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Rights Delayed: The History of US Progressive Unions

A black and white political cartoon. In the center of the image is a tree trunk with lower branches at the top of the image. Two phrases appear on the trunk, "Higher Living Standard" and "FTS CIO". Also appearing on lower branches at the top of the cartoon are phrases such as "Job Security," "Higher Wages," Paid Holidays and Vacations." Finally, in the bottom right-hand corner of the image, a figure wearing a 1930s bowler cap is shown in motion about to take a large ax to the tree. On the back of his pants the letters "AFL" appear in all caps.

In this episode we speak with historian Charles Romney about his history of labor law research on progressive unions.

In his book "Rights Delayed: The American State and the Defeat of Progressive Unions, 1935-1950" published by Oxford University Press, Romney states, "Progressive unions flourished in the 1930s by working alongside federal agencies created during the New Deal. Yet in 1950, few progressive unions remained. Why?"

In our discussion, Dr. Romney takes us on a journey exploring reasons for this decline.

Author Photo
UALR / Lonnie Timmons III
UALR / Lonnie Timmons III
Author Charles W. Romney

Charles W. Romney is Professor of History and Graduate Coordinator of the Public History M.A. program at University of Arkansas at Little Rock. He received his doctorate in history from UCLA.

He is currently Distinguished Visiting Scholar at the Advanced Research Collaborative, Graduate Center, City University of New York.

The musical interludes in the episode were provided by Spencer Kenney, and archived music from the 1930s. A special thank you to Joseph Fuller of Orchestra of One for the instrumental music, the soundscape design, and the original song "Join a Union."

This episode is dedicated to Daniel Robert Minnick. "Thanks, Pal!"

Generous funding for Arts & Letters Radio was provided by the Arkansas Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities, and from listeners like you.

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Executive Producer and Host: J. Bradley Minnick
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