authority be strictly limited .^^
In those unions where local autonomy is complete,
neither referendum nor action by the general executive
board is necessary to sanction a strike; but, as has already
been pointed out, the larger number of national unions
" Proceedings, 1902, p.
" Proceedings, 191 1, pp. 468-511.
" Journal of the Brotherhood of Boiler Makers and Iron Ship-
builders, October, 1899, p. 310.
" Ibid., July, 1908, p. 429.
44 CONTROL OF STRIKES IN AMERICAN TRADE UNIONS [382
require executive consent even in cases when strike bene-
fits are not paid by the national organization. The
tendency is to make the decisions of the general executive
boards binding upon the local unions. The right of appeal
is, however, allowed by some national unions, but pending
the appeal the local union must abide by the decision of
the board. In certain emergencies some national unions
permit, however, a local union to go on strike without the
consent of the general executive board, A local union of
the Blacksmiths has the power in case of emergency to
call a strike, if approved by the local executive board of the
district council, provided such an emergency strike does
not involve more than ten men. But if the difficulty in-
volves more than ten members, no strike can take place
without the consent of the general president and the
executive board. ^^ The Coopers provide that in case of
discrimination by an employer against a member or in
case of reduction of the scale of wages and hours the local
union may declare a strike without sanction from the
general office.^^ The general president and the secretary-
treasurer of the Bookbinders have the right to sanction a
strike when immediate action is considered absolutely
necessary, but only in that case.^° The Paving Cutters
likewise direct their executive officer, the secretary, to
support members in resisting any condition forced by an
employer if instant action is necessary .^^
Certain definite rules limiting the number of strikes are
maintained by a number of national unions. One such
restraint is the provision forbidding strikes during certain
seasons of the year when trade is apt to be dull. The
Bricklayers and Masons passed a resolution at their con-
vention of 1 87 1 that no aid should be given by the national
union to any local union striking between the 15th of
November and the 15th of March .^^ The Cigar Makers
"Constitution, 1909, art. viii, sec. i.
^^ Constitution, 1910, sec. 60.
"" Constitution, 1910, art. x, sec. 3.
" Constitution, 1909, art. xvii, sec. i.
" Proceedings, 187 1, p. 25.
383] THE INITIATION OF STRIKES 45
in 18,81 provided for the suspension of applications for an
increase of wages from November i, 1881, until April i,
1882,^^ and at the 1884 convention an annual suspension
was made a part of the constitution.^^ In 1885 the rule
was changed so that the time of suspension varied with
geographical location.^^ Strikes are now forbidden during
the months mentioned, except in the States of Virginia,
South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, Alabama,
Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas, where strikes are for-
bidden from April i to October i of any year. The Car-
penters^.and Joiners likewise provided in 1890 that no gen-
eral strike should be sanctioned from November i to April
I.^" One of the general officers declared at the 1890 con-
vention that no greater danger confronted the organization
than unsanctioned strikes begun too early in the season.
"Carpenters cannot and should not strike at the same time
in the season as Masons and Bricklayers. Our work comes
after theirs, and our demands should not be made until the
new work is well under way. Early strikes are attended
almost universally by defeat. "^^ The SheetJVIetal Workers
passed a rule in 1891 that, except in case of extreme provo-
cation, no strike should be declared between the first day of
January and the first day of June of any year.^^ Various
changes were made from time to time in the dates at which
the no-strike period began and ended, and the rule was
finally dropped at the revision of the constitution in 1903.
The Piano Workers also do not sanction strikes for an
increase of wages between the first day of June and the
first day of August, and the first day of January and the
first day of March of any year. Exceptions are made,
however, in the case of strikes against a reduction of wages
^*" Resolved, That all local unions suspend applications for an
increase of wages from the commencement of November 1st, 1881,
until April 1st, 1882. This shall not be binding upon unions, who
are compelled to strike against those who have the 'truck' system,
reduction of wages, and 'lockouts' forced on them by their employers."
"Constitution, 1884, p. 20.
2^ Constitution, 1886, p. 15.
''^Constitution, 1890, p. 17.
^^ Proceedings, 1890, p. 20.
** Constitution, 1891, art. xiii, sec. 17.
46 CONTROL OF STRIKES IN AMERICAN TRADE UNIONS [384
or against the introduction of the truck system or the
In addition to these specific rules, the policy of most
strong unions is against strikes during periods of trade
depression. Chief Arthur of the Locomotive Engineers
declared in 1894 in regard to the Chicago Railroad strike
of that year that the brotherhood had nothing to do with
it as an organization and that any man encouraging a
strike during hard times was unfit to be at the head of
»any labor organization. "There is a time to strike if you
fhave a good cause and there is a time not to strike. "^'^
• The general council of the Amalgamated Woodworkers
reported in 1896 that they had discouraged applications
for strike sanction because they believed "that the time,
condition of trade, and other factors militated against the
probability of success and, knowing how injurious lost
strikes are, we adopted a policy that was in every sense
A more effective device for the control of strikes is found
in the limitation of the number which may be carried on
at one time. A writer in 1836 remarked that two branches
of the Philadelphia General Trade Union did not strike at
the same time, and that because "of this policy the general
fund is not too heavily taxed, and the other branches having
employment can contribute to it."^^ At the present time,
the rules of the Blacksmiths^^ give the general executive
board power to prevent the general president from sanc-
tioning more than one strike at any one time. The Sheet
Metal Workers discourage more than one strike at a time,
but provide that emergencies may be met by the general
president with the sanction of the executive board as the
occasion may require.^^ The Tile Layers explicitly limit
2^ Constitution, 1906, art. vi, sec. 16.
^^ Locomotive Engineers' Monthly Journal, September, 1894, p. 847.
"Proceedings, 1896, p. 189.
^^ J. R. Commons and E. A. Gilmore, Documentary History of
American Industrial Society, vol. vi, p. 51.
^' Constitution, 1909, art, v, sec. 4.
^^ Constitution, 1909, art. xii, sec. 3,
385] THE INITIATION OF STRIKES 47
the number of strikes at any given time to one.^^ The
Coopers,^® the Electrical Workers ,"^^ and the Operative
Plasterers^^ do not support more than two strikes at a
time, the last named union providing that "the first two
strikes shall be sustained in order as they apply, providing
the executive board decides their claim is just."
The gradual growth of the idea of limiting the number of
strikes is seen in the history of the Bricklayers and Masons
and of the Carpenters. The secretary of the Bricklayers
and Masons complained in 1885 that every application to
strike, if properly drawn and voted for by the local unions,
was sanctioned and that there was no limit to the number
of strikes. This produced an "endless amount of confu-
sion, ill-feeling and misunderstanding" as to strike assess-
ments.^^ A rule was passed at the 1885 convention to the
effect that only one local union could strike at a time.^"^
Local unions desiring to go on strike were required to
wait until any previous application for strike sanction
had been disposed of. The limitation of one strike at a
time was changed to three at the 1887 convention."*^ The
Carpenters and Joiners also at their first annual convention
in 1 88 1 provided for only one strike at a time."*^ This rule
was soon repealed, but in 1890 provision was made that
when any strike or lockout or any number of strikes in-
volved more than 3000 members no other strike should
be sustained or financially aided at the same time by the
national union .^^ The number involved was in 1900 in-
creased to not over 6000. The Stone Cutters in 1894 sub-
stituted for the rule forbidding the sanction of more than
two strikes at one time a new rule which forbade the sanc-
tioning of new strikes when ten per cent of the membership
of the national union were on strike.^
'* Constitution, 1899, art. xiii, sec. 4.
^^Constitution, 1910, sec. 69.
^^ Proceedings, 191 1, p. 60.
^^ Constitution, 1910, art. vii, sec. 16.
28 Proceedings, 1885, p. 34.
" Ibid., p. 65.
" Proceedings, 1887, p. 139.
*^ Constitution, 1881, art. xx, sec. 4.
*' Constitution, 1890, sec. 133.
^ Proceedings, 1894, p. 6.
48 CONTROL OF STRIKES IN AMERICAN TRADE UNIONS [386
Another device intended to limit the number of strikes
is the rule which forbids a local union to make a second
application for strike sanction for the same grievance until
a certain period of time has elapsed after the disapproval
of the first. The Cigar Makers'*^ fix the term at three
months, dating from the rejection of the first, as do the
Plumbers,'*^ while the Piano Workers^^ make the period
two months and the Blacksmiths'*^ one month.
Another method of limiting strikes is to prohibit all
strikes for a definite period by a vote of a convention of
the national union. President Saffin of the Iron Molders
in 1878, for instance, renewed his recommendation of the
previous year that strikes cease for one year and the money
so used be expended in agitation and in building up the
organization.^^ A resolution was passed at the Carriage
and Wagon Workers' convention of 1903 to the effect that
no local union should be permitted to strike for a period
of one year.^° At the 1906 convention of the same organiza-
tion a resolution forbidding strikes for three years was
offered and, although not adopted, is significant because
of the reason given for its presentation. The author urged
its adoption "in order that during a reign of industrial
peace the craft throughout the country might be thoroughly
organized and a fund collected and saved to insure success
to those who by consent of a convention or the Executive
Board may enter into industrial war."^^
" Constitution, 1888, art. vi, sec. 9; 1896, 20th Edition, sec. 87.
*^ Constitution, 1910, sec. 171.
*'' Constitution, 1906, art. vi, sec. 9.
*^ Constitution, 1909, art. vii, sec. 7.
^8 Proceedings, 1878, p. 7.
^^ Proceedings, 1903, p. 3.
*i Proceedings, 1906, p. 6.
The Independent Strike
The independent or unauthorized strike may be defined
as a strike inaugurated by the local union without the con-
sent of the ofiEicers of the national union or without com-
pliance with the rules of the national union. The extent
of control on the part of the national unions varies to a
considerable extent: First, there are a number of national
unions whose local unions have complete autonomy; second,
several unions permit the independent strike under certain
circumstances; third, a large number forbid any strike
without official sanction.
In the first group of national unions, that is, those whose
local unions have complete autonomy, are the Barbers, the
Blast Furnace Workers and Smelters, the Commercial
Telegraphers, the Composition Roofers, the Electrical
Workers, the Hod Carriers and Building Laborers, the
Print Cutters, the Shipwrights and Joiners, the Slate and
Tile Roofers, the Steel Plate Transferers, the Wall Paper
Machine Printers and Color Mixers, the Window Glass
Cutters and Flatteners, and the Wood, Wire and Metal
The absence of any control by the national unions in
this group may be explained by the fact that as there are
no defense funds, the local unions must finance their own
strikes. When, however, the national union pays bene-
fits, more control is obtained. The Barbers, for instance,
in 191 1 financed a strike for the first time, and through
national officers on the ground looked after the interest of
the national union from the initiation to the close of the
strike. Even in the absence of benefits there is a tendency
to discourage hasty or ill-advised strikes. The Hod Car-
riers passed a resolution at their 191 1 convention that all
50 CONTROL OF STRIKES IN AMERICAN TRADE UNIONS [388
local unions should notify the general office not less than
one month before going out on strike, and stipulated that
to receive moral support new local unions must be chartered
at least six months previous to a strike.^
In the second group are found some twenty unions be-
longing to the building trades which allow their members
working on a particular building to strike at once when a
grievance arises. The reason given is that it is necessary
because of the need of prompt action; if delayed, the
building will have been completed and the men scattered.
A building is usually erected by giving the contract to
one contractor, who sublets to many other contractors.
A strike on one building involves only a few men, and
unless it spreads costs but little. The various local unions
are organized usually in a building-trades council, and if a
strike is called by one union the rest go out in sympathy.
A good deal of authority is given to the business agent or
"walking delegate," at whose discretion such a strike may
be called. The rise of the large contractor and the making
of agreements are, however, influences tending to the
abolition of the single-building strike. The Bricklayers
and Masons, for instance, prohibit all such sympathetic
strikes and provide for agreements and arbitration. The
work of this union is ordinarily under the general con-
tractor and not under a subcontractor, and as it usually
comes first in point of time additional strength is thus
gained in strike control. But even a general local strike
may be entered into by local organizations among many
building-trades unions provided they pay their own ex-
penses and do not appeal to the general union for strike
Several other national unions, such as the Bill Posters,
the Brewery Workers, the Cap Makers, the Cloth Weavers,
the Hotel and Restaurant W^orkers, the Ladies' Garment
Workers, the Stogie Makers, the Teamsters, and the
Theatrical Stage Employees, also allow their local unions
under certain conditions to strike without the consent
^ Proceedings, 191 1, p. 19.
389] THE INDEPENDENT STRIKE 5I
of the national union. The general rule in these unions
is that in an emergency involving only a small number of
men or in a case where no financial assistance is expected,
the local union may strike independently. Local unions
of the Cloth Weavers, for instance, are allowed to strike
on their own responsibility for the first four weeks; after
that time the national union assumes charge of the strike,
provided that after investigation the local union is found
to have been justified in striking.^ No strike benefits are
paid by the Hotel and Restaurant Workers unless the
strike has been sanctioned by the general executive board
before being ordered, but they do not "deprive any of
their local unions of the right to strike whenever they feel
their interests can only be served by such a course." The
local union so striking does so, however, upon its own
resources and at its own risk, and has no financial claim
either upon the national union or upon the other local
unions. Strikes for higher wages may be entered into by
the local unions of the Stogie Makers without the consent
of the national executive board if the local union finances
the strike.^ The local unions of the Ladies' Garment
Workers may strike without the moral and financial sup-
port of the general union, but if more than one local union
is concerned sanction is necessary. The general officers
insist, however, that more authority on their part is needed.'*
The national unions in the third group forbid their local
unions to go on strike without official sanction. Any strike
entered upon without such sanction is termed illegal. In
this group may be found the Brewery Workers, the Brick-
layers and Masons, the Cigar Makers, the Coopers, the
Broom Makers, the Brick, Tile, and Terra Cotta Workers,
the Compressed Air Workers, the Cutting Die and Cutter
Makers, the Elastic Goring Weavers, the Elevator Con-
structors, the Glove Workers, the Hatters, the Iron, Steel
and Tin Workers, the Machinists, the Maintenance of
Way Employees, the Meat Cutters, the Metal Polishers,
^ Constitution, 1909, p. 7.
* Constitution, 1909, art. v, sec. 7.
* Constitution, 191 1, pp. 39-40; Proceedings, 1910, p. 19.
52 CONTROL OF STRIKES IN AMERICAN TRADE UNIONS [39O
the Iron Molders, the Paper Makers, the Pulp Workers, the
Pavers, the Paving Cutters, the Printers, the Quarry
Workers, the Locomotive Engineers, the Locomotive Fire-
men, the Railroad Trainmen, the Railroad Telegraphers,
the Railroad Expressmen, the Retail Clerks, the Saw Smiths,
the Seamen, the Slate Workers, the Street and Electric
Railway Employes, the Switchmen, the Tin Plate Workers,
the United Mine Workers, the United Powder Workers, the
Wire Weavers, the Window Glass Workers, the Flint Glass
Workers, the Printing Pressmen, the Photo-Engravers,
and the Operative Potters.
The abolition in this third group of the independent
strike on the part of local unions has been brought about
only after many years of effort and experimentation. The
evolution which in many respects is common to all may
be best illustrated by a brief consideration of the history
of several typical organizations. These unions have found
it necessary to prevent the independent strike because of
its destructive effects not only on the local union but also
on the national organization. In addition, the influence
of agreements and of the sympathetic strike has been
particularly important in bringing the independent strike
to an end.
The Iron Molders have always been a militant union.
As early as 1866 one of their local unions declared its
intention to strike with or without permission of the
national union. ^ President Saffin declared in 1873 that
the greatest drawback for many years to their progress as
an organization had been the large number of illegal strikes
and that the progress of the three preceding years had
been due to the rigid enforcement of strike laws.^ Again
in 1875 he declared that "strikes in violation of law, ending
in defeat, always end in the destruction of the union.
Blind zeal is not enough."^ Illegal strikes, however, con-
tinued in spite of these warnings, and the convention of
1882 placed the sanction of strikes in the hands of the
* International Journal [Iron Molders], November, 1866, p. 256.
* Ibid., April, 1873, p. I.
' Iron Molders' Journal, September, 1875, p. 425.
39l] THE INDEPENDENT STRIKE 53
national president and executive board. To enforce this
arrangement the penalty of expulsion, afterwards changed
to suspension, was provided.^ In 1886 an illegal strike,
originating in Cincinnati and embracing during its nine
months' duration many thousand molders in the Central
West, was a failure on account of trade conditions. It was
declared again at the convention of 1886 that the inde-
pendent strike should not be allowed. Local unions, how-
ever, protested that, if they were held down too closely to
the rule and had to submit their grievances to the national
executive board, they would lose their best opportunity to
strike.^ Two independent strikes took place in 1901 after
sanction had been denied by the executive board, — "the
first instance in many years," declared President Fox,
"wherein locals have persisted as a body in an attitude of
open defiance of the National Union." Other local unions
were encouraged to attempt the same policy. The matter
was taken up at the convention of 1902, and the Chicago
conference board was persuaded to declare the independent
strike off in that city, and to secure sanction by making
application in the usual way.^° It was also made manda-
tory upon the president and the executive board to suspend
all members participating in unsanctioned strikes and to
have their suspension recorded if such insubordination
A gradual development took place also in the Cigar
Makers' Union. As early as 1873 the national union had
inaugurated the policy of attempting to arbitrate griev-
ances before calling a strike and of referring proposed
strikes to the national organization.^- In 1876 control of
strikes was not very effective, and the official editor wrote:
"The disposition to strike on almost every occasion has
produced the greatest demoralization to our whole organiza-
* Proceedings, p. 76; Constitution, 1888, art. vii, sec. 2.
^ Proceedings, 1886, pp. 9, 17.
^° Proceedings, 1902, pp. 615, 729.
"Iron Holders' Journal, September, 1907, p. 652; Constitution,
1907, art. vii, sec. 3.
12 Cigar Makers' Official Journal, September, 1873, p. 6.
54 CONTROL OF STRIKES IN AMERICAN TRADE UNIONS [392
tion."^^ President Strasser declared in 1880 that "the
safety and future of our union demands that all unauthor-
ized strikes be stopped because in the long run they will
surely be failures." In 1881 the official editor said the
constitution provided that only those strikes officially
sanctioned could be supported financially, and urged that
the national officers be trusted by the local unions in
authorizing strikes.^^ In 1884 the rule was strengthened
by providing that "no member or union shall be considered
on strike unless said strike shall have been approved by the
proper authorities of the International Union. "^^ The
disastrous results of a strike in Cincinnati in 1884, entered
into against the advice of the national officials, made clear
the necessity of adopting some means to compel local unions
to settle their grievances in accordance with the interests of
the national organization. The result of this long and
bitter contest, brought on by the refusal to arbitrate, was
the passage of a rule at the convention of 1885 at Cincin-
nati authorizing the executive board to appoint an arbi-
tration board to act with the local committee. The arbi-
tration board was given power to force a conference, and
the results of such conference were to be binding, even if
not agreeable to the local union involved, if approved by a
general vote.^® In the report of President Strasser at the
convention of 1887 he said: "Our unions have gradually
recognized the necessity of discipline and the enforcement
of our laws governing the management of strikes. Inde-
pendent strikes have become a matter of the past, not to
be revived or tolerated again."
The Carpenters and Joiners since their organization in
1 88 1 have required that their local unions in order to
receive assistance shall obtain the authority of the general
executive board before striking.^^ In 1894 detailed move-
ments were declared to be better than local ones, while
" Cigar Makers' Official Journal, March, 1876, p. 4.
" Ibid., April, 1881, p. i.
"Constitution, 1884, p. 19.
"^ Proceedings, 1885, p. 6; Constitution, 1885, p. 15.
^'' Constitution, 1881, art. xx, sec. 8.
393] THE INDEPENDENT STRIKE 55
today a local union engaging in a general strike without
sanction renders itself liable to expulsion .^^
Among the unions which forbid independent strikes
there are marked differences in the efficacy of such rules,
and unauthorized strikes occur at times. The tendency,
however, is toward a more rigid enforcement of discipline
through the infliction of penalties. There are a number of
unions in this class — the Boot and Shoe Workers, the
Bookbinders, the Brewery Workmen, the Iron, Steel and
Tin Workers, the Locomotive Engineers, the Locomotive
Firemen, the Railroad Trainmen, the Switchmen, the Rail-
road Telegraphers, the Railway Carmen, the Railway
Clerks, the Street and Electric Railway Employees, the
Printers, the Stereotypers, the Photo-Engravers, the
Pressmen, the Railway Conductors, the Operative Potters,
and the United Mine Workers — in which unauthorized