Category Archives: Limits

Networked Labor Movement: I reach an impasse, and go around

This is the fourth a series of posts I am writing to help me think through the use of network analysis and visualization.

alww-corrected
A simplified network chart based on the complete ALWW directory. The chart shows only individuals with 3 or more connections.

About seven months ago, I was merrily chugging along on this series using the index of the 1925 American Labor Who’s Who as a database for network analysis when I hit an impasse. I was using the list of names and organizations from the book’s index to build network charts. However, the simple structure of the index, so handy for the analog book, adds a layer of abstraction/interpretation that gets in the way of analysis.

The Labor Who’s Who index presents names according to two types of categories. The first might be called “varieties of organization” and includes American Federation of Labor Affiliated Bodies, Independent Unions, Political Parties, and Miscellaneous. Of these, only “AFL-affiliated” is an organic category. “Political Parties,” on the other hand, is a conceptual category, not an entity that the Socialist Party or the Republican Party affiliated with. At the next level down things get more complicated. Things get even messier in the Miscellaneous category, which includes Journalists and Writers, Negro Progress, Workers Education, and a few others. Unfortunately, the index doesn’t tell us the particular newspapers and organizations that make up these sub-groupings in Miscellaneous.

Neither does the index list all the organizational affiliations listed in individual entries, it is more of a snapshot of what the compilers thought were the most important memberships of each person. The result is a simplified, and perhaps, distorted image of the network of associations, and my research impasse. I was at the point of pulling out particular sections of the network chart (those individuals who sat between the two main groupings), but it seemed better to stop and develop the full database than continue with the index alone.

Easier said than done. The complete directory of over 1,000 names is much messier than the index (see the post “Old Book, New Data”). In addition to basic OCR scanning errors there are a few missing and torn pages in the scanned version. The enormity of the task of cleaning the data myself loomed. One solution was to “crowd source” the data cleaning, but that might take a long time and who would really be interested? Another potential solution was to deploy undergraduate students as a “curated crowd.” Because I was already scheduled to teach an upper division lecture course on American Working Class Movements in the fall of 2014, I developed a course project that included a small amount of data cleaning for students–and (as it turned out) a lot of help from two graduate students in the UCLA Center for Digital Humanities. I’ll write about what went right and wrong with that process in a later post, but the upshot is that now I have a working version of the complete directory.

And with that news, I will begin to post more regularly over the next month.

 

Networked Labor Movement–one step backward

This is the second in a series of posts I expect to write to help me think through the use of network analysis and visualization. Read the first post, and a backgrounder.

A network chart based on the index of the American Labor Who's Who (1925). Blue dots represent major categories, red dots are organizations or subcategories, and green dots represent individuals.
A network chart based on the index of the American Labor Who’s Who (1925). Blue dots represent major categories, red dots are organizations or subcategories, and green dots represent individuals.

As one of my correspondents said of my last post: interesting picture, but it’s meaningless without the background data. Well, maybe not meaningless, but abstracted in the extreme. So I’m going to back up a bit, partly for my own sake, to scope out the major categories, subcategories and organizations in the dataset (i.e., the blue and red dots in the chart to the right).

To review, this data is drawn from the index of the digitized version of the American Labor Who’s Who (1925), so it represents what the compilers thought were the relevant organizational contexts for the people listed in the directory at the time it was printed. The actual entries in the Who’s Who often include min-career histories, which makes them potentially more interesting, but also more complicated to work with as data.

Rather than run tables, I’ve made these “tree map” images with Raw, which is a great tool, but has limited ability to adjust labels, so some of these are a little messy. The major categories are AFL-affiliated Bodies, Independent Unions, Political Parties and Miscellaneous Groups (numbers represent individuals in the category, some people are in more than one category):

alww index categoriesThe AFL, Political Parties, and Independent Unions encompass organizations. “Miscellaneous Groups” includes specific organizations and functional subcategories (e.g., Journalists and Writers, Impartial Arbitrators, as well as League for Industrial Democracy.). The AFL-affiliated group is large and full of little organizations with one or two people listed. Here’s a chart of the AFL-affiliated organizations with 10 or more members in the Who’s Who. It’s interesting that the Women’s Trade Union League makes it into this list because women are otherwise underrepresented.

American Federation of Labor-affiliated organizations or groupings with 10 or more members in the ALWW index.
American Federation of Labor-affiliated organizations or groupings with 10 or more members in the ALWW index.

Below is a breakdown of the “Independent Unions” where I’ve combined all the railway unions for the sake of getting a better chart. There was one representative of African American rail unionism in that group, but Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (founded in 1925) didn’t make it into the Who’s Who. A. Philip Randolph, Chandler Owen and a few others appear under “Negro Progress” groups and in some AFL unions. So the Amalgamated Clothing Workers is really the largest non-AFL union in the Who’s Who. Also worth noting, by 1925 many militants had moved on from the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). So in the index they have no connection, whereas their entries often list former membership.

Independent unions represented in the ALWW index (various railway unions combined for better visualization).
Independent unions represented in the ALWW index (various railway unions combined for better visualization).

The next subcategory is Political Parties. In the actual directory quite a few people are listed as Democrats and Republicans, but not in the index. So this is really “left political parties” or “working-class political parties.”

Political parties represented in the ALWW index, apparently excluding the Democrats and Republicans which show up frequently in the full directory.
Political parties represented in the ALWW index, apparently excluding the Democrats and Republicans which show up frequently in the full directory.

And finally, that large category “Miscellaneous Groups.” In later posts I’ll zero in on “Journalists and Writers” as well as a key group of individuals that link the AFL unions with the para-union organizations.

Chart of the subcategories and organizations listed under "Miscellaneous Groups" in the ALWW.
Chart of the subcategories and organizations listed under “Miscellaneous Groups” in the ALWW index.

The printed Who’s Who also has a geographic index, but I have yet to convert that into a spreadsheet. It would be interesting to see how the categories, subcategories and organizations look spatially. But that will have to wait for another day.

Next up, I return to Gephi and the network charts, add the links between groups and explore some individuals who seem to occupy key positions between the two poles of the 1920s labor movement.