By Kiernan W. Taylor, Robert W. Cherny, William Issel
This assortment addresses the heritage of yank labour within the postwar years by means of exploring the influence of the worldwide contest among the U.S. and the Soviet Union on American employees and labour unions.
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Extra resources for American labor and the Cold War: grassroots politics and postwar political culture
They were the ﬁrst to raise the issue of deindustrialization and the ﬁrst to oppose runaway plants—as the UAW’s huge left-wing Local 600 tried to do in the early 1950s, when it sued the Ford Motor Company to stop it from moving its production facilities away from the River Rouge plant outside Detroit. 41 Its collaboration with the anticommunist crusade may also have made the labor movement less democratic, increasing the distance between labor’s leaders and its rank-and-ﬁle members. Here it is important to recognize that because of the rapid expansion of the labor movement during World War II, many unions, including many left-wing ones, were already experiencing a marked diminution in the union consciousness and commitment of their members.
The retrenchment of the labor movement and its failure to organize the unorganized also affected the rest of American society. Here, of course, we must speculate, for much of what we are looking at are things that did not happen. We must also guard against exaggerating the impact of the destruction of the labor left. It is by no means clear how much inﬂuence even a strong left-wing labor movement could have exerted within a polity that had been moving toward the right ever since the late 1930s.
Its provisions against secondary boycotts and the organization of supervisory workers were particularly damaging, rolling back some of the gains organized labor had made since the late 1930s and making it much harder to recruit new members. Whether or not an all-out mobilization to repeal the measure would have been effective is unclear. 38 Such a shortsighted approach proved debilitating; Taft-Hartley created an unfavorable legal environment for the entire labor movement. Prevented from using the aggressive organizing tactics that had served them so well in the late 1930s, the nation’s unions found it hard to expand.