Tom Moore, Safety Valve of Labor
To navigate Canadian organized labor through industrial seas requires a wise head and a strong hand on the helm. Such a man is Tom Moore, who has held the deck for nearly eight years.
NORMAN REILLY RAINE
AN UGLY snarling mob packed a large, well-lighted hail in far
away Vancouver, shortly after
the Winnipeg strike of the One Big Union, nearly six years ago. Labor conditions throughout the West were unsettled at the time, and factional battles were frequent. A speaker was expected in the hall that afternoon to speak on Canadian labor problems, and when he arrived the mob was going to ride him with all the venom it could muster.
The speaker-to-be was Tom Moore, president of the Trades and Labor Congress of Cqnada, and he told me the story a few weeks ago in my room in an Ottawa hotel, with the winter light failing in the long windows, and the laughter of ski-ers, returned to the city after a day on the hills, carving into relief his quiet voice. He sat back in his chair, his rather heavy face a blur, and the quick glow of his cigar punctuated his words.
“Down on the street the crowd swarmed about the door, but the place was crammed and no more could get in. With two companions I approached and heard snatches of conversation which gave me an idea of what was in store. But I had been invited to speak, and I was going to speak if it was humanly possible. We found another entrance at the back of the building, and climbed dusty stairs to the hall.
“When we appeared on the platform a roar went up; a hard, angry roar. Those men in front of us were bent on trouble. There were wharf rats, thugs, ‘reds,’ professional labor agitators, women, some ordinarily drawn from the street through curiosity, and a few working men. There were not many of the latter, though. They were not wanted, and the watch on the door was strict.
“We sat down. Immediately a dozen men, great uglylooking fellows, got up carrying their chairs, and planted themselves in front of the door through which we had come, effectively blocking our exit. That was the Red Guard.
“The chairman arose to introduce me and brought forth a hurricane of boos, hisses, whistling, stamping and jeers. I got to my feet and despite the noise began to speak. Starting from the back of the hall and carrying forward like the undertone of a gale the audience gave a concerted ‘stage moan’—that deep, menacing, organized growl from a hostile mob which is the most unnerving thing a public speaker has to face.
“I waited until it quietened a bit, then tried again. Same result. The crowd was working itself into a frenzy, and I wondered what the end would be. Screams, yells, taunts, and again and again that moan, shook the room.
I sat down and waited.
A Ticklish Moment
“r\lRECTLY in front of me sat a crippled soldier, his face wan and hollow-cheeked in the electric light; obviously a neurotic. Mob psychology had him in its grip like one of those Eastern drugs which incite to destructive fury. He licked his lips, his hands worked, and his eyes burned with fanatical light. He fastened his gaze on me when the uproar was at its height then, as though drawn out of his chair by some invisible power, got up and crept toward me, body hunched, tense for a spring. Closer he came. The hall became hushed and every mind concentrated on him; at his back was the potential violence of the mob.
“My brain was working fast to meet the situation. I knew he would go for me, but I didn’t want to hit the lad. He was frail of body and out of mental control. Yet I knew that if he laid hands on me the audience would finish us. All this time his eyes were fixed on mine, and as our glances locked I summoned every mental faculty to combat him. Slowly he crept on, and again that terrifying moan swept the hall. His eyes bored straight into mine and he advanced until he was but a foot or two away. Then, by sheer domination of will, I held him. It was one of the tensest moments of my life. He stopped, his eyes wavered, and he began slowly to retreat. He was beaten.
“I waited until he was seated, then turned to my two companions. ‘Come on,’ I said, ‘we’re going to get out of here.’ We walked boldly toward the Red Guard which blocked the door. ‘Get to hell out o’ that and let us through!’ I ordered roughly. They made way without a word, and we passed to the street unmolested.’’
Mr. Moore turned his eyes to the window where the amber lights of the city were beginning to prick out the night.
T have told you that simply as an example of the extremist mob psychology which hates conservative labor. It was a remarkable escape for us, but I think the units of that crowd were under an almost trance-like influence. They were centered on the actions of that boy
and their passive attitude at the end was a reflex of his own impotency. We managed to take advantage of it before a reaction took place.”
“Have you had many such experiences, when addressing labor audiences?” I asked.
“That wasn't a labor audience!” he replied, swiftly. “That was a mob, organized for riot. I had an experience somewhat similar in Winnipeg once, but the interest in that episode lies mainly in what clever newspaper reporters can do when they are after a story. The same sort of noisy reception met me in the hall, and it was impossible to make a connected speech. However, I finished what I wanted to say, although quite sure no one had heard a word. To my surprise the Winnipeg papers ran an account that was almost verbatim. The explanation came later. Four reporters, seeing the kind of deal the crowd was giving me, took down all that each could hear; they met after the thing was over, and by sharing and piecing what each had got, they secured a coherent report of the whole thing.”
The Road to Success
TV/fRMOORE, who is forty seven years old. com^ -*■ menced working at the carpenter trade in England when only twelve and one-half years of age, and followed it out through the first few years of his manhood. He came to Canada about twenty years ago, with a wife and
family, a will to work for what he got, ^ ^ and very little else. Although now the
chief of organized labor in the Dominion he vigorously resents an imputation that he has accomplished anything out of the common.
“The opportunity was, and is. here in Canada,” said he. “By that I don’t mean that a newcomer’s progress won’t be affected by adverse industrial conditions, but, given average times, and willingness on the part of the man to take what job he can get for the time being and adjust himself to the country rather than trying to adjust the country to his old mode of life and thought, and if he’s really earnest about it he will get on. Thousands have done it and are doing it to-day.”
“Where did you settle first?” I asked.
“Niagara Falls, Ontario. We got a nice little house, and paid only twelve dollars a month rent.” He smiled. “Times have changed. I was at the Falls not long ago and saw the house. It is nearly twenty years older than when I first rented it—and the owner’s getting fifty dollars a month for it.
“Yes, I went right into my trade,” he replied, in answer to another question. “I was a carpenter and joiner and, having had some experience with organized labor in England I joined the local union and got steady work. I was elected to various offices, and served for about two years as business agent for the carpenters in the Niagara district. In 1911 I was made general organizer for the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, working mostly in Ontario. For eight years I carried on with this, until, in 1918, I was made president of the Trades and Labor Congress of Canada at the Quebec convention and have held that position continually since.” Solidness, sanity of outlook, and a shrewd common sense, rather than rhetorical brilliance, are Mr. Moore’s outstanding characteristics—although he can express himself pungently and with force when required. That explains, perhaps, why he was elected a Director of the Canadian National Railways in 1922, and why his advice is sought throughout the breadth of the Dominion by employers who have the true welfare of their workmen at heart.
Mr. Moore relates, with amusement, an incident connected with his position as C.N.R. director. A dinner was given at which all of the directors were present, “and,” says he, “on each side, across, and all about me were men whose private fortunes ranged from two million to thirty million dollars. They discussed labor from the viewpoint of capitalists with the utmost frankness, and spoke of thousands of dollars as casually as you or I would talk of cents, never for a moment dreaming that the man who sat beside them and listened more than he spoke was not one in the same affluent circumstances as themselves, and had stored up more experience than worldly goods.”
Influence of Labor
\yíR. MOORE is in close touch with labor movements and developments abroad as well as in Canada, and it is due to the effort of the Trades and Labor Congress under his direction, that the Canadian Federal statutes for the benefit of labor are so numerous.
“It is discouraging, though,” said he, “to see the way in which legislation which has been introduced from time to time and put into operation has been slashed about by succeeding governments. The Federal grant for experimental farming, for instance, which had unlimited possibilities for good, was abolished last year. The Technical Education grant is still on the statutes—a passive measure. The Dominion Housing Act was done away with. The Good Roads Program buck was passed back to the provinces. The Employment Service Council was born, but a minimum of obligation was carried out and it was abolished just when it did show some promise of development, and there are recent signs of a tendency to curtail the work of the National Health Department and the advisory council. All of those things are of interest to labor which, more than people realize, is fighting to maintain a national entity against forces which tend to disintegrate the country.”
Under further questioning he went on:
“Canadian labor has done much, especially during the post-war period, to maintain stability in Canada—both in industry and in our institutions. One of the most serious situations was that semi-revolutionary outbreak of 1919 in Winnipeg, fostered and led by the One Big Union. The madness of this outbreak was apparent to labor generally, and its failure mainly was due to the refusal of organized labor to countenance it. The state must govern. An attack, even on one lone policeman in any town, is a direct challenge to our citizens, and a challenge which must be met by the whole armed force of the State if necessary. The action of the Executive of the Continued on page 70
Tom Moore, Safety Valve of Labor
Continued from page 15
Trades and Labor Congress in repudiating the movement in that crisis not only hastened the end of the trouble but also saved the workers their organizations, some of which had become badly shattered.”
Checking the “Reds”
“TTÔW would you propose to control 11 the activities of vicious minorities?” I asked.
Mr. Moore’s jaw shot forward.
“By rigorous and pitiless publicity as to their aims and methods and by removal, so far as is practicable, of conditions which give the glaze of plausibility to their extremist claims, and make them attractive to the workers.”
“How do working and living conditions in Canada to-day compare with those of twenty years ago,” I asked.
“Conditions have changed in so many ways that it is hard to draw a detailed comparison,” he replied. “Years ago, wages were much lower, but money had greater buying power, so that relatively the men were better off then. To-day working conditions are better by far, and there is a greater measure of safety, particularly in industries in which machinery is used, but with this greater efficiency the worker has lost most of the old intimate contact with those at the head of the concern, and adjustment of industrial disputes has become more and more impersonal, and correspondingly harder to settle amicably.”
He paused and studied his cigar ash for a moment, then went on with slow deliberation.
“You know . . . that point about the lessened buying power of a working man’s wage has far-reaching effects; I mean, effects beyond the phase of counter spending. Years ago a man, even though his pay was smaller, could look forward to something. It was possible to save, and it didn’t need a great deal to marry and set up a home. But now . . . ” he gestured expressively, “everything seems against the young fellow with domestic ideas. The price of furniture and other necessities appals him. He figures up how long it will take him to get what he would require and, when the discouraging result faces him thinks, ‘oh, what’s the use?’ and spends his money in pleasure. If he does marry it’s probable that he’ll begin the voyage in a furnished room. This all makes for instability in our social system, to match the uncertainty of industry. Mind you, I’m not a calamity howler, but there are certain issues which must be faced squarely if they are to be remedied.
Problem of Modern Youth
“X/'OUNG people of to-day are afraid
1 to analyze the future. I am speaking now of the great working class. They are not sure of their jobs. They will not serve an arduous apprenticeship at low pay when they see their friends enjoying life and spending money. They want to be in the swim because they see nothing definite ahead.”
"What is the remedy?” I asked. His brow wrinkled.
“It is easy tosay what the matter is but
not so simple to suggest remedies without recommending a Utopian program which would upset all organized industry. Undoubtedly, however, a return to a mean average of demand and production instead of the fluctuation of the past few years would help. Steady work provides a foundation upon which a man dares build. A return, too, to the old personal touch between worker and employer would help. It is that cold, machine-like indifference to the human side of a worker’s like which infuriates him when things go wrong. Of course,” he cautioned, “the fault is not all on one side. My experience has taught me that there is good and bad in all classes. Environment and individual personality have a lot to do with things. There are many employers who, if they could, would do everything possible for the people in their plants, but .conditions will not allow them.
“Modern business breeds queer inconsistencies, and many employers develop a sort of double standard of humanitarianism—one for business and the other for private life. A man will consider it his duty to show a profit in his business and often will force himself to a policy in accomplishing this which is absolutely at variance with his true nature. This nature then finds an outlet in private philanthropy. Particularly is this condition true among the officials of some big corporations where interlocking interests make it impossible to put into practice the bettered working conditions which would come about if their individual hands were free. Those willing to give the best to the workers often not only are in a minority but wage a bitter uphill fight against their associates, in trying to better things. Not all workers are willing to admit that this type of employer exists, but it is true enough. It is an error for workers to assume that they have no believers in their aims and policies, and no friends among the employing class, even though outward appearances might lead them to think so.”
The Changing Order
RE there no changes among em ployers, too?"
“Certainly. Not long ago I was in the office of the highest executive of a large Canadian corporation. Some detail arose, and it became necessary to consult one of his subordinates. He didn’t push a button and have the man brought in to him. He said, ‘Let’s go out and see what J— has to say about it.’ In the old days, even with a closer personal relationship between bosses and workers, it would have been considered beneath the dignity of a president of a company to seek his junior; but there is growing in big business a realization that high position is a trust and does not give one the right to be arbitrary and indifferent to the convenience of others.”
A chance remark on industrial “drifters” brought quick comment from the labor leader.
“The drifter is a vital economic necessity,” said he emphatically. “People generally seem to regard the man who drifts Continued on page 72
Continued from page 70 about in seasonal occupation as a sort of social outcast, a tramp, whereas, without him, there would be a serious slowing up of our industrial and agricultural machine. Where would the prairie farmers be without him—or the Great Lakes shipping—or any one of a dozen industries that could be named! He keeps the ball rolling all through the summer months, and generally is a hard and conscientious worker. In the fall he drifts, naturally, to the cities to look for a job. If he is unsuccessful he finds himself in a bad way. The municipalities will have nothing to do with him—he is not a resident; the provincial government is unsympathetic, and the federal authorities view him unfavorably because he is not a tax payer. So he is left to shift for himself. That is why the ‘reds’ find him fertile soil for their propaganda, or he lands in jail farms and like places on a charge of vagrancy. Circumstances have stigmatized him and he cannot fight back.”
The Immigrant Canada Needs
HOW does Canadian labor regard immigration from Europe?”
“We will welcome any man who comes to Canada willing to work for what he gets, who respects our laws and institutions and tries to identify himself with the life of the country. If he will not do these things, Canadian labor does not want him. By the way, that brings up another point—or rather, a development of this one.
“A few years ago a strike in the woodworking industry occurred in one of the largest industrial centres in Ontario. Each morning, before the situation could be discussed intelligently, it was necessary to translate the proceedings into Italian, French, Yiddish and German, and on another occasion, during an attempt to organize labor in a big industrial plant hand-bills were distributed among the workers printed in nearly a dozen foreign languages. In the mining camps it frequently has been necessary to form subgroups in the Union, each of its own nationality. The war debarred the use of many of these languages and so wrought a great good, but much remains to be done before these people can be regarded as Canadians. It is one of the most important tasks that organized labor has taken up. We are doing our utmost to bring to the foreign-born members of our unions the ideals of Canadian citizenship and the responsibilities as well as the privileges which go with it.”
“Do these people appreciate what you
are doing? I mean, do they respond to it?” “In the majority of cases, yes. You may have noted before that the most virulent and dangerous radicals in Canada to-day are not middle-Europeans— ‘guineas,’ ‘wops’ and so on, as the unthinking call them. They are British-born, and not the least mischief they work is in the example they set to the foreigners in Canada’s army of labor. One of the present weaknesses in our national life is the carelessness and lack of appreciation with which we regard the strangers within our borders. To give due credit to those not of British blood should not be considered unpatriotic or lessening to Canada’s dignity. Among the two million or more French-speaking peoples and others, whose racial origin is not British, there will be found just as keen a desire to maintain Canada as part of the Empire, as with those of British blood.
Labor and World Ideals
IDEALS tending to the welfare of nations are international, and basically the same. A few years ago I attended a meeting of the League of Nations at Geneva. Gathered there were labor representatives of practically every country on the globe, and the most significant point to me was the absolute unanimity with which these people, gathered from all the far corners of the earth and with such widely divergent ideals, languages and customs, defined what should constitute the fundamentals of fair treatment and proper working conditions for labor. French, Africans; Belgians, Hindus, Chinese, Nordics, Malays, Japanese—all were united in this, and their views were formed before we came together. The keynote was co-operation between man and employer. There you have it—a mutual willingness to understand and concede!”
Tom Moore arose and reached for his coat, and donning it looked over toward where the Canadian parliament buildings bulked, blue and gray against the winter
“The lesson I am still learning is this,” he said, at length. “Have toleration for the views of others, even when they are most antagonistic; give to every man his just say; seek for points of contact instead of disagreement. If these simple things were adopted in letter and spirit by the workers and employers of this country, unrest would vanish, the work of confederation would be complete and we would have, not nine separate provinces politically allied, but a Canada, unified, happy and industrially content.”