Contemporary Unionism in the United States

By Clyde E. Dankert | Go to book overview

14
Union Activities and Functions (1)

BEFORE WE begin our analysis of union activities it should be noted that the scope of these activities has been growing very noticeably in recent years. In addition to engaging in tasks they have long performed, unions-- especially the parent bodies--are now undertaking new tasks. The extent to which they are entering the fresh fields of endeavor varies greatly from one organization to another, however. Some unions, like those in the building trades, adhere rather closely to the old policies. The "new-fangled" ideas have little appeal to them. But other unions, such as those in the clothing industry, assume a different attitude. They seem quite willing to launch out in new directions, to adopt new policies and new techniques.

The policies and techniques the latter unions are ready to apply are diverse in nature. They include such things as research work, counseling, radio broadcasting, and pamphleteering, art classes, book stores, baseball leagues, and educational classes. All of these represent relatively new developments in American unionism. All must be included in any discussion of union activities that aims at adequate coverage.


Organizing Work

National and international unions have usually been formed out of pre- existing locals. Once formed, however, these organizations become interested in establishing new locals and in increasing the size of the old ones. Local unions may sometimes be opposed to enlarging their membership, fearing that this will interfere with the economic well-being of those who are already members, but this attitude is not shared by the parent unions. Their desire is to expand their membership, not contract or restrict it.

Therefore, the parent unions play an active part in organizing the unorganized. These bodies ordinarily have a number of organizers on their payrolls who devote all or part of their time to organizational work. The officers of the unions may also devote some of their time to this purpose, although usually their activities in the field are limited to particular occasions. If a union is large and aggressive, its organizers may be numerous and their total salaries large. The International Ladies Garment Workers' Union, for example, in 1945 had 151 organizers who, in the aggregate, received $7,387

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