Workers Alliance of America

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The Workers Alliance of America (WAA) was formed in 1935-1936 as a merger of predominantly socialist and communist-led unemployment councils, unemployment leagues and independent state organizations throughout the United States. At the head of the Workers Alliance was David Lasser, the organization's National President and Herbert Benjamin, its Secretary-Treasurer. Lasser, a registered Socialist, had graduated from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and served as editor of Technocracy Review and president of the American Interplanetary Society before becoming involved in labor issues and forming the Workers Unemployed League in New York in 1933. Benjamin joined the Communist Party after serving in World War I and worked as a party organizer. In 1931 he organized several Unemployed Councils which coordinated demonstrations on behalf of unemployed workers. The Workers Alliance claimed to be the spokesman for all Works Progress Administration employees and the unemployed, but by 1936 the Alliance had come to the attention of the FBI who began to monitor its actions. Much of what is known about the Workers Alliance comes from their FBI file; however, because the FBI did not gather information on the group immediately, some early information was lost. The Workers Alliance held its Second National Convention in Washington, D.C. on April 7-10, 1936 where it incorporated the Communist-led Unemployment Councils into the organization and established its headquarters in New York. Other national conventions were held in Milwaukee (1937), Cleveland (1938), and Chicago (1940). The Workers Alliance quickly gained power and interest and, in 1938, claimed 800,000 members in 1400 local chapters. The Alliance started to fall apart in 1939 when membership began to decline with the introduction of a Works Progress Administration law prohibiting workers from membership in the Communist Party. Then, in 1940, Lasser resigned his presidency stating that the Workers Alliance was becoming too militant and dominated by the Communist Party, which claimed responsibility for the Alliance's creation and success. Benjamin also resigned at the 1940 National Convention, leaving the Alliance in the hands of inexperienced new officers. Although the Workers Alliance lost much of its prominence, the FBI investigation of the organization and its former members continued until 1961. The Workers Alliance had several connections to the Pittsburgh area. Local chapters included: Wilkinsburg #4, McKeesport #29, Hazelwood #75, East Liberty #76, Turtle Creek #80, Pittsburgh #83, Homestead #108, and Lawrenceville #142. At the Alliance's Second National Convention, Pittsburgh sent fifty delegates, more than any other city and one less than the most represented states of New York and Pennsylvania (its only other delegate being from Bethlehem). Pittsburgh delegates included Joseph Remko, Peter Dougherty, John Hickey, and John Fagen. During the investigation, the FBI used Pittsburgh Sun Telegraph reporter Leo Sheridan as an informant to gain information about Workers Alliance president David Lasser while Lasser was in Harrisburg.

From the description of Records of the Workers Alliance of America, 1935-1998. (University of Pittsburgh). WorldCat record id: 128305560

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Kramer, Leon, 1889-1962. Leon Kramer papers, 1874-1964. University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee, UWM Libraries
referencedIn Lasser, David, 1902-. Papers, 1931-1998. University of California, San Diego, UC San Diego Library; UCSD Library
referencedIn Billups, Joseph, 1893-. Oral history interview with Joseph Billups, 1967. Wayne State University. Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs
referencedIn Arnold Johnson Papers, Bulk, 1951-1979, 1926-1989, (Bulk 1951-1979) Tamiment Library / Wagner Archives
referencedIn Benjamin, Herbert, 1900-1983. Herbert Benjamin papers, 1915-2004 (bulk 1923-1982). Library of Congress
referencedIn Papers, 1935-1995. University of Oklahoma, Bizzell Memorial Library
creatorOf Workers Alliance of America. Records of the Workers Alliance of America, 1935-1998. University of Pittsburgh
referencedIn J. B. Matthews Papers, 1862-1986 and undated David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
referencedIn McCulloch, Frank W., 1905-1996. Frank W. McCulloch papers, 1931-1988 (bulk 1931-1948). Chicago History Museum
referencedIn Herbert Benjamin Papers, 1915-2004, (bulk 1923-1982) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Salmi, Wilbert. Wilbert Salmi papers, 1936. Wayne State University. Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs
creatorOf Workers Alliance of America. [Minor publications]. Yale University Library
creatorOf Workers Alliance of America. Records, 1935-1936, undated. Wisconsin Historical Society, Newspaper Project
referencedIn Johnson, Arnold Samuel, 1904-1989. Papers, 1926-1989. 1951-1979 (bulk). Churchill County Museum
referencedIn Johnson, Arnold 1904-1989. Arnold Samuel. Arnold Johnson Papers 1926-1989, (bulk 1951-1979). New York University, Tamiment Library
referencedIn Kieff, Edward. Edward Kieff papers, 1937-1940. Broward County Libraries, Broward County, Library Division
referencedIn David Lasser Papers, 1930 - 1998 University of California, San Diego. Geisel Library. Mandeville Special Collections Library.
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Benjamin, Herbert, 1900-1983. person
associatedWith Benjamin, Herberts, 1900-1983. person
associatedWith Billups, Joseph, 1893- person
associatedWith Davin, Eric. person
associatedWith Johnson, Arnold 1904-1989. Arnold Samuel. person
associatedWith Johnson, Arnold (Arnold Samuel), 1904-1989 person
associatedWith Johnson, Arnold Samuel, 1904-1989. person
associatedWith Kieff, Edward. person
associatedWith Kramer, Leon, 1889-1962. person
associatedWith Lasser, David, 1902- person
associatedWith Lasser, David, 1902-1996. person
associatedWith Matthews, J. B. (Joseph Brown), 1894-1966 person
associatedWith McCulloch, Frank W., 1905-1996. person
associatedWith Salmi, Wilbert. person
associatedWith United States. corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Federal Bureau of Investigation. corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Works Progess Administration. corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
United States
United States
New York (N.Y.)
Wisconsin
Pittsburgh (Pa.)
Subject
Labor unions
Labor movement
Depressions--1929
Unemployed--Political activity
Communists
Unemployment
Unemployed
Occupation
Function

Corporate Body

Active 1935

Active 1998

Information

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