Labor Federation Competition In The United States
A labor federation is a group of unions or labor organizations that are in some sense coordinated. The terminology used to identify such organizations grows out of usage, and has sometimes been imprecise. For example, nationals are sometimes named internationals, federations are named unions, etc.
The issues that divided labor federations and fostered competition were many and varied. The oft conflicting philosophies between the craft unionists and the industrial unionists played a role, as did differing ideas about political vs. industrial action; electoral politics; immigration; legislation; union democracy; and, the inclusion of women, black workers, and Asians.
Craft unions tended to organize skilled workers, to the exclusion of the unskilled, further complicating the issue of class among working people. Frequently, the role of government has been significant or decisive in tipping the balance of power between labor federations, or in crushing labor organizations outright. Even personalities of union leaders have sometimes guided the fortunes of labor federations. That may seem inevitable when labor organizations are headed by men like Big Bill Haywood, John L. Lewis or Andy Stern.
Labor federation competition in the U.S. is not just a history of the labor movement. This article will consider U.S. labor organizations and federations that were (or are) regional, national, or international in scope, and that were (or are) in some sense intended to unite organizations of disparate groups of workers, focusing particularly on the relationships between all of these entities. Threads of union philosophy and ideology will be traced from one period to another. Conflicting union philosophies will be explored. When government actions have played a significant role in suppressing, controlling, or legislating against particular industrial actions or labor entities, resulting in the diminishing of one labor federation entity or the advance of another, that will also be presented.
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