“What Organized Labor Expects of Management”; “What Management Expects of Organized Labor”


George Meany
Courtesy of Library of Congress

The relationship between management and labor seems to have always been a contentious one, with each side often complaining that the other side is being unfair or unresponsive. Numerous instances of violence have erupted in these conflicts. A more subdued debate was held in 1955 at the Congress of American Industry in New York, when George Meany, president of the AFL-CIO, delivered an address titled “What Organized Labor Expects of Management.” National Association of Manufacturers board chairman Charles R. Sligh, Jr., countered with an address of his own titled “What Management Expects of Organized Labor.”

While the debate was not acrimonious, neither did it seem to bridge many differences between the two sides. Meany denied much of the criticism that had been lodged against the AFL-CIO, particularly that the union was a monopoly and that it ordered strikes; at the same time, he urged close cooperation between the unions and management in labor issues, and asserted that both should work together to prevent communists from becoming a factor in American labor. Sligh argued that there was “no natural antipathy between the interests of labor and management” in the U.S., but did call on unions to recognize the right of people to join or not join a union; stated that the market determines prices, jobs, and wages; and requested that unions make good faith attempts at the bargaining table.

What Labor-Management Expects.pdf

Labor - Management speeches
Courtesy of ACUA

Whatever their desire to avoid acrimony, Meany and Sligh still showed the tensions and gap in trust between the two sides of the industrial coin, something that would not continue unabated into the foreseeable future.



1. Did the two speeches seem to be written in good faith?

2. What reason would the National Association of Manufacturers have for publishing this pamphlet?