THE ORGANIZATION OF THE NATIONAL UNION
AMONG THE VARIOUS institutional organizations of the labor movement, the national (or international) union is the main center of power and authority. As we have seen, the importance of national unions was recognized by Sylvis as early as the 1850's and by Gompers and other leaders in the early days of the old Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions; their effectiveness was demonstrated by the fact that they survived both the early attacks by employers and the mass movement of the Knights of Labor. Especially after the turn of the present century, their strength increased in comparison with the state and local federations of labor, and they dominated both the A.F. of L. and the CIO. Although there have been some attempts to lessen autonomy within the AFL-CIO, if the nationals, especially the larger ones, were unwilling to work together, the merged organization would be powerless.
The national union's source of strength is essentially its control, through either its national officers or its chartered locals, of the bargaining with employers on the terms and conditions of employment. The AFL-CIO bargains with employers only in the case of directly affiliated locals that are chartered by the federation rather than by a national union, and state federations of labor and city centrals cannot act as bargaining agencies. At times several nationals, or their locals, will cooperate in negotiating with a common employer, or with groups of employers, on either a temporary or a permanent basis, through joint councils such as those found in the construction, printing, and hotel industries. But the ultimate authority for participation in such arrangements, for the determination of collective