Drive of Labor Unions for New Members
Organized labor has been hitting serious snags as it strives to extend union membership to as many as possible of the 50-odd million workers in the United States who remain outside its ranks. Unions have recruited scarcely more than 100,000 new members since last December, when the newly unified American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations pledged a “militant campaign” to double the 16 million workers in its affiliated unions.
The drive was “not going to be any milk-toast movement,” President George Meany told the founding convention of the A.F.L.-C.I.O. at New York. “We are going to use every legal means …to organize the unorganized. No little men with loud voices in either political or industrial life are going to turn us aside,” Walter P. Reuther, former president of the C.I.O. and now president of the Industrial Union Department of the united organization, said that labor unity provided “new dynamic forces out of which we can build a bigger, stronger labor movement.” He called on affiliated unions to undertake “an organizational crusade such as this country has never seen.”
Emphasis on organizing is due to labor's concern over a decline in the rate of union growth since World War II, in contrast with giant strides made in the preceding decade. The fact that three-fourths of the labor force is outside the trade union movement places serious limitations on organized labor's power both at the bargaining table and in the political sphere.