U.S. Labor Rebellions and the Rise of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO)
Western New England University School of Law
INTERNATIONAL ENCYCLOPEDIA OF REVOLUTION AND PROTEST, pp. 3411-3415, Immanual Ness, ed., 2009
The year 1934 was a turning point in the U.S. class struggle. That year, militant strikes by truckers in Minneapolis, auto parts workers in Toledo, and longshoremen in San Francisco spurred broad labor solidarity in these cities, transforming the strikes into massive working-class social upheavals. These three strikes, all led by revolutionary minded workers, proved to be strategic victories for industrial unionism and paved the way for the organization of basic industry in the United States by the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). By 1934, the Great Depression that began in 1929 had thrown almost one-third of the workforce, more than 15 million workers, onto the streets. Union membership had fallen from a high of over four million in 1920 to a low of around two million in 1933. As one historian put it, these figures are history's sad commentary on the American Federation of Labor's policy of favoring craft unionism in a country dominated by a mass production economy. From the start of the 1929 economic collapse, U.S. President Herbert Hoover, backed by the bulk of the employing class, resisted every measure to provide federal assistance for the hungry and homeless. Nevertheless, fearing the political consequences of what was widely seen as a brutal, repressive government labor policy, Congress enacted important labor reforms.
Keywords: U.S. labor reform, U.S. labor rebellion, Congress Industrial Organization, Congress of Industrial Organizations, CIO, labor, labor and employment law
Date posted: December 20, 2011 ; Last revised: October 8, 2013