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tion, which I understand is called the National Union of Teachers, or “Nuts” for short. [Laughter.] To make the poignancy of that contrast clear, let me just interpolate that in Chicago membership in a labor-union is now legal ground for “firing a teacher. The chairman has spoken about mobilizing labor's good will. Chicago would furnish some material.
In a footnote to the report of your munitions investigating committee, the statement is made that in March, 1916, over 8,000 children under 14 were excluded from the operation of the compulsory-attendance law to do war work, and that over half of those 8,000 were under 13. From another statement you made this afternoon that condition has evidently been remedied since; but I want to ask your judgment concerning the hysteria that is sweeping over this country now. They want to take the children out of school and put them on farms where nothing is known of the conditions, where they may sleep in filth and live in filth; and even in our higher education there are some institutions that have allowed 80 per cent of the students to enlist, and there is considerable doubt as to whether they will reopen next fall or not. Now, a great many of those men would double or treble in value with two or three years of additional training. Is it not your judgment that in this country we should realize more than even in times of peace the value of education and should short-cut all such waste of human material?
Mr. Thomas. I must correct your interpretation of the teacher's position in Great Britain. It is true that they have a labor member of Parliament, and it is true that they are well organized; but it is also true that they are so aristocratic in their tendencies that they prefer to call themselves a profession rather than labor [laughter), with the result that they have been more concerned in having 2 inches of line on their necks, even if they had to have an advertiseinent for somebody's liver pills to keep it up. (Laughter.] The unfortunate result has been that, strongly organized as they are, by being disassociated from the great labor movement they have not received advances equivalent to the navvy in the old country since the war commenced; and we attribute it to that class-conscious prejudice that we hope your presence here is the best evidence that you, at least, do not possess. [Laughter and applause.)
Having stated that, I will add that I gave the answer to your question this afternoon when I said that the same demand had
gone up, especially from the farmers, who were crying out that they wanted child labor, and all that; but if there is one class of the community more than another in our country that has failed to rise to the national emergency it has been the farmers. It has been one of the scandals that they are the people who have made their sons plowmen and cowmen only in name, because that name happened to get them exemption from military service. Therefore, in the main, while the demand has gone up, fortunately it has not been acceded to.
In the case you mentioned about the boys and girls of 14, we have a school standard over there that provides what is called a labor test. That is to say, the curriculum makes provision that when a boy or girl, regardless of age, provided they are over 13, but regardless other than that, can pass the labor test (which I think is the fifth standard test in our schools), they are enabled by that means to get exemption; and that is the reference to the thousands that you mention. I agree with you, and I will say that the statement by our minister of education who, by the way, is a very practical man, one of the great educational authorities of the country) shows that the old country is absolutely awakened to the fact that the great struggle of the future, what: ever the result of the war, is to be a struggle of brains and education. An educated child is an asset to the community. An ignorant democracy is a danger. [Applause.]
Mr. STILLMAN. I should like to put myself square by saying that hereafter I will be more enthusiastic in the organized engineers than the unorganized teachers. [Laughter.]
Dr. MEEKER. I think we would like to hear something about the employment or labor exchanges. Is it true that the employment exchanges are the only means of shifting labor from place to place, and of labor getting employment when it is unemployed?
Mr. THOMAS. Absolutely the reverse. First, you want to understand what the labor exchanges are, and why they were brought into existenre. They are not the creation of the war, but they were made part of what is called the insurance act. There are two sections of the insurance act. I will not deal with the first, because that deals with medical benefit, sanitarium benefit, sickness provision, and such like; but another part was an insurance against unemployment. That is to say, it compelled the worker to make some provision during times of prosperity for times of adversity; and although I know that there were at the commencement differences of opinion, and there may be differences of opinion here, the whole of the organized trades-union movement took possession of that act, worked it themselves, and it has been one of the best means of maintaining our strength, because our men register by us, and we pay the State unemployment benefit through our own funds and claim it back from the State; and that is why it has strengthened and consolidated our movement. But as a part of that unemployed benefit there were set up labor exchanges in every town, district, and hamlet. The object of those exchanges was to provide a means whereby an employer looking for a man may obtain the man (the man or woman, of course), and the man or woman looking for a job may obtain the job.
You can quite conceive that there may be somebody walking the streets of Washington looking for a job, and an employer wanting a man of that capacity, but neither of them knowing of the other's existence, and therefore no means of bringing both applicants together. By employers registering for men that they want, and by employees registering when they are unemployed, that provided the means of communication between the two; in addition to which there may be, again, to give an illustration, a man out of a job at Washington, and work for him in New York. Our experience proved that many a poor mortal tramped from town to town and street to street only to find no method of getting employment when he got there. Instead of that happening now, under the exchange system he can go to the exchange, they will call up New York and ascertain whether there is a job to be obtained for this man at New York, what the conditions are, and advanced him his fare to go to New York, and save all of the tramping and misery that results from a fruitless journey under the old system.
That was the meaning and briefly the object of the labor exchanges. I have told you that we took charge of it in the trades-union movement. We have paid the unemployed benefit, and our own unemployed books are kept at the labor exchange, and our trades-unionists go there and register in their own trades-union book, and the Government accepts that book as the record upon which to pay the man his unemployed benefit. If an employer wants a man, in addition to the exchange, in the main, he goes to the trades-union secretary and asks him what men he has got on his books, and he supplies them. The labor exchange during the war has been used for the purpose of dealing with these munition volunteers that I explained about this afternoon; that is to say, registering the men who were prepared to offer their services to work in New York or Washington.
Whatever criticisms may be made against the labor exchange as a system of red tape, please keep in mind that it was organized to deal with that evil and disease inherent in an industrial system that in one period of the year found a million and a quarter people out of work when work could be provided for them, and it has at least provided some medium of dealing with that particular disease. [Applause.]
Mr. Alifas. Mr. Chairman, one of the great questions that we have to deal with at the present time is the continual changing relations between the wages that men receive and the cost of living. If there is one point possibly more strongly expressed here than any other, it is that we ought to endeavor to maintain existing standards or standards as existing at the outbreak of the war. It is also regarded as an unpatriotic act for workmen to ask for advances in wages. It is regarded as unpatriotic for employers to endeavor to make aggressions on the workmen during these times, but there is a body of middle-class people or middle men, or whoever it is that fixes prices, that is continually changing this relation that we ought possibly to be endeavoring to stabilize. Has anything been done in Great Britain to deal with that subject on the cost of living ?
Mr. Thomas. Let me explain. Mr. Garrod just tells me that the question was asked him about the working-labor exchanges. Unless there should be any confusion, the suggestion you put was, Could people only be employed through the labor exchanges? I will explain to you that it is not, and the limitation that he explained to you this afternoon only applied to those on war work. I presumed you understood that. Now you ask me about the increased cost of îiving; what method has been attempted to be dealt with.
Mr. Alifas. To maintain existing standards, and of course that means the purchasing power and not more wages.
Mr. THOMAS. We need not argue what wages mean, because we all agree when we talk about $30 a week, and it seems a little when we talk about 50 shillings. The obvious calculation we make is, how much do you get for your $30 and how much do we get for our 50 shillings, and the margin between the two is the relative margin between your prosperity and our adversity. The thing that matters is the purchasing_power of the money. When the war broke out prices went up. I told you that there was a mines-regulation bill that prohibited the selling price of coal to be more than 4 shillings from the pit's mouth. I told you about the rents bill. There has since been appointed a food controller, who fixes the price of bread, of milk, and of potatoes. It is a remarkable fact that you in the United States are paying more for a loaf that you send to us from
the United States than we pay on the other side for it or even they pay in Paris. That is a fact, but it is due to very many causes, the first being the mad policy of France, England, Italy, and competitive allies bidding here for foodstuffs and munitions.
One of the greatest faults of the whole situation has been that representatives of our own Government have been filling the pockets of you American people by bidding against each other instead of forming a combine and making a fair deal with you, with the result that it has had this effect upon your markets. Whatever the result of competition in raising prices may have been, you, on the other hand, have been governed by the prices which we have been sending up by our mad action, and, of course, people have been profiting by it.
But I want now to pay a tribute here to the cooperative movement that has developed magnificently in our country since the war, and that has been the one steadying force against all the high prices. We found this in favor in South Wales: There was an agreement by the bakers and the millers that the millers must not be allowed, by this agreement, to supply flour to any baker who did not charge the agreed price for the loaf, and if he reduced the loaf a half penny for 4 pounds, he was not allowed to have his flour supplied by the miller. So, you can see the kind of combination that had to be dealt with, and it was dealt with by the appointment of a food controller. Frankly, it is not true, and we would be making a mistake as workers if we put the whole increased cost of living down to profit taking.
Do you keep in mind that it is a world problem. For instance, take potatoes. I dare say you know, that for reasons one can not explain, there was a disease, not only in Ireland, which affected us, but in Canada and America and, so far as I can ascertain, almost throughout the world, a disaster that affected the potato crop. As you know. it was a bad harvest for wheat, and all these factors, coupled with a shortage of tonnage in our country, which does not exist here, ali things tended to raise the prices. How you will be able to deal with it I do not know, except this, and I understand you will correct me if I am wrong, that by your system of 48 States, your parliamentary act prevents you from interfering with the local autonomy in certain matters of each of those States unless the defense of your Nation is involved, and, therefore, whatever the States themselves have done the Washington Government could not have interfered with, whilst you were a neutral country, but now that you have become a belligerent country and you are at war, it is within the jurisdiction of this parliament at Washington to see that the interests of the country as a whole are looked after, and by that means you will probably be enabled to interfere with those particular States.
With all deference to our history, I put that to you as one of your propositions and one of your questions which, if you are alive and on the job and on the alert you will have to deal with. If you remain quiet the other people will be taking advantage of it and, therefore, my advice is to be on the alert and get the right thing done at the right time.
The CHAIRMAN. There are a few announcements to be made and suggestions. It appeals to me that for the whole day we have had enough questioning, but there may be other opportunities to put questions to the gentlemen from Great Britain. But in any event, even if they may be required to leave for their own country earlier than we hope they may leave, may I suggest that any of you, ladies or gentlemen, feeling prompted to have information, if you will write a question, or a series of questions, and address them to me, I will see that so long as these gentlemen are in the United States they will be furnished with copies of the questions and I will ask them to reply to me and the answers will be forwarded and be made a part of the record of this meeting.
I would like to present to the labor representatives of Canada copies of a declaration adopted by the executive committee of the committee on labor, and approved by the Council of National Defense, upon the effort to stabilize and standardize and maintain standards. Unfortunately the press of the country undertook, if I may coin the phrase, to sensualize the declaration and misinterpret its intent and purpose, and we found it necessary to recommend to the Council of National Defense, and that council approved, an amplification of the declaration. I would be very glad to give copies of that to you gentlemen, and to as many of you who care to have them, providing we have a sufficient number of copies to go around. The executive committee of the committee on labor will be advised that inasmuch as the members of the executive committee have been in attendance here all day and evening, and that they are busy men, having big matters to give their attention to, after consultation with them I announce that the meeting set for to-morrow has been deferred, and I shall invite you probably so that we might meet on Tuesday, a week from to-day, or perhaps earlier if any emergency should arise.
The committee on mediation and conciliation, under the chairmanship of Mr. Everett Macy, will meet in this room to-morrow morning at 10 o'clock. Mr. Morrison, the chairman of the committee on wages and hours, will meet with his committee a week from to-day at 10 o'clock in this hall; that is, providing the executive committee does not meet on that day. The various committees and individual committees on welfare work, and the various portions of that welfare work, protection, safety, etc., will please submit some report for us on or before Saturday. Mr. Coolidge will receive these reports and submit them to me for such condensation as may be necessary, and report to the Council of National Defense and the advisory commission.
Mr. GUGGENHEIM. Might I offer a resolution of thanks for the very brilliant manner in which we have been enlightened by the committee?
The CHAIRMAN. First offer your motion, and if it is not repugnant to the purposes of this meeting, I will be glad to entertain it, but I can not rule in advance.
Mr. GUGGENHEIM. That is the motion, a resolution of thanks for the very brilliant manner in which we have been enlightened by the commission from abroad.
(The motion was duly seconded and unanimously carried.)
The CHAIRMAN. Gentlemen, on my own behalf, and on behalf of the committee on labor, I extend to you the great appreciation and gratitude of us all for the brilliant enlightenment and illuminating manner in which you have fulfilled the mission for which you were sent to this country. [Applause.]