Colorado Labor Wars - Governor Peabody, and The Growth of Employers' Power - The National Employers' Movement

The National Employers' Movement

Meanwhile, a national employers' movement aimed directly at the power of unions was gaining strength. In his 1972 book Colorado's War On Militant Unionism, George Suggs, Jr. reported,

At the time of Peabody's inauguration, there were only a few employers' associations in the nation which were working effectively against union labor. The groups, linked only by their consuming hostility toward organized labor, were located principally in Ohio, Illinois, Missouri, and Wisconsin. There they fought the unions to a standstill in open shop campaigns that emphasized the employer's right to manage his business without interference from labor. These organizations were not content with destroying militant unionism, and, in the words of two historians, ambitiously tried to erase the "organized labor pattern from the consciousness of the average American citizen" by the adroit use of propaganda which placed "organized labor on a moral defensive." They skillfully cloaked their public releases in the rhetoric of American individualism, and they convincingly portrayed union members and leaders as tyrants who oppressed the community and victimized the employer. Their propaganda proved successful in rallying local communities to support crusades against specific unions. Perceptive employers, watching those effective experiments in union control, decided that organized labor could be checked if they organized and marshalled public opinion behind their cause. What was obviously needed was a nationwide anti-union effort, one which would both curtail labor's growth and reduce its power in the economy.

In 1903, David M. Parry delivered a speech at the annual convention of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) that was a diatribe against organized labor. He argued that unions' goals would result in "despotism, tyranny, and slavery." Parry advocated the establishment of a great national anti-union federation under the control of the NAM, and the NAM responded by initiating such an effort.

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