Labor's Rank and File Rebellion: 1964-74

Socialism 2017

August 15, 2017

The movements against the war and for Black Power in the 1960s led to the political radicalization of a significant layer of industrial workers. Strike levels began to climb as early as 1965—and between the years 1967 to 1971, the average number of workers involved in strikes doubled. In 1970 alone, there were 5,716 work stoppages, involving more than 3 million workers. But even more important than the number of strikes was the level of militancy. Many workers found themselves battling not only speedup and automation imposed by management, but also the inertia and misleadership of their own union leaders. The Chrysler Corporation, for example, reported 15 unauthorized strikes in 1960. That figure jumped to 49 in 1967, and then peaked at 91 in 1968. And the number of wildcats in the manufacturing sector as a whole went from about 1,000 in 1960 to 2,000 in 1969. This talk will explore this hidden history of working-class radicalism.

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