Ahmed White explains how industrialists and government officials in the United States used violence and legal maneuverings to stultify the Industrial Workers of the World and silence its members in the early twentieth century. White teaches labor and criminal law at University of Colorado Boulder and is the author of Under the Iron Heel: The Wobblies and the Capitalist War on Radical Workers, which received the International Labor History Association Book of the Year Award in 2022.
While the 1936-1937 Flint Sit-Down is usually viewed as a pivotal success for the UAW, Dr. Gregory Wood considers more closely the influence of anti-union workers and the General Motors-supported Flint Alliance both during and after the strike. Wood is an associate professor and chair of the history department at Frostburg State University. His research will be featured in a forthcoming article in the Michigan Historical Review titled, “’No Labor Dictators for Us’: Anti-Union Workers During the Flint Sit-Down Strikes.”
Dr. Jason Resnikoff explains that the rise of automation in the mid-20th century workplace was heralded as a way to free workers from manual labor, but resulted instead in the intensification of human labor and the degradation of workers’ protections and powers. Resnikoff is a core lecturer in the History Department at Columbia University and author of Labor’s End: How the Promise of Automation Degraded Work.
Dr. Allyson Brantley explains how large and diverse groups joined together for a decades-long consumer boycott of the Coors Brewing Company to fight against its union busting, discriminatory hiring practices, and politics. Brantley is an assistant professor of history and Director of Honors & Interdisciplinary Initiatives at the University of La Verne and author of Brewing a Boycott: How a Grassroots Coalition Fought Coors and Remade American Consumer Activism.
Labor historian Dr. Toni Gilpin explores how the McCormick family’s greed and union-busting in the late 19th century set the stage for a bitter battle between the International Harvester corporation and the radical Farm Equipment Workers union in the 1930s and 1940s. Although the union was absorbed by the United Auto Workers in 1955, Gilpin describes how the militancy bred into generations of International Harvester workers influenced UAW tactics into the 1970s.
Dr. Gilpin’s book, The Long Deep Grudge: A Story of Big Capital, Radical Labor, and Class War in the American Heartland, received a Taft Labor History Award honorable mention award in 2020.
After a brief hiatus we’re back! Reuther Library Field Archivist Louis Jones discusses fascinating collections recently opened at the Reuther Library. William Gernaey was hired by Chrysler and Ford in the 1930s and 1940s to infiltrate the Community Party in Michigan, which in turn hired him to spy on local unions. Ramon S. Scruggs, Sr. became the first African American manager at Michigan Bell Telephone Company in 1939, and later at AT&T, and although a conservative he advocated for affirmative action policies to raise opportunities for all African Americans. In 1965 Edward Vaughn opened the nation’s second black bookstore, Vaughn’s Books in Detroit, later represented his community in the Michigan House of Representative for many years, and has been actively involved in the NAACP in Alabama since his retirement. Together, their archival collections add to the Reuther Library’s extensive resources documenting 20th century politics and civil rights in Michigan. Jones is the field archivist for the Walter P. Reuther Library, and received a Ph.D. in history from Wayne State University.
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Host: Dan Golodner
Interviewee: Louis Jones
Sound: Troy Eller English
Image: William Gernaey, “Communist,” Walter P. Reuther Library, Virtual Motor City Project: vmc26150
With support from the Reuther Podcast Collective: Bart Bealmear, Elizabeth Clemens, Meghan Courtney, Troy Eller English, Dan Golodner, Paul Neirink, and Mary Wallace