Tag Archives: David Montgomery

When the CIO Was Young

27 Jun

Was struck, in reading this piece by David Montgomery, by just how radical the CIO was after World War II. At its annual convention, writes Montgomery, the CIO called for:

continuation of government controls over prices and the allocation of production materials, “development of atomic energy for civilian purposes under United Nations auspices,” government sponsorship of housing to offset the failures of the market to provide for workers’ urgent needs, and expansion of social security to encompass all agricultural, domestic, and maritime workers and to include health protection.

That was in 1946, more than a decade after the Wagner Act, which some people think ended the radicalism of the labor movement. 1946 was also the year that saw the largest strike wave in American history, including a general strike in Oakland.

The Militant Minority: Untimely Meditations from David Montgomery

8 Jun

From David Montgomery, The Fall of the House of Labor:

Nevertheless, to organize concerted action and to fashion a sense of social goals shared by all workers required deliberate human agency. Class consciousness was more than the unmediated product of daily experience. It was also a project. Working-class activists, and some individuals from other social strata who had linked their aspirations to the workers’ movement, persistently sought to foster a sense of unity and purposiveness among their fellow workers….Both “history from the bottom up” and the common fixation on great leaders have obscured the decisive role of those whom twentieth-century syndicalists have called the “militant minority”: the men and women who endeavored to weld their workmates and neighbors into a self-aware and purposeful working class.

. . . .

The becalmed and beleaguered trade unions of the 1920s had made their peace with a most undemocratic America, whose economic underpinnings were soon to give way. When working-class activists sought a path out of the depression of the 1930s, they revoked that settlement, reopened controversy over what had been considered accomplished, and began to organize anew on the basis of the ways America’s heterogeneous working people actually experienced industrial life.


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