A History of Trade Unionism in the United States

By Selig Perlman | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 5
THE VICTORY OF CRAFT UNIONISM AND THE
FINAL FAILURE OF PRODUCERS'
COOPERATION

We now come to the most significant aspect of the Great Upheaval: the life and death struggle between two opposed principles of labor organization and between two opposed labor programs. The Upheaval offered the practical test which the labor movement required for an intelligent decision between the rival claims of Knights and trade unionists. The test as well as the conflict turned principally on "structure," that is on the difference between "craft autonomists" and those who would have labor organized "under one head," or what we would now call the "one big union" advocates.

As the issue of "structure" proved in the crucial eighties, and has remained ever since, the outstanding factional issue in the labor movement, it might be well at this point to pass in brief review the structural developments in labor organization from the beginning and try to correlate them with other important developments.

The early 1 societies of shoemakers and printers were purely local in scope and the relations between "locals" extended only to feeble attempts to deal with the competition of traveling journeymen. Occasionally, they corresponded on trade matters, notifying each other of their purposes and the nature of their demands, or expressing

____________________
1
See Chapter 1.

-106-

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