First Advisor

Hugh G. Lovell

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Economics (MSECO)






Business agents (Labor union officials)



Physical Description

1 online resource. Digitized manuscript


Labor unions are an integral part of the economy of the United States. At the grass roots, union influence and/or effectiveness depends on the local union organization, its management, and its relationship to and involvement in community affairs. This influence and involvement is focused on the local union leadership in the person of the business agent. A substantial body of literature exists on leadership in general as well as specific information about leadership in labor unions, and includes contributions from the fields of Sociology and Psychology as well as Economics. This research paper is a study of local union business agents in the Portland, Oregon area comparing them to and categorizing them in accordance with the criteria set up by others as well as suggesting new divisions that were found useful in the course of this research.

Data for this research were obtained from personal interviews with the agents of thirty union locals ranging in size from the largest local in the area to one of the smallest, and by studying the yearly financial reports on file in the local office of the Labor-Management Services Administration of the United States Department of Labor. This research tabulates the thirty business agents as to age, sex, family background, education, length of union membership, and reasons for seeking office. Gross salaries paid to the local business agents are also tabulated along with a discussion of how these salaries are set. Total membership figures are given so that a per capita expense figure can be estimated for an individual member's contribution to the support of his business agent.

From the results of this survey one may conclude that effective leadership was in evidence in at least some of the locals studied, leadership that provided not only econonric services but inspiration toward intellectual growth and toward increasing effective union action in helping solve some of the complex social and economic problems of the area. One may also conclude that local union organizations in the area are managed by cornpetent, honest, industrious men and women who recognize that what benefits the working men and women of the area, benefits the entire community.


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