Labor’s National Committee for the Modification of the Volstead Act

The American Federation of Labor’s National Committee for the Modification of the Volstead Act was created in January of 1931.

The Volstead Act was the law that provided for the implementation of the Eighteenth Amendment that established National Prohibition (1920-1933).

Matthew Woll

National Committee for the Modification of the Volstead Act
Matthew Woll

The National Committee for the Modification of the Volstead Act was co-founded and then headed by Matthew Woll. He testified before a Congressional committee that workers and organized labor opposed Prohibition.

Labor leadership opposed the Eighteenth Amendment. It was the first time in history that an amendment to the Constitution denied instead of creating or expanding rights.

As early as 1923, the AF of L had passed a resolution calling for the modification of the Volstead Act. It wanted the law to permit the sale of “light wines and beers.”

Serious Problems

Repeal Trivia.

Leaders  of Repeal    

Repeal Groups.  

Timeline of Repeal.

21st Amendment (brought about Repeal).   

Prohibition caused many serious problems. With the passage of time support for it continued to erode.

Following creation of Labor’s National Committee for the Modification of the Volstead Act, organized labor began forcefully calling for change.

Advisory Committee

In March of 1931, labor groups formed a committee representing 75 national and international unions. It advised Labor’s National Committee for the Modification of the Volstead Act.

In November of the same year, Woll called for a Congressional showdown on the issue. Prohibition was causing increases “in racketeering, gangsterism, debased morality and poisoned citizenship.”

Woll asserted that Prohibition had been a “most tragic mistake” and a “miserable fiasco.” He said the group would call for Repeal if necessary.

Repeal

An overwhelming majority of Americans came to believe that Repeal was necessary. As a result, National Prohibition was rejected by voters three-to-one.

The call for the legalization of beer and wine but not distilled spirits was naive.

Alcohol Equivalence

Standard drinks of beer, wine and distilled spirits all have the same amount of pure alcohol. That is, six-tenths of an ounce per drink. Thus, they’re all the same to a breathalyzer.

A standard drink is a

  • National Committee for the Modification of the Volstead Act12-ounce bottle or can of regular beer
  • five-ounce glass of dinner wine
  •  shot (one and 1/2 ounce) of 80 proof spirits. That is, rum, whiskey, vodka, tequila, etc.

For more, visit Alcohol Eqivalence.

Resources on Labor’s National Committee for the Modification of the Volstead Act