The Making of the Labor Bureaucrat: Union Leadership in the United States, 1870-1920

The Making of the Labor Bureaucrat: Union Leadership in the United States, 1870-1920

The Making of the Labor Bureaucrat: Union Leadership in the United States, 1870-1920

The Making of the Labor Bureaucrat: Union Leadership in the United States, 1870-1920

Excerpt

Since World War II, there has been increased national concern over the activities of the labor bureaucrat. The growing awareness during the war of the power of leaders like John L. Lewis and Sidney Hillman, followed by the debates over the Taft-Hartley Act, the investigations of the McClellan Committee, the prosecution of Dave Beck and Jimmy Hoffa, and most recently the power struggle in the United Mine Workers between W. A. 'Tony' Boyle and the followers of the murdered Joseph Yablonsky have focused the attention of the general public, unionists, and the academic community on the modern labor leader and the related problem of internal union democracy.

One consequence of this increased interest has been the publication of a number of important studies on various aspects of union government. Written largely by sociologists, economists, and political scientists, these works provide valuable insights on the contemporary labor scene. Yet, with a few exceptions, they suffer from a general lack of historical perspective. Concerned with the modern labor leader and the organization he heads, many of these authors have dealt with their subject in static terms, unconcerned with the process of change and development. Lois MacDonald Leadership Dynamics and the Trade-Union Leader (1959), for example, provided an extensive review of the literature on labor leadership and suggested areas for future research. She called for the psychologist, sociologist, economist, political scientist, and others in the social sciences to explore the dynamics of labor leadership, but never did she suggest that the historian could make any contribution to the subject. To be sure, several scholars of the labor movement, includ-

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