Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

weeks a year, beginning with the second week; in case of a major operation, a member will receive $100 in addition to his sickness payments; this will enable the man to defray the cost of an operation without becoming a charity patient; in case of tuberculosis, $100 will be granted in addition to the sickness insurance; free health examinations would be given every year.

A letter similar to those sent to the executives of social agencies was sent to the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union, the Amalgamated Clothing Workers' Union, and the American Federation of Labor. The union officials were unanimous in stating that members of the union are never advised to appeal to agencies for help. Members in need of help are always referred to their local organizations. Labor officials all admit that trade-unions are not in a position to handle a great many problems that are constantly being dealt with by the family agency, such as desertion, personality difficulties, and family and group adjust

ments.

Mr. Joseph Schlossberg, of the Amalgamated, feels that in time the union will make such problems as parent-child and vocational guidance a part of their general workers' education program, because his union is anxious to assume as many responsibilities in behalf of the workers as possible, Mr. Morris Sigman, of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union, however, is convinced that personality problems would be handled better by a body of professional workers through a family agency. He takes the position that a union cannot delve into the private lives of its members or concern itself with their personal affairs outside of their contact with the union. The problems of a union, he adds, are too many to give its attention to such matters. Mr. Frank Morrison, Secretary of the American Federation of Labor, likewise agrees in this respect with Mr. Sigman, but adds: "The unions have pronounced views that many of these personality and family and group adjustment problems are directly related to child labor, low wages, preventable sickness, occupational diseases, and preventable accidents. You can appreciate that under present conditions, with the forces that yet combat trade-unions, these organizations cannot become interested in problems which the unions believe are the result of conditions which they oppose."

THE INDIVIDUAL OR "YELLOW DOG" CONTRACT
Thomas J. Donnelly, Secretary-Treasurer, Ohio State
Federation of Labor, Columbus

What is this law of contract as it applies to the wage-earner's relationship to his employer? Whatever it may be, it cannot be accepted as something which subordinates or nullifies those essential human rights and liberties which are the basic guaranties of our American Constitution and bill of rights. Without attempting to develop the principles involved, because this is now unnecessary, let me remind you that before the Civil War the right of contract was the legal

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

medium by which the black man's body was bought and sold in the same manner as any inanimate commodity or article of commerce. It required a civil war to destroy the legal conception that the law of contract was so broad and farreaching that it could be used to perpetuate human slavery. What is this law of contract; from what source is it derived? It is a part of the common law which we inherited from the mother-country. Its legitimate application makes the ownership of personal property possible. Without this law modern commerce and industry could not function. It is one of the cornerstones of civilization. But it does not follow that this beneficial and essentially necessary law applies with equal force and justice to every condition to which cunning men have endeavored to apply it.

So far as men's labor and the workmen's relation to employers is concerned, the common law of master and servant had its origin in slavery, and its development among English-speaking people during the Middle Ages, when special privilege existed under the law and the mass of the people were serfs, tied to the soil and in every way subject to their masters. Under the common law and its development by Parliament and judicial decree the master was given all rights, while the rights of serfs were ignored. It was from this condition that the common law of master and servant developed, and made it possible for the shadow of serfdom to cast its sinister influence on our free institutions, the priceless inheritance won for us by those who, overthrowing tyranny, established the free institutions of our country. In the human relationship, because of the evident gross injustice of some of the common law, our states have one by one declared that it shall no longer be recognized by our courts.

Only a few years ago the common law was constantly depended upon by the employers' attorneys as a certain infallible defense when workmen were injured during employment. When accepting employment the workman was assumed by this medieval law to have accepted every risk. He was expected to suffer, without opportunity of relief, from the carelessness of any fellow-workman. He was supposed in almost every case of accident to have in some way contributed to it through his carelessness. The law of contract was so applied, and so perverted through legal construction, that the employers' defense of assumption of risk, fellow-servant, and contributory negligence prevented hundreds of thousands of workmen from receiving the compensation due them. In time public knowledge, public indignation over the apparent injustice of any such common law, led state legislatures to declare these common-law defenses no longer available. They were repealed, and so will legislatures, through legistion, repeal and nullify other sections of the common law which in their application today work injustice or operate in a manner which limits or destroys any of the essential human rights of free men.

The individual contract, or so-called "American plan" of employment, is but another instrument fashioned by those employers banded together to deny to industrial wage-earners their inherent, constitutional, and essential rights and

liberties. The individual contract, or American plan, is a new masquerade assumed to promote that discredited and exposed fraud, the open shop. When industrial and political exploiters and autocrats run counter to all the fundamentals of liberty and equity and the natural aspirations of mankind for freedom, they must of necessity offer nauseous doses in such form as will deceive as to their real character. So with the individual contract or American plan of employment, so called. Here it is attempted to conceal the real purpose through an appeal to individualism in the words "individual contract," and it is sought to place the halo of patriotism over the scheme by the term "American plan." This new instrument and phrase was sprung upon the public immediately following the close of the world-war; no doubt consideration was given by its originators to the psychology of the moment, which affected all of us more or less, by which "American" became a slogan that was symbolic of all that was just and idealistic. We are all familiar with the quotation: "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel." It was called forth from vitriolic Dr. Samuel Johnson because of the use which was being made of the term "patriotism" by the unscrupulous and dishonest men of his time. The attempt to engage the attention of the American people and secure their support of this most un-American plan and employment by calling it the American plan is an insult to their intelligence and comes as near scoundrelism as may be imagined. Before proceeding further to discuss the proposition it is perhaps advisable to present to you two or three of these contracts. The first is one put forth by the firm of Shell-Wolfe Company, Mansfield, Ohio, and the following is a copy thereof:

AGREEMENT OF EMPLOYMENT

MANSFIELD, OHIO, April 14, 1921

It is hereby agreed between the Shell-Wolfe Company, as employer, and the undersigned, as employee, in consideration of the mutual obligations of the parties hereunder, that said employee from and after the date hereof is employed by said employer upon the following terms and conditions:

1. As a carpenter on the operation of the employer, at a wage of 75 cents per hour, eight hours to constitute a day's work and 44 hours to constitute a week's work, and with time and one-half for all over work done on Sundays and on the following named Holidays, to wit: New Year's Day, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day. Said rate of 75 cents per hour may be increased or decreased, any such increase or decrease leaving the remaining provisions of this agreement unaffected.

2. The employment of said employee under this agreement shall continue until either the employer or the employee shall have given the other two days' written notice of his intention to terminate it, except in the case of misbehavior or incompetency of the employee, which shall be ground for an immediate termination of the employment by the employer. In case of any termination of the employment or cessation of work by the employee for any reason, said employee agrees that he will not then or thereafter, in any manner or at any place, annoy, molest or interfere with the business, customers or employees or prospective customers or employees of said employer, or with the members of the families of such customers, employees or prospective customers or employees, and that he will not attempt to persuade or coerce others in refusing to work for or deal with said employer.

d

i

3. The employer shall and hereby agrees to maintain an open shop, employing union or non-union employees without discrimination during the continuance of said employees' employment under this agreement, and the undersigned employee shall and hereby agrees that he will take no action at any time designed or intended in any way to unionize the employer's employees or to make any of its operations or plants or departments a closed shop.

4. The rules and regulations of the employer not in conflict herewith, as posted upon a bulletin board from time to time shall become and are hereby made a part of this agreement. [Signed] SHELL-WOLFE COMPANY

per V. D. WOLFE

These contracts, upon their face, are fraudulent: first, because they are not intended to, and do not, protect or promote individualism or Americanism, but are intended to compel applicants for work to sign away their rights and liberties before they will be given employment whereby they may support themselves and families; second, because they have none of the ideals of Americanism in them, in that there is no condition of equality between the contracting unorganized necessitous workmen and the organized employer, prepared and willing to take advantage of the worker's necessities to force him to surrender his rights and privileges; third, because they permit the employer to change them at will in important respects without the consent of the workman. None of these individual contracts are for a fixed wage rate for a definite period. None of them guarantee permanent employment for a definite period of time. Under their provisions the employer is at liberty to discharge for any cause satisfactory to him. In other words, the workman has no guaranty as to wages, hours of labor, or any of the other conditions of employment. At any moment he is subject to discharge.

Speaking for the employers, the individual contract says, in effect, to the worker: You must surrender every right, give up every association you have had with your fellow-men, that you may secure employment to support yourself and family, and if you do not, we will use our organization; we will blacklist you; we will make you sacrifice your home; and we will make a sojourner of you from place to place, seeking employment where you can, only to find that you have been blacklisted because you would not surrender and sign away everything so dear to you as an American in the contract of employment offered you in this most un-American individual or "yellow dog" contract.

All hail America, its ideals of liberty and equality, and its red-blooded men and women citizenry. May they continue and perpetuate themselves industrially and politically. Trade-unionists face realities, and they insist that other citizens do likewise. Labor asks no more for itself than it concedes to capital as represented by employers. We believe in safeguarding the constitutional right to voluntary association. Without the exercise of this right civilization would be impossible. Without its practical, everyday application there would be no religious, scientific, fraternal, political, or other organizations. We believe in the right of labor to organize. We likewise believe in the right and the necessity of employers to organize. We further believe in collective agreements be

tween employers and workmen governing wages, hours, and conditions of employment. Not so the labor baiters masquerading under the titles of "open shoppers" and "American planners." They are vociferous and emphatic in their demands for their rights, while at the same moment organizing to deprive their workmen of their rights and liberties. They have the audacity to assert that their principal object is to insure the wage-earner in the exercise of all of his rights, while their deliberate purpose is to take from the wage-earner his most essential right, his right to voluntary association. It has been said that the power to tax is the power to destroy. With equal truth we say that the control of employment is the power of life or death.

In 1925, in its final report to Congress, the United States Commission on Industrial Relations, which commission was appointed for the purpose of studying the causes of industrial unrest, among other things, had this to say upon the subject of the power exercised by the employers' associations.

The instruments of industrial force belong chiefly to the employer, because of his control of the job of the worker. Their use is more common and more effective than any other form of violence at the command of the employer. The most powerful weapon is the power of discharge, which may be used indiscriminately, upon mere suspicion, which under certain conditions may be almost as potent, either in use or threat, as the power of life or death. It is the avowed policy of many employers to discharge any man who gives any sign of dissatisfaction, on the theory that he may become a troublemaker or agitator.

Our legislative bodies have recognized the power of coercion which may be exercised upon the workmen and have enacted laws providing a penalty for such coercion, and these laws have not only been in respect to workers' rights to become members of labor organizations and retain membership therein, but legislation has also been necessary and in the public interest to protect the workmen from coercion on the part of employers in the exercise of their franchise. Certainly the nation, either through state enactments or a federal law, must awake to these attacks by employers upon the rights of the industrial workers and provide a proper and adequate remedy against such instruments as the fradulent so-called "individual contract." In 1925 the legislature of Ohio considered a bill proposing to declare such contracts to be contrary to public policy and wholly void. Labor advocated then, and advocates now, the enactment of such a bill into law. It would put a stop, in Ohio at least, to this new effort to coerce.

But these pseudo-patriots shout, "You are impairing the right of private contract." Oh, no, my friends, we only purpose the safeguarding of the freedom of contract. The Supreme Court of the United States, as well as the courts in many of the states, have said over and over that the right to make contracts has certain limitations. It is not boundless. It is subject always to the welfare of the state when it is state legislation, and subject always to the welfare of the nation when it is national legislation. The sanctity of the right of contract has been raised again and again in connection with remedial and protective legislation for wage-earners. This question was first raised in respect to legislation

« AnteriorContinuar »