Reflecting the practical lessons of past union failures in the stockyards and the Communist affiliation of its leading organizers - Communist stockyards activists believed strongly in both racial equality and the radical potential of Black labor(64) - the PWOC (formed in 1937) made a special effort to reach Black workers and overcome racial divisions in the workforce.
Once they burned the paternalist bridge through participation in the PWOC, Black workers' stake in the success of the union was especially great.
Early Black skilled worker PWOC militants like Weightman, Pete Brown, Jefferson Beckley, and Jesse Vaughn - each headed a Chicago PWOC local in the late 1930s - were hardly introduced to the killing gangs' "long tradition of stoppages" by CIO activists.
Its membership was parishes, social, fraternal, sororal, athletic, small business and other associations that overcame the bitter tensions among the ethnic groups--and the PWOC, led by Herb March, then an open member of the Communist Party.
The division between community and union that reached into families--wives often influenced by conservative pastors preaching against the "communist union," and husbands desperately wanting the protection of a union and experiencing PWOC as a thoroughly democratic organization-was breached.
Joined by activists from Iowa, Nebraska, and to a lesser extent Minnesota, Chicago's PWOC militants succeeded in creating their own international union, the United Packinghouse Workers of America (UPWA).
In stark contrast to Rachleff's depiction of the CIO, Rick Halpern emphasizes the real sense of power and democracy the CIO's PWOC offered to its members.
One of its earliest acts was to pass a resolution urging the Armour Company sign a contract with the PWOC
emerged as an equal opportunity union, this talent had a place to be expressed, and these black institutions had an ally for support--as they were an ally and support for Union.