Employee Responsibilities and Rights Journal

, Volume 31, Issue 4, pp 225–237 | Cite as

The Crime of Radical Industrial Unionism

  • Ahmed WhiteEmail author


A great deal of scholarship documents the history of antiradical repression in the United States. But this literature remains incomplete, particularly regarding the role of state laws and state authorities in undermining campaigns for radical industrial unionism in the first half of the Twentieth Century. This essay addresses this issue, describing how state-level sedition laws were used against the Industrial Workers of the World and communist unions, while also highlighting how progressive politicians and jurists joined with the capitalist sponsors of these laws and their conservative allies in government in promoting these efforts. While it avoids suggesting that such prosecutions were the only, or even primary, reasons for the demise of radical industrial unionism, this essay argues that the history of these laws must feature prominently in any attempt to understand this movement’s tragic fate and to comprehend the role of the state in labor history.


Industrial unionism Labor repression Civil liberties Progressivism 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Ethics Approval and Consent to Participate

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by either of the authors. There were no individual participants in this study and, thus, informed consent does not apply to this study.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Colorado School of LawBoulderUSA

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