The Figurational Dynamics of the ‘Merger’ of the International Union of Mine, Mill, and Smelter Workers and United Steelworkers of America.

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 11:15
Oral Presentation
Elizabeth QUINLAN, University of Saskatchewan, Canada
Local 598 of the International Union of Mine, Mill, and Smelter Workers (IUMMSW) held the certification for the International Nickel Company workers in Sudbury for 18 years prior to the raid by the United Steelworkers of America in 1962. With each successive collective agreement, IUMMSW won wage increases and improved working conditions for the 17,000 members of Local 598. Along with other left-led unions, IUMMSW upheld the post-war vision of progress through labour unity and its active pursuit of the broader goals of social unionism. The raid by the Steelworkers resulted in disruption and division amongst workers in Sudbury well known within the Canadian labour movement. The usual explanation for the success of the raid is the protracted strike of the Local 598 members several years prior. However, a comprehensive analysis of the power asymmetries within the multi-tiered figuration of local, district, national, and international leadership within IUMMSW during and for the several years following the strike has yet to be done. This paper’s working hypothesis is these power imbalances need to be understood in light of the expansion and intensification of inter-organizational functional interdependencies of oppositional forces outside IUMMSW. The paper’s analysis is based on data drawn from archival records from six archives across Canada, including union constitutions, briefs, letters, reports, meeting minutes, bulletins, newspaper articles, flyers, and transcribed interviews. The Cold War and the resulting instabilities within the Canadian and US labour movements is the backdrop of the analysis. The figurational dynamics elaborated in the paper help to explain why Local 598, and ultimately the entire IUMMSW, was successfully raided by an international, bureaucratic union, despite its long-standing militancy, historical commitment to Canadian autonomy, and its members’ well-etched occupational identity. The results aim to stimulate further comparative and detailed investigations within and outside the labour movement.