What is Trade Union Bureaucracy?
Trade unions bureaucracy are the first and most significant of the Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs). The origins and formal procedures of trade unions are fundamentally democratic since they were and are voluntary associations mostly of persons asserting their rights. Trade unions embody the hopes of the exploited to secure a just distribution of power and wealth.
In the 19th century, factories were small in size, unions were also small, and the negotiations were highly personal, between a few workers and an employer.
However, 1870s saw dramatic changes with a new wave of industrialization, new technologies, and new structures of management. Now, plant size became larger, technologies diversified and grew in sophistication, and management was separated from ownership.
Thus, grew the professional management. At the same time, workers protest actions also became more complex, larger in scope. The negotiations between unions and management became more professional and less personal. The professional union official also emerged. The new union officials were now selected for their qualifications, subjected to competitive selection examinations, and were thereafter trained on the job. They could be anybody chosen for their skills at organizing research, framing plans for action, committee work, and negotiation.
Moreover, unions had to prepare their plans on the basis of the state of the economy. Therefore, their understanding of the economy and their capacity to convince a wider public about the impact of their actions on the economy and on the rest of the population became vital.
The union action began to play a role in national elections. Therefore, they needed to plan, advertise themselves, and act in tandem with the political parties and their priorities. In this manner, the party bureaucrat and the union bureaucrat had to work together. National representation demanded unions to build up national organizations to represent them.
For instance, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) in Britain, the Deutsche Gewerkshaftsbund (DGB) in Germany or the Confederation Genetale du Travail (CGT) in France had to be formed.
The original union of a single factory had first become a member of a federation of unions within an industry, and these federations then formed the national federation like the TUC. It may be noted that unions had distinct functions in the West and the East, but they belonged to networks of hierarchies of officialdom in symmetrical manner,