Sociology Index

CRAFT UNIONS

Craft union is a structure of labour unions that brings together workers within the same area of craft or skill, like carpenters, stoneworkers and railway engineers. Craft unions, because their members possessed crucial knowledge and physical and conceptual skills, had considerable influence in the workplace.

Craft union struggled to maintain control of their work process and standards of training and apprenticeship. Craft unions became uneasy about the rise of industrial unions which brought together all workers in a single industry regardless of their craft or level of skill. In this way craft unions were somewhat elitist and perhaps cautious.

Craft unionism is best exemplified by many of the construction unions that formed the backbone of the old American Federation of Labor.

The difference between craft unions and industrial unions was a contested issue as the craft unions that held sway in the American Federation of Labor sought to block other unions from organizing on an industrial basis in the steel and other mass production industries.

The dispute between craft unions and industrial unions ultimately led to the formation of the Congress of Industrial Organizations, which split from the AFL to establish itself as a rival organization.

Selective Mobilization in Craft Protest 
JEFFREY HAYDU
Abstract: Resource mobilization theory, while useful for understanding the conditions under which individuals act together to remedy their grievances, neglects other problematical features of collective action. In some settings the more interesting question is not why mobilization occurs but, instead, why individuals with varied grievances mobilize around certain goals and in certain alliances craft unions rather than others. Collective protest by craft unions of skilled workers confronting industrial change illustrates this problem of selective mobilization. Characteristics of the labor process, craft unionism, industrial relations, and workshop organization favored the mobilization of some interests, goals, and coalitions and inhibited others.