George W. Taylor papers
Held at: University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts [Contact Us]3420 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6206
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George W. Taylor (1901-1972) was born and died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He attended the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School where he earned his Bachelor's degree in 1921 and Ph.D in 1929. Dr. Taylor was married to Edith Ayling in 1924. He became a professor at Wharton and remained so for over 30 years. During that time, he became an influential expert in the field of industrial relations, including arbitration, mediation, and alternative dispute resolution with an extensive commitment to public service as seen in his positions on the National War Labor Board, the President's Labor-Management Conference, the Office of War Mobilization and Reconversion, and the Wage Stabilization Board, among others.
For a detailed description of his professional activities, please see the following tribute by Eleanor Allen.
"On January 22, 1964, Professor George W. Taylor relinquished the Chairmanship of the Department of Industry and was named Gaylord P. and Mary Louise Harnwell Professor of Industry capping an academic career at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania which began after his graduation from Philadelphia's Frankford High School in 1919. Despite Professor Taylor's numerous national and international honors, received both before and since 1964, to those who knew and loved him it was obvious that he believed his new academic appointment to rank with the most significant honors among all of those he had received in his very full and constructive life.
Dr. Taylor passed away on December 16, 1972 in his second year of retirement from the great university which he loved and with which he had been associated since 1919 as a student and faculty member. Even with his retirement, he kept fully active in University affairs as advisor to President Martin Meyerson, to Dean Donald C. Carroll, to the Trustees and to the Development Office. He loved Pennsylvania very deeply and acknowledged it repeatedly as the main direction of his life. Despite the constant demands placed up on him by U.S. Presidents, Governors, Labor and Management, Dr. Taylor returned to the University after each emergency to refresh his intellectual spirit with student and faculty contact. He was a great teacher, both at the University and in government administration. His interest in younger persons with great intellectual promise produced some of the most outstanding individuals in the United States; among them Secretary of Treasury George Shultz, former Secretary of Labor Willard Wirtz, Harvard Dean John Dunlop, former Federal Mediation and Conciliation Commissioners William Simkin and David Cole, Wisconsin Law Professor Nathan Feinsinger, Arbitrator Ted Kheel and Presidential Advisor Ralph Seward and a host of other great names in American life.
George Taylor grew up in a textile environment in the Kensington section of Philadelphia. This interest in textiles, apparel and hosiery led him to his early researches in hosiery at the Industrial Research Department of the Wharton School. After receiving his Ph.D. from Pennsylvania in 1929, the publication of his thesis on economic concerns in the hosiery industry led to his eventual appointment as the arbitrator for that industry. By 1940 Professor Taylor's leadership in this field was acknowledged throughout the United States, and he had been appointed the impartial chairman of contracts in hosiery, clothing, dresses and textiles between three hundred employers and tens of thousands of workers covered by industry labor-management contracts. Under these agreements, strikes and lockouts during the period of the contract were virtually eliminated since the parties agreed to submit their differences to Dr. Taylor for arbitration.
By 1940 Professor Taylor had settled 1,400 labor controversies in these industries without a strike. Despite the fact that "wildcat" strikes or unauthorized walkouts had occurred with frequency in prior years in the same industries, Professor Taylor helped to formulate a new "common law" in the field of voluntary arbitration in the years 1929 and 1940. Without resort to costly court action, disputes could now be settled on a basis of both reason and informality. Industrial justice became quickly expedited and labor-management leaders began to study the consistency of these decisions. A year before Dr. Taylor's passing, these historic decisions were given to the University of Pennsylvania Law School for annotation and study. Dr. Taylor provided a new rationalization in the labor-management relations based upon the use of facts and logic as well as required "due process" which permitted genuine collective bargaining and not as he once said, "collective arguing." Phase I of the Taylor impact on American Labor Relations profession was, therefore, his singular contribution in the field of grievance arbitration. In 1941 he was appointed impartial chairman in the General Motors and the United Auto Workers contract. Thus, he further extended his leadership to America's basic industries. Today one finds that over 90% of all labor agreements provide impartial and binding arbitration as the last step of the grievance procedure.
Phase II of Dr. Taylor's service to the nation and to the field of labor relations resulted from his selfless service to five successive Presidents of the United States: Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson.
During World War II, he took a leave of absence from Wharton and served as Vice-Chairman and then Chairman of the War Labor Relations Board under President Roosevelt. Dedicating himself to labor peace in war time and driving himself to work with a tri-partite board, he soon became a public figure. During this period, he became very famous for promulgating the "Little Steel Formula" and the development of various wage criteria which permitted modest increases under stabilization. Such concepts as the cost of living increase, the productivity increase, wage adjustments consonant with the market, etc. became the bargaining criteria for the future and the text book materials for the new courses in labor relations. An important part of Phase II of the Taylor public career was the training of today's most renowned figures in government, academics and labor relations. Such leaders as Shultz, Dunlop and Wirtz always acknowledged and appreciated the training and inspiration received from Professor Taylor. They in turn developed younger specialists in the labor-management profession. All of them have inherited something of the George W. Taylor wisdom and philosophy. It is difficult in other professions to find an equal influence on the part of only one man.
At the end of World War II, Dr. Taylor became chairman of the Advisory Board of the Office of War Mobilization and Reconversion and consultant to former President Herbert Hoover in his Commission on Reorganization of the Executive Brach of the Government.
At the start of the Korean War, President Harry S. Truman named him chairman of the National Wage Stabilization Board. In 1959 President Dwight D. Eisenhower appointed Dr. Taylor chairman of the Board of Inquiry for the 1959 steel strike. In 1962 Dr. Taylor was named by President Kennedy to be a member of the President's Advisory Committee on Labor-management policy.
As an aftermath of the 1959 Steel Strike, in a search for new solutions to major strikes, Dr. Taylor was named chairman of a tri-partite committee which drafted the "Kaiser Plan" forming the basis of the Kaiser Steel Company's labor contract. The Plan is now considered a landmark in industrial solutions to the problems of automation and the need for group incentives.
Phase III of the Taylor influence on labor relations developed in the public sector. When first named by President Kennedy as a member of the Advisory Committee on Labor-Management policy, Dr. Taylor confided to his colleagues his fear that the strike which he considered as an acceptable part of industrial bargaining strategy was not equally acceptable when it involved government and the public. This concern stemmed from his early observations of electricians and other craftsmen who were about ready to strike at Cape Canaveral thus interfering with the United States Space and Defense Programs. This public sector concern carried over from the federal government level to emerging labor-management negotiations at the state and local levels.
In the early sixties he headed a committee of Inquiry in New York City to determine the applicability of the industrial model of collective bargaining to school teachers in New York City. His report recommended specific procedures for recognition and unit determination and parallel procedures to those developed under the Wagner Act.
In 1966 he accepted an invitation from Governor Rockefeller of New York to head a five man panel to study the state's Condon-Wadlin law which then, in a limited way, governed labor relations for state and local employees. He presented recommendations which resulted in the passage of a comprehensive new law named in his honor. Incidentally, this law represents the later Taylor philosophy about public sector bargaining; namely that fact finding and mediation machinery as well as voluntary arbitration should be set up in the state's machinery so as to avoid strike issues. The Taylor Law did, in fact, bar strikes by public employees and is considered a model law by labor experts.
In 1963 he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom awarded to him by President Kennedy but given personally by President Johnson. One year prior he had been honored by his fellow Philadelphians as the recipient of the 40th Philadelphia award, an award established in 1921 by Edward Bok to honor each year's outstanding Philadelphian. At the ceremony bestowing the award, U.S. Labor Secretary Willard Wirtz stated, "Had it not been for George W. Taylor, collective bargaining in its present form might not have been developed… He was the center of a group of men who made collective bargaining develop and thrive."
In 1966 he received the Governor's award as one of the Commonwealth's eight most distinguished Pennsylvanians. At the 1971 Commencement of the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Taylor received the Honorary degree of Doctor of Laws.
In his classes in recent years, Professor Taylor attempted to satisfy his students with answers to their question: How can the lessons of collective bargaining be applied to the problems of society? He would reply, "the essence of collective bargaining is the use of a system of due process tied in to the realization by the parties that there must be a 'consent to lose.'" His straight talks to students and his ready ability to communicate with them made him one of the most sought-after campus lecturers right up to the day of his retirement. After retirement he returned several times to lecture in multi-section classes and to speak to student groups.
With all of the pressures on Professor Taylor for service to his university and his nation, he still managed to preside over many national professional associations, wrote several important books and over one hundred articles. He served as President of the Industrial Relations Association of the United States and was an honored member of the American Philosophical Society.
This account of Dr. Taylor's illustrious life, his service to his university, to his country, state and city would not be complete without a word about his wonderful wife, Edith, who survives him. They met at Frankford High School and were happily married for more than fifty years. For a long time, Dr. Taylor attempted to limit his involvement with major labor disputes so that he could devote all his time to his two great loves, teaching and his beloved wife. On at least one occasion when Mrs. Taylor was ill, a President of the United States had to call her in the hospital to apologize for requesting Dr. Taylor's attention to a nation-wide emergency. Mrs. Taylor understood the pressures on her husband and was always with him to lighten his burdens. She also understood his love for his university and the academic life and was herself inextricably bound to the University by her many faculty friendships.
Dr. Taylor was a giant on the national scene and in the councils of his university—but he always spoke softly and with humility and exhibited at all times a persuasive sense of humor. He will be missed sorely by his family, his colleagues, former students and his many professional admirers throughout the nation."
The University of Pennsylvania received the collection of George W. Taylor's papers from his wife after his death in 1972. The collection represents Professor Taylor's lengthy and substantive career in the area of labor-management policy development and negotiation. The papers are mostly comprised of materials relating to the many cases in which he served as a board member, arbitrator or adviser. The numerous letters of commendations, photographs, awards and other praise are preserved here as well. Very little in this collection relates to his equally long and important career as a professor at Wharton.
This collection contains no series and is arranged by alphabetical order of the cases and other files which Professor Taylor found of interest. The original file names and file organization provided by Professor Taylor have largely been retained. Certain cases and areas of service represent large portions of the collection, such as the Kaiser Steel files or the President's Advisory Committee on Labor Management Policy.
Professor Taylor held influential positions under several Presidents and the collection includes letters from Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Nixon, Kennedy and Johnson. Additional letters of appreciation from high ranking government officials (including several Secretaries of Commerce) and other expressions of gratitude such as awards are present as well, reflecting his impact not only at the national level but the state and city level. The press associated with both his work and his commendations is present throughout the collection.
The files relating to cases generally (but not always) contain correspondence, newspaper clippings, related publications, agreements, opinions, filings and similar legal documents.
Gift of George W. Taylor, 1970.
- University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
- Finding Aid Author
- Clémence Scouten
- Finding Aid Date
- 2016 October 27
- Access Restrictions
This collection is open for research use.
- Use Restrictions
Copyright restrictions may exist. For most library holdings, the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania do not hold copyright. It is the responsibility of the requester to seek permission from the holder of the copyright to reproduce material from the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts.