Accelerated production — World War II US Propaganda Posters

Since the Great Depression, industrial production in the U.S. has been in sharp contradiction among the American industrial class.
World War II US Propaganda Posters Accelerated production 2

Since the Great Depression, industrial production in the U.S. has been in sharp contradiction among the American industrial class. The largest labor organization in the United States at the time was called the American Federation of Labor(AFL). As the largest labor organization in the United States throughout the first half of the 20th century, the AFL was the lifeblood of American industry. However, from the Great Depression onwards, the organization was gradually divided: some factory managers, led by John Reeves, president of the United Mine Workers of America, began to question the long-standing union system of the AFL, arguing that it was necessary to try the model of industrial unions, i.e., to abolish the restrictions between industries, so that workers could join regardless of their professions or trades, as long as they were workers in a certain industry. This approach was opposed by most of the AFL, including, ironically, William Green, the current AFL president who had studied respectfully under Reeves in the miners’ union more than a decade earlier. The conflict grew sharper and sharper until it finally sparked at the 1935 executive meeting of the Federation.

As Reeves took the stage to give a speech on how to organize a group of inexperienced tire and rubber workers into a quick work situation, William Hutchinson, the president of the Woodworkers’ Union, a staunch supporter of unionization among his peers, suddenly interrupted Reeves and then mockingly commented that these workers were just a bunch of “small potatoes”. (the American slang for insignificant people). He was unceremoniously sarcastic and engaged in a heated exchange of words. To no one’s surprise, Reeves walked right up to Hutchinson in full view of the crowd and grabbed the union stalwart and beat him up. The room was in chaos until Green stepped in to act as a peacemaker to temporarily calm down the storm.

This farce had brought the views of both forces into direct focus. Reeves then agreed with the seven other union presidents in the AFL who supported his views, and on November 9, 1935, a new “Federation of Industrial Unions” was formed in the hope of changing the existing single policy within the AFL. On September 10, 1936, the federation publicly announced that it would expel the ten unions that had joined Federation of Industrial Unions (two more joined in the next ten months), and that these unions, organized by Reeves, formally formed an independent federation of industrial unions a year later and continued to confront the AFL.

This intensified confrontation soon caught Roosevelt’s attention. With the Japanese already planning an invasion in Asia and the Germans are also moving in Europe, once the United States became involved in the war, internal industrial conflicts were bound to affect the war effort significantly. In February 1939, the American president wrote to Greene and Reeves in his private capacity to seek a solution to the problem by means of cooperation. Thus, on March 7, 1939, the first union negotiations were held in Washington, D.C., under the personal auspices of Roosevelt himself. However, despite the fact that Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins repeatedly stressed that “the outcome of the negotiations will be full of light,” the situation was not so ideal. Neither side would budge on the main differences and contradictions, so much so that Reeves called his former protégé Green on April 5 and was unable to continue the meeting on the pretext of attending an internal union hearing. But when Perkins asked AFL-CIO negotiator Matthew Wall why the subsequent meetings had gone nowhere, Wall replied that “the previous meetings with Reeves had been very cordial, and there was no sign of hostility or discontent on his part, nor was there any hint in his demeanor that he wanted to postpone negotiations. Apparently, it was not until weeks later, when negotiations came to a complete standstill, that the AFL representatives realized that Reeves seemed to have lost his patience, and that the struggle between the two groups seemed to be going on.

This stalemate lasted for nearly six months. Roosevelt’s fears began to become more apparent after the outbreak of war in Europe in September. So he sent two more letters to Greene and Reeves in mid-October, asking if the two unions could restart negotiations. Green’s reply was polite, stating in his letter, “The door of the AFL is always open, and it is always our hope that those groups that have left seeking other purposes will return to the union and resolve their differences with each other by a reasonably sensible method.” But Reeves was unusually brief in his reply, suggesting politely to Roosevelt that “our negotiators do not appear to have detected any information from the AFL that would help the negotiations to progress.” And before leaving office, on a national radio program on October 25, 1940, he publicly expressed support for Roosevelt’s campaign opponent, Wilkie.

The struggle between the two unions intensified as peace negotiations failed, as epitomized by the massive strike at the North American Aviation plant in Inglewood, California, on June 5, 1941. The conflict arose when the United Auto Workers, representing the United Industrial Workers, and the International Association of Machinists, representing the AFL-CIO, both sought to bring the major airline manufacturer into their fold. When the United Auto Workers won North American Aviation by 70 votes in a runoff election on March 13, the International Association of Machinists (IAM), resenting its defeat, began planning a counter strike. Roosevelt then issued a statement on the matter, saying that if the strikers could not return to work within 24 hours, then the government would intervene by necessary means. However, the situation was not reversed, but worsened dramatically on June 9 when striking workers attempted to cross the picket line and clashed with police officers on the sidelines, causing the situation to spiral out of control and eventually the government brought in three battalions of the 15th Infantry Division to quell the conflict. A total of 20 people were arrested and dozens more were injured in various degrees.

It was not until after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that this so-called peace negotiation actually began to see the light of day. Philip Murray, then president of the Industrial Union, began to communicate privately with Greene, seeking the possibility of cooperation between the two sides in wartime, and then formal negotiations began in late December. However, the negotiations, which had been going on for two years, were completely disrupted by an open letter from Reeves, who had taken a back seat: In an open letter to Greene on January 17, 1942, Reeves stressed that he believed the only viable solution was for Greene and Murray to resign, and that he felt that William Meany, the union’s number two man at the time, was best suited to take the helm. Neither side of the negotiations saw this as what Reeves called a peaceful solution, but rather an attempt to weaken the labor federation while regaining the power of the industrial unions.

After repeated reminders from White House mediator Anna Rosenberg and others, Roosevelt invited Murray to the White House for a private meeting on Jan. 21. In what became known as the “Roosevelt-Murray” conversation, Murray not only expressed his opposition to Reeves’ proposal, but also made it clear to Roosevelt that his union would maximize its “non-unitary cooperation” with the AFL-CIO for war reasons, and that it would form a union that would have a fundamental supervisory role with both unions. At the same time, a Joint Committee for the Victory of Labor in Wartime was formed, with the participation of both unions, to play a fundamental supervisory role, thus fulfilling the fundamental purpose of the formation. This proposal was approved by Roosevelt and within 24 hours was endorsed by Greene, and both sides agreed to send three representatives each to form the committee. The conflict between the two unions was thus temporarily eased, although under the surface of this easing there was still a dark struggle. Roosevelt was well aware of this, and the president’s real purpose in putting together the committee was a kind of palliative, namely to use it to suppress the wartime conflicts between the two unions. Murray wrote to Roosevelt in May 1943 complaining that the committee had never even been involved in a basic revision of labor legislation, but Roosevelt never responded.

Brokered by Donald Nelsen (center), William Green (left) and Phillip Murray (right) confer on wartime industrial development.

While resolving the conflicts of the American unions, Roosevelt was also trying to mobilize the productive capacity of American factories through various means. Roosevelt then set an ambitious goal for American industry, which was then questioned by most American industrialists and public opinion. Hanson Baldwin, a military columnist for the New York Times, said in his own commentary in disbelief: “The goal he set was obviously too high …… doubling production may be a task we can accomplish, but now we are being asked to more than quadruple it, a goal that would definitely be considered an industrial miracle if it could be accomplished.

However, the U.S. president did have a reason to ask American factories to accomplish this goal, because Roosevelt’s vision could be supplemented to some extent by some data, and Roosevelt was convinced that once the American industrial machine was running at high speed, these goals he set were not a far-fetched fantasy.

Unity is power! Red represents courage, white represents glory, and blue represents justice. (Appreciate American Publishing Company, 1941)
Keep ‘Em Rolling! (Leo Leoni, 1941)

Yet many dissidents don’t think so. According to Baldwin’s conservative estimates, the aid would have to account for at least 30 percent of U.S. industrial production. So, many questioned whether the U.S. could fight both Germany and Japan with the remaining 60 percent of industrial output.

Another criticism of the Roosevelt administration was the departmental agencies responsible for coordinating production efforts. The Department of Production Management and the War Resources Allocation Board. The disadvantage of poor coordination between these two departments became more pronounced with the outbreak of war. In January 1942, Roosevelt signed Presidential Decree 9024, which abolished the previous War Resources Allocation Board and the Department of Production Management, and established the War Production Board to unify production manpower, equipment, space, and resources, and to gradually restrict any domestic production of non-war products.

Men Working Together! (Information Intelligence Service, 1941)

“Produce for Victory” themed poster by Shelton Clare Advertising

Similar to the organizational structure of the Production Management Department, the Wartime Production Committee did not intervene directly in the production of individual factories, and another major task of the Production Committee was propaganda. As for the WPC’s own propaganda work, they relied more on the cooperation of the Wartime Press Service and the Wartime Advertising Committee, especially the latter. In fact, the WAC produced the second largest number of production posters during World War II after the bond posters, all of which were based on Roosevelt’s theme of “Speed Up, Speed Up Production”. Of course, many large factories in the United States also hired and employed painters to create posters for them, and these posters were mostly circulated within the factories, although the impact at the time was very limited, but there were also some of the best works.

America’s answer — production (Jean Kalou, 1942)
Defend American Freedom. It’s Everyone’s Job (McClelland Barclay, 1942)
Give ‘Em Both Barrels  (Jean Kalou, 1942)
Let’s Give Him Enough and On Time (Norman Rockwell, 1942)
The Second Front is Right Here! Produce More for Victory (General Motors Pontiac Branch, 1942)
Speed Will Save Lives! Speed Will Save This Nation! Speed Will Save Our Freedom! (General Motors, Oldsmobile Branch, 1942)
“Every man, woman and child is a partner” (Wartime Production Committee, 1942)

In reflecting the importance of industry to the war effort, Information and Intelligence Service did play a somewhat catalytic role. The most famous of these is a poster entitled “America’s Answer: Production” by Jean Kalou, a painter employed by the Information and Intelligence Service. Alternatively, some designers tried to take another approach, using a slightly more subtle expression to touch on the motivation of the workers; this common theme tended to emphasize that the front was just as important as the back: soldiers in front with weapons in their hands, workers in the back with tools in their hands, and the importance of production was immediately highlighted by the echo of both. Compared with the first, the second type of poster by the late war is no longer common, but some positive American elements in the late production posters can still appear repeatedly.

A corollary to the high rate of industrial production was a shortage of workers. By June 1940, there were more than 9 million jobless people in the United States, and this number instantly dropped to 4 million by the end of December 1941, when the total number of workers was estimated to be 51.6 million. However, this number was obviously not enough to meet the production needs of the entire country, because according to the Federal Security Administration, the number of workers was expected to reach at least 60.6 million by 1943. This shortfall of more than 9 million workers became a potential threat to American industry to break through the production bottleneck since early 1942.

This Guy Boasts: “I’ll make the peace in White House” Better Work To Win!  (Rogers Kelo Stilson Company, 1942)
It Can Happen Here (General Cable Company, 1942)
Production or Destruction (Hugh Stoffregen, 1942)
Munitions Production Index. Keep it Climbing!  (Wartime Production Committee, 1942)

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