CIO’s History Inspires Podcasts

A group of autoworkers sit on a makeshift platform under a window in a factory.

A key CIO victory was the successful sit-down strike at General Motors. Here, sit-down strikers guarded a window entrance to Fisher Body Plant in Flint, Michigan, in 1937. Photo: Sheldon Dick/Library of Congress

A new podcast, "Organize the Unorganized: The Rise of the CIO," tells the story of the Committee for Industrial Organization (which later became the Congress of Industrial Organizations) and organized millions of workers in the 1930s and '40s.

“If we're looking to get millions of workers into the labor movement and keep them there, there's really one time in American history to look to, and that's the CIO moment,” said Benjamin Fong, who created and hosts the podcast.

Another C.I.O. Podcast

Labor historians and organizers revisit the near-mythical history of the CIO in a new 20-episode podcast series, “Fragile Juggernaut,” by Haymarket Press. Tim Barker, Andrew Elrod, Ben Mabie, Alex Press, Emma Teitelman, and Gabriel Winant, “will explore the trajectory of the American working class through a period of its greatest drama and political possibility.” Episodes are available here.

“There's a lot to learn from the CIO moment in the 1930s about how to organize at a mass level,” said Fong, who teaches at Barrett, The Honors College at Arizona State University.

“The CIO ably exploited a ripe political economic opportunity, and they also harnessed rank-and-file militancy and strategic disruption to win union recognition and force employers into collective bargaining.”

The podcast features an all-star lineup of labor historians: Nelson Lichtenstein, Dorothy Sue Cobble, Steve Fraser, Erik Loomis, Jeremy Brecher, Robert Cherny, Lizabeth Cohen, David Brody and Melvyn Dubofsky. They are accompanied by labor movement songs and archival material.

“I'm hoping to familiarize a new generation of people interested in unions with one of the key moments of labor upsurge in American history,” Fong said. “I'm also hoping to raise the voices of an elder generation of labor scholars.”

Podcast episodes are available here. It is co-produced by the Center for Work and Democracy at Arizona State University and Jacobin.

[Nicole Greason is director of marketing at Barrett, The Honors College at Arizona State University.]