Union Democracy: Practice and Ideal: an Analysis of Four Large Local Unions

Union Democracy: Practice and Ideal: an Analysis of Four Large Local Unions

Union Democracy: Practice and Ideal: an Analysis of Four Large Local Unions

Union Democracy: Practice and Ideal: an Analysis of Four Large Local Unions

Excerpt

Private government has come to be a field of special interest to a number of political scientists whose studies of selected organizations have revealed a fascinating complex of problems and experience. The trade union has attracted many students, not only from political science but from other social science disciplines, and has as a result become one of the more thoroughly researched private or quasi-private institutions. The presentation of still another study of trade union structure and government needs, therefore, strong justification.

The impulse for the present undertaking arose with the national concern for union democracy which centered in the McClellan Investigating Committee of the United States Senate and which fanned out among legislators, scholars, trade union members and leaders, and from there to many persons quite unconnected with unions or labor affairs. In all these circles some aspects of the government of many unions seemed unsatisfactory.

Yet two central issues were largely overlooked and uninvestigated. In the first place was the obvious question of whether union governments were characterized by any democratic practices whatever. Conceivably, the Committee assumed that such practices of course existed and that there was, therefore, no need to reiterate or underscore their existence. If so, public opinion, as it was molded in the course of the hearings, reflected little if any of this attitude. The further question was what constituted democracy as applied to unions. While this matter has been the subject of a long-continuing discussion among the scholars, the answer which the Committee gave was presumably largely summed up in the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act, the end product of its labors. In a sense, the law answers the question of whether unions are democratic governments with a positive . . .

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