Unions, Money, and Mergers

Source: Carl Proper, Talking Union blog, July 2, 2013

Money matters to unions. Financial resources are hard to obtain, easy to waste, and essential to union survival. Historically, the effort to accrue or protect a financial foundation has also caused many internal union conflicts, mergers and failures. …This history recounts a struggle between two great and historically progressive unions over leadership, organizing jurisdiction (itself a form of property rights), and inherited financial resources. I focus here on financial issues, not because they were the core of the struggle, but because they are seldom discussed, and critical to labor’s history and future. I will also focus on the roles of labor leaders, who are the financial decision-makers, rather than on the rank and file. In later chapters, questions of leadership character, membership involvement and exploitation, and jurisdictional issues will get their due. One conclusion that I would reach, however, is that open discussion of money matters with union members produces better decisions than haste and secrecy…. I would urge unionists who believe the next revolution will be built without wealth to learn from our experience. The kinds of investments in real estate or banks made by the ILGWU or the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America (ACWA) initiated decades ago, may now be more essential than ever. They can help unions withstand the loss of dues income in our day, and enable activities of community allies with little or no income base.