Accueil » 14-2 ( 1959) » Les syndicats ouvriers et la participation aux bénéfices aux États-Unis

Les syndicats ouvriers et la participation aux bénéfices aux États-Unis

Gaston Cholette


Dans un précédent numéro, l'auteur a analysé l'état et le développement de ce phénomène. Il expose ici l'attitude des syndicats ouvriers.


Labor Attitudes on Profit Sharing in the United States

Profit sharing is prominently a management and governmental affair. Labor as a whole has not taken a very active part in the development of this idea and practice.

Labor attitudes can be studied three different levels: 1) the workers in a particular firm or as individuals spread across the country; 2) as local union officers; 3) as national or international union officers. These attitudes can also be considered with an historical approach.

As far as workers in a firm or as individuals in the total labor force of the country are concerned, the Senate sub-committee showed in 1938 that most of them were in favor of profit sharing. As a matter of fact, 87% of those who gave an answer on this question were favorable to this idea. Other surveys seem to confirm this finding, although no systematic investigations have been carried out in labor circles on this particular point.

Local union officers have a mixed feeling on profit sharing. Sometimes they are inclined to take favorable action on it because of their membership desires, but they are hesitant about it because it would run across a national policy of their union or even only hurt the prevailing ideas in national circles. Usually, however, where membership and company pressures are strong, the local union officers will readily cooperate.

Generally speaking, national labor leaders have been systematically indifferent or opposed to profit sharing. Samuel Gompers, first president of the American Federation of Labor, John L. Lewis, William Green have all emphatically stated their opposition to profit sharing before the Senate sub-committee in 1938. Of these three leaders. Green is the only one who gave an indication that his attitude was not due to the principles involved, but rather to their actual applications. Philip Murray, when he was president of the Congress of Industrial Organizations, felt that profit sharing was a cause of dispute rather than a means of achieving peace in industrial relations.

Labor has many reasons for its opposition to profit sharing. This practice is considered by many workers as a device to escape the payment of fair wages and as a method to cheat them on accounting techniques. They do not like to see part of their pay subject to the fluctuations of a profit on which they have no direct or immediate control. They figure in many cases that profit sharing is just another form of speed-up. In some cases also, labor men feel that profit sharing requires a shift of loyalty from the labor movement towards a particular company. Generally, labor has been opposed to profit sharing because this idea has been used very often to fight unionism and collective bargaining.

Although the general picture shows an unfavorable attitude in labor circles, one can still find a great number of particular instances — some of which are of great importance — where management and union officials have worked out together successful profit sharing plans. In some cases, big national unions have made a formal request for profit sharing in their negotiations with companies.

Nevertheless, it is a fact that unions very seldom have anything to do in a profit sharing plan. While any survey may show that profit sharing plans are operating in a great number of plants where a union exists, the plan is rarely spelled out or even mentioned in the collective labor agreement.

As far as administration of profit sharing funds is concerned, labor has nothing to do in almost all cases. In the few instances where the union has something to say in this administration, management usually still has the last word.

The conclusion is that profit sharing, unfortunately, has not suceeded, yet, in promoting labor in the way of an actual sharing of responsibilities with management. There seems to be no existing indication of any slight trend in that direction.