The CIO’s Culture of Unity

(Original Caption) Members of the United Packing House Workers of America, who went out on strike, are shown tying up four major packing concerns, as they hold a meeting at 44th Street and 1st Avenue. Martin Stern, District Director of the UPWA is speaking.

The CIO’s Culture of Unity

In the span of a few years, the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) was able to completely transform labor relations in the United States. Industries that had been violently anti-union for decades very quickly became organized and, in some cases, became completely organized. How was the CIO able to do it? Why was this the moment when an upstart labor federation was able to dramatically alter the balance of power between capital and labor?

This episode outlines four factors that were the keys to the CIO’s success. First, there was a political opportunity that the CIO took advantage of. Second, there were militant and disruptive tactics employed that were effective, given that political opportunity. Third, there was the great energy and commitment of the Left as channeled toward the stable end of collective bargaining. And finally, there was what podcast guest Lizabeth Cohen has called the “culture of unity” bred by the CIO. The first factor was covered in episode 2 and the second in episode 3. This episode is thus focused on the latter two: the influence of the Left and the culture of unity.

Further reading: