The Unions Today: Trouble, Problems, Conflict

The Unions Today: Trouble, Problems, Conflict

Historically, this is a big year for the labor movement. A century ago Samuel Gompers, aged 31, helped to create the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions. That little group merged five years later with the American Federation of Labor at its first convention in Columbus, Ohio. Gompers, elected president, was voted the princely sum of $1,000 a year plus traveling expenses.

The centennial celebration is underway, but more than one friend of labor will participate with a heavy heart. Others, for odd reasons, will simply rejoice. Philip Shabecoff of the New York Times seems to be such a person. Or so we were bound to conclude last January 11 upon spotting a Times headline, “Labor and Business Amity,” accompanied by a visual in the form of a gaily lighted birthday cake. Topping the cake’s candied surface was a symbol of an executive and a worker locking arms in fraternal embrace.

Most of Shabecoffs article was written in the spirit of these embellishments. Yes, the UAW has made common cause with the Chrysler Corporation to save a miserably managed company from the bankruptcy it deserves. And yes, Sol Chaikin, head of the ILGWU, is impressed with the “cooperation” he has found among a host of bosses in the apparel industry, which like the auto industry is threatened by a flood of “cheap” imports.


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