Contemporary Unionism in the United States

By Clyde E. Dankert | Go to book overview

13
Union Government and Administration

A VOLUNTARY organization of any type represents a collective endeavor to achieve certain objectives which are dictated by the wishes of the organization's members. It follows that two supremely important problems inevitably arise in any such organization: how to discover, accurately, what the wishes of the members are; and how best to go about the task of transforming these wishes into the substance of reality.

A union, which is in essence a voluntary organization (although the application of the closed-shop principle has introduced a substantial element of compulsion into union policy) is confronted with these two problems. Local unions, unless they are very large, can handle them without excessive difficulty. By holding regular membership meetings the locals are able to ascertain what the wishes of the individual unionists are, and by electing a slate of officers, clothed with administrative power, they are in a position to have these wishes acted upon.

In the case of the parent organizations the matter is not so simple. Here general membership meetings are out of the question, and hence it is not as easy to discover what the desires of the members are. However, through the holding of periodic conventions composed of delegates from their subordinate bodies and through the use of the referendum the parent unions are able to discover with some degree of accuracy what policies the members favor, and through the setting-up of an executive board or council the desires of the members can find expression in definite action.


Government and Administration of the Locals

The basic governmental and administrative units in the union edifice are the locals. Upon them the whole union structure is built. It is true, as we noted in a previous chapter, that a union may have sub-local units--the so- called shop meetings or shop committees--but these are not on a par with the locals. Although they may perform valuable services for the individual worker and for the union, they are not policy-making bodies. We shall begin our discussion of union government and administration, therefore, by first

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