The CIO Challenge to the AFL: A History of the American Labor Movement, 1935-1941

By Walter Galenson | Go to book overview
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Author's Preface

The period covered by this study, from the formation of the CIO to the entrance of the United States into the second World War, was one of the most significant in the history of the American labor movement. Within the brief span of six years, American workers in the basic industrial sector of the nation witnessed the transformation of their bargaining organizations from relatively impotent bodies into equal partners in the industrial relations system. It is no exaggeration to say that there was a fundamental, almost revolutionary change in the power relationships of American society. Few episodes in our history have been as dramatic as the upward thrust of American labor, suddenly breaking the bonds of constraint which had checked it for half a century.

The plan of the work is simple. There is an introductory chapter which deals with the establishment of the CIO and the history of its tortuous peace negotiations with the AFL. There then follows a number of chapters on the development of unionism in particular industries. The final section is concerned with substantive issues common to the entire labor movement.

Slicing history into chronological segments is not without its difficulties. The stories of specific industries or unions do not always begin and end at just the right time. It was sometimes necessary to start in the middle of an episode, or to end on an inconclusive note. This problem proved less serious for the newly formed CIO unions than for the older AFL organizations. But even for the latter, I tried to focus on the central problems that faced the organizations, in order to keep the narrative from hanging in mid-air.

During the four years of accumulating the data that have gone into this volume, I incurred a heavy indebtedness to the many people who were generous enough to give me the benefit of their advice and assistance. Among those who read and commented upon portions of the manuscript were Arthur J. Goldberg of Goldberg, Feller and Bredhoff; Meyer Bernstein and Otis Brubaker of the United Steelworkers of America; Nat Weinberg and Frank Winn of the United Automobile, Aircraft and Agricultural Implement Workers; Professor Vernon H. Jensen of the New York State School of Industrial and Labor Relations; President L. S. Buckmaster of the United

-xvii-

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