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

By Walter Galenson | Go to book overview

2
The Organization of Steel

If there is any single series of events in the labor history of this period which may be characterized as of momentous import, it is the organization of the steel industry. After a crushing defeat by the United States Steel Corporation in 1901, the Amalgamated Association of Iron, Steel, and Tin Workers of North America had eked out a precarious and meager existence. Unsuccessful organizing campaigns in 1919-1920 and 1933 left the Amalgamated, at the time of the organization of the CIO, a shell of an organization. Average membership in 1935 was only 9869. During that year, 84 local lodges were disbanded, and only four new ones established. Organizational work was at a standstill; not a single national organizer was in the field. 1 Yet by March 1937, the United States Steel Corporation, long a symbol of anti-unionism, had signed a collective contract with an outside union, an action that had repercussions throughout American industry. The first part of the present chapter will deal in some detail with the events that culminated in this agreement. Then we shall consider the refusal of Little Steel to follow the lead of the Steel Corporation, and the years of struggle which led finally to the organization of the entire industry.


The Capture of the Amalgamated by the CIO

The 1934 convention of the AFL had directed the Executive Council "at the earliest practical date [to] inaugurate, manage, promote and conduct a campaign of organization in the iron and steel industry." 2 When it came to implementation of this mandate, however, serious differences of opinion on appropriate procedure were manifest among the Executive Council members. In January 1935, William Green asked M. F. Tighe, president of the Amalgamated Association, to draw up a plan of organization for consideration by the Executive Council. In his reply, Tighe stated that a minimum of $200,000 would be required to start a new campaign, and added: "We are firmly convinced by the experience of the past 18 months that to make any headway, plants must be organized industrially." 3

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

Table of contents

  • Wertheim Publications in Industrial Relations i
  • Wertheim Publications in Industrial Relation ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Foreword vii
  • Contents xiii
  • Tables xiv
  • Illustrations (following Page 620) xv
  • Author's Preface xvii
  • 1 - Background of the Struggle 3
  • 2 - The Organization of Steel 75
  • 3 - The Automobile Industry 123
  • 4 - Coal Mining 193
  • 5 - The Electrical and Radio Manufacturing Industries 239
  • 6 - The Rubber Industry 266
  • 7 - The Men's Clothing Industry 283
  • 8 - The Women's Clothing Industry 300
  • 9 - The Renascence of Textile Unionism 325
  • 10 - The Meat Industry 349
  • 11 - The Lumber Industry 379
  • 12 - The Petroleum Industry 409
  • 13 - The Maritime Industry 427
  • 14 - The Teamsters 459
  • 15 - The Machinists 495
  • 16 - The Building Trades 514
  • 17 - Printing and Publishing 530
  • 18 - Railroad Unionism 566
  • 19 - Some General Aspects of the Labor Movement 583
  • Notes 645
  • Index 715
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