« PreviousContinue »
much business have the people generally with the courts ? A very small percentage. The relations between workers and employers are much closer. There is more to be determined in regard to relations between workers and employers, the great mass of our people, in the offices of the employers, than there is in the courts. We insist that the workers have the right to be heard by counsel in any case in which they are affected. The right to be heard by counsel should be guaranteed and is only another way of saying that the workers should be represented by persons or representatives of their own choosing.
Shop organizations are organizations in which the employer is in the position by himself, or through his subordinates, to favor or to punish or to discriminate against any one who has the temerity to speak up manfully for himself and for his fellows. They are the employers' organizations formed to further his purposes. They are not organizations to further the purposes of the workers generally with the employer. One form of shop organization is where the workers form what they call the lower house; the office staff is the senate, and the employer has a presidential veto and that can not be overruled even by a two-thirds majority. There is only one form of organization which can deal effectively and rationally in matters of this character. It is the trade union or labor union in which men by discussion select their most capable men who have proven by their faithfulness and service that they will present the cause of the laborers to the employer in the best manner possible.
Let no man come to me and say, “But there is a crook in the labor movement. Here is a dishonest man in the labor movement. Here is a man who is faithless." I answer, “Yes, perhaps it is true, or it may be true." But to all other groups I say, “You who are innocent cast the first stone." You may look to the men in the professions of all kinds and you will find a derelict here and there. Yes, even among the men of the gospel here and there you will find someone who has fallen by the way. You do not condemn all the men of the clergy. You do not condemn all the bankers, the financiers, and you do not condemn all the employers. And you do not condemn all the lawyers (even though most of them should be in jail). I think when you count the masses of men of labor as compared to other groups, you will find the men in the organized labor movement more representative in character, and you will find a smaller percentage of them who have gone wrong, and you will find a larger percentage of them who have given the best that is in them in order to serve their fellows and their country.
I assume you want me at least to make mention of strikes because they are with us and the poor also are with us. Why do men strike? Simply when there is no other way to secure a hearing or secure justice. You may say, "But they have an exalted opinion of what they regard justice," and I answer, "Perhaps that may be true at times, but it is better that men shall have exalted opinion of that which constitutes justice than to be abject, servile and demoralized.” Strikes ! What are they anyway? Of what does a strike consist? It is a cessation of work upon the terms for which service had been given, and an insistence or demand or request for different terms. In any event, it is nothing more or less than a cessation of work-an industrial dispute. Some say, “Well, strikes occur and then there is a man who gets a bloody nose and another one has a broken head and all that sort of thing,” but my experience is that as a rule it is the striker who gets the bloody nose or the broken head at the hands of a policeman. I repeat, a "strike” is really a cessation of work as the result of an industrial dispute, and if as a result there is any turbulence that is not the strike any more than if there be a quarrel resulting from a Sunday school picnic.
The effort now being made in some form or other to make strikes per se illegal and unlawful will fail as sure as the sun rises and sets. I am not a prophet nor the son of a prophet, but I have read history and know the men of my time. I know the psychology of men and the things that prompt them to think and to act, and to make a cessation of work a criminal offense will react upon the authors of such a proposition and will do more than all else to shake the faith of the people of our country in the freedom of our institutions.
For centuries there has been a struggle against compulsory labor. The first form of compulsory labor was slavery and then serfdom. Under our present laws and the constitution we have been vouchsafed the right to own ourselves as men. Slavery was abolished in the United States, but to abolish it cost nearly a million lives and millions and millions in treasure. But slavery was abolished, and there was written into the constitution of our country the guarantee against involuntary servitude, compulsory labor, except as a punishment for crime. Now come the men who can not see this rising spirit of intelligence and independence and sovereignty among the great masses of the people of our country but who want to drive again the worker into involuntary servitude. The Kansas Court of Industrial Relations law is an example. I understand the father of that law is going to speak to you in a few weeks upon the “open shop,” having gone one step further in his scheme to shackle labor.
And then there is the Esch-Cummins railroad act where the men are required by the law to do everything within reason and possibility to see to it that the service shall not be interrupted in any way. In other words, the representatives of the men themselves are by that law required to see to it that if the men themselves refuse to work that these leaders and representatives of the men go out on the highways and byways and get men to operate the roads. In other words, to act as strike-breakers.
. Furthermore, there is no penalty provided for the violation of that provision of the law. I do not know how many of you gentlemen are students of law or which other professions you are now studying, but you who are students of law know that the only ground upon which writs of injunctions are issued is that there be no other adequate remedy at law. When that provision of the Esch-Cummins law which I have only in part mentioned, but which I have made quite clear was before the Congress, one of the railroad legislative lobbyists said to his clients, the railroads throughout the country, in a telegram, that it was better that there be no penalty provided in the bill, for if there be no penalty there will be no adequate remedy at law, and as a consequence injunctions could be obtained, and it will be easier to convict men for violating the terms of an injunction than to convict them by trial by jury charging them with violation of the law.
All those I love live in the United States of America; the remains of my sacred dead lie in the soil of America; my children and my grandchildren are in America and the children and grandchildren of other American citizens are here. Entwined as my heart and conscience are with them all, I want to see to it today that there shall never come in the history of our country a time and condition where my grandchildren will be compelled to fight against a new autocracy and a new tyranny.
Nowhere in the world is the labor movement of any country so progressive, so intelligent, so patriotic and loyal as is the labor movement of the United States of America. We are working for a better life, we are working to make life better today than yesterday, to make life better tomorrow than today for the masses of the people and tomorrow and tomorrow each a better day than the one that has gone before. The enemies of labor, conscious of it or not, are doing more to create radicalism among the masses of the people than are any other body of men in our country. Ours is a movement of constructive character. There is not anything worth maintaining that we undertake to overthrow or to destroy. It is a movement to build up character and understanding of the responsibility of citizenship.
Our proposal for the limitation of immigration is founded upon the existence of our country and people. Before the war we had a constantly increasing number of people coming to our shores until the number had reached one and a quarter million a year. Since the close of the war-that is, it would have been if the Senate of the United States would have been only willing to say so-immigration has again reached the number of over one and a quarter million a year with a constantly increasing desire and manifestation of people to come to the United States. I am creditably informed that in many of the eastern and northeastern countries there are millions of people waiting for the opportunity to come to the United States. In their interest as well as our own an immigration law, restrictive and limiting, should be passed at the earliest possible moment, for with four million of America's workers unemployed, unregulated immigration is a crime against them as well as an injustice to those who would come here under present conditions.
It is impossible in the course of an hour to encompass all the work that has been done and all that may be done. There is not a law which we seek but which will have its influence upon the unorganized worker fully as much as it can have upon the organized worker. There is not any effort we can make for the improvement of the condition of the toiling masses but that it will find its reflex in the conditions of the unorganized as well as the organized. There is no check which we may place upon the deterioration of our standards but which will have its reflex upon the condition of all.
Friends, can you imagine what it would mean if the enemies of our movement could be successful in their efforts to crush the organized labor movement? Suppose it would be wiped out of existence tomorrow, can you imagine what such a condition would mean with all the centralization of wealth, with all the centralization of industry, in the hands of a few, and they with a hunger for power, torn by the passion of greed and aiming for autocracy? What would the condition of working people be? Does anyone imagine that the toilers of America would submit to being ground under the iron heel of industrial and financial autocracy? I sometimes give my mind a wide range and yet it is difficult to imagine such a condition, but I firmly believe if it were possible to crush the organized labor movement of America that the possessions of the men of wealth and the men of power would be a curse to them and anarchy would reign supreme.
I have an abiding faith in the manhood and womanhood of America. I feel that they will rise to any occasion which may confront them, that they will deal intelligently, valiantly and energetically whenever necessary, but now is one of the times that tries men's souls. With the vast number of unemployed, with the attempts to destroy the labor movement, with the cutting of wages, but still profiteering, the pirates of finance and business have much to answer for.
If you in your lives and in your future will undertake to understand the labor movement, what we try to do, what we try to achieve, what we have accomplished and the methods we employ, I am sure you will be of great aid not only as citizens but to the country and to the world.