Patterns of Union-Management Relations: United Automobile Workers (CIO), General Motors, Studebaker

By Frederick H. Harbison; Robert Dubin | Go to book overview

CHAPTER I
Union-Management Relations in Mass Production Industries

THE impact of powerful labor unions on the business enterprise system has caused great changes in the American economy during the past decade. Prior to the depression of the thirties, business enterprise was the principal force shaping the social and political life of the nation. But the era of unchallenged leadership of business, which probably reached its peak in the twenties, has passed. Today, labor unions, particularly those operating in basic industries, have acquired economic and political strength which matches at many points the power and influence possessed by business organizations.

The competition for leadership between business and unions at times has resulted in open conflict and nationwide strikes in the basic industries. Consequently, by 1947 the "labor problem" had become perhaps the most crucial domestic issue facing the nation.

An underlying purpose of research in labor-management relations should be to analyze the impact of labor unions on the business enterprise system. This calls for an objective appraisal of the nature of the various kinds of relationships between unions and employers and an understanding of the influence which such relationships have on the nation's economic, social and political institutions. It also calls, we feel, for a completely new approach to the study of the "labor problem."

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