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THE NEW TRADE UNIONISM, 1878-1884
From Socialism to Pure and Simple Trade Unionism. Two lines of trade union action, 302. Plan for the organisation of the unskilled: The International Labor Union, 302. "Internationalism" and " Stewardism," 302. Trade unionism and eight-hour legislative action, 303. Programme of the International Labor Union, 303. Success among textile workers, 304. The first convention, 305. Steps towards an international trade union organisation, 305. Failure of the International Labor Union, 306. International Cigar Makers' Union the new model for the organisation of the skilled, 306. Strasser and Gompers, 307. Crystallisation of the pure and simple trade union philosophy, 308. Railroad brotherhoods, 309.
First Successes. The trades assemblies and their functions, economic, political, and legislative, 310. Building trades' councils the first move towards industrialism, 312. Federations of the water-front trades in the South, 312. The Negro, 312. Formation of new national trade unions, 313. Their increase in membership, 1879-1883, 313. Their control over locals, 314. Their benefit features, 314. Their attitude towards legal incorporation, 314. Predominance of the foreign-speaking element in the trade unions, 315. The charge that the foreigners in the trade unions deprive the American boy of his opportunity in industry, 315. Strikes in 1880 and 1881, 316. Iron workers' strike in 1882, 316. The boycott, 316. New York Tribune boycott, 317.
Towards Federation. Attempts towards national federation since 1876, 318. Part played by the Knights of Labor in the last and successful attempt, 318. The Terre Haute conference, 318. Call for a convention, 320. Trade unions in the eighties and trade unions to-day, 320. The Pittsburgh convention of 1881, 321. The cause of the large representation of the Knights of Labor, 321. Formation of the Federation of Organised Trades and Labor Unions of the United States and Canada, 322. Attitude towards organising the unskilled, 323. Subordination of the city trades' assembly to the national trade union, 323. Legislative committee and the legislative programme, 324. The incorporation plank, 325. Shift from the co-operation argument to the one of trade agreements on the question of incorporation, 326. Second convention of the Federation, 326. Absence of the Knights of Labor and of the iron and steel workers, 326. Lack of interest in the Federation on the part of the trade unions, 327. The convention of 1883, 328. The first signs of friction with the Knights of Labor, 329. Attitude towards a protective tariff, 329. Miscellaneous resolutions, 330. Failure of the Federation as an organisation for obtaining legislation, 331.
THE former members of the International in New York and vicinity, unlike their colleagues in Chicago, did not remain
with the Workingmen's party after the Newark convention, at which, as we have seen,1 the programme had been changed to political action and the name to Socialist Labor party. Thereafter, they kept entirely aloof from the socialist movement, but devoted themselves exclusively to the economic organisation of labour. Two distinct lines of effort resulted from this. One group under McDonnell and Sorge entered into an alliance with the eight-hour advocates under Steward, McNeill, and Gunton in an attempt to organise the unskilled into the International Labor Union. Another group headed by Adolph Strasser of the cigar makers' union, and later joined by P. J. McGuire, proceeded to regenerate and strengthen the trade unions of the skilled.
The International Labor Union was launched in the beginning of 1878, when McDonnell and McNeill organised a provisional central committee with members in eighteen different States, including A. R. Parsons and George Schilling, of Chicago; Otto Weydemeyer, of Pittsburgh; F. A. Sorge, of Hoboken; George Gunton and Ira Steward, of Massachusetts. The central committee acted through an executive board of seven, which included J. P. McDonnell, Carl Speyer, and George E. McNeill, the latter being president.
As is shown by the personnel of the officers, the new organisation represented the coming together of the two class-conscious programmes of the International and Steward's Eight-Hour League. Both had a socialist system of society for the final aim. But the socialism of Steward was not the collectivism of the International, but was, instead, a system of voluntary cooperation between employers and employés under which profit would ultimately be absorbed by wages. They differed in method of attainment even more than they did in the final aim. The International believed, as we have seen, in political action by a labour party that should grow out from, and be controlled
1 See above, II, 277 et seq.
2 George Gunton, textile worker, economist, and editor, was born in Cambridgeshire, England, in 1847. He emigrated to the United States in 1874, and for some time worked in factories in Massachusetts. Like McNeill, he was closely associated with Ira Steward and his Wealth and Progress, which appeared in 1887, was based upon Steward's unpublished writ
ings. In 1890 Gunton became president of the Institute of Social Economics and editor of the Social Economist, the name of which was changed in 1896 to Gunton's Magazine. Gunton acted as an organiser of the International Labor Union in Fall River during 1878-1880. He subsequently severed connections with the labour movement and became one of the best-known defenders of the trusts.
by, the trade unions. It laid peculiar stress, therefore, upon the need for the immediate organisation of trade unions. Steward's eight-hour philosophy, held, on the contrary, neither to political action by a labour party nor to trade union action, but based the hopes for its millennium upon a general eight-hour law, which would have the effect of increasing the wants of the wage-earner and, therefore, his wages, until the latter had completely absorbed the employers' profits. In other words, the difference in methods preached by the two schools consisted in the fact that the International advocated for the present trade union action only, and, ultimately, a labour party, while the eight-hour school advocated as both an immediate and an ultimate programme a vigorous agitation in favour of a general eight-hour law, which politicians of all parties would not dare to disobey.
The International Labor Union accepted from Steward the theory of wages and from the International the idea of trade unionism. The platform was couched in the well-known Steward phraseology in the parts dealing with principles and demands:
"The wage system is a despotism under which the wage-worker is forced to sell his labor at such price and under such conditions as the employer of labor shall dictate. . . . That as the wealth of the world is distributed through the wage system, its better distribution must come through higher wages and better opportunities, until wages shall represent the earnings and not the necessities of labor; thus melting profit upon labor out of existence, and making cooperation, or self-employed labour, the natural and logical step from wages slavery to free labor. . . The first step towards the emancipation of labor is a reduction of the hours of labor; that the added leisure produced by a reduction of the hours of labor will operate upon the natural causes that affect the habits and customs of the people, enlarging wants, stimulating ambition, decreasing idleness, and increasing wages.
"We, therefore, severally agree to form ourselves into a Committee, known as the Provisional Central Committee of the International Labor Union, whose objects shall be to secure the following measures: The reduction of the hours of labour; higher wages; factory, mine and workshop inspection; abolition of the contract convict labor and truck systems; employers to be held responsible for accidents by neglected machinery; prohibition of child labor; the establishment of Labor Bureaus; labor propaganda by means
of a labor press, labor lectures, the employment of a general organiser, and the final abolition of the wage system.
However, with respect to practical methods, Steward's legislative panacea completely gave way to the trade union idea of McDonnell and Sorge. The platform continues:
"The methods by which we propose to secure these measures are: "1st. The formation of an Amalgamated Union of labourers so that members of any calling can combine under a central head, and form a part of the Amalgamated Trades Unions.
"2nd. The establishment of a general fund for benefit and protective purposes.
"3rd. The organisation of all workingmen in their Trade Unions, and the creation of such Unions where none exist.
"4th. The National and International Amalgamation of all Labor Unions." 3
Notwithstanding the general favour of the labour press for the plan of the International Labor Union, the organisation grew slowly at first. In July, 1878, the executive committee informed the Hoboken branch, known as Branch 3, that the total membership was only about 700. But, later in the year when the textile mill operatives were organised by McDonnell in Paterson and by McNeill and Gunton in Fall River, the organisation began to grow so that in 1878 McNeill claimed a membership of nearly 8,000. McDonnell came warmly to the support of a strike against a reduction in wages in a large cotton mill in Paterson, New Jersey, which began in June, 1878, and lasted over eight months. It was in connection with this strike that he was arrested and sent to jail on account of an article on the strike printed in his Labor Standard, which he had transferred to Paterson a few months before."
That the International Labor Union became practically a mere union in the textile industry is shown by the attendance
3 Labor Standard, Oct. 12, 1878.
4 The Pittsburgh National Labor Trib. une, Mar. 16, 1878, said: "The consummation of this comprehensive plan will be pregnant with results of the most lasting importance to the wage-workers in America, particularly, and generally throughout the civilised world of manufacturers. It is a plan that there is every reason to believe is eminently practical...."
5 "Report" of the meeting for July 10, 1878, in Protokoll Buch of Section 1 (Hoboken) of the International - later Branch 3 of the International Labor Union.
6 Depression in Labor and Business, House Miscellaneous Document, 45 Cong., 3 sess., No. 29, p. 115.
7 See above, II, 222, note.
at the first convention held in Paterson, December 28, 1878, where the overwhelming majority were textile workers from Fall River and Paterson.
Nevertheless the object of the union was broader. President McNeill reported to the committee that "the labor movement waits for the union of its leaders upon the single issue of the reduction of the hours of labor," and "that the labor movement has silently permeated the entire fabric of society; not only are the skilled mechanics concentrating their numbers but the unskilled, the manual labourers who heretofore have been without hope and without organisation, are fast learning from the experience of the past the necessity of combination. The International Labor Union presents a plan by which the unorganised masses and local unions can become affiliated." The convention fully accepted these views. It decided against any "political alliance or action," in favour "of reduction of the hours of labor and the establishment of National and State Bureaus of Statistics of Labor," and in favour of establishing a fund for the relief of the unemployed. The latter would be an "incentive to members of the cotton industries of New England to join the organisation" and would assist the work of propaganda by interesting" the wage-workers now unemployed." Finally, "arrangements were perfected for the admission of local unions and the organisation of the unskilled laborers." 8
Strasser, the president of the cigar makers' union, attended as a visitor, advising the International Labor Union to "take steps to organise in their ranks the cotton operatives of New England and other districts with the cotton trade in England." Enlarging the scope of his advice, the convention resolved to "co-operate with Trades Unions of the United States in convening a congress of the Trade Organisations for the purpose of bringing about the National and International Amalgamation of the Trades Unions." The resolutions also contained the following: "That the International Labor Union of America be represented at the next Trades Congress of England, and we do hereby express to the Wage-workers of Great Britain our determination to stand by them in their hour of distress, and we call upon them to co-operate with us and with the National
• Labor Standard, Jan. 4, 1879.