« ForrigeFortsett »
protection of the Truck Act, and they secured the entering wedge to legislation in the specific amendment that provided for shop assistants under the fines clause, which under the general heading of permissible deductions provides for fines, (a) if the agreement for deductions or payment of either be contained in a notice posted up where the workman can easily see it, read it, or copy it, or else be in writing signed by the workman; (b) if such agreement gives a list of the fines that may be imposed, together with a table showing the amount of each fine; (c) if the fine be on account of some act or omission which causes, or is likely to cause, damage to the employer; (d) if the amount of the fine be fair and reasonable, looking at all circumstances of the case; (e) if particulars in writing be given to the workman, whenever he is fined, showing the reason for the fine, and the amount of the fine.
The Shop Assistants' Union is now engaged in a definite campaign against living-in, and in this connection the National Amalgamated Union asks the Government (1) to extend to shop workers the provisions of the Truck Act, by which their wages shall be paid in full in current coin of the realm, and not partly in kind-i. e., in board and lodging; (2) to provide that when the employer desires to contract out in respect of board and lodging (under section 23 of the act of 1831), it shall be not as a condition of employment, but only under a contract in writing, by which the assistant can be assured that the sum deducted from wages for board and lodging shall not exceed the real and true value of the room and board provided, and that the amount so deducted shall be mutally agreed upon by employer and employee.
A conference on this subject was convened in July, 1907, at Toynbee Hall. There were present representatives of the Drapers' Chamber of Trade and of the National Amalgamated Union of Shop Assistants, and the following terse statement was presented and debated:
The union is pledged to the total abolition of the living-in system on the following grounds:
1. It is detrimental to health.
3. The institutional and celibate conditions necessarily imposed conduce to a loose standard of morality.
4. The system is economically unsound.
5. The system excludes the shop workers from the social and civic life of the community; they are voteless.
6. Modern commercialism has outgrown the system; it is unnecessary to the proper conduct of business.
We recognize that a great change of this nature can not take place very rapidly, and that reasonable time must be allowed for the transition from living in to living-out.
The conference is aware that at the present time the truck inquiry committee are preparing recommendations on the subject. The union has asked that the Truck Acts should be extended to the shopworkersi. e., that their wages should be paid in full in the current coin of the realm, and that board and lodgings, if provided by the employer, should not be a condition of employment.
The cumulative effect of this persistent agitation on the part of the unions in the distributive trades is shown in several districts where the unrest has crystallized into a definite demand to "live-out," in which public opinion has been with the shop assistants.
In 1907, at Longton, New Castle (Staffordshire), Oxford, Bridgent, and Pontypool, the union officials negotiated settlements to “live-out” on satisfactory terms, and several of the largest drapery houses in London have recently abandoned the living-in system.
PROTECTION AGAINST FINES AND IMPOSITION.
Even with legislation secured, the union sometimes has an important part to play in its execution. For instance, the “fines clause" would have been practically inoperative, since there was no provision made for inspection of shops, if the shop assistants, through their union, had not taken action time and again to resist illegal fines or to secure the total abolition of fines. There is constant application to the union by members who want the organization to back their claims for the remission of unjust fines.
In one house a system of cash payments prevailed, and assistants were held responsible, by heavy fines, if customers left without paying. The union officials interviewed the firm and a new system was adopted. The employees in two London houses wished to secure the abolition of fees for house doctor, boot cleaning, and library, which were extra deductions, besides the usual living-in rate. After deputations from the union had waited on the firm the employees, 75 per cent of whom were members of the union, were relieved of the added tax on their wages.
The individual shop clerk, too, who has been fined for untidy stock when an unusual rush of customers was responsible, comes for redress. Indeed, this minute guardianship over its members finds illustration in the women's trade unions in all industries, even in the textile industry, where the workers have their rights so carefully defined by legislative enactment. There are at present only 200 factory inspectors in Great Britain appointed by the State, so that at best each factory can be visited not more than once a year, and at a trades council meeting in 1894 one woman admitted that she had not seen a factory inspector during her ten years' work. Ten of these inspectors have been women, and on the recommendation of the home secretary to increase the force one writer makes the following statement:
The department was created mainly in the interest of women workers. A principal, assisted by three seniors, organized it. Ten female inspectors had been appointed at wages ranging from £200 to £300 ($973.30 to $1,459.95) a year, and valuable services have been rendered, especially in laundries. But there are one and a half million women workers in factories and mills.
What were ten among so many?
These women can not give their whole time to watching factories; much is absorbed in replying to inquiries, drafting reports, and traveling. Being few, they have to cover wide areas and spend no small portion of their working days in railway trains. In 1905 two inspectors traveled nearly 16,000 miles each. Labor laws have been broken and evaded. Fines are unjustly imposed; there is extreme humidity in cotton factories; there is dust in card rooms, causing injury to chest and lungs. Time cribbing is largely practiced; many workers must make their employers a weekly free gift of two hours' labor. Long hours of illegal overtime have to be endured, a wrong that presses with most severity upon young girls. (*)
The trade union official, with his hand on the pulse of the particular body of workers he represents, can supplement the work of the State in detection of violation or irregularity.
In cases where bad cotton is supplied to the operatives, and the resultant discarding of portions of it is adjudged" willful and deliberate waste of material,” or the finished article condemned as bad workmanship, the trade union officials represent the right of the worker in fixing the responsibility.
In almost every book of rules issued by the women's trade unions there is to be found one section devoted to "condition of membership” and one upon the requirements of an “employment register,” and on these provisions hangs much of the success of a women's union along the lines of practical accomplishment.
The employment register clause generally reads as follows:
A book shall be left at the office of the secretary, in which the secretary shall enter for the information of the members, free of charge, any vacancies which may come to her notice. Members out of work will also register there.
The condition of membership generally requires some testimony to the competency of the applicant in her trade, or at least evidence that she is working at some trade at the time of seeking membership. Employers are glad to avail themselves of the registry system, because they are able to secure labor of certified ability; also, the system abolishes the old custom of shop-to-shop canvas for work on the part of women wage-earners. Many applications are directed to the
a William C. Anderson, in The Woman Worker for August 17, 1908.
secretary of the Women's Trade Union League in London by managers and employers desiring workwomen.
The officials in charge of the women's trade union movement in Great Britain maintain that the main object of these unions shall be to force up wages and secure a standard rate and other economic advantages to the woman worker, yet they grant that the success of the individual union often depends largely upon the benefits offered. They deprecate the overestimating of the provident side of the union while appreciating that if the provident side can be included, i. e., insurance against sickness or unemployment, it helps to prevent loss of members and the consequent weakening of the union's force for economic action.
If a girl is paying 3d. (6 cents) a week to a trade society and knows that 1d. (2 cents) of the 3d. (6 cents) goes to protect he trade interests, while the other 2d. (4 cents) is invested to meet the out-of-work emergency or the expense of sickness she is not likely to give up her membership and lose benefits for which she has paid. This is equally true of the male trade-unionist. A comparative study of the fluctuations, through a number of years, of the trade union membership in the main groups of trades leads to the deduction “ that the unions paying the most varied and liberal scales of benefits suffer least from loss of membership in periods of bad trade." ()
THE MARRIAGE DOWRY.
The Women's Trade Union League also recognizes the institution of the marriage dowry as a possible element of further success in the organization of women. This is to take the place of the death insurance in men's societies. If a woman has paid into a trade union for some years and has not received any monetary benefits during that time, she naturally feels that in case she is leaving the trade on her marriage and terminating her membership with the union she ought to draw what the insurance companies call a bonus, as a kind of commutative value for the money paid in.
The National Federation of Women Workers has included a marriage dowry in its constitution, but the federation is too young to have produced data to prove its success as an auxiliary inducement for membership. The stipulation on this subject reads as follows:
In the event of the marriage of a member, if she has been a full member for 2 years, and has not received out-of-employment or sick benefit during the period of her membership, the central council shall refund 50 per cent of the amount of her contributions, provided she is leaving her trade and terminating her membership.
a Report of the Chief Labor Correspondent of the Board of Trade on Trade Unions, 1902–1904, p. XX.
The Shop Assistants' Union until recently had a system of marriage dowry payments. In 1907 the union accounts showed £79 8s. 1d. ($386.42) devoted to this form of benefits, but at a recent conference it was decided to discontinue the marriage benefits. This was done largely because the union's funds were not considered to be in an entirely satisfactory condition, and the marriage dowry was stopped concurrently with a reduction in a number of other benefits and contributions which applied to men and women alike.
CONCILIATION AND ARBITRATION.
Perhaps the most tangible success attributed to the women's trade union movement in the industrial world is the method in which strikes conducted under its supervision have been carried on and the gradual substitution by women unionists of the less openly belligerent process of settling trade disputes by conciliation and arbitration, so that among organized women in Great Britain strikes are now comparatively rare.
THE WOMEN'S TRADE UNION LEAGUE.
The root of the women's trade union movement is in the Women's Trade Union League; its highest branching is found at present in the affiliation of women's unions with the General Federation of Trade Unions and in representation in the annual trade union congress, composed of delegates from all the large organizations in Great Britain as well as from the American Federation of Labor.
METHODS EMPLOYED BY THE LEAGUE.
A review of the growth of the movement reveals the completeness of mechanism for organization to which the individual union for women falls heir as a consequence of the circle-without-circle perfection of the long-established combinations of male labor throughout the country.
The Women's Trade Union League, although an evolution from the Women's Provident and Protection League founded in 1874, has no strike fund and pays no benefits but exists for the purpose of propagating the principles of trade unionism among women; of organizing the women in industry, and in supplying an executive head for the affiliated unions from the trades in which women are employed. All secretaries of affiliated London trade unions are ex officio members of the league committee, on which are also a certain number of members elected at the annual meeting. There is also a committee of counsel, consisting of leading trade-unionists, usually the men secretaries of unions containing female members, that advises the league, and its members are present at the annual meeting at which