Blue-Collar America

August 26, 1970

Report Outline
Events Focusing on Blue-Collar Man
Blue-Collar Work in Changing America
Blue-Collar Man and Politics of 1970s
Special Focus

Events Focusing on Blue-Collar Man

Prominence of ‘Blue Collars’ in Silent Majority

A major component of the Nixon administration's “silent majority” has turned out to be an old friend of the Democrats: the blue-collar worker. Recent demonstrations of “hard hat” support for President Nixon and his policies on the Viet Nam War gave cheering evidence to the Republicans that a significant segment of the blue-collar population—in this instance, the construction workers—is breaking its 135-year attachment to the other major party. The general tone of the “hard hat” demonstrations and statements of participants in the violence that accompanied one of the demonstrations suggests strongly that many blue-collar workers view themselves as part of Nixon's “silent majority.” driven at last to speak out against the disrupters, the radicals, the disloyal in American society. And the gist of their message was an embrace of the Nixon presidency.

About the time the hard hats began their series of demonstrations in New York in early May, government specialists were completing a study of the blue-collar worker which the President had commissioned in the summer of 1969. A confidential memorandum on the report, leaked to the press in late June, revealed the administration's interest in the blue-collar worker's economic and social problems. To many commentators the memorandum also suggested the administration's interest in his political potential. “People in the blue-collar class,” the memorandum stated, “feel like forgotten people—those for whom the government and society have limited, if any, direct concern.” They were, therefore, “overripe for a political response to the pressing needs they feel so keenly.”

What is interesting about this development is not that a new “forgotten man” has come forward, but that a fully recognized figure in the American picture is being perceived somewhat differently than in the past. Actually the blue-collar worker has long been visible—politically, socially, economically. Many would say he has not been particularly silent and he has been quite successful in making known his demands and winning responses to them, at the collective bargaining table at least. What is new is seeing the blue-collar worker not simply in terms of a unionist seeking higher wages and job benefits, but in his broader human dimensions as a man whose private life is being buffeted by the disrupting currents of his time.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
General Employment and Labor
General Social Trends