3 pm to 5 pm
“The National War Labor Board of World War II: A Re-Interpretation”
Ron Schatz, Wesleyan University
The prevailing interpretation of the NWLB and “industrial pluralism” advanced in the 1980s by Lichtenstein, Glaberman, Stone, Lynd, Klare, et al., paints the Board’s history as a series of diktats that manacled unions and the “industrial pluralists” trained by the Board as continuing in that vein after the war ended. This paper argues for a more complex tale of collaborations and compromises, as NWLB staffers worked to contain inflation and satisfy the unions’ and employers’ needs while expediting production of equipment vital to the defeat of the Axis Powers. Nor, on balance, did the Board or the industrial pluralists weaken unions. Rather, through arbitration decisions, wage adjustments for minorities, and support of health insurance and pension plans, they initiated a system that raised workers’ living standards for a generation.
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