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The development of cost-of-living escalators in the United States

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The development of cost-of-living escalators in the United States

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Negotiations over wages have always been a central part of industrial relations in capitalist economies. The unstable value of money in the 19th and 20th centuries has made these negotiations both crucial and complex. Linking contemporary understandings of monetary values to wage bargaining provides an important historical background for a better understanding of real wage developments and the agency of workers. Adopting a comparative perspective, this paper discusses how managers and workers dealt with changing monetary values in Germany and the United States from the 1870s to the immediate aftermath of the First World War. The paper also discusses the extent to which actors understood the instability of their respective currencies’ purchasing power and whether their perceptions changed over time. The paper reveals that negotiations were never exclusively shaped and guided by concepts such as inflation or the ‘cost of living’ in both countries but that the importance of the concepts changed with the level of price fluctuations and institutional setting. Indices could achieve a dominant role only in exceptional circumstances due to their artificial and contestable nature, their neglect of the complexity of workers’ job contexts and living environments, and their normative implications concerning wage demands.
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This article examines how changing legal institutions have structured workers' collective decision to strike. It uses both qualitative legal-historical analysis and quantitative time-series regression to examine how major changes in labor law in the late 1930s altered workers' willingness and opportunity to strike. Previous research has assumed that important change in workplace relations occurred in the late 1940s. The present work relocates that change to the late 1930s with a number of important implications. In particular, this study shows that the federal government, both its legislative and judicial branches, was an important shaper of workplace relations. State legal policy regulating labor militancy prior to the late 1930s is labeled “repressive intervention” while the state's intervention after the New Deal is defined as “integrative prevention.”
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The behavior of real wages has complicated macroeconomic policy in the industrialized world during the 1970s. Many commentators have discussed the extraordinary increase in wage inflation in Europe and Japan at the end of the last decade. Few have noted that the nominal wage gains resulted in remarkable increased in real wages. The five large economies outside North America in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) had rapid growth of real hourly compensation in 1969-73, along with high rates of increase of nominal compensation. In most large OECD economies, real wages in the late 1960s grew faster than productivity, so that the distribution of income shifted toward labor, while the rate of return on capital was substantially reduced.
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In recent years, the American industrial relations system has undergone considerable stress. One byproduct of a stressful period is that old ways of conducting industrial relations are being increasingly questioned. The fact that questions are raised, however, does not necessarily mean that the climate for change is receptive to all suggestions. In this paper we provide evidence that the management community would strongly oppose recent suggestions for the abandonment of long-term collective bargaining contracts.
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Arguments that 1982 marked a turning point in union wage determination are overstated. While dramatic wage and other concessions were made during the 1982 collective-bargaining round — wage freezes were the most common type of concession, but absolute cuts were made in some wage levels — cuts and freezes touched only a small proportion of the contracts negotiated, and concession contracts themselves preserved the principles ofmultiyear duration and cost-of-living escalation. Some of the income security arrangements conceded by management in exchange for wage cuts or freezes will endure, and gain sharing could become a significant factor in wage determination if it is continued and becomes more widespread.
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No Matter which authority we consult on the English Poor Laws in the nineteenth century the same conclusion emerge: the Old Poor Law demoralized the working class, promotedd population growth, lowered wasges, reduced rents, destroyed yeomanry, and compounded the burden on retepayes; the poverty which it relieved; the problem of devising an efficeient public relief system was finally solved with the passaage of the“harsh but salutry” Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834. So Unanimous are both the indictment and the verdit of historians on this question that we may forego the pleasure of citing “chapter and verse.”
The Use of Cost-of-Living Figures in Wage Adjustment The Arbitral Determination of Railway Wages
  • B Carr
11Elma B. Carr, "The Use of Cost-of-Living Figures in Wage Adjustment," issued by the U.S., Bureau of Labor Statistics, Bulletin No. 369 (Washington, DC., 1925), 129-155, 229-233, 242, 259; Joseph Noble Stockett, The Arbitral Determination of Railway Wages (Boston, 1918), 77-128;