Labor Economics: Theory, Institutions, and Public Policy

By Ray Marshall; Vernon M. Briggs Jr. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 12
American Trade Unionism: Present and Future

Since the merger of the AFL-CIO in 1955, the trade union movement has entered a new phase of its evolutionary development. Highlights of this period include passage of federal legislation to govern the internal affairs of trade unions; concern over the influences of corruption and racketeering in some unions; a social revolution pertaining to the treatment of minorities and women; dramatic changes in the work force due to the increased participation of women; demographic transformations; technological developments and structural shifts in the demand for labor; declining public support for unions; intensified international competition; the spread of multinational corporations; and the institutionalization of more subtle union avoidance methods by employers. This chapter will discuss these and related matters in order to identify the contemporary status of trade unionism in American society. It will also speculate about the future prospects for the nation's labor movement.

Before addressing particular issues, it is necessary to discuss briefly the dominant labor organization of this period -- the AFL-CIO -- as well as the structural relationships between the different layers of the labor movement.


STRUCTURE OF THE AFL-CIO

The organizational structure of the AFL-CIO, outlined in Figure 12-1, closely resembles that of the old AFL. The AFL-CIO's constitution, adopted at the founding convention in 1955, vests supreme governing power in the biennial convention. Affiliated organizations, the most important of which are the national (or international) unions, are represented at conventions on the basis of their dues-paying membership. The AFL-CIO's affairs are directed between conventions by its executive officers (president and secretary-treasurer) assisted by the Executive Council, the Executive Committee, and the General Board. The Executive Council has the authority to issue charters to groups not eligible for membership in national unions and to combine directly affiliated local unions into organizing committees.

The chief governing body between conventions is the Executive Council, which consists of the 2 executive officers and 33 vice presidents. The Executive Council

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