Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

officials for the ensuing year are elected. The officials of the league are a chairman, a secretary, two official organizers (although the chairman and secretary, both women, are also actively engaged in this work throughout the year), and an honorary treasurer. The general committee, which is the administrative body for the league, consists of the executive committee and of ten or twelve additional members chosen from among the students of industrial conditions and from among labor representatives in Parliament. The league from its headquarters in London acts as the agent of women trade-unionists in making representations to government authorities or to parliamentary committees in regard to the legislation required, or in bringing forward specific grievances in individual trades or factories, by means of questions and written forms of presentation by members of Parliament in the House of Commons. Complaints as to breaches of the Factory and Workshop Acts, when sent to the league are investigated carefully and referred to the proper officials for correction or enforcement. Cases under the compensation, truck, and other industrial laws referred to the league are investigated and advice is given by the secretary of the legal advice department or action is taken under the league's legal advisers. But the greatest endeavor on the part of the Women's Trade Union League is to increase the ranks of women trade-unionists. It is prepared at all times to send organizers to the London or to any provincial district to form new or to strengthen existing trade unions. In fact, the payment of the affiliation fee of 2s. 6d. (61 cents) per 250 women members, or 10s. ($2.43) per thousand, which resolves itself into a theoretical tax of one-half cent every two years to every woman, carries with it the right to have an annual visit from one of the league's organizers for a single meeting or for a week's organization. This visit is free except that the society visited is expected to provide hospitality for the organizer. In case a longer visit is required by affiliated unions outside the London district fees are charged at the rate of 15s. ($3.65) for a second week, and a fee of 30s. ($7.30) is charged for a third week. Fares must be paid if more than one visit is paid in the year.

Inside the London district, owing to the entirely different conditions with regard to distance, arrangements must in each instance be made with the league secretary.

In the case of the formation of a new union, a visit will be paid by a league organizer, free of charge, at the request of any men's union or other bona fide organization which is helping to form the new union.

In the case of a nonaffiliated society applying to the league for an organizer, the charges are 10s, and 15s. ($2.43 and $3.65) and expenses for a single meeting outside the London district, and 5s. ($1.22) and expenses within London. The charges for a week's organizing to such societies is 30s. ($7.30) and expenses. The committee reserves

a

the right to remit any part of these charges if good reason for such remission is shown in any special case.

As a rule a union, once organized by the league, prefers an independent management, and calls upon the central society for help only in case a rally to awaken flagging interest in membership is necessary or a trade dispute occurs in which the local union members are involved. There are at present 136 unions or branches of unions affiliated with the league.

Whenever, on the other hand, notice of a strike among as yet unorganized women workers in any part of the country reaches the league, one of the officials immediately proceeds to the locality and, if possible, acts as mediator between the employer and the workers in rebellion. No matter whether a simple agreement is effected, or whether the more complicated process of reference to a committee of arbitration is necessary, as soon as terms are adjusted the league official attempts to form a union among these workers who have so recently experienced the futility of opposing existing conditions without financial backing or the machinery for united action.

Where there has been no crisis in the affairs in the trade but where a desire for better conditions exists the local women interested in the matter apply to the league for the services of an organizer. First there are leaflets(a) distributed among the workers as they leave the factory or workshop, explanatory of the advantages of organization. These are followed by cards announcing the date of the addresses by the officials from the Women's Trade Union League, and at the meeting the enrollment of members for the new union is made.

The local union having been formed, it appoints a secretary and draws up its book of rules (constitution), or more often the women thus organized find it acceptable to the men in the same branch of trade to enter under the rules and government of the established male union.

When the organization is but a unit in a large industry, like a branch of the textile manufacture, it joins with the fellow-workers who have been already recruited into unionism from the surrounding

4 The following extract gives an idea of the accepted form of this propaganda by leaflet :

A trade union enables women to make better terms with their employers, to get grievances redressed, and their general conditions of labor improved. Experience proves that a union is badly needed in

The workers in other towns are well organized, and consequently wages and conditions are good. Why should we lag behind? If you have never thought of joining a union before, think about it now and become a member. Some women are aware of their great need of organization, but say, “ It is no use my joining a union unless my fellow-workers do so too.” If such women join the union they set an example which is noticed, and lead others to think seriously of belonging to a union, with the result that after a time there is quite a large number of women in that mill belonging to the union.

factories and becomes a part of the district association. Through this district association all these workers are affiliated with a federation or an amalgamation of societies, having wider geographical scope over unionists in the same branch of trade, stronger financial backing, and pursuing a more militant policy. Then, these federations of local unions, composed of operatives engaged in the -same form of industry, are themselves affiliated with the General Federation of Trade Unions, gaining for their members a connection with a national organization.

For example, in Lancashire among operatives in the various processes of weaving one finds a district organization like the Blackburn and District Power Loom Weavers' Association, which had in 1908 a membership of 5,100 males and 11,900 females, or the Burnley and District Weavers, Winders, and Beamers, with 7,438 males and 10,705 females; and each of these associations includes in its membership the organized workers who live within a radius of 5 or 12 miles of the central town.

The rules of these district associations make provision for sick benefit, death payment, and stoppage-of-work pay. Sometimes one benefit is made use of, sometimes another, and in some cases all three.

The Northern Counties Amalgamated Association of Weavers, to which the members of the district associations mentioned above (together with over thirty more mixed unions with about the same sex proportions) are affiliated, has as a principal duty the supervision of the wage scale in the trade, and it allows strike pay in disputes arising from efforts to maintain a uniform rate of wage or to resist fines and deductions. This amalgamation is governed by a general council, elected by the district committee, and the representation allowed to each district is, up to 1,000 members, one representative; for 1,500 members, two representatives; and an additional representative for every 1,000 members thereof. This special council elects at its annual meetings a committee of nine, called the central committee, the members of which watch over, direct, and control the general proceedings of the amalgamation, with the restriction that under no circumstances shall they order any weavers out on strike involving more than 5,000 looms before consulting and receiving the approval of at least three-fourths of the members of the council.

Each association of weavers upon joining this association pays an entrance fee of 1d. (2 cents) for each member and an annual levy which is regulated by the general committee in accordance with the state of the emergency fund.

The female trade-unionist does not feel this as a personal tax, since it comes as a lump sum from her district association's treasury, and in case she is included in a dispute sanctioned by the general council of the amalgamation () she receives her share of the benefits apportioned to her union.

There are no women secretaries among the local unions in the weaving trades and no woman has held a place on the general council or, of course, on the central committee of the Northern Counties Amalgamation. Women members play no active part in shaping the policy or in directing the expenditure of funds of the organization. They pay their dues, report their grievances to men officials, and await their benefits—from payments for temporary accidents or for breakdowns or stoppage of machinery from fire or failure to the fulfillment of the death claim their family shall make.

And if this quiescent attitude of the average female trade-unionist is true in the organized branches of the textile industries, where the women predominate numerically, it is also true of the comparatively few who are affiliated through membership in mixed unions with the great trade councils, where societies from all trades and occupations are linked together for greater effectiveness in defense in labor disputes in any given area.

In the Manchester and Salford Trades and Labor Council, representing a membership of 30,000 there are only three or four representatives of female labor. About 20 of the women's unions in this district are united under the Women's Trades and Labor Council and the Women's Trades Union Council, with women officials. But in the Liverpool and Vicinity Trades Council, with a membership of 33,000, and in the Birmingham Trades Council, with over 35,000 trade-unionists, women have no representation; and even in the trades council for Oldham and Vicinity and in that for Nottingham and District, where female labor is far from being a negligible quantity, there has never been a woman trade-unionist appointed delegate.

Coming to the national organization, the General Federation of Trade Unions, the secretary pointed out that although there were some half dozen societies out of the 122 affiliated societies—that represented

a 12. Should a dispute arise in any district, or districts, for which the assistance of the amalgamation is required, the local committee, or committees, shall after using every effort to bring about an amicable and satisfactory settlement, lay before the central committee the whole of such grievances, who shall cause full and complete inquiries to be made, and afterwards, if necessary, lay the matter before the general council, which shall be called as early as possible afterwards, to consider the matter in dispute.

13. In the event of any district having a dispute entertained by the general council, they shall receive support in accordance with the number of members entered and payable in this amalgamation. In case of any dispute no person shall receive support from the funds of this amalgamation unless they have been members of the same for the previous thirteen weeks.

32. That before the council undertake any dispute 75 per cent of the work people in the mill, or mills affected, shall be members of the association.Rules of the Amalgamated Weavers' Association.

unions with female members, the entire number of female trade-unionists thus allied would amount to less than 1 per cent of the 689,674.

Naturally, with no woman holding an official position in the separate federations, there would be no female trade-unionist sent as a delegate to the general council, the governing body of this national organization.

The unions of small groups of women workers who have organized themselves directly under the National Federation of Women Workers, with a woman secretary, joined the General Federation of Trade Unions only in the third quarter of 1907, and they will eventually have representation in the general council. ()

The shop assistants' unions are not affiliated with the General Federation of Trade Unions, but in their own national amalgamation they have a woman assistant secretary, who has been sent three times as a delegate to the trade union congress.

ADVANTAGES OF REPRESENTATION IN THE TRADE UNION

CONGRESS.

[ocr errors]

Representation in the trade union congress marks a most important step toward assertive participation in labor problems on the part of the women's trade union movement; for in this annual congress is elected by ballot the parliamentary committee, the legislative guardians of British organized labor. This committee consists of sixteen members, one from each of the large groups of unions classified according to form of industry, and five representatives of the smaller departments of labor classified as “miscellaneous trades." Women are not elected as members of this committee, and women delegates seldom attempt to speak in the congress, though this, as was pointed out by a labor member, is due to the size of the halls in which the gathering of 531 delegates is now held rather than to any sex prejudice. Five of the trade groups represented on the parliamentary committee have women unionists in their membership, and the resolutions debated in the congress and transferred to the parliamentary committee as a basis for their national legislative action are prepared in the various federations of trades represented and sent in, together with the nomination for the parliamentary committeeman, some months before the annual convening of delegates, thus giving the female trade-unionist an equal opportunity for registering their interests and ambitions.

Rule No. 2 of the Rules of the General Federation of Trades Unions pro vides as follows:

The governing body shall be termed the general council, and consist of one delegate from societies of 10,000 or less, two delegates from societies of over 10,000 and not more than 25,000, three delegates from societies of over 25,000 and not more than 50,000, and six delegates from societies of over 50,000.

« ForrigeFortsett »