View original document

The full text on this page is automatically extracted from the file linked above and may contain errors and inconsistencies.

A M E R IC A N L A B O R
a n d the
A M E R IC A N S P IR IT

Bulletin No. 1145




UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
James P. Mitchell, Secretary
B U R E A U O F L A B O R STATISTICS
E w a n Clagne,

Commissioner




American Labor
and the
American Spirit
Unions, Labor-Management Relations,
and Productivity
by W itt Bowden

7
Bulletin No. 1145

UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
James P. Mitchell, Secretary
B U R E A U O F L A B O R STATISTICS
E w a n Clague,

Commissioner

For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U. S. Government Printing Office, Washington 25, D. C.



Price 40cents




L e tte r of T ra n sm itta l
U n it e d S ta te s D e p a r t m e n t o f L abor ,
B u r e a u of L abor S t a t is t ic s ,

W ashington, D . G., Ja n u ary 4 , 195b •

The S
L
:
I have the honor to transmit herewith a Bureau bulletin entitled American
Labor and the American Spirit.
One purpose of the study was to provide the members of productivity teams
visiting the United States under government auspices with background and
insight into various aspects of our trade union movement. Beyond this, it
was believed that the study would have substantial interest and use for many
individuals and groups within the United States concerned with industrial
relations problems.
The bulletin was prepared by Witt Bowden under the general direction of
the Bureau’s Division of Wages and Industrial ^Relations. Mr. Bowden, a
former Bureau staff member, was Chief of the Office of Labor Economics.
E
C
, C om m issioner .
Hon. J
P. M
,
S ecreta ry o f L ab or .
e c r e ta r y of

abor

w an

am es

la g u e

it c h e l l

Contents

Chapter I
page
Historical Background and Present Status of Labor Unions-------------------------------1
Chapter II
Types of Unions and Their Interrelations_____________________________________
8
Chapter III
Collective Bargaining------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 14
Chapter IV
New Attitudes in Labor-Management Relations------------------------------------------------ 22
Chapter V
Collateral Activities of Unions---------------------------------------------------------------------- 27
Chapter VI
General Outlook and Aims of Unions--------------------------------------------------------------- 34
Chapter VII
Government and Labor-------------------------------------------------------------------------------41
Chapter VIII
Labor and Productivity-------------------------------------------------------------------------------51
Bibliographical Notes----------------------------------------------------------------------------------


in

62




American Labor
and the
American Spirit
W it t B o w d en

Chapter I.—Historical Background and Present Status of Labor Unions
Three Stages in American Labor History

Labor unions in the United States have attained
in recent decades an unprecedented power and
responsibility. Their earlier growth was less
rapid than that of unions in many of the coun­
tries of Europe because of distinctive character­
istics of the economy of the United States.
Three broad stages of development, correspond­
ing to the economic evolution of the United States,
have marked the growth of labor unions.
The first, covering most of the country’s history,
was an era of predominantly small-scale farming
and manufacturing when there was a compara­
tively slight differentiation between labor and
capital. Widespread opportunities for smallscale investment and for self-employment were
maintained by the sparsity of population and by
the process of expansion into unsettled areas.
These conditions naturally minimized the feeling
of need for labor organizations.
During the second stage, labor was progres­
sively differentiated as a distinct group. A large
and increasingly self-conscious wage-earning
group emerged in connection with the growth of
large-scale enterprises. Nevertheless, labor or­
ganizations remained comparatively unimportant



because many wage workers had not come to think
of themselves as members of a distinct group in
need of unions for maintaining group interests
and because such efforts as were made to organize
met with serious obstacles.
The third stage, extending to the present, has
been a period of intensive and increasingly success­
ful organization of workers. Wage earners have
joined unions not so much from “class conscious­
ness” (in the Marxian sense) as from acceptance
of the basic American principles and customs of
free association and collective self-help.
These three stages of labor history have no exact
boundary lines either of time or of geography.
The relative recency of industrialization, ethnic
factors, and other causes have retarded the growth '
of unions in the South. In much of agriculture
and in many service industries, there is still, in
accord with the first stage, a merging of labor and
capital; about three-fourths of American farm­
workers, for example, are self-employed. In con­
trast, there were scattered local instances of thirdstage labor behavior (group consciousness, organi­
zation, and deliberate group action) by the end of
the 18th century, as when, in 1799, the Philadel­
phia Journeymen Cordwainers (shoemakers)
1

2

AMERICAN LABOR AND THE AMERICAN SPIRIT

induced their employers to accept for a time
a system of collective bargaining through joint
representation.
Historical Merging of Labor and Capital

Opportunities for small-scale investment and
for self-employment in the United States were
associated historically with the advancing frontier
and the colonization of the West under conditions
of a liberal land policy.1 In addition, saving for
investment was widely stimulated by scarcity of
capital and by an almost continuous expansion of
opportunities for investment.
The United States remained largely agri­
cultural until past the middle of the 19th century;
and the Usual type of farming has been described
as a “way of life,” with relatively slight depend­
ence on a market economy. Not only farmers but
also such groups as shopkeepers and the craftsmen
who made things and kept them in repair were
commonly both laborers and capitalists. A man
who worked for hire, if ambitious and not pecul­
iarly unfortunate, could generally acquire some
land, or a small shop or store, or a fishing boat; or
he could become a frontiersman in a largely selfsufficing economy.
Under the stimulus of the rapidly advancing
frontier and the rapidly growing western commu­
nities, Thomas Jefferson’s intellectual and some­
what theoretical democracy was transformed into
the crude but vigorous democracy of the era of
Andrew Jackson, President from 1828 to 1886.
Important achievements of the democratic “revolu­
tion” were the removal of property qualifications
for voting and somewhat later the general intro­
duction of the secret ballot. Prior to the Civil
War, of course, individual liberty and economic
opportunity were not available to the Negro slaves.
Slavery had gained impetus from the growing de­
mand for cotton; but, while the areas of slavery
became increasingly static, the “free soil” areas
were dynamic and expanding.
There followed the era of preoccupation with
economic expansion in the “free soil” areas and of
conflict between the sections. The outcome was
1 T h e most influential study of the frontier is Professor F. J.
Turner’s essay, The Significance of the Frontier in American
History, first published in 1893, and conveniently available in
The American Reader (pp. 99-115), edited by C. A. Simpson and
Allan Nevins. Boston, Heath & Co., 1941.




the. victory of the antislavery forces and of the
forces of nationalism as opposed to sectionalism
and States rights.
Long after the last geographical frontier had
been passed, late in the 19th century, there still
was magic in the West. Many of the traits of
mind and personality in the United States today
are traceable to our experience in expanding over
the continent—traits such as energy, optimism,
individualism, love of freedom from traditions
and restraints. These traits were accentuated by
the fact that most of the immigrants during the
early period of colonization and later period of
rapid settlement came to this country to escape
from inequality, tradition, and arbitrary power
and to find greater liberty and opportunity.
Increasing Importance of Hired Labor

After the Civil War (1861-65), hired labor be­
came increasingly important. Negroes, freed
from slavery, rose in some cases to the status of
self-employment, especially as farm tenants; but
prevailingly in cities they became hired workers.
To these were added the great numbers of immi­
grants, at first predominantly from northern Eu­
rope, later mainly from southern and eastern Eu­
rope. Cities grew rapidly, railroads were laid
across the continent, and large-scale mining, mill­
ing, and manufacturing enterprises demanded
many wage earners. These changes called for in­
creased capital investments and a progressive con­
centration of hired workers in large establish­
ments and enterprises. The worker, tending in
the mass to lose his individual status and identity,
began to feel the need for group organization.
Early Experiments in Unionism

Workers resorted in the main to the strengthen­
ing and expanding of the craft unions. Some of
these had existed even in our early history on the
models of the English and European craft guilds
of journeymen, usually on a local basis. The in­
terregional and national expansion of transporta­
tion facilities and markets and of corporate op­
erations made necessary an adaptation of the local
craft unions for dealing with questions arising out
of industrial expansion and the increasing inter­
regional flow of products and workers.

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND AND PRESENT STATUS

Unions had to face many difficulties in dealing
directly with employers on wages, hours, and con­
ditions of work. Civil equality, including such
basic rights as voting and holding office, appealed
to many unions as affording a more effective way
of improving the conditions of workers. Many
unions were therefore diverted into the pursuit of
political and oftentimes somewhat remote and
Utopian aims. One of their political aims, how­
ever, was immediate and practical—the liberaliz­
ing of the public land policy. The success of that
program, especially the enactment of the Home­
stead Act of 1862, actually retarded unionism be­
cause it strengthened the prevailing ambitions for
self-employment and because it maintained the
impression, increasingly ill-based but influential,
that land was readily available to urban workers.
The tendency of unions, before the formation of
the American Federation of Labor in 1881, to sup­
port broad political and idealistic programs at the
price of the most effective dealings with employers
was exemplified by the National Labor Union of
1866. This was the first effort to establish union­
ism on a national basis. Its preoccupation with
cooperation and political programs brought about
its undoing by 1872. In the meantime, a small
local group of garmentmakers was organized in
Philadelphia in 1869 as the Noble and Holy Order
of the Knights of Labor. Various labor groups
in other cities joined the Order, and by 1886 it
could claim a nationwide membership of 700,000.
But the membership was inflated (and diluted) by
a polyglot inflow “from all branches of honorable
toil;” and its effectiveness as a labor organization
was made impossible by its advocacy of an indis­
criminate program of political and social reforms.
Even the Order’s moderate aims of an 8-hour day
and equal pay for women were generally viewed
at the time as extremely radical. Its leadership
was divided over the question of bargaining with
employers for immediate gains versus long-term
aims of basic change through political action.2
Unions were thus weakened by internal conflict.
The sponsorship of political aims, especially those
that would bring about basic economic and social
2 A convenient factual summary is in Brief History of the
American Labor Movement, Bulletin No. 1000, Bureau of Labor
Statistics, U. S. Department of Labor, Washington, D. C., 1951.



3

changes such as the abolition of the competitive
system in favor of a cooperative commonwealth,
aroused widespread hostility among the general
public as well as employers. It was under these
circumstances that “pure and simple” unionism
gained ascendancy in a new federation of unions.
The American Federation of Labor

The Federation of Organized Trades and Labor
Unions, forerunner of the American Federation
of Labor, was organized at Pittsburgh in 1881.
The Federation was made up of six craft unions :
those of the carpenters, the cigarmakers, the glass
workers, the iron and steel workers, the molders,
and the printers. The leaders included Samuel
Gompers of the cigarmakers. The new group
was at first overshadowed by the Knights of
Labor. The breakup of that organization began
with its refusal, in 1886, to recognize the autonomy
and jurisdiction of some of the large craft unions.
These withdrew from the Order and together with
the six unions of the Federation formed in 1881,
they organized the American Federation of La­
bor, at Columbus, Ohio, in 1886.
The component unions of the new federation
had substantial autonomy, and their practices and
policies varied. These unions and the federation
officials were in general agreement, however, as to
the need for avoiding preoccupation with political
aims and methods in favor of efforts designed to
obtain directly from employers a maximum of
benefits.
As early as 1883, Adolph Strasser, a close asso­
ciate of Samuel Gompers and an outstanding
leader, replied to questions in a Senate committee
hearing regarding the “ultimate aims” of unions
by saying: “We have no ultimate ends. We are
going on from day to day. We are fighting only
for immediate objects—objects that can be realized
in a few years.” When asked further: “You
want something better to eat and to wear, and
better houses to live in?” he replied: “Yes, we
want to dress better and to live better, and become
better citizens generally.” Samuel Gompers him­
self, writing in 1919, stated: “The primary essen­
tial in our mission has been the protection of the
wage worker, now; to increase his wages; to cut
hours off the long workday, which was killing

4

AMERICAN LABOR AND THE AMERICAN SPIRIT

him ; to improve the safety and the sanitary con­
ditions of the workshop; to free him from the
tyrannies, petty or otherwise, which served to make
his existence a slavery.” 3
While union leaders generally avoided preoccu­
pation with political aims and methods, especially
those concerned with the hope of a radical trans­
formation of society, they gave up no political or
civil rights as individuals; indeed, they often tried
to bring to bear the influence of their unions upon
governments for the achievement of changes they
viewed as desirable.
The leaders of the American Federation of La­
bor emphasized their opposition to political meas­
ures and proposals for radical social change partly
as a protective coloration against attacks which
had been fatal to earlier political unionism. The
federation was in a sense a reaction against the
Knights of Labor—its conglomerate composition,
its far-reaching and unrealistic aims, and its vul­
nerability to attack by the general public as well
as employers.
Early Slow Growth of AFL Unions

The American Federation of Labor for several
decades made no spectacular gains. It gradually
consolidated its position, gaining here a little and
there a little and yielding when opposition seemed
too powerful. Most of the influential unions
sooner or later joined the federation. Outside of
the federation were such diverse groups as the
left-wing Industrial Workers of the World and
the conservative railroad brotherhoods of op­
erating groups or roadmen. By 1920, the high
point of membership before the thirties, the fed­
eration counted somewhat more than 4,000,000
members in its affiliates, and the independent
unions had somewhat less than a million members.
Membership fell off during the twenties; the num­
ber of workers in unions in 1929 was somewhat
less than 4 million. Further declines occurred
during the economic depression of the thirties
until in 1933 hardly 3 million workers retained
union membership.4
3 E. Wight Bakke and Clark Kerr, Unions, Management, and
the Public, pp. 30-32. New York, Harcourt Brace, 1948.
(Quoting Labor and the Common Welfare, by Samuel Gompers,
and American Labor Dynamics, edited by J. B. S. Hardman.)
4 Handbook of Labor Statistics, 1950 edition, p. 139, and 1951
Supplement, p. 47. Bulletin No. 1016, Bureau of Labor Statis­
tics, U. S. Department of Labor, Washington, D. C., 1951.



Workers had succeeded in forming strong and
stable organizations, especially in the skilled and
semiskilled trades; but the unions failed to make
gains and even suffered losses during a period when
industrial changes appeared to intensify the need
for organization. Large-scale enterprises gained
rapid momentum in the early decades of the pres­
ent century in such basic industries as milling,
meat-packing, lumbering, mining, transportation,
and the smelting and refining of metals. Other in­
fluences included the extension of markets by rail­
roads and later by motor transportation; the largescale capitalization of market operations; the com­
mercializing and, in part, even the mechanizing of
many forms of recreation; and the development of
machines and power devices requiring for their
utilization large aggregations of capital and cen­
tralized management. The need for unions was
comparatively slight in our early history of wide­
spread opportunities for self-employment and of
wage labor in small-scale enterprises; more re­
cently, and certainly during the early decades of
the present century, the need for concerted action
was intensified. Why, then, was there a lag in
union membership and strength? There were
several causes.5
Workers were influenced by the sway of “prop­
erty” concepts. Many workers still hoped to at­
tain self-employment in small businesses of their
own or as “independent” farmers. Mobility of
workers in changing jobs was accelerated by pri­
vate automobiles and new public-transportation
systems, and also by rapid changes in industrial
techniques. At the same time, mass production
techniques produced major changes in the con­
tent of jobs, reducing skills and increasing special­
ization and repetition. These changes tended to
break down union loyalties and to create new prob­
lems of adjustment for unions, which were or­
ganized prevailingly on occupational and craft
lines.
Employers found it difficult to reconcile them­
selves to unionism of either the “political” type or
the “business” type. Influential economists and
businessmen continued to think in terms of the
individualistic or “atomistic” doctrines of an ear­
lier period. The public interest, it was held, is
5 II. A. Millis and R. E. Montgomery, Organized Labor, pp.
150-171. New York, McGraw-Hill, 1945.

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND AND PRESENT STATUS

best maintained automatically by the free compe­
tition of the market place; and businessmen per­
haps naturally were not too much concerned about
the actual existence or maintenance of competition
except in the labor market. They generally (but
with important exceptions) combated unionism by
a variety of means. They used legal procedures
such as court injunctions and damage suits. They
widely maintained a policy they described as “the
open shop,” using it in effect to deny recognition
and collective bargaining rights to unions; that is
to say, to close their shops to effective unionism.
They often planted company detectives (“spies”)
in their shops and also in unions. They maintained
and widely circulated among themselves “black
lists” of active union members. They resorted to
the “yellow dog” contract (requiring workers to
agree not to join unions). They made extensive
use of “professional” strikebreakers. When unions
were strong and well established, notably in the
period just after World War I, many employers
resorted to “flank attacks” by forming “company”
unions; by sponsoring “employee representation”
plans under strict company control and limited to
a single plant or company; and by adopting pater­
nalistic employee “welfare” plans.
Laws and judicial doctrines and procedures
(discussed later in detail) were on the whole un­
favorable to unions. Before the enactment of the
Norris-LaGuardia Anti-Injunction Act of 1932,
employers could readily obtain injunctions in the
courts to prevent work stoppages and boycotts.
Government under laissez faire was theoretically
neutral but under conditions which in effect dis­
advantaged workers in tests of strength with pow­
erful employers. The basic rights of free assem­
bly, free speech, and free association, embodied in
the Bill of Bights and in Federal and State con­
stitutions and laws, were often nullified, under
conditions of inequality of strength of the parties,
through lack of positive governmental protection
of the rights.
Up to World War I, an extremely rapid and
heterogeneous inflow of immigrants tended to flood
the labor market. Their comparatively low living
standards and their lack of knowledge of our lan­
guage, customs, and traditions created grave prob­
lems of assimilation and set up tensions among
workers competing for jobs. The floodtide of im­
migration thus aggravated for many years the dif260611°— 54----- 2



5

Acuities of maintaining the membership and
strength of unions. In time, however, these work­
ers from other countries became bulwarks of
unionism.
During the economic depression beginning in
1929, the intensified competition for jobs raised
new obstacles in the way of progress toward strong
unions.
Recent Growth of Unions

The nearly 3 million workers who retained their
union membership even during the depth of the
depression in early 1933 formed nuclei or cen­
ters of vitality which gave promise of rapid
growth tinder more favorable conditions. That
those conditions soon came about is apparent from
the rapid increase in membership in the thirties
and the continued rise to nearly 17,000,000 mem­
bers in 1953.
The recent rapid growth of unions is not to be
explained merely as a response of unions to the
basic needs of workers, such as collective action
for individual security, because those needs al­
ready existed and the best efforts of unions had
brought no marked success in meeting them.
Recent relatively rapid progress was made possi­
ble by the removal of obstacles in the way of
unionism.
One of the obstacles had been a prevailing point
of view or attitude of mind compounded of such
traits as individualism, laissez faire, and ambi­
tions for self-employment. A change in mental
attitudes, which had been gradually emerging,
was accelerated by the economic depression of the
early thirties. A rapid rise in the bankruptcy
rate and in the foreclosure of mortgages and the
widespread loss of savings notably through bank
closings and the depreciation of stocks and
bonds—such changes as these, accompanying
widespread unemployment, made apparent to ail
groups the need for new ideas and new measures.
Unionization was stimulated by the success of
wage earners, in collaboration with farmers and
businessmen, in transforming traditional laissez
faire attitudes into policies and programs of posi­
tive action by governments, especially the Federal
Government.
Specifically, in relation to unions and labormanagement relations, the most important change
in public policy was the adoption of a program for

6

AMERICAN LABOR AND THE AMERICAN SPIRIT

removing obstacles in the way of freedom of
association and collective bargaining. Technical­
ly, unions were already free to organize, but the
“neutrality” or “hands off” policy of Government
had in fact added to the strength of the already
stronger party by permitting management to
interpose many obstacles in the way of organiza­
tion and especially in the way of the use of unions
for effective bargaining. The new policy of Gov­
ernment went beyond the establishing of union
rights firmly on a statutory basis; it also set up
administrative machinery, notably the National
Labor Relations Board, to protect those rights.
Employers at first widely opposed the new
governmental policies embodied in the National
Labor Relations Act (Wagner Act) of 1985, but
gradually accepted them. Some significant limi­
tations on union activities were adopted in the
Labor Management Relations Act (Taft-Hartley
Act) of 1947, but unions and collective bargaining
were accepted as the institutions and procedures
for determining labor-management relations.
Changes in Unionism: “Dynamic Adaptability”

The new governmental policies, the widespread
acceptance of unionism by management, and rapid
changes in occupations and industrial techniques,
stimulated significant changes in unionism itself.
The efforts to achieve a better adaptation gave rise
to conflicting views, especially those which cul­
minated in the splitting of unions into the two
main groups, the American Federation of Labor
and the Congress of Industrial Organizations.
That schism itself, however unfortunate, tended
to stimulate organizing work. Especially signifi­
cant was the progress made by both the AFL and
the CIO in meeting the needs of workers in the
great mass-production industries. Little success
had been made earlier in organizing these indus­
tries.
Another significant change in the union move­
ment was the response of union leaders to the pro­
tective policy of government and to the general
acceptance of unions by management. When
union leaders had found it necessary to think pri­
marily in terms of fighting for the recognition
and even the survival of their unions, they had
occasion to resort to militant organization and



more or less arbitrary power to meet emergencies,
and they were required to maintain an attitude
of belligerency. More favorable conditions led
many unions to modify their traditional militancy
and to emphasize peaceful and orderly procedures.
A larger use of political measures to gain their
general ends and the spread of peaceful bargaining to gain the immediate objectives of satisfac­
tory labor-management relations brought about a
system of industrial “law” and “jurisprudence”
in areas where the alternatives formerly were
either complete and arbitrary control by manage­
ment or resort to tests of economic strength to
limit the power of management.
The recent growth of unions has given them
such strength and status as to cause an outstand­
ing scholar in the fields of economics and labormanagement relations to assert that we are now
in, or are entering, the era of a “laboristic so­
ciety.” 6 He has defined this as follows:

“ . . . employees are the most influential group in the
community and . . . the economy is run in their in­
terest more than in the interest of any other eco­
nomic group. A community composed almost entirely
of employees must be expected to have its own dis­
tinctive culture—its own scale of values, its own in­
dustrial institutions, its own public policies, and its
own jurisprudence. . . . ”

That point of view has validity only on the
basis of a limited and modest interpretation of
the term. Workers’ organizations themselves
have rarely aimed at more than general acceptance
by the community on a basis of equality and mu­
tuality in accord with the principles of free asso­
ciation. American trade unions have rarely ac­
cepted theories of class ascendency such as those
associated with the doctrine that value is exclu­
sively the product of labor. Nor have they com­
monly thought of the product, however created, as
limited or predetermined in amount, with an in­
crease in the amount for one group requiring a
decrease for others. Instead, these unions, es­
pecially in recent years of emphasis on produc­
tivity, have thought of production as accruing
not merely from their work but rather from the
use and improvement, by all groups, of nature’s
resources and of the common store of technical
knowledge.

6 Sumner H. Slichter, The American Econom y: Its Problems
and Prospects, pp. 7-13, 213-214. New York, Knopf, 1948.

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND AND PRESENT STATUS

Unions as economic institutions have been con­
cerned with defining and safeguarding the wage
earners’ interest in the social product. This has
been undertaken directly by wage programs and
indirectly in various ways, including efforts to re­
duce hours, improve working conditions, and
achieve favorable public policies (e. g., in such
fields as taxes, education, and social security).
Unions seek to obtain these benefits and to achieve
their other aims through the democratic proce­
dures of collective bargaining with employers and
of participation, through their individual mem­
bers and as free associations, in political activities
and community life.
The necessarily limited role of present-day
unions is indicated by a comparison of union mem­
bership with the entire labor force—the labor force
is nearly four times as large as the number of
workers in unions. The term labor force, as used
in the United States, includes self-employed work­
ers; salaried workers as well as wage earners;
casual and temporary workers; and those who are
not at work but are looking for jobs. Various
groups of hired workers, as well as the self-em­
ployed groups, lie beyond the natural scope of
unionism. Many of these, however, have organ­
izations which perform group-interest functions




7

similar to those of labor unions. Associations of
this nature are prominent, for example, among
farmers, physicians, lawyers, engineers, school
teachers, college professors, and managers.7 E f­
forts have been made to bring about a measure of
collaboration between unions of wage earners and
some of the other associations, particularly those
of farmers; but the ideal mutuality of interests of
“productive” workers has met with too many ob­
stacles for embodiment in tangible programs.
Some professional workers, however, such as
actors, musicians, airline pilots, and others,
have formed unions affiliated with the major
federations.
The present status and role of unions are still
controversial; and industrial conflict is still and
will no doubt remain a part of the American
scene. Nevertheless, during the past two decades
a highly significant transformation has occurred.
Unions emerged rather slowly out of our distinc­
tive environment and history and have now grown
rapidly to substantial maturity to play a vital role
in one of the most critical periods of our own
and the world’s history.
7 Herbert R. Northrup, “Collective Bargaining by Professional
Societies,” in Insights Into Labor Issues, pp. 134-162, edited by
Richard A. Lester and Joseph Shister. New York, Macmillan
Company, 1948.

Chapter II.—Types of Unions and Their Interrelations
Structural Arrangements

Labor organizations, like other free institutions,
have not emerged from blueprints. They do not
conform to any fixed scheme of organization. A
powerful labor leader may attempt a rationaliza­
tion of structure and government and may for
a time achieve a definite pattern in accord with
his ideas and ambitions. Outside observers may
describe unions in formal terms that give an im­
pression of a precise and formalized creation.
But unions are not mechanical or static struc­
tures; they are vital and growing institutions
in a free society, conforming with varying de­
grees of adaptability to diversified and changing
conditions.

Nevertheless, fairly definite patterns of organ­
ization and functional structure have emerged and
are now characteristics of unions—characteris­
tics significantly different from those of only a
few years ago. The patterns were formed slowly
under the comparatively stable earlier conditions
and have been modified and supplemented by new
patterns much more rapidly in the dynamic so­
ciety of our own generation.
Professor Richard A. Lester, in a graphic sum­
mary of the main features of union structure, has
pointed out that unionism begins with individual
workers who are members of local unions. Occu­
pationally, the local may be made up of members
of a single craft (the traditional arrangement sur­
viving in even the most modern of occupations, as

LABOR UNIONS
P rim a ry O rganizations

F ederations o f Unions

a national union,
which is a member of

Individual
workers are
members of

a national federation or congress

(district, regional,
companywide, or
citywide
groupings of locals
of one national)

State federations
or councils

local unions, which
are members of

city centrals or
councils

Structural Arrangem ents
Source: Richard A. Lester, Labor and Industrial Relations [p. 126]. New York, MacMillan Company, 1951.
8




UNIONS AND THEIR INTERRELATIONS

airline pilots), or members of a number of related
crafts (as bricklayers, masons, and plasterers), or
various kinds of workers in a plant or a community
(as all of the workers in a coal mine).
Thus, the national union comprised of locals (or
the international union if provision is made for
the chartering of Canadian locals) may be a single­
craft union, or a multiple-craft union, or an indus­
trial union, or a multiple-industry union. In re­
cent decades, many unions have tended to become
mixtures of craft and industrial unionism.
In addition to membership in their national or
international unions, locals in a particular com­
munity (Pittsburgh, Pa., for example) usually
form local federations known as city “centrals,”
or “councils.” Since the splitting of the labor
movement into the American Federation of Labor
and the Congress of Industrial Organizations, the
locals in the larger communities have formed two
groups. Beyond the city groups are State federa­
tions or councils, as the Illinois State Federation
of Labor (AFL) and the Illinois State Industrial
Union Council (CIO), also affiliated with one or
the other of the two national groups, as are some
locals which are not affiliated with any national
union.
Importance of the Local Union

The strength of a national union depends on the
vigor and loyalty of its locals. The combining of
locals of various communities came about as a re­
sult of changes which impaired the strength of the
isolated local. These changes included the ex­
pansion of local markets into regional and national
markets; the increasing mobility of workers as
well as investments and trade; and the bringing in
of nonunion craftsmen by employers to combat the
demands of local journeymen’s unions. The asso­
ciations of locals were the forerunners of modern
international craft unions, such as the Interna­
tional Molders’ Union, the International Typo­
graphical Union, and the Journeyman Tailors’
Union, now fused with the Amalgamated Clothing
Workers.
When national unions and federations of na­
tionals acquired strength, organizing drives often
led to the formation of locals by nonlocal initia­
tive and support. The growing interdependence



9

of locals, especially in employments with expand­
ing and nonlocal markets and fluid occupational
requirements, tended to reduce the relative im­
portance of locals and to centralize union activities
and functions. The negotiation of agreements,
for example, is increasingly performed by district
unions or regional groups of locals or by the na­
tional unions, especially in employments domi­
nated by nonlocal markets. The day-to-day plant
relations, however, and particularly the ordinary
grievance procedures, are still handled to a large
extent by the local unions.
This trend is analogous to developments in the
sphere of political administration: local and
State governments, although retaining vitally im­
portant duties, have come to be somewhat over­
shadowed by the activities of the central govern­
ment—activities made necessary by the intricate
national and international problems of assuring
high levels of production and employment, main­
taining defense, and administering such compre­
hensive programs as old-age and survivors’ in­
surance. Nevertheless, the vigor of national
unionism, no less than that of National Govern­
ment, is still nourished by active local institu­
tions.
More than 70,000 local unions are affiliated with
the national unions, and many locals are affiliated
directly with the American Federation of Labor
and the Congress of Industrial Organizations. In
size, locals range widely. The craft unions fre­
quently have small locals, but there are notable
exceptions, as in some of the citywide locals of
the International Typographical Union. The
unions in the mass-production industries, such as
automobile manufacturing, often have locals with
thousands of members. Some locals are in reality
amalgamations or in a sense federations of a vari­
ety of local groups.
The government and functions of local unions
are extremely diversified. At the same time cer­
tain characteristic features can be concisely de­
scribed in general terms.8
Locals almost always have written constitu­
tions and bylaws. They elect their officers, usually
for 1 year; members must be duly notified of pend­
ing elections; open nominations and secret bal8 Florence Peterson, American Labor U nions: What They Are
and How They Work, chapter 5. New York, Harper and Brothers,
1945.

10

AMERICAN LABOR AND THE AMERICAN SPIRIT

loting are generally required. Officers of small
locals (president and secretary-treasurer) may
continue their regular work and look after union
affairs without salary, but many locals employ
paid “business agents” who bear the brunt of the
local’s routine work and maintenance of relations
with employers. Larger locals have paid officers
and employ staffs additional to the business agent.
Shop stewards, varying in number with the
size of the local and the nature and variety of
the work of the members, are chosen as a rule in
each establishment on a departmental basis. The
stewards, who are themselves workers, maintain
most direct and intimate relations with individual
members of the union, particularly through han­
dling grievance procedures at the shop level.
The relations of a local to other locals and to
the national union to which it belongs are main­
tained by the election of delegates to represent the
local. These delegates serve on city centrals or
councils; or on joint boards or district councils,
which may handle such problems as the nego­
tiating and administering of local or regional
agreements with employers and the settling of
jurisdictional disputes among unions; and they
represent the local in the convention of the na­
tional union, which is that union’s highest govern­
ing body. The membership dues, ranging widely,
are shared in varying proportions by the local and
the larger groups with which it is affiliated, par­
ticularly the national union.
National (or International) Unions

The 1953 Directory of Labor Unions in the
United States9 lists 215 unions (nationals and in­
ternationals) . Of these, 109 were affiliated with
the American Federation of Labor and 33 with the
Congress of Industrial Organizations; 73 other
unions, usually called “independents,” were affil­
iated with neither of the two main groups. Union
affiliations were substantially affected by the
expulsion from the Congress of Industrial
Organizations, after World War II, of several
Communist-controlled unions and the assignment
of their jurisdiction to either existing or newly
9 Directory of Labor Unions in the United States, 1953. Bul­
letin No. 1127, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U. S. Department of
Labor, Washington, D. C., 1953.




organized unions. The most notable example was
the organization of the International Union of
Electrical, Eadio, and Machine Workers, which
attracted a large proportion of the membership of
the expelled union, the United Electrical, Eadio,
and Machine Workers.
The diversity among national unions is exem­
plified by the range in the size of the national
unions and of their locals. In January 1952, there
were 23 national unions each of which had fewer
than a thousand members; and there were 7 unions
each of which had more than 500,000 members.
The United Automobile, Aircraft, and Agricul­
tural Implement Workers (UAW-CIO) had
nearly 1,200,000 members and only 1,150 locals and
some of these had many thousands of members;
the National Association of Letter Carriers
(AFL) had more than 4,000 locals with a total
membership of only about 95,000. In types of
government, in range of activities, and in the de­
gree of integration in the labor movement, unions
also exhibit great diversity.
The supreme governing body of a national
union is its convention. Most of the unions hold
conventions either every year or every other year.
Delegates from the locals form the convention,
which elects the union’s officers to serve until the
next convention meets. The convention handles
larger questions of policy and organization and
has power to amend the union’s constitution.
Some unions, including several of the large ones,
have arrangements for referring some types of
questions to a membership vote for decision. The
officers, including an executive board, govern the
union between conventions. The larger unions
also have extensive staffs, appointed by the
officers.
The aims of the officers and their staffs include
basically the survival of the union and its growth
in strength. The strength of the union is affected
by its dealings not only with employers but also
with other unions, especially when disputed juris­
dictions are involved or when there is rivalry for
favorable terms in collective agreements, or when
concerted action among unions is needed in sup­
porting governmental policies desired by labor.
The unfavorable environment in which unions
developed and the struggle for survival against
hostile employers and neutral or unfriendly gov­

UNIONS AND THEIR INTERRELATIONS

ernments put a premium on quick, centralized de­
cision making. A more general recent acceptance
of unions and collective bargaining has tended to
broaden and liberalize the control of union poli­
cies. The officers of unions, like the officers of
many other types of associations, have a strong
position and in some unions they have at times
exercised almost unrestricted power. In most of
the unions the conventions retain the final power
of decision and actually exercise their power on
issues of a vital nature.
The AFL and the CIO
The apex of union structure and organization
is the federation of national unions, or national
trade-union center. Before the schism of the
thirties, most of these unions were affiliated with
the American Federation of Labor. In 1935, ju­
risdictional questions came to a head in the fed­
eration’s convention. Certain unions, such as
those in automobile, radio, and rubber industries,
were denied their demands for industrywide ju­
risdiction because of the conflicting claims of the
older unions for jurisdiction over certain occupa­
tional groups in these industries. As a result of
this controversy, eight of the Federation’s affiliates
formed, in November 1935, a Committee for In­
dustrial Organization. Later, several other
unions in the federation joined the committee, and
unions of newly organized workers, together with
some unaffiliated unions, furnished additional
strength. Efforts at compromise and reconcilia­
tion failed, and in 1938 the AFL expelled the
members of the committee on charges of establish­
ing “dual” unions. Later in 1938, the Committee
for Industrial Organization was transformed, by a
constitutional convention, into the Congress of
Industrial Organizations.10
The split of the labor movement into the two
major groups was accompanied by much contro­
versy and by many hard words exchanged between
rival leaders. The two groups of unions, however,
have managed on the whole to live together suc­
cessfully and even with a considerable measure of
concerted action, usually of an informal nature,
with recurring discussions of organic unity. Pro10 Florence Peterson, American Labor Unions, pp. 27-29.



11

fessor Lloyd G. Beynolds has aptly described
the actual relationship:11
The A FL-C IO rivalry is sometimes dramatized as
a profound difference of principle between the two
groups. ActuaUy, the two are sim ilar in organiza­
tional structure and general objectives; and they are
more sim ilar today than they were in 1935 . Both are
loose federations w ith prim arily political functions;
collective bargaining functions rest w ith the con­
stituent national unions. The great m ajority of both
CIO and A FL unions are “business unions.” They
operate prim arily through economic pressure on em­
ployers, they are distrustful of theorists and abstract
principles, they follow the Gompers line of “More,
more, more— now !” The differences in the bargaining
tactics of the CIO unions spring from the nature of
the industries in which they operate rather than from
differences of principle.
Differences between the two organizations certainly
do exist. Almost a ll CIO unions are of the industrial
type; only a m inority of A FL unions are industrial,
though these include several of the oldest and larg­
est. The CIO leaders are something like 15 years
younger on the average than those of the A FL, and
are correspondingly flexible in policies and tactics.
To a considerable extent, indeed, the rise of the CIO
has been simply the rise of a new generation of
union leaders. CIO headquarters exercises somewhat
more influence over its affiliated national unions than
does A FL headquarters, partly because many of the
new industrial unions were organized from CIO head­
quarters. The CIO is perhaps more interested than
the A FL in labor political action, though in recent
years the A FL has been moving increasingly in this
direction. On the whole, the differences seem less
important than the basic sim ilarities between the two
organizations.

Union Organization and Industrial Change

Diversity of organization and institutional
form has advantages. The existence of rival and
competing unions is an indication of a basic proc­
ess observable among institutions of all types in
a free and flexible society. Institutions, once or­
ganized, tend to maintain the status quo in the face
of circumstances calling for change and flexibility.
The setting up of rival institutions is often a
means of counteracting a natural tendancy toward
institutional rigidity or ankylosis—“a stiffening
of the joints.”
Labor unions came into being in an earlier so­
ciety when economic processes and occupations
survived from generation to generation without
11 Lloyd G. Reynolds, Labor Economics and Labor Relations,
p. 109. New York, Prentice-HaU, 1949.

12

AMERICAN LABOR AND THE AMERICAN SPIRIT

radical change. “Once a cobbler, always a cob­
bler.” Shoemakers, carpenters, tailors, and nu­
merous other craftsmen had well-defined and
stable jobs; furthermore, the traditional crafts
met a large part of the market needs for fabricated
goods and for services. Occupational traits and
interests formed a natural basis of association.
Workers belonging to the various crafts naturally
sought to maintain their comparatively high
status.
Recent technology and industrial organization
interfered with occupational status and the occu­
pational basis of unionism in two ways: Many oc­
cupations become obsolete or obsolescent; and tra­
ditional craftsmanship, even when it survived, lost
its relative importance. Men’s tailors, for ex­
ample, gradually found that they had fewer and
fewer customers because men were buying more
and more of their clothing as “readymade” (not
“made-to-order”) garments produced in factories,
by men of new and specialized techniques, and sold
in retail stores. Changes of this nature, typical
of a large part of our economy, gave rise to a more
detailed division of labor affecting occupational
boundaries; they also brought about a constantly
changing specialization and caused a constant
fluctuation in the boundary lines of occupations or,
more precisely, of industrial techniques.
Obviously, if workers (for example, in men’s
clothing, and indeed in a large and expanding
part of our economy, embracing services as well
as the making and selling of commodities) were to
maintain effective unions, it would be necessary to
transcend the traditional craft or occupational
basis of Unionism. The establishment of a new
noncraft basis for workers using the newer indus­
trial techniques was only a part of the problem.
It was necessary also to avoid or to minimize the
overlapping of union boundaries, that is to say, to
prevent disruptive controversy over the conflict­
ing claims of different unions to “jurisdiction”
over the same industry or the same area of employ­
ment or the same group of workers.
Before the CIO was formed, the AFL and its
component unions had recognized these problems
and had made some progress toward workable
relationships. Some of the federation’s unions
were simple craft unions, but there were industrial
unions in the federation, and most of its unions
included a variety of crafts and occupations.



Some were “compound” unions, with members
“engaged in interrelated crafts and processes or
in closely allied trades that are competitive or
substitutive in nature.” This type of unionism
was noteworthy in the building trades and the
metal and machine trades. Many of the federa­
tion’s unions had departed so far from simple
craft unionism as to become quasi-industrial
unions; they tended to recognize occupational
boundaries in their locals, but their amalgamation
of earlier craft unions and their organizing activi­
ties were designed to include an entire industry
or at least a major branch of an industry.12 There
were even multiple-industry unions in the federa­
tion before the split, as the Brewery, Cereal, and
Soft Drink Workers Union. In other cases, as
for automobile workers, the AFL had organized
federal labor unions chartered directly by the
federation.
Unions have been confronted with far more
complex questions of structure and jurisdictional
boundaries than merely whether to take the form
of a craft or an industrial union. No completely
logical or rational procedure is possible.
Where unions retained jurisdiction over crafts­
men in the various industries (for example, elec­
trical repairmen, painters, machinists), these
groups placed obstacles in the way of an industry­
wide union organization on noncraft lines. At
the same time there remained in each industry
groups of workers, without distinct craft con­
nections or with fluid job specifications, who could
organize, if at all, only on some noncraft or nonoccupational basis. Changes and adjustments of
various kinds were made under the influence of the
federation’s officials. But the federation recog­
nized the substantial autonomy of its component
unions ; and the efforts of these powerful unions
to protect their jurisdictions prevented the flexi­
bility necessary to preserve the unity of the labor
movement.
Problems arising out of the quasi-static struc­
ture of unions in a dynamically fluid environment
are illustrated concisely by a recent writer: 13
Conflicts arise when a union seeks to continue its
jurisdiction over the function performed, regardless
of new materials or processes which may be intro­

12 L. L. Lorwin, The American Federation of Labor, pp. 305, ff.
Washington, Brookings Institution, 1933.
^Florence Peterson, American Labor Unions, p. 225.

UNIONS AND THEIR INTERRELATIONS
duced; or when a new process arouses a desire for a
new craft autonomy. Thus the Carpenters’ Union has
had many disputes w ith the Sheet M etal Workers,
Structural Iron Workers, and Machinists as steel and
other metals were substituted for wood to perform
essentially the same function. The Bricklayers have
clashed with the Glaziers when glass blocks were
substituted for bricks and stone. The discovery of
acetylene torches not only brought disputes between
the Blacksmiths and Machinists but gave rise to a
new Welders’ Union which is now in conflict with
the older metalworking unions. The introduction of
the offset process in printing occasioned an unresolved
conflict between the Lithographers’, Pressmen’s, and
Photoengravers’ unions.

The national unions have retained their auton­
omy but have sought means to avoid jurisdictional
work stoppages, partly because of a natural dis­
like of public intervention. Both the AFL and
the CIO have developed procedures for adjusting
the rival claims of their component unions. The
Building Trades Department of the AFL, for
example, in collaboration with the Association of
General Contractors representing employers, set
up in 1948 a National Joint Board for the Settle­

2 6 0 6 1 1 °— 54------3




13

ment of Jurisdictional Disputes. By early 1952,
all CIO unions had entered into an “agreement
governing organizational disputes” and had ar­
ranged for an impartial arbitrator.
One form of public intervention has been
widely acceptable as well as effective in resolving
conflicts between rival unions in the AFL and the
CIO and between affiliated and independent
unions. The National Labor Relations Board
and, in railroad transportation, the National Me­
diation Board are authorized by law to hold elec­
tions in unresolved disputes among unions and to
certify the union which obtains a majority as en­
titled to representation for collective bargaining
in a specified collective bargaining unit. Thou­
sands of elections have been held; and democratic
procedure in determining the preferences of
workers actually on the job has been a highly sig­
nificant means of promoting adaptations of union
structure to changing conditions as viewed by the
members of unions. Limitations on jurisdic­
tional work stoppages imposed by the Taft-Hartley Act were generally opposed by unions.

Chapter III.—Collective Bargaining
What Collective Bargaining Includes

Unions carry on many activities, but in the
highly specialized and impersonally organized in­
dustrial establishments of today, collective bar­
gaining is the main reason for the existence of
unions. Collective bargaining is the central fact,
the focal procedure, of labor-management rela­
tions.
There is no precise agreement as to the defini­
tion of collective bargaining, but usage tends to
give a broad meaning to the term. The various
phases of the process are described by the editor
of a recent compilation of cases:14
The phrase “collective bargaining” is sometimes
restricted to the legislative act of the creation of the
charter of relations between the parties. A t other
times, the term is used to include the discussions be­
tween management and union representatives under
the agreement. These discussions may be of mixed
character; they may constitute the administration
and interpretation of the agreement or they may con­
sist of the creation of supplemental agreements. The
administration of a contract involves judicial ele­
ments, interpreting the meaning of particular sec­
tions of the agreement. The creation of supple­
mental agreements is a return to legislative action.
In actual practice it is frequently impossible to sepa­
rate these elements in discussions between the parties
under an agreement. As a consequence, general
usage loosely applies the term “collective bargaining”
to a ll discussions between representatives of unions
and managements. I t is desirable for many pur­
poses, however, to distinguish the general process of
creating an agreement or supplemental agreements
and the process of interpreting and administering an
agreement on a day-to-day basis.

Strikes and Collective Bargaining

An understanding of the process of negotiating
collective agreements calls for an answer to the
question: What is the relation of the strike to col­
lective bargaining?
w John T. Dunlop, Collective Bargaining: Principles and
Cases, p. 67. Chicago, Richard D. Irwin, Inc., 1949.

14



Collective bargaining is the normal peaceful
procedure for resolving conflicts of interests and
points of view. Nearly all of the more than 100,000 agreements in force at a given time are peace­
fully renegotiated and new agreements are con­
stantly being adopted. Nevertheless, since by its
essential nature, collective bargaining is a volun­
tary process, it does not necessarily result in agree­
ment. In particular areas of employment, such
as vital public utilities, some form of public inter­
vention to prevent organized or concerted work
stoppages is viewed as essential even in times of
peace. Normally, however, in ordinary private
enterprises, the final resort in bringing about an
agreement is the exerting of pressure by means of
a work stoppage—a strike or a lockout.
Strikes in the United States have been almost
wholly economic rather than political and have
been undertaken, with rare exceptions, for obtain­
ing limited and specific economic results—the im­
provement or maintenance of wages or hours or
conditions of work, or the safeguarding of basic
rights of union organization and collective bar­
gaining. Neither the general strike nor any
limited form of the political strike has ever been
viewed favorably by any large or influential group
of workers in the United States. The main rea­
son is to be found in the availability of political
methods—the ballot, eligibility for office, and
freedom of association for political as well as eco­
nomic objectives.
The simple economic strike for limited objectives
has survived as a basic right because no practical
alternative has ever been devised within the frame­
work of our civil liberties and our constitutional
prohibition of involuntary servitude. The extent
of strike activity has varied widely, with no deci­
sive long-term trend. Strike activity has tended
to decline during wars and national emergencies
and to increase during periods of postwar read­
justment. The main observable changes relate to
the character of strikes. There has been a highly
significant decline in violence accompanying

COLLECTIVE BARGAINING

strikes, notably since the middle of the thirties.
Employers themselves, especially since their gen­
eral acceptance of unionism and collective bar­
gaining, have upheld the right to strike in prefer­
ence to compulsory arbitration or other available
alternative.
The place of the work stoppage in the United
States is well defined by a prominent scholar and
public administrator in the following statement:15
In collective bargaining, there is but one way—
note, one way only—for determining the conditions of
employment. That is by an agreement between man­
agement and organized employees. Under these cir­
cumstances, understanding of the strike and lockout
cannot be secured merely by talking about them as
“rights.” The strike and the lockout have definite
functions to perform. They are accepted devices for
resolving the most persistent differences arising in an
employment relationship where differences must be
resolved by agreement. . . . Although the strike has
its own obvious conflict characteristics, it can more
fundamentally be viewed as a mechanism for resolv­
ing conflict. This requires a recognition of the fact
that the critical conflict is over the terms and condi­
tions of employment. A simple elim ination of the
right to strike would soon make clear the necessity
for inventing some other device for resolving the
underlying conflict.

Bargaining Units: Who Bargains With Whom

More than 100,000 collective agreements are in
effect at a given time; these are negotiated by a
great variety of agencies representing both
parties, in application to an immense diversity
of workers and employment conditions. A local
union of a single craft, as patternmakers, may
deal with a local company in a single plant for an
agreement covering its members. The possibili­
ties for coverage in bargaining range from this
simple local situation to national bargaining in
a great industry, as when the United Mine Work­
ers has entered into a national master agreement
with associations of bituminous-coal operators,
with regional and local adaptations of the agree­
ment. An even more complex bargaining situa­
tion is the case of the various unions, usually 15,
of nonoperating railroad employees (representing,
among others, such groups as shopmen, maintenance-of-way men, freight and baggage handlers,
and office clerks) when they engage in joint nego-

15

tiations with the great regional associations of
railroad companies for a national agreement.
From the union’s point of view, the bargaining
unit may be a single local union; or city locals
acting jointly; or a regional grouping of locals;
or the national union; or even a group of national
unions. The bargaining may be carried on with
the management of a single company or with an
association of employers, on either a local or a
nonlocal basis. From the point of view of the
workers affected, the coverage ranges from a single
occupation in a local plant to all types of workers
in an industry on a national basis.16
There is no clearly defined or generally accepted
procedure by which unions and managements pri­
vately determine the bargaining unit. An out­
standing tendency, resulting from several eco­
nomic forces, has been an increase in the size of
bargaining units. Markets have tended to become
national. Large corporations have established
plants throughout the country. Local crafts have
tended to lose their distinctive characteristics and
their relative importance. National unions have
become increasingly powerful, especially in massproduction industries, and have tended to take
over bargaining functions on a regional or na­
tional basis, although local bargaining continues
to be predominant in many industries.
Public agencies, by settling disputes about rep­
resentation rights, have had much to do with de­
termining appropriate bargaining units, or with
answering the question: Who bargains with
whom ? Especially noteworthy has been the
work of the National Labor Relations Board, but
before it was created in 1935, another agency, the
National Mediation Board, had begun its work
in representation cases in the railroad industry.
Under the Wagner Act, the National Labor Rela­
tions Board held secret ballot representation elec­
tions upon petition by unions or employee groups;
under the Taft-Hartley Act, employers also have
the right to petition for elections.
Before the public agency (ordinarily the Na­
tional Labor Relations Board) can decide what
workers are eligible to vote, it must determine what
is the appropriate bargaining unit. In a large

16 On types of bargaining units, see Bulletin No. 908-19 (pp.
5-18), Bureau of Labor Statistics, U. S. Department of Labor;
16 George W. Taylor, “Collective Bargaining in a Defense Florence Peterson’s American, Labor Unions, pp. 191-198 ; Joseph
Economy,” in Proceedings, Third Annual Meeting, Industrial Re­
Shister’s Readings in Labor Economics and Industrial Relations
lations Research Association, 1950, p. 4.
(New York, Lippincott, 1951), pp. 195-232.




16

AMERICAN LABOR AND THE AMERICAN SPIRIT

proportion of cases, the parties, unions and man­ tween the employer and the union membership in
agements, agree as to the appropriate unit. But his organization or plant. The negotiation of
disputes naturally arise. Thus, one union may in­ this instrument, a written document under Ameri­
sist on a particular occupation in a particular can custom, is but a single event in the continuous
plant or group of establishments as the most suit­ process of human relationships at the plant level.
able bargaining unit; another union may claim all The circumstances which surround this event and
the workers in the plant or in the employment of the mutual understanding and accommodation
a company. Changes in techniques or other which enter into the terms, will have a direct bear­
causes may give rise to disputed jurisdiction over ing on the success of the collective bargaining
the same group of workers. A company may in­ process.
A successful relationship can hardly be main­
sist on its plants being viewed as separate bargain­
ing units because unionism may be strong in some tained in a hostile atmosphere in which the parties
plants and weak in others; a union may insist that are suspicious of each other and of the intent of
all of the company’s plants be combined into one the terms of agreement. Constant discord may
unit. When there is conflict, existing practices, be the result in the day-to-day relationships, with
if relevant, are considered by the public agency. disagreements over the terms, worker discontent,
In any event, various criteria have been worked and threats of strikes or actual recourse to work
out and applied in the thousands of cases in which stoppages. In some instances, effective collective
public agencies have been called upon to determine bargaining relationships have developed by the
the bargaining unit.
sheer necessity of day-to-day accommodation to
Many public determinations of the bargaining ensure the success of the enterprise. In others,
unit naturally fail to please either the unions or however, overt conflict in strike action finally tem­
the management or both. Craft unions, especially, pered the relationship, culminating in a new spirit
were critical of many determinations during the for the determination and administration of the
rapid rise of industrial unionism; and some gen­ agreement.
eral fears were expressed because of the tendency
Agreements negotiated in a spirit of mutuality,
toward the expansion of bargaining units on a on the other hand, provide a salutary climate for
national basis. The Taft-Hartley Act of 1947 rapid and full growth of the collective-bargaining
limited the power of the National Labor Rela­ process. The agreement then assumes its appro­
tions Board to deny separate bargaining repre­ priate role of aiding in the development of success­
sentation to an individual craft.17
ful labor-management relations.
In summary, conflicts are resolved by public
The machinery for contract negotiation includes
determination of the appropriate bargaining unit bargaining committees composed of officials, who
and by secret vote of the workers themselves, m are usually aided by specialists. The larger
the bargaining unit, to determine which union, if unions have come to depend increasingly on their
any, must be recognized by the employer for bar­ own research staffs. Some of these unions, and
gaining purposes. The law thus makes multiple more commonly the smaller unions, engage con­
representation impracticable in cases of conflict sultants for the preparation of briefs and often
resolved under the law; in effect, it prevents sep­ for the actual presentation of evidence. An out­
arate bargaining by unions representing minori­ standing change in recent years is the increase in
the use of factual data in support of the claims ad­
ties in the bargaining unit.
vanced in the course of negotiations and also in
The Negotiation of Agreements
efforts to win popular support.
The collective bargaining agreement is the or­ Provisions of Collective Agreements
ganic law governing the day-to-day relations be­
The subjects covered by the more than 100,000
17 On the public determination of the bargaining unit, see
collective agreements currently in force in the
Harold W. Davis, Contemporary Collective Bargaining, pp.
40-46; Neil W. Chamberlain, Collective Bargaining, pp. 197United States have been classified by Professor
199; L. G. Reynolds, Labor Economics and Labor Relations,
Lloyd G. Reynolds under 5 heads to include, in his
pp. 278-282.



COLLECTIVE BARGAINING

view, probably 80 to 90 percent of the significant
provisions of all agreements: 18
1 . T h e s tr u c tu r e o f th e a g r e e m e n t. This includes
provisions concerning the scope and purpose of the
agreement, duration of the agreement, and method
of extending or renewing it, prevention of strikes and
lockouts during the life of the agreement, enforce­
ment of the no-strike clause, and handling of griev­
ances arising under the contract.

2. T h e s ta tu s a n d r ig h ts o f th e u n io n a n d m a n a g e ­
m e n t. Under this heading come clauses dealing w ith

recognition of the union, voluntary or compulsory
union membership, union participation in hiring,
checkoff of union dues, union activity on company
property or company time, and “management preroga­
tive” clauses providing that certain kinds of decisions
are w ithin the sole discretion of management.
3 . A m o u n t a n d m e th o d o f c o m p e n s a tio n . This in­
cludes provisions concerning the basic wage schedule
and general changes in this schedule; the method of
wage payment and, if a piece rate or incentive system
is used, the extent of union participation in the ad­
m inistration of the system; the setting of wage rates
on new or changed jobs; wage increases for individual
workers on a seniority or m erit basis; and a wide
variety of indirect or supplementary wage payments
to workers, including pension funds, “health and wel­
fare” funds, vacations w ith pay, paid holidays, nightshift premiums, pay for “call-in” time and travel time,
and dismissal compensation.
4 . C o n tro l o f jo b o p p o r tu n itie s . This includes a ll
provisions concerning the filling of vacancies and the
worker’s tenure of the job. More specifically, it in­
cludes clauses dealing w ith hiring and discharge, ap­
prenticeship periods, promotion and transfer, layoff
and reemployment, and the method of preparing and
maintaining seniority lists.
5 . W o r k s p e e d s , w o r k m e th o d s , a n d w o r k in g c o n d i­
tio n s . This includes the determination of proper work
speeds—size of machine assignments, proper speed of
assembly lines, time standards under incentive sys­
tems, and sim ilar m atters; regulations concerning
methods of work which may be used, the amount of
work to be done in a certain time, the number of
workers to be hired on a job, and so on; and working
conditions of every sort, including health, safety,
sanitation, heating and lighting, and ventilation. Un­
der this heading we shall place also rules concerning
the length of the workday and the workweek, though
these might be regarded as forming a separate
category.

Only the agreements covering larger and more
complex bargaining units have the profusion of
detail suggested by the above analysis. The agree­
ments of today, however, differ significantly from
earlier agreements in the inclusion of many sub­
18 Lloyd G. Reynolds, Labor Economics and Labor Relations,
198 - 200 .

Dp.




17

jects which were formerly viewed as being exclu­
sively within the control of management. Typical
earlier agreements rarely went much beyond
simple declarations regarding wages and hours,
although many unions adopted detailed working
rules and tried to enforce them by requiring con­
formity on the part of their members.
Unions in recent years have so greatly expanded
the subject-matter of collective agreements that
managements have usually come to insist on the
inclusion of provisions for “management secu­
rity.” The National Labor-Management Confer­
ence of 1945 failed to achieve agreement on a na­
tional program largely because management
representatives sought to commit the labor repre­
sentatives to a formal definition of management’s
“prerogatives.”
Management continues to be particularly insist­
ent on its prerogatives in such questions as types of
products, prices, marketing, plant location, tech­
nological process, and selection of employees. The
economic basis of management’s claims is the pri­
mary responsibility of management for the success
of the enterprise. The question of business risk is
involved, and unions do not desire to share the
risk with employers. In the case of a public or
quasi-public enterprise, as for example, the Ten­
nessee Valley Authority, the responsibility for the
economical operation of the enterprise in the pub­
lic interest is primarily a management responsi­
bility. Unions generally have not sought to share
the responsibility and attendant risk of enterprise,
either private or public; they have, however, fre­
quently disagreed with management as to the
effects of management’s primary responsibility on
labor-management relations.
Union leaders as a rule have sought and have
widely gained participation in the carrying out
of policies initiated by management, especially
when these policies, as in the case of technological
changes, may affect wage rates, employment, and
working conditions. Generally speaking, they
also are interested in methods by which the union
and its members are kept informed regarding
management’s policies. Some of the unions with
the most successful labor-management relations
may not press demands for the inclusion of pro­
visions beyond those which more directly affect
the conditions of employment. Managements,
also, under collective bargaining arrangements

AMERICAN LABOR AND THE AMERICAN SPIRIT

18

that embody a spirit of mutual confidence and
respect, are less inclined to insist Upon a rigorous
boundary line between management and union
prerogatives. “Frequently, the actual experience
of collaboration even in very limited areas leads
to the discovery and exploration of larger
areas.” 19
The expanding coverage of collective agree­
ments and the increasing influence of unions on
broader business policies are indicated by the
tendency of corporations and employers’ associa­
tions to assign their line executives to the negotiat­
ing role. Personnel officials and lawyers have in­
creasingly been given advisory roles.20
The Process of Administering Collective Agree­
ments

Collective bargaining in the broader sense in­
cludes the interpretation, application, and enforce­
ment of collective agreements. Essential as is the
agreement itself, its value depends upon its admin­
istration, which will vary in quality with the
attitudes of the parties and the procedures for
giving effect to the agreement.
A recent study of collective bargaining makes
use of the analogy of the wedding and the sub­
sequent domestic relations:21
Typically, then collective bargaining involves, first,
the negotiation of a general agreement as to terms
and conditions of employment and, second, the main­
tenance of the parties’ relations for the period of the
agreement. The first process is the dramatic one
which catches the public eye and which is sometimes
mistaken to be the entire function of collective bar­
gaining. But in fact, it is to labor relations approx­
im ately what the wedding is to domestic relations.
I t launches the parties on their joint enterprise w ith
good wishes and good intentions. The life of the en­
terprise depends on continuous, daily cooperation and
adjustment.

Another familiar analogy, used by many stu­
dents of labor, is the political comparison. Col­
lective agreements have been likened to public
laws or even a bill of rights; and the processes of
19 Clinton S. Golden, in Proceedings, Fourth Annual Meeting,
Industrial Relations Research Association, 1951, p. 165.
20 Neil W. Chamberlain, Collective Bargaining Procedures,
quoted in Joseph Shister’s Readings in Labor Economics and
Industrial Relations, pp. 222-225.
21 Harry Shulman and Neil W. Chamberlain, Cases on Labor
Relations, quoted in Joseph Shister’s Readings in Labor Eco­
nomics and Industrial Relations, p. 153.



interpreting and giving effect to the agreements
have been compared to the executive and judicial
functions of the Government. The analogy sug­
gests the essential nature of the change that has
occurred alike in political government and in the
government of industry. Traditionally, men
were governed by hereditary and aristocratic
rulers in an arbitrary and often tyrannical man­
ner. The great political transformation produced
by the independence of the United States and the
adoption of the American Constitution, but pre­
ceded by the beginnings of constitutional govern­
ment elsewhere, introduced the principles of civil
equality, political rights, and gradual social ad­
justment by the ballot as opposed to the earlier
necessity of appeal to revolution. Traditionally,
management had arbitrary power in labor-man­
agement relations, a power mitigated only by
management’s own self-restraint or by a show of
economic force by labor. Collective bargaining
has introduced a continuously operative system of
industrial government for defining and limiting
the powers of the parties and regulating their
relations.
Collective agreements have been viewed as con­
tracts, and they do conform in some respects to
the contractual pattern. Both unions and employ­
ers are subject, under the Taft-Hartley Act, to
prosecution in the courts for violation of agree­
ments. The legal liability, however, is not clearly
defined; and court actions have been comparatively
unimportant and indecisive. Collective agree­
ments differ significantly from ordinary contracts,
a fact which is stressed, for example, by Shulman
and Chamberlain.22
The purpose of the parties to a collective agree­
ment is to maintain “the operation of the enter­
prise in which each has indispensable t a s k s a n d
the agreement itself is normally “a means of aid­
ing them in their performance of those tasks and
in the operation of the enterprise for their joint
benefit.” The parties to an agreement, unlike the
parties to an ordinary contract, “have little or no
choice in selecting each other for the relationship.
The union hardly chooses the employer; and the
employer does not choose the union. Both are
dependent on the same enterprise, and as a prac­
tical matter, neither can pull out without destroy­
ing it.” Without regard to the agreement, “the
22

Ib id .,

quoted in Shister’s Readings, pp. 153-154.

COLLECTIVE BARGAINING

parties must live and work together daily and
continuously.” An agreement is made between
the employer and the union, but in fact it deals
“not merely with the relationship of these two
institutions but even more with the relationships
between numerous people” with varying person­
alities, jobs, interests, and points of view. Col­
lective bargaining is therefore, in its essential
quality and purpose, not the making and executing
of a contract but rather it is a continuous process
of adaptation and adjustment on the basis of
agreed-upon conditions and principles formally set
forth to serve as a guide to the parties.
Essentials for Successful Administration

There are two essentials for the successful effec­
tuation of a collective agreement. First, both par­
ties must have elementary attitudes of mutuality
and respect. Second, organizational machinery
is necessary, particularly in large bargaining units,
for joint participation in the interpretation and
application of the provisions of the agreement.
In most agreements, this machinery has to do main­
ly with grievance procedures. Most agreements
also provide for some final form of arbitration of
grievances that cannot be settled at earlier stages
in the grievance procedures.
Agreements usually define the nature of griev­
ances in general terms. A typical agreement
states, for example, that “the word ‘grievance’
means any manner of dissatisfaction on the part
of an employee or employees or the company
which does not involve the relationship between
the company and employees in general or does not
involve a modification of this contract.” 23
Two simple illustrations of down-to-earth
grievances at the shop level, arising from pro­
visions of an agreement, describe typical griev­
ance procedures:24*
The contract may say: “If ability and physical
fitness are equal, seniority shall govern in making
promotions to higher jobs.’’ A job vacancy occurs
which is wanted by both John Smith and Tom Jones.
John Smith has greater seniority, but the company
claims that he has less ability than Jones. How is
ability to be determined? Which of the two men
shall be promoted?

23 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U. S. Department of Labor,
Collective Bargaining Provisions, Bulletin No. 908— p. 8.
16,
24 Llioyd G. Reynolds, Labor Economics and Labor Relations,
p. 188.



19

Even when the wording of the agreement is per­
fectly clear, its application to a particular case fre­
quently involves a finding of fact. The agreement
may say that smoking on duty is a valid reason for
discharge. A foreman recommends a man for dis­
charge on the grounds that he was smoking on duty.
The man says that the foreman’s charge is incorrect.
Was the man smoking or wasn’t he? Shall he be dis­
charged or not?

Even seemingly trivial grievances may have ut­
most importance to the individual workman be­
cause a petty grievance may sometimes take on the
importance of a symbol of prevailing grievances
or attitudes. Grievance procedures for the fair
and prompt handling of even the trivial cases are
therefore of utmost importance.
The usual procedure for handling an individual
grievance on the job is the making of the complaint
to the foreman directly, or, more frequently,
through the shop steward or committeeman. The
stewards are chosen by the workers themselves in
each department or subdivision of an establish­
ment. If this first step fails, the grievance, usually
reduced to writing, may be taken up by the union’s
grievance committee and the superintendent of
the plant or department. That procedure failing,
the complaint may go, at length, to a representative
of the national union and a high company official,
with many variations, depending on the gravity
and complexity of the complaint and such circum­
stances as the size and the organizational setup
of the establishment and the union.
Role of Arbitration

Most grievances are adjusted by the joint griev­
ance procedures. Nearly all agreements provide,
however, for some form of arbitration as the final
step. Such arbitration must be clearly distin­
guished from arbitration of the term s of agree­
ments. With a few exceptions, both unions and
employers oppose the arbitration of the terms or
provisions of agreements; unions are jealous of
such a crucial function and managements fear a
weakening of their “prerogatives.” Arbitration
of grievances, however, is almost universally ac­
ceptable, especially to unions. Many managements
have been inclined to exclude certain questions
from arbitration. Nevertheless, at the National
Labor-Management Conference in 1945, represent­
atives of both groups unanimously endorsed arbi­

20

AMERICAN LABOR AND THE AMERICAN SPIRIT

tration as the last step in grievance procedures.25
Agreements usually provide for the appoint­
ment of an arbitrator by the parties. Many
agreements designate some public agency, as the
Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, or a
private agency, frequently the American Arbitra­
tion Association, to select the arbitrator if the
parties cannot agree on their choice. Some of the
larger companies and the unions to which their
employees generally belong jointly select perma­
nent “impartial arbitrators.” In the industries
in which a union makes agreements with associa­
tions of employers, an umpire, arbitrator, or “im­
partial chairman” is frequently chosen to aid in
the administration of an agreement between the
union and the association. In railroad transpor­
tation, the Railway Labor Act provides for a joint
agency appointed by labor and management, the
National Railroad Adjustment Board, for final
adjudication of grievances in that industry.
Arbitration of grievances under collective
agreements has significantly limited the areas of
industrial conflict and work stoppages. Labor
arbitration has come to be an important phase of
a procedure widely adopted in the United States
in lieu of resort to litigation in the courts. The
widespread employment of professional arbitra­
tors also exemplifies the general trend toward de­
pendence upon specialists and the professionaliz­
ing of personnel in the field of labor-management
relations.
Patterns of Collective Bargaining

The diversified nature and expanding subject
matter of collective agreements should not be al­
lowed to obscure certain significant patterns of
collective bargaining. Diversity is restrained by
the fact that many national unions whose locals
prevailingly negotiate agreements provide their
locals with information about current trends and
minimum standards, and frequently with specific
advice and guidance. Furthermore, many local
agreements are subject to approval by the na­
tional union.

The term pattern, in application to collective
bargaining, has been used in a variety of senses.
One use, after World War II, was in reference to
the several “rounds” of wage increases, each round
tending to follow a pattern set in certain key
industries or employments. Thus, the second
postwar “round,” in 1947, tended to conform to
the “pattern” of 15.5 cents per hour in such in­
dustries as steel, machinery, and railroad trans­
portation. Agreements in important industries
or between influential companies and unions
usually tend to become patterns in the sense of
being adopted by others, not only because of com­
petitive influences (such as union rivalries and
the manpower needs of employers) but also be­
cause of a desire to conform and to avoid criticism.
Other highly important trends in bargaining
were associated with “fringe” or nonwage benefits,
such as paid vacations and holidays, shift differ­
entials, pensions, and health and welfare plans.
The quest of nonwage benefits was intensified by
wartime and postwar limitations on formal wage
increases.
Another use of the term pattern of bargaining
has referred to the entire framework and content
of bargaining in one industry or set of circum­
stances as compared with another. Thus, Profes­
sor Richard A. Lester reviews and compares the
“patterns” of bargaining in railroad transporta­
tion, coal, clothing, and automobiles.26 These may
be viewed as exemplifying the diversity and at the
same time the flexibility and adaptability of
unions and managements in dealing with the dis­
tinctive conditions and problems of different in­
dustries.
Within the clothing industry, for example,
different patterns are observable, as in the men’s
clothing branch and women’s clothing. Bargain­
ing in both of these branches, however, follows a
pattern of exceptionally wide scope, especially in
reference to the degree of union participation in
the business policies of employers. The particular
“pattern” of bargaining is an adaptation to the
small-scale and highly competitive traits of enter­
prises in the clothing trades. In the automobile
industry, to cite a contrasting example, large and
powerful corporations make a similar type of
union participation inapplicable. At the same

25 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U. S. Department of Labor,
Bulletin No. 908-16, p. 81. Arbitration provisions are given on
pp. 81-129.
Some indication of the importance of arbitration procedures
is to be found in a 1949 compilation, in 1,266 pages, of arbitra­
26 Richard A. Lester, Labor and Industrial Relations, pp. 225tion cases : Shulman and Chamberlain’s Cases on Labor Relations.
260.



COLLECTIVE BARGAINING

time, bargaining in the automobile industry has
developed its own characteristics which have influ­
enced bargaining in several other industries,
notably the wage-adjustment policy based on
changes in cost of living combined with an annual
“improvement” or “productivity” wage increase.
The term “patterns” of bargaining has also been
used in reference to the nature of the bargaining
units involved as distinguished from the content
of the agreements reached. Thus, the increase of
multiemployer bargaining may be described as a
change in the pattern of bargaining.
The enlargement of bargaining units has been
accompanied by a widening of bargaining scope
both as to worker coverage and as to the subjects
included in agreements. This highly significant
general transformation has itself been called, per­
haps not too appropriately, a change in “patterns”
of bargaining. It was brought about by the union­
izing of mass-production industries; the fivefold
increase since the early thirties in union member­
ship; and the protective policy of Government.
“In less than a dozen years,” asserted a student of
unionism in 1946, “collective bargaining has been

260611°— 54-

4




21

transformed from a process involving only a small
sector of our economy into a major institutional
force in American life.” 27
Particularly emphasized is the new pattern of
method. Industrywide bargaining and even com­
panywide bargaining in key industries is recog­
nized as tending to set patterns and impose the
results on other industries. This has resulted in a
new economic approach by the unions and by
management, their recognition of the public inter­
est in large-scale nationwide bargaining, and their
effort to identify their wage policies with the
national interest. Unions have insisted, for exam­
ple, on the possibility of wage increases without
corresponding price increases on the basis of rising
productivity, if only managements can be induced
to follow policies of maintaining a high level of
output with low profit per unit of output. Man­
agement has expressed its concern with the infla­
tionary possibilities of particular wage proposals.
27 Everett M. Kassalow, “New Patterns of Collective Bargain­
ing,” in Joseph Shister’s Readings in Labor Economics and In­
dustrial Relations, pp. 160-169 ; quoted from Lester and Shister’s
Insights Into Labor Issues.

Chapter IV.—New Attitudes in Labor-Management Relations
The fact of outstanding significance in labormanagement relations in the United States is the
prevalence of collective bargaining. Already de­
scribed are collective agreements and the processes
of giving day-to-day effect to those agreements.
Even more important than the mechanisms, the
negotiating committees, the formal provisions of
agreements, the grievance procedures, arbitra­
tion—whatever the mechanisms may be—is a new
attitude, a new concept of labor-management re­
lations that has gained ascendancy in this genera­
tion.
Spirit of Mutuality

An attitude of mind is a subtle, intangible thing.
A new attitude may not even be recognized by a
new generation as a change. In the field of labormanagement relations there has been nevertheless
a highly significant shift in point of view. The
representatives of labor and management, not
without many exceptions, but prevailingly, have
achieved a new sense of mutual respect and reci­
procity, of give and take, of interdependence.
Differences of interest and outlook, keenly recog­
nized, still at times seem to require a resolving of
conflict by such methods as work stoppages. How­
ever, a spirit of mutual recognition, acceptance,
and respect guides the parties in a quest for com­
promise and for agreement on modes of working
together for common ends as well as distinctive
group ends.
The steel industry may be cited as an illustra­
tion of the change in basic attitudes and at the
same time of the survival of conflicting points of
view and even work stoppages. However, even
the steel strike of 1952 exemplifies a new attitude.
It was described by the president of the United
States Steel Corp. as “the most friendly strike”
he had ever witnessed. The euphemism was a
way of emphasizing a profound amelioration of
22




labor-management relations even during strikes—
a change that was symbolized by “bored pickets”
merely checking the admission cards of mainte­
nance employees. Everyone recognized the strike
as merely a peaceful suspension of work pending
a necessary settlement. The traditional hostility
of the larger steel companies to unionism before
1937 had been exemplified by a refusal to meet and
talk with union officials, even at the request of
the President of the United States. Numerous
measures were taken to keep employees from join­
ing unions other than “company unions” or local
“representation committees” controlled by the
companies.28 Beginning in 1937, the United
Steelworkers of America was given full recogni­
tion by the United States Steel Corporation.
After the 1952 strike, the president of that com­
pany attended a meeting of the United Steel­
workers Policy Committee. He described Philip
Murray, at that time president of the union, as “a
great leader, an honest man, a great Ameri­
can for whom I have the greatest respect.” He
added that during their 15 years of dealings
they had more often agreed than disagreed. He
promised that the corporation’s labor relations
policies would be overhauled and stated that he
and the president of the union, whom he called
“Phil,” would together tour the corporation’s
plants, “start something new in labor relations,”
and give continuous joint consideration to the
problems of both management and labor.29
The contrast between present-day and earlier
attitudes is of course far from absolute or uni­
versal. The extent and degree of difference
nevertheless provide a significant contrast that
calls for explanation.
28 L. L. Lorwin, American Federation of Labor, pp. 180-184;
H. A. Missis and R. E. Montgomery, Organized Labor, pp. 145-146,
222-226.
29 Reported in the daily press of July 26, 1952. Mr. Murray
died that fall, but the proposal was carried out by his successor.

NEW ATTITUDES IN LABOR-MANAGEMENT RELATIONS

Individualistic Background

America has been traditionally a country of in­
dividualism and economic opportunity. The doc­
trines of the early economists found a favorable
environment and long prevailed—ideas of auto­
matic adjustments by the price mechanism and a
minimum of governmental “interference.” The
price mechanism was believed to be applicable to
the price of labor no less than to the prices of
commodities. Labor organizations were looked
upon as restraints on the “natural” process of
wage determination; they were widely viewed as
“conspiracies in restraint of trade.”
The rise of factories brought about a great in­
crease and concentration of hired labor and gave
added significance to these ideas. The relationship
of the worker to his employer was viewed as that
of an individual labor contract. The employer was
viewed as buying labor time, which became his
property and subject to his control. The worker
as producer was set apart from the worker as con­
sumer and citizen. Labor-management relations
were widely viewed in a legalistic manner; they
were limited to individual contractual relations for
the buying and control of labor time and for claim­
ing the contractual wage. Economically, labormanagement relations were rationalized in terms
of impersonal forces to which were attributed the
more or less automatic determination of the wageprice-profit ratios of the market place.
These tendencies were observed even as early
as the thirties of the last century, notably by Alexis
de Tocqueville, whose world-famous book of ob­
servations and reflections about the United States
was translated from the French as D em ocracy in
A m erica . He described the impersonalizing of
relations between workers and employers in the
newly rising factories—a tendency not limited, of
course, to the United States but probably intensi­
fied by the prevailing individualism. Further­
more, the accelerated processes of technological
change, industrial concentration, and corporate or­
ganization virtually displaced the personal rela­
tionships of earlier small-scale establishments. In
trade and service industries, many small-scale
plants survived, and also in some of the manufac­
turing industries, such as clothing and job print­
ing. These small shops, however, in trying to hold
their own against more efficient plants, often de­



23

generated into sweatshops or high-cost plants
providing little more than a subsistence for either
the owners or the workers.
In general, especially in the larger establish­
ments, there developed a gradation ranging from
the highest administrative officer to the foreman.
The foreman embodied the surviving personal re­
lationship of management to the worker. Gradu­
ally the foreman’s functions were formalized and
routinized. The whole hierarchy of management,
and with it the relations of management to labor,
became increasingly systematized and institu­
tionalized in “scientific management” and later in
personnel management. These changes came to
be associated by workers with the speedup and the
stretchout and with methods of assigning and
supervising tasks and fixing rates of pay that
tended to make of them little more than automa­
tons.
Emergence of Mutuality

These tendencies were opposed by various forces
favorable to a spirit of mutuality in labor-man­
agement relations. The primary influence was the
establishment of strong unions committed to the
principle of peaceful collective bargaining.
Basically, the principles of free association in
economic life and the procedures of collective bar­
gaining are thoroughly consistent with early
American spirit and traditions as embodied in our
Declaration of Independence and our Bill of
Rights. The restricting of civil equality and civil
rights to a somewhat narrow political area proved
in the end to be a denial of our early traditions
of individual liberty; the economic environment
of large-scale industry required a reinterpretation
and extension of our basic principles in terms of
the maintenance of individual liberties by means
of collective measures. On the world stage, na­
tions have learned even more slowly and painfully
that national liberty and national autonomy can
be maintained only by means of collective action
or “collective security.”
The earlier ideas of freedom in the United
States were in a sense negative, to be achieved by
imposing limitations on governments and thereby
preventing them from interfering with individual
and private liberties. While many restraints on
the power of government remain essential, grad­

24

AMERICAN LABOR AND THE AMERICAN SPIRIT

ually our individualism has undergone a temper­
ing process. More rapidly, in recent decades, the
earlier negative attitudes have been replaced or
supplemented by positive ideas and .measures.
These include the concept, long held by labor
unions and now prevailingly accepted, of main­
taining liberties within the framework of groups
and enlarged governmental activities.
The positive approach has included the assump­
tion that a major responsibility of government is
the maintenance of balance between economic
groups and interests. Noteworthy in the carry­
ing of that responsibility into effect was the new
public policy of the thirties for protecting workers
in their constitutional rights of free association
for collective action and self-help. These meas­
ures were in reality a revival of the principles of
our Bill of Rights and their adaptation to presentday industrial conditions. Labor organizations,
thus protected, were able to engage, with an ap­
proach to equality, in negotiations with employers.
Government contributed further, in its new role
in economic affairs, to rational and amicable labormanagement relations by bringing representatives
of unions and of managements together in their
dealings with public agencies. A prominent
agency from 1933 to 1935 was the National Re­
covery Administration, charged with the working
out of industry codes in consultation with repre­
sentatives of labor and management. These
groups found that under the overshadowing com­
mon interest of restoring production and employ­
ment, they could work together in amity. Other
agencies with which unions and management have
dealt, frequently in association or with joint rep­
resentation, have included the National Labor Re­
lations Board in connection with determination of
collective-bargaining units and the representation
rights of unions for collective bargaining; the
Wage and Hour and Public Contracts Divisions;
the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service;
the Employment Service; congressional commit­
tees ; and various wartime and emergency agencies,
such as the War Manpower Commission and the
National War Labor Board.
These agencies, and others of a similar nature
in the States and even the larger cities, have been
in a sense forums for obtaining the support of pub­
lic opinion. They have stressed not the tradition­
al appeal to economic strength in deciding issues



but rather an appeal to facts and reason. Joint
participation stimulated mutual respect as well
as rivalry. It also had much to do with the re­
cent growth of union research staffs and the ex­
tension of the research activities of managements
in the fields of personnel and labor-management re­
lations.
Changes in public policies and the responses of
unions and managements to their new obligations
and rights were accompanied by an unprecedented
public interest in unionism and industrial rela­
tions. Universities and colleges had traditionally
dealt with labor mainly as a phase of courses in
economics, with an occasional separate course in
such subjects as labor legislation and labor prob­
lems. Labor as a “problem” had usually been con­
sidered primarily as a phase of business admini­
stration and management policy. Within two
decades a remarkable change became evident.
Many of the larger schools set up special depart­
ments and even autonomous institutes concerned
with labor-management questions. Most of these
new groups no longer emphasized the management
and engineering aspects but, in one form or an­
other, stressed labor-management relations as
“human” relations and as involving questions of
interest and concern to labor and the public no
less than to management. Many of them invited
joint labor-management participation, especially
in forums and training facilities. One of the new
groups, Cornell University’s School of Industrial
and Labor Relations, initiated a journal, the I n ­
du strial and L abor R elation s R eview , which at
once became a prominent medium of discussion.
Management associations exhibited a significant
change of emphasis. The Taylor Society and some
other groups, which had been concerned mainly
with technical questions, such as those associated
with the Taylor system of “scientific management,”
were merged to form the Society for Advancement
of Management, much broader and more human­
istic in outlook. The American Management As­
sociation became increasingly concerned with non­
technical and “human” problems, and union lead­
ers were more frequently invited to take part in
its meetings.
The trend is further exemplified by the forma­
tion of the National Planning Association, a pri­
vate organization with members from industry,
agriculture, labor, and the public. The specific

NEW ATTITUDES IN LABOR-MANAGEMENT RELATIONS

inclusion of labor representation is characteristic
of the spirit of mutuality. A series of studies by
the Association, described as “Causes of Industrial
Peace,” give support, on the basis of careful se­
lection and objective study of cases, to the practical
value of mutual recognition and respect, a problem­
solving approach (as distinguished from both le­
galism and belligerency), and a continuously open
and available system of mutual communication be­
tween unions and management on a “two-way”
basis.
The widespread interest in questions of union­
ism and labor-management relations brought about
the formation of a new group, the Industrial Re­
lations Research Association, composed of indi­
viduals on the staffs of colleges and universities,
research foundations, labor unions, business enter­
prises, and public agencies. Its proceedings and
special papers, published since 1948, exemplified,
and at the same time powerfully reinforced, the
newly developing tendencies in labor-management
relations.
Some of the universities pioneered many years
ago in the study of what has come to be known as
human relations, and their researches were ex­
tended to include case studies in the labor-manage­
ment field. An outstanding illustration is the
study at the Hawthorne Works, Chicago, 111., of
the Western Electric Company, described by
Stuart Chase as “the most exciting and important
study of factory workers ever made.” 30
Studies of this nature called attention anew to
what should have been apparent but had been ob­
scured by legalistic and theoretical conceptions
and by overmuch dependence on such techniques
as time-and-motion studies and mathematical for­
mulas for establishing job specifications and wage
rates. “Human relations” students made the “dis­
covery” (or rediscovery) that workers are human
beings on the job as well as off. The investiga­
tions emphasized the existence of complex inter­
ests, motivations, and “patterns” of behavior.
They recalled to mind the fact that workers re­
spond, as workers, not merely to wage incentives
30Management and the Worker: An Account of a Research
Program Conducted by the Western Electric Co., Hawthorne
Works, Chicago. By F. J. Roethlisberger and William J. Dick­
son. Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press, 1939. (Tenth
Printing, 1950.)
A brief summary of recent trends of study is in the Monthly
Labor Review, October 1951, pp. 4 3 2 - 4 3 4 , “Studies of Human
Relations in the Labor-Management Field,'’ by John N. Thurber.



25

but also to the ordinary stimuli of human inter­
est, free association, and mutual respect.
“Labor is not a commodity,” even though it is
bought and sold; wages are not merely cost of
production but are a large and increasingly im­
portant part of the general flow of income on
which production and employment as well as con­
sumption depend. Living is a unitary process or
flow in time. Working time cannot be isolated
from leisure time. The individual as a worker
cannot be walled off from the individual as a citi­
zen and member of social groups without danger
of a split personality and impairment of work as
well as other activities.
Limits to a “Human Relations” Approach

These truths were not “discoveries,” but percep­
tion of them had been dulled and their application
had been impaired. Their rediscovery was in fact
a revival of our historical spirit and traditions of
civil equality, civil liberty, and individual dignity
and their extension to labor-management relation­
ships. The concern of scholars and research
groups with these mundane questions had a vital
significance as evidence of the extension of objec­
tive research and scientific attitude to the work­
shop, the industrial association, and the neglected
problems of the worker as a human being on the
job.
The new types of research which emphasized
human relations also called attention to the char­
acteristics of the industrial environment which
tended to impair the human qualities of the
worker—to stifle his individuality and to merge
him in the mass or subordinate him to the machine
or the process. Large-scale enterprise and mass
production unavoidably entail specialization and
a routine which add to the worker’s difficulty in
maintaining his identity and preventing frustra­
tions of his natural human interests. Students in
this field have therefore emphasized the added im­
portance, under these circumstances, of a “hu­
manized” management policy. Instead of aggra­
vating the effects of specialization and mass-pro­
duction techniques by the pursuit of impersonal,
routinized, and legalistic policies and procedures,
management, it has repeatedly been urged, should
seek to counteract such influences by every possi­
ble recognition of the individual worker’s identity

26

AMERICAN LABOR AND THE AMERICAN SPIRIT

and human interests and sense of participation in
a joint enterprise. “Granted that large-scale or­
ganization is necessary and that it inevitably im­
plies certain types of restriction and even of regi­
mentation, the problem remains of attaining the
required efficiencies with the maximum amount of
human satisfaction, not only from its end product
but also from its very operation.” 31
It is recognized almost everywhere that labormanagement relations should conform to the ele­
mentary needs of workers not merely as workers
but as individual identities and human beings.
Nevertheless, there may be inadequacies in the
avowed recognition and adoption of the “human
relations” approach. Even the avowedly objec­
tive study of industrial psychology can be used to
set up a mere facade of democratic procedures for
hiding arbitrary methods; or to formulate a set
of “manipulative techniques” for controlling
workers under the appearance of their self-direc­
tion ; or to devise “a method of handling people,
not living with them.” A prominent scholar and
administrator, after observing certain uses of ap­
plied psychology, issued a general warning.32 He
referred to the mistakes of the “traditional econ­
omists” in assuming an “economic man” and an
extreme competitive individualism. He stated
that some of the psychologists “seem intent on
reversing rather than correcting” these errors by
minimizing wages and by setting up a standard
of “perfect collaboration” in place of the “perfect
competition” of the traditional economists.

The greatest danger [he stated] is that manage­
ment having found how to make contented workers,
the state may learn how to make contented citizens,
when the consultant to industry becomes the brain
truster for government. The common man, rather
than be molded without his knowledge by a new
psychological elite, might prefer to remain unregen­
erate and unpsychoanalyzed. Just as economists have
failed to make an ‘economic man’ out of man, so may
the psychologists also fail in trying to make him into
a loyal and contented cow satisfied to collaborate
for any purpose, so long as he is aUowed to collabo­
rate.

n Daniel Katz and Robert L. Kohn, “Human Organization
and Worker M otivation,” in Industrial Productivity, Industrial
Relations Research Association (1951), p. 151.
« Clark Kerr, in Psychology of Labor-Management Relations,
Proceedings of September 1949 Meeting of the Industrial Rela­
tions Research Association, pp. 103-106.
See also pp. 51-56 (statem ent by William Gomberg of the In­
ternational Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union) and Proceedings
of the Fourth Annual Meeting, Industrial Relations Research
Association (statement by Solomon Barkin of the Textile Work­
ers Union).




In respect to collective bargaining, he continued,
“instead of either perfect competition or perfect
collaboration we may come to prefer acceptable
accommodation.”

Rather than support the single-minded loyalty to
self assumed for the ‘economic man’ or the singleminded loyalty to the organization encouraged by
those supporting ‘collaboration’, we may find that the
greater hope for democracy lies with a multiplicity of
allegiances—to self, family, unon, church, employer,
and government among others. The great danger is
not that loyalties are divided today but that they may
become undivided tomorrow.

Union leaders reiterate the basic differences of
interest and point of view and the basic role of
collective bargaining in maintaining cooperative
relations. Thus, Mark Starr of the International
Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union asserts:33*

First of all, it must never be assumed that unionmanagement cooperation on a consultative level re­
places the normal processes of collective bargaining.
In other words, the natural and expected opposition
between those who sell their labor power and those
who buy it cannot be ta lk ed away even in an era of
good feeling. A recognition of this is the only honest
way of clearing up doubts and suspicions. . . . [It]
leads to realistic cooperation for efficiency in the shop
and for a better understanding all around.

The genuine coin may be paid the tribute of
counterfeiting. The human relations concept re­
mains valid and retains its genuine significance as
long as it infuses the basic and democratic proces­
ses of collective bargaining and is not debased into
a substitute for them. The truly objective study
of human relations and industrial psychology led
to a needed wider recognition of the fact, already
apparent to the worker on the job, that there can
be no satisfactory substitute for his own initiative
through his own independent organization. The
conditions necessary for human satisfactions on
the job include a feeling of having something to
say about those conditions; and in large-scale
enterprise it is only through his union that he can
hope to exert effective influence. Formal studies
have again reinforced the wisdom of the worker’s
experience that unions and management must have
a continuous procedure of “two-way” communi­
cation and a desire to use it for mutual under­
standing and respect, even when differences prove
to be so serious that they can be decided only by
resort to economic force.
“ Mark Starr, “The Search for New Incentives,” in Industrial
and Labor Relations Review, January 1950, p. 248.

Chapter V.—Collateral Activities of Unions
The Scope of Union Activity

On the main highway of American labor, as
distinguished from such bypaths as the Knights
of Labor and the Industrial Workers of the World,
unions have been concerned chiefly with improv­
ing the conditions of employment within the
framework of privately operated enterprises.
Before unions were generally recognized for
collective-bargaining procedures, they sought to
exert influence indirectly by means of apprentice­
ship regulations, rules of work, and strikes or
threats of strikes for obtaining concessions even
in the absence of formal agreements. Currently,
the stronger position of unions gives primacy of
method to collective bargaining.
Nevertheless, there are other highly important
activities of Unions, although many of these over­
lap the function of collective bargaining. A union
obviously must maintain its organizing activities
as a prelude to obtaining the strength required to
qualify as bargaining agent; but organizing is
also a part of the normal activity, a part of the
basic reason for existence, of a vigorous union.
The work of the research staff, support of friendly
legislators, and efforts to obtain laws favorable to
unionism, are among the collateral activities that
have a bearing on the making and carrying out
of collective agreements.
The success of a union depends utlimately on
the merging of its activities in the general purpose
of meeting the needs of workers. Regarding these
needs, the Division of Labor Studies of the Yale
Institute of Human Relations made an extensive
study of workers’ own ideas, mainly by interview­
ing both union members and workers who had not
become members. These inquiries led to the fol­
lowing conclusions:34
34 E. Wight Bakke, ‘‘Why Workers Join Unions,” in Personnel,
American Management Association, Vol. 22, No. 1, pp. 2-11;
quoted in Bakke and Kerr’s Unions, Management, and the Public,
pp. 41-48.



Analysis of our interviews with workers has indi­
cated almost universal recognition that one is living
successfully if he is making progress toward the
experience and assurance of:
A. The society and respect of other people.
B. The degree of creature comforts and economic
security possessed by the most favored of his
customary associates.
C. Independence in and control over his own affairs.
D. Understanding of the forces and factors at work
in his world.
E. Integrity [wholeness, self-respect].
We shall refer to these as the workers' goals.
Workers would not phrase them in this way. They
may have made no conscious formulation of such ob­
jectives. These goals are our own shorthand de­
scription of the types of responses which were made
when, during our interviews, workers talked about
what they were striving toward, what marked a man
as successful, what their anxieties and hopes
were. . . .
Whatever the success or failure of a particular
organizing attempt, . . . it is safe to conclude from
the persistency of unions in industrial nations that
on the whole they have met conscious needs of work­
ers through a technique which in general conforms
to their pattern of life. . . .
To classify unionism, therefore, merely as a mech­
anism for collective bargaining for economic advan­
tages is to underrate its importance in a democracy.
The contribution of unionism at its best is its provi­
sion of a pattern of life which offers chances of
successful adjustment and goal realization, not for
the few who get out of the working class but for
the great majority who must stay there. It provides
them with a realistic medium through which their
common interests may be expressed and their common
needs met. It gathers together the threads of indi­
vidual lives, made of the same stuff but tangled,
straightens them out and weaves them into a pat­
terned fabric which is not only of importance in
itself but which gives new importance to each thread.

The needs of workers and the resulting purposes
of unions have been described by two prominent
former union leaders with experience as workers :35
35 Clinton S. Golden and Harold J. Ruttenberg, The Dynamics
of Industrial Democracy, New York, Harper, 1942; quoted in
Bakke and Kerr’s Unions, Management, and the Public, pp.
51-52.
27

28

AMERICAN LABOR AND THE AMERICAN SPIRIT
To look upon industrial unrest and the formation
lic and employer opposition as mutual aid clubs
of labor unions as springing primarily from economic
and friendly societies. Some of the guilds of
factors is an oversimplification of the problems of journeymen in the skilled crafts were mainly ben­
human relations. The basic needs of human beings
who make American industry’s working force are efit societies. Such prominent American unions
as the typographers, the locomotive firemen and
threefold:
1. Economic—an adequate plane of living and the
enginemen, and the iron molders supplied “sick­
necessary amount of job and wage protection.
ness, old-age, and mortuary aid to members or
2. Psychological—the personality needs of freedom their widows. Welfare activities preceded the
of action, self-expression, and creative outlets.
‘bread and butter’ activities of wages, hours, and
3. Social—the ties and bonds of group relations
working conditions.” 36
and community life.
Workers seek these three things in their jobs.
These benefit funds are now comparatively un­
When they fail to find satisfaction for all of these
important but they remain integral parts of the
needs, or any one of them, in their daily work, they
seek the fulfillment of the unsatisfied need or needs work of many unions, especially those of skilled
outside. This finds expression in many forms of in­ craftsmen with comparatively stable membership
dividual and group activity. We are concerned and with similarities of economic and social status.
solely with the manner in which workers seek a wellSome unions, as the International Brotherhood of
rounded life through union membership, and the ex­ Electrical Workers, have provided for elasticity
tent to which they find satisfaction of their threefold of membership and at the same time maintained
needs through their unions. Union membership is
not an escape or a substitute satisfaction, but a means the stability of their mutual benefit systems by
adapting the dues and the benefits to the types of
for workers to find direct satisfaction in their daily
jobs for economic, psychological, and social needs.
members.

The sense of belonging and of participating in
a common enterprise is sustained largely by direct
membership in local unions. Many locals now
have a diminished direct part in collective bargain­
ing but they retain important basic activities, not
the least important of which is the maintenance
of direct personal ties among members.

A Traditional Function: Mutual Benefits
Some local unions still administer mutual ben­
efit funds, and these activities, going back to the
early history of unions, do much to bind the mem­
bers together in bonds of mutual interest extend­
ing even to death benefits. Union benefit funds
are now important in comparatively few unions;
but most unions are closely associated with their
present-day equivalents—pensions and health and
welfare benefits and vacation pay in collective
agreements, and various community, State, and
national programs such as workmen’s compensa­
tion, unemployment insurance, and old-age and
survivors’ insurance.
Before the legal recognition of unions and em­
ployer acceptance of collective bargaining, many
associations of workers were held together largely
by their mutual benefit activities. Historically,
in Europe and to a smaller extent in the United
States, forerunners of modern unions escaped pub­



The present-day equivalents of the traditional
mutual benefit schemes are of outstanding impor­
tance in many unions. Some of these activities
have considerable experimental significance.
Noteworthy examples are the New York Health
Center of the International Ladies’ Garment
Workers’ Union and the United Mine Workers’
funds for health, welfare, and retirement. Some
unions have also undertaken such enterprises as
credit associations, cooperative housing projects,
and banks.
A Primary Function: Organizing Work
Organizing activities are primarily important
in obtaining union recognition and bargaining
rights; but they are also a normal and continuing
part of the work of most unions, especially in ex­
panding industries and employments. In older
communities, with well-established unions, organ­
izing work is easily sustained to the extent of
maintaining normal union membership or expand­
ing it when employment rises or when new plants
or industries are introduced. A particular local
union, or a city central or council, may provide
the organizing facilities. Workers themselves,
30 Abraham Weiss, “Union Welfare Plans,” in Hardman and
Neufeld’s House of Labor, p. 277. Part Five of this volume
(273-355) is entitled, “Welfare, Health, and Community
Services.”

COLLATERAL ACTIVITIES OF UNIONS

especially when they include those with union ex­
perience, may take the initiative.
A serious organizing problem has been encoun­
tered in recent years in such industries as the tex­
tile group. These industries have been declining
in the older centers and expanding in other regions,
particularly the Southern States. There has been
need for the initiation and support of organizing
work at the highest levels of union organization.
A union organizer under such conditions needs a
combination of the qualities of a group leader, a
salesman, and a diplomat. Workers in newly in­
dustrialized communities where neither they nor
the communities have had much experience with
unions are not simply waiting for a chance to join
a union. Substantial experience with factory jobs
and disciplines and with dependence on money
wages is often necessary before workers, especially
those who have come from farms, become conscious
of the need for unions. Furthermore, union or­
ganizers in newly industrialized communities are
often confronted by community opposition arising
in part from bias due merely to lack of experience
with unions.
With some unions, organizing activities are
necessary for the protection of the jobs of their
existing members and for union survival; for the
competition of nonunion establishments may
undermine the unionized segments of the indus­
try. One of the most successful of unions con­
fronted by employers who seek to run away from
union standards is the International Ladies’ Gar­
ment Workers’ Union. “By dint of great re­
sourcefulness and even detective-like ingenuity,
the ILGWU has been able to catch up with these
‘runaway’ shops and bring union conditions to
their employees wherever they may be. This per­
sistence is not alone a matter of a sentimental de­
sire to extend union organization, but it is a matter
of life and death for the union.” 37
Political Activities
Another vital activity of unions, often misun­
derstood, is in the political arena. The great na­
tional unions have a large measure of self-govern­
ment; naturally, their political interests and ac­
37 Jack Barbash, Labor Unions in Action, New York, Harper,
1948: quoted in Sbister’s Readings in Labor Economics and
Industrial Relations, p. 40.
260611°— 54------5



29

tivities range widely and are not necessarily con­
sistent with positions taken by the AFL or the
CIO.
The prevailing types of political activity in
both the AFL and the CIO have been described
with substantial validity as forming a policy of
“nonpartisan political action.” That policy has
included the championing of a great variety of
legislation and of administrative policies and the
support of individuals for public offices believed to
be most likely to favor those policies and pro­
grams. Many of these have been of broad public
interest, as when the AFL advocated, in 1918, a
graduated system of income and inheritance taxes
and a tax on idle land and when in the same year
it urged the development of State colleges and
universities. Naturally, the main concern of
unions has been with measures and policies more
directly affecting labor, such as the advocacy of
State workmen’s compensation laws and a na­
tional unemployment service.
The political role of unions in the United States
is more readily understandable if the nature of
political parties is kept in mind.
Parties in many countries are often essentially
“interest” groups centering around the political
aims of a particular class of people with more or
less homogeneous points of view and interests.
The focal point or the organizing influence may be
almost purely economic, or it may be regional, or
racial, or ecclesiastical. A party in that sense
adheres rather rigorously, although not necessarily
so in its public pronouncements, to the specific aims
and interests of the group. A truly national gov­
ernment, under these circumstances, depends upon
temporary combinations or coalitions of parties.
Labor groups, as influential “interest” groups,
have played increasingly important parts in many
of these governments. In some countries, as Eng­
land (with a two-party system), the labor group
has so expanded the meaning of the term labor
and so broadened its program as to claim an appro­
priate basis for assuming responsibility for a na­
tional government independently of other parties.
The two main political parties in the United
States both claim to be national and to govern the
country, when given the electoral mandate, by rec­
onciling conflicting group interests in what each
sets forth as a program in the interest of the
country as a whole. Corresponding roughly to the

30

AMERICAN LABOR AND THE AMERICAN SPIRIT

various political parties in a multiple-party sys­
tem, there are in the United States, with its twoparty system, what are sometimes termed “pres­
sure groups.” For example, the farmers of the
dairying regions may form such a group and may
seek to promote or oppose such legislation and pub­
lic policies as impinge upon their group interests.
To that end, pressure is exerted upon both parties.
One method is lobbying—literally, the influencing
of lawmakers in the lobbies adjacent to legisla­
tive chambers but in practice, of course, much
broader in scope. A “pressure group” may seek
to influence political action indirectly through
public opinion or by bringing about the election
of persons favorable to the group, regardless of
party.
Wage earners in the United States have had
little ambition to form the nucleus of a party
which, to be effective, would have to supplant one
of the two existing major parties. Workers natu­
rally have certain group interests or points of
view, and individually or through their unions
they seek to have these views and interests re­
flected in public policy regardless of the party in
power. An exceptional example of “pressure
group” tactics is the influence exerted on Con­
gressmen of both parties by railroad unions and
the coal miners’ union, in combination with cer­
tain other interests, to prevent the construction of
the St. Lawrence River waterway because of their
fear that it would take traffic away from the rail­
roads and, by means of water power, adversely
affect the demand for coal. Significant recent
examples of union political influence less explic­
itly connected with group interests include out­
standing union support of the European Recovery
Program, measures to sustain employment such as
the Employment Act of 1946, slum clearance and
low-cost housing, and, in general, those types of
measures that are widely described as liberal and
progressive.
Political activities extend to the State federa­
tions and to the city centrals and councils. State
and local governments play important parts in
such policies and programs as factory and work­
place inspection; accident prevention; workmen’s
compensation; building codes and regulations af­
fecting union jurisdictions and relations with con­
tractors ; and the regulation of the work of women
and young persons. Unions regularly divide



their support of parties, although many unions re­
main officially neutral.
Both of the major political parties have regu­
larly had the support of some union leaders and
members in national as well as local and State
elections. But when the AFL or the CIO officials
have declared themselves in support of a par­
ticular candidate or issue, the declaration is purely
advisory. The officials of a national union have
no power to bind the locals of the union or their
officials or members. When John L. Lewis, presi­
dent of the United Mine Workers, one of the most
powerful and most strongly centralized of all
unions, urged the election of Wendell L. Willkie
in 1940, the coal miners were credited with com­
monly having refused to heed his advice. The
united opposition of union officials to Senator
Taft in 1952 failed to carry for his opponent even
some of the strongest labor centers in the State of
Ohio.
The political attitudes and activities of unions
have been aptly summarized in a recent study of
unionism: 38

The differences between unions with respect to the
utilization of political action and the political ap­
paratus of the state are differences in degree and
articulateness. This is another way of saying that
(1) no union can function in modern society without
seeking in one way or other to influence government;
(2) some unions utilizing government do it as part
of a systematic philosophy; while others just do it
as a matter of run-of-the-mill union activity.
Although there are differences in temperament and
technique and emphasis in utilizing government
there is little evidence of much difference in the sub­
stance of what the unions seek to get out of govern­
ment. On Federal and local domestic government
policy there has been a remarkable unanimity of
opinion among labor groups.

Unions have become increasingly interested in
political activities mainly because they have rec­
ognized the need for an expanding role of Govern­
ment. Many leaders have limited their political
activities to the somewhat narrowly interpreted
and direct interests of their unions; others, recog­
nizing the increased importance of unions in the
national economy and the ultimate dependence on
the long-term soundness of that economy, have
tended to take a broader view. A broader outlook
has also been a natural result of the more extensive
participation of unions in community affairs.
w ib id .j

Quoted in Shister’s Readings, p. 132.

COLLATERAL ACTIVITIES OF UNIONS

Integration With the Community
Labor organizations in some countries have
avoided community integration and have tended
to think in terms of the ultimate supplanting of
other institutions by labor organizations. The
ambitions of Samuel Gompers and his associates
as founders of modern American unionism in­
cluded a general acceptance of unionism by the
community and a recognition of unions on an
equal plane with other institutions. To that end,
Gompers took the momentous and often criticized
step, early in the century, of accepting appoint­
ment as vice president of the National Civic Fed­
eration, with representatives of employers, em­
ployees, and the public. Gompers answered his
critics by saying that his action “helped to estab­
lish the practice of accepting labor unions as an
integral social element and logically of including
their representatives in groups to discuss poli­
cies.5’ 39
The general public acceptance of unions and
their integration in community life have exceeded
even the apparent ambitions of Samuel Gompers.
A noteworthy development has been the increased
participation of Unions in community service work
and in various other community and group activi­
ties. The 1949 AFL Convention strongly urged
joint labor-management support of community
chests and councils and of the social welfare agen­
cies, commonly called “red feather” agencies, spon­
sored or aided by the councils and chest funds.
The AFL has worked out a detailed year-round
program and has gained the support of a large
proportion of its national unions, city central
bodies, and State federations in carrying out its
program, which even includes labor-management
social work institutes. An account of CIO par­
ticipation in community services and related
activities has some interesting reflections on the
trend.40*
In 1942 the CIO was represented on 90 communityservice programs; last year the number was 7,000.
In Akron alone—the bloody labor-management battle­

39 Quoted by Daniel Bell, “Tbe Worker and His Civic Func­
tions,” in Monthly Labor Review, July 1950 (35th Annversary
Issue), p. 63.
40 Fortune, February 1951, p. 161 (in an article, “The U. S.
Labor Movement,” part of a special issue entitled “U. S. A., The
Permanent Revolution” ).
See also The House of Labor (pp. 333-344), edited by J. B. S.
Hardman and M. F. Neufeld, New York, Prentice-Hall, 1951.



31
ground of the thirties—16 CIO people serve on various
boards of the Community Chest. “We’re in about
everything in this town except the Portage Country
Club,” said one CIO leader to John Dos Passos.
There is still plenty of resistance by “polite society”
against accepting the union leader. But the resist­
ance is hardly more strenuous today than that always
offered to the newcomer—for example, the resistance
of the New York “society” of merchants and bankers
in the 1870’s and 1880’s to the new industrial mag­
nates.
In some places—one-industry towns with a strong
union like Saginaw, Mich., and the paper and pulp
towns of Wisconsin—even this resistance is dis­
appearing. There union men are accepted by the
groups that run the communities and set the mores
for them: the Parent-Teacher Association and the
school board, the elders of the churches, the hospital
board, the volunteer firemen, and the dramatic
society. Even the “service clubs” of the smallbusiness man, such as Rotary or the Lions—once
strongholds of antiunion sentiment—are beginning
to bring union men in as members. There is also an
increasing acceptance of union men as normal and
regular members in management workshops and
panels. For years, of course, union leaders have
delivered set speeches to such groups as the American
Management Association and the National Industrial
Conference Board. But now they are coming more
and more into the small, informal, off-the-record
groups where the real work is being done—and as
men who have something to contribute to a common
problem, not just under a flag of truce as emissaries
of an enemy power.

Education, Research, and Public Relations
Pervading all of the aims and activities of
unions are their educational interests. Before
reference is made to the specific educational ac­
tivities of unions, the relationship of unions and
their members to the general educational system
may be noted.
Unions throughout their history have given ex­
pression to their general public interests as well
as the interests of union members by reiterated in­
sistence upon free schools, compulsory school at­
tendance, better salaries for teachers, and freedom
of teaching. They have often demanded and in
some areas obtained free text books for students
in the public schools. They have also supported
such programs as free lunches in the schools.
Reference has been made already to the trans­
formation and expansion of courses in the field
of labor in colleges and universities. These
changes, together with improved facilities in the

32

AMERICAN LABOR AND THE AMERICAN SPIRIT

public schools, limit the need for specialized
educational work by unions. There remain, how­
ever, many phases of educational activity, broadly
defined, which unions have undertaken, notably
the national federations (the AFL and the CIO)
and some of the larger national unions. Union
activities that may be put under the general head­
ing include short-session institutes and other pro­
grams (including, of course, the labor press and
extensive radio broadcasting activities) for pro­
moting general participation in union affairs;
schools or special facilities for training union offi­
cials ; cooperation with universities and colleges;
and the carrying on of research and informational
work. Some unions have adopted the widespread
practice of maintaining specialized provisions for
what are commonly called public relations.
Workers have made much progress in taking
advantage of improved educational facilities,
aided, of course, by better wages, improved eco­
nomic conditions, and limitations on child labor.
In 1900, only about 8 persons per 100 of the popu­
lation in the usual high-school age groups (15 to
19 years) attended high schools, in contrast to 58
per 100 in 1948. More than two-thirds of crafts­
men and kindred workers 25 to 29 years of age in
1940 had gone beyond the elementary or first 8
grades of school, as compared with only 8 out of
7 of those who were 45 to 54 years of age, with their
school ages extending over the early years of the
century. In 1900, about 25,000 persons graduated
from colleges; in 1948, the number was 271,000.
Among those 14 to 19 years old in 1952, nearly
one-half (47 percent) had completed a full 4 years
of high school work; among those 65 years old and
over only 1 out of 10 had been in high school as
long as 4 years. Ten percent of persons from 25
to 29 years old in 1952 had completed 4 years or
more of study in college; among those 65 years
old and over, only about 4 percent had gone to
college as long as 4 years. Some evidence of the
educational progress of the nonwhite population
is reflected in changes in literacy. More than 96
percent of the nonwhite population from 14 to 24
years old in 1952 were literate, in contrast to only
two-thirds of those 65 years old and over.41

Mark Starr, a labor leader primarily concerned
with labor education, has asserted: “No institu­
tion in the United States has such a record of con­
sistent support for public education as has the
organized labor movement.” 42
Following is a recent summary of educational
work by the AFL and the CIO in collaboration
with their national unions and regional groups:43*
The AFL Workers Education Bureau, made a for­
mal part of the federation in 1950—some 27 years
after the founding of the Bureau—reports service to
500 national and international unions, State federa­
tions of labor, central bodies, local unions, and
workers’ educational enterprises. At the 1948 con­
vention of the AFL, the bureau reported that during
the year it had sponsored 21 institutes on economic
and industrial problems in 14 States, in cooperation
with its local constituent organizations, universities,
and community associations. It also conducted edu­
cational meetings at a number of conventions of AFL
affiliates and participated in conferences sponsored
by other organizations. The bureau services its
affiliates and cooperating groups by circulating litera­
ture and information of various types. It also pub­
lishes a monthly education news letter.
In the same year, the CIO Department of Research
and Education conducted five regional conferences
in Oregon, Massachusetts, Indiana, and Wisconsin,
and sponsored leadership training courses in Mary­
land, Missouri, Colorado, and Tennessee. The De­
partment acts as a clearinghouse for CIO education
directors, and as part of this function, has arranged
quarterly meetings for these staff members to con­
sider current problems. The department maintains
a rental library of 60 films, which were seen during
1948 by more than 50,000 CIO members. Over 400
albums made up of three 12-inch records of the CIO’s
“America’s Favorite Union Songs” were sold during
the year.

The institutes mentioned in the preceding quo­
tation bring union members together in sm all
groups, which, in the summer, often combine dis­
cussions and lectures with vacations; winter insti­
tutes usually are more strictly limited to study.
Labor institutes exemplify cooperation with uni­
versities; the first was held in 1931 at Kutgers
University. Many universities and colleges now
have summer schools primarily for workers, and
a large number have a variety of cooperative ar­
rangements with unions.
Some of the larger unions, such as the Inter­

41 Monthly Labor Review, July 1950, p. 28 (article on “Chang­
ing Modes of Living” during the present century) ; U. S. Bureau
4a In Hardman and Neufeld’s House of Labor, p. 423.
of the Census, Statistical Abstract, 1951, p. 118; U. S. Bureau of
43 J. B. S. Hardman, in Hardman and Neufeld’s House of Labor,
the Census, School Enrollment, Educational Atainment, and Il­
p. 420. Part Seven of this volume (pp. 417-482) is entitled
literacy, October 1952, Series P-20, No. 45, pp. 18, 22.
“Union Educational Activity.”



COLLATERAL ACTIVITIES OF UNIONS

33

national Association of Machinists, the United Au­
tomobile Workers, and the International Ladies’
Garment Workers’ Union, have programs that ex­
tend from services for the members of the constit­
uent local unions to the training of staff officers
of the national union. The Training Institute of
the ILGWU provides 12 months of intensive train­
ing of candidates for official union positions. Can­
didates are not required to have experience in the
industry. Field work, however, as well as class
work, is included in the course.44
The activities of unions broadly classifiable as
educational include research and industrial engi­
neering. As a distinct staff function, union re­
search was virtually unknown as recently as the
early thirties. Some of the more influential unions,
notably the United Mine Workers and some of the
railroad brotherhoods, still depend largely upon
outside specialists for preparing economic briefs.
Most of the larger unions, however, and the AFL
and CIO, have regularly employed staffs. These
staffs are commonly viewed as “service bureaus”
for the use of union officials.

The informational and background data sup­
plied by research staffs concern all of the major
problems with which union officials must deal.45
If the union is undertaking the organizing of
workers, detailed information is needed regarding
the plant, the company, the community, the indus­
try as a whole. The negotiation or renegotiation
of a collective agreement calls for study of such
subjects as “comparative wage standards, working
conditions, finances, cost analysis, competitive po­
sition of the plants, and actual industrial stand­
ards and conditions secured in other contracts.”
The information needed will naturally vary with
the scope and circumstances of different bargain­
ing situations. Handling of grievances calls for
relevant data applicable to a great variety of cases.
Arbitration may call for special briefs. Presenta­
tion of cases before public agencies has called for
increased reliance on accurate data and on ana­
lytical work that can withstand public scrutiny
as well as the criticism of management representa­
tives. Some unions have engaged in special re­
search in industrial engineering and the problems
44 A series of articles on workers’ education began in the Novem­ of management.
ber 1951 issue of the Monthly Labor Review and continued at
varying intervals. The article in the November 1951 issue (pp.
529-535), by M. Mead Smith, was entitled ‘‘The ILGWU Approach
to Leadership Training.”




45 Solomon Barkin, ‘‘Expanding Functions of Union Research,”
in Hardman and Neufeld’s House of Labor, pp. 236-2,37.

Chapter VL—General Outlook and Aims of Unions
Philosophy of Democratic Participation
The labor organizations of the United States in
recent decades have followed with minor excep­
tions a pragmatic course of recognizing the exist­
ing economic order as a “going concern,” dynamic
and evolutionary in nature. They have suffered
little from conflicts among themselves over ulti­
mate aims for social transformation or over pro­
cedures for achieving aims of that nature. They
have in fact been criticized for lack of a general
philosophy or ideology.46
It is true that American labor unions have often
impressed observers as being preoccupied with de­
tails of collective agreements and with the proce­
dures of bargaining and negotiating and the
adjusting of grievances. Paradoxically, however,
even this characterization suggests a significant
general outlook or philosophy. It indicates a pre­
vailing aim of community integration, of “belong­
ing,” of democratic participation in economic gov­
ernment. It means the general recognition of
trade unionism “as a willing and essential partner
in the conduct of the nation’s economic affairs.” 47
This attitude is an integral trait of American so­
ciety, with its prevailing spirit of give and take,
or democratic compromise; its fluidity of class
boundaries; and its ideals, imperfectly realized to
be sure, of individual freedom and dignity and
opportunity to advance by merit and ambition.
These attitudes and ideals leave comparatively
little place for class conflicts and revolutionary
aims. In contrast, the social structure in some
countries has tended to prevent the community
integration of unions and to limit severely their
46 Questions of this nature have been raised not only by foreign
observers but also by some Americans, as Professor Robert S.
Lynd in Hardman and Neufeld’s House of Labor, p. 514.
Problems arising from basic differences in points of view are
discussed by David C. Williams in Interpreting the Labor Move­
ment (pages 192-207), a special volume issued by the Industrial
Relations Association (1952).
47 A characterization applied by the author of the quotation,
Allan Flanders, to British unions since the middle thirties. See
Comparative Labor Movements (p. 12), edited by Walter Galenson. New York, Prentice-Hall, 1952.

34




role in democratic participation. Capitalism
itself, in some countries, seems to have become
somewhat static or to have been stalled on dead
center instead of achieving a dynamic and evolu­
tionary adaptability. Some labor movements
have therefore been torn between the conception
of serving as “a doctor at the sickbed of capital­
ism” and that of allowing the patient to die and
inheriting the legacy.48
Drastic Change vs. "Practical Idealism”
Before the unions of the United States achieved
their recent stature and generally recognized
status, they were less firmly committed than at
present to the seeking of adjustment by means of
democratic participation. Thus, the Knights of
Labor, described in an earlier chapter, had ideas
and ambitions looking toward a cooperative com­
monwealth. They proposed an idealistic and
somewhat vaguely conceived substitute for the
prevailing employer-employee relationship, a
system in which modern collective bargaining
would have no clearly defined place.
Another movement on a bypath of American la­
bor history, but paralleling the rise of the Ameri­
can Federation of Labor, centered around the In­
dustrial Workers of the World. Formed in 1905
in an effort to supplant the AFL, the IWW made
a distinctive contribution to American labor
thought by its emphasis on the organizing of
workers by industry and structural group cor­
responding to the newly rising forms of industrial
organization. It made its main organizing efforts
among more or less neglected or isolated workers,
such as those in textiles, meatpacking, logging
and lumbering, and the migratory farm groups.
The IWW was an indigenous American move­
ment. It was torn, however, by conflicting ideas,
some of which came from abroad. Revolutionary
48 Adolf Sturmthal, The Tragedy of European Labor, especially
chapter ?, “Doctor or Heir.” New York, Columbia University
Press, 1943; second printing with new preface, 1951.

GENERAL OUTLOOK AND AIMS OF UNIONS

syndicalism, for example, came to have increasing
influence among the leaders, especially after they
became active in organizing immigrant workers.
Some of the leaders had favored political action
and even collective bargaining, but for the most
part they accepted the slogan, “The working class
and the employing class have nothing in com­
mon.” Any contractual relationship was there­
fore viewed as merely a tactical or palliative meas­
ure. It appears that the leaders generally hoped
to achieve the great transformation by direct ac­
tion such as strikes, restriction of output, and the
bringing about of a general breakdown of the cap­
italistic control of production as a necessary pre­
lude to the taking over of industry by the workers,
solidly organized by industry and ultimately as
“one big union.”
Never touching directly more than a small
fringe of American labor, the IWW nevertheless
influenced indirectly the whole labor movement.
It pioneered significantly in the newer forms of
industrial organization; and it prodded “the
dominant labor movement into giving more con­
sideration to the problem of organizing the un­
skilled.” It also brought upon the labor move­
ment as a whole unfounded suspicions and many
specific charges of having revolutionary aims.49
More recently, the ideas of sudden and drastic
change advocated by the IWW found refuge in
the Communist movement. The IWW differed,
however, from communism in opposing the role
of the State and favoring direct action. More
significantly, the IWW was distinctly American
in origin; the Communists increasingly assumed
the role of agents of a foreign power. After
World War I, Communists adopted the policy of
forming “cells” in key industries and labor or­
ganizations and of “boring from within.” The
public relevation of Communist tactics led to wide­
spread attacks, effective although completely un­
founded, on the AFL as having alien and sub­
versive purposes.
Before the late thirties Communists were not
able to obtain any significant influence in unions.
They pursued for a time but without success the
“party line” policy of dual unionism. The “bor­
40 A convenient summary of the rise and decline of groups like
the IWW is in Organized Labor, by H. A. M illis and R. E.
Montgomery, pp. 115-123.
An outstanding early study is Left Wing Unionism, by David
J. Saposs, New York, International Publishers, 1923.




35

ing from within” tactics were again resorted to
during the period of rapid expansion of unions in
the late thirties. Communists, sometimes in dis­
guise, gained influence in many of the CIO unions.
They were able, after the invasion of Russia by
the Germans, to consolidate and extent their
influence. Some unions in which Communists
gained influence succeeded in ousting the Com­
munist officials by normal electoral procedures.
Among these was the large and powerful United
Automobile Workers (CIO). In other unions
the Communist officials proved to be strongly en­
trenched, and in the World Federation of Trade
Unions (formed in 1945) they gave unmistakable
evidence of their greater loyalty to the Soviet
Union than to the CIO and free unionism. At
length, in 1949 and 1950, the CIO undertook a gen­
eral expulsion of the Communist-controlled
unions.
The unions which were expelled from the CIO
were not predominantly Communist but were
controlled by Communists. The members, gener­
ally speaking, were either unable to oust their
officers; or they were not convinced of the Commu­
nist affiliations of the officers; or they were in­
clined to think of their unions in the traditional
nonpartisan sense without recognizing the con­
cealed partisan and pro-Russian aims of their
leaders. The expulsion of the Communist-con­
trolled unions from the CIO was followed by the
decline of many of these unions and by the exten­
sive shifting of their members to CIO or AFL
unions.50
“Pure and Simple” Unionism
American workers have overwhelmingly re­
jected proposals for sudden and drastic change.
They have preferred to pursue, in their own in­
stitutional life, those down-to-earth, pragmatic
aims which appear to have a reasonable chance of
attainment. Unions and their members have ex­
hibited much idealism and devotion to causes not
always popular; but rarely, since the era of the
Knights of Labor, nearly three-fourths of a cen­
tury ago, has their idealism been of such nature
or intensity as to prevent their immediate pre150Florence Peterson, survey of Labor Economics, Revised Edi­
tion, pp. 504-509. New York, Harper, 1951.

36

AMERICAN LABOR AND THE AMERICAN SPIRIT

occupation with trying to maintain or improve
their job status and working conditions.
From the founding of the AFL (1886) to the
depression years of the thirties, prevailing con­
ditions gave ascendancy to “pure and simple”
unionism. An expanding, assertive, and success­
ful industrial capitalism brought a widely sus­
tained if uneven prosperity and maintained an
effective accord with major elements of the selfemployed and salaried groups. Union members
were an ineffective political minority, and in the
two-party system with majority rule, political in­
fluence could best be exerted by a nonpartisan
policy. Unions were prevailingly on the defen­
sive. The effective role of unions was restricted
to measures designed to minimize or ward off out­
side attacks and to retain the loyalty and support
of their members by meeting their basic needs.
It was toward the end of that period of union
vulnerability and struggle for the maintenance of
essential functions that the most widely known
“theory” of American unionism was formulated.
That theory is associated most prominently with
Professor Selig Perlman of the University of Wis­
consin.51
The Perlman theory began with the observable
facts of the prevailing limitation of union aims
and activities to the conditions of employment.
The theory also contrasted these facts, and the
nonpartisan political activities of unionism in the
United States, with tendencies in Europe toward
political action, often influenced not so much by
the expressed wishes of union members as by the
ambitions of party leaders and the “ideologies” of
intellectuals. The Perlman theory rooted the pre­
vailing unionism in the attitudes and interests of
the members. The central idea of the theory is
“job consciousness,” intensified by the conscious­
ness, or the fear, of job scarcity. A union’s main
function, to which its other functions are either
contributory or subordinate, is job control.
“From this is developed the rules which, first, es­
tablish a collective control of the limited oppor­
tunity, second, the rules of occupancy and tenure,
and, third, the rules to preserve or expand that
opportunity.” 52
51 Selig Perlman, A Theory of the Labor Movement, New York,
Macmillan Company, 1928; reprinted, Kelley, 1949.
82 Russell S. Bauder’s summary, in Proceedings, Industrial Re­
lations Research Association, Third Annual Meeting, 1950, pp.
1T0-171. Part VI (pp. 139-183) is a report of discussions of
“Theory of the Labor M ovement: A Reappraisal,’*



This concept of unionism has been described as
unionism “pure and simple” or “business” union­
ism or “bread and butter” unionism. On the basis
of these characterizations, American unions have
been criticized both at home and in other countries
as merely materialistic, or at least opportunistic,
and lacking in idealistic social aims or conscious­
ness. Professor Perlman himself, referring to
such criticisms, said that they often arise from “a
disposition to class as idealistic solely the profes­
sion of idealistic aims—socialism, anarchism, and
the like.” Union members, he pointed out, have
often displayed, purely on the basis of the “jobconsciousness” philosophy, a “mutual cohesion”
and a “readiness to subordinate the interests of the
individual cell to the aspirations of the whole
labor organization.” He also pointed out, in his
Theory of the Labor Movement, that many in­
fluences affect job control. “Every union soon
discovers that the integrity of its ‘job territory,’
like the integrity of the geographic territory of a
nation, is inextricably dependent on numerous
wide relationships.”
Basic union functions, now as well as when
Professor Perlman’s study was published, are
derived from “job consciousness” and are con­
cerned with the security of the individual union
member in getting and holding his job and with
his protection while on the job. These are im­
pelling reasons for union membership and union
loyalty.
Shifts in Labor Policy and Theory
Nevertheless, in recent decades, vital changes
have occurred in the national economy, in the
policy and world status of the country, and in
the membership, influence, and responsibilities of
unions. These changes and their effects in call­
ing for a shift of emphasis in the analysis of labor
theory were noted in discussions reappraising
earlier theories at a 1950 meeting of the Industrial
Relations Research Association, and in the papers
comprising a special volume issued by the asso­
ciation (1952) entitled, “Interpreting the Labor
Movement.” A vigorous criticism was expressed
by J. B. S. Hardman, in the light of his own con­
cept of labor “dynamism” or “power accumula­
tion” : “Though cloaked in personalities, and em­
phasizing special aims, the ‘core-substance’ of

GENERAL OUTLOOK AND AIMS OF UNIONS

unionism is an ever evolving contest for a satis­
fying share in carrying on the business of living
within the reach or the outlook of the nation and
the time.” The “power motivation” of unions, in
the view of Mr. Hardman, is rooted in the “historic
dynamism” of the American people, and it lacks
the “we versus they” bias of the European labor
movement. Unions go beyond the direct aims of
collective bargaining and job control; they “en­
gage their power of organization to wrest recog­
nition from the extant social order and to partici­
p ate in decision making.” Thus, union power is
“social power.” It is “not a force against society
but a constituent element in the functioning of the
whole of society.” 53
A summary of the discussions of the 1950 meet­
ing of the Industrial Relations Research Associa­
tion, by Everett Kassalow, supported the call for
reexamination and reemphasis in the study of labor
theory:54

Try to recall the essentially defensive and highly
circumscribed picture of the movement and philosophy
which Dr. Perlman described in the twenties. Com­
pare this with the position of the trade-union move­
ment today. It is 15 million strong and it extends
into virtually every important industry. By dint of
these numerical facts alone, it has been led into many
areas of new responsibility and new positions. As the
largest mass economic interest group, organized labor,
for example, has become the power center of progres­
sive social and economic reform in American society.
Study the record on public and cooperative housing,
social security, health insurance, minimum wages,
fair employment practices, to name but a handful of
modern-day basic social issues, and you must conclude
that organized labor has been the single most im­
portant economic voice and political support of these
programs.
If anyone thinks those policies are a simple re­
incarnation or extension of the job control unionism
of the twenties, I suggest he study organized labor’s
changed attitude toward social security as a *case in
point. . . . In the heyday of job conscious unionism
when Dr. Perlman was expounding his theory, organ­
ized labor, or at least its top leadership, in practice
and in principle generally opposed such forms of gov­
ernment intervention in economic life.

« J. B. S. Hardman, in Proceedings, Industrial Relations Re­
search Association, Third Annual Meeting, 1950, pp. 156-157.
(See also Mr. Hardman’s article, “Labor in Midpassage,” in the
January-February 1953 issue of the Harvard Business Review,
and a summary of the article in the Monthly Labor Review,
March 1953, pp. 258-260.)
54 Proceedings, Industrial Relations Research Association, 1950,
pp. 178-179.



37

In the IRRA volume referred to above, the fol­
lowing traits are noted: “ (a) the pragmatic nature
of the American labor movement, continually
experimenting with a changing environment to
survive and grow, (b) the diverse, multiform
character of the movement attacking its problems
and seeking its goals through the use of many
different structures, policies, and techniques, and
(c) the increasing complexity of its activities as it
moves beyond the plant and industry into the com­
munity, State, national, and international arenas.”
Unions in Relation to Socialism

Some of those who have criticized the unions of
the United States as lacking in “ideology” recog­
nize a recent expansion of the political and general
interests of unions and yet believe that they should
take a more positive stand particularly in reference
to democratic socialism as a substitute for private
capitalism. That point of view has naturally been
widely held because the larger unions in most coun­
tries have had close ties with socialistic movements.
Some unions, especially in countries slow to achieve
a transition from feudal society to a modern dy­
namic society that affords opportunity for a new
democratic integration of classes, have viewed
revolutionary action as a necessary method; others
have favored evolutionary and reformist advances
toward socialization, which they, too, have held to
be essential for the achievement of an equitable
economic and social system.
These aims have often gone beyond the prevail­
ing views of union members. Marx himself set an
example of trying to control and utilize unions for
the advancement of his political views—an exam­
ple often later followed to the point of external
domination of unions. But whether with or with­
out the conscious general support of union mem­
bers, union leaders of various other countries have
widely favored a socialistic transformation and
have sought to make use of unions in support of
socialistic programs.555
6
It is true that some unions in most of the free
countries are not committed to socialism, certainly
not in the form of the general nationalizing of
56 The prevailingly socialistic outlook of European unions and
their conflicts over trade-union versus political objectives and
over methods of trying to make the transition to socialism are
described by Adolf Sturmthal in his Tragedy of European Labor.

38

AMERICAN LABOR AND THE AMERICAN SPIRIT

industry. Furthermore, the non-Communist un­
ions in these countries have come to recognize the
menace to basic liberties of socialization by meth­
ods such as those that have been used in totali­
tarian countries. The achievement of well being
in terms of individual dignity and democratic
group participation is a far more complex and
sensitive process, it is now recognized, than many
idealistic proponents of socialism once supposed.
Socialization itself is now widely viewed in less
doctrinaire terms of nationalization or of public
ownership than in earlier decades.
Changes in points of view have affected workers
in the United States as well as those in other
countries. Thus, a recent student of international
unionism has noted in postwar Europe, outside of
Communist-controlled countries, a “reformist
trend” and a new emphasis on trade union as dis­
tinguished from political activities. “It is per­
haps a symbol of these developments that coopera­
tion between the unions of the United States and
those of Western Europe has reached an intensity
which few would have believed possible 20 years
ago. It is sufficient to read Samuel Gompers’ unhappy reflections on his meetings with European
labor leaders during World War I to measure the
distance which labor has traveled on both sides of
the Atlantic.” 56
It is nevertheless understandable that many of
the leaders of unions in other countries have raised
questions regarding the relationship of unions in
the United States to the socialist movement. Why
have American unions as a rule refrained, as un­
ions, from either supporting or opposing social­
istic proposals? The answer to the question is
found in part in the prevailing American view of
the appropriate aims and functions of a labor
organization and in part in basic American phi­
losophy.
The extent to which unions may appropriately,
as unions, either champion or oppose measures for
socializing the economy depends upon what labor
regards as its objectives and functions. The labor
organization is only one of many institutions in a
free and highly complex society. Unions, as they
are prevailingly viewed by labor in the United
States, have certain basic functions, and those are
chiefly concerned with the relations between their
“ Adolf Sturmthal in the preface (p. xviii) to the second print­
ing (1951)- of his Tragedy of European Labor.



members and the managements of the under­
takings in which the members are employed.
These relations are now far broader than those
affected by the traditional “job control” policies.
The basic functions connected with labor-manage­
ment relations are in essence similar, in free socie­
ties (as distinguished from totalitarian states),
whether the enterprise is owned privately, or by
a cooperative association, or by government. In
the United States there are many enterprises of all
three types, and also many that are quasi-public,
such as undertakings carried on by private con­
tractors for agencies like the Tennessee Valley
Authority and the Atomic Energy Commission.
The major business undertakings are privately
owned, although private ownership now has a
meaning and power of direction vitally different
and vastly more restricted as compared with pri­
vate ownership of even a generation ago. Unions
have found (especially by observation of condi­
tions in some other countries) that public enter­
prise does not necessarily mean more satisfactory
labor-management relations. Unions, while em­
phasizing their basic functions, have seen fit to
take sides on political issues as they arise; and
the range of these issues expands as governmental
functions in relation to the economy become in­
creasingly important and as unions themselves
grow and become more influential.
Members of unions can direct their officers to
favor socializing measures, but they have rarely
taken such action. The individual officers and
members are of course free to express their
broader aims and ideals as individuals or in asso­
ciation with the members of appropriate groups.
If a union member thinks that public ownership,
for example, is desirable, he can support that view
both as an individual and as a member of an ap­
propriate association or party; if he desires to
patronize the cooperative movement, he can join,
or aid in forming, a cooperative enterprise.
American trade unions have generally operated
on the theory that a union, in a free and complex
society, can best perform its distinctive functions
when those functions have limited objectives, con­
sistent with its tolerating, and being tolerated by,
other institutions. Workers in the United
States are not unaware of the experience of unions
in countries, such as the Soviet Union, where
workers are theoretically predominant but where

GENERAL OUTLOOK AND AIMS OF UNIONS

their organizations are in fact merely subservient
agencies of a self-perpetuating and arbitrary po­
litical regime.
American unions are often “idealistic” in the
sense of supporting what they view as worthy
causes. Their members have often demonstrated
devotion to their ideals by sacrifices in the in­
terest not only of union solidarity but also in sup­
port of community service programs, the larger
political activities of their unions, and programs
of international aid. Unions in the United
States, however, are not “ideological” in the fre­
quently used sense of that word; they have pre­
vailingly retained the restricted and pragmatic
or practical view of their functions already
described.
There has been comparatively little class con­
sciousness in the United States; both class and
occupational lines have been fluid; and unions have
sought and generally achieved integration in
American society and institutional life. There
rarely has been any widespread, intense, or longsustained feeling of need for extreme change.
Prevailing ambitions have had little to do with
ultimate faraway goals; they have emphasized
making the most of available opportunities or of
adaptations for improving opportunities. The
distrust of ideologies and extreme social change
has been intensified by knowledge of the actual
course of recent revolutions, particularly in the
subverting even of the existing liberties of those
in whose behalf the. changes were supposed to have
been made. There has been a widespread inclina­
tion to view sympathetically the experiments in
the nationalizing of industries by democratic
processes in the free countries, but workers hold
that nationalization is no panacea and that these
various experiments have engendered problems of
their own.
The Pragmatic Approach to Change

Americans, and certainly American workers
and their union leaders, are not supporters of the
status quo. The prevailing attitude of union lead­
ers and members is consistent with the indigenous
American spirit and philosophy. Pragmatism,
defined broadly and not in its precise philosophi­
cal sense, has characterized much of American



39

life and thought. It has been expressed in vary­
ing forms by Benjamin Franklin, Ralph Waldo
Emerson, Walt Whitman, William James, and
John Dewey. The philosophy of pragmatism is
an academic way of expressing the prevailing
spirit and mode of change. “When the belief that
knowledge is active and operative takes hold of
men,” said John Dewey, “the ideal realm is no
longer something aloof and separate; it is rather
that collection of imagined possibilities that stim­
ulates men to new efforts and realizations. It still
remains true that the troubles which men undergo
are the forces that lead them to project pictures of
a better state of things. But the picture of the
better is shaped so that it may become an instru­
mentality of action.” 57
The philosophy of pragmatism has given ex­
pression to the prevailing American experience
and thought as to the method of change. Ameri­
can workers, in spirit if not in words, would sub­
stantially agree with John Dewey in viewing “men
and events as a continuing process ‘of communi­
cation and participation5 between each and all.55
When ideas or ideologies (Marxism, for example,
or its antithesis, private capitalism) are set up as
“final, unchanging, eternally valid,” their value
as tools or instruments of change and adaptation
is destroyed; the instrument suffers “hypostasis,
or conversion from a tool to an idol.” 58
Expressed in everyday terms, a characteristic
attitude of Americans, including American
workers, is that of overcoming obstacles, solving
problems, achieving adaptation, amelioration, and
progress. In the heat of controversy and of po­
litical or industrial conflict, they may use such
extreme terms as to denounce an act of Congress
as a “slave labor law” ; they seek to “reward their
friends” and “punish their enemies”; they “point
with pride” to their achievements and “view with
alarm” the dire results if their opponents win.
But in the calm of day-to-day relations, after an
election or a vital decision or a strike, the bitter
end, last-ditch, angels-against-devils mentality
subsides. The winners usually compromise with
the losers in carrying out a program which, while
67 John Dewey, Reconstruction in Philosophy, Mentor reprint
(containing the author’s new Introduction written in 1948), pp.
103-104.
58 Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, article on Pragmatism
by H. M. Kallen.

40

AMERICAN LABOR AND THE AMERICAN SPIRIT

not fully satisfying any group or party, usually
represents a widely expressed demand or need.
There is in the United States a general expecta­
tion of change and improvement combined with
a desire (in fact, the constitutional necessity) to
go no faster or farther than is widely acceptable.
Those traits have given to American political
parties and to our unions and other institutions an
appearance of opportunism as distinguished from
undeviating adherence to a “cause” or an “ide­
ology.” Devotion to a cause may, however, re­
sult from the mistaken view of the infallibility
of its devotees; and an attitude that appears to
be merely opportunistic may in fact be an expres­
sion of tolerance and mutuality, a recognition that
we may accommodate our own self-centered and
imperfect ideas and interests to those of others.
The “Permanent Revolution”

Historically, men usually have associated them­
selves in a “do-or-die” spirit with causes or ideas
when obstructions have been placed in the way of
mutual association and peaceful adjustment.
Generally speaking, Americans established a basis
for democratic change and adjustment in their
Declaration of Independence and their war for in­




dependence; they confirmed it in the Constitution
and the supplemental Bill of Rights; and they
extended the basis by such measures as the general
right to vote and the secret ballot.
The American Revolution established what at
that time was a startling novelty among men—a
system which has been described as comprising
liberty, equality, and constitutionalism; and these
three in combination have been described as mak­
ing a “permanent revolution.” 59
Unions in the United States, like other insti­
tutions, have accepted the principles of the “per­
manent revolution” for continuous change and
adaptation, and they have accepted its nonviolent
procedures of achieving change “by due process,”
defined broadly, not in a legalistic sense. Accord­
ing to Marxian dialectic, such an attitude should
long ago have demonstrated its futility. Ameri­
can workers, usually unaware of dialectics, have
proceeded in that pragmatic spirit which adopts
ideas that can be projected into action as a test
of their value. The pragmatic test, far from
demonstrating futility, has resulted in an almost
continuous absolute improvement and a marked
relative improvement in the status and economic
well-being of workers.
“ Fortune, February 1951: “USA the Permanent Revolution.”

Chapter VII.—Government and Labor
Historic Influences

The relations of Government to labor in the
United States are now far more detailed and com­
plex than in earlier generations. The nature of
governmental responsibilities and functions in re­
lation to labor has been determined most signif­
icantly by three historie influences.
In the first place, labor in the present-day sense
of the wage-earning groups was a comparatively
minor element in the long-prevalent society of in­
dependent farmers, craftsmen, and small-business
men. The individualism which actuated these
groups and rigorously limited the role of Gov­
ernment still finds reflection, for example, in the
preference of both unions and employers for selfhelp and voluntarily negotiated agreements.
Secondly, the rise of large-scale business under­
takings and the vast relative increase of wage­
earning employments gradually tempered indi­
vidualism and created conditions calling for ex­
tension of governmental activities. These ac­
tivities, in relation to labor, have included various
types of measures for safeguarding the health,
working conditions, and economic security of
workers and also many modes of public interven­
tion in respect to labor-management relations. A
third major influence (notably important in ac­
counting for diversity and seeming inconsistency
in labor policy) is the dual system of Government
in the United States, together with the indefinite
boundaries between Federal authority and the
jurisdictions of the States which compose the
Federal union.
The first 2 of these 3 historic influences—the
earlier substantial identity of labor and capital
in an individualistic and rapidly growing society
and the transformation of ideas and attitudes
accompanying the modern industrializing proc­
ess—were described in earlier chapters. More­
over, these influences are comparatively familiar
and well understood abroad as well as in the
United States. The third influence—the Federal


State system of government—calls for a brief ex­
planatory statement. To be sure, federalism is
not peculiar to the United States, but its American
form of development and implications are in many
ways distinctive.
The Federal-State Division of Functions

Anyone not familiar with the division of gov­
ernmental authority in the United States may
have difficulty in understanding the diversity of
public policies. Understanding is less difficult if
the origins of the United States are viewed in the
light of the present-day efforts of Europeans to
achieve a measure of political integration. The
original thirteen States or commonwealths of the
United States were political units which viewed
themselves as States in the sense of sovereign
political entities. After years of discord accom­
panied by dangerous internal weakness and the
menace of aggression from the outside, these
States formed a union but continued to claim
many of the prerogatives of sovereignty.
The Federal Government is still limited to the
powers granted to it, either explicitly or by impli­
cation, by the Constitution; and the Bill of Rights,
which amended the Constitution, asserted that
“the powers not delegated to the United States by
the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States,
are reserved to the States respectively, or to the
people.” Within each State are local political
units: the townships and election wards with their
precincts; counties or territorial units next in size
to the States; and municipalities ranging from an
incorporated village to a giant metropolis such as
Greater New York with a budget larger than any
of the American State Governments and many
National Governments. State Governments must
be republican in form and must not contradict
or violate the Constitution, laws, or treaties of
the United States.
The functions of a State within the United
States comprise, theoretically, the control of all
41

42

AMERICAN LABOR AND THE AMERICAN SPIRIT

affairs purely within its borders. Such a concep­
tion, although much more closely approximating
reality in the simple environment of the eight­
eenth century, obviously was never literally
applicable. Experience has brought about an
intricate and flexible division of functions on a
pragmatic, not a strictly legalistic or formal,
basis. In some fields, the functions of Federal and
State Governments are sharply differentiated.
The State and local governments have nothing to
do, for example, with treatymaking or with mili­
tary policy; and the Federal Government does
not license physicians and automobile drivers or
appoint teachers in the public schools or prescribe
police regulations or administer workmen’s com­
pensation laws. In a wide range of activities there
is collaboration, not without some overlapping and
conflict. The national employment service, for
example, and the affiliated system of unemploy­
ment insurance are organized under Federal laws
and in accord with national standards but are
administered locally by State agencies under State
laws with local variations and adaptations.
In labor-management relations, the regulations
of the Federal Taft-Hartley Act apply directly to
employers and employees in those industries which
affect commerce between the States, with specified
exceptions (railroad labor, for example, covered
by another Federal law). Most of the States have
passed laws for regulating labor-management re­
lations in local industries not affecting interstate
commerce. Some of these laws have differed in
basic policy from the Taft-Hartley Act and have
given rise to disputed jurisdictions.
Why Federal Functions Have Expanded

During much of the history of the United States,
the powers of the Federal Government have been
subjected to keen controversy. Those who favored
a “strict construction” of the Constitution grad­
ually lost ground to supporters of a “loose con­
struction” ; on the side of the latter, generally
speaking, were the forces of growth, integration,
specialization, and interdependence. The expan­
sion of local markets into national and interna­
tional markets; division of labor and specializa­
tion of economic functions; regional and national
integration by means of new facilities for trans­
portation and communication; the nationwide,



even worldwide, investment basis and operations
of corporate business; increased demands upon the
Federal Government for conservation of natural
resources, informational services, and assistance
to enterprise through such measures as trade regu­
lations, land grants, and loans; and the intensifica­
tion of national problems by economic depression
and w ar: such circumstances contributed to a com­
paratively rapid increase in the activities of the
Federal Government.
The expansion of Federal functions was in part
simply an accompaniment of the vast increase in
the relative importance of commerce between the
States or in those activities which affect interstate
commerce, as compared with the prevailingly lo­
calized and self-sufficing nature of earlier eco­
nomic life. The undertaking of new political ac­
tivities was facilitated by a liberalized interpreta­
tion of the interstate-commerce clause of the Con­
stitution ; by invoking its “general welfare”
clause; and by the development of the doctrine
of “implied” powers (powers neither granted nor
withheld explicitly but viewed as vital to the
proper exercise of recognized public functions).
These tendencies limited the force of the doctrine
of powers “reserved” to the States or the people.
An increase in the indirect influence of the Fed­
eral Government has resulted from extensive pro­
grams of Federal “grants in aid” to State Govern­
ments for such purposes as old-age assistance, ma­
ternal and child health services, and education.
The indirect effects of Federal legislation often
extend beyond their legal scope; the Fair Labor
Standards Act, for example, sets up standards in
major industries affecting interstate commerce,
and these standards, through competition and
custom, tend to find acceptance in local employ­
ments exempt from Federal regulation.
Early Restraints on Unions

In another connection, it was stated that the
historical role of Government in labor-manage­
ment relations was in accord with the prevailing
ideas that Government should have little to do
with economic life. It has also been pointed out
that with the growth of business units into large
aggregations of capital operating on a regional or
national scale, a hands-off policy became increas­
ingly, in effect, a policy of opposition to labor
unions.

GOVERNMENT AND LABOR

A long-held judicial view in opposition to
unions was the unlawful combination or conspir­
acy doctrine. This was stated in an extreme form
by the Philadelphia judge who, in 1806, convicted
the Cordwainers’ (shoemakers’) union: “A com­
bination of workmen to raise their wages,” the
judge declared, “may be considered from a two­
fold point of view; one is to benefit themselves, the
other to injure those who do not join the society.
The rule of law condemns both.” By the middle
of the 19th century, a modified view came to pre­
vail in the courts: A union is not in its essential
nature an illegal combination; but it is illegal if
it seeks to achieve unlawful ends or makes use of
unlawful means. That point of view, reasonable
as it appeared to be, nevertheless left unions at the
mercy of the courts because of the discretion of the
judges, often unfriendly, in deciding what was a
lawful purpose and what was a lawful method.
With the enactment of antitrust legislation, the
doctrine of restraint of trade became a particularly
effective legal weapon.60
The legal barriers to unionism continued
throughout the last century and the first three
decades of the present century. They may be
illustrated by the interpretation of the law of con­
tract in the case of the H itch m an Goal amd Coke
C om pany v. M itcheU . The Hitchman Co., adopt­
ing a practice then widespread among employers,
required its employees to accept what unions called
a “yellow dog” contract. This was a promise ex­
acted (or a “contract” entered into) to the effect
that the employee’s job would depend on his not
belonging to a union, not going on strike, and not
taking part in any group action against the em­
ployer as long as he held his job. His job tenure,
despite the “contract,” remained purely subject to
the employer’s will. Attempts by the United Mine
Workers to organize the company’s employees led
in 1907 to the company’s obtaining a court in­
junction to stop the union’s organizing efforts.61*
An injunction, in prevailing usage in the United
States, may be described nontechnically as a
court’s order requiring that specified acts be done,
or more often, prohibiting the doing of specified
60 H. A. Millis and R. E. Montgomery, Organized Labor, pp. 22,
498-517.
The history of the Hitchman case is given in Elias Lieberman’s Unions Before the Bar, New York, Harper, 1950.
There is a lengthy quotation from the volume in Shister’s Read­
ings in Economics and Industrial Relations, pp. 419—
427.



43

acts. The injunction came to play so large a part,
before the thirties, in limiting the activities and
growth of unions as to give rise to the opprobrious
term “government by injunction.”
The “preliminary” and “temporary” injunc­
tions obtained by the Hitchman Co. were in effect
for nearly 2 years, during various delays in court
procedure. A permanent injunction, finally is­
sued in 1909, was based primarily on the ground
that the union’s efforts to induce the company’s
employees to join the union comprised a conspir­
acy to persuade the employees to violate their con­
tract (the “yellow dog” contract). The injunction
continued in effect during an appeal. In 1914 the
original decision was reversed; but the company
appealed to the Supreme Court of the United
States, and on December 10, 1917, won a verdict
from the highest court validating the company’s
actions. The verdict was based primarily on the
same assumption, namely, that an employee’s ac­
ceding to the company’s prohibition of union
membership as a condition of employment was a
valid contract and that efforts to persuade em­
ployees to join a union were in fact illegal induce­
ments to breach of contract.
The decision in the Hitchman case was particu­
larly significant in encouraging injunctions and
other judicial procedures to thwart union ac­
tivities. These procedures, in the name of free­
dom of contract, individual liberty, and other
widely acclaimed “liberal” principles, enabled an
unfriendly employer to hamper a union in its
basic organizing work and maintenance of mem­
bership as well as in its efforts to carry on col­
lective bargaining and in its conduct of strikes.
During World War I, unions, by their vigorous
cooperation with employers as well as Government
in support of war production, won a temporary
respite from prosecutions in the courts. There­
after they experienced little relief until the legis­
lative measures of the thirties provided a new
statutory basis for unionism.
The New Labor Policy of the Thirties

Efforts to modify judicial procedures in the
interest of free unionism were made in 1914 with
the passage by Congress of the Clayton Act.
That act declares that “labor is not a commodity”
and it sought to protect unions from prosecutions

44

AMERICAN LABOR AND THE AMERICAN SPIRIT

under the antimonopoly laws. The act proved to
be ineffective. It was not until 1932, with the
enactment of the Norris-LaGuardia Anti-Injunc­
tion Act, that unions obtained substantial statu­
tory relief from the rigors of injunctions and
other court procedures. That act also changed
the substantive law of labor, for example, by in­
validating the “yellow dog” contract. The act
also embodied, in a general statement of policy,
the principles of freedom of association and of
collective bargaining regarding the terms and con­
ditions of employment.62
In railroad transportation, new principles of
law and public policy were adopted as early as
1926. The Railway Labor Act of that year was
adopted as a result of conferences and a measure
of agreement between representatives of the rail­
road companies and the railroad unions. The act
incorporated the basic principles of free associa­
tion; representatives of both parties were to be
chosen “without interference, influence, or coer­
cion by either party over the self-organization or
designation of representatives by the other.” Ac­
tion by the United States Supreme Court in 1930
validating these provisions of the law initiated a
significant change in judicial decisions more fa­
vorable to unionism. The Railway Labor Act of
1926 further provided that it was the duty of em­
ployers and employees to make every reasonable
effort, by collective bargaining, to reach agree­
ments regarding conditions of employment, and
to settle all disputes, whether arising out of the
application of such agreements or otherwise, with­
out work stoppages. The act had many detailed
provisions, but its basic importance was national
recognition of free unions and dependence on col­
lective bargaining to settle disputes both over the
terms of agreements and over their interpretation
and application. Furthermore, the act was no
mere statement of policy in the form of a general
principle; it provided the administrative machin­
ery of the National Mediation Board and, under
an amendment, that of the National Railroad Ad­
justment Board.63
The National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933
included important principles of labor policy in
its industry codes of fair competition. Every such
62 Mills and Montgomery, Organized Labor, pp. 640-651.
63 I b i d . , pp. 520-5-21, 737-748.



code, the law stated, must include provisions guar­
anteeing the right of employees “to organize and
bargain collectively, through representatives of
their own choosing, . . . free from the interfer­
ence, restraint, or coercion of employers of labor
or their agents.” Every code must also specify
that no employee and no one seeking employment
should be required to join a company union or be
prevented from joining a union of his own choos­
ing or taking part in its activities. The various
benefits which employers expected from the codes
were available only to those employers who con­
formed to these conditions regarding unions.64
The National Industrial Recovery Act was in­
validated (on grounds other than its labor pro­
visions) by the Supreme Court in May 1935.
In the same year, Congress passed the National
Labor Relations Act (the Wagner Act). The new
act went beyond the invalidated law in a more de­
tailed statement of principles and of “unfair
labor practices,” and also in the setting up of
administrative machinery, the National Labor
Relations Board. Effective administration was
delayed, however, by attacks on the law in the
courts, until 1937, when the Supreme Court up­
held its constitutionality.65
Public policy designed to protect free unionism
and to promote industrial peace by means of col­
lective bargaining evolved from the Clayton Act
of 1914 to the Wagner Act of 1935. The trans­
formation of judicial as well as legislative policy
is exemplified by the Jones & Laughlin case of
1937, upholding the Wagner Act.66 The Court’s
opinion in that case set forth in summary the
philosophy of the Congress in passing the act and
of the Court in upholding it. The law, it was as­
serted, goes no further than to safeguard the right
of employees to self-organization and to select
representatives of their own choosing for collec­
tive bargaining or other mutual protection with­
out restraint or coercion by their employer.
“That [the Court asserted] is a fundamental
right.” Therefore, interference with that right
“is a proper subject for condemnation by compe­
tent legislative authority.” The opinion then set
forth the Court’s view of “the reason for labor
organizations.” A single employee, it was as­
64 I b i d . , pp. 521-522.
65 Florence Peterson, Survey of Labor Economics, revised edi­
tion, 1951, pp. 401-492.
66 N L R B v. J o n e s & L a u g h l i n , 301 U. S. 1, 57 S. Ct., 615 (1937).

GOVERNMENT AND LABOR

serted, is helpless in dealing with an employer; he
is dependent as a rule on his daily wage for the
support of his family as well as himself and he is
therefore unable to seek a remedy for unfair
treatment or even relief from it by giving up his
job. The union, therefore, is necessary to enable
individual workers to deal on an equality with
their employers. Congress, recognizing these
facts, has authority to safeguard the right of col­
lective action and to seek to make it an instrument
of peace. The prohibition by Congress of inter­
ference by employers with free unions and free
choice of representatives for collective bargaining,
“instead of being an invasion of the constitutional
rights of either, was based on the recognition of
the rights of both.”
Postwar Modification of Labor Policy

Many employers and some individuals in all
groups opposed the general change in attitude
toward unions and collective bargaining. A num­
ber of influences gradually operated to turn a
small minority into a powerful movement for a
modification of public policies. Unions, growing
rapidly, experienced internal conflicts over juris­
diction and jealousies over comparative member­
ship and gains in wages and other provisions of
collective agreements. The infiltration of Com­
munists in some unions and the existence of abuses
such as monopolistic membership fees in a few
unions afforded propagandist materials to oppo­
nents. New members were unaccustomed to union
discipline and many unions had to be staffed by in­
experienced officers. Some unions, accustomed to
legal obstructions as well as employer opposition,
experienced difficulty in exercising needed self-re­
straint under the new and more favorable condi­
tions. Workers generally were confronted during
World War II and the reconversion period by
demoralizing conditions such as a wholesale shift
from peacetime to wartime industries and back
again during reconversion, a process that was com­
plicated by military mobilization and demobiliza­
tion. Public agencies during the war had assumed
much of the responsibility for policies in the field
of labor-management relations as well as other
phases of the national economy. Unions gave
offense to many by their political activity. The
removal of public controls led to a rapid upturn in



45

prices and contributed to industrial unrest and
labor-management conflicts.
Such a combination of influences, although in
large part beyond the control of unions, never­
theless led to charges of irresponsibility and exces­
sive power. A strong reaction therefore set in
against the Wagner Act. The result, in 1947, was
the substitution of the Taft-Hartley Act for the
Wagner Act. The trend of State legislation regu­
lating unions and labor-management relations was
also away from the generally more liberal laws of
the thirties.
The basis and essence of the Taft-Hartley Act
as viewed by Senator Robert A. Taft were sum­
marized by him in a Senate speech in which he
said: 67*

The truth is that originally, before the passage of
any of the laws dealing with labor, the employer
had all the advantage. He had the employees at his
mercy, and he could practically in most cases dictate
the terms which he wished to impose. Congress
passed the Clayton Act, the Norris-LaGuardia Act,
and the Wagner Act. The latter act was inter­
preted . . . in such a way that it went far beyond
the original intention of Congress, until we reached a
point where the balance had shifted over to the other
side, where the labor leaders had every advantage in
collective bargaining and were relieved from any
liability in breaking the contract after they had made
the bargain. . . .
All we have tried to do is to swing the balance
back, not too far, to a point where the parties can
deal equally with each other and where they have
approximately equal pow<er. . . .
This is a perfectly reasonable bill in every re­
spect. . . . There is no reason in the world why a
union should not have the same responsibility that
a corporation has which is engaged in business. So
we have provided that a union may be sued as if it
were a corporation. . . . There will be no free col­
lective bargaining until both sides are equally
responsible. . . .

A principal method used by the authors of the
act to “swing the balance back” was the forbidding
of unions, as well as management, to engage in
various activities described as “unfair labor prac­
tices.” Union leaders in the heat of controversy
have called the Taft-Hartley Act a “slave labor
law.” In calmer moods, they have criticized it in
detail. In general, they have viewed it as reim­
posing on labor many of the earlier legal shackles
67 Congressional Record, Vol. 93, No. 119, pp. 7690, ff., quoted
in Bakke and Kerr’s Unions, Management, and the Public, pp.
890-892.

46

AMERICAN LABOR AND THE AMERICAN SPIRIT

which originated in the common law in the United
States particularly when individualism and smallscale business prevailed. That view won support
outside of the labor movement. Thus, Professors
Nathan P. Feinsinger and Edwin E. Witte say of
the act: “While leaving the central theme of the
Wagner Act—the right of organization for collec­
tive bargaining—untouched in the main, the TaftHartley Act has encrusted it with many pre-1930
restrictive notions, and has added restrictions ad­
vanced by groups which have traditionally been
opposed in principle to the process of collective
bargaining.” They add that most of the debated
or debatable issues were resolved against labor.
These issues and the act’s handling of them are
illustrated by the act’s restrictions on strikes, boy­
cotts, and picketing; its revival, in restricted forms
to be sure, of labor injunctions, damage suits, and
criminal prosecutions; its restoration of “the tech­
nical doctrines of agency to determine wrongful
activities in connection with a labor dispute;” and
its prohibition of the closed shop and restrictions
on the union shop.68
In the view of many observers, the Taft-Hartley
Act is perhaps chiefly significant in accelerating
a shift of responsibility for labor-management re­
lations from unions and managements to govern­
ment. “Methods for dealing with ‘the labor prob­
lem’ in recent years,” according to Professor
George W. Taylor, an experienced arbitrator,
“have tended to be strongly in the direction of
increasing governmental regulation and control.”
In his view, “that trend is ample cause for dis­
turbing concern to those who still believe in in­
dustrial self-government as the sound way to
achieve both maximum production and the greatest
personal freedom.” 69
Proponents of the Taft-Hartley Act themselves
generally agreed that changes in the act were
needed. A few proposed to strengthen its re­
strictions on unions and collective bargaining; the
usual view, however, favored a liberalizing of the
law. Its bitter-end opponents demanded outright
repeal and the substitution of a new law resem­
bling the Wagner Act. Moderates deplored the

involvement of labor-management relations in
partisan politics, and agreed widely with Profes­
sor Taylor that public regulation should be held
to a minimum. It was hoped that unions and
managements might come to recognize the alterna­
tives, namely: a workable compromise agreement
on a substantially nonpartisan public policy in sup­
port of collective bargaining and industrial selfgovernment, or a continued expansion of govern­
mental controls of both labor and management and
their relationships. It was pointed out that in
the field of railroad transportation, the Railway
Labor Act had been worked out jointly by repre­
sentatives of the unions and of employers and that
it had been adopted on a nonpartisan basis.
Mediation and Conciliation

Public policy relating to labor-management re­
lations has included mediation and conciliation for
many decades, antedating even the establishment of
the Department of Labor in 1913 as an agency of
cabinet rank. Massachusetts and New York took
the lead as early as 1886 in creating public agen­
cies for industrial conciliation. The main na­
tional agency from 1913 to 1947 was the United
States Counciliation Service of the Department
of Labor. In 1947, the Taft-Hartley Act trans­
ferred the duties of that agency to a new independ­
ent agency, the Federal Mediation and Concilia­
tion Service. It was given somewhat restricted
powers but it has authority to require the parties
to an agreement to notify the Service 30 days in
advance of termination unless it has been renewed
or a new agreement adopted. The Service may
then at any time intervene without a request from
the parties. Disputes in railroad and air trans­
portation are handled by the National Mediation
Board. Jurisdictional disputes among unions are
within the province of the National Labor Rela­
tions Board. The President may intervene di­
rectly in disputes, especially if in his view a dis­
pute may create an emergency that threatens the
national health or safety.70*
The continuing problem of dealing with socalled national emergency disputes has not yet
been provided with a ready solution, but continues
to be one of the most vexing problem areas in in­
dustrial relations and legislative policy.

68 Nathan P. Feinsinger and Edwin E. Witte, “Labor, Legisla­
tion, and the Role of Government’’ in Monthly Labor Review,
July 1950 (Anniversary Issue), pp. 48-61.
09 G. W. Taylor, Government Regulation of Industrial Relations,
quoted in Shister’s Readings in Labor Economics and Industrial
70 Florence Peterson, Survey of Labor Economics, revised edi­
Relations, p. 508.
tion, 1951, pp. 618-630.



GOVERNMENT AND LABOR

V oluntarism ” and Emergency Policies

Public policy in dealing with unions and labormanagement relations has been strongly in­
fluenced by war and national emergency. Gen­
erally speaking, the emergency modifications have
been designed for temporary use; special pro­
grams have been administered by emergency
agencies; and maximum participation by repre­
sentatives of management and labor has been
sought.
The adaptation of democratic political and eco­
nomic institutions to deal with the issues of war
and national emergency has been a severe test of
their essential liberalism. The test and manner
of meeting it were discussed at a 1950 meeting of
the Industrial Relations Research Association.
“National defense,” Professor George W. Taylor
stated in that connection, “is a social undertaking
and not a private business.” 71

Free people can defend themselves effectively.
The history of World War II shows that. The record
of that conflict also makes it clear that the adapta­
tion of our institutions for defense can be substan­
tially made in the democratic tradition of what has
come to be known as voluntarism.
This concept implies a significant degree of partic­
ipation in the formulation of emergency regulations
by representatives of those directly affected and con­
templates a general acceptance of or a widespread
acquiescence in those regulations. When this con­
cept is put into practice, the fight for freedom can be
fought with freedom. Here is the power which no
totalitarian state can match.

The preference of unions for “voluntarism” or
industrial self-government has been influenced in
part by their not too happy experience with gov­
ernmental direction and control as distinguished
from governmental protection of the basic rights
of organization for collective action and self-help.
Their attitude has been strengthened also by the
special limitations upon labor-management rela­
tions in public employment.
Status of Public Employees

Employees of the Federal Government may or­
ganize and their representatives may carry on a
modified and limited form of collective bargainG. W. Taylor, “Collective Bargaining in a Defense Economy,”
in Proceedings, Third Annual Meeting, 1950, Industrial Relations
Research Association.



47

ing. Their influence over basic wages and hours
in the civil service is limited to influencing legisla­
tion. Wage schedules for large numbers of Gov­
ernment employees in establishments such as navy
yards are adjustable by administrative agencies
on the basis of prevailing wages in similar em­
ployments in private industry. Grievance pro­
cedures connected with the administration of wage
and salary schedules and with personnel adminis­
tration have been developed in varying forms and
degrees of use in the various agencies. By virtue
of the nature of public employments, strikes are
prohibited. The Taft-Hartley Act states that “it
shall be unlawful for any individual employed by
the United States or any agency thereof, includ­
ing wholly owned government corporations, to
participate in any strike.” Many unions of Gov­
ernment employees have constitutional provisions
prohibiting strikes.
Some of the quasi-autonomous government
agencies, such as the Tennessee Yalley Authority,
have developed a detailed and mutually satisfac­
tory system for dealing with representatives of
their employees. A borderline area of great and
expanding importance is the field of research,
development, and manufacturing owned and su­
pervised by Government but privately operated
under contract. Outstanding is the work of the
Atomic Energy Commission. In its crucial area of
employment, the Commission has arranged for the
appointment by the President of the Atomic
Energy Labor Relations Panel, later made a part
of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Serv­
ice. The Panel has had noteworthy success in
mediating the peaceful adjustment of disputes.72
Social Legislation, State and Federal

During the period of “pure and simple”
unionism described in an earlier section, unions
gave limited support to governmental activities
beyond those necessary for the protection of basic
rights and liberties. They favored laws such as
those designed to protect women and children, to
prohibit child labor, to maintain standards of
72 “Implications for Collective Bargaining in Quasi-Public
Work,” by Oscar Smith, in Monthly Labor Review, March 1952,
pp. 257-262 ; The Labor Problem in the Public Service: A Study
in Political Pluralism, by M. R. Godine, Cambridge, Mass., Har­
vard Press, 1951.

48

AMERICAN LABOR AND THE AMERICAN SPIRIT

safety and sanitation in workplaces, and to rec­ dependents of those killed in industry, regardless
ognize the principle of employers’ liability for ac­ of fault. They provide administrative arrange­
cidents and industrial diseases. Beyond such ments for handling claims without cost to em­
measures, they looked upon governmental au­ ployees, on the basis of the responsibility or lia­
thority with not a little of the traditional Ameri­ bility of employers, who are required to carry
can suspicion and were inclined to emphasize the appropriate insurance or to provide proof of ade­
view that what Government bestows it can also quate financial responsibility.
Closely associated with accident prevention and
take away. Those earlier attitudes were gradu­
ally abandoned. Policies generally described as workmen’s compensation programs is a recently
social legislation have won the strong support of developed program carried on jointly by the
unions as a result of the accelerated tempo of in­ States and the Federal Government for the reha­
dustrial change and recent experience with de­ bilitation, retraining, and placement of workers
whose capacity has been impaired by accident or
pression, war, and national emergency.73
Labor legislation began with the State Govern­ industrial disease.
State laws also deal with minimum wages, es­
ments. The earliest and most extensive State
pecially for women; protection as to wage pay­
legislation concerned women and children: their
hours of work; prohibition of work not suited to ments and liens against wages; use of lawful
them (as underground work in mines); sanitary money; frequency of payments; and a great va­
and rest facilities; mealtime and rest periods; and riety of other questions affecting workers.
a great variety of other regulations. All of the
The growth of legislation in the field of labor
States have child labor laws and laws requiring and social security is indicated by the develop­
school attendance. Nearly all States require cer­ ment of public agencies. At the beginning of the
tificates or work permits as a means of administer­ present century, there were 45 States but only 34
ing child labor regulations. These authorizations labor bureaus, and most of those were primarily
are usually issued by local school authorities.
not administrative but factfinding or statistical
All of the States have adopted measures for the in function. In many States they were concerned
protection of men as well as women in certain with agriculture and industry as well as labor.
hazardous occupations and for the enforcement of The Federal Bureau of Labor, organized in 1884,
standards for safeguarding health and preventing was a minor agency until given full administrative
accidents. Such laws have tended toward the status in 1913 as the Department of Labor headed
laying down of general requirements with in­ by a Secretary with cabinet rank. At the present
creased discretionary powers by responsible ad­ time, the Federal Government has several admin­
ministrative agencies.
istrative labor agencies, additional to the Depart­
State control of such measures as the inspection ment of Labor, for specialized functions such as
of factories and other workplaces and the pre­ those of the Social Security Board. All of the
vention of accidents has been accompanied by the States now have administrative labor agencies.
development, among State Governments, of one of
Social-security programs going back in large
the oldest types of social security in the United part to the Social Security Act of 1935 illustrate
States, namely, workmen’s compensation. All of the trend of Federal policy and also exemplify the
the States have enacted compensation laws, which joint responsibility of the Federal and State Gov­
are designed to assure prompt payment by em­ ernments. The present systems of employment
ployers of benefits to injured employees or to the offices and unemployment insurance were created
by Federal laws; taxes for the maintenance of the
73 The summary here given of changes in national attitudes and insurance system are handled by the Federal Gov­
social policies is taken in part from chapter VI, “Social Security
and Economic Stability,” of The Gift of Freedom: A Study of
ernment; and Federal authority is responsible for
the Economic and Social Status of Wage Earners in the United
the maintenance of minimum standards. The em­
States, published in 1949 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics of
the U. S. Department of Labor. Some relevant documents and
ployment services and unemployment insurance
current discussions are included in Shister’s Readings in Labor
arrangements are administered, however, by State
Economics and Industrial Relations, pp. 513-650.




GOVERNMENT AND LABOR

and local offices. During the depression years of
the decade of the thirties, the Federal Government
maintained large public works programs, partly
under local administration, to provide employ­
ment for those who would otherwise have been un­
employed. Public aid, such as assistance to needy
older persons, care of the insane and handicapped
persons, and public health activities, had tradi­
tionally been a function of the local governments
of counties and towns. These activities are now
shared more largely by State Governments with
indirect Federal participation through extensive
grants-in-aid.
The social-security program with the most ex­
tensive coverage is the Federal system of old-age
apd survivors’ insurance. Most of the workers of
the country are now covered; even self-employed
persons are now elegible generally for insurance.
Employees of State and local governments and of
nonprofit private organizations (schools and
churches, for example) are also eligible. Railroad
workers, most Federal civil service employees, and
the employees of many States and local govern­
ments are included in separate pension systems.
Retirement benefits additional to those provided
for in legislation have been obtained by a rapidly
increasing number of workers under collective
agreements. A noteworthy instance is the United
Mine Workers’ Welfare and Retirement Fund.
The trend toward these private arrangements was
particularly strong before the national system was
liberalized in 1950.
Before 1938, the States had passed a great va- *
riety of laws relating to hours of work, wages, and
child labor. The Federal Government had also
adopted measures to maintain standards of hours
and wages in public construction and public con­
tract work. The Fair Labor Standards Act of
1938 set up national standards which, through
competition and custom, were extended to many
local employments.
The Fair Labor Standards Act requires the pay­
ment of a minimum wage of 75 cents per hour in
all employments covered by the act. That new
minimum, when it went into effect in January
1950, had a significant effect in raising wages in a
limited number of industries and areas, but nearly
all workers, even among the unskilled in low-wage



49

employments, were soon able to obtain wages in
excess of 75 cents per hour.
The law also provides that for work beyond
40 hours per week, overtime shall be paid for at
the rate of time and one-half. That provision
of the law has had great significance in maintain­
ing standards of straight-time work and wages
and at the same time providing an incentive
which has given great flexibility to working time
when war or emergency needs have called for in­
creases.
The Fair Labor Standards Act contains another
provision, often overlooked but of great impor­
tance—regulation of child labor. The act sets a
minimum of 16 years for general employment and
18 years for hazardous jobs.
Stability and Democratic Adaptability

Social-security measures and labor laws con­
tribute to the much desired achievement of de­
pendability and stability and the prevention of
extreme fluctuations in production and employ­
ment. These measures tend toward stability with­
out nullifying either the ideal of growth and
adaptability or the processes of decision and ac­
tion on the broad basis of free discussion and
popular approval. They provide, for example, a
cushion of purchasing power against depression
in the forms of unemployment insurance, retire­
ment benefits, workmen’s compensation, and
wages maintained by minimum-wage laws and
collective bargaining on a basis broadly consist­
ent with rising productivity.
In addition to social legislation and labor laws,
there is a highly significant group of policies and
agencies affecting agricultural and industrial en­
terprises and the national economy as a whole.
Largely in connection with these measures, there
has been a remarkable increase in our knowledge
of our economy and how it works. Comparatively
adequate current information is continuously
available on production, employment, wages, in­
come, expenditures, prices, trade, bank operations,
consumption, and a great variety of other subjects
vital to an understanding of the nature and
functioning of the economy. There is also a more
general recognition of the value and uses of eco­

50

AMERICAN LABOR AND THE AMERICAN SPIRIT

nomic data. That attitude is reflected signifi­
cantly in the Employment Act of 1946, passed
overwhelmingly by Congress, for consolidating
public and private efforts to maintain adequate
levels of production, employment, and consump­
tion.




There is also in the United States a general rec­
ognition of the interdependence of nations. Pub­
lic policies widely supported by both of the major
political parties have been increasingly directed
toward the health and growth of the interna­
tional community of all free nations.

Chapter VIII.—Labor and Productivity
Inertia Versus Initiative

It is the input and manner of use of labor and
resources required for the output or production of
economic goods and services that determines the
productivity of an economy. The element of input
most significant for the human and social evalua­
tion of productivity, the labor input, is fortu­
nately the most readily measurable for comparison
with output.
Back of progress in the input and use of labor
and resources are changes in the vast complex of
the techniques of production. Technological
changes, in turn, are made slowly or rapidly and
are used inefficiently or competently in accord with
basic human attitudes and experiences. Among
all men there is a contention between inertia and
resistance to change and a spirit of initiative,
adventure, and progress.
The historical circumstances of the discovery,
colonization, and development of the United
States attracted from the older countries the types
of individuals in whom initiative and adventure
tended to prevail over opposing traits. The
American environment, social as well as material,
has been favorable to those particular types of
change which we describe as technological.
These circumstances were observed by Alexis de
Tocqueville a century and a quarter ago and noted
in his Democracy in America.74 He commented
on the American spirit of equality and the occupa­
tional freedom and diversity: “Americans . . .
change their means of gaining a livelihood very
rapidly; and they suit their occupations to the
exigencies of the moment. . . . They are not
more attached to one line of operation than an­
other ; they are not more prone to employ an old
method than a new one.”
He noted also the general “passion for physical
well-being” and its effect on the national economy.
74 The quotations are from Henry Reeve’s translation pub­
lished by D. Appleton & Co.



He observed that in an aristocracy a producer
“would seek to sell his workmanship at a high
price to a few” ; in the United States, his aim is
“to sell them [his products] at a low price to all.
But [he continued] there are only two ways of
lowering the price of commodities. The first is to
discover some better, shorter, and more ingenious
method of producing them; the second is to make
a larger quantity of goods, nearly similar but of
less value.” Thus, he found that the producer in
America “strives to invent methods which may
enable him not only to work better, but quicker
and cheaper; or, if he cannot succeed in that, to
diminish the intrinsic qualities of the thing he
makes, without rendering it unfit for the use for
which it is intended.”
If de Tocqueville had been able to observe the
full effects of these tendencies, he would have
noted that technology has immeasurably improved
the quality of numerous goods and services as well
as reducing the cost. Among these, some of which
were Undreamed of in de Tocqueville’s day, are
watches (mentioned by him ), radios, automobiles,
highways, books and educational facilities.
Scientific interests in the United States were
mentioned by de Tocqueville as having great influ­
ence on technology. “If the democratic principle
does not, on the one hand, induce men to cultivate
science for its own sake, on the other hand it
enormously increases the number of those who do
cultivate it.” Scientific discoveries, he added,
tend, in a society that is “democratic, enlightened,
and free,” to become “immediately applicable to
productive industry.”
Technological change, though characteristic of
the American economy, has encountered neverthe­
less substantial resistance. Much opposition has
arisen, especially among workers, when innova­
tions have been made without account being taken
of short-run suffering and maladjustment. Much
of the resistance to change comes from those who
have “vested interests” or monopolistic or custom­
ary advantages in the maintenance of the status
51

52

AMERICAN LABOR AND THE AMERICAN SPIRIT

quo. Professor Sumner H. Slichter, in his study
published as U nion P olicies and In d u stria l M an­
agem ent, found a very considerable opposition to
labor-saving devices and technological changes
among employers.75 Business, he stated, “if per­
mitted to organize for the purpose, would erect
high barriers against innovations.” He held that
one of the dangers of some types of labor-manage­
ment relations lies in the possible use of agree­
ments by the less progressive employers to retard
technological changes desired by their more pro­
gressive associates.
Instances of a common effort by unions and em­
ployers to maintain traditional methods have oc­
curred in the building trades. Building construc­
tion, usually well unionized in the larger cities,
has experienced monopolistic practices that
recall those of the craft guilds of Europe when
they comprised both journeymen (wage earners)
and masters (contractors). The labor supply has
been controlled by restriction of apprenticeship
and of union membership, combined with arrange­
ments by which the unions supply the labor and
the contractors employ only union members. Con­
tractors’ associations and unions may obtain in­
directly a measure of control of building regula­
tions, specifications for building permits, the
making of contracts for public buildings, and the
requirements for occupational licenses. Arrange­
ments such as these, largely beyond the explicit
terms of collective agreements, may enable con­
tractors and unions to prevent building innova­
tions as well as to exert monopolistic influence on
wages and prices.76
Attitudes Toward Technological Changes

Despite instances of union opposition, and de­
spite a natural inclination of workers to avoid
job displacement and even job changes, the atti­
tude of unions toward technological change has
been increasingly and prevailingly favorable.
Workers have been influenced by rising wages and
75 Sumner H. Slichter, Union Policies and Industrial Manage­
ment, pp. 204—
205. Washington, Brookings Institution, 1941.
See also “Resistance to the Adoption of Technological Innova­
tions,’' by Bernhard J. Stern, in Technological Trends and Na­
tional Policy, pp. 39-60. Washington, U. S. National Resources
Committee, 1937.
79 L. G. Reynolds, Labor Economics and Labor Relations, pp.
147-150; U. S. Temporary National Economic Committee, Hear­
ings, Part II (a summary of evidence, pp. 5144-5162).



the use of such products of modern technology as
automobiles, radios, telephones, and household
devices that save labor as well as provide comforts
and conveniences.
Unions, however, rarely have had responsibility
for the actual making of changes or direct con­
nection with them. Union responsibility, and the
focus of union attention, has been the immediate
and direct effect of changes on the workers. Spe­
cific studies of union-management handling of the
impact of changes on workers in the factory or
workshop are not as extensive as might be desired;
but the nature of union policies as developed in
recent years is clear from the relevant provisions
of collective agreements as well as from case
studies.77*
9
7

The major questions to which the trade unions have
addressed themselves have been: How rapidly are
the changes to be introduced? How many workers
will be employed after the change has been instituted?
Which of the workers are to retain their jobs? What
is to happen to those who will no longer be needed
at their old jobs? How will the change affect the
physical conditions of work and how will it affect
future incomes?
In their attempts to meet the problems raised by
these questions, the trade unions have, through col­
lective bargaining arrangements, evolved a variety
of measures aimed at the regularization of the rate
of mechanization, the limitation of the hours of work
and of work loads, the retraining of workers, trans­
fer to other jobs, the payment of dismissal wages
where retraining or transfer did not prove feasible,
the improvement of health and safety standards, and
the safeguarding and improvement of previous earn­
ing levels.

Briefly, the prevailing union view is that the
long-run effects of technological changes are de­
sirable; that in any event union opposition is
likely to be futile; and that unions should direct
their efforts toward preventing or alleviating any
short-run disadvantages and maximizing the longrun benefits to workers.

77
Trade-Union Policy and Technological Change, p. v. Work
Projects Administration, National Research Project, Report No.
L-8, 1940. Single 1940, opposition to change has declined and
union influence over the job impacts of changes has increased.
Provisions of collective agreements are given in considerable detail
in Collective Bargaining Provisions, Bureau of Labor Statistics’
Bull. No. 908-3 (Incentive Wage Provisions; Time Studies and
Standards of Production) and Bull. No. 908-10 (Union-Manage­
ment Coperation, Plant Efficiency, and Technological Change).
Results of some recent case studies in the women’s garment in­
dustry are given in the Monthly Labor Review, April 1953, pp.
387-392.

LABOR AND PRODUCTIVITY

53

One of the influences of recent years tending
toward a more general acceptance by unions of
technological change is the adaptation of unions
to changes in occupations and industrial tech­
niques. When unions were more largely of the
one-craft type and the craft was menaced by tech­
nological change, the job protection of the members
virtually required opposition to the change.
Unions made up of occupations such as hand cigarmakers, glass blowers, manual telegraphers, and
molders were forced to fight the revolutionary
changes or suffer disintegration or seek radical
changes in their membership and their jurisdic­
tional boundaries. In contrast, the industrial and
multiple-craft unions have jurisdiction over a va­
riety of types of workers regardless of the changes
in techniques in a particular industry or group of
occupations. These unions may protect their mem­
bers by aiding them in keeping specific jobs but
more significantly by preventing discrimination
and by agreements regarding seniority, transfers,
retraining, and the job rights of members in new
or changed jobs.78
A part of the protective policy of all unions is
an effort to maintain elasticity of jurisdiction. In
railroad employments, for example, the Brother­
hood of Maintenance of Way Employees seeks not
to prevent mechanization but to include in the
brotherhood’s jurisdiction the increasing numbers
of skilled and semiskilled workers required as
maintenance of way work becomes more and more
mechanized. The president of the Order of Rail­
road Telegraphers, noting, without criticism or
opposition, the rapid progress in the use of elec­
tronic communication systems, requested all the
officers of the union to keep a careful watch and
seek to have operators of the electronic systems
classified under the jurisdiction of the ORT. “We
must be prepared,” he stated, “to protect our juris­
diction wherever it is threatened.” 79
Some unions seek a direct participation with
management in the making of decisions regarding
technological changes. That attitude is note­
worthy in certain highly competitive industries
with a large number of small employers. Unions

in the garment-making industries have long
sought to encourage efficiency among the highcost units of those industries. These unions have
found that inefficient employers tend to force down
the general level of wages and working conditions.
An early program of union participation was
that of the Amalgmated Clothing Workers in the
men’s garment industry. The plan originated
in the trade slump of 1923, accompanied by de­
mands of employers for wage cuts. The program
is described by Professor Slichter,80 who states
that the 1924 wage negotiations grew into “a sur­
vey of the industry with a view to discovering all
possible sources of saving and means of increasing
employment.” The agreements between the
union and the employers included avoidance of
strikes in union shops; an organizing campaign
in nonunion shops; certain wage concessions by the
union; the giving up of restrictive union rules
and policies which raised production costs and
benefited only a few of the members of the union;
and technical or engineering aid by the union to
employers for improving designs and quality and
reducing production costs. The last and most
novel item was virtually forced upon the union
to avoid subsidizing inefficient managements by
means of low wages and unsatisfactory conditions
of work. Some other unions, notably the Inter­
national Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union and'its
Management Engineering Department, have pur­
sued similar policies.
In contrast to plans such as those of unions in
the garment making industries, many other power­
ful unions have conceded complete control over
the introduction of technological changes to man­
agement. Thus, the United Automobile Work­
ers’ agreement with the General Motors Corp.
states that the products to be manufactured, the
location of plants, the schedules of production, the
methods, the processes, and the means of manu­
facturing, are “solely and exclusively the respon­
sibility of the corporation.” 81 In such industries
as automobile manufacturing, the size and finan­
cial strength of the companies, and their relation­
ships to each other and to the economy as a whole,
radically different from the garment making in­

78 Solomon Barkin, “Trade-Union Attitudes and Their Effects
Upon Productivity,” in Industrial Productivity, Industrial Rela­
tions Research Association, 1951, pp. 110—
112.
79 Report of G. E. Leighty, president, to the . . . Session of
the Order of Railroad Telegraphers, June 1952, pp. 135-137.

80 Sumner H. Slichter, Union Policies and Industrial Manage­
ment, pp. 504-531.
81 Solomon Barkin, in Industrial Productivity, Industrial Rela­
tions Research Association, 1951, pp. 115-116.




54

AMERICAN LABOR AND THE AMERICAN SPIRIT

dustries, make both inappropriate and impossible
such policies as those of unions in the garment
trades.
Summary of Union Views and Policies

Union attitudes and policies toward technologi­
cal changes may be summarized, with the usual
limitations of generalized statements.
(1) Unions prevailingly accept as desirable a
continuous process of technological improvement
and in some noteworthy instances assume joint
responsibility with managements.
(2) They are keenly aware of short-run prob­
lems such as changes in job requirements, work­
loads, and wage rates, and such impacts on individ­
uals as transfers, retraining, and dismissals. They
recognize also that technological changes may re­
quire readjustments of the union’s jurisdictional
boundaries and of its bargaining policies. Unions
occasionally try to obstruct or postpone changes;
but as a rule their efforts are focused upon: (a)
agreements and procedures for reducing to a mini­
mum the disadvantages to their members; and (b)
claiming of any advantages. Specific policies may
include: claims to new jobs and a voice in fixing
their rates of pay; adjustment of rates and work­
loads on changed jobs; preferential rehiring of
dismissed workers; dismissal pay; a great variety
of related questions; and the inclusion of the
whole field of adjustments to technological
changes within the range of grievance procedures.
(3) Unions are concerned with policies designed
to insure, for their members, a fair share of the
benefits of efficiency and reduced costs. Since
these benefits cannot ordinarily be linked to meas­
ures of productivity, unions have been forced to
give consideration to the general implications of
productivity and of wage policies.
Individual Adjustment to Change

In reference to adjustments by individual work­
ers to the impacts of changes, two developments
have been especially significant.
One of these is the change, in recent decades, in
public policies. Assistance, for a long time, has
been extended to industrial and agricultural enter­
prises in the form of economic and technical re­
search and experimentation carried on by Gov­



ernment agencies and publicly supported institu­
tions. Government recently has assumed new re­
sponsibilities for expanding research, notably in
the work of the Atomic Energy Commission.
Loans and other forms of assistance have been
extended to farmers and small-business men.
Recent tax policies have had a significant effect in
easing the burdens of obsolescence and replace­
ment by liberal amortization provisions.
These policies may be viewed as analogous to
arrangements for assisting workers in meeting the
direct and immediate impacts of changes. Only
recently have governmental policies made im­
portant contributions. Those contributions are
mainly the nationwide employment service, unem­
ployment insurance, retirement insurance, promo­
tion of apprenticeship training, and the improve­
ment of facilities for vocational guidance.
More important than governmental policies in
keeping to a minimum the individual maladjust­
ments resulting from technological changes is the
increasing awareness, competence, and mutuality
of unions and managements in dealing with these
problems. Hardly anywhere in the whole field of
labor-management relations is mutuality more
needed or more practicable. Management as well
as labor has a vital interest in facilitating adjust­
ments least burdensome to workers affected by job
changes, transfers, dismissals, and related situa­
tions. Flexible grievance procedures and infor­
mal nonlegalistics arbitration arrangements are
exceptionally useful in this field of sudden or
comparatively rapid change, often with unprece­
dented and unforeseeable situations.
The maintenance of productivity at a rising
rate with high levels of production and employ­
ment calls for mutuality in labor-management
relations throughout the process of production.
Our system of production, more than ever, needs
“the ability, initiative, and cooperation” of every
employee. “Its human resources are its greatest
asset—and the one least Used.” These statements,
by Peter Drucker, are quoted by a former labor
leader, Clinton S. Golden, who adds: 82
With widespread and powerful organizations of
workers representing the employees in the industrial
enterprises, it becomes necessary to enlist th eir inter­
est and cooperation in satisfying this need. Such
interest cannot be enlisted unless the climate of re-

82 Proceedings, Fourth Annual Meeting, Industrial Relations
Research Association, 1951, pp. 164-166.

LABOR AN D

P R O D U CTIVITY

55

driller, a bricklayer, a janitor, a municipal fire­
man, or a teacher; or compare the wages and pro­
ductivity of a train and engine crew that handles
a train with 50 freight cars and the crew of a 5Sharing the Benefits of Rising Productivity
car train.
The impossibility, in most employments, of a
Ultimately, a genuine spirit of mutuality in the
interest of industrial productivity depends on a direct linking of wages with productivity has
sense of fairness as to the sharing of the benefits. caused labor leaders to give increasing attention
How are the benefits of rising productivity to be to the place of wages in the economy and to the
diffused, and, specifically, shared equitably by nature of the economic process as a whole. On the
basis of tentative estimates of the trends of pro­
workers?
Rising productivity has made possible many im­ ductivity in the national economy, and of changes
portant nonwage gains. Among these are large in consumers’ prices, some economists as well as
reductions in working time and the general labor leaders have suggested a general policy of
achievement of the 8-hour day and 5-day week; wage adjustments for raising money wages at
improvements in working conditions and safety about the same rate as the estimated average rise
provisions; health and welfare plans and social in productivity and at the same time providing for
insurance; and the availability of a large variety adjustments to price changes.
The productivity basis of the substantial long­
of products of modern technology, notably in
term gains in real wages has been widely recog­
transportation, household operation, recreation,
nized but until recently it has been implied rather
and culture.
Basically, however, the problem of sharing the than explicitly formulated in ordinary wage ne­
benefits of rising productivity is a wage problem. gotiations. The most notable example of recent
Union leaders, in wage negotiations, make fre­ efforts to embody the idea in wage formulas is the
quent claims regarding the productivity basis of agreement of May 1950 between the United Au­
their demands for wage increases. Generally, tomobile Workers and the General Motors Corp.
they recognize that it is not practicable to make That 5-year agreement incorporated in revised
wage adjustments corresponding to changes in form, based upon earlier experience, a plan for
productivity on an individual or plant or industry an increase of 4 cents per hour in each of the 5
basis. There is an extreme unevenness and varia­ years of the contract and a cost-of-living adjust­
bility in the rates of increase, with occasional re­ ment provision, operative on a quarterly basis if
versals of trends. There is also a wide range in the specified changes occur in the national consumers’
capital investments required for achieving a given price index constructed by the Bureau of Labor
rate of increase. Some workers may have a stable Statistics of the U. S. Department of Labor. The
or even a declining productivity without reduced plan has been adopted in modified form in various
effort or less intensity of work; others, without in­ other agreements.
One of the obvious limitations of the plan for
creased effort or greater intensity of work, may
have a very large increase. An industry or em­ general application is its involvement of prices.
ployment that is essential to the Nation’s econo­ Uniform increases in wages applying to enter­
my and well being may not be able to increase its prises which cannot maintain average increases in
productivity; another industry, perhaps because productivity would call for price increases. Un­
of a sudden access to rich raw materials, or a series less these were counterbalanced by price reduc­
of techniques possibly resulting from public re­ tions made by enterprises with above-average in­
search facilities, may experience a rapid doubling creases in productivity, the policy of general wage
of its productivity. Should workers in one in­ increases would be inflationary. Nevertheless,
dustry be penalized and workers in the other the plan has great experimental significance. Not
the least important implication is the assumption
have a doubling of wages ?
Wages cannot be directly or immediately tied to by both parties to the agreement that sustained in­
productivity: Compare, for example, the wages creases in productivity are possible; that both
and productivity of a coal miner, a petroleum well parties have a stake in promoting improvements,
lations is such as to engender security, mutual confi­
dence, and respect on the part of all the participants
in the enterprise.




56

AMERICAN LABOR A N D

and that rising real wages can be maintained with­
out encroachments on the interests of consumers
through price advances.838
4
A favorite general approach by labor leaders
to the wage problem, especially during periods of
low production and employment, has been the
purchasing power theory. That theory affords a
convenient general argument for opposing any
wage reduction and for advocating wage increases
under nearly all circumstances. It assumes that
increases in wages, the main form of consumer in­
come, would mean increases in market demand, to
be followed by rising production and employment.
The state of economic thought on the subject is de­
scribed by a prominent economist when he says
that the analysis of “the purchasing power aspects
of wages” remains “in a fairly primitive state.”
He concludes: “Our ignorance of all these ques­
tions, even at the deductive level, is alomst as great
as the intensity of our convictions.” Furthermore,
in reference to “the general problem of wage de­
termination and labor economics,” the economic
theorist, honest with himself, “must confess to a
tremendous amount of uncertainty and self-doubt
concerning even the most basic and elementary
parts of the subject.” M
The problems of price and market competition
in reality pervade the relationship between produc­
tivity and wages. The rate of advance of produc­
tivity is necessarily uneven, and price flexibility
rather than a large differential in wages is natur­
ally desired by workers in determining the status
of industries in the markets. In some industries,
productivity may decline through no technological
negligence, as in a natural-resource industry
troubled by depletion and resulting advances in
costs of operation. If the products of an industry
with relatively high or increasing costs are essen­
tial to consumers, advancing prices may be ex­
pected to enable employers to maintain wage levels.
If the product is not essential, a shift of investment
and employment to other areas of the economy
normally is to be expected, although often with
maladjustments. The maintenance of high-cost
83 For a discussion of the significance of productivity for wage
policy, with particular reference to general wage increases, see
article by John C. Davis, “Productivity Trends and Some Eco­
nomic Implications,” in Industrial Productivity, Industrial Rela­
tions Research Association, 1951, pp. 14-24.
84 Professor Paul Samuelson, in The Impact of the Union, edited
by Professor David McCord Wright, pp. 332-341.



THE

AMERICAN

SPIRIT

enterprises by means either of low wage scales or
of monopolistic price and market arrangements
tends to set up rigidities and to thwart techno­
logical progress and therefore is inconsistent with
the policy of a flexible and progressive economy.
Labor leaders, management representatives,
and public officials must make decisions even
though the economists are unable to provide a gen­
erally acceptable theoretical basis. As for the pur­
chasing power doctrine, in a period of excessive
demand and short supply its relevancy, if not its
basic validity, is called in question. The exigen­
cies of war, national emergency, and inflation,
added to those of depression and deflation, have
shown that the undisciplined quest of higher
money wages may tend to defeat the aim of a
fair sharing of the benefits of rising productivity
in the necessary form of real income.
Many labor leaders may be virtually forced by
circumstances beyond their control to overempha­
size money wages. There is much evidence, how­
ever, to support the view that union policies and
wage agreements have tended to stabilize wages
in periods of inflation as well as when prices are
tending downward. Certainly union leaders gen­
erally have gone far beyond the purchasing power
theory in their quest for a sound basis of wage
policy. They are primarily wage conscious but
they are also price conscious, cost conscious, and
investment conscious; they recognize the need to
maintain adequate capital resources and the re­
sulting limitations on current consumption.
At the same time, labor leaders generally have
refused to accept conceptions of the effects of
changes in money wages based on static equilib­
rium and hypothetical economic models. Many of
them have viewed the effects of wage changes, as
of other changes, in the context of the economy
as a continuous process. Levels of aggregate pro­
duction, employment, and income are dependent
upon the unobstructed and continuous flow or al­
location of resources, or, in monetary terms, of
income. The price mechanism may not be capable
of effecting the necessary readjustments either be­
cause of the magnitude of the changes involved or
because of rigidities of the market structure. Di­
version into “stagnant pools” will lower the levels;
and the diversion may be caused by a dispropor­
tionate or below-optimum allocation to any of the
“factors of production.”

LABOR AN D

In the field of practical policy, union leaders
have gone beyond the purchasing power concept
as a basis of wage policy. In fact, while ranging
widely in their views, they generally have recog­
nized the necessity for going beyond wage policy.
They have given widespread support to overall
national programs designed to remedy the defi­
ciencies of business enterprise in the distribution
of income, and specifically, in wage determina­
tion. They recognize that enterprise has not con­
sistently succeeded in maintaining the flow or al­
location of income that is required for optimum
production and employment. Unions, for ex­
ample, generally favored the Employment Act of
1946 as embodying a needed public supplement
and guide. Specifically, in relation to labor in­
come, union leaders have increasingly emphasized
programs for supplementing money wages, there­
by easing excessive pressures for changes in money
wages and at the same time tending to reduce
differentials of income. The methods used in­
clude the obtaining of nonwage benefits from em­
ployers through collective bargaining and directly
from the national product through taxation and
enlarged public services.
These various ideas and policies have tended to
maintain a continuous diffusion of the benefits of
rising productivity. A focal problem is the avoid­
ance of disproportionate and therefore obstructive
allocations or flows of income and resources—mal­
adjustments, which, in the past, have interrupted
the economic process by depression and deflation
or diverted and distorted it by boom and inflation.
Technological changes themselves may be a con­
tributory cause of fluctuations, but the primary
causes, and measures of prevention, are economic,
not technological. Fluctuations are of course
inevitable; the desirable and practical aim is
to keep them within moderate bounds, consist­
ent with an adaptable and normally expanding
economy.
Evidences of Long-Term Benefits to Workers

In the meantime, the long-term general effects
of rising productivity in the United States are ap­
parent in a remarkable improvement in the ma­
terial and cultural well being of the Nation’s wage
earners. Their more favorable status as to civil
rights and political influence is apparent from



P R O D UCTIVITY

57

earlier sections of the present study. Other
changes, summarized below, were described in a
recent study of “Fifty Years’ Progress of Ameri­
can Labor” and published in the 35th Anniversary
Issue, July 1950, of the Monthly Labor Review.85
Some of the changes are shown graphically in the
accompanying chart.
Fortunately, for purposes of comparison, the
United States Bureau of Labor made an extensive
survey of the incomes and expenditures of city
workers’ families in 1901. When expressed in
terms of 1948 dollars, the 1901 income per family
member was less than half of the average for 1948.
The more than doubling of real income per family
member is matched by an increase of 108 percent
in the real weekly earnings of the average wage
earner in manufacturing industries. The esti­
mated rise in real per capita income of the entire
population shows a remarkably similar trend.
After 1948, average earnings adjusted by use
of the Consumer Price Index continued a sig­
nificant rise.
Rising industrial productivity has made pos­
sible, also, a reduction of hours. Workers now
have from 15 to 20 hours more free time each week
than their fathers and grandfathers had early in
the century. Most workers then had a 6-day
week; some also worked on Sunday without a “day
of rest.” The 5-day week is now the rule. Chil­
dren now begin work at a later age. There now
is a much longer span of life after retirement.
Women then were less frequently employed for
wages, but when employed their hours of work
resembled those of men. Household workers now
have more leisure because of smaller families, the
transfer of much of the earlier household work to
factories and service establishments, and the
mechanization of many household tasks.
The uses and values of leisure are dependent
vitally upon the margin of income for the ameni­
ties of life. Outstanding in importance in its ef­
fect on the use of leisure and on modes of living
is the rise in the margin of income available for
expenditures other than the basic requirements for
85 Monthly Labor Review, July 1950, 35th Anniversary Issue.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U. S. Department of Labor. The
main source of the information herein summarized is “Changes in
Modes of Living,” pp. 23-30, 39.
An unofficial estimate of long-term changes in real wages is
given in “How to Raise Real Wages” (Committee for Economic
Development, New York, 1950), in the Statistical Appendix by
Professeor Sumner H. Slichter.

58

AMERICAN LABOR A N D

THE

A M E R I C A N SPIRIT

A Half Century of Economic Growth
FARM AND NONFARM
POPULATION

TOTAL LABOR FORCE

Percent of Population
6

l

56%

WOMEN IN LABOR FORCE

Percent of Population
4

?

31.9%

June
1910

1949

April

June

April

1900

1950

1900

1950

PRODUCTION WORKERS

New Dwelling Unifs per
10,000 Nonfarm Population.

BUILDING RATE

TOTAL FARM

IN MANUFACTURING

EMPLOYMENT

Millions

Thousands

#12.2

1909




1949

1909

1949

1910-20

Decade Rate

1949

LABOR AND

AVERAGE HOURLY EARNINGS

59

P R O D U CTIVITY

AVERAGE WEEKLY EARNINGS

AVERAGE WEEKLY HOURS

MANUFACTURING

M
ANUFACTURING

MANUFACTURING

$1.40

1909

1949

Changes in Dietary Habits
PER CAPITA

Source•
•
U N IT E D S T A TE S D E P A R T M E N T OF LA B O R
BUREAU OF LABO R S T A T IS T IC S




U. S. Bureau of the Census, U.S. D epartm ent of
A g ric u ltu re , Fed eral Reserve B o ard, Bureau
of Lobor S ta tis tic s

60

AMERICAN LABOR A N D

food, housing, and clothing. The proportion has
risen during the present century from hardly more
than a sixth to more than a third of total expendi­
tures. Noteworthy, too, is the fact that these are
percentages of total expenditures; the absolute
amounts of real income spent for the traditional
necessaries of living were much smaller at the
beginning of the century than at present.
The improved quality of foods now prevail­
ingly used is indicated by the shift, since early in
the century, from such items as bread and pota­
toes to emphasis on the consumption of dairy
products, eggs, sugar, coffee, fruits, and vege­
tables other than potatoes—foods rich in such
nutrients as vitamins and minerals as well as fats.
These are recognized more widely now as major
factors in the maintenance of health and vigor.
By way of illustration, the per capita consumption
of potatoes fell from 180 pounds in 1909 to 100
pounds in 1948; the per capita consumption of
milk or milk equivalent (cheese, for example) rose
from 194 quarts to 249 quarts. These are gen­
eral per capita figures but special surveys indicate
that families with small incomes have followed
the general trend.
The homes of workers’ families now average
more rooms per family member than 50 years ago.
Such facilities as baths, electric lights, telephones,
refrigerators, and numerous household utensils
have become almost universal. Workers have been
able to establish homes in far larger numbers in
less crowded areas and in the suburbs or semirural
areas as a result of the extension of public utili­
ties and transportation facilities, including, more
recently, the general use of private automobiles.
In 1901, less than a fifth of city workers’ families
owned their homes; the proportion has risen to
approximately 50 percent.
Opportunities for living beyond a subsistence
level, always available to groups with larger in­
comes, have had a distinctive significance for
wage earners. Their rising real income and in­
creased leisure have been given added importance
for the quality of living by improved education
and other public services as well as their own group
activites. Improved educational facilities were
mentioned in an earlier section. Increased facil­
ities for information and recreation such as radio,
motion pictures, and television, no doubt often
used unwisely, nevertheless contribute significant



THE

AMERICAN

SPIRIT

net gains, especially in awareness of the world
beyond the home, community, and place of work.
The automobile has contributed even more signifi­
cantly to that larger awareness, to the range of
recreational opportunities, and especially to the
enlarged freedom of choice of the community in
which to live and of the home in relation to the
place of work.
Survival Value of Technological Progress

There remains for final emphasis a primary
value of a progressive industrial technology—a
value not merely for wage earners but for entire
societies and nations. The fundamental influ­
ence of technological change and adaptability is
its relation to survival. The survival value of
military techniques (essentially adaptations of in­
dustrial techniques) is apparent from historical
experience; it is a stark fact that stares the pres­
ent generation in the face. Economically, there is
not too obscure a meaning in the ancient saying
that to him that has shall be given and from him
who has not shall be taken away even what he has.
The effort to spread work and maintain employ­
ment by using antiquated methods is at best a way
of diffusing poverty and merely deferring the ulti­
mate shifting of employment, production, and
markets. Only a part of the survival value of
technological innovations lies in their capacity to
reduce costs of production and prices and thereby
maintain or increase the demand and the volume
of production and consumption on which employ­
ment depends. Technological improvements do
not merely “save” labor; they also conserve a na­
tion’s resources, often irreplaceable; and more im­
portant, they create resources. The history of
technological progress is most significantly the
history of the creation of new resources, new in­
dustries, new employments, and new facilities for
living.
The homelands of modern science and industrial
techniques, the countries of Western Europe, have
abundant natural resources. In some of these
countries, the growing populations threaten dis­
equilibrium with resources constantly used and in
some instances nonrenewable. To assume the
necessity for such disequilibrium ignores, however,
on the one hand, the possibilities of social re­

LABOR A N D

straints, and on the other, the potentialities of
science in the enlargement of resources. Science
makes possible the discovery of additional re­
sources of the types now known and their more
efficient use. Far more important, science offers
keys (for example, those of chemical syntheses,
not to speak of those being fashioned by atomic re­
search) for opening the doors to vast new store­
houses of nature.




P R ODUCTIVITY

61

The free countries of the world are the home­
lands and the chief present custodians of science
and of scientific and creative industrial tech­
nology. Full use of these advantages in the dem­
ocratic spirit of advancing the general welfare
will give them the best assurance that what they
have will not be taken from them, either by
friendly but more enterprising rivals or by the
enemies of their way of life.

Bibliographical Notes
Few subjects have attracted more attention in
the United States in recent years than the history,
status, activities, and prospects of organized labor.
The references mentioned below are selected
merely as a working list, in some instances largely
because they contain useful references to addi­
tional sources of information. A rigorous limit­
ing of the list can hardly avoid omitting some
sources that have equal and possibly in some in­
stances better claims to inclusion.
The main journal in the field of labor is the
Monthly Labor Review published by the Bureau
of Labor Statistics of the U. S. Department of
Labor. It contains a general coverage of descrip­
tive and analytical articles, summaries of reports,
and detailed monthly statistics. In addition, it
is a convenient source of bibliographical data.
Its extensive classified and annotated lists pub­
lished each month are supplemented by reviews
of many noteworthy books. Occasional special
bibliographies have included, for example, in the
July 1950 Anniversary Issue (pp. 87-103), re­
appraisals of “Significant Books on Labor of the
Past 50 Years” ; and in the October 1951 issue
(pp. 414-419), “A Bibliography on Labor in
National Emergencies.” In the international
field, the ILO’s International Labor Review is the
outstanding journal.
The School of Industrial and Labor Relations
of Cornell University publishes a specialized
journal, the Industrial and Labor Relations Re­
view. Unions themselves, besides publishing
many periodicals, collaborate informally in Labor
and Nation, a bimonthly journal published by the
Inter-Union Institute, Inc., New York City. Ad­
vanced Management is published by the Society
for Advancement of Management. The Ameri­
can Management Association issues a monthly
Management Review and a bimonthly journal
called Personnel. The American Management
Association also publishes a large number of bul­
letins in its Personnel series and other series.
Some of its bulletins include papers and discus62




sions by union leaders. A recently formed group,
the Industrial Relations Research Association,
issues proceedings of its annual meetings and ex­
ceptionally valuable occasional volumes dealing
with special subjects, such as the volume on indus­
trial productivity.
Notes on some of the titles listed are derived in
part from book reviews, chiefly those in the Indus­
trial and Labor Relations Review and the Monthly
Labor Review. Comments are designed merely as
clues to the contents and points of view.
Baker, Helen. Company-Wide Understanding of In­
dustrial Relations Policies. Princenton University In­
dustrial Relations Section, 1948.
A study of “the means used by the managements of
84 companies to bring ideas and facts to employees.”
An effort is made to present the programs objectively
but with evaluations. “Two-way” communication
(from as well as to employees) is not discussed.
Baker, Helen; Ballantine, J. W .; and True, J. M. Trans­
mitting Information Through Management and Union
Channels: Two case studies. Princeton University Press,
1949.
A study, by the questionnaire method, of modes of
carrying on “two-way” communication involving two
large companies and two local unions.
Bakke, E. Wight; and Kerr, Clark, Editors. Unions,
Management and the Public. New York, Harcourt, Brace,
1948.
Nearly 300 selections are included from a wide variety
of sources embodying major phases of the subjects
covered and many points of view. The somewhat
scrappy or fragmented results are well integrated by
means of editorial introductions to each section.
Barbash, Jack. Labor Unions in Action: A study of the
Mainsprings of Unionism. New York, Harper, 1948.
A forceful and informative book by a “union spokes­
man” who tries to be “detached and dispassionate”
but who frankly avows his union connections and
sympathies. The volume is a result of first-hand ex­
perience supplemented by extensive study.
Cleeton, Glen U. Making Work Human. Yellow Springs,
Ohio, Antioch Press, 1949.
This volume, by the Dean of Antioch College, is
described by Professor Nathaniel Cantor in the Jan­

63
Godine, Morton Robert. The Labor Problem in the Pub­
lic Service: A Study in Political Pluralism. Cambridge,
Mass., Harvard University Press, 1951.
A description of the limited status of unions and col­
lective bargaining in public employments, both na­
tional and local. The author argues against the
criticism, sometimes presented, that there is a divided
loyalty in the case of public employees who are mem­
bers of unions: whether a public employee is a member
of a union or not, a plurality of allegiance exists, “for
the civil servant is both a citizen and an employee as
well as a member of various other social groups.”
Further experimentation is suggested for developing
modes of negotiation or collective bargaining for pub­
lic employees in a manner that will recognize the
basic need of these workers to share in the determina­
tion of vital issues affecting them while at the same
time appropriate and distinctive governmental au­
thority is retained.

BIBLIOGRAPHICAL N O T E S

uary 1951 Industrial and Labor Relations Review:
“Here we find a clear restatement of what workers
think about and what they expect from the job and
the people they work with: prestige, recognition,
status, opportunity for advancement, fair super­
visors, good working conditions. The author states
that the job of supervisors and managers is to make
the worker w a n t to work rather than to make him
work.”
Chamberlain, Neil W. Collective Bargaining. New York,
McGraw-Hill, 1951.
A large and detailed study within a philosophical
framework. The author approaches the subject from
the marketing, governmental, and managerial points
of view but emphasizes the last named. A somewhat
difficult but thoughtful and well-reasoned treatise.
Chase, Stuart. Roads to Agreement: Successful Methods
in the Science of Human Relations. New York, Harper,
1951.
A summary report, optimistic in tone and written in
the author’s characteristically facile style, on the
work of human relations research centers and insti­
tutes. The book deals with the subject in general but
has many specific contributions toward an under­
standing of how human factors operate in labor-man­
agement relations.
Commons, John R. The Economics of Collective Action.
New York, Macmillan, 1951.
A development of the author’s well-known institu­
tionalist views in opposition to traditional economic
conceptions, which he describes as treating the in­
dividual “like atoms, molecules, steam engines, horse­
power, and the like, controlled by external forces and
not self-con trolled.”
Davey, Harold W. Contemporary Collective Bargaining.
New York, Prentice-Hall, 1951.
A detailed descriptive account, with a considerable
amount of attention paid to the legal and adminis­
trative framework of collective bargaining. Bar­
gaining in manufacturing industries is emphasized.
The book, although mainly descriptive and analytical,
gives explicit support to the idea of industrial selfgovernment with a minimum of governmental inter­
ference.
DeSchweinits, Dorothea. Labor and Management in a
Common Enterprise. Cambridge, Mass., Harvard Uni­
versity Press, 1949.
A study of labor-management cooperation.
Dunlop, John T. Collective Bargaining: Principles and
Cases. Chicago, Richard D. Irwin, 1949.
Designed as a text book for use in college classes, the
volume combines exposition by the editor with mate­
rials for case study of the subject. There is a useful
historical sketch of collective bargaining with ac­
counts of relevant legislation.



Gomberg, William. A Trade Union Analysis of Time
Study. Chicago, Science Research Associates, 1948.
Mr. Gomberg, in charge of the Management Engineer­
ing Department of the International Ladies’ Garment
Workers’ Union, makes a philosophical analysis of
time study. He concludes that time study tech­
niques “can make no claims to scientific accuracy.”
He and his union nevertheless accept the techniques
as setting up a range of rates or standards “within
which collective bargaining over production rates can
take place.” The function of the time-study engi­
neer is not to take the place of negotiators in collective
bargaining but merely “to keep this collective bar­
gaining within rational bounds.” He recognizes that
many unions are not in a position to undertake in­
dependent evaluations of time study techniques and
their results.
Harbison, Frederick H., and Coleman, John R. Goals and
Strategy in Collective Bargaining. New York, Harper,
1951.
This volume is not primarily descriptive of processes;
it is rather an attempt to evaluate the aims and the
methods in the light of what the authors conceive to
be “constructive” labor-management relations.
“Peaceful” relations, though desirable, are not neces­
sarily “constructive.” The authors discuss questions
relating to the avoidance of “peaceful” collusion be­
tween union and management for exploiting the con­
sumer, or for telling the worker what he can or cannot
do. They emphasize the general goal of “the mainte­
nance and enhancement of the dignity, worth, and
freedom of the individual.”
Hardman, J. B. S .; and Neufeld, Maurice F., Editors.
The House of Labor; Internal Operations of American
Unions. New York, Prentice-Hall, 1951.
A study made under the auspices of the Inter-Union
Institute. The authors “describe the American labor

64

AMERICAN LABOR A N D T H E

movement as a whole and the details of all its varied
activities.’’ The various contributors, writing from
the vantage ground of experience or close observation,
deal with such subjects as political activity; communi­
cations ; research and engineering; welfare and com­
munity services; union administration; educational
activity; and the functions and aims of the union
staff.
Kornhauser, Arthur, Editor. Psychology of Labor Man­
agement Relations. Industrial Relations Research Asso­
ciation, 1949.
This volume comprises the proceedings of a meeting
in September 1949 under the joint sponsorship of
the Industrial Relations Research Association, the
Division of Industrial and Business Psychology of
the American Psychological Association, and the
Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues.
The papers presented are described by the editor as
serving two purposes: (1) they sketch certain con­
tributions by psychology to thinking and practice in
labor-management relations, including research
methods; and (2) they call attention to questions
about “the objectives, the concepts, and the social
orientation of psychological work on labor-manage­
ment relations.” The editor further states: “By
and large, industrial psychologists have worked for
management and have accepted management’s point
of view.” Because of that fact, the volume is par­
ticularly significant in presenting criticisms and
points of view of union leaders and of scholars not
associated with either labor or management.
Lester, Richard A .; and Aronson, Robert L. Job Modi­
fications Under Collective Bargaining. Princeton Uni­
versity Industrial Relations Section, 1950.
A summary of interviews and studies of job data in
24 companies.
Lester, Richard A.; and Shister, Joseph, Editors. In­
sights Into Labor Issues. New York, Macmillan, 1948.
A variety of subjects and points of view, including a
novel and informative presentation of “Collective
Bargaining by Professional Societies,” by H. R.
Northrup.
Millis, Harry A .; and Montgomery, Royal E. Organized
Labor. Volume III of the Economics of Labor. New
York, McGraw-Hill, 1945.
An account of the historical development and present
status and characteristics of unions. Topics include
union structure, government, and interrelationships;
the functions, activities, practices, and policies of
unions; their relations to legislation and the courts;
collective bargaining, strikes, conciliation and arbi­
tration. The volume is not very easily read but is a
storehouse of information with detailed footnote
references to sources.




A M E R I C A N SPIRIT

Minnesota, University of, Industrial Relations Center.
The Industrial Relations Five-Foot Shelf. Bull. No. 5,
September 1947.
A listing, with brief descriptions, of some important
books and periodicals available in 1947.
National Planning Association. Causes of Industrial
Peace. Case Studies. Case Study No. 1, 1948; others at
intervals. Published by National Planning Association,
Washington.
The National Planning Association, a private group
from industry, agriculture, labor, and government,
undertook these studies as “a positive approach to
peace” in industrial relations at the suggestion of
Clinton S. Golden in 1946. Carefully considered
criteria were adopted for the selection of cases and
the cases were actually chosen by a carefully safe­
guarded and well-publicized process of selection.
Efforts were made to maintain objectivity in carrying
on the studies. Earlier interest had centered on
strikes and maladjustments; these case studies con­
cerned not so much “the pathology of disease” as “the
characteristics of health” in labor-management
relations.
Peters, Raymond W. Communication Within Industry:
Principles and Methods of Management-Employee Inter­
change. New York, Harper, 1950.
The volume is described as “based on one of the most
extensive communications studies yet made in the
industry—that done by a number of specialists for the
Esso Company.”
Randle, C. Wilson. Collective Bargaining: Principles
and Practices. Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1951.
The author refers to the volume as having little to do
with theory or economic background; “it is a descrip­
tion of the principles and practices of negotiation.”
Subjects dealt with, broadly defined, include the legal
and historical backgrounds; the scope, the partici­
pants, and the preparation for carrying on negotia­
tions; the issues; and the end result, namely, the
collective agreement. Thus, the volume for the
most part limits the term “collective bargaining” to
the process of arriving at an agreement, omitting
such questions as grievance procedures in the ad­
ministering of agreements.
Riegel, John W. Management, Labor and Technological
Change. Ann Arbor, University of Michigan Press, 1942.
Report of a first-hand study of the attitudes of em­
ployees and their points of view as to what should
be done to facilitate employee cooperation.
Roethlisberger, F. J .; and Dickson, William J. Manage­
ment and the Worker: An Account of a Research Program
Conducted by the Western Electric Company, Hawthorne
Works, Chicago. Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University
Press, 1939. (Tenth Printing, 1950.)

65
through a variety of practices and shop rules embody­
ing those practices, it became clear that production
policy could not be appraised except on a basis of a
fuller analysis of a wide range of relationships be­
tween trade unionists and employers.” The study
therefore took the form of “a comprehensive discus­
sion of both the content and the process of collective
bargaining except as to wage rates.” The author
describes the developments he studied as “the emer­
gence of a system of industrial jurisprudence,” a sys­
tem that provides “a method of introducing civil
rights into industry, that is, of requiring that manage­
ment be conducted by rule rather than by arbitrary
decision.”

BIBLIOGRAPHICAL N O T E S

A volume described by Stuart Chase, noted author and
consultant, as “the most exciting and important study
of factory workers ever made.” The study has been
exceptionally influential in stimulating the “human
relations” approach and the making of studies of the
attitudes and motivations of workers.
Sayles, Leonard R .; and Strauss, George. The Local
Union: Its Place in the Industrial Plant. New York,
Harper, 1953.
Selekman, Benjamin M.; Selekman, Sylvia; and Fuller,
Stephen H. Problems in Labor Relations. New York,
McGraw-Hill, 1950.
A Study of cases of the negotiating of new agreements
and the handling of problems that arise under agree­
ments. In some instances, verbatim reports are
given; in others, reports are given in summary form.
Shister, Joseph, Editor. Readings in Labor Economics
and Industrial Relations. Philadelphia, Lippincott, 1951.
This volume, primarily intended for use in college
courses, contains fewer selections, covering a some­
what narrower range of subjects, than the previously
mentioned volume edited by Professors Bakke and
Kerr, but the selections are as a rule relatively sub­
stantial presentations of the authors’ points of view,
The volume emphasizes unions and labor-management
relations but contains fairly extensive sections on em­
ployment, wages, and social security programs.
Shulman, Harry; and Chamberlain, Neil W. Cases on
Labor Relations. Brooklyn, Foundation Press, 1949.
This large volume is in reality concerned with a
limited phase of labor relations; it is a collection of
arbitrators’ opinions concerned not with the negotiat­
ing of agreements but rather with the adjustment of
disputes over the meaning and application of agree­
ments. Some of the cases are those handled by Pro­
fessor Shulman as impartial umpire for the United
Automobile Workers and the Ford Company. Many
well-known arbitrators are represented in the opin­
ions. Professor Henry Weihofer, in reviewing the
volume in the July 1950 Industrial and Labor Rela­
tions Review, states that it is a useful departure from
the usual emphasis, in the study of labor-management
relations, on the negotiation of agreements and on
governmental regulations. The volume is significant
also in its emphasis on the increasingly important
procedures of arbitration.
Slichter, Sumner H. Union Policies and Industrial Man­
agement. Washington, Brookings Institution, 1941.
A detailed study, focused originally on “the policies
and attitudes of trade unions with reference to pro­
duction. But since any such policy expresses itself




Taylor, George W. Government Regulation of Indus­
trial Relations. New York, Prentice-Hall, 1948.
The author, a well-known scholar and experienced
public administrator, outlines the evolution and cur­
rent status of government regulation, and indicates,
in reference to his personal views, a preference for
maximum reliance on “voluntarism” or industrial
self-government. The guaranteeing of basic rights
and conditions essential to free collective bargaining
is an appropriate function of government; but gov­
ernmental direction or control of the areas and
processes of bargaining should be held, he thinks,
to a minimum.
Tripp, L. Reed, Editor. Industrial Productivity. Indus­
trial Relations Research Association, 1951.
Papers by representatives of management, labor,
academic institutions, and government cover a wide
range of subjects, with emphasis, in keeping with the
sponsorship of the volume, on the labor-management
aspects of productivity.
United States Congress, Senate, Subcommittee on Labor
and Labor-Management Relations of the Committee on
Labor and Public Welfare, Factors in Successful Collective
Bargaining. Washington, 1951. (82d Congress, First
Session.)
The report contains convenient summaries of some
important studies, notably the case studies of Causes
of Industrial Peace, by the National Planning Asso­
ciation. Collective bargaining is assumed to be
essential in a democratic society. A brief bibli­
ography is appended.
United States Work Projects Administration, Trade Union
Policy and Technological Change. National Research
Project, Report No. L-8, 1940.
The report is based upon a thorough examination of
collective agreements, grievance procedures, and other
evidence. Emphasis is placed more on modes of
adaptation and adjustment to change than on the
initiation of change.

66

AMERICAN LABOR A N D

University of Illinois, Institute of Labor and Industrial
Relations. Labor-Management Relations in Illini City:
Volume I, The Case Studies. Champaign, 1953.
Watkins, Gordon S., Editor. Labor in the American
Economy. In Annals of the American Academy of Polit­
ical and Social Science. Philadelphia, March 1951, pp.
1-205.
The volume contains contributions by 30 persons
from management, organized labor, government, and
the academic world. Nearly all phases of union
activity are discussed, as well as the relations of
government to labor.




THE

AMERICAN

SPIRIT

Whyte, William Foote. Pattern for Industrial Peace.
New York, Harper, 1951.
A detailed and illuminating study of a single case,
that of a steel container manufacturing firm with
about 700 employees. The firm was originally ‘‘fam­
ily-owned and management dominated” and its his­
tory had been marked by hostile and disturbed
labor-management relations. The book describes a
profound change that resulted in the “pattern for
industrial peace.”

U S. GVRMN PR T GO E 1954
. OEN ET ININ FFIC:


Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, One Federal Reserve Bank Plaza, St. Louis, MO 63102