikan, in Chicago by Cohen, in St. Louis by Rosemary Feurer, in Cincinnati and San Francisco by Jeffrey Haydu, and in Cleveland, Buffalo, Worcester, and parts of the U.S. South by Chad Pearson have deepened our understandings of the various community-specific labor and political challenges that employers confronted.70
A small number of scholars have explored the lives and struggles of individual organizations and individuals. Well-researched accounts of Walter Drew and the National Erectors’ Association by Sidney Fine, the American Anti-Boycott Association by Daniel Ernst, and the NAM and the NCF by Vilja Hulden have helped us better understand the critical personalities during the Progressive Era open-shop movement. Fine’s study is important in part because it tells us how Drew, a union-fighter who got his start in the Progressive Era, lived to witness employer-led campaigns in the 1930s and 1940s. Ernst’s account explores the individuals behind some of the most successful anti-union Supreme Court cases in U.S. history. And Hulden deepens our understandings of some of the tensions between employers active in the NAM and those in the NCF.71
Some scholars have addressed the question of labor-management peace and violence, recognizing that the Gilded Age, Progressive Era, and World War I periods were often punctuated by picket-line confrontations, acts of deadly bomb throwing, police brutality, and mass arrests. It was, historian Beverly Gage tells us, “America’s First Age of Terror.”72 Yet many employers sought to illustrate that they conducted their work, both in and outside of workplaces, peacefully. Jeffrey Haydu explains that businessmen in Cincinnati, unlike the city’s laboring masses, followed certain “rules of decorum,” which included self-discipline and reasoned judgment. He calls this good “business citizenship.”73 According to Haydu, these businessmen came together as a class not simply to fight unions; many sought to establish broader cultural hegemony over their communities. Violence, some scholars have pointed out, was not always necessary to win fights against labor at the point of production. Organized employers in places such as Philadelphia, for instance, often won their battles, according to Howell Harris, “bloodlessly.”74
But one does not need to look far to find examples of employer brutality. Studies of labor-management conflict in places such as Tampa as well as in the mine regions of Colorado, Idaho, and Michigan, have demonstrated the extent to which organized employers used force in their efforts to maintain union-free workplaces. Gary Kaunonen and Aaron Goings, for example, have explored the violence unleashed by the local Citizens’ Alliance during the 1913–1914 Michigan Cooper Strike. It is likely, though not proven, that a member of this group was responsible for yelling “fire” inside of Calumet, Michigan’s Italian Hall on Christmas Eve 1913 during a holiday party. Panicked party attendees responded by rushing the door; the stampede left seventy-three people dead, most of whom were children of striking mineworkers.75
Another important historiographical controversy that has enjoyed decades of sustained attention concerns the question of race. Were open-shop employers racially enlightened or leading promoters of racial divisions? Since the 1980s, many labor historians have explored the racism of various workers while suggesting that managers were somewhat racially progressive, offering jobs to non-union African Americans and integrating workplaces before federal laws demanded integration. Sophia Z. Lee has illustrated cases in the 20th century when black workers sided with racially progressive managers over labor, and Paul Moreno and Jennifer Delton have suggested that businesses, unlike white unionists, have historically been sensitive to the interests of black workers. Complementing Moreno and Delton are scholars responsible for the proliferation of so-called whiteness studies, a body of scholarship that argues that white workers, unwilling to practice solidarity with African Americans or non-whites generally, enjoyed the psychological benefits of the “wages of whiteness.”76 Throughout much of the late 19th and 20th centuries, numerous unions, including the Knights of Labor and AFL locals, have engaged in racial discriminatory practices. In the 19th century, many railway employers supported, and ultimately benefited from, Chinese immigration, while many workers backed the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act and discriminatory practices against Asians generally. Numerous AFL locals prevented African Americans from enjoying union privileges in more recent periods.77
Others have pointed out how employers have historically used the classic divide-and-conquer strategy to maintain power. In his award-winning book about coalminers in Alabama during the early 20th century, Brian Kelly has insisted that we must bring “the employers back in” when discussing the dimensions and consequences of racism in the Jim Crow South.78 David Roediger, one of the creators of so-called whiteness studies, published an important book with Elizabeth Esch in 2012 about employers’ use of “race management” throughout the nation, explaining how employers have profited from racially divided working classes.79 In his analysis of anti-unionism in Southern areas during the Progressive Era, Chad Pearson has found that both white and black elites opposed organized labor and some, including Booker T. Washington, collaborated with former Klansman N. F. Thompson to dissuade African Americans from joining unions.80 In some cases, white employers teamed up with white workers to undermine black-led labor activism. Robert Woodrum, for example, has shown that organized employers and Klansman in post–World War I Mobile, Alabama, fought a black-led longshore workers’ strike.81 In more recent years, Gilbert Gall has illustrated that black workers, both unionists and non-unionists, played critical roles in defeating right-to-work legislation in Ohio in 1958 and in Missouri in 1978 respectively.82 These studies remind us that employers benefited financially and managerially from a racially fragmented working class.
Another critical debate concerns the political ideology of anti-union employers. Over the last few decades, scholars of the 20th century have sought to make sense of the “rise of the right,” showing that employers were central players in shaping conservatism. Scholars such as Howell Harris, Elizabeth Fones-Wolf, Kim Phillips-Fein, Nelson Lichtenstein, and Kevin M. Kruse have done much to advance this line of thinking, pointing out how business organizations such as the NAM and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce built coalitions with lawyers, public relations experts, religious leaders, and politicians to undermine organized labor’s influence in politics and at workplaces.83 Some scholars, including Elizabeth Tandy Shermer and Kathryn S. Olmsted, have focused on the Southwest, highlighting the roles played by businessmen in places such as Arizona and California in promoting political climates inhospitable to unions.84
Others note that the open-shop principle did not merely appeal to conservatives. Writing about the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Andrew W. Cohen, Howell Harris, and Chad Pearson have illustrated that numerous self-defined progressive reformers supported this industrial relations system.85 Well-known progressives such as muckraker Ray Stannard Baker, lawyer Louis D. Brandeis, journalist George Creel, and President Theodore Roosevelt were proud defenders of the open-shop system and encouraged Americans to support it, since it provided protection to the so-called free workers. And while many historians of conservatism have written about the benefits workers enjoyed during the New Deal period, others, including Bryan D. Palmer, Ahmed White, and Rosemary Feurer, have pointed out the continued power of anti-union employers during this high time of liberalism.86 Employers continued to break strikes, bust unions, and unleash private and public security forces against union builders without facing serious consequences from state authorities. Covering the 20th century’s second half, Kim Moody has offered an especially multilayered account of the forces against the labor movement, noting the strength of business organizations, the rise of the right, the pro-business biases of establishment liberals, and the repeated unwillingness of many labor leaders to promote union democracy and working-class militancy.87 Taken together, such scholars recognize the hardcore anti-unionism embraced by the right without losing sight of the clear limitations of institutional liberalism.
Organized employers were enormously secretive. Yet, some libraries contain useful papers related to the open-shop and right-to-work movements. The Hagley Museum in Delaware contains records of the National Association of Manufacturers’ and the American Chamber of Commerce. The New York City public library owns the National Civic Federation papers. The University of Michigan is home to the papers of C. W. Post and Walter Drew, two important open-shop movement leaders. The Minnesota Historical Society contains the papers of the Minneapolis Citizens’ Alliance, a powerful union-busting force in the Twin Cities. The Colorado State Archives is home to some of the papers of James Peabody, a member of the Citizens’ Alliance and the state’s governor during the coal mine “wars” of 1903–1904. One can find scattered letters from N. F. Thompson at the Tennessee State Archives in Nashville. This institution also contains the papers of the Southern States Industrial Council, a regional employers’ association formed in 1933. The University of Houston houses the John Henry Kirby papers, which are extensive. Western Reserve Historical Library owns some of the papers of the Cleveland Employers’ Association and Associated Industries of Cleveland, including the letters of influential anti-unionist William Frew Long. Research libraries at Harvard University, Syracuse University and Worcester Polytechnic Institution contain letters of pro-open-shop university presidents.
Many well-funded university libraries contain employers’ association publications, including the NAM’s American Industries, the CIAA’s Square Deal, and the NRTWC’s National Right to Work Newsletter. Such sources are mostly propagandistic, telling readers how employers’ associations wanted the public to view their movements and the individuals behind them. Additionally, trade and manufacturing journals, including Iron Age, The Iron Trade Review, Manufacturers’ Record, and The Tradesman, offer helpful insight into anti-union activities. These tend to be pro-employer, but the articles are generally more dispassionate than those found in explicit employers’ association publications.
Mainstream, city-based newspapers, many of which are searchable on Google and Chronicling America, offer useful information about strikes, employer organizing drives, and legal developments. Such sources tend to be less biased than employer or union publications.
Bonnett, Clarence E. Employers’ Association in the United States: A Study of Typical Associations. New York: Macmillan, 1922.Find this resource:
Ernst, Daniel. Lawyers Against Labor: From Individual Rights to Corporate Liberalism. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1995.Find this resource:
Feurer, Rosemary, and Chad Pearson, eds. Against Labor: How U. S. Employers Organized to Defeat Union Activism. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2017.Find this resource:
Fine, Sidney. “Without Blare of Trumpets”: Walter Drew, the National Erectors Association and the Open Shop Movement, 1903–1957. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1995.Find this resource:
Fones-Wolf, Elizabeth. Selling Free Enterprise: The Business Assault on Labor and Liberalism, 1945–60. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994.Find this resource:
Harris, Howell. The Right to Manage: Industrial Relations Polices of American Business in the 1940s. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1982.Find this resource:
Harris, Howell. Bloodless Victories: The Rise and Fall of the Philadelphia Metal Trades Association, 1890–1940. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2000.Find this resource:
Haydu, Jeffrey. Citizen Employers: Business Communities and Labor in Cincinnati and San Francisco, 1870–1916. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2008.Find this resource:
Hulden, Vilja. “Employers, Unite! Organized Employer Reactions to the Labor Union Challenge in the Progressive Era.” PhD diss., University of Arizona, 2011.Find this resource:
Jacoby, Sanford, ed. Masters to Managers: Historical and Comparative Perspectives on American Employers. New York: Columbia University Press, 1991.Find this resource:
Klug, Thomas. “The Roots of the Open-Shop: Employers, Trade Unions, and Craft Labor Markets in Detroit, 1859-1907,” PhD diss., Wayne State University, 1993.Find this resource:
Lichtenstein, Nelson, and Elizabeth Tandy Shermer, eds. The Right and Labor in America: Politics, Ideology, and Imagination. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012.Find this resource:
Millikan, William. A Union Against Unions: The Minneapolis Citizens Alliance and its Fight against Organized Labor, 1903–1947. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2001.Find this resource:
Moody, Kim. An Injury to All: The Decline of American Unionism. London: Verso, 1988.Find this resource:
Olmsted, Kathryn. Right Out of California: The 1930s and the Big Business Roots of Modern Conservatism. New York: New Press, 2015.Find this resource:
Pearson, Chad. Reform or Repression: Organizing America’s Anti-Union Movement. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016.Find this resource:
Phillips-Fein, Kim. Invisible Hands: The Making of the Conservative Movement from the New Deal to Reagan. New York: W. W. Norton, 2009.Find this resource:
Roediger, David, and Elizabeth Esch. The Production of Difference: Race and the Management of Labor in U.S. History. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.Find this resource:
(1.) Quoted in “Attack on Labor Unions,” New York Times, June 13, 1900, 9.
(2.) “The Labor Question,” New York Times, April 29, 1866, 4; “The Master Masons and the Bricklayers, New York Times, August 18, 1868, 5. Cedric de Leon explores the Civil War era roots of right-to-work. See, The Origins of Right to Work: Antilabor Democracy in Nineteenth-Century Chicago (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2015).
(3.) “The Open-Shop Movement,” New York Times, April 29, 1904, 8.
(4.) Quoted in Daniel R. Ernst, Lawyers Against Labor: From Individual Rights to Corporate Liberalism (Urbana: University of Illinois, 1995), 49.
(5.) Chad Pearson, Reform or Repression: Organizing America’s Anti-Union Movement (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016), 5.
(6.) “President Parry’s New Orleans Address,” The Iron Trade Review 36 (April 16, 1903), 56.
(7.) Pearson, Reform or Repression, 51.
(8.) Pearson, Reform or Repression, chapter 2.
(9.) David M. Parry, “President’s Address,” Proceedings of the Second Annual Convention of the Citizens’ Industrial Association of America, November 29 and 30, 1904 (Indianapolis: CIA Publication Department, 1904), 12.
(10.) On Sanders, see Thomas J. Dimsdale, The Vigilantes of Montana or Popular Justice in the Rocky Mountains (1866; Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1988). On Thompson, see Pearson, Reform or Repression, chapter 6.
(11.) The Sedalia Weekly Bazoo, October 1, 1889, 2; and J. West Goodwin, “Sedalia's Citizens' Alliance and Others,” American Industries 1 (August 1, 1903), 13-14.
(12.) For a useful history of this background, see Richard Slotkin, Gunfighter Nation: The Myth of the Frontier in Twentieth-Century America (New York: Atheneum, 1992), 170–173. On Donzelmann’s open-shop activism, see Chad Pearson, “’Free Shops for Free Men’: The Challenge of Strikebreaking and Union-Busting in the Progressive Era,” in Against Labor: How U. S. Employers Organized to Defeat Union Activism, eds. Rosemary Feurer and Chad Pearson (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2017), 68.
(13.) On Tampa, see Robert P. Ingalls, Urban Vigilantes in the New South: Tampa, 1882–1936 (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1988). For Colorado, see George G. Suggs Jr., Colorado’s War on Militant Unionism: James H. Peabody and the Western Federation of Miners (1972; Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1991); Elizabeth Jameson, All That Glitters: Class, Conflict, and Community in Cripple Creek (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1998), 201–225; and John P. Enyeart, The Quest for “Just and Pure Law”: Rocky Mountain Workers and American Social Democracy, 1870–1924 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2009), 154–155. On Wyoming, see “Shotguns Used to Break a Strike,” Indianapolis Journal, February 23, 1904, 10. On Penton, see “Arms His Non-Union Men,” New York Times, November 6, 1906, 1. On the lumber conflicts, see James E. Fickle, “The Louisiana-Texas Lumber War of 1911–1912,” Louisiana History 16 (January 1975), 59–85; George T. Morgan Jr., “No Compromise-No Recognition: John Henry Kirby, the Southern Lumber Operators’ Association, and Unionism in the Piney Woods, 1906–1916,” Labor History 10 (Spring 1969), 193–204; and James Green, Grass-Roots Socialism: Radical Movements in the Southwest, 111895–111943 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1978), 212.
(14.) William H. Pfahler, “Free Shops for Free Men,” Publications of the American Economic Association 4 (February 1903), 183–189.
(15.) Quoted in “Champions Open Shop,” The Montreal Gazette, September 18, 1905, 12.
(16.) “National Association Committees,” The Square Deal 2 (February 1907), 15.
(17.) On the relationships organized employers established with magazines and newspapers, see Vilja Hulden, “Employer Organizations’ Influence on the Progressive-Era Press,” Journalism History 38 (Spring 2012), 43–54.
(18.) J. Laurence Laughlin, Industrial America: Berlin Lectures of 1906 (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1906), 82. For more on Laughlin, see A. W. Coats, “The Origins of the ‘Chicago School’,” Journal of Political Economy 71 (October 1963), 487–493.
(19.) J. Laurence Laughlin, Industrial America, 89.
(20.) David Bensman, The Practice of Solidarity: American Hat Finishers in the Nineteenth Century (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1985), 201–208.
(21.) Barry F. Helfand, “Labor and the Courts: The Common-Law Doctrine of Criminal Conspiracy and its Application in the Buck’s Stove Case,” Labor History 18 (Winter 1977), 91–114.
(22.) Facts, May 1909.
(23.) “An Object Lesson to the South,” Tradesman 55 (June 1, 1906), 48.
(24.) On Labor-Management Relations During the War, see Joseph A. McCartin, Labor’s Great War: The Struggle for industrial Democracy and the Origins of Modern American Labor Relations, 1912–1921 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997).
(25.) “Peril of Closed Shop,” The Iron Age (November 29, 1917), 1292.
(26.) B. H. Wilkins to John Henry Kirby, February 21, 1918, John Henry Kirby papers, Folder 13, Box 40, M. D. Anderson Library, University of Houston, Houston, TX.
(27.) “Referred to American Soldiers as ‘Uncle Sam’s Scabs in Uniform’,” Mohave County Miner, August 4, 1917, 1.
(28.) Quoted in “Insists After-War Wages Must Drop,” New York Times, November 14, 1918, 13.
(29.) Quoted in Allen M. Wakstein, “The Origins of the Open-Shop Movement, 1919–1920,” Journal of American History 51 (December 1964), 464.
(30.) William H. Barr, “Open-Shop Principle Vital to United States,” The Open-Shop Review 17 (December 1920), 466.
(31.) William Foster, The Great Steel Strike and its Lessons (New York: B. W. Huebsch, Inc., 1920), 111.
(32.) Joseph W. Sharts, “Inside Story of Cincinnati Raid: American Legion Rioters Led by Professional Strikebreakers; Machinists’ Desk Rifled,” Miami Valley Socialist 7 (December 12, 1919), 1.
(33.) George W. Armstrong to President and Board of Directors, Chamber of Commerce, Fort Worth, TX, January 26, 1920, Box 15, Folder 13, George W. Armstrong papers, Special Collections Library, University of Texas, Arlington.
(34.) Kahle quoted in “Open Shop is a Benefit,” New York Herald, November 15, 1920, 6.
(35.) A. J. Hain, “Nation Swinging to the Open-Shop,” The Iron Trade Review 67 (September 23, 1920), 846–852.
(36.) Walter Gordon Merritt, “New Ideas in Industrial Organization,” Iron Age 103 (June 19, 1919), 1627.
(37.) Colin J. Davis, Power at Odds: The 1922 National Railroad Shopmen’s Strike (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1997), 167.
(38.) Paul Moreno, Black Americans and Organized Labor: A New History (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2008), 139.
(39.) “Reports ‘Open Shop’ 90 Per Cent of Labor,” Reading Eagle, February 1, 1924, 8.
(40.) Janet Irons, Testing the New Deal: The General Textile Strike of 1934 in the American South (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2000); Clete Daniel, Culture of Misfortune: An Interpretive History of Textile Unionism in the United States (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2001), 42; and Kathryn S. Olmsted, Right Out of California: The 1930s and the Big Business Roots of Modern Conservatism (New York: The New Press, 2015), 65–70.
(41.) Thurman Sensing, “The South Offers the World’s Best Investment,” Down South (October 1, 1944), 13.
(42.) Philip A. Korth and Margaret R. Beegle, I Remember Like Today: The Auto-Lite Strike of 1934 (East Lansing, Michigan State University Press, 1988); David F. Selvin, A Terrible Anger: The 1934 Waterfront and General Strikes in San Francisco (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1996); and Bryan Palmer, Revolutionary Teamsters: The Minneapolis Teamsters Strike of 1934 (Chicago: Haymarket, 2014).
(43.) Dolores E. Janiewski, “Through a Glass, Darkly: The NLRB, Employer Counteroffensives, Investigative Committees, and the CIO,” in Against Labor: How U. S. Employers Organized to Defeat Union Activism, eds. Rosemary Feurer and Chad Pearson (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2017), 129–158.
(44.) Long quoted in Jerold S. Auebach, Labor and Liberty: The La Follettee Committee and the New Deal (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1966), 137.
(45.) Ahmed White, The Last Great Strike: Little Steel, The CIO, and the Struggle for Labor Rights in New Deal America (Oakland: University of California Press, 2016), 93.
(46.) Michael Dennis, The Memorial Day Massacre and the Movement for Industrial Democracy (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), 226.
(47.) Kevin M. Kruse, One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America (New York: Basic Books, 2015), 4.
(48.) “Texas ‘Union-Buster’ Is Just an Old Promoter Thriving on Sucker Lists,” The Pittsburgh Press, April 11, 1945, 15.
(49.) Quoted in Glenn Feldman, The Irony of the Solid South: Democrats, Republicans, and Race, 1865–1944 (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2013), 129.
(50.) T. T. Hammond, “The Closed Shop Issue in World War II,” North Carolina Law Review 127 (1943), 128–129.
(51.) T. T. Hammond, “The Closed Shop Issue in World War II,” 165.
(52.) F. Ray Marshall, Labor in the South (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1967), 252; and L. Edward Hicks, “Sometimes in the Wrong, But Never in Doubt”: George S. Benson and the Education of the New Religious Right (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1994).
(53.) On the shaping of Taft-Hartley, see Howell Harris, The Right to Manage: Industrial Relations Polices of American Business in the 1940s (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1982), 125–128; Nelson Lichtenstein, State of the Union: A Century of American Labor (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2002), 114–118; and Colleen Doody, Detroit’s Cold War: The Origins of Postwar Conservatism (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2013), 99–101.
(54.) “Public Opinion Against Forced Union Membership,” The Right to Work National Newsletter 3 (August 1957), 1.
(55.) Kim Phillips-Fein, Invisible Hands: The Making of the Conservative Movement from the New Deal to Reagan (New York: W. W. Norton, 2009), 106.
(56.) “New Brochures Recall Right to Work’s Religious Heritage,” National Right to Work Newsletter 26 (January 28, 1980), 2.
(57.) Herbert Hill, “’Right to Work’ Laws and the Negro Worker,” The Crisis 65 (June–July 1958), 328.
(58.) Gilbert J. Gall, “Thoughts on Defeating Right-to-Work: Reflections on Two Referendum Campaigns,” in Organized Labor and American Politics, 1894–1994: The Labor-Liberal Alliance, ed. Kevin Boyle (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1998), 195–215.
(59.) Benjamin C. Waterhouse, Lobbying America: The Politics of Business from Nixon to NAFTA (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2014), 129.
(60.) Victor G. Davinatz, “Right-to-Work Laws, the Southernization of U. S. Labor Relations and the U. S. Trade Union Movement’s Decline,” Labor Studies Journal 40 (December 2015), 307.
(61.) On Reagan, see Joseph A. McCartin, Collision Course: Ronald Reagan, the Air Traffic Controllers, and the Strike that Changed America (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011). On Philips Dodge, see Jonathan D. Rosenblum, Copper Crucible: How Arizona Miners’ Strike of 1983 Recast Labor (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1995). For general accounts, see Kim Moody, An Injury to All: The Decline of American Unionism (London: Verso, 1988); and Peter Rachleff, “Labor and Capital in the 21st Century: The End of History,” in Against Labor: How U.S. Employers Organized to Defeat Union Activism, eds. Rosemary Feurer and Chad Pearson (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2017), 236–248.
(62.) Quoted in Steve Striffler, “Tyson Foods, Holly Farms, and the Rise of Big Chicken,” in Transformation of the Southern Workplace Since 1945, eds. Robert Cassanello and Colin J. Davis (Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 2009), 158.
(63.) John Logan, “The Union Avoidance Industry in the United States,” British Journal of Industrial Relations 44 (December 2006), 651–675.
(64.) Immanuel Ness, “Against Bureaucratic Unions: U.S. Working-Class Insurgency and Capital’s Counteroffensive,” in New Forms of Worker Organization: The Syndicalist and Autonomist Restoration of Class-Struggle Unionism, ed. Immanuel Ness (Oakland, CA: PM, 2014), 277–278.
(66.) Clarence E. Bonnett, Employers’ Associations in the United States: A Study of Typical Associations (New York: Macmillan, 1922).
(67.) See James Weinstein, The Corporate Ideal of the Liberal State, 1900–1918 (Boston: Beacon, 1968); and Martin J. Sklar, The Corporate Reconstruction of American Capitalism, 1890–1916 (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1988), 16, 225. Importantly, Sklar notes that there were few size-related differences with respect to the open-shop movement.
(68.) Larry G. Gerber, “Shifting Perspectives on American Exceptionalism: Recent Literature on American Labor Relations and Labor Politics,” Journal of American Studies 31 (August 1997), 270.
(69.) Andrew W. Cohen, The Racketeer’s Progress: Chicago and the Struggle for the Modern American Economy, 1900–1940 (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 52, 130. Johnston focuses on the liberal social activities of modest-sized businessmen in the broader community, rather than on their labor policies. See Robert D. Johnston, The Radical Middle Class: Populist Democracy and the Question of Capitalism in Progressive Era Portland, Oregon (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2003), 67–80.
(70.) Thomas Klug, “The Roots of the Open-Shop: Employers, Trade Unions, and Craft Labor Markets in Detroit, 1859-1907” (PhD dissertation, Wayne State University, 1993); Howell Harris, Bloodless Victories: The Rise and Fall of the Open-shop in the Philadelphia Metal Trades, 1890–1940 (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2000); William Millikan, A Union Against Unions: The Minneapolis Citizens Alliance and Its Fight Against Organized Labor, 1903–1947 (St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society, 2001); Andrew W. Cohen, The Racketeer’s Progress: Chicago and the Struggle for the Modern American Economy, 1900–1940 (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2004); Rosemary Feurer, Radical Unionism in the Midwest, 1900–1950 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2006); Jeffrey Haydu, Citizen Employers: Business Communities and Labor in Cincinnati and San Francisco, 1870–1916 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2008); and Pearson, Reform or Repression.
(71.) Sidney Fine, “Without Blare of Trumpets”: Walter Drew, the National Erectors’ Association, and the Open-Shop Movement, 1903–57 (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1995); Daniel Ernst, Lawyers Against Labor: From Individual Rights to Corporate Liberalism (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1995); and Vilja Hulden, “Employers, Unite!: Organized Employer Reactions to the Labor Union Challenge in the Progressive Era” (PhD diss, University of Arizona, 2011).
(72.) Beverly Gage, The Day Wall Street Exploded: A Story of America in Its First Age of Terror (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009).
(73.) Haydu, Citizen Employers, 91–111.
(74.) Harris, Bloodless Victories.
(75.) On Tampa, see Robert P. Ingalls, Urban Vigilantes in the New South: Tampa, 1882–1936 (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1988). On the Calumet, Michigan strike and fire, see Gary Kaunonen and Aaron Goings, Community in Conflict: A Working-Class History of the 1913–14 Michigan Copper Strike and the Italian Hall Tragedy (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2013). For a general account, see Robert Justin Goldstein, Political Repression in Modern America: From 1870 to the Present (Cambridge, MA: Schenkman, 1978).
(76.) Sophia Z. Lee, The Workplace Constitution from the New Deal to the New Right (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2014); Paul Moreno, Black Americans and Organized Labor: A New History (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2008); Jennifer Delton, Racial Integration in Corporate America, 1940–1990 (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2009). On “whiteness studies,” see David Roediger, The Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class (London: Verso, 1991).
(77.) Alexander Saxton, The Indispensable Enemy: Labor and the Anti-Chinese Movement in California (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971). For more recent cases of racism, see Rise L. Goluboff, The Lost Promise of Civil Rights (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007), 96–99.
(78.) Brian Kelly, Race, Class, and Power in the Alabama Coalfields (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2001).
(79.) David R. Roediger and Elizabeth Esch, The Production of Difference: Race and the Management of Labor in U.S. History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012).
(80.) Chad Pearson, Reform or Repression, chapter 6.
(81.) Robert H. Woodrum, “Race, Unionism, and the Open-Shop Movement along the Waterfront in Mobile, Alabama,” in Against Labor: How U.S. Employers Organized to Defeat Union Activism, eds. Rosemary Feurer and Chad Pearson (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2017), 104–128.
(82.) Gilbert J. Gall, “Thoughts on Defeating Right-to-Work: Reflections on Two Referendum Campaigns,” in Organized Labor and American Politics, 1894–1994: The Labor-Liberal Alliance, ed. Kevin Boyle (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1998), 195–215.
(83.) Howell Harris, The Right to Manage: Industrial Relations Polices of American Business in the 1940s (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1982); Elizabeth Fones-Wolf, Selling Free Enterprise: The Business Assault on Labor and Liberalism, 1945–60 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994); Nelson Lichtenstein, State of the Union: A Century of American Labor (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2002); Kim Phillips-Fein, Invisible Hands: The Making of the Conservative Movement from the New Deal to Reagan (New York: W. W. Norton, 2009); Nelson Lichtenstein and Elizabeth Tandy Shermer, eds., The Right and Labor in America: Politics, Ideology, and Imagination (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012); and Kevin M. Kruse, One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America (New York: Basic Books, 2015).
(84.) Elizabeth Tandy Shermer, Sunbelt Capitalism: Phoenix and the Transformation of American Politics (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013); and Kathryn S. Olmsted, Right Out of California: The 1930s and the Big Business Roots of Modern Conservatism (New York: The New Press, 2015).
(85.) Cohen, The Racketeer’s Progress; Howell Harris, “Between Convergence and Exceptionalism: Americans and the British Model of Labor Relations, c. 1867–1920,” Labor History 48 (May 2007), 166; and Pearson, Reform or Repression, Chapter 2.
(86.) Bryan Palmer, Revolutionary Teamsters: The Minneapolis Teamsters Strike of 1934 (Chicago: Haymarket, 2014); Ahmed White, The Last Great Strike: Little Steel, The CIO, and the Struggle for Labor Rights in New Deal America (Oakland: University of California Press, 2016); and Rosemary Feurer, “The Strange Career of A. A. Ahner: Reconsidering Blackjacks and Briefcases,” in Against Labor: How U.S. Employers Organized to Defeat Union Activism, eds. Rosemary Feurer and Chad Pearson (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2017), 159–183.
(87.) Kim Moody, An Injury to All: The Decline of American Unionism (London: Verso, 1988).