In Transit

The Transport Workers Union in New York City, 1933-1966

Joshua B. Freeman
Book Cover

PB: $35.95
EAN: 978-1-56639-922-7
Publication: Aug 01

Ebook: $34.95
EAN: 978-1-59213-815-9
Publication: Aug 01

464 pages
6 x 9
1 figs., 16 halftones, 1 maps

An award-winning history of the Transport Workers Union, and an example of radical organizing in action

Read the new Preface and Chapter 1 (pdf).


This history of New York transit workers from the Great Depression to the monumental 1966 transit strike shows how, through collective action, the men and women who operated the world's largest transit system brought about a virtual revolution in their daily lives. Joshua Freeman's detailed descriptions of both transit work and transit workers, and his full account of the formation and development of the Transport Workers Union provide new insight into the nature of modern industrial unionism. Freeman pays particular attention to the role of Communists and veterans of the Irish Republican Army—including TWU president Michael J. Quill—in organizing and leading the union, as well as to the Catholic labor activists who were the principal union dissidents. Freeman also explores the intense political struggles over the New York transit system. He links the TWU's pioneering role in public sector unionism to worker militancy and the union's deep involvement in New York politics. His portrait of Fiorello La Guardia's determined opposition to the TWU belies La Guardia's pro-labor reputation. By combining social and political history with the study of collective bargaining, In Transit makes a major contribution to the history of American labor, radicalism, and urban politics. Now with a new epilogue that frames the history of the union in the context of labor’s revival and recent changes in TWU’s leadership, In Transit is an intimate portrait of the politics of mass transit and public sector unionism, and one of the most detailed reconstructions to date of the social processes of industrial unionism. This book will appeal to anyone interested in New York City's subways, politics, history, and labor.

Table of Contents

Preface to the New Edition Preface

Part I: "History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake" 1. The Transit Industry 2. Transit Workers

Part II: "Did you see the light?" 3. The Founding of the Transport Workers Union 4. Organizing the IRT, 1933-1936 5. Organizing: 1936-1937

Part III: "A revolution must come on the dues installments plan" 6. The Fruits of Victory 7. Catholics and Communists: Union Politics, 1937-1941

Part IV: "As . . . decent citizens of New York" 8. Public Transit and Transit Politics 9. Unification

Part V: "Events have abolished all debates" 10. Wartime 11. Breaking Out of New York

Part VI: "Fortune’s blows when most struck home . . . " 12. From the Grand Alliance to the Cold War 13. Fratricide 14. The New Order

Epilogue Notes Index

About the Author(s)

Joshua B. Freeman is Professor of History at Queens College, City University of New York. He is the co-author of Who Built America? and author, most recently, of Working-Class New York: Life and Labor Since World War II.