While never entirely successful, the fragmentation of workers into hundreds of unions and tens of thousands of bargaining units, a legacy of craft unionism
, continued as the norm in much of the work world.
The traditional answer to the supposed "failure' of the AFL is that it was wedded to a narrow craft unionism
. A better answer is that it was wedded to a policy of selective recruitment, of organizing strategic groups of workers only, of "policing' rather than organizing industries.
Principal among them were Andrew Furuseth, who was increasingly out of touch and committed to an outdated version of craft unionism
by this time, and Harry Bridges and Harry Lundeberg, the longshoring and seafaring union leaders who emerged out of the turmoil on the waterfront to lead their respective unions for a generation.
Acutally, it settled on a compromise short of that ultimate position, since it tolerated the organized and privileged status of some at least of the skilled trades, and made no all-out effort to use blacks, Chinese, or European immigrants, to destroy craft unionism
From its very origins in the 19th century, craft unionism
's primary goal had been to control and improve the wages and working conditions of members of particular and often narrow occupational groups by regulating and restricting output as well as strictly limiting who could work in specific crafts.
is generally portrayed as conservative, committed to craft unionism
, narrowly focused on job issues, opposed to partisan politics and antistatist.
The transformation of the industrial economy in the early decades of the twentieth century virtually destroyed the craft unionism
that had been the principal basis of the American labor movement.
A notable example was the work of the AFL'S Amalgamated Meat Cutters (AMC) and the Chicago Federation of Labour (CFL) which, during the height of the Great Migration, realized the importance of moving beyond craft unionism
to embrace workers in mass production industries that were just beginning to gain prominence.
The industrial unionists of the 1930s inhereited the fire of class solidarity "lit by the Wobblies, and the Knights of Labor before them, which burned on in the small, but unbroken, cadres of revolutionary workers in unorganized mines and mills." But they also inherited the divisions among workers, the dead hand of craft unionism
and "the forced marriage between the Catholic working class and the Democratic Party."
This movement, then (along with the more generalized socialist ferment in the World War I and Bolshevik Revolutionary years), can be largely credited for forcing a strategy that was to emerge initially after World War I and be entrenched in law after World War II--accommodation of the state and capital with craft unionism
in order to address the most glaring inequities of capitalism, politically marginalize the "radical element" within labour, and designate anti-capitalist labour movements as "Bolshevik," thereby justifying their fierce and often bloody suppression.
Revealing the impact of local conditions on working-class militancy, the unresolved tension between the OBU'S industrial unionism and a more conservative craft unionism
translated into the limited extent of the strike.