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and International Trade Unions of this country in convening an International Labor Congress of the World.” 9

McDonnell was the unanimous choice for delegate to England, but, like the other portions of the comprehensive programme of action worked out by the convention, his trip never materialised. The union became involved in a series of strikes in the textile industry, and, when they failed, a rapid decline set in, so that by February, 1880, the membership fell off to 1400 or 1500,10 and one year later it shrank to the single branch in Hoboken where Sorge resided. The latter reorganised in 1883 as the International Labor Union of Hoboken, "to unite the members of the old International Workingmen's Association and of the International Labor Union, for the purpose of aiding the trade unions of New Jersey in attaining favourable labour laws." 11 In 1887, when F. A. Sorge moved to Rochester, New York, it dissolved.

From the standpoint of labour organisation the significance of the International Labor Union lies in the fact that it was the first deliberately planned effort in this country to organise on a comprehensive scale the unskilled wage-earners. Seven or eight years later, the Order of the Knights of Labor succeeded incidentally for a time on a grand scale in such an undertaking, but the Order was favoured by a high tide of the labour movement and by the greatly exaggerated notion of its strength held by the masses of working people.

At the time when McDonnell was vainly attempting to build up an organisation of the unskilled, Strasser and Samuel Gompers succeeded in creating, in the reorganised International Cigar Makers' Union, a model for the trade unions of the skilled. Strasser had been elected president of the union in 1877, in the midst of the great strike in New York against the tenement house system.12

The president of No. 144 of New York was at the time Samuel Gompers, a young man of twenty-seven, who was born in England and had come to America in 1863. In his endeavour to build up a model for the "new" unionism and in his almost uninterrupted headship of that movement for over

9 Ibid.

10 Copy-book, 454.

11 Protokoll Buch of Section 1.

12 See above, II, 177, 178,

thirty years is indicated Gompers' truly representative character. Born of Dutch-Jewish parents in England in 1850, he typifies the cosmopolitan origins of American unionism. His early contact in the union of his trade with men like Strasser upon whom the ideas of Marx and the International Workingmen's Association had left an indelible stamp, gave him that grounding both in idealism and class consciousness which has produced many strong leaders of American unions and saved them from defection to other interests. Aggressive and uncompromising in a perpetual fight for the strongest possible position and power of trade unions, but always strong for collective agreements with the opposing employers, he displays the business tactics of organised labour. At the head of an organisation which denies itself power over its constituent unions, he has brought and held together the most widely divergent and often antagonistic unions, while permitting each to develop and even to change its character to fit the changing industrial conditions.

The dismal failure of the strike against the tenement house system had brought home to Strasser and Gompers the weakness of the plan of organisation of their union, as well as that of American trade unions in general.13 They consequently resolved to rebuild their union upon the pattern of the British unions, although they firmly intended that it should remain a militant organisation. The change involved, first, complete authority over the local unions in the hands of the international officers; second, an increase in the membership dues for the purpose of building up a large fund; and, third, the adoption of a far-reaching benefit system in order to assure stability to the organisation. This was accomplished at the convention held in August, 1879. This convention simultaneously adopted the British idea of the "equalisation of funds," which gave the international officers the power to order a well-to-do local union to transfer a portion of its funds to another local union in financial straits. 14 With various modifications of the feature of " equalisation of funds," the system of government in the Cigar

13 See testimony by Gompers before the Industrial Commission at Washington, D. O., in Industrial Commission, Report, 1901, VII, 599.

14 Cigar-Makers' Oficial Journal (New York). Sept. 15, 1879.

Makers' International Union was later used as a model by the other national and international trade unions.

After the convention of 1879, the cigar makers' union increased its membership from 2,729 in 1879 to 4,440 in 1880 and 14,604 in 1881. Other unions grew at the same time, but at a much slower pace. The membership of the Typographical Union was 5,968 in 1879, 6,520 in 1880, and 7,931 in 1881; and the bricklayers' national union was 375 in 1879, 1,558 in 1880, and about the same in 1881. These figures indicate that the Cigar Makers' International Union was in a position sooner than other unions to take advantage of the turning industrial tide.

As Strasser, McDonnell, and McGuire 15 grew ever more deeply absorbed in the practical problems of the everyday struggle of the wage-earners for better conditions of employment, the socialistic portion of their original philosophy kept receding farther and farther into the background until they arrived at pure trade unionism. But their trade unionism differed vastly from that of Sylvis, Cameron, and Trevellick. They did not regard, like the trade union leaders of the sixties, combination into trade unions as a mere stepping stone to self-employment. Their grounding in the theory of class-conscious socialism acted as an inseparable barrier against middle-class philosophies, such as greenbackism and co-operation. At the same time their foreign birth and upbringing kept them from contact with the life of the great American middle class, the farmers and the small employers, the class which kept alive the philosophy of self-employment and voluntary co-operation.

The philosophy which these new leaders developed might be termed a philosophy of pure wage-consciousness. It signified a labour movement reduced to an opportunistic basis, accepting the existence of capitalism and having for its object the enlarging of the bargaining power of the wage-earner in the sale of his labour. It implied an attitude of aloofness from all those movements which aspire to replace the wage system by co-operation, whether voluntary or subsidised by government, whether greenbackism, socialism, or anarchism.

15 Peter J. McGuire was the last important accession of a socialist leader of the seventies to pure trade unionism. He

organised the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners in 1881, and was its general secretary for a quarter of a century.

Perhaps the most concise definition of this philosophy is to be found in Strasser's testimony before the Senate Committee on Education and Labor, in 1883: 16

"Q. You are seeking to improve home matters first?

“A. Yes, sir, I look first to the trade I represent; I look first to cigars, to the interests of men who employ me to represent their interest.

"Chairman: I was only asking you in regard to your ultimate


"Witness: We have no ultimate ends. We are going on from day to day. We are fighting only for immediate objects — objects that can be realised in a few years.

"By Mr. Call: Q. You want something better to eat and to wear, and better houses to live in?

"A. Yes, we want to dress better and to live better, and become better citizens generally.

"The Chairman: I see that you are a little sensitive lest it should be thought that you are a mere theoriser. I do not look upon you in that light at all.

"The Witness: Well, we say in our constitution that we are opposed to theorists, and I have to represent the organisation here. We are all practical men."

With the revival of business in 1879, this conception of militant but "pure and simple" trade unionism was accepted alike by the new national trade unions and by those which survived the depression. It was transmitted to the American Federation of Labor in 1881 at the time when it was formed under the name of Federation of Organised Trades and Labor Unions of the United States and Canada.

There were, however, several national labour organisations which came neither under the influence of these ideas nor of the new leaders. These were the three organisations of railway men which existed in 1879, the engineers, the firemen and the conductors, and to which was added a fourth, the brakemen's organisation of 1883. These organisations, more than any other American trade union, resembled the British unions formed in the fifties which in later years abandoned militancy

16 Senate Committee on Education and Labor, Report, 1885, I, 460. Strasser showed a flicker of his old socialism at the convention of the American Federation of Labor in 1894 when he supported the adoption of the famous plank 10 of

the proposed political programme of the Federation (Proceedings, 40,). However, his entire activity since 1877 bears out that it was but a last flicker of an old, almost extinct fire.

in support of a highly developed beneficiary policy. The high development of the beneficiary feature in the American railway unions was natural, since insurance companies ordinarily refuse to insure the lives of men who are engaged in railroad train service. During the seventies they were purely beneficiary organisations, although it was not until the nineties that insurance was made compulsory upon all members. They also retained the same characteristics through a part of the eighties. For this reason they kept aloof from the militant trade unions and did not affiliate with the Federation. The same policy of aloofness was continued also after they began to make wage demands, owing to their good strategic position in the railroad industry. To affiliate with the Federation would therefore have meant the forming of an entangling alliance with weak organisations which still had before them an uphill fight for recognition.


The first symptom of the upward trend in the labour movement was the rapid multiplication of the trades councils, variously known as trades councils, amalgamated trade and labour unions, trades assemblies, and the like. Practically all of these came into existence after 1879, since hardly any of the trades assemblies of the sixties had survived the depression. August Sartorius von Waltershausen, a contemporary observer, enumerated the following cities with a trades assembly during this period: New York, Chicago, Cincinnati, Detroit, San Francisco, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Washington, Pittsburgh, Boston, Cheyenne, Denver, Newark, Leadville, New Haven, Indianapolis, St. Joseph, St. Paul, Minneapolis, Columbus, (Ohio), Alleghany, Fall River, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Buffalo, Reading, and Portland (Ohio). Besides these there were trades assemblies extending over an entire industrial county like the trades assemblies of Essex County and of Passaic County, New Jersey, and Alleghany County, Pennsylvania. In New Orleans, Galveston, and Savannah, trade unions of coloured workmen existing in the water-front trades, were admitted to the trades assemblies on an equal footing with the other unions.17

17 Waltershausen, Die Nordameri Einfluss der fortschreitenden Produc kanischen Gewerkschaften unter dem tionstechnik, 185, 147.

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