ABSTRACT

The 1919 American Federation of Labor conven­ tion spelled out the deficiencies of a recent in­ dustrial innovation: the company union. “With hardly a pretense of organization, unaffiliated with other groups of workers in the same industry, destitute of funds, and unfitted to use the strike weapon, the company union is a complete fail­ ure . . . a delusion and a snare” (AFL 1919, p. 303). Adopted without debate, the resolution was similar to many union proclamations of the postWorld War I years, when the labor movement enjoyed unprecedented power and elan. But this statement proved to be more than a routine ex­ pression of union militancy. The 1919 attack was the first blow in what would be a long and effec­ tive campaign against company unionism. Ulti­ mately, it would result in a successful legislative assault on the company union as it had been known since the mid-1910s.