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HE IDEA of a Year Book authorized by the Baltimore and Buffalo conventions has grown to be a formidable work. A Year Book could contain only things that have been done in the year preceding with probably cursory treatment of important subjects passed on by conventions of past years.
But such a living, breathing organization as the American Federation of Labor needs more than a Year Book. It was believed the membership would welcome a publication that would give in as concise form as possible every important proposition acted on by all the conventions. To that end the many questions considered in the thirty-eight sessions of the Federation have been compiled and published in encyclopedia form. This has developed a ready reference book that will be of greatest assistance not only to the officers and members but to all who seek to know the principles upon which our trade union movement is founded and the wonderful successes achieved. Those who desire information in detail can readily refer to the proceedings, as the work is also a bibliography.
While each subject is briefly treated the intention has been not to omit anything that would prevent a thorough understanding of every principle. When it is known there are 8,000,000 words in the thirty-eight proceedings that had to be reduced to about 400,000 it will be seen the work has been difficult. The rule followed was to use the official language of the conventions. The belief was that it should be an American Federation of Labor book, not the work of any individual or group of individuals. The real authors are the delegates to conventions, extracts from whose resolutions and speeches are printed literally but in condensed form. It is the American Federation of Labor officially talking to you as you read, not an individual author. Every delegate who presented a proposition, discussed any issue or in any way left the impress of his thoughts on the trade union movement will recognize the result of his work in the book. Only the names are omitted, making all the delegates equally responsible for the magnificent growth and victories gained by the labor movement.
Many brilliant orations have been made in the conventions and official reports of marvelous literary merit and economic value have been presented.
In the Introduction it has been the effort to use as many of the statements in these reports as possible. There was no attempt to interject ideas or principles foreign to those of the Federation. Everything in the book was read or uttered at some time in the thirty-eight conventions. This is to carry out the plan of making it the official reflex of the American Federation of Labor, the most human organization that ever existed. It is not a mere claim but a just tribute to say the trade unions are the only organizations on earth that have for their true mission the betterment of the economic condition of all the people and for human advancement and happiness.
Those who will read the book carefully on any question will not wonder at the soundness of the trade union movement. Those who would divert it into channels leading to the nameless grave in which so many other labor movements lie will find thoughts to show them their folly.
It must not be forgotten that the material furnished by the labor movement of the country in the more than a third of a century is sufficient to make a hundred thousand volumes like the present. The trade unions owe a duty to the burden-bearers of the coming years to leave more than an incomplete encyclopedia of what has been done. Their histories should be written, for no one ever has come forward with even a suggestion of a plan for human advancement that can take the place of trade union activity.
Interesting information for everybody also is published. Tables of weights and measures, perpetual calendars, statutes of different states and a thousand and one other subjects that all together go to make up the most complete labor history in existence. And the great idea is that it is the American Federation of Labor speaking in its own language to the reader. WILLIAM C. ROBERTS,