Term Paper - 2007 Cornell University School of Industrial...

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P a g e | 1 2007 Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations ILRCB 100 – Professor Daniel Section 4 – Mr. Glasbrenner John Oskar Cetta Jr. joc23@cornell.edu November 30, 2007
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[ TERM PAPER ] Speaking to a confident at the close of the American Federation of Labor’s annual convention in October of 1935, John L. Lewis noted that “a union drive in the basic industries in the past would have resulted in complete failure.” “But now,” he declared, “the time is ripe; and now the time to do those things is here. Let us do them.” To discuss the conclusion made by John L. Lewis in the assigned quotation, that in the fall of 1935 the time was “ripe” for industrial unionism, the premise is made that prior times were not so ready for this permanent shift in the ideology of the labor movement. However, there were past times that one may assert America was nearly ready for long-lasting industrial unionism. Therefore, it is appropriate to briefly consider these prior times, such that one may compare their similarities to the time of 1935, and also to use as contrast, to describe what was unique about 1935 that made the time truly “ripe” for industrial based unionism. Zieger and Gall (2002) do this successfully when they state, In the past, organized labor had experienced several remarkable surges of growth. In the Jacksonian America, workingmen’s parties and unions had flourished for a season. Again, in the 1880s the Knights of Labor had reached hundreds of thousands with its gospel of mass organization and worker’s power. And during World War I, union membership had mushroomed as labor moved into previously unorganized industries and in 1919 made a bold bid to capture the steel industry. The upsurge of the 1930s, however, was different. It swept up workers in every geographical area and in every trade and industry…Unlike earlier episodes of union growth, this one generated permanent mass organizations, capable of asserting and defending workers’ right on both political and economic fronts. Furthermore, one also needs to consider the history behind the comments made by John L Lewis in the quotation. One must remember that John L Lewis is making these comments a year after he had made similar proclamations at the 1934 American Federation of Labor (AFL)
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P a g e | 3 National Convention. In 1934 John L Lewis had made a convincing case for industrial unionism and was placated to by those in the AFL leadership through false and half-hearted promises. As Zieger and Gall (2002) describe, John L. Lewis “believed that the AFL had frittered away the golden opportunity to organize the mass production industries… the simple fact of the matter was that modern industry, in which the vast majority of workers toiled, had been making nonsense out of traditional definitions of skill. To John L. Lewis, the equation was starkly clear: as things stood in 1935, the AFL could not organize the central core of American industry.
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This note was uploaded on 05/18/2008 for the course ILRCB 1100 taught by Professor Danielc during the Fall '07 term at Cornell University (Engineering School).

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Term Paper - 2007 Cornell University School of Industrial...

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