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labor unions, guilds, professional associations, etc.

updated thu 1 jul 99


Stuart Altmann on wed 30 jun 99

Susan's original message, urging us to form a union, suggested to me that
she meant a labor union (a trade union), and it is to that interpretation
that I responded. Let me clarify several issues about that.

1. The term "union," by itself, is used for many sorts of associations.
However, a labor union is an organization of workers whose primary purpose
is to negotiate with management over wages, hours, working conditions, and
other employee benefits. Collective bargaining is the primary method of
unions for accomplishing these goals, and its effectiveness depends on the
willingness of workers to surrender to the unions their right to negotiate
individually with management.

In this sense, buyers' cooperatives are not unions, farmers' cooperatives
are not unions, the AMA is not a union, and an association of self-employed
studio potters would not be a union.

2. Nothing I wrote in my previous memo should be construed as indicating
that I am anti-union. Labor unions have brought about increased wages as
well as vast improvements in working conditions and benefits. But labor
unions should not be confused with various other kinds of trade associations.

3. One of Susan's more recent postings (28 June) makes clear that she did
not intend to promote a labor union per se, but rather, a professional
association that would "make known our needs for change, particularly in
the fee system of shows, and anything else that we, as a unified voice
could speak for [those of us] who are making our living as craftspeople."

Similary, Gavin Stairs and Ray Aldridge (28 June) have come up with
proposals for some form of potters guild or professional association, and
Gavin has made specific suggestion for issues that such an association
might address. Such an organization has the potential to further many of
our common interests and goals. I urge you to reread these suggestions,
give them careful consideration, then respond to Gavin and to all of us on

Stuart Altmann

email: office 'phone: 609/258-4520