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Black and Blue

Black and Blue: African Americans, the Labor Movement, and the Decline of the Democratic Party

Paul Frymer
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  • Book Info
    Black and Blue
    Book Description:

    In the 1930s, fewer than one in one hundred U.S. labor union members were African American. By 1980, the figure was more than one in five.Black and Blueexplores the politics and history that led to this dramatic integration of organized labor. In the process, the book tells a broader story about how the Democratic Party unintentionally sowed the seeds of labor's decline.

    The labor and civil rights movements are the cornerstones of the Democratic Party, but for much of the twentieth century these movements worked independently of one another. Paul Frymer argues that as Democrats passed separate legislation to promote labor rights and racial equality they split the issues of class and race into two sets of institutions, neither of which had enough authority to integrate the labor movement.

    From this division, the courts became the leading enforcers of workplace civil rights, threatening unions with bankruptcy if they resisted integration. The courts' previously unappreciated power, however, was also a problem: in diversifying unions, judges and lawyers enfeebled them financially, thus democratizing through destruction. Sharply delineating the double-edged sword of state and legal power,Black and Bluechronicles an achievement that was as problematic as it was remarkable, and that demonstrates the deficiencies of race- and class-based understandings of labor, equality, and power in America.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3726-7
    Subjects: Political Science, Law, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xv)
  5. Chapter 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-21)

    When Franklin Roosevelt signed the Wagner Act in 1935, giving workers the right to form unions and bargain collectively with their employers, African Americans accounted for less than 1 percent of the labor movement. Over the next half century, the number of black workers in unions increased from an estimated fifty thousand to more than three million, roughly 20 percent of the labor movement. The Wagner Act, however, was only partially responsible for this increase. It was largely the result of the federal government taking subsequent steps to promote racial equality in labor unions, steps that, in fact, directly weakened...

  6. Chapter 2 The Dual Development of National Labor Policy
    (pp. 22-43)

    “In the past few weeks,” Chas Bickford, the general manager of Young’s Motor Freight Lines, wrote in a letter to his terminal manager, “I have encountered several complaints from the shippers and receivers of Freight in Houston due to the fact that the majority of our drivers are colored, and it is my thought that we should replace all of our colored employees in Houston with White men. It is highly probable that this will work a hardship on your operations at first until you can find competent drivers to replace them, but from the complaints that I have received,...

  7. Chapter 3 The NAACP Confronts Racism in the Labor Movement
    (pp. 44-69)

    “Before you dream up a torrential rebuttal for my signature,” wrote NAACP Executive Secretary Roy Wilkins to his dogged and abrasive labor director, Herbert Hill, in 1960, “I would suggest a quiet retreat and a communing with nature, one of those Yogi-Gandhi businesses where the soul is examined to see whether or not some fault lies within, rather than with those without.”¹ The rebuttal Wilkins anticipated was to be a response to a letter from George Meany, president of the AFL-CIO, who had angrily denied Hill’s accusations of racism within union ranks and had accused the NAACP of betraying one...

  8. Chapter 4 The Legal State
    (pp. 70-97)

    In the spring of 1968, speaking before a packed audience of building and construction trade union leaders from around the country, Peter Schoemann, president of the Building Trades, made a startling announcement. He called on union locals to immediately institute widespread and stringent affirmative action plans in their hiring and apprenticeship programs. Schoemann was no civil rights zealot. Just a year before, he had told a similar audience that he was emphatically opposed to the “reverse discrimination” he believed affirmative action entailed. Taking a page out of George Wallace’s famous speech of resistance a decade earlier, he told his members...

  9. Chapter 5 Labor Law and Institutional Racism
    (pp. 98-127)

    With everything gained, something is lost. Much was gained by the court-led civil rights victories of the labor movement. Today, more than a third of the labor movement is represented by people of color. The national union leadership has been slower to reflect this dramatic demographic change, but it is following along slowly and surely with the likes of Alicio Medina and Dennis Rivera of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), William Lucy of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU), Clayola Brown of UNITE-HERE, Maria Elena Durazo of the California Labor Council, and many others. The labor movement, with its...

  10. Chapter 6 Conclusion: Law and Democracy
    (pp. 128-139)

    With each passing year, the New Deal’s image as a fundamental turning point in America’s political and socioeconomic life is increasingly challenged. The New Deal’s electoral coalition is fractured, if not outright broken, and although some notable exceptions may be found, many of its most important institutional creations have either failed, disappeared, or been weakened to the verge of extinction or irrelevance. Even what is arguably the most powerful and successful of the New Deal’s regulatory legacies, the Social Security Administration, looks weathered and vulnerable with age. More stalwart has been a second element of New Deal state building, the...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 140-193)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 194-201)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 202-204)