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These and other decisions elicited immediate protests from the corporate community, but the NLRB majority dismissed these outcries as the usual overstatements by ultraconservatives. They did so based on the false assumption, widely shared at the time in liberal and academic circles, that the biggest and most reasonable corporations had come to accept collective bargaining as a stabilizing influence, especially when they could raise prices after a contract settlement to levels that more than compensated for the higher wages and benefits they had to pay. But these decisions were nothing to the corporate community compared to National Labor Relations Board rulings in 1963 and 1964 that took the conflict to a new level, which represented a distinctly greater threat to the corporate community. Although the issues were barely worthy of media attention in the context of the rising civil rights movement, they provided new openings for organized labor to take part in management decisions, including such volatile issues as the removal of some in-plant functions to other companies ("outsourcing"), the closure of whole factories, and the movement of factories to new locations. In the eyes of all members of the corporate community, the labor board's decisions on these issues were a challenge to their "right to manage," a phrase that had been invoked since the 1940s to indicate that a sacrosanct line had been crossed (Harris 1982).
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Despite its complaints about the labor board, the AFL nonetheless was growing in the late 1930s in regulated industries, such as railroads and trucking, where both owners and workers could benefit from the higher prices made possible by government oversight (Nelson 2001). Construction unions also grew in late 1939 and 1940 when the economy revived, due to good part to the rise in defense spending. In addition, the AFL made gains in service industries. By 1941 the AFL had almost twice as many members as the CIO, a fact that was masked at the time by the CIO's inflated membership claims (Bernstein 1969, p. 774). Furthermore, its 106 affiliates were in a far wider range of business sectors than the 41 CIO unions, which were concentrated in mining and manufacturing, with its mining, automobile, steel, electrical, clothing, and textile unions accounting for 71% of its membership.