When the CIO Was Young

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.


  1. Joe June 28, 2014 at 7:39 am | #

    Perhaps that radicalism wasn’t squeezed out of the CIO until the next year, with the anticommunist provision of the Taft-Hartley Act (which was probably a direct result of the 1946 strike wave).

    Many historians argue that it was the Treaty of Detroit in 1950 that ended any meaningful challenge to capitalism.

  2. j June 29, 2014 at 12:31 pm | #

    Yeah, a year later the Taft-Hartley was passed. Those labor elites your glorifying responded to this greivous assault on working-class autonomy by… telling everyone to vote for the democrats. Sound familiar?

    Corey, If you’re going to talk about american labor history you have to talk about massive unwieldy bureaucracy and about how the people who ran those bureaucracies were (and are) just fine with the unionworkers giving them their dues money. The american labor movement has never been “radical”, barely even “liberal”. The original AFL can be considered far-right to be perfectly honest.

    In any other country a Taft Hartley Act would have led to a massive general strike. Here, it led to a bunch of unionworkers being told to vote for the right politician. Capitalism was never threatened by our labor movement because the bureaucrats who ran the labor movement made sure of this.

  3. Steve Sailer July 6, 2014 at 6:35 pm | #

    “development of atomic energy for civilian purposes under United Nations auspices,” doesn’t sound terribly radical, just naive. It was very hard in 1946 to figure out implications of the atomic revolution.

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