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Reform movements within the American Labor Movement

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Reform movements within the American Labor Movement four case studies
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Tillman, Ray M
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xi, 254 leaves : ; 29 cm

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Labor unions -- United States ( lcsh )
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bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
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Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 247-254).
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Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree, Master of Arts, Political Science.
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Department of Political Science
Statement of Responsibility:
by Ray M. Tillman.

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University of Colorado Denver
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Full Text
REFORM MOVEMENTS WITHIN THE
AMERICAN LABOR MOVEMENT:
FOUR CASE STUDIES
by
Ray M. Tillman
B.A., Penn State University, 1985
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Arts
Political Science
1996


This thesis for the Master of Arts
degree by
Ray M. Tillman
has been approved
by
3-31
Date


DEDICATION
To my wife Lynne and my daughter Rya, who through their constant support
and understanding allowed and provided me with the energy to complete this
program.
SPECIAL DEDICATION
I dedicate this thesis to my mother, Mary Tillman, and especially to my father,
Robert Tillman, who taught me that all men and women are equal and that no
one, regardless of their status or wealth, is better than myself.


ACKNOWLEDGMENT
I would like to thank the committee for their help and inspiration through my years
at the University of Colorado at Denver, which consisted of Michael Cummings,
Thad Tecza and Tony Robinson. I also want to thank all those who participated in
this thesis, NALC President Emeritus James Rademacher, Jerry Tucker, Ken Paff,
Herman Benson, Victor Reuther, Thomas Geoghegan, and Chip Yoblonski. And
most of all, to my fellow reformers in the NALC which includes but is not limited
to, Marty Curtan, Karen Farilee, Lou Poniros, Mike Willadsen, Jon Hilsman, the
entire NGL slate, and most of all to brother Jon Gaunce, who without his love of the
union and dedication to change a New Vision for the future would have been hard
to conceive.


Tillman, Ray Marcus (M.A., Political Science)
Reform Movements Within the American Labor Movement:
Four Case Studies
Thesis directed by Professor Michael Cummings
ABSTRACT
Throughout the world in the last decade, men and women in totalitarian or
authoritarian states have been striving toward a government based on political
democracy. The American Labor Movement is no different in this respect. Some
labor unions in America are governed, in some ways, like despotic governments that
people have come to despise. Nevertheless, most labor organizations are governed
like American civic and corporate organizations that espouse political democratic
beliefs but govern their own institution through a closed one-party state.
Eighty years ago, Robert Michels depicted this discrepancy with his Iron
Law of Oligarchy. Today, of the eighty American national and international
unions, a majority are run through some form of Iron Law. In addition, union
leaders run these organizations based on a business philosophy in which their
membership is treated like a market commodity.
This thesis explores reform movements within four unions that have had a
rich history in the labor movement, but have been governed at one time or another
v


by a despotic leader or closed caste system. The reform movements and their
parent unions studied in this thesis are: Miners for Democracy (MFD) United
Mine Workers (UMW); New Directions Movements (NDM) United Auto Workers;
Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU) Teamsters; and New Generation
Leadership (NGL) National Association of Letter Carriers.
These reform movements, like political reformers, espouse the need for more
democracy within the union; they also advocate social unionism, which is a
philosophy based on the needs of the workers not only where they are employed,
but within the communities in which they reside. Although the political structure
of the reform movements varies, union democracy and social unionism have become
the cornerstones of reformers and the philosophical tenets they feel are needed to
revolutionize the America Labor Movement. As American Labor becomes more
militant through the election of new leaders in the AFL-CIO, future research in the
next ten years is imperative to determine how effective these reformers have been.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis. I
recommend its publication.
Signed.
Michael Cummings
vi


CONTENTS
CHAPTER
1. INTRODUCTION.....................................1
Purpose of the Study............................. 2
Methodology of the Study......................... 4
Summary and Overview of Chapters.................5
2. REVIEW OF LITERATURE.............................8
Iron Law of Oligarchy............................8
Union Democracy.................................. 10
Seymour Lipset............................. 10
Herman Benson.............................. 12
Measuring Union Democracy...................15
Business Unionism, Social Unionism and Democracy..16
Notes............................................ 20
3. UNION POLITICAL GUIDELINES........................22
Constitutions.....................................22
Early Days................................. 23
Federated Unions........................... 24
National Union Structure................... 25
vii


Union Convention.................................... 29
Delegates.....................................30
Frequency of Conventions......................31
Convention Committees.........................31
Elections and Nominations..................... 33
The Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act
(LMRDA).......................................35
LMRDA-Statute.................................37
Summary.............................................40
Notes............................................... 42
4. HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE: FOUR CASE STUDIES.... 46
United Mine Workers of America (UMW)................ 46
John L. Lewis Dictator or Peoples Leader?..48
Philosophies of John L. Lewis.................51
United Auto Workers (UAW)...........................57
UAW-AFL, UAW-CIO..............................57
The Rise of Walter Reuther.................... 60
The Reuther Presidency, Philosophy: The Beginning
of the One-Party State................65
International Brotherhood of Teamsters (EBT)........71
The First Fifty-Years.........................71
viii


The Fall of the IBT........................... 80
Fitzsimmons, Williams and Presser.............82
National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC)......83
The Beginning...................................84
NALC Organization and Internal Politics
Prior to 1970.............................88
The 1970 Postal Strike..........................90
Rank and File Movement..........................93
Summary...............................................99
Notes............................................... 103
5. REFORM MOVEMENTS AND THE MOVE TOWARD A
MORE DEMOCRATIC AND SOCIAL UNIONISM:
FOUR CASE STUDIES..............................112
Miners for Democracy (MFD)......................... 113
Brief History: 1960 -1972..................... 114
Miners for Democracy...........................123
Summary........................................134
Teamsters For A Democratic Union (TDU).............. 136
TDU A Brief History..........................136
Political Structure........................... 142
TDU Philosophy.................................145
Current State of TDU.......................... 135
IX


TDU Today
146
Summary......................................... 151
UAW New Directions Movement (NDM)......................155
New Directions: A Brief History................. 158
New Directions Political Structure and Philosophy.... 164
Current Prospects............................... 170
Future Prospects................................ 171
Summary......................................... 173
New Generation Leadership (NGL)....................... 176
Brief History................................... 177
New Generation Leadership (NGL)................. 185
Summary......................................... 191
Conclusion............................................ 197
Union Democracy: Effectiveness, Comparisons
and Contrasts..............................197
Notes................................................. 208
6. CONCLUSION, FINDINGS AND FUTURE RESEARCH.... 220
Effects of the Reform Movements on their Parent Union. 222
Miners For Democracy.............................222
Teamsters For A Democratic Union.................222
New Directions Movement..........................224
x


New Generation Leadership......................225
Effectiveness of the Reform Movements in the American Labor
Movement and American Communities..............228
The Future of Union Democracy in American Labor..... 231
Is Representative Democracy Analogous to Oligarchy?. 233
Commentary.....................................236
The Future of Social Unionism........................238
Commentary.....................................240
Conclusion...........................................242
Notes.............................................. 245
BIBLIOGRAPHY........................................ 247
xi


CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION
During the last two decades, there has been a rebirth of democratic grass-
roots movements in Europe and the United States. This phenomenon is not just
centered in the political arena, but has crossed the boundaries of internal union and
organizational politics. In 1972, Arnold Miller, a dissident candidate and member
of the reform movement Miners For Democracy (MFD), won the election for
president of the United Mine Workers (UMW), thus enticing other major reform
movements to emerge in international labor organizations. These movements not
only advocate one-person one-vote, but uphold the concept of union democracy to
end the "one-party" control by the labor power elite. The influence that these
reformers have on the labor unions and the rank-and-file is subject to debate, and
is one reason for compiling this work.
The majority of labor union leaders in the United States have a history of
autocratic control that goes hand-in-hand with the philosophy of business
unionism/ This philosophy regards unionism as a business and believes that the
main priority for the leadership is to negotiate the price of its members labor
within the corporations. Contrary to business unionism, reformers in the labor
movement believe not only that unions should be democratic, but that the labor
1


movement should lead the progressive movement in initiating social policy in the
United States, which affects workers regardless of their union or non-union
affiliation. This form of unionism is called social unionism. Social Unionism,
which was short lived in the 1930s and 1940s, is again being advocated by the
dissidents in the labor movement today. Social Unionism is a philosophy based on
the ideals of social responsibility that goes beyond the need of improving the
condition of the worker.
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this study is to examine four labor reform movements and the
connection between their shared philosophy of union democracy, and their grass-
roots struggles to change the one-party political structure of their parent unions
from 1969 to the present The four reform movements researched are: Miners For
Democracy (United Mine Workers); the Teamsters for Democratic Union
(Teamsters); New Directions (United Auto Workers); and the New Generation
Leadership (National Association of Letter Carriers). The intent of this research is
not to provide a complete study of all reform movements within the labor movement
or the American labor movement itself, but instead to appraise the effects that these
dissident organizations have had and may have on their parent union due to their
potentially extensive influence. This study will proceed through investigative case
studies of the strategies that the reform movements embrace to revolutionize the
current individual unions political structure toward a more participatory
2


democratic union government and social-union philosophy.
The significance of presenting and examining these four particular
movements is that labor organizations are, above all, agents of interest
representation. If a union is to be responsive to its members' interests, then the
membership, not unlike the citizens of a democratic public government, must have
access to the decision-making process. Democracy has become the most effective
means of guaranteeing that our leaders and institutions will consistently represent
the best interest of the collective citizenry, which is something these four national
unions have failed to do. Therefore, democracy and social unionism became the
ideological vehicle which these dissident members employed in hopes of
transforming their union governments.
Another purpose of this study is also to show that democracy should play an
important role in peoples daily lives, whether it be through political government
or through the organization with which they are affiliated. Too often, organizations
that espouse democracy refuse to uphold the same principles within their own
organizations. This study, it should be understood, is not indicative of the entire
American labor movement. The reason the following cases were chosen for this
study was based on the following factors: 1) The historical tend of the union toward
either democratic or autocratic control; 2) the historical contrasts between the
unions philosophies of business and social unionism; 3) the strength, weaknesses,
differences and similarities of the reform movements within the individual unions;
3


and 4) the effects that reform movements have had on their parent unions and the
entire American labor movement
Methodology of the Study
This study begins by examining the literature of union democracy and social
unionism. A criterion of union democracy is chosen in Chapter Two which will be
used as a basis for understanding the term union democracy as provided
throughout the study. The legal and historical guidelines that regulate the political
structure of American unions such as constitutions, conventions, and the Landrum-
Griffin Act, will also be examined.
The methods utilized in this thesis includes original research on the reform
movements themselves, i.e., literature, documents, and constitution-bylaws. More
importantly, interviews were conducted to bring the reform movements to life by
providing firsthand insight by insiders. Interviews included national and local
dissident leaders and organizers, movers and shakers of the reform movement,
authors and journalists who advocate union democracy, and former leaders of local
and national unions.
For this work to be effective, it examines the successful progression of these
movements by measuring the electoral gains and setbacks in local and national
elections. In addition, studies of the national conventions were imperative for
measuring the accomplishment of each reform group. The conventions provide
insight into the slow but steady approval of the democratic resolutions and
4


amendments the reformers incessantly proposed at each national convention
(during this period) to change the established leadership.
As a member of one of the reform movements studied, I tried to minimize any
biases that might arise in my research and writings concerning this study by
allowing the literature and interviews to guide the research. Nevertheless, as a
participant, 1 feel that my involvement in and knowledge of the reform process
overshadows any biases that might appear to the reader.
Summary and Overview of Chapters
The initial research based in Chapter Two reviews the literature and
philosophical studies on the "Iron Law of Oligarchy" and "Union Democracy." The
major presumption concerning union democracy results from the organizational
theory developed over seventy-years ago by Robert Michels in what he termed "The
Iron Law of Oligarchy." This work suggests that the structure and government of
all mass organizations such as political parties, trade unions, corporations, and even
governmental agencies, no matter how democratically they begin, predispose them
to be controlled by a few hierarchical leaders. What is the significance of the study
of the "Iron Law," and how does it pertain to these four reform movements today?
To advance the understanding of reform movements and their philosophies,
this chapter will analyze the scholarly studies on the theory of internal union
democracy. What is union democracy? What are the different schools of thought
5


that pertain to union democracy? The second part of Chapter Two will focus on
the contrast between business unions and social unionism, which plays such an
important role in the reformers quest to change the political structure of their
parent union. This section utilizes recent literature that has analyzed the difference
between the two philosophies.
Chapter Three highlights the legal framework in which unions operate,
examining the individual union constitutions and state and national legislation that
regulates union government Furthermore, this part will provide an analysis of the
Landrum-Griffin Act which forced unions to subscribe to a democratic process in
internal union politics. How did the Landrum-Griffin Act evolve? Why didn't labor
unions support Landrum-Griffin? What was the statutes basic intent? How did the
numerous court cases affect the statute?
Chapter Four will provide an historical perspective of the political battles,
structure, and philosophies of the four unions studied for this research. It will
include a detailed historical perspective and examination of the contrasting political
composition of the United Mine Workers (UMWA), the International Brotherhood
of Teamsters (EBT), the United Auto Workers (UAW), and the National Association
of Letter Carriers (NALC). This perspective is intended to identify the historical
conditions that gave rise to, and the basic tenets of, todays reform movements.
Chapter Five, which is the core of the thesis, will provide an examination of
the four reform movements, their historical background, dissident leadership,
6


grassroots teamwork, and union democracy and social unionism as components of
the reform solution. This Chapter will provide the necessary perspective of why
these movements envision the need to change the policies and direction of their
parent unions.
Each of the case studies presented will examine the following: (1) the causes
and characteristics of the movement, (2) an historical and political background of
the reform leadership, (3) the political ideologies and factional differences within
the movement, (4) the political strategies and mechanisms to challenge the current
leadership, (5) the current state of the movement, (6) the perceived successes and/or
failures of each individual movement, and (7) the future prospects of each of the
four reform movements.
Chapter Six will conclude the study with an analysis of the role and effects
that these reform movements have had not only in their parent unions, but in the
labor movement as a whole. In addition, Chapter Six will focus on the future
prospects of union democracy and social unionism in the American labor movement,
and will suggest future research on the topic.
The research will conclude by reviewing the accomplishments and the
failures of these dissident organizations. This review will be followed by an
evaluation that consolidates the findings from the research. Here, the perceived
significance of the study is presented along with recommendations for additional
research.
7


CHAPTER 2
REVIEW OF LITERATURE
The subject of union democracy and social unionism has received little
attention in academic circles over the last decade. Previously, over a seventy-year
span dating from the early years of the twentieth century, academics had examined
the nature of union government and the goals of union democracy. From this past
research, there has developed a wide array of viewpoints on this topic. This section
will discuss some debates in the literature regarding union democracy and social
unionism and the ways it pertains to the movement to reform internal union
government.
Iron Law of Oligarchy
The major presumption concerning union democracy results from the
organizational theory developed over seventy years ago by Robert Michels in what
he termed "The Iron Law of Oligarchy1. This work suggests that the structure and
government of all mass organizations such as political parties, trade unions,
corporations, and even governmental agencies predisposes them to be controlled by
a few hierarchical leaders. Michels concludes that democracy cannot survive within
8


the trade union movement He argues not only that democracy will not work in its
ideal form, but that it cannot work at all.
Michels states that as the early labor unions grew in size and complexity,
they were forced to become representative organizations. Initially, the
representatives were changed on a frequent basis, but as time went on, the
representatives needed more expertise and experience to be effective. As a result,
according to Michels, the elected leaders developed almost a moral right to the
office. Although the formal union government has a procedure to remove its
officers, actual removal is very rare.2
Michels, in studying the Socialist Party of Germany and the organized trade
unions, argued that the membership or organizing group comes to the realization
that expertise and specialization are essential for a strong organization. As this
organization builds a wall around its specialized needs, the leaders are controlled
less and less by the rank and file, and their realm of discretionary authority
increases as the size of the bureaucracy increases. Michels concurred with Jean
Jacques Rousseau that ". . consequently, the instant a people give itself
representatives, it is no longer free. A mass which delegates its sovereignty, that is
to say, transfers its sovereignty to the hands of a few individuals, abdicates its
sovereign functions."3
Michels observed that once the leaders are elected, the rank and file, who are
apathetic and uninformed, will continue to re-elect the same leaders, who grow in
9


both power and prestige.4 As the distance between the workers and the leaders
increases, the tendency toward oligarchy and a corresponding loss in democracy
occurs.5
Although Michels concluded that oligarchy and autocracy will reign
supreme, he argued that democracy is the least of all evils when it comes to choosing
a form of organizational government He states that "the formation of oligarchies
within the various forms of democracy is the outcome of organic necessity, and
consequently affects organization, be it socialist or anarchist"6 Michels study
leaves the reader with an understanding of the oligarchic dangers in democracy,
an understanding that may enable the membership to minimize the dangers within
a so-called democratic organization.
Union Democracy
Seymour Lipset
If Robert Michels is considered the major theorist of internal politics in
private organizations, Seymour Lipset's study of the International Typographical
Union (ITU) has become the most quoted work on the theory of Union Democracy.
Lipset et al., in their book Union Democracy, which was based on a two-party
system in the ITU, came to the same pessimistic conclusion as Michels. According
to Roger C. Hartley, "today, Michels theory, as reformulated by Lipset, has
become the standard principle supporting the widely held view that while,
10


nominally, unions are controlled by the members, the real and often permanent
power rests with men who hold the highest positions."7
Although Lipset's intent was to demonstrate that while the ITU had
established a two- party system and was not bound by the "Iron Law of Oligarchy,"
he concluded that democracy is most likely to work best in relatively small units,
such as the small Greek city-states, the New England town meetings, and other
small political units, i.e., the small trade unions.8 These small political structures
have seen success in such cooperatives as Mondragon in the Basque mountain
country and the Plywood cooperatives in the U.S. Northwest However, Lipset
concluded that without legitimate opposition, such as that presented in the ITU,
Michels assertions are correct Lipset argues that "large-scale organizations are
incompatible with democracy ... (they) are such as to give the men who control the
organizational machinery at any given time, a near monopoly over all the resources
through which power is gained and exercised.. ."9
Lipset implies that his study does not disprove Michels' theory, but
demonstrates that "where an effective and organized opposition does exist, it does
so only because the incumbent administration does not hold a monopoly over the
resources of politics."10 Lipset then concludes that the "functional requirements for
democracy cannot be met most of the time in most labor unions or other voluntary
groups."11
Our analysis of the factors related to democracy in the ITU has pointed to conditions
11


under which democracy may be institutionalized in large scale private governments.
Basically, however, it does not offer many positive action suggestions for those who
would seek consciously to manipulate the structure of such organizations so as to
make the institutionalization of democratic procedures within them more probable.13
Sayles and Strauss concur with Lipset that local unions are more democratic
than their parent unions. The authors go on to point out that at the local level, there
is an "energetic political life, with lively debate in their meetings and a substantial
turnover of officers."13 They believe that at the local level, most union leaders
become interested in the union because of their belief in democratic principles. The
members are also committed to democracy, according to the authors, and constantly
remind the leadership if it becomes too autocratic. These reminders come in the
form of elections, informal pressure, and strikes. Since the local leaders are
basically committed to democracy and realize that they need the support of the local
membership to maintain union strength, they will respond to these pressures by
union members and increase the level of democracy within the union .M
Herman Benson
Herman Benson, a union activist in 1969, started an organization called The
Association for Union Democracy (AUD) to further the cause of democracy within
the labor unions. According to Benson, the AUD was formed to "promote the
principles and practices of internal union democracy in the American Labor
Movement."15
Benson argues that, in reality, unions are not constitutional democracies
12


ruled from the bottom up, but are in fact, "oligarchies, some more absolute* some
more limited, ruled from the top down by an administrative team dominated by
national officers."16 Like Lipset, Benson states that "oppositional forces have no
permanent base in the union structure, while the regime' holds fuH legislative,
executive and judicial power."17 However, rejecting the pessimism of Michels and
Lipset, Benson views the state of democracy within the labor movement as healthier
and more encouraging today than at any time in the forty years since the end of
World War H.
Benson feels that, presently, the official power of the national leadership is
limited by checks from within and outside the union. Insurgent movements within
unions have attempted to bring the officialdom under control, while external forces
(the union reform movement and labor legislation, such as the Labor Management
Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959) have sought to protect the rights of members
within unions and to provide the tools for democratic reform.
The movement toward a more democratic organization within labor
movements today can be described as difficult but encouraging. Benson argues that
the uphill battle for most insurgent organizations against the parent bureaucracy
of the union is due to the continuing stress that exists between democracy and
bureaucracy within the organization. Although Benson sees some similarities
between union government and public government, he argues that there is a
difference "In the tug of war inside the labor movement, there is no equilibrium;
13


because the force pulling to the side of bureaucracy outweighs the counter force of
democracy/'18 Benson asserts that although democracy has made great gains
internally through the law and practice, the sad part is that the labor movement
is much weaker... not just because they are bureaucratized, but because of general
social and political problems around the country.19 In other words, Benson asserts
that if labor movement were stronger, and union members felt stronger, the
insurgent and democratic forces within the union would be more forceful.
Like Lipset, Benson contends that in a one-party state, the balance of power
is "overwhelmingly one sided, with the incumbent officialdom backed by an army
of full-time functionaries" available at any given time to campaign for the
incumbent party.20 In the book Democratic Rights For Union Members, Benson
argues that to ensure democracy is practiced within any given organization, the
focus should be on the strength and influence insurgent movements have within the
political apparatus and external forces, such as the government or other social
reformers pressuring the union for democratic reform.
Benson maintains that by the term democracy, he is referring to the
recognition and protection of the kind of rights guaranteed by the Bill of Rights of
the U.S. Constitution, which are guaranteed in some unions. Furthermore, Benson
insists that "union democracy as we (AUD) define it, is not an impractical dream
but is a reality in those unions which respect the civil liberties of their
membership."21
14


Measuring Union Democracy
In determining the current and future status of union democracy within the
four unions to be studied, I will base the measurement on the criteria set by Herman
Benson and the Association of Union Democracy. The AUD measures democracy
within a labor organization with the following criteria:
The rights that are available to citizens under the Bill of Rights of the
U.S. Constitution and for unionists under the Landrum-Griffin Act;
Alternative means of properly expressing the will of the membership;
The right to publish newspapers and handbills and to organize
groups and caucuses to promote policies and candidates;
The right to elect, or to oppose, or to remove an administration by
orderly constitutional, fair processes, protected not merely on paper
but in reality;
The right to a fair trial before a genuinely impartial tribunal and
recourse to a genuinely impartial appeals procedure.
The right to make internal criticisms of the incumbent leadership
while accepting the risks of irresponsible criticisms.22
According to Clyde Summers, the foremost expert and pioneer of union democracy,
these rights loosens the grip of oligarchy that exists in a one-party-controlled labor
organization. He argues that by abiding by these rights,
those in control are prevented from obtaining a complete monopoly over the channels
of communication by closing ofT the few channels available to the members, and
members are able to question openly their officers conduct of union affairs. Most
important, those who are dissatisfied can identify others who are also dissatisfied, can
reinforce and encourage one another, and can take the first step toward coalescing an
organized opposition. To serve those purposes, the right of individuals to speak out
and to distribute literature must have much wider scope in a one-party system than
a two-party system, which provides competing channels of communication and a
known resort for those of shared views.23
This criterion does not discount the fact that there are those both in the labor
15


movement and in academia wbo contend that union democracy should entitle
members to more control than that listed above. These arguments and studies will
be discussed in Chapter Five and Six when we assess the present and future status
of democracy within the American labor movement.
Business Unionism. Social Unionism and Democracy
Historically, from the early days of the American Labor Movement to 1955,
two competing views have dominated the philosophy of American unionism and its
goal for the working person. These views centered around the choice between
collectivism and individualism. Kim Moody, a political historian, maintains that the
leaders of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) viewed themselves as "pure and
simple unionists" and initiated business unionism. These leaders, who included
Samuel Gompers, regarded unionism as a business and viewed their "members
primarily as consumers," thus limiting the labor movement to negotiating only the
price of labor.24
The contrasting view, developed by the Knights of Labor, a competing
federation in the late nineteenth century, attempted to organize all workers and
regarded unionism "as a means of raising the well-being of the individual worker
by elevating the condition of all toilers."25 Moody professes that this form of social
unionism not only was a collective activity in the workplace, but also reached out
to both the community and the political arena. This theory, which was espoused by
16


the more militant unions of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, asserted
that unions could protect the dignity of the individual both within and outside the
workplace.
When the Knights of Labor dispersed in the late nineteenth century, the
view that "the unions should be run on just the same business principle as a business
firm,"26 became the prime ideology of the American Labor Movement. Moreover,
as union leaders were inclined to protect their lucrative union business by
organizing the entire system to entrench themselves in office, the philosophy of
business unionism became more prevalent. Although union constitutions espoused
a democratic organization, according to Philip Foner the democratic procedures
were never practiced.
In the book An Injury to All, Moody alleges that the philosophy of social
unionism surfaced in the 1930's with the creation of the CIO. While the AF of L
espoused change through collective bargaining, the CIO saw labor as a force for
broad social change through the political system. According to Moody, the CIO and
the new social unionists felt the unions had a social responsibility beyond improving
the conditions of the worker. The CIO put forth programs calling on the
government to take more responsibility for the health, education, and housing needs
of the majority of the population.
The original leaders of the CIO, John L. Lewis and Sidney Hillman, set up
a bureaucratic system not unlike those of their rivals, the AF of L. These leaders
17


shared the view that authoritative leaders were better prepared to deal with the
changing world than the membership. According to Moody, however, some of the
new labor organizations and those who affiliated themselves with the CIO, such as
the United Auto Workers (UAW), were highly democratic and in the eyes of the
business world were too unruly and had to be suppressed.27 Victor Reuther, one of
the original organizers and founders of the UAW(CIO) in the 1930s, stated recently
that, "It was the realization on the part of not only the industrial society and the
corporate structure, but the political structure that the new CIO Unions were a
massive force in which the membership had a voice and that no back room deals
would resolve issues."28
After the merger of the AFL-CIO in 1955, the philosophy of business
unionism became the mainstay of the American Labor Movement. According to
Edward Greenberg, the self-defined mission of the American labor movement has
become to maximize the wages and benefits of its members; to cooperate when
possible with business so as to create conditions of profitability that make wage and
benefit gains possible; and to remain relatively apolitical."29
Moody concludes that with the demise of the CIO, and since the merger of
the AFL-CIO, labor continues on the bureaucratic trend that denies "rank and file
participation in the decision-making process." Furthermore, unions have
abandoned the fight against the authority of business both on and off the job. This
heritage of modern business unionism for nearly forty years, explains much of
18


labors inability to respond to today's corporate initiatives.30
The reform movements inside labor today are not only trying to democratize
and break down the entrenched bureaucratic wall developed by the business
unionists, but are also pursuing a more socially oriented American Labor
Movement. The insurgents are drawing on the initiatives and positive traditions
established by the Knights of Labor, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW),
and more recently, the CIO. These traditions include: social inclusiveness, union
democracy, nascent egalitarianism, and the quest for universal justice.31
19


Chapter 2
Notes
1. Robert Michels. Political Parties: A Sociological Study of the Oligarchical
Tendencies of Modern Democracy. New York: The Free Press, 1962, (originally
published in Germany in 1911), 342-356.
2. Michels, 71.
3. Michels, 74.
4. Michels, 92.
5. Michels, 94-97.
6. Michels, 365-366.
7. Robert C. Hartley, The Framework of Democracy in Union Government,
Catholic University Law Review. Vol. 32:13,1982, 62-63.
8. Seamer Martin Lipset, Martin A Throw, and James S. Coleman, Union
Democracy: The Internal Politics of the International Typographical Union.
Glencoe, Illinois: The Free Press, 1956,14.
9. Ibid., 413.
10. Ibid.
11. Ibid., 403.
12. Ibid., 404.
13. Leonard Sayles and George Strauss, The Local Union. New York: Harcourt,
Brace, World Inc., 1967,147.
14. Ibid., 147-152.
15. Herman Benson, To Promote the Principles of Internal Democracy. Union
Democracy Review. No. 1-1, (Fall 1972), 1.
20


16. Herman Benson, The Fight for Union Democracy, Unions in Transition.
San Francisco: ICS Press, 1986,324.
17. Ibid, 329.
18. Herman Benson. Democratic Rights of Union Members: A Guide to Internal
Union Democracy. New York: Association of Union Democracy, 1979,233.
19. Herman Benson, editor Union Democracy Review, telephone interview by
author, 1/20/95.
20. Benson. Democratic Rights of Union Members. 233-234.
21. Benson, Union Democracy Review. (Fall 1972), 1.
22. Where We Stand: A Statement by AUD, Union Democracy and Landrum
Griffin. Brooklyn: AUD press, 1986,43-44.
23. Clyde W Summers, Democracy In A One-Party State: Perspective From
Landrum-Griffin. The Maryland Law Review. Vol. 43, No. 1,1984,101.
24. Kim Moody, An Injury to All: The Decline of American Unionism. New
York: Verso Press, 1992, xiv.
25. Ibid., xv.
26. Philip S. Foner. The Policies and Practices of the American Federation of
Labor. 1900-1909: History of the Labor Movement in the United States. New
York: International Publishers, 1964,139.
27. Moody, 45-48.
28. Victor Reuther, telephone interview by the author, 11/2/93.
29. Edward Greenberg, The American Political System: A Radical Approach.
Glenview, HI: 1989,162-163.
30. Moody, xx.
31. Ibid., 341.
21


CHAPTER 3
UNION POLITICAL GUIDELINES:
CONSTITUTIONS, CONVENTIONS AND LAN DRUM-GRIFFIN
To gain a complete understanding of the reasons behind any insurgent
movement in American unions today, we must examine the political structure of the
governing institution. This chapter outlines the basic provisions, guidelines, and
laws that, in theory, regulate the political structure within American union
government.
Three sets of basic principles govern all American unions in the United
States: the union constitution, the union convention, and the Landrum Griffin Act.
Through the study of these principles, I will show the relationship between the
governing precepts of union government and the philosophies of todays dissidents
who are determined to reform union government.
Constitutions
The fundamental governing document in more than 80 unions in the United
States is the union constitution. This document, not unlike constitutions in political
government, is the supreme law for its members. However, it must be understood
that each national or international union has its own constitution. In other words,
there is not just one generic document that governs each national union.
22


Most union constitutions are submitted to the membership for their
approval; however, only a few unions use the referendum ballot to forge this form
of democratic approval. Unions, by federal law, must hold conventions every two
to five years to adopt and/or amend constitutional provisions by union
representatives (see below). It must be understood that if there is a conflict between
federal or state law and the union constitution, the law prevails; "but laws control
only a small part of internal union activity."1
Early Days
Unions in the nineteenth century "were in effect local union compacts, and
the founding locals were therefore careful to incorporate restrictions on the power
of the national union."2 Furthermore, early national unions were federations built
on autonomous local unions, which utilized their local constitutions to prevent
interference from the national union, "except (where) a limited grant of power was
expressly conferred."3
As industrialists tried to protect their profit margin, they sought to eradicate
the local unions. As these attacks continued, local unions were forced to succumb
to centralized control by the national union if they were to survive. The formation
of centralized national unions led to the creation of national strike funds, organizing
committees, and increased financial stability. The constitution of the national union
inevitably evolved into a document that would "transform the local into subordinate
23


bodies."4 As stated in Chapter One, these early business-minded union leaders
utilized the national constitution to "protect their lucrative union business and to
. . entrench themselves in office."5 Philip Foner, in his exceptional historical
volumes on the history of the American Labor Movement, concluded;
While analysis of union constitutions reveals that many major labor unions were
structurally authoritarian, or almost so, there still did exist in these documents
provisions for the basic elements of trade union democracy. But when one looks
beneath the other trappings of the unions constitutions, it is easy to discover that in
many unions some of these democratic procedures were not practiced, and in some
of the major ones, none were.6
Federated Unions
As the early locals wanted to stay autonomous from their national union
government, independent national unions who joined into a federation with the
American Federation of Labor (AFL), fought to stay autonomous from the
interference of the governing body of the AFL. In its early provisions, the AFL
constitution, which is still in effect, states that,
the establishment of National and International Trade Unions, [is] based upon a strict
recognition of the autonomy of each trade, and the promotion and advancement of
such bodies.7
Consequently, the federation was not allowed to interfere in internal union affairs
such as collective bargaining, elections of officers, or supervision of local unions and
its members. However, autonomy did not preclude the national union from asking
for support during a strike, for boycotts of an employer, or for help in securing
favorable legislative action that would protect the individual union in question.8
The Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) constitution "contained no
24


such express guarantee of autonomy, but it avowed the same principle."9 Individual
national unions affiliated with the CIO, such as the United Auto Workers (UAW),
expressed the importance of autonomy. The UAWs constitution states that the
UAW would work as an autonomous International Union with the CIO together
with other international unions."10 Nevertheless, the axiom of autonomy survived
the merger of the AFL-CIO and continues today as the principal organizational
objective of the federation.
National Union Structure
The early unions, through the adoption of their constitutions, "perfected
their internal government and administration, established adequate revenue
systems, [and] developed methods of making joint agreements with groups or
employers "u William Leiserson contends that through the adoption of these
principles, the national organization was able to centralize its system, which "gave
national officers more control over its locals and the disciplining of members..."12
The national union constitution today, which outlines the executive, judicial,
and legislative principles, as well as jurisdiction over collective bargaining, is
rarely precise and clear. "Much of its meaning depends on knowledge of prevailing
practices in the trade or industry to which it applies. It is a dubious guide to
jurisdiction. The intermediate bodies are sparsely described. Failure to mention the
local union substructure is not uncommon.13
Although most union constitutions state that the "National Convention shall
25


be the supreme or governing body to which final appeal shall be made on all matters
emanating from the members,"14 this document also sets the guidelines for elections
of national, regional, and local officers, payment of officers, and detailed regulations
regarding the operation of the political structure at all governmental levels.
Between conventions, most union constitutions grant the decision-making
powers of legislating and interpreting the constitution to the president and the
executive board. The constitution of International Brotherhood of Teamsters states:
The General President shah have general supervision over die affairs of die
International Union, which shall be conducted in accordance with the Constitution
and subject at all times to review and approval of the General Executive Board.15
The National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) constitution states:
The President shall preside at all meetings of die National Association and enforce
all laws, thereof; he/she shall have die general superintendency of its affairs with
power to grant dispensation when, in his/her judgment, the good of the union may
. 1£
require it
Furthermore, the NALC constitution provides that between conventions, the
executive council headed by the president is:
Second only to the convention in legislative and policy-making authority, [and] shall
act between conventions on all matters related to the welfare of the union . .
supervise the activities, affairs and functioning of the union.. ,17
In his study of union government and union democracy, Roger Hartley concluded
that "union constitutional theory responds to the power and authority of the union
president through three structural forms: the general executive board, the national
convention and the periodic election of officers. Therefore, in constitutional theory,
the executive board becomes the check on the power of the president between
26


conventions.
tf 18
However, as Hartley's research has determined, "the board acts as a check
on the powers of the national president but, in practice, it seldom has sufficient
independence to serve that function."19 The reason executive boards cannot provide
a check on the president is due to the fact that they are dependent on the president.
The president "who enjoys national support and can help secure election of a
mutually supportive slate, can answer dissent or unsuccessful electoral challenge
by a board member by withdrawing support"20 Although the constitution states
that the power of the union and supreme governing power reside in the
membership, in reality a centralized leadership and dominant minority control it
As stated above, most union constitutions allow the power to rest in the
hands of a dominant few, the executive and his council. This scenario runs true in
the power to discipline members, officers, and subordinate governing units. The
same centralized leadership dominates the judicial system.
Through the constitutional provisions, the executive board is empowered to
interpret the national constitution as it deems essential in the interest of the union.
This power includes the removal and disciplining of members and the appointment
of a trusteeship over local or any subordinate bodies. This power of the national
leadership allows the curbing of any dissent within the ranks of the membership.
This form of disciplinary power can be used against an incumbent's opponent. In
other words, the leadership, through ambiguous constitutional phrases, can enforce
27


such power over the membership.
In conjunction with the president, the executive council shall have the power to
investigate any Branch or member of a branch who interferes in the work of the
organization, or who circulates false and misleading statements calculated to retard
the officer in conducting the organization's work.21
Catchall statements such as the one above, which in most union
constitutions are not explicitly defined, and which outlaw or prohibit a member
from "bringing the union into disrepute... can also be used to quiet critics.22
Robert Michels noted that this authority transferred to the leadership by the
membership is a means for those in charge to suppress any and all opposition.
The struggle between the old leaders and the aspirants to power constitutes a
perceptual menace to freedom of speech and thought... The consequence is that
those in office are great zealots for discipline and subordination, declaring that these
policies are indispensable to the very existence of the party [union]. They go as far as
to exercise a censorship over any of their colleagues whom they suspect of rebellious
inclinations.. .23
As this study progresses it will become obvious that there are major political
differences between union government and public government in America. One of
those differences is that unions rarely have a clear separation of powers between
legislature, executive, and judicial branches. A two-party system is rare, and a body
of civil liberties subject to independent judicial review has not been elaborated. In
the book The Political Imperative, Gus Tyler concludes that union governmental
structure is democratic only in the sense that it rests on majority rule and is
governed with the consent of the governed. Because of this difference, Tyler feels
that the nature of democracy within union government is open to question and
debate. He goes on to argue that "union leadership often appears to be
28


bureaucratic, imposing its personal will on a yea-saying membership."24
Union Convention
In theory, the national convention for American unions is supposed to play
a decisive role in the workings of democracy. Excluding the local meeting, the
national union convention is "one of the most direct forms of expression available
to the rank and file."25 In almost every American union, the convention is
considered the highest legislative body that expresses membership control over the
union institution.
The International Convention shall be the supreme governing authority of the
International union and shall have the plenary power to regulate and direct the
policies, affairs of the International Union.26
Since the days when the national union became the dominant centralized
power over its locals, direct government has become almost impossible. Therefore,
"in practicality in all unions the convention has emerged as an alternate mechanism
for member control."27 The union convention, which on the average lasts five to
seven days, is a court of appeals, a rules revision conference, a nominating
convention, and a legislative body.
The convention theoretically is the check and balance over the incumbent
officers meant to hold them accountable for their actions as caretakers of the union.
In addition, the delegates as legislators are supposed to mandate a program to be
carried out by the national officers between national conventions.
29


Delegates
Once the national union announces the convention, each individual union
states in its constitution a formula and laws regarding the selection of delegates to
the convention. The majority of constitutions allows for a percentage of delegates
to represent a certain number of members from each local.
For instance, in the NALC, a local, despite its size, can have one delegate per
twenty members,28 while the UAW has one delegate per 200 members or less, one
additional delegate for the next three hundred and one additional for the next eight
hundred.29 On the extreme, the Teamsters allow each local union to have one
delegate for the first 1,000 members and one delegate for an additional 750
members.30 Some national unions, such as the NALC, allow the local to decide if
officers of that local are entitled to be ex-officio delegates. According to the bylaws
of Branch 3996 of Rockville, Md. Article 4 Section 8,
the President, Vice President, Recording Secretary, Financial Secretary-Treasurer
and Editor shall automatically be delegates to the State and National Convention by
virtue of their elected positions...31
Each national delegate, regardless of the union, represents a certain number
of members from the local union. However, most unions have provisions that guard
against the concentration of too much power either from the largest locals or in the
hands of one delegate. In the UAW, no delegate will have more than eight votes,
while the United Mine Workers allows one delegate with maximum ability to cast
five ballots, but no delegate has less than one vote. The Teamsters and the NALC
30


allow each delegate only one vote per issue during the convention.
Frequency of Conventions
The Landrum-Griffin Act (LMRDA) of 1959 has established guidelines for
national unions for the frequency of their national conventions. Most of the national
unions conduct their conventions in intervals of four years or less; however, the
LMRDA dictates that no union can exceed a five-year interval. For example, the
NALC has a national convention every two years while the Teamsters hold their
convention every five years.
In academic circles, there have been numerous studies on the correlation of
democracy with the frequency of union conventions. Philip Marcuss study on union
conventions found that the "frequency of union conventions can be considered a
measure of the members' ability to express themselves to the officials."32
Consequently, in unions that have more frequent conventions, "dissenters [will]
have more meaningful opportunities for horizontal communication, to form voting
coalitions, to express opposition ... and create more opportunities for electoral
challenge.. .',33 Moreover, unions that have less frequent elections can centralize
their power of the union, head off dissension, and force the power to remain in the
hands of national officials.34 Further examples regarding the frequency of
conventions will be explored in Chapters Three and Four.
Convention Committees
As stated above, the delegates are presumed to be the supreme governing
31


body of the national union. For the deliberative work to be expedited, the
convention is put in the hands of committees to conduct union business. A
credentials committee will have a voice in settling disputed local delegate elections;
the resolution committee recommends the approval or disapproval of resolutions
that subordinate locals have submitted. In addition, this committee determines the
order in which proposed resolutions are heard and voted on. The committee of laws,
which oversees amendment changes to the national constitution, holds the same
power as those on the resolution committee. The appeals committee has the
important task of hearing grievances and making recommendations against those
locals or members that have been placed under trusteeship or suspended from the
union. The constitution of every union outlines the administrative workings and
power of the convention committees.
In most unions today, the constitution yields the power to appoint committee
members to the national president Leo Bromwich concluded that when a union
allows the national president to appoint the members to a standing committee, the
"membership faces the possibility of arbitrary actions which can seriously affect its
ability to control its own organization during the convention." ^Hartley, in his more
recent study, argues;
The question, then, is not whether dissent survives, for it does, or even whether
incumbents have the advantage, for they usually do. Rather, the question is whether
the convention's checking function fails because the committee system strengthens
control of the convention by incumbents to the extent that dissent too seldom prevails.
The answer normally, though not inevitably, seems to be yes.36
32


Elections and Nominations
In most situations, the national convention is also the time when the national
officers are nominated and/or elected to serve the term specified in the national
constitution. Some unions, such as the Teamsters and the NALC, conduct their
nominations during convention business and hold their elections several months
after the convention. Other unions, including the UAW, continue to nominate and
elect their national leaders at their biennial or triennial convention. The delegates
in this status have absolute power to decide who will lead their union for the term
specified in the individual national constitution. Furthermore, there are a few
unions, such as the United Mine Workers (UMW), who nominate their candidates
outside the convention forum by obtaining the required number of local union
endorsements set by the provisions in the constitution. After the nomination period
is over, the candidates have three months to campaign for the general election, a
provision which bypasses the convention procedure and is conducted through a one-
member, one-vote referendum.37
Since the beginning of the American labor movement, academics, labor
leaders, and reformers have continually argued over the different means and the
frequency of electing national officers. Is it more democratic for the national
officers to be elected through convention balloting or referendum voting?
Reformers have consistently maintained that under the current atmosphere in most
unions, direct referendum election for national officers is essential to ensure
33


democracy. They contend that national union conventions are hardly models of
democracy. Reformers and oppositionists have asserted that:
Few convention delegate elections are supervised, thus opening them up to
all sorts of undemocratic procedures;
In the politically key, larger and stronger locals, convention delegates are
elected by slates. They make no allowance for minority representation. This
omission prevents dissenting voices at the convention;
A high percentage of delegates are on the union payroll or owe their position
to the incumbent leadership;
Most union conventions have roll call voting rather than secret ballot voting.
This provision exposes the dissenter or voter to reprisals from those in
power.38
Nevertheless, some reformers believe that although a direct election is essential in
establishing a democratic union, the ideal democratic institution lies in the
framework of the national convention. Ken Paff, the national organizer for the
reform movement Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU), states:
We certainly have argued strongly for election of international officers, fought for it
and won, by direct rank and file election. However, a convention system in the ideal
union would be beautiful. In that case you could have the most militant sacrificing
representatives who were the delegates and die best informed would go to the
convention...
Unfortunately, the fact of die matter is that our convention is so out of touch with the
rank and file that circumventing it by rank and file vote is certainly better. This was
demonstrated at the 1986 convention when the incumbent leadership got 99 percent
of the vote and we got one percent In the next election, when it was switched to a
rank and file vote, we won and they lost39
Herman Benson, editor of the Union Democracy Review (UDR), believes that
although the national convention is merely a rubber stamp legislator in most unions,
there are problems with "one-person, one-vote" referendums.
34


It is extremely difficult to police an election of that type, when essentially the ballots
are controDed by the national officers. It is extremely difficult to raise money to run
a national campaign. The administration, which has an advantage in most cases, has
all the officers contribute to a tremendous war chest . But the value of the
referendum was demonstrated in the Teamsters election. If you can get an honest
national election that gives at least the membership a chance to break through the
whole bureaucratic structure, that would be ideal, because down below in the local
the members are often beholden to the local officialdom for jobs. The Teamsters are
a good example because the old guard, in most cases, still controls the locals, but
during the referendum voting for national officers, the rank and file elected Carey,
a reformer.40
The evidence would suggest that most union leaders adhere subliminally to
Michels theory of the iron law of oligarchy. For that reason there is a renewed
understanding (that) is emerging regarding the realities of national union elections,
and the ways national insurgency campaigns are disabled by having to confront not
only the incumbent but also the powers and resources of the institution.41 Can the
growing opposition movements pierce the structure and institutions that control the
strings of power? Should the constitution and the convention system be radically
altered to ensure more democracy and participation from members and the elected
delegates? Is one-member, one-vote in national elections more democratic than
convention voting? These issues, which are imperative to both the incumbent
leadership and the opposition, will be discussed at length in the following chapters.
The Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA1
The Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA), better
known as the Landrum-Griffin Act, passed in 1959, governs the internal functioning
of private and some public employee unions. Prior to the passage of the LMRDA,
35


the National Union Constitution systematically governed all internal union
organizations. Except for those laws which outlined the guidelines for collective
bargaining and wildcat strikes, i.e., the Wagner Act, and Taft Hartley, federal and
state law did not interfere with internal union government
With the publics concern over racketeering and mob infiltration within a
few labor unions, "the clamor for government action to regulate the internal affairs
of labor unions became incessant."42 Witness after witness testified before the
Senate's Select Committee on Improper Activities in the Labor or Management
Field, chaired by Senator John L. McClellan, about corruption, fraudulent union
elections, pilfered union treasuries, intimidation, and employer-union collusion.
Although only a few unions were involved in such improprieties, Congress passed
the LMRDA in 1959. With a few exceptions, the major responsibilities for oversight
and enforcement fell into the hands of the Department of Labor (DOL.).43
Clyde W. Summers, a labor lawyer and a pioneer in the field of union
democracy, maintained that during the hearing, there was little testimony on the
problem of union democracy. He argued that the crux of the hearings stemmed
from corruption, sweetheart contracts, fiduciary obligations, and forced
trusteeships. "But the basic thrust of the statute to protect and promote democratic
process and democratic rights of members was not the major thrust of the
hearings."44
During the hearings and the debate over passage of the LMRDA, there was
36


no organized labor group that supported legislation to democratize union
government The two groups supporting such legislation were a combination of
strange political bedfellows: the ACLU, which "thought unions served a
fundamental purpose in a democratic society and ought, therefore, to be
democratic," and the conservative right, led by Senator Barry Goldwater, who
"thought there ought, not to be unions" and by the acts democratizing them,
"unions would disappear."45
The unions, on the other hand, were opposed to any legislation that would
interfere in the internal workings of a "free labor movement" To most union
leaders, the "law seemed to put an unnecessary and unseemly burden on labor
unions . ,"46 Joseph L. Rauh, an administrative attorney for the UAW, and an
opponent of the LMRDA at the time of passage, stated, "My thinking then was
based on my own union experience prior to 1959.1 never saw anything except
earnestness and idealism ... there was virtually no corruption, only dedication to
the interests of the union and its members."47
LMRDA Statute
The Labor-Management Report and Discourse Act lays down fundamental
laws that every private and some public unions must abide by. These include a bill
of rights, regulations on reporting financial discourse, trusteeships, and internal
union elections.
37


Title 1 of the Statute is intended to provide a bill of rights for all members
of private and a few public employee unions. According to Herman Benson:
like the first ten amendments of die U.S. Constitution, this tide [Tide 1] protects the
civil liberties, such as: free speech in unions, free press, and free assembly. It protects
the right of union members to appeal to public courts and administrative agencies
after exhausting their internal union appeals procedures.48
Titles H and V of the act require the union to report full disclosure of all
union expenses and fiduciary responsibilities. These Titles contain provisions that
legally bind union officials to utilize union funds only for the benefit of their
members. Title HI of the LMRDA deals with national trusteeships over subordinate
bodies, outlining the purpose and regulations set by the government in which the
national leadership can impose such a trusteeship. These include, but are not
limited to, eliminating corruption, restoring democratic procedures, enforcing
collective bargaining agreements, and investigating financial misconduct.49
Title IV pertains to the procedure for the enforcement of fair and honest
elections. National unions, according to the statute, must hold elections at least
every five years by secret ballot either by convention delegates or membership
referendum. Local unions must hold elections at least every three years. In
addition, Title IV provides that candidates, especially the opposition, have the right
to inspect the membership list, and the national union must comply with the law by
mailing out any literature at the candidates* expense. Furthermore, Title IV tries
to safeguard the election process by allowing candidates to have observers at every
polling site when the votes are tallied. However, Title IV does not provide for
38


independent or government observers in providing for a fair election.50
Since the passage of the LMRDA, there have been numerous debates over
its intentions, practicalities, and successes. However, the union activists, labor
lawyers, and academics debating the issue have come to the conclusion that the
LMRDA has helped democratize the labor movement no matter how minimal its
effect has been on society and national unions. Without the LMRDA, the
insurgency or opposition groups researched in this study would have been defeated
at their inception. Through the utilization of the LMRDA, reform-minded members
and groups were able to take their case to court, thus forcing the union to abide by
the law. This feature allowed opposition candidates to run for office or challenge
the outcome of elections. Clyde Summers, who has recognized the flaws within the
act, has stated that
... we should celebrate the statute. Despite its shortcomings, it has been much better
than we should realistically have expected. It has made a crucial difference... To the
extent that the statute has been a success, much of die credit must go to the lawyers
who have fought through the cases, often with litde compensation and with alienation
of union clients. But the most credit must go to those union members, a Gideons
band, who heard the message of die statute, Unions should be democratic, and who
acted on the message to make unions more democratic.51
Joseph Rauh, an original opponent of the LMRDA who became a proponent of the
act in the late 1960s, differed with Summers conclusion. Rauh felt that the lack of
successes of the LMRDA was not due to its intention but to the enforcement of the
statute. He argued in 1984 that
[t]he two biggest obstacles to the effectiveness of the statute have been the Labor
Department, which has been viciously opposed to enforcing the law, and the Supreme
Court, which has been apathetic, lackadaisical, and totally without understanding to
39


52
the gigantic problems in an undemocratic or corrupt union.
Rauh went on to say that even though he was a late convert to the LMKDA, he
realized that without the passage of the act, undemocratic and corrupt unions could
bring down the entire labor movement.53
By 1995, the Labor Departments enforcement of the LMRDA depended on
the party in control at the executive level. Nevertheless, Rauhs statement still holds
true today. Over the last fifteen years, the Labor Department has been successful
in weeding out corruption in such unions as the Teamsters, Laborers, and
Carpenters unions: however, it continues to be apathetic and lackadaisical in
enforcing the democratic rights of union members. Although there have been some
victories in democratic reform, the apathy shown by the Labor Department in
democratic enforcement will become more evident in Chapters Four and Five.
Summary
It appears that through the national union constitutions, convention
procedures, and the Landrum-Griffin act, theoretically unions could become
democratic institutions. Although some unions are relatively democratic, such as
the Musicians Union, the Oil, Chemical, and Atomic Workers (OCAW) and the
United Rubber Workers (URW), the Iron Law of Oligarchy remains the main
obstacle to the true democratization of the American labor unions.
Reformers within the labor movement have enormous obstacles to overcome.
40


Ken Paff has acknowledged that victories within the Teamsters are slow but finds
them encouraging. He concedes that the old guard, which controlled the Teamsters
from its early inception until the victory of reform candidate Ron Carey (backed by
TDU) in 1991, still has enormous power at the local level.54 This concentrated
power by the old guard could conceivably provide it with the tools necessary to
regain power through victories at the Convention, by amending the Constitution,
and ultimately by winning the General Presidency.
Furthermore, backers of the Landrum-Griffin Act and supporters of union
democracy have argued for strengthening the act as well as providing for stronger
enforcement of its provisions. As mentioned above, they contend that the LMRDA
does not go far enough in protecting the democratic rights of union members who
want to challenge the incumbent leadership: nevertheless, there are labor leaders
who are still opposed to the act, let alone to strengthening its provisions. These
leaders argue that such legislation only hinders a true free-trade movement, and
they detest any government interference. The late Joseph L. Rauh, when working
for the reformers in the UMW in 1968, became a strong proponent of the LMRDA
and stated at the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Act:
Nobody in the union democracy movement wants to injure the labor movement; we
want to strengthen it in the interest of a stronger nation. To paraphrase an old saying:
"We're not trying to haul down the flag of unionism. We are only trying to wash a
few stains out of it" And, by God, that flag will float more proudly in the breeze
when that day comes.55
41


Chapter 3
Notes
1. Herman W. Benson. Democratic Rights For Union Members: A Guide to
Internal Union Democracy. Brooklyn: Association For Union Democracy Press,
1979,2.
2. Jack Barbash. American Unions: Structure. Government and Politics. New
York: Random House, 1967,72.
3. Ibid., 72-73.
4. Ibid, 72.
5. Philip S. Foner. The Policies and Practices of the American Federation of
Labor. 1900-1909: History of the Labor Movement in the United States. Vol. 3.
New York: International Publishers, 1964,153.
6. Ibid., 153.
7. John T. Dunlop, The Management of Labor Unions: Decision Making With
Historical Constraints. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books, 1991,56.
8. Ibid., 56-61.
9. William Leiserson, American Trade Union Democracy. New York: Columbia
University Press, 1959,123.
10. Ibid., 102.
11. Barbash, 72.
12. Leiserson, 106.
13. Barbash, 73.
14. Constitution of the National Association of Letter Carriers of the United
States of America: As Amended at the Fifty-Eighth Biennial Convention. St.
Louis, Missouri: (August 1992), 4.
42


15. restitution nf the International Brotherhood of Teamsters: Adopted by_the
24th International Convention, (June 1991): 45.
16. NALC Constitution, 29.
17. Ibid., 42.
18. Roger C. Hartley, The Framework of Democracy In Union Government,
Catholic University Law Review, Vol. 32.13,1982,68.
19. Ibid.
20. Ibid., 70.
21. NALC Constitution. 44.
22. Hartley, 67.
23. Robert Michels. Political Parties: A Sociological Study of the Oligarchical
Tendencies of Modern Democracy. New York: The Free Press, 1966,177.
24. Gus Tyler. The Political Imperative: The Corporate Character of Unions.
New York: The Macmillian Company, 1968,231.
25. Philip Marcus, The Union Conventions and Executive Boards: A Formal
Analysis of Organizational Structure, American Sociological Review. (February
1966), 65.
26. Constitution of the International of Teamsters. 14.
27. Hartley, 71.
28. NALC Constitution. 12.
29. Constitution of the International Union: United Automobile. Aerospace and
Agricultural Implement Workers of America UAW: Adopted at San Diego. (June
1992), 16.
30. Constitution of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. 16-21.
31. Constitution and By-Laws. NALC Branch 3825. Rockville Maryland.
43


32. Marcus, 65.
33. Hartley, 72.
34. Hartley, 72, Edelstein, 147.
35. Bromwich, 15.
36. Hartley, 75.
37. Constitution of the International Mine Workers of America. (December 1983).
23-49.
38. David Shelden, Secret Ballot for Convention Delegates, Union Democracy
Review. (February, 1983), No. 33,2.
39. Ken Paff, national organizer TDU. Telephone interview by author, 12/27/94.
40. Herman Benson, editor UDR. Telephone interview by author, 1/20/95.
41. Hartley, 82.
42. Doris B. McLaughlin and Anita L.W, Shoomaker, The Landrum-Griffin Act
and Union Democracy. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press: 1979, 1.
43. Ibid., 1-2.
44. Clyde W. Summers, Joseph L. Rauh and Herman Benson, Union Democracy
and Landrum-Griffin. Brooklyn: AUD press, 1986,1.
45. Ibid., 2.
46. Ibid., 8.
47. Ibid.
48. Benson, 2.
49. Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959, As Amended,
United States Department of Labor. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing
Office, 1990,5-33.
44


50. Ibid.
51. Summers, Rauh and Benson, 7.
52. Ibid., 10.
53. Ibid.
54. Ken Paff, telephone interview by author, 1/30/95.
55. Summers, Rauh and Benson, 16.
45


CHAPTER 4
HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE:
FOUR CASE STUDIES
Throughout American history, the reputation of the labor movement has
paralleled the peaks and valleys associated with the national economy. As the
pendulum swings from political liberalism to conservatism or from economic peaks
to recessions, so does the publics perception of American labor. Nevertheless, as
with other political forces, the pendulum begins with the influence of internal
politics within any given organization. The internal politics of individual labor
unions and national federations carved out the path and policy that have influenced
the direction labor has taken over the last one hundred years.
The following chapter examines the history and the internal forces of each
of the four trade unions researched for this study. The first union researched will
be the United Mine Workers (UMW). It will be followed by the United Auto
Workers (UAW), International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and the National
Association of Letter Carriers (NALC).
United Mine Workers of America fUMWl
After scores of union defeats, the recession of the 1870s, and the relentless
aggression of the coal operators in the nineteenth century, miners, previously
46


organized under numerous labor organizations, formed the United Mine Workers
of America (UMWA) in 1890.1 During the latter part of the nineteenth century, the
miners had tried for years to form an army under the auspices of a union. Not only
did the company own the mills, it owned the town, the supplies, and the lawbut
not the spirit of the men, they owned themselves.2 Miners, who were mostly
immigrants to the new nation, fought for wages and the dignity of themselves and
their families. During the early days, according to Saul Alinsky,
... it was a saga, not of a war of the miners against the coal companies or operators,
but an insurrection. In a revolution there is none of the mercy of war, for there are
no prisoners taken alive and mercy is a synonym for weakness. The only rule was no
rule... The story of coal and the miners is a saga of brutality and blood.3
In the labor movement, the Ludlow Massacre in Colorado stands out as one
of the most violent and bloody labor confrontations in American history. In 1913,
the UMWA set out to organize the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company (CFI), and in
the latter part of 1913, the miners went out on strike. The company, which John D.
Rockefeller owned, was determined to destroy the union. The aspirations of the
miners were proclaimed as demands by the union: recognition of the union and its
grievance committees, removal of armed guards, abolition of company scrip, the
right of miners to choose their own doctors, an eight-hour day, and a 10 percent
increase in wages. Immediately after the rejection of these demands by the owner,
the company proceeded to evict the miners and their families from the company
town.4
The miners and their families set up a tent city and continued to picket the
47


CFL After many clashes between the armed guards and the miners, the Governor
sent in the Colorado State Militia to put an end to this insurrection. While the
miners and their families ate breakfast, the militia fired upon them. Two-thirds of
those killed were women and children. The word of the Ludlow Massacre spread
across the mine fields of America and became a symbol of the hatred the miners had
for the operators, and spread the belief that the union was their sole defense against
the mining companies.5
John L. Lewis Dictator or Peoples Leader?
During the first thirty years of the TJMWA, eight different presidents led the
union. John Mitchell, who was responsible for building the union from 33,000
members to more than 175,000, is the most famous of the eight. In 1919, John
Llewellyn Lewis, vice president of the UMWA, ascended to the presidency when
Frank Hayes resigned because of poor health. For the next forty years, Lewis
systematically transformed the UMW into a labor autocracy with himself at the
head.6
As soon as John L. Lewis took control of the union, he began to fortify his
position. Like other political despots, Lewiss appointments to top offices were
made according to loyalty, not merit In 1920, Lewis faced his first election against
a prominent and well-known local western leader, Robert J. Harlin. In what would
turn out to be the last free and open UMW election for the next fifty years, Lewis
48


utilized his new political machine and defeated Harlin, 173,064 to 106,132.7
During the next ten years, Lewis concentrated on tightening his grip over
the political apparatus. First, Lewis utilized the UMW constitution to centralize his
power. His main opponents during the first years of his presidency were local
district leaders from Illinois and Kansas. To ensure the elimination of any
opposition, Lewis referred to the provision of Article HI, Section 2 of the
constitution, which stated:
Charters of Districts, Sub-Districts and Local Unions may be revoked by the
Internationa! President, who shall have authority to create a provisional government
for the subordinate branch whose charter has been revoked.8
This provision bestowed on the president absolute power without providing
a reason for such a ruling. This stipulation in the UMYV constitution would be like
giving the President of the United States the power to suspend the governments of
any State, City, or County. In this respect, Lewis took absolute control by levying
a trusteeship over opposition locals and installing puppet governments through the
appointment process.9
Although there were some challenges to his authority, Lewis, through
purges, red baiting, and centralization, rid the union of any opposition, and his
absolute authority remained solidly in tack. One of his last purges occurred in 1928,
after his opponent for president, John Brophy, had accused him of fraud and of
stuffing the ballot box during the UMW national election. Brophy, a popular local
leader, denounced the election results and campaigned to reverse the election by
49


initiating an opposition caucus called Save the Union Conference. The caucus
leaders gathered more than one thousand members and put forth proposals and
changes to the UMW constitution.10
Lewis, in an executive hoard meeting, retaliated by expelling Brophy from
the union and charging him with Dual Unionism, which in any union is
considered the highest possible offense for any member.11 Dual Unionism is a
provision in labor organizations which prohibits a member of the union to also be
a member of rival unions or subversive groups. The UMW leadership again issued
this call of Dual Unionism again against leaders of the Miners for Democracy in
1972. After he expelled Brophy from the union for life, Lewis barred Brophys
local from the United Mine Workers, and the Save the Union Conference was
disbanded.
According to the UMW constitution, the legitimacy of the governing
organization was only in control until the next delegate convention. Lewis, utilizing
this provision, canceled the 1929 convention, an act thereby granting him absolute
control of the union until he called the next election.
The history of the United Mine Workers, for the next thirty years, was
centered around one man, John L. Lewis, and his philosophy. Lewis became one
of the most prominent labor leaders and best-known dignitaries on the American
political scene. After taking firm control of the UMWA, Lewis turned his attention
toward creating a new industrial federation that would counter the American
50


Federation of Labors (AFL) lack of organizational drive. As a vice president of the
AFL, Lewis and other labor leaders tried to force the AFL to turn its attention to
organizing the industrial sector such as the steel and auto workers. When the AFL
leaders rejected Lewiss call and when Congress passed the National Industrial
Recovery Act (NIRA), Lewiss determination to organize labor not only benefitted
his own union, but provided a foundation to establish a rival federation to the AJFL-
the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO).
Lewiss leadership role in the CIO was both important and controversial,
and will be examined briefly in this overview of the United Auto Workers, in whose
formation he played such a pivotal role. Lewiss position as president of the United
Mine Workers, along with his philosophies and actions, are especially relevant to
understanding the eventual rebellion within the ranks of its members in 1968.
Philosophies of John L. Lewis
Throughout the 1930s and early 1940s, while John L. Lewis began an
organizational drive within the UMW, the members around the country began to
revere him as their savior. Consequently, in certain districts where leaders tried
to force the issue of local autonomy, Lewis would not hesitate to impose a
provisional government and purge them from the union.13 In fact, like Stalin, Lewis
began to expel or remove top lieutenants who he felt were conspiring to overthrow
his kingdom, and treated them like traitors. In a speech delivered at the UMWs
51


Federation of Labors (AFL) lack of organizational drive. As a vice president of the
AFL, Lewis and other labor leaders tried to force the AFL to turn its attention to
organizing the industrial sector such as the steel and auto workers. When the AFL
leaders rejected Lewiss call and when Congress passed the National Industrial
Recovery Act (NIRA), Lewiss determination to organize labor not only benefitted
his own union, but provided a foundation to establish a rival federation to the AFL-
the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO).
Lewiss leadership role in the CIO was both important and controversial,
and will be examined briefly in this overview of the United Auto Workers, in whose
formation he played such a pivotal role. Lewiss position as president of the United
Mine Workers, along with his philosophies and actions, are especially relevant to
understanding the eventual rebellion within the ranks of its members in 1968.
Philosophies of John L. Lewis
Throughout the 1930s and early 1940s, while John L. Lewis began an
organizational drive within the UMW, the members around the country began to
revere him as their savior. Consequently, in certain districts where leaders tried
to force the issue of local autonomy, Lewis would not hesitate to impose a
provisional government and purge them from the union.13 In fact, like Stalin, Lewis
began to expel or remove top lieutenants who he felt were conspiring to overthrow
his kingdom, and treated them like traitors. In a speech delivered at the UMWs
51


thirtieth national convention, Lewis stated:
la the day when people were besieged in a walled city and a soldier got upon toe top
of toe wall and called to toe enemy that toe people were weak, they merely took his
tile and threw him off the wall to the dogs below. Here in these modern times we
tolerate the lamentations of toe timid and we even tolerate, at times, toe words of a
traitor ... (however) I say ... that the man who stands upon this platform and
mouths mutterings of consolation to the enemies of this Union is nothing more nor
less than a traitor.14
By making this statement, Lewis made it clear that, in the future, even more than
in the past, opposition to his leadership would equal treason.15
Lewis, who portrayed himself as a Christian and a capitalist, differed
from the more radical labor leaders of his time who espoused the formation of a
socialist society.16 Although he espoused political democracy for America, he saw
himself as a parent of children and as handling them in many ways with the same
affectionate concerns.17 In addition, Lewis stated, I work harder than anyone else
in this union, and I know more about the problems of the miners than anyone
else.18
Lewis was an ardent capitalist who perceived trade unionism as a
phenomenon of capitalism quite similar to the corporation, with economic gain a
goal of both types of enterprises.19 As the coal industry began to decline, Lewis, the
autocrat, turned his attention away from organizing and showed his talents as an
entrepreneur to save the coal industry. In an interview one year before his
retirement in 1960, Lewis took credit for the modernization of the coal industry.
He stated that in 1950, after many strikes by the miners and the decline of the
52


industry, he negotiated a contract with the new Bituminous Coal Operators
Association (an association of 262 coal operators). This contract would allow the
coal industry to replace the miners with operating machines that would cut and load
the coal. Although the 1950s brought peace between labor and management, and
production increased from 4.5 tons per day in 1945 to 12 tons in 1964, membership
in the UMW dropped drastically from a reported 450,000 to approximately 180,000
members.20
Even so, Lewis did not hesitate to praise bis accomplishments and those of
the coal miners. He argued that the coal miner who lived in poverty fifty-five years
ago, lives as an ordinary citizen today... Its true there arent many miners, but
those young men who have been absorbed by other industries are better off than
working in a coal mine far underground.21
Nevertheless, Lewis was still equally fervent in battling union dissidents,
American political leaders, and public opinion. His theory of democracy and local
autonomy within the union became more intolerant as he entered his last few years
as leader of the UMW. He believed that the major concern of any union should be
to attain economic success for the workers who are members of the union. In a
speech in 1960, Lewis summed up his views of democracy and of local autonomy
within the UMW.
Autonomy has no relation to higher wages, to shorter hours, to improved
conditions, to pensions, to medical aid, to ail of the things of value to the mine worker
and his family.
Rightly or wrongly, according to each mans opinion, 1 decided that bread
53


and butter, and freedom and the welfare of the mine workers families and education
for our children, and protection against the evil days that come to all men were more
important than autonomy. So I adopted that idea and my associates adopted that
idea because they thought it was sound. Our membership adopted that idea because
they thought it was sound. I scarcely need to mention, I think, that they continued to
elect me, in election after election, to carry out their policy.22
If we agree with this statement, then we must accept the concept that
organizations are not political governments and should not foe expected to uphold
democratic principles. A second argument would suggest that unions are purely
economic institutions, and center around whether they are performing successfully
in attaining the economic goals of the membership. These arguments would
correlate with the idea that a leader such as John L. Lewis would establish such a
regime out of the kindness of his heart to protect his poorer constituents. If we
accept this premise, then we can determine that with the establishment of such
leaders, the world would not need democracy both in public and union governments.
Scholars and union activists who reject this argument, remind us that
although some leaders intentions are selfless in the beginning, once in power for a
long period of time they begin to see their influence over the masses which enhances
their independence.23 In other words, the influence over the membership and the
independent mind set that develops in some leaders could lead to the dangers of
corruption and self-centeredness. And in the case of the UMW, this form of
independent control occurred under the long tenure of John L. Lewis, in that by the
time of his death, he left a union that not only was corrupt, but had become a
murderous bureaucracy.
54


Victor Reuther, in referring to John L. Lewiss statement above, argued that
John L.s views were a rega! view, a royalist view. The king has spoken, and the long
can do no wrong. That is hardly consistent with what the views should be of one who
represents a movement which is supposed to be democratic and have the interest of
the membership at heart and would draw strength from membership participation.
John L. never encouraged participation by the membership in any decision-making.
You are not to reason why, youre just to do or die, pay your dues and keep your mouth
shut, Ill make all the decisions,u
Reuthers argument advances the theory of why democracy and participation are
necessary in any organization. By allowing full participation, democracy produces
diverse input into the decision-making process, while autocracy depends on
decisions made by the inner circle of bureaucrats. By involving more groups or
individuals, the union is less likely to become corrupt since power will not be
concentrated in the hands of just a few people. Although John L. Lewis produced
some great gains for his membership in the 1930s and 1940s, his autocratic
leadership was based more on his quest for political power, ego, and personal gain,
which would eventually lead his union down the path of corruption and murder.
In 1946, Lewis established the Welfare and Retirement Fund(WRF) for his
members. This fund provided medical care, disability benefits, and pensions for all
coal miners. Royalties on every ton of coal financed the fund for coal miners. The
creation of the WRF became Lewiss major achievement Those who advocate the
need for one-man rule argue that Lewiss creation of the WRF showed his affection
for humanity by trying to alleviate the pain and suffering of the individual coal
miner.
55


In 1950, Lewis wanted to increase the royalties of the fund and agreed to
mechanization of the mines. After Lewis and the coal companies signed the
agreement, thousands of miners were laid off because of the automating of the coal
industry. This one concession was to have a disastrous effect for the coal-mining
region, and relegate Appalachia into a spiraling depression.25 During the next ten
years, a gulf was created between the poverty-stricken miners and Lewiss new life
style in Washington. Both Lewis and his handpicked successor, Tony Boyle, had
come to enjoy a lifestyle for the rich and famous. Their annual income of 550,000
(several hundred thousand in todays terms) had more in common with the owners
and operators of the coal industry than with the membership working in the mines.
As a result, the leadership [under Tony Boyle] had withdrawn from their former
history of militancy, both for economic advances and for health and safety concerns,
to a position of largely ignoring the dangers of mine and black lung disease.26
Lewiss creation of the WRF, which increasingly mechanized the coal industry,
along with labor-management collusion, eventually became the downfall of the
union autocracy under Tony Boyle. The younger miners of the 1960s who were
involved in the struggles of the civil rights movement and other social issues such
as Vietnam, along with the more militant miners of the past twenty years, spurred
a heightened political and social consciousness that led to the now famous rebellion
of the Miners for Democracy (MFD).
56


United Auto Workers IUAW1
The political history of the United Auto Workers (UAW) is not unlike other
labor organizations wherein one or two personalities controlled the political
apparatus and influenced their union for decades at a time. However, before the
UAW became entrenched in one-party control, political intrigue, rivalries, and
even assassination attempts surrounded its early history. Moreover, union and
participatory democracy influenced the early years of the UAW both at the
leadership level and with the rank and file.
U AW-A FI,. UAW-CIO
Before the 1930s, the AJFL, which consisted mainly of craft-oriented unions,
made a half-hearted attempt to organize auto workers, whom they considered
industrial and unskilled. In June of 1933, Congress passed the National Industrial
Recovery Act (NIRA), which for labor, was watershed legislation. It stated that
employees had the right to organize and bargain collectively through
representation of their choosing and must be free of interference, restraint or
coercion by employers making this choice.27 After the passage of the NIRA, labor
organizations took the initiative, and, consequently, membership among labor
unions grew at an enormous rate. However, the auto industry, which refused to
abide by the NIRA, fought to keep control of their workers daily activities. In 1933,
one hundred auto plants went on strike. The leadership of the AFL, led by William
57


Green, appointed William Collins, followed by Francis Dillon, to head the UAW-
AFL organizing drive. The AFL, which dealt mainly with craft-oriented workers,
was a drowsy organization equipped neither structurally nor intellectually to
unionize mass-production industries.2* As a result, the AFL failed in its attempt
both to battle the auto industry and to influence the majority of auto workers to
organize under the umbrella of the AFL.
As ibis pattern became increasingly prevalent, the center of unionization shifted from
the AFL to the plants themselves. Hie actual leaders were not the stolid AFL
business agents distributing craft manna from on high, but inexperienced young men
in the shops.29
These young militants on the shop floor became the eventual political opposition
against the AFL leadership and formed one of the most progressive social unions in
American history.
Two main incidents occurred that drove the young militants away from the
old style leadership of the AFL. The first incident occurred when the young
militants led by Homer Martin, a vice president of a Kansas City local, challenged
the policies of William Green, president of the AFL, at the 1934 UAW convention.
During that convention, William Green refused to allow individual unions to choose
their own leadership. He appointed Francis Dillon to head the UAW-AFL. The
workers denounced Green as anti-industrial and undemocratic.3"
The second incident was the passage of the Wagner Act and the creation of
the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The Wagner Act, besides allowing
58


for collective bargaining, adopted the principle of majority rule long familiar from
political practice and democratic theory. If the union was selected by the majority
of employees in the plant, it became the bargaining agent for alL31 This law began
a massive drive to organize the auto industry.
The young militants in the UAW sought out UMW leader John L. Lewis,
who proposed a massive organizational drive of industrial workers at the 3935 AFL
convention. After being rejected by the delegation, Lewis, along with Sidney
Hillman, president of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers, formed the Congress
of Industrial Organization (CIO). The CIO would in the next few years organize
on a massive scale the workers in the industrial sector such as the rubber, steel, and
auto workers. Because most of the industrial workers were of European descent and
were radical in their political beliefs, Lewis hired John Brophy, the man he had
expelled years earlier for his dissension within the UMW, to head the organization
committee of the CIO. With Brophy and other more radical unionists, Lewis began
his massive move to organize the UAW and other CIO unions.
The question most widely asked among labor historians is why would a
conservative, undemocratic leader like John L. Lewis resort to hiring radical and
militant organizers? The answer, according to Irving Howe, is that most of the
local leaders were union radicals, and only men moved by a conviction of
unionization of mass-production industries [which] was a step toward a large social
end were willing to take the risks that came with the job. 32
59


John L. Lewis was successful, and at the 1936 UAVV convention, the
delegates rejected the handpicked AFL leader and chose Homer Martin as their
new UAW president In addition, two other militant unionists were elected,
Wyndham Mortimer and George Addes, both of whom had enormous followings
among the rank and file workers. Mortimer, who was not a member of the
Communist Party (CP), nevertheless followed and believed in its political direction.
Addes, on the other hand, was considered a leftist but would not align himself with
the CP. All three of these men would eventually form the UAW Progressive
Caucus, one of the two most influential factions of the 1930s and 40s.
The Rise of Walter Reuther
After spending a few years in the Soviet Union working in an auto plant in
Gorky, W'alter and Victor Reuther, disillusioned with Stalin and the Soviet
government, returned to Detroit just in time for the rise of the CIO. Walter, Victor,
and their brother Roy, started work in the auto industry outside Detroit It wasnt
long before Walter rose within the ranks of the UAW and was elected to the general
council of the newly formed union.
In 1937, through Reuthers militant tactics against General Motors, he began
to have an enormous following among rank and file members. Walter and Victor,
who became concerned about the direction that the UAW leadership was taking,
started an opposition group, the Unity Caucus. While the Progressive Caucus, led
60


by President Homer Martin, was generally considered more conservative by the
membership, the Unity Caucus allied itself with the Socialists, Communists, and
non-political militant unionists.33 It was at this point, that a true two-party system
and internal union democracy became part of the UAW political structure.
According to Victor Reuther,
once we (UAW) won independence from the old AFL, and were chartered by the
CIO, there was a remarkable degree of internal democracy within the union. The
very fact that the auto workers, after winning independence from die AFL [and being
granted] a CIO charter, got into a terrible internal struggle with one Homer Martin,
who was the first elected president of the UAW, is certainly evidence that there w as
an enormous degree of internal union democracy.34
In labor history there have been few occasions in the annals of American
labor on which fratricidal strife reached an equal pitch of bitterness and fury.'"35
Although Walter Reuther realized the danger this strife would cause when dealing
with the auto industry, this internal contest in a democratic union was necessary to
establish stable leadership for the future. Although there was deep internal strife,
the two caucuses both made a fervent attempt to organize the auto industry. Victor
Reuther explained that
We (the UAW) made some of die greatest gains in the auto industry at a time when
the UAW was involved in deep internal dispute... that didnt stop us from telling
General Motors where in the hell we on stood on that issue (organizing and collective
bargaining).36
Although the major differences between the caucuses centered on right-
versus-left issues and on foreign-policy issues, the Unity Caucus began to build its
strength around internal union policy. While the Progressive caucus espoused
central control of the UAW, Reuther and the Unity Caucus proposed changes in the
61


UAW constitution to decentralize authority and protect local autonomy and
democratic procedures.37 In addition, civil rights, fair labor standards, and a host
of other social issues became paramount in the debate that extended outside the
union to the CIO and the New Deal programs of FDR.38
Reuther, who was not part of the Democratic party, nonetheless endorsed
the policies of the New Deal and the re-election of FDR. The Unity Caucus held
together until the spring of 1938, when strains between the communists and Reuther
began to build over social and foreign issues. During the 1938 convention, the two
factions within the Unity caucus came to blows when the communists refused to
back Victor Reuther for Secretary-Treasurer of the Union, and instead put their
weight behind the Progressive candidate.39
The Communist Party, which had powerful influence within the UAW
during the 1930s, began to dwindle after the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1938. After
Hitlers move to take over Eastern Europe, Reuther began his attack on the
communists, thus diminishing their influence among the rank and file. In an
interview, Victor Reuther stated:
The opposition caucus chooses to commit itself to a foreign policy determined outside
our country in Moscow to be specific. [There was] heated discussion about whether
or not we would aid Britain and whether we would become allies in the war against
Hitler .. and it was the official line of the opposition (Progressive) caucus in the
UAW that tiie Yanks are not coining. This was an Imperialist war. Issues not on
caucus questions but on National questions [were where] the lines were drawn. And
those who waved the Moscow line were decisively defeated democratically in local
after local and delegate election, and anyone who tried to pretend otherwise is
misconstruing history.40
62


Furthermore, a major blow to the communist faction came at the 1941
convention, when Victor Reuther presented the Anti-Communist amendment to
the delegates. The amendment stated that no member of any organization whose
loyalty is to a foreign government or any organization or who supports
organizations that approve of totalitarian forms of government will be eligible to
hold elective or appointive office in the UAW'. Victor Reuther, who spoke for the
amendment during the debate, argued that democracy cannot survive in an
organization when there are those that advocate and back policies that are
dictatorial and totalitarian in nature. After much debate between the different
factions, a similar and strong substitute amendment was passed in a lopsided vote.41
When asked if this amendment was contrary to the premise behind union
democracy, Victor Reuther stated vehemently:
Hell NO! It would have been overwhelmingly supported if I had limited it to fascism.
Oh ray, the opposition in the UAW would have said here, here, but when I included
tiie communists as well, they objected and said it is undemocratic. Well, history has
certainly proven that a dictatorship is a dictatorship, and to say that people who
embrace fascist or communist dictatorships are not committed to internal union
democracy is common sense; to do otherwise is utter stupidity and naivete.42
In the years leading up to Walter Reuthers rise to the presidency of the UAW',
interna] union democracy was played out in every local over the policies of the two
caucuses. WTiile the Progressive Caucus became more influenced by the Communist
factions, Walters backing of the New Deal policies, social issues, civil rights, and
worker democracy, provided the unity caucus the necessary tools to ensure victory
at the 1947 convention.
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At the Atlantic City Convention in 1947, Walter Reuther decided to run for
president against the incumbent, R.J. Thomas. Thomas, a member of the
Progressive Caucus, was elected at the 1940 convention as a compromise candidate
to head off any victory by the influential communist faction. The 1946 convention
became one of the most exciting and turbulent political showdowns in UAW history.
Lines were drawn between the two major caucuses which would initially start the
process toward a one-party system. R.J. Thomas and George Addes led the
Progressive caucus, whom the still influential communist faction supported. Three
major elements supported the Unity Caucus led by the Reuther brothers: 1) The
right wing or social democrats of the union, 2) The largest and most important
delegation, who were the non-ideological unionists who had lost their patience with
the factional fighting, and 3) the delegates who were attending their first election.43
In his memoirs, The Brothers Reuther, Victor Reuther argued that if the Thomas
faction had won, it would have permanently placed the balance of power in the
hands of the far left44
In the end, after four hours of roll call voting, Reuther won by 124 votes
(each vote represented 100 members) 4,444 to 4,320. Although Reuther won the
presidency, the opposition caucus won a two-to-one majority of the executive
council, which for the next two years would isolate and surround the Reuther
presidency.45
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The Reuther Presidency. Philosophy: The Beginning of the One-Party State
Over the next two years, Walter Reuther began to build a powerful and loyal
political machine through the appointment process. Nevertheless, the executive
board (with a two-to- one majority), fought and undermined Reuther on every issue.
While the internal battle between the factions reached new levels of political
agitation, Reuthers re-election at the 1949 convention was due to several strategic
policies.
The creation of the Education Department through the leadership of
Victor Reuther, sponsored massive educational workshops with
young union activists and unprecedented aid to UAW locals.
Walter Reuthers attack on the Un-American Activities Committee
in Congress brought support from the rank and file.
Victory in collective bargaining with General Motors gave the
membership an 11.5 cent raise an hour and six paid holidays. The
packages were worth 15 cents an hour and became a pattern-setting
agreement in the auto industry.46
Furthermore, the victories for delegates of the 1949 convention showed
strength and popularity for Reuther. As the convention opened in Atlantic City,
Reutbers opposition was demoralized, and the Reutherites were in full control of
the proceedings.47 Reuther won the Presidential election 5,593 to 399 with 1,219
abstentions. However, the most impressive showing came with the election of the
executive board, on which the Reuther slate won 18 of the 22 seats. After his
election, Reuther remained president of the UAW until his early death in 1970.
Reuther wasted no time in purging the union of UAWr staff employees who were
associated with either the Communist party or the opposition caucus. In addition,
65


Reuther was elected to the executive board of the CIO, which would eventually
elevate him to the Presidency of this powerful federation.48
While Reuther was firmly in control of the UAW and its political apparatus,
one incident would allow the end of the two-party system within the UAW political
structure. On the night of April 20,1948, while preparing dinner in his kitchen,
Walter Reuther was shot with a 12-gauge shotgun through the window. Though the
assassination attempt was not fatal, Reuther never fully recovered the use of his
arm. Thirteen months later, an attempt on Victor Reuthers life also occurred.
Victor Reuther was shot in the face, causing him to lose an eye. Victor, like his
brother, fully recovered, and accepted the position of director of the CIO in Paris.
This assignment, according to Victor Reuthers memoirs, ... gave me the chance
to take Sophie (his wife) and the children away from the depressing climate in
Detroit, where we were always conscious of the bodyguards, and where all of us
feared still more attacks.49 Although the police never found the suspects in either
case, most scholars, along with Reuther supporters, believed these assassination
attempts were by members of the communist party.50
The first shootings aftermath effected how the UAWs political structure
would function for the next two decades. Although there is debate on whether
Walter Reuther suppressed or stifled opposition, it is dear among labor historians
that the assassination attempt was a primary reason for the lack of opposition and
the eventual creation of a one-party state within the UAW. In the words of Victor
66


Reuther,
(After the attempt on Walters life} Walter acquired, tragically, a martyrdom in the
UAW, and there were those who did not want to debate die issues. If the red head
(Walter Reuther) was for it, thats okay . Walter, the leader of call it the
Administrative Caucus if you wish, insisted on every issue that was contested. The
opposition, even though they only had one percent of the vote, was guaranteed fifty
percent of the time on the floor to debate it, in other words, a speaker for and a
speaker against. (That certainly indicates that one who was victorious and was the
leader, was determined that it did not exercise abusive power). In Walters last
years, he was very saddened that there was not a stronger opposition because he
knew that having mi opposition caucus or an alternate view put forward was essential
for the vitality of any organization that professes to be democratic or that was a trade
union or a political party.51
In contrast to Victor Reuthers view on the role democracy played in the
UAW after Walter Reuthers landslide victory in 1949, Kim Moody argues that
Reuther and the new International Executive Board ran the union with iron
discipline. Staff members were disciplined to carry out administration policies and
denied the right to run against administrative candidates at any level.52 The next
step to control the political apparatus was to gain complete control over the union
press. To accomplish this control, local newsletters were reviewed by the
international publications committee, and editors were subject to possible libel if
they did not conform to the International standards and policies.53
Seymour Upset, in his book Union Democracy, states that once Reuther was
solidly in the saddle, his administration enjoyed a near monopoly over the sources
of power and status within the union. In addition, once this power was established,
there were few avenues for an aspiring oppositionist, and the only way a worker
could gain union office, was to go through the hierarchy and not against it.54 Victor
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Reuther, who stated during our interview that Lipset was wrong in his evaluation,
gave numerous examples of dissension and opposition within the UAYV. Moody,
nevertheless, concurs with Lipset and states that .. by 1951, Reuther could boast
that organized debate and opposition in the UAW was dead. Of course, he didnt
call it debate. He called it factionalism and vowed it would never occur again.55
Reuther, at the 1951 UAW convention, stated ... the past is dead, for factional
considerations.56 This was the end of any legitimate opposition within the UAW.
In 1957, Walter Reuther set up the Public Review Board (PRB) to show his
democratic intentions. This seven-member board was to hear complaints if any
member of the executive board erred, [was] capricious or otherwise strayed from
the path of pure justice in handling intra-union squabbles involving disciplinary or
other formal action.57 The intention was to keep the members of the PRB from
working under the jurisdiction of the UAW or from being employed by the
International or its subordinate bodies. The members of the PRB were to be selected
by the UAW President, subject to approval by the International Executive Board
(IEB) and ratification by the UAW national convention. The first board was
composed of three clergyman, two judges, an economics professor, and the President
of the University of California.58
The UAWs PRB, during its first year, was no paper tiger. Of the 16
decisions, the Board reversed the decisions of the UAW International Executive
Board (IEB) in three cases.59 The UAWs choice to include such an overeight
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committee, was not universally lauded by other labor organizations. The President
of tbe Transport Workers Union called the PRB a dangerous precedent... and
unnecessary retreat under fire.60 Although the board, in its infancy, was built on
the premise of separation of powers, and ruled against tbe international leadership
in certain cases, today the PRB has been accused of being too dependent on tbe
(IEB). Moody argues that although Reuther initiated the PRB, genuine opposition
was not tolerated after 1951 and the UAW remained a one-party controlled
democracy, until the social and economic conditions of the 1960s provoked a new
wave of opposition.1'61
Since his death in 1970, there have been many disagreements on whether
Walter Reuther was true to his early democratic principles in bis later years, or had
become just another authoritarian union boss. Nevertheless, most historians agree
that Reuther kept to his principles of social unionism. In 1968, after many battles
within the AFL-CIO over the direction of social issues such as the civil rights
movement and the Vietnam W'ar, which he opposed, Reuther withdrew the DAW
from the AFL-CIO. Reuther was the leading American advocate and practitioner
of social unionism-the use of unions to pursue the public good through political,
social, and economic reforms.62
Although Walter Reuther was devoted to his social unionist beliefs,
dissension among young black militants within the UAW began to increase in 1968.
They accused Reuther of ignoring their complaints of racist tactics by both the
69


employer and union local leaders. Reuther accused the militant organization called
DRUM (Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement) of attempting to divide the union
on racial lines.63 Whereas DRUM leaders tried to utilize the electoral process to
gain footholds, in mostly black locals, their efforts where minimized. Some scholars
argue that Reuther did not intervene in DRUMS losses and eventual demise.
However, in the political arena, it is unlikely that Reuther was uninvolved in
DRUMS defeat and eventual collapse.
After the death of Walter Reuther in 1970, the UAW leadership, known as
the Administrative Caucus, began a new era. The Administrative Caucus looked
more like the Soviet Politburo than a democratically run organization of the early
Reuther years. Although Reuther, who was president for more than twenty years,
ruled the UAW with an authoritarian hand, he allowed the opposition a voice at the
national convention.
Because the UAW constitution does not include rules governing succession,
a struggle began within the UAW leadership after Walter Reuthers death.64
Leonard Woodcock became the first of four presidents over the next twenty-five
years. Between the years of 1970 and 1981, the UAWs one-party controlled union
abandoned Reuthers ideals of social unionism for a business unionist philosophy
that was established in other major unions throughout the United States. In
addition, union democracy and opposition were no longer tolerated at any level,
including the international convention. These two major occurrences led toward the
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growth of a major opposition movement which for the first time in forty-years that
challenged the UAWs leadership and policies.
International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT1
The birth of the BBT in the early twentieth century and its emergence into
one of the most powerful labor unions in America, differ radically from the two
previous unions I have discussed. The 3BT, or the Teamsters, as I will refer to them,
were led by men that believed more in the concept of cooperation with business and
business unionism than in any form of class consciousness. With their association
with the Mafia, corruption, racketeering and money laundering, the Teamsters
more than any other American labor union, damaged the entire movements
reputation.
Today, rank and file Teamsters, led by reformer Ron Carey, have survived
their embattled reputation to become one of the most democratic and militant labor
organizations in America. Although reformers have been elected to the
International leadership, many locals are dominated by the old guard, who
learned their ways from such Teamsters leaders as Dave Beck, Jimmy Hoffa, and
Jackie Presser. The following will refleet on the rise and fall of the BBT.
The First Fifty Years
Prior to 1902, the Teamsters union, then called the Team Drivers Union,
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consisted of wage earners, owner-operators, and employers. From the beginning,
it appeared that this union was a contradiction in terms.65 In 1902, after a dispute
with employers, the wage earners and owner-operators expelled the employers to
form the first Teamster Union in Chicago. The Teamsters were a craft-oriented
union, comprised of milk, coal, and ice drivers. In a very short time, the new
Teamsters union succeeded with less than half a dozen strikes in organizing 5,000
members into forty locals.66
The movement to expel the employers spread aeross the nation and in
August 1903, the various Teamster locals assembled in Niagara Falls and created
the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Furthermore, in that same year, the
AFL chartered this new eraft union, in 1907, after many years of rival local
clashes, a drop in membership, violent clashes, and defeated strikes, the Teamsters
turned to a new leader, Boston local union council president Daniel Tobin. Tobin,
who won the Presidency by twelve votes, was considered weak in that he was
expected to allow more local autonomy.67 But contrary to this belief, although he
allowed local autonomy, Tobin proved to be stronger than [the delegates]
expected,68 and lasted as general president until 1952.
Early Political Structure. During these early years, the locals were more
powerful than the International. In addition, although it is hard to analyze the
extent of corruption within the union, many locals that were apparently opposed to
Tobin were under the leadership of corrupt and often criminal officials.69 This
72


charge appears to be true in such large cities as Detroit, St Louis, and Chicago,
where the Teamster locals were the most powerful.
At the beginning of his tenure, Tobin reached an agreement with the
powerful local leaders that if they supported his management of the national office,
he [would] not interfere in their affairs.70 In other words, by getting them to
overlook the corruption and racketeering, Tobin ensured the permanence of the
international body.71
Through the teen years of the twentieth century, Tobin pleaded with the
local bosses to increase the per capita tax for the international to provide death
benefits to its membership. In convention after convention, Tobin was
overwhelmingly defeated in this request. In the following years, Tobin retaliated
against the locals by hoarding union monies and providing inferior service to the
locals. According to Farrell Dobbs, an early Teamster activist, the Teamsters were
little more than a loose federation of city formations over which Tobin presided
much like a feudal monarch.72
As corruption increased during the 1920s, organized crime bosses made their
move to take over many Teamster locals. The qualifications for seeking union
office were reduced to the possession of a gun.73 In several cases, mobsters would
enter a union hall, shoot the business agents, and, through a coup detat, would
place themselves in control.74
Tobin resigned himself to the inevitable by allowing the locals full autonomy.
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The only power that really existed for the General President was control over the
strike fund. Although the International Constitution provided him power to enforce
his authority, he and the executive board were actually a rubber stamp body to the
local bosses. Furthermore, when Tobin wanted to flex his muscle, some locals would
secede to demonstrate who was really in control.75 Tobin, however, secured his
position in the IBT through several executive orders. The most significant order
was to extend the convention from once a year, to every five years. This decree
discouraged secession, and put the power of the day-to-day business practice in the
hands of the Executive Council. In addition, although weak in his own union, Tobin
became a powerful member of the executive board of the AFL. As a member of this
powerful board, he bossed the federations executive council with shameless
arrogance, but he walked softly in the presence of his own local leaders.76
Business Unionism. Opposition and Centralization. Locals throughout the
country were not totally dominated by organized crime and arrogant bosses.
Nevertheless, with local autonomy as the power base within the organization, two
completely different local leaders emerged who would play a prevalent role in the
direction of the IBT. The first was Dave Beck, a business-oriented unionist that
began his career in a chartered Seattle Laundry and Dry Drivers Local 566. As he
moved his way through the leadership, he eventually became the primary officer of
this Seattle local in 1925. The second prevalent local leader was Farrell Dobbs, a
militant unionist who led the great Minneapolis Trucking Strike of 1934.
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Before becoming President of the Seattle local council, Beck, unlike other
unionists of his time, fought against what he thought were the incompetent leaders
in the Seattle labor movement. During the years before World War I, Seattle
unions were led by Wobbles, socialist and militant unionists. In 1919, the great
Seattle Strike in the shipyards brought together all the unions under the name of
solidarity and forced the city of Seattle to shut down. While labor was showing its
strength through militant union tactics, Dave Beck denounced the strike and
opposed militant unionism. Beck argued that [Yjou cant beat the bosses by trying
to destroy them, I have no use for class warfare.77
Beck eventually took a job with Daniel Tobin as full-time organizer for the
Pacific Northwest and British Columbia. A true business unionist, Beck tried to
dispel the idea that unions were radical institutions. He began making speeches on
the wonders of the free enterprise system, profits and private property.78 In one
of those speeches, Beck argued that what is good for business in selling its product
is good for labor in selling the only thing that it has to sell-labor-exactly that, no
difference.79
Beck discouraged strikes and worked with the employers to uphold any labor
agreements. In fact, by utilizing this tool, Beck was able to persuade employers to
sign contracts with the IBT. By the 1930s, Becks ability to work with the business
world provided him the respect that would allow him to join the businessmans club
and the Elks, and he also became a member of the Chamber of Commerce. Through
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his influence, Beck moved to organize the trucking industry, first in Oregon and
then in California. By 1938, through militant and strong-arm tactics, Beck and his
union army succeeded in organizing the entire West coast trucking industry, which
would extend from Seattle to Denver.
While Beck utilized the rank and file participation to win major trucking
agreements, once the battle was won, the new union members found their locals in
trusteeship. Beck bad no need for union democracy, and would argue that ... we
did just exactly what a business would do. The Stockholders wouldnt hold an
election to see who the hell was going in if they opened a new plant. The top
company officials would pick out the best man they could get their hands on and
theyd put him in there as managers.80 After Beck won a contract, he worked with
the employer to secure agreements that would last ten years, thus forcing the
membership into a contractual cage.83
In contrast, Farrell Dobbs, who was schooled in the ways of Eugene Debs
and Leon Trotsky, led the famous Teamster Trucking strike of 1934. In the
Minneapolis-St-Paul region, the employers, through joint councils, tried to bring the
trucking union to its knees. However, Dobbs, who gained the support of other local
unions and the State AFL, was able to defy the IBT International Executive Board,
which refused to support the strike and win contracts for many local workers.82
According to Dobbs, most of the truckers in the Minneapolis region were utilized
in semi-industrial employment. The local Teamster leaders, who were craft-
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oriented, were incompetent and more interested in building their own careers than
organizing the workers of the area.83 As in the UAW, it was up to local militant
truck drivers, who took up the cause to organize the non-organized.
These militant truck drivers, some of whom considered themselves
Trotskyites, understood that the average rank and file worker
cared little about ideological discourse on the basic facts of capitalism or explanation
of the revolutionary socialists road [for] a lasting solution. At that juncture, they had
to be approached in terms of die immediate issues over which they were radicalizing:
higher wages, shorter hours, job security, and better working conditions.84
The worker council consisted of experienced revolutionaries and young militants,
who had control of the local apparatus and the strike of 1934. With their
democratic and participatory philosophy, Dobbs and the rest of the young militants,
who consisted of members of the Socialist Workers Party, won the respect and
loyalty of the non-ideological rank and filers.
In the end, after many violent clashes with hired strikebreakers and the
national guard, in which many died, Local 574 and Farrell Dobbs organized sixty-
one percent of the citys trucking business.85 After their major victory, these
young militant Teamsters began a drive to organize the over-the-road drivers. It
was a plan that would radically change the Teamsters and the labor movement.86
Daniel Tobin, who recognized the significance of the Minneapolis victory,
decided to back Dobbs and his organizing drive. The organizing drive, which led
to Detroit, brought on board local leader Jimmy Hoffa to help and encourage the
over-the-road truck drivers. Hoffa, who became a disciple of Dobbs, not in the
77


ideological sense but in the organizing tradition, made great gains and added
nationally to the name he already secured in Detroit.
Hoffa, already known in the Detroit area for his organizing skills, also
became involved with organized syndicate bosses. Several theories project how
Hoffa became involved with the Mafia, but one thing is certain: sometime during
the 1930s, Hoffas involvement with the Mafia ... was a moral choice consistent
with the business union philosophy that he had adopted.87 Hoffa is credited with
organizing the car haulers throughout the country. With Dobbss ingenious ways
of strangling the industry and Hoffas organizing experience, the Teamsters won
nationwide contracts with the over-the-road employers.88
After the major victories by Beck in the West and Dobbs in the Midwest,
Tobin decided it was time to concentrate the power of the Teamsters into a
centralized body. By 1941, Tobin gained enough power to restructure the
Teamsters into first, regional, and later, national political entities. According to
Dan La Botz, by 1941 the struggle between Farrell Dobbss brand of radical,
democratic unionism from the bottom up, and Dave Beckss conservative,
authoritarian unionism from the top down, came face to face which would
determine the future of the Teamsters internal policies.89
As the United States entered the war in 1941, the struggle between the left
and the right in the Teamsters began to gel. As with the political strife inside the
UAW, Daniel Tobin decided to make foreign policy the tenet to rid the union of the
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powerful Trotskyites from Minneapolis. Dobbs and the Minneapolis leaders argued
that working people bad nothing to gain from supporting such a war and should
instead work toward bringing about a socialist society. 90 In addition, these militant
leaders decided not to give up the right to strike during the wartime years. On the
other hand, the conservative wing of the Teamsters, led by Tobin, were ardent
supporters of both FDR and the war effort
Tobin first tried to beat the Trotskyites at the local ballot box. When that
effort failed, Tobin tried to force the local into trusteeship. Dobbs and his
colleagues fought Tobin by holding an election to disaffiliate from the EBT-AFL and
join the ranks of the CIO.91 In a move that stereotypes the Teamsters strong-arm
tactics, Tobin, with the backing of the police, sent thugs to Minneapolis to force
the issue. Ironically, Jimmy Hoffa was one of those sent to destroy his mentor. 92 In
the end, through the help of FDR, the FBI, and the NLRB, Tobin was able to rid the
Minneapolis locals of all influence from the far left Dobbs and his co-leaders were
then arrested on sedition charges and found guilty in 1943.93
Dan La Botz argues that the legacy of this attack on the Minneapolis
Teamsters was to be the corruption of one of Americas largest and most important
unions.94 After this victory, it was inevitable that Dave Beck would succeed to the
union presidency and lead this powerful union into decades of corruption,
racketeering, and the federal indictments of the next four General Secretaries.
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The Fall of the IBT
In 1952, Dave Beck succeeded Daniel Tobin with the backing of Jimmy
Hoffa. Immediately, Beck moved to centralize his control. First, he created
conferences in all sections of the country; second, he divided the trade divisions into
dairy, grocery, and warehouse divisions and a dozen smaller organizations.
Through trusteeships of many locals, Beck was able to centralize the entire
Teamsters under his control. Dave Beck, as in his earlier days, was contemptuous
of union democracy and participation from the rank and file. He stated Im paid
$25,000 a year to run this outfit, ... unions are big business. Why should truck
drivers and bottle washers be allowed to make big decisions affecting union policy?
Would any corporation allow it?95
Becks business union philosophy did not change from his early days as an
organizer. As president of the largest labor organization in America, although he
increased the membership of the IBT to unprecedented numbers, he placated
businesses by establishing partnerships aimed at stabilizing the industry, raising
profits and thus raising wages. 96 However, scholars appear to agree that business
used Beck more than Beck used business. Business, it is argued, wanted a barrier
between themselves and the more militant labor unions.97 In 1957, Beck would be
found guilty of laundering union funds for his own needs and sentenced to five years
in prison.
Jimmy Hoffa. Jimmy Hoffas stories of racketeering, corruption, and Mafia
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influence are well documented in the journals of American history. In fact, his
influence with organized crime was, eventually, the downfall of this corrupt
kingdom. Although his fight with the government is important, understanding the
Teamsters organization structure under the Hoffa presidency is just as imperative.
Politically, Hoffa was the first Teamster president to utilize personal
charisma to capture the publics imagination as his predecessor never had.98
Hoffa, like John L. Lewis, was revered by the Teamster rank and file.
Consequently, like Lewis, Hoffa was
a dictator who tolerated no opposition. He crushed local unions that fought for their
autonomy and destroyed rank and file movements that rose to fight against him ..
. A demagogue who could stir up class hatred without raising class consciousness,
Hoffa never helped the Teamster membership to learn to think and act for itself. On
the contrary, he imbued in the union membership a sense of dependency."
Hoffa took control over every aspect of the Teamster political machine.
Although he provided the membership with power, self-confidence, and a higher
living standard, he willfully deprived them of democracy and decision-making roles.
Nevertheless, his ties and friendship with organized crime would lead him to
relinquish his power to the underworld. Jimmy Hoffa not only used his connection
with the underworld for power:
he shared in their crimes. He had made tens of thousands of dollars in extortion
schemes that bled the innocent, often small and poor businessmen. He threatened
recalcitrant businesses with union troubles and violence. He set up his wife, under her
maiden name, in a truck leasing company that received business from trucking
companies eager to get Hoffa to go easy on wages. He bribed members of Congress
with five or more hundred dollar bills. He siphoned off millions of dollars from
Teamsters monthly pension funds to make fraudulent loans to the mob.100
After a long series of trials, in the end, like his predecessor, Hoffa would be sent to
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prison for mail fraud, jury tampering, and laundering of union funds.
Fitzsimmons. Williams and Presser. Frank Fitzsimmons, who took over after
Hoffas conviction, was considered a caretaker of the Teamster apparatus until
Hoffas release. However, Fitzsimmons had no intention of being Hoffas caretaker
and took full control of the IBT with the help of the Mafia.101 Like Hoffa,
Fitzsimmons was a business unionist, who believed in top-down control.
Fitzsimmons soon came under investigation for embezzlement and laundering of
union funds. He died in 1981, before the government convicted him of felony
misconduct
Roy Williams, his successor, lasted 18 months until he too was charged with
conspiracy to bribe U.S. Senator Howard Cannon of Nevada.12 Jackie Presser,
second in charge under Williams and a friend of Ronald Reagan, was named
General Secretary of the Teamsters. Unlike his predecessors, Presser was the first
General Secretary that never worked as a rank and file Teamster. In fact, his
critics claim that Jackie Presser never worked a day in his life.103 Jackie Presser led
a new generation of Teamsters that rose through the ranks by virtue of their
fathers influence. Jackie Presser, who never ran for a contested election, was
appointed in 1976 to the executive council by IBT President Fitzsimmons. After Bill
Presser retired from the IBT as vice president, Jackie was appointed to take his
place. These new young Teamsters became known as the Royal Teamsters.
Teamsters International, joint council, and local payrolls were filled with
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the sons of top Teamsters.104 The Royal Teamsters had never done much for their
fat salaries except prove that some people cant be embarrassed into doing a days
work, even if they collect fifty to seventy thousand dollars a year to do it.105 These
political plums were initiated when Dave Beck stated that he saw no reason why
union officers should not bequeath their offices to their sons as businessmen did
their property.106
From the point when Frank Fitzsimmons took office until the time Jackie
Presser died, several reform movements from below were organizing to fight this
entrenched royal monarchy. Led by young militants who bad learned their tactics
as student activists of the 1960s, and like their militant predecessors of the 1930s,
these unionists decided it was no longer enough just to pay dues. They wanted a
voice in the decision-making process and began a long struggle to take back their
union and make it a true, democratic rank-and-file union once again.
National Association of Letter Carriers fNALCl
While the three previous studies involved labor struggles within the private
sector, the history of the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) brings the
labor movement into a unique perspective. Labor laws and Supreme Court rulings
that had major effects on labor and industry never affected the workers in federal
government jobs. The United States Congress capriciously controlled workers
salaries, work rules, and grievances. Consequently, the early internal politics and
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fractious rivalries that were commonplace within the labor movement, did not
materialized within the NALC until after the 1970 Postal Strike.
Although the NALC has been a workers organization since 1889 and a
member of the AFL for over seventy-five years, its induction into the collective
bargaining domain did not occur until 1970. In the framework as an independent
labor organization, the NALC has just recently reached its adolescent stage.
Nevertheless, the members of the NALC, although not considered a full-fledged
labor organization for their first eighty years, exhibited a great unity of purpose
and method ... this remarkable cohesiveness was in part due to the nature of the
letter carriers job: all workers performed the same work. And since there were
few chances of promotion and personal gain, the only real improvements carriers
could hope for were those that benefited the group as a wholes17
The Beginning
The history of the National Association of Letter Carriers parallels the
historical perspective of the United States Government and its treatment of federal
employees. In 1883, the countrys first civil service law, known as the Pendleton
Act, was passed by Congress. This legislative act established a hiring exam for
postal employees in offices with more than 50 employees. The change from the
spoils system enacted during Andrew Johnsons presidency, created a new
relationship between Congress and the letter carriers. Because members of
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Congress could no longer control the appointments to the Postal Department,
interest in the welfare of letter carriers quickly faded and carriers found it
necessary to unite to protect their interest108
The move toward establishing a labor organization occurred during the
debate for an eight-hour day. While most federal laborers and mechanics were
provided that luxury in 1868, the Post Office employees were exempt In the next
fifteen to twenty years, letter carriers in the largest cities began to affiliate with the
Knights of Labor, who would take up their cause for an eight-hour day. The
Knights, with their strong membership of 700,000 workers nationwide, campaigned
vigorously and drafted legislation for an eight-hour day for all postal employees.
While the business lobby allied itself with the Post Office Department against the
eight-hour legislation, the Post Office Department suspended, transferred, or fired
any letter carrier associated with the Knights of Labor or the labor movement109
In New York City alone, the Post Office suspended ISO letter carriers.
In 1888, the bill passed, which not only gave the letter carriers an eight-hour
day, it gave them the confidence to organize the entire letter carrier craft In 1889,
100 letter carriers, mostly veterans, assembled in Milwaukee and formed the
National Association of Letter Carriers (NALQ. This assembly elected William H.
Wood to be their first President and appointed an Executive Council to lead a
legislative effort for all letter carriers.110
After the creation of the NALC, carriers in the larger cities, such as New
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York, continued to affiliate themselves with the Knights of Labor. NALC President
Wood perceived the Knights as a sinking ship and decided to keep the NALC out
of this once powerful labor organization.111 A split occurred between the two
organizations, and Congress refused to consider any legislation involving letter
carriers until the feuding ended.112
The Post Office Department tried to take advantage of the split and ignored
the eight-hour law passed in 1888. By reinterpreting the law to mean eight hours
a day for seven days, carriers were forced to work fifty-six to sixty hours a week.
This action taken by the Post Office was the main thread that tied the two rival
organizations together. The fledgling organization filed suit against the Post
Office, and in 1893, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the NALC and awarded
letter carriers 3.5 million dollars in back pay. This victory securely consolidated the
NALC into one organization for all letter carriers.113
In the following years, the NALC became one of the most powerful lobbying
groups in Washington for the interests of letter carriers and other postal workers.
The Presidents duty in the NALC for the next eighty years, was essentially as a
registered lobbyist114 The NALC fought such battles as wage increases, intolerable
working conditions associated with substitute carriers, and eliminating the gag
rule, which was signed by President Roosevelt in 1902. This order
.. forbade all federal employees of every description either direct or indirectly,
individually or through associations, to solicit an increase in pay or to influence or
attempt to influence in their own interests any other legislation whatsoever, either
before Congress or their committees, or in any way through the heads of the
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Departments in or under which they serve, on Penalty of dismissal from the
Government Service.115
For the next ten years, letter carriers were subject to low pay and poor and
hazardous working conditions. It wasnt until a massive letter campaign and the
continued fatalities among the railway postal employees, that Congress began to
wake up. Senator Bob LaFollette, who sent out thousands of questionnaires to
postal employees seeking information on the gag rule, was astonished to find out
that employees who responded were either fired or suspended. Through the
Senators fight for the repeal of the gag rule, Congress passed the Lloyd-
LaFollette Act in 1912. The Lloyd-LaFoIlette act, besides repealing the gag rule,
gave federal employees the right to organize; however, it contained one proviso: it
forbade postal employees from affiliating with any outside organization which
imposed an obligation or duty ... to engage in any strike against the United
States.116 This provision was initiated by members of Congress who thought the
NALC would affiliate with such subversive groups as the AFL, which might
draw postal and federal employees into a strike against the government.117 The
passage of this act was the most important piece of legislation affecting the rights
of letter carriers and the NALC until 1962, when John F. Kennedy issued an
Executive Order establishing a formal labor relations program within the federal
government.118
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NALC Organization and Internal Politics Prior to 1970
Prior to the Postal Reorganization Act of 1970, the NALC was considered
an association rather than a labor organization. An association, according to
former NALC President James Rademacher (1968-1976), was initially formed for
legislative purposes-wage increases, fringe benefits etc. The NALC did not have to
comply with Federal Labor Laws since it was not considered a labor
organization.119 In addition, the NALC, unlike other labor organizations, could not
control its own destiny. Local union leaders had very little influence in protecting
workers from abusive bosses. According to James Rademacher,
[i]f Postal management would remove a carrier in Detroit for causeand there was
no success locally, they would ask the national President to intercede (plead) with his
favorite management contact There was absolutely no procedure to handling
grievances at both the local and national level. Grievances at the local level consisted
of requests for lockers, straps, rubber bands, relay boxes, local officers sought mercy
[in matters of discipline].120
Elections and Democracy within the NALC. The early organizational
structure within the NALC left room for a close knit and decentralized structure.
Locally, the branches had autonomy in electing their local officials as long as they
did so within the confines of the NALC National Constitution. The local
membership, through majority rule, participated in the election of its branch
officers and workroom floor representatives. Nationally, however, the executive
council was elected at the biennial national convention through a proxy system.
This undemocratic system, was utilized because file smaller branches that could not
attend the convention, could be represented through the proxy system. Generally,
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