Featherbedding, Productivist Politics, Death Drive and the Decline of the New Deal Order

(A version of this paper was delivered at the Labor and Working Class History Conference in New York, June 2013)


Many labor unions are intent upon restricting the number of workers employed in their field…The effect is, of course, an increase in the wages earned by the union members. But the corollary is a drop of wage rates for those not admitted and an enhancement in the price of printed matter. The same effect is brought about by union opposition to the utilization of technological improvements and by all sorts of featherbedding practices.[1]

The attitude of the displaced worker was well expressed by Philip Murray a few years ago: “Classical economic pronouncements about the automatic absorption of displaced workers by private industry, whether true in the long run or not, are just so much dribble to the men and women who are deprived of their accustomed way of making a livelihood…. As a famous economist once said, ‘in the long run we are all dead.’”[2]

If technological improvements are to produce the greatest good for the greatest number, the benefits of such improvements must be broadly distributed to all of us as customers. The advantages of technological improvements can be dissipated by artificial restriction of output below normal working capacity. Featherbedding must be discouraged and must not be protected by law. Recent demands for portal-to-portal pay throughout industry really put featherbedding on a mass production basis. In this particular case, the usual demands for ‘more money for less work’ reached an all-time high of ‘more money for no work at all.’ Featherbedding partly comes from the false philosophy of ‘made work’ during the depression years and is more prevalent in the activities of craft unions than it is in the activities of vertical shop unions…. All of our labor laws should be carefully drawn so that they do not protect unions which foster this unsound featherbedding practice.[3]



Featherbedding was once a central term in the labor lexicon. Nowadays, it is rarely heard. Undergraduates seldom recognize the word. Thus, it is appropriate to turn to featherbedding’s final resting place, the dictionary, which tells us that featherbedding means “(The action of) making comfortable by favorable, esp. economic or financial, treatment; the state of being so treated; spec. the employment of superfluous staff,” and that the fixation of this meaning occurred in the1940s. [4]

Reading this definition carefully, we are immediately struck by the moral—perhaps theological—content of the term “featherbedding”: without taking any undue theoretical liberties, we can observe that featherbedding here connotes both unearned comfort and existential redundancy. We have entered the domain of what classical political economy and the Founding Fathers called “usufruct”: the legal category of inheritance that allows us to not work, or not work as hard as we might.[5]  (Although not standard in the US, “infructuous” is often used by members of the English-language press in India as a synonym for both “unproductive” and “unprofitable”). Featherbedding, as a form of “usufruct”—to its enemies, a monstrous inversion, an “enjoyment” enjoyed by the lower orders, whose members should be properly preoccupied with “Adam’s curse”––seems to bridge the gap between political economy and psychoanalysis, or, more precisely, to suggest a psychoanalytic dimension to midcentury class struggle. We discover, re-reading the legal and Industrial Relations literature of the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, that protests against workers’ excessive “enjoyment,” filtered through the language of productivity, output restriction, and featherbedding, constituted something of a national obsession: the source of fantasies of endless growth and anxieties about imminent economic collapse. We will return to these implications in this essay’s conclusion.

Periodizing the Discourse of Featherbedding

 Once the business press seized upon “featherbedding” in the early 1940s, the term quickly became a buzzword. It seems to have entered the vernacular overnight, at some point in 1941. Thurman Arnold’s 1940 book The Bottlenecks of Business, a work that devotes a lengthy chapter to output restriction by unions, does not group these practices under the heading of  “featherbedding.”[6] Within a year of the publication of The Bottlenecks of Business, however, Arnold was decrying the “grotesque and ludicrous labor practices known as ‘feather-bedding.’”[7] In 1946, Arnold’s labor-day essay for The New Republic was dotted with references to “featherbedding.”

This linguistic change over a relatively short period of time is worth paying attention to. As Raymond Williams famously argued in Culture and Society, the “general pattern of change” in the use of keywords can be used by the historian “as a special kind of map by which it is possible to look again at those wider changes in life and thought to which the changes in language evidently refer.”[8]

Williams’s hypothesis is certainly borne out in the case of featherbedding. Across the political spectrum, business leaders, policy elites, and liberal intellectuals began to use the term with increasing frequency as management mounted its counter-offensive against the gains of the labor movement in the first three years of war, and anti-labor Republicans prepared for their postwar resurgence.[9]

The “restriction of output,” Arnold wrote, had become, in the changed circumstances of 1946, a “luxury” which labor could ill afford. Citing “the rules of some of the building trades” that “spread a great deal of labor over a very little work”; the demands of musicians that they be hired as stand-bys “even when there is nothing for them to do”; and the Teamsters’ rule that itinerant trucks were “required to pay for the services of local drivers even if they (were) not used when passing through certain cities,” Arnold asserted that such practices created the need “to enrich the language with the term ‘featherbedding,” as if anticipating Williams’s claims about the political significance of linguistic innovations.[10]

Arnold’s labor-day message enumerates the practices most resented by featherbedding’s enemies. Featherbedding was particularly central to labor-management struggles in the printing industry (notably, the big-city newspaper sector of that industry), railroads, and the live music business. In each case, some combination of technological innovation, managerial imperatives for increased productivity, and changing patterns of consumption brought about new production processes that threatened to render significant swaths of the workforce obsolete. In printing, first the transition from handset type to the linotype machine in the late 1890s, and then the transition from linotype to cold type in the 1960s; on the railroads, the switch from coal to electric and diesel (not to mention the ever-increasing reliance on automobiles, trucks, planes, and pipelines); in music: the replacement of live musicians, in many different contexts, by recordings, radio broadcasts, and sound film.

The unions at the center of the featherbedding fights gained fame as particularly strike-prone and, in their own ways, exceptionally militant, particularly in the context of the five-year contract and pattern bargaining of the postwar years. All three industries were, in the words of the law, “clothed with a public interest,” and thus uniquely embedded in networks of state regulation.[11] Strikes in transportation, newspaper printing, and live music were treated as urgent matters of national importance. Correlatively, work stoppages in transportation, printing, and music registered as quasi-treasonous. As Robin D.G. Kelley notes: “Between 1942 and 1944, when virtually every segment of organized labor committed to a no-strike pledge in support of the war effort, the AFM under Petrillo struck the record industry by banning all union members from making records.”[12] The International Typographical Union (ITU) famously struck the seven New York City newspapers for 114 days in 1962-63, and struck again to protest the labor implications of the proposed merger of several New York newspapers in 1965. The Railroad Brotherhoods (the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, the Order of Railways Conductors, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen, and the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen) struck in 1963, earning a stern warning from President Kennedy:

This Nation stands on the brink of a nationwide rail strike that would, in very short order, create widespread economic chaos and distress… As more and more industries exhausted their stockpiles… the idling of men and machines would spread like an epidemic…

Kennedy followed these dire warnings with some comments on automation:

The rapid replacement of steam locomotives by diesel engines for 97% of all freight tonnage has confronted many firemen, who have spent much of their career in this work, with the unpleasant prospect of ‘human obsolescence.’ (The Presidential Commission) recognized… that ‘revolutionary changes even for the better carry a high price in disruption… (that) might exceed the value of the improvements.’ Yet we cannot stop progress in technology or arrest economic change in transportation or any other industry–nor would we want to…[13]

Kennedy’s was merely the latest in a long line of testimonies to the irrepressible force of technological progress and the responsibilities of workers to bear the brunt of scientific advances. The specific practices lumped together under the banner of featherbedding date back to early twentieth century efforts by the unions to control the effects of technological innovations. The consolidation of the key unions of the Railroad Brotherhoods was achieved with the passage of the Adamson Act in 1916, usually treated as the dramatic showdown between the unions and management over the eight-hour day. The Brotherhoods did indeed win the eight-hour day in 1916, but they also established a series of provisions regarding crew size and the maximum number of cars that could be linked together (called “train-consist” rules) that would later be attacked as featherbedding. Later, with electrified and diesel trains, the railroad full crew laws would be derided as “make-work”: why, critics would ask, was a 1916 vision of railroad labor being superimposed on the drastically altered circumstances of the 1960s?[14]

Like the railroad workers, Progressive Era musicians used the legal process to win a series of unique protections. The AFM strictly mandated the employment of idle musicians to offset the technological unemployment engendered by the broadcast of recorded music. The union also strictly regulated the work performed in the radio booth (infamously requiring an AFM “platter spinner” to work the turntable, a task expressly forbidden to the disc jockey).[15]

Perhaps most notoriously, the ITU dealt with an early managerial scheme to thin the ranks of printers by establishing contractual guarantees that for every standardized advertising matrix used, a printer would be employed to redundantly reset it, called colloquially “setting bogus” or “dead horse.”[16]

All of these practices survived a host of legal and legislative challenges in the late 1940s, and persisted throughout the 1950s. By the 1960s, however, the featherbedding unions were beginning to seem like relics, unable to keep pace with a streamlined era. By the 1960s, it was easier for most American to see a Lionel toy reproduction of the old steam railroads than to catch a glimpse of the real thing.[17] Union printers were often seen by countercultural entrepreneurs as annoyances, obstacles to be overcome in efforts to publish underground newspapers or profanity-laced poetry. And perhaps most profoundly, the AFM was embarrassingly unable adapt to the age of the LP, FM radio, and rock and roll, earning the ire of young music fans as it tried to prevent stateside visits by British Invasion groups like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.[18]

In all three cases, the immediate challenges posed by new technologies in the post-World War II period pointed to even more lethal later-developing threats:  for printers, first the photocopy machine, and then the paperless media economy of the Internet; for railroad workers, innovations in aeronautics and the eventual disappearance of the grey flannel suit commuter; and for musicians, the drastic reduction in live music venues with increasing suburbanization and shifting media consumption habits, and the rise of electronic music, home taping, and online file-sharing. And in all three cases, by the 1970s, the featherbedding unions found themselves more or less irrelevant, entering the stage of terminal obsolescence with either an uncharacteristic whimper (as in the case of the railroad workers and the musicians), or the wrong sort of bang (as in the case of the printers’ union and the apocalyptic Washington Post strike of 1975).

Elective Affinities

Politics, Charles Dudley Warner famously said, makes strange bedfellows. In the study of US labor history, it is always productive to pay attention when we encounter strange pairings in flagrante delicto—thus we turn with interest to a column from October of 1942, written by the anti-union columnist Westbrook Pegler as a sort of love letter to––of all people––Thurman Arnold.[19]

Reading Pegler’s ode to Arnold suggests that Pegler and Arnold shared, at a rather deep level, a certain set of concerns and values.

Arnold, Pegler reported, had uncovered “a tremendous waste of manpower caused by union rules and regulations which, in some cases, require that men be paid for doing little or nothing, and, in others, insist on the continued use of antiquated and time-wasting methods.”

Here, we encounter one of the dominant themes of anti-featherbedding discourse: its obsession with output, manpower, productivity, and efficiency; its status as an embarrassing indication of workers’ atavism and failure to keep pace with modernization; and its moral outrage at the vision of a worker “doing little or nothing” or wasting time. It is important to emphasize here that such a critique emerged out of the experience of New Deal direct job creation (and the subsequent right-wing war on “boondoggling”) and then the mobilization for war. In other words, the critique of featherbedding could only crystallize in a rare moment of state-capital cohesion, during which failure to work as hard as possible could be articulated as a form of treason. Thus Pegler, throughout the column, expresses concern that the government might begin to conscript workers to man the assembly lines of heavy industry as military service called so many away from the factories: the first step, Pegler thought, on the road to fascism:

Conscription might be necessary eventually, but people won’t submit with a will as long as they know that a lot of men are just making motions at mock jobs, tearing down and doing over work that has been done already or doing by ancient, slow methods tasks that could be sped up amazingly, and without undue pressure on the workers, by modern means. [20]

“Nobody can say that these practices cause a waste of 20 million of the 200 million man days a year,” Pegler continued, “because the waste is just incalculable, and it would be a waste of brain power to try to make an estimate, but it certainly is a big waste, not a trivial one.” Palpably protesting too much, what Pegler reveals here is a crucial feature of anti-featherbedding polemic: while featherbedding certainly seemed like it would logically correlate to calculable economic losses, business advocates had a difficult time producing empirical proof of its negative effects.

In fact, Pegler’s fist shaking obscured, why symptomatically highlighting, a more ambiguous economic reality.  In a semi-planned economy, featherbedding is simply a derogatory name for the more or less universal practice of moderating effort to reward by means of collective power. Furthermore, as opposed to the unique circumstances of the Depression and the exigencies of wartime, under “normal” competitive capitalist conditions factories do not run on the principle of maximum output: to stay profitable, in fact, factories needed above all to avoid the trap of overproduction, to anticipate consumer demand and the production schedules of competitors.[21]  Thus, it might fairly be said that the common-sense economic critique of featherbedding, as a continuation of a long-running managerial war on soldiering, shirking, ca’canny, goldbricking, and “make-work” was a moral crusade, the latest iteration of the more punitive version of Max Weber’s famous Protestant work ethic.[22]

The convergence of strange bedfellows like Pegler and Arnold in this crusade was not a momentary fluke. Throughout the 1950s, labor liberals and anti-union conservatives collaborated on a common anti-featherbedding polemic. The fruits of such collaboration can be seen in the showdown over the railroad strikes of the early 1960s considered above. Kennedy’s warnings found an unexpected echo in the plaints of Barry Goldwater. In a column entitled “The Railroad Featherbedding Issue Must Be Met Head On, Not Skirted,” Goldwater went after the Kennedy administration for failing to move quickly enough on featherbedding. At a deeper level, however, Goldwater and Kennedy shared an identical vision of featherbedding’s causes, costs, and catastrophic consequences. They agreed that featherbedding’s days were numbered and that the only question left to be settled was that of who would bear the brunt of obsolescence.[23]  Such convergences suggest that if it remains fashionable to smirk at Daniel Bell’s fatal lack of perspicuity in entitling a 1960 book The End of Ideology––on the eve of a decade of roiling ideological conflict––we should not be so quick to dismiss Bell’s diagnosis.

Conclusion: Featherbedding on the Couch

            The End of Ideology was no Pollyanna-ish paean to the perfection of the postwar capitalist system: it is a text suffused with negativity, ambivalence, and anxiety.[24] It’s subtitle, after all, underlines the theme of political “exhaustion.” What worried Bell most were the implications of the postwar era’s cult of productivity. Under such circumstances, the analysis of labor politics required an interpolation of Freud’s most pessimistic text, Civilization and Its Discontents—famously transformed into Bell’s “Work and Its Discontents,” the title of his chapter on labor’s endemic motivation and legitimation crises.

Exhaustion was not a new theme in capitalism, of course. As Anson Rabinbach argues in The Human Motor, a common cult of “productivism” undergirded nineteenth-century German science, medicine, and managerial discourse. Extrapolating from the metaphor of the motor, “it followed that society might conserve, deploy, and expand the energies of the laboring body,” harmonizing “the movements of the body with those of the industrial machine” and perhaps even overcoming “the stubborn resistance to perpetual work that distinguished the human body from a machine.” With the conquest of fatigue––“the endemic disorder of industrial society”––“the last obstacle to progress would be eliminated.” The language of labor power, Rabinbach writes, “was more than a new way of representing work: it was a totalizing  framework that subordinated all social activity to production, raising the human project of labor to a universal attribute of nature.”[25]

Rabinbach’s profound insights into nineteenth century German knowledge production apply surprisingly seamlessly to the case of post-World War II American political economy, and more specifically, to the question of featherbedding. What Rabinbach’s work suggests is that we who study the history of capitalism in the US have not attended sufficiently to the pathological tendencies of productivism, and in particular to entropic anxieties about productive capacity, figured in nationalist terms—anxieties extraordinarily generative of anti-labor discourse and uniquely triggering of a kind of generalized existential crisis, not only in beat coffeehouses, but also on the shop floor. As the history of featherbedding shows, conventional wisdom rapidly settled upon a vision of workers as coddled, over-indulged, idle, well-rested, infructuous :in short, a proletariat illegitimately reclaiming “surplus enjoyment” from capital in the way that their counterparts in the 1870s and 1880s were seen as illegitimately seizing too large a share of corporate profits and thus having tricked industrialists into becoming state functionaries in a quasi-socialist economy.[26]

What was left mostly unsaid was the terrifying implication of anti-featherbedding discourse: if featherbedding was to be overcome, workers would have to accept that it was their patriotic duty to become machines, to fully materialize as “manpower” during their hours on the job. Underlying this duty was the universalized guilt that distinguishes, according to Walter Benjamin, capitalism as a religion.[27] What this repetitive, guilt-induced, endless drudgery, in service of an unassailable national allegiance calls to mind, above all, is Sigmund Freud’s proposal of a “death drive” or Todestrieb (usually shortened to “drive” or Trieb). The notion of “drive” is among the most difficult in the psychoanalytic lexicon. Labor historians, however, might find the notion less recondite than our peers in other sectors of the humanities and social sciences. For “drive” is a term familiar from US labor history. Industrial Relations experts like Sumner Slichter (also a key figure in the fight against featherbedding) began in the late nineteen teens to use the term “drive system” to describe the early twentieth century-era American productivity regime, a regime in which, “as a result of mechanization and reduced dependence on craft labor, supervision increasingly came under the control of foremen and superintendents, whose function was to drive employees to work ever faster.”[28]

“Drive,” in Freudian terms, names something like Slichter’s “drive system” without a driver, like a factory without a foreman, or a railroad without an engineer, careening around a track’s circuit ad infinitum. Drive assumes the form of a “repetition compulsion,” the motivating force that takes over once we find ourselves “beyond the pleasure principle,” beyond the Utilitarians’ hedonic calculus (what Freud calls “the economic point of view”).[29] We might note, parenthetically, that the central image of modern “happiness studies” is the “hedonic treadmill.”  As with all psychic phenomena, the shift from desire to drive appears in the register of culture, also: and it is here, I think, that we should situate the anti-featherbedding project.

Consider, for example, the degree to which Rabinbach’s theorization of productivism and the theme of “death drive” resonate with a generic work of anti-featherbedding polemic, Stanford industrial relations expert Alexander Heron’s Why Men Work (1947).[30] In the introduction, Heron warns of the potential heat death of capitalism: If management should “fail to induce other workers, other than ourselves, to work willingly, steadily, and effectively in producing the goods and services we want to buy” we face inflation, the illness of our system of exchanging our work for our wants,” and deflation, “the collapse of the sick system.” The spirit of productivist pessimism permeates the text: “If management cannot induce almost all of us to work effectively, our American way of life is a failure.” Heron insists that he is responding to the despair of America’s managers: “we hear a million Americans, charged with duties of management, asking desperately why men do not work.” The mood was one of “desperate worry”; “the scientific attitude replaced by exasperation…” “Why do men not work?”[31]

Heron, it turns out, agrees with Freud: “we are likely to assume that the desires for both basic and cultural necessities are the spurs which make us work.” On the other side of desire, however, lurks drive: “we are awakening to the unpleasant discovery that, as a nation of workers, we do not follow any such simple logic in our group activities…We do not know today the fundamental reasons why men work or why men do not work. The old answers do not fit the question today.”

It would be easy to dismiss Heron as a paranoid crank. But we would be foolish to dismiss the degree to which his words accurately took the temperature of postwar class relations and captured some of the internal contradictions of capitalist triumphalism. Because we need to know much more about the existential crisis that such contradictions produced—the collective loss of a sense of what or for whom all of this productive effort was for––if we are to properly understand the decline of the New Deal order. Judith Stein urges historians to avoid Whiggish declension narratives that render  “Keynesian liberalism and the Democratic Party victims of right wing ideological and institutional assault,” assuming that “the ideology and the party were up to the task of confronting the nation’s challenges and that the rise of conservatism had nothing to do with their failures.”[32]  With Stein’s observations in mind, I think we can broaden our understanding of the causes of the New Deal’s terminal decline by looking at the significance of the ideological alliance that brought together the war on featherbedding’s strange bedfellows.

[1] Ludwig Von Mises, Human Action: A Treatise on Economics, 1949.

[2] Vern Countryman, “The Organized Musicians, II.”  The University of Chicago Law Review, Vol. 16, No. 2 (Winter, 1949), Note 122, 239.

[3] Statement of C. E. Wilson, president of General Motors, presented to the Senate Committee on Labor and Public Welfare, February 5, 1947 (Section 8, ‘Featherbedding.’) Wilson’s comments were also circulated as a pamphlet entitled Legislation for Labor Peace and distributed by the General Motors Corporation. Cited in Thomas Kirby, “Featherbedding,” American Speech, Vol. 22, No. 4 (Dec., 1947), 303-04.

[4] “Featherbedding,” Oxford English Dictionary.  A 1928 citation indicates that the term was also used to described flowery ornamentation in music. The first citation indicating the trade union-specific meaning of featherbedding is located in a 1943 Reader’s Digest article, with numerous shadings popping up throughout the 1940s and 1950s. Intriguingly, and not without significance for our purposes, the OED suggests that “feather-bedder,” by the early 1950s, had emerged as a synonym for the sybarite or good-time Charlie: “one devoted to physical or intellectual comfort”; “feather-bedder” was used that way, at least in Mary McCarthy’s 1952 novel Groves of Academe.

[5] See Bruce Fink, The Lacanian Subject, 96. “Surplus value corresponds in quantity to what, in capitalism, is called ‘interest’ or ‘profit’: it is that which the capitalist skims off the top for him or herself, instead of paying it to the employees… It is, loosely speaking, the fruit of the employees’ labor. When, in legal documents written in American English, someone is said to have the right to the fruit or ‘usufruct’ of a particular piece of property or sum of money held in trust, it means that that person has a right to the profit generated by it, though not necessarily to the property of money itself. On other words, it is a right, not of ownership, but rather of ‘enjoyment.’ In everyday French, you could say that that person has la jouissance of said property or money. In the more precise terms of French finance, that would mean that he or she enjoys, not the land, buildings, or capital itself… but merely its excess fruits, its product above and beyond that required to reimburse its upkeep… The employee never enjoys that surplus product, he or she ‘loses’ it. The work process produces him or her as an ‘alienated’ subject. The capitalist, as Other, enjoys that excess product….and thus the subject finds himself in the unenviable situation of working for the Other’s enjoyment.”

[6] Thurman Arnold, The Bottlenecks of Business, (New York: Reynal & Hitchcock, 1940). Arnold was part of the Western flank of the New Deal brain trust, a founder of legal realism at Yale close with lawyers William O. Douglas and Abe Fortas; and the author of The Folklore of Capitalism. Arnold’s critique of labor, despite his New Deal bona fides, stemmed from his iconoclasm and his devotion to “the old-fashioned economic order.” Arnold believed that “getting away from the fundamentals” was the cause of many of the modern era’s ills. When he became Assistant Attorney General in the late 1930s and took over the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division, within five years he undertook 215 investigations and launched nearly half the antitrust legislation since the Sherman law’s inception. Arnold’s antitrust activity, Jordan A. Schwarz writes, “amounted to another demand for a more liberal capitalism.” Jonathan A. Schwarz, The New Dealers: Power Politics in the Age of Roosevelt (New York: Knopf, 1993). Jason Scott Smith reveals that Richard Hofstadter regarded Arnold as epitomizing “the essence of the New Deal,” because, in Hofstadter’s words, Arnold’s literary works contained “ a sharp and sustained attack upon ideologies, rational principles, and moralism in politics… in short, the theoretical equivalent of FDR’s opportunistic virtuosity in practical politics—a theory that attacks theories.” Jason Scott Smith, Building New Deal Liberalism: The Political Economy of Public Works (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006); Hofstadter quote is from Age of Reform, 319. Spencer Weber Waller notes that when Arnold was appointment to this official New Deal post as Assistant Attorney General (despite having been a critic of much of the Sherman Act and much of the New Deal machinery in his popular books The Symbols of Government and The Folklore of Capitalism) his critics described him as “a foe capitalism” a “left-wing New Dealer” and a “capitalist critic.” Spencer Weber Waller, in Thurman Arnold: A Biography,  (New York: New York University Press, 2005).

[7] “Arnold Denounces Union ‘Feather Bed’ Rule; Says Job Twice Done Costs Billion a Year,” The New York Times, Nov. 29. 1941, 9.

[8] Raymond Williams, Culture and Society, 1780-1950 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1958), xiii.

[9] On this postwar managerial resurgence, see the classic study by Howell John Harris, The Right to Manage: Industrial Relations Policies of American Business in the 1940s (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1982).

[10] Thurman Arnold and Walton Hamilton, “Thoughts on Labor Day,” The New Republic, September 1946, reprinted in American Thought 1947 (London: Gresham Press, 1947). In a striking break with general usage, Arnold insisted that featherbedding was not only restricted to labor unions: “If there is stand-by labor, we also have an abundance of functionless capital.” Railroads, public utilities, blue chip corporations: “An inventory of all the sums of capital which currently bear interest, over the investments actually necessary to get our industrial work done, would reveal an alarming amount of featherbedding.”

[11] The question of industries “clothed with a public interest” became increasingly pressing in regard to transportation and communications industries in the context of World War II and the early Cold War. See, for example, The Commission on Freedom of the Press, A Free and Responsible Press (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1947), especially Section XI. “The Work of the Press as Clothed with a Public Interest.” The locus classicus of “clothed with a public interest” jurisprudence is the famous 1877 case Munn v. Illinois. See James Ely, The Guardian of Every Other Right: A Constitutional History of Property Rights (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992).

[12] Robin D.G. Kelley, “Without a Song: New York Musicians Strike Out against Technology,” in Howard Zinn, Dana Frank, and Robin D.G. Kelley, Three Strikes: Miners, Musicians, Salesgirls, and the Fighting Spirits of Labor’s Last Century (Boston: Beacon Press, 2001), 153-54.

[13] John F. Kennedy: ”Special Message to the Congress on the Railroad Rules Dispute.,” July 22, 1963. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=9354.

[14] J.A. Lipowski, “Featherbedding on the Railroads: By Law and Agreement.” http://www.law.du.edu/documents/transportation-law-journal/past-issues/v08/featherbedding.pdf Last accessed online May 1, 2013.

[15] Vern Countryman, “The Organized Musicians: I,” and “The Organized Musicians: II.”

[16] Andrew Zimbalist, “Technology and the Labor Process in the Printing Industry” in Andrew Zimbalist, ed. Case

Studies on the Labor Process. (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1979).

[17] See John F. Stover, American Railroads (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997).

[18] Michael Roberts, “You Say You Want a (Counter) Revolution? Attempts by the Musicians’ Union to Jam Up Rock and Roll,” Labor 4:4 Winter 2007.

[19] Westbrook Pegler, “A Great Waste of Manpower,” The Desert News, Salt Lake City, UT, October 22, 1942, 4. David Witwer provides a valuable biographical sketch of Pegler in his Shadow of the Racketeer: Scandal in Organized Labor (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2009), 15-35. Born in 1894 in a working-class family, Pegler, Witwer writes, “was a tough-talking, conservative commentator who depicted himself as the champion of the common citizen against the elite, liberal establishment,” and attempted to present the point of view of the common man “whose freedom was threatened by a new liberal establishment that had ensconced itself in the federal government.” Pegler was a pioneer in the field of the syndicated column, and by the late 1930s he began to use his Scripps-Howard-syndicated “Fair Enough!” to rail against union corruption. This was a somewhat surprising turn, as Pegler had been a supporter of the New Deal and twice voted for Roosevelt, his anti-union animus was stoked by frustrations over the formation of the American Newspaper Guild under the leadership of charismatic left journalist Heywood Broun.

[20] See Nelson Lichtenstein Labor’s War at Home: The CIO in World War II (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1982) on the Reuther Plan of 1940-41 to federalize production under the auspices of an Aviation Production Board, on the establishment of the War Manpower Board, and on legislative efforts to model the British Ministry of Supply, 87-94.

[21] See Paul A. Weinstein, Featherbedding and Technological Change (Boston: Heath, 1965) and “Featherbedding and Taft-Hartley,” Columbia Law Review, v. 28, no, 8 (Dec. 1952), 1020-1033.

[22] See Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (New York: Scribner, 1958). R.H. Tawney, Religion and the Rise of Capitalism (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 1998); Daniel Rodgers, The Work Ethic in Industrial America, 1850-1920 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978); Kathi Weeks, The Problem with Work (Durham: Duke University Press, 2011).

[23] See Barry Goldwater, “The Railroad Featherbedding Issue Must Be Met Head On, Not Skirted,” Los Angeles Times, Aug. 6, 1963, A5.

[24] As Howard Brick writes: “’the ‘end of ideology’ mood was neither unambiguous nor wholly geared by cold war purposes to uncritical celebration of ‘the West.’ It was not self-evidently procapitalist. The writer who came to be most identified with the phrase, Daniel Bell, still showed signs of residual anticapitalist animus through the 1950s.” In Transforming Capitalism: Visions of a New Society in Modern American Thought (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2006), 162.

[25] Ibid., 4.

[26] See Martin Sklar, The Corporate Reconstruction of American Capitalism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988).

[27] Walter Benjamin, “Capitalism as Religion,” in Selected Writings, Volume One: 1913-1926, translated by Rodney Livingstone (Cambridge: Belknap, 2004).

[28] See for example, the editor’s note in David M. Gordon, “From the Drive System to the Capital-Labor Accord: Econometric Tests for the Transition Between Productivity Regimes.” Industrial Relations, Vol. 36. No 2, April 1997, 126.

[29] Sigmund Freud, Todd Dufresne, Gregory C. Richter, Beyond the Pleasure Principle (Peterborough, Ont: Broadview Editions, 2011).

[30] Alexander R. Heron, Why Men Work (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1947).

[31] Ibid, 7.

[32] Judith Stein, Pivotal Decade: How the United States Traded Factories for Finance in the Seventies (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010), x.

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