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THE PATH TO PEACE
So long as government remains in the hands of Big Business and its representatives and agents labor can expect to secure no real attention to its demands and not a particle of change in its condition.
What will continue to happen to seen from the following illustration:
Under the perversion of the Sherman AntiTrust law by which labor unions were, by a forced interpretation, regarded as combinations in restraint of trade," great injustice was done to these organizations, which consequently demanded that the perversion of law against them should cease.
For six years after the celebrated “ Danbury Hatters Case," labor petitioned in vain for this simple act of justice. Sometimes Congress contemptuously refused to hear it and sometimes it heard but would not heed.
Under the threat of united action at the polls, labor finally succeeded in inducing the Democratic party to pledge itself unequivocally in its national platform to amend the Sherman law so that labor unions should be exempted from the operation of the act.
So long as the Democrats were out of power or had only the House of Representatives the situation remained unchanged. When the full control of government passed nominally to the Democrats, labor insisted that the pledges made in the party platform should be kept.
Part of the Wilson program was to amend the Sherman act on other lines and when this came to be done, the promise was made by the Democratic leaders in the House that the exemption of labor should also be included.
Labor looked forward expectantly to the fulfillment of this promise.
When the bill was finally prepared and reported for passage, the paragraph alleged to contain the exemption read as follows:
That nothing contained in the Antitrust laws shall be construed to forbid the existence and operation of fraternal, labor, consumers, agricultural or horticultural organizations, orders or associations instituted for the purposes of mutual help, and not having capital stock or conducted for profit, or to forbid or restrain individual members of such organizations, orders or associations from carrying out the legitimate objects thereof.
Which was as clever a piece of legislative chicanery as was ever seen in Washington. For you will observe that in reality the clause exempted nothing. By a juggling of words it was made to appear to except these organizations and really left them where they were.
It was thus that the Democratic party fulfilled the pledges to labor that it had solemnly undertaken in its platforms and on the basis of which millions of workingmen had voted the Democratic ticket.
The leaders of organized labor perceived the filthy trick that had been played upon them and demanded that the paragraph be amended to read as follows:
That nothing contained in the Antitrust laws shall apply to fraternal, labor, consumers, agricultural or horticultural organizations, orders or associations instituted for the purposes of mutual help, and not having capital stock or conducted for profit, or to forbid or restrain individual members of such organizations, orders or associations from carrying out the legitimate objects thereof.
At this a bit of stage play took place. Reactionary members of Congress and a large part of the press denounced the proposed amendment as unfair, unjust, illegal and revolutionary, accusing labor of bad faith and dis
honesty in demanding it. For the impression was adroitly conveyed that labor had agreed to the provision as it stood in the bill and was now reversing itself to secure some additional advantage never before contemplated.
The Democratic leaders generally refused, on these grounds, or alleged grounds, to consider the amendment labor desired and the labor leaders refused to accept the bill as it stood. The controversy lasted several days and seemed to be beyond hope of settlement, when in an apparent spirit of compromise a final conference was suggested and a visit to the White House. The result was that the bill was amended to read thus:
Sec. 7. That nothing contained in the Antitrust laws shall be construed to forbid the existence and operation of fraternal, labor, consumers, agricultural, or horticultural organizations, orders, or associations, instituted for the purposes of mut help and not having capital stock or conducted for profit, or to forbid or restrain individual members of such organizations, orders, or associations from carrying out the legitimate objects thereof; nor shall such organizations, orders, or associations, or the members thereof, be held or construed to be illegal combinations or conspiracies in restraint of trade, under the Antitrust laws.
Which again is a juggle of words, its meaning depending upon the interpretation that may be given to its obscure clauses. What, for instance, are “ legitimate objects”? A court might and probably would hold that any strike was illegitimate.
When this amendment reached the floor of the House, two or three members that perceived the large possibility it offered for “ judicial interpretation ” that would destroy all chance of relief from the present situation, tried to have the amendment as drawn by the labor leaders and quoted above, substituted for the vague declaration brought in by the committee. These men were howled down and the amendment as given here was adopted.
What it means or will mean will depend upon the interpretation given to it by the courts, for as it stands it can be construed either way. Unless the courts have undergone a marvelous transformation there is little doubt as to how they will interpret it. Also there seems as little doubt in the mind of President Wilson as to what the thing means. The next day after it passed, at the semi-weekly meeting of the correspondents at the White House, the official representative of the President was asked plainly this question:
Does the amendment to the new anti-trust