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The Macksey Journal

Abstract

This paper argues that organized labor’s racially discriminatory practices of the early 1900s served to disenfranchise African Americans and immigrants from the political process. Because unions provided labor leaders a rank-and-file membership to mobilize in support of candidates, politicians were receptive to their preferences. Labor unions’ exclusion of minorities therefore robbed them of a voice in government. Racism abounded in the United States, but such discrimination in the labor movement served to withhold both economic and political privileges to those barred from membership. The efforts of A. Philip Randolph and David Dubinsky, both presidents of labor unions with national prominence, to exert pressure and influence on Franklin Roosevelt’s administration demonstrate the power of labor unions as political entities.

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