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side to it, which makes the child welfare problem international. The fact that fifty-five states have agreed that the League should treat the question as international shows that those states have seen very far into the future. Surely the question of child welfare is international, for if any nation fails to give its children what they should have, if any nation leaves in the minds of its children the specter of ugliness and squalor and neglect, not the poppy of hard work nor the mandragora of mass recreation, not the press, nor the church, nor politics, nor even peace treaties will be able to medicine the evil in later life. If you leave your child with those specters you are cutting off your later man and woman from all those beneficent and healing influences which make for national welfare, for international peace. These fifty-five states which are working on these international problems are seeing that cooperation is the only chance for a peaceful world in the future. Those states have seen child welfare as not only a national but an international problem, and are perhaps trying to answer that question asked many thousands of years ago, "Lord, am I my brother's keeper?”
INTERNATIONAL SOCIAL ACTION IN INDUSTRY
Leifur Magnusson, American Representative, International
The various forms of international social activity of today constitute the modern crusade. Waged with perhaps less zeal and sensationalism, the crusade of today has not the dramatic effect of the ancient crusades. There is none of the military spirit, but much of the spirit of cooperation and good will. There is a greater understanding and a larger basis of knowledge and fact behind the social crusades of today. Crusades of today are organized and intelligent. For it was one of the great achievements of the post-war settlements that the world did organize itself for the carrying on of a great moral and social crusade. Subject to and under an international agreement entered into, the nations of the world declared their purpose to secure and maintain fair and humane conditions of labor for men, women, and children, and that they would establish and maintain the necessary international organization for the purpose in hand.
The International Labor Organization, I need hardly say, falls into that group of social organizations whose purpose is preventive rather than remedial. The problem of labor legislation is that of restricting the activities of the two distinct economic groups of employers and workers. It is still a question of preventing the freedom of bargaining power between them becoming oppressive to the weaker of the two. And it cuts both ways, preventing an unscrupulous employer from unfairly outcompeting a fellow-employer, and a hard-pressed necessitous workingman from lowering the standards of life and comfort of his fellowworkingmen. Labor legislation is designed essentially to prevent oppressive and usurious conditions of work and of business competition.
Internationalizing the problem has had no effect upon its essential nature so long as all the world's a market and all the men and women merely factors in production. Each country with its factories and workers is as a single plant with its hands in relation to another unit establishment. Each plant and each country is competing for markets, and bidding for labor, and inviting capital investments. Other things being equal, labor tends to move to the country of high wages and capital to the land of highest real return. That, indeed. is the reason why we have problems of migration to face. Why, for example, are Mexican laborers flocking into this country? To raise the question is to answer it. To what extent, again, are our restrictive immigration laws, preventing the outflow of the restless and unemployed, the cause of unrest and its resulting Fascism in Italy? To what extent have our laws been the cause of the Irish Revolution and the consequent freedom of Ireland? All very interesting and intriguing questions.
In their economic relations with one another, the fifty-six nations comprising the International Labor Organization face the same problem of commercial competition as do the forty-eight states of the American Union. Omitting for the time being consideration of tariff barriers separating those nations, it is true, other things being equal, that Great Britain finds herself in difficulties if she attempts to vary the hours of labor in her coal-mining industry without consideration as to what Germany or France may do in the matter. It is the same problem which in the past has caused so much heartburning among our northern textile states in advancing their standards of social legislation in the face of continued low standards in the southern area of the textile industry. The steel industry of this country was wont to say that it could not change from the twelvehour to the eight-hour shift because of adverse competition from the steel industry of Western Europe. Indeed, it was not until that industry was convinced that the European industry was universally on a three-shift system following the war that it was induced to accept that standard. Social reformers have always had to meet the difficulty of raising social standards in one area of industry without bringing about a corresponding shift, or an approach to the higher standard at least, in the depressed area. Social workers and reformers have recognized the difficulty caused by these differences in levels of well-being; the economist and the accountant have termed it the labor differential; employers whose business has become stable and immobile have termed it unfair competition; while those who have new capital to invest and new markets to build up recognize it as cheap labor and low production costs; society in time must recognize it as industrial exploitation of a most insidious character.
In the past the situation has been met by tariff legislation and restrictions on the movement of population, immigration laws, passport barriers, and the like. But tariffs, of course, have had no effect upon it because it has well been said that the higher the barrier to mount, the greater incentive to exploit labor in the other country to produce cheap goods to get over that barrier. Again, in
so far as it is a question of distribution of a joint product of industry, it is essentially a conflict between the two factors in industry, the worker and the employer. Obviously that conflict will go on behind tariff walls and remain unaffected by such barriers.
The solution of the difficulty through immigration restriction is again, of course, equally temporary in its effect, and equally futile. Production of goods and services must, and does, go on. If the labor cannot be brought to the place of natural resources, equipment, then liquid capital, being relatively free and mobile, will move to the place where labor is and, within limits, transport thither raw materials necessary for the processes of manufacture. By immigration restriction America no doubt temporarily has made the country a closed labor market by making labor scarce with a consequent increase in its price. But American capital is going abroad rapidly and extensively. The goods which will be manufactured with the aid of that capital will come in competition with those manufactured in the domestic markets. Thus the standard of living of other countries is brought directly into conflict with the American standard. All the forces of the industrial world are brought to work toward lowering, if not undermining, that American standard.
There is, of course, another phase to this beside the decently proper economic one. Sometime and somewhere conditions of life and labor may become so oppressive as to lead to unrest and internal revolution. It is this fact that the instrument creating the Labor Organization has in mind when it refers to inhumane conditions of labor as likely to imperil the peace and harmony of the world. And then it goes on to appeal to the social conscience of the world, and enunciates those crusading principles upon which the whole Organization rests—the eight-hour day; regulation of the labor supply; prevention of unemployment; provision of an adequate living wage; protection of the worker against sickness, disease, and injury arising out of employment; protection of children, young persons, and women; provision for old age and injury; protection of workers' interests when employed in other countries than their own; recognition of principle of freedom of association; organization of vocational and technical education; and other principles.
Now, the International Labor Organization for the first time in history has tackled this problem of the differential in industrial and social standards directly, instead of indirectly through the tariffs and immigration restrictions. It lays down as the first principle the conception of a minimum of decency below which commercial competition shall not be permitted to depress the life and labor of its population. It has worked out the practical machinery which was the one thing lacking in pre-war attempts in bringing about a realization of a kind of social internationalism which vaguely dominated the minds of social reformers.
The machinery of the International Labor Organization has been frequently described, and only a few words will be taken to put it before you now. It is also
very simple. It consists of an annual International Labor Conference or sort of legislative assembly which specializes in social legislation. The results of its deliberations are outlines of labor laws, technically called draft conventions. Where the problems to be faced are incapable of precise definition in the form of legislation, its suggestions take the shape of recommendations. In make-up the assembly consists of four delegates from each country. Of these four, the two governmental delegates represent, as it were, the consuming public. They are usually governmental officials appointed by the executive. The other two delegates represent, respectively, the most representative industrial organization of employers or workers in the different countries. Each group maintains its own independence and autonomy in the conference; nor is there any direct political interference with the chosen representatives of the industrial groups (workers and employers) possible by the governments. In the face of unanimity on the part of either group within a given country, the government has no choice but to select the designated representative of the group. The conference is completely democratic and cosmopolitan in character, as evidenced by the fact that each delegate votes individually, and not as a representative of the nation. Thus, again, the group is kept intact and a freedom of expression of opinion prevails such as is unknown to the general run of international assemblies.
The second part of the machinery of the Organization is the International Labor Office, controlled by its Governing Body. This represents the permanent administrative and scientific research part of the Organization. The Office and the Governing Body lay the groundwork for each conference, determine the agenda within limits, and supply the background of information concerning the matters to be discussed by each conference. In quite another aspect, too, the functions of the Office are an innovation in the practice of international relations. It is its duty, for example, to collate the reports of the member governments as to the administration of the labor laws which they enact in response to the draft conventions and recommendations of the international conference. The idea that any nation should be required to make reports as to how it has put into effect a treaty which it has adopted is entirely novel, and would have, in the past, been considered a derogation of its sovereign position and authority. It emphasizes once more the non-political character of the whole Labor Organization.
Not the least important aspect of the Organization for social workers is the freedom with which the Labor Office has cooperated with private non-governmental agencies and coordinated numerous scattered social and economic activities. There is, for example, its work of placing Russian refugees, emigration inspection and care, anthrax prevention, questions concerning the disabled in war, maritime problems, codification of seamen's legislation. The older semipublic and private international agencies of social reform, like the old International Labor Office at Basle, the International Association for Unemployment, the Social Insurance Committee, have become active agencies for publicity and sup
port of the work the new official organization is doing. More specifically, the Office has organized and sponsored two international conferences of official labor statisticians; a third conference is being called for October of this year. It has been the function of these special outside bodies to explore future fields of social action, to incubate new ideas, to lay the groundwork, and to give immediacy and vitality to the work of the official Organization.
What have been the results? First, there is the mere fact of continued existence of the Organization in the face of economic depression and world-unemployment. Beginning with the adherence to its work of thirty-two nations, it now numbers fifty-six member states. Again, the allegedly hostile groups of employers and workers within the Organization appear to have found it possible to function together toward certain common ends. Nor have the workers, as they first believed, been left in a minority and outfaced by a combination of governments and employers. There is nothing in the history of the Organization more revealing, to my mind, than the character of the voting in the conference. Ninety-eight record votes have been taken in the seven sessions of the labor conference. In forty-four instances the three groups of workers, employers, and governments have voted together. In thirty-seven instances the majority has rested on a government-workers' combination, a result which is the very reverse of what was feared, particularly by the labor representatives, when the Organization was created. In only fifteen instances have the governments voted against the workers, and in but two against an employers-workers' combination. The location of the government majority on thirty votes is, again, significant. (By major votes is meant votes upon such problems as the hours of labor, age of admission to industry, night work, workmen's compensation, employment exchanges.) Here the governments and workers have voted together in fifteen instances; and in the other fifteen all three groups in the conference have voted together. The final record votes at the seventh conference (May-June, 1925) on the five draft conventions passed shows that all were put through by a government-workers' majority.
This, it seems to me, is a concrete evidence of the success of a valid type of democracy in social legislation. It is a democracy which functions principally in the interest of social legislation. Social legislation ceases, internationally at least, to be a mere by-product of the ordinary forces of politics, but is to be achieved in and for itself by specially constituted agencies. And it is to be measured by its results. Thus each year the fifty-six member states have been ratifying annually fifty draft conventions dealing, not with minor matters of labor legislation, but with the major problems of hours, employment of women and children, night work, workmen's compensation, seamen's legislation, work in agriculture, and employment exchanges. Even that most difficult of all conventions (treaties), on the eight-hour day, has been ratified by four countries, and last March at London the labor ministers of the major industrial states came to an agreement looking toward early ratification by those countries.