Barons of Labor: The San Francisco Building Trades and Union Power in the Progressive Era

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From the depression of the 1890s through World War I, construction tradesman held an important place in San Francisco's economic, political, and social life. Michael Kazin's award-winning study delves into how the city's Building Trades Council (BTC) created, accumulated, used, and lost their power. He traces the rise of the BTC into a force that helped govern San Francisco, controlled its potential progress, and articulated an ideology that made sense of the changes sweeping the West and the country. Believing themselves the equals of officeholders and corporate managers, these working and retired craftsmen pursued and protected their own power while challenging conservatives and urban elites for the right to govern. What emerges is a long-overdue look at building trades as a force in labor history within the dramatic story of how the city's 25,000 building workers exercised power on the job site and within the halls of government, until the forces of reaction all but destroyed the BTC. Winner of the Herbert G. Gutman Award

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University of Illinois Press
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