This section is from the "The Science Of Wealth" book, by Amasa Walker.
The foregoing argument covers the whole ground of right or wrong in regard to strikes.
Members of a trade's union, believing that their wages are inadequate or less than their employers can well afford, by mutual agreement strike for higher wages. If not granted, they turn out. To produce effect, and aid in obtaining what they demand, they parade the streets with banners and music. Very well, so far; for other associations do the same, whenever they see fit. If these demonstrations do not interfere with the general avocations and pursuits of the public, there can be no reasonable complaint. The economy and utility of such demonstrations is another matter; but the right to make them need not be disputed.
But when, in addition to this, a procession, instead of peaceably passing through the streets, proceeds to compel by force every person engaged in a particular trade to quit his employment, the case is entirely altered. The procession has become a lawless mob, and is to be dealt with like any other body of men disturbing the public peace.
All demonstrations of violence, of this kind, are in utter antagonism, not only to the institutions of society in general, but to the real and permanent interests of the party which makes them. They do harm, and only harm, in the long-run, both economically and morally, and degrade, instead of elevating, the laboring classes, who really have much to hope from their associations of various kinds, if they be peacefully and properly conducted. There is no one thing by which the interests of the laborer can be more effectually promoted than by associations for good and useful purposes, managed in a sensible and becoming manner; and, on economical as well as moral and social considerations, they would then be worthy the approbation and patronage of the capitalist, whose interests would be promoted thereby: but it should ever be remembered that individuality is to be interfered with as little as possible, since the more there is of individual responsibility, socially and politically, the better; the less men are called upon to resign their freedom of action and personal reliance and choice in the various duties and emergencies of life, the more advantageous to their welfare and happiness.
But strikes cannot permanently raise the rate of wages. Combinations of workmen, taking advantage of the peculiar state of trade when commodities are in great demand, may, for the moment, extort, from the necessities of their employers, an addition to their compensation; but they gain no substantial advantage. When trade becomes dull, they are certain to be placed again in the power of the employer. Especially is it injurious to the interests of the workmen, where by strikes they have forced out of employment large numbers, whom they are obliged to support out of previous accumulations. In such cases, they consume their own little savings, injure the interests of those who have employed them, and render them less able to pay wages in the future.
Freedom, protection, and justice are what labor needs, and must have, or its condition will be depressed, and its productiveness diminished. With freedom, the laborer can work for whom he will: with the ballot, he can insure to himself and his interests protection and justice.