Thirty years ago Lichtenstein, Stone, Lynd, et al. accused the National War Labor Board (NWLB) of pursuing policies that crushed worker militancy during World War II, with dreadful long-term consequences. Critiquing that view in this article, Ronald Schatz offers a new interpretation. First, the board contributed to the production of goods essential to the war by mediating between unions and corporations, which in turn helped forestall a “labor draft.” Second, it trained a corps of capable arbitrators acceptable to both unions and management who went on to become the principal intermediaries in American industries for decades. Third, the board required corporations and unions to accept binding-arbitration clauses that over time tended to be more beneficial to workers and unions than to stockholders and management. Finally, the system constructed in 1942–45 served as a model when government and service workers organized in the 1960s. The article is based on close examination of meetings of the NWLB and the regional war labor boards as well as the background and perspective of George Taylor.

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