American Labor Unions: Organization, Aims, and Power

American Labor Unions: Organization, Aims, and Power

American Labor Unions: Organization, Aims, and Power

American Labor Unions: Organization, Aims, and Power

Excerpt

To attempt to relate the story of American labor unions in one volume is a bold undertaking. Books can be -- and have been -- written about dozens of individual aspects of labor unions in the United States. This volume, then, is undertaken with some necessary restrictions in scope. The material focuses almost entirely on the current scene, with historical background and development supplied only in cases where it might not be obvious or otherwise easily available. Another limitation was placed on examination of individual union leaders, important as are such individuals as Philip Murray, William Green, John L. Lewis, and many others. Only where they serve as an example of some broad phase of union development and action (such as a comparison between Walter Reuther's United Automobile Workers and Dave Beck's teamsters) are union leaders discussed in any detail.

It would also be impossible in the space available to present in anything but a general way the collective bargaining demands of unions in their relation to the American economy. Whether and under what circumstances a union seeks an 18 per cent wage rise or a thirty-hour week or new guarantees against discharges depends on the economic climate and the union's strength at the moment. What will be the case in detail today will not hold for tomorrow. But in general the aims of labor unions have been clear for years, and it is possible to discuss these without regard to changes in day-to-day tactics.

But beyond these limitations there is much which can be told about American labor unions, and the selections in this volume are intended, above all else, to show the part played by organized labor in the drama of American life. Whether this role is that of the dashing young hero or of the villainous "heavy" depends on the views of the observer -- and this volume seeks to include all interpretations. Nevertheless it seems reasonable to take as a starting point that all but the minutest segment of opinion in . . .

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