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    Change at the Department of Labor during the Truman Administration, 1945

    By Judson MacLaury, U.S. Department of Labor Historian Based on Paper Delivered at Annual Meeting, Society for History in the Federal Government Washington, D.C., April 3, 1997

    Change at the Department of Labor during the Truman Administration, 1945-1950

    By Judson MacLaury, U.S. Department of Labor Historian

    Based on Paper Delivered at Annual Meeting, Society for History in the Federal Government Washington, D.C., April 3, 1997

    The subject of my talk is "Change at the Department of Labor during the Truman Administration, 1945-1950," or "The Rocky Road to Recovery." By 1945, the Department of Labor was in a seriously weakened state. Of the four bureaus that made it up when it was created in 1913, only the Children's Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics remained. The Bureaus of Immigration and Naturalization, the largest chunk of the Department, had been transferred to the Department of Justice in 1940. While a few new functions, such as the Wage and Hour Division enforcing the Fair Labor Standards Act, had been added over the years, others, such as the National Labor Relations Board, had been created outside the Department. In addition, the Department's U.S. Employment Service, created in 1933, had been transferred to the Social Security Board in 1939, and then to the War Manpower Commission in 1942.

    One of President Truman's first domestic priorities was to restore the Department as the central administrator of all national labor programs, as a matter both of government efficiency and of fairness to working people. He had developed an interest in efficiency and a sympathy for the Department during his years in local government in Missouri. In 1933 he was appointed to oversee Missouri's operation of the Department's National Reemployment Service, which placed workers in relief jobs. At the behest of state labor commissioner Mary Edna Cruzen, an enthusiastic Truman supporter who wanted to see him elected to the Senate, every worker placed by the NRS received a postcard with Truman's name on it. Boosted by this free publicity, he indeed won election to the Senate in 1934.

    To lead the Department in the anticipated era of restoration, Truman nominated an old friend and former Senate colleague Lewis B. Schwellenbach as Secretary of Labor to replace Frances Perkins, who resigned in June 1945. An ardent New Dealer, Schwellenbach had been serving as a federal judge in Washington State. Energetic and brainy, he appeared to be the right person for a difficult task.

    With Schwellenbach's swearing in on July 1, 1945, the essential elements for the Department's restoration were in place. What ensued, however, was not a steady, smooth march to reconstruction, but a complex, turbulent five years in which agencies were transferred in and out, functions were added, altered or removed, and internal administration, from the Office of the Secretary down to the mail room, was profoundly changed. Complicating the effort was political turmoil resulting from high inflation and from a massive strike wave, which was fueled by pent up demand for wage gains after war time restrictions ended. As a result of this turmoil, the Republican Party took over control of Congress from the Democrats in the elections of 1946. The new 80th Congress impeded many aspects of the restoration, but Truman's reelection in 1948 put the effort on track once again. Beyond the numerous structural changes, the Department, prompted by the conflicts and reorganizational energy of the period, also engaged in an unprecedented institutional self examination, as revealed in its records here in the National Archives.

    Soon after Schwellenbach was sworn in he held his first meeting with the Bureau chiefs, all holdovers from the Frances Perkins era. When he told them "I don't know anything good about you, I don't know anything bad," reportedly none of them said a word, but it was clear that, however brainy, the new Secretary was somewhat lacking in human relations skills.

    Early on he announced that within 30 days he wanted a blueprint for an initial reorganization scheduled to take place in September 1945. To that end he appointed six consultants to survey the Department and lay the groundwork. Quickly dubbed by the career people the "Secret Six," the existence of this fairly innocuous task force did little to reverse plummeting staff morale.

    Secret Six member John R. Steelman, a former Director of the Department's U.S. Conciliation Service, greatly impressed Schwellenbach. He got Steelman a job in the White House, in the hope that he would represent the Department's interests there. Unfortunately, Steelman proceeded to get the White House involved in settling labor disputes and he used his position to influence the Department instead of the White House. All of which obviously detracted from efforts to centralize labor programs in the Department.

    Schwellenbach attempted to assuage business's criticism that the Department always favored the interests of organized labor. On his first day, he issued a General Order which stipulated that the Department's duty was to enforce laws exactly as written by Congress without interpreting them to favor any particular group. The Department issued the order with Truman's approval and it was announced at the White House. Business was favorable at first, but its criticisms resumed during the strike wave.

    In August 1945 the Department, working with the Bureau of the Budget, completed its first reorganization proposal. It was a thoughtful document that serves as a useful benchmark for the restoration. It defined a four part Departmental mission of employment services, labor relations, information and statistics, and wartime activities. The centerpiece was to be the return of the Employment Service so that it could work more effectively with other Departmental agencies and better serve the post war goal of full employment. It also called for the addition of the Unemployment Insurance function because of its close relation to the Employment Service's job placement programs, for abolition of the Women's Bureau, presumably on the basis of efficiency, and for removing the Children's Bureau (except for child labor functions).

    Source : www.dol.gov

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    Truman's Executive Order 9981 affected the military by

    permitting women to serve.

    guaranteeing benefits.

    allowing younger soldiers.

    ending segregation.

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    ending segregation.

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    Which of the following was not created as a result of the National Security Act?

    the Department of Defense

    the Central Intelligence Agency

    the National Security Council

    the Federal Bureau of Investigation

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    the Federal Bureau of Investigation

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    Terms in this set (64)

    Truman's Executive Order 9981 affected the military by

    permitting women to serve.

    guaranteeing benefits.

    allowing younger soldiers.

    ending segregation. ending segregation.

    Which of the following was not created as a result of the National Security Act?

    the Department of Defense

    the Central Intelligence Agency

    the National Security Council

    the Federal Bureau of Investigation

    the Federal Bureau of Investigation

    The main reason for the passage of the National Security Act was to:

    1.separate the armed forces into different departments.

    2.enable the nation to meet the challenges of the Cold War.

    3.prevent labor unions from striking during times of war.

    4.desegregate each branch of the nation's armed forces.

    enable the nation to meet the challenges of the Cold War.

    When labor unions decided to strike for higher wages in 1945, President Truman had to choose between

    breaking up the unions or taking the side of employers.

    abandoning the Fair Deal program or balancing the budget.

    supporting railroad workers or supporting mine workers.

    supporting the unions or getting the economy back on track.

    supporting the unions or getting the economy back on track.

    President Truman decided not to run for reelection in

    1944. 1948. 1952. 1956. 1952.

    What was one of the major economic challenges facing the nation following World War II?

    finding a way to end the Great Depression

    finding jobs for thousands of returning soldiers

    working out peace terms with the other Allies

    working out restrictions to halt consumer spending

    finding jobs for thousands of returning soldiers

    Following World War II, President Truman's ambitious domestic agenda was known as the

    Fair Deal. New Deal. Right Deal. Square Deal. Fair Deal.

    n 1948, President Truman's reelection was in doubt due to which of the following reasons?

    1. President Truman was a Republican and was opposed by a Congress controlled by Democrats.

    2. President Truman had lost the support of the working class by not doing enough to help the economy.

    3. President Truman's foreign and civil rights policies had alienated large groups of voters.

    4. President Truman was prevented from seeking another term due to the provisions of the Twenty-Second Amendment.1.

    President Truman's foreign and civil rights policies had alienated large groups of voters.

    Which of the following best describes the reaction of Congress to President Truman's proposals regarding equal rights?

    1.His plans were met with strong support.

    2.His plans were met mostly with support.

    3.His plans were met mostly with opposition.

    4.His plans were met with strong opposition.

    His plans were met with strong opposition.

    Prior to the 1948 presidential campaign, Truman won back the support of labor unions by:

    1. highlighting his opposition to the Taft-Hartley Act.

    2. supporting the passage of the National Security Act.

    3. pushing for equal rights for African American citizens.

    4 .opposing the strikes of railroad and mine workers.

    highlighting his opposition to the Taft-Hartley Act.

    The Truman Doctrine and the containment policy were designed to

    rebuild Europe's economy.

    stop Communism.

    strengthen the USSR.

    boost the United Nations.

    stop Communism.

    What best describes the governments of the United States and the Soviet Union after World War II?

    The United States had a single-party system, and the Soviet Union had a democratic system.

    Both the United States and the Soviet Union had a democratic system.

    Both the United States and the Soviet Union had a single-party system.

    The United States had a democratic system, and the Soviet Union had a single-party system.

    The United States had a democratic system, and the Soviet Union had a single-party system.

    The ________ line that separated Communist countries from free countries in Europe was called "the Iron Curtain."

    imaginary

    After World War II, why did the USSR want to control countries in Eastern Europe?

    The USSR mostly needed the region's raw materials for its own economy.

    The USSR primarily wanted to unite all of the people under one religion.

    The USSR had controlled most of these countries before the war.

    The USSR needed to protect its borders from future attacks.

    .

    The USSR needed to protect its borders from future attacks.

    Under the Truman Doctrine, the United States became committed to helping countries that were

    Source : quizlet.com

    Strike Wave: United States

    Strike WaveUnited States 1945-1946 Source for information on Strike Wave: United States: St. James Encyclopedia of Labor History Worldwide: Major Events in Labor History and Their Impact dictionary.

    Strike Wave: United States

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    Strike Wave

    United States 1945-1946

    Synopsis

    In 1945 and 1946 the largest strike wave in U.S. history occurred when two million workers walked off their jobs at different times during the year. In some cities the strikes even led to general strikes as workers protested for union recognition and wage and benefit increases. In Stamford, Connecticut, workers poured into the city on 3 January 1946 to show their support for strikers at the Yale and Towne metal works; the show of solidarity helped to force the company to enter into collective bargaining with International Association of Machinists. In Rochester, New York, municipal workers enlisted the help of approximately 35,000 members of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations for a general strike on 28 May 1946. The action forced the city of Rochester to meet most of the strikers' demands and prevented management from firing those who had gone out on strike. In the longest general strike, 100,000 workers in Oakland, California, essentially shut the city down from 2 to 5 December 1946. The success of these general strikes, combined with the thousands of other work stoppages in 1946, led to a backlash against labor that culminated in the passage of the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947. Among its provisions was a ban on secondary or "sympathy" strikes that essentially outlawed general strikes.

    Timeline

    1926: Britain paralyzed by a general strike.1931: Financial crisis widens in the United States and Europe, which reel from bank failures and climbing unemployment levels. In London, armies of the unemployed riot.1936: The election of a leftist Popular Front government in Spain in February precipitates an uprising by rightists under the leadership of Francisco Franco. Over the next three years, war will rage between the Loyalists and Franco's Nationalists. The Spanish Civil War will prove to be a lightning rod for the world's tensions, with the Nazis and fascists supporting the Nationalists, and the Soviets the Loyalists.1941: Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor on 7 December brings the United States into the war against the Axis. Combined with the attack on the Soviet Union, which makes Stalin an unlikely ally of the Western democracies, the events of 1941 will ultimately turn the tide of the war.1946: Winston Churchill warns of an "Iron Curtain" spreading across Eastern Europe.1946: Three months after the first meeting of the United Nations General Assembly in London in January, the allbut-defunct League of Nations is officially dissolved.1946: At the Nuremberg trials, twelve Nazi leaders are sentenced to death, and seven others to prison.1946: Building of the first true electronic computer, the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC).1951: Six western European nations form the European Coal and Steel Community, forerunner of the European Economic Community and the later European Union.1956: Elvis Presley appears on Ed Sullivan's where he performs "Hound Dog" and "Love Me Tender" before a mostly female audience. Nationwide, 54 million people watch the performance, setting a new record.1961: President Eisenhower steps down, warning of a "military-industrial complex" in his farewell speech, and 43year-old John F. Kennedy becomes the youngest elected president in U.S. history. Three months later, he launches an unsuccessful invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs.

    Event and Its Context

    Labor had gained a great deal during World War II. In exchange for a "no-strike" pledge, every new worker hired into a union shop during the war had to join the union. The agreement boosted membership in the AFL and CIO unions to 15 million in 1945. After the war, however, wages fell behind price increases for most consumer goods. Between 1945 and 1946, inflation reached 16 percent while the wages of industrial workers increased by just 7 percent. In an attempt to avert a series of strikes over the wage issue, President Harry S Truman convened a labor-management conference in November 1945 to establish a framework for postwar collective bargaining. The conference failed to reach its goal, largely because of disagreements over labor's place in managerial affairs.

    The UAW-GM Strike

    Although many union leaders used their leverage primarily to bargain for improvements on wages and benefits, others sought to implement a broad range of policies through collective bargaining. One of the most influential leaders in the latter group was Walter Reuther of the United Automobile Workers union (UAW). A UAW vice president at the time of the war's conclusion, Reuther also headed the union's General Motors (GM) bargaining division. Reuther was therefore the union's leading negotiator at the first postwar bargaining talks with GM, which began in October 1945. After talks between the UAW and GM broke down, the union called a strike on 21 November 1945. The strike lasted 113 days—the longest of any of the big strikes of 1945 and 1946—and illuminated many of the fundamental issues of postwar labor relations.

    In addition to asking GM for a 30 percent wage raise, Reuther's chief demand was that the company hold the line on the prices of its final product. Because GM was the largest and most profitable of the Big Three auto makers, Reuther believed that it could easily afford the wage hike without increasing the sticker price on its automobiles. As for the massive wage hike, it was necessary to counter wartime inflation, which had increased the cost of living by about one-third. Although GM was willing to discuss wages and benefits with the UAW, its leadership drew the line at allowing the union to look at its books or having input into managerial decisions. The real issue in the dispute, then, was whether or not a union would go beyond its established role in collective bargaining and gain a voice in decisions that previously had been made solely under the discretion of management.

    Source : www.encyclopedia.com

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