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so far as they affected labour. New York repealed its law, March 24, 1870.47
Thus far in its history the national met with few obstacles. The advent of the large shop, while it diminished the bargaining power of the cigar makers, did not affect the trade itself and the workman was still protected by his skill. A large organisation with a considerable strike fund was very effective in counteracting the large employer. In the five years of its existence the cigar makers' national grew to about 5,000 members, which compares favourably with other nationals at this time (1869).
But in 1867 the mould was invented, which undermined the trade itself. Before the introduction of the mould each cigar maker made the whole cigar. He was the "bunch breaker" or, as he was then known, the "filler breaker" and also the "roller." He made the bunch and rolled it himself. He had to mould it in his own hands and roll it immediately. That method was changed for most cigars as soon as the mould was introduced. The mould, however, was not a machine, but a mere press for shaping cigars by hand.
The effect of this change was threefold. It split up the trade. Instead of one man making the whole cigar, one man now made the bunches and another rolled them. It was easier to make a bunch when the mould shaped it than it was when it had to be shaped by hand, and it was also easier to roll it after it was smoothed off. This quickened the process. There was no time lost in changing from bunch making to rolling and vice versa.
The moulds, apparently, were first introduced in the Cincinnati shops. In October, 1869, the cigar makers of that city asked for an increase of $1 per 1,000. The employers assented to the demand, but immediately after Christmas announced a reduction of $2 per 1,000. This started one of the most bitter strikes in the history of the union. Three hundred men were involved. The executive committee of the International called in the strike funds from the locals and in February levied an extra fifty-cent tax upon each member. The
47 Chicago Workingman's Advocate, Apr. 2, 1870.
employers were likewise busy in the struggle. They sent out circulars to employers in other cities, requesting them not to employ Cincinnati men and above all not to pay more than their prices. 48
The strike lasted eighteen weeks, finally concluding with a victory for the cigar makers. But the victory soon turned into failure. At the end of the strike the employers introduced the mould, and the union, foreseeing a reduction in wages and fearing another struggle, voluntarily reduced the price it had thus secured after a long fight.
A succinct statement of the reasons why the cigar makers objected to the use of the mould is given in the Report of the Bureau of Labour Statistics of Ohio (1878):
"In 1870 a cigar machine [the mould] was introduced into the town of Cincinnati. The men claimed that it did not save labour but instead added thereto. One firm purchased fifty of the machines and their employees refused to use them and the result was that men were discharged to the number of seventy-five and girls and boys were hired in their places, and this was the commencement of the female cigar workers in Cincinnati. A cigar machine company then came into operation having men, at first, but as there was no extra profit in their labour they were discharged and women and girls were brought to make cigars, they in turn being discharged for other learners receiving but little if any wages. By this means a so-called large number of female cigar makers were competing with the men for the privilege of work. Wages rapidly fell until a week's wages were not sufficient to pay the board of a single
In October the cigar makers held their convention at SyraIt was the largest convention since 1867. The mould question was settled by adopting a constitutional amendment stating that "no local union shall allow its members to work with a filler breaker." 49 The provision was more far reaching than it really seems. It meant that the national took a stand against splitting up the trade between bunch breakers and rollers. It also really meant a stand against the introduction of the mould which invariably was worked by filler break
48 Chicago Feb. 5, 1870.
49 Constitution, 1870, Art. XI, Sec. 4;
Chicago Workingman's Advocate, Nov. 5 and 12, 1870.
ers. Legislating against the filler breaker thus meant legislating against the mould.
But the union was too weak to enforce its rules everywhere. Many locals permitted their members to work with "filler breakers" in spite of the law and grew lukewarm towards the International. At the convention of 1870, 42 locals were represented; 2 years later only 17 sent delegates. At this latter convention of 1872 the president, Edwin Johnson, in his annual address foretold the inevitable. "I admit it is a great evil to the trade this filler breaking system, but a minority can never accomplish anything in the way of breaking up this way of working. While we have the large majority outside of our organisation, working directly in the opposite all the time, I can see but one way of accomplishing anything that will be beneficial to our trade generally . . . Let us lay aside a little of our spirit of selfishness, make our laws liberal, and our platform broad enough to hold all, and let us endeavour to unite the whole into one grand organisation." 50
In spite of this advice when the question of the filler breaker rule came up for consideration, whether it should be retained or dropped, the sentiment was strongly in favour of retaining it. What is more, the rule was amended so that it became more restrictive than before. As amended, it read: "No local union shall allow its members to work with filler breakers or non-union men." "Or non-union men was added now and the whole adopted, thirteen votes in favour and four against. The strike fund was also increased. Instead of 2 cents per member, each month, 10 cents were to be levied thereafter.
These measures were of no avail. The mould came to stay. The hostility towards it was continued for another year, when at the convention of 1873, with other changes in the constitution, the filler breaker clause was amended so as to read, "Local unions may allow their members to work in shops where filler-breakers are employed, provided that no member of the union has permitted himself to work in conjunction with filler breakers." The constitution as revised and including this clause was sub
50 Chicago Workingman's Advocate, Oct. 1, 1872.
mitted to a vote of the locals and was returned 60 in favour and 17 opposed.
The adoption of this amendment was a virtual acceptance of the mould. Although the union man could not work in conjunction with a filler breaker, the mould was admitted into the shop and once there it gradually replaced hand work for the great bulk of cigars made.
Another cause which brought large nationals into existence, especially in the latter part of the ten-year period, was the introduction of machinery. The unions that sprang up as a direct result of the change in the methods of manufacture were particularly the Knights of St. Crispin and the coopers.
The effects of machinery on the coopers' trade may be seen from the following extract taken from the Coopers' Monthly Journal, October, 1872, in a series of articles entitled "What I know about Machinery." "Whenever our craftsman demanded an increase of wages and it was refused, some employers would buy barrel machinery because they would not strike." The article then goes on to give an account of a cooperage works in St. Louis. "Some two years ago a company was started in St. Louis under the name of the St. Louis Barrel Works for the manufacture of pork barrels. The stockholders were men of means and money was not sparingly used to furnish the factory with all the modern improvements. The barrels were raised by boys, clamped and trussed by machinery, the heads were turned by machines and put into the barrels by boys, and there was nothing left for the coopers to do but plane, shave up and hoop the package. When a barrel was finished, it generally leaked at every joint. . . . But the staves were kiln dried and by pouring from one to four pints of water in each barrel
. it could be made to pass. All this was very well and as the company warranted every package they were not in want of a market."
The effect of such a change in making barrels is obvious. The cooper was now deprived of the protection afforded by his skill. His part in the process now was trimming the barrel
instead of making it. The importance of a large, powerful organisation to counteract the advantages which the employer gained over him through these improvements is plainly to be On March 19, 1870, when the nation was about to start on a three-year lap of prosperity, Martin A. Foran, then president of the Central Union of Ohio, sent a call to the coopers to meet in Cleveland, May, 1870. The Cleveland coopers had just gone through a strike—that fact and the powerful personality of Foran account for the calling of a convention at this time and place.51 Suggestions for a national union had been made as far back as the spring of 1868, when a correspondent of the Advocate reported the coopers in New York on a strike and expressed surprise that "with the number of coopers in the United States. . . they do not take steps to organise a national union.” 52
The international was organised and grew very rapidly. The first convention met in May, 1870, with 13 delegates representing 1,576 members. Five months later another convention was held in Baltimore. Here 41 unions were represented with a membership of 3,350.53 But circulars sent out by Foran to locals which allied themselves with the national show returns of 142 unions in good standing embracing a membership of 6,723. The next convention was held in 1873 after the panic. Here 157 locals were reported in good standing. Seventy-two unions were organised or reorganised during these 2 years, but 72 disbanded, which left the international just about where it was in 1871.
In spite of its rocket-like career the coopers' national union permanently influenced the labour movement. It brought to the front in the labour ranks its second president, Robert
51 The career of Martin A. Foran of Cleveland is a prominent example of an American labour leader. Born in Susquehanna County, Penn., Nov. 11, 1844, he received a public school education and the beginnings of a higher education. He was a cooper by trade, but he had also taught school for three years. Having achieved prominence in the labour move. ment, first as the president of the Coopers' International Union, which he organised, and later in 1872, as the foremost leader in the movement for a federation of the national trade unions, he entered politics
as a member of the Ohio constitutional convention in 1873. During the next year he was admitted to the practice of law and in 1874 was elected, on the Democratic ticket, city attorney of Cleveland. He was elected to Congress in 1884 and was several times re-elected. He never lost connection with the labour movement and remained a champion of labour bills throughout his congressional career.
52 Chicago Workingman's Advocate, May 9, 1868.
53 Coopers' International Union, Proceedings, 1871, 10, 11.