University Libraries

Documenting Labor Inside and Out
Union Democracy
Internal Politics

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Buttons, United University Professions, ca. 1987-1991
Buttons used by the United Caucus of United University Professions, ca. 1987-1991 (Records of United University Professions).
As in any organization, those who seek leadership positions in labor unions may do so for a variety of reasons. They could have widely divergent ideas about what benefits and working conditions the union should seek, and different beliefs on how their goals for the union can best be achieved. As a result of these varied and sometimes conflicting views, internal political battles can sometimes arise within a labor organization. Understanding the various factions involved can be crucial to understanding a union's history, particularly if union officials allowed their internal animosities to adversely impact their relationship with management. Just as a weak financial condition may undermine the negotiating power of a union, so can divisive internal politics.

Because there are laws prohibiting the use of a labor organization's funds or supplies for internal political activities, the materials produced by opposing groups within a local or a union often are not preserved with the records of a local or union. This is particularly true of the records of the "opposition" party, while the records of the group in power are somewhat more likely to end up mixed in with the union's official records. When preserved, these records can be valuable in documenting the outlook of each group, how they hoped to reach their goals for the union, and how successful they were.

The Choice, Spring 1981 United Caucus Flyer, ca. May 1989
Part of Page 4 of The Choice, volume 1, number 1, issued in Spring 1981 by United University Profession's Reform Caucus (Records of United University Professions). Flyer for United University Profession's United Caucus, ca. May 1989 (Records of United University Professions). Click on the image to also see the back of the flyer which outlines the United Caucus's platform.

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Digital Exhibit created by Cynthia K. Sauer, Consultant, and Brian Keough, Head, 2002
Copyright 2002 M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections & Archives
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