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The Right and Labor in America by Lichtenstein Nelson; Shermer Elizabeth Tandy; & Elizabeth Tandy Shermer

Author:Lichtenstein, Nelson; Shermer, Elizabeth Tandy; & Elizabeth Tandy Shermer

Language: eng

Format: epub

Publisher: University of Pennsylvania Press

Published: 2012-06-15T16:00:00+00:00

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The Right and Labor in America by Lichtenstein Nelson; Shermer Elizabeth Tandy; & Elizabeth Tandy Shermer

In conclusion, it should be noted that neither the McClellan Committee nor the news media operated in a historical vacuum. As Lawrence Richards has recently pointed out and other scholars have noted as well, antipathy to unions has a long history in the United States and popular concerns about union practices, from labor strikes to closed shop contracts, predated the hearings in Scranton.57 Elsewhere I have noted how in the immediate post–World War II era congressional Republicans drew on a broad construction of the term racketeering to campaign against the New Deal and for the Taft-Hartley Act. As they regained a majority in Congress, the Republicans launched the first congressional probe into labor racketeering in 1947, with hearings that occurred at the same time as debates over the Taft-Hartley Act. In the years that followed congressional investigations into racketeering proliferated along with news coverage of the problem.58

But the McClellan Committee hearings were different in ways that heightened the significance of this episode. First and foremost, this was a much bigger investigation than anything previously seen, dwarfing other comparable efforts. The committee had a staff of over one hundred people, including eighty investigators, with about half of them specializing in forensic accounting. By way of contrast, the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee of Investigation, Joseph McCarthy’s committee, had about fifteen investigators and the House Un-American Activities Committee had about twenty.59 The size of this staff reflected the committee’s early successes, its ability to produce headline-grabbing revelations during the first few months of the hearings. In late March 1957, Kennedy announced that he was tripling the number of people working for the committee.60 Thus, the committee’s early partnership with Mollenhoff’s colleagues in Seattle and Portland had brought tangible political benefits.

The hearings came at a pivotal political moment. Conservative business forces had reacted to the merger of the AFL and the CIO in 1955 with alarm and then with a renewed commitment to stage a counteroffensive against organized labor. As Elizabeth Fones-Wolf observed, many in the business community “saw in the merger the specter of a labor juggernaut.”61 The National Association of Manufacturers had decided by 1956 that the news media represented a critical venue for waging this counteroffensive and the McClellan Committee hearings provided NAM with a wonderful opportunity for broadcasting its message. Meanwhile, in the Republican Party, President Eisenhower’s administration was abandoning its earlier efforts to build a political bridge to moderates in the labor movement. The president’s political advisors had concluded that the Republican Party’s best hope for regaining a majority status lay in an “attempt to separate the leaders of labor politically from the rank and file.”62 The McClellan Committee’s revelations offered a choice opportunity to do just that and Eisenhower soon embraced a focus on the problem of labor racketeering. The New York Times columnist James Reston reported that the Republican National Committee believed “the President’s tactics will split many workers from their labor union bosses.”63 Further to the right, Barry Goldwater staked his 1958 Senate reelection campaign on an

 

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The Right and Labor in America by Lichtenstein Nelson; Shermer Elizabeth Tandy; & Elizabeth Tandy Shermer

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The Right and Labor in America by Lichtenstein Nelson; Shermer Elizabeth Tandy; & Elizabeth Tandy Shermer

Author:Lichtenstein, Nelson; Shermer, Elizabeth Tandy; & Elizabeth Tandy Shermer , Date: June 16, 2019

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Author:Lichtenstein, Nelson; Shermer, Elizabeth Tandy; & Elizabeth Tandy Shermer

Language: eng

Format: epub

Publisher: University of Pennsylvania Press

Published: 2012-06-15T16:00:00+00:00
In conclusion, it should be noted that neither the McClellan Committee nor the news media operated in a historical vacuum. As Lawrence Richards has recently pointed out and other scholars have noted as well, antipathy to unions has a long history in the United States and popular concerns about union practices, from labor strikes to closed shop contracts, predated the hearings in Scranton.57 Elsewhere I have noted how in the immediate post–World War II era congressional Republicans drew on a broad construction of the term racketeering to campaign against the New Deal and for the Taft-Hartley Act. As they regained a majority in Congress, the Republicans launched the first congressional probe into labor racketeering in 1947, with hearings that occurred at the same time as debates over the Taft-Hartley Act. In the years that followed congressional investigations into racketeering proliferated along with news coverage of the problem.58

But the McClellan Committee hearings were different in ways that heightened the significance of this episode. First and foremost, this was a much bigger investigation than anything previously seen, dwarfing other comparable efforts. The committee had a staff of over one hundred people, including eighty investigators, with about half of them specializing in forensic accounting. By way of contrast, the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee of Investigation, Joseph McCarthy’s committee, had about fifteen investigators and the House Un-American Activities Committee had about twenty.59 The size of this staff reflected the committee’s early successes, its ability to produce headline-grabbing revelations during the first few months of the hearings. In late March 1957, Kennedy announced that he was tripling the number of people working for the committee.60 Thus, the committee’s early partnership with Mollenhoff’s colleagues in Seattle and Portland had brought tangible political benefits.

The hearings came at a pivotal political moment. Conservative business forces had reacted to the merger of the AFL and the CIO in 1955 with alarm and then with a renewed commitment to stage a counteroffensive against organized labor. As Elizabeth Fones-Wolf observed, many in the business community “saw in the merger the specter of a labor juggernaut.”61 The National Association of Manufacturers had decided by 1956 that the news media represented a critical venue for waging this counteroffensive and the McClellan Committee hearings provided NAM with a wonderful opportunity for broadcasting its message. Meanwhile, in the Republican Party, President Eisenhower’s administration was abandoning its earlier efforts to build a political bridge to moderates in the labor movement. The president’s political advisors had concluded that the Republican Party’s best hope for regaining a majority status lay in an “attempt to separate the leaders of labor politically from the rank and file.”62 The McClellan Committee’s revelations offered a choice opportunity to do just that and Eisenhower soon embraced a focus on the problem of labor racketeering. The New York Times columnist James Reston reported that the Republican National Committee believed “the President’s tactics will split many workers from their labor union bosses.”63 Further to the right, Barry Goldwater staked his 1958 Senate reelection campaign on an

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