Ideology vs. “rule or ruin” politics in the downfall of the Communists in the NYC Hotel and Restaurant Employees Union, 1934–1952

Shaun Richman

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Much has been written about the Communist Party’s contribution to the organization of the unions within the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) during the 1930’s and 40’s. In the case of the New York Hotel and Restaurant Employees (H&RE), we can add a little more nuance to this narrative. In the first instance we have an American Federation of Labor (AFL) union that was an early adopter of industrial organizing. In the second, we have an example of Communists running a successful independent union for decades before being invited by the leadership of H&RE1 into the AFL union and granted a charter of their own to do with as they chose. And what they chose was to adapt older models of union organizing: an amalgamation of Wobbly tactics and William Z. Foster’s "trades council" strategy in the Chicago stockyards and the steel campaigns of 1917–19.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)243-264
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican Communist History
Issue number3
Early online date12 Dec 2012
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • communism, labor, us history

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