War and Citizenship

| February 8, 2014

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Look at the war from the perspective of four important, and overlapping, groups of citizens: African-Americans, Japanese-Americans, workers, and women. Pick any two of these groups. ( I am picking Japanese-Americans and Women workers.
Using the primary sources and readings accompanying the relevant lessons, discuss (4-6 pages) the ways in which the war shaped the “citizenship” of each group. How did the war emergency serve to expand or contract the rights joined by different Americans.
• Erenberg and Hirsch: May essay, pp. 128-143 Hirsch essay, pp. 241-262
• John W Jeffries: Wartime America-The World War II Homefront Chapter 5, pp. 93-106
• Karen Anderson: Last Hired, First Fired: Black Women Workers during World War II
READING ASSIGNMENT: • Erenberg and Hirsch: Dower essay, pp. 169-201
• Jeffries: Chapter 6, pp. 120-142
• Roger Daniels: Incarceration of the Japanese Americans: A Sixty-Year Perspective
• Mikiso Hane: Wartime Internment
The last lesson suggested the implications and impact of the war for the long civil rights struggle. This lesson focuses on what is, in some respects, a topsy-turvy version of the same story. While the “war from democracy” sustained the logic and politics of civil rights for African-Americans, it also proved capable of sustaining stark limits on the citizenship rights of Japanese-Americans. In tracing this story, we look to pre-war patterns of anti-Asian sentiment, the single moment of Pearl Harbor, and the tortured logic of the internment debate. Early patterns of Asian-American emigration to the United States were uneven. Chinese-Americans arrived in the 19th century as railroad labor; Japanese-Americans came a little later, mostly as agricultural laborers. Fairly stringent restrictions (beginning with the Chinese Exclusion Act in the 1880s) followed and, by the early 20th century, Asian-American communities were essentially frozen and largely confined to the West Coast states—Chinese-Americans in cities, Japanese- Americans in small-scale agriculture and fishing. Both communities faced a welter of state and federal restrictions on citizenship and the right to own property. And anti-Asian sentiment was widespread. The war changed all of this. The Philippines, Korea, and China were important wartime allies; while Japan was vilified in the wake of Pearl Harbor. In many respects, the anti-Asian sentiments of the prewar era were sharply focused on the Japanese after 1941 [ SIDEBAR 5.1 “PRE-WAR PATTERNS”]. These feelings were hardened by the “treachery” of Pearl Harbor—indeed war-era popular and political culture was often animated by the prospect of avenging that attack [ SIDEBAR 5.2 “AVENGING PEARL HARBOR”]. In turn, the Pacific War was fought in openly racial terms: each side portrayed the other as either subhuman (apes or rats) or inhuman (merciless, immoral), and the terms of warfare (bombing civilians, treatment of POWs) were much harsher than in Europe. When the popular war correspondent Ernie Pyle was transferred to the Pacific in 1945, he wrote: "In Europe we felt that our enemies, as horrible and deadly as they were, were still people. But out here I soon gathered that the Japanese were looked upon as something subhuman and repulsive; the way some people feel about cockroaches or mice." Homefront appeals (war bonds, rationing, etc.) often explicitly linked wartime sacrifices to the war in the Pacific [ SIDEBAR 5.3 “YOUR ORE GOES JAP-HUNTING”]. The racial logic and rhetoric of the Pacific War had a domestic price: the decision to imprison more than 100,000 Japanese-Americans in “internment” camps. By any measure, the evacuation and internment rested on tenuous reasoning. It was difficult to see how large internment camps inland posed less of a security risk than private citizens along the west coast. First generation Japanese- Americans (the “Issei”) had been denied citizenship, and found that the fact that they were not American citizens held against them as an index of loyalty. And confidential government reports preceding and immediately following Pearl Harbor downplayed all of the immediate justifications (especially the threat of sabotage or treason) for the decision. But while military justifications were hard to come by, racial animosity and political pressures were increasing . . . even FBI director J. Edgar Hoover concluded the relocation rested on “hysteria and lack of judgment . . . [on] public and political pressure rather than factual data.” [ SIDEBAR 5.4 “THE INTERNMENT DECISION”] The evacuation began with notices of evacuation/registration. Most complied; those who refused to report were sent to prison. Stables or stockyards were used as collection centers; From here, internees were moved out on special trains to camps in Arizona, Colorado, Arkansas, Idaho, California, and Wyoming [ SIDEBAR 5.5 “LIFE IN THE CAMPS”]. Over time, the camps created the very disloyalty they were supposed to combat. In 1943, the government introduced a loyalty questionnaire and sought to draft young men from the camps into the armed forces. Many saw the opportunity to prove their loyalty — but faced discrimination and the injustice of having no home to return to but the relocation camps. Many responded bitterly to the audacity of a government that would imprisoned them on the assumption of disloyalty, and then expect them to enlist. And a few registered for the draft, and then used their draft status to challenge the relocation itself (and ended up in federal prison on conspiracy charges for their efforts). By the late war, domestic political considerations were all that remained of the logic of relocation. Having created the image of a monstrous race, it was hard to justify returning the internees to the west coast. When the camps were disbanded in early 1945, many had no place to go in which they could enjoy full property rights and feel secure from racial violence. Most returned to the west coast. Legal challenges to internment had been launched in 1942, and in 1944 and 1945 (a good primer on the legal and constitutional battle is the Korematsu case. But, until 1983, the policy was upheld by the Supreme Court.
Instructor’s Comments: This lesson picks up the story of economic mobilization, focusing our attention on labor relations in the war years. The sources linked to the lesson narrative explore the ways in which the war created both exceptional opportunities and exceptional constraints for workers and unions. Lesson Summary and Narrative: As we saw in the last two lessons, the war raised high expectations for “democracy” at home. Nowhere was this more evident than American workplaces, where the fledgling labor movement sought to use the war-era boom as an opportunity to build upon its recent gains. As we shall see however, the new bargaining clout enjoyed by workers and their unions was blunted by other war era concerns. One cannot appreciate the labor history of the war years without looking to the preceding decade. The labor movement was dramatically transformed during the Depression years. The economic crisis hit workers hard—pushing national unemployment as high as 25 percent and local unemployment in industrial cities much higher. The New Deal recognized the need for dramatic reform, to bring about recovery (workers, after all, were also consumers), to dampen unrest, and to bring some relief to working families. After experimenting with new labor provisions in early recovery legislation, the Roosevelt Administration finally passed the National Labor Relations Act (popularly known as the Wagner Act) in 1935. The Wagner Act
READING ASSIGNMENT: • Erenberg and Hirsch: Gerstle essay, pp. 105-127
• Jeffries: Chapter 2, pp. 23-26 Chapter 3, pp. 55-58
granted workers the right to join unions, to engage in collective bargaining with their employers, and to appeal to federal arbitration if they could not come to an agreement. Under the auspices of the new Congress of Industrial Organizations (which split from the older and more conservation American Federation of labor, workers successfully organized the automobile industry, the rubber industry, most of the steel industry, and large portions of other industries [ SIDEBAR 6.1 “LABOR IN THE 1930S”]. But, as war approached, the larger climate for labor relations was uncertain. The CIO’s impressive gains had not only dramatically increased union membership but also changed the face of the labor movement. Most workers now belonged to industrial unions (in which all workers in a plant or industry belonged to the union). The labor movement was now a local and national political force. Unions (which had long segregated or discriminated against black workers) were forced to confront issues of civil rights in their factories and communities. Small and Southern employees were digging in against further union gains. And the public was weary of labor unrest. Mobilization for war came amidst this chaos and uncertainty, and changed everything—especially as unemployment evaporated [ SIDEBAR 6.2 “MANPOWER”]. Faced with a wartime production and (eventually) the draft, employers found it tremendously difficult to find workers to fill the available jobs [ SIDEBAR 6.3 “THE LABOR SHORTAGE”]. This also meant that labor had unprecedented bargaining power. Having made impressive gains during a time of rampant unemployment, they could now demand dramatic wage increases. But, for a number of reasons, labor’s militancy and demands were constrained. The first issue was inflation. Rapid economic growth and spiraling government spending threatened to drive up prices. These anxieties pressed labor to moderates its wage demands [ SIDEBAR 6.4 “THE INFLATION SCARE”]. In turn, war-era demands by organized labor—especially if they were accompanied by strikes—were easily portrayed (by employers and by the government) as unpatriotic [ SIDEBAR 6.5 “LABOR AT WAR”]. This left labor in a difficult position: it had unprecedented bargaining power in a booming economy; but it couldn’t ask for much, or use strikes to back their demands [ SIDEBAR 6.6 “CITIZEN CIO”]. With wages suppressed, strikes abandoned, and new union membership, labor looked to two issues: some wage-adjustment for wartime work, and a return to the central issue of the late 1930s: union security. These concerns dovetailed with those of the National War Labor Board which saw its role as facilitating stable production, stemming wage inflation, avoiding wartimes strikes, and arbitrating any disputes in “essential” industries. The NWLB encouraged industry-wide agreements, fringe benefits as an alternative to wages, and arbitration — all foundations of postwar labor politics. All of this was captured in the core decision of the wartime labor law — the “Little Steel” case of 1942 [ SIDEBAR 6.7 “LITTLE STEEL, BIG COMPROMISE”]. One of the unintended consequences of wartime wage controls was the proliferation of other forms of compensation, including life insurance plans, paid vacations, and the origins of the American system of employment-based health insurance. Rooting health provision in the workplace was in keeping with the larger war-era interest in private enterprise as an alternative to “statist” solutions, and it was a strategy encouraged by tax laws (which allowed employers to deduct the cost of health plans). This was a development that would have far greater importance after the war—as employers and unions bargained over health coverage, the cost of health care rose, and sustaining the system of job-based benefits became the core (and uniquely American) principle of numerous episodes in health reform [ SIDEBAR 6.8 “WAR AND WELFARE”]. Labor and management faced the postwar era with starkly different expectations: Labor wanted to take the lid off, to exercise its new rights without wartime restrictions; to build upon the wartime partnership. Employers wanted to retreat from the basic wartime accord; just as they had argued that New Deal labor law should be abandoned with the end of the Depression, they now argued that their wartime concessions could be abandoned as well. And both wanted to use federal regulation to their advantage: labor saw the state as a protector of labor’s rights; employers as a guardian of “order.” Labor lost this fight for a number of reasons, but in large part because wartime constraints persisted. Inflation remained a postwar concern. And the patriotic fervor of the war continued into the Cold War years. Union leaders who were seen as selfish and unpatriotic in the war years, were now seen as treasonous [ SIDEBAR 6.9 “LABOR AND RECONVERSION”]. Most expected labor to take a leading role in American politics after 1945. Union membership had grown to almost 6 million during the war. Unions represented 35 percent of all workers and almost all workers in the core industries. This new power encouraged unions to press for substantial wage increases, a commitment to full employment, and a voice in postwar politics.
On all counts labor would disappointed. Union leaders had overestimated the willingness of business to work with them in the postwar period. Instead of further accommodation with labor, business was leaning towards the panacea of "growth" as a solution to their labor problems.
• Erenberg and Hirsch: May essay, pp. 128-143 Hirsch essay, pp. 241-262
• Jeffries: Chapter 5, pp. 93-106
• Karen Anderson: Last Hired, First Fired: Black Women Workers during World War II
The war wrought immense changes for women; in private lives, in social expectations, and in their relationship to the state. We will look at these changes more broadly in the next lesson. In the discussions which follows, we focus on women’s the experience in the workplace. Just as the war created new opportunities and constraints for the labor movement, it also created new opportunities and constraints for women workers. While women’s labor force participation increased dramatically during the war, assumptions about the propriety of women working did not. As we shall see, even as the war effort recruited women it also portrayed their wartime contributions as exceptional and patriotic. In the early 20th century, about 40 percent of single women and 5 percent of married women worked for wages. These numbers would increase steadily, driven by changes in the industrial economy and in the domestic economy (including a falling birthrate and the decline of male wages). At the same time, women’s work was shaped by pervasive discrimination. Women earned about half of what men earned, on the assumption that men needed a “family wage" (sufficient to support themselves and their families) and women did not. Employers and others assumes that work was a distraction on the way to caring for a husband and children. World War I shook this pattern, although women did not (as they would in the 1940s) leave their homes in droves to work in factories. Through 1914-1918, women already in the labor force simply found better jobs at better wages. — but the war did alter prewar patterns of women’s work (skill, industry, race). Women’s labor force participation continued to rise during the 1920s as the demands and expectations of the consumer boom often made it necessary or desirable for women to work. During the Depression, the older patterns and assumptions hardened to a conviction that every employed women was taking a man’s job—although women continued to move into the labor market in order to help their families through the economic crisis. As the country mobilized for World War II, women’s place in the labor force was shaped by contradictory forces: on one hand, women (as they always had) proved willing and able to move into the labor force according to economic and familial demands; on the other, older assumptions that women did not belong in the labor force had been reinforced by the Depression. [ SIDEBAR 7.1 “PATTERNS OF WOMEN’S WORK”] During the initial buildup (1938-1941), new jobs went overwhelmingly to men. Only after Pearl Harbor and the drafting of many male workers did women began to enjoy the fruits of mobilization. Government and employer policies reflected the labor shortage, and extended (in exceptional cases) as far as on-site daycare and higher wages. The importance of recruiting women is captured in contemporary government pamphlets [ SIDEBAR 7.2 “CHOOSING WOMEN FOR WAR INDUSTRY JOBS”]. One of the immediate consequences of the dramatic increase in women’s work was in the labor movement. Female union membership had tripled (to 800,000) as a result of CIO efforts in the 1930s, but—on the eve of the war—unions represented only one in 15 women workers (compared to almost one in four male workers). And unions had a mixed record on women’s issues, often accepting sex-segregated pay scales and echoing larger social assumptions that work was a male domain. Many male-dominated unions resented the influx of women workers, felling that they would drive down union wages and take men’s jobs. Women moved into the labor force for a variety of reasons. Many, of course, simply sought economic opportunity for themselves and their families in a booming economy. Some responded to patriotic appeals. The campaign to recruit female labor is captured by the "Rosie the Riveter" imagery, which often celebrated of "woman power" at home and "manpower" abroad [ SIDEBAR 7.3 “RECRUITING WOMEN”]. Wartime images celebrated women’s work and contribution in such a way as to render it an exceptional, temporary, or sacrificial extension of true domestic duties. This was accomplished, in part, by the prevalence of domestic images in war recruitment, often equating war work with domestic tasks [ SIDEBAR 7.4 “DOMESTIC TASKS”]. Recruiting appeals often took extensive notice of the women’s different abilities or lack of experience, and advised employers on a range of strategies for accommodating women workers [ SIDEBAR 7.5 “HIRING WOMEN”]. And informational guides for employers often left little doubt as to how awkward it would be to accommodate women in the workplace [ SIDEBAR 7.6 “SUPERVISING WOMEN”]. Another common tactic was to exaggerate and emphasize the entrance of women into “unusual” occupation—evident in much of the famous “Rosie the Riveter” imagery. These appeals exaggerated the extent to which women were taking male jobs and suggested—right down to the baggy overalls –that women are out of place. Women hired to drive busses in the Washington DC transit system, to cite one example, were even required to wear badges declaring “I am taking the place of a man who went to war.” [ SIDEBAR 7.7 “RIVETERS AND WELDERS”] As women moved into war work, many were anxious that this not compromise their domestic nature or roles. Rather than challenging these assumptions, the war adapted them to extraordinary circumstances. Nowhere was this more evident than in private advertising—which proved eager and capable to combine its older assumptions with wartime conditions. This came across in a variety of ways—including the sexual or glamorous depiction of war workers [ SIDEBAR 7.8 “BEAUTY IS YOUR DUTY”]; a persistent emphasis on wartime sacrifice; and a fascination with women’s private or maternal obligations [ SIDEBAR 7.9 “A WEDDING DRESS TOMORROW?”]. The same images which encouraged women into war work were also used to ease them out. The central idea was women’s war work was temporary and exceptional, akin to male service overseas and also subject to “demobilization” when the war ended [ SIDEBAR 7.10 “POSTWAR PLANS”]. Despite the fact that full three-quarters of women workers wanted to remain, the popular press portrayed the ideal and representative woman quite differently. As the Ladies Home Journal editorialized: “If the American woman can find a man she wants to marry, who can support her, a job fades into insignificance beside the vital business of staying at home and raising a family — three children is the ideal number, she thinks.” In the end, wartime gains were negligible. The social and cultural suspicion of women who simply wanted to work (but did not necessarily need to) was as strong as ever [ SIDEBAR 7.11 “FATHER KNOWS BEST”]. Employment patterns in 1946 showed little change, and women were laid off at twice the rate of men.
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