Harvard's tradition of long-view pioneering in education is not a war-time casualty. The same intellectual spark that gave birth to the country's first case system and school for public administration has flared up again, despite the obstacles of collegiate conversion-to-war. Though only five months old, The Harvard Trade Union Plan, an educational experiment which is based on recognition of the major role labor will play in helping to settle post-war problems, has excited wider general interest than any educational project undertaken in many years.
Fully realizing that a successful relationship between labor and management is going to be the first essential in dealing with the difficulties that will confront the nation after the war, fourteen labor union leaders, selected by their unions, and representing a variety of trades, attended the first classes of the nine months course in the early morning of last September 30. They came directly from the factories and the shops, leaving their jobs as mechanics, glaziers, electricians and clothing workers. One of them held a degree of Master of Law, another had quit school at the age of 12.
All had the same experience of serving as trade union executives. They were determined to make the most of this venture which, like the Harvard's Littauer School of Public Administration and Neiman Fellows in Journalism, reaches far beyond the established tradition of university professional education.
Like the Neiman Fellowships, the Trade Union Fellowships offer "in-service" training to men who are on leave of absence. Fundamentally, however, the Trade Union Fellows have more in common with the Littauer School or the Business School, because these men are all preparing for positions of administrative responsibility. This is significant for a real understanding of the plan for, although there is a considerable demand by unions for specialists and technicians, the Harvard Trade Union Plan has a broader aim, the development of administrators rather than technical experts. With this goal in view, the unions were urged to pick men of the executive and leader type when the Trade Union Fellows were selected. They were asked to put the emphasis on ability rather than formal schooling.
Men of Ability
In a report issued last month, the Faculty men in charge of the plan expressed complete satisfaction with the union's judgment in picking their representatives. "Certainly the men are of the executive and leader type," this report states," and their ability gives them a promising future in the labor movement....The quality of the class work done by the Trade Union Fellows has been of a high order. Although the unions were urged to select prospective men of affairs rather than men of the scholar type, the men have shown excellent capacity to handle book material. Their industrial background has stood them in good stead in class discussions and they are showing up particularly well in courses which they are taking with students who lack a similar industrial background.
Impetus From Union
Several critics have made the point that Harvard is doing the union movement a great service through this plan, giving the impression that it is a one-sided affair. Nothing could be further from the truth. Not only are the expenses of the Fellows and half of their tuition paid by the unions, but the original impetus and idea for the plan came form the trade unions. Although the idea was the conceived by the unions in 1941, it was only after months of planning and consultation on both sides that President Conant, in January, 1942, gave his approval and active steps were taken to launch the plan. Important groundwork was provided by Sumner H. Slichter, Lamont University professor, who, in the labor-management seminars he has conducted for several years, has brought labor leaders and industrial executives together for week-end discussions of industrial labor relations.
The important first steps were taken in preliminary conversations designed to explore the possibilities of the idea. These conversations, in late November and early December, 1941, were held with a few heads of international unions, including President Dubinsky of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union, President Zaritzky, of the Hatters' Union, President Brown of the Electrical Worker's Union, and other prominent labor leaders. It was revealed through these conversations that union leaders had been giving careful consideration to the problems of developing trained executives and that their ideas were, in many respects, far advanced.
So much promise of interest and support of the plan by Labor was apparent in these early conversations that in mid-December, 1941, James Healy (at the time a Teaching Fellow in Economics and now with the War Labor Board) was sent on an extensive field trip to talk with union heads in Philadelphia, Washington, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Detroit, Cleveland, Akron, and other cities. He also gathered background material on scores of strikes, some routine, some spectacular, and including the nationally publicized Allis-Chalmers layoff of defense production workers in 1941. At a few points no interest was shown, but most of the unions expressed their willingness to cooperate. Not until the ground had been fully prepared through this extensive field work was the project put before President Conant, in January, 1942.
The president, recognizing the significance of the project, did not hesitate. With his approval the decision was made to start the experiment in September of that year. With the effective cooperation of the faculties of the Business School, the Economics Department, and the Littauer School, the hoped-for, broader approach to trade union administration is being attempted. The influence of this triumvirate arrangement is readily seen in the broad make-up of the curriculum offered to the Fellows.
Three Main Courses
This curriculum, worked out after many conferences with trade union executives, must be regarded as experimental. Three principal courses are given: Economic Analysis, Trade Union Problems and Policy, and Human Problems of Administration. Under "Economic Analysis" the economic condition of enterprises and of industries is analyzed. By making their own analyses of specific corporations or industries, the students are expected to improve their ability to arbitrate with management in terms which both parties understand.
In this work they are using material which has been gathered by unions for wage negotiations or arbitrations, preparing answers to material which employers have submitted in negotiations.
In the second course, "Trade Union Problems and Policies," the students analyze actual problems which have confronted the national officers of different unions. Their analyses are written up as "cases," and each member of the class will work out his own solution just as if he were assigned to handle the problem as a representative of the national union. Healy spent five weeks in the field in August and September collecting the case material. Emphasizing practicality, the men will study successful organizing drives to find out why they were successful, what publicity means are best and how, for example, the particular problems of organizing in the South could be solved.
"Human Problems of Administration," as its title indicates, deals with the problems of handling human beings which are important in administration. It involves a study of group psychology and problems which arise in handling groups of men. Here the men will delve into the whole gamut of questions which arise when people work together--grievances and their settlement, handling of irascible foremen, quarrels among workers.
The Trade Union Fellows are men who, because of their backgrounds, are a strikingly new feature in the University scene. In spite of their unique background and, perhaps, because of it, the men have succeeded in finding their place in the University picture as vital assets in the student body. Three of the Fellows have brought their wives to Cambridge and one lives in Boston. The other nine have become familiar figures around the Houses and across the Charles. Two make their homes in Adams, two in Dunster, and five in the Business School dormitories.
Typical of the way in which the Trade Union Fellows are fitting into University life and contributing to it are these instances: When the Harvard Defense Group held a meeting at which problems of manpower were discussed, two representatives of the Trade Union Fellowship group were asked to participate. Each of the men picked an aspect of the manpower problem which he knew from personal experience and gave a succinct and lucid talk. Nearly all of the Trade Union Fellows attended the Business Executives Conference at the Business School on December 5, at which problems of manpower were under discussion, and made valuable contributions to the proceedings. As the report on the project sums it up, "Although they (the Trade Union Fellows) are getting much from the University, they are giving as much as they are getting."
In this vein, the latest report on the project states, "Every teacher knows that students learn as much from each other as they learn from the faculty. There is no doubt that the addition of Trade Union Fellows to the Harvard student body helps to make Harvard a better University by broadening and enriching the contacts which the students are able to make."
Men of Merit
The record of achievement of the Fellows is an imposing affirmation of the confidence with which they are regarded. Of the five Fellows who are full-time employees of their unions, two are national representatives, three are local business agents or organizers. Eight trade union fellows are wielders of the tools of their trade. Of these eight, all have positions of responsibility in their unions and a record of active participation in union affairs.
Nor is there anything of senility among the group. Their average age is 32.5 and all but one are married men. Their industrial backgrounds are as varied as their home states. Sam Duke, who has been an organizer and business representative of Local 41 of the Retail Clerks International since 1938, was a mens' furnishing salesman before that time. George Feffer, of the I.L.G.W.U., is an assorter and dress operator, and has served on the Executive Board of his Local.
Raymond Frisch has been a machine operator in the hat industry since 1935, and Joseph McIntosh was a mechanic and hydroplant operator for a Southern Utility Corporation until 1939, when he became an international representative of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Similar stories lie back of the other Fellows, Charles Connor, Samuel Hassen, Frederick Kelley, Lyle McKinney, Morris Paladino, Joseph Riley, Charles Scholl, Milton Schulman, Edward Wagenfeld, and Norman Johnson.
It has been amply demonstrated by now that the colleges of the country have geared their programs to the immediate requirements of war. This is as it should be. But it is nonetheless important that they also concern themselves with post-war problems of readjustment. Harvard's recognition of the important part that labor will play in that readjustment has been commended the country over, by labor and industry alike. The Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs in Washington has stated: "At the present time, unions in the United States have about 100,000 administrative officers. The universities of the country cannot ignore the professional educational interests of such a large and important body of men. If the (Harvard) experiment proves to be a success, it will mean the beginning of an important development in university education."
"It holds promise of developing into one of the most important phases of adult education ever attempted in this country," the Washington Post has said in an editorial. And New Frontiers has stated, "At the very least it should indicate not only the nature of some of the post-war problems, but also means of coping with them."
Class of '47
Dr. Dunlop, who has been close to the Plan since its inception, has indicated that he and his colleagues are well satisfied with the progress shown to date. "From our experience in the past five months, the Plan certainly looks feasible as a long range undertaking," he stated. Maybe the day will even come when one of the wrought-iron gates in the wall around the Yard,--instead of flaunting the mark of the class of '98, will bear this inscription: "Erected by the Electrical Workers, Trade Union Fellowship Class of '47."