- Givens, Richard Ayres. “The Milwaukee Brewery Strike of 1953”; 1954.
Notes: M.S. thesis, University of Wisconsin, 1954. 64 leaves. The first half (p. 1-33) of this thesis details the story of the strike by the brewery workers at six Milwaukee, Wisconsin breweries from May 14 to July 28, 1953. The breweries involved in the strike were the Schlitz, Pabst, Miller, Blatz, Gettelman, and Independent (Braumeister) breweries and the employees on strike were represented by the Congress of Industrial Organization’s United Brewery Workers Union Local 9. Givens was able to interview several key management and union people involved with the strike, including Local 9’s corresponding secretary, John Schmitt, who went on to be elected president of the Wisconsin AFL-CIO in 1966.
Major issues of contention in the contract negotiations were increased wages and reducing to thirty-five the hours of the work week. For a long time the employees at breweries located in the Midwest had been being paid less favorable wages than employees of breweries located on the eastern and western coasts of the United States, with the brewery owners maintaining that those lower wages insured that breweries would continue to be concentrated in the Midwest. With the threat in the near future of an economic recession, union leadership was increasingly worried about loss of jobs due not only to the annual seasonal fluctuations, but also due to the possibility of future permanent workforce reductions caused by trends in the brewing industry. Givens uses most of the second half (p. 34-55) of the thesis to discuss how economic trends within the brewing industry affected this 1953 labor dispute, especially the factors of increasing productivity due to improvements in labor-saving machinery, the concentration of production among large firms through acquisition of smaller firms, and the decentralization of those large firms through construction of geographically-distributed branch plants.