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port. Now you men and women of experience in the labor movement well know that despite the justice of our claims and the righteousness of our cause, we are not successful in thousands of cases, and we are defeated in the legislative halls and council chambers all because the press exerts such a powerful influence over the people and public officials. For my part, I feel that these deceiving and lying sheets are more to be feared than all the lobbyists, the scheming employers and their injunction judges, machine guns and stool-pigeons.
So one of the great questions of commanding importance is : When will the organized workers learn the great value of printer's ink and get solidly behind a string of newspapers of their own that will give the people the truth? Then and then only, can they stop the daily press spitting insults into their faces; and then, and then only, can they make newspaper lying a national issue; can they make it punishable the same as treason or any other high crime, and thus effect a new deal all around.
This Traffic in Little Slaves
H. H. Broach
An address given before a women's
I know that as wives and mothers your hearts must go out, as do ours in the unions, to the unprotected and unbefriended army of working girls, women and mothers who are compelled to work long hours, year in and year out, for as low as six, eight and ten dollars a week. And I know that your hearts must ache for the army of little children in the beet fields of Colorado, in the shrimp canneries of Louisiana, in the mills of North Carolina, in the mines of Pennsylvania, and in many other hell-holes throughout the land, little lads and girls, as young as six years, thousands of them, many working from 6 o'clock in the morning to 10 o'clock at night.
When these things are brought to people's attention, they quite naturally ask, what has been done about these shocking conditions ? Why have they not been wiped out? Why are they permitted to exist? And my mission, at the request of your chairman, is to try briefly to explain just why.
Since their beginning, the labor unions, along with others, have struggled to free little children from lives of drudgery. Every attempt to reduce their working hours below 12 a day was bitterly and stubbornly contested in every conceivable way; every trick known to politicians, lawyers and parliamentarians, was resorted to. But year after year the crusade went on, until finally Congress was induced to pass, and the president signed, a law designed to throw the arm of protection around the young who are harnessed to wheels of toil. The law was contested and taken to the United States Supreme Court, and by a vote of 5 to 4, the judges—or the one judge—declared the law unconstitutional—this despite the fact that both houses of Congress said the law was constitutional, and despite the fact that the people of the land wanted it, and despite the fact that this court nor any other has ever been given the power to declare any law unconstitutional.
But the struggle was renewed, and after long effort and delay, Congress was induced to pass another law which was intended to overcome some of the objections raised and to bring about the desired results. And for the second time the Supreme Court destroyed this shield of protection, wrought out laboriously through several decades, by the lovers of children. Since those decisions, breaking down the bars of protection, many more thousands of children have been thrown to the lions of industry, and the wholesale increase in child labor has been astounding, many cities showing an increase ranging from 98 to 800 per cent. Of course this big increase is easily explained, because a child's labor is cheap and often crowds out adult labor. And what a wretched picture it is wholesale numbers of children being robbed of play and development and sent back to the mills, fields, mines and factories to be fed to the god of profits while grown-ups go jobless, living off the mere pittances these children bring home.
Now the case of the defenseless working girls, women and mothers, estimated to number about 12,000,000: For years and years they have been absolutely helpless against the harsh and brutal bargains driven by a certain class of employers—bargains so harsh and brutal that many thousands have been forced to turn thieves, street walkers and prostitutes to obtain enough to live on and keep body and soul together. For many years a crusade was carried on to enact legislation in the District of Columbia and the various states to force employers to pay these girls and women a certain minimum wage. The many hundreds of law-makers in the various states said that the legislation was constitutional, that it was a good thing; so they enacted it into law. Congress, with its 96 senators and 435 representatives, also said that the legislation was constitutional, that it was highly desirable; so Congress, too, enacted the proposal into law. But, as in the case of the children, the matter was taken to the Supreme Court, and the majority of its judges, with lifetime jobs, said "no," that the law was not constitutional, and that ended it.
So again, greedy, unscrupulous employers were turned loose and told to go the limit, with the result that there has been a mad rush to cut and slash the wages of these girls and women to the bone. Now the struggle must be begun all over again. And all this added sorrow and woe, all this added hardship and misery, was caused by the vote of one judge—a lawyer—as against the votes of thousands of other equally able lawyers and citizens.
That, my friends, is briefly the situation. Now if you want to help wipe out these supremely disgraceful conditions, which I know you do, you must not grow weary; you must again throw your full strength behind the campaign to inform and awaken the people; you must throw your full strength behind the movement to have Congress, once and for all, write a constitutional amendment that will positively wipe out these shameful conditions, and that will positively strip these judges of the stolen powers they are now wielding without mercy.
Now I realize that these plain and blunt statements might annoy or shock some of you ladies. But surely you are not afraid of plain talk. It harms no one. I know some of you are rather sensitive about this question, about anything being said that reflects on this great government and its president, and if some of you are annoyed or shocked, I am indeed sorry. But why should we hesitate to speak out plainly about these things? Why should anyone become annoyed or ablaze with rage when you speak a little truth about even the President? Every big man or woman invites plain speaking. Lincoln urged it. He knew that plain speaking and criticism are the greatest safeguards we have, and that without criticism we would be helpless against our own creatures in office. Then why should we sentimental Americans attempt to throw a mantle of holiness around this public servant-to lift above criticism the very man whose acts above all others ought first to be subject to the fullest criticism? The moment a man becomes president he doesn't become infallible or of royal blood. The change doesn't give him more brains or a new make-up. History shows that some of our presidents have made the biggest kinds of blunders and committed the most deliberate wrongs. Then why should it be considered "bad taste" or unpatriotic for anyone to point out these wrongs?
So I charge deliberately that the present federal administration is wedded to reaction; that for sheer hypocrisy, bunkum and oppression it is without an equal; that it is the most hostile to labor, the most inefficient, incapable and destructive ever known in our history. It has allowed the great government of the United States to be prostituted and used as a cloak for the misdeeds and wrongdoings of scoundrels; it has allowed the highest offices of the land to be used as channels for the most evil and destructive propaganda; it has denied a reasonable bonus to maimed and crippled soldiers but gave a bonus to the railroads and shipping interests; it put through a tariff that reliable economists estimate added at least four billions to the cost of living each year, and which meant a bonus to a wealthy ring of manufacturers running into the millions of dollars.
Further, it offered only bullets, bayonets and injunctions to the railroad and mine workers when they sought to improve their lot; it has always exhibited the strong arm and mailed fist when dealing with the wage workers, but has shown itself spineless and cowardly when dealing with the owners of the railroads, the mines and others. Then you must not forget that the Supreme Court has been loaded with the deadwood of reaction; that the White House has been turned into a hospital for lame ducks; that Esch, New, Poindexter, Towner, Taft, Sutherland, Kellogg, and a long list of others who the people said were not fit to represent them all of them have been given soft seats so that they may continue to feed at the public trough. And the White House has desperately hung on to and defended to the last ditch, Denby, Daugherty and Burns, the holy trinity of underworld politicians, whose whole records reek with deals, steals, and corruption, and bristle with manipulation after manipulation.
So, I submit, my friends, that it's time for plain speaking; it's time for calling people by their right names; it's time to expose four-flushing and meaningless gestures; it's time to take off the silk hat and stop allowing these scoundrels longer to hide behind the mask of hypocritical representative government.