THEM AND US: Struggles of a Rank-and-File Union by James J. & James J. Higgins Matles

THEM AND US: Struggles of a Rank-and-File Union

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The 170,000 member Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America is unique in American labor history. Formed during the CIO organizing years by trade union left-wingers, the union grew rapidly, then got pounded in the postwar Red purges; Walter Reuther made raids against it, Senator McCarthy attacked it, it was ultimately purged from the CIO and nearly annihilated in 1948 by a combined government and employer offensive. But it survived and still sports a veneer of the class war, usually directed toward liberal causes: anti-Nixon, anti-war, pro-farm workers; it's for health insurance, better housing and the like. Matles, the General Secretary, and Higgins, a radical journalist, recall the early struggles, Matles' own radicalization, the breakthrough strike won at RCA Camden in 1936, the valiant 55-day sit-in at Emerson in 1937 and the defeat, by the National Guard, at May-tag in 1938. Matles' enormous deference to Roosevelt, though, whose first NRA director, ""Iron Pants"" Johnson tried to break the Camden RCA strike is hard to understand. Too, why do the authors try to portray the union as appealing ""in terms of local economic issues rather than ideologies"" when many of the organizers were socialists or radicals? The prismatic recall may be an attempt to pretty up the union for their assumed readership. It weakens the book -- and this is the only history of an unusual union.

Pub Date: March 20th, 1974
Publisher: Prentice-Hall