American historians tend to believe that labor activism was moribund in the years between the First World War and the New Deal. Jon Huibregtse challenges this perspective in his examination of the railroad unions of the time, arguing that not only were they active, but that they made a big difference in American Labor practices by helping to set legal precedents. Huibregtse explains how efforts by the Plumb Plan League and the Railroad Labor Executive Association created the Railroad Labor Act, its amendments, and the Railroad Retirements Act. These laws became models for the National Labor Relations Act and the Social Security Act. Unfortunately, the significant contributions of the railroad laws are, more often than not, overlooked when the NLRA or Social Security are discussed. Offering a new perspective on labor unions in the 1920s, Huibregtse describes how the railroad unions created a model for union activism that workers' organizations followed for the next two decades.
Timothy J. Minchin teaches American history at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. He is author of What Do We Need a Union For?: The TWUA in the South, 1945-1955 and the award-winning Hiring the Black Worker: The Racial Integration of the Southern Textile Industry, 1960-1980