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Troy and Albany, where there were about 600 moulders employed. The resolutions caused a considerable stir. A large meeting of the moulders was held and a determination was evinced to fight the matter out. It was decided to stop work at once and stay out as long as the circulars remained posted. They communicated the trouble to Sylvis who, in a short time brought the entire resources of the national union together at this centre. The fight lasted for several months. The International was as strong as the employers' association was weak and came out of the struggle with a complete victory. It was a fight for union principles and no effort or money was spared to bring the matter to a successful determination. They retained their shop committees, continued to regulate apprenticeship, and forced the removal of the obnoxious posters.
This was by no means the end of the employers' association. It extended its operations to other cities so as to include chiefly Ironton, Covington, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Richmond, Buffalo, and St. Louis. The fight lasted for several months and ended favourably to the unions. In most places they won and in others some had to submit to reduction of wages, 10
In February, 1867, the Association met in Cincinnati and determined to continue the fight. But here already we find an element of disruption. The Buffalo and St. Louis founders withdrew and reached an agreement with their workmen at a reduction of 30 per cent on their former wages. The rest of the Association voted a reduction of 60 per cent and decided to start their work in Cincinnati.11 Although prices were at their lowest in this year, such a large reduction was announced primarily to force a fight. Sylvis who appeared on the ground was willing to concede a reduction of 30 per cent, but that was not the issue.
The strike started in February and lasted for fully nine months. It was this protracted struggle that almost broke the union. On February 16, 1867, Sylvis issued a circular submitting the question of a special tax of 5 per cent on the earnings of the members of the local unions. The circular was re
10 Iron Molders' International Union, Proceedings, 1867. 11 Ibid., 1868.
turned with 99 for the tax and 42 opposed. In April he issued another circular asking for an increase of the special tax and it was returned with 78 in favour and 57 opposed. Still a third request was issued on July 30, but this time the vote was 63 in favour and 70 opposed. These figures show the downward tendency of the strength of the union. Many of the locals that voted in favour of the tax sent in words of caution that a further increase and an effort to collect it would break the union. Others returned circulars with a statement that rather than pay the tax they would give up their charters. In addition to tax exactions, times were hard. Sylvis in his annual address to the convention of 1868 says that trade conditions were exceptionally hard, that almost half of the members were out of work and many worked on part time or small piece work, while the necessaries of life were dear. A man at full time could not do more than take care of his running expenses.
The immediate effect upon the union of this successful onslaught by the organised employers, coupled with the hard times, was to discourage strikes. At the convention of 1868, the Iron Molders' International Union adopted a measure which required a favourable vote of two-thirds of all the locals in the union to permit another local to enter into a strike and receive strike benefits; and further, that it should not be permitted to go on strike unless it had in the treasury the amount of its indebtedness to the International. This made strikes almost impossible. From 1868 to 1870, 37 locals issued strike circulars and only 7 of these were authorised.13
The cumbersomeness of these regulations was obvious two years after they were made, especially when business was picking up. Circulars sent out to locals for their vote were very often never returned, and if returned it took two weeks before the vote could be announced, and another two weeks passed before financial aid could be given. In spite of this unsatisfactory condition the only change made in the constitution at this session was to require a one-third negative vote to withhold authority from a local to strike instead of requiring a twothirds positive vote to give it authority to strike.
18 Ibid., 1870.
But the defeat of the union gave rise to even a more fundamental change in policy than the temporary abandonment of strikes. The very foundations of the trade union philosophy came to be questioned and the view gained currency that, after all, the principal goal of the labour movement must be to find a way of escaping the wage system. Productive co-operation was to become the substitute for trade union action.
"At last," exclaimed Sylvis in the summer of 1867, "after years of earnest effort and patient waiting, and constant preaching, co-operation is taking hold upon the minds of our members, and in many places very little else is talked about." 14 A year later he declared that the co-operative stove foundries "marked the beginning of a new era " in his trade.
The first of these foundries, established at Troy in the early summer of 1866, was quickly followed by one in Albany and then during the next 18 months by 10 more-1 each in Rochester, Chicago, Quincy, Louisville, Somerset, Pittsburgh, and 2 each in Troy and Cleveland. The original foundry at Troy was an immediate financial success and was hailed with joy by those who believed that under the name of co-operationists, the baffled trade unionists might yet conquer.
But the remarkable hold that co-operation was getting over the moulders is best attested by the fact that the Molders' International Union at its convention in September, 1868, changed its name to "Iron Molders' International Co-operative and Protective Union." This step was due to Sylvis. In the presidential report to this convention, he reiterated in much stronger terms than ever before his disbelief in trade unionism. and his faith in co-operation. "Combination," he said, "as we have been using or applying it, makes war upon the effects, leaving the cause undisturbed, to produce, continually, like effects. . . . The cause of all these evils is the WAGES SYSTEM. . . . We must adopt a system which will divide the profits of labor among those who produce them. . . . Should we adjourn without such legislation as will restore confidence, renew hopes, and give a reasonable promise of ultimate and final success, and freedom from strikes and taxation, more than fifty unions will return their charters before the close of
14 Weekly Voice, Aug. 22, 1867.
1868. ..." 15 The report further said that there were 11 cooperative iron foundries in the country: 1 in Troy and 1 in Albany, both established in 1866 and giving employment to 130 moulders, and 9 established in 1867: 2 more in Troy, 2 in Cleveland, and 1 each in Rochester, Chicago, Quincy, Louisville, Somerset, and Pittsburgh. The last named was established as an "International Foundry," which meant that the president and the treasurer of the international union were exofficio directors and shared authority with the directors chosen by the stockholders.
But the results of the Troy experiment, typical of the others, show how far productive co-operation was from a successful solution of the labour problem. At the end of the third year of this enterprise, the American Workman 16 published a sympathetic account of its progress, disclosing unconsciously, however, its fatal weakness. The "Troy Co-operative Iron-Founders' Association " was planned with great deliberation and launched at a time when the regular stove manufacturers were embarrassed by the strikes. It was regularly incorporated with a provision that each member was entitled to but one vote whether he held one share or the maximum of fifty. Yet it failed, as did the others, in furnishing permanent relief to the workers as a class. On the contrary, the co-operators quickly adopted the capitalist view. The sympathetic account mentioned above quotes from these co-operators to show that the fewer the stockholders in the company, the greater its success." That these capitalistic co-operators were less eager for leisure to improve body and mind than they had been as trade unionists, is apparent from the statement that "the holidays do not interfere to keep them idle at the whim of the ironmaster who chooses to close up his foundry on such days." The foundry had recently made 1,100 stoves on contract at a low price for a local stove manufacturer. When delivered ahead of contract time, the purchaser expressed astonishment not only at the promptitude with which the order had been filled, but its cheapness. Totally disregarding the effect on moulders employed by competing manufacturers, the co-operators quoted
15 Sylvis, Life, Speeches, Labors and Essays, 265. 16 Jan. 8, 1870.
with satisfaction the statement of this manufacturer, who said: "I wish you would let my patterns stay at your place. . . . I can buy my stoves of you and do better than if I manufactured them myself." Membership in the moulders' union was still maintained by these co-operationists, "but," they said, "the trade-unions here are of no use now, really."
But trade union action did not remain hopeless. The cohesive qualities of the employers were after all inferior to those of the workingmen. The scramble for the ever-widening market, generating as it did the keenest kind of competition among the manufacturers, could not help but weaken the bands which held them together as employers in opposition to a comthe moulders' union. As soon as it was apparent that there was no longer any great danger from the union, individual and sectional interests began to assert themselves. The very strike in Albany and Troy in 1866 had demonstrated the lack of unity in the employers' association. The western founders saw early in the strike that it would be to their advantage to withdraw from the association and reach some adjustment with their workingmen. Stoppage of work in the East to some extent removed competition from that direction in the West and the manufacturers there lost no time in taking advantage of the troubles. Meanwhile, business conditions became better, prices went up, and the founders' prime interest now became the market rather than labour. This seems to have removed for a time the need of an association, and we do not hear of a national stove manufacturers'. and iron founders' association after that time until about 1872, when it reorganised as a price-fixing organisation, and without the features of an employers' association.
The return to prosperity in 1869, the disappearance of employers' organisations and last but not least the failure of cooperation as a panacea turned the moulders' union again into the groove of trade unionism. The negative attitude towards strikes disappeared. The president at the convention of 1872 reported that nine authorised strikes had occurred during the past two years, and went on to say that unauthorised strikes are beneficial in many cases and should not be interfered with. At the biennial convention in July, 1870, the International