The Value Purpose of Labor Support: An Essay for
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Due to the strong corporate support for the Republican challenger, Roosevelt was outspent $8.8 million to $5.1 million, and most major newspapers endorsed his opponent. But he won 62.5% of the two-party vote, documenting once again that those with the biggest war chest don't always win and that the influence of the mass media can be overstated. The ultraconservatives' appeal to traditional values, their claims that the constitution was being shredded, and their insistence that the New Deal was socialism in liberal clothing (sound familiar?) fell on deaf ears. Organized labor's efforts seemed to make the difference in Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, and Pennsylvania, including "crucial local elections in the steel and coal towns of Pennsylvania and Ohio" (Dubofsky 2000, p. 157). The Democrats increased their already overwhelming margins in both the Senate and House, and also elected New Deal Democrats to the governorships in Pennsylvania and Michigan.
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When union leaders signed on with liberals in supporting the National Labor Relations Act in 1935, they were well aware of the risk they were taking by giving up traditional organizing tactics in exchange for promises of government protection through the NLRB and the courts. They took that risk in part because they were having little or no success except for a few business sectors in which employers could not afford to bring in replacement workers for one or more of several reasons, including high skills levels (e.g., printing), geographic isolation (e.g., coal mining), and time-sensitivity (e.g., railroads) (Kimeldorf 2013). Furthermore, the usefulness of the original act for union organizers was not automatic. Its value depended on the protection and possible extension of the several specific statutory guarantees that were included in it. But the Taft-Hartley Act and many later decisions by both Congress and the NLRB narrowed or withdrew those guarantees in what turned into a class struggle at the legislative and regulatory levels.