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Corporate leaders were not only upset by a highly unusual board action that put the right to manage at stake. They also worried that the decision would "hamper economic expansion by prohibiting the movement of capital to lower wage areas; prohibiting employers from obtaining the lowest cost of production; preventing the discontinuance of unprofitable lines or products; inhibiting automation, mergers, and consolidations..." (Gross 1995, p. 173). In addition, they thought it would hinder them in meeting the foreign economic competition they had encouraged through their advocacy of lower tariffs in order to create an international economic system that would allow for greater profits and at the same time defend again the expansion of Soviet and Chinese communism: "Employers were particularly interested in becoming more efficient through technological change, ending inflationary contract settlements with unions, and in other ways seeking to overcome the labor cost advantage enjoyed by foreign competitors" (Gross 1995, p. 190). Fibreboard, with the encouragement of the corporate community in general, made an immediate appeal to the courts.
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Several provisions in the Taft-Hartley Act very likely played a significant role in the gradual decline of the union movement since its passage. However, it is difficult to pinpoint any one act or ruling, or any one piece of the Taft-Hartley Act, as "the" turning point in undermining the union movement. To begin with, that's because unions already had lost their most potent pre-war organizing tactic, the sit-down strike. Moreover, the Taft-Hartley Act was followed in the 1950s by numerous anti-union rulings by the NLRB and further legislative changes and court decisions that hampered union organizing. One of the most damaging decisions by the Supreme Court was issued in 1951, which declared that it was illegal for a union to close down an entire construction site over an argument with a single contractor or subcontractor, an issue that is usually discussed using the phrase "common-situs picketing" (Gross 1995, pp. 83-84, 341).
As part of this confrontational but narrowly focused approach, the AFL tried to avoid involvement in broad-based political organizations, especially at the national level. They feared that political activity might divide their unions in a context in which the nation's electoral rules and the history of the two dominant political parties made it highly unlikely that workers could form their own political party. Believing that the political activism of the Knights of Labor, and especially the frequent disagreements between craft unions and various groups of socialists within the organization, had contributed to its downfall, the AFL kept anarchists and Marxists at a distance, and treated any claims they made with suspicion (Shefter 1994, p. 156). But as the union leaders expected, the employers nonetheless continued to resist the union pay scales, elaborate work rules, and apprenticeship limits that skilled craft workers wanted to retain in the workplace. This is important to underline for those new to thinking about rough and tumble power struggles, because it shows that employers' primary concern was full control of the workplace and the greatest possible profits, not fear of socialist ideas. In addition, the employers increasingly sought to speed up the labor process with new forms of work organization (e.g., Zieger and Gall 2002, pp. 27-28). They also employed growing numbers of unskilled immigrant laborers at lower wages in order to take advantage of the new machines and other technologies that were becoming available.
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Due to the combination of a more integrated corporate community, continuing labor strife, and the return of prosperity after three years of depression, an "Era of Good Feelings" between employers and workers began to emerge. As a result, moderate conservatives in some of the new corporations began to differentiate themselves from their ultraconservative colleagues. They did so by indicating to union leaders that they might be willing to make bargains with them as a possible way to reduce industrial conflict. Then, too, some smaller businesses, especially in bituminous coal mining, thought that unions that could insist on a minimum wage might be one way to limit the vicious wage competition that plagued their industries (Gordon 1994; Ramirez 1978). Moreover, companies were urged by some of the expert advisers of the day to organize themselves into employer associations. These associations would make it possible for companies to enter into the multi-employer collective bargaining agreements that were thought to be essential if unions were going to be useful in helping to stabilize a highly competitive industry (Swenson 2002).
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At first glance, the NCF focus on collective bargaining may seem to reflect the corporate moderates' acceptance of an equal relation between capital and labor in a pluralistic American context, which would not fit with the theory of corporate dominance reflected in this document, and on this site more generally. But from a class-dominance perspective, collective bargaining is not about pluralism or values or decency, none of which had been in evidence in the periodic violence and use of repression by employers in the years following 1877. Instead, the concept of collective bargaining is the outcome of a power struggle that reflects the underlying balance of power in favor of the corporations. From the corporate point of view, a focus on collective bargaining involved a narrowing of demands by AFL unions to a manageable level. It held out the potential for satisfying most craft-union members at the expense of the unskilled workers and socialists in the workforce, meaning that it decreased the possibility of a challenge to the economic system itself. However farfetched in hindsight, the possibility of such a challenge seemed to have some validity in the early twentieth century due to the volatility of capitalism, the seeming plausibility of at least some aspects of Marx's theory of inevitable collapse, and the strong socialist sentiments of a growing minority of intellectuals and workers. From the corporate moderates' point of view, which did not have the benefit of twentieth-century history as a guide, it is understandable that they preferred unions for skilled workers to periodic disruption by frustrated workers or constant political challenges from socialists, who incidentally won a growing number of city and state elections in the first 10 to 15 years after they founded a new political party in 1901 (e.g., Weinstein 1967).