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The CHAIRMAN. I am going to ask Miss Lathrop to address this conference for a few minutes. [Applause.]
Miss LATHROP. It is perhaps a natural enough coincidence that I was just wishing that I might have a chance to say something to this audience, but I did not for one minute think that I would be asked to speak.
I have been thinking of this war, that it is to be fought, in one sense, in a new way; that we are to find at the end of it, whether 'the men come back victorious or beaten, that the true test of it is behind the lines, in the level of life which we have been able to maintain in the families of the men who have gone to the front. If those men do not come back, then are those families to be weakened and crippled by poverty which leaves their children far, far below the level which their fathers themselves have attained or which their fathers would have kept for them if they had been alive? If the fathers do come back, are they to find the families suffering from all the deprivation, all the misery which those years of anxiety and unhappiness and poverty have brought upon them?
Is there any place in America where one can say more fittingly than at this place that now is the time for us to determine what the compensation of the soldier who goes to the front shall be? Shall it not be based upon a decent allowance for the soldier, a decent family allowance, some provision for insurance, some provision at every point which means that that family--whose welfare, in the long run, is going to be the test of the level of our democracy-shall be taken care of, and shall not sink down! [Applause.)
The CHAIRMAN. I am going to ask Mr. George W. Perkins, president of the Cigarmakers' International Union of America, and a member of the Illinois Council of Defense, to address us for a few minutes. [Applause.]
Mr. PERKINS. Mr. Chairman, ladies, and gentlemen, it seems to me that if the lessons taught here to-day, this morning and this afternoon, find lodgment in the minds and hearts of the people here and we discharge our full duties, we shall be doing our share to conserve human life and human good.
One of the representatives from the British Government this morning told us that they found it necessary to soften up the number of working hours and the number of working days over there in order to conserve human life. In fact, he told us that if that was not stopped the whole machinery of construction and production at home would go to smash, and with it the war as well. This afternoon the greatest sentiment I have heard since I have been here was given us by our President when he said that in fighting to establish democracy for the peoples of the Old World, with a better condition for working men and women and the people generally, we must not destroy democracy or conditions here at home. That thought sank deep into my mind; and I say, if we carry forward the lessons taught here to-day by the men who understand the movement over there and by the able men and women who have advised us here, there is a wonderful future for this committee.
The labor movement, as I understand it-I do not profess to speak for it-but I know in so far as my own knowledge goes that they first stand squarely behind our President. That is a matter of record. The labor movement understands the reason for its existence. It has struggled hard, faithfully, and made many sacrifices to bring about a better condition for the working men and women. It stands just as loyally behind those conditions as it does behind our President and our country. We will stand for both, and we will fight for both—first for our country, yes, and secondly to maintain conditions that ameliorate the condition of the working men and women of our country. [Applause.]
The CHAIRMAN. I find myself in a quandary because I can not ask all who are here to address us, so that all of us, in turn, may receive the benefit of the advice and suggestions and appreciation; but it is not within the limit of our time and our endurance. But I can not close this session so far as addresses are concerned without calling upon a woman to say something, even if it be only a few words. For the first time in the history of America, and I think for the first time in the history of the whole world, a woman has been elected to the parliament of the country, the Congress of the United States; and I ask that Miss Rankin will address this conference for a few minutes. [Great applause.]
Miss RANKIN. Men and women, I can not say anything to-night that has not already been said; but it seems to me that we ought to be conscious, every one of us, that it is the workers who are going to fight the battle the workers at home and the workers abroadand when we are fighting this fight that we should remember always that we must come out of it with something greater than just the mere commercial values and returns that we get; that we must come out of it with some sort of an ideal. I do not think that the workers can ever be too conscious of the fact that this is their battle, that they are fighting it, that they should get the returns, and that they should come out with greater democracy for the workers, and they should come out with that exalted spirit that comes from fighting for something that is real and something that means something to the workers; and at the end of this fight that all the workers in the world will feel that they have earned their liberty, and that they will come out feeling that they are men and not slaves.
Thank you. [Applause.]
The CHAIRMAN. And now we will return to the grill. [Laughter.] I am sure that both questioners and respondents were in happy accord after the answers and the explanations had been made.
I now, on behalf of the two labor representatives of the British Government, request you, if you desire, to ask any question in connection with the conduct of the war, and particularly as it affects the workers of the allied countries. The chair is ready to recognize any question.
Mr. A. F. Bemis. Mr. Chairman, I should like to ask Mr. Thomas a question, which I partially asked him as he was going down this afternoon in the elevator, but I think perhaps the present meeting would be interested in his reply-in regard to the question of ours of work in the different industries in Great Britain under war conditions. Mr. Thomas has given you a statement in regard to the hours of work per week by the men and the women under the early conditions of the war, and has stated to you that Sunday work has been cut out, and some other things. I think he has not stated to you, however, just what the present status is in regard to the hours of labor in the different industries.
I notice in the summary of the report of the British ministry of munitions this statement in regard to the matter:
The principle of varying the hours according to the character of the work and the sex and age of the workers should be observed.
I should like to ask Mr. Thomas to explain just how it is, under present conditions, that they do regulate the hours of works in the different industries, and in what way they discriminate between the different industries.
Mr. Thomas. I find that in the interval between my leaving you and the present time you have had a sort of confessional. In our religious revivals we have this kind of confessionals, but it is quite a new experience to find it outside of a religious revival. (Laughter.] I did not happen to hear the whole of the confessions of either sins of omission or sins of commission; but what I did hear has convinced me that both sides needed coming together, and it is very gratifying to us to feel that this magnificent spirit prevails in the early stages.
In response to the question that has just been put, one can not give what you would call a straight answer, because you have got to consider the circumstances existing in Great Britain to-day after two years and a half of war, and the circumstances connected with the United States in its entering into the war. For instance, no greater mistake could be made by your Government than to view this war from the mere standpoint of a military machine. That is to say, I felt early in the war, and two years ago I presented to our cabinet a report asking that the Nation be treated as a unit. The point was made by some one who was talking from the miners that it would be foolish to send miners if they can do more useful work hewing coal than fighting. In the same way, it was madness on our part to send experienced engineers and machinists to France at a time when the supply of munitions was more essential than the fighting soldiers; and what you have got to keep in mind is this: If America's first need is to supply us with ships, then the first thing is to concentrate on the thing that is immediately necessary; and if you found it necessary to work longer hours immediately to get over the temporary difficulty, say, of submarining, that is a matter that must be determined in considering the kind of assistance that you are going to render the allies.
We, after two and a half years, have found that in regulating the hours of men and women they must be regulated according to the industry. For instance, if women are engaged in what we call T. N. T. work-what would be the definition for America of T. N. T.? Well, you know what it means. I understand you call it T. N. T., too. Now, there, clearly the effect of that work has been disastrous in many respects to those engaged; and clearly there must be more restriction in the dangerous occupations than there is in less dangerous ones. The object of that report is not to set down any definite standard and say that five or six or seven or eight or nine hours should be the limit, but rather to say that discretion must be given and due regard paid to the dangerous nature of the work, and, in accordance with the dangerous nature, reduce the hours and the conditions under which the people work. That is done in the various industries, which results in some men and some women working much shorter hours than others, because, as I say, of the dangerous nature of the occupation.
Mr. Bemis. Mr. Chairman, I should like to ask Mr. Thomas a further question on this same point.
Now, what I should like to ask Mr. Thomas is this, whether, notwithstanding the mistake that he said was made in going to the extreme, running 100 hours a week, for instance, in some cases, there may not be a certain amount of increase, say 10 per cent or 20 per cent per week over a temporary period of six months or a year whích, in this tremendous strife, we might be justified in?
Mr. Thomas. What you put to me is this, that whilst long hours have proved disastrous in a long period of two and a half years, an urgent provision for a given thing that would limit the long hours to a shorter period may in the end be temporarily adopted. That is, shortly, your point. Now, there are two answers to that, it appears to me.
The first depends on whether the machinery could be adapted to a continuous shift. For instance, instead of, if you like, increasing the hours to 10 or 12, if arrangements could be made to utilize the machinery on two shifts instead of one without increasing the hours of the individuals, you would there get double or perhaps treble your output; but that must be regulated in accordance with whether or not the machinery itself would stand the strain; whether you could organize your factory to get a continuous running of your machinery, or whether you could not. That is the first point.
The second is this, and it appears to me an essential thing to be done: There may be men here this afternoon–I do not know, and therefore I am not casting any reflections—there may be men from the employer's point of view that never before quite understood the worker's point of view in the same sense. On the other hand, there may be workers here who always looked upon the capitalist as an enemy to society, and the best place for him would be in the German trenches, and we fighting him from our side. [Laughter.] I quite concede that that is a natural characteristic of society. But both sides having been brought together, they find that there is much more good in both than they anticipated.
Now, what I would suggest is that wherever a contingency arises such as you name, and many others that may arise, the easiest way to solve that problem is for both sides to take each other into their confidence. Let the employers show to organized labor that they have a case that organized labor did not understand until they had met. Let organized labor, on the other hand, be able to give the benefit of their experience to the employers. Sometimes a suggestion will get over the difficulty. My experience is that if both sides come together anxious to find a bridge, they will do it; but if both sides keep apart, they will not.
I would seriously recommend that in such a contingency as you name, both sides come together, face the situation, and as the result of the brains and experience of both sides of the question, I am satisfied you will be able to find the solution; always keeping in mind, of course, that neither you nor the other is anxious to take advantage of the other, but both of you are anxious to serve your country. [Applause.]
Mr. COLLIS LOVELY. Mr. Chairman, I should like to have Mr. Thomas explain the matter of awarding contracts by the British Government for the production of articles for use in the army.
Mr. THOMAS. Such as
Mr. LOVELY. My reason for asking this question is that this forenoon I understood Mr. Thomas to say that if there was a scarcity of labor, say, in Washington-I am going to say in a shoe factory, because I am more familiar with them than I am with anything elseand there was a surplus in New York, the surplus from New York would be taken to fill the vacancies in Washington, and that if a higher rate existed in Washington that would be the rate paid. Now, if the contracts were allotted or had been awarded upon the lowest bid, and the bid from Washington had been based upon a low scale, what effect would that have in your country in the matter of awarding contracts ?
Mr. THOMAS. The short answer to that is that by parliamentary action of labor in our country we got the House of Parliament to adopt a fair-wage clause which compels the Government, in issuing a contract or inviting tenders for a contract, to make it a condition on the part of the individual accepting or tendering for the contract that he will observe to the full, in spirit and letter, what is known as the fair-wage clause. That fair-wage clanse means that whoever the employer may be, whether he engages trade-union or nontrade-union labor, the fact of his having accepted a Government contract compels him immediately to put into operation the fair-wage clause, which means the trade-union rate in that district. By that means it equalizes all employers and prevents the “sweating” employer getting an advantage from the Government over the good employer. (Applause.)
Capt. Cruse. I heard with great interest of your measures for the adaptation of laborers to new tasks. I should like to know whether your measures of selecting the people who were to be adapted to the new tasks have worked out to advantage, and whether you can advise us how we should select the laborers for adaptation to the new tasks.
Mr. THOMAS. I am afraid that when you are dealing, as we had to deal, with hundreds of thousands, a very strict scrutiny on selection is hardly possible; and therefore what really arises is that if folks, after a fair experience, do not find themselves adapted to a particular sphere of industry, the fact that they are capable of doing something equalizes itself by their migrating to some other field; and therefore you will see, of course, that that does not apply to the selection. That would apply equally, we will say, to a soldier. There clearly can not be that selection for a soldier which comprises a million people that there is for the officer, whose position is a supervisory one. If I were engaging a man to direct my factory, it would be obviously to my advantage that very great skill and care would naturally be observed in his selection; but if I wanted to engage 10,000 men, even if a thousand of them were“ wrong 'uns,” the balance of the 9,000 at least would have served my purpose. I can only say that if you started off with a direct measure of selection of that kind, it occurs to me that you would be creating an army of unnecessary officials who might prove themselves more unsatisfactory than the people they were called upon to reject. [Laughter and applause.]