Wages have been shown to be largely dependent upon the relative bargaining strength of the laborers as compared with that of entrepreneurs and others who contribute to the work of production. The same thing could be shown to be true also of the other conditions of employment which enter into the wage contract. Such being the case, it is natural that under our modern wage-system laborers have sought to increase their bargaining strength by every means in their power. One of the most evident means is that of uniting their strength in labor organizations. By such organization labor is enabled to substitute " collective bargaining " for the individual bargaining under which the workman is at a manifest and great disadvantage. Labor organizations, then, are more or less permanent combinations of laborers formed to increase their power of determining the conditions of employment.

Origin.The old mediaeval gilds were organizations that controlled all the factors of production. Employers and employed united in a single body to regulate production, but the control rested chiefly with the masters.

Modern labor organizations, on the other hand, are the result of our capitalistic system of production, and date only from the eighteenth century. They embrace, as a rule, only employees, and the purpose is to promote the interests of the laboring class whenever those interests clash with those of the employers. It is the sharp separation of classes characteristic of modern industry that has made labor organization natural and necessary.

Two Forms of Organization. Labor organizations may be divided into two classes, and as a matter of fact are so divided to-day in the United States and England. The trade-unions in the United States now allied in the American Federation of Labor and the "old" trade-unions of England are primarily unions of skilled artisans of distinct crafts. According to the old trade-union idea, each craft should be organized by itself. The Knights of Labor in the United States, on the other hand, and in England the "new" trades-unions are organizations of the laborers in general, skilled and unskilled. They aim to break down the barriers to common action found in differences of occupation.

Both in England and in the United States the two forms of unionism have in later times shown a tendency to drop the differences that have marked them. Thus the trade-unions in the United States have of late years united in larger federated organizations; first, in the central labor unions of our cities, and more recently in the national body known as the American Federation of Labor. This national body has even made provision for organizations of unskilled workmen and for local unions of men of different trades where those in any single trade are too few for successful organization. The Knights of Labor, on the other hand, have borrowed a leaf from their rivals by organizing separately a considerable number of trades into what they call " district assemblies."

Growth of Labor Organizations. Estimates as to the numerical strength of labor organizations in the United States vary considerably. Few of them, however, place the total number below a million, and the most recent government estimate, that for July 1,1901, was 1,400,000. The number, of course, varies from time to time. A period of prosperity for the organizations is generally followed by one of reaction. The present seems to be a period of maximum prosperity following the period of depression lasting for several years after about 1893. Reaction has always ended in a new advance, and thus far in the United States each new advance has carried the labor organizations farther forward than ever before. The Labor Department of the English government in 1899 estimated the membership of British trade-unions at 1,802,518.

Strikes. We cannot in this book discuss all the policies of labor organizations or all their methods of achieving their objects. One of these methods, however, calls for special comment. The strike constitutes one of the chief weapons of labor, organized or unorganized, just as the lockout is one of the chief weapons in the hands of the employers. Strikes produce harm, and therefore every effort should be made to avoid them, if the result can be secured by other means. It is only as a last resort that they can be justified, or are justified by the unions themselves. Yet the power of the strike as a lever of advantage is not to be despised. Observation based on recent American experience goes to show that more than one half of all strikes are successful in enforcing the demands of the unions. During the twenty years ending December 31, 1900, 50.77 per cent of the 22,793 strikes were successful, while 13.04 per cent of the whole number were partly successful. Even where strikes are apparently failures, they may accomplish much for the employees by inspiring sufficient fear of recurrence to bring about fairer treatment from unwilling and unjust employers.

Strikes are most likely to be successful when they are declared during a period of improving business ; and hence strikes for higher wages are more often successful than those aimed to prevent a reduction. Indeed, it has been claimed that employers have in some cases secretly encouraged a strike when they have desired to close their works during a period of slack business, in order to drive a better bargain with the men when the strike should have proved unsuccessful.

The Influence of the Public. A powerful influence against violence and needless strikes is the recent great growth in public knowledge and public interest in matters that concern labor. Public support of their cause is now an object of frequent appeal by labor organizations. The use of " Union Labels," placed upon goods made by union labor under conditions satisfactory to the organizations, is becoming increasingly frequent and effective.

The National Consumers' League represents a movement of the same sort from without the ranks of labor. This league, organized only a few years ago, is rapidly extending its influence by granting the use of its " Consumers' League Label" to all manufacturers of certain classes of goods who satisfy the league that they are fulfilling prescribed conditions in the employment and treatment of labor. As yet the label is used only on a few classes of women's and children's clothing, but it is the intention of the league to carry its work much farther. Incidental Benefits of Labor Organizations. 1. Promotion of Temperance. Nearly all labor organizations are practically temperance societies, and many of their officers are total abstainers from alcoholic drink. On the whole, it may be confidently asserted that labor organizations have greatly lessened intemperance among workmen.

2.Educational Influence. It would be hard to over-estimate the importance of the educational feature of labor organizations. The debates and discussions which the unions foster stimulate the intellect and do much to counteract the deadening effect of a widely extended division of labor. Moreover, they furnish opportunities for social culture to women as well as to men, and thus lessen the temptation to coarse indulgence and develop the finer side of their nature.

3.Elevation of the Standard of Life. It is often objected against organized laborers that they exclude worthy men from opportunities for employment, and seek by distressing part of their number to raise the wages of the rest. What they are really trying to do is to raise the workman's standard of life, in order that progress may mean for them not merely an increase in the number of men employed, but rather a betterment of the quality of human life concerned in the occupation. It is objected again that the limitation of numbers in one trade can only result in overcrowding others, and that therefore, if all trades were successfully organized, the results in one part of the labor field would neutralize the results elsewhere, and nothing would be gained. But such an objection overlooks the essential fact that the union tends to check the imprudence that leads to over-population, and hence to maintain a just balance between the need of society for the labor and the need of the laborer for a complete human life.