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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Trade unionism and acculturation : a comparative study of urban Indians and immigrant Italians. Philpott, Stuart Bowman


Trade unionism has rarely been considered as a factor in the processes of acculturation and social change. Yet in British Columbia, as in other parts of the world, many sub-cultures are becoming increasingly involved with trade unions. This thesis attempts to examine the relationship between union activity and acculturation. It also attempts to trace the effects of trade unions on ethnic communities and the effects of ethnic groups on trade unions. A number of hypotheses of various authors were tested. These hypotheses fell into four categories: (1) those which saw the trade union as breaking down the reluctance of some sub-cultures to commit themselves to the Industrial workforce; (2) those which suggested the union replaces traditional social groupings; (3) those which posed a relationship between union and ethnic community leadership; and (4) those which felt trade unionism furthered the acculturative process. The study was made on a comparative basis, giving it considerable cultural variation. Field work was conducted among two ethnic groups in the Vancouver area during the summer of 1962. The two groups are the Squamish Indians living on reserves in North Vancouver and the Italians living in the Queensborough district of New Westminster. Both groups possess communities of a similar socio-economic level and through their employment, many members of both groups are trade unionists. Data on the problem outlined above were sought through interviews with members of the community and union officials and through participation in community and union activities. Pertinent documentary sources were also consulted. Early in the field work, it became apparent that the Italians are much less active unionists than the Indians. Reasons for this variation were sought. The variations appear to be connected with the structures of the unions involved, the aspirations and values of the ethnic groups, the length of contact with the union, and other historical and cultural factors. Data from the Indian community indicate that union activity, a form of acculturation in itself, tends to further other aspects of acculturation. To some extent, direct effects of union on community were discovered. Many of the Squamish band councillors, for example, are trade union officials and their union training is sometimes reflected at the council table. Furthermore it appears that the trade union acts as an institutionalized link which tends to integrate the Squamish unionists with a segment of White society sharing the same values, behavior patterns and norms.

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