By Patrick Renshaw
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Extra info for American Labour and Consensus Capitalism, 1935–1990
Both led industrial unions - the UMW and the ACW - often outside or at odds with the AFL. Both were masters of the mundane side of union bargaining yet retained a keen sense oflabour's wider mISSIon. Each interpreted this in sharply different ways however. Lewis was fundamentally a great accumulator of union power which he used to secure Samuel Compers's conventional aim: more. Hillman's ends were influenced by Socialist ideas and by the fact that, though a national figure for twenty years, he was younger than Lewis and, as an immigrant himself, appealed to a younger generation of new Americans.
More surprising was the Administration's cool, if not hostile, reception of the proposals. Perkins described them as 'interesting'. Richberg, the most influential of Roosevelt's labour advisers, flatly opposed them which was at first enough to make the President oppose them too. The Department of Labor resented the NLRB's independence and encroachment on its territory. The AFL feared shopfloor elections would benefit industrial unions at the expense of craft ones. Farm workers wished the Act to be extended to cover them.
So just as his economic policy emerged not from fixed principles but from inspired improvisations, so his policy towards labour was born of trial and error. The first step had been taken before Roosevelt was elected, with the Norris-La Guardia Act in March 1932. This gave full freedom of association, without interference by employers, outlawed 'yellow-dog' contracts, which forced workers to join unions, and prohibited Federal courts from issuing injunctions in labour disputes, as they had done regularly in the 1920s and earlier, except under carefully defined conditions.