Pursuing Justice

Lee Pressman, the New Deal, and the CIO

By Gilbert J. Gall

Subjects: History
Series: SUNY series in American Labor History
Paperback : 9780791441046, 363 pages, February 1999
Hardcover : 9780791441039, 363 pages, February 1999

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Table of contents



Prologue: "For the same reasons, the same response. "

1. World of Our Sons

2. Certainty in Human Form

3. Hammer and Steel

4. Mobilizing the Administrative State

5. Establishing the Commonwealth of Steel

6. General Counsel

7. The Road to Gideon's Army

8. The Miscalculation

9. Pursuing "Comrade Big"

Epilogue: "A quiet law practice . . . "


Bibliographical Note


Examines the career of the nation's most prominent liberal labor lawyer during a period of ascending labor power. Pressman was also one of the most prominent underground communists active in American political life from the early New Deal to the beginning of the Cold War.


As the nation's most prominent labor lawyer during a period of ascending labor power, Lee Pressman served as General Counsel of the Congress of Industrial Organizations from 1933 to 1948. Working among the movers and shapers of American politics, he was also one of the most highly-placed, though covert, adherents of communism in public life during the New Deal–Fair Deal years. This book chronicles Pressman's fascinating public life and examines his contributions to the rebirth of the American labor movement, to the development of U. S. labor law, and to the history of the New Deal–Fair Deal era.

Pressman served as John L. Lewis's legal strategist during the CIO's successful campaign to unionize the mass production industries in the United States in the 1930s. Performing a similar role for Philip Murray, Lewis's successor, Pressman guided the new labor federation through the perils of wartime labor policy and the turbulent post-war economic reconversion. After he left the CIO in 1948 to support the independent Progressive Party campaign of Henry Wallace, he found his public career dissipating as he became embroiled in the Alger Hiss case and the rising anticommunist tide of the early Cold War years.

Gilbert J. Gall is Associate Professor of Labor Studies and Industrial Relations at Pennsylvania State University. He is the author of The Politics of Right to Work: The Labor Federations as Special Interests, 1943-1978.


"This is an outstanding book in its conception, research, analysis, and presentation, certain to take its place as one of the leading studies of labor-liberalism in the New Deal era. Gall's work rightly focuses on the legal and public policy issues that were at the heart of the New Deal dispensation. A splendid example of mature, thoughtful, and engaged scholarship. " — Robert H. Zieger, University of Florida