In an interview for the podcast series “Organize the Unorganized: The Rise of the CIO,” labor historian and LNS co-founder and Senior Advisor Jeremy Brecher recounts the rise of industrial unionism in the 1930s: 

Workers wanted unions. And from all their previous experience, either most workers were excluded from the craft unions, or the craft unions were extremely weak in confronting modern industry on behalf of anybody except tiny, residual, skilled craft groups that were able to hold onto some power within modern industry. It was not a vehicle for them to realize power because their power had to be based on the hundreds of thousands of employees facing gigantic corporations like General Motors and US Steel coming together as a mass force in order to have the power to actually shut down and have an impact on those large modern industries.

So the core attraction of the CIO unions was that workers wanted collective power, and they understood they needed to have some kind of self-organization for that. And the CIO at that critical time, when that desire was very strong, came forward and essentially created organizing committees: the Steel Workers Organizing Committee, the Rubber Workers Organizing Committee, and so on. They said, “We will be the proto-union for you folks in this whole industry. Just sign up and then you’ll be organized in a way that you can be a collective force against your employer.”

For the full interview: