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The social and political philosophy of trade unions Baum, Rainer Carl Robert


This paper attempts to examine some major correlates of union political policies. It seeks to develop more fully and test a hypothesis advanced by S. M. Lipset that the political activities of trade unions are related to the social values of the society in which unions operate. A brief exposition of the values dominant in American society suggests that they may be related to the political neutralism so characteristic of American unions. Similarly, the deep and continuing involvement in party politics, so characteristic of European unions, appears to be related to values dominant in European countries. In Canada where both American and European values serve as models political policies of unions have been far less uniform than those of American or European labour organizations. Convention records show, that Canadian craft unions, until recently followed the example set by most American unions and stayed aloof from party politics. Instead they attempted to influence political authority through pressure group activities. Industrial unions, however, followed the example set by European labour organizations and supported the programme of a Socialist party. D.B.S. records indicate that from 1946 to 1957 craft unions experienced far less unemployment than industrial unions. When, after 1957, unemployment in Canada increasingly affected craft organizations many of these also joined the ranks of their industrial colleagues in supporting a Socialist party. Such findings suggest that unionists, like Canadians generally, are exposed to two sets of different value standards. Whether they find the European or the American model more appealing appears to be related to their economic well being. The lack of concern with the state and the emphasis on individual achievement and competition inherent in American values need a climate of relatively high economic security in order to survive among Canadian unionists. In the absence of such security most Canadian workers give up the 'American dream'. Instead they tend to realize their common interest and voice demands for 'a change of the system’.

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