Contemporary Unionism in the United States

By Clyde E. Dankert | Go to book overview

16
Collective Bargaining

UNIONISTS USE three principal methods or techniques in attempting to achieve their objectives. They engage in collective bargaining, expecting thereby to win concessions (in the form of higher wages, shorter hours, and improved working conditions) from their employers; they participate in political activities, in an endeavor to influence the course of elections, the course of legislation, and the course of governmental administration; they establish various welfare and benefit programs, for the purpose of providing themselves with useful services and with the aim of promoting goodwill and solidarity within their organizations.

The first of these methods, collective bargaining, is much the most important. It is true that in recent years union interest in the use of political tactics has increased, and there has also been a growing interest on the part of the unions in certain welfare and benefit plans. But the method of collective bargaining, the "economic method" as it is sometimes called, easily retains its primacy. Unions, in brief, are collective bargaining agencies much more than they are political bodies or welfare and benefit societies.

The method of procedure we shall follow in dealing with the collective bargaining is as follows: in the present chapter we shall discuss some of the larger and more general points and issues relating to the question; and in the five chapters that follow we shall examine many of the details, considering them against a broad background and along with other pertinent matters.


The Nature and Significance of Collective Bargaining

At the very outset of our discussion a few words should be said about the term "collective bargaining" itself. The expression is now well established in the English language and has in fact become an indispensable part of labor terminology. But the expression apparently does not date back beyond 1891 when Mrs. Sidney Webb coined it.1 Thus we have another example of a process or phenomenon antedating the term that is applied to it. For a century and a half workers have been banding together for the purpose of acting

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1
See Sidney and Beatrice Webb, Industrial Democracy, new edition, p. 173. London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1902.

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