Recognized between 1880 and 1910 by its trademark label "Iowa's Pride," John Morrell and Company is best known for contributing one of the most important local unions to the progressive United Packinghouse Workers of America. During the 1930s and 1940s, its members pursued a militant brand of unionism. By the early 1950s, the local's militancy became a source of contention among the membership. By explaining the effect of Morrell-Ottumwa's union leaders on local and state Democratic politics, especially in the development of the Congress of Industrial Organizations' Iowa State Industrial Union Council and the AFL-CIO's Iowa Federation of Labor, Wilson Warren makes an important contribution to the literature on labor's involvement in the Democratic party's ascendancy across much of the industrial North following World War II.
This history of Ottumwa's meatpacking workers provides insights into the development of several forms of labor relations, including the evangelical Christian paternalism, welfare capitalism, and unionism that were distinctive to one blue-collar community but that also reflected workers' experiences in many other rural midwestern industrial communities. By carefully analyzing all relevant labor and industrial sources and by revealing the deeply held aspirations and concerns expressed by both workers and managers, Warren constructs a window through which Iowa's industrial and labor history over the past 120 years can be viewed.