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Applied to what are commonly known as open or closed shop conditions, the committee asks that it shall be understood and agreed that every employer entering the period of the war with a union shop shall not undertake to alter such conditions for the duration of the war, nor shall any combination of workmen undertake, during a like period, to close an open shop. The creation of a Federal Board to adjust labor disputes, for the duration of the war, is proposed, its activities to be confined to disputes growing out of employment on the subject matter of war production for the Government or its Allies.
The committee pledged to the country the acceptance of such a program, and urged that the Council of National Defense call a conference of the heads of National Trades Unions for the purpose of requesting them to join in the pledge made on behalf of the manufacturers.
It will be interesting to watch the result of this conference, the committee having presented, without bias, a situation which is becoming intolerable.
Perhaps the most significant departure in the work of the National Founders' Association is the development of engineering practice in the foundry under the guidance of the Committee on Foundry Methods. The practical results of their labors have been gratifying, and the congratulatory letters received in approval of its bulletins have been the best reward for the conscientious efforts of the committee.
There is a lesson in the activities of organized labor since the beginning of the war which every manufacturer should carefully study, and the obvious conclusion is the necessity for a further development of the organization of manufacturers for industrial protection.
I direct your attention at the moment to the labor situation prior to the outbreak of war. During the year 1913, and the early part of 1914, there was grave industrial depression, with hundreds of thousands out of work. There was then no indication that business conditions would improve, and countless Government investigations were under way for the purpose of
trying to assist workmen who, notwithstanding the herculean efforts of manufacturers, were not able to secure steady work.
The world war came like a thunderclap; it became our duty to supply Europe with food and war munitions of every variety, and there followed an almost instantaneous reversal of industrial conditions.
Immediately thereafter we were confronted with a multiplicity of strikes, and as the war progressed and the requirements for our Allies increased, union leaders, notwithstanding greatly increased wages, took advantage of the situation to force the closed shop, when possible, by means of strikes and boycotts. This condition continued with increasing volume until America entered the war.
The “Hostile Submarine" Policy of Union Leaders
Certain adroit labor leaders were at first fearful that national necessities would compel them to make concessions to the Government. Accordingly a convention was held in Washington, behind closed doors, and a program adopted. And a figurehead was selected to draw to himself all the vapor of enthusiasm which the American Federation of Labor could manufacture, under cover of which the international unions, acting like submarines, attacked American industry. Fortunately, the public is beginning to understand that such action is consistent and true to union ethics.
The real situation is a serious one, which is apparently not at all comprehended; if we realized that since our own declaration of war there have been called nearly two thousand strikes, and if we understood all conditions accompanying these demands we would know that our Government, after only six months of hostilities, is sanctifying an industrial status of disastrous socialism similar to that from which England emerged only with a supreme effort, after two years.
Among the unfortunate examples of academic industrial theories reacting on manufacturers may be mentioned an agreement between the Secretary of War and the American Federation of Labor entered into some months ago. An agreement afterward approved by the Secretary of the Navy as applied to shipbuilding and other naval construction. This agreement in substance, being that any manufacturer accepting certain war contracts should be governed by union hours, wages and conditions at the time nominally in existence in his particular locality.
In addition, an Adjustment Commission was appointed to deal with questions arising from any demand for a change of conditions during the progress of the work. The obvious intention of the clever labor leaders, and their success in hoodwinking Federal authority, is so clear that comment is unnecessary.
But this is not all. The Steel Corporation, under capable management, has increased wages time and again, hours have been readjusted and conditions improved beyond thought of complaint, and there exists no possible excuse for forcing the unionization of the industry. Very recently adroit union leaders, by intimidation or deceit, enlisted the co-operation of ranking Federal officers to the extent of inserting a unionization clause in contracts with steel corporations. This was simply another deliberate effort at treachery to the Government; an attempted embarrassment to the industry and a skillfully conceived plan which ultimately contemplates forcing every manufacturer to accept the entire labor union program.
Unionization of Federal Employees
Another conception fraught with dangerous possibilities is a proposal to unionize government employees in all departments and to federate such bodies with existing industrial unions.
It contemplates the inclusion of more than one half million federal employees in such fashion as to threaten the existing protection given by the civil service standards and put the power of possible suspension of all government functions in the hands of a few autocratic labor leaders.
Misused power by such business agents might bring to pass a national calamity far reaching in its effects and surpassing the apprehensions of any one. The mere stopping of the machinery of the Federal Government for a single day would indeed create a world wide catastrophe. While the right of employees engaged in private industry to organize is not denied, a unionization of Federal employees, who serve all citizens equally, cannot and must not be permitted.
Eight-Hour Day an Economic Waste
We recognize that national emergency measures necessary, and are desirous, in so far as possible, of refraining from questioning their advisability. Nevertheless, it is our patriotic duty to dissent sharply from, and urge a modification of, existing unfortunate policies which seem fraught with disaster. Under that head I disapprove the growing tendency toward waste, indicated by the Government in its drastic continuance of effort to impose the eight hour day. Some conditions of labor make the eight hour day advisable, but by far the greater number of occupations do not need such restriction. Why then this Federal insistence of reduction in working hours when every nerve should be strained to support our fighting men? Do they battle at the front on an eight hour schedule? Does the Chief Executive encompass all his duties in eight hours? Can the farmer, without whose support the war cannot be won, increase the products of the soil by reducing his work day to eight hours? In wartime, particularly, the eight hour day is a luxury which must yield to the demands of national necessity. The conservation and development of America's manufacturing facilities must be equal to the demands of war.
When there was a suggestion of hostilities the industries of the United States laid before the Government their plants, their individual efforts and their resources, all of which were thankfully accepted. Later, the Government officials became voluble in criticism and denunciatory of alleged profiteering. The facts, however, were immediately available, and these charges were dissipated, but not before the reason for them became apparent. The cover of patriotism was not sufficient to conceal from the public all of the union activities. Through that medium legislation was started to force manufacturers to do what they had already done tenfold, while the international unions ran rampant through the country.
Railway Brotherhoods and the Chief Executive
The most significant example of labor union tactics during the year, and one which proved a source of education to the public, was the threatened railway strike. Had this strike been made effective not only would the Government have been seriously hampered in its pre-war requirements, but all interests would have been vitally affected by the paralysis of transportation facilities at a time when national well-being and safety, more than ever before, rested upon the maintenance of industry.
Is it not true that identical duties and obligations rested upon both executives and employees? The quitting in concert by workers in such service to gain individual ends would have been as detrimental to the public interests as would have been a like concert of action by the railroad managers, and in morals, just as reprehensible.
The refusal of the brotherhoods to recognize a moral obligation and to submit their demands to the regular processes of arbitration for adjustment makes necessary more definite limitation by law of the right to strike while employed in public utilities. Further, the threat to call this strike came in the face of a pending decision of the Supreme Court of the United States upon the very differences at issue.
A signal national service would have been rendered had our Chief Executive recognized a plain duty and authorized the railroad executives to continue operations with Federal approval. The general public would have supported the President in such action by a voice of approval for any provision necessary to have preserved uninterrupted transportation.
This is a partial story of organized labor's efforts since the declaration of war, and a sequel might be written in which the