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THE LABOR MOVEMENT

.»■ [By Voteban.]

Brief contributions on matters with reference to the Labor Movement are' invited. TRUSTS AND ~LABOR UNIONS. William Jennings Bryan, United States Secretary of State, who has made a broad and deep study of social problems, says: "The trust and the labor organisation cannot be described in the same language. The trust magnates' have used their powers to amass swollen fortunes, while no one will say that the labor organisation has as yet secured for its members more than their share of the proQU arising from their work. But there are fundamental differences. Tho trust is a combination of dollars; the labor organisation is an association of human beings. In a. trust a few men attempt to control the product of others; in a labor organisation the members unite for the pro-' lection of that which is their own—namely, their own, labor, which, being necessary to their existence, is a part of them. The trust deals with dead matter; tho labor organisation deals with life and with intellectual and moral forces." Lord Morley, of England, has put the difference in this plain and practical way: " There is all the difference in the woi\d between tho selfishness of a capitalist and tho so-called selfishness of a great trade society. The one means an increase of self-luxury for one-man or. a single family; the other means an increase of decency, increase of comfort, increaso of self-respect, more ease for the aged, more schooling for the young, not of one family, but of a thousand or ten thousand families. Others may call that selfishness if they please; I call it humanity and civilisation and the furtherance of the commonwealth. The union worker standing for the best in labor is not standing for himself alone. Ho is bearing tho burden of a great cause. He is standing for his family, his fellows; for principle, for progress. He is bearing on his shoulders the cross of all who toil. Everything he asks is for the weal of all. There are those who speak of the menace of unionism. What does it menace P. 'Why do men join unions? Is it because unionism is a trust, or is it. because it is a necessity? The union man is called upon to make sacrifices. He is not making for-himself a monppoly. Every benefit he secures ho shares with others. Wherein is unionism a menace ? Does it menace tho interests of labor? Dissolve all the unions of the country, and what would be the effect on labor? Would the standard of labor bo improved or injured? Every increase of< wages, and every reduction of hours, and. every safeguard of the worker, is due to organised effort. Does it menace the home? It aims to keep the mother in the home, and when woman must work to place her on a level with the man; to restore the child to the school out of the sweatshop i and the street; to secure to the head of the. home tho best possible wages, hours, and conditions of labor; to provide for the family in case of sickness, accident, unemployment, or death. Does it menace society? What is more needed to-day than the social spirit? The union is the greatest existing generator of the social spirit. It teaches its members to stand together—to look not alone to their own affairs, but each to the affairs of others. Unionism is a menace to nothing except the things that aro a menace to human happiness and advancement."

******* THE VALUE OF UNIONS.

Quite recently the Otago Employers' Association sent out circulars, not only to the ordinary employers of labor, but to all the local municipal councils and other public bodies, stating that they were reorganising, and asking- for financial assistance, giving as a reason " that the labor leaders were making preparations to exploit if possible the Arbitration Court as soon as the war is over." I do not think that there is any foundation for a statement of this nature. On the contrary, I have heard that some unions who were prepairng to file cases before the Conciliation Council, and others that had actually filed their cases, dropped them as soon as the war started, for the reason that they considered it would be unfair to go on with them under the circumstances. This latest more by the Employers' Association should arouse some interest amongst the workers. There are large numbers who are nominally members of the unions belonging to their trade or calling, and sometimes remember to pay their contributions, but there their interest ceases. During the present month I heard that one union with a membership of over 200 called a special meeting to consider an important alteration of the rules, and less than 20 turned up. And this is not an isolated case. But if anything is done that does not meet with general approval those that never go near the meetings are ready to say that the officers -or executive get too much of their own way. If instead of this sort of conduct unionists generally would tako the keen interest they should in everything that concerns their organisation it would encourage the officers and spur them on to work earnestly for the betterment of the conditions of all concerned. It is not only the obtaining of better wages and shorter hours that unions exist for. Had there been no organised labor we would not have had any Conciliation and Arbitration Act; and, with all its faults, that Act has vastly improved the conditions of labor generally. There aro many other Acts that are on the Statute Book chiefly because of the pressure brought to bear on Parliament by organised labor, such as the Factory Act, Shops and Offices Act, Compensation for Accidents, etc. When the present-day workers wake up and' realise the work that has been done for them by the veteraji trade unionists in this and other countries they will take more interest in their own organisations.

******* IF WE: HAD SOCIALISM.

Dr Charles P. Steinmetz, who is employed by the General Electric Company as engineer at Schenectady, New York, has a salary of 100,000dol a year; yet he is a Socialist.

A strong anti-Socialist paper sent a representative to interview tho eminent engineer. Among other questions the reporter asked him: "If society owned the General Electric Company, would you insist on your 100,000dol a year?" "What for?" was the electrician's response. " What would I want with 100,000dol a year? What would I do with it? What oould I do with any more money than I could use to live comfortably ou? What would be the good of a bank account? I save up money now only for my old age or for sickness. If society was bound to tako care of me when my term of service was ended or interrupted, what worries should I nave? When society guarantees to every child tho care it owes it; when society guarantees to everyone the living it owes him; when society guarantees to everyone the burial it owes him—that is the system that must come."

"But, doctor," the reporter asked, "do you believe everyone would be willing to make the sacrifice you would make?"

"Sacrifices!" answered Steinmetz. "There would be no sacrifice, Everyone would be assured of a good living. What more could he ask? People buy automobiles to-day simply because they think they are getting something some other people cannot have. If everyone could have an automobile no one -would -want to bother with the thing. They're merely a way of displaying wealth under our present capitalistic system. People buy champagne to-day because they think the people at tho next table haven't the money to buy it, nnd they are anxious to show their wealth. But if everybody has champagne, the same people who spend 4dol a bottle now would be buying beer or —more probably—drinking water." ******* NOTES. According to the first annual report of the Miners' Phthisis Board appointed by the Union Government of South Africa in 1912, the awards made during the year 1912-13 amounted to £785,080, and of this amount £343,411 was distributed by the board during the year to beneficiaries, leaving a contingent liability of £441,669. The board consists of an independent chairman and three members, one of whom represents the mineowners and another the miners. The fund is supported by levies every three months from the employers in respect of the mines, any interest which may be received from the investment of the fund, and such siims from the Government contribution of £IOO,OOO as may be required to make up the difference between the amount of the company and the amount of the average quarterly profit earned by employers during the previous financial year. * * # THE TESTS OF DEMOCRACY. Mr J. Ramsay Macdonald, 6peaking at a recent Brotherhood meeting in London, said that a great many friends of his had written to him telling him that they would never enter a church door again for the rest of their lives, or that they would never do this, that, or the other thing. But he always told ■ them to keep calm and not allow the passion of the passing moment to determine what the permanent rule of life should be. TJhere were many foolish misunderstandings j of all kinds, and many great enthusiasms Übouts Ijttjj itov .would. aUj»SB« XJxey. ..would

pass like the rains of these days, and- they would all be called upon to do the springlike work of construction—to build, it was to be hoped, a new Europe, wherein would dwell righteousness. So, in the midst of the war, they must try to think of these things that were of more permanent importance, lie was never quite sure what people meant by the word " Democracy," but if it meant the crowd—the floating, waving, surging crowd of human desires and experiences—then ho could claim to have had a good-deal to do with it. It was very encouraging, very inspiring, -and very disappointing, and tho reason it was so disappointing was that it never seemed to have a standard of value. It was so easily deluded, because somehow or other it had no standards of worth, clearly 6et up in its own mind, to enable it to elect good men from bad, to put the bad on one side, and to embrace and hold • fast to that which was good. Every working man in England might have 10 votes, every man earning over £I,OOO a year might have five, and every man above that might have one vote only; but they -would not get Democracy until they had the right kind of mind. Democracy was not a quantitative thing; it .was qualitative. The men ..who.were dependent on what other men thought of them,-or on how much other men patronised them, might have hundreds of thousands of votes, but the patron always had the power.

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Permanent link to this item

https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/ESD19150102.2.106

Bibliographic details

THE LABOR MOVEMENT, Evening Star, Issue 15690, 2 January 1915

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1,822

THE LABOR MOVEMENT Evening Star, Issue 15690, 2 January 1915

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