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Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

CLEVELAND INDUSTRIAL UNION COUNCIL

CLEVELAND INDUSTRIAL UNION COUNCIL

The CLEVELAND INDUSTRIAL UNION COUNCIL was the Cleveland affiliate of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). In 1933 the drive to organize workers along industry-wide lines intensified after the National Industrial Recovery Act gave workers the right to form unions. The CLEVELAND FEDERATION OF LABOR, bound by traditions of organization by craft and fearful of worker militancy, failed to aggressively reach out to less skilled workers and also expelled those within its ranks who tried to do so. The real issues between the federation and the CIO were power and tactics. When local auto workers staged sitdown strikes at the FISHER BODY General Motors plant in Dec. 1936, federation members initially supported the strikes, but old-line craft-union members, angry that police closed the plant to them as well, did not. As a result, by Jan. 1937 the CFL reversed itself and condemned the CIO-led work stoppage. Following national directives, the federation expelled five unions in March 1937: the UAW, Amalgamated Clothing Workers, Textile Workers, Steel Workers (Amalgamated Assn. of Iron, Steel & Tin Workers), and the INTERNATIONAL LADIES GARMENT WORKERS UNION. The leaders of these industrial unions formed the United Labor Congress, later the Cleveland Industrial Council, and by 1938 the Cleveland Industrial Union Council (CIUC) as the local CIO representative.

Attempts by CFL leaders to keep peace with the CIUC were punctuated by a series of raids on their unions; however, a change in national CIO leadership in 1940 reduced strains. Jurisdictional squabbling and CFL antipathy toward alleged Communist influence in the CIUC, however, prevented cooperation until after the Taft-Hartley Act passed in 1947, requiring union officials to sign anti-communist affidavits. The CIUC, anxious to retain its member unions who were seeking affiliation with the CFL, ousted Charles McLennon, its community service director, Fay Stephenson, Cleveland-based president of the CIO Women's Auxiliary, and other leaders with ties to the Communist party. Several months later the national CIO convention, held in Cleveland in 1949, expelled the radical element from its ranks (see CIO "PURGE" CONVENTION). This severing of leftist ties removed a major barrier to CFL-CIUC cooperation. In 1958, three years after the national AFL-CIO merger, the council combined with the CFL to become the Cleveland AFL-CIO. At the time of the merger, the council claimed 200,000 members and had its headquarters at 1000 Walnut Ave.