"Wobblies on the Waterfront."

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David in Atlanta
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Mar 28 2008 17:22
"Wobblies on the Waterfront."

Building Bridges features Peter Cole, author of Wobblies on the Waterfront: Interracial Unionism in Progressive-Era Philadelphia (Univ. of Illinois Press, 2007), who discusses the hidden history of an interracial union of Philadelphia longshore workers (Local 8), affiliated with the Industrial Workers of the World. Here are more details about Cole's book from the publisher's Web site: "For almost a decade during the 1910s and 1920s, the Philadelphia waterfront was home to the most durable interracial, multiethnic union seen in the United States prior to the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) era. In a period when most unions, like many institutions, excluded blacks or segregated them, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) was ideologically committed to racial equality. More than any other IWW affiliate, however, Local 8 worked to become a progressive, interracial union. For much of its time, the union majority was black, always with a cadre of black leaders, which included Ben Fletcher. Local 8 also claimed immigrants from Eastern Europe, as well as many Irish Americans, who had a notorious reputation for racism. In Wobblies on the Waterfront, Peter Cole outlines the factors that were instrumental in Local 8's success, both ideological (the IWW's commitment to working-class solidarity) and pragmatic (racial divisions helped solidify employer dominance). He also shows how race was central not only to the rise but also to the decline of Local 8, as increasing racial tensions were manipulated by employers and federal agents bent on the union's destruction."

http://www.albany.edu/talkinghistory/ind/bb-peter-cole-wobblies-waterfront-interracial-union-philadelphia.mp3