Teamsters in the Turbulent Years: Rethinking Labor and the State in the 1930s

Elizabeth Faue, Wayne State University

This interpretive essay revisits the rebirth of labor in the 1930s and the drivers behind it--Sometimes seen largely as the industrial unionism that burst forth in the mass production industries post-Wagner Act (but also after the 1936 election) and in the form of the CIO; but also, in a classic essay by Christopher Tomlins, in the heartland of the stodgy American Federation of Labor. Even after the CIO established its independence, the AFL organized a greater number of workers and continued to dominate the labor movement, as it would after the merger of the AFL and CIO in the 1950s. Examining the role of one union here--the hybrid Teamsters, especially in the context of the expanding state apparatus of labor relations--provides another way of seeing labor's growth. The Teamsters--in the Midwest in particular--innovated some of the same organizing methods used in the CIO but also was on the leading edge of economic changes that would, by the 1950s, already place mass production unionism at a disadvantage and displace union workers by the end of the decade.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 222. CIO History Redux: Seeking New Histories of Labor in the New Deal Era