In this section of entries some of my labor union dues booklets will be listed, representing a sub-set of my greater collection, as well as dues cards and materials from more traditional fraternal orgnanizations. Whether unions are fraternal organizations or societies is a question worthy of some discussion, surely. Are they the same kind of society that, say, the Masons or the Knights of Pythias represent? Definitely not; they are a different animal with a different set of goals. But unions are, in another sense, intentional or voluntary communities of men and women that join together for a common goal, they pay dues, they have constitutions and by-laws. They are no less of fraternal societies than the groups which proliferated in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries to provide care, insurance and burial for their members.
In the essay “The Fraternal Context,” which opens and lays the groundwork for his Fraternal Organizations (a volume in the Greenwood Encyclopedia of American Institutions series), Alvin J Schmidt breaks fraternal societies into two primary groups, the Instrumental and the Expressive. He borrows this differentiation from Gordon & Babchuck’s “A Typology of Voluntary Associations (1959),” and Jacoby & Babchuck’s “Instrumental and Expressive Voluntary Associations (1963).”
Instrumental groups have an outward goal, for instance the provision of insurance or burial for their members, and/or to work more broadly in society for goals that would benefit their membership. A fraternal organization of train engineers might look after their members and their families in time of crisis, and it might also organize that membership to work applying pressure to develop or pass legislation that would be of benefit to the members. Such a fraternal organization is an instrument for the betterment of the community it represents.
Expressive groups are, in Schmidt’s theme, more inwardly looking. While the Freemasons might be active in the community to some end or other, providing charitable work or donations, or generating scholarship money to be granted to worthy students, such activity is not in itself the specific goal of the organization, even if it is an applied exemplification of the society’s philosophy. The goals of expressive organizations, often considered in the common parlance to be “secret societies,” are internal. The purpose in such cases, is at the core to produce and perpetuate the society itself, whatever other activities might be undertaken as a result.
Labor and trades unions would fit very well into the Instrumental category in this dialectic of sociological interpretation.