The American Association of Engineers

TitleThe American Association of Engineers
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1968
AuthorsRothstein, W. G.
Secondary TitleIndustrial and Labor Relations Review

This is a historical study of the heyday (1919-1923) of the American Association of Engineers, a professional society which acted in many ways like a labor union. Its meteoric rise and fall raise challenging questions about the organizability of engineers for the pursuit of common economic objectives and about the AAE’s leadership. The author sees the failure of the AAE as a reflection of the inherent nature of the engineering profession, i.e., the different fields (civil, mechanical, electrical, etc.), the different occupational roles (supervisors, consultants, employee engineers, etc.), the different work organizations, and the conflicting or limited economic interests of different groups (e.g., supervising engineers opposing salary increases sought by employee engineers). The dilemma is real and not subject to the remedy of narrowing jurisdiction to homogeneous groups (like the employees), because of its effect on the organization’s size, strength, and leadership. The AAE therefore declined, not because of shortsighted leadership, but because it was destined to fail.