The Operating Engineers: The Economic History of a Trade Union

The Operating Engineers: The Economic History of a Trade Union

The Operating Engineers: The Economic History of a Trade Union

The Operating Engineers: The Economic History of a Trade Union

Excerpt

A history of an institution, like a map of a geographical terrain, is but a representation of reality. Those characteristics or events are chosen for inclusion by the mapmaker or historian which in his opinion best provide a simplified model of the whole. They are not chosen at random. The choice is dictated by the purpose for which the map is drawn or the history is written or because certain characteristics or events are so outstanding that they best explain or represent the total.

This history was undertaken with no preconceived pattern in mind, but it became apparent after a study of the available materials that the keys to understanding the historical development of the International Union of Operating Engineers were economic and technological ones. Therefore, the purpose of this book is to trace the manner in which the structure and policies of the international union have adjusted themselves to changes in market forces and technological conditions in the industries employing its members.

While this theme best explains what has happened in the union in the past and what exists in the present, it may seem somewhat narrow to the reader depending upon his own interests. There is little here of a normative nature. The focus is on what exists and how it got that way rather than what ought to be. As a history of an international union in an industry of decentralized collective bargaining, the information on bargaining methods and patterns may seem meager. The author recognizes this but feels that such information is outside the scope of the study.

A word about source materials: I had available to me the proceedings of every convention of the union from 1898 and every issue of the union's journal from its beginning in 1902. Also available without restriction were the entire union files. In them were General Executive Board Minutes going back to the early years of this century, scattered correspondence from the period of the First World War growing more complete through the twenties and thirties and apparently all the correspondence from about 1940, and financial and membership records going back at least to the early 1930's. In addition, officers and members of the union throughout the country, active and retired, were unstinting in their compliance to requests for interviews.

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