15
WAGE POLICIES OF
AMERICAN UNIONS

Harold M. Levinson

Because of the considerable size and complexity of American unions, any attempt to discuss their wage policies briefly must involve much simplification. Nevertheless, at least their dominant characteristics can be described, so long as we keep in mind that important exceptions can be found to almost any generalization that might be made.

To begin with, a fuller understanding of the wage policies of American unions must rest on a knowledge of the basic economic and political philosophy of the movement itself which I will only mention briefly. Of primary importance is the fact that American labor has fully accepted the institutions of private capitalism and has not supported programs calling for government ownership or operation of industry. And second, American unions have rejected all attempts to establish an independent political labor party along the lines adopted in Britain and elsewhere on the continent. In these respects, our labor movement has been highly conservative in its economic and political ideology.

The term "conservative" in this context, however, should in no sense be interpreted to reflect any lack of militancy or aggressiveness. In fact, American unions have been extremely aggressive in pressing for higher wages through direct collective bargaining with employers. In addition to wage increases, unions have also placed great emphasis on obtaining, through direct collective bargaining, several types of so-called "fringe benefits," including employer-financed pension and medical-care programs, paid vacations, paid holidays, supplementary unemployment benefits,

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