The Fight for the “Open Shop.”
ISAAC F. MARCOSSON, IN WORLD'S WORK.
The great struggle going on at present between capital and labor centres about the “ open shop.’ It was on this principle that the Chicago teamsters’ strike was fought out, and it is the same principle over which employing printers and the typographical union are now struggling.
TWO years ago no Chicago teamster dared to appear on his waggon without wearing the yellow button of his union, the Teamsters’ Joint Council, which was the largest and most powerful union organization in the city. “As the teamsters go, all labor goes,” was the saying. I stood at Washington and State Streets then and watched them drive by—the arrogant overlords of a great community’s business. A month ago I stood at the same corner. One out of every four teamsters that passed wore the yellow button. It was no longer the badge of a defiant labor autocracy. The fierce strike in the spring had disrupted three teamsters’ “locals” and broken their council’s solid front. A non-union driver can now go through the streets without being assaulted or having his team wrecked. Hundreds of union men do not wear buttons. It was a victory for the open shop, the issue around whose far-flung battle line a great industrial fight is being waged.
What has happened in Chicago is happening in nearly every city in the country. Everywhere the excesses of labor unions and the abuses of their power are being resisted by strong organizations of employers. The employer is no longer the isolated prey of a powerful union. Organization has been met by organization and labor is combated by its own methods. To-day 500 employers ’ and other kindred associations, representing more than 100,000 employers, con-
front organized labor in the struggle for the maintenance of the open shop.
Now what is the open shop1? Ask an employer and he says, “The right of any individual to work where and how he pleases without, restriction or domination.”
Ask a union man and he says, “The weapon for the destruction of the unions—a step to the non-union shop. ’ ’
The tyranny of unionism precipitated the fight for the open shop. Primarily the causes are these.
(1) The restriction of product, which prevented able-bodied men from doing more work than the union rules imposed, often causing widespread idleness in shops and loss to employers.
(2) The limitation of apprentices, which deprived boys of the opportunity to learn trades.
(3) Interference by shop stewards and walking delegates with control of factories.
(4) Contempt for the authority of the employer and the law.
(5) The sympathetic strike, which forced thousands of employers into a contest in which they had no interest.
(6) The boycott, which blacklisted goods made in shops where union labor had been deposed.
The unions used to make joint agreements with employers to do certain things, but principally not to do things. But the “business agents,” paraphrasing a New York politician’s
picturesque remarks about the Constitution, asked, “What is a little thing like an agreement between unions ?’ ’
Thus agreements, principally to refrain from going on sympathetic strikes, were broken. The thraldom of employers and manufacturers is as old as the history of organized labor. They declared that the unions were running their shops and that they had no voice in the cond.uct of their own business. Competition made one employer profit by the labor troubles of his rival. The employers stood wide apart: the union workers stood together. The unions always won. In one year the losses from strikes were estimated at $114,000,000.
Then came the organized revolt. It Began at Dayton, Ohio, known as 1 i the banner town of organized labor.9 9 Strikes had demoralized
business. One day in 1900 the employers asked one another, “Why don’t we organize and fight?” Then they formed the first employers ’ association in the United States; and, in a year, union aggression had ceased and the open shop was a reality. A year later the Employers’ Association of Chicago, the largest and most militant of all associations of employers, was organized. It fought the unions in the stronghold of unionism. Its principles were “the open shop, no sympathetic strikes, no restriction of output, and the enforcement of the law.” But the open shop was the principal issue. The example of Dayton and Chicago was quickly followed in Louisville, Indianapolis and other cities of the Middle West and East.
But they were having labor troubles in the farther West too. The Western Federation of Miners, for example, had run riot in lawlessness in Colorado and street-car operators
were terrorizing towns in Montana. The people, some of whom remembered the days of the Vigilantes, took the law in their own hands. This was the beginning of citizens’ alliances. They, too, made the open shop their battle cry, but instead of being organizations of employers exclusively, they embraced citizens generally and employees. Out of these emergency organizations has grown the Citizens’ Industrial Association of America, now numbering nearly a hundred organizations.
Thus there developed two kinds of agents working for the open shop— the employers’ associations of the East and the citizens’ alliances of the West.
In the meantime, the National Association of Manufacturers, now composed of 3,000 firms and individuals, which had been originally formed to develop our export business, turned its attention to checking what it considered a strong menace to industrial peace—the enactment of a national eight-hour law and the anti-injunction bill, which the American Federation of Labor persistently sought to get through Congress. With the election of Mr. D. M. Parry, of Indianapolis, as president, the Association joined actively in the constantly growing movement against the unions. The fourth important agent was the American Anti-Boycott Association, organized to fight the boycotts instituted by the union hat-makers of Danbury, Conn. It used the injunction instead of the policeman and the strike-breaker, and it was just as effective.
One morning organized labor woke up to. find arrayed against its hitherto impregnable line these four organizations whose members, banded by a common oppression, were dedicated to a mutual purpose —to curb the ex-
cesses of unionism and to secure the open shop. Let us see what they have done.
You will remember that the Chicago union teamsters (they number 35,000) had dominated the situation there and been a menace to its industrial peace and prosperity. But they are not so powerful now. Go to Sixteenth Street and Wabash Avenue, and you will see a big brick buildingwith a sign_‘1 Employers ' Teaming Com-
pany." Every day 150 teams come and go. The drivers wear no yellow buttons. Posted in a dozen places throughout the barn are these rules, the Chicago employers' declaration of industrial independence.
“Drivers at this stable must report for duty to the superintendent in charge and perform such work as he may direct.
“Any interference or discrimination of one driver against another by reason of his belonging or not belonging to any organization shall be considered cause for the discharge of the driver making such interference or discrimination.
“Absence from duty without giving a satisfactory reason or securing permission from the superintendent in charge, will be considered sufficient cause for dismissal from the service.
“Proof that any driver has unnecessarily obstructed the free movement of any conveyance on the streets will be considered sufficient cause for the discharge of such a driver.
“Drivers will not expose upon their person any button, badge, or pin, as they are objectionable to the employer. ' ’
The Employers' Teaming Company which was formed during the last teamsters' strike, has become a permanent business institution. Its teams, which went through the storm of bullets and bricks then, now move
unmolested in any part of Chicago. Its incorporators are all members of the Chicago Employers' Association and include such firms as Marshall Field & Company and Montgomery Ward & Company. It owns 150 teams and nearly 400 horses. It is open shop from end to end.
“We could do three times as much business if we had the teams," said the manager, Mr. E. L. Reed.
The Employers' Teaming Company has placed in the hands of the Chicago employers a powerful weapon for defence in strikes. Before it was organized, they were at the mercy of the union teamsters, the aggressors in nearly every labor disturbance. When they struck, business was tied up. Now the employers have only to increase their own teaming force to be independent and to keep their business moving.
Take the clothing trade, one of Chicago's largest industries, for another example. Three years ago all the shops were closed. Now they are all open, displaying this card:
1 ‘ Vv e run open shops free from union dictation, business agents, and shop stewards, where the best workmen receive the best pay."
There are peace and prosperity in the clothing industry in Chicago today. You don't see signs outside the shops, “Cutters wanted" or “Coat hands wanted," for the employers have their own labor bureaus. We shall see presently what these labor bureaus do.
Three years ago the machinists of Chicago were forcing agreements on the metal trades, 1 ‘ that only members of their union should be employed." To-day every machinist employed by a member of the Chicago Metal Trades Association signs an individual agreement, agreeing to work in an open shop and asking that there
be no discrimination against the union.
Go into any machine shop of the Chicago Metal Trades Association (and their membership is five-sixths of all the shops), and you will see the open-shop rules hanging where every man can see them. Among them are these:
“There shall be no restriction of the opportunities for deserving boys to learn a trade in this shop.
“There shall be no arbitrary limitation of the amount of work a workman or a machine may turn out in a day. We will not countenance any conditions which are not fair and which do not insure a good wage to a good workman.”
The~first is aimed at the union limitation of apprentices, the union contention being all along “that it is not fair to train too many skilled men.” At one union’s limited rate of training apprentices, it was estimated that the craft would die out in fifty years ! The second clause prevents restriction of output. There is no scarcity of men, because the Chicago Metal Trades Association maintains a labor bureau.
What has happened to the metal trades had happened with the brass workers. The brass manufacturers got tired of 1 ( restricted output, ’ ’ and they organized themselves and declared for the open shop. The union struck: their officers and the “business agent” are still out, but many of the men are back at work, in open shops.
The Carriage and Waggon Makers’ Union had a strong organization. When the employers were rushed with orders, the men decided to make excessive demands. The employers met them with blank refusal.
“We must keep these shops open and running,” they said. They lent
each other men to do it. They filled each other’s orders. There was cooperation among competitors. But they w7on, and their shops to-day are open. Every employee signs an agreement which contains this clause:
“We, the undersigned employees
of--, hereby agree to continue in
their employ and faithfully and intelligently to work for them to the best of our ability, and to their best interests, until December 31, 1905. We also agree not to unite with other, employees in any concerted action with a view to securing shorter hours, greater compensation, or interfering with the free conduct of the business of said--, in any manner.”
Agreements still prevail between employer and employee, but they differ from the kind that the unions used to force.
A dozen other cases might be cited where the open shop has been established in Chicago. It includes the sash and door manufacturers, the packers, the master cleaners and dyers, the paint dealers, the furniture manufacturers, the cigar manufacturers, and the paper-box makers. In each of these organizations the employers are strongly organized and behind them is the Employers’ Association, which has grown from thirtytwo members in 1902 to 2,000 to-day. It has made every employer’s fight its own fight. It fought and won the fight against the teamsters. Its work summed up is this: It has secured the open shop in establishments employing 114,740 men. It has a free employment bureau.
I asked Mr. Frederick W. Job, secretary of the association, how the fight would be continued, and he said : “The efforts of the association will be largely for the further establishment of the open shop and the elimination of the principle of the limita-
tion of output and of apprentices. In 90 per cent, of the industrial conHicts during the past four years, the open shop has won. We believe that the open shop is merely the embodiment of President Roosevelt’s apt expression, ‘a square deal, no more, no less.’ ”
But what is union labor in Chicago doing in the face of this battering? Two years ago, after a swift campaign, provoked by the activity of the Employers’ Association, the membership of the Chicago Federation of Labor was 250,000. To-day it is scarcely 200,000.
“How is organizing coming on?”
I asked District Organizer Fitzpatrick, who in one year added 40,000 members to the Federation.
“Fot much doing now,” he said.
“Why?” I asked.
“It’s hard to organize after losing strikes,” he said.
Chicago’s domination by organized labor has for many years been duplicated in San Francisco. They have no employers’ association to oppose it. Instead, there is an aggressive citizens’ alliance, with 17,000 members. In an election for mayor in which the two leading parties were sharply divided, the union labor candidate was elected. Then unionism ran riot. Everything and everybody was unionized. The newsboys, the sandwich vendors, even the girls who sold chewing gum on the street, were organized. Civil service in municipal affairs gave way to the closed shop. Then the Alliance got to work, and a change came, especially on the water front, where every man who worked or loafed belonged to some organization.
A vast business is done on the water front. Ships come and go from a hundred ports. One day a big ship came in from Tacoma, where there
was a strike among the stevedores. Its cargo had been loaded by nonunion men. The San Francisco stevedores refused to unload it. Then, the ship owners said: “We will have it anyhow.” They drove the union men from the docks and guarded the nonunion men who went to work. This uprising resulted in the Water Front Association, composed of every employer Avith interests in a ship or shipping. To-day they maintain an open shop.
The opposition to union domination has reached the point in San Francisco when the Democrats and the Republicans put aside their party differences and fuse to defeat the union labor candidates.
Then there is the case of Los Angeles, where General Harrison Gray Otis fought and Avon a notable fight for the open shop in his paper, the Los Angeles Times. Without provocation, the International Typographical Union declared a strike. General Otis says, “It Avas not for Avages but for the control of our business and the domination of our property.” He had been a soldier and he resisted boycott, picket, and the combined attacks of the allied labor strength of the Coast. He filled his shop Avith non-union men. they are still there, and the paper is more prosperous than ever.
This is the employers’ and citizens’ spirit that is sweeping the whole state. The fourteen California Citizens’ Alliances have organized a State Federation which meets once a year.
We have seen Avhat has happened in Chicago and San Francisco. HOAV about Few York, Avliere for years unionism has been strongly entrenched and where the walking delegate has been a dictator?
It is first necessary to understand
these conditions: In Chicago the unskilled (and therefore more ignorant) workers dominate labor councils, while in New York the skilled and more intelligent workers are in the majority. Hence the situation in New York has been more difficult to handle. But the story of what the New York Metal Trades Association did to the Marine Trades Council is typical of the new conditions.
The Marine Trades Council is (or was) composed of the walking delegates of the unions working in the shipyards about New York. Chief among them was the Brotherhood of Boilermakers and Iron Ship Builders. They tyrannized the employers, for example, by doing half a job on a ship that had a contract to be ready to carry the mails under penalty for lack of promptness, and then they made an excessive demand. The ship builder or owner was helpless. He was obliged to yield. But they became tired of this domination and organized the New York Metal Trades Association, composed of men and firms who build and repair ships and manufacture boilers, engines, and machine tools. They declared for the open shop, but did not discriminate against any man who belonged to an organization. Then trouble began. The boilermakers demanded that the Townsend-Downey Ship Building Company should discharge two nonunion men. The employer refused and the Metal Trades Association took up his fight and backed up his refusal. A sympathetic strike was called and 3,128 workmen went out because of the two non-union employees. The employers found out that the walking delegates had lied to the men by telling them that it was a strike against the introduction of piece work and longer hours. Then they printed a statement of the facts
and put it' in the pay envelopes of the strikers. This presentation of the real __cause of the strike, and the aggressiveness of the employers in replacing men, raised such a protest in their “locals” that the strike was called off, but only after the employers had forced an agreement that they might employ and discharge any employee whom they saw fit and would permit no interference by walkingdelegates with the men while at work. But when the agreement expired, there was a demand for a closed shop, which was promptly met by a refusal; and the boilermakers struck. Then the employers established a labor bureau and filled the places of the strikers with non-union men. They are still at work, and alongside of them are as many of the former strikers as have been able to get jobs. The walking delegate who precipitated the strike himself applied to the bureau for a place!
What is the result? To-day there is peace in the metal trades.
The business agent (or walking delegate) has been eliminated from interference with the men.
The Boilermakers7 Union is practically disrupted.
Restriction of output has been abolished.
The right of the employer to distribute and to control his employees is recognized.
The open shop is in force in every metal trades establishment.
The Marine Trades Council exists only on paper.
In the New York building trades, the walking delegate is not as powerful to-day as he was when Sam Parks and his colleagues of the “Entertainment Committee” were rioting on money extorted from contractors. The building trades in New York and elsewhere are strongly unionized and
the closed shop prevails. But two significant things have happened.
The firms and individuals who build houses form the Building Trades Employers’ Association. All labor disputes between its members and the building trades unions are now referred to what is known as the Arbitration Board of the New York Building Trades, of which Mr. Samuel 3. Donnelly, a union man, is secretary. Formerly the New York building contractors made agreements with groups of unions; now they are made with single unions. It is a step toward negotiation with the individual. But —what is more important—in all the agreements now in force the walking delegate cannot do what Sam Parks and his kind did—hold the threat of a tie-up over a contractor until he should pay a big share of his profits for graft. In fact, the walking delegate has become what lie was originally intended to be, merely the business agent of a union looking after its interests in a legitimate way.
The result may be summed up in a sentence: There has not been an important strike in the New York building trades for a year.
But all the fight for the open shop is not by employers’ associations and kindred organizations. A way has been found through the courts. The case of Barry vs. Donovan is one in point. Barry was a shoe worker in the factory of Hazen B. Goodrich, at Haverhill, Mass. Donovan was the walking delegate of the Boot and Shoe Workers’ Union. He made a closed shop agreement with Goodrich. Barry was ordered to join the union but he refused. He lost his job. Then he sued Donovan for damages for the loss of his place and got a verdict. The court held that Donovan had no right to induce an employer to dis-
charge an employee. It was an important precedent.
The now famous decision of Judge Holdom of Chicago on the Kellogg Switchboard & Supply Company strike, declaring picketing unlawful and a sympathetic strike a conspiracy, is a precedent successfully used in contests with unions during strikes. In three-fourths of the Chicago strikes, injunctions have been secured restraining strikers from interfering with non-union men on the ground that it was a conspiracy to prevent work. These injunctions áre enforced. Hence the anti-injunction bill which the American Federation of Labor has tried hard to put through Congress. This bill, in the opinion of Mr. James M. Beck, chief counsel of the American Anti-Boycott Association, “legalized conspiracies” between unions but made it impossible to enjoin them.
The steady growth of litigation unfavorable to the unions, and the ability of employers’ organizations successfully to oppose their favorite measures at Washington (where the unions on account of the pressure of the “labor vote” heretofore have been powerful), are signs of progress toward a restraint of unions.
You will have observed that nearly every strike ending in a victory for the open shop has been followed by the establishment of a labor bureau. The union men call it a black-list agency, because it keeps a check on a man’s records, but employers have found it very useful. The National Metal Trades Association, in which practically all the local Metal Trades Associations are affiliated, furnishes a good example. It runs open shops. Therefore it cannot draw its men from the unions directly, and labor bureaus (which are employment agencies) have been established in a
dozen large cities. Take Chicago for example. The office is known as the Association Employment Bureau. Any man of good character wanting a job in the metal trades can apply there and in four out of five cases he secures work free of charge. He is required to give a complete record of himself, including the reasons why he left the shops where he was formerly employed. All the facts about him are put on a card which is kept in a permanent card catalogue. The secretary of the agency makes an investigation of the man’s record. If it is found correct, he is given a card to an employer needing men. In this way the employers find out who the disturbers are, and they are kept out of the shops. Last year the Chicago labor bureau of the metal trades had 4,850 applicants and 3,000 men got jobs. No fee is charged in any of the bureaus.
The free employment bureau of the Chicago Employers’ Association furnishes jobs for more than half the applicants. In hundreds of large stores and factories this sign is displa3Ted: “Preference given to people having cards from the Employers’ Association Employment Bureau.”
But Avhat is more important, the various metal trades labor bureaus in different cities are kept in touch Avith one another. If a man applying in Kansas City lies about the reason Avhy he left a job there, he is sure to be found out if he applies in Nerv York. The secretaries of bureaus have formed the Labor Bureau Secretaries’ League. Mr. Henry C„ Hunter, commissioner of the New York Metal Trades Association, is its president.
If a strike is threatened, for instance in the NOAV York metal trades, Mr. Hunter can send a telegram to every labor bureau secretary, asking him to rush men to NeAV York. In
tAventy-four hours a hundred boilermakers Avould be on their Avay from Kansas City, St. Louis, Chicago, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, and a dozen other places. These labor bureaus all have competent men at their disposal.
These bureaus are an effective Aveapon against strikes. They have proved to the unions that the employers are no longer at their mercy, and that there is always a force of efficient men ready to be rushed to the union vacancies. It has made leaders cautious about calling men out. Formerly they called a strike and then considered the grievance. Now they consider the grievance carefully before ordering out the men, because these men have learned from experience that it is often difficult to get back, and Avhen they return they must return to an open shop.
The non-union man is a large issue in the fight for the open shop. Who is he? The employer says that he is any individual AVIIO wants to sell his labor as he sees fit. The unionist says that he is a “scab” and “a strikebreaker. ’ ’
There are good non-union men and bad non-union men just as there are good unions and bad unions. The good kind are not “strike-breakers,” but decent citizens who want to work without restraint, and who sometimes cannot afford to pay union dues and assessments. The campaign for the open&l; shop protects such as these. But strikes haATe produced strike-breakers of the type employed by Mr. James Farley, “the professional strike-breaker.” They are the bad kind, to Avhom unions refer as “the scabs ahvays looking for a decent man’s job.” They comprise the labor adventurers (no more “crooked,” to be sure, than grafting Avalking delegates), most of whom are men chronically without jobs, and often
without countries, willing to go where there is danger.
There is the same distinction between the unions as between the men. For example, the Brotherhood of
Locomotive Engineers requires character as a requisite to membership as well as ability to handle a throttle; the men of the Teamsters’ Union are of a much lower grade.