Labor, Civil Rights, and the Hughes Tool Company / Edition 1
On July 12, 1964, in a momentous decision, the National Labor Relations Board decertified the racially segregated Independent Metal Workers Union as the collective bargaining agent at Houston’s mammoth Hughes Tool Company. The unanimous decision ending nearly fifty years of Jim Crow unionism at the company marked the first time in the Labor Board’s history that it ruled that racial discrimination by a union violated the National Labor Relations Act and was therefore illegal. The ruling was for black workers the equivalent of the Brown v. Board of Education decision by the Supreme Court in the area of education.
Michael R. Botson carefully traces the Jim Crow unionism of the company and the efforts of black union activists to bring civil rights issues into the workplace. His analysis places Hughes Tool in the context created by the National Labor Relations Act and the formation of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). It clearly demonstrates that without federal intervention, workers at Hughes Tool would never have been able to overcome management’s opposition to unionization and to racial equality.
Drawing on interviews with many of the principals, as well as extensive mining of company and legal archives, Botson’s study “captures a moment in time when a segment of Houston’s working-class seized the initiative and won economic and racial justice in their work place.”
This is an important new book on a still neglected topic: civil rights in the workplace. Botson uses the case study of Hughes Tool to examine the confluence of two of the great social movements in twentieth century American history, the struggle for independent unions and the struggle for civil rights. Black workers in the large Houston factory of Hughes Tool finally won a landmark case before the National Labor Relations Board that effectively challenged their separate, but not equal treatment as workers in the company's all-black labor gangs. (Joseph A. Pratt, Cullen Professor of History and Business, University of Houston)
George N. Green
Botson weaves together this tapestry of history with considerable skill and nuance, all the more heartfelt since he spent nine years as an industrial union worker, where he encountered some of the same problems he later discovered in his research of Hughes Tool. This story is a substantial contribution to the growing body of literature that focuses on civil rights and the labor movement, and is further evidence of the importance of Texas events in making that history. (George N. Green, Professor of History, University of Texas at Austin)