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the first essential conditions of unionism—a widening distinction between the employing and the employed classes, with the latter debarred by lack of adequate capital from industrial or 'agricultural independence. For most men the outlook was now “once a wage-earner always a wage-earner.”
(2) The breakdown of old systems of control and the creation of new relationships. The old economic order was regulated at every point by custom or the state. Apprenticeship, hours of labour, and wages were nominally at least controlled by legislation; this control, so long as it was not rigid or oppressive, was generally accepted as natural, and workers therefore made little attempt by united action to alter the established state of affairs. By 1800, however, state control had been largely abandoned, and soon all attempts on the part of the state to maintain apprenticeship or fix wages and hours were discontinued. This left the whole gamut of industrial relationships to be settled between the employer and employee, and a reign of “free contract?' began. Free contract worked badly for the employee, for the Industrial Revolution subjected his skilled manual labour to the competition of machines, women, and children. At times he appealed to the state for protection against the invasion of his preserve, but in vain, and he was left to fight his own battle and make the best bargain he could with his employer. Such bargain was one in which, acting in isolation, he was liable to be beaten. Firstly, because of the competition of the factory; secondly, because there were generally more labourers than jobs; and, thirdly, because, having no reserve on which he could draw, he was compelled to sell his labour at once in order to live.
(3) The growth of a craft- or class-consciousness. Before the Industrial Revolution employer and employee frequently worked side by side and knew each other intimately. Probably, therefore, this bred a sense of community of interest and of partnership in work. With the growth of capitalism and of the large unit the close personal contact gradually disappeared. It was difficult for an employer to know his hundreds of “hands." To the employees, especially of a joint stock company, the manager, or even the foreman, was the firm. But whilst the two sections drifted apart, the employees, thanks to their congregation in large numbers in factory or workshop, began to feel a sense of community of interest. They began to realize they were all in the same boat, and that if the boat was not actually leaky it might at least be made more comfortable. There dawned the idea that as wage-earners their common conditions were either in danger of being made worse, or were capable of being considerably improved. Until this feeling had become common there could be no trade unionism. It is possible to have a permanent wage-earning class, to have competition and exploitation degrading the standard of life, and yet to find unionism nonexistent. Organization comes only when those who are competing and are being exploited realize their condition, and see that by united action they can protect themselves against attack, and even take the offensive into their own hands.
Aims. At first unions sprang into being to resist some specific attack on the position of their members-e.g., the employment of unapprenticed workers, the introduction of some machine, the reduction of wages, etc. To-day we can group the aims of labour organization, as developed during a century's experience, under two chief headings: (1) business aims, (2) revolutionary aims.
(1) Business unionism—the term is. Professor Hoxie's--accepts the capitalist system as perhaps inevitable: it admits there must be employers and employees: it makes no attempt to oust the employer. Its sole aim is to protect and improve the conditions under which its members are employed, especially by securing higher wages, shorter hours, and improved working conditions. It thinks of the labourer as a man with a commodity to sell, and endeavours to put him on an equal footing with the buyer, by grouping all the sellers together in demanding the same price—a standard rate of wage, standard hours, standard conditions. It works through collective bargaining, it enters into agreements, with the strike as the last weapon in its armoury. It bothers little with outside social and political mov... ments, except when they bear directly on its own aims. To its purely union work it may add provisions for friendly society benefits, and its expenditure on these frequently exceeds that for purely industrial matters. It is usually strongly organized and centralized, and its leaders are expert administrators, industrial diplomats. It finds its strength chiefly among the skilled craftsmen, and bothers little about the well-being of the unskilled and semi-skilled
It jealously guards the entrance gates to employment, and keeps out those who have not been properly trained for efficient work. Humdrum, cautious, with no big vision of a better social order, it seeks results “here and now.
The great majority of unionists are content with this conception of tlre function of their organizations. A little more money, a little more leisure and comfort, a little more freedom, a little more security against the fear of unemployment and the poverty of old age—these are their aspirations.
(2) Opposed to the business idea is that of revolutionary unionism, which asserts that capitalism is the enemy; that the only thing to do is not to make it more bearable, but to overthrow it; that collective bargaining is bad, and keeping agreements worse; that friendly society provisions distract attention from the real task confronting the wage-earners; that, therefore, unionism should concentrate on one object alone--the destructio.1 of capitalism and the establishment of the "co-operative commonwealth." On the precise character of this new commonwealth there is difference of opinion: state socialism, syndicalism, and guild socialism all have their supporters. How the commonwealth is to be realized is a second debatable point; some say by means of sabotage, a revolution, or a general strike; others favour the casting of a solid vote by all unionists at the ballot-box. But all advocates of revolutionary unionism agree that unionism must and can put its full weight into the fight to dethrone capitalism.
Of the thousands of unions in the world to-day only a mere handful are essentially of the revolutionary type, and even these find much of their time occupied in purely business affairs. Business unionism holds the field, but in its ranks are to be found a growing active minority of men of revolutionary views. In Germany the chief unions work hand in hand with the socialist groups. In the United Kingdom the last ten years have seen powerful business unions in the coal mines and, on the railways decide strongly in favour of the nationalization of those industries, and in the United States the American Federation of Labour, a federation of business unions, voted in 1920 in favour of the nationalization of the American railroads. Thus the old-fashioned aim of improvements within the systein is being supplemented: business affairs may still remain the immediate task of labour organizations, but an ultimate ideal of radical social reconstruction has been added.
Structure. Attempts to find the most effective basis of organization occupy a large part of trade union history, and are responsible for some of its most complex problems. In the early stages, two distinct types of structure were adopted—the craft union and the trades union. The craft union "consists of persons following a particular calling or occupation, possessing in common à certain skill, and aiming in common at a certain set of conditions of employment.” (Cole.) Thus plumbers, stonemasons, cigar-makers, weavers, etc., may each have their own separate organizations. “One craft one union.'' In practice this means a multitude of societies, some of which may overlap at points, thus causing constant inter-union friction. To avoid this danger, kindred craft unions amalgamated. For instance, the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, Machinists, Millwrights, Smiths, and Pattern Makers was at its foundation in 1851 a fusion of unions representing separate crafts, and in 1918 it embraced those engaged in over a dozen allied occupations.
The craft union is one extreme of organization; the trades union is the other, in that it endeavours to bring into one huge organization all wageearners, regardless of trade, craft, industry, degree of skill, sex, colour, or other distinction. Such a union appeals to the class-consciousness of all employees, and usually offers some idealistic or revolutionary programme. The all-embracing British unions of the thirties, the Knights of Labour anel the I.W.W. are the outstanding instances of attempts to form trades unions, but their influence on the trade union movement has been small.
Between the two extremes has grown up in the last thirty years the idea of industrial unionism, which advocates the gathering into one union of “all those workers who co-operate in producing a common product or type of product or in rendering a common service, irrespective of the degree of skill which they happen to possess.' (Cole.) Let there be one union for the railways, one for mining, one for building, one for printing, and so on, and let all who work in the industry join hands, regardless of whether they are skilled or not. The three rival bases for organization are thus: (1) the common skill of a trained craft, (2) the common status of all wage-earners, (3) the common interest of all who' work together in the same industry. The second is insignificant: the first and third hold the field, and the third has grown enormously in favour since 1900. It is seen at its best in the big German unions; some Australian unions have adopted the industrial basis-e.g., in the printing and meat industries, and the National Union of Railwaymen in Great Britain has for years been endeavouring to get all railway employees into one organization.
The geographical area covered by unions ranges from the locality to the world. Small local autonomous unions still exist, especially in the United States. But many have either federated or amalgamated into district, national, or international organizations. Some American unions have local branches in Canada or Mexico, and the Amalgamated Society of Engineers in 1918 had 300 branches in the British Dominions and the United States. Steadily the big national union or federation is encroaching on the local independent organizations, and although in 1918 there were over a thousand unions in the United Kingdom, three-quarters of the members were enrolled in twenty-two of them.
Methods. The first effort of every union is to establish collective bargaining, by which the employer will discuss and settle conditions of employment, not with his men individually, or even as a separate group, but through the accredited representative of the union or unions to which his men belong. This involves the recognition of the union by the employer, and the right of an outside official to come in and act on behalf of the employees. Recognition was in many cases granted unwillingly under strong pressure, and some employers, especially in America, refuse even yet to recognize any union whose officials are not their employees. When recognition has been granted, the way is open for the establishment of machinery by which disputes can be submitted to conciliation or arbitration. In most unionized industries labour organizations have their counterpart in employers' associations, and the representatives of the two sides meet in conference. Except in Australia, neither side has relinquished its right to declare war-the strike and the lockout-but the existence of conciliation machinery ensures that in most cases a stoppage of work only comes when prolonged discussion has resulted in a deadlock.
In most countries trade unionists have since 1890 come to believe that the above purely industrial methods might with advantage be supplemented by seeking political power. Hence, whilst continuing with the ordinary work of collective bargaining, unions have endeavoured to secure a big voice in political affairs, and in the framing of legislation which would give the wage-earner better conditions of employment. This has meant the creation of a Labour Party, the expenditure of money on political propaganda, and the formulation of a Labour programme. In Australia this development has reached its highest point, and Australian politics during the last thirty years have been largely influenced by the decision of unionism after 1890 to fight its battles more and more in the political
The success of trade unionism is determined largely by two things—the proportion of wage-earners it represents, and the ability of its leaders. To increase its membership it pursues propaganda campaigns, and endeavours to gain from employers a promise to give preference to unionists, or even to employ unionists only—the “ closed shop,” as the Americans call it. Leadership counts for much, and successful collective bargaining needs permanent officials who are expert in handling a case, diplomatic in negotiation, and strong in time of strife.
Books Recommended.-- Webb, S. & B., “Industrial Democracy,' and • History of Trade Unionism’'; Cole, G. D. H., “World of Labour,” anil “Introduction to Trade Unionism”; Hoxie, R. T., “Trade Unionism in the United States”; Lloyd, C. M., “Trade Unionism.'
THE HISTORY OF TRADE UNIONISM IN GREAT
UNIONISM fought most of its early battles on British soil. There it first encountered the opposition of employers, the state, and the economists. There it met its first difficulties in organization, and evolved å structure and methods which were adopted in most parts of the world.
Beginnings.' Trade unions did not appear in force until about 1790, but all through the 18th century they could be found in a few occupations where capitalist conditions had grown up. For instance, the journeymen in the London felt-making industry in 1696 had a union, which for two). years fought the employers to prevent a reduction of piece rates. In 1720 the London master tailors complained to Parliament that their workmen "toʻthe number of 7,000 and upwards have lately entered into a combination to raise their wages and leave off working an hour sooner than they used to do.” Further, when there was a “hurry of business against the King's Birthday or for making of mourning or wedding garments” the men were insisting on 3/- to 4/- a day, “and at such times some will not work at all, which is a great disappointment to gentlemen and an imposition to the masters, and if suffered to go on must increase the charge of making clothes considerably.” Parliament thereupon declared tailors' unions i. London unlawful associations, and placed the regulation of hours and wages. for the industry in the hands of the justices of the peace.
Similar organizations existed in other parts of the country. The woollen workers of Devon and Somerset were highly organized; in 1729 the weavers of Bristol attacked the house of an obnoxious employer, and had to be repulsed by arms. Some unions simply endeavoured to compel the local justices to observe the Acts of 1563 and 1603, which ordered annual assessments of wages. Others, finding the justices unwilling, took matters into their own hands. The wool-combers’union, for instance, had a comprehensive policy. It began as a friendly society, levying 2d. or 3d. per week on its members for the benefit of sick and unemployed. Then, having gained considerable strength, it began to enforce minimum wages and its members. declined to work for any employer who refused to pay these rates or employed non-unionists. The strike was popular weapon. In 1742 several Leeds cloth-workers were prosecuted on the count that they, being "not content to work and labour at the usual rates,
but falsely and fraudulently conspiring and combining unjustly and oppressively to increase and augment the wages of themselves and others
did with forceand arms unlawfully, riotously, and tumultuously assemble,
and did with like force and arms in a warlike manner,
incite, move, and stir up other journeymen to conspire with them not to make or do their work
at any lower or less rate than 12d. for each day's work, to the great terror of his Majesty's liege subjects, and to the evil example: of all others.'