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My opponent has told you what the open shop means. Now let me tell you what experience and hard facts prove it to mean: It means bogus patriotism, the spy, the sneak; it means suspicion, treachery, low wages, long hours and rotten working conditions. In Alabama it now means that the workman must live behind a stockade and get a pass every time he or a member of his family goes out of the house. In West Virginia it now means that he must sign a lease giving coal company agents the right to send detectives and guards into his home at any time and throw out any guest that may visit him. In mills it now means long hours and indecently low wages; it means in most cases that the workmen must sign an individual contract that keeps him out of a labor union; and he is followed night and day to see that he does not join one. He must at all times be spied upon and protected to see that he talks to no one who might discuss his needs or say anything about the union question.
So, stripped of its pretense, the open shop, as Samuel Gompers has well said, is anti-union and anti-American. It denies workers the very thing that forces them to unite. Under its operation, and without collective bargaining, down go wages and up go hours. The employer is sole dictator of all terms, and the individual is voiceless and hasn't the slightest chance of securing redress for his wrongs.
My opponent has also told you that the open shop stands for the sacred right of every man to work for whom he pleases, and for what he pleases, without hindrance, and without the consent of any other man or set of men. Now let us see about that. These men who support the open shop say so many things which they do not mean, and mean so many things which they do not say; so we must judge by what the facts have shown the case to be, not by what any one of them may say. Now what they doubtless mean, what the facts have shown them to mean, is that a man has the right to work only when he takes the place of another man who revolts against unbearable conditions and starvation wages and goes out on strike; they mean that every employer has the “right to work” his employees under any conditions and for whatever wages he chooses; and they mean that the employer shall not be interfered with, but rather assisted in the process of carrying out his "right" to starve workers into submission and to do as he pleases.
Now if a man has the right to work, as explained by the gentleman, then he has the same right to join a labor union without being spied upon; he has the same right to a job that will pay him enough to keep himself and his dependents in decency. But every clear headed and informed person knows that when an unscrupulous employer, or a corporation, demands more profits, when wages are to be cut, this "right to work” is simply transferred to the right to starve. Nothing else. And the fact has been burned into our hearts that the only time a man has the “right to work” guaranteed him by the open shop employer, the government or anyone else, is when he is under the protection of a scab-herding and strike-breaking agency instead of a labor organization. If what I say is not true, then why haven't they enforced the “right to work” of the thousands, yes millions, of jobless men who have been compelled to tramp the streets begging and coaxing for an oportunity to work? Every one of you know that these gentlemen who support the open shop have done absolutely nothing about sustaining the sacred right of those hungry and desperate men to work, eat, live and pursue happiness.
So, my friends, I ask you to remember that with things as they are, a man works only at the pleasure of the employer. That is all. There are no rights without power. They simply exist in the head and are absolutely worthless without it. At all times it is a question of strength and strength comes only from organization. And all this talk about the right to work is simply an attempt to uphold the disgraceful act of scabbing, and for the purpose of making a strike-breaking agency out of the local, state and federal governments, and thus to save the anti-union and anti-American open shop from destruction.
Now against the open shop with all its deception and misrepresentation, our unions stand for the union shop—the shop that is open to all who are competent and who are not shirkers; where the good of the whole takes precedence over the anarchic, and fanciful good of the individual; it's the shop where the workers' chosen representatives meet the employer on a common ground, as man to man, and where they respect each other. In this shop there are no spies, no tattlers, no class distinction nor autocratic rulings. The workman knows what he is going to be paid from day to day; he can hold up his head and look around unafraid, because he is protected and has some means of securing redress for any wrongs.
And there are over forty years of history behind the demand for the union shop, and behind that the experience of the centuries reaching back to the Guild System of the Middle Ages. The union worker knows what his conditions were prior to its establishment; he knows how helpless he is without his organization. Of course, my opponent will be quick to condemn the doctor's union shop, the lawyer's, the broker's and banker's and others who have had excellent union shop institutions for many years, as their bank books well show. And they don't have to enter into negotiations to determine the wages and conditions under which they will work either. Everyone knows what scorn and contempt these elements have for those who do not become members of their respective associations and abide by their rules and wages—their ethics. They boycott, blacklist and bitterly condemn them, and it's all quite respectable. But when the members of labor unions decline to work with those who betray them, and who will not join their organizations, it is heralded as a crime and the destruction of unions by law is advocated.
So, concluding, I submit that the open shop is not open-it is closed, closed against union workmen. It is destructive, deceptive, anti-union and anti-American; and it will go down when it is dragged out into the open; it will die from exposure as do all corrupt, unfair and evil movements perish.
Incorporation of Unions
and Contract Breaking
H. H. Broach
Argument made before a state legis-
Yesterday the question was asked by one of your committee men, "Just why do not the unions incorporate?" and I have been asked to answer that question more fully this morning, with your consent. On its face, it appears to be a fair proposition that the unions incorporate, and that the funds of the corporation should be available to compensate employers who may claim to have suffered from acts committed by members of the union, or from their failure to live up to the terms of any agreement made with employers. But when we fully consider the matter, we can quite clearly see that the union should not be held responsible for acts of its individual members any more than a business corporation should be held liable for the acts of any of its individual stockholders.
Business corporations, as you know, are organized, not for the purpose of assuming liability for the acts of their individual members, but to escape all liability. Learned lawyers tell us that no business corporation could afford to be held responsible for the acts of its members, except in so far as a member had been authorized to act as its agent. You know quite well that should a stockholder of the United States Steel Corporation become incensed at some action of organized labor and assault members of the union, or injure their property-as has frequently been done-damages could not be collected of the Steel Company. But if the union were incorporated, suit would be promptly entered against it and damages collected for the same kind of misconduct on the part of any of its members. In fact, some well known decisions have already been rendered holding the unincorporated labor union responsible for alleged misconduct of its members; and individuals have been held responsible for acts of the unincorporated union. And all of these decisions have been rendered despite the fact that there are statutes holding to the contrary.
Now as to the making and breaking of contracts—an employer does not agree to hire any certain number of union workmen. He contracts only that in so far as he needs workers he will employ those belonging to the union at the stipulated wage, and under certain conditions. But he may close his shop or plant the next day if he chooses, and not employ a single person, and yet he is not held guilty of breaking his contract. It may be said, however, that if the employer continues in business he is bound under his contract to employ only union people in accordance with its terms; that if he does not, he has then broken his contract and may be sued and forced to pay damages; therefore, it is argued that the union should be made to respond in damages to him, if its members should refuse to enter or remain in his employ.
But it is not true, as all of you men know, that if the employer breaks his contract he can be held responsible. You may say that he can be held responsible, but when you turn to the opinions that have been given by the leading judges, you will find it has been held that the union is not entitled to any damages, because, in the eyes of the law, it has suffered no damages to itself. And when the individual workman attempts to sue the employer, he is told that he cannot do so because the employer did not contract with him as an individual. So you will readily see the way it works out is that the union is held responsible while the employer is not.
You may still affirm that individual members of the union should be held responsible for any of their organization's acts, but it is a matter of common knowledge, as you know, that some of our most highly respected people receive dividends from corporations whose business transactions are corrupt to the extreme, and yet these individual stockholders are in no way held responsible for their corporation's acts.
I want to make this clear: the unions are not contract breakers. It's quite true that occasionally a strike is called in violation of a contract, and these are to be condemned in the strongest and bitterest terms. But these instances are very rare. And when we speak of contract breakers let us not overlook the employers and the business men. They are not as saintly and simon-pure as some of our soft thinking and short-sighted gentlemen would have us believe. It would be very interesting to some of you, I am sure, to go through a few volumes of the reports of the courts and see the large number of cases brought to recover damages because employers and business men have broken their contracts. If you were to do this, I should like to have you then ascertain and compare with these the number of cases wherein labor unions have violated their contracts.