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Reagan on Union-Management Relations in 1958 - Part 1

In 1958, Ronald Reagan had a radio interview covering various topics, including union-management relations. This clip includes the introduction to the program and then the excerpt on labor relations. Reagan had been president of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and was still an officer of the union. He had also become a spokesperson for General Electric and the host of the General Electric Theater on TV. Much of his commentary deals with GE's labor relations policy of that era. He also talks about labor relations in Hollywood and the U.S. as a whole. Historians view Reagan's stint with GE as the period in which he moved to conservative politics. In the interview, he presents a relatively sanguine portrait of GE's labor relations policy. The picture at GE was more complicated, however. In the 1930s, GE was headed by Gerald Swope, a New Deal sympathizer. As a result, GE recognized the United Electrical Workers (UE) at a time when many other major firms were strongly resisting unionization. At the end of World War II, however, a major strike occurred at GE (and many other big firms). In response, management brought in marketing executive Lemuel Ricketts Boulware to sell GE to its workers as well as its customers and the general public. The hiring of Reagan and the GE Theater was part of that effort. Boulware's policy - which included tough bargaining - became known as Boulwarism. Aspects were found to be unfair labor practices in the late 1960s. According to Time magazine, Boulware was semi-replaced as head of labor relations in 1957, although his policies continued and he remained with the firm for several more years. GE's bargaining position starting in the late 1940s was aided by a union split. The CIO expelled the UE as communist-dominated and created a rival IUE. The contest between these two unions weakened the labor side of the bargaining table. GE let Reagan go in the early 1960s after he became more political. One element appeared to be negative comments he made about the government-run TVA, a significant customer of GE's generating equipment. This is Part 1 of the radio interview.
Length: 08:21

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