Steve Martin on the formation of the Congress of Industrial Organizations

Associate Professor of Communication and Chair of the Department Steve Martin wrote an article for the journal Voices of Democracy about the formation of the Congress of Industrial Organization and how it was influenced and shaped by the actions of John L. Lewis. The article, published in 2013, was titled “John L. Lewis, ‘Speech at the Fifty‐Fifth Annual Convention of the American Federation of Labor’ (16 October 1935).”

Martin’s article discusses how a particular speech given by John L. Lewis led to the formation of the CIO, the beginning of the industrial labor movement, and Lewis’s departure from his role as vice president of the AFL. Martin states in his article that the “speech Lewis delivered at the 1935 AFL convention can be credited as the rationale for the formation of the CIO” and that “Lewis’s rhetoric at the 1935 AFL convention initiated the crafting of a collective identity for a new industrial labor movement.”

The article speaks of what it is leaders must do in order for new social movements to succeed, and how John L. Lewis was able to push the industrial labor movement forward with his speech at the 1935 AFL convention as well as his passion and the actions (sometimes unconventional) he took to make the movement successful. Martin argues in his article that “the peak of his [Lewis’s] national prominence began in 1935 with the founding of the Committee for Industrial Organization (later the Congress of Industrial Organizations).”

A copy of Associate Professor Martin’s article can be found by going to the Voices of Democracy website or by clicking here.


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