« PreviousContinue »
expected that interests so different should be composed except under the influence of time. Plans for settling industrial difficulties are not few, but those which commend themselves most to thinkers may be divided into two classes: on the one hand, those in which the public undertakes a part, either indirectly by moral influence, called public opinion, or directly by requiring a submission of irreconcilable differences to some tribunal having a power to enforce its decision; or, on the other hand, those in which the public has no part, or, as it is sometimes put, is not allowed to interfere, and in which all questions are settled by employer and employee among themselves, in such manner as may be mutually agreed upon.
The right of the public to appear in the contest is as stoutly claimed on one side as it is denied on the other, and it is not impossible that this question will press itself forward for solution even more in the future than it has in the past.
As a moral factor, public opinion is likely to enter into the settlement of the economic questions in a large degree in the future, and perhaps may so mould the conceptions of both the employer and employee that a much easier solution than we can now see may become possible. It is not to be expected that schemes will be wanting where the necessity for results has become so apparent, and, indeed, it is to the credit of any person or body of persons that they are sufficiently interested in the subject honestly to bring forward plans for the settlement of these vexed questions. In examining each, it should be remembered that the subject is in its experimental stage, and that we cannot afford to dogmatize. Toleration of the views of all who desire to assist in solving the problem is much to be commended.
An examination of the cases that have occupied the attention of the Board during the past year will show an unmistakable trend toward conciliation rather than arbitration as a means of settling disputes. Arbitration, at present, lags behind conciliation as a factor in composing labor troubles. The prevailing opinion regarding the former seems to be that it is an excellent thing in all quarrels but one's own. Conciliatory methods, by which the parties retain control of the proceedings, instead of submitting the issue to a third person, are of highest importance and deserve careful study. The evident tendency of the parties to labor difficulties to enter into conference concerning the causes of dispute is the distinguishing characteristic of the present stage of the labor problem. It is the part of the mediator to make the most of this tendency. Here is a distinct step in advance of the belligerent attitude. When men will reason together, they are already well advanced toward a peaceful solution of their differences. A large part of the trouble in the labor world is caused by misunderstanding, suspicion, lack of confidence, and an inability to see the other side. In such cases conferences, entered into in a proper spirit, are remarkably successful.
The value of conciliatory methods of treatment is becoming better understood than it used to be, and it seems clear that they are susceptible of still more satisfactory develop
Mediation looking to bring about a conference between parties who are not inclined to reason together is the first action of the Board in most cases, and is often all that is needed.
It has been the practice of the Board to recommend a settlement by direct negotiation, when possible. In many
instances such advice has been responded to with signal
It is in this class of cases, more than in any other, that the community, by enlightened public opinion, can assist in bringing about industrial peace. Whatever method is employed that tends to substitute reason for passion and force should have the sympathy of the community. Public opinion is a factor in labor troubles of ever-increasing importance, and to the extent of asking men to reason together about labor difficulties should let its voice be heard. Progress along the same line is indicated by the tendency of employers and employees to enter into joint trade agreements. We have had occasion in previous reports to commend the wisdom of the policy of prevention of trouble in the labor world by anticipatory agreements. It is gratifying to note that the disposition to favor such agreements continues, and that they are becoming common.
The recent conference of the National Civic Federation in Chicago deserves mention, as marking an era in the history of this subject. This association has put the whole country in its debt by bringing the subject of conciliation and arbitration to the front, and has shown the value of full, free and honest interchange of opinion. It is to be hoped that its successful beginning will lead the way to other similar conferences.
In arbitration cases, the provision relating to expert assistants continues to show itself to be a most wise and useful adjunct to the original law. In such cases, each side may nominate, and the Board may appoint, a person to act as expert assistant to the Board. The two persons so appointed must be skilful in and conversant with the business concerning which the dispute has arisen. It is their duty
to obtain and report to the Board information concerning wages paid and the methods and grades of work prevailing in manufacturing establishments within the Commonwealth of a character similar to that in which the dispute may have arisen; to attend the sessions of the Board when required; and to submit to the Board any facts, advice, arguments or suggestions, which they may think relevant. Such assistants are able to point out and elucidate the mysteries of every art, and to lay bare the issues in every controversy.
In all cases during the past nine years, since the law has provided for their appointment, the Board has been fortunate in the choice of expert assistants who have been able to make clear the technicalities involved in questions submitted to it.
In the last annual report reference was made to the fact that the Board had sent to the department of social economy of the Paris Exposition of 1900 an exhibit calculated to show its work and methods. We are pleased to say that the exhibit received the grand prize or highest award in its class. It is a matter of satisfaction that the work of the Board during its first thirteen years should receive, in competition with all nations, this marked approval of a jury of experts in the department of industrial relations.
On July 1 the commission of Mr. Walcott expired by limitation, and on September 10 he was succeeded by Warren A. Reed of Brockton.
During the past year the Board mediated in 54 difficulties
in the following counties:
1 Hampden, .
And 19 industries were involved, as follows: