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Report on international action and
machinery regulating labor and
international labor opinion as to
peace terms












rv 1956














A. Introduction 5

B. Unofficial International Action to Promote Protective Labor Legislation. . . 5

I. Socialist Internationale 5

II. International trade-union movement 6

a. International Trades Secretariat 6

b. International Secretariat 7

III. Semi-official associations for economic and social reform 8

a. International Federation for the Observation of Sunday 8

b. Permanent International Committee on Social Insurance 8

c. International Congress on Occupational Diseases 9

d. International Association on Unemployment 9

e. International Association for Labor Legislation 9

C. Official International Action Regulating Labor Conditions 10

I. History of official international agreements 10

II. Volume of agreements '. 12

III. Subject matter dealt -with 12

IV. International machinery suggested by agreements 13

D. International Labor and Socialist Opinion on the Peace Settlement 14

I. Labor and socialist conferences during the war 14

a. Inter-allied 14

b. International 16

c. Neutral 17

II. Proposals for labor participation at the Peace Conference 17

a. A labor conference at the same time and place 17

b. Labor representation in the peace delegations of participating

nations 18

III. Proposals as to the terms of peace 18

a. Political 18

b. Industrial 19





This report summarizes the opinion of international labor and
socialist groups on the terms of the peace settlement. It aims also
to provide a background for the consideration of international
machinery to regulate labor conditions. For the latter purpose a
brief outline is given of the steps which have been taken by various
labor and other groups to promote international protective labor
legislation. The step* which governments have taken in this direc-
tion are outlined in greater detail, since these provide the nearest
approach to a precedent for international action. In conclusion, the
report defines the attitude of labor and socialist groups since August.
1914, with reference to the peace settlement in its political as well as
its industrial aspects.


Organized international opinion in favor of the regulation of
labor conditions by international means, exclusive of official treaties
and conventions, is chiefly represented by three groups : The Socialist
Internationale, the international trade-union movement, and the
various semi-official international associations for economic and social
reform. These will be dealt with in the order of their origin.

I. Socialist Internationale.

The Socialist Internationale began to take form about 1864 when
Karl Marx became the leader of an organization of radicals called
the International Workingmen's Association. The association held
seven conferences before its dissolution in 1873, drawing an increas-
ingly larger representation from all the European countries, but
chiefly from England, Germany, France, Italy, and Switzerland.
From 1873 to 1889 the Internationale was inactive, but socialism
itself continued to draw adherents, for it was during this period that
political parties founded on socialist principles began to appear.
In 1889 a new Internationale was formed, which held a conference in
Paris at which 20 nationalities were represented. At the last regu-
lar congress in 1910, 33 nations were present.

In all, nine international congresses have been held. The resolu-
tions passed by these congresses have dealt with both industrial and
political questions. For example, the Copenhagen Congress in 1910,
reiterating the demands of the 1889 Congress, passed a resolution
containing the following minimum standard for international legis-
lation :

1. A maximum working day of eight hours.

2. Prohibition of labor under 14 years.

3. Prohibition of night work except when necessary.

4. Uninterrupted rest of 3G hours a week as a minimum for

all workers.

5. Absolute right of combination.

6. Inspection of working conditions, with cooperation of per-

sons elected by the workers.
The same congress resolved itself in favor of ultimate complete dis-
armament and the abolition of secret diplomacy.

In 1£00 the International Socialist Bureau was founded, with head-
quarters at Brussels. The Bureau is a permanent organization of
delegates from every country, called international secretaries, who,
during the years 1904 to 1914, met one or more times annually. Its
executive committee is composed of Belgian socialists whose chair-
man and secretary, respectively, since the year of its founding, have
been Emile Vandervelde and Camille Huysmans.

II. International Trade-Union Movement.

International working-class conferences of various kinds were held
at approximately the same time as the early Socialist Internationale.
The earliest of these were general congresses of working-class repre-
sentatives and their friends, such as the international conference of
workers which met in Paris in 1886. and the International Labor
Congress of 1897 at Zurich. Before these general congresses
disappeared entirely, single crafts or groups of related crafts
had become organized internationally and were holding conferences
at which each international craft organization was represented. The
body of representatives was called the International Trades Secre-
tariat. Shortly after the development of the Trades Secretariat,
another international body was formed called the International Sec-
retariat, composed of representatives of the central trade federations
of each nation. This body also held periodic conferences.

a. International Trades Secretariat.

Most of the international craft federations began to meet about
1890, although there are indications of conferences of international
tobacco workers' unions as early as 1871 and 1872. In 1912, about
30 trades were organized internationally. In that year, the Inter-
national Metal Workers' Federation and the corresponding federa-

tion of miners each had over a million members. Trades like the
woodworkers, printers, etc., whose total membership in 1912 Avas
smaller, were organized in from 15 to '20 countries. Five of the
trades published monthly papers in several Languages.

The conferences of the four largest federations, namely, the tobacco
workers, transport workers, miner- and metal workers, have been
concerned with such questions as mutual assistance in strikes, reci-
procity agreements covering sick benefits, traveling and death bene-
fits, the reduction of working hours. Sunday rest, the inauguration
of a minimum wage, and the protection of women and children in
industry. In addition, transport workers, including dockers, seamen
and railway men, favored nationalization of railways and other
means of production and the introduction of arbitration courts ;
miners advocated pensions for those injured in the mines and their
widows and orphans, and nationalization of mines. The eight -hour
day was advocated by all the trades.

The work of these congresses has been confined almost entirely to
conducting propaganda in the various federated nations. For this
purpose the international secretary or a specially appointed com-
mittee has year after year been instructed by the conference to collect
information in the form of statistics and reports concerning hours,
wages, and conditions of work, to be made available to all the na-
tional federations, in order to push the organization of workers in
countries which were backward in this respect and to promote con-
certed action among the unions of all countries.

Weaker federations have concerned themselves primarily with the
question of mutual assistance in crises produced by sickness and
strikes. The problem of promoting international standards of labor
appears to be a development of the stronger federations.

In 1913 significant action was taken by the sixth international
conference of tailors, which voted to send an organizer to Italy to
hold tailors' meetings in all frontier towns.

The first conference of the secretaries of the various international
craft federations was held in 1913. Steps were taken to encourage
uniform statistics and reports among all the trades, and to link the
international craft federations closer to the International Secretariat.

b. International Secretariat.

The Secretariat has been in existence for the last two decades.
Affiliated with it are more than 20 national labor federations. Eight
international conferences have been held, notably at Amsterdam,
Christiania, Paris, Budapest, and Zurich.

These conferences have principally served as a medium for the
interchange of international opinion on labor matters. Industrial
lather than political questions have been discussed. Much of the


energy of the conferences has been spent in trying to bring about
closer organization among the various affiliated national federations.
These efforts, in 1911 and 1913, took the form of two proposals, one
made by French delegates recommending international trade-union
congresses and the other by American delegates recommending the
establishment of an international federation of labor. These pro-
posals were referred to the national centers for discussion in 1911,
and again in 1913 after favorable comment from the conference. In
1913 the name of the Secretariat, on a motion made by American
delegates, was changed to the International Federation of Trades
Unions. The change in no wise effected a change in organization,

In January, 1913, appeared the first issue of the International News
Letter, a bi-monthly bulletin containing a synopsis of international
labor conditions. From the time of its establishment until July.
1914. when the last regular issue appeared, more than 7.000,000 trade-
union members had access to the bulletin.

III. Semi-Official Associations for Economic and Social Reform.

Beside the international organizations of distinctly working class
•character, there have been a number of conferences of associations of
economists and professional men for purposes of general economic
and social reform or the study of special aspects of the labor problem,
such as occupational diseases, social insurance, housing, child labor,
unemployment and the like. These conferences have acquired a
semi-official character because of the participation in them of states-
men and government officials.

a. International Federation for the Observation of Sunday.

One of the earliest organizations of this kind, called the Interna-
tional Federation for the Observation of Sunday, was largely re-
ligious in origin and impulse. It met in 1876. and again in 1878
and 1885, and passed resolutions favoring Sunday rest for railroad
and post-office employees, telephone and telegraph operators, sailors,
and industrial workers.

b. Permanent International Committee on Social Insurance.

The International Congress of the Permanent International Com-
mittee on Social Insurance met for the first time in Paris in 1889.
The Committee is composed of about a dozen national committees
whose purpose is to encourage the adoption of insurance measures
protecting the workman against accident, old age, sickness, and un-
employment. Ten international conferences have been held at irregu-
lar intervals varying from one to three years since the year of its


c. International Congress on Occupational Diseases.

The International Congress on Occupational Diseases, which met
first at Milan in 1906, held an important congress at Brussels in 1910,
when representatives, including government officials, from 20 or
more countries of Europe, Asia, North and South America were

Special congresses, such as the Congress on Ankylostomasie, which
was held at Berlin in 1907, and the International Congress of Hy-
giene at Brussels, should also be noted.

d. International Association on Unemploy?nent.

The first International Conference on Unemployment was called
together Iw a private foundation in Milan, about 1905. Representa-
tives from Germany, France, Belgium, and Hungary participated.
In 1910 the International Association on Unemployment was formed
to encourage national efforts to combat unemployment. The associa-.
tion is assisted in carrying out its investigations by the Permanent
International Committee on Social Insurance and the International
Association for Labor Legislation, and in some instances the national
sections of these organizations form likewise the national sections
of the Association on Unemployment, but the two are in other re-
spects independent of each other. National sections of the Association
have been constituted in IT countries. In most of these, local or State
governments grant subsidies to the Association and otherwise co-
operate with and indorse its activities. Permanent headquarters of
the Association are in Ghent, where a third international congress
was held in 1913 .

e. International Association for Labor Legislation.

The most important of the nonworking class organizations for the
improvement of labor conditions is the International Association for
Labor Legislation, which is in some degree a result of the repeated
demands of various labor bodies for the establishment of an inter-
national bureau of information. The Association was formed in
Paris in 1900 by a group of international statesmen, economists and
professional men. In 1901 an International Labor Office was set up
at Basle. Since then the membership of the Association has been
extended to include more than 25 countries. Seven international
conferences have been held. In the last conference before the war,
held in Zurich in 1912, 22 governments participated. Fourteen
governments contribute to the support of the International Labor
Office. In 1906 the Hungarian Government formally invited the
conference to meet at Budapest, an invitation which was not ac-
cepted, however, as political neutrality is one of the policies of the

100269—19 2


At the L904 conference held at Basle, action was taken on two
resolutions submitted by the International Office its a result of several
years' study of the effect, of night work on the health of women
workers find the use of white phosphorus in the manufacture of
matches. The conference voted to request the Swiss Federal Council
to call an international official conference to consider these resolu-
tions: This action influenced the international treaties signed at
Berne in 1906, prohibiting night work for women and forbidding
the use of white phosphorus in manufacture.

The resolutions passed at the 1912 conference in Zurich indicate the
emphasis put upon the necessity for international action in dealing
with labor questions. They cover such subjects as the administra-
tion of international labor treaties and labor laws, child labor, rela-
tions between employers and workmen, the regulation of home work,
hours of labor in continuous industries, the protection of workmen
from accident and industrial disease, workmen's holidays, and the
length of the working day.

In June, 1918, the Association submitted to the Swiss Federal
Council a memorandum requesting the latter's support for the incor-
poration in the world's peace treaty of a program of international
protective labor legislation. The memorandum designates the Inter-
national Association for Labor Legislation as the recognized official
agency for the enforcement of international labor standards agreed
upon, through the International Office at Basle. The Office is to be
supported by the various signatory countries. Standard forms for
reports bearing on the enforcement of labor laws are to be drawn up
by the Office an claccepted by the powers in a special agreement.



The following paragraphs constitute a critical summary of the
various conferences and agreements entered into by governments for
the protection of workers. The material contained in the summary
is grouped under four heads: (1) an historical review of the agree-
ments, (2) an indication of their volume, (3) a review of the subject
matter dealt with, and (4) a description of the international ma-
chinery either suggested or agreed upon.

I. History of Official International Agreements.

The history of international action b} 7 governments in the inter-
ests of better labor conditions goes back to a suggestion made by
President Frey of the Swiss Federal Council, to that body, that the
Swiss Government take steps to encourage an agreement among the
industrial States of Europe regarding uniform labor standards. In
1880, M. Frey proposed to the same body that an official conference
be called to consider the question.


The next year the Swiss Government issued a circular to the Gov-
ernments of the principal industrial States of Europe, inviting them
to a conference on factory labor. The response was not encouraging,
however, and the proposition was dropped as premature.

In 1882, the first treaty granting an international exchange of
savings-bank facilities was made between France and Belgium. The
treaty itself is insignificant except as a model for important treaties
"which followed.

In 1889, the Swiss Government again tried to organize an official
international conference. This time the powers were more agreeable
to the suggestion and a program of deliberations was actually made
out, but at the moment of its acceptance, a request came from Ger-
many that the Swiss conference be set aside for an official conference
at Berlin. The request was granted and the conference accordingly
met at Berlin in 1890.

The Berlin conference was a technical conference purely. The
delegates were bound only to recommend to their respective govern-
ments the adoption of such measures as were approved by the con-
ference. Fourteen European countries were present.

The action taken at the 1890 meeting was never followed up. No
diplomatic conference was ever called to negotiate on the basis of
the program formulated. The conference paved the way for later
parleys between governments, and may have given impetus to the
formation of the International Association for Labor Legislation in
1900, but left no other permanent trace.

In 1904 a treaty was signed between France and Italy which was
not only important in itself, but by serving as a model for other
treaties gave encouragement to international official action.

The treaty in its inception was a savings-bank agreement, pat-
terned after the Franco-Belgian treaty of 1882. As such it benefited
Italy more than France, since there were at that time more Italian
laborers in France than French laborers in Italy. The French
Government, however, used the savings-bank clause as a means of
obtaining concessions from Italy along the line of internal regulation
of labor conditions, equalizing the labor standards of the two coun-
tries, and thus removing a serious disadvantage to French industry
and commerce.

Two other treaties between France and Italy followed the treaty
of 1901, extending further the principles laid down in the first
agreement. A series of treaties dealing with accident and other
social insurance was also founded on it.

In December, 1901, steps were taken toward another official con-
ference. This time the request came from the International Asso-
ciation for Labor Legislation to the Swiss Federal Council for a


conference to consider two resolutions prepared by the International
Labor Office.

Two conferences resulted. First, a technical conference of experts
from 15 countries to determine the basis of the treaties to be con-
sidered, was held at Berne in 1905. The formal official conference
met at Berne in September, 1906, with 14 States represented. These
two conferences resulted in the signing of the treaties prohibiting
the use of white phosphorus in the manufacture of matches and for-
bidding night work for women. The first was signed by only 7
of the 14 convening States, while the last was signed by all.

In January, 1913, the Swiss Government approached the coun-
tries which had participated in the 1905 and 1906 conference, with a
view to considering further international labor legislation. Two
proposals prepared by the International Association for Labor Legis-
lation, prohibiting night work for young persons and fixing a
10-hour working day for young persons and women, were the basis of
consideration. The previous plan of a technical conference followed
by a conference of diplomatic representatives, was again used.

Thirteen nations were present at the preliminary meeting at Berne.
The attitude of the conference is shown by the fact that the consensus
of opinion favored the adoption of international standards which
were so low as not to necessitate serious modification in the existing
legislation of any country. The final protocol on night work for
young persons affected Italy only of all the important industrial
nations, and in regard to the length of the working day for women
and young persons caused reductions in hours in four countries only.
The age limit proposed was below the age limit enforced in six States.

The diplomatic conference scheduled for September, 1914, was
never held because of the outbreak of war. No further group action
to regulate labor conditions has since been taken.

II. Volume of Agreements.

In all, between the years 1882 and 1914, there have been 30 bi-par-
tite agreements affecting 12 European States, Japan, the United
States, the Transvaal, and the Portuguese Province of Mozambique.
Four official international conferences have been held — the first at
Berlin in 1890, with 14 governments present; the second at Berne in
1905. with 15 governments represented; the third, a diplomatic con-
ference in 1906, with 13 official representatives attending; and the
last at Berne in 1913, with 13 countries present. Two poly-partite
treaties have been signed, both in 1906.

III. Subject Matter Dealt With. .

An analysis of the content of the treaties divides them into those
which extend to alien workmen the advantages and safeguards of the


industrial legislation of the country in which they live and work;
and those which involve the simultaneous adoption of the same labor
standards by two or more countries.

To the first class belong 4 savings-bank agreements, similar to
the Franco-Belgian treaty of 188:2 ; 19 treaties which deal specifically
with accident insurance, and 4 which deal with general social-
insurance laws.

To the second class belong the Franco-Italian treaties of 1904, 1906,
and 1910, in which the extension of savings-bank facilities to alien
workmen is made the basis for equalizing the labor regulations of both
countries, particularly in regard to the protection of young persons
and women in industrial establishments. The Berlin conference of
1890 belongs to this class of agreement, although probably little of
permanent value ^resulted from it. Such discussion as there was
centered on the regulation of work in mines, Sunday rest, protective
measures for children, young persons, and women, and the ma-
chinery of enforcement for the measures which were finally adopted.
The Berne treaties of 1906, as well as the Berne Conference of 1913
which was largely inspired by the success of these treaties, were like-
wise agreements among several nations to adopt the same labor regula-
tions. This group of international agreements is, therefore, the more
significant of the two classes of agreements, inasmuch as it involves
a change of existing labor standards in accordance with standards
scientifically determined, whereas the former involve merely the ex-
tension of existing standards to a larger group.

There are. in addition, three or four miscellaneous treaties whose


Online LibraryUnited States. War Labor Policies BoardReport on international action and machinery regulating labor and international labor opinion as to peace terms → online text (page 1 of 2)