The Imperfect Union: A History of Corruption in American Trade Unions

TitleThe Imperfect Union: A History of Corruption in American Trade Unions
Publication TypeBook
Year of Publication1970
AuthorsHutchinson, J.
CityNew York
Keywordscorruption, Jimmy Hoffa, labor-management relations, McClellan Committee, trade unions, union history, union power

A study of corrupt practices in American trade unionism and labor-management relations from about 1890 to the early 1960's which goes beyond McClellan Committee revelations of individual corruption to apportion the blame more broadly and seek more relevant remedies than punitive legislation. Hutchinson views trade union corruption (narrowly defined in this volume as the use of union power for private enrichment) as a problem of the society in which it exists, a product not only of personal immorality but of inadequate union government, unscrupulous employers, widespread political and legal corruption, the Prohibition legacy of organized crime, the procedural tangle of American criminal law, the social conditions of the cities, and a public philosophy that condones means when the end is competitive success. The prologue demonstrates how the logic which created the AFL, its philosophy and structure, made it "vulnerable to dishonest servants and predatory enemies." For the historical record, Hutchinson focuses upon examples of corruption in the building trades and on industrial racketeering as representative of the major themes, "the heart and most of the scale of the problem." Over half of the book deals with Congressional scrutiny of the labor movement (from the first major investigation in 1885 to the celebrated encounter of Bobby Kennedy and Jimmy Hoffa), the posture on ethical practices of the AFL, the CIO, and the AFL-CIO, and the evolution of federal labor law. Hutchinson persuades ably within the limitations of available documentation, and his book is a balanced and informed examination of trade union culpability, self-expurgation, and long-range prospects within the context of the imperfections of American society. Mr. Hutchinson is chairman of the Industrial Labor Relations Department at UCLA. (from Kirkus Reviews)