Against LaborHow U.S. Employers Organized to Defeat Union Activism

Against LaborHow U.S. Employers Organized to Defeat Union Activism

Rosemary Feurer and Chad Pearson

Print publication date: 2017

ISBN: 9780252040818

Publisher: University of Illinois Press


Employers have enjoyed a tremendous amount of power throughout American history. This nine-chapter collection examines that power as it relates to the so-called “labor question” or “labor problem,” defined in the late nineteenth century by academics, clergymen, journalists, lawyers, politicians and employers to describe strikes, boycott campaigns, and union organization campaigns. Employers asserted their power in numerous ways; they organized with one another, busted unions, broke strikes, and blacklisted labor activists. They enjoyed largely favorable political climates; judges regularly granted them injunctions against protesting workers, politicians passed laws making union organizing difficult, and armed forces—police forces and National Guardsman--assisted them during strikes and boycott campaigns staged by workers. These chapters examine class conflicts on the local and national levels, demonstrating how employers contested labor in many different contexts—and usually won. The chapters explore how employers used race to divide the working class, how they sought to deflect attention away from their own privileged class positions, how they used the law to their advantages, and how they settled internal disagreements. Taken together, the chapters reveal a rich history of employer organizing, lobbying politicians, and creating new forms of public relations while enriching themselves at the expense of ordinary people.