Race Discrimination in Trade Unions
The racial policies of American unions vary from the outright exclusion of some minority groups to their complete acceptance, with all the rights and privileges of members. The pattern of union discrimination is multi-colored and fluid. In part it follows the national pattern of discrimination. But it also reflects the economic and local conditions under which the particular union operates: the type of industry, the kind of leadership it has, the workers it wishes to bring into and keep in the union, the character and policy of competing unions in the field.
These factors explain why we find non-discriminating unions affiliated with the Congress of Industrial Organizations soft-pedaling the race issue when organizing Southern workers in competition with openly discriminating affiliates of the American Federation of Labor, like the International Association of Machinists and the Boilermakers and Shipbuilders. We also find some AFL unions giving up discriminatory practices because of the competition of nondiscriminatory CIO affiliates (as for example in the cases of the AFL Commercial Telegraphers Union and Hotel and Restaurant Workers). Within the same union, we find Negroes refused membership in one local while freely admitted in another. There will be anti-Semitism among members of a union in one town, while officers of that union nationally are themselves Jews. In one local, a sympathetic president or business agent may do a great deal to keep down prejudice; in another, a prejudiced union leader may do much to heighten it.
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