THE THUNDERING VOICE OF JOHN L. LEWIS by David F. Selvin

THE THUNDERING VOICE OF JOHN L. LEWIS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Mr. Selvin has researched Lewis thoroughly and quotes copiously from his sources but he neither synthesizes nor diagnoses; the result is a book that is generally sound without being really satisfying. His own familiarity with labor affairs cause him to take terms for granted (e.g. captive mines and closed shop, neither of which is explained until late in the book); otherwise his attention to background (the history of mine unions, working conditions in the mines) is substantial. Lewis' early life is condensed into a few pages and the personal aspect is suppressed throughout. The account covers the debilitation of the United Mine Workers during his first twelve years as its increasingly powerful president (by 1932, one observer noted, Lewis had ""built a machine and lost a movement""); his pressing FDR for legislation protecting labor's right to organize and the spurt in UMW membership thereafter; the fight over organizing the mass-production industries, Lewis' initiative in founding the CIO, and the landmark General Motors and U.S. Steel settlements; the string of strikes, injunctions and government seizures that eventuated, many believe, in the Taft-Hartley Act; concurrently, the effects of the innovational welfare fund and of Lewis' incessant clamor for mine safety; simultaneously, also, his hassles with old allies (Roosevelt, Green, Murray), all the abrasiveness smoothed over when he retired to a salvo of praise. Mr. Selvin never cuts through the encomiums and relies overly on John L's own oratory; a few excerpts from the far sharper Alinsky biography dramatize the difference. But there's a lot of labor history to be learned here.

Pub Date: May 5th, 1969
Publisher: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard