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THE NEW YORK SHIP YARDS STRIKE
Marine Trades Council Taking Advantage of War Emergency to Further Organizing Plans
About thirty-five hundred machinists, boiler-makers, blacksmiths, and pattern-makers have struck in the New York City shipyards. This does not mean the complete tying up of the yards, for the carpenters are not affected by the strike orders, which have been so far confined to metal workers fighting for a $4.50 minimum day wage. The restraint exercised by the labor unions in not calling out more men is due, they say, to their patriotic wish not to harass the Government at a critical time.
The men say that for more than a year they have tried in vain to present their claims, but that their employers have declined to confer with them. The companies assert that they have always been ready to deal directly with their men individually or through committees, and not with their unions.
The shipyards of the port of New York have been open shops. Union and non-union men have worked side by side. Some fifteen years ago the shipyards were subjected to a series of strikes due to the activities of what was known as the Marine Trades Council, and as a result of the Council's activities a large amount of repair work was driven out of the port. In 1903 the Marine Trades Council was disbanded, and until about a year ago nothing was heard of it. But since our Government's severance of relations with Germany its activities have been again in progress, and, according to the shipyard owners, the Council is taking advantage of the war emergency to attempt to unionize the shipyards.
As to wages during the past year, three substantial increases. have been granted to the employees of all the yards, and in addition a year ago the working hours in the shipyards were reduced from nine to eight hours a day. The yards are paying practically the same wages as are paid by the Brooklyn NavyYard, and are paying more than it does for overtime.
Suspicion that a German plot is behind the strike prevails in some quarters. Some weeks ago one hundred and
thirty-seven carpenters struck in one of the shipyards. Investigation showed that only three of the strikers were American citizens. One striker returned to work and stated: "This is not a strike, but a conspiracy against the United States Government."
We trust that any such suspicion concerning the present strike will prove unfounded.—The Outlook.
SUPPRESSING THE I. W. W.
It is difficult to speak with any moderation of the outrageous eruption of the I. W. W. in the far west. It is nothing less than rebellion, and the most effective means of suppressing rebellion is to apply a little of that "direct action" which is the favorite diversion of the I. W. W.'s.
There is no question of free speech involved. The I. W. W. does not intend to accomplish its treacherous aims by anything so feeble as speech; they scorn the ballot box. They are against the war, and their method of making known their protest is by burning our grain, destroying our lumber, and blowing up freight trains. They seek to make converts not by argument, but by threats and intimidation.
We read that western towns are seeking to deport these rebels. In the old days we can imagine more drastic measures would have been taken. The westerners were handy with the rope and the gun in those days. We are not counseling lynch law, but we think deportation is too mild a punishment.
We are too "civilized" to apply the old Roman law-"spare the conquered and extirpate the rebels"-but at least we could intern them. The British have found it practicable to put German prisoners to work at useful employment. Why couldn't we do the same thing with our rebel I. W. W.'s?
It is announced the war department stands ready to take "any action" in suppressing the western disturbances. We believe the action should be swift and severe. Any weakness would invite more riot and anarchy.-Chicago Tribune.
THE PRETENSE OF THE EIGHT-HOUR DAY
The Eight-Hour Day is Used by Organized Labor Simply as a Means for Securing Increased Wages
For years a campaign has been waged by the American Federation of Labor for what it has been pleased to call the "eight-hour working day." The arguments offered to support this demand were entirely humanitarian. It was alleged that more than eight hours' work tired the worker, kept him from being as efficient as he might be, that a longer working day prevented him from having sufficient recreation, made it impossible for him to devote the necessary time to study and mental improvement and deprived him of time which he could otherwise spend with his family.
Coupled with the demand for the eight-hour working day, however, there was always the insistence that overtime in excess of eight hours should be compensated for on a basis of time and a half or double time. This appeared to be contradictory of the eight-hour idea as enunciated by Samuel Gompers, President of the American Federation of Labor, but he very adroitly met the charge that extra overtime pay only was sought by asserting that the purpose of it was to prevent or deter the employer from working his people more than eight hours.
Anyone who is familiar with industrial conditions and with the real facts in connection with the eight-hour working day realized long ago that the eight-hour day request was a mere fiction for securing increased wages. A bald demand for increased wages would not excite the public sympathy which one for a shorter working day based on humanitarian reasons would inspire. Only a very small percentage of the workers of the country who have demanded an eight-hour day have taken advantage of the eight-hour proposition, but have shown themselves willing to work nine, ten or twelve hours where it was possible to secure what is known as the punitive overtime and thus increase their wages. Nevertheless, it has been denied
strenuously by organized labor leaders that these workers wanted this overtime, or that they were unwilling to work only eight hours.
It is extremely illuminating, therefore, to read of the present situation in Washington at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. A condition has developed there which has thrown a flood of light on the situation and which shows clearly that the eight-hour day is not merely a fiction, but is a weapon used to force increased wages under the guise of shortening the working day for humanitarian reasons. In connection with the work which developed by reason of the Liberty Loan, the printing of bonds, the printing of new Federal Reserve certificates, Treasury notes, increased amount of stamps, etc., the Director found it necessary to work the employees of the Bureau overtime.
Certain of the workers protested very strenuously against working what they asserted to be a fourteen- or fifteen-hour day, and also on Sundays and holidays. So much was made of this protest by certain employees that the attention of Miss Jeannette Rankin, Representative in Congress from Montana, was directed to it, and through her efforts an investigation was made which resulted in the appointment of a special Commission to look over the situation.
This Commission reported generally that there had been overtime work, that the necessity for it is now practically at an end, and that normal conditions should be restored. Thereupon, as shown by The Official Bulletin published by the Government, Secretary McAdoo issued an order that the operations of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing be placed upon an eight-hour basis, both for men and women, six days a week. This order of the Secretary established the Bureau on a straight eight-hour day basis without overtime. This is precisely what organized labor, through the American Federation of Labor, with Samuel Gompers as its chief spokesman, have been demanding, supposedly, for a long time past. A straight eight-hour day is what the Secretary of the Treasury granted to the employees of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, thereby eliminating overtime and excess wages.
The direct result of this order was a mass meeting July 10th of the Bureau employees, at which a vigorous protest was voiced, and the Secretary of the Treasury was requested to nullify his order for a straight eight-hour day, and permit conditions to remain as they were. The resolution adopted by this special committee at this mass meeting said in part: "Therefore, Be It Resolved, That we, in order that the work may go on smoothly and not tend to inconvenience or disorganize the force in its efforts to meet the requirements forced on it by conditions of war time, earnestly request that the hours remain the same as they are at the present writing or, as in your judgment, may be required.”
There were present at that meeting representatives from all of the thirty-two divisions of the Bureau, and the women employees were in a majority. The Washington Post of July 11th, in discussing the situation, made the following comment:
"There was no mistaking the feeling among the workers who attended the meeting. They were not at all thankful to the apparently well-meant, but what they considered the ill-advised efforts of Representative Jeannette Rankin, of Montana, who started the agitation that now has taken away from them a part of their employment. It was declared repeatedly that it was a small percentage of the employees who were clamoring for a strict eight-hour workday. It was said last night that the 900 present at the meeting were representatives of the best sentiment in the Bureau. Ninety per cent of them, it was estimated, were persons who have been employed at the Bureau for ten or more years."
It was pointed out by many of the employees that the limitation of their workday to eight hours would deprive them of a very substantial amount of their present salary. The printers, who receive very good wages, could not, of course, make overtime unless the apprentices and helpers also worked overtime, so that both the lower paid help and the higher paid were all willing to work overtime, and protested strenuously against cutting off any part of their perquisites which come to them from excess pay due to working over the eight hours prescribed by law.