Contemporary Unionism in the United States

By Clyde E. Dankert | Go to book overview

26
Union-Management Cooperation

IT CAN be stated as a general truth that under any economic system the ideal type of relationship between unions and management is one characterized by cooperation. When the members of the two groups work together for the achievement of common objectives (and cooperation always implies common objectives), not only are they themselves certain to be benefited but society at large will probably be favorably affected as well. The only exceptions to this rule are when the objectives are of a restrictive, price-enhancing nature.

Under democratic socialism cooperation between management and unions should not be difficult to achieve since management would be of a public rather than a private nature. Under democratic capitalism, such as we have in this country, cooperation between the members of the two groups is more difficult of realization. Despite the obstacles in the way, however, unions and management have found it possible in some instances to "get together," and the likelihood is that in the years ahead there will be still more instances of cooperation between them.


Stages in Union-Management Relations

In the development of union-management relations in this country it is possible to see two stages of growth and to discern the beginning of a third. One might call the first of these stages that of Opposition; the second, that of Toleration; and the third, that of Cooperation.

In the first stage the attitude of management toward unions, and of unions toward management, is one of profound dislike and extreme hostility. Conflict between the two groups is likely to be marked by great bitterness and by the use of extreme tactics. The most violent of the industrial disturbances in American trade union history, such as the Great Railroad Strikes of 1877 and the Little Steel Strikes of 1937, have ordinarily taken place in this stage.

The stage of Toleration is characterized by a certain degree of moderation. Management, although not friendly toward the unions, accepts them--as a sort of unavoidable evil. The unions, on their part, although they do not assume a generous attitude toward management, are less extreme in their behavior. In this stage both the unions and management show a greater will

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