New York Longshoremen: Class and Power on the Docks

William Mello, Indiana University

In the post-World War II era, dockworkers in New York fought an ongoing battle against shipping companies, local police, federal and state political authorities, and their own corrupt union leadership for workplace control. Labor studies scholar William Mello, author of New York Longshoremen: Class and Power on the Docks (University Press of Florida, 2010), reveals how labor relations were driven by radical and reform rank-and-file movements led by Communists, Catholics, and local union leaders. He explores the impact of local political institutions on the labor movement as well as the influence of labor on political development. His research–informed by interviews, newspaper accounts, official reports, rank-and-file newsletters, and oral histories–illustrates how workers defied the powers of elites to sporadically impose their will on labor relations. Though the dockworkers ultimately lost the battle for democratic control of the waterfront, they achieved highly significant victories.