The Transport Workers Union in New York City, 1933-1966Joshua B. Freeman
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 Armyincluding TWU president Michael J. Quillin 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.
"(Freeman) provides one of the best histories we have of an American union. He also further illustrates to what degree the union battles of the 1930s emerged out of a cultural...milieu, rather than simply from economic position or class identity, and how those battles transformed that milieu by seeming to open new possibilities to men and women who only a few years earlier were resigned to a life of powerlessness and economic hardship." —Alan Brinkley, The New York Review of Books
"America's workers, in all their diversity, are finally finding their historians. None will be better served than are New York's transit workers by Joshua Freeman. On at least three counts Freeman's book is truly unexcelled—first, as a demonstration of how ethnicity—in this case, Irish ethnicity—has shaped the American unionizing process; second, as an incisive analysis of the role of communists within a CIO union; and, finally, as an account of the complex intermeshing of trade unionism and municipal politics. Mike Quill himself would have had to concede that his measure had been taken by this smart academic... Freeman has written a terrific book." —David Brody University of California, Davis
"An extraordinary work whose impact will far transcend the circle of scholars interested in CIO unions of the Roosevelt era. Freeman's study of the TWU—a work firmly rooted in the new social history—successfully integrates organizational structures with a more traditional historiographical interest in politics and personality. He adds an extremely important dimension to our understanding of the social history of the New Deal era." —Nelson Lichtenstein
"Joshua Freeman has done painstaking, exhausting research, producing a balanced book that is an exemplary model of labor-union history." —Anthropology of Work