Sidebilder
PDF
ePub
[graphic]

To show the extent of lost endeavor in the women's trade union movement, a statement of the numerical progress of organization among industrial women as compared with that of men throughout the country is necessary.

In 1896, which is the first year for which comparative figures of female trade union membership are available, 149 unions included women and girls as members out of a total of 1,302 trade unions; while the female membership was at that time 117,030, or 7.8 per cent of the membership of all unions. During the years 1896 to 1904 the male membership of all trade unions rose from 1,386,709 to 1,768,767, or a gain of 27.6 per cent, while the female membership during this period accomplished a gain from 117,030 to 126,285, or 7.9 per cent. While the membership of women in the unions is insignificant in comparison with the large enrollment of male trade-unionists, the percentage of gains among male and among female trade-union members since 1901 has been to a large extent reversed. In 1907 the number of organized women had increased to 201,709, a gain from 1904 to 1907 of 75,424, or 59.7 per cent, while the gain in male mem

. In 1900, 20.6 per cent of women 15 years of age and over in the l'nited States were engaged in gainful occupations, and in 1901 the corresponding percentage for England and Wales was 34.5 and for Scotland 36.1.

bership of trade unions, although amounting to 436,270 new members, represented a relative increase of only 24.7 per cent. ()

This condition as to membership of women in trade unions was stated thus forcibly in round numbers in 1905:

When it is considered that hereditary training and environment have left women far behind men in development, the fact that there are now about 160,000 women organized out of a possible 5,000,000, while there are 2,000,000 men trade-unionists out of a possible 11,000,000, it is not so discouraging as it appears on the surface. Indeed, when these figures were quoted to me by a well-known tradeunion leader, whose views on women's organization are notoriously pessimistic, I was struck less by the percentage of women unorganized than by the fact that a great deal stiỈl remains to be done in the tradeunion organization of men. (*)

And when it is considered that in 1885 there were only 19 unions admitting women and girls to membership () and that all the women trade-unionists in Great Britain numbered only a few thousand, (*) and that as late as 1894 there were signs posted in a mill in the Midlands, where the majority of operatives were women, threatening “instant dismissal to anyone found to belong to a trade union or any kindred organization,” the expansion of the movement to 182 unions in 1907, with a female membership of 201,709, seems significant, if not phenomenal.

In 1903 the Women's Trade Union League had an affiliated membership of 40,000 women members. At present its membership approaches 140,000 and includes a large proportion of organized women in the country. Of course these figures do not mean that there are 100,000 more women trade-unionists now than there were in 1903; it means that unionists outside the Women's Trade Union League before have come into line of national organization during the intervening years, and this is considered significant of a desire for a firmer combination of women trade-union power than is afforded by membership in the local branches alone.

& Figures for 1896 from Report of the Labor Department of the Board of Trade on Trade Unions in 1902–1904, pp. lxi, lxvi; figures for 1904 and 1907 from report of the same department on trade unions in 1905–1907, pp. Ixiii, lxix.

O Miss Mary R. Macarthur in The Labor Record, June, 1905.

c Ten of these unions were in London, which presents a marked contrast to the present preponderance of women's trade unions in the provinces.

dAnnual reports of Women's Trade Union League for 1885 and 1894.

The following table gives the distribution by trades of the women trade-unionists, together with the total membership of all unions:

NUMBER AND FEMALE MEMBERSHIP OF TRADE UNIONS WITH FEMALE MEM.

BERS AND NUMBER AND TOTAL MEMBERSHIP OF ALL UNIONS, BY TRADES, 1904 AND 1907. (From Report by the Labor Department of the Board of Trade on Trade Unions in 1905–

1907, pp. xx, lxix, 2–79.]

[merged small][graphic][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][merged small]
[graphic]
[ocr errors]

35, 393 22, 701

8,994 1, 722 68, 221 18, 447

46, 117 1,761, 331

89, 393 2, 406, 746

a In unions which admit both male and female members the exact numbers of each sex are often not known, but the numbers stated in the table are approximately correct.

A comparison of the figures for 1907 with those for 1904 reveals the greatest growth in the number of female members to have been in the textile trades, a gain of 61,031 being recorded. But it should be remembered in this connection that there are 654,782 women in the textile industries, or 39.8 per cent of the total of female workers in all industries in the United Kingdom.() And on the other hand it

may be noted that women trade-unionists in all the branches of the clothing trade increased by less than 2,000 between 1904 and 1907, and that the total female membership in these unions in 1907 was only 6,045, or only slightly over 1 per cent of the total number of female workers (478,509) engaged in the various grades of clothing manufacture in 1904, which is the latest year for which total figures are available (a)—and this includes only those working in factories or workshops, not the outworkers who are supposed to clog organization in the clothing trades. Therefore it will be seen that the women's trade-union movement has not as yet made more than a slight appreciable headway in this branch of industry, where, according to the census of 1901, a little over 60

per cent of the employed are women. As regards individual trades, the only group worthy of note as having shown a substantial rise in membership is that of the shop assistants' unions, whose female membership rose without a break from 327 in 1896 to 1,609 in 1901, and to 3,747 in 1904, while in 1907 it reached 5,076. The difference in totals of membership is further accounted for by a slight general increase all along the line, also by the fact of the formation of the National Federation of Women Workers and by the increase of female membership in unions of employees of public authorities from 929 in 1904 to 4,690 in 1907.

At every factory where inquiry about the disposal of the nonunion element among organized operatives was made the same answer was received: No very radical measures are taken to eliminate or convert the nonunionist, and yet the cases of disturbance or of nonunion labor in case of strikes are exceedingly rare. If organization be started in a trade, generally the majority of the workers are swept along on the wave of enthusiasm, and the others are won over gradually. In the event of a nonunion worker entering the factory after the formation of a trade union, pressure of organization both in the factory and after hours at home is brought to bear for conversion, with few instances of failure.

In one mill the refusal of the men workers to help adjust the machinery of nonunion women as they were accustomed to do for the trade-unionist sisters led several operatives to join the union, for on piecework loss of time is coincident with loss of the shilling, and the good will and the helping hand of the fellow-worker is worth more than the trade union levy. In some places there is a nonunion mill

* Annual Report of the Chief Inspector of Factories and Workshops, 1907,

p. 190.

[graphic][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed]
« ForrigeFortsett »