A Short Guide to Unionland

Labor, unlike industry, still has its parochial side. The last Who’s Who in Labor was published in 1946. Labor Department and AFL-CIO directories are not up to date, so dozens of phone calls had to be made to compile this roster. Responses were predictable. One Teamster official snarled: “Don’t think you’re doing us a favor putting us in your guide.” (It never occurred to us.) And in this old boys’ club where many of the most prominent members are over 70, union public relations types were often reluctant to reveal their bosses’ age.

The federal government lists more than 80 million Americans currently in the work force. Under 20 million—fewer than one out of every four—belong to trade unions. Of these, 13,600,000 are members of the 116 unions making up the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO). Its members range from the Steelworkers with over a million members, to the Horseshoers with less than 350, to actors, barbers, teachers, policemen, carpenters, and people in almost every walk of life. Then there are the independent unions and employee organizations operating outside AFL-CIO jurisdiction, of which the Teamsters, Auto Workers, Mine Workers, and National Education Association are the largest.

Seventy-five percent of labor membership is concentrated in 10 large industrial states. There are more union members in New York than in 11 Southern states, including Texas.

Here is a partial listing of major unions and employee organizations and their leaders, those likely to have the greatest impact on your life:


This industry does a $100-billion annual business, greater than auto and steel combined. The unionized work force is divided into 17 crafts and 10,000 locals— representing more than 3 million workers—who bargain with most of the nation’s 870,000 contractors. About 500,000 construction workers are not union members. United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America Mergers in recent years have increased membership to 825,000, incorporating many small locals, millwrights, pile drivers, millmen, lumber and saw mill operators, to name just a few. After a long dynastic reign, Maurice Hutcheson, who succeeded his father William as president, stepped down at age 74. The appointed president is William Siddell, 58—not Hutcheson’s son (see page 44). As with the Mafia, rumors of nepotism are sometimes exaggerated. The Carpenters are a stronghold of Republican unionism, with paradoxically socialist underpinnings in New York and Philadelphia.

International Union of Operating Engineers

Conservative, with some allegedly corrupt locals where payoffs and collusive deals are a way of life, this union wields a lot of power in the building trades. Its 400,000 members are engaged in all types of construction, from buildings to highways. Its president, Hunter P. Wharton, gets $75,000 a year, plus full expenses. United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States and Canada

The union where Meany germinated. The plumbers are predominantly a craft union with 90,000 of its 300,000 members in construction. The new president, Martin Ward, is progressive by building trade standards. International Brotherhood of Painters and Allied Trades

The painters’ union (250,000 members) is made up of autonomous locals; a few of them have been linked with kickbacks and payoffs. President Frank Raftery covets Meany’s job, but insiders say this is a pipe dream.

International Association of Bridge, Structural and Ornamental Iron Workers

Among the most highly paid of the building trades union members, iron workers earn $10-$11 per hour. The membership is 177,000 members. President John H. Lyons, who represents the cleaner elements in the building trades, reportedly calls Negroes “niggers.” If the building tradesmen and more conservative leaders in the AFL-CIO back him, he is a contender for Meany’s job. Laborers’ International Union of North America

With about 80 percent of its 600,000 members employed in construction, this is one building trade union with substantial black membership—mostly in unskilled, low-paying jobs. Leadership in East Coast locals is primarily Italian, reportedly with some mob connections. President Peter Fosco, about 70, is an outspoken hawk even compared to other hard-line labor leaders. Last fall, several days after he received a “good citizen” award from the Nixon Administration, Fosco endorsed Nixon.

Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association

Despite some reported petty corruption on the local level, this 150,000-member union is felt to be reasonably honest. Asked about the best way to become a union president, union president Eddie Carlough (39) replied: “Your rise in the union is rapid when your father happens to be president.” (He succeeded his father.) Carlough is acceptable to a large segment of the building trades although he is a man of progressive ideas. Despite long hair and mod attire, he is conceivably a dark-horse candidate for Meany’s job.

International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers

A large craft and industrial union (980,000 members), the IBEW swings weight in the AFL-CIO Building Trades Department largely because of the personal force of its secretary, Joseph Keenan (78, a former golfing companion of Meany’s), who overshadows president Charles Pillard. Labor talk has it that Keenan now is out of favor with Meany, possibly because he supported McGovern. Treasurer Harry Van Arsdale (68) heads the million-member New York City Central Labor Council. He’s so powerful that in 1962 he was able to get a 25hour work week for his electricians, over the protests of JFK and Meany.


United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America1

This union has maintained the democratic, progressive tradition associated with Walter Reuther. It pioneered and set standards for other industrial unions in negotiating contracts on matters beyond the traditional wagehours haggle such as cost-of-living wage increases and health care benefits. Today its 1.4 million members are largely engaged in the powerful automotive industry, but also make agricultural implements and road equipment—in fact, everything from cradles to grave vaults. Having won worker benefits, union leaders are now concerned with growing worker unrest and the threat of foreign imports.

The union is also undergoing a leadership shake-up. When Reuther was killed in a plane crash, Leonard Woodcock (62) beat Doug Frazier, head of the Chrysler division, by one executive board vote, cast by Emil Mazey, secretary-treasurer, who is influential in top leadership. Operating in Reuther’s shadow, Woodcock has never been a dynamic leader; what’s more, he is now only a few years away from mandatory retirement. Union officials are already lining up. Apart from Frazier, potential contenders are Pat Greathouse, head of organizing activities and a vice president, and Irving Bluestone, head of the G.M. division.

United Steelworkers of America

With a membership of 1.4 million, the steel union always has been an important force in the labor movement. It has lost some clout recently because of competition from foreign imports, lack of modernization, and substitutes for steel in many products. President I. W. Abel (64) used to be touted as a likely successor to Meany, but the fact that he’s near retirement age probably rules him out. On the other hand, this rules out almost all the other candidates too. Abel is moving closer to cooperation with management. The Steelworkers and U.S. Steel jointly sponsored the film Where’s Joe?, with menacing shots of Asian and German workers, proclaiming the threat of foreign imports and urging greater productivity at home.

United Mine Workers*

It took three murders (UMW executive board member Jock Yablonski and his wife and daughter in 1969) and costly Labor Department intervention to get a fair election, in which 49-year-old Arnold Miller, a disabled miner from West Virginia, wrested control of the UMW from Tony Boyle (70). It may be the first victory of a dissident rank-and-file leader over any union’s incumbent president in recent years. Boyle, who took office in 1963, continued John L. Lewis’ policies of flagrant paternalism, nepotism, and worse, without Lewis’ compensatory vision. Boyle is faced with a prison sentence for making illegal political campaign contributions and has been implicated in the Yablonski murders. Miller began his presidency of the 207,000-member union (including pensioners) by trimming costs—including his own salary. International Union of Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers

This 285,000-member union is in trouble. Major employers—such as Westinghouse, General Electric, Motorola, and Singer—have moved many plants overseas. It now bargains collectively with its long-term arch enemy, the United Electrical Workers (see below). President Paul Jennings defeated former president James Carey in a palace revolution with the help of Meany, who reportedly dislikes Carey and wanted to bump him from the AFL-CIO Executive Council.

United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America*

Left of left by Labor’s standards, the 165,000-member UE was ousted from the CIO in 1949 during the McCarthy anti-Communist era. Its current president, Albert Fitzgerald (65), and secretary-treasurer James Matles have been outspoken antiwar critics.

United Rubber, Cork, Linoleum and Plastic Workers of America

The threat of foreign imports is a small but real problem. Worker unrest is high; most of the 200,000 members are paid a basic wage plus piecework incentive (so much per tire, for example), an exhausting way to earn. They are pressing for earlier retirement and bigger pensions. President Peter Bommarito, a decent but not decisive man, is in trouble. The rubber contract he negotiated was rejected by big Goodyear Local 2 in Akron, Ohio, and subsequently by the Goodrich workers, who went on nationwide strike.

International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers

Originally a railroad craft union, it has since shifted to aerospace. With the loss of many aerospace and defense contracts following the winding down of the war and many job layoffs, membership dropped slightly from over a million to 927,000. President Floyd Smith, only a couple of years from mandatory retirement, is likely to be replaced by William Winpisinger, general vice president. The union is working closely with the UAW on political and economic issues. And there’s talk of merger, which would make it the largest American union.

International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union

The leaders of this union have long held that job security is predicated upon survival of the industry, and have therefore been more open to automation and job cutbacks than some other unions. Although it represents an industry employing women (80%), many of whom are black or Puerto Rican, the ILGWU has few women, blacks, and Puerto Ricans in prominent positions. Current president is Louis Stulberg (72). The man slated to replace Stulberg is Sol Chaiken (55). Asked to name the labor movement’s leading philosopher, education director Gus Tyler (61) said “Me” with a grin.

Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America

This year Jacob Potofsky finally stepped down at 78, turning the presidency over to Murray Finley. The 375,000-member union has been locked in a bitter strike with Farah, manufacturer of work pants and inexpensive slacks, which maintains plants in the southwestern United States, employing Chicanos at low wages. The clothing workers vow either to win their strike or destroy Farah. Both the Amalgamated Clothing and ILGWU workers face stiff competition from foreign-made goods.


International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen and Helpers of America*

The Teamsters were thrown out of the old AFL in 1955 for corruption when president Dave Beck was exposed as an embezzler. James Hoffa took over and negotiated excellent contracts for his elite members, the more than 100,000 over-the-road truckers. Non-truckers, such as laborers and warehouse people, consistently got inferior contracts. Graft and corruption flourished, and mob ties have been alleged in most big cities. However, West Coast locals under the leadership of regional director Einar Mohn and St. Louis locals headed by the once powerful Harold Gibbons are reputed to be relatively honest unions. In 1972 they were among McGovern’s staunchest supporters. Their support of Teamster attempts to break Cesar Chavez indicates the complexity of the union’s power politics.

When Hoffa was jailed for misappropriation of funds, Frank Fitzsimmons took over and reactivated the old baronies, consolidating his position with business agents and regional directors. His salary is $125,000; he is reported to have a fleet of Cadillacs and a jet plane at his disposal. (By contrast, Cesar Chavez’ salary is $5144.) Fitzsimmons has one big worry: Hoffa may try to stage a comeback, and he is very popular with members.

Free of AFL-CIO jurisdictional strictures, the Teamsters have gobbled up small locals all over the country, bringing membership to over 2 million.

Fitzsimmons is now the only labor leader with easy access to the White House. In the past five years, the Teamsters have been charged with more Landrum-Griffin violations than all other unions combined, but to date have escaped any serious consequences.

National Maritime Union of America

Dwindling membership (down to 50,000), rising costs, and decline of the U.S. Merchant Marine have meant trouble for the NMU, which pays a very large percentage of its per capita dues to elected officials. After a long rule of 36 years, former president Joseph Curran retired with a royal pension, $55,000 annual pension for life, which is now in litigation. Their membership is comprised mainly of unlicensed seamen and Panamanian workers.

Seafarers’ International Union of North America

Another union with dwindling membership (now 80,000), its remaining strength is largely its effective and popular president Paul Hall, 58. He heads the AFL-CIO Maritime Trades Department, is a friend of Meany’s, but also (at times) champion of the underdog. After blasting Chavez at an AFL-CIO Executive Council meeting for being erratic and irresponsible (supporting the Black Panthers, for one thing), he gave a rousing pitch for the support of Chavez’ union, personally pledging $25,000 and muscle from the Seafarers. Hall has to be considered a potential successor to Meany; he gets along well with the building tradesmen.

Brotherhood of Railway, Airline and Steamship Clerks, Freight Handlers, Express and Station Employees

This 150,000-member union has lost out in recent years. The bankruptcy of major railroads has meant job layoffs, and the airlines have proved stubborn bargainers.

International Longshoremen’s Association

Led by flag-waving, right-wing Thomas Gleason (72), this 115,000-member East Coast union was once expelled from the AFL-CIO for being racketeer-dominated.

International Longshoremen’s and Warehousemen’s Union*

Ousted from the CIO in 1949 during Red-baiting days under the individualistic and concerned leadership of Harry Bridges—a pre-New Deal leftist—this union overcame automation of the docks. Bridges is still in charge, despite repeated attempts by the government to deport him. At their convention this spring, the 55,000-member union decided against continuing merger talks with the Teamsters.


Public employees are not protected by labor legislation on the state and federal levels. These unions, therefore, are prone to strikes, nearly always illegal, which irritate the public to madness.

American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees

The fifth largest and fastest-growing union (average may be better than 1000 new members a week), these 612,000 workers include engineers, medical technicians, zoo keepers, scientists, pothol patchers. and policemen. Contrary to general belief, roughly 60 percent of the members are blue-collar workers. Membership is onethird black and one-third female. Members are scattered throughout the country, but most are concentrated in the Northeast and Midwest. An offshoot of the La Follette administration in Wisconsin in the early 1930s, AFSCME has consistently been one of the most progressive and militant unions in the AFL-CIO. It was one of the first to endorse McGovern.

President Jerry Wurf, 53, a capable leader, is regarded as a maverick with a fast mouth and plenty of admirers and critics. He is quick to admit that his chances for Meany’s job are very, very slim. “If it were reasonable to be ambitious for it, I would be ambitious.” Secretarytreasurer Bill Lucy is 39 and black. In New York, Vic Gotbaum heads up politically active District 37, which invariably backs Democratic reform candidates. The district’s associate director is 45-year-old Lillian Roberts, a very able black. The State and County union has about 150,000 members in health services.

American Federation of Government Employees

Since the Kennedy executive order (10988) in 1961 enabling federal employees legally to join unions, this one has grown rapidly. Responsive largely to employees in defense and Pentagon installations, the 300,000-member union has provoked criticism from HEW, OEO, and HUD workers who are pushing for collective bargaining. Its president John Griner became ill and recently was replaced by Clyde Webber. Despite rapid growth, it has financial problems. Griner was voted down at the convention when he tried to put through a per capita dues increase. The opposition is confused, and cannot unify behind a single program or candidate.

American Postal Workers Union

Although their destinies are irrevocably tied together, the 285,000 members of the Postal Workers and the Letter Carriers (see below) can’t solve differences. So the Postal Workers and Letter Carriers are discussing merger with the Communications Workers instead. In 1970 the postal service became a private operation. President Francis Filbey is having a hard time; several smaller postal unions merged in the late 1960s, and the various factions have never been united.

National Association of Letter Carriers of the U.S.A.

Same problems. President James H. Rademacher is a Nixon man. Membership: 220,000.

Fraternal Order of Police*

An employee organization of about 100,000 members with no national power. Headquarters in Cleveland. There is no single big police organization in the nation. Some police belong to the State, County and Municipal Employees, others to the Teamsters; still others have organized (as in New York) in Benevolent Order of Police groups.

American Federation of Teachers

The second fastest-growing union in the nation, the AFT’s 380,000 members are not evenly distributed throughout the country; half of them are in New York State, about a third in New York City. That’s one reason why Albert Shanker, 44, head of United Federation of Teachers in New York, and vice president of New York State United Teachers, is more powerful than 58year-old AFT president Dave Selden. Shanker rode to fame during the Ocean Hill-Brownsville controversy on school decentralization and aspires to a place on the AFL-CIO Executive Council, which would be unique for the head of a local—if he remains that. Shanker is extraordinarily ambitious, on good terms with Peter Brennan and Harry Van Arsdale, and reportedly aspires to Meany’s job—though as one union leader put it, “Those guys’ll never let a teacher run them.”

National Education Association*

With its membership of 1.2 million, the NEA is larger than the AFT. The latter wants a merger, but the NEA is divided. Some of its members favor merger, others want it but without AFL-CIO affiliation, still others— primarily in the South—want to stay independent. A merger within AFL-CIO would make them the largest union in the federation. The sensitive question is who would be on top. The odds favor Shanker over any NEA president, if only because the latter has just a one-year term of office. The current one is Catharine Barrett. International Association of Fire Fighters

One of the more conservative unions in the field, its 165,000 members are mostly white. (In several big cities black firemen are not hired.) For what it’s worth, president W. Howard McClennan is the only union president who picked up his own phone when we called.


Service Employees’ International Union

Made up of building service employees and custodial and maintenance workers, the 480,000-member Service Employees’ has branched out to include a variety of service industries—from redcaps and skycaps to hospital workers. President George Hardy, 58, comes from San Francisco in a state where the union is very strong.

Retail Clerks International Association

This 400,000-member union has grown rapidly in recent years, organizing low-paid workers in supermarkets and retail stores. President James Housewright has shown moderately progressive leadership.

Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union

Organizing a variety of industries in retail and wholesale trades, this 150,000-member union has an affiliate— Local 1199, Drug and Hospital Union. 1199 has sparked the formation of a 90,000-member national union of hospital and nursing-home employees, a division of RWDSU, and the name of 1199 became a symbol—rare for a local. The Hospital Union—whose membership is predominantly black and Puerto Rican women—has organized in New York, Philadelphia, Boston, and Baltimore. 1199 president in New York, Leon Davis, a benign, rabbinical figure, has become a labor hero to many black workers and middle-class liberals alike.

Hotel and Restaurant Employees and Bartenders International Union

Rising food costs affect these workers’ wages; they are in for a hard time. Membership: 450,000.


Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen of North America

An amalgam of 550,000 workers, the Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen absorbed the smaller packinghouse workers’ union. These days a supermarket is more likely to hire meat cutters than skilled butchers. A few New York locals have been linked with payoffs. On the national scene secretary-treasurer Pat Gorman (80), an old-time socialist and no friend of Meany’s, overshadows union president Joseph Belsky.

Communications Workers of America

For many years this was a company union, doing what was good for Ma Bell. Today it is more workeroriented, with 550,000 members primarily in telephone and electronics as well as some hospital workers. President Joseph Beirne, 62—erratic, first a vigorous hawk, then supporter of McGovern—may have had his last hurrah. He was publicly humiliated by Meany at this year’s AFL-CIO convention in Florida, thereby wiping out his chances to succeed Meany.

Graphic Arts International Union

An amalgam of lithographers, photoengravers, and bookbinders, this 120,000-member union has been absorbing craft unions threatened by automation. President Ken Brown has been talking merger with the American Newspaper Guild.

International Typographical Union

An old craft union, it vigorously resisted automation and modern technology—and has paid a high price for its intransigence. Its strikes helped put a number of newspapers out of business. It is best known on the local level—particularly in New York City, where Bert Powers, president of Local 6, keeps everyone quaking when newspaper contracts run out. Membership: 112,000.

United Farm Workers

The survival of this 40,000-member union is in doubt. Labor’s dispossessed, the Farm Workers triumphed in organizing migrant grape and lettuce pickers—primarily Chicano and Filipino workers—through the successful use of the strike and grape boycott, with nationwide liberal support. The Farm Workers brought the pickers a hiring hall and many fringe benefits. Then in the spring of 1973, just when the table grape contracts were about to expire, the Teamsters moved in and persuaded growers to sign with them. Immediately the United Farm Workers struck all the growers who signed a labor agreement with the Teamsters.

With fresh AFL-CIO support of $1.6 million, the UFW is preparing for a long hard fight and another grape boycott. President Cesar Chavez, himself a former migrant worker with only a seventh-grade education, has to cope with issues such as separate rest rooms and child labor that other unions consider part of the Stone Age.


  1. indicates union which is not a member of AFL-CIO.