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

By Alice H. Cook | Go to book overview

† CHAPTER 2 †
Design for a Study of Union Government

DURING 1959-1960 this writer undertook a study of the government of four large local unions in a major metropolis. The object of the study was to observe in detail the government and administration of several large, and therefore complicated, organizations. Local unions with a membership of not less than 25,000 each were selected on the hypothesis that structures of this size would present problems in bureaucratic administration, in the definition of constituency and of representation, in elections of leaders and in support and opposition to them, in several levels of decision making and communications, and in the exercise of a variety of controls. In a word, it was believed that organizations of this size would offer sophisticated examples of most of the problems raised in the literature. No particular presumption of democratic or non- democratic functioning entered into the selection process. Size and the concomitants of size as outlined here were the major considerations. Insofar as size may, in addition to everything else, be an index of success, there was a presumption that these unions would provide examples, however various, of efficient organizations.

The issue of democracy filled the surrounding air at the time with the passage of the Landrum-Griffin Act and the continuation after its passage of the congressional hearings which had originally been used to lay the groundwork for the Act. The writer was indeed curious to see to what degree the unions would conceive of themselves as democratic, attribute their success and efficiency to

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