In 1935 several union leaders were dissatisfied with the policies of American Federation of Labour (AFL). Led by John L. Lewis, the leader of the United Mine Workers of America, seven unions formed the Committee for Industrial Organisation (CIO). Three years later they changed the name of the organisation to the Congress for Industrial Organisation.
John L. Lewis became president of the CIO and over the next few years attempted to organize workers in the new mass production industries. This strategy was successful and by 1937 the CIO had more members than the American Federation of Labour.
In 1955 the CIO merged with the American Federation of Labour. Walter Reuther, the president of the CIO became vice-president of the AFL-CIO. George Meany became president of this new organisation that now had a membership of 15,000,000.
Walter Reuther found George Meany conservative and dictatorial and in 1968 led the out of the AFL-CIO federation. The following year he joined with the Teamsters Union to form Alliance for Labor Action.
Roosevelt was interested in bringing into American labor unions as many voters as possible and in capturing their leadership to be used to build up a powerful labor faction which could control the Democratic party and which he and his allies could control through the vast power of the government and the vast powers of the labor leaders, along with the immense financial resources that so great a labor movement would have. The Communists were interested in getting into key positions as union officers, statisticians, economists, etc., in order to utilize the apparatus of the unions to promote the cause of revolution. I think we have to be fair in saying at this point that neither Roosevelt nor Lewis realized the peril to which they were exposing both the unions and the country. This thing called revolutionary propaganda and activity is something of an art in itself. It has been developed to a high degree in Europe where revolutionary groups have been active for half a century and where Communist revolutionary groups have achieved such success during the past 25 years. It was, at this time of which I write, practically unknown to political and labor leaders in this country and is still unknown to the vast majority of political leaders. The time came when Lewis saw the gravity of the situation and faced it frankly and dealt with it immediately. But as we shall see, Roosevelt, through a combination of events and influences, fell deeper and deeper into the toils of various revolutionary operators, not because he was interested in revolution but because he was interested in votes.
For the time being, however, he capitalized heavily on the activities of the CIO. The CIO put up half a million dollars for Roosevelt's 1936 campaign and provided him with an immense group of active labor workers who played a large part in the sweeping victory he won at the polls. But among them now were a large number of Communists in positions of great power within the new union movement, some of them actually moving close to the center of power. This was the crack in the wall through which they entered. Their power was to grow and prosper.