Daniel Tobin’s famous ‘rubbish’ comment and the need for a reconsideration of AFL national union leaders in the new deal era

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Daniel Tobin led the Teamsters Union from 1907 to 1952. He guided its transformation from a dwindling set of locals representing horse-drawn wagon drivers to the nation’s largest union. However, Tobin is best remembered today for a comment he made during an American Federation of Labor (AFL) Convention in 1934, when he denigrated new members flooding into the labor movement as ‘rubbish.’ The quote has been used to illustrate depictions of the AFL leadership as racist, nativist, sexist and elitist. This article argues that the quote has been taken out of context and used to misrepresent Tobin’s meaning. He did intend to denigrate some of the new members coming into the labor movement, but his criticism had nothing to do with ethnicity, race, level of skill, or opposition to organizing the mass production industries.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)401-415
Number of pages15
JournalLabor History
Volume61
Issue number3-4
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 3 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • History
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management

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