Labour Goes to War

The CIO and the Construction of a New Social Order, 1939-45

Wendy Cuthbertson

  • Published: 2012. Paperback 2013
  • Subject Listing: History
  • Bibliographic information: 240 pp., 6 x 9 in.
  • Territorial rights: US rights only
  • Distributed for: UBC Press
  • Contents

During the Second World War, the Congress of Industrial Organizations in Canada grew from a handful of members to more than a quarter-million and from political insignificance to a position of influence in the emergence of the welfare state. What was it about the "good war" that brought about this phenomenal growth? And how did this coming of age during the war affect the emerging CIO?

Labour Goes to War analyzes the organizing strategies of the CIO during the war to show that both economic and cultural forces were behind its explosive growth. Labour shortages gave workers greater power in the workplace and increased their militancy. But workers' patriotism, their ties to those on active service, memories of the First World War, and allegiance to the "people's war" also contributed to the CIO's growth - and to what it claimed for workers. At the same time, union organizers and workers influenced one another as the war changed lives, opinions, expectations - and notions of women's rights.

Drawing on an impressive array of archival material, Wendy Cuthbertson illuminates this complex wartime context. Her analysis shows how the war changed lives, opinions, and expectations. She also shows how the complex, often contradictory, motives of workers during this period left the Canadian labour movement with an ambivalent progressive/conservative legacy.
Wendy Cuthbertson has worked for the Canadian AutoWorkers Union, the Ontario Pay Equity Commission, and the OntarioConfederation of University Faculty Associations.

"An original and incisive analysis of the campaigns for industrial unionism in Canada's labour heartland. Showing that patriotism and loyalty to comrades fighting overseas made many workers reluctant to embrace labour radicalism, Cuthbertson not only highlights the obstacles union organizers faced but also explains how a culture was created that contributed to the moderation of trade unions after the war. Those interested in the history of workers, war, and union power will profit from this engaging and compellingly argued book."
-Carmela Patrias, author of Jobs and Justice: Fighting Discrimination in Wartime Canada, 1939-1945

1 "A Trifle Depressing": The CIOon the Eve of War

2 Organizing the Unorganized in Wartime

3 Wartime Organizing: Getting to aMajority

4 "Becoming Unionized as Well asOrganized": Union Sociability, the Transmission of Ideas, and theCreed of Equality

5 "The War for the Common Man":The CIO's Narrative of a Fulfilled Democracy

6 "Equal Partners in This WorldCrusade": Women, Equal Pay, and the CIO