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THE COMPULSORY ARBITRATION BILL.
Opposition of Labor Representatives Prevented Passage of a Measure Which Was Not Entirely Satisfactory to Either Side.
The labor representatives in attendance at the 1911 Legislature regarded the defeat of the so-called Compulsory Arbitration bill 298 as a victory quite as important as the passage of the Employers' Liability act, or even the Eight-Hour bill.
This measure was strongly urged by Colonel Harris Weinstock. It was based upon the Canadian Industrial Disputes act, and applied solely to railroads and other public service undertakings.
The measure provided that in public services a strike or lockout should be unlawful until the issues in dispute had been submitted to a board of inquiry of three members, one member to be nominated by each side to the controversy and appointed by the Governor, and the third to be selected by the first two appointees.
In the event of the two members failing to agree upon a third within three days, the bill provided that the Governor appoint the third member.
This board was authorized to make full investigation
298 Senate Bill 918, described in the bill as "The Industrial Disputes Investigation Act."
into the matters in dispute, to send for persons and papers, administer oaths, compel the attendance and testimony of witnesses, and report its findings.
But such findings were not made binding upon either party.299 Each side was left at liberty to accept or reject them.
The proponents of the measure contended, however, that if the board's report were fair, neither side would dare offend public opinion by refusing to abide by it.
The theory upon which the measure was drawn was that in labor disputes affecting a public service there are three, rather than two, parties concerned, namely, the employees, the employers and the general public. The most frequently quoted example of this while the measure was under consideration was the San Francisco street-car strikes, involving the United Railroads and its employees. It was shown that whereas these labor disputes had cost the United Railroads and the striking carmen dearly, the further effect had been not only the inconvenience of the public, but the ruin of hundreds of business men who had no connection with either side of the controversy. To save the third party in interest from the attending inconvenience and cost of strikes and lockouts in public service enterprises, the proponents of the "Compulsory Arbitration" bill contended it should be enacted into law.
299 Section 53 of the bill provided that "No court of the State of California, shall have power of jurisdiction to recognize or enforce, or to receive in evidence any report of a board, or any testimony or proceedings before a board or as against any person, or for any purpose, except in the case of a prosecution of such person for perjury, or a judgment entered pursuant to an agreement under this act."
On this point the bill provided:
(1) No employee of a public service enterprise should join with his fellows in a strike until after the inquiry had taken place.
(2) No public service enterprise should declare a lockout until after such inquiry.
The proponents of the bill contended there was nothing in the measure to prevent employees quitting work as individuals, for any reason or no reason. In the same way, there was nothing in the bill to prevent an employer discharging his men as individuals for any rea
son or no reason.
Furthermore, after the Board of Investigation had reported, nobody was harmed by its finding, and the strike or lockout, regardless of the justice or injustice of it, could follow.
There were two sources of criticism:
(1) The objection was raised that the bill did not provide for compulsory arbitration at all, and even though it became a law, it would be a dead letter in labor troubles such as the street-car strike at San Francisco.
(2) Organized Labor opposed the measure on the ground that it interfered with the personal liberty of the individual in prohibiting strikes until after the report of the Board of Investigation had been published.300
Furthermore, it was contended that in Canada such a
300 "This bill if enacted," said the report on Labor Legislation issued by the California State Federation of Labor, "would have seriously hampered the workers by depriving them of the right to quit work whenever in their own judgment such a course is necessary. Moreover, it would have established a precedent for the extension of the same principle of compulsory labor to the workers in private industries, leading ultimately to the legal prohibition of the strike in general."
law had worked against labor, by causing delays which gave the employers time to build stockades, import "scab" labor, and otherwise prepare to offer effective opposition to their discontented employees.301
But it was on the ground that the enactment of the bill would be but the beginning of legislation to outlaw the strike, that labor took determined stand against the measure. A letter protesting against the measure's enactment was directed to every Senator. For days, letters and telegrams from interested constituents, insisting against the bill's passage poured in upon the members. Nevertheless the advocates of the bill put up a determined fight for its passage. But it failed to pass even the house of its origin. When it came to the test, twenty-two Senators voted against it; only sixteen voted for it.802
301 Labor's general distrust of the bill was brought out during the three-hours' debate upon it in the Senate, when it was up for final passage.
Senator Bryant, for example, from a strong_San Francisco Labor Union District, put this question to Senator Boynton, author of the measure:
"Suppose," said Bryant, "this bill had been a law two years ago and there had been a strike on with the Southern Pacific Company, if the Governor had been called upon to appoint the third member of the arbitration board, whom do you suppose would have been favored?"
Senator Wright, in the chair, whitened a little and brought the gavel down with a snap. "The question is out of order!" he declared.
Bryant took his seat.
"If the bill become a law," declared Caminetti, who led the opposition to it, "it will cause not only discord between capital and labor, but political discord."
802 The vote on Senate Bill 918 was as follows:
For the bill-Avey, Bell, Bills, Boynton, Estudillo, Gates, Hewitt, Holohan, Hurd, Roseberry, Rush, Stetson, Strobridge, Thompson, Walker, and Wright-16.
Against the bill-Beban, Birdsall, Black, Bryant, Burnett, Caminetti, Campbell, Cartwright, Cassidy, Cutten, Finn, Hans, Hare, Juilliard, Larkins, Lewis, Martinelli, Regan, Shanahan, Tyrrell, Welch, and Wolfe-22.