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Disruption in DetroitAutoworkers and the Elusive Postwar Boom$
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Daniel J Clark

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780252042010

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.5622/illinois/9780252042010.001.0001

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The Era of “The Treaty of Detroit,” 1949–1950

The Era of “The Treaty of Detroit,” 1949–1950

(p.35) 2 The Era of “The Treaty of Detroit,” 1949–1950
Disruption in Detroit

Daniel J. Clark

University of Illinois Press

The 1950 GM-UAW contract, called "The Treaty of Detroit" by Fortune magazine, dominates accounts of postwar U.S. labor history because it seemed to ensure steady employment, increasing wages, and improved benefits, like pensions, for autoworkers. But the Treaty of Detroit and comparable contracts with Chrysler and Ford were efforts to achieve some semblance of stability and predictability in a volatile industry, not the confirmation and continued promise of the postwar boom. The contracts were signed after a year of national recession, marked by intensifying competition in the auto industry, with production speedups and strikes, new efforts at automation (the replacement of jobs with machinery), national coal and steel strikes, and chronic layoffs for autoworkers. The Korean War led to further instability.

Keywords:   postwar boom, Treaty of Detroit, Detroit, UAW, autoworkers, automation, layoffs, speedups, pensions, Korean War

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