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On October 16, the attention of the Board having been called to a threat of striking on November 1 for the purpose of enforcing a demand for a work day of eight hours, a visit was made at the headquarters of the carpenters' union at Malden. When the law regulating the adjustment of labor disputes had been explained, and the mediation of the Board offered, the officers of the union replied that, so far as they might be authorized to negotiate in local controversies, they would accept the services of the Board rather than engage in a strike; the movement thus far, however, was due to the concerted efforts of committees of the local unions of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America in six cities and towns in the metropolitan district, and would soon probably take a much wider range.
It appeared that in August the following circular had been sent to the carpenter builders of Malden :
GENTLEMEN :- - In furtherance of the agitation started by the journeymen carpenters of this city early in the season of the present year, we have decided to again appeal to you, whose interests are joined with ours, in attempting to do something that will tend to the upbuilding of the trade. Our consideration of the question has again brought us to the belief that the first remedy must be worked on lines that will give a larger volume of business, or, in other words, extend the season of building operations. This can only be attained through a shorter work day, and it is on the grounds of our undivided belief that we again ask your co-operation in establishing this most necessary reform.
Our plan is that on November 1, 1900, we establish, by putting in operation, the eight-hour work day, the same to continue through the winter months and from that on. So firm is our belief the necessity of the short-hour day, that we are willing to sacrifice the wage question to its adoption, and would simply refer to you the fact of the low wages paid to the men of our trade, compared with that paid to other mechanics in the building line. If conditions would warrant, we would ask, in estimating on work in the spring of 1901, that this matter be kept in mind, and estimates be made on the basis of allowing the nine-hour wage for the eight-hour day. We believe by this plan the short-hour day can be introduced without fear of competition or dissatisfaction from any source, no interests will be injured, but all will be benefited on the grounds that it takes a well-conditioned labor market to make good business.
This is no new experiment. The eight-hour day is an established fact in more than one hundred and fifty cities of our country, also recognized by the national government and state government. The test has been made by employers all over the country, and they bear testimony to the general good results from the change. It is beyond the question of contradiction that no body of employers, and we do not know of a single case, where the system has been given a fair trial, that would think of going back to the old condition of long hours. This means to us the elimination of poverty, ignorance and intemperance, which lead to crime and their accompanying evils. It means to your side, as we view it, a change from the present conditions, that tend to a demoralization of business interests, caused by periodical and at times complete suspension of work, shutting off legitimate profits on the capital invested, leading in many cases to bankruptcy, which has a general effect on the entire business community. The demand for a reduction of hours of labor is not an abnormal dream of a few fanatics, but is one of the natural and inevitable tendencies of a progressive civilization. You will pardon us for the length of this appeal. Our apology is our interest and faith in the remedy we propose. We are willing to go to any length to secure your co-operation. We desire to disprove the idea of those who claim our principal object is strike, and want it understood that all possible efforts are directed on the lines of conference, rather than in the exercise of might. We feel, if you gentlemen will meet us fairly by giving us your advice, you will find that the same will receive the attention of our best judgment. We ask you to seriously consider this
appeal, and, if you can see justice back of it, send us word to that effect. If you feel our position is wrong, and needs amending, let us know where the objection is, and your opinion will be treated with respect, and no doubt lead to an understanding which will result in the accomplishment of the desired ends, a better protection of the carpenters' trade from the stand-point of employer's and employee's interests.
Awaiting an early reply, we remain respectfully yours,
NEWTON, CAMBRIDGE, MALDEN, CHELSEA AND WALTHAM.
The Board was informed by members of the above joint committee that the circular had received such consideration as to warrant hope of success, but, if any obstacle to negotiation should arise, they would notify the Board.
Subsequently the carpenter builders of Brookline, Cambridge, Chelsea, Newton, Lowell, Melrose, Somerville, Waltham and other places received a similar request. The employees remained at work, and building operations proceeded as usual during the pendency of negotiations. On October 23 the following agreement was reached in Brookline.
The carpenters and builders of the town of Brookline hereby agree to put in operation the eight-hour work day for all men in our employ on the first day of November, 1900, and further agree that we will give the same a fair and faithful trial as to its effect in our business as governed by existing conditions. And the organized carpenters of the town of Brookline promise to do all in their power to prevent unfair competition, and will protect you in every way that is possible in this agreement for a better condition of our craft.
Similar agreements were effected in Chelsea and Cambridge. In Malden it was agreed that the rule should go into effect on the first day of the new year; but a misunderstanding arose which postponed the change in hours to April 1, 1901.
At the time of making this report the Board is informed that all but one of the firms in Newton had conceded the demand, and that in other cities and towns the workmen were confident of an early settlement that would be satisactory to all concerned.
JOHN ST. JOHN-HOLYOKE.
Early in October the various building crafts of Holyoke were employed in the construction of the Elmwood School, the early completion of which, corresponding with the educational needs of that city, was an object of solicitude to the mayor. The Building Trades' Council sent a committee to the city officers to request that no contract be awarded to any employer of non-union plumbers; but the Board of Public Works, having charge of the construction, did not see its way to discriminate between the citizens on such grounds. The employment of four non-union plumbers by Kennedy & Sullivan became the subject of a difficulty on the part of John St. John's carpenters, who objected to working with them. The carpenters had no relation with the plumbing contractors, and their own employer was powerless to remedy the alleged grievance.
On October 11 all the carpenters in question went out on strike. The lathers then struck for a similar reason, and in a short while construction ceased in all its branches. The State Board went to Holyoke on the 17th, and brought about a conference of all the parties interested. The master carpenters, a member of the plumbing firm, the mayor, the President of the Board of Public Works, the agent of the Building Trades Council and the four non-union journeymen plumbers, met in the mayor's office, and endeavored, by conference in the presence of the State Board, to find some