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Industrial unionism


Industrial unionism

Diagram published by the Industrial Workers of Great Britain explaining industrial unionism in terms of two opposing battle fronts.

Industrial unionism is a the slogans, "an injury to one is an injury to all" and "the longer the picket line, the shorter the strike."

Industrial unionism contrasts with

  • De Leon, Industrial Unionism
  • New Unionism Network, Unionism 101

External links

  1. ^ Marion Dutton Savage, Industrial Unionism in America, 1922, page 3.
  2. ^ a b Marion Dutton Savage, Industrial Unionism in America, 1922, pages 19-21.
  3. ^ Marion Dutton Savage, Industrial Unionism in America, 1922, page 21.
  4. ^ Marion Dutton Savage, Industrial Unionism in America, 1922, pages 21-22.
  5. ^ a b c Marion Dutton Savage, Industrial Unionism in America, 1922, page 4.
  6. ^ Marion Dutton Savage, Industrial Unionism in America, 1922, pages 4-5.
  7. ^ a b c Marion Dutton Savage, Industrial Unionism in America, 1922, pages 22-24.
  8. ^ a b Paul Frederick Brissenden, The I.W.W. A Study of American Syndicalism, Columbia University, 1919, page 27
  9. ^ Melvyn Dubofsky, 'Big Bill' Haywood, 1987, pages 20 and 33.
  10. ^ James P. Cannon, The I.W.W., Summer 1955 issue of Fourth International (later International Socialist Review).
  11. ^ A Pictorial History of American Labor, William Cahn, 1972, page 137. The question of admitting physicians is disputed—for example, "no... doctor... could be admitted," A History of American Labor, Joseph G. Rayback, 1966, page 145.
  12. ^ A Pictorial History of American Labor, William Cahn, 1972, pages 137 and 160.
  13. ^ Marion Dutton Savage, Industrial Unionism in America, 1922, page 15.
  14. ^ a b A History of American Labor, Joseph G. Rayback, 1966, page 145.
  15. ^ a b c Marion Dutton Savage, Industrial Unionism in America, 1922, page 16.
  16. ^ Workers and Utopia, A Study of Ideological Conflict in the American Labor Movement 1865-1900, by Gearald N. Grob, 1961, page 74.
  17. ^ A Pictorial History of American Labor, William Cahn, 1972, page 139-140.
  18. ^ A Pictorial History of American Labor, William Cahn, 1972, page 137.
  19. ^ a b The Rise and Repression of Radical Labor, Daniel R. Fusefeld, 1985, pages 6-7.
  20. ^ A Pictorial History of American Labor, William Cahn, 1972, page 137 and 139.
  21. ^ Marion Dutton Savage, Industrial Unionism in America, 1922, page 19.
  22. ^ A Pictorial History of American Labor, William Cahn, 1972, page 231.
  23. ^ A Pictorial History of American Labor, William Cahn, 1972, page 160.
  24. ^ The IWW: Its First Seventy Years, Fred W. Thompson and Patrick Murfin, 1976, page 8 ppbk.
  25. ^ a b c A.H.Raskin, Cyrus S. Ching: pioneer in industrial peacemaking, Monthly Labor Review, August 1989, pages 22-35.
  26. ^ Solidarity Forever—An oral history of the IWW, Stewart Bird, Dan Georgakas, Deborah Shaffer, 1985, page 140.
  27. ^ A Pictorial History of American Labor, William Cahn, 1972, page 201.
  28. ^ Constitution and By-Laws of the Industrial Workers of the World, Preamble, 1905, Retrieved April 19, 2007.
  29. ^ Paul Frederick Brissenden, The I.W.W. A Study of American Syndicalism, Columbia University, 1919, page 87
  30. ^ The IWW: Its First Seventy Years, Fred W. Thompson and Patrick Murfin, 1976, page 5 ppbk.
  31. ^ Paul Frederick Brissenden, The I.W.W. A Study of American Syndicalism, Columbia University, 1919, page 86
  32. ^ A History of American Labor, Joseph G. Rayback, 1966, page 201.
  33. ^ Roughneck: The Life and Times of Big Bill Haywood, Peter Carlson, 1983, pp. 80.
  34. ^ Roughneck: The Life and Times of Big Bill Haywood, Peter Carlson, 1983, pp. 79.
  35. ^ William E. Bohn, The Survey: social, charitable, civic : a journal of constructive philanthropy, Volume 28, "The Industrial Workers of the World", Charity Organization Society of the City of New York, 1912
  36. ^ A Pictorial History of American Labor, William Cahn, 1972, page 177.
  37. ^ The IWW: Its First Seventy Years, Fred W. Thompson and Patrick Murfin, 1976, page 6 ppbk, quoting Pinkerton in Daily People, Nov. 4, 1906.
  38. ^ a b J. Hugh Tuck, "The United Brotherhood of Railway Employees in Western Canada, 1898-1905", 1983
  39. ^ Morris Friedman, The Pinkerton's labor spy, Wilshire book co., 1907, page 189
  40. ^ The IWW: Its First Seventy Years, Fred W. Thompson and Patrick Murfin, 1976, page 7 ppbk.
  41. ^ The IWW: Its First Seventy Years, Fred W. Thompson and Patrick Murfin, 1976, page 7-8 ppbk.
  42. ^ A Pictorial History of American Labor, William Cahn, 1972, pages 253-254.
  43. ^ a b Melvyn Dubofsky, We Shall Be All, A History of the Industrial Workers of the World, University of Illinois Press Abridged, 2000, page 36
  44. ^ Melvyn Dubofsky, We Shall Be All, A History of the Industrial Workers of the World, University of Illinois Press Abridged, 2000, page 40
  45. ^ Preamble to the Constitution, Industrial Workers of the World, 1905, retrieved March 12, 2011
  46. ^ The IWW: Its First Seventy Years, Fred W. Thompson and Patrick Murfin, 1976, pp. 127 ppbk.
  47. ^ The Autobiography of Big Bill Haywood, 1929, pp. 297 ppbk.
  48. ^ a b c d e Kevin Starr, Endangered Dreams: The Great Depression in California, Oxford University Press US, 1997, page 48
  49. ^ Paul Frederick Brissenden, The I.W.W. A Study of American Syndicalism, Columbia University, 1919, page 340, quoting a March 17, 1917 Solidarity reprint of Direct Action (Sydney)
  50. ^ Paul Frederick Brissenden, The I.W.W. A Study of American Syndicalism, Columbia University, 1919, page 280
  51. ^ Paul Frederick Brissenden, The I.W.W. A Study of American Syndicalism, Columbia University, 1919, pages 341-342
  52. ^ a b c Daniel Bloomfield, Selected Articles on Modern Industrial Movements,H.W. Wilson Co., 1919, pages 39-40.
  53. ^ Burgmann, Verity. Revolutionary industrial unionism : the Industrial Workers of the World in Australia. Cambridge, UK ; New York : Cambridge University Press, c1995.
  54. ^ Marion Dutton Savage, Industrial Unionism in America, 1922, page 6.
  55. ^ Marion Dutton Savage, Industrial Unionism in America, 1922, pages 6-7.
  56. ^ Marion Dutton Savage, Industrial Unionism in America, 1922, pages 7-8.
  57. ^ Marion Dutton Savage, Industrial Unionism in America, 1922, pages 13-14.
  58. ^ This is KCTU, Building Industrial Unionism
  59. ^ About Cosatu, One industry, one union - one country, one federation


See also

[59] The

South Africa

[58] The theory and practice of industrial unionism is not confined to the western, English speaking world. The


In 1910 Workers' International Industrial Union, which was similar to the IWW from North America.[57]

Industrial unionism thence proceeded primarily by combining craft unions into industrial formations, rather than through the birth of new industrial organizations. Industrial organizations prior to 1922 included the National Transport Workers' Federation, the National Union of Railwaymen, and the Miners' Federation.[56]

A new union movement that was "distinctly class conscious and vaguely Socialistic" began to organize unskilled workers in 1889.[55]

[54] Marion Dutton Savage associates the spirit of industrial unionism with "the aspiration of workers for the control of industry" inspired by


The IWW's politics in 2007 mirror Burgmann's analysis: the IWW does not proclaim Syndicalism, or Anarchism (despite the large number of anarcho-syndicalist members) but instead advocates Revolutionary Industrial Unionism.

Verity Burgmann asserts in Revolutionary industrial unionism that the IWW's vision was always a totalising vision of a revolutionary society: the Industrial Commonwealth.[53]


Industrial unionism outside the United States

Some political parties also promote industrial unionism, such as the Socialist Labor Party of America, whose early leader Daniel De Leon formulated a form of industrial unionism as the mechanism of government in the SLP's vision of a socialist society, and the British Labour Party which has relations with affiliated trade unions.

Political parties and industrial unionism

Revolutionary Industrial Unionism, that is the proposition that all wage workers come together in organization according to industry; the groupings of the workers in each of the big divisions of industry as a whole into local, national, and international industrial unions; all to be interlocked, dovetailed, welded into One Big Union for all wage workers; a big union bent on aggressively forging ahead and compelling shorter hours, more wages and better conditions in and out of the work shop... until the working class is able to take possession and control of the machinery, premises, and materials of production right from the capitalists' hands...[52]
In short the Industrial Union, is bent upon forming one grand united working class organization and doing away with all the divisions that weaken the solidarity of the workers to better their conditions.[52]
The principle on which industrial unionism takes its stand is the recognition of the never ending struggle between the employers of labor and the working class. [The industrial union] must educate its members to a complete understanding of the principles and causes underlying every struggle between the two opposing classes. This self-imposed drill, discipline and training will be the methods of the O. B. U.[52]

Historically, industrial unionism has frequently been associated with the concept of One Big Union (OBU). On July 12, 1919, The New England Worker published "The Principle of Industrial Union":

And One Big Union

From working class into One Big Union which would struggle for improved working conditions and wages in the short term, while working to ultimately overthrow capitalism through a general strike, after which the members of the union would manage production (also see anarcho-syndicalism which has some similarities...)

While Brissenden notes that IWW coal miners in Australia successfully used direct action to free imprisoned strike leaders and to win other demands, Wobbly opposition to conscription during World War I "became so obnoxious" to the Australian government that laws were passed which "practically made it a criminal offense to be a member of the I.W.W."[51]

In essence, the lesson learned is that governments will use legislative and judicial means to thwart attempts to change the economic system, even when conducted by non-violent means. Therefore, in order to significantly improve the status of working people who sell their labor—according to this belief—no less than organizing as an entire class of workers can accomplish and sustain the necessary change.

At Sacramento, on January 16, 1919, according to daily press reports, all of the 46 defendants in the California I.W.W. conspiracy case tried there in the Federal District Court were found guilty of conspiring to violate the Constitution of the United States and the Espionage Act and with attempting to obstruct the war activities of the Government. All of the defendants were members—or alleged members—of the I.W.W. and the case is similar to the one tried in Chicago in 1918. On January 17 Judge Rudkin is reported to have sentenced 43 of the defendants to prison terms of from one to ten years (New York Times, January 17 and 18, 1919).[50]
...several laws have been enacted which have been more or less directly aimed at the Industrial Workers of the World. Australia led off with the "Unlawful Associations Act" passed by the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth in December, 1916. (Reported in the New York Times, December 20, 1916, p. s, col. 2. Cf. infra, p. 341.) Within three months of the passage of the Australian Act, the American States of Minnesota and Idaho passed laws "defining criminal syndicalism and prohibiting the advocacy thereof." In February, 1918, the Montana legislature met in extraordinary session and enacted a similar statute.

Brissenden also recorded that,

All the machinery of the capitalist state has been turned against us. Our hall has been raided periodically as a matter of principle, our literature, our papers, pictures, and press have all been confiscated; our members and speakers have been arrested and charged with almost every crime on the calendar; the authorities are making unscrupulous, bitter and frantic attempts to stifle the propaganda of the I.W.W.[49]

Writing in 1919, Paul Brissenden quoted an IWW publication in Sydney, Australia:

In the United States, IWW executive board officer Frank Little was lynched from a railroad trestle.[48] Seventeen Wobblies in Tulsa were beaten by a mob and driven out of town.[48] In the third quarter of 1917, the New York Times ran sixty articles attacking the IWW.[48] The Justice Department launched raids on IWW headquarters across the country.[48] The New York Tribune suggested that the IWW was a German front, responsible for acts of sabotage throughout the nation.[48]

Such tendencies appeared to be in play in 1917, the year of the Russian revolution. Fred Thompson has written, "Capitalists believed revolution imminent, feared it, legislated against it and bought books on how to keep workers happy."[46] Such instincts also played a role when the governments of fourteen industrialized nations intervened in the civil war that followed the Russian revolution. Likewise, when the Industrial Workers of the World became the target of government intervention during the period from 1917 to 1921, the governments of the United States, Australia[47] and Canada acted simultaneously.

Tied closely to the concept of organizing not as a craft, or even as a group of workers with industrial ties, but rather, as a Working class, is the idea that all of the business world and government, and even the preponderance of the powerful industrial governments of the world, tend to unite to preserve the status quo of the economic system. This encompasses not only the various political systems and the vital question of property rights, but also the relationships between working people and their employers.

Revolutionary industrial unionism

The CIO and to a lesser extent, the AFL (which was already more conservative) purged themselves of radical members and officers in the years before they merged, as part of what came to be known as the (second) red scare. Some entire unions, perceived by the labor federation leadership as incapable of being reformed, were expelled or replaced.

Thus, industrial unionism, guided as it was by socialist promptings, has sometimes been considered a more radical—or even revolutionary—form of unionism (see below.)

Ed Boyce of the Western Federation of Miners also embraced industrial unionism, believing, as did Debs, that it had more potential than craft unionism. They likewise recognized that industrial unionism alone could not bring into existence the new society that they envisioned.[43] They, along with the WFM's Bill Haywood and others, were instrumental in launching the Western Labor Union, which soon became the American Labor Union, which in 1905 led the way to the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). Boyce proclaimed that labor must "abolish the wage system which is more destructive of human rights and liberty than any other slave system devised,"[44] and the IWW later echoed his words in its Preamble. "The working class and the employing class have nothing in common," the Preamble proclaimed. "There can be no peace so long as hunger and want are found among millions of working people and the few, who make up the employing class, have all the good things of life. Between these two classes a struggle must go on..."[45]

Eugene Debs' early experience with labor actions convinced him to move from craft unionism to militant industrial unionism. During his six months in prison after the American Railway Union was crushed, he became acquainted with socialist principles.[43]

Anti-IWW cartoon from The American Employer, published 1913, with the Industrial Workers of the World organizing drive editorialized as "a volcano of hate stirred into active eruption at Akron, by alien hands, which pour into the crater the disturbing acids and alkalis of greed, class hatred and anarchy. From the mouth of the pit rise poisonous clouds of suspicion, malice and envy to pollute the air, while from the cracked and breaking sides of the groaning mountain flow streams of lava of murder, anarchy and destruction, threatening to engulf in their path the fair cities and fertile farms of Ohio."
At The Parting Of The Ways — A cartoon from the May, 1919 IWW periodical One Big Union, published in Revolutionary Radicalism, shows a worker (representing the working class) choosing between an AFL slogan (A Fair Day's Pay for a Fair Day's Work) and an IWW slogan (Abolition of the Wage System).
Radicalism in the union movement The craft-based AFL had been slow to organize industrial workers, and the federation remained steadfastly committed to craft unionism. This changed in the mid-1930s when, after passage of the

The craft union federation adopts an industrial union concept

Gompers had promised that each trade and craft would have its own union. The Scranton Declaration acknowledged that one affiliate, the [41] The AFL was holding the door open for craft unions that might join, and slamming it in the face of the industrial unions who wanted to join. The following year the two thousand member UBRE joined the organizing convention of the IWW.

In 1904 the largest industrial union organization, the Western Federation of Miners, was under significant pressure from Scranton Declaration of 1901 was the AFL's guiding principle.[40]

The Scranton Declaration, and the isolation of industrial unions

[38] Like the General Managers Association of Chicago, the

There was an effort to establish a new industrial union to take the place of the railroad brotherhoods. The Order of Railroad Telegraphers. The UBRE came to public notice when it conducted a moderately successful strike in Manitoba in 1902.[38]

...[Debs] had left them without a fighting industrial union and forced them to enter the scab craft movements after he changed the ARU to a political movement...[37]

Many companies prefer no union whatsoever. However, when given the choice of an industrial union or a craft union, companies appear to prefer organization by craft unions. As an example, after the American Railway Union was destroyed, Eugene Debs, who had read Marx while serving his sentence, turned to politics, seeking solutions to the problems of working people through socialism.[36] Some railroad workers in Indiana, Kansas, and Illinois who had been a part of Debs' ARU in 1894 resented the fact that Debs turned to socialism for,

Companies prefer to be organized by craft unions

In 1912, William E. Bohn was able to predict about the two foremost examples of industrial unionism then extant, "It is possible that neither the CIO in the 1930s.

Haywood went on to help organize the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), which was itself injured by government action during and after World War I.

A craft unionist might argue the miners would have been better off sticking to their own business. After all, both the miner's union and the fledgling mill worker's unions had been destroyed. But Haywood took away from this experience the conviction that labor needed more, not less, industrial unionism. The miners had struck in sympathy with the smeltermen, but other unions—notably, craft unions—had not.[34]

The WFM had sought to extend the benefits of union to mill workers who processed the ore dug by miners. Miners and mill workers walked out to support the organizing drive. The 1903-04 Cripple Creek strike was defeated when unionized railroad workers continued to haul ore from the mines to the mills, in spite of strike breakers having been introduced at mine and at mill. "The railroaders form the connecting link in the proposition that is scabby at both ends," Haywood wrote. "This fight, which is entering its third year, could have been won in three weeks if it were not for the fact that the trade unions are lending assistance to the mine operators."[33]

One union leader who closely observed the experiences of the ARU was Big Bill Haywood, who became the powerful secretary treasurer of the Western Federation of Miners (WFM). Haywood had long been a critic of the craft unionism of the AFL, and applied the industrial unionism critique to the railway brotherhoods — closely associated as they were with the AFL — in a strike called by his own miner's union.

Bill Haywood

The General Managers turned to the federal government, which immediately sent federal troops and United States Marshals to force an end to the strike.

We can handle the railway brotherhoods, but we cannot handle the A.R.U.... We cannot handle Debs. We have got to wipe him out.[32]

A statement was issued by the chairman of the General Managers Association, a "half-secret combination of twenty-four railroads centering on Chicago," which acknowledged the power of industrial unionism:

Within hours of the ARU lending support to the boycott, Pullman traffic ceased to move from Chicago to the West. The boycott then spread to the South and the East.

Eugene Debs formed the strike against the Pullman company. The sympathy strike demonstrated the enormous power of united action, yet resulted in a decisive government response to end the strike and destroy the union.

For many, organizing industrially is seen as conferring a more powerful structural base from which to challenge employers. Yet this very power has sometimes prompted governments to act as a counterweight to maintain the existing power relationships in society. There are historical examples.

According to autocratic leadership,[29] and a relationship between union leaders and millionaires in the National Civic Federation that was altogether too cozy. IWW leaders believed that in the AFL there was too little solidarity, and too little "straight" labor education. These circumstances led to too little appreciation of what could be won, and too little will to win it.[30]

Eugene V. Debs — photo published in a 1920 government publication

An outgrowth of the struggles of the Western Federation of Miners (WFM), the IWW also adopted the WFM's description of the AFL as the "American Separation of Labor."[27] While the IWW shared the concept of a mass-oriented labor movement—what the IWW would call One Big Union—with the Knights of Labor,[19] the idea of workers having much in common with employers was discarded by the IWW, whose Preamble declares that "the working class and the employing class have nothing in common."[28]

[26] Six weeks after formation of the Asiatic Exclusion League, the

Industrial unionism as rejection of craft unionism

[Hoover] asked these men why their companies didn't sit down with Gompers and try to work out an amicable relationship with organized labor. Such a relationship, in Hoover's opinion, would be a bulwark against the spread of radicalism reflected in the rise of the "Wobblies," the [25]

Before Herbert Hoover became president, he befriended AFL President Gompers. Hoover, as the former United States Food Administrator, president of the Federated Engineering Societies, and then Secretary of Commerce in the Harding Cabinet in 1921, invited the heads of several "forward-looking" major corporations to meet with him.

Having experienced such a breakout into separate labor classifications at Boston transit, Ching opposed such a concept when he became director of industrial relations for the United States Rubber Company. According to economic analyst A.H. Raskin, Ching recognized "that the AFL's commitment to craft delimitation provided poor protection for the welfare of workers in a mass production industry like rubbermaking, which operated along industrial, rather than craft, lines."[25]

When possible, the AFL forced industrial unions to break up into craft unions, dividing their memberships into exclusive groups with individual contracts. One example was the Amalgamated Association of Street Car Employees (AASCE) in 1912 which, with the aid of Cyrus S. Ching as company negotiator for Boston's public transit system, reached a system-wide agreement for all transit workers. But the AFL and its building trades affiliates were not happy with such an arrangement. Ching, AFL President Samuel Gompers, and International President William D. Mahon of the AASCE, held conferences in which the AASCE ceded jurisdiction over carpenters, painters, electricians, and other skilled trades. The union's membership was divided into 34 distinct labor units, each with a separate agreement.[25]

The AFL frequently enforced its agenda upon its member unions with an imposed exclusivity. For example, the United Brewery Workmen (UBW) was affiliated with both the AFL and the Knights of Labor (KOL) from 1893 to 1896. Their purpose in dual affiliation was increasing the breadth of the boycott, which they had found a useful weapon. The AFL threatened to revoke the charter of the national UBW, and they withdrew from the KOL, while urging their individual members to keep their membership in the KOL.[24]

Many Black workers never had the opportunity to learn a skill, and most AFL unions did not organize unskilled workers.[22] Not only did many AFL unions exclude Black workers[23] or relegate them into separate organizations, different groups of Asian immigrants had been excluded for decades. In May 1905 the Asiatic Exclusion League was organized to propagandize against Asian immigration, with many unions participating.

The early rationale for craft unionism was that solidarity among diverse workers seemed difficult to obtain, while the AFL believed that skilled workers could more easily get improved conditions for themselves.[21] Thus, craft unions have been criticized as a labor elite.

Samuel Gompers, head of the American Federation of Labor

[20] In a sense, craft unions provided a good defense for the privileges of membership, but the offensive power of craft unions to effect change in society at large has been circumscribed by a self-limiting vision. The AFL was businesslike and pragmatic, adopting the motto, "A fair day's wage for a fair day's work."[19] The

Cartoon spoof of craft union divisions in the AFL—from a Wobbly perspective.

Ascendance of a craft union federation

But the AFL seemed more in touch with some of the goals of working people. The KOL began to falter when its leadership appeared to be out of touch with those goals. For example, the AFL supported the eight hour day. Although the Knights supported the concept in their constitution,[14] they failed to provide a plan for its implementation.[16] Perhaps in part because employers were accepted into the KOL, leadership of the Knights considered a shorter workday impractical. The KOL leadership tried fruitlessly to discourage members from supporting the eight hour movement that was embraced by the AFL.[17] In its declining years, the remaining KOL membership was primarily rural and middle class.[15]

The KOL had an enormous membership compared to the early AFL.[14] The KOL primarily consisted of previously unorganized semi-skilled workmen and machine operators.[15] During 1886 KOL membership grew from 15,000 members to 700,000.[15]

The evolution and competition of labor organizations is quite complex, and there are many factors beyond philosophy or specific organizational structure that determine success or failure. The KOL's policies on a number of issues seemed more progressive than those of the AFL—organizing unskilled workers, educating against discrimination, and a dedication to broad idealism.[12] The KOL subordinated separate craft interests to the welfare of all the workers.[13]

Terence Powderly, Grand Master Workman of the Knights of Labor.

[11] The

The mass organization displaced

Organizational philosophies for the labor movement grow out of observation and experimentation. Success and failure combine with the aspirations and needs of working people and, in many cases, with the role of government to determine which union concepts will flourish, and which will be abandoned.

History of industrial unionism

From the has been in contention for a very long time, and the philosophies of industrial unionism are inter-related. The Western Federation of Miners (WFM) was inspired by the industrial unionism example of the American Railway Union (ARU). Labor Historian Melvyn Dubofsky traces the birth of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) to the industrial unionism of the Western Federation of Miners, and their years under fire during the Colorado Labor Wars.[9] And James P. Cannon has observed that "the CIO became possible only after and because the IWW had championed and popularized the program of industrial unionism in word and deed."[10] As we shall see below, unionism that dares to be powerful invites burgeoning challenges from other powerful interests.

The implications of these last conjectures are considerable. When a group of workers becomes conscious of some connection to all other workers, such realization may animate a desire not just for better wages, hours, and working conditions, but rather, to change the system that limits or withholds such benefits. Paul Frederick Brissenden acknowledged as much in his 1919 publication The I.W.W. A Study of American Syndicalism. Brissenden described revolutionary industrial unionism as industrial unionism "animated and guided by the revolutionary (socialist or anarchist) spirit..."[8] Brissenden wrote that both industrial unionism and revolutionary industrial unionism "hark back in their essential principles to [a] dramatic revolutionary period in English unionism..."[8] of roughly the late 1820s, the 1830s and the 1840s. He traced both the industrial and the revolutionary impulses through various union movements ever since.

In short, these are questions of whether workers should organize as a craft, by their industry, or as a class.

  • What is the impact of legislation designed specifically to curtail union tactics? Considering that unions have sometimes won rights by defying unjust laws, what should be the attitude of unionists toward that legislation? And finally, how does the interaction between aggressive unionization, and government response, play out?
  • Should the union acknowledge that capital has priority—that is, that employers should be allowed to make all essential decisions about running the business, limiting the union to bargaining over wages, hours, and conditions? Or should the union fight for the principle that working people create wealth, and are therefore entitled to access to that wealth?

But some philosophical issues transcend the current social order:

  • What is the purpose of the union itself—is it to get a better deal for a small group of workers today, or to fight for a better environment for all working people in the future? (Or both... ? )
  • Should all working people be free—and perhaps even obliged—to support each other's struggles?

The differences illustrated by these diverse approaches to organizing touch upon a number of philosophical issues:

  • Industrial unionists motivated by a more global impulse act upon a universal premise, that all workers must support each other no matter their particular industry or locale. These might be unskilled or migratory workers who conceive of their union philosophy as [7]
  • The industrial unionist sees advantage in organizing by industry. The local organization is broader and deeper, with less opportunity for employers to turn one group of workers against another. These are the "middle stratum" of workers.[7]
  • Savage identified a skilled group that may not be craft based, but is nonetheless an elite group among industrial unionists. They are in essence craft groups which have been combined to solve "jurisdictional difficulties". Savage called this group an industrial union tendency rather than an example, made up of the "upper stratum of skilled trades," and describes them as retaining some autonomy within their particular trades.[7]
  • The craft unionist advocates sorting workers into exclusive groups of skilled workers, or workers sharing a particular trade. The organization operates, and the rules are formulated primarily to benefit members of that particular group.

The most basic philosophy of the union movement observes that an individual cannot stand alone against the power of the company, for the employment contract confers advantage to the employer. Having come to that understanding, the next question becomes: who is to be included in the union?

In the American Federation of Labor (AFL), which was made up mostly of craft unions. Unions in the resulting federation, the AFL-CIO, sometimes have a mixture of tendencies.

The conception of how this was to be brought about, and indeed even the extent to which such ideas were present in an industrial union, was quite variable from one union to another,[6] as well as from one country to another, and from one time to another.

Savage noted that some industrial unions of the period had "little of this class consciousness, [however] the majority of them are distinctly hoping for the abolition of the capitalist system and the ultimate control of industry by the workers themselves."[5]

It is this difference in spirit and general outlook which is the significant thing about industrial unionism. Including as it does all types of workers, from the common laborer to the most highly skilled craftsman, the industrial union is based on the conception of the solidarity of labor, or at least of that portion of it which is in one particular industry. Instead of emphasizing the divisions among the workers and fostering a narrow interest in the affairs of the craft regardless of those of the industry as a whole, it lays stress on the mutual dependence of the skilled and the unskilled and the necessity of subordinating the interests of a small group to those of the whole body of workers. Not only is loyalty to fellow-workers in the same industry emphasized, but also loyalty to the whole working class in its struggle against the capitalist system.[5]

The concept of industrial unionism is important, not only to organized workers but also to the general public, because the philosophy and spirit of this organizing principle go well beyond the mere structure of a union organization.[5] According to Marian Dutton Savage, who wrote about industrial unionism in America in 1922,

A Close Call — A cartoon from the September, 1919 IWW periodical One Big Union, published in Revolutionary Radicalism (a government publication), shows a worker swimming through shark-infested waters. The shark is labeled capitalism, the boat is industrial unionism, the life buoy is IWW, and the harpoon is direct action.

Spirit and philosophy of industrial unionism

Savage observed that industrial unionists criticized craft unionism not only for the ineffectiveness in dealing with a single employer, but also against larger corporate conglomerates. A union that challenges such a combination is most effective if its own structure reflects that of the company. Industrial unions likewise do not normally assess prohibitive dues rates common with craft unions, which serve to keep out many workers. Thus, the entire group of workers finds solidarity more elusive.[4]

Arguments for industrial unionism

A craft union with critical skills may be able to shut down an entire industry. The disadvantage is the harsh feelings of those who may be forced out of work by such an action, yet receive none of the bargained-for benefits.[3]

Employers find it easier to enforce one bad contract, then use that as a precedent. Employers could also show favoritism to a strategic group of workers. Employers also find it easier to outsource the struck work of a craft union.[2]

In 1922, Marion Dutton Savage cataloged the disadvantages of craft unionism, as observed by industrial union advocates. These included "distressingly frequent disputes between different craft unions" over jurisdiction; modern industry results in a constant process of phasing out old skills; one trade doing the struck work of another is a frequent dilemma; expiration of contracts can be staggered, hindering coordination of strikes.[2] Industrial unionists observe that craft union members are more often required by their contracts to cross the picket lines established by workers in other unions. Likewise, in a strike of (for example) coal miners, unionized railroad workers may be required by their contracts to haul "scab" coal.

Perceived disadvantages of craft unionism


  • Perceived disadvantages of craft unionism 1
  • Arguments for industrial unionism 2
  • Spirit and philosophy of industrial unionism 3
  • History of industrial unionism 4
    • The mass organization displaced 4.1
    • Ascendance of a craft union federation 4.2
    • Industrial unionism as rejection of craft unionism 4.3
    • Companies prefer to be organized by craft unions 4.4
    • The Scranton Declaration, and the isolation of industrial unions 4.5
    • The craft union federation adopts an industrial union concept 4.6
    • Radicalism in the union movement 4.7
  • Revolutionary industrial unionism 5
    • And One Big Union 5.1
  • Political parties and industrial unionism 6
  • Industrial unionism outside the United States 7
    • Australia 7.1
    • Britain 7.2
    • Korea 7.3
    • South Africa 7.4
  • See also 8
  • Footnotes 9
  • External links 10

even if this leads to multiple union locals (with different contracts, and different expiration dates) in the same workplace. [1]

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