Industrial Unionism and the A.F. of L.

November 11, 1936

Report Outline
Split in the American Labor Movement
Industrial Unionism and Craft Unionism
A. F. of L.'s Policy on Industrial Unionism
Organization of Mass-Production Industries
Special Focus

Split in the American Labor Movement

Hope of closing the rift in the ranks of organized labor over the question of industrial unionism before the meeting of the American Federation of Labor's convention at Tampa on November 16 was definitely eliminated last week-end, when the Committee for Industrial Organization, in session at Pittsburgh, refused to appoint a negotiating committee and refused to agree to a personal conference between its chairman, John L. Lewis, and the Federation's president, William Green. Failure of efforts to obtain a peaceful settlement of the controversy had seemed inevitable since October 19, when Lewis fixed November 9 (later changed to November 7) as the date for the next meeting of the C. I. O. Since this was only one week before the Tampa convention, it seemed obvious that insufficient time would be left for any negotiations with the special committee appointed by the Executive Council during its meeting in Washington in mid-October to confer with a similar C. I. O. committee if one should be named.

The peace move had been initiated by Max Zaritsky, secretary-treasurer of the United Hatters, Cap, and Millinery Workers, and by David Dubinsky, president of the International Ladies Garment Workers—both among the organizers of the C. I. O. Launched in the form of a resolution adopted by Zaritsky's organization, the proposal called for a meeting of committees from the A. F. of L, and the C. I. O. and for representation of the C. I. O. unions as regular members at the Tampa convention. The Executive Council acceded to the first request but not to the latter, although agreeing to discuss the question. Lewis, while indicating readiness to enter into negotiations, laid down as a prerequisite revocation of the Executive Council's order of August 5, 1936, suspending the C. I. O. unions from the Federation. His continued insistence upon that condition in the latest gestures toward composition of the quarrel was characterized by Green on November 9 as “one of the closing steps in a deliberate plan and policy originated and formed at the beginning to set up a rival organization to the A. F. of L.” He predicted that “the next step will be the calling of a formal conference at which an independent and rival organization, headed by Mr. Lewis, will be launched formally.”

Future Status of C. I. O. Unions in the A. F. of L.

Whether or not the A. F. of L. convention will anticipate such a move by expelling the dissident unions remains to be seen. The necessary two-thirds majority for such action will probably be available, since the C. I. O. unions', controlling over one-third of the total number of votes in the convention, will be unable to cast their ballots as long as they remain suspended. In any case the United Mine Workers, of which Lewis is president, will send no delegation to Tampa, and it is doubtful whether delegations from the other suspended unions will attempt to be seated. Although expulsion is thus possible, a feeling exists in some quarters that the convention will merely confirm the Executive Council's suspension order, in the hope that the breach may be healed by later negotiation. Withholding of expulsion would be important, since it would mean an absence of rival organizing campaigns by the A. F. of L. and the C. I. O, At the same time, however, it would give the C. I. O. opportunity to consolidate and strengthen its position and thus perhaps make a later settlement more difficult of accomplishment. If the break is made complete, now or later, the A. F. of L. will be deprived of one-third of its affiliated membership, including several of its strongest unions, and would seem bound to suffer loss of prestige. Moreover, some of the remaining member unions, particularly those especially interested in legislative programs, might be tempted to go over to the rival organization, since the Lewis group is reputed to occupy a more favored position with the Roosevelt administration than Green and his colleagues.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
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Jun. 28, 1996  Labor Movement's Future
Jun. 14, 1985  Organized Labor in the 1980s
Nov. 06, 1981  Labor Under Siege
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Oct. 27, 1971  Organized Labor After the Freeze
Oct. 19, 1966  Labor Strife and the Public Interest
Jan. 30, 1963  Strike Action and the Law
Sep. 20, 1961  Conflicts in Organized Labor
Aug. 04, 1960  Labor, Management, and the National Interest
Dec. 16, 1959  Future of Free Collective Bargaining
Nov. 04, 1959  Featherbedding and Union Work Rules
Feb. 18, 1959  Public Intervention in Labor Disputes
Jul. 09, 1958  Suits Against Labor Unions
Nov. 13, 1957  Right-To-Work Laws
Oct. 31, 1956  Union Organizing
May 01, 1954  State Powers in Labor Relations
Oct. 02, 1953  Toward Labor Unity
Apr. 11, 1953  Industry-Wide Bargaining and Industry-Wide Strikes
Sep. 03, 1952  Labor and Politics
Mar. 25, 1950  Labor Injunctions
Jan. 25, 1950  Trade Unions and Productivity
Sep. 26, 1949  Fact-Finding Boards in Labor Disputes
Mar. 05, 1949  Closed Shop
Dec. 01, 1948  Revision of the Taft-Hartley Act
Jan. 01, 1947  Labor Unions, the Public and the Law
Oct. 09, 1946  Revision of the Wagner Act
Sep. 25, 1946  Labor Productivity
May 29, 1946  Labor Organization in the South
Jan. 30, 1946  Compulsory Settlement of Labor Disputes
May 18, 1945  Labor Policy After the War
Mar. 29, 1945  Union Maintenance
Feb. 02, 1945  Labor Relations in Coal Mining
Oct. 12, 1944  No-Strike Pledge
Sep. 16, 1944  Political Action by Organized Labor
May 30, 1944  Unionization of Foremen
Apr. 01, 1944  Dismissal Pay
Apr. 29, 1943  Labor in Government
Apr. 09, 1943  Public Regulation of Trade Unions
Nov. 19, 1941  Labor Policies of the Roosevelt Administration
Oct. 23, 1941  Closed Shop Issue in Labor Relations
Mar. 29, 1941  Labor as Partner in Production
Feb. 12, 1941  Labor and the Defense Program
Feb. 23, 1940  Labor in Politics
Jan. 17, 1939  Settlement of Disputes Between Labor Unions
Jul. 01, 1938  Three Years of National Labor Relations Act
Nov. 12, 1937  State Regulation of Labor Relations
Jul. 10, 1937  Restrictions on the Right to Strike
Apr. 28, 1937  The Labor Market and the Unemployed
Mar. 26, 1937  Control of the Sit-Down Strike
Mar. 13, 1937  Collective Bargaining in the Soft-Coal Industry
Jan. 22, 1937  Responsibility of Labor Unions
Nov. 11, 1936  Industrial Unionism and the A.F. of L.
Jul. 30, 1936  Federal Intervention in Labor Disputes
Jul. 14, 1936  Labor Relations in the Steel Industry
Apr. 17, 1934  Company Unions and Collective Bargaining
Feb. 07, 1934  Settlement of Labor Disputes
Sep. 12, 1933  Trade Unionism Under the Recovery Program
Feb. 17, 1932  Wage Concessions by Trade Unions
Oct. 01, 1929  Status of the American Labor Movement
Jul. 20, 1929  Trade Unionism in the South
Aug. 31, 1928  Organized Labor in National Politics
Feb. 04, 1928  The Use of Injunctions in Labor Disputes
Sep. 09, 1927  Organized Labor and the Works Council Movement
Oct. 12, 1923  The A.F. of L. and the “New Radicalism”
Unions and Labor-Management Relations