Big Brother Unionism? The Landrum-Griffin Act and the Fight for AFSCME’s Future, 1961 – 1964

Source: Joseph E. Hower, Labor: Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas, Vol. 11 no. 2, Summer 2014
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From the abstract:
In this article, Joseph Hower examines the regulation of union elections by the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (commonly known as the Landrum-Griffin act) through a case study of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). Drawing on local and national union records and oral history transcripts, he reconstructs Jerry Wurf’s campaign for the union presidency (1961–64) and shows how Wurf and his dissident caucus were reluctant to invoke Landrum-Griffin’s protections, even in the midst of a fiercely contested election campaign, for fear that it would legitimize the anti-union intentions of the law’s architects. Instead, Wurf and the other dissidents turned the law to their own ends, holding out the threat of legal action to force incumbent president Arnold Zander to curb his worst excesses, while using his administration’s misdeeds to underscore their broader case for union reform. Narrowly defeated in 1962, Wurf managed to unseat Zander at the union’s 1964 convention. The successful challenge, a rarity in twentieth-century labor history, ratified a more militant vision of the union, setting the stage for AFSCME’s impressive growth during the second half of the twentieth century.