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Other newspapers of equal prominence throughout the country commented to the same effect.
Obviously the natural interpretation to be given the statement was that union labor would place patriotism above union loyalty, and, in view of the country's necessities, lay aside, for the time being, its own selfish ambitions.
What is the real situation? Today our whole industrial system is in chaos through industrial disturbances, in many cases the strikes being due solely to the union demand for the closed shop. And this when the country faces the greatest crisis in its history.
One of the most serious interruptions to work is the strike in the shipyards of the New York district. These yards are engaged in repairing and remodeling such ships as are available for the transportation of troops. Every resource of the country is directed to the raising, training and equipping of our army. Of what avail will this army be without means to transport it to the battlefields? Yet this important work is being held up by a few unions, members of The American Federation of Labor, Mr. Gompers' organization. Not only do they refuse to work themselves, but they are attempting, by every means in their power, to prevent other mechanics from doing the work.
It is common knowledge that this country is sadly deficient in its supply of war munitions. There are not enough rifles, for example, to supply our present army. The English type of rifle has had to be adopted to supply the shortage. All other equipment is likewise lacking. Yet, in nearly all the munition factories, labor troubles are holding up the output.
Work in one large plant in the middle west, engaged almost exclusively in the manufacture of war supplies, is at a standstill through lack of castings due to a strike called by the molders' union for the establishment of a closed shop. At Schenectady, one of the largest plants of the country, engaged in the manufacture of electrical equipment for our navy, was held up by a strike of 3500 machinists who refused to work with a negro college student who was endeavoring to gain some practical experience during his vacation. At Bridgeport, Connecticut, all the plants making war products are face to face with
demands of one kind and another. In West Virginia, a dispute involving in some way the services of the "company doctor" is holding up a coal output of 5500 tons daily; this with the country facing a fuel famine.
Of no less importance than the production of munitions of war is the preparation of food supplies for the army. Yet the Chicago Federation of Labor has undertaken an extensive campaign to unionize all the workers so employed in the stockyards district. The issue in this case is one solely of union organization. There is no argument or dispute as to hours or general working conditions.
And so it goes-in the oil fields, in the mines, in the shops, everywhere that government work is going on, strikes are in progress or threatened. And the unions to the fore are always those which are affiliated wih Mr. Gompers' organization, The American Federation of Labor.
It is not hard, to understand the reason for this epidemic of strikes. The key is in the preamble to the resolution adopted by the Chicago Federation of Labor for the unionization of the stockyards:
"Whereas, now is the best season in the history of America for oppressed labor to organize and secure its rights," etc.
("Oppressed labor," [?] in the union acceptation of the term, being that labor which refuses to submit to the domination of the union business agent.) In other words, the unions know that the government is "up against it" for labor; that war products must be had at any price; that no delay can be countenanced, and that this emergency affords a splendid opportunity for those in control of the unions to promote their own selfish interests.
And what about Mr. Gompers' pledge? There is no doubt that he controls absolutely the union organizations. The machine he has built up, and which has elected him to the presidency regularly for 32 years, now enables him to dominate the situation. Why does he not carry out his pledge and notify Chicago Federation of Labor, the International Association of Machinists, the International Molders' Union, and other
unions now engaged in strikes, that this is not the time to urge forward the closed shop propaganda; that the government's necessities should not be taken advantage of to increase the resources of the American Federation of Labor and its affiliated unions?
Because Mr. Gompers' idea of patriotism and loyalty to the government is peculiar to himself. From the time he was compelled to explain to the court that "Go to H with your injunctions" was intended only in a Shakespearean sense, he has reserved the right to interpret the English language as he would like it interpreted, and to dictate his own line of conduct, regardless of the authority or commands of our constituted government. In this case he also apparently uses the word "loyalty" in a "Shakespearean" manner.
In an editorial in the American Federationist (May), Mr. Gompers interprets his pledge for the enlightenment of his followers:
"It was generally understood for the basis of our action," he says, “that workmen employed in the transportation systems and industrial plants may find their wages of the present time out of proportion to the increased cost of living, and in that case a maintenance of the present status of labor conditions obviously implied an advance in wage scales . . .
"The resolutions in question clearly apply only to the large industries and the transportation systems whose operations are essential to the prosecution of the war. They are not intended to cover every petty labor difference in the country, though it is hoped that patriotic regard will be had by all citizens to the need of a possible maximum of industrial peace everywhere.
"It is, of course, not expected that negotiations or even strikes, now on in various occupations, shall be wholly suspended, irrespective of the merits of the questions under discussion. On such points each trade union is the judge of the principles which should prevail in its action
"With this statement it is felt that each case of differences arising between employers and employees, as well as the
trade agreements or other matters now under discussion, may be left to the common sense of men who are willing and anxious to perform their duty to their country in the present grave situation."
Thus Mr. Gompers tells organized labor that the pledge to continue existing standards means nothing. For, as he interprets the pledge, it surely can be of no avail as a deterrent of strikes. It is still left to the "common sense" of the officers of each particular union to determine whether or not strikes shall be prosecuted.
The real attitude of organized labor in the war is set forth by Mr. Gompers in the April number of The Federationist:
"Service in government factories and private establishments, in transportation agencies, all should conform to trade union standards. It (the government) must recognize and deal with the organized labor movement in all matters which concern labor."
Mr Gompers, in other words, pledges the loyalty of The American Federation of Labor to the government, provided he gets everything he asks for and can be loyal in his own way.
EMPLOYER AND EMPLOYEE MUST PULL
It is evident to every thinking man that our industries must be made more prolific and more efficient than ever, and that they must be more economically managed and better adapted to the particular requirements of our task than they have been; and what I want to say is that the men and the women who devote their thought and their energy to these things will be serving the country and conducting the fight for peace and freedom just as truly and effectively as the men on the battlefield or in the trenches.
The industrial forces of the country, men and women alike, will be a great national, a great international service armya notable and honored host engaged in the service of the nation and the world, efficient friends and saviors of free men everywhere. WOODROW WILSON.
White House, Washington, April 15, 1917.
MAKE EVERY MAN WORK
Draft Men Into Industrial Service-Idlers Are Helping
There is a cry going up from the employers on account of the men who are idle while there is abundance of work for every man in the country. The plants in the Pittsburgh district are operating as low as 40 per cent and scarcely more than 50 per cent. There is no reason for this except that men refuse to work and give no valid excuse for being idle. If the machine is not ready or some trivial thing should occur that may render a particular machine idle men refuse to work elsewhere preferring to remain idle rather than make any effort in some other place.
The trouble seems to be that every man has plenty of money and is enjoying himself. Many are having such good times that they are careless about appearing in the morning, knowing that there is abundance of work, and if they cannot work for one employer they can readily pick up and shift.
It has been suggested before that workmen should be drafted into service the same as our boys have been drafted; that every man should be compelled to give an account of himself and that every available man should be placed at some kind of employ
Men in the trenches are not permitted to do as they please and unless declared physically unfit by a physician, they are held on the firing line at whatever work is assigned to them. If the war is to be won the government should exercise the same right with men in the mills, factories, shops, mines and any and all industrial or agricultural pursuits. Every man should be assigned to work and every idle man should give an account of himself. No patriotic citizen, it is said, should ask our boys to go to the front without provisions and implements, assuring him all the protection and defense that it is possible to give.
Every American citizen or alien should be willing to stand by