The Background of American Labor Leaders
THE background of American labor leaders can be sketched only after the term "labor leader" has been defined. Is every union official a leader or is the term applicable only to presidents of large national and international unions? If a leader be one who influences the thoughts and actions of others, the number of labor leaders is legion. So broad a definition is not useful.
Alternatively, incumbents of particular posts, such as the members of the executive boards of national or international unions, can be defined as labor leaders. This approach might appear arbitrary, but it can easily be defended. Aside from the convention, the executive board is the highest power in the union. Every active competitor for a leadership post aspires to membership on the executive board of his union, and the president is almost always chosen from this group.
There is a practical reason for limiting this study of labor leaders to executive-board members. A preliminary survey disclosed that although it would prove difficult to secure factual information about executive-board members, reliable data about other leaders were almost completely lacking.
Concentrating on the executive board has its dangers. Some men doubtless succeed in being elected to the executive boards of their unions even though they do not possess the hallmarks of true leadership. Accident or politics catapults them into prominent posts. And the reverse is also true: in almost every union a few powerful leaders do not become members of the executive board.
With labor leaders defined as executive-board members, the next phase of the study was to select a representative group of