Akron, Ohio, is of special interest in the story of U.S. labor as it has a history of intense struggle, both between Capital and Labor and between conflicting forms of labor organization.
The book powerfully describes this conflict in Akron, including the massive rubber worker’s strike of 1913. Dr. John Tully illustrates these struggles with the individual stories of rank-and-file workers and radical activists. In the mid-1930s, after a battle both against employers, determined to keep the open shop, and the conservative AFL leaders, Akron became a bastion of the Congress of Industrial Organizations and, briefly, of the Farmer-Labor Party. The leaders of this “home-grown” social union movement understood that workers were a class whose interests went further than just a bargaining relationship with employers.
By the end of the decade, however, the “business industrial unionism” model had blocked the great upsurge of social unionism and the impetus for independent labor politics was channeled back behind the Democratic Party. The book explains why and how socially progressive unionism was defeated. It argues that rebuilding the working-class movement along the lines supported by Tate and others in Akron in the 1930s is the great, unfinished business of labor in the United States.