Mendel, Ronald
April 2002
Labour History Review (Maney Publishing);Apr2002, Vol. 67 Issue 1, p49
Academic Journal
During the years immediately following the First World War a labour insurgency emerged in numerous American mass-production industries. In the automobile industry the United Automobile Aircraft and Vehicle Workers (UAAVW), a breakaway union from an affiliate of the American Federation of Labor (AFL ) led by members of the Socialist Party of America, advanced an innovative and resourceful organising strategy to build an industrial union. This strategy was distinct but not unrelated to that espoused by AFL activists, who sought to promote industrial unionism through an amalgamation of craft organisations, and that of the Industrial Workers of the World, which stressed direct action at the point of production to create 'One Big Union'. The UAAVW made some inroads among medium-sized companies, such as Buick and Chevrolet, and component firms in New York, Michigan and Ohio, but were unsuccessful in denting the resistance of Ford and other larger producers who combined corporate welfare measures and strong-armed tactics to beat back union organising efforts. Notwithstanding its mixed track record, the UAAVW demonstrated that labour radicals and militants could act pragmatically and flexibly in their attempt to redefine the power relations between employers and workers.


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