Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

single whack, or take suddenly seven-league steps toward the new State, through Syndicalism, through Industrial Unionism, through General Strikism, through a perfected unionism of a union of Industrial Unions, it seems a terrible drop to come down to the plain and practical program of the Social Democratic party of Germany, as voted upon at the recent election. Here is the program of the party as printed in the Outlook January 27, 1912:

1. Abolition of plural voting (existing only in Prussia).

2. Local self-government.

3. The Imperial Government entirely responsible to Parliament.

4. Church disestablishment.

5. Free public schools.

6. Freedom of the press.

7. Lowered cost of living.

8. Lessened military burdens.

9. Gratuitous legal proceedings.

10. Gratuitous medical attendance.

11. Gratuitous burial.

Of this program the Outlook says:

"Only the last three demands would seem to be Socialistic; hence the name of the party might, it would seem, be thus emphasized-Social-Democratic. Beginning as a doctrinaire party, its members frequently quoting Marx and Lassalle, it has apparently become an eminently practical party. While some of its leaders remain extremists— opposed to private ownership of property, for instance-most of their followers are not Socialists at all in our understanding of that word, but the kind who would be known in this country simply as 'Progressives.'

When we look at what the party of Carl Legien is thus doing in Germany, it seems to us that here in America we of the American Federation of Labor are making good progress in very much the same direction of social improvement as are the German Social Democrats. Necessarily in Germany they are struggling for features of democracy long familiar in this country, but in the economic domain much of our work and that of the German democrats runs in similar lines.

At the recent session of the New York Legislature the following laws, recommended by the State Factory Investigation Committee, were passed by both houses and signed by the Governor:

In relation to fire prevention in factories, providing for fire-proof receptacles, enclosed gas-jets, and prohibiting smoking.

Providing for fire drills in factories in which more than twenty-five persons are regularly employed, above the ground floor, at least once in every three months.

Requiring the installation of automatic sprinklers in every factory. building over seven stories in height, in which wooden floors or wooden trim is used, and where more than 200 people are regularly employed.

Limiting the occupancy of buildings or factories according to the size and number of exits.

In relation to the prevention of fires. This amends the New York charter to provide for fire drills in every factory where it is deemed necessary by the fire commission. It gives the officials of the Bureau of Fire

Prevention the powers and duties of these officers and the right to make arrests.

For the registration of factories.

Prohibitory of woman labor within four weeks after child-birth.

The New York Legislature also enacted a law reducing hours of labor of women and minors not to exceed fifty-four in any one week.

The legislation in the interest of the working people enacted by the Legislature of the State of New York has recently been almost duplicated in or surpassed by several other industrial States of the nation.

And what is the status of the legislation which labor has presented to the Congress of the United States?

The Bureau of Mines, established last year to devise the safety of the men employed under ground, is one of the most effective in existence.

The creation, a few weeks ago, of the Federal Bureau to govern and regulate the labor of women and minors.

The Eight-Hour law, long established for Government employes and for contractors on Government work, extended to all naval and military construction work. The bill extending it to sub-contractors and to work done for the Government passed the House of Representatives by unanimous vote, and last week was favorably reported and strongly recommended to the Senate by its Committee on Education and Labor.

The Federal Workmen's Compensation act extended to Government employes and in excellent legislative position, so that its provision shall apply to all employes of common carriers engaged in interstate commerce.

The recent abolition by law of the use of the dangerous white phosphorus in the manufacture of matches.

The manifest willingness of Congress to rectify the evil of the injunction abuse and to take the organizations of workers from out of existing law, which regarded them as being in restraint of trade.

The passage by the House of Representatives of the law prohibiting the labor of convicts coming into competition with free workmen; and many other demands presented by the American Federation of Labor and organized labor of America, and pressed home for enactment.

The economic demands of the American Federation of Labor are for the abolition of all forms of industrial servitude, except as a punishment for crime; for free schools; free text books, as well as compulsory education. A general demand for the eight-hour workday, whether in public or private employment. A release from employment of one day in seven. (In connection with the establishment of the eight-hour day in private employment, all observers and thinkers know that the normal workday of eight hours more generally prevails in the United States than in any other country, except possibly Australia.) The abolition of contract system on public works, whether of Federal, State or municipal governments, and thus the elimination of the sweater, the middleman. Liability of employers for injury to workmen, and for compensation. Woman suffrage, co-equal with man. Permits to build houses or compartments used for habitation to contain the qualification that there shall be ample bathrooms and bathroom

attachments. Sanitary inspection of factory, workshop, mines and homes. Sanitary appliances in all industry where men or women are employed. The initiative and referendum, and the right of recall.

These are some of the demands which the American Federation of Labor and its affiliated trade unions have pressed home upon the lawmaking bodies of the nation and of the States, and upon the employers of labor throughout.

Neither do these present the sum total of organized labor's constantly increasing demands which it makes upon modern society for material, moral, physical, and social uplift. Many of labor demands, more than have been enumerated herein, are already enacted into law and apply to the general every-day life of our working people.

Compare the above demands and achievements with any of the immediate demands of any association of workmen anywhere, and the comparison will reflect to the credit, to the insistence, and to the advantage of the labor movement of our country. They show common sense, a grappling with the situation in which the workers of our country find themselves, the dealing in a most practical and effective manner, and, better than all, the achieving of results day by day.

Some years ago, the American Federation of Labor, realizing the unjust conditions obtaining in the plants of the United States Steel Corporation, inaugurated an agitation which in concrete form was later presented to the highest officials of our Government and to the executive officials of the several States. Formal charges having been presented, they resulted in investigations by Federal and State bureaus of labor, justifying labor's position and officially showing the unwarranted and unnecessary brutal economic conditions prevailing in these plants.

Senator Borah, Chairman of the Committee on Education and Labor, reporting for his committee labor's Eight-Hour bill favorably to the Senate last week, among other things says:

"According to the dividends paid, as shown by the reports of the United States Steel Corporation, there was certainly little reason for this exacting service. Every rightthinking American citizen must take pride in the prosperity and the success of our business concerns, as their prosperity is indispensable to the success and the prosperity of the people generally. But when such enormous wealth is amassed, partly, at least, through such a cruel and brutal system of industrial slavery, this Government is bound in its own defense, for its citizenship is its life, to interpose between the strong and the weak and exert its influence both moral and legal to rescue its citizenship from such conditions. No man can meet the obligations and discharge the duties of citizenship in a free government who is broken in spirit and wracked in body through such industrial peonage. Even in the strength of his early manhood he has not the opportunity or time to prepare himself for the duties of citizenship, and before he has reached the prime of life under such conditions, sodden in mind and broken in health, he is cast off as a useless hulka burden and a curse to society and a menace to the Government. It is just as much the duty of the Government, when it can do so, to protect its citizens from such outrageous treatment as it is to protect a citizen from the burglar or the highwayman. Every one knows and every one is willing to discuss what the duty and obligations of the citizen are toward the Government. But one of the propositions which can no longer be postponed in this country is: What is the duty of the Government toward the citizen? If these laws regulating the hours of labor come, therefore, they come not simply

because laboring men ask for them; they come because conditions in the industrial world make it impossible to ignore that request.

"It has been urged before the committee and it will be argued by many that this bill will greatly disturb business; that it will close some business concerns, and that as it is a step toward a general eight-hour law it will cause business disturbance generally—in other words, that it is revolutionary. 'Revolutionary' is an old and familiar friend in the upward movement of the human family, and while he is always on hand he has not so far been an entire success as a prophet. When the question of shorter hours was being discussed many years ago in England almost every economist and most of the leading men of the day condemned it. The great leader, Richard Cobden, declared it would stop every factory engine in the country. But the prophecy remains unfulfilled, notwithstanding the shorter hours were brought about through legislation. No doubt some business concerns will suffer a temporary inconvenience or loss. But in the long run the loss will likely not be nearly so great as anticipated, and even if so, when weighed against the general good it ought not to prevail against such legislation.”

American labor is not content with existing conditions. The best is just barely good enough for the toilers-the wealth-producers of our country-the men and women who do the great service to society, the service without which progress would cease and civilized life be impossible.

In the presence of syndicalism and the other wild "isms" that would paralyze society to cure it, we say to the world that the trade unions, as affiliated to the American Federation of Labor, represent the true spirit and thought, the just activities, and the high aspirations of labor.

When the organizing, economic, and political methods of the American Federation of Labor are carefully compared with those of the wage-workers of European countries, the solid and practical foundation of our continental movement is clearly seen.

Our Federation is not partisan to a political party, it is partisan to principle and purpose, the interest of the workers.

Our Federation's tactics have been consistent, its basic principles uncompromiseable, its methods continuously successful to the possible limit. Its progress, unceasing in the past, promises to have a greater momentum in the future.

The system of American Federation of Labor organization, free from entangling political partisan alliances, and culminating in the federation of autonomous unions in each trade and calling, is unrivaled in the world.

The general rate of wages which our unions have wrenched from unwilling employers, bent on setting our individual members in competition with one another, is in all cases higher than wages in any other country. In some notable instances they are more than double. The short-hour movement has been more successful here than even in England. Evidence, which ought to strike home even to the prejudiced and the ignorant, that the trade union movement of America is on the right track to accomplish all possible things for the workers, lies in the fact that the American Federation of Labor is today the model for the united unions of Germany and the General Federation of Trades of Great Britain.

The rank and file, the great body of affiliated organizations of our American Federation of Labor, do not bother themselves with either "syndicalism" or any other panacea-working "ism." Our trade unionists under

stand the limits of municipal politics, and already in a large part of the country, through the initiative and referendum, are enabled to take up one local reform at a time and enlist the entire force in the community conceived possible in the support of each. To mention but one political reform, the extent to which municipal utility undertakings have been placed under a far stricter regulation than formerly, in which work trade unionists have uniformly participated, while it has been ignored by those who believe in municipalization as a step toward the goal of a co-operative commonwealth, has marked a long advance in social justice.

Syndicalism has not the faintest show of success in America, nor has any other "ism" which does not contemplate an opportunist movement through obviously needed reforms toward economic justice, step by step, in accordance with the convictions of the majority in community, State, Nation, and Continent.

INDUSTRIAL UNIONISM.

INTERNATIONAL LADIES' GARMENT WORKERS' UNION,

NEW YORK, March 7, 1912.

SAMUEL GOMPERS, President, American Federation of Labor.

DEAR SIR AND BROTHER: I want to give the Jewish readers of cur official journal, The Ladies' Garment Worker, an exhaustive view on the American Federation of Labor and industrial unionism. My own view is that the American Federation of Labor is not, and has no reason to be, opposed to a sober view of industrial unionism; that is, so far as the principle of complete trade organization is concerned. All practical people believe that this principle is being perverted by hot-headed leaders of the I. W. W. I shall esteem your expression of opinion on the subject a great favor. Thanking you in anticipation of an early reply, I remain, fraternally A. ROSEBURY, Assistant Secretary.

yours,

April 2, 1912.

A. ROSEBURY, Assistant Secretary, International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union.

DEAR SIR AND BROTHER: Your letter of some time ago received, but owing to such an overwhelming press of other important matters requiring my attention it has been impossible to reply earlier. It is observed that you desire to give the Jewish readers of your official journal an exhaustive view on the American Federation of Labor and industrial unionism, and adding: "My own view is that the American Federation of Labor is not, and has no reason to be, opposed to a sober view of industrial unionism; that is, so far as the principle of complete trade organization is concerned. All practical people believe this principle is being perverted by hot-headed leaders of the I. W. W."

« ForrigeFortsett »