TURBULENT YEARS: A History of the American Worker 1933-1941 by Irving Bernstein

TURBULENT YEARS: A History of the American Worker 1933-1941

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The second of three volumes on the history of American labor between the two World Wars, this tome covers the eight-year period from the inauguration of the New Deal to the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Bernstein, Associate Director of the Institute of Industrial Relations at UCLA, followed both the worker and the trade unions in The Lean Years of 1920-1933, but he found developments from 1933-1941 too turbulent to encompass in one book; the focus here is on the rising power of the unions, and the workingman will have to await volume three for his due. This era is indeed rife with landmarks for organized labor as it emerged from ineffectuality in the early days of the Depression to become a dominant force in American politics. Bernstein highlights the influence of labor in electing FDR and shaping his policies, the genesis of the National Industrial Recovery Act and its rebuff by the Supreme Court in the Schechter decision, the spread of unionism into new industrial fields which generated discontent in the AF of L, the formation of the CIO under the powerful leadership of John L. Lewis, the advent of the sit-down strike as a potent labor weapon, the formulation and passage of the Wagner Act, and the widening split between Lewis and FDR that culminated in Lewis' supporting Willkie in 1940. The book demonstrates Bernstein's firm grasp of the factual material, his fondness for quoting contemporary opinions, and his respectful biographical attention to the prime actors.

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin