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Organized Self-Help.






"The Crime of Credulity," "The Red Light," Etc.


New York,


35 Fulton Street.



Herbert N. Cassok.



Betffcatetr to tfje
American iFetreratfou of Haoor.




Introduction .............;.. vii

Chapter I.
The Trade Utiioii as d Legitimate Business Institu-
tion 11

Chapter II.
The Trade Union Prevents Lawlessness and Revolu-
tion 39

Chapter III.
The Trade Union is the Distributor of Prosperity. . 70

Chapter IV.
High-Priced Labor and Commercial Supremacy. .. . 102

Chapter V
Trade Unions as the Pioneers of Social Reform 127

Chapter VI.
The Trade Union is the Inevitable Development of
the American Spirit 160

Chapter VII.
The Trade Union Promotes Morality and Education. 193


AT the time of writing (November, 1901) the
American Federation of Labor has on its
rolls 1,100,000 members, and is increasing- at the
rate of 350,000 a year. It not only contains more
citizens than any church denomination or society
in the United States, but is the strongest non-mili-
tary organization in the world.

Yet very few, especially among our literary,
business and professional classes, know anything
about the nature and history of this gigantic feder-
ation of wage-workers. Whenever a strike occurs,
the newspapers print pages of personalities, de-
nunciations and trivial details, but very rarely give
any valuable information upon which a level-
headed opinion may be formed.

In every discussion, the less we know about the
subject the more we shout and abuse our oppo-
nents; and this is especially the case in time of
labor troubles. Such an atmosphere of passion is


viii Introduction.

created that arbitration and cool judgment become
impossible. The disastrous struggle is prolonged,
until the employer is threatened with bankruptcy
and the workers with starvation, because no middle
ground of agreement can be discovered.

This little book is especially designed to prevent
such deadlocks, by removing the prejudices which
stand in the way of arbitration, and by presenting
in general terms the workers' side of the question.
The refusal to arbitrate generally comes from the
employer, not from the trade union ; and in this
refusal he is too often sustained by public senti-

If, therefore, it can be plainly shown that during
the whole history of this Republic, the trade unions
have promoted law and order, industrial peace,
prosperity, education and morality ; that they have
been the pioneers in almost every humanitarian
reform, and the most effective agencies in the de-
velopment of our free institutions, the outside pub-
lic, and more especially the directors of corpora-
tions, may come to a more tolerant and reasonable
frame of mind.

The writer desires nothing more than fair play.

Introduction. ix

Whoever acts unjustly, whether he be unionist or
capitalist, should lose his case. The only reason
why this book does not present both sides of the
question is because there are always a dozen to
champion the capitalist to one who is willing to
speak for the workingman.

The facts gathered in the following pages have
all been collected from responsible writers, and in
many cases corroborated by the observation of the
writer. As it is the first attempt which has been
made to describe the American Labor Movement
as a whole, and obliged to be condensed into the
fewest possible words, there will doubtless be many
omissions. Many facts which are commonly
known about trade unions have been purposely left
out to make room for historical matter of especial

All the chapters have been written in language
that a child of ten can understand, so that any one
who can read the ordinary newspaper can be put
in possession of these important facts in American
history. Every boy and girl in our Republic should
know the means by which it has been built up, and

x Introduction.

by which liberty and equal rights have been ob-

The author will esteem it a special favor if read-
ers will send him, by mail, any facts which may be
omitted and which should be inserted in future


35 Fulton St., New York City.



ORGANIZED Labor and Organized Capital
are engaged in a fight to a finish. It is the
Trade Union against the Trust — the union work-
ingman against the monopolist.

The final outcome of this fight will affect the wel-
fare of every man, woman and child in the United
States. It is not a private affair, it is an industrial
Civil War. The question that is being decided is
more than one of work and wages ; it is whether
this country is to be run in the interests of property
or in the interests of the people.

On a question so important as this every one of
us must form an opinion. If we do not investigate
for ourselves and form intelligent opinions, we will
be sure to believe what some newspaper says and
form foolish opinions. No people are so clannish
as capitalists, and as they control nearly every
paper and magazine and library, their side of the

12 Organized Self-Help.

question has been presented as favorably as pos-
sible, while trade unionists have been too often
denounced as dangerous agitators and rioters.

Therefore, as the average American citizen is
not a fanatic, but a well-meaning, fair-minded sort
of a fellow, there is a demand for a clear, simple
statement of the Organized Labor side of the
question. Thousands of people want to "hear the
other side." Every morning they read accounts of
these desperate battles called strikes; they notice
the wonderful organization of these gigantic armies
of workingmen, and the courage with which their
unions face monopolists whom the kings of Europe
do not dare to offend ; and they want to know
what it is all about.

As a matter of fact, there is nothing secret or
mysterious or foreign about Organized Labor.
Any ten-year-old boy can understand it. In every
large community of intelligent working people a
trade union is as legitimate as a savings bank and
as indispensable as a post-office.

This is an age of organization in all civilized
countries. Capitalists combine into corporations
and trusts to lower expenses and increase profits,
and wage- workers combine into unions to reduce

A Legitimate Business Institution. 13

the hours of labor and to raise wages. The "scab"
capitalist is driven out of business by the trust, and
the "scab" workingman is driven out of employ-
ment by the union. The man, whether capitalist
or workingman, who does not protect his business
interests by organizing with others like himself is
almost certain to become a bankrupt or a tramp.

Considered as a business proposition, from a
purely selfish standpoint, the trade union and the
trust are very similar; though, as we shall see
further on, the trade union tends to elevate and
enrich the nation, while the trust tends to destroy
it. Business is industrial warfare; and as Francis
A. Walker, the noted political economist, once
said : "If the wage laborer does not pursue his in-
terest, he loses his interest."

Not even the richest millionaire can stand alone
against the Wall street communism of wealth that
seeks to conquer the commerce of the world. About
two years ago a New York financier, rated at
$20,000,000, withdrew from the Sugar Trust, in
which he had made his money, and struck out on
his own account. He antagonized the great Rail-
road Trust and several others, and the result was
that his millions melted away like snow in June.

14 Organised Self-Help.

He was bankrupted so thoroughly that he was
obliged to turn over to his creditors his home, his
chickens and his gold watch. Such is the difficulty
of playing a lone hand against the business combi-
nations of to-day.

If, therefore, union is necessary for millionaires,
how much more necessary is it for workingmen,
who have no "pull," no property and no social
standing? A single non-union workingman can
no more make a contract with a trust than a grass-
hopper can stop an express train. Yet both grass-
hoppers and workingmen have stopped trains and
trusts by combining in large numbers. The in-
dividual worker has become as powerless as the
individual voter. Neither can do anything alone,
but by combining they can absolutely control every
department of industry and government.

Take away the trade union and you take away
the only hope the average workingman has of
bettering his condition. A wage-worker is not like
a stock-juggling financier; he has no hopes of sud-
den wealth. Every dollar in his pay-envelope must
be earned and often doubly-earned by hard work.
He is not, generally speaking, like a bank clerk;
he has little hope of being picked out and pro-

A Legitimate Business Institution. 15

moted. His chance of being made superintendent,
at a salary of $5,000 a year, is about as probable
as his chance of being sent to Congress. He has
nothing to sell except his labor, and no means of
getting a higher price for it except through his

"Recognizing the right of the capitalist to control
his capital, we also claim and shall exercise the
right to control our labor/' said the Constitution
of the St. Crispins, a shoemakers' union that ex-
erted a great influence twenty-five years ago. And
the only way that the price of labor can be con-
trolled or increased is by the combination of all the
workers who have any particular kind of labor to

The days of "free contracts" between the indi-
vidual worker and his employer are gone by. To-
day workers are hired and fired by the hundred
and often by the thousand. They have no chance
to even enter their employers' office. In most cases
they work for an anonymous corporation, and are
treated by the company as so much raw material
and numbered like trucks and drays. Neither
employer nor workman knows one another by
name. .

16 Organized Self-Help.

Either, then, they must do as the farmers do —
pay what they're asked and take what they're
offered, or organize a union, elect a secretary, and
send him into the company's office to make better
terms on their behalf.

Abram S. Hewitt, a wealthy employer and ex-
Mayor of New York, once said that it is only when
the workers are organized that the contending
parties in an industrial struggle are in a position
to treat. "Capital will not listen," said he, "until
Labor is in a position to compel a hearing."

Almost every capitalist imagines that he can in-
crease his profits by cutting down wages. This is
a great mistake, as we shall point out in another
chapter; but it seems impossible to get the idea
into the average capitalistic brain. Most employ-
ers, and especially those who belong to Trusts,
want to make their will the only law of their em-
ployees. They want to deal with their men in the
same way that old Judge Jacob Weaver dealt with
the Indians. Weaver was a New Yorker who lived
ove-r a hundred years ago and who made a large
fortune in the fur trade. He taught the Indians
to sell their furs by weight, and persuaded them
that his foot weighed one pound and his hand a

A Legitimate Business Institution. 17

half-pound. Weaver had thus the credit, as well
as the profit, of inventing the first "sliding scale"
system of wages.

Consequently, if workingmen had no unions,
there is no limit to the wrongs they would suffer
at the hands of despotic capitalists. The misery of
the victim would be as limitless as the greed of
the oppressor. The competition in luxury now
being waged by millionaires and their wives would
cause one reduction to follow another in quick suc-
cession. Whenever a new palace was built, or a
million dollars given to a college or a daughter
married to a Duke, another ten-per-cent. cut-down
would be ordered, or another hour added to the
length of the day's work.

The trade union civilizes the capitalist. It pre-
vents him from making a Persian Shah of himself.
It draws a line between fair play and oppression
and says, "Thus far, and no farther shall you go."
It says to him, "This is America and not Russia;
and you must do business the American way."
It transforms the wage-earners from human ma-
chines into human beings.

"Whenever Capital disarms, Labor will ; but not
before," said Wendell Phillips. Before corpora-

18 Organised Self-Help.

tions and trusts were formed, when capitalists were
weak and disorganized, there was some reason for
their opposition to trade unions. But to-day the
fight made by the Trusts against unionism is in
every way unjust.

The modern capitalist is armed and organized.
He is protected by every possible fortress of law.
He has many editors and professors and preachers
to defend his actions and abuse his opponents. He
even counts on the police, the militia and the Na-
tional Guard to always champion his side of the
quarrel when he disagrees with his employees. His
one aim and object in life is to get as much work
done for as little money as possible, and to sell the
product for the highest price he can secure.

So the unorganized workers are to-day as help-
less as sheep in a den of wolves. They have no
means by which they can effectively protest against
any injustice from which they may be suffering.
They are at the mercy of an economic antagonist.

Such is the predicament of the worker who has
no union. The Trust-makers are racing to see who
shall be the first billionaire, and they have no time
to think of the insignificant $2-a-day atoms who
wriggle about in their great mines and factories.

A Legitimate Business Institution. 19

Fifty years ago, when ten workers worked side
by side with their employer, in a little wopden
factory, each separate workman counted for some-
thing. He called his employer by name and was
free to give advice about the business. He was
much more like a partner than a hired hand. But
in the gigantic plants that now exist one worker
counts for as little as a leaf on a tree. The bigger
the plant, the smaller the workman, is a truth that
most American wage-earners have found out by

This shrinkage of the workman can only be over-
come in two ways — by organization or by some
catastrophe which greatly reduces the number of
workingmen in the country. The latter happens
occasionally, as after the Black Plague in Europe
and during the Civil War in America, but it can
hardly be recommended as a plan of reform.

Organization is, therefore, the only expedient by
which the worker can retain any individual rights
whatever. If he has no right to set a minimum
price upon his labor, then the grocer has no right
to set a price upon his groceries and the physician
has no right to fix his own fee. When any body of

20 Organised Self -Help.

people are prevented from combining for mutual
profit, business stops and slavery begins.

"I have a right to be a man," said Francis Lieber,
"because I am a man." The unjustifiable attempt
of capitalists to ignore trade unions, to refuse arbi-
tration and lock the office door against the elected
representative of the workingmen, is a denial of
those fundamental rights upon which democracy
and civilization stand.

The trade union is, in short, the natural product
of the present industrial system. No agitator or
body of labor leaders is to be credited with the
production of the Labor Movement. The cause of
unionism is the instinct of self-preservation, which
is most highly developed in intelligent and robust

When "Uncle Sam was rich enough to give us all
a farm," and when farming on a small scale was
profitable, the wage-earner was more independent.
If his boss refused to raise his wages, he could go
west and take up land. There was even a chance,
before millionaires grew up, for a poorly-paid
mechanic to start a little shop of his own.

To-day the bonanza farm and expensive agricul-
tural machinery make it almost impossible for a

A Legitimate Business Institution. 21

poor man to succeed in farming, even if he could
get the land for nothing, and there is no Ghance
whatever to start a factory with ten cents and a
jack-knife, as many did fifty years ago.

The 5,000,000 wage-workers in the large factory
cities of America have absolutely nothing to depend
upon but their weekly wages. Their Saturday
pay-envelope is to them what land is to the farmer.
It is their life.

And whether the pay-envelope contains much or
little, it is uncertain. At any time it may be
stopped. A government report has shown that 65
per cent, of the unemployed men and 78 per cent,
of the unemployed women of the United States
were workers in the manufacturing industries.

Without any guarantee of steady employment,
without political influence, without a cent of in-
come from rent, profits or interest, without a square
foot of land, without any home except the one
which is hired by the month from the landlord, or
without any prospect of an old-age pension, is it
any wonder that the wage-workers organize unions
for mutual protection? Is it any wonder that they
consider trade unions to be "the indispensable
means of enabling the sellers of labor to take care

22 Organized Self-Help.

of their own interests/' to quote the words of John
Stuart Mill?

Imagine a body of 500 men and women, who
go every workday to the same factory, who live in
the same part of the city, who discover that they
have the same interests, and are in danger from
the same source, and yet who never conceive the
idea of combining for self-protection ! Such a
thing would be impossible, except among the lowest

The demands made by trade unions have in-
variably been fair and moderate. For several gen-
erations labor organizations demanded little else
beside the abolition of old abuses which had become
intolerable. When Wendell Phillips wrote the
platform for the Massachusetts Labor Party in
1871, he began it with this sentence, "We affirm
that labor, the creator of wealth, is entitled to all
it creates." No trade union has ever struck for as
extreme a demand as this.

Whatever separate unionists may think of the
absolute rights of Labor, they do not as unionists
demand anything more than an improvement of
present industrial conditions. In Italy, Germany,
France, Belgium and Austria labor organizations

A Legitimate Business Institution. 23

are revolutionary clubs of Socialists. But that is
not the case in this country.

Up to 1886, American labor bodies were in-
clined to favor schemes for social reorganization,
such as Fourierism and Socialism; but they dis-
covered that all these schemes ended in politics and
politics ended in disruption. Since that time they
have been more practical and business-like. They
have kept clear of political traps and idealistic
propaganda. At every annual convention some
well-meaning but short-sighted enthusiast proposes
to transform the whole Labor Movement into a
Socialist political party, but after half an hour of
fireworks the resolution is voted down and the
members settle back to more important business.

Every intelligent unionist believes in united po-
litical action on the part of wage-workers. He has
also his ideals and dreams of what business will
be like in the twenty-first century, but he does not
believe in mixing dreams with his bread and butter.
Since 1890, trade union conventions have refused
to admit delegates from political parties.

One of the abuses, for instance, which trade
unions first set out to abolish was the infamous
"truck store" system, which was very common

24 Organised Self-Help.

sixty years ago. This system originated partly
because of the scarcity of currency and partly
because of a dislike of the employers to see their
working people too prosperous. It compelled a
workingman to buy his goods from his employer's
store, invariably on penalty of discharge.

At the end of the week or month the worker
received in his "pay-envelope" a statement of his
account with his boss, often showing him in debt
instead of having a balance in his favor. If there
was a balance, it was paid, not in cash, but by a
due-bill, good for so much merchandise at the
"pluck-me" store.

The employer fixed the rate of wages and also
the prices of the store commodities, so that nothing
but a bare existence was left to the working people.
A Pittsburg reporter found that the prices in a
"truck store" were 60 per cent, higher than in other
stores near by. And the accounts that the men re-
ceived did not specify articles, but merely said:
"Sugar, 50c. ;" "pork, $1.25 ;" "cloth, $3.00 ;" etc.

It is related that in 1862 a Scranton manufac-
turer hung outside the door of his factory a flag
with these patriotic words upon it, "Your country's
call obey." One of his work-girls said to him,

A Legitimate Business Institution. 25

"Your inscription is not complete; it ought to

'Your country's call obey;

Work for us and take store pay.' "

In a number of States the "truck store" has been
abolished by law, but it still is one of the main
causes of poverty in the mining and cotton districts.
Recently at a labor meeting in Throop, Pa., a
young miner named Stephen McDonald made the
following remarkable statement, showing what the
conditions are where no trade unions exist :

"Men," said McDonald, "you all know me
around here. You know the truth of what I say.
I repeat it to you to remind you of the common lot
of our misery and suffering which has made us
combine to cry out for a better order of things.

"When I was six years and four months old I
went to work in the breakers of the Pancoast Coal
Company. I have worked nineteen years, every
day that I could get. I have never been on an
excursion in my life. I have never been to a
theatre but twice in my life. I have not drank a
drop of beer or liquor for five years, and for two
years I have not smoked. I have practiced the

26 Organized Self-Help.

closest economy in food. But I have never been
able to accumulate $100 in my life.

"Men, I have lived in the hamlet of Throop all
my life. You and I know this has always been a
company store town. We know in our hearts
what that means, whatever the operators may say.

"Eleven years I worked for the Pancoast Coal
Company, and during those eleven years I swear
here before the Omnipotent I never handled one
cent of earnings in money."

What man or woman of unbiased mind will say
that such feudalistic institutions as the "truck
store" should exist in this country? Yet it would
be seen to-day side by side with almost every fac-
tory and mine if it had not been for the opposition
of organized labor. Every worker who finds cash
and not a due-bill in his pay-envelope may thank
the labor leaders of the last generation for it.

Another great triumph of trade unions has been
the reduction of the hours of labor. Many a
dapper young clerk, too feather-headed to join a
union, and many a mulish non-unionist, are to-day
enjoying twenty-four hours less work every week
because of the ten-hour and eight-hour campaigns
carried on by the trade unions.

A Legitimate Business Institution. 27

We are apt to forget that ioo years ago men,
women and children toiled from 78 to 84 hours a
week — 13 and 14 hours a day. This was the
average, but many employers ground 16 hours a
day out of their jaded wage-slaves.

In 1800 every laboring man and mechanic was
at work at 4 a. m. At 10 they had an hour for
lunch, at 3 an hour for dinner, and then on till dark.
As late as 1836 women and children began work in
seme factories at 4 130 a. m. ; and in New England
it was the custom to light the lamps and work an
hour before dawn, as well as an hour after — thus
stealing two hours a day from rest. Even this was
not enough for some greedy employers, and it was
proved in a number of cases that the factory clock
had been tampered with and set back half an hour.

No negro slave or Russian serf or Egyptian
fellah was ever driven to the last ounce of his
strength as were the first factory workers of New
England. By law negro slaves could not be worked
longer than 14 hours a day in winter and 15 in
summer, and they were always allowed to lounge

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