Labor and Politics

September 3, 1952

Report Outline
Labor and the 1952 Presidential Contest
Growth of Union Labor's Political Activity
Political Influence of Organized Labor

Labor and the 1952 Presidential Contest

Labor's Veto of Barkley's Candidacy for Presidency

All signs indicate, as the 1952 political campaign moves into high gear, that organized labor this year will figure more prominently than ever before in the activities and discussion that make up the quadrennial contest for the presidency. Political action bids fair to be more vigorous and more widespread among leading labor groups than in previous presidential campaigns, and the candidates will be under correspondingly greater pressure to go along with labor's demands or, if they cannot go all the way, to devise offsetting appeals to attract labor votes. Conversely, the prominence of labor in the campaign is likely to stir up debate on the influence of labor in government and to make the candidates careful not to give an impression of catering unduly to union interests.

Whether the active support of organized labor helps or handicaps a candidate depends on circumstances and cannot be easily determined in most cases. The labor constituency in a national election, and in many other elections, is too large to be deliberately ignored or alienated, but it is always a question whether labor leaders can make their political recommendations prevail over other influences or loyalties to which individual union members may be responsive—in short, whether they can deliver the votes of the rank and file. Hence a candidate, while welcoming labor support, may not take undue risks if he tempers his position on labor questions out of regard for the feelings of voters who fear that unions may gain too much power.

Although the growth of labor participation in politics attests to the faith of union leaders in their ability to get results from political action, experience indicates that labor endorsement or opposition is not necessarily a decisive factor in elections. A candidate lacking labor support may win on the strength of a broad-based appeal, while a candidate favored by labor may lose unless he inspires general confidence. Labor is one of the largest of various special groups in the American electorate. But such groups, and the interests of such groups, overlap. As a result, other considerations, such as the personal qualifications and the stand of candidates on leading campaign issues, are likely to be more influential than group pressures in deciding the outcome of an election, particularly a presidential election.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Labor Unions
Aug. 07, 2015  Unions at a Crossroads
Sep. 02, 2005  Labor Unions' Future Updated
Jun. 28, 1996  Labor Movement's Future
Jun. 14, 1985  Organized Labor in the 1980s
Nov. 06, 1981  Labor Under Siege
Mar. 24, 1978  Labor's Southern Strategy
Aug. 20, 1976  Labor's Options
Oct. 27, 1971  Organized Labor After the Freeze
Oct. 19, 1966  Labor Strife and the Public Interest
Jan. 30, 1963  Strike Action and the Law
Sep. 20, 1961  Conflicts in Organized Labor
Aug. 04, 1960  Labor, Management, and the National Interest
Dec. 16, 1959  Future of Free Collective Bargaining
Nov. 04, 1959  Featherbedding and Union Work Rules
Feb. 18, 1959  Public Intervention in Labor Disputes
Jul. 09, 1958  Suits Against Labor Unions
Nov. 13, 1957  Right-To-Work Laws
Oct. 31, 1956  Union Organizing
May 01, 1954  State Powers in Labor Relations
Oct. 02, 1953  Toward Labor Unity
Apr. 11, 1953  Industry-Wide Bargaining and Industry-Wide Strikes
Sep. 03, 1952  Labor and Politics
Mar. 25, 1950  Labor Injunctions
Jan. 25, 1950  Trade Unions and Productivity
Sep. 26, 1949  Fact-Finding Boards in Labor Disputes
Mar. 05, 1949  Closed Shop
Dec. 01, 1948  Revision of the Taft-Hartley Act
Jan. 01, 1947  Labor Unions, the Public and the Law
Oct. 09, 1946  Revision of the Wagner Act
Sep. 25, 1946  Labor Productivity
May 29, 1946  Labor Organization in the South
Jan. 30, 1946  Compulsory Settlement of Labor Disputes
May 18, 1945  Labor Policy After the War
Mar. 29, 1945  Union Maintenance
Feb. 02, 1945  Labor Relations in Coal Mining
Oct. 12, 1944  No-Strike Pledge
Sep. 16, 1944  Political Action by Organized Labor
May 30, 1944  Unionization of Foremen
Apr. 01, 1944  Dismissal Pay
Apr. 29, 1943  Labor in Government
Apr. 09, 1943  Public Regulation of Trade Unions
Nov. 19, 1941  Labor Policies of the Roosevelt Administration
Oct. 23, 1941  Closed Shop Issue in Labor Relations
Mar. 29, 1941  Labor as Partner in Production
Feb. 12, 1941  Labor and the Defense Program
Feb. 23, 1940  Labor in Politics
Jan. 17, 1939  Settlement of Disputes Between Labor Unions
Jul. 01, 1938  Three Years of National Labor Relations Act
Nov. 12, 1937  State Regulation of Labor Relations
Jul. 10, 1937  Restrictions on the Right to Strike
Apr. 28, 1937  The Labor Market and the Unemployed
Mar. 26, 1937  Control of the Sit-Down Strike
Mar. 13, 1937  Collective Bargaining in the Soft-Coal Industry
Jan. 22, 1937  Responsibility of Labor Unions
Nov. 11, 1936  Industrial Unionism and the A.F. of L.
Jul. 30, 1936  Federal Intervention in Labor Disputes
Jul. 14, 1936  Labor Relations in the Steel Industry
Apr. 17, 1934  Company Unions and Collective Bargaining
Feb. 07, 1934  Settlement of Labor Disputes
Sep. 12, 1933  Trade Unionism Under the Recovery Program
Feb. 17, 1932  Wage Concessions by Trade Unions
Oct. 01, 1929  Status of the American Labor Movement
Jul. 20, 1929  Trade Unionism in the South
Aug. 31, 1928  Organized Labor in National Politics
Feb. 04, 1928  The Use of Injunctions in Labor Disputes
Sep. 09, 1927  Organized Labor and the Works Council Movement
Oct. 12, 1923  The A.F. of L. and the “New Radicalism”
Campaigns and Elections
Campaigns and Elections
Lobbying and Special Interests
Unions and Labor-Management Relations