The CIO, 1935-1955

The CIO, 1935-1955

The CIO, 1935-1955

The CIO, 1935-1955


This book encompassed the largest sustained surge of worker organization in American history. Robert Zieger charts the rise of this industrial union movement, from the launching of the CIO by John L. Lewis in 1935 to its merger under Walter Reuther with the American Federation of Labor in 1955. Combing the institutional history of the CIO with vivid depictions of working class life, he also analyzes the racial and gender dimensions of industrial unionism.


The idea of writing a history of the CIO grew out of a summer seminar for college teachers that I conducted in 1981. As we discussed the role of organized labor in American history, 1930-80, we found ourselves remarking frequently on the lack of an archives-based history of the industrial union federation. Having just completed studies of AFL unions in this period, I decided that it was time for someone to take on the CIO. Since we held our sessions in the Walter P. Reuther Library conference room at Wayne State University in Detroit, the notion of writing a history of the CIO came naturally, even if in such a setting the project seemed daunting.

Now, a decade and a half later, the task is done. Its completion encourages reflection about the places to which research has taken me and the people who have helped me. I wish to thank the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Faculty Enrichment Programme of the Canadian government, Wayne State University, and the University of Florida for providing travel funds. In the summer of 1983 I held Summer Stipend from the NEH, which also sponsored the seminar out of which the project grew. The Office of Research and Graduate Education of the University of Florida helped defray the costs of photographic reproduction.

The list of curators, librarians, and archivists who helped me is long. In a previously published article on CIO research (see below), I provided a guide to sources and mentioned some individuals whose assistance was invaluable. I am particularly indebted to the staff of the Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs, Wayne State University, who for the first part of this project were also my academic colleagues. Betty Corwine, Renee Akins, Greg Kisling, and other members of the office staff of the Department of History at the University of Florida provided outstanding assistance.

Individuals who helped by sharing materials were John Barnard, Randy Boehm, and Gilbert Gall. Robert E. Zieger helped with some key research. Joan Man of the IUE helped me gain access to "missing" CIO Executive Board minutes, while Maier Fox, then research director of the United Mine Workers, helped make United Mine Workers and John L. Lewis records, in storage at the time, available for research. Lewis Bateman, executive edi-

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