The members of many organizations, even of intelligent men, are blindly led by chiefs of various titles, of which perhaps the walking delegate is the most offensive one to reasonable people. This class of men claim the right to intrude themselves into the establishments owned by others, and on the most trivial grounds make demands more or less unreasonable, and order strikes and otherwise interfere with the work of manufacturers, much in the way that we have an idea that the agents of the barbarbous chieftains, feudal lords, and semi-civilized rulers collected taxes and laid burdens in earlier historical times. Necessarily these men must use their power so as to insure its permanency. If strikes are popular, strikes must be ordered. If funds run low, excuses for strikes, it is believed, in many cases are sought, so as to stir the pulses of those who sympathize with the labor cause.
Co-operation has been suggested as a cure for the evil, and there are cases where it has apparently succeeded, in connection with the earlier forms of labor organization. The ambition of later labor leaders almost prevents this remedy being of effect. It may be possible still with very intelligent workmen, isolated from the large mass of workmen in the country towns, to feel an interest in co-operation; but such inducements, or the higher ones of personal kindness to employes or their families, are not of much effect in large manufacturing centers. As soon as dissatisfaction exists in one mill or manufactory, all similar employes are ordered out. The final result will be that combinations of employers must follow the combination of employes, and those who have always been strong in the past will be stronger in the future, as has appeared to be the case in many contests that have already taken place. If there are any real abuses of power by the employers, such as requiring work for unusual hours or at less than living rates, the first thing to do is to correct these abuses, so that complaints will not be upon a sound foundation. Some men, when the labor epidemic strikes their places, have sufficient force of character and influence with their men to avert the blow for some time.
Others find it is policy to compromise with the representatives until a plan of action, conciliatory, offensive, or defensive, can be determined upon. The whole matter must be considered one of policy rather than of principles. The class of men to be dealt with do not talk principles except as an excuse to secure their ends.
In spite of everything, there will be times when no compromise is possible and you will be called upon to take part in defending your employers' interests against what is called a "strike." You can do so with heart when you know the employes are all well paid, and particularly, as is frequently the case, when the labor organizers and walking delegates claim that some old, tried foreman shall be dismissed because they do like him, really because he has not been a tool in carrying out their plans, and they defiantly acknowledge that their war is against non-union labor, and that they have organized your men and forced a strike to require your establishment to become as it is called a "union shop." If your deluded employes were permitted simply to go away and let you alone, and you were permitted to employ others at the reasonable wages you were paying, the problem would be a simple one. The principal labor organizations claim that everything they do is by peaceable methods, but this, like many things said, is simply to deceive, for if you attempt to employ other assistants and carry on your business independently, you will surely find that well known roughs are assembled who never do anything without they are paid for it by somebody, that your men are assaulted by such persons, and while the labor organizers talk about peaceable methods and urge them aloud in public, in case one of the roughs is arrested, the loud talkers are the first to go bail for the defender, and you will feel morally sure that the sympathizing crowd with the roughs who make the assaults are all part of or tools of the organization.
At such times, you will find your old employes standing around the street corners, persuading other men not to go to work and thus interfere with what are called the true interests of labor. Any new employe who has to go in the street will be first met with inducements of other employment, with offers of money, afterward with threats, and, if opportunity occurs, with direct assault. All the features of persuasion, intimidation, and violence will be carried out as demanded, and strangers to everybody in the vicinity, but well known as experienced leaders in this kind of work in other places, be brought in to endeavor to make the strike a success. Then, young men, is the time to show your pluck, and our experience is that educated young men will do so every time. They can be depended upon to go straight ahead with duty through every danger, bearing patiently everything that may be said, defending themselves with nature's weapons as long as possible, and without fear using reserve weapons in case real danger of life is imminent.
In carrying through a very important strike against a mere desire to control and not to correct abuses, your speaker desires to pay the highest tribute to a number of educated young men, mostly from the technical schools, who fearlessly faced every danger, and by their example stimulated others to do their duty, and all participated in the results obtained by a great success.
We would not by such references fire your hearts to a desire to participate in such an unpleasant contest. It is the duty of all to study this problem intelligently and earnestly, with a view of overcoming the difficulties and permitting the prosperity of the country to go on. While conciliation may be best at some times, policy at another, and resistance at another, we must also be thinking of the best means to prevent further outbreaks. It would seem to be true policy not to interfere with organization, but to try and direct it into higher channels. Those of the humanitarians who claim that the disease will be rooted out eventually by a more general and better education are undoubtedly largely in the right, notwithstanding that some fairly educated men have acted against their best interests in affiliating with the labor organizations. It seems to the speaker that enough instances can be collected to show the utter folly of the present selfish system, based, as it is, entirely on getting all that is possible, independent of right in the matter, and by demanding equal wages for all men, tending to lower all to one common degradation, instead of rewarding industry and ability and advancing the cause of civilization.