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THE EFFECT OF LABOR UNIONS UPON THE

BODY POLITIC.

BY DAVID H. CORCORAN, LL.B.

THE wage-earner holds a unique position in our industrial life. His sole capital is his labor; namely, his personal strength and skill, and, like other forms of capital, they must be active in order to bring returns, which, in his case, are known as wages, and which are essential for the sustenance of himself and those dependent upon him. This all important fact forces him to sell his labor, and he thus finds himself competing with innumerable other workmen. The effect of unrestrained competition among people striving to obtain a mere livelihood has been sufficiently shown by history. It has been demonstrated particularly in countries where the lands are held by comparatively few individuals, competition being thus created among prospective tenants, with the result that the rents are so high as to prevent the attaining of a decent livelihood. Speaking recently, Professor George S. Groat, of the Ohio Wesleyan University, said:

"The employer has monopoly control over the opportunity for work. The shop, material, and tools are his. The employee has none of these, only his strength and skill. There is no need of extending the description further in order to emphasize the point. There can be no equality of bargaining where the single employee faces unaided the single employer."

To prevent this killing competition combinations have been formed by wage-earners during many centuries, seeking to eliminate the evils of individualism in employment contracts and substituting concerted action.

Writers on economic and social subjects agree that as these combinations were strong or weak wages were correspondingly high or low, and when abolished by law, as they sometimes were, the effect was disastrous to the laboring classes. By thus lessening the competing units the worker is able to secure a wage which bears some just proportion to the profits on his toil.

As the home is the unit of a nation, so a nation can not rise above the character of its homes. Surely all will agree that the head of the home is ever solicitous regarding the well-being of his family, and, if he be a workman, a competent wage paid to

him means a better home, better educated, clothed, and nourished children, who are thus enabled to face the world fully equipped to fight the battle of life. Trade unions also operate to increase wages of the non-unionists, so that the benefits reach the homes of all workers. Again, the payment of a just wage tends to equalize the distribution of wealth, the accumulation of which in the hands of a few is certainly against the public interests.

A great social evil to which trade unions are opposed is that of child labor. The child should be allowed to enjoy the Godgiven right of opportunity to develop himself both in mind and body. To assist him is one of the cardinal principles of the trade unionists, who for many years have been foremost in securing the enactment of child-labor legislation. Today child-labor laws are operative in forty-four States and in the District of Columbia. In these States profits will not accrue to the employer at the expense of the well-being of the child.

Only secondary to this is the fact that by membership in the unions members can acquire an education which enables them to perform their full duty as a citizen. Such education is not found to be in books but is developed at the meetings where discussion takes place on many questions of public betterment and reform.

The broadening of a man's mental horizon by the cultivation of his intellect fits him to take part in solving the problems that affect the welfare of the community at large. The educational value of trade unions can not be over-estimated. Many master minds have been developed under their influence-men who are making an impress for good in various walks of life. One of the most notable instances is that of John Mitchell.

Regarding trade unions it has been truly said:

"Men meet in them and discuss questions of politics and economics in order to ascertain their bearing on the interests of the masses. They feel that their position in life is not what they would have it, and desiring to improve themselves they seek to ascertain what course they can take as citizens of a free republic to advance the welfare of the people."

That the members of the unions are interested in public questions is evidenced by the fact that in all centres of unionism lectures are given weekly by the clergy, and by professional, scientific, and business men. A labor temple is, in reality, a seat of learning.

Labor unions are also fraternal organizations, bound together by that broad band of brotherhood that knows no politics, religion, race or color.

One of the greatest deterrents to an advancing civilization is discrimination and prejudice of man against his fellow-man on account of race and religion. The aim of trade unionism is the promotion of universal brotherhood.

A powerful influence in promoting the principles of trade unionism is exercised by the periodicals issued and distributed at cost out of the general funds of the national organization. The papers find their way into the homes of trade unionists and as they deal, not only with the special subjects of interest to them, but also with the current topics of the day, their educational value is very great.

In trade unions a well-organized system of insurance has been developed that affords to their membership protection against illness, injury and non-employment, and which makes provision at death for widows and fatherless children. Much attention is now being given to this matter, the protection varying from small to very large funds, according to the size and importance of the organizations.

The conservation of the health of the people is of the utmost importance to their progress. Organized labor is doing splendid work to ameliorate the conditions under which working men and women are compelled to toil. The surroundings are often unhygienic and in many occupations the employee is exposed to loss of life or limb. To organized labor great credit is due for the present remedial laws providing improved sanitary conditions for workers and compensation for injury or death by accident, and for victims of occupational diseases.

In the persistent fight that is being waged against the "great white plague" the leaders of that movement are receiving valuable assistance from the working classes, who realize only too well the terrible scourge that tuberculosis is to human beings. Some of the trade crafts have erected and are maintaining sanitariums for those afflicted with this disease, which I believe can and will be overcome by scientific and untiring efforts.

Referring to the importance of the health of the wage-earner, Dr. John B. Andrews, of New York City, says:

"All classes are substantially benefitted by conditions which promote the health, vitality, energy and the industrial efficiency of wage-earners." In a word, the unions strive along these and many other lines to make this world a better place in which to live, for those who are obliged to pass their existence in constant toil; and scarcely a greater calamity could befall any nation than the blotting out of the trade union movement, which should receive the careful

study it deserves at the hands of every student of economic and social science.

The writer does not believe that it is possible for the unions to include within their ranks a sufficient number of workmen to monopolize the labor market, and even if such an attempt made it would prove futile because the strength of public opinion would compel the enactment of laws which would effectively prohibit such conditions.

It is a melancholy fact that recent developments have proved that there were within the ranks traitors to the principles which their obligation demanded they should uphold. To such as these let us hope will be meted out the punishment they deserve. It is the duty of unionists to stand for right and justice to men of all classes and set their faces against grotesque ideas of govern

ment.

Davil H. Corcoran.

LABOR SHOULD MEET IT.

(The Duluth Herald.)

THROUGHOUT the history of organized labor the movement for unionism has been justified by its defenders as a necessary step to meet the organization of capital. Arguments have been advanced intended to discredit unionism, but no satisfactory answer has been found to the plea of the necessity of counterorganization.

Recently a body of representative manufacturers and business men met in session in New York City to found an "Efficiency society," designed to promote efficiency in industrial and commercial establishments. The efficiency campaign is comparatively recent, and in certain forms it has met with determined opposition from organized labor. Some of this opposition has been based upon apparently good grounds. Any efficiency system that cuts down the earning power and the industrial rights of the wage earner should be opposed. But at other points there appears to be quite as much in favor of the efficiency system, from the worker's standpoint, as can be found against it from the same point of view.

That the efficiency campaign would sooner or later take on some such form as that sought at this New York meeting was inevitable, but what the attitude of organized labor will be toward the Efficiency society has yet to be shown.

The best step for organized labor would seem to be the formation of a counter organization, an efficiency society within the ranks of organized labor, which shall strive to make every member of the labor body a better workman, worth more to his employers and of more individual value to society at large, and to see that labor shares fairly in the benefits from this joining of efficiency forces. The movement would not only be a conclusive answer to the charge that unionism tends to lower individual efficiency and limit output, but would give organized labor a firm basis on which to meet this new organization of capital. It would furnish a means toward that completer understanding' and identity of interest between employer and employé that must be established if our industrial and commercial system is to attain to its greatest possible development and our wage-earners are to secure their fair share of the products of their toil.

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