American Automobile Workers, 1900-1933

By Joyce S. Peterson

Subjects: American Labor History
Series: SUNY series in American Labor History
Paperback : 9780887065743, 231 pages, November 1987
Hardcover : 9780887065736, 231 pages, November 1987

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Table of contents


1. The Automobile Industry in the Early Twentieth Century

2. The Auto Workers

3. Auto Work

4. Conditions on the Job

5. Quality of Life Outside the Factory

6. Auto Workers Respond to Their Work

7. Auto Worker Unions

8. The Great Depression Arrives

9. Conclusion



This book is a comprehensive history of automobile workers in the pre-union era. It covers changes in the kinds of workers who staffed the auto factories, developments in the labor process and in overall conditions of work, daily life outside the factories, informal responses of workers to routinized, monotonous, and highly structured work, and automobile worker unions before the creation of the United Automobile Workers. Although the 1920s were seen at the time as a period of peaceful and cooperative labor relations, author Joyce Peterson looks beneath the surface to discover the many ways in which auto workers expressed their displeasure with and attempted to fight against working conditions. The book also examines the Briggs strike of 1933, the first strike to significantly register the impact of the Great Depression upon the automobile industry and to mark the end of the pre-union era.

The automobile industry was a model of twentieth century mass production techniques, of managerial organization, and of labor relations. Studying automobile workers in their historical and social setting explains a great deal about the nature of modern industry—how it affects the daily life and work of employees and how workers see themselves as individuals and members of a working class.

Joyce Shaw Peterson is Associate Professor of History at Florida International University in Miami.


"The book is a first-rate social history of automobile workers in the pre-union era. I wish that I had written it. " — Stephen Meyer, University of Wisconsin-Parkside