When I was writing my initial post about the roots of the Hollywood Left, I came across The Motion Picture Workers Industrial Union that had been organized by Lou Goldblatt in 1933 and was considered—along with the Screen Writers Guild—as militant in its leftist views. The MPIWU had about 1,000 members and it issued a publication, The Motion Picture Worker; in its August 1934 edition, it advocated for studio workers to adopt industrial union tactics and form industrial unions. Among the many movements of industrial unionism, one of the most recognized is, of course, The Industrial Workers of the The World. Thus today’s post is—you got it—industrial unionism.
Once again, I’m cheating a bit here and providing an edited version from both Wikipedia and The Encyclopedia of the American Left because this would take several posts to fully understand the concept and the historical relevance (and I’ve also fallen behind. Hopefully, I’ll get back on track).
Let’s start with a simple question: What is industrial unionism? As defined by Wikipedia, it is a labor union organizing method through which all workers in the same industry are organized into the same union—regardless of skill or trade—thus giving workers in one industry, or in all industries, more leverage in bargaining and in strike situations. Advocates of industrial unionism value its contributions to building unity and solidarity, suggesting the slogans, “an injury to one is an injury to all” and “the longer the picket line, the shorter the strike.”
The concept behind industrial unionism is important, not only to organized workers but also to the general public. According to Marian Dutton Savage, who wrote about industrial unionism in America in 1922:
It is this difference in spirit and general outlook which is the significant thing about industrial unionism. Including as it does all types of workers, from the common laborer to the most highly skilled craftsman, the industrial union is based on the conception of the solidarity of labor, or at least of that portion of it which is in one particular industry. Instead of emphasizing the divisions among the workers and fostering a narrow interest in the affairs of the craft regardless of those of the industry as a whole, it lays stress on the mutual dependence of the skilled and the unskilled and the necessity of subordinating the interests of a small group to those of the whole body of workers. Not only is loyalty to fellow-workers in the same industry emphasized, but also loyalty to the whole working class in its struggle against the capitalist system.
Historically, industrial unionism has frequently been associated with the concept of One Big Union (OBU). On July 12, 1919, The New England Worker published “The Principle of Industrial Union”:
The principle on which industrial unionism takes its stand is the recognition of the never ending struggle between the employers of labor and the working class. [The industrial union] must educate its members to a complete understanding of the principles and causes underlying every struggle between the two opposing classes. This self-imposed drill, discipline and training will be the methods of the O. B. U.
In short the Industrial Union, is bent upon forming one grand united working class organization and doing away with all the divisions that weaken the solidarity of the workers to better their conditions.
Revolutionary Industrial Unionism, that is the proposition that all wage workers come together in organization according to industry; the groupings of the workers in each of the big divisions of industry as a whole into local, national, and international industrial unions; all to be interlocked, dovetailed, welded into One Big Union for all wage workers; a big union bent on aggressively forging ahead and compelling shorter hours, more wages and better conditions in and out of the work shop… until the working class is able to take possession and control of the machinery, premises, and materials of production right from the capitalists’ hands…
How does this play into Julius? I have scene where Jake is conducting an editorial meeting with his two staff writers and the recently hired columnist (the bad guy). Corinne, as fiction editor, isn’t asked to be part of the meeting, but overhears a comment about Industrial Unionism that is off-base and can’t help herself to chime in and correct the uninformed staff writer, which doesn’t endear her to writer and angers Jake because she’s overstepping her boundaries … and that’s all I’m saying.
To read more about the concept and the history, check the Wikipedia article and also the Industrial Workers of the World website. And if you’re feeling a bit lazy, here’s a video that nicely summarizes it along with nice song.