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Episode 2 – Shape Up or Ship Out
To start our examination of the history of the International Longshoremen’s Association, we go back to the birth of labor organizing on the docks in the late 19th century. We discuss the awful labor conditions faced by workers, forced to beg, plead, or pay for work in the hated daily shape up. We discuss the birth of the ILA on the Great Lakes, the rise of New York City as the center of US overseas trade, and the start of the long reign of “King” Joe Ryan as union president. We also talk about the earliest movements for democracy and reform within the union, and the brutal, sometimes deadly consequences faced by those who stood up for their rights on the docks.
Main sources for this series include: Reds or Rackets by Howard Kimeldorf, Strife on the Waterfront by Vernon Jensen, New York Longshoremen: Class and Power on the Docks by William Mello, and Mobsters, Unions, and Feds by James Jacobs.
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