1938 December 31

Unions Seek to Curb Use of National Guard in Strikes


The C.I.O., it was reported on this day, was launching a national legislative campaign for state legislation curbing the use of National Guard troops in strikes.

The C.I.O, or the Congress of Industrial Organizations, was a rival of the A.F.L., and consisted of the unions in the large industries such as steel and  automobile manufacturing. The two merged in the 1950s to form today’s AFL-CIO.

The proposed state legislation would require public hearings before a governor could send its state National Guard to a strike, limit the number of troops that could be sent, and limit the length of time they could remain. The law would also make the state liable in any civil suits arising from National Guard actions.

In the history of American labor relations, federal troops or national guard troops were often sent to strike situations to restore order, but for the most part military intervention worked to the advantage of employers. The C.I.O. reported that “since 1877 at least 100 workers have met their deaths at the hands of guardsmen.”

Passage of the Wagner Act (officially the National Labor Relations Act) on July 5, 1935, established an orderly process for labor relations and eliminated much, but not all, use of troops in strikes.

Read about the struggles of labor in the 1930s: Irving Bernstein, The Turbulent Years: A History of the American Worker, 1933–1940 (1970)

Listen to Pete Seeger sing “Solidarity Forever:” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ly5ZKjjxMNM


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