Adam Dean and Jonathan Olbert's new article returns our attention to an important question: How does working-class organization shape (and reshape) electoral politics? To work through this question, Dean and Olbert explore the deepening ties between the Democratic Party and organized labor in the 1940s, specifically the political arm of the industrial unions, which remapped the terrain of partisan competition. They argue that the unique organizational innovation of the CIO-PAC “helped to trigger the Republican backlash” that led to the passage of the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act. In effect, the higher the density of CIO workers in a given state or district, the more likely Republicans would support Taft-Hartley. According to Dean and Olbert, the devastating series of antiunion amendments to the 1935 National Labor Relations Act introduced a sharp new polarization of labor relations to American politics. So long as Democrats depend on unions to mobilize and turn out voters,...
Taft-Hartley and the Contradictions of Republican Anti-unionism
KRISTOFFER SMEMO teaches at Washington University in St. Louis. His work has appeared in the Journal of American History, Labor, and Critical Historical Studies. He is currently finishing his book, Making Republicans Liberal: Social Struggle and the Politics of Accommodation in Twentieth-Century America.
Kristoffer Smemo; Taft-Hartley and the Contradictions of Republican Anti-unionism. Labor 1 September 2021; 18 (3): 126–130. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/15476715-9061535
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