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Craft Unions Compared To Industrial Unions: Which Is More Effective?

1888 words - 8 pages

With the advent of an industrialized working class in the mid nineteenth century, and more complicated and permanent forms of labour relations, workers formed networks to turn their shared experiences, problems, and interests into a collective political and economic force for change. These organizations came to be known as labour unions (Godard 86). Although "unions" are often spoken of as single entities, in reality, no one union is responsible for the labour movement. In fact, with the rise of unions from the late nineteenth century to the mid twentieth century, two very distinct forms of unionism emerged, craft unionism and industrial unionism. However, the most effective form of workers organization from 1860 to the 1950s was industrial unionism, and this is evident when comparing the different goals/values and organizational practices of both types of unions.With rising industrialization in the nineteenth century, the centralization of production into factories, the reorganization of work, and increasing immigration, the traditional power of craftsmen was in danger. It is because of this that craftsmen responded by forming the first collective worker organizations. The goal of craft unionism was to promote and defend the interests of skilled craft workers. Craft unions were primarily interested in maintaining their power by controlling the production process, apprenticeship systems, and making their organizations exclusive to skilled workers based on their trades. The power of craft unions was based on their exclusivity and the shortage of skilled labour in the market (Heron 9-27). For example in the International Typographical Union in the 1880s-1890s, only authority in this workplace that was a representative of management, the foreman, was also a union member. This foreman had control over the hiring process and so in this way the Typers in Ontario managed to keep their craft only for skilled workers (Kealey 18-19). Another major aspect of craft unionism was that they valued their skilled craft as their cultural class identity. Since their skilled trade set them apart from other workers, especially the growing mass of industrial workers, tradesmen sought to maintain their superior identity and "respectability".Industrial unions, which emerged as a split from traditional craft unionism in the twentieth century, were created for the purpose of organizing all workers across an industry (e.g., steel, textile), regardless of whether they were skilled or unskilled. Their main concern was the protection of labour rights as a whole and not just the protection of one type of worker (Heron 31-35). The power of industrial unions was in the collective bargaining power they had based on their numbers. Industrial unions were extensive and inclusive organizations unlike the exclusive nature of craft unions, which is why they drew so many members.Within industrial unionism there was a separate revolutionary force which would later be denounced by...

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