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What Industrial Unionism Is
To the average person the term "industrial union” means little.
To some it is synonymous with “trade union"; to others it suggests the Industrial Workers of the World and arouses the hostility which is the usual reaction to any mention of that organization. If industrial unionism is not identical with either of these, what then is it? Broadly speaking, the industrial union differs from other unions in that it includes all who work in an industry, skilled and unskilled, regardless of differences in craft, sex, or race. Whereas the craft union seeks to unite those using the same tools or doing the same kind of work with approximately the same degree of skill, the industrial union seeks to unite all who are engaged upon a certain product or class of products, regardless of the character of the service which they render. In the case of the railroad industry, the word "product" would be interpreted as meaning the service of transportaton; and an industrial union in that field would include all who are in any way connected with the running of trains, the maintenance of the tracks in good condition, telegraphing and signaling, and all other work in connection with the railroads. One of the strongest of our industrial unions, the United Mine Workers, includes all working in and around the mines, whether they be teamsters, firemen, blacksmiths, car dumpers, slate pickers, miners, or men engaged in various other occupations connected with the industry. It is difficult to draw hard-and-fast lines between the craft and the industrial union, for as will be noted in the following
chapter there are many intermediate steps between them, and the majority of the unions in this country are not pure representatives of either type. Nevertheless it is worth while to make plain what the two types are, and what the forces tending toward one or the other form of organization may be.
The Spirit of Industrial Unionism
If the difference between them was merely one of structure we might dismiss the matter as one of little interest for the general public, but the difference in spirit and philosophy is usually quite as great as that in form of organization. It is this difference in spirit and general outlook which is the significant thing about industrial unionism. Including as it does all types of workers, from the common laborer to the most highly skilled craftsman, the industrial union is based on the conception of the solidarity of labor, or at least of that portion of it which is in one particular industry. Instead of emphasizing the divisions among the workers and fostering a narrow interest in the affairs of the craft regardless of those of the industry as a whole, it lays stress on the mutual dependence of the skilled and the unskilled and the necessity of subordinating the interests of a small group to those of the whole body of workers. Not only is loyalty to fellow-workers in the same industry emphasized, but also loyalty to the whole working class in its struggle against the capitalist system. Although there are a few industrial unions in this country which have little of this class consciousness, the majority of them are distinctly hoping for the abolition of the capitalist system and the ultimate control of industry by the workers themselves. In some cases the conception of how this is to be brought about is very vague; in others there
is a fairly clear-cut theory as to how the change in the industrial order is to come. Budish and Soule in a recent book called The New Unionism state that the essential difference between unions is that between those which are "unconscious that their efforts tend toward a new social order, and so adapt their strategy solely toward the immediate situation, and unions which are conscious of their desire for a new order and so base their strategy on more fundamental considerations." 1 The latter type they call the "new unionism." This term, though frequently used, is somewhat misleading, as unions which looked forward to a new industrial order and sought to unite the skilled and the unskilled, sprang up very early in the labor movement of both England and America; but it may serve for lack of a better one. The strategy of the various unions which are conscious of their desire for a new order is not always determined by this ultimate aim, but nevertheless there is a real difference between organizations which do not look beyond the securing of immediate advantages for their members, and those which are definitely expecting the day when industry shall be owned and run by the workers. Although it is not strictly accurate to identify industrial unionism with this "new unionism," such a large proportion of industrial unions have this hope that the few which are without it may be considered industrial in structure but not in spirit.
Industrial Unionism in England-Its Rise
The development of industrial unionism in England has been so significant that we cannot refrain from considering it briefly before turning to conditions in America. The formation of the Triple Alliance by the Miners' Federation, the National Union of Railwaymen, and the
1 Budish and Soule, The New Unionism (New York, 1920), p. 1o.