Collective Action for an Anti-union America: Employers' Association Members in the Early Twentieth Century

Saturday, January 8, 2011
Ballroom C (Hynes Convention Center)
Vilja Hulden , University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ
This poster examines the characteristics of businesses and businessmen prominent in the "open shop" or anti-union movement that spread across most of the United States in the early twentieth century.  It focuses on the active members of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and organizations cooperating with it, and asks why businessmen who prided themselves on their individualism nevertheless engaged in collective action and joined organizations that exhorted them to conformity with the organizations' views.
    These businessmen invested substantial time and resources in their work for the NAM; most of this work involved lobbying and publicity rather than practical business matters or direct aid against unions.  My poster seeks to explain what attracted businesses to the NAM, what set apart the businessmen who chose collective action from those who did not, and how ideology and material factors interacted in that process.  Toward this end, the poster examines these businessmen's social position, political activity, and demographic characteristics, as well as the nature of their businesses in terms of e.g. need for skilled labor, competitiveness of industry, or breadth of markets.  It then compares this with research on companies that chose not to join employers' associations.
    The poster draws on an SQL database that I have compiled from archival, census, and local history sources and that covers some 400 NAM members and their associates, as well as on both secondary and primary sources on non-affiliated companies.  The poster presents this information both textually and in the form of graphs, networks, and maps.
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