Contemporary Unionism in the United States

By Clyde E. Dankert | Go to book overview

20
Union Rules and Policies (1)

Apprenticeship1

Historical background. Rules concerning apprenticeship are of very ancient origin, dating back at least to the code of Hammurabi and early Babylonia. They reached a high point of development under the medieval system, with its master-journeyman-apprentice structure. Later, and as a consequence of the growth of large producing units and the increasing impersonalization of industry, the apprenticeship rules were considerably modified, but some of the essential features of the old type of apprenticeship remained in operation.

From the very beginning unions have taken an interest in apprenticeship. Since the early unions were composed of skilled craftsmen it was more or less inevitable that they would try to exercise control over both the number of persons trained for, and entering, the trades, and over the type of training they received.

As long as craft unions predominated, apprenticeship regulations were strongly insisted upon by the unions. With the development of industrial unions (largely resulting from the growth of mechanization in industry), with the still further development of large-scale enterprise, and with the breakdown of many barriers between crafts, apprenticeship rules naturally became of less relative importance, and the percentage of unions with apprenticeship regulations diminished.

According to a study made in this country early in the present century approximately 70 A.F. of L. unions (in 1904) out of a total of 120, plus "about half a dozen unaffiliated unions attempted, more or less successfully, to enforce apprenticeship regulations."2 In 1936, according to Professor Slichter's calculations, 66 out of a total of 156 national and international unions attempted such regulation. Although this decline is quite marked, it is apparent that a not inconsiderable number of unions are still interested in the matter

____________________
1
Two sources have been especially useful to the author in writing the present section, which may be consulted for further information on the specific topics covered. The sources are Chapter 2 in Sumner Slichter book, Union Policies and Industrial Management. Washington: The Brookings Institution, 1941; and Chapter 24 in Union Agreement Provisions, Bulletin No. 686, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.
2
See J. M. Motley, Apprenticeship in American Trade Unions, p. 58. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1907.

-341-

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