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Episode 1 – Communism vs. Corruption
One of the peculiarities of the US labor movement is the existence of two different unions for longshore workers, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) on the West Coast, and the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) on the East Coast. Originally, the ILA represented members on both coasts, bringing all longshore workers in the country under one union. But after the refusal of the national leadership to support the 1934 San Francisco General Strike or to support the move to expand the union to warehouse workers, the West Coast workers seceded and formed their own union.
In this series we will examine the history of the ILA and dig into why West Coast longshore workers felt they had no choice but to form their own union. We will examine the key factors that have prevented the rise of a democratic reform movement within the ILA, and how collusion between shipping companies, the federal government, and the mafia played a critical role in suppressing reform. We will discuss the long fight by the rank and file for reform, and how the federal government time and time again stepped in to squash it.
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