Labor in Politics

February 23, 1940

Report Outline
Emergence of Labor as Active Political Force
Political Policies of Labor Prior to 1936
Recent Changes in Labor's Political Policies

Emergence of Labor as Active Political Force

John L. Lewis' recent prediction of “ignominious defeat” for Roosevelt if the President should run for a third term, his public criticism of Vice-President Garner and Paul V. McNutt, his ostentatious friendliness with Senator Wheeler (D., Mont.), and his repeated charges that the New Deal has broken faith with labor have generally been interpreted as showing the determination of the Congress of Industrial Organizations to exert all possible influence on the selection of the Democratic presidential candidate for 1940. Organized labor has never before attempted to control the presidential nomination of a major party. When it has not abstained from participation in presidential campaigns altogether—by adhering to a policy of neutrality as between Republican and Democratic nominees—labor has limited its participation to endorsing one or the other of the candidates chosen by the party conventions. Current C. I. O. strategy presages a definite break with this tradition and indicates that organized labor—so far as it is represented by the C. I. O., at least—intends in the future to play an active, rather than a passive, role in national politics.

Attack on Roosevelt Administration by John L. Lewis

Having previously attempted to dim the presidential aspirations of Vice-President Garner and Security Administrator McNutt by referring to the one as a “labor-baiting, poker-playing, whiskey-drinking, evil old man,” and to the other as a “political adventurer,” Lewis launched a bitter attack on President Roosevelt's policies, in a speech, January 24, at Columbus, Ohio, before the biennial convention of the United Mine Workers, of which he is president. Declaring that the Democratic party was a minority party which “comes into office under abnormal circumstances, when it receives the support of the national independent vote,” the C. I. O. leader attributed the party's victory in 1932 to “the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of the Republican party.” In 1936, he said, a coalition had been effected between the Democratic party and organized labor, with the latter furnishing money, speakers, party workers, and “many millions” of votes. “Psychologically and politically, organized labor created the atmosphere of success that returned the Democratic party to power with an ample margin of safety.”

A political coalition, at least, presupposes a post-election good faith between the coalescent interests. The Democratic party and its leadership have not preserved this faith. In the last three years, labor has not been given representation in the cabinet, nor in the administrative or policy-making agencies of government. The current administration has not sought nor seriously entertained the advice or views of labor upon the question of national unemployment or lesser questions affecting domestic economy… relations with foreign nations, or the issues of war or peace.… In the Congress, the unrestrained baiting and defaming of labor by the Democratic majority has become a pastime, never subject to rebuke by the titular or actual leaders of the party….

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Labor Unions
Aug. 07, 2015  Unions at a Crossroads
Sep. 02, 2005  Labor Unions' Future Updated
Jun. 28, 1996  Labor Movement's Future
Jun. 14, 1985  Organized Labor in the 1980s
Nov. 06, 1981  Labor Under Siege
Mar. 24, 1978  Labor's Southern Strategy
Aug. 20, 1976  Labor's Options
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”
Campaigns and Elections
General Employment and Labor
Unions and Labor-Management Relations