• Why trade unions, history
• Unions and capitalism
• Trade union bureaucracy
• Where to for unions?
Three view of unions and union officials (nb there are others, eg revolutionary syndicalism)
• Production is inherently harmonious. Conflict is in no-one’s interest and so has to be explained exogenously in terms of monopoly, outside agitators, poor human relations management, special pleading or pathological behaviour. The elimination of these can restore harmony.
Unions are dominated by union officials who simply pursue their selfish interests in cushy jobs by extracting monopoly rents for themselves (or themselves and their members) at the expense of non-unionists, especially those in other industries, who are deprived of work. This is sometimes expressed in references to the ‘industrial relations club’, by people such as Gerard Henderson and others associated with the H. R. Nichols Society. Contemporary formulations of this perspective draw on Friedrich Hayek.
• Conflict arises over the distribution of income between classes/different factors of production. Different groups may benefit in the struggle for income, but this struggle may reduce total income. It is therefore preferable to find non-conflictual means to resolve disputes.
Unions have a legitimate role and represent the interests of their memberships. Union officials may be better or worse at achieving this depending on their competence and/or politics. Overall their attitudes are as diverse as those of their memberships. Union officials, of course, generally adhere to this position. It is expressed in a particularly worked out way in John Kelly Trade unions and socialist politics Verson. London 1988 pp147-183.
• Conflict is inherent in capitalist society. Efforts to eliminate it are to the detriment of the working class as collective struggle is its only means for responding to the power the capitalist class derives from... [continues]
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