Trade Union Conflict and Agreement with American Ideology

by Ernst Stromsdorfer



Trade unionism is part of the American Way of Life, yet until now little attention has been paid to the fact that the philosophy of unionism has many points of direct conflict with traditional and dominant American values and institutions. The literature on the trade union movement in America is profuse with discussions on the socioeconomic origins, nature, and goals of the trade union. Most of this discussion centers on American unionism as it developed from the 1880s to the present. It is true that American society has accepted trade unionism in principle. As early as the 1840s, the union was no longer legally considered a conspiracy; however, the dominant groups in American society were unwilling to let the union freely behave as a union until almost a hundred years later. The purpose here is to indicate how sharp, in fact, has been the conflict between trade unionism on the one hand and the ideology of "middle-class democracy" and the "free enterprise system" on the other. The thesis of this discussion is that the trade union movement in America has explicit ideological differences with one major mainstream of American thought and that it represents one aspect of an evolutionary movement wherein a new class created by the industrial revolution has sought a social, political, and economic place in the sun.

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