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Why No Shop Committees in America: A Narrative History



This article explores the origins of the prohibition against shop committees in modern labor law. It identifies World War I as the crystallizing moment and argues that shop committees might have become a permanent feature of American industrial relations at that time but for a series of contingent events arising in particular from the great steel strike of 1919. Historians have missed this linkage, the article concludes, because in the intervening 1920s, employee representation became disassociated from industrial democracy, with the notable exception of the railroads, where blatantly antiunion use of employee representation prompted the judicial condemnation of employer domination of labor organizations that provided the doctrinal foundation for Section 8a(2) of the National Labor Relations Act.