Contemporary Unionism in the United States

By Clyde E. Dankert | Go to book overview

9
Independent Unions

THE "BIG TWO" of the American labor movement are the A.F. of L. and the C.I.O. These organizations, including their subordinate units, give to the movement its most outstanding characteristics, and it is through them that labor exerts its chief influence on the life of the nation. But the Big Two by no means constitute the whole of the American labor world. There are other organizations that co-exist with the Big Two, a few of which, notably the Big Four Railroad Brotherhoods, are of very considerable significance. We cannot call them first-rate powers, but they are unquestionably of a second-rate order of importance. Most of the unions outside of the Big Two, however, are relatively small and weak, having little influence beyond the narrow confines in which they operate--even within these confines their influence may be small. These organizations we may refer to as third-rate or fourth-rate powers.


Nature and Extent of Independent Unionism

The unions outside of the A.F. of L. and the C.I.O. are generally spoken of as independent unions. The word "independent" is not to be interpreted as meaning that these unions always exist for and by themselves and there are never any connecting links between them. It merely connotes non-affiliation with either of the Big Two. Some of the independent unions have been members of one or other of these organizations in times past, but most of them, particularly the small ones, have had an independent status from the beginning.

The only general feature the independent unions have in common, apart from their espousal of the cause of labor, is their independence. In terms of other characteristics they exhibit wide variations: some of them are old, having been formed many years ago; others are very much in the infant stage. A few of them are large, with thousands of members; others, confined to single enterprises, are very small. Many of them are highly conservative in their outlook and behavior; others, and in this case a minute fraction, are very radical, strongly opposed to the present economic order. Not a few of the independent unions occupy intermediate ground, somewhere between the extremes just noted.

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