The attitudes, policies, and lobbying activities of the AFL-CIO concerning federal aid to vocational education, 1955-1970



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The aim of this study was to examine the attitudes, policies, and lobbying activities of the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations concerning federal aid to vocational education in the United States in the period 1955-1970. Primary focus was on the role AFL-CIO leaders played, in ad hoc councils and congressional committee hearings, in the formulation of selected measures dealing with vocational education, in the interpretation of a portion of one such measure, and in the acquisition of adequate vocational appropriations. The views of the AFL-CIO toward occupational education have been based on the premise that the training of responsible citizens for work is indispensable for attaining the economic and social goals of a democratic society. The interest of the labor federation in vocational education also has been understandably self-seeking and largely a defense reaction. Although the interest of the AFL-CIO in vocational education has been uneven and has fluctuated in intensity, such a concern has been much better-informed than that of earlier labor organizations and has been characterized by marked shifts in emphasis. It was found that the Metal Trades Department of the AFL-CIO played a most active role in the interpretation of Title VIII of the National Defense Education Act of 1958, which resulted in the training of many additional persons. AFL-CIO representation on the 1961-1962 Panel of Consultants on Vocational Education and on the 1966-1967 Advisory Council on Vocational Education played a vital role in providing information for their members, suggested some of the recommendations they adopted, and had a major part in formulating their philosophy of occupational education. AFL-CIO leaders also participated actively in the work of the Congress in the enactment of the resultant Vocational Education Act of 1963 and the Vocational Education Amendments of 1968, both at congressional hearings and in the drafting of the bills. The labor federation also furnished key support for the Emergency Committee for Full Funding of Education Programs in its efforts in 1969 and 1970 to secure adequate funding of education programs, which resulted in additional monies for vocational education. The findings of the investigation indicate that the AFL-CIO has played an important part in helping the Congress to effect the expansion, redirection, and modernization of vocational education programs throughout the United Stats. It was striking to note the extent to which many of the changes in the federally-funded vocational education programs which the AFL-CIO had been demanding for years were embodied in the 1963 and 1968 statutes. Federation representatives helped to bring an understanding of the needs of the labor market to members of the Congress in their efforts to make vocational education more meaningful in the real world. It is probable that vocational education as it now reads would not have become law without the strong support of organized labor. In stark contrast, the results of the study show no evidence to indicate that the AFL-CIO lobby had more than minimal input into the National Vocational Student Loan Insurance Act of 1965, the Vocational Education Amendments of 1966, the Vocational Education Improvement Act Amendments of 1967, or the Partnership for Learning and Earning Act of 1968. Because of its connection with the labor bargain and the terms and conditions of employment, vocational education, or the lack of it, affects the bargaining power of trade unions. The struggle for control of the labor market and the labor bargain has been carried on mainly by the craft unions. It was found that the attitudes and policies of the AFL-CIO regarding contemporary issues in vocational education have been largely those of representatives of the building materials and construction unions.