Sally, Ted (drawings). Labor Day Sketch Book 1947. Los Angeles CIO Council. Unpaginated (ca. 32 pp.) presentation of proposed designs, drawn by Sally, for floats, banners, costumes, and other accoutrements for a union-oriented progressive Labor Day parade. Oblong large 4to. Orig. printed wrpps. Los Angeles (CIO Council) 1947. (47538)
In the spring of 1947, The Congress of Industrial Organizations was cautiously optimistic. The end of the war meant that industrial labor was no longer bound to its no-strike pledge, and the U.S. Congress had not yet passed the Taft-Hartley act. By mid-summer, however, the picture had changed. Republicans in Congress had managed to vote in the restrictive legislation which promised to hamper the unions’ legal right to strike and prohibit socialists from holding positions of leadership in labor organizations. In response, the Los Angeles Council of the CIO planned an ambitious Labor Day parade to celebrate the organization’s achievements on behalf of white and black working men, and to warn against the lurking dangers of unchecked corporate greed. In advance of the parade, the Council hired cartoonist Ted Sally to sketch several dozen dramatic parade floats, banners and costumes designed to showcase the broad social benefits of collective bargaining.
Sally’s Labor Day Sketch Book, with texts by CIO secretary Philip M. Connelly, celebrates an heroic vision of postwar labor unions. Developed around a central theme of “the CIO Fights for a People’s Program,” the 19 floats sketched by Sally demonstrated the organization’s stance concerning popular issues of the day, from war to affordable housing and racial harmony.
Sally’s designs for the floats used simple but effective props to illustrate labor’s demands of industry. Chief among them was that managers and owners should be asked to share a larger stake of record breaking wartime profits with the workers whose efforts achieved them.
They also pointed to the benefits of sustained full employment for the national economy as a whole.
This ingenious float employed a circulating roster of community members with whom workers would go on to share their wages in exchange for goods and services, including grocers, doctors, landlords and others.
In contrast, the CIO suggested, high unemployment would lead to social decay and economic depression…
…necessitating soup kitchens and bread lines for the poor and struggling.
Sally and the CIO leadership also contrasted the impacts of high quality, affordable housing with the squalor of tenement slums.
The CIO painted the Taft-Hartley Act as a devilish cataclysm organized by “monopoly’s stooges” to ransom the globe for unchecked profits and corporate greed.
Despite the perils of Taft-Hartley, the CIO promised to continue fighting on workers’ behalf.
Though photographic records suggest that the complicated choreography of dramatic floats proposed by Connelly and Sally didn’t materialize, the Los Angeles CIO did host an impressive Labor Day parade in 1947. But Taft-Hartley was effective in muzzling the power of collective bargaining and intimidating unions. The red scares of the 1950s further diminished the social standings of organized labor, and overseas manufacturing opportunities gave corporations a stronger hand at the negotiating table.
In 1955, the CIO merged with the American Federation of Labor to form the AFL-CIO, which remains the largest bloc of union power in the United States to this day.
F.A. Bernett is pleased to offer this fascinating document of 20th century labor history.