Industrial Democracy/Part II Trade Union Function

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PART II TRADE UNION FUNCTION


INTRODUCTION[edit]

" The chief object of our society is to elevate the social position of our members," is the comprehensive truism by which the ordinary Trade Union defines its function. This simple assertion, of what we may ternV" corporate self-help,^ is, in many of the older unions, embellished by rhetorical appeals to the brotherhood of man, and realistic descriptions of the precarious position of the weekly wage-earners. Thus the " main principle " that actuated the " originators " of the Friendly Society of Ironfounders "was that of systematic organisation, and the desire of forming a bond of brotherhood and sympathy throughout the trade, in order that those who, by honest labor, obtained a livelihood in this particular branch of industry might, in their combined capacity, more successfully compete against the undue and unfair encroach- ments of capital than could possibly be the case by any number of workmen when acting individually." ^ " We are willing to admit," observe the founders of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, " that whilst in constant employment our members may be able to obtain all the necessaries, and perhaps some of the luxuries of life. . . . Notwithstanding all this, there is a fear always prominent on the mind of him who thinks of the future that it may not continue, that to- morrow may see him out of employment, his nicely-arranged

1 Rules of the Friendly Ironmoulders' [now Ironfounders'] Society, instituted for the purpose of muttial relief in cases of old age, sickness, and infirmity, and for the burial of their dead: "Made at Bolton, 19th June 1809. Allowed at Quarter Sessions, 19th July 1809" (Bolton, 1809); see edition of 1891, preface.


146 Trade Union Function

matters for domestic comfort overthrown, and his hopes of being able, in a few years, by constant attention and frugality, to occupy a more permanent position, proved only to be a dream. How much is contained in that word continuance, and how necessary to make it a leading principle of our association ! " ^

But these descriptions of the ultimate objects of working- class organisation afford us little clue to the actual operation of Trade Unionism. The Trade Unionists of our own generation are more explicit. With dry and ungrammatical precision the great modern unions give as their " Objects " long strings of specific proposals, in which are incidentally revealed, with perfect frankness, the means relied upon to achieve these ends. The Amalgamated Association of Opera- tive Cotton-spinners " is formed to secure to all its members the fair reward of their labor ; to provide for the settlement in a conciliatory manner of disputes between employer and employed, so that a cessation of work may be avoided ; the enforcement of the Factory Acts or other legislative enact- ments for the protection of labor ; to afford pecuniary assistance to any member who may be victimised or without employment in consequence of a dispute or lock-out or when disabled by accident."^ The Miners' Federation of Great Britain declares that its objects of association " are to take into consideration the question of trade and wages, and to protect miners generally ; to seek to secure mining legislation affecting all miners connected with this Federation ; to call conferences to deal with questions affecting miners, both of a trade, wage, and legislative character ; to seek and obtain an eight hours' day from bank to bank in all mines for all persons working underground ; to deal with and watch all inquests upon persons killed in the mines where more than three persons are killed by any one accident ; to seek

' The original Rules and Regulations of the AnialgamcUed Society of Engineen (London, 185 1), made at Birmingham, September 1850.

  • Rules of the Amalgamated Association of Operative Cotton-spinners (IVIan

chaster, 1891).


Introduction 147

to obtain compensation where more than three persons are injured or killed in any one accident, in all cases where counties, federations, or districts have to appeal, or are appealed against, from decisions in the lower courts." ^ The National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives (established 1874) declares that "The objects of the union are: the establishment of a central fund for the protection of members and advancement of wages ; the establishment of healthy and proper workshops, the employers to find room, grindery, fixtures, fire, and gas, free of charge ; the establishment, as far as practicable, of a uniform rate of wages for the same class of work throughout the union ; to abolish sweaters and control the system of apprentices ; to reduce the hours of labor \ to assist members who are compelled to travel in search of employment ; the introduction of Industrial Co- operation in our trade ; the use of all legitimate means for the moral, social, educational, and political advancement of its members ; also to make provision for the union being represented by a Parliamentary Agent ; to raise funds for the mutual support of its members in time of sickness, and for the burial of deceased members and their wives ; to establish a system of inter-communication with the Boot and Shoe Operatives of other countries." ^ Finally, we may cite the most prominent and successful of the so-called " new unions," formed in the great uprising of 1889. The rules of the National Union of Gasworkers and General Laborers state that " The objects of the union are to shorten the hours of labor, to obtain a legal eight hours' working day or forty-eight hours' week ; to abolish, wherever possible, overtime and Sun- day labor, and where this is not possible, to obtain payment at a higher rate ; to abolish piecework ; to raise wages, and where women do the same work as men, to obtain for them the same wages as paid the men ; to enforce the provisions of the Truck Acts in their entirety ; to abolish the present system of contracts and agreements between employers and

• Mineri Federation of Great Britain — ^«/«j (Openshaw, 1893). ' Rules of the National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives (Leicester, 1892).


148 Trade Union Function

employed ; to settle all labor disputes by amicable agree- ment whenever possible ; to obtain equality of employers and employed before the law ; to obtain legislation for the better- ing of the lives of the working class ; to secure the return of members of the union to vestries, school boards, boards of guardians, municipal bodies, and to Parliament, provided such candidates are pledged to the collective ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange ; to set aside annually a maximum sum of ;^200, to be used solely for the purpose of helping to return and maintain members on public representative bodies ; to assist similar organisations having thCpSjime objects as herein stated."^

^A We must, however, not look to the formal rules or rhetorical preambles for a scientific or complete account of Trade Union action. Drafted originally by enthusiastic pioneers, copied and recopied by successive revising com- mittees, the printed constitutions of working-class associa- tions represent rather the aspirations than the everyday action of the ijtiembersj More trustworthy data may be obtained from a (scrutiny of the cash accounts, or from a close study of the voluminous internal literature of the unions-;;^he monthly, quarterly, and yearly reports of the central executives, the frequent official circulars on, particular questions, and the elaborate verbatim notes of conferences and joint committees. The printed documents circulated by some societies include the diary of their principal trade official, detailing his day-by-day negotiation with employers.' Other unions publish to their members periodical reports from their district delegates stationed in the principal indus- trial centres, containing valuable information as to the move- ments of trade, graphic accounts of disputes with employers or other societies, and appeals for guidance as to the policy to be pursued. To the student of sociology this literature — poured out to the extent of hundreds of volumes annually — ■

^ Rules of the National Union of Gasworkers and General Laborers of Great Britain and Ireland (London, 1894).

  • See the extracts printed in the chapter on ' ' The Standard Rate. "


Introduction 149

is of fascinating interest. It affords a graphic picture of the actual structure and working of the modern world of manu- facturing industry, with its constant changes of process and shiftings of trade. It lays bare, more completely than any other records known to us, the real nature and action of democratic organisation in the Anglo-Saxon race. And, what is most relevant to our present purpose, it reveals, with all the pathos of success and failure, the working of the various Trade Union Methods and Regulations with the underlying assumptions as to social expediency on which they are based.

But documents, however frank and confidential, are apt to distort facts as well as to display them. A heated recrimi- nation between a local official and the general secretary, a dispute about the wages on a new process, affecting only a tiny minority of the members, or a Parliamentary agitation for a new clause in the Factory Acts will loom large in the proceedings of the year, and may seem to represent the bulk of the union's activity. Meanwhile, the branches may have been engaged in a peaceful but successful maintenance of their old-standing Working Rules, or a new regulation may silently have become habitual, or an old one silently dropped, without this action on the part of the majority of the members rising to the surface in any document whatsoever, public or private. To complete the knowledge yielded by documents, the student (jpust watch the men at work, and discuss the application of particular regulations with em- ployers, managers, and foremen^not omitting the factory inspector and the secretary to the Employers' Association — he must listen to the objections of the small master and the blackleg ; above all, he must (attend the inside meetings of branches and district committees, \ where the points at issue are discussed in technical detaiVwith a frank explicitness which is untrammelled either by the prejudices of the rank and file or the fear of the enemy.

l^is combined plan of studying documents and observing mefl^^he one that we have, during our six years' investi-


1 50 Trade Union Function

gation, attempted to follow. In the ensuing chapters we endeavor to place before the reader an accurate descrip-. tion of the Methods and Regulations actually practised by British Trade Unionism. n [^ e shall see the Trade Unionists, from the beginning of th^ighteenth century down to the present day, enforcing their Regulations by three distinct instruments or levers, which we distinguish as the Method of Mutual Insurance, the Method ofjC^llective Bargaining, and the Method of Legal Enactme nt. J^ From the Methods used to enforce the Regulations, we sliall pass to the(Regu- lations themselvesj These we shall find grouping themselves, notwithstanding an almost infinite variety of technical detail, under seven main heads-4-the Standard Rate, the Normal Day, Sanitation and Safety, New Processes and Machinery, Continuity of Employment, the Entrance into a Trade, and the Right to a Trade) — all of which we examine in separate chapters. This will lead us to the Implications of Trade Unionism — certain practical outgrowths and necessary consequences of Trade Union policy which require elucida- dation. Finally, we shall bring into light the Assumptions of Trade Unionism — the fundamental prejudices, opinions, or judgments lying at the root of Trade Union policy — an analysis of which will serve at once to explain and to sum- marise the various forms of Trade Union action.

In the course of this comprehensive description of Trade Unionism as it is, we shall not abstain from incidentally criticising the various Methods and Regulations, and the different types of Trade Union policy, in respect of the success or failure of Trade Unions to apply them to the facts of modern life. But in this part of our book we care- fully avoid any discussion as to the effects of Trade Unionism upon industry, and, above all, we make no attempt to decide whether it has or has not resulted in effectively raising wages, or otherwise improving the conditions of employment. We venture to think that there can b4 no useful discussion of the economic validity of Trade Unionism until the student has first surveyed its actual contents./ Our examination of


Introduction 151

the theory of trade combination — the possibility, by deliberate common action, of altering the conditions of employment ; the effect of the various Methods and Regulations upon the efficiency of production and the distribution of wealth ; and the ultimate social expediency of exchanging a system of unfettered individual competition for one of collective regula- tion — in a word, lour judgment upon Trade Unionism as a wholej— we reserve for the third and final part of this book.



CHAPTER I THE METHOD OF MUTUAL INSURANCE[edit]

In a certain sense it would not be difficult to regard all the activities of Trade Unionism as forms of Mutual Insurance, Whether the purpose be the iixing of a list of piecework prices, the promotion of a new factory bill, or the defence of a member against a prosecution for picketing, we see the contributions, subscribed equally in the past by all the members, applied in ways which benefit unequally particular individuals or particular sections among them, independently of the amount which these individuals or sections may them- selves have contributed. But this interpretation of insurance would cover, not Trade Unionism alone, but practically every form of collective action, including citizenship itself. By the phrase " Mutual Insurance," as one of the Methods of Trade Unionism, we understand only the provision of a fund by common subscription to insure against casualties ; to provide maintenance, that is to say, in cases in which a member is deprived of his livelihood by causes over which neither he nor the union has any control. This obviously covers the " benevolent " or friendly society side of Trade Unionism, such as the provision of sick pay, accident benefit, and superannuation allowance, together with " burial money," and such allowances as that made to members of the Amalgamated Society of Tailors who are prevented from working by the sanitary authorities, owing to the presence of infectious disease in their homes. But it in9ludes also


The Method of Mutual Insurance 153

what are often termed " trade " benefits ; grants for replacing tools lost by theft or fire, and " out-of-work pay," from the old-fashioned "tramping card" to the modern " donation " given when a member loses his employment by the tem- porary breakdown of machinery or " want of pit room," by the bankruptcy of his employer or the stoppage of a mill, or merely in consequence of a depression in trade. " The simplest and universal fuiiction of trades societies," it was reported in i860, "is the enabling the workman to maintain himself while casually out of employment, or^ travelling in search of it."^ On the other hand, our definition excludes all expenditure incurred by the union as a consequence of action voluntarily undertaken by it, such as the cost of trade negotiations, the " victim pay " accorded to members dismissed for agitation, and the maintenance of men on strike. These we omit as more properly incidental to the JJethod of Collective Bargaining . We also leave to

be dealt with under the Method of Legal E nactment the

provision for the legal aid of members under the Employers' Liability, Truck, or Factory Acts.

Trade Union Mutual Insurance, thus defined, comprisesN two distinct classes of benefit : " Friendly " and " Out of Work." There is an essential difference between the insurance against such physical and personal casualties as sickness, accident, and old age on the one hand, and, on the other, the stoppage of income caused by mere inability to obtain employment.

Friendly Mutual Insurance, in many industries the oldest form of Trade Union activity, has been adopted by practically every society which has lasted. Here and there, at all times, one trade or another has, in the first emergence of its organisation, preferred to confine its action to Collective Bargaining or to aim at Legal Enactment.^ But directly

' Report of the National Association for the Promotion of Social Science on Trade Societies and Strikes (London, i860), p. xx.

  • See for the so-called "New Unionism" of 1889, the History of Trade

Unionism, pp. 401, 406.


154 Trade Union Function

the combination has settled down to everyday life, we find it adding one or other of the benefits of insurance, and often developing into the most comprehensive Trade Friendly Society. For the past hundred years this insurance business has been steadily growing, not only in volume, but also in deliberateness and regularity.

In providing friendly benefits the Trade Union comes into direct competition with the ordinary friendly society and the industrial insurance company. The engineer or carpenter who joins his Trade Union might insure against sickness, old age, and the expenses of burial, by joining the "Oddfellows" and the "Prudential" instead. And from an actuarial point of view the Amalgamated Society of Engineers or Carpenters is not for a moment to be com- pared with a friendly society of good standing. Unlike the registered friendly society, the Trade Union, even if registered, does not enter into any legally binding contract. A Trade Union cannot be sued ; and the members have individually no legal remedy against it. A member who has paid for a whole lifetime to the sick and superannuation funds may, at any moment, be expelled and forfeit all claim, for reasons quite unconnected with his desire for insurance in old age. Against the decision of" his fellow-members there is, in no case, any appeal. Moreover, the scale of contributions and benefits may at any time be altered, even to the extent of abolishing benefits altogether ; and such alterations do, in fact, frequently take place, in spite of all the protests of minorities of old members. And it is no small drawback to the security of the individual member that, in a time of trade depression, just when he himself is probably poorest, he is invariably required to pay extra levies to meet the heavy Out of Work liabilities, on pain of being automatically excluded, and thus forfeiting all his insurance. It is a further aggravation that in any crisis the Trade Union, j unlike the friendly society, regards the punctual discharge of I its sick and superannuation liabilities as a distinctly secondary consideration. The paramount requisite of an organisation


The Method of Mutual Insurance 1 5 5

professing to provide against sickness and old age is abso- lute security that the accumulated funds will be reserved exclusively to meet the growing liabilities. But in a Trade' Union there is no guarantee that any of its funds will be reserved for this purpose. During a long spell of trade depression the whole accumulated balance may be spent inj maintaining the members out of work. An extensive strika may, at any time, drain the society absolutely dry. The Friendly Society of Operative Stonemasons, for instance, has, during its sixty years' existence, twice been reduced to absolute beggary, in 1841 by a prolonged strike, and in 1879 by the severe depression in trade. A still older and richer union, the Friendly Society of Ironfounders, not only spent every penny of its funds in 1879, but borrowed many thousands of pounds from its members' individual savings to meet the most pressing of its liabilities.^ This " hole in the stocking" is not mended by any nominal allocation of a certain part of the income, or a specific share of the funds, to the sick or superannuation liabilities. No Trade Union ever dreams of putting any part of its funds legally or effectively out of the control of its members for the time being ; and when a time of stress comes, the nominal alloca- tion offers no obstacle to the " borrowing " of some or all the ear-marked balance for current purposes. Trade Unions ists, in short, subscribe their money primarily for the main-1 tenance or improvement of their wages or other conditions of employment : only after this object has been secured del they expect or desire any sick or other friendly benefits, and' their rules proceed always on the assumption that such benefits are payable only if and when there is a surplus in hand.

This entire want of legal or financial security has hitherto prevented actuaries from giving serious considera- tion to the problems of Trade Union insurance.* The

> History of Trade Unionism, pp. 157, 334.

  • This lack of knowledge and absence of serious study has not prevented

leading actuaries from denouncing stable and well-managed Trade Unions ai


156 Trade Union Function

consequence is that the Trade Union scales of contributions and benefits do not rest on any actuarial basis, and represent, at best, the empirical guess-work of the members. Scarcely any attempt has yet been made to collect the data necessary

financially unsound, even on their friendly society side, and inevitably destined to early bankruptcy. Before the Royal Commission of 1867-68, for instance, two of the principal actuaries demonstrated that both the Amalgamated Society of Engineers and the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters were insolvent to the extent of many hundreds of thousands of pounds, and that they were necessarily doomed to collapse. In spite of the patent falsification of these prophecies, and the continued growth in wealth of the great unions, similar denunciations and predictions are still repeated by actuarial authorities ignorant of their own ignorance.

A Trade Union differs fundamentally from a friendly society or insurance company, which undertakes to provide definite payments for a specified premium. A Trade Union is not only free at any time to revise, or even suspend, its benefits ; it can, and habitually does, increase its income by levies. Thus, whilst the nominal contribution of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers is a shilling per week, the actual amount received from the members during the ten years 1886-95 averaged, for the whole period, one shilling and twopence halfpenny per week (Eighth Report by the Chief Labour Correspondent on Trade Unions, C. 8232, 1896, p. 404), and the rules expressly provide that "when the fimds are reduced to _£3 per member the contributions shall be increased by such sum per week as will sustain the funds at not less than that amount " (Rule XXV. of edition of 1896, p. 121). A society with such a rule can obviously never become insolvent so long as it retains any members, and chooses to meet its engagements.

But there is another and no less important difference in actuarial position between a Trade Union and a friendly society. A friendly society is rightly deemed unsound if the contributions paid by the members when young do not enable a fund to be accumulated to meet the greatly increased liabilities for sick- ness, superannuation, and burial as they grow older. A society may have cash in hand, and yet be steering into bankruptcy, if the average age of its members is increasing, or might presently (by a stoppage of recruiting) be found to be increasing. This rapid increase of liabilities with advancing age constitutes what insurance experts denounce as "the vice of assessmentism " — the fallacious assumption that the year's payments can safely be met by the year's levies on the members for the time being. But where membership is universal, the average age, and therefore the liabilities, do not, and cannot, increase. If sick-pay, superannuation, and burial were provided by the State for all citizens, the number of cases year by year would, from an actuarial point of view, remain constant, or would be affected only by the slow and gradual changes in national health. A single trade is, in this respect, in much the same position as the nation, and when a Trade Union habitually includes all the operatives in its industry the percentile of benefit cases is remarkably uniform. Moreover, even in less universal organ- isations, where the motives for joining are very largely unconnected with friendly benefits, and there is no competing union, the result is practically the same. As a matter of fact, the average age of the members of well-established Trade Unions, so far as this can be ascertained, remains remarkably stable, and seems to increase only with the general improvement in sanitation.


The Method of Mutual Insurance 157

for a more precise computation ; and even such elementary facts as the average age of the members, or the special death rate or sickness rate of the occupation, are often unknown. \ There is no graduation of contributions accord- ing to age, practically no attempt at medical selection of can- didates for membership, and a complete uncertainty as to what interest will be received on investments, or whether the funds will be invested at interest at all. In short; the Trade Union, considered merely as a friendly society, does not profess to afford its members any legal security or certain guarantee against destitution in sickness or old age. Its promises of superannuation allowances, and even of sick pay, are, in reality, conditional on there being money left over after providing for other purposes. " The right " [of members to] "any benefit," wrote Daniel Guile, in 1869, in the name of the Ironfounders' Executive, " only exists as long as the Society has power to pay it. Any determination of the exact amount of return a member may rightly expect for a particular amount of contribution rests upon averages of a nature far too abstruse to be entered upon here, and for which, indeed, even the groundwork is wanting." ^ In face of this lack of security, and absence of actuarial basis, it seems at first sight surprising that union after union should add to its purely trade functions the business of an ordinary friendly society. But, as Professor Beesly remarked in 1867, " it is much more economical to depend upon one society combining all benefits, than to contribute to a friendly society for sick and funeral benefits, and to a union for tool and accident benefit and trade purposes." * Whether or not the ordinary artisan appreciates the economy effected by " concentration of management and consequent lessening of working expenses," he at any rate realises that it is less irksome to pay to one club than to several. But this hardly explains the persistent advocacy of sick pay and superannua-

» Monthly Report of the Friendly Society of Ironfounders, October 1869.

  • E. S. Beesly, The Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners (London,

1867), p. 4.


r58 Trade Union Function

tion allowance by experienced Trade Union officials. Their belief in the advantage of developing the friendly society side of Trade Unionism rests frankly on the adventitious aid it brings to working-class organisation. The benefit club side serves, in the first place, as a potent attraction to hesitating recruits. To the young man just " out of his time " the prospect 6f securing support in sickness or un- employment is a greater inducement to join the union, and regularly to keep up his contributions, than the less obvious advantages to be gained by the traide combination. " It helps," says Mr. George Howell, " to bind the members to the union when possibly other considerations might inter- pose to diminish the zfeal of the Trade Unionist pure and simple." ^

Moreover, when, as is usually the case, the whole contri- bution goes into a common fund, the society gains the advan- tage of an additional financial reserve, which can be used in support of its trade policy in time of need, and replaced as opportunity permits. Such great Trade Friendly Societies as the Boilermakers', Engineers', Stonemasons', and Iron- founders' have, as we have seen, never hesitated to deplete their balances in order to enable their members to withstand encroachments on their Standard of Life. Thus, the addition of friendly society benefits, bringing, as it does, greatly increased contributions, enables the Trade Union to roll up an imposing reserve fund, which, even if not actually drawn upon, is found to be an effective " moral influence " in negotiations with employers.

We see, therefore, that the friendly society element supplies to Trade Unionism both adventitious attractions and an adventitious support. But this is not all. In a strong and well-organised union, the existence of important friendly benefits may become a powerful instrument for maintaining discipline among the members, and for enforcing upon all the decisions of the majority. If expulsion carries with it the loss of valuable prospective benefits, such, for » Trade Unionism, New and Old, by George Howell (London, 1892), p. 102.


The Method of Mutual Insurance 159

instance, as superannuation, it becomes a penalty of great severity. Similarly, when secession involves the abandon- ment of all share in a considerable accumulated balance, a branch momentarily discontented with some decision of the ' majority thinks twice before it breaks off in a pet to set up as an independent society. Thus the addition of friendly] benefits has been, on the whole, a great consolidating forcej in Trade Unionism, We can, therefore, quite understand why thoroughgoing opponents of trade combinations have, like the associated employers who came before the Royal Commission in 1867, vehemently denounced the combination of trade and friendly society as illegitimate and dangerous.^

Friendly benefits have yet another advantage from the point of view of the Trade Union official. To the permanent salaried officer of a great union, with his time fully occupied by his daily routine, it is no small gain that sick pay and superannuation allowance exercise a great effect in " keeping the members quiet." This was perceived, as early as 1867, by a shrewd friend of the great Amalgamated Societies, the " New Unionism " of that time. " The importance of the principle [of providing all the usual benefits offered by friendly societies] will be best understood," observes Professor Beesly, " by looking at the character and working of the

  • " The combination of trade with benefit purposes was astutely conceived,

with a view to increase the strength of trade organisations. The benefit element was first to decoy, and then to control. The lure of prospective benefits having attracted members, the dread of confiscation was to enforce obedience." — Trade Unionism, by James Stirling (Glasgow, 1869), p. 43.

There is absolutely no warrant for the accusation — still often repeated — that the use of all the Trade Union funds for strike purposes when the members so decide, amounts, morally if not legally, to malversation. The Chief Registrar of Friendly Societies, questioned on this very point by the Royal Commission on Labor, emphatically upheld the Trade Union practice. " The primary object of the Trade Union," said Mr. Brabrook, "is protection of trade, and all the rest is merely subsidiary. . . . The great bulk of members of Trade Unions know perfectly well that they will not get the benefit in sickness if their money has been previously spent in trade purposes, and they are perfectly willing it should be so spent if emergency or necessity arises " (Questions 1561-3). Mr. J. M. Ludlow, who preceded him in office, entirely confirmed this view. To hypothe- cate any Trade Union funds for benefit purposes, he added, "might be to the ruin of the Trade Union, and therefore to the ruin of the men who had contri- buted those funds " (Questions 1783-8).


i6o Trade Union Function

old-fashioned unions in which it is not adopted. The men combine purely for ' trade purposes.' The subscription is insignificant, sometimes orily a penny a week. The members probably belong to the Oddfellows or Foresters for the benefit purposes ; and their financial tie to their union being so weak, they join it or leave it with equal carelessness. Nevertheless, small as the subscription is, a fund will in course of time be accumulated. Ther-e is nothing to do with this fund. There it is, eating its head off, so to speak. The men become impatient to use it ; so a demand is made on the employers, irrespective perhaps of the circumstances of the trade. A strike follows. The members live on their fund for a few weeks, and when it is exhausted they give in. Such societies may be called Strike Societies, for they exist for nothing else." ^ "A trade society without friendly benefits," Mr. John Burnett has frequently declared, " is like a standing army. It is a constant menace to peace." And thus we find the employers of this generation abandon- ing the criticisms of their predecessors in 1867, and reserving their bitterest denunciations for the purely trade society.

With regard to the other branch of their Mutual Insurance business, the Trade Unions occupy a unique position. How- ever imperfectly Trade Unions may discharge the function of providing maintenance for their members when out of work, they undertake here a service which must, in their absence, nemain unperformed. No other organisation, whether com- mercial or philanthropic, has yet come forward to protect he wage-earner against the destitution arising from lack of ^employment.* Experience seems to indicate that Out of

1 E. S. Beesly, The Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners, p. 3 (London, 1867).

2 Certain experiments have been made since 1894 at Berne, Basle, and St Gall (Switzerland) ; at Cologne (Germany) ; and at Bologna (Italy), in the direction of municipal insurance against unemployment, either voluntary or compulsory. An account of these experiments, which do not appear to have been very successful, will be found in the Rapport sur la Question du CMmage, published by the French Government, Conseil Sup^rieur du Travail (Paris, 1896, 398 pp.) ; and Circulars 2 and 5 (Series B) of the Mus^e Social, Paris, containing an elaborate bibliography ; to which we can add Charles Raaijmakers, Verukerittg tegen W^ii/cwAf/rf (Amsterdam, 1895).


The Method of Mutual Insurance 1 6 1

Work pay cannot be properly administered except by bodies of men belonging to the same trade and working in the same establishments. Therefore it is not remarkable that Trade Unions should give most of their attention to the administration of their Out of Work benefits. We find, in fact, that although funeral benefit is almost universal, and accident allowance very widely adopted, these, like insurance of tools, make up in the aggregate a very small proportion of the total expenditure. And though sick pay and superr annuation stand for appreciable sums, it is Out of Worft benefit which takes the most important place in the Mutual Insurance business, its limits being extended in many instances, whilst others are cut down.^ To a middle-class body it would seem natural to give a kind of preferential lien on the funds, to insure the continuance of the weekly allowances to the sick and superannuated members already on the books. A Trade Union not only refrains from taking this course, but actually gives a preference, in effect, to its Out of Work payments, usually continuing them at the full rate, evenj when its funds are being rapidly exhausted, until it hasi parted with its last penny. The secret of this bias does not lie altogether in the immense difference in permanence between middle class and working class employment. The main object of the individual member may be to provide against the personal distress which would otherwise be caused to himself and his family by the stoppage of his weekly income. But the object pf the union, from the collective point of view, is to prevent him from accepting employment, under stress of starvation, on terms which, in the common judgment of the trade, would be injurious to its interests. This has been recognised from the earliest times as a leading

' Thus, the Ruhs and Regulations of the Operative Bleachers, Finishers, and Dyerf Association (Bolton, 1 89 1) provide (Rule 24), under the head of sick pay, only for a case not met by the mere friendly society. " Should any member, having his family afflicted with smallpox or other infectious disease and as a consequence be temporarily discharged from following his employment, such member shall be entitled to the ordinary out of work pay. But if such member become afflicted himself his pay shall cease,"

VOL. I G


1 62 Trade Union Function

object of Out of Work pay. Already, in 174 1, it was remarked that the woolcombers " support one another, insomuch that they are become one society throughout the kingdom. And that they may keep up their price, to encourage idleness rather than labor, if any one of their club is out of work, they give him a ticket and money to seek for work at the next town where a box-club is, where he is also subsisted, suffered to live a certain time with them, and used as before ; by which means he can travel the kingdom round, be caressed at each club, and not spend a farthing of his own or strike one stroke of work. This has been imitated by the weavers also, though not carried through the kingdom, but confined to the places where they work." ^

We find the economic result of this tramping system exercising the minds of the Assistant Poor Law Commissioners of 1834. A leatherdresser "belongs to an incorporated or combined trade ; the directors of this Combination issue tickets to the members. These tickets are renewed from time to time. The holder of one goes from place to place, but must not take the same road more than once in six months. With these intervals he is again and again assisted. . . . This ticket is available in every part of the United Kingdom where a club or lodge of the trade is established. The individual in question might have had work zX £1 per week, but he refused to take it, or indeed 30s. per week ; nothing under £2, would satisfy him ; and when pressed for reasons to account for his refusing such offers — when asked whether it would not be better to get ^l per week than to trust to casual sources of support, he

' A Short Essay upon Trade in General, by a Lover of his Country (London, 1741), quoted in the History of the Worsted Manufacture in England, by John James (London, 1857). How the employers felt the independence thus given to the workers may be inferred from the following advertisement in the Leicester Herald, of June 1792: — "To Master Woolcombers. The Journeymen Wool- combers in Kendal have left their work, and illegally combined to raise their wages which are already equal to what is paid to the Trade in any part of the Kingdom : they have also granted blanks, or certificates, to E. Hewitson, apprentice to Mr. Pooley ; T. Parkinson, to Mr. Barton ; and W. Wilkinson, to Mr. Strutt, wh without stich blanks or certificates must have remained with their masters."


The Method of Mutual Insurance 163

replied that he should not like to be ' turned black ' (query — ' returned black ') which would be the case if he worked under price." ^

Gradually the Trade Unions themselves make clear the real object of this system of mutual insurance. In 1844 the Spring Knife Grinders' Protection Society of Sheffield declare that the "object to be accomplished is to grant relief; to all its members that are out of work ; that none may have the painful necessity of applying for relief from the parish, or comply with the unreasonable demands of our employers or their servants."^ The Flint Glass Makers express the same idea. " Our wages depend on the supply of labor in the market ; our interest is therefore to restrict that supply, reduce the surplus, make our unemployed com- fortable, without fear for the morrow — accomplish this, and we have a command over the surplus of our labor, and we need fear no unjust employer"^ Four years later the Delegate Meeting of the Amalgamated Engineers resolved to extend by nine weeks the period during which a member was allowed to receive continuously the Out of Work allowance. It was successfully argued that "when bad trade did arrive ... it brought with it the absolute necessity of a continuous dona- tion ; for men, who were unemployed for so long a time as to run through their donation altogether, would be compelled either to seek parish relief, or take situations on terms injurious to the trade. In the event of their doing the latter, the Society would exercise but little control over them if it did not entitle them to some benefit. For the protection of the trade, then, it was stated to be absolutely necessary to make the donation continuous, so that the members of the Society should be able to resist the inducement of acting contrary to the general rules of a District * Finally, we may cite the

1 Report of Poor Law Commission of 1834 ; Appendix, p. 900 a.

  • Manuscript Rules of the Sprite Knife Grinders' Protection Society of Sheffield

in old account book, dated 1844.

' Flint Glass Makers' Magazine, opening editorial, No. I, Sept. 1850.

  • Minutes of the Second Delegate Meeting of the Amalgamated Society of

Engineers, p. 38 (London, 1854). The Constitution and Rules of the Associated


164 Trade Union Function

case of the Associated Shipwrights' Society, which has only within recent years systematically adopted regular Out of Work payments. The argument, used by the general secretary at the Delegate Meeting in 1885, which finally decided the matter, was as follows^: " It is utterly impossible," Mr. Wilkie told his members, "to secure trade protection when a third or a half of your trade are walking about idle and starving. And unless members of the trade were pre- pared to buy up, more or less, its surplus labor in the market, it never could have the actual trade protection desired." '

This historical explanation of the underlying object of the Out of Work benefit is borne out by the actual practice of to-day. Whilst all the members of a Trade Union are enjoined to do their utmost to find situations for their unem- ployed brethren, and whilst these are forbidden, under severe penalty, to " refuse work when offered," yet this is always subject to a fundamental condition, so obvious to the Trade Union mind as to need no explicit statement in the rules. A member is not only permitted to refuse job after job if these are offered to him below the " Standard Rate " of remuneration, or otherwise in contravention of the normal [terms : he is absolutely forbidden to accept work on any 'i)ut the conditions satisfactory to his branch. The visitor at a branch meeting of the Engineers or Carpenters will hear members, in receipt of Out of Work pay, report to the branch that they have been offered situations on such and such terms, and ask whether it is considered right that they should accept them. The branch will discuss the question

Ironmoulders of Scotland (Glasgow, 1892) explicitly recognise the use of the Out of Work Benefit as a means of maintaining their standard of wages. " Any member leaving for want of work . . . shall be paid idle benefit . . . but, if leaving on own accord, he shall have no claim to benefit. The phrase ' want of work ' shall refer to all kinds of dismissal without fault of the member — slackness, underpayment, resisting a reduction of wages, or unjustifiable abuse of ill-treatment from employer or foreman. . . . ' Own accord ' shall mean all kinds of dismissal for irregularity, absence without leave except from illness, in- sobriety, and captious or voluntary dismissal." (Rule 30, sec 4.)

1 Address of General Secretary at Delegate Meeting of Associated Shipwrights Society, 1885.


The Method of Mutual Insurance 165

from the point of view of the probable effect on the Standard Rate ; and whilst they may permit a maimed or aged member to accept five shillings a week less than the normal wage of the district, they will prefer to keep a fully competent and able-bodied man "on donation," rather than sanction any departure from the Common Rule.^

Here we are outside the domain of actuarial science. Even if it should prove possible to reduce to an arithmetical scale of contributions and benefits the loss of income caused by mere slackness of trade, it must always be out of the ques- tion to determine what rate of Out of Work benefit can safely be awarded in return for a given subscription, if the accept- ance of employment depends on the policy of the society with regard to its Standard Rate. Such a condition takes us out of the category of insurance as provisionally defined above. As understood and administered by all Trade Unions, the Out of Work benefit is not valued exclusively, or even mainly, for its protection of the individual against casualties. In the mind of the thoughtful or experienced Trade Unionist its most important function is to protect the Standard Rate^ of wages and other normal conditions of employment from being "eaten away," in bad times, by the competition of members driven by necessity to accept the employers' terms.

The reader will now understand why this Mutual Insur- ance must be regarded, not as the end or object, but as one of the Methods of Trade Unionism. At first sight nothing, could appear more simple than the mutual provision of support in order to enable a man to seek work, elsewhere, and not be under an absolute compulsion to accept whatever terms an employer may offer. In its economic effect upon the labor market it seems no more than would result from the existence of individual savings in a savings bank. But

  • The Rules to be observed by the members of the Bury and District Tape-

sizers' Friendly Protective Society (Bury, 1888) provide (p. 7) that "if any member who is out of work and receiving pay make application for a situation or be sent for, and he is offered a less rate of wage than he has been paid before, he shall be at liberty to take it or not, and if he refuse to take it he shall not have his pay stopped."


1 66 Trade Union Function

Trade Unions, as Fleeming Jenkin pointed out, are far more potent in this respect than any savings bank, " because they enable the community of workmen to acquire wealth. . . . The individual workman knows that his reserve fund will be nearly useless unless his neighbour has a reserve fund also. If each workman in a strike trusted to his own funds only, the poorer ones must give in first ; and these would secure work, while the richer, after spending a part of their reserve, would find themselves supplanted by the poorer competitors, and the sacrifice made uselessly. A combined reserve fund gives great power by insuring that all suffer alike. The Trade Union, therefore, has a permanent action in raising wages, because it enables men to accumulate a common fund, with which they can sustain their resolution not to work unless they obtain such pay as will give increased comfort."' If this collective reserve fund coexists with a common understanding as to the terms without which no member will accept employment, it is obvious that we have a deliberate and conscious use of Mutual Insurance, not to relieve indi- '^vidual distress, but to enforce a Trade Union Regulation.

The Method of Mutual Insurance is pursued, more or less consciously, by every union that gives benefits at all. Until Collective Bargaining was permitted by the employers, and before Legal Enactment was within the workmen's reach. Mutual Insurance was the only method by which Trade Unionists could lawfully attain their end. Hence its high favor with the group of astute officials who led the work- men between 1845 and 1875. Dunning, in fact, expressly gives it as the main method of Trade Unionism. " Singly

I he employer can stand out longer in the bargain than the ourneyman ; and as he who can stand out longest in the )argain will be sure to command his own terms, the work- nen combine to put themselves on something like an equality n the bargain for the sale of their labor with their employer. This is the rationale of trade societies. . . . The object in-

• " Graphic Representation of the Laws of Supply and Demand," by Fleeming Jenkin, in Recess Studies (Edinburgh, 1870), pp. 1S3-4.


The Method of Mutual Insurance 167

tended is carried out by providing a fund for the support of its members when out of employ, for a certain number of weeks in the year. This is the usual and regular way in which the labor of the members of a trade society is protected, that the man's present necessities may not compel him to take less than the wages which the demand and supply of labor in the trade have previously adjusted." '

The same view was expressed by William Allan, the first secretary of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers. " We are very little engaged in regulating " rates of wages, he told the Royal Commission in 1 867, " they regulate them- selves, if I may use the expression. If a member believed," he continued, "that he was not getting a proper rate of wages, the society would encourage him in objecting, that is to say, would pay him his benefit while out of employment. . . . The man would go to the branch to which he belonged, and would there state that he was only receiving a certain rate of wages ; if he wished to leave his employment he would ask the question whether under the circumstances he would be entitled to what we call donation, that is Out of Work Benefit, if he left the situation ; and in all probability the society would say, you can leave and we will pay you the benefit. Or they might say, we believe you are getting as much as you ought to expect." ^

In some small and highly organised trades of skilled handicraftsmen, this method of enforcing Trade Union regulations by Mutual Insurance has tacitly elaborated into an effective weapon, not only of defence, but also of aggres- sion. We may instance the Spanish and Morocco Leather Finishers' Society, a small but powerful union, practically co-extensive with the craft, which has not for fifty years

1 T. J. Dunning, Trades Unions and Strikes : their Philosophy and Intention (London, i860), p. lo. See also Dunning's articles on " Wages of Labour and Trade Societies," in the second, third, and fourth numbers of the Bookbinders' Trade Circular (\%t,\\; History of Trade Unionism, p. I79-

2 First Report of the Commissioners appointed to enquire into the Organisation and Rules of Trades Unions and other Associations (London, 1867). Evidence 0/ W. Allan, Questions 787-789-


1 68 Trade Union Function

ordered a formal strike, or in any way overtly " intervened between employer and employed." Nevertheless, it has known how to enforce a detailed uniform price-list in every centre, new or old, in which the trade is carried on ; it has maintained this piece-work list practically unaltered for fifty years, notwithstanding many improvements in processes ; it has, consequently, kept up its members' earnings to certainly more than £2 per week ; and it has successfully enforced a rigid limitation of apprentices, there being nowhere more than one to seven journeymen. Yet no overt collective movement is ever made. If any employer refuses to conform to the regulations, even in the slightest degree, the members leave him one by one, and receive Out of Work benefit, which may continue for thirty-nine weeks.^ It is usually found, we are told, that an employer remedies any grievance after he has had to put up with a new man every week or two for a few months. In 1845 the Old Smiths' Society, which had suffered severely between 1827 and 1844 from numerous small strikes, removed from their rules all provision for these pitched battles with their employers, in favor of this more silent form of pressure. The preamble to the rules, drawn up by the Delegate Meeting of 1845, adds, "Disputes . . . can only be settled by friendly consultations between both master and man, imbued with the spirit of mutually imparting facts, with a view to render assistance to each other ; if this, in con- nection with the efforts of mutual and disinterested friends, cannot be accomplished, we say then let men and masters part ; offer no opposition ; the men, however great or small their number, to be supplied with means of existence until they obtain other situations of work from the funds of the society ; and the employers to obtain other men as best they may ; and we contend that this unassuming quiet plan of operations is, according to its number of members, accom- plishing, and will continue to accomplish, infinitely more real good to the trade in all its ramifications, at a minimum

» Rules to be observed by the Members of the Leeds Friendly Society of Spanish and Morocco Leather Finishers (Leeds, 1879).


The Method of Mutual Insurance 1 69

expense to its members, than any other plan of operation by any other society." ^ The same position was aimed at by the Flint Glass Makers in 1850, when their magazine was advocating the use of this nameless weapon which we have christened, for our own convenience, the " Strike in Detail." " As man after man leaves, . . . then it is that the proud and haughty spirit of the oppressor is brought down, and he feels the power he cannot see." *

This application of mutual insurance may be made the method of enforcing any Common Rule whatsoever ; and a very effective instrument it is. An employer whose workmen leave him one by one, after due notice, may find little diffi- culty in filling their places. But if the new-comers, after a brief stay, one by one give notice that they, too, will leave, he is placed in a serious difficulty. He cannot close his doors and appeal for support to his fellow-employers, as there is no strike, and no refusal on the part of the Trade Unionists to accept his terras. Nevertheless, his constant inability to retain any workman for more than a week or two, may easily become so harassing that he will be forced to inquire carefully in what respect his employment falls below the standard of the trade, and to conform to it. The Trade Union, on the other hand, runs no risk of retaliation,- and, as only a few men are on the books at any one time, incurs the minimum of expense. As a deliberate Trade Union policy, the Strike in Detail depends upon the extent to which the union has secured the adhesion of all the com petent men in the trade, and upon their capacity for persistent and self-restrained pursuit of a common end. It could, accordingly, never become the sole method of any but a small, wealthy, and closely knit society ; but in such a society it may easily, in its coercive effect on the employer, surpass even an Act of Parliament itself.

• Report on Trade Societies' Rules by Mr. (now the Rt. Hon.) G. Shaw I.efevre in Social Science Association's Report on Trades Societies and Strikes (London, i860).

  • Flint Glass Makers' Magazine, July 1850.

VOL. I G 2


i7o Trade Onion Function

The Strike in Detail is only a more deliberate and self-conscious application of the method of maintaining the standard of life by Mutual Insurance customary among all Trade Unionists. It is impossible to draw any logical dis- tinction between the action of the little union of Leather Finishers and that of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, as explained by William Allan and T. J. Dunning, or indeed any union which maintains a member in idleness rather than allow him to accept work " contrary to the interests of the trade." The persistent adhesion of Trade Unionists to the Out of Work benefit, and their secondary adoption of what we have called the friendly society business, appear as a perfectly consistent, homogeneous policy the moment the true Trade Union point of view is caught. Any provision which secures the members of the trade against destitution prevents an employer taking advantage of their necessities.^ Not Out of Work benefit alone, but also sick pay, grants to replace tools or property lost or burnt, burial money for wife or child, and especially accident benefit and superannuation allowance, all serve to enforce the claim of the workman " to be dealt with as an intelligent being, and not merely as a bale of goods or article of merchandise. This," emphatically declares the Friendly Society of Ironfounders, " is, then, the main and central pillar of our organisation. Around it are clustered those monetary benefits that are stated above, and it is from this grand standpoint those benefits must all be estimated : for from this point only it is at all possible to come to a right and fair conclusion as to their real value to individual members." ^

^ We may cite a curious small case among the Curriers. The London journeymen curriers have always strenuously resisted the employers' attempts to make them take out shoe hides at an average vireight, instead of vireighing each one separately. In 1854 certain members represented to the union that their employer had taken advantage of the slackness of work in the winter season to try to enforce this practice upon them ; and that if the union would make them each a loan, they could dispense with sending in their bills to their employer for that week, which would have a good effect as demonstrating their power to stand out. The union readily agreed to lend each man a pound on condition that he irew no wages that week. MS. Minute Book, 1854.

' Pre&ce to Rules to be observed by the Members of the Friendly Society of


The Method of Mutual Insurance 1 7 1

Mutual Insurance, even when considered purely as a Method of Trade Unionism, is by no means beyond criticism. The lack of legal or financial security of the friendly benefits may be worth tolerating by a wage-earner for the sake of the trade as a whole ; but it is none the less an evil on that account. And even the successful Strike in Detail of the Leather Finishers has grave drawbacks, from its own stand- point. No Trade Unionist would deny that the deliber- ately concerted Common Rules, to which workmen and employers must alike conform, ought to be framed after consideration, not of the desires of one class alone, but from all points of view. The method of Mutual Insurance leaves' no place for discussion with the employers. Each party makes up its own mind, relies on its power of holding out, and leaves the issue to depend merely on secret endurance. Frank and full discussion might have revealed facts previously unknown, which would have altered the views of the parties. It might have been discovered that some points most keenly insisted on by one side were regarded as unimportant by the other. The influence of public opinion would have moderated the negotiations. These tendencies make, in Collective Bar- gaining, for a compromise often representing a real gain to both parties. For all this, the Method of Mutual Insurance allows no place. It is, therefore, not surprising to find that the most highly developed and successful modern organisa- tions make little use of Mutual Insurance as a method of industrial regulation. Among the Coalminers and Cotton Operatives, who together comprise a fifth of the Trade Union world, friendly benefits, and even Out of Work donation, play only the most trifling part. And it is sig- nificant that the United Society of Boilermakers, in many

Ironfounders (London, 1 891). It is interesting to find that this use of Mutual Insurance among workers was elaborately explained and defended in 181 9 by the well-known Baptist minister, the Reverend Robert Hall ; see his pamphlets, An Appeal to the Public on the Subject of the Framework Knitter^ Fund (Leicester, 1 819), and A Reply to the Principal Objections advanced by Cobbett and others against the Framework Knitters' Friendly Relief Society (Leicester, 182 1), both included in his Works (London, 1832), vol. iii.


172 Trade Union Function

respects the most successful of the great unions, whilst utilising to the full a most elaborate system of Mutual Insurance, keeps the provision against unavoidable casualties entirely distinct from its trade objects. For all that concerns the maintenance and improvement of the conditions of em- ployment the Boilermakers, like the Coalminers and the Cotton Operatives, resort to one or other of the alternative Methods of Trade Unionism, Collective Bargaining, or Legal, Enactment


CHAPTER II THE METHOD OF COLLECTIVE BARGAINING[edit]

The nature of the Method of Collective Bargaining will be best understood by a series of examples.

In unorganised trades the individual workman, applying for a job, accepts or refuses the terms offered by the employer, without communication with his fellow-workmen, and with- out any other consideration than the exigencies of his own position. For the sale of his labor l^e makes, with the employer, a strictly individual bargain^ But if a group of workmen concert together, and send representatives to con- duct the bargaining on behalf of the whole body, the position is at once changed. Instead of the employer making a series of separate contracts with isolated individuals, he meets with a collective will, and settles, in a single agreement, the! principles upon which, for the time being, all workmen of a particular group, or class, or grade, will be engaged. For instance, in a cabinet-making shop, if a new pattern is brought out, the men in the shop hold a brief and informal meeting to discuss the price at which it can be executed, the

WT he ph rase " Individual B argaining " is used incidentally by C. Morrison in Kis Essay on'ia.e "Welafions 'Vltiuem Ijiiour and Capital (London, 1854), as equivalent to "what may be called the cemMercjal principle," according to which " the workman endeavours to sell his labor as dearly and the employer to pur- chase it as cheaply as possible " (p. 9).

We are not aware of any use of the phrase "Collective Bargaining" before that in TJie Cooperative Movement in Great Britain (London, 1891), p. 217, by Beatrice Potter (Mrs. Sidney Webb), where it is employed in the present sense.


174 Trade Union Function

rough basis being whether, taking into account the un- familiarity of the work, and the nature of the task, they can make no less net wages per hour than they have been hitherto earning. The foreman has meanwhile been estimat- ing the job in his own way, on much the same basis as the men, but probably arriving at a slightly lower figure. The men's representative talks the matter over with the foreman, and some compromise is come to, the job standing at that price for the whole shop. This process differs from that of a series of individual bargains with the separate workmen, in that the particular exigencies of each are ruled out of con- sideration. If the foreman had dealt privately with each man, he might have found some in such necessity that he could have driven them to take the job practically at any price rather than be without work for even half a day. Others, again, relying on exceptional strength or endurance, ]yould have seen their way to make the standard earnings at piecework rate upon which the average worker could not bven subsist. By the Method of Collective Bargaining the foreman is prevented from taking advantage of the competi- tion of both these classes of men to beat down the earnings jf the other workmen. The starving man gets his job at the same piecework rate as the workman who could afford to stand out for his usual earnings. The superior crafts- man retains all his advantages over his fellows, but without allowing his superiority to be made the means of reducing the weekly wage of the ordinary worken

This example of the Method of Collective Bargaining is taken from the practice of a " shop club " in a relatively unorganised trade. The skilled artisans in the building trades afford a typical instance of the second stage. The " shop bargain " of such a trade as the cabinet-makers merely rules out the exigencies of the particular workmen in a single establishment. But this establishment is exposed to the undercutting of other establishments in the same town. One employer might have to give exceptional terms to his " shop club " in a sudden rush of urgent orders, whilst the


The Method of Collective Bargaining 175

workmen in other firms might be virtually at the masters' mercy owing to bad trade. Directly a Trade Union \s\j formed in any town, an attempt is made to exclude from] influence on the terms, the exigencies of particular employers' no less than those of particular workmen. Thus in the building trades we find the unions of Carpenters, Bricklayers, Stonemasons, Plumbers, Plasterers, and sometimes those of the Painters, Slaters, and Builders' Laborers obtaining formal "working rules," binding on all the employers and work- men of the town or district. This Collective Bargaining, arranged at a conference between the local master builders, and the local officials of the national unions, settles, for a specified term, the hours of beginning and ending work, the minimum rate of wages, the payment for overtime, the age and number of apprentices to be taken, the arrangements as to piecework, the holidays to be allowed, the notice to be given by employers or workmen terminating engagements, the accommodation to be provided for meals and the safe custody of tools, and numerous allowances or extra payments for travelling, lodging, " walking time," " grinding money,'- etc. These elaborate codes, unalterable except by formal notice from the organisations on either side, thus place on a uniform footing as regards the hiring of labor the wealthiest contractor and the builder on the brink of bankruptcy, the firm crowded with orders and that standing practically idle. On the other hand, the superior workman retains his freedom to exact higher rates for his special work, whilst the employer of superior business ability, or technical knowledge, and the firm enjoying the best machinery or plant, preserve, it is claimed, every fraction of their advantage over their competitors.^

1 The number of these " working rules in force in the United Kingdom has never been ascertained, but it must be very large, there being scarcely any town in which one or other of the building trades has not obtained a formal treaty with its employers. Our own collection of these treaties, in the building trades alone, numbers several hundreds. Specimens will be found in the Labour Gazette of the Board of Trade for November 1894 ; and in Le Trade Unionisme en Angleterre, edited by Paul de Rousiers (Paris, 1897), pp. 68-70. The British Library of Political Science, 10 Adelphi Terrace, London, contains these and other Trade Union documents.


176 Trade Union Function

The building trades, in which one town does not obviously compete with another, have hitherto stopped at this stage of Collective Bargaining. Where the product of [different towns goes to the same marken we see, in the best lorganised industries, a still further development. The great [Staple trades of cotton-spinning and cotton -weaving have ruled out, not merely the exigencies of particular workmen in one mill, or of particular mills in one town, but also those of the various towns over which the industries have spreadjS The general level of wages in all the cotton-spinning towns is, for instance, settled by the nat icjnal agreements between the Amalgamated Association of Operative Cotton-spinners and the Master Cotton-spinners' Association. No employer, and no group of workmen, no district association of em- ployers, and no " province " of the Trade Union, can propose an advance or accept a special reduction from the estab- lished level of earnings. General advances or reductions are negotiated at long intervals, and with great deliberateness, between the national representatives of each party. Thus we see ruled out, not merely all personal or local exigencies, but also the temporary gluts or contractions of the market, whether in the raw material or in the product. All firms in a district, and all districts in the industry being, as far as possible, placed upon an identical footing as to the rate at which they obtain human labor, their competition takes, it is contended, the form of improving the machinery, getting the best and cheapest raw material, and obtaining the most 'advantageous market for their wares.

A similar series of collective agreements exists in some other industries. Among the iron-shipbuilders, for instance, a gang of platers will bargain, through their first hand, as to the exact terms upon which they will undertake a job in the building of an iron ship. But the foreman cannot offer, or the men accept terms which in any way conflict with the " district by-laws " — a detailed code regulating hours, over- time, extra allowances, and often also the piecework rates for ordinary work, formally agreed to by the district com-


The Method of Collective Bargaining 177

mittee of the Trade Union and the local association of employers. Moreover, the district by-laws, unalterable for a fixed term, exclude the influence of any sudden glut or famine in the labor market, or any temporary fluctuation of the trade of the port. But this is not all. The district by-laws are themselves subject to the formal treaties on such matters as apprenticeship and the standard level of wages concluded between the United Society of Boilermakers and Iron-shipbuilders and the Employers' Federation of Ship- building and Engineering Trades. These treaties, settling certain questions for the wholp ' kingdom, rule out on those points the exigencies pf particular localities, and place all ports upon an equality. Thus the collective bargain made by the group of platers on a particular job in one establish- ment of a certain town imports a hierarchy of other collective bargains, concluded by the representatives of the contracting parties in their gradually widening spheres of action.

This practice of Collective Bargaining has, in one form or another, superseded the old individual contract between master and servant over a very large proportion of the industrial field. " I will pay each workman according to his necessity or merit, and deal with no one but my own hands," — once the almost universal answer of employers — : is now seldom heard in any important industry, except In out-of-the-way districts, or from exceptionally arbitrary masters.^ But it is interesting to notice that Collective Bargaining is neither co- extensive with, nor limited to. Trade Union organisation.- A few old -standing wealthy' unions of restricted membership have sometimes preferred, as we saw in the last chapter, to attain their ends by the Method of Mutual Insurance, whilst others, at all periods, have been formed with the express design of attaining their ends by the Method of Legal Enactment. On the other

1 Mr. Lecky observes (Democracy and Liberty, vol. ii. p. 361) that collective ^reements "are becoming, much more than engagements between individual employers and individual workmen, the form into which English industry is manifestly developing. "


178 Trade Union Function

hand, whole sections of the wage-earning class, not included in any Trade Union, habitually have their rate of wages and often some other conditions of their employment settled by Collective Bargaining. We do not here refer merely to such cases as the " shop-bargain," which we have just described. The historic strikes of the London building trades in 1859, and the Newcastle engineers in 1871, were both conducted by committees elected at mass meetings of members of the trade, among whom the Trade Unionists formed an insig- nificant minority.^ In the history of the building and engineering trades there are numerous instances of agree- ments being concluded, on behalf pf a whole district, by temporary committees of non-unionists, and where the Trade Unions themselves initiate and conduct the negotia- tions the agreements arrived at habitually govern in these industries, not the members alone, but the great bulk of similar workmen in the district. iHere and there an eccentric employer may choose to depart from the regular terms, but the great majority find it more convenient to comply with what becomes, in fact, the "custom of the trade." So thoroughly has the Collective Bargaining been recognised in the building trades, that county court judges now usually hold that the " working rules " of the district are implied as part of the wage- contract, if no express stipulation has been made on the points therein dealt with. 'Collective Bargaining thus extends over a much larger part of the industrial field than Trade Unionism. Precise: statistics do not exist, but our impression is that, in all skilled trades, where men work in concert, on the employers' premises, ninety per cent of the workmen find, either their rate of wages or their hours of work, and often many other details, predetermined by a collective bargain in which they personally have taken no part, but in which their interests have been dealt with by representatives of their class.

But though Collective Bargaining prevails over a much larger area than Trade Unionism, it is the Trade Union

' Bistory of Trade Unionism, pp. 210, 299; compare pp. 302, 305.


Th£ Method of Collective Bargaining 1 79

alone which can provide the machinery for any but its most casual and limited application. Without a Trade Union in the industry, it would be almost impossible to get a Common Rule extending over a whole district, and hopeless to attempt a national agreement. If therefore the collective bargain aims at excluding from influence on the bargain, the exigencies of particular firms or particular districts, and not merely those of particular workmen in a single establishment, Trade Union organisation is indispensable. Moreover, it is the Trade Union alone which can supply the machinery for the automatic interpretation and the peaceful revision of the general agreement. To Collective Bargaining, the machinery of Trade Unionism may bring, in fact, both continuity and elasticity, j

The development of a definite and differentiated machinery for Collective Bargaining in the Trade Union world coincides, as might be expected, with its enlargement from the workshop to the whole town, and from the town to the whole industry. As soon as a Trade Union properly so called comes into existence with a president and secretary, it becomes more and more usual for these officers to act as the workmen's representatives in trade negotiations. This is the stage in which we find nearly all the single-branched unions, such as those of the Sheffield trades, the Dublin local societies, the Coopers, Sailmakers, and other small and compact bodies of workmen all over the kingdom. Even where the growth of a local union into a national society has necessitated the appointment of a salaried general secretary, giving his whole time to his duties, it is exceptional to find him conducting all, or even the bulk of the negotia- tions of its members with their employers. In the United Operative Plumbers' Association, for instance, practically the whole of the Collective Bargaining is still conducted by the branch officials, or by representative workmen specially selected as delegates. A further stage is marked by the creation of permanent committees, unconcerned with the ordinary branch administration, to deal solely with local trade questions.


i8o Trade Union Function

Thus the bulk of the Collective Bargaining of the members of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers was, until 1892, conducted by the society's district committees, each acting for the whole of a local industrial district, in which there are often many branches. These negotiators are, like the branch officials, men working at their trade, and only spas- modically engaged, in special business of industrial nego- tiation. Even disputes of such national importance as the costly and disastrous strikes of the Tyneside engineers of 1 891, were initiated and managed by the local district committees and their officials, that is to say, by workmen called from the workshop only for the time required by the society's business. Over more than one-third of the Trade Union world, including such old established and widely extended unions as the Friendly Society of Operative Stone- masons, the Friendly Society of Ironfounders, and the Operative Bricklayers' Society, the workmen have not .developed any more specialised machinery for Collective ^Bargaining than the branch or district committee of men 1 working at their trade, meeting representative employers 'when occasion arises. This primitive machinery, although a great advance on the " shop-club," has manifest disadvantages. If, as often happens, a personal quarrel or local bitterness is at the bottom of the dispute, the prominent local workman who represents his fellows can hardly escape its influence. And, apart from personal antagonisms and questions of temper, the fact that it is the conditions of his own life that are involved does not conduce to that combination of courage and reasonableness most likely to lead to a lasting settlement. If the negotiator himself is fortunately placed, or would personally be much injured by a strike, he will !be tempted to acquiesce in conditions not advantageous to (the whole trade. In the reverse case — perhaps the more common — the energetic and active-minded workman, whom his fellows choose to represent them, is apt to find, in the joy of the fight, a relief from the monotony of manual labor. If a strike ensues, it brings to him at any rate the


The Method of Collective Bargaining 1 8 1

compensation that for a few weeks, or perhaps months, he becomes the paid organiser of the union, overwheln^ed, it is true, with anxious and harassing work, but temporarily exchanging a position of passive obedience for one of active leadership.

But, apart altogether from the disturbing influence of the " personal equation," it is obvious that the manual workers will stand at a grave disadvantage if they do not command the services of an expert negotiator. Unfortunately for his' interests, the workman has an ■ inveterate belief in what he calls a " practical man " — that is, one who is actually working at the trade concerned. He does not see that negotiation is in^ltselTa craft, in which a man must have had a special training before he catr be considered a " practical " man for the business in hand. The proper adjustment of the rate of remuneration in a given establishment requires, to | begin with, a wide range of industrial and economic knowledge. Unless the workman's negotiator is accurately acquainted with the rates and precise conditions prevailing in other establishments and in other districts, he will be unable to criticise the statements which will be made by the employer, and incapable of advising his own clients whether their demand is a reasonable one. Without some knowledge of the economic conditions of the industry, the state of trade, the number of orders in hand or to be expected, and the condition of the labor market, his judgment of the opportune- ness or strategic advantage of the men's demand will be of no value. The mechanic kept working for fifty or sixty hours a week at one narrow process in a single establishment would be an extraordinary genius if he could acquire this information. Nor would a knowledge of the facts alone suffice. The best kit of tools will not make a man a good carpenter without that training in their use which experience alone can give. The quick apprehension and mental agility which make up the greater part of the art of using facts are not fostered by days spent in physical toil. Finally, the perfect negotiator, like the perfect carpenter, attains his


1 82 Trade Union Function

expertness only by incessant practice of his art. Here again, the workman is at a special disability compared with the captain of industry. The making of bargains and agree- ments, which occupies only an infinitesimal fraction of a workman's life and thought, makes up the daily routine of the commercial man.

These considerations have slowly overcome the work- man's objections, and have, in the most powerful unions, together comprising over a third of the aggregate member- ship, caused the bulk of the Collective Bargaining to be gradually transferred from the non-commissioned officers to the salaried civil service of the movement. Especially in the piecework trades has the amateur negotiator most clearly demonstrated his inefficiency. When the workman's re- muneration depends on a combination of many different and constantly changing factors — the novelty of the pattern, the character of the material, the variations in the machinery, the speed of the engine — success in bargaining demands, in addition to all the other qualifications, a special aptitude for quickly seizing the net result of proposed changes in one or imore of the factors. It is in the piecework trades therefore 'that we find the machinery for Collective Bargaining in its most highly developed form. The great staple industries of cotton, coal, and iron, together with boot and shoe-making, and the hosiery and lace trades, have especially developed elaborate and complicated organisations for Collective Bar- gaining which have excited the admiration of economic students all over the world.

We must here plunge into a maze of complicated technical detail relating to these industries, each of which has developed its machinery for Collective Bargaining in its own way, and we despair of making the reader understand either our exposition or our criticism unless he will keep constantly in mind one fundamental distinction, which is all- important. This vital distinction is between the making of a new bargain, and the interpreting of the terms of an existing one. Where the machinery for Collective Bargaining


The Method of Collective Bargaining 183

has broken down, we usually discover that this distinction has not been made ; and it is only where this fundamental distinction has been clearly maintained that the machinery works without friction or ill-feeling. Let us consider first the interpretation of an existing bargain. Directly afeeneral agreement or formal treaty has been concluded in any trade between the general body of employers, on the one hand, and the general body of workmen on the other, there arises a practically incessarit series of disputes as to the applica- tion of the agreement to particular cases. Thus, as we shall see, the highly elaborate and precisely detailed lists of the English Cotton-spinners do not prevent, in one or other of the thousands of mills to which they apply, the almost daily occurrence of a difference of opinion between employer and operative as to the wages due. Similarly the unanimous agreement of a " uniform statement " in the boot and shoe trade leaves open endless questions as to the classification of the ever-changing patterns called for by the fashion of each season. The determination of the " county average " of the Northumberland or Durham coalminer leaves it still to be determined what tonnage rate should be fixed for any particular seam, in order that the workmen may earn the normal wage. The point at issue in these cases is not the amount per week which the workmen in any particular establishment should be permitted to earn — for that has, in principle, already been settled — but the rate at which, under the actual conditions of that establishment, and the class of goods in question, the pi ecework price must be computed in order that the average earnings of a particular section of workmen shall amount to no more and no less than the agreed standard. This, it will be seen, is exchjgjjje]^ ani issue of fact, in which both the desires and the tactical] strength ofThe parties directly concerned must be entirely, eliminated. For conciliation, compromise, and balancing of expediencies, there is absolutely no room. On the other hand, it is indispensable that the ascertainment of facts should attain an almost scientific precision. Moreover, the


1 84 Trade Union Function

settlement should be automatic, rapid, and inexpensive The ideal machinery for this class of cases would, in fact, be a peripatetic calculating-machine, endowed with 'a high degree of technical knowledge, which could accurately register all the factors concerned, and unerringly grind out the arithmetical result.

When we come to the settlement of the terms upon which a new general agreement should be entered into, an entirely oTSfefent set ot consitierations is involved. Whether the general level of wages in the trade should be raised or lowered by 10 per cent ; whether the number of boys to be engaged by any one employer should be restricted, and if so, by what scale ; whether the hours of labor should be reduced, and overtime regulated or prohibited, — a^gnot problems wiM€h«^ould be solved by even the most perfect calcMlating;jaja£tol£U„. Here nothing has been decided, or accegteHjn advance by both parties, and the fullest possible play^ left for the arts of diplomacy. In so far as the issue is left to Collective Bargaining there is not even any question of principle involved. The workmen are frankly striving to get for themselves the best terms that can permanently be exacted from the employers. The employers, on the othei hand, are endeavouring, in accordance with business prin- ciples, to buy their labor in the cheapest market. T he issu e is a trial of strength between the parties. Open warfare — the stoppage of the industry^ — is. costly and even disastrous to both sides. But though neither party desires war, there is always the alternative of fighting out the issue. The resources and tactical strength of each side must accordingly exercise a potent influence on the deliberations. The pleni- potentiaries must higgle and cast about to find acceptable alternatives, seeking, like ambassadors in international con- ference, not to ascertain what are the facts! nor yet what is the just decision according to some ethical standard or view of social expediency] but to find a common basis which each side can bring itself to agree to, rather than go to war. Finally, however wise may be the decision come to, the


The Method of Collective Bargaining 185

acceptance and carrying out of the collective bargain 1 ultimately arrived at, depends upon the extent to which the negotiators express the feelings/and command the confidence of the whole class affected. All these considerations must be taken carefully into account in the formation of successful machinery for Collective Bargaining.

The most obvious form of permanent machinery fori Collective Bargaining is a joint committee, consisting of equal numbers of representatives of the employers and work-' men respectively. This may almost be called the " orthodox " panacea of industrial philanthropists. For over thirty years, since the experiments of Sir Rupert Kettle and Mr. Mun- della, employers and workmen have been persistently urged to adopt the form of a " boalrd of arbitration and concilia- tion," consisting of representatives of each side, and with or without an impartial chairman or an umpire. Such a joint committee, it has been supposed, could thrash out in friendly discussion all points in dispute, and arrive at an amicable understanding. In intractable cases, the umpire's decision would cut the Gordian knot. Readers of the History of Trade Unionism will remember how eagerly this idea was taken up by the organised workmen in certain great industries, and how, in coalmining and iron and steel in particular, it has since enjoyed the favor both of employers and employed. We need not stop to describe all the cases in which this form of machinery has, from time to time, been adopted. We shall best unde rstand its ope ration by con- sidering a coup le of leading instances, tE ^ jomt boards " of th e boot and shoe trade, and the~" ^oint" com mittees "_oriEe Northumberland and Durham co alminers.

The great machine industry of boof and shoe-making has beep provided, for some years past, with a formal and elaborate constitution, mutually agreed to by employers and employed, and expressly designed " to prevent a strike or lock-out, and to secure the reference of all trade disputes to arbitration." ^ The machinery for Collective Bargaining thus

1 Rules for the Prevention of Strikes and Lockouts, etc., i6th August 1892,


1 86 Trade Union Function

established puts into concrete form all the aspirations of enthusiastic advocates of " industrial peace." We have first a " local board of conciliation and arbitration " in every important centre of the trade.S^ To this board, formed of an equal number of elected representatives of the local employers and the local Trade Unionists, must be referred " every, question, or aspect of a question, affecting the relations of employers and workmen individu ally or col- lective ly." If the board cannot agree, the question goes to an impartial umpire, acceptable to both sides. / Issues affecting the whole_in dustry w ere, until 1894, dealt with 'by i national conference of great dignity and importance. Nine chosen leaders of the Federated Associations of Boot and Shoe Manufacturers of Great Britain met, in the council chamber of the Leicester Town Hall, an equal number of elected representatives of the National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives. These elaborate debates, conducted with all the ceremony of a State Trial, were presided over by an eminent and universally respected solicitor, sometime mayor of the town. If no agreement could be arrived at, the conference enjoyed the services, as umpire, of no less an authority than Sir Henry (now Lord) James, formerly Attorney-General, before whom, sitting as a judge, the issue was elaborately reargued by the spokesmen of each side. Finally as a means of influencing the public opinion of the trade, there were published, not only the precise and authoritative decisions of the conference or the umpire, but also a verbatim report of all the proceedings.^

We can imagine how this elaborate and carefully thought out machinery for Collective Bargaining would have

appended to Report of Conference, 1892. These rules, which -are signed by three employers and three workmen, on behalf of their respective associations, consist of fifteen clauses defining the constitution and method of working both of the "Local Board of Conciliation and Arbitration," and of the "National Conference." They will be found in the Board of Trade Report on Strikes and Lockouts of 1893, C, 7566 of 1894, pp. 253-257.

^ The "transcript of the shorthand writers' notes" of the Conference of August 1892, and the subsequent trial before the umpire, forms a volume of 152 pages of rich material for the student of industrial organisation.


The Method of Collective Bargaining 187

delighted the heart of the enthusiastic believers in " boards of conciliation and arbitration." Nor need it be contested that it has been the means of effecting many peaceful settle- ments in the industry. But we do not think that any one conversant with the trade, or any student of the voluminous reports of the proceedings, will deny that the boards have been the cause of endless friction/ discontent/ and waste of energy among workmen and employers alike. Scarcely a quarter passes without the operatives, in some district or another, revolting against their local board ; condemning or withdrawing their representatives ; and even occasionally refusing to obey the award of the umpire.^ The employers are, on their side, no better satisfied than the men, and in 1894 the national conference was brought to an end by the secession of the federated manufacturers, and their resolute refusal to submit the issues to arbitration. The result was a stoppage in 1895 of practically the entire industry from one end of the kingdom to the other, which was only brought to an end by the half-authoritative interference of the Board of Trade.*

If we examine this general discontent we find it taking different forms among the workmen and the employers respectively. The operatives complain that, when a general agreement has been concluded they cannot get any speedy or certain enforcemen t of it through the local boards. Thus, the Bristol representative at the annual delegate meeting in 1894, complained bitterly of the dilatory way in which his local board acted in its interpretation work. Questions " had been hanging about from six to nine months from the board to the umpire. Decisions had been given by the umpire on boots after a delay of eight or nine

  • The local boards, of which twelve were in existence at the end of 1894,

date from 1875. The StafiFord Board was dissolved in 1878, and the Leeds Board in 1 881. The years 1891-94 saw no fewer than seven dissolutions, and the important centres of Stafford, Manchester, and Kingswood still remain without boards. The National Conference, established in August 1892, met five times in the next three years, the sittings being suspended on the withdrawal of the employers in December 1894.

' See the Labour Ganette, April and May 1895.


1 88 Trade Union Function

months. ... In one case in the factory where he worked a boot was sent to the arbitration board, and thence to the umpire. The decision arrived at by the latter was in favor of the men. There was something like seven shillings each due to two or three men on that particular boot. But one of them had left the town in the interim, and the result of the delay was that he was practically swindled out of the seven shillings. New samples had been introduced at the beginning of the year, and the shoes had been made under protest, at a price the employers had quoted, till the end of the season. Then, perhaps, when the season was ended, they got a decision in their favor, face to face with all the difficulties of getting back the money due to them. . ^ This continual delay sickened the whole of them in Bristol, and although there had not been a ballot taken on the question of arbitration in Bristol, he felt sure there were over ninety per cent of the men opposed to it." ^

The Kings wood Local Board broke up in 1894, the umpire resigning his post in disgust. Discussion had pro- ceeded upon a " statement " for " light " boots, and points in dispute were submitted to the umpire by the board. The bulk of the manufacturers thereupon flatly refused to send any samples of the boots in question, and thus made it im- possible for the umpire to decide the cases submitted to him.' This produced the greatest possible irritation among the men, who urged that, as the employers had failed to submit to the umpire's award, the operatives' claim should be adopted. These cases might be indefinitely multiplied from all the centres of the industry. But delay is not the only objection

. brought by the operatives against the working of the local boards. When at last the umpire's decision has been given, it has often failed to command the assent, and sometimes I even to secure the obedience of the workmen. This arises,

.we believe, from the class of umpire whom it has been

^ Report of the Edinburgh Conference, May 1 894 (the delegate meeting of the National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives). 2 Shoe and Leather Record, 30th November 1 894.


The Method of Collective Bargaining 1 89

jnecessary to choose. The questions of interpretation neces- sarily turn, not on any general principle, but on extremely technical trade details, which are unintelligible to any person outside the industry.^ In the absence of any paid pro- fessional expert, permanently engaged for precisely this work, the umpire has in practice to be chosen from among the employers, the board usually agreeing upon a leading manufacturer in another district. This reliance on the ' unpaid service of a non-resident increases the delay. But what is more important is, that however generally respected such an umpire may be, it is inevitable that, when his award runs counter to the claim of the operatives, these should accuse him of class bias. The alternative of choosing one of the officials of the union would, it need hardly be said, be equally distasteful to the employers.

The discontent of the employers is directed chiefly to another feature of the organisation. The work of the local boards is so laborious an d incessant th at, the great magnates of the industry cannot spare time to attend. On questions of interpretation, they would be willing to leave the busi- ness to their managers or smaller employers. But besides questions of interpretation the local board have perpetually brought before them disputes which turn upon the admission of what the employers regard as " new principles." If the local board, with the concurrence of its employer-members, decides the issue, all the other employers in the district, some of whom may be " captains of industry " on a huge scale, find a new regulation made binding on them in the conduct of what they regard as " their own business." If on the other hand the local board remits such issues — virtually ther

1 Thus the umpire for the Norwich Local Board had to award rates to be paid in the following cases, remitted from a single meeting, (i) "A woman's 5ths if changed from self-vamp to calf vamp; (2) a girl's 4ths if changed from self-vamp to glac6 kid vamp ; (3) a woman's 4th's ditto ; (4) a girl's kid button levant seal vamp or golosh ; (5) a girl's glac^ kid one finger strap ; (6) a woman's kid elastic mock button front shoe sew-round." The award, which is equally unintelligible to the general reader, will be found in the Shoe and Leather Record Annual lot 1892-93, p. 121.


I go Trade Union Function

conclusion of new general agreements — to the national con- ference, all the employers in the kingdom find themselves in a similar predicament. Moreover, in a publicly conducted national conference, formed of equal numbers from each party, neither the representative workmen nor the representa- tive employers dare concede anything to their opponents, or even submit to a compromise. The result is that every important issue is inevitably remitted by the conference to the umpire. Lord James has accordingly found himself in the remarkable position of imposing laws upon the entire boot and shoe-making industry, prescribing for instance, not only a minimum rate of wages, but also a precise numerical limitation of the number of boy-learners to be engaged by each employer, the conditions under which alone a wholesale trader may give work out to sub-contractors, and the extent to which employers shall themselves provide workshop accommodation, and the date before which such premises shall be in use. This, it is obvious, goes beyond Collective ^Bargaining. The awards of Lord James amount, in fact, to legislative regulation of the industry, the legislature in

this case being, not a representative assemblyj|Lcting on )ehalf of the whole community, but a dictator elected-by the ■ rade.-'

It is therefore not surprising to find the employers quickly protesting against so drastic and far-reaching an arrangement. But it was one to which they had ex- plicitly and unreservedly pledged themselves. They had promised, by the rules of the i6th August 1892, that "every question or aspect of a question affecting the relations of employers and workmen individually or collectively should in case of disagreement be submitted for settlement," first to the local board, then to the national conference, and

'\j\lt is a minor grievance of the employers that no distinguished lawyer cari-te found to give the unpaid and laborious service of an umpire, who is not also a politician. It is impossible for the employers to avoid the suspicion that any politician will be unconsciously biassed in favor of the most numerous section of the electors. See the significant quotation given in the footnote at p. 240.


The Method of Collective Bargaining 1 9 1

finally, if need be, to the umpire. That this promise was not confined to questions of interpretation is made manifest by the express mention in the same doeument of the settle- ment of disputes involving " new principles." In the long discussion which led up to the signing of the rules, they had, in fact, successfully pleaded for adopting " honestly and unreservedly arbitration pure and simple, and for every dispute, and under all conditions."^ In their anxiety to remove every chance of a stoppage of their industry, they had overlooked the fundamental distinction between questions of the interpretation of an existing contract and questions as to the terms of a new settlement. If they had listened to the warning of the able editor of their own trade organ, they would not have made this blunder. The very month before the conference of 1892 he was urging exactly the distinction upon which we insist. " Employers," he wrote, " have never contended that arbitration would settle every conceivable kind of dispute between capital and labor. But they have contended that where certain established principles are already recognised by both sides, the adjustment of details can better be settled by arbitration than in any other 'Jway. ... It must be obvious .that, whatever the future may bring, employers could not now prudently allow every dispute with their workmen to be settled by a third person. To say nothing of the question of boy labor which is now at issue, a number of others may be mentioned regarding which the employer could not consent to surrender any portion of his discretion or responsibility." ^ The sub- sequent events quickly proved that this view of the state of mind of the average employer was correct, and that the chosen representatives of the Federated Associations of Boot and Shoe Manufacturers had failed to understand the words which they were, with all solemnity, using. When the

' Speech of Mr. Gale, a leading employer. Third day of Conference, August 1892. The men had wished to exclude any question of a general reduc- tion of wages, whereupon the employers had insisted that no exception whatever should be made.

' Shoe and Leather Record, July 1892.


192 Trade Union Function

workmen brought up cases of actual disputes that had arisen about boy labor, machinery, the "team system," and the employment of non-unionists, the employers protested that they had never meant such questions as these to be discussed at all. The president had, of course, no alternative but to hold them bound to their explicit agreement, and to overrule their protests. After prolonged ill-feeling, the associated employers revolted, and withdrew their representatives from the national conference, alleging first of all, that the work- men had in some cases refused to abide by the award of the umpire, and further, that the national conference had become " a legislative tribunal for the trade." ^

Thus experience of the working of the elaborate machinery for Collective Bargaining provided in the boot and shoe industry has revealed many imperfections. Some of these have been avoided in our second example, the conciliation boards [and the joint committees of the Northumberland and Durhailn coalminers. Here we have, to begin with, a clear distinction maintained between the machinery for interpreta- tion and that for concluding a new agreement. The earnings of the miners in both ca unties are determined ultimately by general principles ^ applicable to the whole of each county, which are revised at occasional conferences of representative

• Manifesto of Federated Associations of Boot and Shoe Manufacturers of Great Britain, 20th December 1894. For documents and exact particulars of the dispute which thereupon arose, see Labour Gazette, April and May 1895 ; also the Shoe and Leather Record, and the Monthly Reports of the National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives from October 1894 to June 1895. ^^ li^ve here dealt with the matter, not on its merits, but only in so far as it illustrates the machinery for collective bargaining. The agreement brought about by the Board of Trade on 19th April 1895, which now governs the industry, expressly excludes four specified subjects from discussion by the local boards and makes no provision for a national conference. But so far as we understand the document, no dis- tinction is even now made between questions of interpretation and questions as to the terms of a new agreement. Both kinds of questions are, as before, to he decided where necessary by the umpire.

s These general principles include a normal standard wage, vrith a cone- spending normal tonnage rate, applicable to the whole county. This is called the " Co\mty Average," a somewhat misleading phrase as the normal rate is not, and has long not been, a precise "average" of the actual earnings of all the miners in the county, and is now only a conventional figure upon which percentages of advance or reduction are based.


The Method of Collective Bargatmng 193

workmen and employers.* Neither in Durham nor in Northumberland has this board of conciliation anything to do with the interpretation of the formal agreement from time to time arrived at,, or with the incessant labor involved in its application. Its meetings, held only at rare intervals, command the presence of the greatest coal-owners in the county, and of the most iniluential miners' leaders specially elected for the purpose. The board deliberates in private," and publishes only its decisions. Resort to the umpire,, or in Northumberland to the casting vote of the chairman, is rare, the usual practice being for a frank interchange of views to go on until a basis of agreement can be found. On the other hand, all questions of interpretation or application are dealt with by another tribunal, which goes on undisturbed even when one or other party has temporarily withdrawn its representatives from the board of conciliation. In marked distinction from the conciliation board, the " joint committee " in each county meets frequently, and is engaged in incessant work. But this committee is expressly debarred from dealing with " such as may be termed county questions, or which may affect the general trade," * and is rigidly con- fined to the application of the existing general agreement to particular mines or seams."

  • In Durham this conference is, since February 1895, called "The Board of

Conciliation for the Coal Trade. " The rules of that date provide for eighteen representatives of each side, vrith an umpire to be mutually agreed upon, or in default nominated by the Board of Trade. In Northumberland, the corresponding " Board of Conciliation " now consists of fifteen on each side, with an independent chairman having a casting vote, to be nominated, in default of agreement, by the Chairman of the Northumberland County Council. The name and constitution of these boards are frequently varied in minor details.

^ Durham Minerf Joint Committee Rules, November 1879.

' Owing to the great differences in the ease and facilities virith which the coal is got in different mines and different seams of the same mine, it is impossible, consistently vnth uniformity in the rate of payment for the whole work done, to apply any identical tonnage rate throughout the county. When it is found that the men in any mine constantly earn per day an amount which departs appreciably from the normal (the so-called " County Average "), the employer or the work- men appeal for a readjustment of the tonns^e rate in that particular instance. It must be counted as a grave defect in the miners' organisations outside North- umberland and Durham that no systematic arrangements exist for this adjust- ment of the standard wage to the particular circumstances of each mine or seam. VOL. I H


194 Trade Union Function

For deliberateness and impartiality this tribunal leaves nothing to be desired. The members, all of whom are practically acquainted with the industry, do not directly represent either of the parties concerned in any dispute, and have no other interest than that of securing uniformity in the application of a common agreement. The chief dis- advantage of the tribunal is that which we have already seen complained of in the local boards of the boot and shoe trade. For deciding mere issues of fact, as to'the circum- stances of a particular seam or pit, a joint committee is necessarily a cumbrous, expensive, and dilatory machine. Every case involves the journeying to Newcastle of witnesses on both sides, and their examination by all the members of the committee. This consumes so much time that cases frequently stand in the agenda for several months before being reached, a fact which leads to great dissatisfaction to those concerned.* Moreover, it is often impossible to come to any decision without personal inspection of the seam, and difficult cases are therefore constantly referred for decision to one employer and one workman, with power to choose an umpire. This results in a more precise ascertainment of facts, but increases the delay and expense. Finally, there is in such cases no guarantee that the decisions, arrived at by different sets of people, will preserve that exact uniformity . which it is the special function of the tribunal to enforce.

Thus, the much-advertised expedient of a single joint committee of employers and employed to deal with all questions that arise between them, has not proved a wholly

In Lancashire, Derbyshire, and other districts of the Miners' Federation, for instance, there is no better protection of the standard wage than pit-lists, pre- scribing tonnage rates for individual collieries. No machinery exists for ensuring uniformity (of the rate of pay for the amount of work) between these lists, or even for revising their rates to meet the changing circumstances of particular seams. If a miner finds he is earning a very low amount per day, he applies to his lodge meeting for permission to leave and receive strike benefit. More or less informal negotiations may then be opened with the mine manager, who often ■fixes a new rate, in consultation either with the group of miners themselves, or with the lodge officials, or in some instances with salaried agents of the union.

  • This is especially the case in Durham, where the numV'er of mines dealt

with is very large.


The Method of Collective Bargaining 195

satisfactory machinery for Collective Bargaining. The ex- pediency of having separate machinery for the essentially different processes of interpreting an existing agreement and concluding a new one is, we think, clearly demonstrated. For one of these two processes, the application and inter- pretation of an existing agreement, a joint committee is a cumbrous an d awkward device. A better solution of the problem has been found in the Lancashire cotton trade. The cotton operatives, like the Northumberland and Durham coalminers, have distinguished, clearly and sharply, between the formation of a new general agreement and the applica- tion of an existing agreement to particular cases. But they, have done more than this. Unconsciously and, as it were, in- stinctively, they have felt their way to a form of machinery for Collective Bargaining which uses the representative element where the representative element is needed, whilst on the other hand it employs the professional expert for work at which the mere representative would be out of place.

VWe will first describe the machinery for the interpreta- tion of an existing agreement. The factors which enter into the piecework rates of the Lancashire cotton operatives are so complicated that both the employers and the workpeople have long since recognised the necessity of maintaining salaried professional experts who devote their whole time to. the service respectively of the employers' association and the Trade Union. The earnings of a cotton-spinner, for instance, depend upon the complex interaction of such factors as the "draw" of the mule, the number of its spindles, and the speed with which the machinery works. To/ compute the operative's earnings, even with the aid of the elaborate printed tables known as the "List," entails no ordinary amount of arithmetical facility. But it is especially the custom of allowing the operative compensation for defective material pr old-fashioned machinery and the employer a corresponding allowance for improvements, which has thrown the collective bargaining, as regards interpretation, entirely into the hands of professional experts. Thus, if an 01dharr\


196 Trade Union Function

operative finds his earnings falling below the current figure, either because the raw cotton is inferior or the machinery obsolete, or if an employer speeds up his engine or introduces improvements, the experts on each side visit the mill, and confer together as to the net effect of the change. If the deficiency in earnings is considered to be due to imperfection in the raw material, or to the old-fashioned character of the machinery, the employer is required to add a specified per- centage to the normal piecework rate, so that the work- man may not suffer. On the other hand, if the employer has effected special improvements, by which the product is augmented, without increasing the strain on the operative, he is allowed to deduct a corresponding percentage from the " List " price. The cotton-weavers have what is essentially the same machinery for calculating the characteristic technical details of their trade.

The importance and complication of the duties thus entrusted to the salaried officials of the cotton-spinners' and cotton-weavers' unions has led to the adoption of an interest- ing method of recruiting this branch of the Trade Union Civil Service. The Cotton-weavers, in 1861, subjected the candidates for the then vacant ofifice of general secretary to a competitive examination.^ This practice was adopted by the Cotton-spinners, and is now the regular way of selecting all the officials who are to concern themselves with the intricate trade calculations. The branches retain the right of

^ Mr. Thomas Birtwistle, the successful candidate on this occasion, was, after over thirty years' honorable service of his Trade Union, appointed by the Home Secretary an Inspector in the Factory Department, as the only person competent to understand and interpret the complicated methods of remuneration in the weaving trade. His son, brought up in the Trade Union office, has since also been appointed a factory inspector. The successful candidate at the Bolton Cotton-spiimers' examination in 1895 was, after two years' service as Trade Union Secretary, engaged in a similar capacity by the local Master Cotton- spinners' Association. So far as we know, this is the first instance of a Trade Union official transferring his services from the operatives to the employers, and it throws an interesting light on the transformation of the " labor leader " into the professional accountant. The bulk of the daily work of the Trade Union officials in the cotton industry consists, in fact, in securing the uniform observance of a collective agreement, a seryice which, like that of a legal or medical pro- fessional man, could, with equal propriety, be rendered to either client.


Tfie Method of Collective Bargaining 197

nominating the candidates, and the members, acting through their Representative Assembly, their right of election. But between the day of nomination and that of election all the candidates submit to a competitive examination, con- ducted by the most experienced officers of the unions. A fairly stiff paper is set in the arithmetic and technical cal- culations required in the trade, and each candidate writes an essay. But a prominent part is played by an oral examination, in which the examiners assume the part of employers, cross-question the candidates one by one on the alleged grievances of which they are supposed to have come to complain, and do not refrain, in order to test their wits and their good temper, from "adopting the bullying manners of the worst employers. The marks gained by all the candi- dates are printed in full detail, the name of the glib-tongued " popular leader " being sometimes followed by the comment of " entirely wrong " or " not worked " in all his arithmetical calculations, and by infinitesimal marks for spelling, writing, and conduct under cross-examination. The result is usually the election of the candidate who has obtained the highest marks, but the Representative Assembly occasionally exercises its discretion in giving a preference to a candidate of known character or good service, who has fallen a few marks behind the best examinee.^

  • Operative Cotton-spinners' Provincial Association of

Bolton and District.

Offices : 77 St. George's Road, Bolton.

Examination Paper for Candidates applying for situation of Gen. Sec. of the above Association.

25th January 1895.

Subject I. — Calculations.

1. Find the number of stretches put up in a week, and the price per 100 required to produce a gross wage of ;^3 : 9 : 7 per pair of mules, from the follow- ing particulars : — Number of spindles in one mule, 1090. From s6| hours, deduct 2^ hours for cleaning and accidental stoppages, and one hour and ten minutes for doffing. Speed of each mule, 4 stretches in 75 seconds.

2. Taking the stretches as ascertained by the previous question to be each


tgS Trade Union Function

It is to this method of selection that we attribute the remarkable success of the officials of the Cotton Trade Unions in obtaining the best possible terms for their members. We regard it as a great disadvantage to the Trade Union world that the system has not hitherto spread to other unions. It seems to us to combine the advantages of competitive examination and popular selection, and it ensures the union against the serious calamity of finding itself saddled with an incompetent officer.

This part of the machinery for Collective Bargaining among the Cotton Operatives — the meeting of the salaried professional experts on each side — deals, as we have said, only with questions of interpretation, that is, the application

64^ inches long, how many hanks would the week's production amount to, and what price per 1000 hanks would be required to bring out the wage previously given ?

3. Assuming the standard price paid for producing a certain count of yam to be I2s. 7d. per 100 lbs., what would the price be after a reduction of 7.9 per cent, and what percentage would it require to bring back the reduced price to the original amount ?

4. Divide .3364502 by .001645.

5. Extract the square root of 80's counts to three places of decimals, and then ascertain the required turns per inch for both twist and weft, the assumed standard being the square root of the counts, multiplied by 3J for weft, and 3^ for twist.

6. If good fair Egyptian cotton is advanced from 4^ths to 4§d. per lb., what would be the rate per cent of the increase ? Also what would be the amount of the broker's commission on a sale of 1000 bales of 480 lbs. each, at one-quarter of one per cent, and what would be the difference in his commission as between selling at one price and the other ?

7. An upright shaft runs at the rate of 80 revolutions per minute, and has on it a wheel with 70 teeth driving a wheel with 40 teeth on the line shaft. Over each pair of mules there is on the line shaft a drum 40 inches in diameter driving a counter guUey 16 inches in diameter. On the counter shaft is a drum 30 inches in diameter, driving a rim-pulley 15 inches in diameter. Give the revolutions of the rim shaft per minute.

8. Assuming a rim shaft to be making 680 revolutions per minute, with a 20-inch rim, a iij-inch tin roller-pulley, a 6-inch tin roller, and spindle wharves ^phs of an inch in diameter, what will be the number of revolutions of the spindles per minute, after allowing ^^ of an inch each to the diameter of the tin roller and spindle wharves for slipping of bands ?

//. — Writing, Composition, and Spelling,

Compile an essay on Trade Unions, with special reference to their useful features. The essays must not exceed about 1200 words, and the points taken


The Method of Collective Bargaining 1 99

to particular jobs, or particular processes, of the existing general agreements accepted by both sides, j When it comes to concluding or revising the general agreement itself — a matter in which not one firm or operative alone is interested, but the whole body of employers and workmen — we find the^ machinery for Collective Bargaining taking the form of a joint j committee composed of a certain number of representatives! of each side. Thus the Cotton-spinners, whilst leaving to the arbitrament of the secretaries of the district union and district employers' association all questions relating to particular mills or particular workmen, revise the details of their lists in periodical conferences in which the leading employers of the district concerned arrange the matter with the leading trade union officials and representative operatives. And when the point at issue is not the alteration of the technical details of the list, but a general reduction or advance of wages by so much per cent throughout the trade, or a general shortening of the working time, we see the matter

into consideration will be handwriting, spelling, composition, and the clear concise marshalling of whatever facts or arguments are adduced.

///. — Oral Examination.

Each candidate will be examined separately as to his capacity for dealing orally with labour disputes. On this point they will have to formulate what they consider would be a complaint requiring immediate attention, and the examiners will question them, and possibly urge some arguments against the views advanced.

Candidates will be allowed from ten in the forenoon to five in the aftemopn to complete their examination in the two first subjects, with one hour for dinner. Candidates will not be allowed to refer to any books or papers. The third subject (oral examination) will not be taken until Sunday, the 27th^nstant, at I o'clock.

Thomas Ashton, Jas. Mawdsley,


' > Examiners.


Thirteen candidates in all entered for this examination. The examiners allowed a maximum of 50 marks for each sum, and lOO marks each for writing, spelling, composition, and oral examination, making 800 marks the maximum attainable. The number of marks obtained by the candidates varied from 195 to 630. The post was finally given to the second candidate in the list (610 marks), who was an old and esteemed officer of the union, and whose second place at the examination was chiefly due to his obtaining lower marks for hand- writing than the most successful candidate.


200 Trade Union Function

discussed between appointed representatives of the whole body of the employers, attended by their agents and solicitors, and the central executive of the Amalgamated Association of Operative Cotton-spinners as representing all the district unions^

Inthe case of the English Cotton-spinners the lists of prices have been so carefully and elaborately worked out that even district conferences are of only occasional occur- rence. The general policy of both employers and operatives is against any but rare and moderate variations of the standard earnings. Such questions as hours of labor and sanitation do not, among the Cotton Operatives, for reasons that we shall explain in a subsequent chapter, fall within the sphere of the Method of Collective Bargaining. The joint conferences of the whole trade take place therefore only in momentous crises, and are accompanied by all the solemnity and strenuousness of an assembly on whose decision turns the question of peace or war.

It is interesting to see one of these momentous confer- ences at work. The historic all-night sitting which settled the great Cotton-spinners' dispute of 1893, and concluded the agreement which has since governed the trade, was vividly described by one of the leading Trade Union officials who took part in it. The employers had demanded a reduction of 10 per cent, whilst the men had urged that it would be better to reduce the number of hours worked per' week. The stoppage had lasted no less than twenty weeks, practically every mill in the whole industry being closed. Feeling on both sides had run high, but after frequent negotiations and incessant newspaper comment, the points at issue had been narrowed down, and both parties felt the need of bringing the struggle to an end. To escape the crowd of reporters the place of meeting was kept secret, and fixed for 3 p.m. at a country inn, to which the whole party journeyed together in the same train.

" On the employers' side was Mr. A. E. Rayner, looking all the better for his holiday at Bournemouth. With him '


The Method of Collective Bargaining 201

were some sixteen or seventeen others, amongst whom were Mr. Andrew, Mr. John B. Tattersall, and Mr. James Fletcher of Oldham. There was also Mr. John Fletcher, Mr. R, S. Buckley, and Mr. Smethurst of the Ashton district, who took with them Mr. Dixon to keep them in countenance. Mr. Sidebottom of Stockport also gave a kind of military flavor to his colleagues, whilst Mr. John Mayall of Moseley attended to look in and lend some dignity to the occasion, in which he was assisted by Mr. W. Tattersall, secretary of the federation. On the operatives' side Mr. Ashton, Mr. Mellor, and Mr. Jones did duty for Olkham ; Mr. Wood, Mr. Rhodes, and Mr. Carr represented the Ashton district ; whilst the general business was attended to by Mr. Mullin, Mr. Mawdsley, Mr. Fielding, and some dozen others, whilst Mr. D. Holmes, Mr. Wilkinson, and Mr. Buckley had a watch- ing brief for the winders 'and reelers. Perhaps we ought not to omit mentioning that the employers had brought with them Mr. Hesketh Booth, clerk to the Oldham magistrates, who was counterbalanced by Mr. Ascroft, another Oldham solicitor, who had accompanied the cardroom hands.

" Those whose names we have mentioned, with others, made up a party of between thirty and forty, and after taking a few minutes to straighten themselves up after leaving the train, they settled down to business. Mr. A. E. Rayner was unanimously voted to the chair. . . . Both sides had prepared and got printed a series of proposals, and the employers had . . . them printed side by side on the same sheet. In many of them there was nothing to differ about except the word- ing, as the idea aimed at was the same in both cases. But the clause dealing with the reduction was the first, and in their sheets the employers had left the amount out, whilst the operatives had put in 2.\ per cent. The employers wished the discussion on this point to be deferred to the end of the meeting, but feeling that unless a settlement could be arrived at on this, the whole of the time spent on the other clauses would be wasted, the operatives insisted it should be taken first. The employers then retired, and after being absent some VOL. I H 2


202 Trade Union Function

time, returned and offered to accept a reduction of 3 per cent. The operatives then retired, and after a prolonged absence, offered to recommend the acceptance of sevenpence in the pound.^ Then came an adjournment for tea, and further discussion on the same subject followed, which was, however, carried on by means of deputations from one section to the other, as it was found that much better progress was made by this system than by all being together, with its ^concomitant long speeches, which generally came to nothing. This point ultimately disposed of in favour of the sevenpence, some minor clauses were got through, the next discussion being on the arrangement of intervals between the times when wages can be disturbed. This discussion brought up the time to after ten o'clock, and everybody was tired and anxious to be going home. . . . But as there seemed to be every prospect of being able to ultimately/agree, it was con- sidered that they should not run the risk of rendering the meeting useless by separating. In order to give the jaded men an opportunity for freshening up, an adjournment for half an hour was therefore agreed to, during which cold remains of the tea vanished. This, combined with a smoke and a stroll in the open air, put everybody right, and when business was resumed it went on swimmingly. There was little said by the employers over their clause, that union operatives must work amicably with non-union men, and another affirming that in any proposal to change the rate of wages the state of trade for the three previous years must be taken into account. . . . When this work was done the remaining clauses which affirm the desirability of (employers and operatives) working together for the promotion of measures conducive to the general interests of the trade, were soon gone through, and at nearly four o'clock in the morning the jaded disputants rushed off to get a little change of air whilst the agreement was being picked out from piles of papers and put together in proper form. At this stage a little diversion was occasioned by the arrival of a cab con- ^ Equal to 2.916 per cent


The Method of Collective Bargaining 203

taining a reporter of one of the Manchester papers, who, after hunting all over South-east Lancashire for the meeting- place, had at last found the right spot. This bit of enterprise having been rewarded by about six lines of something, he rushed off back to catch his paper. Just after five (after fourteen hours) the documents were in shape, and the requisite signatures attached, and with a few, evidently heart- felt congratulatory remarks from the chairman, and a vote of thanks having been given to him, the proceedings closed." * The machinery for Collective Bargaining developed by the Cotton Operatives, in our opinion, approaches the ideal. We have, to begin with, certain broad principles unreservedly agreed to throughout the trade. The scale of remuneration, based on these principles, is worked out in elaborate detail into printed lists, which (though not yet identical for the whole^ trade) automatically govern the ^ctual earnines of the several districts. The application, both of the general principles and of the lists, to particular mills and particular workmen, is made, not by the parties concerned, but by the joint decision of two disinterested professional experts, whose whole business in life is to secure, not the advantage of particular employer or workmen by whom they are called in, but uniformity in the application of the common agreement to all employers and workmen. The common agreements themselves are revised at rare intervals by representative joint committees, in which the professional experts on both sides exercise a great and even a preponderating influence. The whole machinery appears admirably contrived to bring' about the maximum deliberation, security, stability, and promptitude of application. And whilst absolutely no room*' is left for the influence upon the negotiations of individual idiosyncrasies, temper, ignorance of fact, or deficiency in bargaining power, whether on the side of the employer, or

• "How matters were arranged," Cotton Factory Times, 31st March 1893; see Labour Gazette, May 1893. The formal treaty, known as the "Brooklands Agreement," will be found in the Board of Trade Report on Wages and Hours of Labour, Part II., Standard Piece Rates, 1894, C, 7567, P- lO.


204 Trade Union Function

the operative, the uniform application of an identical method of remuneration throughout the whole trade leaves the able

apitalist or energetic workman free to obtain for himself the

full advantage of his superiority.^

The reader who has had the patience to follow the fore- going exposition will have seen that, taking the Trade Union i world as a whole, the machinery for Collective Bargaining must be regarded as extremely imperfect. We do not here discuss whether Collective Bargaining is, or is not, economi- cally advantageous to the workmen or to the community. We may, however, assume that it is desirable, if it exists, that it should be carried on without friction. And if for the moment we take the Trade Union point of view, and assume the expediency of a Common Rule, excluding the influence of particular exigencies, it is essential that this Common Rule should be wisely and deliberately determined on^ uniformly applied,/and systematically enforced. This de- mands machinery which, over the greater part of the Trade Union world, has not yet been developed. Throughout the great engineeringj and building trades, and indeed, in nearly all the timework trades. Collective Bargaining, though practically universal, is carried on in a haphazard way with the most rudimentary machinery, and usually by amateurs in the craft of negotiation. The piecework trades have, in the main, been forced to recognise the importance of commanding the services of salaried professionals to deal with their complicated lists of prices. Only among the Cotton-spinners and Cotton- weavers, however, do we yet find any arrangement for ensuring, by a technical examination, for continuity of expert

' The United Society of Boilermakeis, whose hierarchy of agreements we have described, has, in effect, similar machinery for Collective Bargaining. New agreements are concluded at meetings vfith the employers, in which the expert salaried officials are associated, at any rate in form, with representative workmen. The machinery for interpretation consists, in effect, of a joint visit by salaried officials representing respectively the associated employers and the Trade Union. " They had tried a joint committee on the Tyne," said Mr. Robert Knight, " but the employers could not spare the time, for all their local disputes mostly required visiting, and so they came to prefer a reference to a delegate who was their representative, and he met the men's delegate with the best results." — Newcasth Leader "Extra" on Conciliation in Trade Disputes (Newcastle, 1894), p. ij.


The Method of Collective Bargaining 205

services. Finally, we see the whole machinery for Collective Bargaining seriously hampered, except in two or three trades, by the failure to make the vital distinction between inter- preting an existing wage contract, and negotiating the terms upon which a new general agreement should be entered into. We must, in fact, conclude that, among the great unions only the Cotton-spinners, Cotton -weavers, and the Boiler- makers, and, to a lesser extent, the North of England and Midland Iron-workers ^ and the Northumberland and Durham

1 For the rules, history, and working of these Boards, &e.& Industrial Conciliation, by Henry Crompton ; Industrial Peace, by L. L. F. R. Price (London, 1887) ; Sir Bernhard Samuelson's paper in February 1876 before the British Iron Trade Association ; the evidence before the Royal Commission on Labor, 1892, particularly that of Messrs. Whitwell and Trow, Group A, 14,974 to 15,482; and the summary of the rules at p. 368 of the Parliamentary Paper, c. 6795, *"■ Reports of their proceedings are given in the monthly Ironworker^ Journal, the organ of the Iron and Steel Workers of Great Britain. Though these Boards have repeatedly been described, their observers have, in our opinion, dealt rather with the formal than with the real constitution, and with the aspirations rather than with the actual results of the organisation. An important but scarcely noticed element in the problem is the fact that a certain proportion of the work- men are themselves employers of subordinate labor. Exactly what classes of workmen — puddlers, millmen, mechanics, enginemen, laborers, etc. — are entitled to vote in the election of representatives, and how effectively all the different grades are actually represented on the Boards, has never been described. It is reported that a large number of the cases dealt with by the Midland Board at any rate, concern differences, not between a firm and its wage-earners, but between a manual-working sub-contractor and his subordinates, the latter not being represented on the Board. With regard to the actual results of the Boards, the student would have to investigate whether the rates fixed from time to time did not operate rather as maxima than as minima ; whether, that is to say, the incompleteness and lack of authority of both the employers' and the workmen's organisations did not lead to many firms taking advantage of the awards of the Board to stave off larger demands from their workmen, whilst at other times nsing their own strategic position to compel the men to accept lower terms than the Board was awarding. In Januarj- 1893, for instance, one of the union ofiBcials deplored, in a meeting of the members, "the private reductions which they had submitted to all round," in contravention of the rates fixed by the Midland Board (Ironworker^ Journal, January 1894). Some years later the men's dissatisfaction led to the following manifesto: "Amongst large numbers of the workmen there is a growing opinion that the Board is unsatisfactory, and that it would be to the workers' interests to dissolve it. It is stated that employers only appeal to the Wages Board when it suits them, and that they ignore its principles and rules, when by so doing they can take undue advantage of their workmen, so that the maintenance of the Wages Board is only beneficial to the employer and prejudicial to the interests of the workmen. . . . Even the employer section fear to enforce adherence to its rules because of giving offence to those employers who simply look upon the Board as a convenience for imposing


2o6 Trade Union Function

Miners, can be said to be adequately equipped with efficient machinery for Collective Bargaining.

"The foregoing analysis of the Method of Collective Bargaining, and of the machinery by which it is carried out will have revealed to the student two of its incidental charac- teristics, which to some persons appear as fatal evils, and to others merely as the " defects of its qualities." ^ The keen , Individualist will scent an element of compulsion in the o-called " voluntary " agreements governing the conditions f a whole trade. The, ardent advocate of " industrial peace" ill fail to discover any guarantee that the elaborate nego- iations between highly-organised classes will not end in a eclaration of war instead of a treaty of agreement.

That some measure of compulsion is entailed by the Method of Collective Bargaining no Trade Unionist would deny. Trade Unioni sts, as we have expla ined, val ue Colle c- tive Bargaining precisely because it rules out of ac count the^ particular exigencies of individual workmen or establishments. jWith this exclusion of exigencies there comes necessarily la certain restriction on personal idiosyncrasy, which some Iwould describe as a loss of liberty. When, for instance, the employers and workmen in a Lancashire town collectively settle which week shall be devoted to the annual wake," even the exceptionally industrious cotton -spinner or weaver finds himself bound to keep holiday, whether he likes it or not. It is impossible to make common arrangements for numbers of men without running counter to the desires of some of them. The wider the range of the Common Rule, and the more perfect is the machinery for its application and enforcement, the larger may be the minority which finds itself driven to accept conditions which it has not desired. It follows that the Trade Union must provide, in its consti-

unjust conditions upon their workmen." (Offidal Circular from the Executive Council of the Associated Iron and Steel Workers of Great Britain, lOth August 1896, in Ironworker^ Journal, September 1896). For analogous cases undei the North of England Board, the student should investigate iJbie action of the Stockton Malleable Iron Company (see Ironworkers' Journal, January 1894)1 and that of the Barrow Steel Works {Ibid. January 1896).


The Method of Collective Bargaining 207

tution, some means of securing the obedience of all its members to the regulations decided upon by the majority. The rules of all unions, from the earliest times down to the present day, contain clauses empowering the fining of dis- obedient members, the alternative to paying the fine being expulsion from the union. We have already pointed out that the development of the friendly society side of Trade Unionism incidentally makes this sanction a penalty of very real weight, and one which can be easily enforced. To this pecuniary loss may, moreover, be added the incidents of outlawry. When a union includes the bulk of the workmen in any industry, its members invariably refuse to work along- side a man who has been expelled from the union for " working contrary to the interests of the trade." In such a | case expulsion from the union may easily mean expulsion from the trade. But whilst the Trade Union has thus most drastic punishments at its command, the individual member is habitually protected from tyranny or caprice by an elab- orate system of appeals, which ensure him against condemna- tion otherwise than according to the positive laws of his community. This disciplinary system is, of course, usually applied to men who deliberately undermine the Common Ruje by accepting lower terms than those collectively agreed to.^ But it is also used against workmen who break thej agreement in the other direction. " To give one illustration," I said the general secret£|.ry of the United Society of Boiler- makers, to the Royal Commission on Labor, " we had a case

/iJThe Trade Unionist feeling against men who work "under price" is erfplfesed in the following quotation from the Amended General Laws of the Amalgamated Society of Cordwainers (London, 1867), one of the most ancient of anions : —

" A scab k to his trade what a traitor is to his country, and though both may be useful to one party in troublesome times, when peace returns they are detested alike by all ; so when help is wanted a scab is the last to contribute assistance, and the first to grasp a benefit he never labored to procure ; he cares only for himself, but he sees not beyond the extent of a day ; and for momentary and worthless approbation would betray friends, family, and country. _ In short, he is a traitor on a small scale — he first sells the journeymen and is himself after- wards sold in his turn by his master, until at last he is despised by both and deserted by all. ^e is an enemy to himself, to the present age, and to posterity.


2o8 Trade Union Function

at Hartlepool a short time since, where a vessel was in for repairing, and the men knew that the vessel was in a hurry, and thought there was a very good chance to get an advance in their wages, so they went to their foreman, and made a demand for 2s. a week advance. The foreman, knowing the arrangement between our association and the employers' association, refused to give the advance, and at once wired to me at Newcastle, and by the orders of the council I sent back to say that the employer was to give the men the advance as asked for, because we did not want to stop the work, as the ship was in a hurry, and we wanted to get her off. The employer gave the men the advance as asked for, and we at once sent to the firm requesting the firm to tell us the amount of money they had paid to the men as advances of wages on that job. . When the job was completed those particulars\and details were sent to us at Newcastle, and also the names of the men who were engaged upon the job, and who had made the demand. As soon as that was done our council ordered the members who received the money to refund that again to the Society, and we sent a cheque from the head office to that firm equal to the amount of the advances given." ^ In another case men knowing that their employer was under a time limit for the completion of a ship made a sudden demand for a rise. Precisely the same action was taken by the union, and the men were also fined " for dishonorable behaviour to employer under contract to deliver."

1 Royal Commission on Labor, Group A, Question 20,718. The frequency with which this disciplinary power is exercised may be judged from an extract from the Monthly Report for May 1897, referring only to a single district. The list is not usually published.

" The following members have been dealt with by the committee during April : —

F. F. , foreman, holding two jobs at Heyes,^ 40s.

T. B., rivetter, doing plater's work, los.

E. T., plater, neglecting his work through drinking, los.

J. J., rivetter, doing plater's work, 20s.

H. R., excessive overtime, 30s.

T. C, using abusive language to Strike Secretary, los.

R. D., using disgusting and obscene language to Mr. W. H., foreman, los.*


The Method of Collective Bargaining 209

In the world of modern industry this submission of the personal judgment to the Common Rule extends far beyond the range of those who, by Trade Union membership, may be considered to have agreed to forego an individual decision. When the associated employers in any trade conclude an agreement with the Trade Union, the Common Rule thus arrived at is usually extended by the employers, as a matter of course, to every workman in their establish- ments, whether or not he is a member of the union.^ This universal application of a collective bargain to workmen who have neither personally nor by representatives taken any part in it, is specially characteristic of the Sliding Scale. In the ironworks of the North and Midlands the awards of the accountants engaged by the joint committees of employers and workmen habitually govern every wage contract in the establishments concerned, however distaste- ful the whole proceeding may be to a particular sectipn of workmen. The position of the South Wales coalminers is even more striking. Not a third of the 120,000 men are even professedly members of any Trade Union, or in any way represented in the negotiations, and of the organised work- men a considerable proportion, forming three separate unions, each covering a distinct district, expressly refused to agree to the 1893 Sliding Scale, and withdrew their representatives from the joint committee. Nevertheless, the whole of the 120,000 men, with infinitesimal special exceptions, find their wages each pay-day automatically determined by the accountant's award. In this case the associated employers, in alliance with la minority of the workmen, enforce, upon

^ This practice has recently received authoritative official confirmation. Certain boot manufacturers in Bristol and Northampton, whilst holding themselves bound to give to members of the National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives the terms specified in the collective agreements, claimed the right to pay what they liked to the non-unionists they employed. On the issue being referred, at the instance of the Trade Union, to the Permanent Secretary of the Board of Trade as umpire, he decided that the decisions of the Local Boards were, unless expressly re- stricted, applicable to unionists and non-unionists alike, although the latter were in no way parties to the s^eement. See Award of 6th May 1896, in Labotir Oazetie, May 1896.


2IO Trade Union Function

an apathetic or dissentient majority, under pain of exclusion from the industry or exile from the district, a method of remuneration and rates of payment which are fiercely resented by many of them. In instances of this kind it is the employers who are the instruments of coercion. In other industries we find the Trade Union, acting in alliance with the Employers' Association, putting its own forms of pressure on dissentient employers, who refuse to join the association,! or to conform to the arrangements agreed to by the industry as a whole. The records of the local boards in the boot and shoe trade contain many appeals from the representatives of the Associated Employers to the National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives, in which the union is incited to use all its influence to compel rival firms to conform to the trade agreements. Here a majority of workmen, at the instance of, and in alliance with a majority of employers, practically force a minority of both masters and men to accept the Common Rules which have com- 1 mended themselves to the main body of the trade. In short, experience shows that any successful attempt to arrange common terms in a highly - developed modern industry, inevitably leads, however " voluntary " may be the basis of the associations concerned, to a virtually com- pulsory acquiescence in the same terms, if not throughout the whole trade, at any rate by many firms and many work- men who have in no sense willingly agreed to them.

This compulsion takes a more obvious form when it is a question of providing the cost of the machinery by which the common arrangements are made and applied. In the South Wales coalfield, where, as we have seen, the SiWing Scale is practically universal, a compulsory deduction of sixpence per annum is made by the employers from the earnings of about 40,000 men, whether or not they individually agree with the Sliding Scale, or are members of any Trade Union In the Rhondda Valley, and in a few other districts, the compulsion goes a step farther. The employers com- pulsorily deduct a few pence per month from their work-


The Method of Collective Bargaining 2 1 1

men's earnings, as the contribution to the Trade Union. A certain agreed percentage is retained by the employer and his clerks for their trouble, and the balance is handed over to the agents of the men's unions. {By far the largest and most important miners' union in South Wales has no other subscription than this compulsory deduction in the em- ployer's pay office, and is without any lodges, branch officials, or other organised machinery. To all intents and purposes, therefore. Trade Union membership, summed up, as it is, in this enforced contribution to maintain officials with whom the employers can negotiate, is, over a large part of the South Wales coalfield, absolutely compulsory.^

But whilst the compulsory Trade Unionism of the South Wales coalfields, as enforced by the en>ployers, extends to the collective arrangements, and to payment for their cost, it makes no provision for ensuring that the apathetic or dissentient workers shall have any opportunity of expressing their desires, or of taking any part in con- trolling their own side of the business. As most of the men from whom the Sliding Scale pence are deducted are not even nominally on the roll of any Trade Union, they are never troubled to vote on any question, and the work- ing-men members on the Sliding Scale committee, repre- senting the small minority of men on the books of the

1 A similar compulsory membership characterises ' the manufactured iron trade. The Midland Iron and Steel Wages Board decided that employers should compulsorily collect from all their operatives the contribution due in respect of the men's share of the Board's expenses. Some employers neglected to do this, and on complaint made by the Operatives' Secretary, the Chairman of the Board held that all employers were bound to make the deduction (Ironworker^ Journal, March 1895). The North of England Manufactured Iron Board adopts the same practice. The Truck Act of 1896 forbids any such deduction, and, in order to enable it to be continued, Mr. Trow, the Operatives' Secretary, moved and carried a resolution that the Home Secretary should be asked to make an order excluding their trade from the scope of the Act {Ironworker^ Journal, March 1897). The Midland Board unanimously joined in the application on the express ground, as stated by the Chairman, that the Act " might have the effect of preventing them deducting the contributions of the men to the Wages Board" (Ironworker^ Journal, April 1897). It will be interesting to see whether the Home Secretary extends his sanction to the principle of compulsory contribution, by complying with the request, and issuing an order exempting the whole trade from the Truck


212 Trade Union Function

several unions, conclude such agreements with the employers, and make such disposition of the compulsory deductions, as seem best in their own eyes, or in those of their immediate constituents. We have, in fact, in this remarkable case, an instance of collective administration without democratic control. In another case in the same industry, where collective action and compulsory payment is enforced by the law, provision is at least made for a ballot to be taken. We have described elsewhere^ how long and persistently the Miners' Trade Unions have fought to obtain the right to have their own agent at the pit mouth, to see that their members are not defrauded in the computation of their tonnage earnings ; and we have also pointed out how in- valuably these checkweighers have served as union officials.' By the Coal Mines' Regulation Act of 1887 it was enacted that, whenever a mere majority of the workers in any coal pit, to be ascertained by a ballot vote, decided to appoint a checkweigher, the amount of his wages should be shared among all the workers in the pit who were paid according to the weight of coal gotten, and that it should be com- pulsorily deducted from their earnings, whether they voted for the appointment or against it.

More generally, however, it is left to the Trade Union to take such steps as it can to enforce , the common trade agreements, and to collect for itself the expenses involved. This may be effected in two ways. Following the example of the South Wales Coal-owners, the Trade Union may enforce, throughout the whole trade, an agreement concluded between a section of the employers and the employed, levying a compulsory tax for the purpose upon all persons

' History of Trade Unionism, pp. 289, 453.

2 Among the amendments of the law now sought by the Miners' FederatioD is one enabling the hewers in any mine to appoint an assistant checkweigher, at the expense of the whole pit, to act whenever " the said checkweigher is acting in any other capacity for or on behalf of the workmen of the colliery." "What they wanted to do," explained the Yorkshire representatives at the Miners' Conference in 1896, " was to make it so that the men employed at any colliery could appoint an assistant checkweigher to look after the work when the weighei was away on association business."


The Method of Collective Bargaining 213

at work. Thus the old close corporation of Dublin Coopers, whilst allowing strangers to work, does not admit them to membership, but insists that they shall obey all the regula- tions of the union, and contribute weekly to its funds so long as they work in the town. But this " taxation without representation " is alien to working class sentiment, and the almost universal practice of Trade Unionism is to expect every member of the trade to bear his share, not only in the cost of its administration, but also in the work of its govern- ment. "We contend," declare the Flint Glass Makers, "that it is the imperative duty of men who live by a trade to support, protect, and keep it in a respectable condition. Men who refuse to subscribe to the funds of a Trade Union never can be looked upon by those who are members of such a union with that feeling of satisfaction and respect which makes one happy in the thought that unity of action is the aim of all for the good of each other." ^ Hence we have, not only compulsory acceptance of the trade customs but also compulsory membership of the Trade Union con- cerned. In old days, when any Trade Union action was a criminal offence, this compulsion easily passed into per- sonal violence. But British Trade Unionists now content themselves with the more peaceful method practised by the employers. An employer habitually refuses to engage any workman who does not agree to his workshop rules, or to those adopted by the employers' association. In the same way, the Trade Unionist will, if he can, refuse to accept work in an establishment where he is obliged to associate with non- unionists ; " working beside a non-unionist," say the Flint

1 Address of Central Committee, Flint Glass Maker^ Magazine, May 1889.

^ In the History of Trade Unionism we have described the practice of "rattening," for which some of the Sheffield trade clubs were, up to 1867, un- happily notorious. In the early part of the century the trade clubs of Dublin and Glasgow had an equally evil reputation for personal violence (see History of Trade Unionism, pp. 3, 31, 79, 149, 154, 242). With the growth of legal freedom for Trade Unions to employ peaceful, and really more effective, sanctions, this resort to summary lynch law has died out. We know personally of no instance in which, during the present generation, physical violence has been used to compel Trade Union membership.


214 Trade Union Function

Glass Makers, " is bad enough to a man of brain and principle, without, having to suffer the indignity of being compelled to assist him in his labor. . . . This being so we do not hesitate to say that before an employer engages a unionist, he ought to clear all the non-unionists off the premises. Where we have demanded this, it has been done." /This is put even more definitely by the Coal- miners. The minutes of the Derbyshire Miners record, for instance, under date of 1892, "that this Executive Com- mittee recommend our members, where the majority are union men, to use every legal effort to induce others to join, and failing this we advise our members neither to work nor ride with them, but that due notice of their intention to take such actions be given to the management in each case before being put into practice." ^

There is a strange delusion in the journalistic mind that this compulsory Trade Unionism, enforced by refusal to work with non-unionists, is a modern device, introduced by the "New Unionists" of 1889. Thus Mr. Lecky states as a fact ^ that the establishment of monopolies, and the exclusion, " often by gross violence and tyranny," of " non-unionists from the trades they can influence " is specially marked "among the New Unionists." But any student of Trade Union annals knows that the exclusion of non-unionists is, on the contrary, coeval with Trade Unionism itself, and that the practice is far more characteristic of its older forms than of any society formed in the present generation. The trade clubs of handicraftsmen in the eighteenth century would have scouted the idea of allowing any man to work at their trade who was not a member of the club. And at the

' Minutes of Executive Meeting, Derbyshire Miners' Association, July 1892. It is an incident of this refusal, on the part of the employer or on that of the wage-earner, to consent to work with persons of whose conduct he disapproves, that employers seek to insist on " character notes," workmen classify firms into "fair" and "unfair," and the associations on both sides circulate to theii members "blacklists" of the men who have made themselves objectionable, towards the employers in the one case, and towards their fellow workmen in the other.

• Democracy mtd Liberty, vol. ii. p. 348.


The Method of Collective Bargaining 2 1 5

present day it is especially in the old-fashioned and long- established unions that we find the most rigid enforce- ment of membership. Among the Coalminers it is the men of Northumberland, Durham, and the West Riding of Yorkshire, strongly combined for a whole generation, who have set the fashion of absolutely refusing to "ride" (descend in the cage) with non-unionists.^ In the best organised industries indeed, whether great or small, such as the Boilermakers, Flint Glass Makers, Tape-sizers, or Stuff- pressers — the very aristocracy of " Old Unionists — the compulsion is so complete that it ceases to be apparent. No man not belonging to the union ever thinks of applying for a situation, or would have any chance of obtaining one. It is, in fact, as impossible for a non-unionist plater or rivetter to get work in a Tyneside shipyard, as it is for him to take a house in Newcastle without paying the rates^ This silen t and unseen, but absolutely complete compulsion, is the ideal of every Trade TTninn. It is true that here and there an official of an incompletely organised trade may protest to the public, or before a Royal Commission, that his members have no desire tliat any workman should join the union except by his own free will. But, however dond fide may be these expressions by individuals, we invariably see such a union, as soon as it secures the adhesion of a majority of its trade, adopting the principle of compulsory membership,

• For an extreme instance of this boycott of non-unionists, see the remarkable letter of William Crawford, the leader of the Durham miners, given in full, at p. 280 of the History of Trade Unionism, and written, we believe, about 1 870. " Regard them," said Crawford, " as unfit companions for yourselves and your sons, and unfit husbands for your daughters. Let them be branded, as it were, with the curse of Cain, as unfit to mingle in ordinary, honest, and respectable society." But this extension of the ostracism from the workplace to the home, firom industrial relations to social life, is repugnant to British working-class senti- ment, and has never extensively prevailed. However illogical may be the dis- tinction, there is a general feeling, now spreading, we think, to odier classes of society, that it is inexpedient to extend social ostracism beyond the sphere of the offence. Business men habitually deal with others of known bad character in private life, so long as their commercial dealings are unobjectionable. On the other hand, English society does not refuse to meet at dinner statesmen of good private character, whose public acts it deems in the last degree unscrupulous. The more logical policy advocated by Crawford is regarded as fanaticism.


2i6 Trade Union Function

and applying it with ever greater stringency as the strength of the organisation increases.

Whatever we may think of these various forms of com- pulsion, it is important to note that they are in no way inconsistent with the old ideal of " freedom of contract " — the legal right of every individual to make such a bargain for the purchase or sale of l^or as he may think most conducive to his own interest,jZ^and that they are, in fact, a necessary incident of that legal freedom.

When an employer, or every employer in a district, makes the Sliding Scale a condition of the engagement of any work- man, the dissentient minority are " free " to refuse such terms. They may, in the alternative, break up their homes and leave the district, or learn another trade. The wage-earners can- not be denied a similar freedom. When a workman chooses to make it a condition of his acceptance of employment from a given firm, that he shall not be required to asso- ciate with colleagues whom he dislikes, he is but exercis- ing his freedom to make such stipulations in the bargaining as he thinks conducive to his own interest. The employer ! is " free " to refuse to engage him on these terms, and if the vast majority of the workmen are of the same mind, he is " free " to transfer his brains and his capital to another trade, or to leave the district. But to any one not obsessed by this conception of " freedom," it will be obvious that a mere legal right to refuse particular conditions of employment is no safeguard against compulsion. Where practically all the competent workmen in an industry are strongly combined, an isolated employer, not supported by his fellow capitalists, finds it absolutely impossible to break away from the " custom of the trade." The isolated workman who objects to Trade Unionism finds himself in the same predicament. The coal- hewer in a Northumberland village has no more real freedom of choice as to whether or not he will join the union than a Glamorganshire miner has about working under the Sliding Scale. The workmen's case for Trade Unionism and the employers' case against it both proceed on the same assump-


The Method of Collective Bargaining 217

tion.^ Wherever the economic conditions of the parties concerned are unequal, legal freedom of contract merely enables the, superior in strategic strength to dictate the terms. Collective Bargaining does not get rid of this virtual compulsion : it merely shifts its incidence. Where there is no combination of any kind, the strategic weakness of the individual wage- earner, unable to put a reserve price on his labor, forces him to accept the lowest possible terms. When the work- men combine the balance is redressed, and may even incline, as against the isolated employer, in favor of the wage-earner. If the employers meet combination by combination, the com- pulsion exercised upon individual capitalists or individual wage-earners may become so irresistible as to cease to be noticed. In the most perfected form of Collective B argaining, c ompulsory membership becomes as much a matter of course as compulsory citizenship.

If, indeed, we examine niore closely the common argu- ments against this virtual compulsion, we shall see that the customary objection is not directed against the compulsion itself, but only against the persons by whom it is exercised, or the particular form that it takes. The ordinary middle- class man, without economic training, is wholly unconscious of there being any coercion in an employer autocratically deciding how he will conduct " his own business." ^ But the very notion of the workmen claiming to decide for themselves under what conditions they will spend their own working days strikes him as subversive of the social order. The ardent Trade Unionist, on the other hand, resentfe the " tyranny " of the employer's workshop rules, but sees no harni in a strong union relentlessly enforcing its will on the capitalists, without deigning to consult with them beforehand.

' This assumption is examined in detail in our chapter on " The Higgling of the Market."

2 " The capitalists or master class - - - think the internal arrangements of their establishments, hours, mode of payment or contract no more the affairs of the public than the routine of a man's own household. " — " Trade Unions and theii Tendencies," by Edmund Potter, F.R.S., Social Science Association Transactions, i860, p. 755-


2i8 Trade Union Function

The modern compromise between these diametrically opposite views, and one now attracting a growing share of public approval, is the settlement of the conditions, neither by the workmen nor by the employers, but by collective agreement between them. It is this feeling that accounts for the ever- increasing favor for Boards of Conciliation and Arbitration and joint committees of all sorts. Public opinion, that is to say, accepts as inevitable the submission of the individual to the Common Rule, and seeks merely to ensure that this submission should be based upon due representation of the persons directly concerned. The most fervent advocates of this Collective Bargaining between the representatives of employers and employed welcome, in the interests of In- dustrial Peace, the application of these collective agreements over whole districts of an industry, and for specified long terms, though this necessarily involves the compulsory acquiescence of individual firms and individual workmen who would have preferred to make separate bargains, j And thus we come, step by step, to the remarkable proposal of the Chairman of the Royal Commission on Labor, the Duke of Devonshire, himself a great employer, concurred in by seven other eminent members, that Trade Unions and Employers' Associations, extending over whole trades, should be e ncoura ged to become definitely incorporated bodies, expressly ailLliulIyed 10 (.UiiuiUde collective agreements tor their constituents, and empowered to secure the compliance of all their members with these new trade laws by legally enforcible penalties, " every member of a (duly registered) association being during membership held to be under a contract with the association for observance of the collective agreement," the association being given " the right to recover damages from those of its members who infringed the collec- tive agreement." *

, ' See the Report, signed by the Duke of Devonshire, the Right Honorable Leonard Courtney, M.P., and six other members, C, 7421, p. 117. This pro- posal is further examined in our chapter on "The Implications of Trade Unionism."


The Method of Collective Bargaining 2 1 9

But the essential reasonableness of English public opinion sets limits to all these forms of legal freedom of contract and economic compulsion, whether it is the capitalist's " freedom of enterprise," the wage-earner's " freedom of combination," or the freedom of representative joint committees to decide what shall be the customs of the trade. When it becomes obvious that individual capitalists are using their strategic advantage to compel the wage-earners to accept conditions patently dangerous to life, health, or character, middle-class opinion supports legislation to curb their greed. When a group of workmen strike against machinery, or to enforce some obviously anti-social regulation, they find themselves deserted by the general body of Trade Unionists, frequently thwarted by other members of their trade, and even con- demned by the executive of their own union. And when the Duke of Devonshire and Mr. Leonard Courtney pro- posed, in the Royal Commission on Labor, to give increased power of trade regulation to free associations of employers and employed, they were met by the objection that such joint agreements in particular trades might easily become prejudicial to the interests of other industries or of the general body of consumers. At the root of all these instinctive qualifications of logical doctrines, there lies a half-conscious admission that neither employers nor employed are morally free to ignore the interest of the community as a whole. This reveals to us an inherent shortcoming of every attempt to determine the conditions of industry by mere contract between capitalists and workmen. Even in the most per- , fected forms of Collective Bargaining, when each of the parties is fully represented, and the agreement arrived at really expresses the combined desires of both, there is no guarantee that the terms are such as will be conducive to the welfare of the community.

We have left to the last what is usually regarded as the capital drawback to the Method of Collective Bargaining, even in its most perfect development. In the machinery adopted by the Lancashire Cotton Operatives, for instance,


220 Trade Union Function

there is no provision for the contingency of a failure to come to an agreement. In such a contingency the bargaining simply comes to an end, and we have that deliberate collec- tive refusal on the part of the employers to give work, or on the part of the operatives to accept work, which is known as a " lock-out " or a " strike." These cessations of work are, in our view, necessarily incidental to all commercial bargaining for the hire of labor, whether individual or collective, just as the customer's walking out of the shop, if he does not consent to the shopkeeper's price, is incidental to retail trade.^ This, we need hardly observe, is a very different matter from the ignorant assumption that there is some necessary connection between strikes and Trade Unions. We have already noted the existence of Trade Unions which prefer the Method of Mutual Insurance to that of Collective Bargaining, and do not therefore engage in strikes at all ; and we shall elsewhere instance Trade Union organisations whose operation is confined to the Method of Legal Enactment. On the other hand, long before a Trade Union comes into existence in any industry, Collective Bargaining, as we have already explained, prevails in a more or less elaborate form ; and, with Collective Bar- gaining, the inevitable resort to concerted refusal to work. It is a matter of simple history that strikes have been far more numerous in industries which have practised Collective Bargaining without Trade Unionism, than in those in which durable combinations have existed.^ The influence of Trade Unions on strikes is indeed exactly similar to their influence on Collective Bargaining. The elaboration of the "shop

1 The bitterest opponents of Trade Unionism admit this. " Strikes, I con- sider," said a leading employer in i860, "as the action and the almost inevitable result of commercial bargainmg for labor. They will always exist." — " Trade Unions and their Tendencies," by Edmund Potter, F.R.S., Social Science Associa- tion Transactions, i860, p. 7S6'

^ We need only remind the reader of the incessant "pit strikes of the Northumberland and other coalfields prior to the miners' organisation in per- manent Trade Unions ; of such angry insurrections as those of the Luddites in 181 1 and the "plug riots" of 1842; and of the perpetual series of "shop dis- putes " that still go on among those handicrafts which have not advanced il organisation beyond the "shop bargain."


The Method of Collective Bargaining 221

bargain " into the local " working rules," and of these again into the national agreement has naturally been accompanied by a similar extension of the " shop dispute," into a local strike, and of this again into a general stoppage of the industry. In this connection we may quote the Royal Com- mission on Labor, " that when both sides in a trade are strongly organised and in possession of considerable financial resources, a trade conflict, when it does occur, may be on a very large scale, very protracted and very costly. But just as a modem war between two great European States, costly though it is, seems to represent a higher state of civilisation than the incessant local lights and border raids which occur in times or places where governments are less strong and centralised, so, on the whole, an occasional great trade con- flict, breaking in upon years of peace, seems to be preferable to continued local bickerings, stoppages of work, and petty conflicts." ^

But whether or not we accept this flattering analogy, it is impossible to deny that the perpetual liability to end in a strike or a lock-out is a grave drawback to the Method of Collective Bargaining. So long as the parties to a bargain are free to agree or not to agree, it is inevitable that, human nature being as it is, there should now and again come a deadlock, leading to that trial of strength and endur- ance which lies behind all bargaining. We know of no device for avoiding this trial of strength except a deliberate decision of the community expressed in legislative enact- ment. One favourite panacea, incidentally referred to in our account of the boot and shoe trade — the reference of the dispute to an impartial arbitrator — we reserve for a separate chapter.

1 Fifth and Final Report of the Royal Commission on Lahor, 1894, C, 7421, p. 36. Mr. Lecky echoes this report. " There can be little doubt that the largest, wealthiest, and best-organised Trade Unirais have done much to diminish labor conflicts." — Democracy and Liberty, vol. ii.7). 355.


CHAPTER III ARBITRATION[edit]

The essential feature of arbitration as a means of determin- ing the conditions of employment is that the decision is not the will of either party, or the outcome of negotiation between them, but the fiat of an umpire or arbitrator. It is dis- tinguished from that organised negotiation between Trade Unions and Employers' Associations which we have termed Collective Bargaining, in that the result is not arrived at by bargaining at all, the higgling between the parties being, in fact, expressly superseded/) On the other hand, it is not Legal Enactment, though it bears some resemblance to this form, because the award is not obligatory on either of the [parties. Their re^sal to accept it, or their ceasing to obey it, even if they have promised to do so, carries with it no coercive sanction.

These characteristics of arbitration, as a method of settling the conditions of employment, come to the front on every typical occasion. We see the employers and workmen at variance with each other. Negotiations, more or less formally carried on, proceed up to a point at which a dead- lock seems inevitable. To avert a stoppage of the industry, both parties agree to " go to arbitration." They adopt an impartial umpire, eithipr to act alone or with assessors representing each side. Each party then prepares an elaborate " case," which is laid before the new tribunal. Witnesses are called, examined, and cross-examined. Tha


Arbitration 223

umpire asks for such additional information as he thinks fit J Throughout the proceedings the utmost latitude is allowed. The "reference" is seldom limited to particular alternatives, or expressed with any precision.^ The umpire, in order to clear up points, is always entering into conversa- tion with the parties. Practically no argument, however seemingly irrelevant, is excluded ; and evidence may be given in support of claims founded on the most diverse economic theories. Finally, the umpire gives his award in precise terms, but usually without stating either the facts which have influenced him or the assumptions upon which he has made up his mind. The award — and this is an essential feature — carries with it no legal sanction, and may at any moment be repudiated or quietly ignored by any capitalist or workman.

1 Thus the operatives may be asking for an Eight Hours' Day, the dismissal of an unjust foreman, and the abolition of sub-contracting, whilst the employers urge a reduction of wages and the more regular attendance of the men. The umpire's award may include any or all of these points, and might conceivably decide all in favour of the respective claimants.

  • A list of the principal works on arbitration will be found at p. 323 of our

History of Trade Unionism. Mention should have been made among them of the report on Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration prepared by Carroll D. Wright for the Massachusetts Labor Bureau (Boston, 1881) ; and J. S. Jeans's Conciliation and Arbitration in Labour Disputes (Lpndon, 1894) can now be added. The most important recent publications have' been made on the Conti- nent We may cite, in particular, the bulky volume of the French "Office du Travail," entitled De la Conciliation et de Farbitrage dans les Conflits Collectifs entre patrons et otairiers en France et i Vitranger (Paris, 1893) ; the numerous reports and pamphlets by Julien Weiller of Mariemont, Belgium ; and Conseils de tindustrie et du travail by Charles Morisseaux (Brussels, 1 890). The English experience is weU discussed by Dr. von Schulze-Gaevemitz in Zum Socialen Frifden (Leipzig, 1890), translated as Social Pecue (London, 1893).

i_The student should note that there has been, until quite recently, no clear ' disHnction drawn between Collective Bargaining, Conciliation, and Arbitration. Much of what is called Arbitration or Conciliation in the earlier writings on the subject amounts to nothing more than organised Collective Bargaining. Thus, the classic work of Mr. Henry CTompton {Industrial Conciliation, London, 1876) describes, as " conciliation," the typical cases in which representative employers and workmen meet to bargain on behalf of the trade. The Nottingham hosiery board, established in i860, often described as a model of arbitration, was, in effect, nothing more than machinery for Collective Bargaining, no outsider being present, the casting vote being given up, and the decisions being arrived at by what the men called " a long jaw." In 1868 Mr. Mundella observed in a lecture, " It is well to define what we mean by arbitration. The sense in which we use the word is that of an arrangement for open and friendly bargaining ... in


224 Trade Union Function

(^et arbitration has one characteristic feature in common with ^e higglingA of employers and workmen which it super- sedeV The arbitrator's award is a general ordinance, which, in so far as it is accepted, puts an end to Individual Bargain- ing between man and man, and thus excludes, from influence on the terms of employment, the exigencies of particular workmen, and usually also those of particular firms. (It establishes, in short, like Collective Bargaining, a Common Rule for the industry concerned. We can therefore under- stand why the Trade Unionists from 1850 to 1876 so persistently strove for arbitration, and so eagerly welcomed the gradual conversion of the governing classes to a belief in '^its benefits. At a time when the majority of employers asserted their right to deal individually with each one of their "hands," habitually refused even to meet the men's representatives in discussion, and sought to suppress Col- lective Bargaining altogether by the use of ambiguous statutes and obsolete law, it was an immense gain for the Trade Unions to get their fundamental principle of a Common Rule adopted^ During the last twenty years arbitration has greatly increased in popularity among the public, and each ministry in succession prides itself on having attempted to facilitate its application. ; Whenever an industrial war breaks out, we have, in these days, a widespread feeling among the public that both parties should voluntarily submit to the decision of an impartial arbitrator. But however convenient this solution may be to a public of consumers, the two combatants seldom show any alacrity in seeking itJ and can

which masters and men meet together and talk over their common afiFairs openly and freely." — Arbitration as a Meant of Preventing Strikes, by A. J, Mundella (Bradford, 1868)?)

(£^ Arbitration was accordingly opposed by the more clear-sighted of the opponents of Trade Unionism. " Our main objection," said one of the leading critics, "both to arbitration and conciliation, as palliatives of Unionism, is that they sanction, nay necessitate, the continuance of the system of combination, as opposed to that of individual competition. ... In so doing we lend the authority of public recognition to the 'pestilent principle of combination, and sanction the substitution of an artificial mechanism for that natural organism which Providence has provided for the harmonious regulation of industrial interests." — Trade Unionism, by James Stirling (Glasgow, 1869), p. 50)


Arbitration 225

rarely be persuaded to agree to refer their quarrel to any outside authority. (Although arbitration has been preached as a panacea for the last fifty years, the great majority of " captains of industry." still resent it as an infringement of their jight to manage their own business, whilst the leaders of the organised^^orkmen, once enthusiastic in its favor, now usually regard it with suspicion. The four years, 1891-95, saw, in Great Britain, four great industrial disputes in as many leading industries. But neither in cotton manufacture nor in coal-mining, neither in the great machine industry of boot- making nor in engineering, could the capitalists and workmen i agree to let their quarrels be settled by an impartial umpire. What happened in each of these instances — and they were typical of many others — was the breaking off of Collective Bargaining, a prolonged stoppage and trial of endurance, ending, not in arbitration but in a resumption of Collective Bargaining, and the conclusion of a fresh agreement under new and more favorable auspices^

(^t first sight this disinclination of workmen or employers to submit their claims to an impartial tribunal appears per- verse and unreasonable. Business men, it is said, almost invariably refer disputes between themselv.es to more or less formal arbitration, and would never dream of stopping their own industry, or drying up the source of their own profits, merely because they could not agree upon an impartial umpire. And if -this be true in commercial transactions, where the alternative is nothing worse than an action at law, how much stronger the need must seem when the alternative may easily involve the bankruptcy of capitalists, the sem^_ starvation of thousands of operatives, and the temporary paralysis, if not the permanent injury, of an important national industry ? Unfortunately this taking analogy, I drawn from the arbitration between business firms, rests on the old confusion between interpreting an existing agree- ment and concluding a new one. Commercial arbitrations are invariably concerned with relations already entered into, either by existing contracts or under the law of the land VOL. I *


226 Trade Union Function

No business man ever dreams of submitting to arbitration the terms upon which he shall make new purchases or future sales.^ Arbitration in commercial j natter s is therefore strictly confined to questions of i nterpre tation, both parties resting their claims on a common basis, the existence of which is not in dispute between thei£) Now, issues of interpretation of this kind are incessantly occurring between employers and employed, even in the best-regulated industries. In these cases, as we shall hereafter point out, whilst there is no in- superable objection to arbitration, there is no real necessity to resort to it. Nor is it for this class of disputes that arbitration is usually proposed. The great strikes and lock- outs which paralyse a whole industry almost invariably arise not on issues of interpretation, but on the pr^o ^l of eith er workmen or employers to alter the terms upon which, for the future, labor shall be engaged.

The position of the employers who object to the fixing of the terms of the wage contract by the fiat of an arbitrator has, from the first, been logical and consistent. In a weighty article which appeared, twenty years ago, in the official organ of the National Association of Employers of Labor, we find the case stated with perfect lucidity : —

" The sphere of arbitration in trade disputes is strictly an d absolutely limited to cases of specific contract, where the parties differ as to the terms of the contract, and are willing, for the sake of agreement and an honorable fulfilment of their engagements, to submit the points in dispute to competent men mutually chosen. Where there is a basis and instrument of agreement by the parties to which they

' The frequently cited ' ' Conseils de Frud'hommes " of Fr-ince (established first at Lyons in 1 808, and since greatly developed in all industrial centres) are strictly confined to the settlement of disputes arising out of existing contracts, or (as regards minor matters) the application of the law. In no case do they presume to fix the rate of wages for future engagements. They are indeed merely cheap and convenient legal tribunals, which make efforts to compo^>e a dispute before pro- ceeding to pronounce judgment upon it. For a useful account of these councils, see E. Thomas, Les Conseils des Prud'hommes, leur Histoire et leur Organisatim (Paris, 1888). We understand that this is the character also of the similai tribunals which exist in various German States and elsewhere.


Arbitration 227

wish to adhere, and on which arbiters have something tangible to decide upon, it is seldom difficult for impartial men to elicit an adjustment fair and equitable to both sides. Arbitration is thus constantly of use in business matters on which differences of view have arisen, and is as applicable to questions between workmen and employers where there is a specific contract to be interpreted as in any other branch of affairs. It is better than going to law, much better than running away from the contract, striking, coercing, and fall- ing into civil damages or criminal penalties, and raising on the back of such unfortunate consequences a blatant and endless protest against ' the labor laws.' But cases in which there are specific contracts absolutely define the sphere of arbitration. To apply the term ' arbitration ' to the rate of wages for the future, in regard to which there is no ex- plicit contract or engagement, and all the conditions of which are unknown to employers and employed, is the grossest misnomer that can be conceived. It is certain that neither workmen nor employers could be bound, nor would consent to be bound, even were it possible to bind them, by such arbitrary decrees ; and that the Jaw, therefore, can never give such decrees even any temporary force, unless we are to fall back into the long obsolete tyranny of fixing the rate of wages by Act of Parliamentyor by ' King in Council,'/or by ' Communal Bureau of Public Safety,' or whatever the supreme power may be." ^

(^hus, from the employers' point of view, the supersessioni of the higgling of the market by the fiat of an arbitrator^ is, on its economic side, as indefensible an interference with- industrial- freedom as a legal fixing of the rate of wages. , But an arbitrator's award has additional disadvantages. A law would at any rate be an authoritative settlement, which disposed of the question beyond dispute or cavil. An arbitrator's award, on the other hand, even if it is accepted by the Trade Union, may not commend itself to all the workmen. The employers who accept it may not unnaturally

  • Capital and Labntr, l6thjune 1875.


2 28 Trade Union Function

feel that they have surrendered their own freedom, without securing any guarantee that the workmen, or some indispens- able sections of them, will not promptly commence a new ^ttack on which to provoke a stoppage of the industry. A law, moreover, is a Common Rule, enforced with uniformity on all alike. The arbitrator's award, on the other hand, binds only those firms and those, work men wh o were parties to 4t^ In almost all industries there are some establishments, and often whole districts, which remain outside the employers' iassociation, and in which masters and men persist in conduct- ing their businesses in their own way. And there is no guarantee that some firms will not break away from the I association, and join the ranks of these unfettered outsiders. If the arbitrator's award has secured better terms to the operatives than the masters are unanimously willing to concede, the good and honorabl e employers are penalised by their virtue. {The proceedings of the " Boards of ' Conciliation and Arbitration " of the boot-making industry contain many complaints by employers that the awards are [not enforced on rival firms, who are consequently undercuf- ting them in the marEet;/ V our factory or mines legislation had been enforced only on specified good employers, and had left untouched any firm who objected to the regulations, so intolerable an injustice would quickly have led to a repudiation of the whole system.

If we turn from the employers to the Trade Unionists, we find a steadily increasing disinclination among workmen to agree to the intervention of an arbitrator to settle the terms of a new wage contract. (This growing antipathy ' to

' We may cite as evidence of this antipathy some recent declarations made in the names of the three most powerful organisations in the United Kingdom. It is expressly stated (for instance, in the Derbyshire Miners' Executive Council Minutes of the 2nd of June 1891) that it was the idea that the Royal Commission on Labor was intended to introduce a " huge arbitration system " that determined the whole Miners' Federation steadfastly to refuse to have anything to do with that inquiry. " We are opposed to the system altogether," declared Mr. Mawdsley before that Commission (Group C, Answer 776), on behalf of the Lancashire cotton operatives. And Mr. Robert Knight, giving evidence on behalf of the ' United Society of Boilermakers (Group A, Answer 20,833), definitely negatived! the idea of arbitration, explaining as follows : " I speak from long experience of^.


Arbitration 229

arbitration is, we think, mainly due to their feeling o^^ uncertainty as to the fundamental assumptions upon which the a rbitrator- will base his awai;;dy> When the issue is whether the " standard earnings " of the Lancashire Cotton-spinners should or should not be decreased by ten per cent, there is no basis accepted by both parties, except the vague admission that the award^^hould not be contrary to the we lfare of the community. But this offers no guidance to the arbitrator. Judge Ellison, for instance, acting in 1879 in a Yorkshire coal -mining case, frankly expressed the perplexity of an absolutely open-minded umpire. " It is [he said] for {the employers' advocate) to put the men's wages as high as he can. It is for (the men's advocate) to put them as low as he can. And when you have done that it is for me to deal with the question as well as I can ; but on what principle I have to deal with it I have not the: slightest idea. There is no principle of law involved in it. I There is no principle of political economy in it. Both masters and men are arguing and standing upon what is completely within their rights. The master is not bound to employ labor except at a price which he thinks will pay him. The man is not bound to work for wages that won't assist (subsist) him and his family sufficiently, and so forth. So that you are both within your rights ; and that's the difficulty I see in dealing with the question." ^

But this cold-blooded elimination of everything beyond the legal rights of the parties is neither usual in a wages arbitration, nor acceptable to either side. Each of the parties implicitly rests its case on a distinct economic assumption, or even series of assumptions, not accepted by the other side,

the working of this large organisation that I represent here to-day, and I say that we can settle all our differences without any interference on the part of Parliament or anybody else." The same f over this matter I have given up several nights to go through these papers and work them in this way and that way, but I have not the knowledge, and you cannot give me the knowledge. . . . Surely the question of individual payment is a question for the manager of the works and the men of the works, and not for a third party." — MS. proceedings. We are indebted to Dr. Spence Watson for permission to examine these and other papers, and for many valuable suggestions and criticisms.


236 Trade Union Function

other hand, will not consent to be bound by the decision of an operative.

It is, fortunately, unnecessary for the employers and workmen to get into this dilemma. The correct analogy from the commercial world for all these issues of interpreta- tion is, not the elaborate and costly reference to arbitration, but the simple arrangements for taking an inventory, in connection with a contract of purchase or hire. Instead of calling in an outside authority, eminent enough to be known and trusted by both sides, each party is represented by an inexpensive expert habitually engaged on the particular) calculations involved. The two professional men seldom find any difficulty in agreeing upon an identical award. This corresponds exactly to the machinery which is em- ployed with such success in the Lancashire cotton trade. The two secretaries who visit the mill in which any question of interpretation has arisen correspond in all essentials to the two house-agents employed respectively by the owner and the incoming tenant of a furnished house. In the interpretation of wage contracts there is even more justifi- cation for this method than in taking an inventory. The object of the house-agent on either side is to get the best terms for his client. But the professional experts who visit a cotton mill, in response to a complaint from operative or employer, are not employed by or responsible to either of the parties directly concerned. And though one represents the associated employers, and the other the combined work- men, both are retained and paid to secure an identical object, namely, absolute uniformity between mill and mill- So far as regards the application to the particular cases of existing general contracts between employers and workmen, arbitration, though possible, is therefore but a clunj:^!ulevice. The only way of getting an efificient umpire for such technical work would be permanently to employ a pro- fessional expert of high standing to give his whole time to the business. But directly an industry is sufficiently well organised to afford the expense of an efficient paid umpire,


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it can find in the joint meeting of the salaried experts of both sides a far more speedy, economical, and uniform method of settling questions of interpretation than any arbitration could provide.^

The reader is now in a position to estimate how far arbitration is likely to serve as a panacea against strikes or lock-outs, or even to become a permanent feature of the most highly organised machinery for Collective Bargaining. In the really crucial instances — the issues relating to the conclusion of a new agreement — habitual and voluntary recourse to an umpire may be expected, we think, only in the unlikely event of capitalists and workmen adopting identical assumptions as to the proper basis of wages. We have seen how unreservedly hhe best-educated workmen of the North of England (a ccepted, between 1870 and 1885, the capitalists' assumption that it was only fair that wages should vary with the selling price of the product. For twenty years fthe miners of South Waleg | have acquiesced in the same, doctrine. If this view were to become accepted in other trades, it is conceivable that arbitration would become more popular among them. On the other hand, there is^ growing up among workmen a strong feeling in favor of a fixed-minimum .Standard of _L,ife, to be regarded as a first/ charge upon the industry of the country, and to be deter-\ mined by the requirements gf healthy family life and citizenship. If the capitalists should accept this view, arbitrations might become common, the explicit reference in every case being what conditions were required in the industry to enable the various grades of producers to lead a civilised life. But no such agreement on fundamental assumptions is at present within view. We are therefore

' In the rare cases in which the two house-agents fail; to agree, we understand that the practice is for them privately to refer the matter to another professional, whose decision they both adopt as their own. If in the Lancashire cotton trade, the employers' and workmen's district secretaries do not agree upon an issue of interpretation, it is, in practice, referred to the joint decision of the central secretaries. But on such issues of fact, if identical principles are thoroughly accepted by both sides, there is seldom any intractable difference of opinion between professional experts.


238 Trade Union Function

constrained not to place any high expectations upon the fiat of an umpire as a method of preventing disputes as to future conditions of labor. Nor can we estimate very highly the practical value of arbitration in the application to particular cases of existing general agreements. In promptitude, | technical eflficiency, j and inexpensiveness the " impartial outsider " is inferior to the joint meeting of the salaried secretaries of either side.

But although arbitration is not likely to supersede Collective Bargaining, or to prevent the occasional breaking off of negotiations, it has great advantages, in all but the best-organised trades, as a means 9f helping forward the negotiations themselves. The first requisite for efficient Collective Bargaining is for th'e parties to meet face to face, and in an amicable manner to discuss each other's claim. But this initial step is often one of difficulty. We are apt to forget, in view of the regular negotiations in such highly organised trades as^the Cotton Operatives, the 'Boilermakers, and the Northumberland and Durham Coalminers, how new and unusual it still is for capitalists and workmen to meet on an equal footing, to recognise each other's representative capacity, and to debate, with equal good temper, I technical knowledge, j and argumentative skill, \upon what conditions the employer shall engage " his own nands." Even to-day, in the great majority of trades, the masters would think it beneath their dignity voluntarily to confer with the Trade Union leaders on equal terms ; and they would resent as preposterous the idea of disclosing to them their profit and loss accounts, or even the prices they are obtaining for their product. Yet it is upon these facts that they base their demand for a reduction of wages, or their refusal of an advance. The workmen, on the other hand, especially _ in such half-organised trades, are full of prejudices, /misconcep- tions of the facts,/ and Utopian aspirations, lender these circumstances, even if the employers consent to meet the men at all, there can be no frank interchange of views, jno real understanding of each other's position — in short, no


Arbitration 239

effective negotiation. Recourse to an impartial umpire is one way out o f these difficult ies. The employer's (iignity is not offended by appearing before an eminent jurist or states- man, sitting virtually in a judicial capacity. It is regarded as only natural that the arbitrator should ask for the statistical facts upon which each party bases its case. The mere fact of each having to set forth its claims in pre- cise terms, in a way that can be maintained under cross- • examination, is already a great gain. But if the arbitrator is tactful and experienced, he can do a great deal more to bring the parties to agreement. He discovers, by kindly examination, what precisely it is that each party regards as essential, and persuasively puts on one side any irritating reminiscences of past disputes,lor theoretic arguments going beyond the narrow limits of the case. In friendly conversa- tion with each side in turn, he draws out the really strong arguments of both, restates them in their most effective form, and in due course impresses them, in the most conciliatory terms, on the notice of the opponent. Those who have read the proceedings before such an experienced arbitrator as Dr. Spence Watson, will, we are sure, agree with us in feeling that his wonderful success as an umpire is far more due to these arts of conciliation than to any infallibility in his awards. Th case aftfer case we have been struck by the fact that, long before the end of the discussion, many of the issues had already been disposed of, the points remaining in dis- pute being so narrowed down by a rnutual recognition of each other's case that when the award is at last given each party is predisposed to accept it as inevitable.

In this patient work of conciliatio n lies the rea l val ue o f arbitration p rocee dings. There ITn o magic in thelTaFof an arbitrator as a remedy for strikes or lock-outs . If either party really prefers fighting to conceding the smallest point to its adversary — that is, in those cases in which either em- ployers or the workmen have an overwhelming superidrity in strength — there will be no submission to arbitration./ If both parties are willing to bargain, and are sufficiently well


2^0 Trade Union Function

organised and well educated to be capable of it, no outside intervention will be needed. In those industries, however, where organisation has begun, but has not yet reached the highest form ; where the employers are forced to recognise the power of the men's union, but have not yet brought themselves to meet its officials on terms of real equality ; where the workmen are strong enough to strike, but do not yet command the services of experienced negotiators, the [intervention of an eminent outsider may be of the utmost value. It is of small importance whether his intervention takes the form of " arbitration " or " conciliation " — that is to say, whether he is empowered to close the discussion by himself delivering an " award " as umpire, or whether he must wait until he can bring the parties to sign an " agree- ment drawn up by himself as chairman. In either case (his real business is not to supersede the process of Collective |Bargaining, but to forward it. And in view of the usual impossibility of agreeing upon any common assumption as to the proper basis of wages t in face of the workman's suspicion of the brainworker's training, and the employer's fear * of electioneering considerations J and having regard to the importance of securing universal concurrence in the result, we are inclined to believe that the interKention of the " eminent outsider " will, as a rule, be at once more accept- able and more likely* to be successful if he avowedly acts only as a " conciliator." ^ '""" ^

This inference is supported by the events of the last few years. On three notable occasions outside intervention has been evoked to settle a serious industrial conflict. In 1893 Lord Rosebery, at the express desire ' of the Cabinet, settled a dispute which had for sixteen weeks stopped the coal

1 Thus, in the draft rules of a Foreman's Benefit Society, established by some of the leading Tyneside employers, there is a provision for referring to arbitration any dispute between the society and a member. The draft rule significantly adds : " The following cannot be selected as arbitrator : Persons either candi- dates for or holding political, municipal, or other positions acquired by votes ; ministers of religion."

s " In conciliation the disputants endeavour to convince each other, in arbi- tration to convince a third party. As in the first case, both sides have eaual


Arbitration 241

trade of the Midlands of England. In 189S Sir Courtenay Boyle, Permanent Secretary of the Board of Trade, drew up the agreement which terminated the great strike in the boot trade. And Lord James, a distinguished member of the Conservative Ministry of the day, in January 1896 brought about, after protracted negotiations, a settlement of the dispute between the Clyde and Belfast shipbuilders and their engineers. But notwithstanding the official posi- tion of these magnates, it is significant that in no case were they asked, and in no case did they attempt, to cut the Gordian knot by the judicial decree of an umpire or arbi- trator. It was not their business to inquire into the merits of the case. They were not called upon to make up their minds whether the employers or the workmen were in the right. They had not even to choose between the rival economic assumptions on which the parties rested their . respective claims. T^eir_&nction _was „to._,persuade theT representatives of both sides to go on negdtiating until aj basis was discovered on which it was possible for them to\^ agfree.

This work of conciliation is, we believe, destined to play a great and for many years an increasing part in the labor struggles of this country. In the present state of public opinion the intervention of an outside "concilia tor" is, as regar ds the imperfectly o rganised trades, a precursor of regular Collective Bargaining. In many trades the em- ployers themselves are not united in any association/ in many others they still haughtily refuse to discuss matters with their workmen. In prolonged disputes public opinio n now al most for ce s the parties to re sume negotiations ; a nd

knowledge of the matter in hand, they must endeavour to show clearly the strong points of the case, and those only. Any attempt at simple advocacy would be thrown away. The appeal must be to acknowledged facts. But, in the second case, advocacy is necessary, and all its many devices — the undesirable as well as the undeniably good.. There is a strong antagonism throughout. Arbitration is better than striking or locking out, but inferior to conciliation. Industrial peace in any form is better than industrial war." — " Compulsory or Voluntaiy Concilia- tion," by R. Spence Watson, Ironworker^ Journal, June 1895.


242 Trade Union Function

the intervention of an eminent outsider is found the best lever fo r Collective^Bargaining . His social position or official statu s secures for the proceedings, even among ai/gryliien, a certain amount of digxiity, order, and consideration for each other's feelings, whilst it prevents any hasty rupture or withdrawal. So long as Lord Rosebery was willing to go on sitting, it was practically impossible for either the coalowners or the coalminers to stop discussing. But pro- longed discussion does not lead to agreement unless the parties get on good tenns.with each other, and are brought into a friendly mood. It is the conciliator's business to secj that this atmosphere of good humour is produced and main- fained. The excellent luncheon which Lord Rosebery pro- vided for owners and workmen alike was probably more (effective in creating harmony than the most convincing arguments about "the living wage." All this, however, is but preliminary to the real business. We have already described the important part played by a tactful and ex- perienced arbitrator in drawing out the best points in each party's casei restating them in the most persuasive form,) and eliminating from the controversy all unnecessary sources of irritation or non-essential differences.! The ideal conciliator adds to this a happy suggestiveness and fertility in devising possible alternativeSj,„^^hroughout the discussion he watches for the particulap-^ints to which each party really attaches importance. I He has a quick eye for acceptable lines of compromise. | At the right psychological moment, when discussion is beginning to be tedious to both sides, he is ready with a form of words. This is "the crisis of the pro- ceedings. If the parties are physically and mentally tired, and yet pleased with themselves and no longer angry with their opponents ; if the conciliator is adroit in his drafting, and finds a formula which, whilst making mutual concessions on minor points, includes, or seems to each party to include, a great deal of what each has been contending for, the resolution will be agreed to, if not by acclamation, at any rate after a few minor amendments to save the dignity


Arbitration 243

of one side or the other ;| and almost before some of the slower-minded representatives have had time to think out all the bearings of the compromise the agreement is signed, and peace is secured.

We see, therefore, that outside intervention in wages disputes may be of the highest value, and we anticipate that it will, for many years to come, in all but the best-organised trades, play a great, and even an increasing, part. But its function will not be that of " arbitration," properly so called, but rather that of " conciliation," though this will continue to be sometimes carried on under the guise of arbitration. Instead of aiming at superseding Collective Bargaining, the arbitrator will more and more consciously seek to promote it. In fact, so far from being the crown of industrial orga n- isation, the reference of disputes to an impartial outsider is a Tmark of its imperfection . Arbitration is the temporary expedient of incompletely, organised industries, destined to be cast aside by each of them in turn when a higher stage, like that of the Cotton Operatives or the Boilermakers, is attained. The Government of 1896, therefore, did well to cut down its arbitration bill to a modest " Conciliation Act." The pfeTentious legislation of 1867 and 1872, from which so much was expected, is now simply repealed. The Board of Trade is empowered, in case of an industrial dispute, " to inquire into the causes and circumstances of the difference." It may intervene as the friend of peace, to persuade the parties to come to an_agreement. T If a conciliator is desired, it may appoint one. ] Finally, if both parties join in asking that the settlement shall proceed in the guise of arbitration, and wish the Board of Trade to select the arbitrator for them, the Board of Trade may accede to their request, as it might have done without any Act at all ! ^

1 The report of the first year's working of this Act, presented to Pariiament in July 1897, shows that 35 applications were made to the Board of Trade. In 7 cases the Board refused to intervene. Of the other 28 cases, 18 were settled by more or less formal conciliation, and S by arbitration, one of which was a demarcation dispute between different bodies of workmen, and the other 4 were small local disputes, all in badly-organised trades or districts. Three cases,


244 Trade Union Function

The conclusion will disappoint those who see in arbitra- tion, not a subordinate and temporary adjunct to Collective Bargaining, but a panacea for stoppages of industry. The popularity of arbitration has deep roots. At the back of the peremptory public demand for the settlement of any strike 6t Ibck-out, there lurks a feeling that in the interests of the whole community neither employers nor workmen ought to be allowed to paralyse their own industry. If one side or the other persists in standing out, we have a clamour for " compulsory arbitration " : that is, the intervention of the power of the State. We need not enter into the numer- ous suggestions that have been made for " State Boards of Arbitration," I authoritative intervention by the Board of Trade, [or the deposit, by both parties, of sums of money to be legally forfeited upon breach of the award. The authors of such suggestions always find themselves in a dilemma. If resort to this kind of arbitration is still to be voluntary, the liability to penalties or legal proceedings is not calculated to persuade either employers or workmen to come within its toils.^ If, on the other hand, it is to be compulsory, it will amount to legal enactment of a novel kind. It may well be argued that the community, for the protection of the public welfare, is entitled to step in and

including the notorious strike at Lord Fenrhyn's slate quarries, and that of the boot operatives at Norwich, remained intractable, owing to arbitration being refused, twice by, the employers and once by both parties.

' The following extract from a recent report of so experienced and well- informed a society as the United Textile Factory Workers' Association is significant : " Boards of Conciliation. — ^Any number of Bills are constantly being introduced on this question, but your Council do not see that any useful purpose can be served by their becoming law. The assumption on which all tiiese proposals are based is that . . . when the return goes down the wages of labor and the profits of capital should go down together. . . . The umpire is never a workman, but always a member of the upper class, whose sympathies and interest lie in the direction of keeping wages down. . . . They beUeve that the Bills now being broi^^ht forward are meant as so many traps with which to catch a portion of the workers' wages, and they have consequently opposed them" (Report of the Legislative Council of the United Textile Factory Worker^ Associa- tion for 1893-94, p. 14). See also the reports of the conferences between the Miners' Federation and the leading coalowners during 1896, in which the work- men's representatives throughout opposed any arbitration scheme by which, as they repeated, " a man can come in and settle what we could not settle among ourselves."


Arbitration 245

decide the terms upon which mechanics shall labor, and upon which capitalists shall engage them. In such a case the public decision could perhaps best be embodied in the award of an impartial arbitration tribunal, invested with all the solemnity of the State. But here we pass outside theh domain of " arbitration " properly so called. The question is then no longer the patching up of a quarrel between capitalists and workmen, but the deliberate determination by the community of the conditions under which certain industrial operations shall be allowed to be carried on. Such an award would have to be enforced on the parties whose recalc itrance had rendered it necessary. This does' not imply, as is sometimes suggested, that workmen would be marched into the works by a regiment of soldiers, or that the police would open the gates (and the cashbox) of stubborn employers. All that the award need decree is, that ifl capitalists desire to engage in the particular industry theji shall do so only on the specified conditions. The enforce- ment of these conditions would become a matter for official inspection, followed by prosecutions for breaches of what would in effect be the law of the land. Here, it is true we do find an effective panacea for strikes and lock-outs. Although industrial history records plenty of agitations and counter-agitations for and against the fixing by law of various conditions of employment, there has never been either a lock-out or a strike against a new Factory or Truck Act. But by adopting this method of avoiding the occasional breaking off of negotiations which accompanies Collective Bargaining, we should supersede Collective Bargaining alto- gether. The conditions of employment would no longer be left to the higgling of masters and men, but would be authoritatively decided without their consent in the manner which the community, acting through an arbitrator, thought most expedient. " Compuls<yy-arbitration" means, in fact,! the fixing of wages by law.^ ""**"

' Such a form of compulsory arbitration is contained in the Factories and Shops Act of 1896 of the Colony of Victoria, which provides (sec 15) that, " in


246 Trade Union Function

order to determine the lowest price or rate which may be paid to any person foi wholly or partially preparing or manufacturing either inside or outside a factory, or workroom, any particular articles of clothing, or wearing apparel, or furniture, or for breadmaking, or baking, the Governor in Council may, if he think fit, from time to time appoint a special Board," to consist half of representatives of employers and half of employed. The Board may then prescribe the minimum rates to be paid for particular articles, by piecework for home work, and by either time or piece for factory work. Any employer pacing less than the minimum thus fixed is made liable to a fine, and, on a third offence, the registration of his factory or workroom (without which he» cannot carry on business) " shall, without further or other authority than this Act, be forthwith cancelled by the Chief Officer." The working of this virtually legal fixing of a minimum wage will be watched with interest by economists. Under the New Zealand Act of 1894, passed by the Hon. W. P. Reeves, now Agent-General for the Colony in London, labor disputes in which Trade Unions are concerned may be referred, first to Public Conciliation Boards, and, failing a settlement, to an Arbitration Court, composed of a Judge of the Supreme Court, with two assessors. This Court may, at its discretion, make its award enforceable by legal process. A fuller account of this Act will be found in our final chapter. The Conciliation and Arbitration Acts of New South Wales (1892) and South Australia (1894) have been practically unsuccessful. ("Quelques experiences de la Conciliation pai I'Etat en Australasie," by Anton Bertram in Revue d'&onomie Politique^ July S897.)


CHAPTER IV THE METHOD OF LEGAL ENACTMENT[edit]

We do not need to remind the student of the History of Trade Unionism that an Act of Parliament has, at all times,! formed one of the meansbiy~w^iid[r"Briffsh Trade Unionists have sought to attain their ends. The fervor with which they have believed in this particular Method, and the extent to which they have been able to employ it have varied according to the political circumstances of the time. The strong trade clubs of the town handicraftsmen , and the widely extended associatio ns of woollen workers of the eighteenth century relied mainly upon the law to secure the regulation of their trades. [So much was this the case that the most celebrated student of eighteenth -century Trade Unionism declares that " the legal prosecution " of trans- gressoES-oL the law was, the chiet object^ o f tnese combina- tions, and that, in fact, 'English Trade Unionism " originated with the non-observance o f" the statutes fixing wages and regulating apprenticeship . Its fundamental purpose, says Pro- fessor Brentano, was " the maintenance of tjie existing lega l a nd customary regulations o f trade. As soon as the State ceased to mainta in prdpr it stpppe d into its place." U It is true that later investiga tion has brought t o light some ancient unions, which, spr i nging out o f sick clubs/ or impetuous

, 1 Brentano's Gilds and Trade Unions (London, 1870), p. cIJhv. (or p. no of reprint). ^"

2 Ibid. p. clxxvii. (or p. 1 13 of reprint).


248 Trade Union Function

strikes, adhered to the rival Methods of Mutual Insurance and Collective Bargaining. ±5ut JJr. JBrentano's generalisa-' tion as to the objects and methods of eighteenth-century com- binations has, in the main, been confirmed and strengthened. It would have been remarkable if the Trade Unions had not taken this line. Even before the stringent act of 1799 against all workmen's combinations, the very idea of Col- lective Bargaining was scouted by employers, and strongly condemned by public opinion. On the other hand, the .majority of the educated and the governing classes regarded [it as only reasonable that the conditions of labor should be [regulated by law. Accordingly we find the operatives who objected to the innovations threatening their accustomed livelihood, confidently appealing against their new employers, to Quarter Sessions,/ Parliament, lor the Privy Council. We see the Trade Unions forming committees to put the law in force ; i maintaining solicitors to fight their cases in the law courts ; jexpending large sums in preparing tables of rates, to be enforced by the magistrates i marshalling evidence before Quarter Sessions in support of these listsV appearing by counsel at the bar of the House of Commons and before the House of Lords Committees in quest of new legislation, or in opposition to bills of the employers ,\ and finally organ- ising all the machinery of political agitation, with its showers of petitions,jimposing demonstrations in the streets,\ParHa- mentary lobbying, )and occasionally, where the members happened, as freemen, to possess the- franchise, the swaying of elections.^

'\ With the adoption, by Parliament and the law courts, of the doctrine of laisser- faire, all this machinery fell into- ^beyance. It soon came to be waste of money to organTse petitions, to send up 3elegates and witnesses, or to pay the fees of solicitors and counsel, only to be met by a doctrinal refusal to go 'into the merits of the case. From 1800 onward we find every Committee of the House of Commons

1 Illustrations of all these forms of Trade Union activity during the eighteenth century will be found in the History of Trade Unionism, pp. 27, 33, 34, 40-54.


The Method of Legal Enactment 249

reporting in the same strain. " They are of opinion that no, interference of the legislature with the freedom of trade, or! with the perfect liberty of every individual to dispose of hisl time and of his labor in the way and on the terms which! he may judge most conducive to his own interest can take] place without violating general principles of the first import-! ance to the prosperity and happiness of the community,) without establishing the most pernicious precedent, or even without aggravating, after a very short time, the pressure of the general distress, and imposing obstacles against that distress being ever removed." ^ Debarred alike from overt Collective Bargaining and from Legal Enactment, the Trade Unions of the first quarter of the century fell back on the Method of Mutual Insurance, largely tempered by the usej of secr^^oeiraSn. Those who refused to work " contrary to the interests of the trade " were supported with enthusi- astic generosity, whilst " knobsticks " were boycotted, -andi even assaulted. When employers retaliated by criminal prosecution,/or dismissal of Trade Unionists, the operatives broke out into sullen strikes or angry ri6ts, accompanied by machine breaking and crimes of violence. It was largelyi the hope of putting an end to this veiled insurrection thati induced a landlord Parliament to repeals the Combination -T^wg, and thus, for the first time, enabled the Trade Unions openly to carry on negotiations with their employers.

Throughout the next quarter of a century Trade Union F activity was mainly devoted to building up the machineryj for Collective Bargaining.^ This is easily explained. Whilst the Philosophic Radicals, and indeed much of the educated

• Report of Committee on Petitions of Artisans, 13th June 181 1 ; History of Trade Unionism, p. 54-

2 The fact that it was at this stage in their history that the working class combinations forced themselves on the attention of Political Economists and the press, goes far, we think, to account for the common idea that Trade Unionism consists exclusively of Collective Bargaining, with its accompaniments of " sticks and strikes." Between 1824 and 1869, practically all the criticism or de- nunciation of Trade Unionism took the form of homilies about the futility of Collective Bargaining and the wickedness of strikes. Even the Political Econo- mists seem to have been unaware either of the history of the combinations which


250 Trade Union Function

public opinion of that generation, worked with the unions in widening and safeguarding their resort to the Method of Collective Bargaining, any idea of regulating by law the conditions of labor of the ordinary workman was regarded by a middle-class electorate as out of the question. Those industries in which there was (owing to the attention of philanthropists or the existence of peculiar grievances) any chance of obtaining special legislation still strove to enforce their Common Rules by the Method of Legal Enactment. The reader of the History of Trade Unionism will re- member how vigorously and effectively the unions of textile workers supported, between 1830 and 1850, the various f' Ten Hours' " bills advocated by Robert Owen and Lord 'Shaftesbury. The combinations of the coalminers, basing their claims on the unknown horrors of underground life, were even more insistent, from 1^84 3 onward, in demand- ing- successive Mines Regulation Acts. The Hand-loom Weavers and the Stocking -frame Workers long continued pathetically to urge the old arguments in favor of a legal rate of wagesjj whilst all sections of organised workmen spasmodically attempted to get legal protection for their earnings by an effective prohibition of " truck." But with a j House of Commons dominated by employers of labor, the loperatives in trades employing only adult males, and free nrom exceptional grievances, for the most part laid aside their traditional method,

I With the enfranchisement of the town artisan in 1867, and the county operative and miner in 1885, we see the relative preference between the three methods again shifting. The case for the legal limitation of the hours of work of adult men was, for instance, explicitly stated at the beginning of the Cotton-spinners' agitation for the Nine Hours' Bill. " We are often told," declared their official manifesto in 1871, "that any legislative interference with male adult labor is

they were criticising, or of the nature and variety of their objects and methods, This lop-sided appreciation of Trade Union purposes and Trade Union methods still lingers in leading articles and popular economic text-books.


The Method of Legal Enactment 25 1

an economic error, and it is further urged that as the labor of the working man is his only capital, he should not be restrained in the use or application of it. . . . Now, though at first sight the above reasoning, if reasoning it may be called — seems plausible enough, yet there is a lurking fallacy in it all the more dangerous because of the artful manner in which it is attempted to place the Legislature and the work- ing population in a false position in relation to each other. ... It is a sound principle of universal law established by the wisdom of more than two thousand years that where in the necessary imperfection of human affairs the parties to a contract or dealing do not stand on an equal footing, but one has an undue power to oppress or mislead the other, law should step in to succour the weaker party. ... It behoves us as working men to inquire what is wrong in the present factory system, and, if need be, ask the legislature to interfere in our behalf . . . whether the time has not arrived when Parliament should be appealed to to secure a curtailment of the hours of factory labor. ... If some of our legislators- should manifest a disposition to abdicate their legislative functions so far as we are concerned, it may be well to 1 remind them that election day will again come round whenj their abdication will be accepted." ^

This change of political conditions explains, not only the increasing demand for ri&-^ Factory and Mipes Acts, addi- tional Railway and Merchant Shipping regulations, and the prevention of accidents and truck, but also the upgrowth, since 1868, of such exclusively political Trade Union organi- sations as the United Textile Factory Workers' Association, and such predominantly political associations as the lyiiners' Federation of Great Britain, together with the formation of a general political machinery throughout the Trade Union

' Circular signed by the general secretary of the Amalgamated Association of Operative Cotton-spinners, "onbehalf of " the delegate meeting, nth December 1871 ; History of Trade Unionism, pp. 295-96. It will be remembered that this Trade Union has always consisted exclusively of men. In our History of Trade Unionism we have pointed out how the Nine Hours' agitation was event- ually conducted to a successful issue " behind the women's petticoats."


252 Trade Union Function

world, in the form of Trades Councils, the Trade Union Congress, and the Parliamentary Committee.

It is probable that no one who is not familiar with Trade Union records has any adequate conception of the number and variety of trade regulations which the unions have sought to enforce by Act of Parliament. The eighteenth- century combinations seem to have limited their aspirations to the fixing of a minimum rate of wages, the requirement of a period of a pprentic eship, and the determination of the proper proportion of apprentices to journeymen. With the advent of manufacture on a large scale we see the factory operatives and miners taking up the subjects of sanitation and overcrowding, safety from accidents, and the length of [the working day. Besides the universal demand that em- ployers should be made liable for accidents, and forbidden to make any deductions from wages, we have large sections of

She Trade Union world demanding an Eight Hours' Day, the )rohibition of overtime, and the specifying of definite holi- lays ; others insisting on the weekly payment of wages, the disclosure of the " particulars " on which the piecework wage is based, and the abolition of all fines and deductions what- soever. The National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives ask for the exclusion of alien immigrants, and the compulsory provision of workshop accommodation by the employers ; whilst the Amalgamated Society of Tailors will be content with nothing short of the legal abolition of home work. The Carmen seek, year after year, for an Act of Parliament to enforce their rule that one man shall not be put in charge of two carts ; the Boilermakers, Enginemen, and Plumbers ask that none but certificated craftsmen shall be allowed to hold certain positions ; the Textile Workers want to regulate the temperature and humidity of the spinning-mills and weaving sheds ; whilst the Seamen have a lengthy code of their own extending from an amendment of the laws of marine in- surance to the qualifications of a sea-cook, from an improved construction of sea-going vessels to increasing the sum allowed on advance notes, from the enactment of a fixed scale of


The Method of Legal Enactment 253

manning to the inspection of the ship's medicine chest. Nor does this enumeration by any means exhaust the list. Every Parliament sees new regulations of the conditions of employ- ment embodied in the already extensive labor code, whilst each successive Trade Union Congress produces a crop of fresh demands.^ Whether for good or for evil, it appears inevitable that the growing participation of the wage-earners in political life, and the rising influence of their organisations, must necessarily bring about an in creas ing us^ of the Method o f Legal Ena ctment.

But a resoft to the law as a means of attaining Trade Union ends has, from the workmen's point of view, certain grave d isadvanta g es. Its chief drawback is the prolonged 1 and unceilain struggle that each new regulation involves. ' Before a Trade Union can get a Common Rule enforced by the law of the land, it must convince the community at large that the proposed regulation will prove advantageous to the state as a whole,\and not unduly burdensome to the con- sumers. The workmen's grievance has, therefore, to be published to the world, to bear discussion in public meetings, and to meet the criticism of the newspapers. Members of Parliament must be persuaded to take the matter up, and made so far to believe in the justice of the claim as to be will- ing to importune ministers or bore the House of Commons with the subject. In due course a Royal Commission is appointed, which hears evidence, collects statistics, and makes a report. Presently a new Factory or Mines Bill is drafted by the Home Secretary, and, on the combined advice of

> See the reports of the various Trade Union Congresses, espedally since 1885. It is to be observed that, under the Constitution of the United States, most of the statutes thus desired by English Trade Unionists, like much of the legislation already in force, might be held void, as violations of the constitutional right of freedom of contract. Among the American statutes already disallowed by the courts on this ground are truck acts, acts requiring weekly or fortnightly pays, or forbidding coalowners to compute their tonnage rates of wages on screened coal only, acts prohibiting employers from discharging men merely because they are Trade Unionists, and a factory act limiting the hours of labor of adult women. See Handbook to the Labor Law of the United States (New York, 1896), by F. J. Stimson.


254 Trade Union Function

Government inspectorsA medical experts, \ sympathetic em- ployers, and, perhaps, a few representative workmen, some kind of clause is inserted to effect, usually not what the Trade Union has been asking for, but the minimum which, in the light of all the evidence, seems indispensable to avert the grossest of the evil. At the committee stage in the House of Commons the clause is pulled to pieces by the spokesmen of the employers on the one hand, and by those of the workmen on the other. But the great majority of the members have, like the minister himself, no direct interest on either side, and speak rather for the general public of con- sumers anxious to " keep trade in the country " and foster cheapness, than with a view to secure exceptional advan- tages for the particular section concerned. Thus each step has to be gained by a process of persuasion. To win over in succession the electors, the Members of Parliament, the Ministers of the Crown, and — most difficult task of all — the permanent professional experts, requires, in the officers of a Trade Union, a large measure of statesmanship, and, in the rank and file of the members, a combination of wise modera- tion,! dogged persistency, jsteadfast loyalty to leadersJ and "sweet reasonableness at a compromise, not usually charac- teristic of popular movements. At its best the process is a slowjjnsv The Lancashire " Nine Hours' MovemeiS^' for instance, attained, perhaps, a more rapid and complete success than any other agitation for factory legislation. Yet it cost the Cotton-spinners four years' expensive and harassing work before the bill reducing the factory day was wrung from a reluctant legislature.^ On the other hand, the " Nine Hours' >JDay" of the engineers, gained in 1871 by the Method of Collective Bargaining, was wort within six months of the first negotiations with the employers.* Nor is the victory ever complete. What Parliament ultimately enacts is never the full measure of what has been asked for. The Cotton Operatives, for instance, did not get their Nine Hours' Day,

' History of Trade Unionism, pp. 295-298. ' Ibid. pp. 299-302.


The Method of Legal Enactment 255

but only a 56 J hours' week. By the Method of Collective B^gainjng, on the other hand, Trade Unions have hot inlfequently gained from employers, at times of strategic advantage, not only the whole of their demands, but also con- ditions so exceptional that they would never have ventured to embody them in a legislative proposal. We shall here- after see how this consideration deters strong Trade Unions, like the United Society of Boilermakers and Iron Ship builders, from going to Parliament about such unsettled problems as Demarcation of Work I or the Limitation of Apprentices, on which they feel that they can exact better terms than would be conceded to them by the community as a whole. But taking merely the hours of labor we may note how, whilst Parliament has not yet been converted even to an Eight Hours' Day for Miners, the coal-hewers of North- umberland and Durham have long since secured by Collective Bargaining a working day for themselves of less than 7 hours, and a working week which never exceeds 37 hours.

At first sight, it may seem strange that, in face of all these difficulties and disadvantages, the Trade Unions should so persistently, and even increasingly, seek for legislative regulation of their respective industries. The explanatioffi is that, however tedious and difficult may be the process or obtaining it, once_th6^Common Rulg^is enabodie^jn an Act of Parliament, it satisfies more perfectly the Tra^leJInion aspira- tions of^ermangis^aric^umversali^ than any other method. It is, as we have shown, as yeTraxelor a. Trade Union to have" been able to establish by the Method of Collective Bargain- ing anything like uniform conditions throughout the whole country. Such prominent and wealthy unions, for instance, as the Amalgamated Society of Engineers and the Amal- gamated Society of Carpenters, find themselves compelled to recognise hours of labor varying, in different towns, from 48 to 57 per week in the one case, and from 41 to 60 in the other.*

  • The Grays and Woolwich Arsenal branches of Engineers among others,

stand at 48 hours, whilst the Vale of Leven branch works 57. Among the


256 Trade Union Function

But even where any Trade Union rule exists, either national or local, there are, as we have mentioned, always some extensive districts, and some important establish- ments, in which the rule is either not recognised at all, or is systematically evaded. An Act of Parliament, on the contrary, applies-unHbrHily,to alL.districts, whether the Trade Union is strong or non-existent, and to all employers, whether or not they belong to the Employers' Association. It corresponds, in fact, to the idea.l„iorm_jof Collective Bargaining, a National^ Agreement made between a Trade Union including every man in the trade, and an Employers' Association from which no firm stands aloof. Like such an agreement it excludes, from influence on the wage-contract, the exigencies, not only of particular workmen or particular establishments, but also those of particular districts. But it goes a stage farther in this direction. A National Agree- ment, however stable, is always liable to be changed, in accordance with the relative strength of employers and employed, at each of the successive inflations and depressions which characterise modern industry. The Cotton-spinners, for instance, whose standard earnings are determined by an exceptionally stable National Agreement, have, during the last twenty years, agreed to twelve alterations of this standard, five times upward and seven downward. But once any part lof the conditions of employment has been deemed of suffi- cient importance to the community to hp secured by law, it is beyond the reach of even the most extreme commercial ictjsesr 'In the blackest days of 1879 , when many cotton manufacturers were reduced to bankruptcy and the operatives suffered a reduction of twenty per cent of their wages, no one ever suggested that the expensive statutory requirements as to the sanitation of the factory/or the fencing of dangerous

Carpenters, taking the mid-winter hours, the Middleton branch works 41^ hours, the Bury branch 43^, and those of Prestwich and Radcliffe 44, whilst Yarmouth, Yeovil, and many Irish branches are still at 60. See Statistics of Rates of IVages, etc., published by the A.S.E. in 1895, ^"^d i^i& Annual Report of the Amalgamaitd Society of Carpenters for 1894. Compare, too, the Reports on Wages and Heuti of Labour, published by the Board of Trade, C, 7567, 1894.


The Method of Legal Enactment 257

machinery should be relaxed. In our History of Trade Unionism we have shown ^ how seriously, in these years, the Nine Hours' Day of the engineering and building trades secured by Collective Bargaining, was nullified by the practice of systematic overtime. But neither inflation nor depression has, as a matter of fact, led to any alteration since 1874 in the length of the Cotton -spinners' Normal Day, which the Factory Act in effect prescribes. The Common Rule embodied in an Act of Parliament has, therefore, the inestimable advantage, from the Trade Union point of view, of being beyond the influence of the exigencies of even the worst times of depression. / AnigTlflyeltnay judge from the "KTstbry of "tlie last fifty years, such a rule is more


apt to " slide up " than to " slide down." | Once any regula tion has been adopted, it becomes practically impossible altogether to rescind it, whilst the movement of public opinion, notably on such matters as education, Isanitation] safety,! and shorter hours of labor, \ has been steadily inl favor of increased requirements in the normal Standard on Life.* These characteristics of the Method of Legal Enact- 1 ment have, as we shall see in subsequent chapters, an important bearing on the kind of Regulations which the Trade Unionists seek to enforce by this particular Method. But before we consider the rules themselves, we have first to describe the nature and extent of the Trade Union machinery for using the method.

~TEe Trade Unions have not yet developed, for their application of the Method of Legal Enactment, even so much formal machinery as they possess for the Method of Collective Bargaining. This backwardness, is, in the main, to be attributed to the difficulty of the task. The dominant tendency in Trade Unions-history^ is, as we have seen, to

' Page 333.

2 This " partiality," however, is not an inherent attribute of the Method of Legal Enactment. Its existence during the present generation is, we hold, due to the shifting of political power from the middle class, who had become opponents of any restriction of competition, to the wage-earners, who have continued to believe in regulation.

VOL. I K


258 Trade Union Function

make the trade throughout the country the unit of organ- isation. But to bring any proposal effectively before the legislature, that is to say, to persuade members of Parliament to take the matter up, Trade Union leaders must convert, not the employers and workmen in their own industry wherever carried on, but the electors of particular con- stituencies, to whatever trade they belong. An organisation according to localities has, therefore, to be superposed upon an organisation according to trades.

Two great industries — cotton and coal — have been able to surmount this difficulty, and these alone have as yet developed any effective political machinery. The powerful unions of Cotton Operatives, for instance, three-fourths of whose 132,000 members are to be found in ten constitu- encies within twenty miles of Bolton, have, during the past twenty- five years, constructed a special organisation for obtaining and enforcing the legislative regulations which ithey desire. The five societies of Spinners, Weavers, Card- Iroom Operatives, Beamers, and Overlookers are federated Vn the United Textile Factory Workers' Association, which carries on no Collective Bargaining, and possesses no insur- 1 ance side, but has for its sole object " the removal of any igrievance ... for which Parliamentary or Governmental interference is required."^ The Representative Assembly' of this federation, consisting of nearly 200 delegates from a hundred local branches, amalgamates all sections of the Cotton Operatives into one solid union for their common political purposes. But it is the Federal Executive,' appointed annually by this Representative Assembly, that governs the Parliamentary policy and organises the political force of the Trade. This Cabinet, composed in the main of the salaried officials of the separate unions, meets regularly throughout the year, exclusively for political business. At these private meetings, held in the parlor of a Manchester

' Rules of 1890. « Called the "General Council." • Called the "Legislative Council."


The Method of Legal Enactment 259

public-house, all rhetoric and formality is banished, and the complaints of the constituents are discussed with cynical shrewdness. If they appear to admit of any legislative or administrative remedy, the president and secretary — who are invariably leading officials of the Spinners and the Weavers respectively — are directed to take the matter up. These officers are wise enough to call in expert assistance. There is usually some eminent lawyer representing a Lancashire constituency, who is glad to put his brains freely at the disposal of so influential an organisation. A clause or a bill is drafted, and communications are opened up with the Home Office. Once certain of the technical accuracy and administrative feasibility of the proposals, the Federal Executive opens a vigorous political .campaign. Public jneetuigs are organised, at which the local members of Parliament, or in default, the opposition candidates, are impartially invited to preside. By these meetings not only the 300,000 persons employed in or about the cotton mills, but also the other electors, and the Parliamentary candidates themselves, are patiently educated. It is no small help in this process that the Cotton Operatives have what is virtually their own organ in the press, and that their leading officials write, in addition, much of the " labor news " in the provincial newspapers. When the Parliamentary session opens, the struggle is transferred to the lobby of the House of CjDjnmoris. It is perhaps a fortunate chance that the present general secretary of the Spinners belongs to the Consei-vative party, whilst the general secretary of the Weavers is a staunch adherent of the Liberals. No member for a cotton con- stituency, to whichever party he may belong, escapes the pressure. Meanwhile, in order to smooth the way for legislation, the employers will have been approached with a view to arriving at some common policy which the trade, as a whole, can press on the Government. The millowners, for instance, will be persuaded not to oppose increased factory regulation, on consideration of the operatives joining them to stop a threatened Indian import duty, or combining


26o Trade Union Function

in support of " the rehabilitation of silver." When a general election comes near an urgent appeal is issued to all the 132,000 members, reminding them that they should vote only for those candidates, of whatever political party, who promise to support the trade programme. No one can read the frequent circulars, the minutes of the conferences with employers and members of Parliament, the reports of the public meetings, dinners to factory inspectors and deputa- tions to the Home OfiRce, the leading articles in the Cotton Factory Times, and the " questions to candidates for election in Lancashire constituencies, without admitting that the Cotton Operatives have known how to construct a political machine of remarkable efficiency. The result is that the legislative regulation of the Cotton trade has been carried to a point far in advance of any other industry, whilst the law is enforced with a stringent regularity unknown in other districts.*

In the case of the Cotton Operatives the close observer may suspect that the political machinery is better than the material out of which it is made. Absorbed in chapels and co-operative stores, eager by individual thrift to rise out of the wage-earning class, and accustomed to adopt the views of the local millowners and landlords, the Cotton Operatives, as a class, are not remarkable for political capacity. In the interest that they take in public affairs they are behind the coalminers of the North and Midland districts of England. Among these underground workers the instinct for democratic politics is so keen that they have, for over twenty years, sent their own officials to represent them in the House of Commons. Like the Cotton Operatives they have exceptional political opportunities, four -fifths of the whole membership being massed in a relatively small number of Parliamentary con- stituencies. These advantages are, however, largely neutral- ised by the fact that they are, for political purposes, divided

1 The meetings of the United Textile Factory Operatives' Association were temporarily suspended in 1896, the officials stating that the time was inopportune for any further extension of factory legislation.


The Method of Legal Enactment 261

into two,Jiostile factions, the Miners' Federation on the one hand, and the county' unions of Northumberland and Durham on the other.

— The miners of Northumberland and Durham were, for over a generation, the pioneers and energetic leaders of the movement in favor of the legal regulation of the conditions of labor in the mine. We need not again describe the miachinery of the active legal and Parliamentary campaigns between 1843 and 1887. Froni the appointment of the " Miners' Attorney-General " down to the death of Alexander Macdonald, the promoters of the successive Mines Regulation ^ Acts drew their strongest support from the two Northern' counties. We have described elsewhere^ the curious com- bination of industrial circumstances and economic theories which have brought the Northumberland and Durham unions to a standstill as regards the legal regulation of their trade. They still nommally retain a separate political machinery under the name of the National Union of Miners." But the eifective political influence of the miners of these, counties is now expressed mainly by their three officials having seats in the House of Commons. These members, in conjunction with the leading local officials of the Northumberland and Durham Unions, object to the extension of legal regulation, and actively oppose the Eight Hours' Bill.

The great bulk of the miners have, however, retained their belief in the Method of Legal Enactment, and are to-day even more persistent than their fathers in demanding its further application. The MinersL.F!ederation.of Great Britain (established 1887, and now counting 200,000 members), which we described in our chapter on " The Unit of Govern- ment," is essentially a pol itical organisat ion. It deals, it is true, also with Collective Bargaining, in so far as anything

' History of Trade Unionism, pp. 284-292, 377-380.

  • This federal body, formed by Alexander Macdonald exclusively for Parlia-

mentary purposes, once included practically all the miners' unions in the kingdom, and was, in its time, the most influential political organisation in the Trade Union world. To-day it is confined to the two unions of Northumberland and Durham, and retains only a shadowy separate existence.


262 Trade Union Function

approaching to a National Agreement is concerned. But all 'the ordinary business of Mutual Insurance and Collective Bargaining is performed by the separate county unions, and nine-tenths of the federal work relates, like that of the United Textile Factory Workers' Association, to matters in which legislative or governmental interference is required. Like the Cotton Operatives, too, the Miners' Federation acts through a Representative Assembly and an Executive which is virtually a cabinet of the salaried "officials of the constituent Unions. It is a matter of common knowledge that this organisation exercises great political power, and it is, in Parliamentary influence, second only to the United Textile Factory Workers' Association. In one respect it is even stronger. Owing to the loyalty of the miners to their leaders, and to their demo- cratic fervor, the Parliamentary and local elections in mining constituencies may be said to be entirely controlled by the [miners' organisations. No candidate can. be elected who does not support their programme. It is in the manipula- tion of both political parties in the House of Commons that the Miners fall behind the Cotton Operatives. The Miners' Federation has, in the first place, to struggle against the very serious obstacle presented by the resolute hostility of the Northumberland and Durham unions. In the Parliament of 1892-95 if Mr. Pickard.or Mr. Woods proposed some measure desired by the Miners' Federation, he was pretty sure to be answered not by an employer, but by Mr. Burt or Mr. Fenwick, speaking for the miners of the two Northern counties. The fact too, that all the miners' representatives in the House of Commons are loyal supporters of one political party interferes, to some extent, with their influence both with that party and with its opponents. And although this great federation can count among its officials men of ability, experience, and unquestioned integrity, we are inclined to doubt whether the general level of technical and economic knowledge among them is quite as high as that of the staff of the Cotton Operatives, recruited as the latter is by competitive examination. It is, perhaps, due to this fact that


The Method of Legal Enactment 263

the Miners' officials do not as yet realise the necessity of expert legal and Parliamentary counsel in their deliberations, and make far less use than the Cotton Operatives of outside help. They have no intercourse with the Government Mines Inspectors, and, unlike the Cotton Operatives, they do not enjoy the advantage of constantly meeting, on terms of easy equality, the salaried officers of the employers' associations. Moreover, they have no organ of their own in the press, and they seldom contribute to other newspapers. Strong in their numbers and their concentrated electoral power, the Miners have, in fact, hitherto somewhat suffered from their isolation. But notwithstanding all these drawbacks, the steady improve- ment and progressive elaboration of the Mines Regulation Acts, in the face of powerful capitalist opposition, bears eloquent testimony to the past and present effectiveness of the Miners' political organisations.

No trade society_other than those connected with cotton and coal has developed any effective machinery for obtaining the legal regulations which are demanded by its members. This is, in some cases, to be attributed to the absence, among the rank and file, of any keen desire for special Acts of Parliament. Some powerful unions, like the United Society of Boilermakers, which enforces a rigid limit on the number of apprentices, are comparatively indifferent to the law as an instrument for obtaining the conditions of labor that they desire. But there are other trades which feel, even more strongly than the Cotton Operatives and Miners, their dependence on the Method of Legal Enactment as the only effective way of securing what they consider fair conditions of employment. Not to mention such modern organisations as those of the Gasworkers a n d_ Seamen, wh ose objects are mainly legislative, we watch old-established unions like the Amalgamated Society of Tailors, the several societies of cutlery workers of Sheffield, and the Hosiers of the Midland Counties all basing their aspirations on the legal regulation of homework, Aand the prohibition of insidious forms of "truck." Typical "old unionists" like the Ironfounders,


264 Trade Union Function

Stonemasons, and Engineers are constantly voting by large majorities in favor of drastic legal enactments providing for the better sanitation of their workplaces, for additional pre- ' cautions against accidents, for the compulsory compensation of those who suffer through negligence, for the adoption in all public contracts of the Standard Rates of Wages, and last, but in recent years not least, for the suppression of overtime, and the maintenance of a Legal Day. And yet it is not too much to say. that, as regards all these points, the organised Trade Unions, with their hundreds of thousands of electors, exercise, to-day, practically no appreciable influence on the House of Commons and, unlike the Cotton Operatives and Miners, have not learnt either to supplement the efforts of sympathetic philanthropists, or to strengthen the hands of willing politicians. The problem of superposing an organisa- tion according to locality~npon one -acciffaing^to trades, has, in fact, proved too complicated for Trade Union statesman- ship.

We shall best understand this failure by considering first the difficulties that prevent any single trade from attaining political influence, and then the kind of organisation by which such, difficulties might be overcome. The typical Trade Union has its members scattered in small -g«3ups, each of which makes up a tiny fraction of an electoral constituency. The adult male Cotton Operatives of Oldham practically dominate the. local electorate, but the Oldham Plumbers number only'/o^^and the Oldham Carpenters only 152 — contingentsMtX) small to be able to impress their views on Parliamentary candidates. At Morpeth again, the Coal- miners have, for over twenty years, been able to actually return one of their own officials as the member. But the 'Morpeth Tailors number only five, and are thus practically helpless. Even in London, where the Amalgamated Society of Tailors dominates its own skilled branch of the trade, its two thousand members are spread over sixty constituencies. It is evident that the only way by which the men engaged in such widely dispersed industries as building and tailoring


The Method of Legal Enactment 265

can force their grievances on an ignorant public or a reluctant! Parliament, is by combined action among the different tradesi of each constituency. Even the Engineers, who are in certain centres aggregated in large numbers, are politically weakened in their own strongholds by their division, into sectional societies. And joint action is even more clearly necessary in the case of the great number of little local trades, which have not the compensation of numerous branches and a large aggregate membership. Now, the long and varied experience of the Cotton Operatives and, to a lesser extent, that of the Coalminers prove that if a political federation is to be successful, three conditions are absolutely indispensable. There must, in the first place, be a vigorous central executive,^ to which is entrusted the entire direction of all the" pro- ceedings. In effective connection wjtb-this central committee, there must be local organisations in the various constituencies^ always prom jit" to obey the directions of the leaders, and tcl subordinate other interests to th$ main object. Finally, the central committee must not only have in its ^ service an adequate _staff of able men as officials, but must also know how to command, either for love or money, and be willing frequently to use, the professional advice of trained exp erts in law, in Parliamentary proceSuiF^ in administration, and in what may be called general politics.

It may at first be thought that, in the annual Trade Union Congress, the Parliamentary Committee, and the local Trades Councils, the Trade Union world possesses a political machinery fulfilling these elementary conditions. T here is a Represeatetive—Aasemblyr-te— wh ich nearly every o rganised trad e sends delegates. This assembly has nothing to do with Mutuar~Insurahce or Collective Bargaining, and deals exclusively with the political Jnter^ts of the Trade Union world. It elects a Cabinet of thirteen members^on which sit some of the ablest salaried officers of the movement. The duty of this " Padiamentaix_Can)jnittee" expressly defined to be "to watch all legislative measures du-ectly affecting^the question of Labor,\ to initiate such legislative VOL. I K 2


266 Trade Union Function

action as Congress may directl and to prepare the programme for the Congress." ^ Finally there exist, in over a hundred towns, which together elect a third of the House of Commons, joint committees of the local Trade Union branches, formed " to watch over the general interests of Labor — political and social — both in and out of Parliament."" But a short examination of the constitution and working of this organ- isation will, we think, make clear that, whatever outward resemblances to an effective political machine it may pos- sess, it lacks all the essential conditions of efficiency and success, ~~ ^

'^et us, to begin with, take the Parliamentary Committee, upon which, to follow the analogy of the Cotton Operatives, should fall the duties of formulating a national Trade Union programmei\ of guiding the deliberations of the Trade Union Congress\ of directing the necessary political campaign throughout the constituencies^ and finally, of conducting the desired measures through Parliament. But the Parliamentary Committee has, for the last twenty years, had practically no means of fulfilling these functions. T he cent raL-executives of the unions, from whom alone any responsible statement of the trade grievances and proposals can be obtained, seldom dream of communicating their desires to the Parliamentary Committee. This has naturally followed from the fact that there is no central staff able to cope with such proposals as have from time to time come in.* For all the Parliamentary and other business of the Trade Union world as a whole, there is provided only a single secretary, who is usually one of the " Labor Representatives " in the House of Commons,

1 Amended Standing Orders, drawn up by Parliamentary Committee, November 1894.

^ Rules of the London Trades Council, revised March 1895. The Manchester and Salford Trades Council (established 1866) declares that its objects are "to watch over the social and political rights and interests of Labor, local and national, but not of party political character. Its duties shall be to direct the power and influence possessed by its constituents, in promoting and supporting such measures as may appear likely to increase the comfort and happiness of the people, and generally to assist in securing the ends for which Trade Unions were called into existence." (Report for 1890.)

' History of Trade Unionism, pp. 356-358, 470-474.


The Method of Legal Enactment 267

with prior duties to his own constituency. For the last fivcj years the occupant of the post has been a salaried official ofi his own union, busily occupied with its particular sectional interests. The Parliamentary Committee admittedly pays only for the leavings of his time and attention, a large part of the salary of ;6^200 ^ going, in fact, to the son or friend who does the routine office work during his frequent absences from London. It is therefore impossible for the Parlia-j mentary Committee to investigate grievances^pr to form aril independent judgment on technical proposals. ^The members of the Committee are, no doubt, severally quite competent to deal with thei r own tra des, but for the Committee as a whole to act on this assumption necessarily means its implicit acceptance of the technical proposals of any one of its members. As regards the vast majority of unrepresented trades the Committee has absolutely no means of ascertaining, either what is complained of, or what remedies are practicable. Nor does it ever occur to the Parliamentary Committee to attempt to make up for this deficiency by seeking expert or professional advice, for which Congress has never been asked to provide funds. We despair of making any middle-class student realise the strength and persistency of th is disjnc lina- tion of Trade Unionists to ca ll in outside counsel. A Board of^Railway Directors/or a Town Council do not imagine that they are bartering their independence or impairing their dignity when they consult an engineer or a solicitor, or when they employ an actuary or a Parliamentary draughtsman. Though they are themselves what the Trade Unionists would call " practical men " they invariably commit even their own proposals to professional experts to be critically examined and put into proper form. But owing, we believe, to a combination of sturdy independence, Aialve self-complacency,^ and an exjremely narrow outlook on affairs/the Parliamentary Committee, like most Trade Union organisations, apparently regard themselves as competent to be their own solicitors/ their own actuaries/ and even their own Parliamentary » Raised, in 1896, \!0 £yio.


268 Trade Union Function

draughtsmen.' It is unnecessary to add that, in each capacity, they attain the proverbial result.

Any idea of intellectual leadership of the Trade Union world has accordingly long since 'been abandoned by the Pairliamentary^Comrmttee. This has entailed the, degenera- tion' of th^eTxade.IJlUon Congress. The four or five hundred members coming from all trades and parts of the kingdom are largely unknown to each other and new to their work. Each delegate brings to the meeting his own pet ideas and legislative projects. In order to make such a Representative Assembly into a useful piece of democratic machinery, tne first requisite is a strong " Front Bench " of responsible leaders, who have themselves arrived at a definite and con- sisten t policy. But this, as we have seen, is beyond the capacity of the Parliamentary Committee in its present lack of information/stafifyand expert counsel. What happens, in fact, is that a few stock resolutions are moved by members of the Committee, but nine-tenths of the time of Congress is given to the casual proposals sent in by the rank and file. These are not examinedlor reported on by the Parliamentary Committee, [ or even referred for consideration to special committees elected for the purpose. I They appear higgledy- piggledy in the agenda of the Congress sitting as a whole, the order in which they are discussed being decided by lot.' The bewildered delegates, fresh from the bench or the mine, find themselves confronted with a hundred and fifty hetero- geneous proposals, some containing highly technical amend- ments of the statutes relating to particular trades, others being mere pious aspirations for social amelioration, and others, again, involving far-reaching changes in the economic and political constitution of the country. All these come before Congress with equal authority ;j are explained in five-

' We have already mentioned that the United Textile Facto'Sr Workers' Association is honorably distinguished among Tra'de Unions for its freedom from this defect. The Co-operative and Friendly Society Movements have, to a large extent, learnt a similar lesson.

^ Some improvement has been made in this respect during the last year or two, the notices of motion being now classified according to their subjects.


The Method of Legal Enactment 269

minute speeches j and as regards four out of every five, get passed without inquiry or discrimination.^ Instead of a deliberative assembly checking and ratifying a programme 1 prepared, after careful investigation, by a responsible Cabinet, I the Trade Union Congress-is now an unorganised-public meet^ in^,~nrtterJyLJUiiaJale-4cu-fbHii«late--any_XQiisistentJ^ practical

policy. „

In the absence alike of an effective central executive, and of any definite programme, it is of minor import that the joint committees which should act in the several constituencies are themselves inefficient, and completely divorced from the other parts of the machine. We do not need to repeat our detailed description and working of the Trades Councils.* It is obvious that if such Councils are to be of any use in influencing the constituencies, they must receive the confidence and support of the central executive of each trade, and strictly co-ordinate all their political action with that of the Parliamentary Committee. But for reasons on which we have elsewhere dwelt, the central executives of the national trade societies view with suspicion and jealousy the very existence of local committees over whose action they have no control. The Parliamentary Committee, which ought to exercise that control, has, in the absence of a real programme! and of anything like an office staffJ for many years given up all attempts to direct, or even to influence, the bodies through which alone it could conduct an effective electoral campaign. Without leadership] without an official programmeJland without any definite work, the Trades Councils have become, in effect, microscopic Trade Union Congresses, with all the deficiencies of unorganised public meetings. Their wild and inconsjsterrT resolutions, no less than their fitful and erratic action, have naturally increased the dislike of the central executives, and of the salaried officials who dominate the Parliamentary Committee. Since ij£S_ they have even been excluded from participation in the Trade Union Congress. Thus

• History of Trade Unionism, pp. 467-470.

  • Ibid. pp. 440-444, 466, 467.


270 Trade Union Function

there is now no working connection between the central com- mittee and the organisations in the several constituencies.

We see therefore that, notwithstanding a great parade of 'political influence, the Trade Union world, as a whole, is really without an organised machinery for using the Method of LegaPEriactmenf. This-outcome of- thirty years' effort may well lead to doubts whether it is practicable to construct efficient machinery for the political business of the whole Trade Union world. Some persons may suggest that the ex- perience of the Cotton Operatives and the Coalminers points rather to the development of separate political machinery for each great group of industries. On this assumption we should have political federations of the Engineering and Shipbuilding trades, of the various branches of the Clothing Trade, of the Building and Furniture Trades, and perhaps even of the Transport Workers and the General Laborers. But whether the machinery for using the Method of Legal Enactment covers the whole Trade Union world, or is con- fined to particular sections, it will not be possible for it to obtain even such success as has been won by the Cotton Operatives and the Coalminers without a radical change in spirit, if not also in form. It may safely be predicted that no Parliamentary organisation of the Trade Union world will be politically effective until the narrow limits o f its action are definitely recognised, and until the separate func tions of the Central Federal Executive, -the Representative Asswnbly, and the Local Councils are clearly understood^ and ^aCEd in proper co-ordination with each other.

Let us first consider the importance of recognising the narrow limits within which such politicaTlnfluence must be exercised. We have here, in fact, a particular application of the principles upon which, as we showed in our chapter on " Interunion Relations," any combined action must be based. The paramount condition of stable federation is, as we have suggested, that the constituent bodies should be united only in ,so,iar_as they possess interests in common, and that in respect of all other matters they should retain


The Method of Legal Enactment 271

their independence. The Trade UnjonjQ.engiess„is.a.iedera- tion for obtaining, by Parlrfffnentary action, not social reform generally, but the particular measures desired by its constituent Trade Unions.^ These all' desire certain measures of legal regulation confined to their own particular trades, and they are prepared, if this limitation is observed, to back up each other's demands. On many important subjects, such as Free- dom of Combination, Compensation for Accidents, Truck, Sani- tation, " the Particulars Clause," the weekly payment of wages, and the abolition of disciplinary fines, they are united on general measures. But directly the Congress diverges from its narrow Trade Union function, and expresses any opinion, either on general social reforms or party politics, it is bound to alienate whole sections of its constituents. The Trade Unions join the Congress for the promotion of a Parlia- mentary policy desired, not merely by a majoritj^, but by ^11^ of them ; and it is a violation of the implied contract between them to use the political force, towards the creation of which all are contributing, for the purposes of any particular political party. The Trade Unionists of Northumberland and Durham are predominantly Liberal, j Those of Lancashire are largely Conservative. | Those of Yorkshire and London, again, are deeply impregnated with Socialism. | If the Congress adopts the Shibboleths, or supports the general policy of any of the three parties which now — on questions outside Trade Unionism — divide the allegiance of British workmen, its influence is at once destroyed. The history of the Trade Union Congress during the last twenty years emphatically confirms this view. Whether it is " captured " by the Liberals (as in 1878-85) or by the Socialists (as in 1893-94); whether it is pledged to Peasant Proprietorship) or to Land Nationalisation ; whether it declares in favor of Bimetal- lism or the " Nationalisation of the means of production,

1 In the course of our subsequent analysis of the Trade Union Regulations themselves, and in our final survey, we shall discover the political programme for the Trade Union world. See the chapters on " The Economic Characteristics of Trade Unionism " and "Trade Unionism and Democracy."


272 Trade Union Function

jdistribution, and exchange," it equally destroys its capacity [for performing its proper work, and provokes a reaction which nullifies its political influence.

Once this limitation were understood and definitely recognised, it would become possible to weld the separate parts of the existing Trade Union organisation into a political machinery of considerable influence. The first requisite would be a central federal committee, meeting exclusively for the definite political purposes which we have indicated. To this Parliamentary Goffiniittee the central executive of each national trade would bring, its particular grievances, with the remedies proposed, just as the Weavers' executive submits to the United Textile Factory Workers' Association its objections to over -steaming and its proposals for the abolition of this practice. On no account must any proposal be taken up by the Parliamentary Committee whicti had riot received the express endorsement of the central executive of the trade concerned. Any departure from this rule would bring the federal committee into conflict with its real con- stituents, and deprive it of all guarantee that the proposal had been accepted by the bulk of the members most directly to be affected. But this endorsement would not in itself sufifice. The Parliamentary Committee, acting in conjunction with the officers of the trade concerned, would have to take expert advice as to the extent of the grievance,4the practica- bility of the remedy proposed,land the best forin in which it could be put. The approved legislative proposals of the several trades could then be marshalled into a precise and consistgnt ^rliamentary programme, from which all vague aspirations or rhetorical claptrap would be excluded. When the programme for the year had, after careful investigation and thought, at last been framed, it would have to be pre- sented to a Representative Assembly of all the trades. In emphatic contrast with the practice of the present Trade Union Congress, it should be made a cardinal rule that no proposition for political action should be brought before the Assembly, unless it had first been submitted to the Parlia-


The Method of Legal Enactment 273

mentary-Committee for investigation and report. With such a rule the delegates from each trade would find before them the proposals which had been sent up by their executives, couched in the best possible language, and recommended to the delegates of the other trades by the Cumulative authority of the officials of the industry concerned, the skilled political staff of the Parliamentary Committee itself, and the legal and administrative experts who had been consulted. At this stage, discussion by all the trades would serve to reveal any latent divergence of interest lor policy which would militate against the electoral success of even a perfectly devised programme. But such an assembly would fulfil a much more important purpose than merely amending and ratify- ing an official programme. It would enable the leaders to explain the several items, and demonstrate to the whole Trade Union world their necessity, adequacy, and consistency with the common interests of all Trade Unionists.

The programme once settled, the work of politic aJ- agita tion would begin. Here the Parliamentary Committee would have to be supplemented by a local federation in each const ituency.^ This_local .body would naturally be formed, like the present Trades Councils, of representatives from all the. Trade Union branches in the constituency, or in the town. It would be vital to its efficiency and success that The central executives of the several trades should regard its constitution as of national importance to them ; urge their branches to elect their most responsible members ; and give them every encouragement to contribute their quota of the local expenses from the society's funds. It goes without saying that these local councils must, no less strictly than the Trade Union Congress, avoid all bias in favor of one or other political party, and confine themselves* rigidly to Trade Union objecEsT " But their proceedings must be subject to a y^narrower limit. Unlike the existing Trades Councils, they must realise that it is no part of their business to frame the Parliamentary programme even in matters on which all their constituent branches are unanimous. This


2 74 Trade Union Function

follows from the fact that each trade must be dealt with as a national unit. Before the Engineers or the Tailors can hope to get any amendment of the law relating to their trade, all the branches from one end of the kingdom to the other must be prepared to back up an identical demand ; and the demand must be formulated in terms capable of being pressed upon Ministers and the administrative experts. This identity and precision can only^_be_secured by central I action. The work of the local Trades Councils must, there- fore, as regards all Parliamentary action, be executive only. Both in order to retain the confidence of the central executive of each trade, and to function properly as a part of the political machine, the local councils would have rigidly to confine themselves to pushing the official Trade Union programme for the time being. If any of their members wanted this programme altered, he could bring his proposal forward in the local branch of his own union, have it voted upon by his fellow-tradesmen, and get it sent up to his own central executive. If it was not a matter on which his own Trade Union could be induced to take action, it would most assuredly not be fit for adoption by a federation of Trade Unions. The local Trades Council would, with out inter- fering with ge neral policy, find abundant occupation in organising and educating the local Trade Unionist electors ; in carrying out the frequent instructions received from the skilled political staff of the Parliamentary Committee in watching and criticising the action of the Parliamentary representatives of the constituency, to whatever party they belonged ; in supplementing and supervising the local work of the mines, factory, and sanitary inspectors ; and, wherever it was thought fit, in conducting a municipal campaign. For all elections to local bodies, it could, of course, frame its own programme. Here it would have to act as its own Representative Assembly. Like the Trade Union Congress the Trades Council would have to elect and to trust a responsible cabinet | to restrict it to a Trade Union as dis- tinguished from a general political programme \ to provide it


The Method of Legal Enactment 275

with officers and funds adequate to its taskl to expect that it should act only; after inquiry and expert or professional ad-vice ; I and above all, to ins ist that it shpuid Icpp p it<!plf fre e, from suspicion of act ing in the intere sts of any particula r party.

We are thus brought back, at each stage of the organ- isation, to ^^xe^ paramount^ need o f intellect u al le adership. 1 Without con certed federaJl action between the tradesT^no^ progress can Be madem carrying^ offi for the

use of the Method of Legal Enactment, t Without a central committei^lTeanv" directing and concentratinpr the action of the local councils, no electoral campaign can ever be effec- tive, j Without a " Front Bench " of responsible leaders, no Representative Assembly can ever formulate a consistent programme, (or rise above the dignity of a public meeting. 1 The great officials of the leading trades must realise that it is their duty, not merely to stir up their own branches to feeble and fitful agitation for the particular legal reforms that they desire themselves, [but to get constructed the federal organisation which alone can secure their accomplishment. In this federal organisation they must themselves take the leading part. For this work they are at present, with alll their capacity and force, usually quite unfit. Each man/ knows his own trade, and the desires of his own union, but is both ignorant and indifferent as to the needs or desires of every other trade. Before they can form anything like a Cabinet with a definite and consistent policy, they must learn how to frame a precise and detailed programme which shall include the particular legislative regulations desired by each trade, whilst avoiding the Shibboleths of any political party. Nor is this an impossible dream. At one period, as we have elsewhere described,^ the Trade Union world possessed, in " the Junta " and their immediate successors, an extremely efficient Cabinet, which both led the Trade Union Congress and directed the action of the Trades Councils. In close communication with the executives of the great trades,! and ' History of Trade Unionism, pp. 215-283. I


276 Trade Union Function

making unstinted use of expert counsel, this Junta prepared a reasoned and practicable programme ;l explained it to representative gatherings by which it was ratified ;j and enlisted the Trades Councils in an organised electoral campaign in its support. The result was seen in the memorable Parliamentary triumphs of \^2X and i87i. With the passing away of the Junta, and the breach between the Parliamentary Committee and its unpaid couhsellors, this effective leadership came insensibly to an end. If the "^machinery is again to become effective, the Parliamentary Committee must realise that its duty is to lead both the Trade Union Congress and the Trades Councils j to formulate its own policy! to provide itself with an adequate salaried staff] and, aboTC all, to make the fullest possible use of professional experts. With the creation of a strongly centralised, and thoroughly equipped political federation confining its work exclusively to Trade Union objects, the organised trades might reasonably hope to obtain the same measure of success in the detailed legal regulation of the conditions of their labor, as that achieved by such " old Parliamentary hands " as the Coalminers and the Cotton Operatives, whilst these latter unions would find their power to obtain further regulation in their own trades indefinitely increased by the effective support of the whole Trade Union world.*

' The degeneration of the whole political machinery has, during the last few years, become so obvious to the leading Trade Unionists, that spasmodic attempts at reform have been made. We cannot, in this analytical volume, go into the details of the story of how the Parliamentary Committee of 1895, by the casting vote of its chairman, imposed a brand new constitution on the Trade Union Congress. We need only remind the reader that by the new Standing Orders, which were held to govern the Cardiff Congress before they were adopted, the Parliamentary Committee brought in three important innovations. No Trade Unionist could be elected as a delegate unless he was either a paid official of his own union, or else still working at his original trade. The Trades Councils were excluded from all representation or participation in the Congress. And, most important of all, the method of voting in Congress was changed from the ordinary practice of Representative Assemblies to a system of voting by trades. These alterations, it will be seen, do not proceed along the lines which we have suggested. There is no proposal to increase the efficiency or strengthen the staff of the Parliamentary Committee, or to co-ordinate the several parts o(


The Method of Legal Enactment 277

the political machine. Instead of intellectual_^leadership being provided, we see an attempt merely to silence" or exclude the troublesome elements. We need not dwell upon the first of the alterations, aimed, as it was, merely at one or two influential delegates whose exclusion was desired by the dominant officials. By abruptly turning out the Trades Councils, who actually initiated the Congress twenty-seven years before, and had ever since taken a vigorous part, the Parliamentary Committee cut adrift the very bodies upon which any effective Trade Union campaign in the constituencies must depend. The Trades Councils, thus " outlawed " from the Trade Union world, are now centres of bitter hostility to the salaried ofiScials of the great trades ; sources of dissension and political weakness, instead of being valuable supports and allies. But the most important and, as we think, most injurious change was that effected in the method of voting. Prior to 1895, though the Unions were allowed to send delegates in proportion to their membership and contribution to the Congress funds, each delegate had an individual vote, and no proxy voting was allowed. In this way, the larger unions could, if they chose to send their full number of dele- gates, exercise their due proportion of voting power. But the officials of some powerfiil societies found the arrangement inconvenient. In some cases their societies demurred to the expense of sending more than three or four delegates, and thus failed to secure a proportionate influence. In other cases when the full number of delegates was sent, some of these insisted on exercising an independent judgment, and voted according to their own political sympathies, or in response to appeals from the smaller trades. In the absence of any leadership of the Congress as a whole, independence degenerated into anarchy. To the practical officials of the Coal and Cotton industries, the flighty and irresponsible behaviour of the Congress appeared likely to militate against the success of the particular technical measures promoted by their own unions. It does not seem to have occurred to them that it might be their duty to put their brains into the business ; to come forward as the Cabinet of the Congress, formulating a con- sistent policy for the Trade Union world as a whole ; and boldly to appeal for the confidence and the pecuniary support by which alone any policy could be carried into effect. The investigation and co-ordination of the needs of the several trades would have involved, instead of an occasional pleasant jaunt to London, a good deal of hard thinking, and many tedious consultations with experts of all kinds. It was easier to put themselves in a position mechanically to stop the passing of any resolution which seemed likely to be injurious to their trades. The four representatives of the coal and cotton industries on the committee, therefore, insisted on the adoption of the so-called " proxy voting " used by the Miners' Federation in their own conferences. Under this system each trade as a whole is accorded the number of votes to which its aggregate membership entitles it, but is not required to send more than a single delegate. If more than one are sent, they may decide among themselves how the vote of the trade shall be cast, and may even entrust their voting cards to one among their number, and leave the Congress. It is obvious that this mechanical system of voting tends to throw the entire power in the hands of the officials. In fact, already at the Congress of 1895, one society, enjojnng forty-five votes, sent only its general secretary to represent it, and as this economical practice leaves the voting power of the union unimpaired, it vrill certainly be adopted by others. By this system the officers of the great unions have secured their own permanent re-election on the Parliamentary Committee, and, whenever needed, the power to reject any proposal before Congress, without incurring either the " intolerable toil of thought," which due consideration of the needs of the smaller trades would involve, or the trouble of any intellectual leadership of the Congress as a whole.


278


Trade Union Function


It will henceforth be less than ever necessary for the officials of the great trades to intervene in the debates, or to seek to guide the less experienced sections 0/ the Trade Union world. Already at Cardiff signs were not wanting that in future Congresses we shall see the big officials, holding the pack of voting cards allotted to their own unions, listening contemptuously to the debating of the smaller trades, and silently voting down any proposition which displeases them.

But the new Standing Orders do more than destroy the value of the Trade Union Congress as a deliberative assembly, and deprive it of its functions as a representative gathering through which the policy and programme of the Parliamentaiy Committee might be explained to the Trade Union world. The new system of voting contravenes, in the worst possible way, the principles of representation which we have, in our chapter on " Interunion Relations," deduced from the nature of federal association, and is therefore fraught with the grarest danger to the stability of the Congress. The Congress, including as it does, many divergent, and even opposing interests, can never be more than a loose federation for the limited purposes which its several sections have really in common. Its decisions ought therefore to be arrived at, not by mere majority vote, but by consultation between the sections, with a view of discovering the " greatest common measure." But under the present system the Miners' Federa- tion and the United Textile Factory Workers' Association together number a third of the membership represented at the Congress, whilst so long as they act in conjunction with the Amalgamated Societies of Engineers and Carpenters, and the Natiorial Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives, they constitute an absolute majority of any possible Congress. To give to five trades an absolute majority over the combined forces of all the rest, must, if persisted in, either extinguish any chance of energetic political co-operation by the others, or else lead to these forming a new federation of their ovra.


CHAPTER V THE STANDARD RATE[edit]

Among Trade Union Regulations there is one which stands out as practically universal, namely, the insistence on pay- ment according to some definite standard, uniform in its application. Even so rudimentary a form of combination as the " shop club " requires that all its members shall receive, as a minimum, the rate agreed upon with the foreman for the particular job. The organised local or nati^ial., union ca rries the principle furthe r , an d insists o n a Standard Rate of,pa3aaent.fpr aIMts_membereJn_th^^ The

Standard Rate, it should . Jae-uabservedris- only a minimum, ne ver a maximum . The Friendly Society of Operative S tonemason s, for instance, agrees (1897) with the London Central Master Builders' Association that all its able-bodied members shall receive not less than tenpence halfpenny per hour. But the Society has no objection to an employer offering a particular stonemason, whose skil^ or character is valued, any higher rate that he may choose. The A malgamated Society of Tailors, in conjunction with the Master Tailors' Association of the particular town, settles a " log " fixing the payment for each kind of garment. But this does not prevent West End master tailors, with the full sanction of the union, paying some members far above the London log rates. In fact, though there are certain seeming exceptions with which we shall deal separately, we know of no case in which a Trade Union forbids or discourages its


28o Trade Union Function

members from receiving a higher rate of remuneration, for the work actually performed, than the common Standard Rate fixed for the whole body.

But although the Standard Rate is a minimum, not a maximum, the est ablishment of this minimum necessa rily results jn a nearer approximation to equality o f rate s than would otherwise prevail. Trade Union officials who have had to construct a piecework list, or to extend such a list from one shop to the whole town, or from one town to the whole trade, know that, in order to secure a standard list of prices, they have had to pare dow n the rates hitherto enjoyed by particular sho ps or even particular towns. It is exactly this willingness on the part of the more fortunately situated sections of the trade to forego, for the sake of a Standard Rate, the higher rates which happen, by some accident, to have become current for a particular line of work, that makes uniformity possible. We have already cited, in describing how Trade Unionism breaks down local monopoly, the case of the C otton-weaver s, who discovered that, in order to secure a uniform list of piecework prices — meaning, to the majority of members, an advance of wages — one or two districts had to consent to a positive reduction of the rates they had hitherto enjoyed.^ The powerful society of yitnt Gla ss Makers has recently afforded us an even more striking example. When in 1895 the Flint Glass Makers concerted with their employers a uniform " catalogue of prices " for all the glass works in Yorkshire, the York branch, which enjoyed higher rates than any other in the county, at first vehemently protested. A uniform list, they urged, "was impracticable, unless by some section of us making enormous sacrifices " ; and its enforcement would involve the " edifying spectacle of a Trade Union compelling its members to work at a reduced wage, when neither they nor the employer desired it."' Notwithstanding this protest, the members of the union

I See the chapter on " The Unit of Government."

  • Letter from T. Mawson, a member of the York branch, in the Flint Glass

Makers' Magazine, October 1895 ; vol. ii. No. 8, pp. 427, 428.


The Standard Rate 281

approved the preparation of the uniform list, which was submitted to general meetings of all the Yorkshire branches. The issue was thus put before the York members, and though it was made clear that the new list would involve a reduction of their own earnings, the feeling in favor of uniformity was so strong that, as the general secretary records, out of a total of eighty-four members in the branch at the time, " the vote against the catalogue was only the miserable total of nine." ^

This conception of a Standard Rate is, as we need hardly explain, an indispensable requisite of Collective Bargaining. Withou Lsome common measure, applicable to all the work- men confiRrned, nn p- eneral treaty with., re gard, to. „viages wo uld be possible . But the use of a definite standard of measurement is not merely an adjunct of the Method of Collective Bargaining. It is required for any wholesale determination of wages upon broad principles. The most autocratic and unfettered employer spontaneously adopts Standard Rates for classes of workmen, just as the large shopkeeper fixes his prices, not according to the higgling capacity of particular customers, but by a definite percentage on cost.* This conception of a consistent standard of measurement the Trade Union seeks to extend from establishments to districts, and from districts to the whole area of the trade within the kingdom.

This Trade Unionist insistence on a Standard Rate has been the subject of bitter denunciation. The payment of "bad and lazy workmen as highly as those who are skilled and indus- trious,"* "setting a premium on idleness and incapacity,"

1 Address of the Central Secretary of the Society, in the Flint Glass Makers' Magazine, October 1895 ; vol. ii. No. 8, pp. 447-451.

' Practical convenience and the growth of large establishments have, no doubt, much to do with the adoption of uniformity. The little working master, or small employer, could know personally every workman, and adjust without much difSculty a graduated rate of wages. But the modern employer of labor on a large scale cannot be bothered with precisely graduated special rates for each of his thousand "hands." It suits him better to adopt some common principle of payment, simple of application by his clerks and easily comprehended by the workmen.

3 Measures for putting an End to the Abuses of Trade Unions, by Frederic Hill (London, 1868), p. 3. So persistent is this delusion that Mr. Lecky, writing


282 Trade Union Function

"destructive to the legitimate ambition of industry and merit," that " worst kind of Communism, the equal remuneration of all men," are only samples of the abusive rhetoric of capitalists and philosophers on the subject. Even as lately as 1871 a distinguished economist poured out the following tirade against the assumed wickedness of the Trade Unions in this respect : " Not yet, but in course of time, as economic principles become popularly understood, we shall see Trade Unions purged of their most erroneous and nlischievous purpose of seeking an uniform rate of wages without regard to differences of skill, knowledge, industry, and character. There is no tenet of Socialism more fatal in its consequences than this insidious and plausible doctrine — a doctrine which, if acted upon rigidly for any length of time by large classes of men, would stop all progress. Put in plain language it means that there shall not be in the world any such thing, as superior talent or attainment ; that every art and handicraft shall be reduced to the level of the commonest, most ignorant, and most stupid of the persons who belong to it." '

Such criticisms are beside the mark. A very slight acquaintance with Trade Unionism would have shown these writers that a uniform Standard Rate in no way imp lies eq uality of weekly wages , and has no such objec t. For good or for evil, the typical British workman is not by any means a Communist, and the Trade Union regulations are, as we shall see, quite free from any theoretic " yearnings for equal division of unequal earnings."

The misapprehension arises from a confusion between the rate of payment and the amount actually earned by the workman. What the Trade Union insists on, as a necessary condition of the very existence of Collective Bargaining, is a Standard Rate of payment for the work actually performed. But this is consistent with the widest possible divergence

in 1896, naively echoes the charge against the Trade Unions by implying that "they insist on the worst workman being paid as much as the best." — Derm- cracy and Liberty, vol. ii. p. 385.

' Presidential Address of William Newmarch at Social Science Congrfess 1871 (Transactions of Social ScicTue Association, :87i, p. 117).


Th£ Standard Rate 283

between the actual weekly incomes of different workmen. Thus we have the significant fact that the Standard Rate j insisted on by the great majority of Trade Unionists is, not any definite sum per hour, but a list of piecework prices. The extent to which these piecework lists prevail throughout the country is seldom realised. Even those who have heard of the elaborate tonnage rates of the Ironworkers, Steel- smelters, and Coalminers, and the complicated cotton lists, which together govern the remuneration of a fourth of the Trade Union world, often forget the innumerable other trades, in which (as with the Tailors, Bootmakers, Com- positors, Coopers, Basketmakers, Brushmakers). lists of prices, signed by employers and employed, and revised from time to time, date from the very beginning of the century.^ When, as in all these cases, the Standard Rate takes the form of a schedule of piecework prices, it is clear that there can be no question of equalising the actual earnings of different work- men. One basketmaker or one coalminer may be earning two pounds a week, whilst another, receiving the same Standard Rate and working the same number of hours, may get less than thirty shillings ; and another, putting in only half-time, may have only ten or fifteen shillings for his week's income.

Nor can it be assumed that in the mdustries in wh ich the Trade Union rate is notJbaaed on piecewQrjjc, but takes the form of a definite standard wa^e per hour, this necessarily i mplies eq ,na,ii.t.X..of re-mune-ratinp- Even where workmen in such trades put in the same number of hours, their weekly incomes will often be found to differ very materially. Thus, whilst ordinary plumbing, bricklaying, and masonry is paid for at uniform rates per hour, di rectly the, job involves an v sp ecial skill, the employer finds it advantageous to p ay a hiph ^r rata , and the Trade Union cordially encourages this practice. The superior bricklayer, for instance, is seldom

^ These piecework lists caD now be conveniently studied in the admirable selection published by the Labor Department of the Board of Trade as Part II. of the Report on Wages and Hours of Labor, 1894 [C, 7S67>-i]-


284 Trade Union Function

employed at the Standard Rate, but is always getting joba at brick-cutting (or " gauge work "), furnace-building, or sewer construction, paid for at rates from ten to fifty per cent over the standard wage. In all industries we find finnswith sp ecial reputations for a high class of production habitua lly paying, with full Trade Union approval, more than the Trade Union rate, in order to attract to their establishment the most skilful and best conducted workmen. In other cases, where the employer rigidly adheres to the common rate, the superior workman finds his advantage, if not actually in higher money earnings, in more agreea ble c onditions of employment . In a large building the employer will select his best stonemasons to do the carving, an occupation not involving great exertion and consistent with an occasional pipe, whilst the common run of workmen will be setting stones under the foreman's eye. The best carpenters, when not earning extra rates for " staircasing " or " handrailing," will get the fine work which combines variety and lightness, and is done in the workshop, leaving to the rougher hands the laying down of flooring and other heavy mechanical tasks. These distinctions may seem trivial to the professional or business man, who to a large extent controls the conditions under which he works. But no workman fails to appreciate the radical difference in net advantageousness between two different jobs, one in- volving exposure to the weather, wear and tear of clothing, monotonous muscular exertion, and incessant supervision, and the other admitting a considerable share of personal liberty, agreeably diversified in character, and affording scope for initiative and address. • Though there may be in such cases equality in -the number of shillings received at the end of the week, the remuneration for the efforts and sacrifices actually made will have been at very different rates in the two cases.

We do not wish to obscure the fact that a Standard Rate on a timework basis does, in practice, result in a nearer approach to uniformity of money earnings than a Standard


The Standard Rate 285

Rate on a piecework basis. Nor is there any doubt that a considerable section of the wage-earning class have a deeply- rooted conviction that the conscientious, industrious, and slow mechanic ought in equity to receive no less pay than his quicker but equally meritorious neighbour ; more especially as the normal earnings of even the quickest mechanic do not amount to more than is demanded for the proper maintenance of his household. It is often assumed that this conviction has produced, in the Trade Union world, a fundamental objection to piecework. Had this been the case, it would have been strange that we should have had to quote, as typical instances of Unions strongly enforcing a Standard Rate, so many trades in which piecework universally prevails. The annexed table will show that, w hilst certain important trades enforce time wa ges, a large majority of organised trades, either insist on, or willingly accep t, piecework remuneration.^ By an analysis of this table we shall prove that this remarkable divergence of view arises, almost exclusively, from the character of the operations performed. What the Trad_e Unionists a re

^?i?I_iikJ5L_*?l?--9S?~-SSS£-SS~iQ .ti^^ is, as.,we^iiave exp lained, uniformit KJoJtbe.xg/g..of remuneration. In some industries this can be maintained only by insisting on time wages. In others, covering, as it happens, a far larger number of organised workmen, time wages would produce just the opposite result, and the Trade Unionists accordingly insist, with equal determination, on payment by the piece.

' Though payment by the piece is as old as the relation of employer and wage-earner, the first serious study of this method of remuneration appears to be that of Marx (Capital, part iv. ch. xxi.), wiio draws attention, as usual, to the valuable glimpses of its working afforded by the official reports of the Inspectors of Factories and the Children's Employment Commission. For further informa- tion see the careful analysis of Mr. D. F. Schloss, in his Methods of Industrial Remuneration (London, 1st edition, 1891 ; 2nd edition, 1894); and his exhaustive Reports to the Labor Department of the Board of Trade on Profit- sharing, Gain-sharing, and Co-operative Contracts respectively. But neither Karl Marx nor Mr. Schloss, nor any other writer known to us, seems to have perceived the explanation of the difference in the attitude towards piecework between the different Trade Unions.


286


Trade Union Function


Tables showing with regard to all the Trade Unions in the United Kingdom having more than looo members {those of unskilled laborers and transport workers being omitted), whether they systematically enforce piecework or time wages respectively, or wJiether they willingly recognise both methods of remuneration.^


I. — Tradk Unions which insist on Piecework

Coalminers (including Miners' Federation, Durham, Northum- berland, South Wales, Forest of Dean, and West Bromwich) ......

Cleveland Ironstone Miners .....

Amalgamated Association of Operative Cotton-spinners

Northern Counties Association of Cotton-weavers

Amalgamated Society of Lacemakers, Nottingham

Amalgamated Society of Tailors (and Scottish ditto)

National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives

Amalgamated Society of Boot and Shoe Makers

Associated Iron and Steel Workers

Flint Glass Makers' Society

Yorkshire Glass Bottle Makers

Sheffield File Cutters

Amalgamated Wire Drawers

British Steel Smelters

South Wales Tinplate Workers

Staffordshire Hollow Ware Pressers

Kidderminster Carpet Weavers

Hosiery Workers' Federation

Felt Hat Makers

Cigar Makers

United Society of Curriers .

1 6 other Societies .


Membership in 1894.


(Potters)


49 Trade Unions


322,000

3,700 18,250 83,600

3,500 19,500 44,000

4,300 6,700 2,150 2,450 1,700 1,600 2,400 6,000 1,350 1,400 3,900 3,150 1,250 1,100 39,000

573,000


' The printed table is summarised from one including every Trade Union in the United Kingdom which has as many as 1000 members (omitting those of general laborers and transport workers). Its total of 1,003,000 represents nine- tenths of the Trade Union world (wilh the same omission), the remaining tenth, which is dispersed in hundreds of tiny unions, being similarly divided. Of the III principal organisations we see that 49, having 57 per cent of the aggregate membership, actually insist on piecework, whilst 73 out of the in, having 71 per cent of the aggregate membership, either insist on piecework, or willingly recog- nise it. The unions which fight against piecework number 38, having only 29 per cent of the aggregate membership.

It is interesting to compare this analysis of Trade Union artisans with the rough estimate made by the Labor Department for the whole wage-earning populauon.


The Standard Rate


287


II- — Trade Unions which willingly recognise, in various Departments, both Piecework and Timework


United Society of Boilermakers and Iron-shipbuilders

Associated Shipwrights' Society

Amalgamated Brassworkers' Society .

Associated Blacksmiths' Society

Sailmakers' Federation

Spindle and Flyer Makers, Lancashire *

Amalgamated Card and Blowing Room Operatives

Typographical Association, London Society of Compositors,


Scottish and other Compositors' Bookbinders (two societies) . Mutual Association of Coopers Cabinetmakers (three societies) Six other Societies .

24 Trade Unions


Unions


39,65c

13,750

5,100

2.350

1,250

1,150

22,200

31,000

4,350 6,000 7,100 6,100

1 40,000


IIL — Trade Unions which insist on Timework

Amalgamated Society of Engineers .... 78,450

Friendly Society of Ironfounders .... 15,200 United Pattern-makers' Association . . . ,3,150

United Society of Brassfounders .... 2,750

Amalgamated Society of Carpenters (and two other societies) 58,000

Friendly Society of Operative Stonemasons (with Scottish ditto) 25,000

Operative Bricklayers' Society (and another society) . . 26,700

National Union of Operative Plasterers . . . 8,500

United Society of Operative Plumbers . . . 8,150

Amalgamated Society of Lithographic Printers . . 2,550

Bradford Dyers . . . . 2,700

Bakers (English, Scottish, and Irish) , . . 8,950

United Kingdom Society of Coachmakers . . , 5, 700

18 other Societies . .... 44,200


38 Trade Unions


290,000


The first thing we notice in these tables is that, among the trades in which piecework is either insisted on by the

Excluding agriculture and domestic service, about 33 per cent of the male wage- earners in the United Kingdom are supposed to be engaged in piecework trades, and 67 per cent in timework trades. It seems probable, therefore, that among Trade Unionists a larger percentage work by the piece than among the workers in unorganised trades.


288 Trade Union Function

men, or readily accepted by them, we find the largest and the most powerful Trade Unions. The Miners and Cotton Operatives, who would instantly strike against any attempt to introduce time wages, are only paralleled in the strength and extent of their Trade' Unions by the Boilermakers and Iron- shipbuilders, who adopt piecework as the basis of the greater part of their wage contracts. And so far is piecework from being objected to by Trade Union officials, that we find, in these trades, that the preponderating part of the Trade Union machinery, including the ablest and most injluential officials, has been called into existence for the express purpose of dealing with piecework lists. The district delegates of the Boilermakers, the secretaries of the Cotton Operatives, the investigators of the Boot and Shoe Operatives, and the iheckweigh-men of the Coalminers spend their whole lives in arranging remuneration on a piecework basis.

On the other hand, though the time workers are in the minority, we have among them some very strong unions, such as the Stonemasons, the Bricklayers, and the Plumbers, who have always vehemently denounced piecework as the bane of their trades. How can we explain this divergence ?

On asking a leadi ng^official of the Cotton -spinners' uni on why he objected to time wages, he^ replied t hat^ in his opin ion, it was oril y the system of piecework re munerat ion that had saved his^ trade . from the evils o f sweatin g. The work of a cotton-spinner, he explained, varies in intensity (and his product in quantity) according to the number of spindles which he has to attend to, and the speed at which the machinery runs, conditions over which the operative has no control. Owing to the introduction of mules bearing an increased number of spindles, and the constant " speeding up " of the machinery, the amount of work placed upon the operative is steadily, though often imperceptibly, increased.'

' " It would be a mistake if we imagined that labor had become easier com- pared with former times. As far as a comparison can be made, the opposite is the case. A handloom weaver can work 1 3 hours per day ; to let a six-loom weaver work 13 hours is a physical impossibility. The nature of the work has entirely changed. In place of muscular exertion there is now the minding of the


The Standard Rate 289

If he were paid by the hour or the day, he would need, in order to maintain the same rate of remuneration for the work done, to discover each day precisely to what degree the machinery was being " speeded up," and to be perpetually making demands for an increase in his time wages. Such an arrangement could not fail to result in the employer increasing the work faster than the pay.

Un der a system of payment b y the_amount_of yarn s£un, the_gp erative automatically gejaJhuaJjenefit of any increase in the number of spindles, o r j.ate-of speed. An exact uniformity of the rate of remuneration is maintained between man and man, and between mill and mill. If any improvement takes place in the process, by which the operative's labor is reduced, the onus of procuring a change in the rate of pay falls on the employer. The result is, that so effectually is the cotton-spinner secured by his piecework lists against being compelled to give more work without more pay, that it has been found desirable deliberately to concede to the employers, by lowering the rates as the number of spindles increases, some share of the resulting advantages, in order that the Trade Union may encourage enterprising mill-owners in the career of improvement. The cotton-weavers have a similar experience. The weaver's labor depends upon the character of the cloth to be woven, involving a complicated calculation of the number of " picks," etc. Time wages would leave them practically at the employers' mercy for all but the very easiest work. But by a highly technical and complex list of piecework rates, every element by which the labor is increased effects an exactly corresponding variation in the remuneration. Only under such a system could any uniformity of rate be secured.

In another great class of cases piecework is preferred by

machine, i.e. mental strain. Those who have observed the mulespinner in Oldham in the midst of the whirling of 2500 spindles, or the female worker in Burnley environed by four or six shuttles, working at the speed of 200 picks per minute, know what a higher degree of mental application is here demanded." — The Cotton Trade in England and on the Continent, by Dr. G. von Schulz*' Gaevernitz (London, 1895), pp. '26, 127.

VOL. I L


ago Trade Union Function

the workmen, with the same object of securing a Standard Rate, but under entirely different conditions. The coal- rainers have, in some counties, had a long experience of both time wages and piecework, with the result that, where- ever there is a strong Trade Union, piecework is insisted on for all hewers. The explanation is to be found in the circum- stances under which the work is done. Employers have found it impossible to supervise by foremen or managers the numerous hewers scattered in the recesses of the mine. The onltt.pQSsible--altemat.ive to paying the hewers at piecewo rk rates, was to let out the different parts of the mine t o working c ontr actors, who engage d hewers by the hour to work_„alongside Jhem. T his was the notorious " But ty S ystem ," against which the organised hewers have persistently struggled. It was found that, whatever was the customary standard of daily time wages, the " Butty Master," who set the pace, was always increasing the quantity of work to be done for those wages by himself putting in an unusual intensity of effort. It is obvious that,. under this system, t he ordinary hewer Jost all security jo.f a .Standard. Rate. It paid the Butty Master to be always " speeding up," because he received the product, not of his own extra exertion alone, but of that of all his gang. The only method by which the ordinary hewers could secure identity of rate was to dispense with the Butty Masters, and themselves work by the piece.

Vyg _shall find exactly the same pre feren ce for piecewo rk ^%S?S_ilJL2SiSI. trades^ among men who work under a s ub- contractor, ^or in subordination, to another class of workmen p aid by the piece . The strikers, for instance, who work with smiths paid by the piece, were themselves formerly paid time wages. In most parts of the country they have now been successful in obtaining the boon of a piecework rate pro- portionate to that of the smiths, so that they are secured extra remuneration for any extra spurt put on by the smith, Another large class of workmen in a somewhat similar position have not been so fortunate. The shipyard " helpers," who work under the platers (iron-shipbuilders), are paid by


The Standard Rate 29 1

the day, whilst the platers receive piecework rates. The first object of any combination of helpers has always been to secure piecework rates, in order that their remuneration might bear some proportion to the rapidity and intensity of work, the pace being set by the platers. But owing to the strength of the Boilermakers' Union, to which the platers belong, the helpers have never been able to attain their object.^ The iron and steel industries afford numerous other instances in which workers paid by the day are in sub- ordination to workers paid by the piece. In all these cases, the subordinate workers desire to be paid by the piece, in order that they may secure a greater uniformity in the rate of payment for the work actually done.

Coming now to the trades in which piecework is most strongly objected to by the operatives, we shall find the argument again turning upon the question of uniformity of , the rate of remuneration. The engineers have always p roteste d th at the introducti on of piecework into Jflxeir trade almost ne cessarily implied a reve rsion to Individual Bargaining. The work of a skilled mechanic in an engineering shop differs from job to job in such a way as to make, under a piece- work system, a new co ntract necessary for each job. Each man, too, will be employed at an operation differing, if only in slight degree, from those of his fellows. If they are all working by the hour, a collective bargain can easily be made and adhered to. But where each successive job differs from the last, if only in small details, it is impossible to work out in advance any list of prices to which all the men can agree to adhere. The settlement for each job must necessarily be left to be made between the foreman and the workman concerned. Collective Bargaining becomes, therefore, im- possible. But this is not all. The uncertainty as to the

1 See, for the Boilermakers' or Platers' Helpers, the paper by J. Lynch, in the Report of the Industrial Remuneration Conference (London, 1885), and the discussion at the Trade Union Congress of 1878. Many of the helpers are now members of the National Amalgamated Union of Labor and other laborers' unions ; see the evidence given on their behalf before the Royal Commission on Labor, 17th May 1892, Group A.


292 Trade Union Function

time and labor which a particular job will involve makes it i mpossible f or the foreman, wit h the best intentiong in the world^^o_fix the prices of succes sive jobs so that the wor kman wilLjgbtainJthe same earn ings for the same effort. And when we remember the disadvantage at which, unprotected by collective action, the individual operative necessarily stands in bargaining with the capitalist employer, we shall easily understand how the Amalgamated Society of Engineers should have been led to declare that, under this system of settling a special price for each job, " it is well known that piecework is not a bargain, but a price dictated by the employer and lowered at will." And the report adds that

" t he system has often, been niade.the, instrument of l arge

i'e«lu£tis.rL§.^ 5Kag.es, which have ended in the deterioration of the conditions of the workmen. ... If an expert workman, by his skill and industry, earns more than his neighbour, and much more than his daily wages come to, a reduction is at once made, and made again until eventually the most expert is only able, by intense application and industry, to earn a bare living, whilst the less skilful is reduced below living prices." ^

We could cite from the reports of the great national unions of the Engineers, Ironfounders, and Carpenters innu- merable similar protests against piecework in their trades, all based upon the proved impossibility of maintaining a Standard Rate, if each job has to be separately priced. It

1 Abstract Report of the Councils (of the A. S. E.) Proceedings, Septembe. i860 to April 1862, pp. 24-26.

This process of fixing a piecework rate for all the men, by the speed of an exceptionally expert workman under special pressure, has been more than once unconsciously revealed by employers. Already in 1727, in a manual entitled 7%« Duty of a Steward to his Lord, by Edward Laurence, naive directions are given how to achieve this object. "Also if any new sort of work is to be done, not mentioned in the following particulars, the Steward's best way is to hire a good labourer and to startd by him the whole day to see that he does a good day's work, and then to measure the same, in order to know what it is worth." The efficacy of piecework, as an expedient for reducing wages was described in a letter to the Times in 1852 by Charles Walker and Sons, an engineering firm. " When work which has been done daywork is put on the piece, the employer usually regulates the piecework price a little under the price of it at dayviork, knowing


The Standard Rate 293

is, however, more interesting to watch the same conviction being gradually borne in upon the mind of an exceptionally able employer. In 1876, William Denny, the well-known Clyde shipbuilder, who had put his whole establishment on piecework rates, delivered a remarkable lecture on the advantages of this method of remuneration, alike to the employer and to the workmen, specially commending the intensity of competition which it secured. He was utterly unable to understand why the workmen objected to a system which, in giving an "increase of from 25 to 50 per cent in his wages — and this increase my experience confirms as a rule — puts at once withirt his power a more comfortable and easy style of living, combined with an opportunity of saving, which, if he is a sober and careful man, will enable him to enjoy a pleasant old age, and even to lay by sufficient money to enable' him to refuse on his own account any rate of payment which he deems insufficient." ^

Notwithstanding all th'ese allurements, the Trade Unions persisted in their objection. After ten years' further experience of the working of piecework, William Denny at last perceived the real root of the men's protest. In an interesting letter written in 1886 he describes his own conversion : —

At the time I published my pamphlet The Worth of Wages, I was under the impression piecework rates would regulate themselves as I then assumed time wages did. A larger experience of piecework has convinced me that, excepting in cases where rates can be fixed and made

how production is increased by it. But he finds that men do work in quantity far beyond what they have been doing day work, earning often los. per day, when at daywork they had done much less than half the work at 5s. 6d. per day. So much, indeed, is this the case, that manufacturers have made it a private rule that men for their extra work should earn ' time and quarter ' or ' time and third,' and have reduced the price accordingly ; that is, where 5s. was the man's day pay, the price should be so arranged that ultimately he should earn 6s. 3d. or 6s. 8d. per day. This method we do not quite agree with, and we believe it has made men complain" (Times, 9th January 1852). Thus the employer not only gets the advantage of an increased output upon the same fixed capital, but actually contrives also insidiously to alter, to his own profit, the proportion between the muscular energy expended by the workman and the amount of food which the latter obtains.

' The Worth of Wages, by William Denny (Dumbarton, 1876)


294 Trade Union Function

a matter of agreement between the whole body of the men in any works and their employers, piecework prices have not a self-regulating power, and are liable, under the pressure of heavy competition, to be depressed below what I would consider a proper level. You must understand there is a broad and very real distinction in piecework between the kind of work which can be priced in regular rates and that in which contracts are taken by the men for lump jobs of greater or less extent. In the former kind of piecework it is easily possible for the rates to be effectively controlled by the joint efforts of the employers and the workpeople, as it is in the case of time wages. In the latter, owing to there being no definite standard, it is quite possible that the prices may be raised too high for competitive efficiency, or depressed to too low a point to recoup the workmen for the extra exertion and initiative induced by the very nature of piecework. In such work as that of rivetters, iron fitters, and platers and in much of carpenters' work standards of price or rates can be arranged or controlled, and the workers are not likely to endure any arrangement they may consider inequitable. They are indeed much more likely by insisting on uniform rates for a whole district to do injustice to the more intelligent and energetic employers, who, by introducing new machinery and new processes, are directly influential in drawing work to their districts. It is evident that if piecework rates are not reduced so as to make the improvements in machinery and methods introduced by such employers fully effective in diminishing cost of production, there will be a tendency on their part to abandon these attempts, with diminished chances of work for their districts. In the case of such improvements it is possible to reduce rates without in any way reducing the effective earnings of the work-people. I may say that in our own experience we have almost invariably found our workers quite willing to consider these points fairly and intelligently. Frequently they themselves make such suggestions as materially help us to reduce cost of production. Such cases of invention and helpfulness on their part are rewarded directly through our awards scheme of which you have particulars.

In the second kind of piecework, involving contracts which cannot be arranged by rates and controlled by the whole body of the workers, the prices are necessarily a matter of settlement between individual workmen and small groups of workmen and their foreman. Here it depends upon the control exercised by the heads of the business whether this kind of piecework drifts into extravagances, or into such reductions of contract prices as eifher to reduce them to less than the value of time wages or to so little above time wages that they do not compensate the men for their extra exertions. We have found in testing such piecework that the best method is to compare the earnings made by these piece- workers in a given period with the time wages which they would have received for the same period ; and it is the duty of one of our partners to control this section of the work, and he does it almost invariably to


The Standard Rate 295

the advantage of the men. Our idea is that the men should be able to average from 25 to 50 per cent more wages on such piecework within a given time than their time wages would amount to. There are occasional and exceptional cases where the results are less or more favourable. Where they are less favourable, we consider them to be not only a loss to the men, but disadvantageous to ourselves ; and our reason for this is very clear, as unless the men feel that their exertions produce really better wages, and that increased exertions and better arrangements of work will produce still further increases of wages, there is an end to all stimulus to activity or improvement.

I know an instance in which a well-meaning foreman, desirous of diminishing the cost of the work in his department, reduced his piece- work prices to such a point that he not only removed all healthy stimulus to activity from his workmen, but produced among them serious discon- tent. Our method of piecework analysis and control enabled us to discover and remedy this before serious disaffection had been produced. I know another instance in which a foreman, while avoiding the mistake I have just mentioned, gave out his contracts in such small and scattered portions, and under such conditions as to the way in which the work was to be done and as to the composition of the co-partneries formed by the men, that he not only reduced their earnings to very nearly time rates, but created very serious disaffection among them. He was in the habit of forcing the men to take into their co-partneries persotial favourites of his own, who very naturally became burdens upon those co-partneries. As soon as our returns and inquiries revealed to us these facts, we insisted that the contracts entered into with the men should be of a sufficient money amount to enable them to organise themselves and their work efficiently. We removed the defective arrangements above referred to, and laid down the principle that their co-partneries were to be purely voluntary. We were enabled by these means, and without altering a single price, to at once raise their earnings from a level a little above what they could have made on time wages to a very satisfactory percentage of increase and to remove all discontent. These two in- stances will show you how necessary it is in this kind of piecework that there should be a direct control over those who are carrying it out. When the heads of a business are absentees or indifferent the most effective way in which the workmen can control such piecework would be by taking care that the standard of time wages was always kept perfectly clear and effective, and that regular comparisons per hour on piecework were made. Such comparisons would immediately enable them to arrive at a correct conclusion as to whether the prices paid them were sufficiently profitable.

There is besides a mixed kind of piecework in which skilled work- men employ laborers at time wages to do the unskilled portion of their work for them. Here, too, some kind of control is required, as instances occasionally occur in which the skilled workmen treat their laborers.


296 Trade Union Function

either intentionally or unintentionally, with harshness. I have even known an instance in which such piecework contractors reduced their laborers' time wages on the pay day without having given them any previous notice. On the other hand, there are instances in which these laborers behdved in an unreasonable and unfair spirit to the skilled work- men who employ them.

In conclusion, I would say that the method of piecework is one which cannot be approved or condemned absolutely, but is dependent upon the spirit and the way in which it is carried out for the verdict which should be passed upon it It is imperative in such kinds ol piecework as by their nature cannot be reduced to regular rates that either the employer should take the responsibility of safeguarding his workmen's interests, or that the workmen themselves should, by such a method as I have suggested, obtain an effective control over them.

There are besides conditions in which even piecework rates of a general nature may become instruments of very great hardship. I mean instances in which the workers are incapable of effective resistance, and in which employers are either themselves ground down under the force of a competition with which they are unable to cope, or in which, while the employers possess extreme powers of position and capital, they are deficient in any corresponding sense of responsibility to their workpeople. I hope the day is not far distant in which an absentee employer would be looked upon with as much contempt and disapproval as are absentee landlords. If such a healthy public opinion should ever become domi- nant, it is to be hoped it will be most active in influencing those employers whose works are conducted in great part or wholly upon the piecework method.i

We have, in this able explanation, a frank admission of the whole case of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers against the introduction of piecework into their trade. No Trade Unionist could have expressed more forcibly than Denny has done the impossibility of a uniform rate under I a system of individual piecework bargains. It is true that Denny trusted to the personal intervention of an enlightened and benevolent employer to mitigate the evil. But we need not wonder that the workmen have hesitated to admit a system which avowedly involves the complete surrender of their position. Moreover, it is at least doubtful whether the good employer, who protected his workmen against his own

> Life of William Denny, by A. B. Bruce (London, 1889), p. 113 ; see the article on Denny (who lived from 1847 to 1887) in the Dictionary of Political Economy,


The Standard Rate 297

foreman's zeal to lower the expense of production, would long survive in competition with his less scrupulous rivals, who drove the sharpest possible bargain with their hands.

It is interesting to observe that the hin t throw n.x>ut by Wi lliam Denny, as to the im portance of worknaen systemati- ca lly checking all the piecework, earnings by the_ standard ti me rate , has since be en fonowed up by Jhe Amalgamated Society ^ o f iLnp^ne-ers . In some cases, piecework is now recognised by the union, even in highly organised districts, on the understanding that every man in the shop shall draw every week time and a quarter wages, whatever his production has been. If at the end of a job there is a balance due to him, he is allowed to receive it. Now, it is obvious that under this arrangement it is possible to maintain something like a uniform rate. The natural tendency of the foreman to reduce the rates is checked by his knowledge, first, that in no case will it proiit him to make the piecework price work out at less than time and a quarter, even for the slowest men in the shop ; and secondly, that, unless the piecework prices work out sufificiently above that minimum to furnish a real incentive for extra exertion, the operatives, secure in any event of time and a quarter wages, would quietly drop back to time-work speed. Such a method of remuneration can- not, however, be classed as piecework proper. It is rather a hi gh scale of time wages, with a. bonus. pn. extra output-^

The considerations which converted William Denny from his enthusiasm for competitive piecework apply, not only to the various departments of the e ngineering and ship - bui lding trades, but also to the work of carpenters, plumbe rs, sto nemasons, and bricklayers . In all these trades th ere is so m uch difference between ioh- amL-Lah. that, :!^ks&¥J^^J^ in consistent with Collective Bargaining . The work of the plumber engaged to lay pipes, of varying sizes, in all kinds of situations, can obviously be estimated only by the time

' For other varieties of "bonus on output," see the acute discriminations of Mr. D. F. Schloss in The Methods of Industrial Semuneration, 2nd ed. (London. 1894).

VOL. I L 2


298 Trade Union Function

employed. The masons, chiselling stones of varied hardness, different shapes, and more or less free from troublesome flaws, could not possibly frame a list of piecework rates which would yield identical wage to identical effort. The same is true of the multifarious work of the carpenter and joiner. When we come to the actual erection of houses, in brick or stone, it may, at first sight, seem as if uniformity was more possible. But if we watch the line of bricklayers or stonemasons working side by side at building a wall, or putting up the carcase of a house, we shall see that it would be impossible precisely to reckon up the work accomplished by any individual among them. Nor has this ever been attempted by the most exacting employer. " Piecework," in putting up walls or houses, has, indeed, been the subject of long and bitter controversy among the bricklayers. But piecework in this trade has always meant, not the payment of each individual workman by the piece, but the letting out of a sub -contract for the whole job to a " piecemaster," who gets it done by bricklayers at time wages. This system of sub-contract, mistermed " piecework " to the confusion of outsiders, is objected to for the same reason as the coal- miners allege against the " Butty System." The working sub-contractor forces the pace in order to gain the advantage, not of his own extra exertion alone, but also that of his gang. It is, in fact, a fraudulent attempt to obtain piece- work exertion whilst paying only time wages. And as the system, in the opinion of the experts, almost inevitably tends to the " scamping " of the work by the sub-contractor or piece- master, it h^s long since been given up by respectable builders, and is now usually prohibited in architects' specifications.

In marked contrast with the Trade Unions, such as the Cotton Operatives and Coalminers, which insist on piece- work, and with those, such as the Bricklayers and Stone- masons, which insist on timework, stand those societies which accept ^ith seeming indifference either method of remunera- tion. The various Trade lJnions'~oT~Oie"c"om positors. n Tall parts of the country, have, for over a century, formally


The Standard Rate 299

recognised both the " scale " of piecework rates and the ■' stab " or time wages. In the numerous revisions of the collective agreements between employers and employed, the compositors have constantly striven to maintain a standard rate. " Speaking generally," reports the Revision Sub- Committee to the London Society of Compositors in 1890, " our desire has been to so amend the scale as to place all compositors as far as possible on an equality, no matter what class of work they may be engaged upon, or whether employed as piece or 'stab hands — allowance, of course, being made for the varying capabilities of those employed." ^ Although the work of a compositor includes many different varieties, these, unlike certain engineering operations, are all capable of fairly precise enumeration in a " scale" extending to between 30 and 40 pages octavo. Thus, piecewaEk-is.irijao..way inconsistent wit h Collective Bargainin g, or the maintenance of a Standard Rate, and is therefore not objected to. On the other hand, the conipositor is ji ot l iable to be "speeded iip," nor yet over- driven by machinery or a zealous foreman, so that there is no reason to object to time wages, if the employer prefers this system.* As a matter of fact most straightforward setting-up

> Report of Sub-Committee appointed to revise the London Scale of Prices, 1890.

  • The system of payment by the piece was apparently universal in British

printing offices in the eighteenth century. The introduction of " establishment," or time wages, was an innovation of the employers at the beginning of the present century, consented to by the operatives with much reluctance, and denounced by some of them as leading to reduction of rates, (See Place MSS. 27)799-99/iO30 The acceptance of both systems of remuneration has involved the enactment of various subsidiary rules to check unfair wages calculated to depress rates. Thus employers are not allowed to change from one system to another without due notice, as otherwise the operative would be required to do all difficult composition by the piece, the " fat " (or profitable work) being given out at time^ wages. Elaborate arrangements are made for the fair distribution of " the fat," the "clicker" who hands out the "copy" to the different compositors being appointed and frequently paid by the " chapel," the ancient organisation of the workmen in each printing office. Many disputes have arisen from employers attempting to withhold "the fat" from the piecework compositors; or, on the other hand, to use the pieceworkers to force the pace of the timeworkers. Compositors' unions therefore prefer that the employer should confine himself to one system or the other.

In 1876 a joint committee of the Glasgow master printers and their com- positors decided that the "clicking system," or fair sharing of the "fat," was


300 Trade Union Function

of ordinary book matter and daily newspaper work is done by the piece, whereas corrections and special jobs difficult of calculation are done by " stab " men.

The other leading instance of an impartial acceptance of ^th piecework and time wages is offered by t fie Unite d Society of Boilgr.giakers. and Iron-shipbuilders. Here the bulk of the work in building new ships is done by the piece, at rates settled, as we have already mentioned, between the district committee of the union and the particular firms or the local employers' association. On the other hand, repair- ing work, which cannot be classified in advance, is done at time wages. Thus the by-laws for the Mersey district declare that " piecework of any description is not allowed on repair jobs in either wet or dry docks ; and no man shall be in any way compelled to put, in any given number of rivets, or tasked as to other work, which he shall do during the day ; but in all cases, the principle of a fair day's work for a fair day's pay be faithfully and honorably carried out by every member of this Association."* We see the same distinction unconsciously influencing another trade, the Tin- plate Workers, who, less fortunate than the Boilermakers, have not succeeded in organising their whole trade into a single society. The General Union of Tinplate Workers, with Liverpool for its headquarters, whose work is mainly connected with shipbuilding, and is so diverse as to render it difficult, if not impossible, to construct any piecework list, insists on time wages. On the other hand, the National Amalgamated Tinplate Workers' Union, with its headquarters at Wolverhampton, which comprises mainly the artificers of sheet metal pots and pans, has a regular list of prices, and prefers to work by the piece. So closely does this difference of policy coincide with difference of work that the Manchester Branch of the General Union (the shipyard society), which

equivalent to an addition to a farthing per looo, this advance being conceded to the compositors in shops where that system did not prevail. — MS. Minutes tj Glasgow Typographical Society, 1 2th December 1876. r

1 By-laws for the Mersey District United Society of Boilermakers and Iron siipiuilders {Liverpool, 1889).


The Standard Rate 301

finds itself by exception employed in the fashioning of pots and pans, refuses to abide by the principle of time work followed by the port branches, and elects to work by the piece. In both cases the aim is the same, namely the main- tenance of a Standard Rate. But the difference of policy between the two societies, arising, as can be seen, from the difference in their respective tasks, is not clearly understood by either, and is the subject of constant friction between them. And so it happens that (forgetting the example of its own Manchester Branch) the General Union of Tin- plate Workers accuses the National Amalgamated Tinplate Workers' Union of betraying the central position of Trade Unionism by not insisting on time wages. On the other hand, the latter society, confident in its piecework lists, sees no reason why it should not establish branches of piece- workers in the ports, where time work has hitherto prevailed, and where piecework would probably break down all Collec- tive Bargaining,

This instance indicates how unconscious particular Trade Unions may be of the principles upon which their empirical action has really been based. The same unconsciousness sometimes leads to a persistence in whichever method of remuneration has been customary, long after the circum- stances have changed. Thus the Cabinetmakers, among whom Collective Bargaining in any elaborate form has prac- tically disappeared, might possibly have maintained their organisation if they had, like the Bricklayers and Stone- masons, insisted on reverting to time wages. At the begin- ning of this century, the Cabinetmakers had elaborate lists of prices, collectively agreed to between employers and employed ; and we have ample evidence of the efficiency with which the contemporary cabinetmakers' unions conducted their Collective Bargaining. In consequence of the great changes in and multiplication of patterns, and the alteration of processes, the lists have long since been obsolete, and no one has yet found it possible to classify the innumerable jobs now involved in the manufacture of furniture. " Estimate


302 Trade Union Function

work," " lump work," and other forms of the individual bargain accordingly prevail. So strong, however, has been the tradi- tion and custom of piecework in the trade that none of the various unions which have from time to time arisen during the last half century have been able to stand out for time wages. Collective action accordingly now seldom rises higher than the " shop bargain," and even this frequently breaks down.

Another instance of a customary adherence to a tradi- tional method of remuneration is to be found in the Iron- founders' and Engineers' rigid refusal to recognise piecework even on those jobs which involve the constant repetition of 'precisely the same operation. We have already explained why the bulk of the work in an engineering shop cannot be done at piecework rates consistently with Collective Bargain- ing. But with the enormous expansion of the trade, and the application of machinery to particular processes, a considerable section of engineers and " machine moulders " have long found themselves turning out a constant succession of identical articles for which it would be quite practicable to frame a uniform piecework list which would allow of Collective Bargaining. So strong, however, was the traditional feeling of the mechanics against piecework (meaning " estimate work " and Individual Bargaining) that the Amalgamated Society of Engineers positively refused, down to 1892, to allow any employer to introduce any piecework whatsoever, with the consequence that establishment after establishment became closed to the union. At last, at their quinquennial " Parlia- ment " in 1 892, the Engineers decided to permit the formation of piecework lists, in the cases in which they were practicable, and appointed salaried officers to carry out this new form of Collective Bargaining. The Friendly Society of Ironfounders still refuses to take this step, with the result that the auto- matic machine process of casting has fallen to a separate class of workmen, who are not eligible for membership to this old-established union.

We are now in a position to come to some general con-


The Standard Rate 303

elusion as to the attitude which Trade Unions take up with regard to piecework and time work. It is not true that Trade Unions object to piecework as such ; in fact, a majority of Trade Unionists either willingly accept, or else positively insist on, that system of remuneration. Nor is it true that employers universally prefer piecework. The members of the great race of sub-contractors in all industries are always trying to employ time workers, in order to obtain for them- selves the fullest possible advantage of their own driving power. In the same way, employers whose machinery is rapidly improving complain of the inequity of the piecework system, as being apt to deprive them of part of the advantage of an increase in the speed of working. What the capitalist seeks is to get more work for the old pay. Sometimes this can be achieved best by piecework, sometimes by time work. I Workmen, on the other hand, strive to obtain more pay for the same number of working hours. For the moment, at any rate, the individual operative can most easily secure this by piecework. But not even for the sake of getting more pay for the same number of hours' work will the experienced workman revert to the individual bargain, with all its dangers. Accordingly the Trade Unions accept piecework only when it is consistent with Collective Bargaining, that is, when a standard list of prices can be arrived at between the em- ployers on the one hand, and the representatives of the whole body of workmen on the o|ther. As a matter of fact this is practicable, so far as concerns anything above mere unskilled laboring, in a majority of the organised industries, in which, therefore, piecework prevails by consent of both masters and men. It is, indeed, impossible to decide whether Trade Unionism has, on the whole, favored or discouraged the substitution of piecework for time wages. On the one hand, every increase in Trade Union organisation, and especially every extension of the class of salaried Trade Union officials, has made more possible the arrangement of definite piecework lists. This process is now extending from trade to trade. The very establishment of these lists has, on the other hand,


304 Trade Union Function

lessened the employers' desire to introduce piecework, whilst to any method of remuneration involving individual bargain- ing, such as " estimate " or " lump " work, the Trade Unions have shown implacable hostility.

And just as the fundamental idea of the Standard Rate has enabled us to understand the Trade Union attitude towards piecework, so, too, we shall find it thrnwinc r li'ghf uponjrariojis_jQiriQj:..xeg,u!,aiisns of particular Trade Unions. Various unions of operatives working at time wages have from time to time atten]£ted_to_sec_ujre_jL. realjjtS.j3isliaguisil£dirom a nominal J4gatity-in„,th£,xaie,^£xej^^ Jxing^jjot

merely the^ mirii|juim^ money wage, but also . the__m:aximum amount of work to be done for that wage . Some of these rules have obtained notoriety as classic instances of the folly and perversity of Trade Unions. The fifth by-law of the Bradford Lodge of the Lab orers' Union of 1867 was quoted before the Trade Union Commission as follows : " You are strictly cautioned not to outstep good rules by doing double the work you are required, and causing others to do the same, in order to gain a smile from the master." ^ And the fol- lowing rule of the Leeds Lodge of the B ricklayers' Labore rs' Uiiiop was at the same time given : " Any brother in the Union professing to carry any more than the common number, which is eight bricks, shall be fined one shilling, to be paid within one month, or remain out of the benefit until such fine be paid." ^ Nor were such rules entirely confined to unskilled laborers. The Manchester Bricklayers' Associ- ation were stated, in 1869, to have a rule providing that " Any man found running or working beyond a regular speed shall be fined 2s. 6d. for the first offence, 5s. for the second, I OS. for the third, and if still persisting, shall be dealt with as the Committee think proper." * The Friendly Society of Operative St onemasons adopted, in 1865, the following rule :

1 Evidence of Mr. A. Mault, Secretary of the Manchester Builders' Associa- tion. Q. 3120.

' Ibid. Q. 3122.

2 W. T. Thornton, On Labour (London, 1869), pp. 350, 3151.


The Standard Rate 305

In localities where that most obnoxious and destructive system generally known as ' chasing ' is persisted in, lodges should use every effort to put it down. Not to take less time than that taken by an average mason in the execution of the first portion of each description of work is the practice that should be adopted among us as much as possible ; and where it is plainly visible that any member or other in- dividual is striving to overwork or ' chase ' his fellow-work- men, thereby acting in a manner calculated to lead to the discharge of members or a reduction of their wages, the party so acting shall be summoned before the lodge, and if the charge be satisfactorily proved a fine shall be inflicted."

These and similar regulations, widely advertised by the Trade Union Commission of 1867-69, met with universal condemnation. It_does_nflt_se.em . tP have been .perceived th at, however bad were their, aecQadary.res-ults. they were, in their inception, a necessary prptgction.j^j.ny Standard_Rate upon a time-work basis. It is a necessary incident of the collective bargain that one man should not underbid another ; and this underbidding can as easily take place by the offer of more work for the same hour's wage, as by the oifer of the normal amount of work for a lower hourly wage. By underbidding in the hourly rate, this would be lowered for all. It follows equally that by underbidding in p oint of the int ensity of effort, this would, i n the same..ffiaY.. sppn. be ra ised for al l. But the workmen's by-laws were designed also to meet a more insidious attack. Many pushing fore- men, in building contracts, intent on getting the utmost work out of their men, were accustomed to bribe particular work- men with beer, or by the promise of a slightly increased rate of pay, to work at exceptional speed, with the object of "pulling on" all the other workmen to the same speed. These " bell horses," as they were termed by the workmen, were, in fact, used to increase the intensity of the work be- yond the normal standard tacitly implied in the collective

1 Rule II, Class 2, p. 31, in Laws of the Friendly Society of Operative Stonemasons (Bolton, 1867).


3o6 Trade Union Function

bargain, much in the same way as the pieceworking Butty Master forced the speed of the time-working coal hewer, The practice was, in fact, a method of obtaining extra work from the whole gang, whilst paying only one or two men in the gang for the extra exertion involved. When done with- out the men's knowledge, the practice amounted to a fraudu- lent evasion of the bargain.

Such practices on the part of employers and their foremen would quickly have rendered a Standard Rate and Collective Bargaining impossible, and it was not unnatural that the workmen should have adopted regulations in their own de- fence. The coal hewers and the strikers, exposed, as we have seen, to being similarly " driven," met the attack by insisting on themselves receiving piecework rates. The cotton-spinners and cotton-weavers protected themselves against the constant speeding up " of the machinery by elaborating their piece- work lists. The builder|[s laborer whose fetch and c arry w ork could hardly be paid by the piece c oul d find no o ther expedien t than fixing by collective ag ree ment the maxim um task a^_wen asjhejninimjumjwage.

But if the use of " bell horses " is a fraud on the men, the regulations devised to check this practice may easily work out so as to be a fraud on the employer. He has, in effect, contracted for his labor at an all-round rate, on the assumption that he receives a normal average of work. In the group of workmen there will, of course, be some of average speed, together with a few quicker men, and a few slower. Any regulations which tend to restrict the quick workers necessarily lower the average of the whole, upon which the collective bargain has by implication been based.

This practice of^'Mevelling down " the qua ntity of la bor is seen at its worst wEen~STs_jused_a§_j|,„i^^ of

defence^u£^^[^aggression. It is one thing to prohibit indi- vidual workmen from allowing themselves to be used as a means of exacting unpaid extra labor from their fellows. It would be quite another matter if Trade Unions, unable to raise the sum of their wages, advocated to all their members


The Standard Rate 307

an insidious diminution of their energy without notice to the employer. This might be as much a fraudulent alteration of the implied bargain as the practice of the Butty Master. We know of one case of this nature, the so-called " go canny " po licy, adopted for a short tirne_bv_the National Union^^ Dock Laborers in Liverpool . The employers had stead- fastly refused to increase the remuneration for their low-paid work, and the men found themselves powerless to obtain what they considered a living wage. In desperation they adopted the expedient of not putting any energy into their work. In this somewhat remarkable case the laborers alleged that they were only following the practice of the commercial man. " There is no ground for doubting," observed the report of their executive committee, " that the real rela- tion of the employer to the workman is simply this — to secure the largest amount of the best kind of work for the smallest wages ; and, undesirable as this relation may be to the work- man, there is no escape from it except to adopt the situation and apply it to the common-sense commercial rule which p rgyides a commodity in accordance with the p rice. . . . The employer insists upon fixing the amount he will give for an hour's labor without the slightest consideration for the laborer ; there is, surely, therefore, nothing wrong in the laborer, on the other hand, fixing the amount and the quality of the labor he will give in an hour for the price fixed by the employer. If employers of labor or purchasers of goods refuse to pay for the genuine article, they must be content with shoddy and veneer. This is their own orthodox doctrine which they urge us to study." ^

From the old standpoint of a purely competitive indi- vidualism, it is hot easy to deny the men's right to sell an adulterated form of labor if they think it to their advantage

1 Ref<n-t of Executive of the National Union of Dock Laborers in Great Britain and Ireland, 1891 (Glasgow, 1891, pp. 14-IS). The men quoted the following sentence from Jevons's Primer of Political Economy : " The employer, generally speaking, is right in getting work done at the lowest possible cost ; and if there is a supply of labor forthcoming at lower rates of wages, it would not be wise in him to pay higher rates."


3o8 Trade Union Function

to do so. If, as in the instance cited, the men openly pro- claim their intention, there is no question of fraud ; and they may, from this point of view, fairly claim to be acting like an exceptionally honest trader who, whilst selling shoddy goods, does not pretend that they are anything else. The employers may retaliate by dismissal. The men may, in return, persuade their successors to adopt the same method. The quarrel becomes a "struggle for existence," in which the " fittest " in these arts of war may survive.

We have, however, come t o _^lieKe.. that in such i nter- necine struggles thejnter ests of the communi ty as a w hole alnjost^ ineyitablx,suffer. In spite of the protests of John Bright, successive Parliaments have prohibited the adultera- tion of commodities. But adulteration of labor is infinitely more injurious to the community. We have, in fact, in this case a striking illustration of the utter fallacy of the statement that " labor is a commodity, ... an article saleable and pur- chaseable," which could not logically be treated " as any- thing else." ^ We cannot separate the quantity or quality of the day's work from its effect upon the health and character of the human being who is rendering it. The sub-contractor's practice of " driving," the constant pressure upon a man to work always at the very top of his speed, will quickly break down the health of the worker, and impoverish the nation by producing premature old age. On the other hand, s ystema tic loi tering will destroy the character and eflficiencv of even the mpst^resolute .JKQtJcer. In adulterating the product, you adulterate the man. To the unskilled laborers of a great city, already demoralised by irregularity of employment and reduced below the average in capacity for persistent work, the doctrine of " go canny" may easily bring about the final ruin of personal character. It was an instinctive apprecia- tion of this truth which led the responsible Trade Union officials unhesitatingly to denounce the new departure of the

1 Speech of the well-known capitalist opponent of Trade Unions, Edmund Potter of Manchester, Social Science Association's Report on Trade Societies and Strikes, i860, p. 603.


The Standard Rate 309

Liverpool dock laborers. It remains, so far as we know, a unique instance in Trade Union annals. ^

When we turn from time workers to pi eceworker s, we fin d the subsidiary regulations called i nto beinfr to defen£The S tandard Rate wholly free, frgja any objectionable ch aract er. beyond a certain inevitable complexity. Thie first series of these is concerned with ac curacy of measurement . Employers have always claimed the right of making, by their agents or themselves, all the calculations involved in preparing their pay sheets, and they have expected the operatives implicitly to accept their figures. Against this contention the Trade Unions have persistently and successfully struggled. In all the cases in which the operative is unable easily to check the computation, it is obvious that such an arrangement left the Standard Rate entirely at the master's mercy. " In weigh- ing how was the collier to obtain justice ? He was at the bottoni of the pit, and could not see the master's nominee at the top — and so again there arose the cry of being cheated in weight. For years this was a bone of contention ; and in revising the Inspections (Mi nes Regulation ) Act of_i,86o, the delegates of the men prevailed upon the Government to insert a clause, ordering that coal should be duly weighed by a just steelyard at the pit's mouth, and that the men might, at their own cost, appoint a c heckweigh-man who should not further interfere with the working but to see and take an account of the men's work. Opposition to this clause was strongly offered by the delegates of the employers , . . the masters did not want a weighing clause at all. ... A compromise was submitted to. The weighing clause was incorporated with another clause — the 29th — with a rider

' It is only fail to Trade Union officials to say that the two enthusiasts who, in despair of otherwise benefiting the unfortunate laborers, initiated this policy, did not belong to the ranks of the workmen — a fact which the reader of their able and ingenious argument will already have perceived. They were shortly afterwards formally excluded, as middle-class men, from the Trade Union Con- gress at Glasgow in 1892. When, in 1896, it was suggested that a similar policy should be adopted by the International Federation of Ship, Dock, and River Workers, it was opposed by such leaders as Ben Tillett, and rejected by the members' vote.


3IO Trade Union Function

added to it by the employers, viz. that the checkweigh-man should be selected from persons employed at that colliery." *

Without casting any special imputation on coalowners, it may be said that the miners' suspicions have been so far borne out by evidence that Parliament has progressively strengthened the clause thus adopted in i860. As the law now stands, a simple majority of the miners in any one pit can decide to have a checkweigh-man elected by the pit, and paid by a compulsory stoppage from the earnings of every pieceworker employed, including even those who voted against the proposal. Any person who is or has been a miner may be elected to the post, whether the employer likes it or not, and the law courts insist that he shall be allowed free access to the weighing machines, and given every facility for check- ing the weights.

A further step in the same direction has been taken at the instance of' the powerful unions of cot ton operat ives. What the coalminers have obtained is the right to have the employers' calculations checked by the men's official. The textile operatives have obtained, not only the publication in advance by the employer of the exact particulars on which he will calculate the piecework earnings, but have also secured the appointment of a G overnment office r specially charged with seeing that these particulars are correctly stated.^ The "particulars clause," adopted for cotton -weavers in the Factory Act of the Conservative Government of 1891, and extended to all textile workers by the amending Act of the Liberal Government of 1895, will, in all probability, be applied, within a few years, to all piecework trades in which the computation of earnings lends itself to mistake or fraud.'

^ Transactions and Results of the National Association of Coal, Lime, and Ironstone Miners of Great Britain (London, 1863), p. vii.

2 It is much to the credit of the North-East Lancashire Operative Weavers' Association, and to the fair-mindedness of the leading employers, that the veteran official of the weavers' union, who had for a generation fought Ae men's battles, was, by common consent, marked out as the fittest person to hold this important new office. Mr. T. Birtwistle has fully justified his appointment, and has given universal satisfaction to all parties.

' The Factory Act of 1895 empowers the Home Secretary to apply this


The Standard Rate 3 1 1

By this clause the employer is required to state in writing, before the job is begun, all the particulars (including the rate of payment) required for the precise computation of the operatives' earnings.

But there are other ways of defrauding the pieceworker besides inaccurate calculations. The weight of coal hewn by each miner may be accurately measured at the pit's mouth, but if he is sent to work in a distant or difficult seam, the standard tonnage rate may be very far from securing identical pay for identical effort. The cotton-spinner finds his list of prices a delusion if his mules have to be frequently stopped to repair breakages caused by the bad quality of the raw cotton. And even those who are aware of the coalminers' " county basis," and of the elaborate " cotton lists," seldom realise how technical and how minute are the adjustments which are necessary to attain this end, or how manifold and incessant are the complaints requiring attention. The best way of bringing the facts home to the general reader will, we think, be to give a few extracts from actual proceedings. Thus, the Joint Committee of the Northumberland Coal- owners and Miners settled, in a single day, the following as well as many other cases : —

Burradon. — Agreement confirmed. Yard Seam, East Side, until end of current quarter, is. 7^. per ton ; afterwards is. 6^d. per ton.

Cramlington, Amelia Pit. — Agreement confirmed : (a) Yankee Jack system shall be abolished whenever the owners find it convenient to do so, and upon such abolition the hewing prices in the Low Main and Yard Seams shall be advanced 9 per cent. In the case of the Main Coal Seam the unscreened hewing prices shall be 63 per cent of the present round coal hewing prices, and upon such abolition they shall be advanced 9 per cent.

Walker. — Agreement confirmed. Beaumont and Brockwell Seams. Long wall or broken hewing price shall be paid when 40 yards from commencement of long wall, i.e. 40 yards from fast wall side.

New Backworth. — Men request payment for lamps when required to use them in the whole. To be paid extra id. per ton in bord and pillar

clause, by mere administrative order, to any piecework trade, and it was so applied in 1897 to manufacturies of handkerchiefs, aprons, pinafores, and blouses ; and to those of chains, anchors, and locks.


312 Trade Union Function

whole workings, in accordance with county arrangement, when required to use lamps.

Seaton Bum. — Owners desire hewing price for long wall in Bowes" coal in Low Main Seam to be fixed. That standard prices now being paid be reduced 3d. per ton.^

Even more diversified are the adjustments of the cotton operatives. Here are some extracts from the diary of the secretary of the Bolton spinners : —

January Jth, 1892. — Mr. Pennington, of the Hindley Twist Com- pany, Hindley, called here this morning. He agreed to weekly pays, and to discontinue the system of one spinner to two pairs of mules. I am to go through the mills on Monday next, and if spinning is not satis- factory, will be made so ; and we are to see in what way the mules can be speeded up so as to give better wages. Work is to be resumed on Thursday morning.

January 6th. — Went to Peake's Place Mill (Messrs. Tristram's), Halliwell, and arranged that the men on the three pairs of mules spinning coarse counts shall receive 2s. 6d. a week extra, until certain alterations and repairs to the mules shall have been made.

January 6th. — Accompanied by Mr. Percival (the secretary of the employers' association), I went to Mr. Robert Briercliffe's Mill, Moses Gate. They have no less rims in stock, so it was agreed that the prices per 100 lbs. for spinning in No. i Mill shall be increased 6d. for one month during which the work is to be made satisfactory. The firm have likewise conceded the request of their men, and will adopt payment by indicator. The notice to leave work is consequently withdrawn.

January 8th. — Complaints are to hand from Messrs. M'Connell and Co.'s Sedgwick Mill, Manchester, of bobbins breaking ; being short of doffing tins ; and of the men on six pairs of mules being unable to earn the basis wages.

January 12th — From our men at Waterloo Mill, Bolton, comes a complaint of the rooms being too cold, and also irregular running of the engine.

January 19th. — Have tested the counts at Melrose Mill, and found the average ^\ hanks wrong. The men are to leave work at breakfast time to-morrow if counts are not put right.

April 7th, 1893. — Mr. Percival and myself, at the request of Messrs. James Marsden and Sons, went through their No. 4 Mill to look at the spinning on the counts complained of on Tuesday. We found it below the usual standard at this firm, and Mr. Joseph Marsden undertook to see to its rectification.

■ Proceedings of Joint Committee on 14th November 1891 {Northwnberlani Mintrs' Minutes, 189 1 1


The Standard Rate 313

April loth — Want of window blinds is the complaint from our men at the Parkside Mill, Golborne.

April 1 8th. — Our members at Messrs. Robert Haworth, Ltd., Castle Hill Mill, Hindley, complain of the overbearing conduct of their over- looker. On investigation, found that they were more to blame than the overlooker.

May 9th. — The drosophore humidifier at Robin Hood, No. 2 Mill, is so detrimental to the health of the men that I am to request the firm not to use it further.

June 1 2th. — Mr. Percival, Mr. Robinson, and myself went to Howe- bridge Mills to test counts in No. 2 Mill. We found them fully one hank finer than are paid for. The firm promise to put them right, but that is not sufficient for us, as they will be wrong again before the week end. We suggested they should adopt payment by indicator, and the firm subsequently agjreed to try a few pairs, i

We see the same determination to obtain identical pay- ment for identical effort in the Trade Union regulations enforcing specific additions for extra exertion or incon- venience. Hence the " Working Rules," drawn up in almost every town by the master builders and the several sections of building operatives, include, besides the standard rate for the normal hours and ordinary work, determinate charges for " walking time " beyond a certain distance, and " lodging money" when sent awky from home.^ In trades in which men provide their own steel tools, " grinding money " is a usual extra.® When any class of work involves special un- pleasantness or injury to clothing, " black money " or " dirty money " is sometimes stipulated for. Thus, the boilermakers and engineers receive extra rates for jobs connected with oil-carrying vessels. " Men working inside the ballast-tanks or between the deep floors under the engine-beds, after the vessel has been regularly employed at sea, to receive one quarter

' These diaries are printed in the Annual Reports of the Bolton Operative Cotton-spinners' Provincial Association.

  • See, for instance, the Local Code of Rules for the Guidance of Masons,

signed by the Central Association of Master Builders of London and the Friendly Society of Operative Stonemasons, 23rd June 1892.

^ " Pattern-makers, millwrights, and machine joiners on dismissal must receive two hours' notice, so as to grind their tools, or be paid two hours in lieu thereof." London By-laws of the AmalgamcUed Society of Engineers, April 1 894, clause iv. Rule vi. p. 7.


314 Trade Union Function

day, or two and a quarter hours extra for each full day or night, as compensation for the very dirty work." ^ The foregoing are all instances of " extras " charged by Trade Unions of time- workers. But we find a similar list put forward by Trade Unions on a piecework basis. The National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives prescribes, in minute and technical detail, for a long list of extra pieces of work, to be specially paid for. And a large part of the length and complication of the well-known " scale " of the Compositors is due to their insistence on explicitly defined extra rates for every kind of composition involving more labor than " common matter." It is impossible to convey any adequate idea of the number and variety of the " extras " thus formally agreed to between employers and employed : " bottom notes," " side notes," " under runners," " small chases," " large pages," " pamphlets," " catalogues," " undisplayed broadsheets," " table work," " column work," "parallel matter," "split fractions," "superiors," " inferiors," " slip matter," " interlinear matter," " prefatory matter," " indices," " appendices," and what not. Finally, as if to discourage vain learning, Hebrew, Arabic, and Syriac, and similar languages, together with " pedigrees," are " to be paid double the price of common matter." *

We do not think that, after so long and detailed an examination of the Standard Rate, we need weary the reader by any lengthy exposition of the Trade Union regulations prohibiting arbitrary fines and deductions, or any form of " truck." It may seem unreasonable for the workmen to object to the employer's system of maintaining discipline in the factory. But if that system takes the form of imposition of fines for minor offences, and, as is usually the case, the employer puts the fines into his own pocket, it is clear that the average amount of the fines per week is, in effect, an exactly proportionate reduction of the Standard Rate. An employer using this method of enforcing the necessary

' Rule VI. of By-laws for the Mersey District, United Society of Boiler- makers. 1889.

' The London Scale of Prices for Comjiositor^ Wark. ^891.


The Standard Rate 315

discipline finds himself buying his labor cheaper than his competitors, by an amount varying precisely in proportion to the frequency and severity of the penalties which he him- self imposes.^ The same arbitrary character attaches to the once universal system of making the operatives pay for minor breakages, or for incidental requirements of their work. " In the good old times of low wages, irregular work, and poor living," ironically writes an official of the Cotton-spinners, "operatives used to have to pay for broken bobbins, gas, new brushes, find their own oil-cans, renew parts of their machines that got broken, and no end of other nice little things that made a fair hole in their wages." ^ Against all these practices the Cotton-spinners have long since made good their protest. The Cotton -weavers, of whom a large majority are women, are still occasionally imposed upon, and the rules of their unions accordingly still include a peremptory injunction against submitting to any such deductions. " Never pay, or agree to pay," say, for instance, the Preston rules, " for any shuttles, forks, brushes, or any piece of machinery, matter, or thing belonging to the master, or used in his business in any way whatsoever, except what you may have by sheer negligence wilfully or maliciously broken or de- stroyed ; and if they stop it from your wages, bring the case before the Committee at their next meeting." ^ But it is not

' A system of fines may be less objectionable if the money goes to the operatives' sick club, or some other fund for their common benefit. But sick clubs or superannuation funds connected with particular establishments, especially if membership is compulsory, are objectionable from the Trade Union point of view on other grounds, notably that of diminishing the operative's independence. This subject is further examined in the chapter on " The Implications of Trade Unionism."

2 Cotton Factory Times, 22nd July 1892.

' Rules of the Preston and District Power Loom Weavers' Association (Preston, 1891), p. 20.

In piecework trades, the employer seeks to escape paying for any but perfect articles, and usually claims the right to reject, without appeal, any that he chooses. This has led to a whole series of conflicts in different industries. The Trade Unionist contention has been (i) that the operative should not be made to suffer for failures due to the imperfection of material, or defects in the process ; (2) that in any case, if the employer refuses to pay anything for the work on the ground of its imperfection, he should not retain the article for his own profit, but destroy


3i6 Trade Union Function

only such arbitrary charges as fines and deductions, which necessarily vary from mill to mill, that are fundamentally inconsistent with the collective settlement of a Standard Rate. Even such uniform, regular, and definite payments as the " loom rent " of the hand-working weaver of cotton, silk, or carpets, the frame rent of the hosiery worker, and the trough or wheel rent of the Sheffield cutler, have been found, by long and painful experience, to be equally destructive of any definite standard of earnings. This arises from their being continuous and calculated by time, whilst the operative's work is irregular and paid for by the piece. In all these cases rent of the machine is exacted by the employer whether the operative is given work or not. Thus, as the framework knitters allege, when they paid rent for their frames, the employers were tempted to spin out the work over much longer periods than was necessary, doling it out in very small portions in order to keep them paying rent as long as

it ; and (3) that there should be some means of appeal against the employer's arbitrary judgment in his own cause. Thus the Potters have fought a long battle for the last sixty years against the condition termed " good from oven," by which the workman is only paid for such articles as come out perfect from the firing oven. As he has no power to select material, and no control over the firing of the oven, this condition throws upon him not only the cost of his own negligence, but also that due to imperfection of raw material, defects of fixed plant, and care- lessness of foremen or other operatives. It is a fiirther a^^avation that the employer arbitrarily decides which articles should be rejected as imperfect, and was formerly even free to retain and sell those which he had thus escaped paying for. After the great strike of 1836 the Staffordshire Potters succeeded in remedying the latter grievance. It was agreed that articles rejected as imperfect should be broken up, a great temptation being thus removed from unscrupulous employers. But "good from oven" still remains the basis of payment, the Trade Union demand of "good from hand "being still resisted by the employers. In the same way the Glass Sottle Makers, who have several rules in their agree- ments with their employers defining minutely the circumstances under which men may or may not be charged for spoiled work, have one declaring " that bottles picked out (as spoiled) be not broken down until the men have had an opportunity of inspecting them, but in no case shall they be kept beyond the following day." Article 10 of the Agreemtnt for 1895 . . . between the York- shire Glass Bottle Manufacturers' Association, and the Glass Bottk Makers ^ Yorkshire United Tro^e Protection Society (Castleford, 1895).

A particularly aggravated form of the same grievance is resisted by the Friendly Society of Ironfounders, whose members are all paid by time. Not- withstanding this, and the fact that they neither choose the raw material not direct the process, attempts are from time to time made by employers to make deductions for castings which turn out badly.


The Standard Rate 317

possible. And the Macclesfield silk-weavers complain that they are kept always half employed, the giver-out of work finding his advantage in getting it done on as many separate looms as possible, from each of which a full weekly rent is derived. It is easy to see how such a system may open a way for personal tyranny and exaction. It is more to our immediate purpose to notice how incompatible it is with Collective Bargaining and a Standard Rate. If the employer can give out work in unequal quantities to different operatives, but deduct from each an equal sum at the end of the week, no fixed piecework list will secure identical pay for identical work. If A is given thirty pieces to weave, and B only fifteen, both may be paid at the same rate of a shilling per piece, and both may pay the same loom rent of five shillings per week. Yet at the end of the week the net remuneration for weaving one piece will have been to A tenpence and to B eightpence. Thus the rate of payment for identical work will vary from operative to operative, from week to week, and even from firm to firm, according to the way in which, at the uncontrolled discretion of the employers, the work is distributed.^ A similar objection applies, it will be seen, to the whole system of " truck," or the compulsory purchase by the operatives of commodities or materials supplied by the employers.^ This is resisted by the unions on the larger

1 Many minor payments similar in principle to loom rent exist in various industries. Where the operatives are unorganised, and especially if they are women or girls, employers are apt to attempt to charge them for some part of the manufacturing process, or for incidental stores or material. This is sometimes done to avoid Uie cost and trouble of proper supervision to prevent waste and breakages. In other cases it arises as an incident of a growing specialisation of function. Thus, cotton-weavers used to oil their own looms, but the employers found that it was better done by a professional oiler, who was thereupon employed. Any attempt to deduct even a penny per week per pair.of looms to pay his wages is peremptorily stopped by the Weavers' union. Similar develop- ments of specialisation in cotton-spinning might be cited — the uprise of the " strap-piecer " and the "bobbin-carrier" for instance. But no deduction for their wages is permitted by the Cotton-spinners' unions (Cotton Factory Times, loth June 1892). Ayomen woollen weavers are, however, still made to pay the " tuner " of their looms, his work of " setting " the warp and weft being done by the male weavers for themselves.

2 The Miners' Conference in 1863 made this a special subject of complaint. " The truck system still prevails in Scotland and Wales, despite of both equity


3i8 Trade Union Function

ground that it amounts to an insidious enslavement ol the wage-earner and his family. But it is also inconsistent with any uniformity in the net rate at which employers obtain their labor, and with definite standard of real income of the wage-earner under such a system, notwithstanding a nominal uniformity of rate, both labor cost and real wages will vary according to the extent of the truck business in each firm, the economy and ability with which this subsidiary store- keeping is managed, and the profit or " loading " which each employer chooses to exact, the latter amounting, in effect, to a fraud upon the workman.^

We see, therefore, that the adoption of a Standard Rate — that is, of payment for labor according to some definite standard, uniform in its application — is not by any means so simple a matter as would at first sight appear. Whether we accept payment by the hour or payment by the piece, so great are the complications of modern industry, and so ingenious are the devices for evasion, that a long series of subsidiary regulations is found necessary to defend the main position. The whole argument for this series of subsidiary

and law. That no man should be forced, as a condition of work, to spend his money on necessaries for the benefit of his employer is both law and reason. In Scotland . . . the men are only paid by the fortnight, the month, or longer; and in the interim tickets for food or clothing are famished, by which, at certain shops, articles are furnished at an enormous overcharge above a fair market average of cost. In some cases the poor collier rarely sees current coin, all being forestalled betwixt the term of pay and work. . . . Allied to this, in Stafford- shire and elsewhere, the butties and doggies, or middlemen, still continue to influence and compel the colliers to spend part of their wages in drink, as a condition of employment. In other cases, in Yorkshire, candles and powder must be purchased of the steward, or some other man, at exorbitant prices above the market rate of profit." — Transactions and Results of the National Association of Coal, Lime, and Ironstone Miners of Great Britain (London, 1863), p. xi.

These practices have now been stopped by the miners' unions in all well- organised districts. Similar grievances are, however, still complained of in some other trades, where the operatives are powerless to insist on the Truck Acts being obeyed in spirit as well as in the letter.

1 "Wherever the workmen are paid in goods, or are compelled to purchase at the master's shop, the evils are very great ; much injustice is done to the men, and much misery results from it. Whatever may have been the intentions of the master in such a case, the real effect is to deceive the workman as to the amount he receives in exchange for his labor." — On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures, by Charles Babbage (London, 1832), p. 255.


The Standard Rate 319

regulations rests, it is clear, upon the principal contention, It seems, therefore, worth while to rehearse the Trade Unionist's argument. We have seen that it is a fundamental < article of the Trade Union faith that it is impossible, in a system of competitive industry, to prevent the degradation of the Standard of Life, unless the conditions of labor are settled, not by Individual Bargaining, but by some Common-' Rule. But, without the uniform application of some common standard, collective settlement of these conditions, whether I by bargain, arbitration,* or law, is plainly impossible.^ Where- employer is competing with employer, each will claim that, if he must forego the chances of Individual Bargaining, he should at any rate be made to pay no more for his labor than his rivals. With this contention the Trade Unionist heartily agrees, and thus we get admitted, as the basis of the Common Rule, the pri nciple of identical pay for ident ical ef fort, or, as it is usual ly termed, the Sta ndard_Rate. This, as we have seen, is the very opposite to equality of wages. How accurately this principle of identical pay for identical effort can be applied to the varying capacities of different workmen, or to the varying difificulties of particular tasks, whether it_ can be most precisel y carri ed into effect b v pa yment by time or payment by the, piece, ^tsBSUds^upon Jhe ch aracter of the pro ce ss and the intelligen ce and_ integrity pf the parties. But it is obviously futile to settle, by collective regulation of any kind, a Standard Rate of identical pay for identical effort, if an unscrupulous employer is free to evade this by demanding extra work or additional wear and tear ; by deducting anything from the wage agreed upon ; or by

' The dependence of combination among workmen upon the existence of a Standard Rate was well expressed, from the employer's point of view, by Alexander Galloway, the well-known engineer, and friend to Francis Place. "I have always found that in those employments where the wages were uniform . . . there have always been combinations among those men. Now in all those trades where the men have made their own individual engagements, we never see any- thing like combinations. . . . That which has struck most effectually at the root of all combination among workmen is to pay every man according to his merit, and to allow him to make his own agreement with his employer."— Evidence in First Report of Committee on Artisans and Machinery, 1824, p. 27.


320 Trade Union Function

obtaining, at the cost of his workmen, by any transaction with them, any other monetary advantage whatever. In short, if the fundamental object of Trade Unionism, the enforcement of a Common Rule, has any justification at all, the principle of the Standard Rate must be conceded, and if a Standard Rate is admitted, the subsidiary regulations which we have described follow as a matter of course.

This general conclusion in favor of a Standard Rate — a point on which every Trade Unionist would unhesitatingly agree — leaves many questions with regard to wages unsettled. One of these is, on what principle, and to what extent, the Standard Rate should, in the same industry, vary from town to town. The employers in the out-of-the-way districts are apt to contend that the workman must put up with a low rate, because of the inferiority of their machinery, their heavy charges for freight, and other local disadvantages. But there seems no reason why the workman should lower his standard of life, and " forego his claim to identical pay for identical effort, merely because the capitalist chooses to carry on his business amid unprofitable surroundings. Whether Tra de Unionists should go in for equality of nom ihal wa^es (a uniform national standard rate), or, making allowance for difference in the cost of living, claim only eq uality of real wages (involving varying local rates),, h as never been sett led i n principle . There are obvious practical difficulties in carrying out the latter idea, as it is impossible to measure with any precision differences in the cost of living in different districts. Accordingly we find most of the " county " unions, especially those of the cotton operatives and coalminers, aiming at a uniform county rate, irrespective of local circum- stances. Similarly, the strong old union of hand paper- makers, working entirely in a few small provincial towns, easily maintains a uniform rate for the whole industry.^ But

• A uniform Standard Rate is said to have formed one of the principal demands of the great French strike of 1 79 1, which extended to many trades and to all parts of France (Du Cellier, Hisioire des Classes Laborieuses en France, pp. 320 322 ; Decree of the National Assembly of 14th June 179 1).


The Standard Rate 321

di rectly the cost of living becomes app reciably differentj^even the strong^estJiaiaQS_AdmiL-yaiiatiQns.JuiJ^^ The

Journeymen Hatters' Fair Trade Union of Great Britain and Ireland, the old-established society of silk hat makers, has a uniform price list, but allows its London branch to add 10 per cent to the general rates. When we come to the larger and more widely distributed unions, we see the widest possible divergence. Thus the 631 branches of the Amal- gamated Society of Carpenters in Great Britain and Ireland recognise no fewer than twenty rates, varying from sd. per hour in Truro to lod. per hour in London. Here, as in many other cases, we may well doubt whether even equality of real wages has been attained. Not only has there been no attempt by any large union to secure a national uniform rate, but there is a tendency for ofiGcers and executive committees to be apathetic with regard to the process of " levelling up," which would be necessary to obtain equality of real wages. The result is that Trade Unionism cannot be said yet to have progressed beyond the securing of a local Standard Rate. This leaves the workmen exposed to the constant attempts of employers to " level down " the rates in the better-paid districts, in order, as they assert, to meet the competition of the lower -paid districts. O ur own idea is th at the assumed differe nces_.in Jh£„£aaLaLIiyiDg^.tiakmg one thiq g with another, resolve themselves practically into differ - enc es in the rent of a workman's dwelling . The expedient of the Hatters seems, therefore, the most practical thing to aim at. There would be many advantages in the enforcement of a uniform Standard Rate in all districts of an industry, treating all provincial towns and urban districts on an equality, but adding a percentage for the exceptional high rents payable in London, and, if necessary, deducting a percentage in respect of the very low rents in a purely agricultural district, in the cases in which, as in the building trades, the industry comprises both town and country. These percentages could be calculated on easily ascertained and undisputed facts.^

1 Instead of a uniform Standard Rate for all the establishments in each town VOL. I M


32 2 Trade Union Function

A more obvious problem with regard to wages must be deferred to a subsequent chapter. We can imagine that the reader has had in his mind an uneasy feeling that we are evading what he conceives to be the crucial point, namely, the share of the joint product to be allotted for the remunera- tion of the manual labor. But the Trade Union Regulation with which we are dealing — the insistence on a Standard Rate — is not an end but a means : not any particular sum of money per week, but a device for obtaining for the whole body of competitors something better than they would get by Individual Bargaining. Thus the Sheffield Fork- grinders, the Dock Laborers, the Engineers, and the Steel Smelters all insist on the Standard Rate. But if we look at the weekly earnings for which each trade is fighting, we find

or district, we occasionally find attempts to enforce two or three different rates for what are assumed to be different grades of work. Thus the Scottish Tailon recognise in many towns two, and in Glasgow and Edinburgh three classes of shops, those requiring a better quality of tailoring being compelled to pay a half- penny or even a penny per hour more than the lowest Trade Union rate. The custom is for the employers to classify themselves, the union objecting if any attempt is made, for instance, to get " dress goods " (superfine black broadcloth) made at the second-class rate, or (in Edinburgh and Glasgow) "tweeds" at the third class. In so far as these different rate| correspond to real and ascertainable differences in the class of work, they are, it is clear, not inconsistent with the principle of a uniform Standard Rate. In some cases, however, the different rates depend more on the custom and tradition of the various shops than upon any definite difference in the work done. Thus the London branch of the National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives has long recognised three different " Statements," applying respectively to firms deemed first, second, or third class. An establishment which has hitherto paid the first-class " Statement " is not allowed to do any work at a lower ' ' Statement," for fear this should lead insidiously to the reduction of the rates of the first-class"men. On the other hand, there is nothing to prevent a firm, hitherto classed as third or second class, from making at these lower rates goods nearly identical with those usually produced at the first-class " Statement." The result is that the first-class firms are always finding themselves undersold (or at any rate, believing themselves to be under- sold) by enterprising firms on the second-class statement. The employers and the experienced officials of the union have, for ten years, been urging the abolition of these separate " Statements," and the preparation of the uniform list for all London firms, with carefully gradated piecework rates for every kind of boot. Hitherto all attempts at uniformity have broken down, owing mainly to the rooted belief of the union that no reduction of existing rates ought anywhere to be conceded. As a consequence, the first-class employers are said to find a constantly increasing difficulty in maintaining their position in London. The controversy can be best followed in the Shoe and Leather Record for the last ten years.


The Standard Rate 323

this vaiying from twenty-four shillings a week up to three times that amount. One thing will be clear, even to the most superficial observer. Thprp it!^ in \y^p Trade Unio n

\unv\A nf fn-Hay ahcnliitply no — traj-p f>f SinyAf',s\rQ for

e quality Qf wapres. The cardroom operatives in a Lanca- shire Cotton mill, earning from ten to twenty shillings a week, will unhesitatingly come out on strike to assist the cotton-spinners to maintain a Standard Rate, paid out of the products of the combined labor of the two sections, averaging forty shillings a week. The local federations of the building trades, whose members work side by side at the same job, collectively insist, in their treaties with the employers, on half a dozen different rates per hour for the different crafts, the Stonemason habitually getting fifty per cent more than the Builders' Laborer, and the rates, in the present generation, showing no tendency to approximate. Unanimity of Trade Union policy does not, in fact, extend beyond the use of a common device. How much money each trade will claim, no less than how much each will actually receive, depends, in practice, on the traditions, customs, and present opportunities of the particular trade and section concerned. The ex- pectations and aspirations of the operatives, the arguments adduced in justification of their demands, and, to some extent, the particular Trade Union Method employed to enforce them, will, as we shall show in our chapter on the Assumptions of Trade Unionism, depend principally on the Doctrine or Doctrines as to social expediency by which the policy of the particular union is, for the time being, directed.


CHAPTER VI THE NORMAL DAY[edit]

After the Standard Rate, the most universal of the Trade Union Regulations is what we have termed the Normal Day, the determination^jof. .. a , uniform ma ximum worki ng time for aHtiiejmembers, Q^^ This claim to fix the

limits of the working day is peculiar to the manual-working wage -earner. Corporations of lawyers, doctors, architects, and other professional brainworkers insist, with more or less stringency, on scales of minimum fees, below which no practitioner is allowed to undertake work. But the con- ception of a precise Common Rule as to the hours during which an individual shall work is foreign both to the pro-

1 ' By the term "Normal Day" we mean the "maximum working day of Schaffle (Theory and Practice of Labour Protection, London, 1893) and Frankenstein (I)er Arbeiterschutz, Leipzig, 1896), not the elaborately equated "normal day" of Rodbertus (Der Normalarbeitstag, Berlin, 1871), varying according to the assumed intensity of labor in different occupations. The latter academic conception has never penetrated to the minds either of English Trade Unionists or German Social Democrats.

From the economic standpoint there has been as yet little scientific investi- gation of the results of fixing the maximum working day. The Eight Hours Day, by Sidney Webb and Harold Cox (London, 1891), and E. L. Jaeger's Geschichte und Liieratur des Nomialarbeittages (Stuttgart, 1 892) give the principal references, to which may now be added Hadfield and Gibbins" A Shorter Working Day (London, 1892) ; C. Deneus, La Joumie di Huil Heures (Ghent, 1893); H. Stephan, Der Normalarbeitstag (Leipzig, 1893)! Professor L. Brentano's Vtber das Verhaliniss von Arbeitslohn und ArbeitszeU zur Arbeitsleistung (Leipzig, 1893), translated as Hours and Wages in Jlelation to Production (London, 1894) ; John Rae, Eight Hours for Work (London, 1894) ; and Maurice Ansiaux, Heures de Travail et Salaires (Paris, 1896),


The Normal Day 325

pertied and to the brain-working class. Nor has it always characterised the wage -earners. The trade clubs of the eighteenth century claimed a legal rate of wages, or a standard list of prices, they insisted on a limitation of apprentices, or sought to enforce the Elizabethan Statutes ; but not until the close of the century do we find any widespread com- plaints of the length or irregularity of the working day. From the beginning of the present century the demand for a deliberately fixed limit of hours, for each day's work, to be arranged either by Collective Bargaining or by Legal Enactment, has spread from one occupation to another, until to-day the great majority of the Trade Unions make the regulation of working hours one of their foremost objects. Nevertheless, there exist even to-day small sections of the working class world who resist any Common Rule as to their hours, and prefer that each individual should be free to labor when and for as long as he may choose. We have, therefore, to seek some explanation, not only of the present popularity of the idea of a Normal Day, but also of its comparatively modern growth, and of its rejection by certain sections of Trade Unionists.

In modem industry the settlement of the hours of labor differs in an essential particular from that of the rate of payment for the work done. In the absence of any form of collective regulation, the rates of wages are determined by Individual Bargaining between the capitalist employer and his several " hands " ; and a distinct and varying agreement as to the amount of remuneration is made with each operative in turn. This is seldom the case with regard to the length and distribution of the working day. In all the numerous industries in which work is not done on the employer's premises, but is still " given out " to be done at home, the manual worker, paid " by the piece," is as free as the author, doctor, or conveyancer, to fix the number of hours, and the exact part of the day or week or year, that he chooses to spend in labor. He has, of course, like the professional man, to suit the convenience of his clients.


326 Trade Union Function

He must be on the spot to receive work when it comes, and he must finish it by the time it is required. He must be willing to do extra work in the busy season, and even to turn night into day to cope with a special rush of orders. But subject to this condition, each man can settle for him- self the exact hours at which he will begin his work, and the intervals he will allow himself for meals and rest. Unless he is driven, by reason of the low rate at which he is paid, to work " all the hours God made " in order to get bare subsistence, he may break off when he likes to gossip with a friend or slip round to the public-house ; he may, in the intervals, nurse a sick wife or child ; and he can even arrange to spend the morning in his garden, or doing odd jobs about the house. No one acquainted with the daily life of the home-working, skilled craftsman, earning " good money," will ignore the large use that such a man makes of his freedom. For good or for evil his working hours are determined by his own idiosyncrasies. Whether he desires to earn much, or is content with little ; whether he is a slow worker or a quick one ; whether he is a precise and punctual person governing himself and his family by rigid rules, or whether he is " endowed with an artistic temperament," and needs to recover on Monday and Tuesday from the "expansion" of the preceding days — these personal character- istics will determine the limits and distribution of his working time.'

'^ The injurious effect upon the personal character of the " avers^e sensual man " of this freedom to stop working whenever he feels inclined, is referred to in our chapter on " The Implications of Trade Unionism." The axiom tliatthe vast majority of the manual workers, like other men, are the better for a certain degree of discipline, would not find ready acceptance among the rank and file o( Trade Unionists, and, therefore, can hardly be given as a Trade Union argument in favor of a Normal Day. But the more thoughtful workmen would concur with the dictum of an early admirer of the factory system, that when operatives were " obliged to be more regular in their attendance at their work, they became more orderly in their conduct, spent less time at the ale-house, and lived better at home" {Memoirs of the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society, Second series, London, 1819, vol. iii. p. 129, in a paper "On the Rise and Progress of the Cotton Trade," read in 1815 by John Kennedy). '■'! always observed," wrote an old compositor in 1859, " that those trades who had settled wages, such as masons, Wrights, painters, etc., and who were obliged to attend


The Normal Day 327

Very different is the position of the factory operative. Instead of each individual being able to work as he chooses, the whole establishment finds itself, by the nature of things, subject to a Common Rule. In a textile mill, a coal mine, a shipbuilding yard, an engineering firm, or a great building operation it is econ omically impossible to permit the i ndividual wo rkman to come or ^ o as he feels inclined. Each worker forms part of a complex co-operative process, needing for its proper fulfilment an exact dovetailing of the task of every machine and every " hand " in the work as a whole. To arrange particular hours of labor to suit the varying desires, capacities, and needs of the different operatives, would be obviously incompatible with the economical use of steam power, the full employment of plant, or the highly organised specialisation brought about by division of labor. There is no longer a choice between idiosyncrasy and uni- formity. A common standard, compulsory in its application, is economically inevitable. The o nly question is how an d b y whom the uniform rule shall be determined. In the absence of collective regulation, whether in the form of Legal Enactment or Collective Bargaining, this uniform rule is naturally made by the employer.-' And it is a special; aggravation of this subordination, that, under the cir cum- st ances of the modern capitalist industry, the emp loyer's dec ision will perpetually - beJaiassed in Javor of lengthening th e working day . With regard to his domestic servants, the capitalist is free to determine the amount of toil solely with a view of keeping them in the highest possible efficiency. But the same man investing capital in expensive machines, worked by power, finds, even when he pays by the piece, a

regularly at stated hours, were not so much addicted to day drinking as printers, bookbinders, tailors, shoemakers, and those tradesmen who generally were on. piecework, and not so mtuh restricted in regard to their attendance at work except when it was particularly wanted." — Scottish Typographical Circular, March 1859.

^ " It should always be remembered," remark the Cotton-spinners in i860 " that anterior to the introduction of factory legislation, the employers dictated the hours of labor to their work-people. " — Rules of the Amalgamated Association of Operative Cotton-spinners, edition of i860, preface.


328 Trade Union Function

positive profit in every additional moment that his costly plant is being employed. Competition is always forcing him to cut down the cost of production to the lowest possible point. Under this pressure other considerations disappear in the passion to obtain the greatest possible " output per machine." ^

Between these two historic types of the domestic handi- craftsman and the factory operative, there are various intermediate forms in which Individual Bargaining as to the hours of labor is as possible as Individual Bargaining with regard to the rate of payment. In occupations such as agriculture, and even in special departments of the great industries, it is at any rate practicable for an employer to vary the hours of his several workpeople, or, in other words, to make, if he likes, a bargain with each according to his capacity, just as the ordinary capitalist claims to be allowed to pay each man " according to his merit." Where this is the case, the workman's need for a Normal Day depends on considerations strictly analogous to those which cause him to need a Standard Rate. If each workman is free to conclude what bargain he chooses with regard to his working hours, the employer will, it is contended, be able to use the desires or exigencies of particular individuals as a means of compelling all the others to accept the same longer working day.

So far we have considered the Trade Union demand for a Normal Day only in relation to the personal freedom of the operative to take such leisure as he may deem necessary

1 " The great proportion of fixed to circulating capital . . . makes long hours of work desirable. . . . The motives to long hours of work will become greater, as the only means by which a large proportion of fixed capital can be made profitable. When a laborer," said Mr. Ash worth to me, "lays down his spade, he renders useless for that period a capital worth eighteenpence. When one of our people leaves the mill, he renders useless a capital that has cost ;^ioo." — Nassau Senior, Letters on the Factory Act (London, 1837), pp. 11-14.

"Hence that remarkable phenomenon in the history of modem industry, that machinery sweeps away every moral and natural restriction on the length of the working day." — Marx, Capital, Part iv. ch. xv. sec. 3 (vol. ii. p. 406 o( English Translation of 1887).


The Normal Day 329

or desirable. But to the Trade Unionist, as to the rank and file of the manual working class, the length of the day's wo rk a nd the amount left over for -leisur e is of secondary imp ort- an ce beside the vital question of the sum earned . Keen as is the average workman to secure more time to himself, he is far keener to obtain more money to spend. In all time- work trades in which Trade Unionism exists the operative gets extra pay for extra hours, usually at a higher rate, whilst the whole race of pieceworkers obviously increase their earnings by working overtime.^ Every progressive lengthening of the working day would therefore seem to bring with it, as a compensating advantage, a corresponding increase in the weekly income of the wage-earner.

' In certain vinorganised occupations men, and especially women, are still required to work longer hours to cope with a press of orders without getting any additional payment for the extra labor. But this is seldom the case in trades In which there is any kind of organisation.

> This is exactly how it appears to the well-to-do literary man. Thus, Mr. Lecky is much concerned at the diminution of earnings which he supposes to be caused by the Factory Acts. " Take, for example, the common case of a strong girl who is engaged in millinery. For, perhaps, nine months of the year her life is one of constant struggle, anxiety, and disappoint- ment, owing to the slackness of her work. At last the season comes bringing with it an abundant harvest of work, which, if she were allowed to reap it, would enable her in a few weeks to pay off the little debts which weigh so heavily upon her, and to save enough to relieve her from all anxiety in the ensuing year. She desires passionately to avail herself of her opportunity. She knows that a few weeks of toil prolonged far into the night will be well within her strength, and not more really injurious than the long succession of nights that are spent in the ball-room by the London beauty whom she dresses. But the law interposes, forbids her to work beyond the stated hours, dashes the cup from her thirsty lips, and reduces her to the same old round of poverty and debt. What oppression of the poor can be more real and more galling than this?" — Democracy and Liberty (London, 1896), vol. ii. p. 342.

It is interesting to contrast with this imaginary instance the reports of the responsible women officials who are in actual contact with facts, and conversant with the views of the operatives. Writing in 1894, Miss May Abraham (the Senior Woman Factory Inspector) reports that " by dressmakers and milliners . . . legal overtime is almost universally cpndemned. A dressmaker's assistant, whose legal working day had, for a considerable period, lasted from 8 A.M. to 10 P.M., said to me in the presence of her fellow-workers, ' The overtime exception just spoils the Factory Act.' The chorus of approval with which her remark was endorsed was a clear indication of general discontent, and further experience showed that this had been but one expression of an almost universal feeling. . . . In &ctories where the payment is by piecework, or in some districts, as in Dublin, where a stipulated sum is allowed for overtime, the weight of hostile VOL. I M 2


330 Trade Union Function

Now, if Trade Unionists believed that this apparent result was the real result, — that freedom to work longer hours invariably, or even usually, meant a corresponding increase of income, — we doubt whether there would have arisen any general movement in favor of limiting the hours of labor. But, rightly or wrongly. Trade Unionis,t:s. ste„co nvinced that irregular,„or_uaLimitedJiours have an insidiP-yi.Jnfluence_upon wages, first upon the Standard Rate and ultimately up on the amount earned by each man per week .

This conviction springs from the personal experience of the manual working wage-earner. At any Trade Union meeting where the hours of labor are discussed, it may happen that a young and energetic member will suggest that he would prefer a larger income to increased leisure. But one old member after another will get up and explain that as a young married man he had felt the same, but that experience of workshop life had taught him that " what was gained in hours was lost in rates " — an assertion which finds immediate and unhesitating confirmation from the bulk of the meeting. If after the meeting the visitor argues the point with the leading men, and suggests that their personal experience may not warrant so large a generalisation as that a lengthening of hours will necessarily lead to a reduction of the rate of payment per hour or per piece, they will retort by asking, why it is that Royal Commissions and official statistics are always laying bare this almost universal coincidence between long and irregular hours, low rates of pay, and small weekly earnings. Nor will they fail to give an explanation, based on actual experience. " Our members,"

opinion is not so pronounced ; but even here, with the inducement of a supple- mentary wage, it is only the most unthinking of the workers who fever the system. . . . The consequent effect on the health of the workers is exceedingly injurious ... I believe . . . that by the workers [the abolition of all over- time] would be welcomed with feelings of the warmest gratitude" (Report of th Chief Inspector of Factories for 1893, C. 7368 of 1894, p. 11). This and other reports contain abundant confirmation of Miss Abraham's view. "Could a secret ballot be taken," says Mr. Cramp, one of the Superintending Inspectors, " of all the workers affected by the overtime clauses of the Factory and Workshop Acts, I am convinced that very few would be found voting for its continuance." — Ibid. p. 299.


The Normal Day 331

they will say, " look on thirty shillings as a fair week's wage. If they make it, they are content ; if they don't make thirty shillings, they come to the branch and complain. When a master increases the hours, say from fifty-four to sixty, it seems at first a clear gain to the men, who make more money. Presently, on some excuse, the foreman announces a ten per icent cut in rates. The men grumble, but as most of them will still make thirty shillings a week, they put up with a reduction against which they would certainly have come out, if it had meant their only making twenty-seven shillings. After a time the weaker men find they can't keep up their output for such long hour?. In a few months, the averag e weekly earnings of the shop will have dropped, and the m en will be wear ing themselves out for even less money at the end of the week than they had before . Again and again we have seen this happen, and no amount of middle-class theory will make us believe it is not so."

The Trade Union official who has read his economic text- book will put the argument in more systematic form. When an employer engages a laborer at so much a week, the length of the working day clearly forms an integral part of the wage-contract. A workman who agrees to work long er ti me for the same m onev_und&rbids his fellows just as surely as if he offered to work the same time for less money. He sells each hour's work at a lower rate. A mong all tim e-"^ workerSjjtherefgre, who are paid by the day, week, or m onth, the insistence on a Normal Day is a necessary element i n^ th e maintenance of their Standard Rate .

Where piecework prevails, or where the time-worker is' paid by the hour, the case is, to the Trade Unionist, no less clear. At first sight it would seem that liberty to work for" longer hours leaves the Standard Rate unaffected, whilst it increases the amount of the weekly earnings of industrious men. This seems so obvious to the middle-class mind that employers have for generations been honestly unable to understand why a pieceworking Trade Union should concern itself about the hours of labor at all. According tp the


332 Trade Union Function

Trade Unionists, this is to ignore the plain teaching of economics, as well as the experience of practical men. To them it seems obvious that the actual earnings of any clas s of workers are largely determineabv itsStend^^ of* Con i- fo^jtEat"is to say, the kind and amount of food, clothing , and other c ommodities to which the class has become firmly accustomed/ It would not be easy to persuade an English engineer to work at his trade for thirteen shillings a week, however excessive might be the supply of engineers. Rather than do such violence to his own self-respect, he would work as a laborer, or even sweep a crossing. On the other hand, however much in request a Dorsetshire laborer might find himself it would not enter into his head to ask two pounds a week for his work. There is. in fact, the Trade U nionist' asserts, in each occupation a rnstomary standard of livelihootl, which is, within a specific range of variation, tacitly recognised / by both emplo yers and employed. Upon this custom ary st andard of weekly earnings, the piecework or hour rates are. more or less r.nnsrinnslv. alwavs haspd.* Tf tViprp is tir


are, m.Q££.fiE.Jfi§.s^consciously, always bssed. If there is noL limit to the number of hours that each man may work or the employer may require, some exceptionally strong men, able, if only for a few years, to work unceasingly from morning till night, will earn an income far beyond the customary standard of their class. In any bargaining about the Piece- work List these large earnings will be quoted by the employer as typical of what every workman might do if only he were industrious, and will be urged as grounds why a reduction

1 This assumption — that the rate of wages of any race or class of wage-earners is largely determined by the standard of expenditure — enunciated by Adam Smith and generally accepted by later economists, will be further examined in our chapter on " The Higgling of the Market " ; and the argument that the bulwark against competitive pressure afiforded by this instinctive Standard of Life is enormously strengthened by the Methods and Regulations of Trade Unionism, will be elaborately analysed in the chapter on "The Economic Characteristics of Trade Unionism."

^ "A price list has always implicitly (and as will be seen sometimes explicitly) a time-basis, i.e. it is generally understood that the piece-rates agreed on are such as to enable the average worker with average exertion to earn a certain weekly wage." — Board of Trade (Labor Department) Report on Wages and Hours oj Lab(mr, Part II., Standard Piece Rates, C. 7567. — I. 1894, p. vii.


The Normal Day 333

in the rate is only reasonable.^ Nor is this merely a ques- tion of successful argument. The exceptional men them- selves will not be inclined to hazard, by any dispute, what is to them ample livelihood, and will oppose any attempt on the part of the Union to resist reductions or apply for_ advances. Thej iours thus exceptionally worked tend, there - for e, insidiously to become customa ry for the whole^rade, a nd the piecework rates are ■ gradually l owered so as to yield, on the longer hours, a weekly income corresponding tn thp standard of expenditure to which the rjass is armcfnimpr^ The ultimate result upon the Standard Rate of leaying the* hoQrs of labor unlimited is accordingly the same in the case of payment by the piece or hour as it is in the case of pay- ment by the day or week. If, as the Trade Unionists con- tend, unrestrained competition among the individual operatives tends to lengthen the working day for all alike, it also insidi- ously l owers the rate of remuneration for the^work done. The men who have started longer hours gradually find themselves earning no more than they had formerly done in the customary day, whilst all the rest discover that they can only maintain their old wages by similarly increasing their , working time. Thus the whole class gives in return for its custom ary livelihood increase d labor and energ y, involvi ng gr eater wear and tea r, and the weaEer~menibers, unable to keep up the strain, are forced down to a lower level of sub- sistence. Th e san ie..^guinfi ot:s, therefore, which lea d the^ Tr ade Uni onist to insist on a definite Standar d Rate, impel hi m, quite apart fro m a ny advantage to.j3e, gained Jfrom inc reased leis]it e.aDd^i!JxfiSB£ctiye.of, the system jjnd^ which he is paid, vigorously, to UBhol.d .tbaJJuaJOaaLEay-"

' See the instances cited by the Shipwrights and Coopers in the subsequent note.

' It might, indeed, be urged that the Trade Unionist argument in favor of collective regulation of the hours of labor, considered mtrely as a means of keeping up the price at lahich the wage-earner sells each unit of energy, has a broader psychological basis than the argument for a Standard Rate itself. If it be true, as is always asserted both by employers and by Trade Union officials, that the individual manual worker is far keener to maintain and add to his income than to preserve or increase his leisure, it seems to follow that a Trade Union which


334 Trade Union Function

The Trade Unionist position with regard to the Normal Day is therefore extremely complicated. So long as we fix our attention solely on the proportion between work and leisure, the wage-earners fall, as we have seen, into three classes. To the " hands " employed in a co-operative process, involving the use of costly plant and machinery, and carried on upon a large scale, the fixing of a Normal Day appears the only alternative to leaving their working hours to be determined, and in all probability gradually lengthened, according to the autocratic judgment of their employer. \ To the domestic handicraftsman, on the other hand, working in his own garret, any collective regulation of the hours of work is a distinct curtailment of his personal liberty, an evil in itself requiring considerable justification before he will be persuaded to adopt it. | For the workmen in the intermediate class of industries, in which the length and distribution of the working day can practically vary from individual to individual, the question will depend partly on the extent to which hours of leisure offer any attraction to them, and partly upon the degree to which they realise the perils of Individual Bargaining. | Assuming the Trade Unionist position that the wage-earners can obtain better conditions by collective action, all the workmen in the industries standing between the domestic handicraft and the factory system, who desire to protect^ or increase the amount of their leisure, will naturally come more and more to insist on a Normal Day as a neces- sary condition of this collective action. But this simple classification by no means disposes of all the variations. With all classes of workers a second and usuallj more potent consideration enters into the argument, namely, the result of irregular or unlimited h ours of labor upon the weekly earn- ings . To the time-worker paid by the day, week, or~month, the Normal Day is obviously a part of his bargain for a

insisted on a rigid limitation of working time whilst leaving the rate of pay to the chances of Individual Bargaining, would, in the end, secure for its members a higher level of remuneration for a given expenditure of energy, than a Trade Union which insisted on a Standard Rate, but left the length and intensity of the day's labor to individual agreements.


The Normal Day 335

Standard Rate. The worker by the piece or by the hour will be more or less disposed to insist on Common Rules fixing working time, in the degree that the circumstances of his industry and his personal observations convince him that unregulated hours of labor tend to lower the rate of remunera- tion of the whole class.^ ' Th is elucidatio n of t he T rade Union argjjxagat^dyes us the necessary clue both to the histori cal .develop men t^of-the Hours' Movement and to its present position in_Uie_Trade U nion world . During the eighteenth century the predomi- nant type of Trade Unionist was the handicraftsman working as an individual producer. The weavers a nd frame -work k nitters , whose combinations to enforce a Standard Rate date from the very beginning of that century, worked in their oWl^T^omes. Out - work prevailed, too, alongside of the employers' workshop in many other of the organised trades, such as the shoemakers , cutlers , woolcombe rs, and Jiatters. And even where workshop industry was the rule the familiar relations between the master workman and the journeymen, the absence of machinery and motive power, and the general slackness of discipline enabled the members of such trade clubs as the sailmakers, coopers, curriers, and calico block- printers to put in attendance at irregular intervals. This practical freedom to leave off at any particular moment, though it was not incompatible with what we should now consider excessive hours of toil, gave the operative a sense of personal liberty which naturally disinclined him to suggest any collective regulation of his working day. Eighteenth- century attempts to impose a Common Rule fixing the hours

1 It will be needless to remind the historical student of the numerous gild ordinances by which the independent master craftsmen of the Middle Ages, though individually at liberty to leave off when they chose, deliberately sought to fix the maximum hours of labor of each trade, mainly in order, as we think, to prevent the working time being insidiously lengthened, and the standard rate of payment undermined, by unfettered competition. Thus the Spurriers, in 1345, fix the maximum working day from dawn to curfew ; the Hatters, Pewterers, and many others in the fourteenth century prohibit night-work ; and the Girdlers, in 1344, forbid work "after none has been wrung" on Saturdays or festival eves.— Memorials of London and London Life, by H. T. Riley (London, 1868).


336 Trade Union Function

' of labor for all the members of a craft are accordingly con- fined to operatives paid by the day o r week , and working on the premises of their employers. Thus, the establishment of a maximum day of fourteen hours (less meal-times) was a leading demand of that combination of "the Journeyman Taylors in and about the Cities of London and Westminster," which we have cited as one of the earliest Trade Unions. " 'Tis certain," runs the workmen's petition, " that to work fifteen hours per day is destructive to the men's health, and especially their sight, so that at forty years old a man is not capable by his work to get his bread." And from the masters' petition we learn that the men "insist upon and have twelve shillings and ninepence per week (instead of ten shillings and ninepence per week, the usual wages), and leave off work at eight of the clock of night (instead of nine, their usual hour, time out of mind)."' And turning to other trades, it is significant that while there is, during the whole of the eighteenth century, no trace of any hours' movement among the pieceworking coopers of London, the day-working coopers of Aberdeen are found, as early as 1732, "entering into' signed associations among themselves, whereby they become bound to one another under a penalty not to continue in their masters' service, or to work after seven o'clock at night, contrary to the usual practice." ^ The only other cases of eighteenth-century movements that we know of for regular or shorter hours occurred among the saddlers and bookbinders

' j4n Abstract of the Master Taylor^ Bill before the Honourable House of Commons; with the Journeymen's Observations on each Clause of the said Bill (London, 1720). Similar movements are recorded among the tailors of Aberdeen in 1720 and 1768 (Bain's Merchant and Craft Gilds, p. 261), and those of Sheffield in 1720 (Sheffield Iris, 8th August 1820). See, for all these instances, the interesting collection of original Documents l}lustrating the History of Trade Unionism, No. I. The Tailoring Trade, by F. W. Galton, published by the London School of Economics and PoUtical Science (London, 1896).

' Bain's Merchant and Craft Gilds of Aberdeen, p. 246. A similar distinction may be drawn between the pieceworking hatters, who continued to work unlimited hours in their own homes, and the London hat-finishers, who, working by time on the employers' premises, struck in 1777 for a reduction of hours. — House of Commons Journals, vol. xxxvii. p. 192 (l8th February 1777).


The Normal Day 337

in the last years of the century,^ who at that time worked by the day and were in the employers' workshops.

The isolated and exceptional cases of the tailors, hat- finishers, saddlers, and bookbinders emphasise the general indifference relating to the hours of labor which marks eighteenth-century Trade Unionism.^ This indifference was' not wholly due to the greater laxity with regard to hours and workshop discipline possible under a system of individual production. For the protection of their Standard Rate the eighteenth -century handicraftsmen were able to resort to methods no longer open to the modern Trade Unionist. The clubs of town artisans sought to protect their position by the stringent enforcement of the laws requiring a seven years' apprenticeship,^nd imposing a limit on the number of persons learning the craft. The home-working weavers petitioned Parliament, in some cases successfully, for the legal enforce- ment of their customary rates of payment. The position of the eighteenth-century Trade Unionist was in many respects analogous to that of the modern solicitor or doctor, who, maintaining his Standard Rate by high educational tests and the exclusion of unauthorised competitors, is unable to understand what justification can be urged for the imposition of a uniform Normal Day.

Very different is the record of the nineteenth century. With the introduction of machinery moved by power, and^ the rapid development of the factory system, the operatives in the new textile industries lost all individual control over their working day. "Whilst the engine runs," wrote an^ acute observer of the new industry, " the people must work. Men, women, and children are yoked together with iron and steam. The animal machine — breakable in the best case,

1 See the Saddlers' "Addresses," preserved in the Place MSS., 27,799.112, 1 14 ; and Dunning's " Account of the London Consolidated Society of Book- binders," in the Social Science Association Report on Trade Societies and Strikes, i860, p. 93.

' Adam Smith, as Marx pointed out, habitually treated the working-day as a constant quantity. — Capital, Part IV. ch. xix. (vol. ii. p. 552 or English trans- lation of 1887).


338 Trade Union Function

subject to a thousand causes of suffering, changeable every moment — is chained fast to the iron machine, which knows no suffering and no weariness." Accordingly we find the combinations of the Cotton-spinners, from the very begin- ning of their history, eagerly supporting the efforts of phil- anthropists to obtain from Parliament a legal regulation of the hours of labor. The successive Factory Acts thus obtained applied in terms, it is true, only to women and ■children. But it was obvious to contemporary observers that the whole strength of the agitation came from the men's desire for a legal restriction of their own working day.^ In 1867 the leaders of the Lancashire Cotton-spinners' unions summoned a delegate meeting expressly " to agitate for such a measure of legislative restriction as shall secure a uniform Eight Hours' Bill in factories, exclusive of meal -times, for adults, females, and young persons ; and that such Eight Hours' Bill have for its foundation a restriction on the moving power." ^ It was, however, impossible to induce the Parlia- ment of these years even to listen to the idea of a direct legal limitation of the hours of adult male workers; and when, in 1872-74, the Lancashire operatives successfully agitated for a further reduction of the working day, they were astute enough to couch their demand in terms of a mere amendment to the Ten Hours' Act of 1847. Twenty years later we find the recognised organ of the same union declar- ing that " now the veil must be lifted and the agitation carried on under its true colours. Women and children must no longer be made the pretext for securing a reduction of working hours for men. The latter must speak out and declare that both they and the women and children require

1 Thus, R. H. Greg, citing the Report of the Royal Commission on Factories, vol. i. p. 47 of 1837, observes: "It is obvious, therefore, that the condition ot children has been only the cloak for an ulterior object, which object is now frankly avovped to be the same for which the agitation of 1833 took place, namely, the attainment of the Ten Hours' Bill, or a Bill for preventing any factory from working more than ten hours in any one day." — The Factory Question Considered in Relation to its Effects on the Health and Morals of those employed in Factories, etc. (London, 1837), p. 17.

' Beehive, 23rd February 1867 ; History of Trade Unionism, p. 295.

The Normal Day 339

less hours of labor in order to share in the benefits arising from the improvements in productive machinery. The work- ing hours cannot be permanently reduced by Trade Union effort. ... It is only by the aid of Parliament that tvork- ing hours can be made somewhat uniform." ^ In another great industry the operatives had found themselves equally at the mercy of their employer's decision as to the working day. The c oalmine rs, working underground, can descend and ascend only when the mine manager chooses to leave the shaft free from coal-drawing, and set the men's cage in motion. Hence the coalminers, as soon as they were effectively organised, began to agitate for a fixed working day. Already in 1844-47 we find Martin Jude, the miners' leader, making " an Eight Hours' Bill " one of the foremost objects of the Miners' Association of Great Britain and Ireland, which in those years covered all the English coalfields. From 1863 to 1 88 1 it was, as we have described," an important plank in the programme of Alexander Macdonald. Finally, in 1885 we find the Lancashire Miners' unions expressly insisting that the legal limit should apply to men and boys alike — a demand which was quickly taken up by all the miners' unions except those of Northumberland and Durham.*

Meanwhile the transformation of the building and engineering industries was causing the clubs of artisans and • ■ mechanics to insist on a definite limit to the working day also in these trades. The growth of large machine-making establishments, and the coming in of the general "con- tractor " for building operations, both dating from the first quarter of the present century, resulted in the supersession of the small working master, and the massing together of large numbers of workmen, using expensive machinery and plant,! ^"^ co-operating under strict discipline in a single undertaking. In the great upheaval of the Building Trades in 1833-34, the prohibition of overtime appears as one of

1 Cotttn Factory Times, 26th May 1893. ' History of Trade Unionism, pp. 284-289. ' Ibid. pp. 378, 379.


340 Trade Union Function

the men's demands,! and the Builders' Laborers, in particular, insisted on extra pay for working beyond their regular hours on Saturdays.^ In 1836 we discover the London Engineers engaged in an eight months' struggle with their employers for the establishment by mutual agreement of a definite Normal Day for the whole trade ; a struggle which ended in the fixing of a Sixty Hours' week, and, for the first time in the engineering trade, the penalising of overtime by extra rates. Before this strike, though the day's work was nominally ten and a half hours, the constant prevalence of overtime, without any extra rate of payment, gave the men no protection what- ever against the systematic lengthening of hours by any individual employer.^ How soon the building operatives secured the same hours is not recorded, but already in 1846 we find the Liverpool Stonemasons demanding a Nine Hours' Day. From this time forward the records of both the engineering and building Trade Unions show the movement for the more strict observance and progressive shortening of the Normal Day to have been continued without inter- mission. The elaborate treaty concluded in 1892 between the London Building Trade Unions and the associated Master Builders, by which the working time for all building work within twelve miles of Charing Cross was fixed for

> See the Masters' Address, . 1 2th June 1833, in An Impartial Statement of the proceedings of the members of the Trades Union Societies and of the steps taken in consequence by the Master Tradesmen of Liverpool (Liverpool, 1833). Also the Statement of the Master Builders of the Metropolis in explanation of the differences between them and the workmen respecting the Trades Unions (London, 1834). It may be mentioned that the minute books of the Glasgow Joiners, whose secretary was a leading Owenite, contain, between 1833 and 1836, frequent regulations intended to secure the Normal Day. At the general meeting in March 1833, for instance, they formally adopted the working rules of the Scottish National Union, which penalised overtime by " time and a half" rates. In 1836 we find the Society, after a successful strike, insisting, not only on a standard wage of 20s. a week, but also on the total prohibition of overtime for that season. From 1834 onward they were waging constant war on the practice of working by artificial light, securing its prohibition in 1836 after a prolonged strike.

2 Article by Mr. John Burnett in the Newcastle Weekly Chronicle, 3rd July 1875 ; Paper read by William Newton on behalf of the Executive of the Amal- gamated Society of Engineers at the Dublin Meeting of the Social Science Association, 1861.


The Normal Day 341

every week in the year, with extra rates intended to penalise all overtime, is only one of the latest of a practically unbroken series of collective agreements.

But though the conception of a Common Rule as to the hours of labor has now spread to all classes of Trade Unionists, whether paid by time or by the piece, handi- craftsmen or factory operatives, there is, among the different trades, a marked difference in the intensity with which the demand is pressed upon the employers and the public. Here again our analysis of the Trade Union argument helps us to understand the facts. The Cotton Operatives and Coal- miners are the most strenuous advocates of definitely limited and uniform hours of labor. This is not surprising when we remember that, in both these industries, the beginning and leaving off of work depends, not on the will of the operative but on the starting and stopping of the engine 1 when we realise further that in both cases the trades are •' open " to all comers, and that the Standard Rate is pro- tected neither by the Limitation of Apprentices nor the exclusion of laborers from other occupations, j The engineer- ing and building operatives follow at some distance the textile operatives and miners in demanding a strictly defined working day. Almost invariably paid by time, they have recognised that some collective agreement as to the hours of work is a necessary part of their bargain for the sale of their labor.^ But the economic necessity for uniform hours is

» We are able to watch the growth of the' conception of the Normal Day in some of the handicrafts gradually passing into the system of capitalist establish- ments carried on upon a large scale. Thus, the Provident Union of Shipwrights of the Port of London, an old trade club which emerged into publicity when the Combination Laws were repealed, resolved, on the 4th of October 1824, "that every member of this Union will not engross a greater share of work than what he can accomplish by working r^ular hours, viz. : not before six o'clock in the morning, nor later than six in the summer evening ; and that no candle work be performed after the people on the outside have left work, so that every opportunity may be given to those out of employ." And it is instructive to notice that the men's main reason for this innovation was declared to be " that it was necessary to regulate a day's work in consequence of the masters stating, when a man had worked for fourteen or sixteen hours, that they earned ids. per day, although there was one-half as regarded the number of hours." The same motive shortly afterwards impelled the London Coopers, who are pieceworkers, to make a


342 Trade U^ion Function

with them neither so obvious nor so absolute as in the mine or the cotton-mill ; and in both these industries the unions have relied, for the protection of their Standard Rates, on their traditional policy of insisting on a period of apprentice- ship, limiting the number of boys, and excluding " illegal men." With the disuse of apprenticeship, and the impracticability of maintaining a policy of exclusion, the engineering and building Trade Unions are insisting, with ever -increasing urgency, on the rigid enforcement of a definitely limited Normal Day. Where, on the other hand, the unions still rely for the defence of their Standard Rate upon such apprenticeship regulations as are enforced by the United Society of Boilermakers, and, less universally, by the various unions of Compositors, their policy with regard to the Normal Day is more uncertain. In both these trades, as we have seen, timework and piecework are equally recognised by the union. In both cases the union unhesitatingly insists on a definite Normal Day for all work paid for by time. But owing to the existence of other defences of the Standard Rate, and of the practical freedom of these hand workers to arrange their own rate of speed, and the details of their working time, their faith in any uniform Normal Day for pieceworkers partakes rather of the nature of a pious opinion.

With archaic trades this lukewarmness passes into in- difference, if not even hostility. The most important, and in many respects the most typical union of this class, is the Amalgamated Society of Boot and Shoe Makers. This small and highly skilled class of handicraftsmen, some of whom still work in their own homes, have been strongly

similar regulation. Hitherto, as the secretary of the union explained, no limits had been set to the working day, and " some strong young men will work from three in the morning till nine at night." The result was that the men "found there was advantage taken by their employers ; and that where there was a differ- ence that was resorted to." And the London Compositors expressly stipulated in the Scale of Prices accepted by the employers in 1810, that the time of begin- ning work should be formally agreed upon between the master and the " com- panionship " ; that it should be uniform for all the men ; and that night or Sunday work should be paid for at higher rates.


The Normal Day 343

combined for more than a century, and have, from the first, strictly maintained a Standard List of prices. But working invariably by hand, I paid by the piece, land enjoying a customary privilege of coming in and out of the employer's workshop as they thought fit, they have never troubled to settle a Normal Day. Although the trade has been, for half a century, steadily declining before the competition of the machine-made product, the workmen have not been driven to consider the effect of their irregular hours upon their Standard Rate. In olden times they enforced a stricti limitation of apprentices, and during the present generation the number of boys who have learnt the trade has been so smalP that the highly skilled bootmaker, supplying the perfect workmanship called for by a class of rich customers, has maintained what are really monopoly earnings. A some- what analogous case is that of the United Society of Brush- makers, a strong organisation of skilled handworkers, whose printed lists of prices have been accepted by the employers from 1805 downwards. In this trade, where handwork has always prevailed, the operatives, who are individual producers, have from time immemorial gone in and out of the employer's work- shop when they chose. For the protection of their Standard Rate they have clung to their old limitation of apprentices, and have never yet sought to enforce a Normal Day. But it is the Sheffield trades which furnish the great majority of unions indifferent to the Normal Day. Here we have a system of individual production which dates, as regards its main features, from the last century. The employer gives work out, to be done by the operative, either on his own " wheel " at home,|or on one temporarily rented in a public " tenement factory." The unions, unable properly to control the Individual Bargains made by their members, who receive and return their work alone, and at irregular intervals,

1 This is due, we think, partly to the current impression that hand shoemaking is rapidly dying out, partly to the abnormal demand for boys at relatively good wages in the enormously expanding machine bootmaking industry, and partly to the relatively high degree of technical proficiency now required to obtain employ ment at the handmade trade.


344 Trade Union Function

struggle fitfully to maintain a Standard Rate by the most archaic regulations on apprenticeship. The practical failure of these regulations, and the constant degradation of the rates, leads the more thoughtful workmen to denounce the whole system of individual production, and to urge its super- session by the factory system, where collective regulation, both of wages and hours, would become possible. But the average Sheffield cutler, accustomed to the apparent personal liberty of his present life, is as yet proof against the economic arguments of his leaders.

The demand for a Common Rule determining the work- ing hours for all the members of a trade is therefore, even in the Trade Union world of to-day, neither so universal nor so unhesitating as the insistence on a Standard Rate of pay- ment. On the other hand, the regulation of hours is less complicated and more uniform than the regulation of wages. The most rigid enforcement of an absolutely uniform Standard Rate is not inconsistent, in well-organised trades, with a very large elasticity, specially devised to meet the highly complex conditions land varying circumstances of modern industry. Any sucn elasticity with regard to the hours of labor is fatal to the maintenance of a Normal Day. We see this illustrated by the actual working of Trade Union agreements with regard to " Overtime." As soon as the employer was precluded from requiring the attendance of his workmen for as long as he might choose, he very naturally made it a stipulation, in conceding a customary fixed working day, that some provision should be made for emergencies. It might any day become important to him, owing to a sudden rush of pressing orders or similar causes, that some or all of his operatives should give more than the usual hours of work. The Trade Union leaders found no argument against this claim. Moreover they saw their way, as they thought, to making the privilege a source of extra wages to their members. It was generally agreed that the overtime so worked should, be paid for at a higher rate — frequently " time and a quarter," or " time and a half." This


The Normal Day 345

arrangement appeared a reasonable compromise, advantageous to both parties. The employers gained the elasticity which they declared to be necessary to the profitable carrying on of their business, and were able, moreover, to take full advantage of a busy season. The workmen, on the other hand, were recompensed by a higher rate of payment for the disturbance of their customary arrangement of life,| dnd the extra strain of continuing work in a tired state. The con- cession involved a deviation from the Normal Day, but the exaction of extra rates would, it was supposed, restrict over- time to real emergencies. For a whole generation accord- ingly, both employers and workmen regarded the arrangement with complacency.

Fu rther experience of these extra rates for overtime work ha s convinced neariy_aUJIJ 3d&._LLQkmisl5-tha^^ t he smallest degree of protectio n to the Normal Day, whil st t hey are productive of evil consequenc es to both parties. In spite ot tke extra rates, employers have, in many trades, adopted the practice of systematically working their men for one or two hours a day overtime, for months at a stretch, and, in some cases, even all the year round. In the engin- eering and shipbuilding trades in particular, the desire for' prompt delivery, in years of good trade, appears to be so great, and the competition for orders is at all times so keen, that each employer thinks it to his advantage to promise to complete the machine, or launch the vessel, at the earliest possible date. | The result is that the long hours become customary, and subject to alteration at the will of the em- ployer. I Nor has the individual workman any genuine choice. An establishment in which it is a constant practice to work ten or twenty hours a week overtime, does not long retain in employment a workman who prefers his leisure to the extra payment, and who therefore leaves his bench or his forge vacant when the clock strikes.

Whilst the pra ctice of systematic overtime deprives th e wnr lfman of anv control over his hours of labor, the Trad e Unionists are beginning to realise that it insidiously affects


346 Trade Union Function

also the rate of wages. If there is any truth in the economists' assu mption tha t it is the custom a ry standard of life of each class ot workers ^nrhirh. in- .the long run^ sub tly determines their average weekly earnings, systematic overtime . if paid for as an extra, must, it is clear, tend to lower th e rate per hour. That frecuent oppo rtunities ar e_ajforde d for woijtirtg overtime is, in fact, often given by employers as an excuse_,fb r payin^^ j j'-'W r^ite, of Wfiflk^Y '" u'"' Where pay- ment is made by the piece, it is usually impossible in practice to distinguish between " time " and " overtime," ^ and in such cases a promise of systematic overtime, enabling the men to make up their total earnings to the old standard, is a common inducement to them to submit to a reduction of their piece- work rates. But the timeworker is, in reality, as much at the mercy of the employer as the pieceworker. The promise of " time and a quarter " for the extra hours is a powerful temptation to the stronger men to acquiesce in a reduction of the Standard Rate of payment for the normal working day. Mor eover, when ba d times come , and the demand for a particul ar kind of, labor .falls off, there is an almost irre- s istible tendency for the amount of the overtime to increas e. The employers see in it a chance of reducing the cost of production by spreading the heavy items of rent, interest on machinery, and office charges over more hours of work.

r * A firm desiring to work overtime has thus a special inducement to introduce payment by the piece, and this has led, in some districts of the engineering trade, to the total destruction of Collective Bargaining. — The Report specially frepartd

^by the Amalgamated Society of Engineers for the Royfil Commission on Laior (London, 1 892), which gives the result of an inquiry made of the branches as to the relative prevalence of Overtime and Piecework in the several towns of the kingdom. It is significant that it is the machine-making centres, Keighley, Col- chester, Gainsborough, Ipswich, Lincoln, and Derby that stand out as having the lowest Standard Rates (27s. to 29s. per week). Every one of these branches reports the prevalence of systematic overtime to a large extent, and of piecework. The case would be even stronger if statistics could be obtained from unorganised districts and non-union firms, where competitive piecework and systematic over- time are the invariable accompaniments of low rates. "For many years past," writes Mr. Tom Mann, "it has been the deliberate practice in some of the agricultural machine shops to run a quarter [day] overtime five nights in the week, and in consequence of this the Standard Rate is very low, and the actual working day is one of twelve hours." — Amalgamated Engineers' MoiUhly Journal, January 1897, p. 12. ,


The Normal Day 347

Th e workmen are tempted to make up. by extra labor, ^ their droq^ng_w:ee kly earnin gs. Egactlj^at^ tilie moment when the ..commu nity needs, perhaps , ten per cent kss ,vs[orkJrom it s engineers or its building .op eratjyes, a large ^number of the se are pressed a nd„.te.m pted. to, give ten per ^enlTmore w orkr — to the end that nearly twenty per cent of the trade can find no employment whatever ! The barrister or the medical man, when the demand for his labor is slack, is not expected or desired to work more hours in the day. The old-fashioned handicraftsman equally reduced his working hours in slack times, and increased them when trade was brisk. In the case of the great machine industries the tend- ency is, in the absence of a precisely fixed and rigid Normal Day, all in the contrary direction. It is impossible to con-'" vince the Trade Unionist of the excellence of an arrangement which periodically results in an extra large percentage of members draining the society's funds by Out-of-Work Pay, at the very moment that other members are working an' extra large number of hours overtime. Even the employers are now beginning to object to the arrangement. They feel that it is unbusinesslike to pay higher rates for tired work. And they assert that the men's desire to get these higher rates sometimes leads to dawdling during the day, in orderi that the overtime may be prolonged.^

The necessity for precision a nd uniformity j n the deter- mination of the working hours has been found by experience to be equally absolute where the Normal Day is enforced by the Method of Legal Enactment. The elaborate code which now regulates the hours of labor of women and children in British industry consists of two main divisions, relating re- spectively to textile manufacture and to other industries, the

' The really unprofitable character of systematic overtime was detected by a shrewd German lawyer in 1777. Justus Moser relates that when the building operatives worked overtime on his new house, he saw himself thereby defrauded, as the men in the long hours really got through in the aggregate less work in return for the day's pay. " Public authority," he adds, " should here intervene and forbid overtime, which is a fraud on the employer and the customer alike. " — " On thn Work done in the Hours of Recreation," in Patriotische Phantasien (Berlih, 1858), vol. iii. p. 151, noticedm'Bieiita.no's Ardeiiszni und Arieits/eisiut^.


348 Trade Union Function

former dating practically from 1833, the latter, it may almost be said, only from 1867. This difference in antiquity is reflected in the varying degree of rigidity attained.

Dealing first with the Normal Day in textile manu- factures, the Act of 1833 (which applied, in express terms, only to persons under eighteen years of age) prescribed a maximum of twelve hours a day, less one and a half hours for meals. But it left it open to the discretion of the millowners to have their factories open any hours between 5.30 A.M. and 8.30 P.M., and to fix the meal-times as they chose, whilst time lost through breakdown of machinery might be made up as overtime. The factory inspectors soon found that this elasticity destroyed the efficacy of the law. We need not relate the incidents of the long struggle waged by the Cotton Operatives' unions to secure a genuine limitation of the factory day. One by one the loopholes for evasion were closed up. The right to make up time lost by breakdowns was (as regards mills worked by steam) expressly abolished, the hours of beginning and ending work were definitely prescribed, the times for meals were fixed, all hours were to be reckoned by a public clock. In short, by the Acts of 1847, 1850, and 1874 the right of the millowner to work any extra, or even any different, hours from those prescribed by law, on any excuse whatsoever, has been absolutely taken away. However much the circumstances of one mill or one district may differ from those of another ; whatever may be the nature of their respective trades or the character of their markets ; whether they work with cotton or wool, flax or jute, silk or worsted ; however pressing may be the rush of sudden orders ; whatever time may have been lost by an accident to the boiler ; the precisely determined Normal Day for the protected classes in a textile mill must not be encroached upon, and may not even be temporarily varied to suit the convenience either of employer or operatives. In the case of the textile industry sixty years' experience enabled the Trade Unionists to persuade the expert officials of the Factory Department, and even a reluctant House of


The Normal Day 349

Commons, that however specious may be the arguments for elasticity and qualifications, it is only by the rigid enforce- ment of precisely fixed and uniform hours that the Normal Day can be really protected.

In other trades, in which factory legislation is of more recent introduction, we see the same lesson in process of being learnt. Between i860 and 1867 the Ten Hours' Normal Day was introduced for the protected classes . in other industries. The Act of 1878 systematically applied it to all non -textile factories and workshops. But the House of Commons could not bring itself to make its uniform rule precise and effective. Endeavors were made, by sanctioning overtime under certain conditions, by en- abling the hours of beginning and ending work to be varied, by permitting the prescribed meal-times and holidays to be altered, and by exempting particular processes from particular restrictions, to meet the varying circumstances of different industries. So deeply rooted was the feeling against uniformity that the exceptions and qualifications of the 1878 Act commended themselves even to the Chief Inspector of Factories. In spite of his experience in the textile mills, Mr. Redgrave could welcome with complacency the " undulating and elastic " line of the new Act, " drawn to satisfy the absolute necessities and customs of different trades in different parts of the kingdom," especially men- tioning the " extension of hours to meet sudden emergencies, as the case of occupations in which the operatives have to meet regular slack seasons."^ Twenty years' trial of this " undulating and elastic line " has convinced the officials administering the Act that no such uncertain rule can be maintained. The whole experience of the Factory Department proves that no limitation of the working day can really be enforced, unless there are uniform and definitely prescribed hours before and after which work must not be. carried on. The overtime regulations

» Annual Report of H.M. Chief Inspector of Factories and Workshops, 1878 (C. 2274 of 1879). P- 5-


350 Trade Union Function

hailed as one of the sensible advantages of the Act of 1878, have gone far to neutralise any regulation of hours at all. The report of the Chief Inspector for 1894 is full of complaints by his staff of the impossibility of maintaining the Normal Day in face of the " partial, unsound, and piece- meal privilege" thus given to unfair employers, and of the " modifications " which constitute " a most weakening element in workshop inspection." ' The knowledge that overtime may be '" carried on for forty-eight times in a year is often made," says one inspector, " an excuse for working until 10 P.M. for three or four nights every week in the season."^ "The steady increase of overtime notices which we receive," declares another, " leads me to infer that . . . occupiers of factories or workshops . . . are exercising those privileges without due regard to the spirit of the law, which only regards overtime as an exceptional contingency, only to be used when exceptional circumstances require it. . . . Overtime employment leads to more undetected evasions of the laws than all the other offences under factory and .workshop legislation." *

Overtime, in fact, is to-day seldom the " exceptional over- time " contemplated by the Act ; but, to use the words of one inspector, merely a means of enabling the employers to " keep their shops open late " on Saturday nights, and of causing " females to be kept " systematically late at work "in dressmaking without a farthing of extra remuneration."* " I believe, therefore," oflRcially report? Miss May Abraham, Senior Woman Inspector in 1893, "that although a with- drawal of the overtime exception would meet with protest from employers who have developed its use from an excep- tion into a principle, there are some who would welcome, and many who would be indifferent to such an amendment; that the large class of employers engaged in the textile and

' Report of the Chief Inspector of Factories and Workshops, 1894 (C. 7745 of 189s), pp. 49, so.

2 Ibid. p. 56 (Mr. Mackie, Assistant Inspector).

  • Ibid. p. 194 (Mr. Dodgson, Inspector). ' Ibid, p. 191.


The Normal Day 35 1

allied trades, from whom permission to work overtime has been rigidly withheld, would greet as a measure of justice its withdrawal now from trades logically no more entitled to the exception than their own : and that by the workers its abolition would be welcomed with feelings of the warmest gratitude." * When Mr. Lakeman, after a whole genera- tion of work in London factory inspection, has to account for the long and irregular hours still worked in defiance of the Act, he emphatically declares " that overtime is the root of the mischief, for it has choked the law with partiality and modifications." *

We have left to the last what is perhaps the most marked distinction between the Trade Union regulation of the Standard Rate and that of the Normal Day. Instead of the bewildering variety which characterises the claim to a Standard Rate, where each trade, and each section of a trade, has its own price, w e hav ej_VKith regar4.tp the ^ J^j;mal^Pjay, rnmparativ^ simpli^itY and uniformity. During the last sixty years, the demand for a Normal Day has come in the guise of a succession of waves of popular agitation for a common and uniform reduction of the hours of labor for all trades alike. The Ten Hours' agitation of the Lancashire Cotton Operatives spread, as we have seen, to the builders, engineers, tailors, and other craftsmen, and resulted, between 1830 and 1840, in the very general adoption of Ten Hours as the Normal Day in the larger towns. Similarly, the Nine Hours' Movement, started by the Stonemasons in 1846, spread, during the next thirty years, throughout the whole range of industry, and resulted by 1871-74 in the almost universal acceptance of Nine Hours as the Normal Day of artisans, mechanics, and factory workers and the laborers working in association with any of these classes. And it may perhaps be inferred that we stand, at the

' Report of the Chief Inspector of Factories and Workshops for 1893 (C. 7368 of 1894), pp. II. 12.

2 Ibid. p. 50. See also the Opinions on Overtime (London, 1894), published by the Women's Tr^dp Union League.


352 Trade Union Function

present day, in the first years of a similar general move- ment which will result in the equally widespread adoption of Eight Hours as the standard working day in all branches of British industry.^

Here at last we do come to something like communistic feeling among British workmen. The aristocratic shipwright, pattern-maker, or cotton-spinner, who would resent the idea that the unskilled laborer or the woman worker had any moral claim to as high a Standard Rate as himself, readily accepts, when it comes to a question of hours, the doctrine of complete equality. The explanation is simple. The most rigid class distinctions of the wage -earning world have, in the matter of hours of labor, to bend before the mechanical necessity for a Common Rule. The same economic influ- ences which make it impossible for each weaver in a mill to come in and out as he or she chooses, make it convenient,

' The successive reductions in working hours have been very imperfectly recorded. At the beginning of the eighteenth century, the ordinary working day of indoor trades in London seems to have been from 6 A.M. to 9 P.M., whilst men working out of doors left off at 6 P. M., or at dark. We have described the attempt of the tailors in 1 720 to shorten the day by one hour, and from a rare work in the Guildhall and Patent Office Libraries, dated 1747 [A General Description of AU Trades, Anon.), it would seem that, by the middle of the century, a few other trades had followed their example. The bookbinders (1787) and saddlers (1793) secured a further reduction to thirteen hours less meal-times, and in 1794 the bookbinders gained what would now be called a 10^ hours' day (12 hours less meal-times). Our impression is that at the opening of the present century this had become in London the usual working day for all the skilled handicraft trades working by time. By 1834, at any rate, the London building trades had secured a ten hours' day and in 1 836, the London engineers obtained the same reduction. AVithin ten years this became general in most of the large towns, and was adopted for the textile factories in the celebrated Ten Hours' Bill of 1847. The Nine Hours' Movement begins with the Liverpool stonemasons in 1846, but does not become general until 1859-61, nor fully successful until 1871. Meanwhile an agitation had arisen among the skilled artisans for a Saturday half-holiday. The building trades had secured a " four o'clock Saturday" in some towns by 1847, making a 58^ hours' week. By 1 861 this had become in London a "two o'clock Saturday," or 56^ hours ft week, an arrangement which was adopted for the textile factories by the Act of 1874. When, in 1 871, the Nine Hours' Day was won by the engineering and building trades, it took the form of 1 1 hours less i^ hours meal- times, for five days, and six hours less half an hour for breakfast on Saturday, thus securing 54 hours with a " one o'clock Saturday." In 1890 the engineering trades on the Tyne and Wear, desiring a more complete half-holiday, demanded and obtained a "twelve o'clock Saturday" (53 hours). On the great general revision of hours in the London building trades in 1892, the week was


The Normal Day 353

if not absolutely necessary, for the hours of beginning and leaving off work to be identical, not for the weavers only, but also for all the different classes of workpeople employed in the establishment. And it has been a special feature of the industrial development of the past thirty years more and more to include, in a single establishment, not merely different sections of one trade, but also the most diverse industrial processes subsidiary to the production of the finished article. In the leading engineering and shipbuilding yards of the Tyne and Clyde, or the great works of the railway com- panies — to cite only a few out of many examples — we find to-day workmen of a hundred different trades working in a single establishment whose hours of labor are almost neces- sarily governed by the same " steam hooter," or factory bell.^ A ny regulations relating to the length or distribution of th e^ working day tend, therefore, t o ^identical iocallxlasses, of operati^ aes.

fixed at 50, 47, and 44 hours according to the season, averaging 48^ hours through the year, and always securing the Saturday half-holiday. Finally, we have the adoption, between 1889 and 1897, of the Eight Hours' Day in over five hundred establishments, including the Government dockyards and workshops, nearly all municipal gasworks, and a majority of the London engineering and bookbinding establishments, together with isolated firms all over the country.

This progressive reduction relates, it need hardly be said, only to the nominal standard hours of the most advanced districts, and takes no account either of the prevalence of overtime, or of the lingering of longer hours in other districts. In the absence of precise and authoritative statistics as to the amount of overtime worked at different periods per person employed, it is impossible to give any inductive proof of the lengthening of hours by systematic overtime at the moment when, owing to a slackening of demand, less of the work is demanded by the community. But the same tendency may be seen in the recorded changes in the Normal Day itself. In the extraordinarily busy years of 1871-72 the engineering employers had agreed with the Trade Unions that the week's work should be 54 hours, and, on the Clyde, 51 hours only. When the great stagnation of 1878-79 fell upon the industry, and there was much less engineering work to be done, the employers decided " that the time has arrived . . . when the idle hours which have been unprofitably thrown away, must be reclaimed to industry and profit, by being redirected to reproductive work " (Secret Circular of the Iron Trades Employers' Association, December 1878). They therefore made. a general attempt to increase the week's work to 57 or 59 hours. A similar attempt was made in the building trades. For an account of this backwardation in hours, see History of Trade Unionism, pp. 331. 334-

' See, for this tendency to an "integration of processes " in competitive industry, the Economic Heresies of the London County Council, by Sidney Webb (London, 1894), a paper read at the Economic Section of the British Association in 1894. VOL. I N


CHAPTER VII SANITATION AND SAFETY[edit]

In the great establishments of modern industry, where large numbers of manual workers are massed together, the wage- contract implicitly includes many other conditions besides those of the time to be spent in labor, and the rate at which this is to be paid for. The wage-earner sells to his employer, not merely so much muscular energy or mechanical ingenuity, but practically his whole existence during the working day.^ An overcrowded or badly-ventilated workshop may exhaust his energies ; sewer gas or poisonous material may under- mine his health ; badly- constructed plant or imperfect machinery may maim him or even cut short his days ; coarsening surroundings may brutalise his life and degrade his character — yet, when he accepts employment, he tacitly undertakes to mind whatever machinery, use whatever materials, breathe whatever atmosphere, and endure what- ever sights, sounds, and smells he may find in the employer's workshop,' however inimical they may be to health or safety. On all these points Individual Bargaining is out of the question. The most ingenious employer would find it impossible to bargain separately with individual workers as

1 "It. matters nothing to the seller of bricks whether they are to be used in building a palace or a sewer ; but it matters a great deal to the seller of labor, who undertakes to perform a task of given dif&culty, whether or not the place in which it is to be done is a >yholesome and a pleasant one, and whether oi not his associates will be such as he cares to have." — Principles of Economics, by Professor A, Marshall (London, 1895), 3rd edit. p. 646.


Sanitation and Safety 355

to the temperature of the workshop or the use of the ventilating fan, the fencing of the machinery or the provision of sanitary accommodation : he cannot make any particular concession to a consumptive weaver in the matter of the amount of steam to be injected into the weaving shed, or give special terms to a cautious miner with regard to the construction of the cage or the thickness of the rope on which his life will depend. These conditions are necessarily identical for all the operatives concerned. The issue, therefor e. is not whether there shall be a Common Rule excluding the exigencies of particular workers, but by who m a nd iajffihose int^st that Comm on Rule shall be jnade.^

The^lrade Unionist demands for safe, healthy, and com- fortable conditions of work appear to date only from about 1 840, and can scarcely be said to have become a definite part of Trade Union policy until about 1871.^ This long-continued indifference to the risks of accident and disease was, as we need hardly remind the reader, common to all classes. So long as sickness and casualties were regarded as "visitations

1 The individual operative " can quarrel no more with the foul air of his unventilated factory, burdened with poisons, than he can quarrel with the great wheel that turns below " ( The Wages Question, by Francis A. Walker, New York, 1876, London, 1891, p.. 359). "Where a large number of men are employed together in a factory ... all must conform to the wishes of the majority, or the will of the employers, or the customs of the trade." — T}ie State in Relation to Labour, by W. Stanley Jevons (London, 1887), p. 65.

^ The coalminers, however, always asked for safeguards against the perils of the mine. As early as 1662, it is said that 2000 colliers of Northumberland and Durham prepared a petition to the King, asking, among other things, that the mine owners should be required to provide better ventilation of the pits. Already in 1676, the Government, in the person of the Lord Keeper North, was suggesting that a second shaft ought always to be provided (The Miners of Northumberland and Durham, by Richard Fynes, Blyth, 1873). Similar desires were expressed by the earliest of the Miners' unions in 1809 and 1825, and in such pamphlets as A Voice from the Coalmines, or a Plain Statement of the grievances of the pitmen of the Tyne and Wear (South Shields, 1825), and An earnest address and urgent appeal to the people of England on behalf of the oppressed and suffering pitmen of the Counties of Northumberland and Durham (Newcastle, 1831). In no other industry do we trace any request prior to 1840 for more sanitary conditions of employment (as distinguished from higher wages or shorter hours). Neither in the Parliamentary inquiries of 1824, 1825, and 1838, nor in the numerous investigations of the Commissioners connected with the Factory Acts, Poor Law, or Health of Towns, have we found any evidence that the operatives of that time pressed for healthier conditions of work.


356 Trade Union Function

of God," to be warded off by prayer and fasting, effective sanitary regulations were not to be expected either from the workmen's combinations or from Parliament itself.' And whilst the theologian was attributing the workman's ill -health to the Act of God, the political economist was assuring him that any unusual risk to health or life, like any extra discomfort, inevitably brought with it sub- stantial compensation in the shape of higher wages. We therefore find that in the comparatively few cases between 1700 and 1840, in which Trade Unions made any complaint of dangerous or insanitary conditions, they brought forward the grievance without any idea of establishing regulations to prevent such conditions for the future, but merely as an argument in favor of the concession of shorter hours or higher wages.^ We need not follow the gradual disappearance of the theological explanation of disease before the progress of science. Of greater interest to the economic student is the growth of an opinion among the Trade Unionists, that the compensation for insanitary conditions brought about by " the free play of natural forces," was of a totally different character from that prophesied by Adam Smith and his followers. To the intelligent Trade Union official it became increasingly evident that the compensatory effect of bad conditions of employment took the form, not of higher rates

' Public health legislation dates only from about \ 840 ; see Glen, History ef the Law relating to Public Health, loth edition (London, 1 888). The first general Public Health Act was not passed until 1848.

2 Thus, when in 1752, the combination of journeymen tailors of London com- plained that, by their having to work from six in the morning until eight at night, " sitting so many hours in such a position, alm\3st double on the shopboard, with their legs under them, and poring so long over their work by candlelight, their spirits are exhausted, nature is wearied out, and their health and sight are soon impaired," all they asked for was an extra sixpence a day wages (The Tailoring Trade, by F. W. Galton, London, S896, p. 53 ; published by the London School of Economics and Political Science). And when, in 1777, the far-sighted and observant Justus Moser was impressed by the injury to health caused by the conditions under which apprentices and young journeymen were put to work, nothing in the nature of factory legislation occurred to him ; his remedy was a technical institute which should supersede apprenticeship altogether. — " Is not an Institute required for Artisans ? " in Patriotische Phantasien (Berlin, 1858), vol. iii. p. 135.


Sanitation and Safety 357

paid by the employer, but of a lower grade of character among the workpeople. When the conditions of safety, health, and comfort in the trade fell below the standard of other occupations, the Trade Union official did not find that his members got higher wages.^ What happened was that his union was presently made up of workers of coarser fibre, worse character, and more irregular habits. And this result was brought about not entirely, or even mainly, by the refusal of respectable persons to enter trades in which the risks to life, health, and character were exceptionally great. For the great mass of workers, in districts dependent on particular industries, there was practically no choice of occu- pation, and hence, over large areas of the United Kingdom, physical enfeeblement and moral deterioration became the lot of good and bad alike. Even in the rare cases in which exceptionally strong unions obtained for their members some definite compensation for risk of disease and death, the more thoughtful workmen could not fail to realise that the extra money was no real equivalent for the lives prematurely cut short, the constitutions ruined by disease, or the characters brutalised by coarsening surroundings.

Thus, in the Trade Union world of to-day, there is no subject on which workmen of all shades of opinion, and all varieties of occupation, are so unanimous, and so ready to take comibined action, as the prevention of accidents and the provision of healthy workplaces. We do not propose to enumerate, or even to summarise in any detail, the various regulations upon which Trade Unions have insisted for the protection of the life, health, and comfort of their members. These necessarily differ from trade to trade according to the

^ For over a century economic manuals have reproduced Adam Smith's celebrated analysis of the causes of differences in wages, without any investigation of the facts of industrial life. " There is hardly a grain of truth," wrote Fleeming Jenkin with refreshing originality in 1870, "in the doctrine that men's wages are in proportion to the [un-]pleasantness of their occupation. On the contrary, all loathsome occupations are undertaken by apathetic beings for a miserable hire. . . The best paid is [also] the most pleasant life.'" — " Graphic Representation of the Laws of Supply and Demand," by Fleeming Jenkin, in Recess Studies (London, 1870), p. 182.


358 Trade Union Function

technical processes and particular grievances of the industry, Sometimes it is the prevention of accidents that is aimed at. Thus, the United Society of Boilermakers has insisted, in its elaborate agreement with the Ship Repairers' Federation of the United Kingdom, upon the following clause : " The employers undertake that, before men are put to work on [repairing the great tank ships for carrying petroleum in bulk, in which dangerous vapour accumulates], an expert's certificate shall be obtained daily to the effect that the tanks are absolutely safe. Such certificate to be posted in some conspicuous place." ^ Innumerable other regulations aim at the removal of conditions injurious to the workers' health. Thus, the various Trade Unions of " ovenmen " (potters) have for a whole generation protested against being forced to empty the ovens before these have been allowed to grow cool, on the express ground that this unnecessary exposure to a temperature between 170 and 210 degrees Fahrenheit is seriously detrimental to health. Several strikes have taken place solely on this point, and the Staffordshire Oven- men's Union now has a by-law authorising the support of any member who is dismissed for refusing to work in a temperature higher than 120 degrees.^ The Northern Counties Amalgamated Association of Operative Cotton- weavers has repeatedly withdrawn its members from weav- ing sheds into which the employers insisted on injecting an undue volume of steam, and it succeeded, in 1889, in obtain- ing a special Act defining the maximum limit to which this practicfe might be carried.^ The carelessness of employers

' Payment for repairs on oil vessels : Agreement between the Ship Repairtri Federation of the United Kingdom and the United Society of Boilermakers, signed at Newcastle, 1 2th January 1894. Similar agreements have been made by the Amalgamated Society of Engineers (Tyneside District) with the Federation (nth September 1894), and (Newport and Cardiff District) with the Engineers and Shipbuilders Employers' Association of Newport and Cardiff, 21st March 1895, and in other seaports.

^ Information given to us by the officials ; see also Dr. J. T. Arlidge, Thi Pottery Manufacture in its Sanitary Aspects (London, 1892), p. 17.

' Royal Commission on Labor, evidence Group C ; the Cotton Cloth Factories Act, 1889 (52 & 53 Vict. c. 62), amended by the Factory Acts of 1891 and 1895. See the interesting investigation into the results of this legislation bj


Sanitation and Safety 359

with regard to the sanitary condition of the places in which their wage -earners have to work has led to many fitful struggles. Perhaps the most notable, and at the same time significant example is that of the Glasgow tailors. As far back as 1854 we find the union resolving that the members employed in a certain notorious underground cellar " should finish their jobs and leave, until a better workshop was got."^ In the next year an attempt was made to prohibit all working in underground rooms. The general meeting resolved : " That those employers who have pit-shops at present receive notice to get proper workshops, otherwise the men will be obliged to refuse to work in all shops the same not being above ground." ^ During the following years, the energetic journeymen tailors put into force all the methods of Trade Unionism to attain their end. Mutual Insurance was employed to a remarkable extent, any member choosing to leave an underground workshop being allowed four shillings a week over and above the ordinary Out-of-Work pay. This induced the better class of employers to resume Collective Bargaining, to agree to provide suitable workrooms for their men, and even to submit them to the inspection of the Trade Union officials. But neither Mutual Insurance nor Collective Bargaining availed to put down the evil among the worst employers. The union then turned to the law. An in- fluentfally signed memorial was presented to the Town Council in order to obtain a by-law prohibiting the use of underground workshops altogether, and though this request does not appear to have been complied with, the increasing stringency of the sanitary law to some extent served the purpose.*

a Home OflSce Committee of experts, Report of a Committee appointed to inquire into the working of the Cotton Cloth Factories Act, 1889 [C, 8348], 1897.

1 MS. Minutes of Glasgow Tailors' Society, April 1854.

« Ibid. January 1855.

' Report on Trade Societies and Strikes: National Association for the Promo- tion of Social Science, i860, p. 280, where it is erroneously stated that the clause desired was actually embodied in a local Act of Parliament. We can trace no such provision, and underground workshops are, if properly ventilated, still per- mitted by law. But the use of premises below the ground-level as dwellings is restricted by the Public Health Acts, and the Factory Act of 1895, sec. 27,


360 Trade Union Function

But safety and health are not the only requirements. Many trades enforce a series of regulations designed merely ta secure the comfort and convenience of the operatives. In the innumerable " Working Rules " which govern the build- ing trades of the various towns, the Trade Unions generally insist on a clause to compel the employer to provide a dry and comfortable place in which the men may take their meals, lock up their tools in safety, and rest under cover in storms of rain.^

It will be unnecessary to give further examples. The long and elaborate code of law which now governs employment in the factory and workshop, the bakehouse and printing office, on sea and in the depths of the mine, is itself largely made up of the Common Rules designed for the protection of the operatives' health, life, or comfort, which have been pressed for by Trade Unions, and have successively com- mended themselves to the wisdom of Parliament. And the Trade Union Regulations of this class, whether enforced by the Method of Collective Bargaining or by that of Legal Enactment, are constantly increasing in number and variety. Every revision of " Working Rules," or other collective agreements with employers, is made the occasion for new stipulations. Each meeting of the Trade Union Congress sees new proposals under this head formally endorsed by the representatives of other trades. Scarcely a session of Parlia- ment now passes without new Common Rules for the pro- forbids the occupation of any such premises as bakehouses if they were not actually employed as such on 1st January 1896.

1 Thus, to give only four instances out of our collection of many hundreds, the London Stone Carvers are found insisting, as early as 1876, " that, as a pro- tection from the weather, and to prevent loss of time, all carvers on outdoor jobs to be supplied with tarpaulins or other suitable covering " ; the London Plasterers stipulate (1892) that "employers shall provide, where practicable and reasonable, a suitable place for the workmen to have their meals on the works, with a laborer to assist in preparing them " ; the Nottingham Bricklayers require (1 893) " that there shall be a lock-up shop provided for workmen to get their meals in and put their tools in safety"; and the Portsmouth Stonemasons (1893) insist " that suitable shops and mess-houses be erected on all jobs where necessary." All these Working Rules, it will be remembered, are formally agreed to and signed by the representatives of the employers and the Trade Union.


Sanitation and Safety 361

tection of the health or safety of one or other class of operatives being, amid general public approval, added to our Labor Code.^

We attribute the rapid development of this side of Trade Unionism to the discovery by the Trade Union leaders that it is the line of least resistance. Middle-class public opinion, which fails as yet to comprehend the Common Rule of the Standard Rate and is strongly prejudiced against the fixing of a Normal Day, cordially approves any proposal for pre- venting accidents or improving the sanitation of workplaces. The alacrity with which capitalist Parliaments met these requests came as a surprise to the Trade Union officials. To the sweated journeyman tailor at the East End, the fact that he was compelled to labor in an overcrowded workroom seemed less detrimental to his health than the excessive hours of daily toil that were exacted from him. The girls in a London jam factory are still puzzled as to why the Government should compel their employer to provide them with costly sanitary conveniences, and yet permit him to go on paying wages quite inadequate for their healthy subsist- ence. It cannot be of more urgent importance to the com- munity to insist on sanitary refinements than to secure the fundamental requisites of healthy life and citizenship. Nor is one set of Common Rules less inconsistent with " freedom of enterprise" than the other. With regard to Sanitation and Safety the law has not scrupled to " thrust a ramrod " into the delicate mechanism of British industry, in the shape of rigid rules enforced on all manufacturers alike. Whether a factory be new or old, large or small, in the crowded slums of a manufacturing town or on the breezy uplands of the country side, gaining huge profits for its proprietor or actually running at a loss, the community insists on the observance of uniform rules as to cubic space, ventilation, meal-times, stoppages for cleaning, fire-escapes, doors opening outwards

' During the ten years, 1887-1896, there were passed no fewer than thirteen separate Acts relating to the conditions of employment in factories, workshops, mines, shops, or railways, besides several general Public Health Acts.

VOL. I N 2


362 Trade Union Function

fencing of machinery, degrees of humidity and temperature, water supply, drainage, and sanitary conveniences, separate for each sex. It is in vain that the manufacturers point out to the House of Commons that these requirements constitute as real and as burdensome an increase in their cost of pro- duction as a shortening of the hours of labor, and that the Factory Inspector's requisition for a ventilating fan and the erection of additional sanitary conveniences may result in the actual closing of the oldest and least profitable mills.

It is not easy to find an adequate explanation of this state of mind. Something, we think, is to be attributed to the general fear of infectious disease, which the ordinary middle -class man associates more with overcrowding and defective sanitation than with insufficient food or overtaxed energies. Along with this fear of infection there goes a real sympathy for the sufferers, ill-health and accidents being calamities common to rich and poor. More, perhaps, is due to the half-conscious admission that, as regards Sanitation and Safety at any rate, the Trade Union argument is borne out by facts, and that it is impracticable for the individual operative to bargain about these conditions of his labor. And another factor may come into the decision. There still exists a certain scepticism as to whether the wage-earner is capable of wisely expending any larger wages than will keep body and soul together, or of usefully employing any greater leisure than is necessary for sleep.^ Ventilating bricks and shuttle-guards, whitewash and water-closets cannot be spent in drink or wasted in betting. Mingled with this economic consideration there is even a subtle element of Puritanism — the vicarious asceticism of a luxurious class — which prefers

1 To the Iron Trades Employers' Association of 1878 — an organisation which included the leading captains of British industry — a reduction of wages and a lengthening of hours appeared a positive economic advantage to the community. " It has appeared to employers of labor," said their secret circular urging a return to longer hours of labor and a general reduction of rates of payment, " that the time has arrived when the superfluous wages which have been dissipated in unproductive consumption must be retrenched, and when the idle hours which have been unprofitably thrown away must be reclaimed to industry and profit by being redirected to reproductive work." — History of Trade Unionism, p. 331.


Sanitation and Safety 363

to give the poor " what is good for them," rather than that in which they can find active enjoyment.

With public opinion in this state, and a House of Com- mons predisposed to favor sanitary legislation, it might be imagined that the necessary Common Rules for securing health and safety would have been systematically applied to every industry. This, however, is not the British way of doing things. Neither the permanent officials of the Home Office, nor even the Cabinet Ministers themselves, ever dream of considering it their duty to discover and investigate evils which have not been formally brought to their notice, nor spontaneously to initiate remedial measures which have not been persistently pressed on them by outside agitation. The House of Commons itself has not yet outgrown its traditional attitude of a court, to which suitors must them- selves bring petitions if they desire to have their grievances remedied, and must present their case too, in certain pre- scribed forms, on pain of seeing it, however gross the evil, ignored for many years. The result is that the Common Rules necessary to secure health and safety in particular trades are placed on the Statute Book, not according to the urgency of the need, or the extremity of the evil, but accord- ing to the strength of the pressure which is brought to bear. In many individual cases this pressure has come from the philanthropists. The agitations which led to the prohibition of the use of "climbing boys" to clean chimneys (1840),^

  • It took over sixty years' agitation to complete this reform. In 1817 a

Select Committee exposed the horrors to which the " climbing boy " was exposed. Legislation followed in 1834, when the employment of boys under ten was for- bidden, and it was made a criminal offence for a master to send a child up a chimney when it was actually on fire ! This caused the insurance companies to petition against the measure. In 1840 the minimum age for chimney-sweep apprentices was raised to sixteen, and a formal prohibition of their being com- pelled to ascend chimneys was embodied in the law. This remained largely ineffective until, in 1864, the Chimney Sweepers' Regulation Act punished with imprisonment and hard labor any master who sent a boy up a chimney. The last case of a boy dying in the chimney — once not unusual — occurred in 1875, when another Act was passed increasing the stringency of the law. For a general survey of the progress in this protective legislation, see The Queen's Reign fot Children, by W. Clarke Hall (London, 1897).


.364 Trade Union Function

and of the employment of children in theatres (1889), derived their force from the ability with which their advo- cates appealed to middle-class sentiment. Similar adroit management accounts for Mr. Plimsoll's success in 1876 in extending the Merchant Shipping Acts, though on this occa- sion the political influence of the organised Trade Unions came effectively into play.^ The protective rules in the Mines Regulation ^Acts have, on the other hand, been initiated since 1843 by the Coalminers' leaders themselves, though the direct influence of the Mining Unions has been aided by general public sympathy. But it is in the Common Rules secured by the Cotton Operatives that we see the most striking result of Trade Union pressure. The Factory Acts which their support enabled Mr. Oastler and Lord Shaftes- bury to carry between 1833 and 1847 were mainly directed to a limitation of the hours of labor. Since 1870, how- ever, the ingenuity and persistence of the cotton officials have greatly extended the scope of the legal regulation of their trade. The elaborate and detailed provisions of the law as to stoppages for cleaning and protection of machinery, the ventilation of the mills, and the exact space to be allowed between the fixed and moving parts of the mule, the regu- lation of the temperature and the degree of humidity in the weaving-shed, go far beyond anything that Parliament has yet done in the way of collective regulation of the conditions of labor in the factories and workshops of other trades.'

1 History of Trade Unionism, p. 356.

  • This is the more remarkable in that cotton manufacture is an industry in

which the margin of profit has long been steadily declining, and has, according to many authorities, now almost vanished. Foreign competition, too, is admittedly keen and increasing. On the other hand, the wholesale slop clothing trade has, during the present generation, expanded by leaps and bounds, and has notoriously produced colossal fortunes. Yet whilst the cotton operatives secure from Parlia- ment refinement after refinement at the cost of their employers, the unfortunate men and women employed by the wholesale clothiers, whose woes were laid bare by the House of Lords Committee on the Sweating System, 1888-90, are still practically excluded from the protection of the Factory Inspector. See "The Lords' Report on the Sweating System," by Beatrice Potter, Nineteenth Century, June 1890 ; and Fabian Tract No. 50, Sweating: its Cause and Remedy (London. 1893)-


Sanitation and Safety 365

On the other hand, the genuine public sympathy with the unfortunate chain and nail worker in the Black Country, with the London "fur -puller" and match-box maker, with the laundress or the dock-laborer, has resulted in nothing but sham legislation of an entirely illusory character.^ Experience proves, in fact, that public sympathy with the worker's desire for Common Rules securing safe and healthy conditions of work leads to effective regulatipn only when the grievances, besides being graphically and persistently pressed on the House of Commons, are accompanied by proposals for reform which have been worked out in all their technical detail by practical experts. To put it concretely, the factory legislation which each trade has obtained, has, during the last twenty years, varied in stringency and effectiveness, not according to the misery of the workers or the profitableness of the enterprise, but almost exactly with the amount of money which the several unions have expended on official and legal assistance.

So far we have dealt only with the promotion of health or safety by means of specific regulations prescribing the conditions which experience has shown to be necessary to prevent accident or disease. In one direction, however, the Trade Unionists have departed from this, the general line of their policy, and have sought safety in imposing upon the employer, not positive regulations to prevent the evil, but an obligation to pay compensation for it when it has happened. This leads us to the long and bitter controversy connected with " Employer's Liability," in which, during the last twenty years, both workmen and politicians have more than once shifted their ground. To understand the changing features of this controversy, we must examine, in some detail, both its history and its various aspects.^

' On the futility of the laundry clause in the Factory Act of 1895, see the article, "Law and the Laundries," in the Nineteenth Century, December 1896, published by the Industrial Sub-Committee of the National Union of Women Workers. ^

2 The best account of this difficult subject is the Home Office Memorandum printed as Appendix CLIX. to the Labor Commission Blue Book, C. 7063,


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By the common law of England a person is liable, not only for his own negligence, but for that of his servant acting as such. It does not appear that this law was, in old times, made use of by workmen against their employers — probably no one thought of such an insurrectionary proceeding — but in 1837 an action (Priestley v. Fowler) was brought against a butcher by one of his assistants to recover compensation for injuries resulting from the overloading of a cart. It was proved that the overloading was due to the negligence of a fellow-servant. On this ground the judges decided that the injured servant could not recover compensation from the common employer. This decision is now deemed by some scientific jurists to have been bad law ; ^ but, good or bad, it founded the distinction which has ever since been made between strangers, to whom the employer is responsible for the negligence of his servants, and the servants themselves.

III. A (1894), pp. 363, 384, and the comments by Sir F. Pollock in the same volume (Appendix clviii. pp. 346-348), with Mr. A. Birrell's Four Lectures on the Law of Employers' Liability at Home and Abroad (London, 1897). The Report and Evidence of the Select Committee of 1887 (H. C. No. 285 of 1887) is also important. For a more detailed and technical account of the law and its development, see Employers and Employed, by W. C. Spens and R. F. Younger (London, 1887), or Duty and Liability of Employers, by W. H. Roberts and G. H. Wallace (London, 1885). The Trade Union view is well given in the pamphlet Employers' Liability : " Past and Prospective Legislation, with Special Reference to Contracting-Out," by Edmond Brown (London, 1896). This is ably criticised in the Daily Chronicle pamphlet. The Worker^ Tragedy (London, 1897). For another pomt of viewj see Mr. Chamberlain's article in the Nineteenth Century, November 1892, and his speeches in Parliament during May and July 1897 ; Miners' Thrift and Employers' Liability, by G. L. Campbell (Wigan, 1891) ; and Employers' Liability : What it Ought to Be, by Henry W. Wolff (London, 1897). The exhaustive report of the French Government " Commission de Travail" for 1892 contains full information on Continental legislation, as to which see the interesting proceedings of the International Congresses on Industrial Accidents, held at Paris, 1889, Berne, 1891, Milan, 1894 (Brussels, 1897) ; Dr. T. Bodiker's Die Arbeiterversicherung in dm Europdischen Staaten (Leipzig, 1895) > ^"d the elaborate bibliography published in Circular No. i. Series B, of the Musie Social (Paris, 1896).

' Sir Frederick Pollock remarks, in the Memorandum already cited, "I think the doctrine of the American and English Courts (for it is American quite as much as English) is bad law as well as bad policy. The correct coursS, in my judgment, would have been to hold that the rule expressed by the maxim respondeat superior, whatever its origin or reason, was general. ... No such doctrine as that of common emoloyment has found place in the law courts o( France or of any German State."


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The lawyers explained that the workmen must be held implicitly to have contracted to take upon themselves, as part of the risk incidental to their calling, the possible negli- gence of fellow-employees, for whose action, therefore, the common employer could not fairly be considered liable.

To the manual worker this distinction, for which Lord Abinger was chiefly responsible, seemed an intolerable piece of " class legislation." The workman, injured in the actual performance of his duty, was at least as fit an object for compensation as the chance passer-by. The exception, moreover, destroyed all real responsibility of the largest employers even for their own negligence. In mines and railways, and in the large establishments characteristic of modern industry, the legal " employer " was seldom present or in personal direction of the operations. He might be guilty of the grossest carelessness in choosing his managers ; he might not provide sufificient means for proper appliances ; he might worry his agents to increase the speed of working, deliberately bringing pressure to bear on his superintendents and foremen to increase the output or lower the cost of production, to the hazard of the lives of all concerned. Yet because he did not give the specific order, or direct the use of the particular machine, out of which the accident arose, he escaped all liability for compensation to his injured workmen, on the plea that the negligence was that of their fellow- worker, the manager whom he had put in authority over them.

Under these circumstances, a Trade Union agitation for " employers' liability " was sooner or later inevitable. It was started by Alexander Macdonald, the leader of the coal- miners, whose remarkable career we have traced in our History of Trade Unionism.} At the conference of miners' delegates at Ashton-under-Lyne in 1858, bitter complaint

1 See the History of Trade Unionism, pp. 284-292 ; the Report of the Confer- ence of the National Association of Coal, Lime, and Ironstone Miners of Great Britain and Ireland [at Leeds in 1863] (London, 1864) ; Macdonald's speech in the similar report for 1881 (Manchester, 1881) ; and his speech in Report of the Eleventh Annual Trade Union Congress (Bristol, 1878), pp. 17, 18.


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was made that many of the collieries were without what would now be considered the most ordinary safeguards against accidents. No real effort was made by the Government to enforce the merely elementary provisions of the Mines Regulation Act of 1842. The frequent mine explosions which marked the years 1860-67, culminating in the terrible catastrophes at the Hartley, Edmunds Main, and Oaks Collieries, where hundreds of miners lost their lives, brought the question of the responsibility of the employer prominently to the front. " How long then, asked the miners at their con- ference in 1 863, "shall such conduct and workings be tolerated? To talk of humanity is nothing, and the law as now carried out is useless. To make the result costly is, then, the only present remedy. . . . When men's lives are held to be sacred their safety will be looked to as a matter of vital importance. At present we ask them to be considered costly, and com- pensation to be awarded accordingly. Many are alive to costs who are dead to all higher feeling, and these should be dealt with accordingly." ^ It is easy to understand the miners' policy. Their industry was already subject to elaborate Common Rules, which were steadily increasing in number and scope. What was lacking, in the absence of any serious Government inspection, was some means of compelling com- pliance with the rules. Failure to observe them vfa.s primd facie evidence of negligence on the part of the manager of the mine. If the Miners' union could recover damages from the mine-owner whenever an accident occurred in a colliery where the law had not been obeyed, the risk of having to pay out several thousand pounds would, it was argued, induce the employer to take the prescribed precautions against accidents. The proposed right of the operative to sue an employer was merely a practical method of enforcing obedience to the Common Rules regulating the industry. Thus, to Alexander Macdonald, employers' liability presented itself only as one of the instruments of his general policy of obtaining legal

  • Transactions and Results of the National Association of Coal etc. Mintrs oj

Great Britain (London, 1863), pp. x.-xiii.


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protection for the health and life of the underground workers.

This argument was soon reinforced by another. In 1872 the proposal was, at the instance of the newly-formed Amal- gamated Association of Railway Servants, taken up by the Trade Union Congress. Inspired, as the Congress then was, by the able men who were fighting the battle for the work- men's freedom of association, it was eager to denounce all laws which excluded manual workers from the personal rights enjoyed by other classes of the community. To the Parliamentary Committee of these years the wage-earner's disability to recover compensation from his employer, in cases in which a stranger could successfully have sued, seemed another of the invidious disabilities to which the law at that time subjected workmen as such. The lawyer's contention that the wage-earner, by entering into a contract of service, had placed himself in a position different from that of the ordinary citizen, was incomprehensible to them. "There seems to be no sufficient reason," declared the Parliamentary Com- mittee in 1876, "for these exceptions to the general law. Negligence in the employer, or in some person for whose conduct he is ordinarily responsible, and whom he has the power to dismiss, must of course be shown. But if that is shown, why should more be required in the case of a workman than in any other case. The present state of the law takes away a motive for the exercise of careful control and super- vision by the employer. It even makes it his interest not to examine too minutely into the way in which his work is carried on, lest he should be held to have personally inter- fered, and to have become personally liable. The proposed alteration of the law would not be any exceptional legislation in favor of workmen : it would be merely the repeal of an exceptional exclusion of them from the ordinary protection of the law." ^

^ Parliamentary Committee's Report to the Ninth Annual Trade Union Congress, 1 8th September 1876, pp. 3, 4; see History of Trade Unionism, chap. vii. Between 1872 and 1879 no fewer than eight Employers' Liability


370 Trade Union Function

The energetic agitation between 1872 and 1880 was entirely based on these two arguments. Almost every session saw the matter brought before Parliament in one form or another ; and each Ministry in succession promised to effect an amendment of the law. At last, in 1880, by the skill and persistence of Mr. Broadhurst, an Employers' Liability Act was passed, which went far to meet the con- temporary Trade Union demands. The " doctrine of common employment " was not absolutely abolished ; but an employer was made liable to compensate his injured workmen when- ever the accident resulted from the negligence of any super- intendent, manager, or foreman, or from obedience to any improper order or rule. A special clause, put in for the benefit of railway servants, made the employer responsible for the negligence of any person in charge of railway signals, points, or engine.

Though the workmen (and, in particular, the miners and railway servants) thus obtained a large measure of the reform they had demanded, experience soon convinced the Trade Unionists that, even to the extent that the 1880 Act went, placing the workman in the same position as the ordinary citizen did practically nothing to secure his safety from accident. The argument that the wage-earner ought to be placed, as regards compensation for accidents, in the same position as any one else, led also to the conclusion that he should be free to enter into any contract as to his legal rights, whether by way of compromising an accident already suffered or by way of compounding, in advance, for any possible acci- dent in the future. The employers accordingly met the new Act by inventing the device since known as " contracting out."

It was decided in 1882, in Griffiths v. The Earl of Dudley,^ that if a workman continued in employment after receipt of a notice that he must forego all his rights under

Bills were introduced in the House of Commons ; see the interesting pamphlet by Mr. C. H. Green, Employers' Lialiility : Its History, Limitation, and Exten- sion (London, 1896), written by an insurance official from an insurance point ol view.

' 9 Queen's Bench Division, 357.


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the Act, and accept, in lieu thereof, a claim on a benefit club to which the employer contributed, he was held to have entered into a contract to relinquish the rights given him by the Act of 1880. The consequences of this decision were soon apparent. It did not suit a large employer to be exposed to the risk of an indefinite liability, or to the worry of being sued for compensation by every aggrieved workman. It became a custom in many collieries, and in some railway and other large undertakings, to establish a special accident fund or benefit society, to which both employer and workmen subscribed, and from which was provided, without litigation, substantial relief in all cases of accident, whether due to proved negligence or not. This enabled the partners or shareholders to satisfy their moral responsibilities to disabled workmen at the least possible expense and trouble to them- selves, since their wage-earners directly contributed a portion of the fund, and the total amount of the firm's payment was precisely defined in advance. Such a fund, moreover, tended to attach their workmen permanently to their service by dis- posing them to abide by the employer's conditions, rather than forfeit, by going elsewhere, their claims on the firm's benefit society. Above all, the existence of such a fund, providing as it did for all accidents whatsoever, enabled the firm confidently to insist that its workmen should " contract out " of the Employers' Liability Act, and thu's forego the more limited but legally enforced claims for compensation which they could otherwise make under it.

The vehemence and persistency with which the entire Trade Union world has protested against this practice of " contracting out " has all through been incomprehensible to the middle-class man. To him the whole object of Em- ployers' Liability is compensation to the injured workman or his family. If by a special accident fund this compensation can be provided, not merely for some, but for all accidents whatsoever, and if, moreover, the expense of litigation can thereby be avoided, it seems a clear gain to both parties. What the middle-class man fails to realise is that. this is to


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remit the all-important question of safety of the workman's life to the perils of Individual Bargaining. The Trade Unionists assert that the workman's consent to forego his legal claim is given practically under duress, since a man applying for employment has no free option whether or not he will join the firm's benefit society, and so relieve his employer from that pecuniary inducement to guard against accidents which the Act was intended to afford. Moreover, it is said that this inability of the individual workman to bargain about the conditions of his employment leads, in certain instances, to his being simply defrauded, the benefit of the employer's fund being inferior to what he could obtain by relying on the Act and paying his contributions to an ordi- nary friendly society. But the fundamental Trade Union objection is that this " contracting out," even if willingly acquiesced in by each individual workman, is against public policy, as defeating the primary purpose of the Act. If the employer, they say, can avoid all liability for negligence by making an annual contribution, fixed in advance, he has no inducement to take precautions against individual accidents. Macdonald's idea of protecting the workman's life by making accidents costly is, in fact, thereby entirely defeated.

For the last fifteen years the Trade Union leaders have, therefore, waged bitter war against " contracting out," ' and have persistently forced upon Parliament their demand for an express prohibition of the practice. In 1893 the Cabinet was converted to the Trade Union position. Once again the Trade Unionists found all their demands' embodied in a Government Bill, which successfully passed the House of Commons. An amendment was inserted by the House of Lords preserving the liberty of contracting out of the Act, but under certain sigiiificant new safeguards.^ In emphatic condemnation of the practice of the London and North-

1 The London and North- Western Railway Company, and all but one of the South-West Lancashire coalowners at present (1897), explicitly compel all their operatives to "contract out."

2 The House of Lords' Amendment, together with the final discussion upon it, will be found in Hansard's Parliamentary Debates, 13th February 1894.


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Western Railway Company and the Lancashire Coalowners," the House of Lords declared that " contracting out " was in no case to be made a condition of the workman's being given employment. It was not even to be left any longer to Indi- vidual Bargaining, No "contracting out" was to be per- mitted unless the financial basis of the employer's benefit society had been approved by the Board of Trade as fair to the workmen. But this was not all. No " contracting out" was to be allowed, however favorable to the men might be the consideration offered, unless it had been collectively agreed to by the workers in the establishment considered as a whole. For this purpose, elaborate provision was proposed for a " secret ballot of the workers to be taken under authority of the Board of Trade at intervals of not less than three years ; and a two-thirds majority was to be necessary for consent. Thus, under no circumstances was it to be within the option of an individual wage-earner, acting as an indi- vidual, to forego his legal rights. In spite of this remarkable concession to the central position of Trade Unionism — the objection to Individual Bargaining — the majority of the House of Commons, at the instance of its working-men members, preferred to abandon the Bill rather than accept an amendment allowing the detested contracting out under any conditions whatsoever.^

The controversy has now been narrowed down to so fine a point that the Trade Union leaders may any day get from

  • The bitterness with which the Trade Union officials object to "contracting

out," and the underlying reason which led them to refuse even the safeguarded provision of the House of Lords' Amendment, are, we think, connected not with " contracting out " as such, but with the existence of employers' benefit societies. An accident fund or benefit society, confined to the workmen in a particular establishment, is, as we shall see in our chapter on " The Implications of Trade Unionism," in many ways inimical to Trade Unionism. Employers' benefit societies are far older than the Act of 1880, and exist in many firms which do not contract out. Moreover, contracting out may take place, as in the South Wales coalmines, with an accident fund common to the whole area, and thus independent of any one employer. Employers' benefit societies cannot therefore be swept away by a side wind. If public opinion is to be led to agree to their prohibition, this must come, like the removal of other deductions from wages, by an amendment of the Truck Acts.


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one party or the other the legislation they desire. We are, however, inclined to believe that just as they were dis- appointed with the Act of 1880, though it gave them prac- tically what they then demanded, so they will find equally unsatisfying any measure on the lines of the Bill of 1893-94, about which they were so enthusiastic. The fact is there is no reason to believe that the mere prohibition of " contracting out " will do anything to diminish the number of accidents. Attempts have been made to prove that the comparatively few undertakings in which contracting out* prevails have a higher percentage of accidents than those in which the Act applies. But no statistical evidence yet adduced on the subject will stand examination.^ It is said, for example, that in Lancashire and Wales, where the coal- miners contract out, the proportion of accidents is appreci- ably higher than in Yorkshire or Northumberland, where they do not. But this was the case also before the Act of 1880: moreover, the proportion of accidental deaths to persons employed seems to be diminishing more rapidly in Wales and Lancashire than in Northumberland. It is even gravely argued that the London and North -Western Railway Company has eight times as many accidents as the Midland— as if nothing turned on the different definitions of an accident ! The truth is, there is no such difference of pecuniary interest as is supposed between the employer who " contracts out," and the one who remains subject to the Act. In the vast majority of cases the employer does not take i the trouble to ask his workmen to bargain away their legal rights ; * he protects himself against the worry of litigation by the simpler device of insurance. On payment of a definite annual premium to an ordinary insurance company he is indemnified against any loss by claims under the Act, the

' A well-known barrister, who has been engaged in between three and foul hundred Employers' Liability cases, almost exclusively on the side of the workmen, informed us that his experience has convinced him that the legal liability foi compensation had no effect whatever in preventing accidents, at any rate in coal- mining.

' Thus, in i89i,only 119,122 coalminers, out of 648,450, had contracted


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company, to boot, taking all the trouble off his hands. The fear of damages may here and there induce a small master to obey, more promptly than before, the factory inspector's order to guard a driving wheel or fence a lift shaft. But in the great staple industries, insurance against accidents, at a rate of premium which is, in practice, uniform for all the firms in the trade, is becoming almost as much a matter of course as insurance against fire. Thus, even where the work- men retain all their legal rights, the employer has usually no more pecuniary interest in preventing accidents than he has where they have been compelled to contract out of the Act. " Contracting out," with its accompanying contribution to an employer's benefit society, is, in fact, itself only a minor form of insurance.

Insurance stands, therefore, in the way of the Trade Union plan of preventing accidents by making them costly. In the case of ships at sea, this fact has occasionally led philanthropists to suggest that insurance should be pro- hibited. But insurance is merely a private bargain, often indeed only a co-operative arrangement between friends ; and no such prohibition could possibly be enforced. Be- sides, insurance is itself only a device for spreading an occasional lump sum payment equally over a number of years : so that the largest establishments prefer to be their own insurers. Here the setting aside of a few hundred pounds a year to form a fund out of which to pay compen- sation for occasional workmen's accidents is a flea-bite compared with the cost and trouble of adopting the elab- orate precautions that might totally prevent their occurrence. This brings us to the economic centre of the whole argu- ment. What has been discovered is, that in the majority of industries it costs less, whether in the form of an annual

out, the practice being unknown in Northumberland, Durham, Yorkshire, the Midlands, and Scotland. Of railway companies, only the London and North- Western (compulsorily), and the I^ndon, Brighton, and South Coast (optionally), employ this expedient. In other industries we know only very few cases — such as Messrs. Chance's great glass works, and Mr. Assheton Smith's Dinorwic slate quarries — where the men contract out.


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premium or in that of an occasional lump sum out of profits, to compensate for accidents than to prevent them/

Considered as a method of preventing industrial accidents, the whole system of employers' liability is an anachronism. When Parliament became convinced that no coal mine could be safely worked without a second shaft, it did not seek to mend matters by conceding to the miners a right of recover- ing compensation from the mine-owner who worked without such a shaft. What happened was that all mine-owners were peremptorily ordered to have a second shaft, under penalty of heavy fines for each day's neglect to comply with the law. When public opinion demanded that the operatives in a crowded factory should not be exposed to the risk of being burnt to death, the House of Commons never thought of removing this risk by any process of compensation ; it commanded every mill-owner to provide proper fire-escapes, or be punished by the police magistrate. This is the method of our factory, mines, railways, and merchant ship- ping Acts, and all our public health legislation. " Imagine, for the sake of illustration, wrote Jevons in 1887, "that there is in some factory a piece of revolving machinery which is likely to crush to death any person carelessly approaching it. Here is a palpable evil which it would be

' Thus, to take only one industry, there can be little doubt that the large number of accidents to railway servants (on an average, over forty every day, a quarter of which are connected with moving vehicles) could, as regards shunters, be at once diminished by the universal adoption of such appliances as automatic couplings ; and that in particular, the almost daily sacrifice oi platelayers could be avoided by the rigging-up of temporary signals. But to adopt such precautions throughout the extensive English railway system would be extremely expensive, and possibly irksome.

The trifling amount of the premium that suffices to meet all compensation and costs under the Act of 1880 is, in this connection, very significant. The Iron Trades Employers' Association covers the liability of firms employing 28,000 men in engineering and shipbuilding by a premium varying from fifteen to twenty- seven pence per ;^ioo paid in wages. In the building trade it is four shillings per ;^ 100. In Northumberland and Durham the coalowners have a mutual insur- ance association, to which they pay annually a sum sufficient to meet all damages and costs which any of their members have to pay under the Act of 1880. Theii total payments during five years were only ;£400 a year, a sum which would not have gone far in providing any safeguards in all their collieries. See Evidence before Select Committee on Employers' Liability, 1887 (H. C. No. 285).


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unquestionably well to avert by some means or other. But by what means ? " And he concluded that there was one " mode of solving the question, which is as simple as it is effective. The law may command that dangerous machinery shall be fenced ; and the executive government may appoint inspectors to go round and prosecute such owners as disobey the law." ^

This sounds simple ; but it involves two troublesome preliminaries. First, an elaborate technical investigation to ascertain exactly what practical precautions should be adopted ; and, second, to induce a capitalist Parliament to enforce them against negligent employers. In 1872 the latter condition was so hopeless that the Trade Union leaders of that day could see nothing for it but to fall back on the indirect method of making accidents costly to the employer. But public opinion has made a prodigious stride during the last twenty years. Parliament no longer refuses to regulate, in minute detail, the processes of particular industries. Though both the scope and the administration of our industrial legislation still leave much to be desired, it now takes only a few years' agitation for a group of philanthropists or a well -organised Trade Union to get embodied, either in an Act of Parliament or in a " special rule " of the Home Secretary, any well-considered regulation for promoting health or safety which has been approved by the scientific experts. Meanwhile, in one industry after another, the inspection necessary for the enforcement of the law is steadily becoming a reality. By the Coal Mines Regulation Act of 1887 the miners in any pit are enabled to appoint two inspectors of their own, who are empowered to inspect, once a month, every part of the workings, and formally to record their report upon them. In 1858 there were only eleven Government inspectors of mines, all told. By 1896 this number had been increased to thirty-nine (including assistant inspectors), and the service made much

• The State in Relation to Labour, by W. S. Jevons (London, 1887), pp. 1-4.


378 Trade Union Function

more efficient. In the ten years 1884- 1893 over four thousand railway workers lost their lives by accidents with- out the Board of Trade troubling even to inquire into more than a dozen of the cases ; now, with the appointment of two railway workers as assistant inspectors, about half the fatal accidents that take place are^ made the subject of elaborate official investigation, with a view of suggesting precautions to prevent their recurrence.^ In short, the protection of the worker against industrial accidents has now become part of the acknowledged work of Government. An avoidable casualty in a factory or a mine is no longer regarded merely as an injury to the individual, to be atoned for by the pay- ment of money compensation : under modern legislation it is an offence against the community punishable by the magistrate. From this public obligation to provide for health and safety there can obviously be no "contracting out." Nor is it possible for the employer to evade his liability by any payment to an insurance company. The inspector and the magistrate are empowered to see, not only that the fine is paid, but also that the law is complied with. The idea of relying for the protection of life and health upon the chance activity of interested plaintififs in search of personal compen- sation, seems, to the modern jurist, archaic. Like murder, theft, and embezzlement, the unnecessary risking of the workers' lives has passed from the domain of civil to that of criminal law.

Let us now leave the arguments used in support of employers' liability by the Trade Union officials, and con- sider why it secures the suffrages of the rank and file. What the individual workman sees in the proposal is, not so much a vague chance of lessening the risk of accidents, as the certainty of a lump sum down when one occurs, to enable him or his widow to set up a little shop. To the miner or the railway servant it seems an intolerable hardship that his family should be reduced to beggary through no

' Report of General Secretary to Annual General Meeting of the Gintrai Railway Workers' Union (London, 1897), pp. 12-17.


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fault of his own. What he wants is, not to find out whose fault the accident is — as likely as not it is nobody's fault — but to be compensated for his misfortune. That is also the concern of the community, which has an admitted interest in fulfilling for him that " established expectation " upon which foresight and deliberateness in life depend. Here all inquiries as to whether the accident is caused by the personal negligence of the manager or the carelessness of a fellow-workman, or whether it is the result of a fog or an inexplicable explosion, are quite beside the question. Whether from the standpoint of the community or from that of the injured workman, the notion of making compensation in any way dependent on such considerations is pure inconsequence. Accordingly, wherever the community itself undertakes public services, it is every day compensating more equitably those who suffer bodily injury in the performance of their duties. In the army and navy, the Civil Service, and the police, in the Fire Brigade, and other branches of municipal administration, though the treatment of weekly wage-earners is still far from being as favorable as that of salaried officers, we see con- stantly a fuller acceptance and more generous interpretation of their right to compensation. Private individuals and corporations sometimes show a sense of the same responsi- bility. In many particular instances large industrial under- takings will give a " light job," or even a pension, to a clerk or workman disabled in their service. Whenever a sensa- tional accident occurs at sea or in the mine, subscriptions pour in to save the sufferers or their widows and orphans from the workhouse. In short, in all those cases in which public opinion can now be directly appealed to, it is found to be largely in agreement with the workman that it is intolerable for his livelihood to be cut short through no shortcoming or fault in his own character or conduct.

We have said above, parenthetically, that an accident is as likely as not to be nobody's fault. It is necessary to emphasise this, because most accidents are, to use the traditional phrase of the bill of lading, " the act of God."


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In the great majority of industrial casualties — probably in three cases out of four — it is impossible to prove that the calamity has been due to neglect on any one's part. A flash of lightning or a storm at sea, a flood or a tornado, irre- sponsibly claim their victims. The greatest possible care in buying materials or plant will leave undiscovered hidden flaws which one day result in a calamity. In other cases, the accident itself destroys all trace of its own cause. In many, perhaps in most, of the casualties of the ocean or the mine, the shunting yard or the mill, the difficulties in the way of bringing home actual negligence to any particular person are insuperable.^

Here, then, we discover a fundamental objection to the doctrine of employers' liability — its irrelevance to the issue between the community and the injured workman, and its practical inapplicability, even as an arbitrary makeshift, to most of the cases it is aimed at. Actual experience indi- cates that it neither prevents accidents, nor insures their victims. And it has the further drawback that to compel the workman to extract his compensation from the employer is inevitably to plunge him into litigation. Even where compensation can now be recovered the law costs are a serious evil. Moreover, unless the sufferer happens to belong to a strong and wealthy Trade Union, which takes his case up, it is usually quite impossible for him to fight it at all, from lack of both knowledge and funds ; so that he is practically driven to accept any compromise offered by the employer. The Home Office itself admits the failure. In

1 The proportion of industrial accidents for which actual or constructive negligence by the employer can be shown has been variously estimated at from one-tenth to one-half of the whole. The Employers' Liability Assurance Cor- poration, which insures employers against their liability under the Act of 1880, found that, in this class of policies, claims were made on them for only 24 pei cent of the accidents reported ; and estimated that, in another class of policies, where all accidents whatsoever were insured against, only 3026 out of 26,087 admitted claims (or less than one-eighth) represented accidents for which the employer might have been held legally liable. See evidence before Select Com- mittee on Employers' Liability, 1887 (H. C. No. 285), pp. 4165-4308, and Appendices.


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its official memorandum on the state of the law it goes so far as to say, " the truth is that to the workman litigation under the Act of 1880 has more than its usual terrors. It is not merely that litigation is expensive, and that he is a poor man and his employer comparatively .a rich one : it is that when a workman goes to law with his employer, he, as it were, declares war against the person on whom his future probably depends ; he seeks to compel him by legal force to pay money ; and his only mode of doing so is the odious one of proving that his employer or his agents — his own fellow -workmen — have been guilty of negligence." Finally, such migratory workers as seamen find legal remedies against their employers absolutely illusory, owing to the impossibility of collecting and keeping together their witnesses, if these are fellow-seamen, during the law's delays.

Let us now examine the question from the employer's point of view. Why should he bear the cost of an accident which is the " act of God," merely because it happens to have occurred on his premises, especially when the same unavoidable calamity which has injured his employees may have crippled, or even ruined, his own business ? And even in the case of accidents due to his own neglect, how can any proportion be depended on between the degree of his culp- ability and the penalty of adequately providing for all the sufferers ? One accident may involve the payment of a five- pound note to a man who has been laid up for a week with a scalded hand : an exactly similar accident, caused in an exactly similar way, may kill or disable for life a score of people. The most criminal negligence may lead only to a breakdown which hurts nobody, whilst a very venial over- sight may make an employer liable to fabulous compensa- tion. Thus there is injustice in making him liable for avoidable accidents, and no justice at all — no sense, in fact — in making him liable for unavoidable ones. Is it to be wondered at that employers resolutely resist Liability Bills in Parliament without regard to party exigencies ?

We now see why the provisions of the Employers'


382 Trade Union Function

Liability Act of 1880, like those of the score of Bills which have since been introduced for its amendment, are inadequate and even illusory. It was, no doubt, pleasant to get, under the Act, some pecuniary compensation for a comparatively small class of cases, which would otherwise have remained unprovided for. It would no doubt have been a boon to a larger number of sufferers if the Bill of 1893-94 had been passed. But such measures, however useful they may be to particular sections of wage-earners, deal only with a small proportion of the cases of hardship, and do not discriminate in their favor on any logical or permanently tenable ground. Abandoning, then, the idea that systematic provision for the sufferers from industrial accidents can be got out of any possible penalties for negligence, however widely the lawyers may stretch the term, what shall we say to the suggestion, as yet scarcely whispered by Trade Unionists, that the law should be so extended as to make provision for sufferers from all industrial accidents, whether due to the proved negligence of any superior or not. Both in Germany and Austria this idea has been already embodied in elaborate schemes of universal provision for accidents, which rank among the most remarkable of social experiments. In England the proposal has appeared as a natural outcome of the Trade Union idea of maintaining the continuity of the worker's livelihood. At the Trade Union Congress of 1877, universal provision for all industrial accidents, the funds to be provided by a tax on commodities, was suggested by a London compositor, as an alternative to the usual employers' liability resolution. It was vehemently denounced by Thomas Halliday, a leader of the coalminers, who said " they wanted no tax upon coal. What they wanted was that their lives and their bodies should be preserved. The best way to secure this was to make the employers re- sponsible, and make them pay the cost. What they wanted was not money, but their lives and limbs preserved.' This view was endorsed by Alexander Macdonald and accepted by the Congress amid loud cheers. Thus, the


Sanitation and Safety 383

rooted belief in employers* liability as a means of preventing accidents, coupled, perhaps, with the fear of a deduction from wages for compulsory insurance, brushed aside a proposal which deserved more careful consideration. By it we are, indeed, taken outside the domain of anything that can be called employers' liability, however much the phrase may be strained. This involves a reconsideration of the incidence of the burden. To compel employers to incur the liability implied by adequate compensation for all accidents what- soever, would, whether done directly or by insurance, involve a serious burden upon every enterprise, which would certainly be shifted, though not without friction and expense, on to the customers, in the form of higher prices. What is more, it would fall unequally upon different industries according to their risk, and would thus be transferred unequally to different classes of consumers, not at all in proportion to their ability to bear this new burden, but partly at haphazard, partly in proportion to their actual consumption. At every " reper- cussion " of the tax, there would be an additional " loading," so that the ultimate charge on the consumer would, as in the case of excise duties on raw materials, far exceed the original sum. As soon as public opinion is prepared to decide that all accidents ought to be compensated for, it will be at once easier, fairer, and more economical to provide the necessary annual sum from public funds, and to raise a corresponding revenue in accordance with the recognised canons of taxation.

Upon the question likely to interest politicians — how soon public opinion will arrive at such a point-^-all that can be said is that the electors are rapidly becoming aware that accidents are an inevitable part of the cost of modern industry ; indeed, statistically considered, they are not accidents at all, but certainties. And, as we have seen, the public conscience, which has never been perfectly easy on the subject — how could it be in a great mining, manufac- turing, and seafaring community like ours? — grows per- ceptibly more sensitive from decade to decade. The questi6n


384 Trade Union Function

cannot be let alone : some solution must be found. At present what stands most conspicuously in the way of public provision for all sufferers from accidents, coupled with factory legislation for their prevention, and criminal prosecutions for the punishment of negligence, is the belief in Employers' Liability. And Employers' Liability, as we have seen, breaks down at every point. The con- clusion is obvious.

It would be an incidental, but very advantageous, result of any scheme of public provision that every accident would have its inquest. There would be many gains in extending the present system of public inquiry into casualties. Such an inquiry is now held, (a) by the coroner, if death has resulted, or (in the City of London) if there has been a fire ; {V) by an officer of the Board of Trade, in cases where a ship has been wrecked or a railway accident involving injury to passengers has occurred ; and {c) by an officer of the Home Office in mining accidents. Industrial accidents of every kind must at least be notified to a public office. If a public " inquest " were held, by a duly qualified public officer (with or without a jury), whenever an accident caused loss of life or limb, or other serious bodily harm, to a wage-earner in the course of his employment, the investi- gation and publicity would probably do much to secure compliance with the Factory or Mines Regulation Acts, and so diminish the number of accidents. If any system of public provision for the sufferers were established, such an inquest would serve a useful purpose in determining whether a casualty had been caused by somebody's negli- gence or by carelessness on the part of the sufferer himself, or whether it was, in the strict sense, an accident. Where the casualty had arisen from the employer's failure to comply with the law, or from any other gross negligence, a criminal prosecution would naturally follow, any fine im- posed thus indirectly reimbursing the State for the expense caused. When the sufferer himself had, by carelessness, brought about his own calamity, his compensation could be


Sanitation and Safety 385

wholly or in part withheld, though if death had ensued there would be no public advantage in making his widow and orphans go short of necessary maintenance. The compensation itself should in all cases be payable by the Government out of public funds. Whether there is any practical advantage in the Government, as in Germany and Austria, then levying the amount on corporations of employers (and through them upon the consumers and wage- earners), instead of directly upon the taxpayers as such, seems to us extremely doubtful. Such a system of finance contravenes, like an excise duty on raw materials, all the orthodox canons of taxation. It is perhaps more to the point to say that any attempt to levy an insurance premium upon the workman's weekly wage would, in this country, encounter the unrelenting opposition of the whole Trade Union and friendly society world.^

If now we look back on the whole Trade Union argu- ment from the workman's point of view, it is easy, we think, to see running throughjt one simple Jdea. Whether we study the regulations imposed by the Collective Bargaining of the iron and building trades, or the elaborate technical provisions of the Factory, Mines, and Merchant Shipping Acts ; whether we disentangle the complicated issues of " common employment " or those of " contracting out," we always strike the same root_ principle, a resolute protest -^ by the manual worker against being, required J:o selLJiis, life or health, jn addition to his labor. The individual wage-earner knows that he may always be bribed or terrorised into accepting conditions of employment injurious to health or dangerous to life or limb. He therefore seeks, through his Trade Union, to prohibit Individual Bargaining on these points, and to enforce, in all establishments, those conditions of employment which experience has shown to be necessary for sanitation and safety. It is in vain that the economists

1 See, on this point, the significant Minority Report by Mr. Henry Broadhurst, M.P., in the Report of the Royal Commission on the Aged Poor, 1893-95, C. 7684, p. xcviii.

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386 Trade Union Function

have assured him that extra risks bring higher wages ; or the employers offered him liberal inducements in return for " contracting out " of protective legislation. What the Trade Unionist has, for a whole generation, uniformly answered, is that he will not " coin his blood for drachmas." Hence his persistent hankering after Common Rules, which shall definitely prescribe how much cubic space shall be allowed, what safeguards against accidents shall be adopted, and what provisions shall be made for protection against disease and discomfort. What is remarkable is that, in this resolute determination to lift out of the sphere of " personal freedom " the option to suffer disease, maiming, or death, public opinion has emphatically endorsed the Trade Union view. It is no longer permitted to the sailor to decide whether he will, for extra wages, accept the risk of going to sea in an overloaded ship, or to the cotton operative whether, in order to get employment at all, he will put up with a weaving-shed dripping with steam. We do not now leave it to the white lead worker or the enameller to bargain with their employers as to the extent to which they will risk their health by dispensing with costly precautions ; or allow the coalminer the option of earning high wages by foregoing the elaborate ventilation of an exceptionally perilous pit. And it is not only in the ever -lengthening Factory, Mines, Railways, and Merchant Shipping Acts that this conversion of the public is apparent. The Employers' Liability Act of 1880 was itself a proof that Parliament overrode the lawyers' contention that the workmen must im- plicitly accept, as part of the wage contract, whatever risk to life or health was incidental to their industry. When, in order to evade this law, employers invented the device of " contracting out," a Liberal House of Commons decided actually to prohibit the risk of accident being made a matter of contract at all, whilst even the Conservative House of Lords resolved that under no circumstances could it be left to Individual Bargaining. Finally, the slackness which has now come over the whole controversy of Employers'


Sanitation and Safety 387

Liability is, we think, to be attributed largely to a half- conscious appreciation by the public that the mere making of accidents costly — a liability which can always be insured against — is not the way to prevent themJand that to foist an illusory liability on the employer for constructive negli- gence is not the way to provide for the sufferers. As far as the United Kingdom is concerned, the practical conclusion is to prescribe, by definite technical regulations, the precautions against accident and disease which experience and science prove to be necessary ; to punish any breach of these regulations whether any accident has happened or not ; to hold a public inquiry into every serious case of accident, ind (as part of the punishment) make the employer pay a forfeit to the State according to the degree of his guilt, vhenever the accident has resulted from any breach of the ules or other clear negligence ; and to provide from public "unds for the injured workman and his family, however the iccident has happened, according to the extent of their leeds.


The foregoing analysis of the Trade Union controversy upon Employers' Liability was written in August 1896, and published in January 1897.^ Since that date the whole situation has been changed by the introduction and passage into law of Mr. Chamberlain's revolutionary " Workmen's Compensation Bill." This measure is admittedly no final solution of the problem, and we prefer, therefore, to leave intact our detailed examination of the position in which the controversy stood in 1896, rather than attempt a hasty reconstruction on the basis of an Act as yet untested by experience.

The measure which the Conservative Government of 1897 has passed as an alternative to the Liberal Govern-

  • Progressive Review.


388 Trade Union Function

merit's proposal of 1893-94, seems, in an almost dramatic manner, to give the go-by to all the old controversies.' Instead of quibbling over the degree to which the employer's liability for negligence can be stretched, the new law makes him, in most of the great industries of the country, individ- ually liable to compensate his workmen for all accidents suffered by them in the course of their employment, whether caused by negligence or not. Thus, without expressly abolishing the doctrine of " common employment," the law, by securing a certain limited compensation for every acci- dent whatsoever, now puts the workman in an altogether different position from the injured stranger, who can claim only in case of the employer's real or constructive negligence. And although "contracting out" is nominally permitted, provided that the scheme is certified by the Chief Registrar of Friendly Societies as being not less favorable to the workman than his position under the Act, so wide is now the scope of the law and so stringently is this exception guarded, that most of its attractiveness to the employer will have disappeared. The Trade Unionists were, accordingly, well advised in accepting Mr. Chamberlain's bill, notwith- standing its limitations and defects. The right to compen- sation for all accidents, now granted to about a third of the manual workers, cannot permanently be withheld from the other two-thirds, and the numerous flaws that will certainly manifest themselves in the working of so novel and so far-reaching a statute, may be confidently left to the amending bills to which one Government after another will find itself committed.

The particular employers upon whom the new law im- poses a large and indefinite pecuniary liability have, we think, a real grievance. Certain industries have been thus burdened, whilst others, no less liable to accidents,* have

' For a bitter attack on this measure from the Conservative employer's point of view, see J. Buckingham Pope's Conservatives or Socialists {Lonion, 1897).

^ Besides all the processes of agriculture, the building or repairing of houses less than 30 feet high, and all workshop industries, the Act excludes seamen and


Sanitation and Safety 389

been left free. Even within the bounds of a single trade, establishments using one process are made liable to pay compensation for casualties which no care or precaution could prevent, whilst others, using a different process, escape any but the illusory liability of the old law. The novel penalty for accidents to which some employers are thus subjected bears no relation to the degree of their guilt in trying to prevent them ; a casualty due exclusively to the " act of God " will cost them no less than one due to their own personal negligence. In practice the liability to com- pensation is simply insured against, and employers within the scope of the new Act find themselves saddled with an extra insurance premium, constituting an addition to the cost of production from which other capitalists are exempt.

The two -thirds of the manual workers whom the Act now excludes are suffering from an injustice which can- not easily be redressed on the lines of the present law. It may be practicable to put a liability to pay com- pensation for all accidents upon a railway company, a coalowner, or the registered occupier of a steam factory. Even in these cases, if the employer neglects to insure, the sufferers in an extensive accident may sometimes find their claims baulked by the firm's bankruptcy. But a large proportion of the excluded workmen are employed by small masters, themselves often little removed from the status of wage-earners, or by migratory contractors of one kind or another, only just living from hand to mouth. Insurance in such cases would be unusual, if not even impossible. Any serious accident in their little industry would, on the one hand, reduce them to bankruptcy, and, on the other, deprive the sufferers of any real chance of extracting compensation from them. Yet the two-thirds of the wage-earners thus employed cannot permanently be denied the compensation for all accidents now granted to the other third. If it is socially expedient to compensate the workers in the great

fishermen ; carmen and drovers and others dealing with horses and cattle ; and such riverside occupations as boatmen and lightermen.


39° Trade Union Function

industries for all accidents, there is neither equity nor good sense in withholding a like compensation from those who suffer accidents in other trades.

In our opinion, there must inevitably be a development, either towards the formation of compulsory trade groups, collectively responsible for the accidents occurring in the establishments of their members, or else towards simple State compensation. The former plan, adopted in Germany and Austria, has the economic advantage of making each in- dustry self-supporting, and thus avoiding the disastrous con- sequences of the growth of "parasitic trades," on which we dwell in the subsequent chapter on " The Economic Characteristics of Trade Unionism." It would, moreover, emphasise the Trade Unionist principle that an industry should be regulated not by the will of individual employers, but by its own Common Rules. Organisation among em- ployers, and therefore Collective Bargaining, would be greatly promoted, with the result that a great impulse would prob- ably be given to Trade Unionism itself. But the necessary regimentation of employers and their control by rigid rules would be extremely distasteful to English capitalists, whilst there would be real difficulty in adapting any such organisa- tion to the remarkable variety, complexity, and mobility of English industry. Simple State compensation avoids all these difficulties, and requires no more regimentation or regis- tration than is already submitted to by every mine or factory owner. If it is desired, as the Marquis of Salisbury declared in the House of Lords in support of Mr. Chamberlain's bill, to create a great life-saving machine. State compensation affords themost effective means tothis end. The fact that the Treasury paid for every casualty would change the official bias about dangerous trades, and we should promptly have the Govern- ment setting its scientific advisers and factory inspectors to work to devise new means of preventing accidents, to be enforced by the Factories, Mines, Railways, and Merchant Shipping Acts. The public inquests into all serious cases would themselves do much to make the capitalists take


Sanitation and Safety 39 1

every possible precaution, and the Factory Inspector's criminal prosecution of careless employers, which could not be " insured against " or avoided by bankruptcy, would do the rest. Nor would the employers object. Now that Mr. Chamberlain has, in most of our staple trades, made them individually liable for all accidents, a Government which proposed, as the only practicable way of extending compen- sation to the other industries, to place the liability directly on the State, and to spread its cost impartially over the whole body of income-tax payers (requiring, perhaps, an additional threepence in the pound), might count on the powerful sup- port of the great capitalists in the coal, iron, and railway industries, who would find themselves relieved of the special and exceptional burden now cast upon them.


CHAPTER VIII NEW PROCESSES AND MACHINERY[edit]

A GENERATION ago it was assumed, as a matter of course, by almost every educated person, that it was a cardinal tenet of Trade Unionism to oppose machinery and the introduc- tion of improved processes of manufacture. " Trade Unions," said a well-known critic of the workmen in i860, "have ever naturally opposed the introduction of machinery, such introduction tending apparently to reduce the amount of manual labor needed, and thus pressing on the majority. No Trade Union ever encouraged invention."^ In support of this opinion might have been quoted, for instance, the editor of the Potters' Examiner, an influential leader of the Potters' Trade Unions, who in 1844 could still confidently appeal to experience in ascribing all the evils of the factory operatives to this one cause. " Machinery," he wrote, " has done the work. Machinery has left them in rags and with- out any wages at all. Machinery has crowded them in cellars, has immured them in prisons worse than Parisian bastilles, has forced them from their country to seek in other lands the bread denied to them here. I look upon all improvements which tend to lessen the demand for human labor as the deadliest curse that could possibly fall on the heads of our working classes, and I hold it to be the duty of

1 " Trades Unions and their Tendencies," by Edmund Potter, F.R.S., in the Transaction!: of the National Association for the Promotion of Social Scitiut (London, i860), p. 761.


New Processes and Machinery 393

every working potter — the highest duty — to obstruct by all legal means the introduction of the scourge into any branch of his trade."

Nowadays we hear no such complaints. When in 1892 Professor Marsha ll published a careful criticism of Trade Union policy and its results, he deliberately refrained from taking into account or even mentioning, the traditional hostility of Trade Unions to inventions or machinery.^ And when in i Soa.. the Royal Commission on .Xi^bpr reported the result of its three years' elaborate and costly inquiry into the claims and proceedings of the workmen's organisations, it found no reason to repair this significant omission. The Commissioners heard the complaints of employers in every trade, and certainly exhibited no desire to gloss over the faults of the workmen. But if we may trust the summary of evi- dence embodied in the lengthy Majority Report, resistance to machinery no longer forms part of the procedure of British Trade Unionism. Although the Commissioners analysed the " rules and regulations " of hundreds of separate Trade Unions, in none of them did it discover any trace of antag- onism to invention or improvement.'

The fact is that Trade Unionism on this subject has changed its attitude. It is quite true that during the first half of the century the Trade Unionist view was that so forcibly expressed in the Potter^ Examiner. But in 1859 it was noticed by a contemporary scientific observer that neither the Trade Unions in general, nor even those in the same industry, showed any real sympathy with the Northamptonshire bootmakers' strike against the sewing- machine, " deeming it neither desirable nor practical to resist the extension of mechanical improvements, although very sensible of the inconvenience and suffering that are sometimes caused by a rapid change in the nature and extent of the

' Elements of the Economics of Industry (London, 1892), Book VI. ch. xiii. " Trade Unions."

' See, in particular, the voluminous analysis of Rules of Associations of Employers and of Employed, C. 6795, pp. xii. 513. 1892.

VOL. I 03


394 Trade Union Function

employment afforded in any particular trade."* In 1862 the Liverpool Coopers, who had formally boycotted machinery in 1853, resolved " that we permit any member of this society to go to work at the steam cooperage." ^ During this decade the Monthly Circular of the Friendly Society of Ironmoulders contains numerous earnest exhortations by the Executive Committee to the members not to resist " the iron man," the new machine for iron moulding. " It may go against the grain," they say in December 1864, "for us to fraternise with what we consider innovations, but depend upon it, it will be our best policy to lay hold of these improvements and make them subservient to our best interests."* The United Society of Brushmakers, which had in 1863 and 1867 sup- ported its members in refusing to bore work by steam machinery, and had formally declared that they must " on no account set work bored by steam by strangers," * revised its rules in 1 868, and decided " that should any of our employers wish to introduce steam power for boring, no opposition shall be offered by any of our divisions, but each division shall have the discretionary power of deciding the advantage derived from its use." ' These conversions gain in emphasis and definiteness from decade to decade, until, a j the present day , n o declaration against inn ovations or im provements woul d r eceive support from the Trade Union Consrress or any

' " Account of the Strike of the Northamptonshire Boot and Shoe-makers in 1857, 1858, 1859," by John Ball, F.R.S., Irish Poor Law Commissioner and (1855-1858) Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies; better known as the founder of the Alpine Club. Printed in the Report of Social Science Association on Trade Societies and Strikes, i860, p. 6. The same volume refei-s (p. 149) to the feet that the organ of the Chainmakers' union "did not hesitate to condemn as foolish the strike of the shoemakers in the Midland Counties gainst the intro- duction of machinery."

'^ MS. Minutes of the Liverpool Coopers' Friendly Society, July 1853 and September 1862.

3 Friendly Society of Ironmoulders, Monthly Circular, December 1864.

  • Annual Report of the United Society of Brushmakers for 1863. See also

Report for 1867.

^ Rules of the United Society of Brttshmakers, edition of 1 869. Such few disputes as have since occurred in this society have arisen (like that at Norwich in 1892) over the exact amount of the piecework rate to be paid on machine work.


New Processes and Machinery 395

similar gathering.^ Among all the thousand-and-one rules of existing Trade Unions we have discovered only a single survival of the old irreconcilable prohibition, and that in a tiny local industry, which is rapidly fading away. The Operative Pearl Button and Stud Workers' Protection Society, established at Birmingham in 1 843, and numbering about 500 members, enjoys the distinction of being, so far as we are aware, the only British Trade Union which still pro- hibits working by machinery. Its latest " Rules and Regula- tions " declare " that the system of centering by the engine be annihilated in toto, and any member countenancing the system direct or indirect shall be subject to a fine of two pounds. Any member of the society working at the trade by means of mill-power either direct or indirect, shall be subject to a fine of five pounds." *

But every newspaper reader knows that the introduction of machinery still causes disputes and strikes ; and no doubt many excellent citizens still pass by the reports of such dis- putes as records of the old vain struggle of the handworker against the advance of industrial civilisation. An examina- tion of the reports would, however, show that the ciispute n ow arises, not on the question whether machinery shou ld be!lntrbduced. but about the conditions of its Jntrodyiction . The change has even gone so far that there are now, as we shall show, instances of trouble being caused by Trade Unions

> The latest case in which a union has ordered a strike simply against the introduction of machinery into a hand industry is, so far as we know, that of the Liverpool Packing Case Makers' Society in 1886. The strike failed, and the men have since worked amicably with the machine, and have now become com- pletely reconciled to it on finding, as their secretary informed us, that it had largely increased the trade.

' Rules and Regulations to be observed by the members of the Pearl Button and Stud Workerf Protection Society, held at the Baptist Chapel, Guildford Street, Birmingham (Birmingham, 1887), Rule 26, p. 14.

We believe that two or three of the old-fashioned trade clubs in branches of the ShefEeld Cutlery trades, such, for instance, as the File Forgers and the Table- blade Forgers, still refuse to recognise the new machines which are largely at work in their trades, and which are therefore operated by a new class of workmen. On the other hand, other local unions such as the File cutters, Sawsmiths, and the Pen and Pocket Blade Forgers, have made no objection to the machines, and have encouraged their members to take to them.


396 Trade Union Function

putting pressure on old-fashioned employers to compel them to adopt the newest inventions. The typical dispute to-day is a dispute as to terms. The adoption of a new machine, or the introduction of a new process, in superseding an old method of production, usually upsets the rates of wages based on the older method, and renders necessary a fresh scale of payment. I f wages are reckoned by the piece, the employ ers w ill seek to reduce the rate per piece ; if by time, the work ers will claim a rise for the increased inte nsity and strai n of the newer and swifter process. In either case the readjustment will involve more or less higgling, in which the points at issue are seldom confined merely to the amount of remuneration. The degree of difficulty in any such readjustment will depend on the good sense of the parties to the negotiations ; and in this as in other matters good sense has to be acquired by experience. Some industries, cotton -spinning for ex- ample, have had a century of experience of readjustments of this kind, which have accordingly become a matter of routine. But in trades in which the use of machinery, and even the factory system itself, are still comparatively new developments, the readjustments are seldom arrived at without a struggle.

As a typical instance of a trade in this stage, take the modern factory industry of boot and shoe manufacture, which is notorious for incessant disputes about the introduction of machinery. In this trade the compact little union of handi- craftsmen, working for rich customers, has long since been outstripped by its offshoot, the N ational Union of Boot a nd Shoe Operatives, formed exclusively of factory workers, and numbering, at the end of 1896, 37,000 members. We have here an industry which is being incessantly revolutionised by an almost perpetual stream of new inventions and new applications of the old machines. The workmen are noted for their turbulence, want of discipline, and lack of education. The employers, themselves new capitalists without traditions, exposed to keen rivalry from foreign competitors, are eager to take the utmost advantage of every chance. The disputes


New Processes and Machinery 397

are endless, and the prolonged conference proceedings, the elaborate arguments before the arbitrators, and the complicated agreements with the employers are all printed in full, afford- ing a complete picture of the attitudes taken up by the masters and the men.

The employers' indictment of the operatives has been graphically summed up by their principal literary spokesman. "It is true," says the editor of the employers' journal, " that objection does not take the form of rattening or direct refusal to work with the machines ; experience has taught the union a more efficacious way of marshalling the forces of opposition. To say openly that labor-saving appliances were objected to would be to estrange that public sympathy without which Trade Unionism finds itself unable to live. So other methods are adopted. The work done by the machines is belittled ; it is urged that no saving of labor is effected by their use ; the m en working the machines exercise all their ing enuity in makin p- machine work as expensive as hand labo r. There exists among workmen what amounts to a tacit understanding that only so much work shall be done within a certain time, and, no matter what machines are introduced, the men conspire to prevent any saving being effected by their aid. It is of no use to mince words. The unions are engaged in a gigantic conspiracy to hinder and retard the development of labor-saving appliances in this country. The action of their members in failing to exercise due diligence in working new machines is equivalent to absolute dishonesty. It is, indeed, positively painful to any one who has been accustomed to see, for example, finishing machinery running in American factories, to watch English operatives using the same machines. In America the men work, they run the machines to their utmost capacity, and vie with each other in their endeavor to get through as much work as possible. But in an English factory they seem to loaf away their time in a manner which is perfectly exasperating. If they run a machine for five minutes at full speed, they seem to think it necessary to stop it and see that no breakage has


3g8 Trade Union Function

occurred. Then they walk about the shop, and borrow an oil-can or a spanner, wherewith to do some totally unnecessary thing. This occupies anywhere from five minutes to an hour, and then the machine is run on again for a few minutes ; and if the operator is questioned, he says, ' machines are no good ; I could do the work quicker and better by hand.' And so he could, for he takes care not to allow a machine to beat a shopmate working by hand on the same job, and, in short, does all he can to induce manufacturers to abandon mechanical devices and go back to hand labor. The spirit of comradeship is carried to a ridiculous extent, and no man dare do the, best he can, lest his fellow-workmen should be, as he foolishly thinks, injured. ... It seems to be a settled policy with the men, not to try to earn as much money as possible per week, but as much as possible per job, in other words, to keep the cost of production as high as possible." '

Assuming all this to be true in fact — and, so far, at any rate as times of strained relations are concerned, there is no reason to question its accuracy — let us supplement it by two other facts which would hardly have been inferred from it First, that i n the American boot factories which work at suc h high press ure, the, high .pressure is invariably paid for by piecework rates. Second, that in England it is the workmen who demand that, in conjunction with the new machines they should be allowed to work by the piece, as they have hither- to been accustomed, and that it is the e mployers who ha ve resolutel y insis ted .on jaking the opportunity of changing t o fixe d dav wages. ^ Here lies the clue to the whole diificulty. We have already explained, in connection with the Cotton- spinners, how piecework is the only possible protection of the Standard Rate for men who are working machines of which

1 The Shoe and Leather Record, 19th February 1892,

  • Thus one of the so-called " Seven Commandments " — the ultimatum of the

employers against which the great strike of 1895 to°k place — was the following! " That the present is not an opportune time for the introduction of piecework in connection with lasting and finishing machinery "(Zaioar Gazette, November 1894). The lasters and finishers have been accustomed to work by the piece ever sina the beginning of the factory boot industry.


New Processes and Machinery 399

the rate of speed is always being increased. On such machines payment by the hour, day, or week involves the exacting from the operative an ever-increasing task of work in return for the old wages. In the case of the boot operatives the question is complicated by the fact that the new machines have introduced a new organisation of the factory, the work- man steadily becoming less and less of an individual producer; working at his own speed, and more and more a member of a " team," or set of operatives each performing a small part of the process, and thus obliged to keep up with each other. T his enforced " speeding up " would be all very well if th e o ld plan of paving bv the piece w ere continued. But when the " more efficient organis ation of labor " is coupled with the introduction of a fixed day wage, the workmen see in i t an attempt to lower the Standar d Rate of remuneration fo r effort, by gettin g more labo r in retu rn for the old payment.

This position the employers fail even to comprehend. " I know," said the President of the Employers' Association in 1 894, " that it will be said it is slavery, pace-making, and driving, and that sort of thing. . . . But the manufacturers contend that that is not so. For instance, when nien are put to work in a team, they are waited on hand and foot, and they are never kept waiting for anything, whereas when they have to ' shop ' their (own) work a waste of time is involved. That time is saved under the team system."^ It is part of the brainworker's usual ignorance of the conditions of manual labor that the leaders of the employers could naively imagine that, to be " never kept waiting for anything," is an advantage to the man paid a fixed daily wage. To the workman it means being kept incessantly toiling at the very top of his speed for the whole nine hours of the factory day. When this high pressure is demanded for the old earnings, it amounts to a clear attempt to lower the Standard Rate. How this attitude strikes an employer in the same trade,

' Report of the National Conference between employers and employed, 6th-8th January 1894; reprinted in Monthly Report of the National Union Boot and Shot Operatives, January 1894.


400 Trade Union Function

conversant with American conditions, may be judged from the following instructive letter written in reply to the editorial first quoted. " Let us take a look into an English machinery- equipped factory. What do we see there ? Precisely what you state, only much worse. The workmen, or very often boys, who work on weekly wages, try- how little work they can do and how badly they can do that little. They don't seem to care a scrap so long as they get the time over, and are glad when the time comes to clear out of the factory and the day's monotony is over. They are continually medd- ling with their machines and throwing them out of order. Then the engineer has to be called in. The result is a loss of time, a loss of work, and expense also. All this to my mind arises from a mistaken policy which English manufacturers adopt in employing so much boy labor and the weekly wages system. If the piecework system were adopted, and only expert men employed on the machines, better work would be the result, at less cost, and the woirkman would earn higher wages. Is not that the secret why an American manufacturer can produce his goods at a lower labor cost than similar goods can be produced in this country, while at the same time the American operative is earning much higher wages than his English brother ? " ^

It will not unnaturally be asked why the English em- ployers should wantonly raise difficulties by choosing the awkward moment of the introduction of new machinery, to compel their workmen to abandon the piecework system of remuneration, which has for several generations been custom- ary, and to substitute for it a fixed daily wage. The manu- facturers explain that, if piecework rates were conceded in connection with the new machines, and if the scale were calculated on the basis of the workmen's weekly earnings at the old process, the men would very soon so increase theit skill and quickness as to earn ;^3 or £df per week, instead of the time rate of 26s. as at present. But this, as every cotton manufacturer would recognise, is, economically speaking, no

1 Letter in Shoeand Leather Record, 25th February 1892.


New Processes and Machinery 401

argument at all. The able secretary of the Boot and Shoe Manufacturers' Association has repeatedly urged upon his members that such a result would in no way raise the cost of production per pair of boots, and, on the contrary, would positively lower it, by enormously increasing the output per machine. Unfortunately, such arguments are thrown away on untrained employers, who even when they are contemplat- ing the widest extension of their profits, can seldom view with equanimity the prospect of paying their workmen any larger amount per week than that to which they are accustomed.^

The workmen in the factory boot trade, equally un- trained in industrial policy, are no less unreasonable than the employers, and on a cognate point. They, too, are so scandalised at the prospect of an increased reward being gained by any one else, that they propose unreasonable and impossible courses in order to prevent it. When, in 1894, the Leicester Branch of the National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives appointed a committee to draw up a Piecework List for work done in conjunction with the new machinery, these workmen naively proceeded on the basis of retaining the " Statement " of piecework rates under the old process, merely deducting, for each article, a percentage estimated to produce a saving to the employer exactly equivalent to the interest he would pay on the cost of the new machinery." Thus, w hilst the terms proposed by t he

1 An American observer notes the same feeling among German employers. " In Berlin even, I found this narrow-minded begrudging of a working-man's higher earnings. In piecework they reduce the rate of pay of the greater output which brings higher earnings than the general rate. . . . The manufacturers returned to the day rate. . . . because the masters found that the men made too much money under the piecework system." — The Economy of High Wages, by J. Schoenhof (New York, 1892), p. 400.

The same struggle took place between 1850 and i860 on the introduction of the factory system and steam power into the Coventry ribbon trade, the operatives demanding piecework rates and the employers insisting on introducing fixed day wages, " partly because the piecework system is a more troublesome one than that of weekly wages, but chiefly because it would work a forfeiture to them of the benefit from the increase of the productiveness of their machinery. " — Social Science Association, Report on Trade Societies and Strikes, p. 325.

2 Minutes (in MS.) of the "Piecework Committee," which sat from April to


402 Trade Union Function

em ployers would leave the workmen no incentive to use the new machinegt^ those proposed lay the workm en,, would lea ve the" employers no incentive , to introduce them.

The feeling of the workmen in this matter is a super- stition from the era of individual production. The operative bootmaker has inherited a rooted belief that the legitimate reward of labor is the entire commodity produced, or its price in the market. This idea was the economic backbone of Owenite Socialism, with its projects of Associations of Producers and Labor Exchanges.^ In the first number of the Poor Man's Guardian, a widely-read journal of 1831, it was expressed in the following verse : —

Wages should form the price of goods ; , Yes, wages should be all.

Then we who work to make the goods,

Should justly have them all ; But if their price be made of rent.

Tithes, taxes, profits all. Then we who work to make the goods,

Shall have, just none at all ! '

When the operative bootmaker proceeds to draft a piece- work list for the new machines, the rates that he proposes really express in figures his economic assumption that " wages should be the price of goods." This state of mind leads him calmly to suggest, in effect, that he should receive the entire net advantage of every new invention. The employer puts in an equally untenable claim to enjoy the whole benefit

September 1894. This Committee was attended by the prominent workmen of the Leicester Branch and the Branch officials. It is only fair to say that when it was seen that the rates proposed worked out to an increase of wages in some cases amounting to as much as 40 per cent, the more experienced officials of the union protested against its proceedings as likely to bring the whole policy of the union into disrepute.

• History of Trade Unionism, ch. iii.

2 Place MSS., 27,791-240. The verse is now reprinted in Dictionary oj Political Economy under " Chartism " ; and in the Life of Francis Place, by Graham Wallas (London, 1897). The same idea inspired the proposals of Lassalle, and most of the inferences drawn from Karl Marx's Theory of Value, whilst it still lingers in the declarations and programmes of German Socialism and its derivatives. It is, of course, inconsistent with present economic views as to the " unearned Increment," arising from the progress of invention and organisation


New Processes and Machinery 403

of the improvement, and regards the workmen's claim as an attack, not on the community, but on himself, j But whatever the employer may desire, the community believes that, in the majority of cases, co mpetition quickly transfers his ne w gai ns to the consume r in the shape of reduced prices. In all these contentions, therefore, p ublic opinion is apt to b e a gainst the workmen's claim , even to the extent of ignoring their legitimate demand for an increase of earnings com- mensurate with the greater strain of the new process. | The employers have sometimes known how to use this argument with great effect on public opinion. The London Master Builders' Committee complained, in 1859, that the men's argument in favor of a shortening of hours "implied that the benefits to be derived from machinery are not the property of society, of its inventors, of those who apply it, but are to be appropriated by those whose labor it is alleged it will displace." ^

When the increase in production does not depend on a new machine, but arises merely from a further division of labor, even the experienced leaders of the operatives are honestly unable to conceive how any one can dispute the men's claim to enjoy the whole increase. In 1894 a Bristol firm was charged before the " National Conference " (the central joint-board) "with having introduced a new system of working in Bristol," the so-called " team system, which resulted in the men collectively producing more boots per

of population and capital in dense masses, upon which tlie modern English Socialist bases his demand for collective ownership of the means of production, and the subordination of the producer to the citizen, and the individual to the community. See Fabian Tract, No. 51, Socialism, True and False, and the Report on Fabian Policy, presented by the Fabian Society to the International Socialist Congress, 1896 (Fabian Tract, No. 70).

Though the Owenite assumption here referred to was formerly accepted by large masses of English workmen, and though it still lies at the root of the desire for Co-operative Associations of Producers, it cannot be said to characterise the Trade Unionism of the present day, and it will accordingly not be discussed in our chapter on "The Assumptions of Trade Unionism." The student should consult, besides the works of Owen, Hodgskin, Thompson, Lassalle, and Marx, Dr. Anton Monger's Das Recht auf den vollen Arbeitsertrag.

' Report on Trc^ Societies and Strikes, Social Science Association, 1 860, p. 62,


404 Trade Union Function

day than before. As the charge was coupled with an alteration from piecework to fixed wages, there would have been some justification for a complaint that the Standard Rate was being imperilled, by the exaction of ever-increasing exertion for a fixed weekly wage. But instead of taking this point, the union claimed that unless the day wage was so fixed that the cost of each boot to the employer remained no less than before, the alteration should be regarded as a reduction of wages.^ The men's case was so prejudiced by this argument that the President (Alderman Sir Thomas Wright) not only rejected their claim, but also went so far as to say that, provided the mere weekly earnings were undiminished, the change of process was not an alteration of conditions, thus altogether ignoring the question of the increased effort and strain involved.

The student of this remarkable series of disputes will not fail to notice that the employers and the workmen both take up positions which are inconsistent with their own arguments. The employers have, in the fullest and most unreserved manner, given in their adhesion to the principle of Collective Bargaining with regard to all the conditions of labor. They have emphasised their adhesion to this principle by insisting on the establishment of a most elaborate machinery for carrying on this Collective Bargaining, of which they make constant use. It is therefore inconsistent of them to claim that any employer has a right to " introduce machinery at any time without notice," and that changes in " the internal

' The claim and argument will be found in the Repart of the National Con- ference of the Boot and Shoe Trade, August 1893. "Supposing," asked the President, "the alteration from piecework to daywork resulted in the worker receiving more money, would you say that was an alteration of which he had a right to complain ? " To this question the obvious answer was that if the new process involved greater exertion or strain than the old, an actual increase of weekly earnings might well mean a lowering of the Standard Rate (of remuneration for effort), and thus involve a grievance to the workmen. But instead of taking this line the men's spokesman said, " I should say that if a particular individual got that money and the employer got eleven dozen of work done at the price o( ten dozen provided by the Statement, that that involved a reduction of wages." The same confusion of ideas appears in the cases of " team system " discussed at the National Conference of January 1894.


New Processes and Machinery 405

economy of the factory or the manipulation of the workmen " are matters for the autocratic decision of each individual factory owner. It is no doubt a question for each employer to determine whether or not he will introduce a particular machine, just as it is for him alone to decide whether or not he will engage twenty additional workmen. But t he regula - tions and conditions under which the men will he..engapeH, or will- change their habits of work, are obviously matters w hich, on the assumption of Collective Barga inin g, cannot be set tled by the will of one party to the w age contract, or even by the agreement of particular employers and particular workmen, but must be arranged as a Common Rule by negotiation between the authorised representatives of both sides. The employers, moreover, have repeatedly adopted in their negotiations the principle of the Standard Rate, that is, the uniform maintenance throughout the trade of identical payment for identical effort.^ It is therefore in consisten t of them t o insist nn fivprl time w^ges, on a, change of process w hich must inevitably resu lt in, progressively increasing the int ensity of effort impQs^ii._ jjji the, workmen. Unless there is some arrangement by which the operatives are ensured progressively increasing earnings, proportionate to this pro- gressively increasing intensity, the employers are under- mining the Standard Rate, that is, insidiously diminishing the rate of payment for a given amount of effort. The operatives, on the other hand, whilst recognising that their very existence as factory bootmakers depends on the super- session of the individual hand bootmaker, are always re- senting the further division of labor and the increased use of machinery. And though they take -their stand on the fundamental principle of maintaining the Standard Rate, and therefore of insisting on a Piecework Statement, they yet cannot bring themselves in the new processes to propose rates which would work out, even at the start, to earnings equivalent only to their present wages. If the men frankly asked for an increase in their Standard Rate of so much per cent, to be worked out in dptail by a revision of the


4o6 Trade Union Function

" Statement," the claim would be discussed on its own merits, as an incident in the perennial higgling between employers and employed. It may well be that the moment when profits are being largely increased by a change of process, is a specially opportune occasion for a rise of wage. But, when the demand for an advance is disguised in an assumption that any departure from the old " Statement " is to be resisted as a positive reduction, the employers get into a state of inarticulate rage at what seems to them the intellectual dishonesty of the men's proceedings. If the operatives desire to maintain the modern Trade Union principle of the Standard Rate, they must abandon, once for all, the diametrically opposite assumption that "wages should be the price of goods," and at once set about the compilation of a new piecework list applicable to the great variety of machines and diversity of conditions in the various factories. Such a list would, no doubt, cost trouble, especially in view of the survival of many small manufacturers, each using only one or more of the new machines. But similar difficulties were met and overcome twenty years ago when the trade became a factory industry, and American experience shows that they are not insuperable to-day.^

The gr adual intr oduction ofcomposins;' an d distributi ng m ^hines i nto the English printjng_trade_ affords an instance of somewhat similar difficulties in another industry. These machines began to be used about 1876, but, owing to the imperfections of the earlier inventions, it was not until the

' The experience of the English Co-operative Wholesale Society, whose colossal boot factory remained unaffected by the general stoppage of 1895, is interesting in showing how an exceptionally able manager, himself once an operative, has (in anticipation of the agreement of a piecework list for the new processes) partially solved the problem, by making the weekly wages roughly proportionate to the increasing output. On a certain " lasting machine " the out- put varies from 666 pairs per week to as much as 1270, according to the skill and zeal of the operator. Mr. Butcher has known how to encourage zeal and skill, by refusing to adhere to the uniform rate per week given by many of the employers to all their workmen in each process ; paying as much as 40s. to the principal operator, and (instead of taking on boys) giving 355. a week even to his " followers." He declares his intention, on the output rising to 1500 pairs a week, to increase the wages to £2 ; los.


New Processes and Machinery 407

last decade of the century that their competition with the old hand compositor came to be seriously felt. The advent of the machine has throughout been most distasteful to the men. But the C omposito rs' Trade Unions have from the fir st disclaimed any de_si!:e,.tp pteygnt its, intTOduction, or to forbid the members to work it. Their policy has been to se cure the new employment to their ow n member s on terms w hich protected their Standard Rate . No pretension on. their part to receive the whole advantage of the Linotype machine is on record, but it is asserted that they have claimed a share of it. The Chairman of the Linotype Company, speaking to his shareholders in. 1893, declared that " Nearly all the offices which have taken the Linotype are union offices — in some cases working by day, and in other cases working by piece. Surely that is sufficient proof that the labor difficulty is not a very serious one. The union [men] have, in my opinion, acted very fairly towards us. All they have said is this : ' Our men think you have an invention which is a great advantage to the trade — saves a great deal of money and labor — and the men should have their fair share of the advantages.' Let the masters pay them fairly, and then I believe there will be no difficulty whatever in introducing this machine."^ In 1894, the London Society of Compositors was able to come to a satisfactory agreement with the newspaper proprietors, who have up to the present been the chief users of the machine, and it is now at work in the London newspaper offices under conditions formally accepted by both parties.^

1 Speech of the Chairman of the Linotype Company, at the Ordinary General Meeting of Shareholders, Cannon Street Hotel, London, nth May 1893.

^ New and amended rules agreed to at a Conference between the Representa- tives of the London Daily Newspaper Proprietors, and of the London Society of Compositors, held at Anderton's Hotel on 7th June 1894.

Composing machines.

1. AH skilled operators — i.e. compositors, justifiers, and distributors, as dis- tinct from attendants or laborers — shall be members of the London Society of Compositors, preference being given to members of the Companionship into which the machines are introduced. Distribution to be paid at a minimum rate of 38s. per week of 48 hours, day-work.

2. A Probationary Period of three months shall be allowed, the operator to


4o8 Trade Union Function

Now let us turn from the trades in which the introduc- tion of new machinery is recent enough to be a source of continual friction to those in which this has long ceased to be the case. Injthe great industries^ ^^^cotjiori-gpinni'ng ^n^ cot ton-weaving ev ery J g£!- of the machinery employed has , d uiing the last hun dr ed years, be en enormous ly improve d. In the early stages of this mechanical progress each step was the subject of furious strife between masters and men, on much the same lines as the battles now being fought in the boot and shoe industry. For the last thirty years, how- ever, the unions have genuinely abandoned all idea of oppos- ing improvements, or of exacting the whole advantage of their introduction. The conditions under which any improve- ments in machinery shall be introduced have, by common consent, long since been taken out of the hands of the individual employer, or the particular group of operatives. An y change whatsoever in "the intern al economy of t he factory, or the manipulation of the wo rkmen by the enigLoyer" — which, to the new class of boot manufacturers, seems a matter for their own autocratic decision — is, in th e cottQiLJodustry, referred as^ a matter o f course for pr ior deliberation^ and agreement between the expert salarie d ofificials of the Trade Union and the Empl oyers' Associatio n. As the basis of negotiation, the principle of maintaining in- tact the Standard Rate of payment for j^ given quantit y of effort is unreservedly accepted by both^sides. The employers

receive his average weekly earnings for the previous three months. During this period he shall not undertake piecework.

3. In all offices when composing machines are introduced, the operators and case hands shall commence composition simultaneously. . . . Compositors and operators in such offices to be guaranteed two galleys per day of seven working hours on Morning papers, and on Evening papers twelve galleys per week of 42 hours.

4. The scale of prices for machine work shall be, Linotype, 3jd. per one thousand ens for day-work in Evening paper offices, 3 jd. per thousand ens for work done in Morning paper offices, Jd. per one thousand extra on all types above brevier ; Hattersley, 4d. per one thousand ens for Evening paper work, and 4^d. per one thousand ens for Morning paper work.

This agreement was, in 1896, superseded by a more elaborate one, framed on similar lines. — See Labour Gazette, August 1896.


Neiv Processes and Machinery 409

recognise that any increased speed or complexity of the process means increased intensity of effort to the operative, which must therefore be remunerated by progressively in- creasing earnings. They would never dream of suggesting the substitution of fixed time rates of wages, and they agree, without demur, to a Piecework List which, definitely fixed in advance, completely secures to the workmen these pro- gressive earnings. On the other hand, the operatives have unreservedly abandoned any idea that "wages should be the price of goods." We can imagine the amusement with which such experienced Trade Union officials as Mr. Mawds- ley or Mr. Wilkinson would listen to the suggestion that any lowering of the cost per yard to the employer must necessarily be a reduction of wages to the operative. They would reply that, so long as the cotton operative was assured of his Standard Rate, he had no concern with the cost of production at all, except that any reduction resulting from wise administration or improvement of process was posi- tively advantageous to the workmen, by securing for their product an ever-extending market. Tl ^e Trade Unions o f cott on operatives actually meet the innovating en^ployers ha lf-way, by agreeing to a piecework rate which decrea ses wi th every rise in the productivity of machiner y. The employer therefore knows that every improvement that he can introduce will bring him a real, though not an unlimited, saving in his cost of production. The operatives, on the other hand, have the assurance that the graduated piecework rates, already settled by mutual agreement, after careful consideration by their expert officials, will not only protec t th eir present weekly earnings, but will also immediately re munerate them for any increased effort involved. They have learnt, moreover, by experience, that any consciousness of the increased effort will soon disappear as the closer attention and quicker movement become habitual. It is true that by accepting a lower piecework rate they give up any claim to monopolise for themselves the " unearned increment " of the new invention. On the other hand, they


4IO Trade Union Function

are s ecured by the employers' coi;i f:ff$sJff" "^ prpHpt(-rfp;np,4 Pi ecework List, in all the " rent " of the new dexterity whiV h p ractice_a t the new proce ss ineyitablv produces . Thus, the steadily rising speed of working, which to the boot opera- tive, compelled by his employer to labor at a fixed time wage, is " pace-making and slavery," means to the cotton- spinner a welcome addition to his weekly earnings, and a permanent rise in his Standard of Life.

The United Societ y _of B oil ermakers and Iron-shi p- bujldej;? base^their-^agreements with their emplnyt^rs^ si milar principle s. Thus the internal economy of the vast shipbuilding industry of the North-East coast of England is governed by the following formal treaty as to new appli- ances, etc. : " Notwithstanding any of the above clauses the shipbuilders are to be entitled to a revision of rates on account of labor-saving appliances, whether now existing and not sufficiently allowed for, or hereafter to be intro- duced ; for improved arrangements in yards ; for rates to be paid in vessels of new types where work is easier, and for other special cases. The terms of thes e revisions to be adjusted by . a,^ommittee representing employers and the B oilermakers !, and Shipbuilders^ Society. The men shall in Vlike manner be entitled to bring before the said committee any jobs, the rates of which may require revision due to new conditions of working, structural alterations in vessels, or any other cause." This agreement met with some opposi- tion from a section of the workmen, who objected to any allowances being made for machinery, etc. To this com- plaint the Executive Committee of the union replied : " It is well known to the oldest shipyard plater in our society that he can go into some yards and plate a vessel at lo per cent per plate less in one yard than he can in another on account of the difference in machinery. The employer therefore who has the best machinery is being paid for his machines through having his work done at a cheaper rate. . . . This is done all over, and rightly so. It is well known to our platers that, on account of the difference of facilities


New Processes and Machinery 411

for doing work in the different yards, we have never been able to get a standard list of prices for plating." ^ \ We may now sum up what seems to us the outcome of Trade Union experience in dealing with new processes and machinery, and what, judging from the general tendency and the example of the Cotton Operatives, may be expected to become the universal policy. We see, in the first place, that the old attemp t of the handicraftsman to exclude the m achine has been definitely abandoned . Far from refusing to work the new processes, the Trade Unionists of to-day claim, for the operatives already working at the trade, a preferential right to acquire the new dexterity and perform the new service. In asserting this pr eferential claim to rnntinnity nf pmplnynTprit^ they insist that the arrangement s for introducing the new process, including not only the rates of wages but also the physical conditions of work, are matters to be settled,, not solely by one of the p arties to the wage contract, hut, after discussion betwe en, both of. them. Moreover, on the principle of Collective Bargaining, the matter is not one which can be left even to agreement between any particular employer and his workpeople, but one which must be settled by negotiation, a s a Common fiule to be enforced on all employers and operatives in the pa rticular trade .' When this Collective Bargaining takes place, the Trade Union always proceeds on the fundamental assumption that nnHpr pr> rirrnrr^stf inces must the " improv e- m ent " be allowed to put the operative in any worse posit ion tljan he w as before^ The change of technical process, which may revolutionise all the conditions of this working

' Monthly Report of the United Society of Boilermakers and Iron-shipbuilders, Imyarj 1895.

)^ This claim, to make the circumstances under which a change of process niall take place a matter for Collective Bargaining, has only latfely been admitted, or even comprehended by employers ; and the demand would, in many trades, still be regarded as preposterous. Until 187 1 , indeed, combination for a ny oth er objects than improvement in wages or hours was a cri minal offence , and it never occurred, even to a good employer, that the most momentous cfcange in the method of working could be a matter for mutual arrangement between his workpeople and himself


4 1 2 Trade Union Function

life, is calculated greatly to increase the productivity of his

labor, and should, it is claimed, at any rate not be made the

occasion of any encroachment on the privileges or advan-

<tages which he has hitherto enjoyed. This involves, not

only that his weekly earnings shall be maintained, but also

that the length of the working day, the amount of physical

or mental exertion required by his task, or the discomfort or

disagreeableness of his work shall either not be increased, or

else that any increase shall be fully paid for by extra rates.

It will, moreover, be demanded that any defensive or other

regulations, which have hitherto been accepted, shall be

continued and made applicable to the new conditions. The

pierewnrker will expect a definitely settled detailed list of

prices ; the iimeJKorkeLwill require any accusto med prot ec-

tion against _bemg _J!_driven " beyond the normal speed,

whilst in trades in which apprenticeship has hitherto been

regulated a continuance of the regulation will be insisted

on.^ All this merely comes to a demand that the condition

and status of the workman should not be deteriorated by

the change which is to bring a new profit to the employer.

To .this. there, w ill some times be add ed the further cl aim

wh ich stands, it is obvious, on a different footing, that the

wa ge-earner should receive some oj the advantages tq ^ J)e

derivedJrom_theJmprovement, and that he should therefore

take the opportunity of obtaining, as a condition of his

acceptance of the new process, some positive increase in h is

Standard Ra^te.

1 Comfort and habits of life often play an important part in these negotiations, leading sometimes to obstruction, sometimes to encouragement of a change. Thus the Yorkshire Glass Bottle Makers' Society refused in 1875 to work with a new gas furnace, because they declared it would involve a three-shift system ; an objection paralleled by the Northumberland and Durham miners' refusal to shorten the hours of boys, because it will probably involve a change from two to three shifts. In both cases the men assert that the alteration of hours would be inconvenient and unpleasant to them. On the other hand, when in 1876 a new system of "pot-setting" was invented in the glass trade, which was safer and more rapid than the old process, the Yorkshire Glass Bottle Makers' Society passed a resolution demanding its adoption, and insisting on those firms which still retained the old plan paying 2s. per man for the operation, as compared with only 6d. for the new system. — See the Annual Reports of the Yorkshire Glass Bottle Makers' Society for 1875 and 1876.


New Processes and Machinery 4 1 3

It is interesting to observe that, with the acceptance of this new policy by the employers, and its complete comprehension by the workmen, it is not the individual capitalist, but "th e Tr ade Union, which most str enuQus ly ins ists on havingjthe ve ry latest improvements in machinery . In the English boot and shoe trade, every improvement is, as we have seen, made the occasion of a prolonged wrangle between employers and workmen. In Lancashire it quickly becomes a grievance in the Cotton Trade Unions, if any one employer or any one district falls behind the rest. The explanation of this differ- ence is obvious. No employer takes any trouble to induce the laggards in his own industry to keep up with the march of invention. Their falling behind is, indeed, an immediate advantage to himself. But to the Trade Union, repre- senting all the operatives, the sluggishness of the poor or stupid employers is a serious danger. The old-fashioned master spinners, with slow-going family concerns, complain bitterly of the harshness with which the Trade Union officials refuse to make any allowance for their relatively imperfect machinery, and even insist, as we have seen, on their paying positively a higher piecework rate if they do not work their mills as efficiently as their best -equipped competitors. Thus, the Amalgamated Association of Operative Cotton -spinners, instead of obstructing new machinery, actually penalises the employer who fails to introduce it ! This remarkable difference, in the attitude of both workmen and employers, between the two great English industries of cotton-spinning and bootmaking, goes far to explain their very different standing as regards technical efficiency. The English boot manufacturer is always complaining of the far higher efficiency of the splendidly ^equipped factories of Massachusetts and Con- necticut. The Lancashire cotton mill, in the amount of output per operative, easily leads the world.

T here remains one other type of case io be dealt with, namely that in which the newpro cess. instead of being wnrkpr^_hyJj^e old skilled hands, .supersedes them by a class


•414 Trade Union Function

o f pntirft nnvfrp ?;. As this happens to be the very type which, from its association with tragic episodes in industrial history, strikes the public imagination most forcibly, and has accordingly become a commonplace in the denunciations of our industrial system from the more extreme platforms of social reform, its omission, so far, may have struck the reader as an unexpected oversight. It is possible for the introduction of a new machine or process to annihilate the utility of a workman's skill as completely as the photograph has annihilated the miniature, the railway train the stage coach, or petroleum the snuffers. The heart-rending struggle of the handloom weavers against the power loom is perhaps the best-known instance. Let us follow, step by step, or rather stumble by stumble, the road to ruin of an in- su fificiently organised trad e supplanted by machinery.*

When the handicraftsman begins to find his product undersold by the machine-made article, his first instinct is to engageJxLa_dfi§Bgxate-.comi? etition with the new proce ss, lowering his rate for hand labor to keep pace with the diminished cost of the machine product. This is obviously the "line of least resistance. No newly-devised machine, worked by novices, and not yet perfectly adapted to the process, can convince a skilled handworker that it will ever succeed in turning out as good an article as he can make, or that the saving of time will be at all considerable. The very fact that a lad or a girl at ten or fifteen shillings a week can perform the new process with ease, only con- firms him in his attitude of disparagement and incredulity.

' The struggle of the small hand industiy s^;ainst the &ctoiy system can be best studied at present in Germany and Austria, where the position is being described in detail by scores of competent observers. Sec, among other studies, Professor GustaT Sc hmoUer's Zur Geschichtt der Deutschen Kleingcwerbe im iQih Jahrhy,p.da±. f Ha1lp, 1870) ; Dr. Eugen Schwiedland's Kleingewerbe und Haus- irUMstrie in Oesterreich (Leipzig, 1894), 2 vols. ; and histvro Reports Uebtr eint gesettlUhe Regelung der Heimarbeit (Vienna, 1896 and 1897)";' Dr. Kiino Frankenstein's Dit Deutsche Hausindustrie, 4 vols. ; the article " Hausindustrie " by Prof. Werner Sombart in Conrad's HandwSrterbuch der Staatswissenschaftm, vol. iv. ; and the magnificent series of monographs on particular trades 01 distticts, published by the "Verein far Sozial Politik" as UtUersuckungen iibi' die Lage des ffandwerks in VeutscA/and {Leipzig, 1894-97), 12 volumes.


New Processes and Machinery 415

In such a mood a man does not throw away the skill which is his property and staff of life, to consent to become either a machine-minder at one-half or one-third of his accustomed wages, or else begin life afresh in some entirely new occupation. He confidently pits his consummate skill against the first clumsy attempts of the undeveloped machine, and finds that a slight reduction in the Standard Rate for hand labor is all that seems required to leave his handi- craft in full command of the market. His well-intentioned friends, the clergyman and the district visitor, the news- paper economist and the benevolent employer, combine to assure him that this — the Policy of Lowering the Dyke — is what he ought to adopt But, unfortunately, this is to enter on a downward course to which there is no end. The ma chine product steadily improves in qualit y, and falls in price, as the new operatives become more skilled, and as the speed of working is increased. Every step in this evolution means a further reduction of rates to the struggling hand- worker, who can only make up his former earnings by hurrying his work and lengthening his hours. Inevitably this hurry and overwork deteriorate the old quality and character of his product. The attempt to maintain his family in its old position compels him to sacrifice everything to the utmost possible rapidity of execution. His wife and children are pressed into his service, and a rough and ready division of labor serves to economise the use of the old thought and skill. The work insidiously drops its artistic quality and individual character. In the losing race with the steam engine, the handwork becomes itself mechanical, without acquiring either that uniform excellence or accurate finish which is the outcome of the perfected machine. Pre sently, the degraded hand product vyill sell only at a lo wer price than the machine-made article . The worse the work becomes the more irregular grows the demand. Those select customers, who have remained faithful to the hand product, find, by degrees, that its former qualities have departed, and they one by one accept the modern substitute.


41 6 Trade Union Function

And t hus we reach the vicious circle of the sweated in- d ustries , in which the gradual beating down of the rate of 'remuneration produces an inevitable deterioration in the quality of the work, whilst the inferiority of the product itself makes it unsaleable except at prices which compel the payment of progressively lower rates. The handworker, who at the beginning justifiably felt himself on a higher level than the mechanical minder of the machine, ends by sinking, in physique and dexterity alike, far below the level of the highly-strung factory operative. There is now no question of his taking to the new process, which has risen quite beyond his capacity. He passes through the long-drawn-out agony of a dying trade.

T his, in main outline, i s the story of the handloo m weaversjn all the branches of the textile industry.^ | We see the same grim evolution going on to-day in the chain an d najl_ ^ade in the Black roiintr y|and a mong the unorgan ised .sec jons of the tail ors and cabinetmakers . We need not dilate on the misery to which these unfortunate workers are reduced. But it is important to observe how the interests of the consumers are affected by this " Policy of Lowering the Dyke." It is, in the first place, to be noted that it in no way stimulates the spread of machinery or the perfecting of the new process. The ^onstant yielding of the handwor ker even jdiminishes_jyie__ pressure on his employer to adopt the newest^^imgrOTem^jits, and positively tempts him to linger on with the old process. So long as he can compete with his rival by another cut off wages, it will not seem worth while to lay out capital and thought in new machinery. Thus, the transition from the old system of production to the improved methods is delayed, to the loss of the consumer for the time being. But what is perhaps of greater import- ance to the community is the di sappearance of any real

^ "Heartbroken and objectless in their squalid poverty, their insight into the active stirring world beyond them, with its various moving springs and wires, became perverted, and they stuck to their falling trade with a kind of obstinate fatalism." — ^John Hill Burton, Political and Social Economy (Edinburgh, 1S49), p. 29.


New Processes and Machinery 417

al ternative to the machine product. The degradation of the handworker's craft, resulting, as we have seen, directly from the forcing down of his Standard Rate, deprives the nation of the charm given to the old country stuffs and furniture by their artistic individuality. Even the machine-made product is the worse for the deterioration of the handicraft. It gradually loses the ideal of perfect workmanship and artistic finish, to which the inventor and operative were perpetually striving to approximate. It is, indeed, difficult to discover any advantage whatsoever, either to the handi- craftsman or to the community, in a policy which, whilst failing to stimulate the use of labor-saving machinery, neither saves the handworkers from misery, nor preserves to the community what is of value in their handicraft.

Here, then, we have the dramatic instance as it actually occurs ; and certainly the reality is as harrowing as the most fervidly descriptive platform orator can make it appear. And yet its tragedy is incomplete without the final demonstration that the really cruel stages of all this suffering are needless, and are caused not by the iron march of industrial evolution, but simply by the adoption on the part of the workmen and their employers of this " Policy of Lowering the Dyke." ffl'e ha ve failed to discover a sing'le instance of supersession by ma chinery, in which it wp nld not have been possible for the sup erseded handicraft at l east to have died a painless death . There are industries which have been changed by machinery as thoroughly as weaving, but in which, owing to the enforce- ment of a different policy by the Trade Unions concerned, the handworkers have not only survived, but are to-day busier, more highly paid, and more skilful than ever they were before.

X The A malgamated Society of Cordwainers , an organisa- ' tion dating from the eighteenth century,^ had, up to 1857, enjoyed a complete immunity from any invasion by machinery

  • See History of Trade Unionism, p. SI, where a circular of 1784 is quoted.

The organisation was reformed in 1862, and in 1874 it took the name of the Amalgamated Society of Boot and Shoe Makers.

VOL. I y


41 8 Trade Union Function

or new processes. The application of the sewing-machine to bootmaking, and the successive introduction of new inven- tions led, between 1857 and 1874, to a complete revolution in the trade. At first the rank and file of the workmen bitterly resented the change of conditions, and the employer introducing a new machine was often met by the most unreasonable demands. But the E xecutive Committee of the Trade TJnipn, whjlst maintaining intact the establish ed sc ale of pr ices for handwork.-.stea dfastlv refused to sanc tion an y resistance to__ the new p rocesses. On the contrary, it persistently ad vised all its members who failed to get ha nd- work at the estabHshed^^yghjgteSt to ace at

the liewjactories at whatever they could get, and gradually to work out a new piecework list adapted to the altered conditions. In order to secure this fresh " Statement " these members were advised to join hands with the new men whom the factory brought into the trade, and freely to admit them into their branches. Thus, already in 1863, it was resolved "that men employed in the rivetting and finishing peg-work, and those working in factories, be recognised, and can belong to any section, or form sections by themselves."' This policy, pressed on the members at every opportunity, was quickly accepted, with the result that the union fou nd itselfUixi..a,j£ery few years , composed of two distinct class es of mem^M;Sj,,Jiandicraftsmen and factor y worke rs. When

' The Trade Sick and Funeral Laws of the Amalgamated Society of Cord- wainers (London, 1863). The "rivetters" became a separate class, when, about 1 846, rivetting was introduced in place of stitching. See the manifesto of the Leicester shoemakers, quoted by Marx, Capital, Part IV. chap. xv. sec. 7 (vol. ii. p. 457 of English translation of 1887). The operatives in the factory boot manufacture are at present divided into the following classes: (i) the " clickers," the men and lads who cut from skins the sections of the boot and uppers; (2) "rough-stuff cutters," the men who cut the bottom material by knives set in powerful machines; (3) "fitters," men who place the upper leathers in position for " closing "; (4) " machinists" (often women) who "close" or stitch the uppers; (5) "lasters," men or boys who place the closed uppers over the last and attach the bottom material (in hand-sevm work these are known as " makers," in " pegged work," now nearly obsolete, they are called "pegmen". or "rivetters"); (6) the "finishers," who blacken the edges, clean the soles, and generally polish up the boot. The two latter classes form a large majority of the whole.


New Processes and Machinery 419

the latter began actually to outnumber their old-fashioned colleagues, it was found convenient, as we have already mentioned, that they should b reak off, and form a society of their own, the National Union of Boqt and Sl^oe Qperatiyes. The Amalgamated Society of Cordwainers, now again con- fined to the handicraftsmen, has ever since continued to pursue the same line of policy. It has remained on amicable terms with the new society, neither competing with it for members, nor in any way obstructing its remarkable growth. But what is more important, it has steadfastly refused to allow its own members to compete in cheapness with the new process. If a handmade b oot is desired, the old sca;le for ha ndwork must be. pai d. Many consequences have resulted from this policy, some of which might not, at first sight, have been expected. As the employers found no way of getting a commoner class of boots made by inferior hand labor at low rates, machinery has gone ahead by leaps and bounds. But it has created an entirely new trade for itself. The keepin g up of a high, level of price fo r the handmade art icle has not destroyed the demand, but has, on the con- tra ry, given it per manence and stabilit y. The employers, finding themselves bound in any case to pay the old scale of rates, have had to concentrate their attention on obtaining the finest possible workmanship, as only in this way were they able to tempt their customers to prefer the necessarily expensive handmade product. Those persons who are pre- pared to pay well for first-class workmanship find therefore that they can still obtain exactly what they require, and hence remain faithful to the handmade boot. Meanwhile, the handicraftsmen have become a select body, not because they have closed their ranks, but because non e but men of lon g training and exceptional skill can find employment at the recognised scale , or do the highly-finished work which the employers require in return for such high rates. Com- petition between the handicraftsmen takes, in fact, the form of a continuous elimination of the less skilled among them, who are encouraged, in their youth, to go into the machine


420 Trade Union Function

trade. The result has been that the skilled hand boot- makers, whilst somewhat diminishing in numbers, have positively improved their scale of prices and average earn- ings, and more than maintained their level of skill. Finally, notwithstanding a continuous improvement in the efficiency of bootmaking machinery, the handmade boot still remains an ideal to which inventors and factory managers are per- petually striving to approximate their commoner product.

This analysis of the policy of the Amalgamated Society of Boot and Shoe Makers finds a remarkable confirmation in the analogous case of the paper manufacturers . A gener- ation ago this old trade of skilled handworkers, closely combined since the middle of the eighteenth century,^ was seriously menaced by the rapid spread of machine-made paper. Foreign competition, too, began, on the repeal of the paper duty in 1861, to cut into the trade of the English manufacturers, and the United Kingdom, from being a large exporter of paper, gradually became a large importer. The hand_Ea^£t:naakers, who had, from time immemorial, enjoyed wages 15 or 20 per cent higher than those even of skilled artisans in other trades, made., nQ,„Attemp t to prevent or to d isco urage the introduction of paper- making machiner yjor even to secure the new VTO own member s. The"

machine-workers were at first admitted to membership of the handworkers' union, but few of them joined, and (as in the analogous case of the boot and shoe operatives) it was afterwards found more convenient for the new class of work- ' men to form organisations of their own.^ The highly-paid

' " Our Society," said the spokesman of the Original Society of Papennakers in 1891, "can go back, according by the records, to 150 or 160 years." Its very archaic rules, preserved in the appendix to the Report of the Committee on Combinations of Workmen, 1825, are referred to in the History of Trade Unionism, p. 80.

^ It was stated in evidence in 1874 that "the Society is composed of some 700 men, of whom 420 are employed in vat mills," the former comprising a very large proportion of the entire handmade trade, and the latter only a trifling proportion of the machine trade {Report of Arbitration on the Question of an Advance in Wages . . . loth July 1874, Maidstone, 1874, p. 53). At present {1897) the machinemen are organised in two separate unions, the Amalgamated Society of Papermakers, a strong body in the South of England, and the National


New Processes and Machinery 42 1

handworkers were incessantly advised to moderate their demands, so as to enable their employers to compete with the new machine mills, which started up in every county. As early as 1864 a leading employer gave them an ominous warning. " When you see . . ." he said, " regular machine mills (such as I intend to stand by, if driven from the vats) rising up around you . . . remember the old fable of ' The Goose with the Golden Eggs "... lest . . . you lose the position- in which you now stand." ^ "How can we compete with the machine paper unless wages are reduced ? " asked a millowner in 1891. "I say the best course for you to adopt," replied the spokesman of the operatives, " is to keep up the quality and the price of handmade paper." * This policy has been consistently pursued by the Trade Union. Fa r from consenting to lower its members.'-, rates of pay, jt has t aken every opportunity to raise them . " We have never had a reduction of wages in the paper trade," declared the men's secretary in 1874.' "In 1839," a leading employer told the arbitrator, " there was an increase of wages, in 1853 a slight modification, in 1854 a slight increase, another increase in 1865, in 1869 a slight increase, when beer money was given instead of beer. ... So we went on from 1838 to 1872, giving these three or four rises, and, in 1872, a rise of sixpence per day was conceded by the employers without any great fuss " ; * the pay of a first-class vatman for a " day's work " in a Kentish mill being now 6s. 5d., as compared with 4s. 7d. in 1 840.* It is interesting to find the workmen expressly comparing their own attitude with that of the

Union of Paper Mill Workers of Great Britain and Ireland, a weaker society with membership chiefly in the North of England and in Scotland.

1 Notes of Proceedings at a Meeting of Paper Manufacturers and Journeymen Papermakers Relative to an Advance in Wages (Maidstone, 1864), p. 34.

2 Report of Arbitration Meeting between Employers and Employed in the Handmade Paper Trade ... on 29th January 1891 (Maidstone, 1891), p. 65.

3 Arbitration Report of 1874, pp. 14, 17. "Never once in the history of the trade had there been a reduction of the prices." — Report of Meeting of Employers and Employed ... on 15th September 1884 (Maidstone, 1884), p. 18.

  • Arbitration Report of 189 1, pp. 45-46.

' See table of rates in the Arbitration Report of 1874, p. 33.


422 Trade Union Function

Amalgamated Society of Cordwainers, and justifying it on the same grounds. " There is no doubt," declared their spokesman in 1891, "that h andmade paper will continue to h old its own in the marke t. There are now many branches of industry where machines play a very important part in the production of various goods. . . . [But] if you want a splendid article in those materials, you must have handmade. . . . The same remark applies to the shoemaking trade. Handmade shoemakers now command higher wages than ever they did in the history of the trade. Their services have become much more important and valuable since the introduction of machines, which now manufacture all parts and all kinds of shoes. The people know that if they want a good boot they must have handmade. It seems to me . . . that handmade paper is precisely in the same position. If people want the genuine article they will, notwithstanding the cost, go in for handmade paper." ^ That this policy has, in the paper trade, been attended by success is admitted on all sides. The rigid maintenance of high rates for hand- made paper has given the utmost possible encouragement to the introduction of machinery, wherever machinery could possibly be employed. The production of machine-made paper has accordingly advanced by leaps and bounds, to the great advantage of the public in the cheapening of the article for common use. But t his enormous increase of produc tion has in no way injured .Ihe trade in_t he superior handmad e paggr. No attempt is made to compete in cheapness with the machine-made product, the manufacturers, like their opera- tives, preferring to concentrate their attention on turning out as different a grade of quality as possible. The result has been in the highest degree remarkable. Instead of handmade paper mills having " to be closed all over the country," as was expected in 1 860, it was reported to the arbitrator that by 1874 there were actually considerably more vats at work than had ever formerly existed ; that by 1 891 the number of vats and the amount of the sales had ^ Arbitration Report of 189 1, p. 10.


New Processes and Machinery 423

still further increased ; and that " the last sixteen years have been the most successful sixteen years that we have ever known in the trade." ^ All this is fully conceded by the employers. "The masters," declared their spokesman in 1 891, "never made such large profits in the old days as they have made since. I admit [that] my father, for instance, who had a good mill, could only make a bare living." * Meanwhile the speed and continuity of the work has been steadily increased, until the actual output in pounds of paper per man per year in the best-equipped mills is now greater than it has ever been in the history of the craft. The prosperity of the employers, as their leading representative explained in 1891, " has been due to two causes. In the first place there has been — and I think the other gentlemen present will bear me out in this — a great increase of sobriety and steadiness on the part of the men. There was a time when they did not work, sometimes for weeks together, five days a week. . . . That is one great cause to which I attribute our prosperity. . . . The other cause is the introduction of improvements by the masters. The mills are very different from what they used to be. ... It is easier for the men to make seven days a week now than it was years ago to make six days. . . . Formerly there were many breakdowns at our mills. . . . All these things have been changed." * We see, therefore, that in spite of the adverse influence exercised, as we shall show in a later chapter, by the Trade Union Restriction of Numbers and the monopoly enjoyed by the old-established employers, the enforcement of a high Standard of Life in the handmade paper trade, far from destroying the livelihood either of masters or men, has been accompanied by a marked advance in their prosperity, and a distinct differentiation between the old product and the new. The policy of main- taining simultaneously the quality and the price of the hand-

i Arbitration Report of 1 89 1, p. 30. ^ Ibid. p. 46.

5 Ibid. pp. 50-51. In the handmade paper trade "a day's work" is a definite quantity of paper, varying according to size and weight. It has no relation to the period of employment.


424 Trade Union Function

made article, whilst it has given a positive encouragement to the introduction of machinery into the trade, has proved, in fact, the salvation of the hand papermaker's craft.

Much the same policy has been pursued by the Amalg a- m ated Association of Operative Cotton-spinner s with regard to the introduction of " ring-sp inning ," an ingenious appli- cation of the old " throstle-spinning," which dates from about 1 88 1. By the substitution of the "ring frame" for the " mule," it has been found possible, in the manufacture of certain " counts " of cotton (the coarser " twist " up to about "50's"), greatly to diminish the amount of skill and effort required. What formerly demanded the con- centrated attention of a highly -skilled man is now within the capacity of an untrained woman. Had this invention been made fifty years ago, the mule- spinners would un- doubtedly have done their utmost to prevent its adoption, and to exclude women from any participation in cotton- spinning. But no such action has been taken, or even suggested. Although the Cotton -spinners' Trade Union, especially in its close alliance with the Weavers and Cardroom Operatives, now exercises a far more effective control over the industry than at any previous period, ring spinning by women has, during the last fifteen years, been allowed to grow up unmolested.^ It was practically impossible for the adult male spinners, earning two pounds a week, to insist on claiming for themselves work which could be done by women at fifteen shillings a week. But they might have attempted to stave off the innovation by lowering the rates for their own work, and thereby discouraging their employers ^rom making the change. This, as we have seen, was the policy followed two generations ago by the handloom weavers. The Amalgamated Association of Operative Cotton-spinners adopted an entirely different course. When an employer complained that he could no longer compete with rivals who

1 The ring-frame spinners were even received into the Amalgamated Associa- tion of Card and Blowing Room Operatives, with the full assent of the Spinners officials, as being the most suitable textile organisation for them to join.


New Processes and Machinery 425

had adopted the ring frame, unless his mule-spinners would accept a lower rate, he was told that u nder no circumstan ces could any " lowering of the dyk&" ha permittf;d. What he was offered was, as we have described, a revision of the piecework list so arranged as to stimulate him to augment the rapidity and complexity of the mule, in order that the mule-spinners, increasing in dexterity, might simultaneously enlarge the output per machine and raise their own earnings. The cott on -spinners in short, like the hand bootmak ers, pr eferred to meet the competition of a n ew process Jby ra ising their own level of skill, rather than by. jjegra ding th eir Standard of T.ife^ The result has been that, except under certain circumstances, the mule has, up to now, fairly held its own. The number of mule-spinners, like the number of hand bootmakers, remains about stationary, and this without the slightest attempt or desire to close the trade to newcomers. Li ke the bootmakers, i ndeed. tVip mijjp-" sp inners are subject to a_cQ nataat.-Dro&ess of .fidectiaP, Jttie em ployers naturally refusing to enga ge, at such- high ratjgs, a ny but the most s k illed men .

There is, however, one point, on which the policy of the cotton-spinners with regard to the ring frame, and that of the papermakers with regard to the machine, has fallen short of the policy of the hand bootmakers with regard to the factory system. The Amalgamated Society of Cordwainers did its utmost, as we have seen, to organise the new class of factory workers,^ so that these could, as quickly as possible, secure a new Standard Rate commensurate with the skill and effort required. This, it will be obvious, is really a necessary corollary of the maintenance of a Standard Rate. The adoption of a new process must, on the whole, be deemed an advantage to the community when it effects a real saving of labor or economy of skill. But it is a very

• " That clickers, stuff-cutters, pegmen, finishers, and machinists working at the shoe trade are admitted into society. That all women working at the shoe trade be admitted into the Association upon the same terms, and entitled to the same rights of membership as the men." — Resolution of the National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives' Conference, i6th September 1872.

VOL. I I" 2


426 Trade Union Function

different thing when the attractiveness of the new process to the employer is due, not to any real economy of human labor, but to the chance of employing a helpless class of workers at starvation wages. Unless the workers at th e n ew process ar e paid wages sufficient to maintain them at thg-jreq uired ne w.level of skill and efficiency, the new proce ss must be, in some way, parasitic on the community . To give a concrete instance, if the daughter of a mule-spinner, reared in a comparatively comfortable household, and maintained at home at a cost of fifteen shillings a week, offers her services as a ring-spinner at ten shillings a week, the competition between the mule and the ring frame may reasonably be deemed " unfair." If the woman had to live on the ten shillings, her strength, her capacity of attention, her regularity of attendance, and possibly her respectability, would inevitably degrade. She could, moreover, not bring up, on her wages, a new generation of ring-spinners to replace her. So long as the_undeTp aid worker is otherwise partly maintained ^^ perhaps the most usual case with women and children^the e mployer is, i n effect, r eceiving a bounty in favo r of a p articular for m of produ ction, and the community has no assurance„.that_ thecqmpetition between t hejprocesses w ill le ad t o the surwal^^Jthe__fittest " Whole branches of manufacture," to use the weighty words of the Poor Law Commission of 1834, "may thus follow the course, not of coal mines or streams, but of pauperism : may flourish like the fungi that spring from corruption, in consequence of the abuses which are ruining all the other interests of the place in which they are established, and cease to exist in the better administered districts in consequence of that better administration." From the point of view of the com- munity, therefore, it is vital that, however low may be the standard of skill and strength required by the riew process, there should be maintained such a level of wages as will, at any rate, fully sustain the new operatives at that standard.

' First Report of Poor Law Commissioners, 1834, p. 65 of reprint of 1884 (H. C. 347).


New Processes and Machinery 427

From the point of view of the workers at the old process, it is clearly of the utmost consequence that the new process should get no false stimulus by such a " bounty " as we have described.

This argument, to which we shall recur in our chapter on " The Economic Characteristics of Trade Unionism," is only slowly penetrating into the minds of the mule-spinners. Unlike the Amalgamated Society of Cordwainers, the Amal- gamated Association of Operative Cotton-spinners took no trouble to organise their new competitors, the women ring- spinners, to whom the employers were allowed to pay as little as they pleased. After fifteen years' experience, how- ever, this idea is beginning to dawn on the officials of the Cotton-spinners' Union, though no positive action can yet be recorded.^ But it has never yet occurred to the old- fashioned close corporation of hand papermakers that they are in any way called upon, in their own interest, to assist the comparatively unskilled operatives in the machine paper- mills of the North of England to secure a proper Standard Rate. And the Amalgamated Society of Tailors never dreams of taking steps to organise the ill-paid women of the clothing factories.

We see, then, that where skilled labor is replaced by unskilled, the paramount importance of maintaining the Standard of Life warns off the handworker, both from any claim to work the new process and from any attempt t o compete in cheapness with machine work. The hand bootmakers, the hand papermakers, and the cotton mule-

' Thus, in May 1896, we find the following warning note in the organ of the Amalgamated Association of Operative Cotton-spinneis. In the ling-fiame spinning, " employers and their agents have practically had the whole field to themselves in the matter of fixing prices and wages, as they have had no oppo- sition from Trade Unions and their officials, and under the circumstances they have taken great care to pay little enough for the labor of the operatives who are employed on the frames. . . . The rapid increase of this class of spinning is preventing the extension of mule-spinning, and so damaging the future prospects of the little piecers of to-day. The Spinners' Union have made a mistake in not paying attention to getting ring-spinners as members of their association, and framing a list of wages to govern this class of labor." — Cotton Factory Times, 15th May 1896.


428 Trade Union Function

spinners have, in their several ways, discovered another poHcy, viz. : rigorously to enforce the old high rate of pay for the old work, frankly to abandon to the machine an v_ par t of the trade within its scope, and more and more to concentrate attention on maintaining and differentiating the peculiar qualities of their own special article. But this enlighten ed self-interest req inrps trom the-economic stand- pomt, to be supplemented_by a consideration of the claim s ot other classes of operatives. The Trade Unionist is begin- jiTiig to^recogmie that he has a deep interest in maintaining the Standard Rates of other sections of workers. The logical outcome of Trade Union experience in all these difficult cases seems, indeed, to be a minimum standard of remunera- tion for effort, whatever the grade of labor, so that, under no circumstances, would any section of workers find itself reduced below the level of complete maintenance.^ Whenever an employer seeks to substitute a lower for a higher grade of labor, it is only by some such enforcement of a minimum that the community can avoid the pernicious bounty to particular occupations or processes, irrespective of their social advantageousness, that is involved in the labor being partially maintained from other sources than its wages.^

' We must refer the reader for a full explanation of this difficult point of

Trade Union theory to our chapter oh ' ' The Economic Characteristics of Trade Unionism."

2 The employers' proposal that one operative should attend to two or more machines falls economically under the head of " speeding up," rather than under that of a change of process, and has therefore been implicitly dealt with in our chapter on "The Standard Rate." The wage-earner's traditional resentment of any labor-saving innovation is here mingled with his even stronger objection to what is commonly an attempt to evade the Standard Rate, by exacting more bodily exertion or mental strain for the same money. Thus the Carmen, paid by time, at a rate for which they are accustomed to mind one horse and cart, strongly protest s^ainst one man being required to attend simultaneously to two vehicles. The same feeling influences pieceworkers unless they are sufficiently protected by a Standard List to have confidence that the increase in the day's task and earnings will not be followed by a reduction of rates. The women cotton-weavers of Glasgow, who are practically unorganised, and whose piecework rates, unprotected by any effective list, are always going down to subsistence level, stubbornly refuse to work more than one loom each. The cotton-weavers af Lancashire, on the other hand, whether men or women, relying confidently on their strong Trade Union and their Standard Lists, willingly work as many


New Processes and Machinery 429

looms — two, four, and even six — as they can manage (see " The Alleged Diflference between the Wages of Men and Women," by Sidney Webb, Economic Journal, December 1891). The employers' attempt to induce engineers to attend to more than one lathe or other machine has led to much friction. In this instance it is not clear to us what is the exact issue. If it is suggested that the engineer should, for the weekly wage hitherto paid for one machine, in future mind two, the case is merely one of an attempted reduction of the Standard Rate, which the men naturally resist. We are unable to gather whether the employers have made it plain that they propose to increase the time wages — say to time and a half — when two machines are minded, or whether they are prepared to establish and bind themselves to adhere to a Standard List of piecework rates, which would automatically secure to the operative an increase in earnings proportionate to the increase in strain. If either of these courses were adopted, we see no reason why the engineers should not, like the cotton-weavers, willingly mind as many machines as they can without undue strain. If the employers claim the light to assign an operative to as many machines as seems fit to them, without arranging special rates with the Trade Union officials, this is simply a denial oi the elementary right of Collective Bargaining, and will be fought as such.


CHAPTER IX CONTINUITY OF EMPLOYMENT[edit]

The Trade Union Regulations whicjj we have described in the foregoing chapters have dealt exclusively with the main- tenance and improvement of the conditions of employment : they have left untouched the problenx. of unemployment. A Standard Rate, a Normal Day, and safe and healthy con- ditions of work are of no avail if there is no work to be got. "We are willing to admit," said the Engineers of 185 1, and the Cloggers of 1872, "that whilst in constant employment our members may be able to obtain the necessaries of life. Notwithstanding all this, there is always a fear prominent in the mind of him who thinks of the future that it may not continue ; that to-morrow may see him out of employ- ment, his nicely -arranged matters for domestic comfort overthrown, and his hopes of being able, in a few years, by constant attention and frugality to occupy a more permanent position, proved only to be a dream. How much is contained in that word ' continuance,' and how necessary to make it a leading principle of our society ! " ^ " In a fluctuating trade," say the Tailors, " many who depend for the necessaries of life on their daily toil are often deprived of employment in the most inclement season. They wander through the

' Preface to Rales and Regulations of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers (London, 1851), and also to Rules of the Rochdale Operative Cloggers^ Society (Rochdale, 1872). The same sentence occurs, with verbal variations, in other Trade Union rules. (The cloggers make the "clogs," or wooden shoes, com- monly worn in the streets by the Lancashire operatives.)


Continuity of Employment ' 431

country from city to town, and from town to village, in search of employment, but, alas, in vain. This continues until, upon the mind of an honest man, the thought rests like an incubus. When and how shall I relieve myself of this degradation ? " *

We touch here the " dead point " in our analysis of Trade Union Regulations. I n spite of th e vital importance of the q uestion to men dependent on we ekly wag es for the ir whole livelihood, no Tr ade Union h asTItherto devisedL. a regulation which secures continuity of live lihood as^ a con- dition of eniployment.

At first sight it would seem as if the best way to obtain Continuity of Employment would be to require the employer, as a condition of getting the workman's service at all, to enter into a contract of hiring for a specified long term. This is not the course which the Trade Unionists have

followed. Tr.ngagpmpntg fnr Inngr tprmg wprp nnr^_rnrriirnnri

in many trades, and farm-servants in some parts of the country are still engaged for the year. But the mobility and vicissitudes which characterise modern industry are hostile to such permanence, and employ ers have . come to pre fer the shortest p oss ible engas^emen ts. often insisting on freedom to discharge their operatives at a few hours' notice. Th is tendency, far from being resisted by the Trade U nions, has_ jnvariahlv been -.encouraged by th em. Tj'he Coalminers of Northumberland and Durham fought hard to get rid of their " yearly bond " ; the Staffordshire Potters in 1 866 enthusiastically threw off the " annual hiring " ; the " monthly pays," once common in all occupations, have been replaced by weekly, or at most, fortnightly settlements ; and many Trade Unions have, at one time or another, expressly pro- hibited their members from entering into longer engagements, a prohibition now generally omitted as the practice has become obsolete.*

1 Preamble to Rules of the Amalgamated Society of Tailors (Manchester,

1893).

2 Thus the Scottish Ironmoulders' Society has, since 1838, forbidden engage-


432 Trade Union Function

This policy needs no explanation for any one who under- stands the Trade Union position. The " yearly bond " or annual hiring always meant, in practice, the conclusion of a separate agreement between the employer and each indi- vidual workman, and especially when the various terms of service did not expire on a uniform date, was incompatible with Collective Bargaining. Moreover, once the agreement was entered into, the wage-earner found himself, at any rate for the specified term of notice, practically at the mercy of the employer's interpretation of the conditions. The wage contract seldom contains express stipulations with regard to any other points than the amount of remuneration, and perhaps the hours of labor, and it is always implied _that the wage-earner binds himself to obey all lawful and reasonable commands of his " master." It is in the, wag e- earnerls. .power to throw up his job when hf; Ijlf^,*^ that his status differs most essentially from-lhaL-oLa-slave. and if he foregoes this power, and binds himself for a long term to put up with practically whatever conditions, outside those expressly stipulated for, the employer may choose to impose, it is obvious that the Trade Union loses all power of protect- _ing him against economic oppression.^ The briefest possible term of service, terminable at a day or a week's notice on either side, has accordingly come to be preferred, for different reasons, by both employers and Trade Unionists.* This

ments longer than "from pay to pay, the rule now in force (1892) providing " that no member of this association shall enter into any engagement, either directly or indirectly, for any given time longer than from pay to pay, unless specially authorised by Executive." The United Kingdom Society of Coach- makers, Vfhose rule on the subject dates from 1840, now ordains (1896 edition) that " no meitiber be allowed to article himself under penalty of expulsion." The Tinplate Workers of Glasgow had a rule in 1 860 that no member should so engage himself as to prevent his leaving his employer with two weeks' notice j the Liverpool Painters said one week. — Report on Trade Societies and Strikes, by the Social Science Association (London, i860), pp. 133, 297.

' We recur to this aspect of the wage contract in our chapter on " The Higgling of the Market."

2 It was a special aggravation of the " yearly bond " among the Coalminers that, whilst the workman bound himself for a whole year to hew coal whenever required by a particular employer, that employer did not guarantee to find him continuous employment, and could lay the pit idle whenever he chose


Continuity of Employment 433

does not mean, as regards the great majority of industries, that the employers are incessantly changing their workmen, or workmen their employers. Wherever costly and intricate machinery is used, and wherever the processes of different workmen are dovetailed one into the other, it pays the em- ployer to retain, even at some sacrifice, the services of the same body of men, accustomed to his business and to each other. In these trades accordingly, a well-conducted work- man may rely on retaining his employment so long as his employer has work to be done.

In other industries this absence of any permanent engage- ment between master and man leaves the employer free to get his work done to-day by one set of workers, and to- morrow by quite another set. Whenever work is "given out " to be done in the workers' own homes, the employer can dole out the jobs as he chooses, sometimes to one family, sometimes to another. A wholesale clothing con- tractor in East London has thus hundreds of different families looking to him for work, amongst whom his fore- man will, each week, arbitrarily apportion his orders. The London Dock Companies maintain what is essentially the same system with regard to their casual labor, the fore- man, at certain periods of the day, selecting fresh gangs of men from among the crowd of applicants at the dock gates. Both outworkers and dockers are nominally free to seek work elsewhere, when not engaged by their usual employer. But as they are expected, under pain of being struck off the list, to present themselves to ask for work at certain hours, they practically lose any real chance of obtaining other employment.^ This extreme discontinuity of employment

(R. Fynes, The Miners of Northumberland and Durham, '&\^\^,\%T^. A similar one-sidedness is found in other old contracts of hiring. The chief examples of genuinely bilateral agreements for long terms relate to indoor servants, seamen, and mechanics sent on jobs abroad.

1 "The Docks," by Beatrice Potter (Mrs. Sidney Webb), in Charles Booth's Life and Laior of the People (London, 1889), vol. i. of first edition ; and H. Llewellyn Smith and Vaughan Nash, The Story of the Dockers' Strike (London, 1889). This system of engaging casual labor by the hour still prevails in the London docks, but it has, since 1890, been modified by an increase in the


434 Trade Union Function

is not confined to unskilled laborers or low - paid home workers. In many skilled handicrafts, where the work is done individually and by the piece, the operative is required to remain in the employer's workshop, or at his beck and call, without being guaranteed either work or pay. " There are firms," reported to the Royal Commission on Labor the representative of the Sheffield trades, " which require their workpeople to present themselves to the managers to receive work at certain times during the day. When they have entered the place in the morning the gates are closed, and whether they have work or not they cannot leave the premises till noon, except by special permit from the firm, and so from noon to evening. ... I know of a case in the steel trade where the men were expected to be in the firm from 9 A.M. to 6 P.M., if they had but five shillings' worth of work during the week. The men struck against it." ^ The Macclesfield Silk -weavers are in an even worse position. The employers " give out " work to be done in the weavers' own homes, and distribute it so irregularly that a workman may be kept idle for days or even weeks. Nevertheless, as the handloom belongs to the employer, the operative bas to pay loom-rent for it week by week with absolute continuity, whether any work has been given to him or not, and he is forbidden by the owner of the loom to use it for any other manufacturer who might offer work.

To capitalists concerned only for present profit, this extreme discontinuity of employment offers several ad- number of men who are given preferences for employment. The dockers are now divided into three registered classes (permanent men, A list, and B list, each man being numbered in his own class), and one unregistered class (C or casuals). No guarantee of employment is given to any man, but each day's work is allotted, as far as it will go, strictly according to the order of the classes and the numerical order of the men in each class. Thus, the regularity of employment of the preference men has been increased at the expense of making the work of the casual docker less continuous than before. In so fer as the change is a step towards the total abolition of the casual system, it must be regarded as an improvement. — See Charles Booth, Life and Labor of the People, vol. vii. (London, 1896) ; and the chapter on " Les Unions de Dockers" in Lt Tradt Unionisme en Angleterre, edited by Paul de Rousiers (Paris, 1897).

^ Evidence of C. Hobson, Q. 19,029, before Royal Commission on Laboi (Group A), 24th March 1S92.


Continuity of Employment 435

vantages. Where the industry is seasonal or otherwise irregular in volume, as in the case of dock labor and the clothing trade, the eni ploy er is abje, without expense to hi mself, to ex p_and or Qoatract .his working staff, in^exact pr oportion to the state of the weather or change of tides or seasfiQS. The giver-out of work can at any moment quad- ruple his production to fulfil a pressing order, and then drop back to the current demands of a slack season, without incurring factory-rent or other standing charges. The armyj of men and women standing at his beck and call cost him; nothing except for the actual hours that they are at work. And the very existence of such a " reserve army " places each member of it more completely at his mercy with regard to all the conditions of employment. Wherever this " reserve army" exists in conjunction with home-work, or otherwisi; under circumstances making Individual Bargaining inevitable, the employer can practically dictate terms. How disas- trously the whole arrangement operates for the workers con- cerned has been described by every observer of the sweated trades. _

To oppose sucli a disastrous irregularitv of work is a fundamentalprinciple o f , Trad e Unionism. Unfortunately, where the system prevails, the workers are seldom in a position to combine for their own protection. We see a feeble attempt to cope with the evil in the regulation of the Dock, Wharf, and Riverside Laborers' Union, that any man taken on in the London docks shall be guaranteed at least four hours' continuous work. Certain classes of rail- way servants complain that, whilst they are forbidden by the railway company to take any other employment, they are given only casual and intermittent work, and paid only by the job. To remedy this grievance the General Railway Workers' Union is proposing that it should be enacted by law that every person vi/ho is required "to give the whole of his time to the service of the company shall, unless legally dismissed from such service, before his employment is termi- nated, be entitled to a week's notice, or a week's wages in lieu


436 Trade Union Function

of notice, and he shall be entitled to full weekly wages while in such employment." * But examples of Trade Union policy on this point must be sought in the more strongly organised trades in which, though so dangerous a discon- tinuity does not actually exist, there is some danger that it might, if not resisted, insidiously creep in. Thus, the highly-paid compositors in London daily newspaper offices who must stand by waiting for copy to come in, and then work at lightning speed to catch the press, insist on all the men in attendance being guaranteed " a galley and a half" — that is, being paid 5s. gd. on a morning paper, or 5 s. 4^d. on an evening paper — whether they are actu- ally required to do as much work or not.^ The old- fashioned union of hand-working Papermakers goes farther, and rigidly enforces the Regulation known as the " Six Days' Custom," which ensures that not less than six days' work, or the equivalent payment, shall be found each week for all the men employed. If an accident occurs, or an engine breaks down, the employer no more thinks of depriving his workmen of their livelihood during the stoppage than he does that of his clerks or manager. He can dis- charge his men by giving them the customary fortnight's notice, or by paying them the customary forfeit of one guinea, but so long as he retains their services he must pay them at least the agreed minimum of weekly wages.'

1 General Secretary! Report to Annual General Meeting, 1897.

' The minimum used to be "one galley"; then the rule ran, in mystic phrase, " one galley four hours' work, and extra pay for more than a quarter galley an hour when asked to pull out." We are indebted to Mr. C. Drummond for the following explanation. The newspaper compositors, being paid by the piece, and guaranteed a minimum of work, can do it at their own speed. But in order, that the "printer" {i.e. manager of the department) may have some control over the time taken, it is agreed that the maximum within which one galley must be completed is four hours, though the compositor will, for his own sake, seldom take so long. It happens very occasionally, when the " printer " is compelled to insist on the utmost possible speed, that he will order the men to " pull out," i-i- use every effort. Men working under such an order are entitled to extra paj for all over a quarter of a galley done in an hour.

' " That the Six Days' Custom be as follows : Twenty-two post per day and (en on Saturday" (Rules and Regulations of the Original Society of Papermakers, Maidstone, 1887), Rule 28. The French papermakers in the eighteenth century


Continuity of Employment 437

Similarly, the Flint Glass Makers have a binding custom by which the employer is required to find his men a minimum of " eleven moves a week," being thirty-three hours' work, or pay a corresponding amount in wages.^

In other trades where work is irregular, the Trade Union objection to its being arbitrarily distributed by the employer — leading, as this does, to the extreme dependence of the wage -earner — has led to r egulations for " sharin g work ." If the workmen know that, however scanty may be the work to be done, it will be fairly distributed among them all, there is much less temptation for the poorer or more grasping members to seek to secure themselves by offering to accept worse conditions of employment."

The most primitive form of sharing work is seen in the " t urnwav " societies of the T hames waternien. for regulating the "turns," or order in which the men plying at any particular "stairs" serve the passengers who present them- selves.' What is essentially the same arrangement is presented by the " House of Call " system, under which, among the Tailors, Compositors, Bakers, Upholsterers, and sometimes Joiners and Painters, the employer wanting a

required six weeks' notice on either side. — Du Cellier, Histoire des Classes Laborieuses en France (Paris, i860), p. 292.

1 This custom is recc^nised in the trade, and is enforced by County Court judges, if the wage contract includes no express stipulation to the contrary. See the cases reported in the Flint Glass Maker^ Magazine, August 1874 and March 187s, in the Birmingham and Rotherham County Courts.

  • The growth of the great industry and the world commerce led to a similar

development in French Trade Unionism. Du Cellier (Histoire des Classes Lahorieuses en France, p. 385) notes that, after 1830, the workmen's associations were occupied in devising means to mitigate the evils of unemployment. Where the work was individual in character, the employer was obliged to give the jobs in succession to the several workmen in their order on the roll. Where the work was done in concert, it was shared equally by the whole staff, instead of the number being reduced.

' These "tumway societies," incidentally described in Mayhew's London Labour and the London Poor (London, 1851), are probably of great antiquity. There were societies of watermen at Rotherhithe in 1789, and of those "usually plying at the Hermitage Stairs" in 1799, whilst already in 1669 we read that "our Gravesend watermen, by some temporary and mean pretences of the late Dutch war, have raised their ferry double to what it was, and finding the sweet thereof, keep it up still " (Thomas Manley's Usury at Six per Cent Examined, London, 1669). See the History of Trade Unionism, pp. 11, 20.


438 Trade Union Function

workman is encouraged or required to send to a place of resort for the unemployed, and the man who has been longest on the list is, if suitable, deputed to fill the vacancy.^ This arrangement, which is in some trades worked for the mutual convenience of both parties, may degenerate into a refusal to the employer of any power of selection. Thus the Flint Glass Makers insist on the employer taking the member who has been the longest out of work,^ whether he is competent, or suitable, or not ; and the Silk Hatters expressly arrange so that the employer may not even see the man assigned to him, before he is engaged.* This is, in effect, to maintain a craft monopoly, having all the economic characteristics of

' The Compositors at London, Glasgow, Manchester, etc., use the Trade Union Office for this purpose ; and the Engineers at Manchester keep a "vacant book " in their local office. Most of the smaller trades use particular public- houses as their " House of Call," the publican often himself keeping the register of the unemployed. For incidental descriptions of the " House of Call" system, see The Tailoring Trade, by F. W. Galton.

In France the practice of sharing employment was carried so far in some of the incorporated handicrafts that the member who had been longest in continuous work ceded his place in favor of any who had remained a certain time unempIoyed.^Du Cellier, Histaire des Classes Laborieuses en France, p. 289.

' Rules and Hegulaiions of the National Flint Glass Makers' Sick and Friendly iort'e^ (Manchester, 1891). Rule X. is as follows: "When a man falls out of employment the F[actory] S[ecretary] shall inform the D[istrict] S[ecretary] who shall at once write to the C[entral] S[ecretary] for an unemployed certificate; and when a. man is applied for by an employer the F.S. diall apply to the D.S., and should there be no one suitable in the district, he shall write to the C.S. stating what kind of man is wanted, wages, etc, so that there be no mistake as to the man sent to fill the situation. When an employer applies for men the unemployed roll shall be consulted before any promotions be granted either to journeymen or apprentices. Note. — Rule X. is not intended to compel a master to engage any man to whom he has a reasonable objection, the same to be considered by the District Committee." The Flint Glass Makeri Mag/aim contains many references to employers' complaints of this procedure.

3 The Silk Hatters' custom is so universal that it is only incidentally referred to in the rules. As explained to us by officers of the union it is as follows : " Employers are not allowed to choose, or even to see, workmen whom they engage. A member out of work calls at a hatter's workshop, and sends in a small card (the ' asking ticket '), showing that he is a financial member (i.e. not in arrear with his contribution), and what branch of work he does. The journeymen in each workshop take it in turns to attend to such cards. On its being sent in, the man whose turn it is goes in to the employer and asks, ' Do you want a bodymaker ? ' (or a shaper, as the case may be). This is called ' asking for ' the unemployed member. If the employer says ' yes,' the man is told to come in and commence. If ' no,' his card is returned, and he goes off to the next shop."


Continuity of Employment 439

a drastic restriction of numbers, with which it is invariably combined.^

Any such restriction on the employer's freedom of choice! between one workman and another is, however, quite! exceptional. M ore generally, the Tyade Union_s§gksjto I promote the, sharing nf wnrk hy regni lations directed ag ainst the greed or selfishnes s of its own, members . Thus the Ship- wrights' Provident Union of the Port of London retains to the present day the substance of its original rule of 1 8i24 that " no member shall engross a greater quantity of work than he can accomplish by working the regular hours of the trade, viz. not before or after the recognised working hours per day throughout the year ; and that no work be performed inside after the men on the outside of the ship have left work, so that every opportunity may be given to those who are out of employ."^ The same intention inspires the regulations in many handwork trades against " smooting " or " foxing " or " grassing," that is, working for a second employer after putting in a full day elsewhere. Thus the Manchester Union of Saddlers provides that " no member of this union shall be allowed habitually to work for any other employer than the one by whom he is regularly employed, except there are none out of work in the branch. And no member shall be allowed to obtain any work at this trade whilst in a situation, to do after his working hours for any person except his own employer."* And the Wool Shear Benders and Grinders, a tiny Shefifield handicraft, absolutely prohibit their members from working in any other wheel or factory than the one in which they are regularly employed.* An

' We recur to this subject in our chapter on " The Economic Characteristics of Trade Unionism."

2 Rules of the Shipwrights' Provident Union of the Port of I,ondon ; see the original wording in a note to the chapter on " The Normal Day."

' Rules of the Union of the Saddlers, Harness Makers, etc. (Manchester, 1889). Similar rules exist in many other trades, such as the Compositors, Brusbmakers, Coachmakers, etc.

  • The Yorkshire Glass Bottle Makers' Society has a signed agreement with all

the employers, which is renewed annually. Among other matters, it provides that " in the event of any fiimace being out for repairs, slack trade, or stopped foi


440 Trade Union Function

extreme case is presented by the Scythe Grinders' Trade Protection Society, which arranges for its members a definite year's engagement, in all cases terminating on the 6th of July (Old Midsummer Day), by which it is understood that no man is ever discharged during the year for slackness of trade, the ebbs and ilows of the work of each establishment being shared among the staff with which it started the year. But these are archaic survivals. In the great modem unions any desire to promote the sharing of work by regulations of this type is merged in the general objection to Overtime, and the maintenance of the Normal Day.

The common Trade Union desire to maintain the Normal Day, especially in its manifestations against Overtime and in favor of a Reduction of the Hours of Labor, has at all times been strengthened by the belj gf that a strict regulation of the >'*^Qrking^jtiljj?...WOujd_ incidentally cause e mployment to b e more continuous. Thus, the Amalgamated Association of Operative Cotton-spinners, in supporting Lord Shaftesbury's " Ten Hours' Bill," gave as one of their objects, " a more equitable adjustment or distribution of labor, by means of shortening the hours of labor." ^ And when, in 1872, there was a new movement for reducing the Normal Day, the same idea recurs in the argument that this would " secure

any other cause, the workmen shall, as far as practicable, share the work ; provided, nevertheless, that if after a furnace has been out for four months, and there is no probability of its being started again, the master to be at liberty to discharge the surplus workmen."

' Circular of 19th January 184S, '° Minute Book. Fifteen years later the Cotton-spinners thus referred to their successful agitation : " It should always be remembered that anterior to the introduction of factory legislation, the em- ployers dictated the hours of labor to their workpeople ; and in the various localities those hours varied accordingly, ranging from seventy-four hours and upwards. As, however, in some instances the mills were kept running night and day, we shall certainly be under the mark in assuming that the average hours worked at that time, throughout the country, were 75 per cent per week. It is obvious that sixty people working seventy-five hours per week would produce nearly as much as seventy-five now do working sixty hours, and thus from 20 to 25 per cent of the factory population would be thrown destitute upon the streets. It is equally clear, moreover, that it is the scarcity or redundance of labor in the market which regulates the rate of wages ; and, as under the circumstances we have named, some of the workpeople would be almost worked to death, while those thrown out would be reduced to a state bordering on starvation firom the


Continuity of Employment 441

them moderate but constant employment."^ In so far as this means only that a reduction of the hours of those in employment would, other things being equal, cause the work to be shared among a larger number of operatives, and so prevent some from being wholly unemployed, the case is, like that of the Shipwrights whose rule we have quoted, merely one of sharing work. As unemployed men have to be maintained somehow, generally by their fellow-members, it may well be more convenient to the whole body that the largest possible number should be employed for the normal hours, than that some should be working abnormally long days, and others walking the streets in search of a job. In times of general depression of trade, or of temporary contrac- tion of demand for a particular industry, such an arrange- ment seems to the Trade Unionist obviously reasonable. The employer, on the other hand, more than usually eager in bad times to reduce the cost of production, would prefer to lengthen the hours of labor, so as (at time wages) to get more work for the same weekly wage, or (at piece rates) to get a larger output in proportion to his standing charges. Hence we arrive at the paradox that it is g enerally, in ^jiines- of depressio n, when the world requjres less carpentering or engineering work to be do ne, that attempts are made to

O I Mill i.ii I ■ - - — ■ I ^^■.^^^^^^^_^^___i-M«'T~^ — -— ...— ^— — — — I ,^^ _ J. ^ ri mm 1 r n-—

lengthen the Normal Day of those carpe nter s and engine ers w ho are in employment at all, with the r esult that the nu mber out of employment is u nnecessarily increased. In 1879, ^°^ instance, at a time of exceptional contraction of

want of it, the wages of labor would, as a matter of course, from the intense competition to obtain emplo)mient, come down to starvation point ; and all our efforts, whether exerted singly or in concert, would be utterly powerless to arrest their downward course. It is clearly then the duty and interest of every worker in the fectories of this country to resist, by every legitimate means in his power, not only any attempt to violate the law by overworking women, young persons, and children, but to treat with contempt all overtures by which it is sought to induce him to work more than sixty hours per week, inasmuch as this righteous law is the palladium of his success in his endeavour to improve his social con- dition." — /luUs 0/ the Amalgamated Association of Operative Cotton-spinners, edition of i860, preface.

1 Circular of 7th January \%T7:,'ibid. See, for other examples, The Eight Hours' Day, by Sidney Webb and Harold Cox (London, 189 1).


442 Trade 'Union Function

business, the Clyde shipbuilders insisted on increasing the working hours from fifty-one to fifty-four per week, and the Manchester builders added from two to three hours to the working week.^ It is in face of attempts of this sort that the Trade Union Regulations for maintaining the Normal Day seem incidentally to protect the workers from an unnecessary discontinuity of employment.

The reader will see on closer examination that these R egulations, though a pparently .d irected towards Continu ity of, „Em^iQ}aa3£atj^are J^^^^ designed prijaaril3Lto_greTCnt

t he evils of Individual Bargain ing, and to save the workmen, especially in bad times, from falling into personal dependence on the employer or his foreman. Thus the Trade Union objection to the conditions of employment being fixed in advance for long periods completely disappears, as we may learn from the little example of the Scythe-grinders, when this fixing takes place by the Method of Collective Bargaining. The " Working Rules, for which all sections of the building trade persistently struggle, habitually determine the rates of wages, hours of labor, and many other conditions for an indefinitely long period, from which neither employers nor workmen can depart without giving six months' notice. The Miners' Federation in 1893 willingly bound themselves to continue to accept the then existing rates of wages for a year, in return for a corresponding pledge from the associated employers not to seek a reduction during that period. In like manner, the Trade Union objection to the doling out of work in slack seasons ceases when this distribution is made in accordance with any such collective arrangement among the operatives themselves as those that we have just de- scribed.^ None of these regulations secures, or even attempts

^ History of Trade Unionism, pp. 332-334.

^ The workers may even resort to the primitive expedient of casting lots j thus the Rules and Regulations of the Warpers' True Benevolent Sick and Burial Society (Rochdale, 1884) prescribe "that when a mill stops working where oui giembers are employed, and it is obvious that such stoppage will be for some time, when all the men are finishing their work within two days, they shall cast lots whose name shall be first on the list."


Continuity of Employntent 443

to secure, to the workmen a full week's work or a full week's wage for every week in the year. They have little real bear- ing on Continuity of Employment and are, in substance, only incidents of the Method of Collective Bargaining, re- quired to maintain the Standard Rate and the Normal Day.

ThCTeaEeuflJa.ct,..na.TcadeJJnipn Regulations placing^ upon_t he employer the pbl igation^ of providing continuous e mploymen t for the wage -earners whom he chooses to engage. Wisely or unwisely the Trade Unions have tacitly accepted the position that the capitalist can only be ex- pected to find them wages so long as he can find them work. Continuity of employment becomes, therefore, con- tingent upon continuity of the consumer's demand, or more precisely, upon an exact adjustment of Supply and Demand. Both employers and workmen wish this adjustment made and continuity secured. But capitalists and manual workers have, with a few exceptions on both sides, advocated diametrically opposite ways of obtaining it. When business becomes slack and sales fall ofif, the employer's first instinct is to tempt customers by lowering prices. He assumes that, whatever may be the cause of the depression, he can still get orders, and so keep his mills going full time, if only he is enabled to quote a sufficiently low price for his product. For this reduction he looks mainly to the rate of wages. The landlord insists on his fixed rent or royalty, and the mortgagee or debenture holder on his fixed interest. It would be fatal to economise on buildings, machinery, or plant, which must either be kept up to their highest efficiency or replaced earlier than need be at serious cost to himself. It is not worth while, and it is contrary to the brainworker's tradition, to nibble at the salaries of managers or clerks. The conclusion seems' inevitable. The alternative to stopping altogether is, whilst the employer temporarily foregoes some of his profits, the workman shall forego some of his wages.

The Trade Unionists entirely dissent from this policy.^

' Thus, the factory bootmakeis, in a time of great depression of trade, emphatically protested against the employers' policy " " When in consequence


444 Trade Union Function

They point out that, to them, it is not a question of tem- porarily diminishing surplus profits ; what is at stake is their weekly livelihood, the actual housekeeping of their families and themselves. To the vast majority of workmen, a ten per cent reduction of wages means an actual diminution of food and warmth, an actual privation in the way of clothing and house-accommodation, which they declare to be physi- cally exhausting and detrimental to their industrial efficiency. No manufacturer would think it wise to let his buildings and machinery fall into disrepair, or to reduce the ration and stable accommodation of his horses ; why, asks the Trade Unionist, should he adopt this suicidal policy with regard to the most important factors of his productive efficiency, — the human laborers whom he employs ? ^ If the employer, under the pressure of competition in slack times, tempts the con- sumer to buy his particular commodity by indefinitely worsening the conditions of employment, he is, in thus deteriorating the physique and character of successive relays of workers, giving away what does not belong to him, the capital value of the human beings in his service.

It is a further aggravation to the Trade Unionist that he believes the sacrifice demanded of him by the employer to be worse than useless. Merely to oSsx c ommodities at a lo wer price in no way increases the world's age^ re gate deman d

of the reckless unscrupulous competition among capitalists we find our com- merce becoming less day by day, banks stopping payment, firms which had become bywords in the past for their supposed stability found to be in a state of hopeless insolvency, we protest against that doctrine which would find a panacea for these evils in a general reduction of the wages of the workers or an increase in their hours of labor." — Monthly Report of the National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives (December 1879).

1 The acceptance by employers of contracts at prices which cannot possibly be made to pay at the existing rates of wages is a subject of constant complaint. The preface to the Bylaws, Order of Business, and Rules of Order of the Windm- Glass Workers »^ ^ff^/anc? (Sunderland, 1886) declares, " Whilst admitting that sometimes pressure is brought to bear on the capitalists or employers, [that] in too many instances, instead of offering any resistance, they accept terms that are disadvantageous to themselves, trusting to their power of remunerating themselves by legally pilfering a portion off each of their workers' weekly earnings ; and there is no limit to the extremes to which labor can be pushed, unless it be that fixed by the Poor-Law authorities and the price paid for their test labor."


Continuity of Employment 445

for commodities. It may suit the immediate purposes of a single employer, by undercutting his rivals, to engross their trade. It might conceivably suit all the employers in a particular trade, by cheapening their wares, to engross more of the aggregate demand for commodities than would other- wise come their way.^ ■ But in either case the total demand remains the same, being, in fact, identical with the total product, and all that has happened is a gain in continuity in one direction, balanced by an equivalent loss somewhere else Thus, th e Trade Unioni st declares a lowering of price to he no rpal r^^rp fr^r g {TPn gral ^ i^pr essioH of trade . When such a policy is adopted all round, the aggregate income of the producers is no greater than it would have been if they had kept up their rates and done less work. The only result is that the workers have to do more work for the same money, and though the wage-earners share, as consumers, in the benefit of the lowered prices, the fact that they only consume a third of the product makes the operation a net loss to their class.^ If it is retorted that one country may, by a judicious cheapening of its products, engross more than its normal share of the diminished trade of the world, and so keep its own wage -earners employed at the cost of

  • It must not be forgotten that a fall in the wages of any particular section of

workers would, at best, produce a much less than proportionate' fall in the retail price of their product. Thus, when the Northumberland coal hewers are urged to submit to a ten per cent reduction, in order to stimulate the demand for their coal, they may well reply that, receiving as they do on an average about 1 5d. per ton of coal hewn, this ten per cent reduction of wages, which would mean a serious shrinking of their family incomes, could not possibly result in lowering the price to the London consumer to a greater degree than from 24s. to 23s. lo^d. per ton, or by about a half per cent.

The actual variations of price have, in most industries, little connection with variations of wages. " During the last twenty years the retail price of cotton thread has varied from a penny to twopence per spool of 200 yards — that is, 100 per cent — following, more or less closely, the variations of manufacturers' prices. All this time the wages of women workers, who constitute the great majority of operatives in the thread mills, have scarcely varied." — P^of^_W;_&CMirt, Studies in Economics (London, 1896), p. 259.

  • In the United Kingdom from three-fifths to two-thirds of the annual pro-

duct of commodities and services are consumed by the one-fifth of the population above the wage-earning class ; see the reference to oEScial statistics given in Pacts for Socialists (Fabian Tract, No. S).


446 Trade Union Function

foreigners, the Trade Unionist has the reply that, according to the orthodox Theory of International Trade, any such artificial stimulus to national industry must necessarily be as powerless to increase the total volume of the trade as a Protective Tariff or a system of Bounties on Exports. We shall examine the whole of this argument in our chapter on " The Economic Characteristics of Trade Unionism." It concerns us here only as explaining the persistent Trade Union policy of fighting their hardest against any lowering of wages, and submitting only to superior force.^

But certain sections of the Trade Union world do not stop at this negative attitude. They have propounded, as a means of coping with depression of trade, a diametrically opposite policy, which they have done their best to press their employers to adopt. Th.e Cotton Op eratives and Coal- miners — -trades which ^e are always .haying to couple together-^^^jiave repeatedly met the ir employers' demands f or reduction. pX.,Fages by aii equally confident ^ demand for a restriction ^oTthejoutput. This policy dates from the very beginning of the century. Thus, to quote an official report of 1 844, "It can scarcely be credited by one calmly investi- gating the state of this large body of laborers, that many thousands of them — in fact, the whole of the colliers and miners in Lanarkshire, with a few exceptions, amounting to 1 6,000 men — have, for many years past (since the repeal of the Combination Laws in 1825), placed themselves under regulations as to the amount of their labor, which, had they been attempted to be enforced by the authority of any government whatsoever, in any country calling itself civilised, would have roused the indignation of every thinking man, as against an act of the most intolerable despotism. And yet

' In our History of Trade Unionism we have described how, for a few years, a small number of unions, mainly in the coal and iron industries, accepted the employers' arguments, and agreed to the celebrated arrangement of the Sliding Scale, which the Coalminers have now practically abandoned. We refer to this method of adjusting wages in our chapter on " The Assumptions of Trade Union- ism." Particulars of all known Sliding Scales are given in Appendix II. of tne History of Trade Unionism.


Continuity of Employment 447

these regulations were intended by the working colliers . . . for the maintenance of wages at a fair level, for their protec- tion against overwork, and against an overstocking of the market of labor and the market of coal. ... A certain day's work, called the ' darg,' is fixed, which the colliers themselyes allow no one to exceed." ^

The_ policy of regulating the output of coal in proport ion t o the demand for it at the current price has always remained a leading principle of t he Coalm^nCT'^n The " darg," or limit to the day's product of the individual hewer, has at no time extensively prevailed, and is to-day characteristic not of good Trade Union districts, but only of the half-organised Ayrshire and Lanarkshire pits. I n England restriction of output h as take n the form only of a counter prop osal, iustif^ing^ the miners' ^ff fasal to lower wages .^ When the coalowners have pleaded their accumulating stocks of coal as a reason why wages and prices should be lowered, in order to stimulate demand, the miners have suggested that Supply and Demand

I Report of Commissioner to inquire into Coalmining, No. S92 of 1 844, vol. xvii. p. 31, quoted in J. H. Burton's Political and Social Economy (Edinburgh, 1849). In one or two old piecework trades — notably some branches of the Potters and Glass Bottle Makers — a similar limitation of individual output has prevailed under the name of " stint " or " tantum." " In our light metal shops," wrote the secretary of the North of England Glass Bottle Makers' Society in 1895, " the Society has a tantum fixed, which the men are not allowed to exceed : if they do it is paid into the Society, as a reference to the reports will show. . . . I give you a copy of the tantum for light metal in our district as mentioned : —


Reputed Quarts



1 10 dozen.


10 oz. Codd's



lOS „


5 oz. Codd's .



IIS ..


Imperial Pints



IIS ..


Reputed Pints above 12 oz.



115 "


Do. under 12 oz..


no restriction.



All bottles made in excess of the above the money is paid into the funds of the Society." — Refort of the Rates of Wages, Lists of Numbers, etc., of the Glass Bottle Makers of Great Britain and Irelatid (Castleford, 189S), P- 49-

2 The Rules of the Miners' United Association of the County of Fife (Dunferm- line, 1868) refers in the preamble to " the fearfuUstocks of coal which have accumu- lated in the county, which evil stands out like a bold monster, to defy us in having our just rights." The Articles of Regulation of the Operative Collieries of Lanark and Dumbarton of 1825 declared " that there shoiild never be allowed to be any stock of coals in the hands of any of the masters. "-^See Huskisson's Speeches (London, 1831), vol. ii. pp. 369, 371.


448


Trade Union Function


should be adjusted rather by diminishing the output than by forcing coal upon unwilling buyers. In one recent instance the Trade Union gave a practical illustration of this policy. In March 1892 the Miners' Federation saw its members threatened with a reduction of wages by coal- owners unable to keep up their sales. The men resolved to " take a week's holiday," with the result that the stocks were temporarily diminished, and the reduction was not insisted on.^

' This policy of restricting the output has, under the name of " Limitation of the Vend," long been characteristic of the coal trade. From 1771 to 1844, a period of seventy-three years, there existed, almost continuously, a systematic organisation among the coalowners of the Tyne and Wear for fixing price and output. " The colliery owners met annually and agreed upon what was called the 'basis,' that is, the proportion which each colliery should sell of the total ' vend. ' They met monthly, and sometimes fortnightly, to fix what was called the ' issue ' for the following month. There was an understanding as to the price at which each colliery should sell. A fine of from 3s. to 5s. per Newcastle chaldron was paid by those who at the end of the year had exceeded their quantity, and this was received by those who were short ' (D. A. Thomas). The result was that prices were greatly and continuously raised. It appears that so long as the arrangement effected an actual restriction of the total output, it worked satisfactorily enough to the coalowners. But eventually each coalowner strove, by opening new pits and increasing their capacity, to increase his own "basis." The arrangement then ceased to restrict the total output, and became only one of "sharing work," which came to an end in 1844 by the revolt of the larger collieries, who desired to work their pits to the full capacity. Particulars are to be found in the Reports and Evidence of the Parliamentary Committees of 1800, 1829, 1830, and 1873 on the coal trade (G. R. Porter's Progress of the Nation, London, pp. 283-286 of 1847 edition ; Cunningham's Growth of English Industry and Commerce, vol. ii. p. 463 ; Some Notes on the Present State of the Coal Trade, by D. A. Thomas, M.P., Cardiff, 1896). Mr. Thomas proposes to institute a similar " Limitation of the Vend " for South Wales, urging that if each colUery agreed to produce only its allotted quota of the total output, prices would be automatically maintained, without the need of any concerted action among the sellers as to price, and without actually limiting the total supply below the demand for it at existing prices. This proposal seems to contain, in not providing against a reckless increase in the number and capacity of pits, the same inherent weakness that eventually broke up the Tyne and Wear arrangement.

The coalowners in Westphalia and Pennsylvania have gone farther. The Rhenish Westphalian Coal Syndicate has, since 1893, conducted all sales for the Westphalian coalowners, fixing both price and output. The Coalowners Association of Pennsylvania, in (jonjunction with the great railway companies, has an essentially similar arrangement for the supply of anthracite. Sir George Elliot's bold proposal (described in the Titnes of 20th September 1893) of an amalgamation of all the coalmines of the United Kingdom idto a single companj of ;f 110,000,000, subject to a government control over rises in price, maj eventually be adopted in preference to a merely capitalist trust.


Continuity of Employment 449

F or twenty years a similar policy has been urged by the Cotton Operatives at each recur ring period of contraction of trader rn the great depression of 1878, when the value of English exports of cotton piece-goods fell no less than 17 per cent below those of 1872, the employers insisted that only by a 10 per cent reduction could they continue their trade. The weavers denied that any such reduction would "remove the glut from an overstocked cloth market," especially in view of the fact that the quantity of piece-goods exported was no less than before, but offered to give way, provided that the employers would, on their side, consent to put all the mills on short time, so as to stop the over- production.^ Again, in the depression of 1885, the employers pressed for a reduction, and the operatives — this time the spinners — formally offered to " accept a reduction of i o per cent and four days a week ; 5 per cent and five days ; or full rates with full time." ^ " The employers," as their able secretary explains, " looked upon this as a fallacy, knowing from experience that short time meant increased cost of production." '

We do not propose to enter into the complicated economic arguments which are urged for and against this policy of meeting the vicissitudes of demand by a deliberately regulated production.* Whatever ma y b e said in favor of Re striction of Output, any systematic use of this device is o ut of the reach of mere associati ons of wage-earners. They can, of course, temporarily stop all production by simultane- ously refusing to work, as in a strike or in the week's holiday arbitrarily taken by the Miners' Federation in 1892. But

^ See the Cotton-weavers' manifesto of June 1878, given in the History of Trade Unionism, pp. 329, 330.

2 Minutes of Sub-Committee, Executive Committee, and Representative Meeting of the Amalgamated Association of Operative Cotton-spinners, June 18S5.

  • Fifty Years of the Cotton Trade, by Samuel Andrew (Oldham, 1887),

p. 10.

  • The Trade Union position in the controversy of 1878 was ably maintained

by Mr. (now the Right Hon.) John Morley, in his Over Production; an address delivered at the Trade Union Congress, 1878 (Nottingham, 1879).

VOL. I Q


45P Trade Union Function

when the industrial machine is in motion, any direct limita- tion of output is beyond the power of the Trade Union. A strongly-organised union might insist that no member should produce more than a given quantity per day (the Coal- miners' ■' darg "), or that all the establishments in the trade should work only a limited number of hours per week (the Cotton Operatives' " short time "). But neither of these expedients has, in practice, any effective result in diminishing the total amount of production below what the employers desire. It is always possible to employ more miners in the pit, to work additional seams, or even to open up new pits. The millowner puts in additional machines, and directly prices rise owing to the rumour of restriction, old mills are reopened and new ones erected. Any attempt on the part of the wage -earners to limit the output of the individual operative, though it may cause inconvenience, or increase the expense of carrying on the industry, has, therefore, no practical effect in restricting the total amount that will be produced. Hence, though the Engl ish Coalminers a nd Cotton Operatives remain firmly convin ced that it w ould~Ee desirable for their employers to restric t production, they have_ taken no steps J;o effect thi s restriction by T rade Union Regulation. The Trade Unionists in short, like the majority of English employers, have hitherto stood helpless before the inscrutable ebb and flow of demand, and have accepted as inevitable the corresponding fluctuations of work.

Thwarted in their efforts to secure continuity of em- ployment, either from the employer or from the consumer,

' Restriction of output is, in fact, an employer's device, not a workman's, and \\. is usually practised (as in the Coalowners' "Limitation of the Vend "or an ordinary Trust) without the help of the wage-earners, though occasionally (as in the "Alliances" of the Birmingham bedstead manufacturers hereafter described) with the co-operation of the Trade Union. Its economic effect is incidentally referred to in our chapter on " The Economic Characteristics of Trade Unionism." We may say at once that, from the workman's point of view, it is of no avail in maintaining wages unless it is accompanied by the Common Rule of the Standard Rate, and that with such a Common Rule it is unnecessary and useless.


Continuity of Employment 451

particular Trade Unions have turned their force in another direction. If they cannot protect themselves against the fluctuating demands of the capitalist and the consumer, they can at any rate build up barriers a gainst tl ^ pi r fellQw-workl men. Hence, we find certain sections of the Trade Union world of to-day clinging to the mediaeval expedients of ajjprenticeship a nd limitati on of the, recruits to a tr^de. the _gxc lusipn of women, and the maintenan ce, as jgainst o ther workmen, o f .a.-vested interest in_ an adygntacrpniT;

mpan<; pf liwUhnnd. J

It is significant that it is only at this point in our analysis of Trade Union regulations that we find ourselves face to face with the idea of " monopoly." The Standard Rate, the Normal Day, and a safe and healthy place of work can be simultaneously enjoyed by the entire wage-earning class of the country. So far from there being any desire that these conditions should be a privilege of any class or section, the Trade Unionists claim that, on any of these points, a success- ful stand made by one union renders it positively easier for other grades of workmen to put forward similar claims. When the contractors and master builders in any town have been induced to agree to definite Standard Rates for all the bricklayers, stonemasons, and carpenters in their employment, they are predisposed to complete the arrangement by con- ceding a Standard Rate even to the laborers. And when the leading unions in a town press the Town Council either itself to pay " Trade Union wages," or to compel its con- tractors to do so, this demand is always intended to apply equally to all classes of wage-earners. Still more is this the case with regard to the Normal Day, which almost inevitably tends, as we have seen, to become identical for all classes of operatives in the same establishment. Finally, all the regulations for securing the sanitation of the workplace and the prevention of accidents necessarily benefit the wage- earners without distinction of grade, merit, or sex. But in the regulations with which we deal in the next two chapters, based upon the idea of a vested interest in a trade, asserted


452 Trade Union Function

by one set qf workmen to the exclusion of others, we have a claim of an entirely different nature, akin to those put forward by the holders of " free-hold offices," ecclesiastical benefices, or Civil Service appointments, when these are threatened with abolition or reorganisation.


CHAPTER X THE ENTRANCE TO A TRADE[edit]

The trade clubs of eighteenth -century handicraftsmen re- garded the limitation of apprentices and the exclusion of illegal men as the pivot of their Trade Unionism. Down to 1 8 1 4 the policy of regulating the entrance into a trade could claim the sanction of law, and the workmen's organ- isations did their utmost to prevent the repeal of the Statute of Apprentices.^ Notwithstanding the legal opening of every occupation, the Parliamentary committees of 1824-25 and 1838, and the Royal Commission of 1867 revealed numerous cases in which Trade Unions sought to regulate the entrance into their respective trades. It has accordingly been assumed by many writers that the policy of restricting numbers forms an integral part of Trade Unionism. In the following pages we shall examine how far this assumption holds true of the Trade Unionism of the present day ; we shall estimate the number of Trade Unions that aim at restricting the entrance into their trades ; and we shall analyse the actual working of such regulations in order to discover how far they succeed in effecting their object. For the purpose of this analysis it will be convenient to classify all rules dealing with admission to a trade under the four heads of Apprenticeship, Limitation of Boy-Labor, Pro- gression within the Trade, and the Exclusion of Women.

  • History of Trade Unionism, pp. S4-S6>


454 Trade Union Function


{a) Apprenticeship

The Trade Union Regulations as to Apprenticeship, unlike those for maintaining ^the Standard Rate, were not invented by the Trade Unions themselves. They can scarcely be said even to have been modified or developed, like the workmen's policy with regard to new processes and machin- ery, by Trade Union experience. So far as any system of apprenticeship still lingers in the Trade Union world, this is, in form and in purpose, practically identical with that which prevailed long before Trade Unionism was heard of.^

The modern Trade Unionist has, in this matter of ap- prenticeship, inherited two distinct and contradictory tradi- tions. We have, on the one hand, the remnants of the formal, legal, indentured apprenticeship to the master-crafts- man, with its reciprocal obligations between the employer and his apprentices. The master undertook to teach the boys all the mysteries of his craft. The apprentices undertook to serve for a long term for wages below the market rate. As Paley tersely puts it, " instruction is their hire." ^ Round this " apprenticeship to the employer," descended to us from the ordinances made by the master-craftsmen's gilds, there had grown up already in mediaeval times a whole series of restrictive conditions, the exaction of fees or premiums,

• With the system of apprenticeship considered as part of the organisation of mediaeval industry, we make no attempt to deal. There has been little detailed study either of the facts or of the economic results of this system in the United Kingdom. Adam Smith's celebrated denunciation ( Wealth of Nations, Book I. chap. X. part 2) has been criticised by several of his commentators, notably by Dr. William Playfair in the edition of 1805 ; see also the latter's pamphlet, A Letter to the . . . Lords and Commons . . . on the Advantages of Apprenticeships (l^ondiorL, 1814). The subject has also been dealt with by Dr. L. Brentano in his Arbeitergilden der Gegenwart (Leipzig, 187 1), vol. ii. pp. I43-ISS- A pamphlet. The Origin, Objects, and Operation of the Apprentice Laws (London, 1814), preserved in the Pamphleteer, vol. iii., gives the masters' case for freedom. See Dr. Cunningham's Growth of English Industry and Com- merce, vol. ii. p. 578, etc. ; and History of Trade Unionism, pp. S4"S^' ^"^' ■^ recent article, " The Fair Number of Apprentices in a Trade," by C. P. Sanger, Economic Journal, December 1895, gives usefiil mathematical formulse.

2 Moral and Political Philosophy, Book III. part i. chap. xi. ( " Apprentice, ship").


The Entrance to a Trade 455

rigid limits of age, a definite . long term of servitude, and a limitation of the number of apprentices permitted to each employer.^ These regulations, designed for the double' purpose of securing technical training and protecting the craftsmen in their economic monopoly, have their repre- sentatives in modern Trade Unionism. On the other hand, we find, alongside this formal apprenticeship, the custom of " patrimony," that is to say, a privilege enjoyed from time immemorial, by the journeymen in certain occupations, of bringing their own sons into the trade, and themselves informally instructing them in the processes of the craft. This " apprenticeship to the journeyman," hitherto unde- scribed by historian or economist, stands in sharp contrast to the other system. It seems never to have been regulated by law or gild ordinance, and to have rested only on the customs of the workshop. It was, in fact, not a rival system, but a privileged exemption from the operation of the law. The craftsman father could bring his son into the workshop at what age he chose, and for what period he deemed fit. He needed no legal indentures or formal contract. He paid no fee or tax, and was usually subject to no supervision from the authorities of the trade. He could sometimes introduce all his sons in succession, or even simultaneously, without restriction of numbers. Thus, the characteristic idea of apprenticeship to the journeyman has little reference to the well-being of the trade as a whole, but is essentially that of personal privilege, based upon an hereditary vested interest. This tradition of " patrimony," which is still

  • The ' ' masterpiece, " the production of which was a condition of admission

to joumeymanship, does not seem to have been a feature of English apprentice- ship. The " wanderjahre," or customary years of travel from town to town at its close, were likewise unknown, as a regular custom, in this country. These and other differences warn us, in the absence of English evidence, against assum- ing that apprenticeship in England ran the same course, or led to the same con- sequences as the system in France, Germany, and the Rhine Valley, as described, for instance, in Levasseur, Histoire des Classes Ouvriires en France ; Fagniez, Mtudes sur I' Industrie et la dasse industrielle h Paris; Martin - Saint - L&n, Uislaire des Corporations de Mitiers ; Schanz, Zur Geschichtc der Deutschen Gesellenverbdnde im Mittelalter : or Schmoller, Die Strassburger Tucker und Wel'trzUnft.


456 Trade Union Function

strong in many trades, constantly affects or nullifies, by its laxity, irregularity, and inequality, the deliberate regu- lation and systematic uniformity aimed at by the system of apprenticeship by legal indentures and its modern de- rivatives.

We shall best understand the character of these two streams of tradition by examining typical instances of existing Trade Union Regulations in particular industries. By far the best modern example of an effective system of apprenticeship to the employer is that now embodied in the elaborate treaty concluded between the United Society of Boilermakers and Iron -shipbuilders and nearly all the master shipbuilders of the United Kingdom. Here we have a formal code of rules precisely regulating the ad- mission of apprentices in all the ports of the kingdom. There is, to begin with, a clear distinction between the lad engaged as a " plater's marker or " rivet boy," who is taught nothing, but is paid full wages, and the apprentice who is' taught the trade. When a boy is taken as an ap- prentice, which must in any case be before he is eighteen years of age, he enters into formal indentures or written agreement, by which he is bound to serve for five years, at specified low rates of wages, which are, from first to last, far less than he could earn as a rivet boy. In return, the employer formally contracts to give him adequate instruc- tion as a plater and rivetter. No apprentice may leave his employer before the expiration of the five years' term of servitude, unless with express permission in writing, and the Trade Union is able to enforce the most rigid boycott of any lad who runs away from his indentures. The num- ber of apprentices taken by any firm is not to exceed two to every seven journeymen, the ratio being computed on the average number employed during the past five years, with special consideration for rapidly growing establish- ments and other exceptional cases. Finally, the engage- ment of apprentices is left absolutely and exclusively to the employers, no journeyman having any right to bring his


The Entrance to a Trade 457

own son into the trade otherwise than as an employer's apprentice.^

Here, it will be seenj we have a system of apprentice- ship to the employers reproducing, in all essential features, the typical educational servitude of the Middle Ages. To become a boilermaker-apprentice the modern rivet-boy fore- goes often half his actual earnings, and finds himself at the age of twenty-one or twenty-two getting only ten shillings a week. On the other hand, the employer encumbers his yard with a raw lad, who instead of being kept to mere mechanical routine, has to be always trying his hand at work for which he is not yet competent. And once entered on, these reci- procal obligations are practically binding on both parties. The apprentice, it is true, no longer becomes a member of the employer's family, and neither party looks to the law, or to any public authority, to enforce the contract. But these elaborate regulations are much more than mere Trade Union by-laws. A formal treaty signed, not only by a Trade Union practically co-extensive with the industry, but also by nine-tenths of the employers is, to all intents and pur- poses, a coercive law. It is, in fact, practically impossible for any youth to enter the iron-shipbuilding trade in Great Britain except in the way prescribed by the united masters and men.

To see in full force the other stream of tradition — apprenticeship to the journeyman — we must turn from the great modern industry of iron-shipbuilding to the forty or

' Memorandum of Arrangement re the Apprentice Question between the Employers and the Committee of the Boilertnakers' and Iron-shipbuilders' Society, »;th October 1893, signed by Col. H. Dyer (of Armstrong's Works, Elswick) as Chairman of the Employers' Committee, and Mr. R. Knight as General Secretary, on behalf of the Trade Union. The United Society of Boilermakers strove, at first, for a ratio of one apprentice to five journeymen, which some employers thought insufficient to keep up the trade (see Memorandum, by Mr. J. Inglis, of the firm of A. and J. Inglis, Glasgovir ; and his Evidence before the Royal Commission on Labor, C. 6194, '"• Group A; more fully explained by him in The Apprentice Question, a paper printed in the Proceedings of the Philosophical Society of Glasgow, 1894). From Mr. Inglis's latest paper and from Mr. Sanger's article already cited, v^e gather that the present ratio of two to seven is, according to the best available data, a " fair " one, providing, not ooly for the maintenance, but also for a normal increase of the trade.

VOL. I Q 2


458 Trade Union Function

fifty ancient handicrafts composing the Sheffield cutlery trade. Three hundred years ago apprentices in Sheffield were formally indentured to the master craftsman, enrolled at the Court Leet, and at the end of their prescribed term of servitude publicly admitted to the trade. But as far back as 1565 we find existing an exemption of craftsmen's sons from all fees, formalities, and indentures.^ What was then apparently an exception has to-day become practically the only avenue to employment. Apprenticeship to the em- ployer, now become a capitalist giver-out of work, has almost entirely disappeared. The journeyman, who seldom works on his employer's premises, engages his own boy assistant, who is nowadays never formally indentured or bound for any specified period. Hereditary succession has become the dominant idea. " No journeyman," say the Britannia Metal Smiths, " shall take an apprentice except such be his own or a journeyman's son, who must be under seventeen years of age, but he cannot have an apprentice in addition to his own son or sons." ^ This is put more curtly by the Razor Hafters. " That no boys be admitted to the trade except members' sons." '

When the ordinary method of recruiting a trade is for fathers to instruct their own sons, any collective regulation of apprenticeship becomes practically impossible. The father brings in his boy when he finds it convenient, teaches him what he chooses, and pays him anything or nothing as may be arranged between them. The enforcement of a definite period of educational servitude becomes impracticable. More- over, any effective limitation of the number has to be given up. The commonly accepted ratio of apprentices to adult workmen in modern industry is one boy to every four or five men. But every Sheffield craftsman would feel it an intolerable grievance not to be able to bring his own son

' The History of Hallamshire, by Joseph Hunter (London, 1869), p. 15°! see the excellent account of the trade up to i860 by Frank Hill, in the Social Science Report on Trade Societies and Strikes (London, 1S60), pp. 521-586.

  • Rules of the Britannia Metal Smiths' Provident Society (Sheffield, 1888).

• Rules of the Razor Hafters' Trade Protection Society (Sheffield, 1892), p. 6


The Entrance to a Ti'ade 459

into his trade. Hence the most restrictive of the Sheffield rules allows each workman of a certain age to have at all times one apprentice of his own. Usually, as with the Scythe Grinders, though the childless journeyman may teach only one son of another member, the happy father has the privilege of bringing all his boys up to his own craft. In some of the Sheffield trades we find the workmen endeavor- ing to restrict the numbers entering the craft, but the idea of heredit'ary right to the trade makes these attempts take a peculiar and futile form. The Wool Shear Grinders, the Razor Hafters, and the Edge Tool Forgers ' among others compel the adult craftsman to wait seven years before he brings in a boy ; the Razor Grinders add two years more, making the minimum age thirty ; whilst other clubs fix twenty-five or twenty-seven as the age before which " no member shall take an apprentice."* In exceptional cases some attempt is also made to get back the old idea of a genuine period of educational servitude, and formal testing of competency. The Britannia Metal Smiths have a rule that " any journeyman having a son or an apprentice shall not leave him to work to himself. If he leave him, he must put him to some other journeyman, to complete his time, unless he first obtain the sanction of a general meeting," and "every boy on completing his apprenticeship shall be re- ported upon by the men working at the firm as to his abilities, before he is accepted by the Trade. If it be found that the said boy is incompetent as a workman, the Com- mittee shall institute an inquiry, and, if possible, to ascertain the cause, and take the necessary steps to prevent a similar misfortune." *

1 Rules of the Edge Tool Forger^ Union (Sheffield, 1873), p. 6.

^ Similar limitations are to be found in gild ordinances. Thus the ordinances of the Gild of the Tailors of Exeter declare that a newly-made freeman shall be allowed to have ' ' the first yeere butt ooli seruauant ; the second yeere II ; the liird in ; and a prentise if he be able " {English Gilds, by Toulmin Smith, p. 316). And the Ordinances of the Shearmen of London, made in 1350, declare " that no one of this trade shall receive any apprentice if he be not a freeman of the City himself, and have been so for a term of seven years at least. " — Riley's Memorials of London and London Life (London, 1868), p. 247.

' Rules of the Britannia Metal Smiths' Provident Society (Sheffield, 1888).


460 Trade Union Function

Among the Stonemasons we find a formal apprenticeship to the employer coexisting with the custom of Patrimony.^ The following detailed description of the way in which the trade is actually recruited at the present day, given to us by a trustworthy and intelligent member of the union, has been confirmed by our own investigations. " The printed Rules of the Stonemasons as to apprentices vary from town to town. Usually they include a limit of one boy to five or six men, and require that, after working three months at fhe trade, the lad must be actually bound apprentice for a period of five or seven years. Indentures are not insisted on, but some sort of agreement is usual, and these boys are, of course, always ' to the employer.' These rules, which are generally very strictly enforced, apply, however, only to outside ordinary boys who are brought into the trade. In addition to these, every mason is permitted to bring as many of his sons as he likes into the trade, and teach them without any regulations or apprenticeship. Usually the man keeps his son at work as a telegraph boy, or otherwise, until he is sixteen or seven- teen years of age, and strong enough to enter the trade and become useful. Then he is brought into the shop and works for the employer as an improver. The men always push their sons forward as rapidly as possible, and insist on their getting

Judging by the context the rule applies primarily to employer's appreutices. In some of the Sheffield trades the gradual transformation into factory industries has led to boys being apprenticed also to the capitalist employer. The number of these apprentices is strictly limited by the Trade Unions, and even here the restriction retains traces of the paternal type. Thus the Britannia Metal Smiths have a rule that ' ' no master shall have more than one apprentice at one time ; if two or more partners they can have one each ; and for limited companies, for the first ten men or fractional part thereof one boy, from eleven to twenty-five men two boys, and so raising one boy to every fifteen additional men."

1 This custom of Patrimony in English trade deserves further study, especially in reference to its resemblance to the common gild and municipal regulation permitting the son of a freeman, without other qualification, to take up his own freedom of the gild or the city on coming of age. We know of no evidence actually connecting the Trade Union custom with the gild or municipal practice. Besides the Stonemasons and the Sheffield trades, traces of the privilege are to be found also among the old unions of Woolstaplers, Millwrights, Coopers, Block-printers, Skinners, Beamers, Twisters, and Drawers, Warpers, Spanish and Morocco Leather Finishers, and a few other handicrafts. It was formally abolished by the London Society of Compositors at the revision of their rules


The Entrance to a Trade 461

full man's pay the moment they are entrusted with a man's work to do. In point of fact the trade is almost entirely recruited by this means. Very few lads are bound, and very few outside boys enter the trade. The employers are not anxious to have them, because for the first three or four years they earn nothing and spoil a good deal of stone. On the other hand, the men object to them because for the last year or two they are doing a man's work at a good deal below man's pay, while the member's son entering the trade is pushed forward as rapidly as possible, and compelled by the men to demand the man's rate as soon as he is a capable workman, or else leave the shop and go elsewhere. . . . The rule does not in effect amount to any limitation in the number of learners. Men have been known to bring up as many as six or seven sons to the trade, and such a course is not resented by the ojthers. Hence there is no complaint of undermanning the trade ever heard. In Cornwall and some other quarrying districts, where the men are paid piecework, the learners are absolutely confined to sons of members, and they work direct for their father or other workman, and never for the employer. But there is no other limit, and no fixed period of servitude enforced." ^

in 1879. Continental history reveals what may, perhaps, be an analogous custom, according to which craftsmen's sons were admitted to the freedom of the craft after a shorter period of apprenticeship, an easier test of proficiency, and lower fees ; see, for instance, Du Cellier, Histoire des Classes Laborieuses en France, p. 219.

1 This is one of the instances in which a mere inspection of printed documents, or even a desultory questioning of Trade Union officials, would only mislead the student. There is a common impression that the Stonemasons strictly enforce a long period of educational servitude, and insist on formal indentures. This is frankly stated to any inquirer by the o£6cials of the union. But it does not occur to them to explain that this is not the way in which the trade is actually recruited. Nor do we find any mention of hereditary privilege, or indeed any reference to the r^ulation of apprenticeship, in any of the editions of the rules issued since the Royal Commission inquiry of 1868. To find any indication of the actual practice we must go back to the earlier rules. The Laws of the Friendly Society of Operative Stonemasons (Bolton, 1867) contain, at p. 32, the following clause, elaborated from similar clauses in previous editions : ' ' Boys entering the trade on no occasion to exceed sixteen yea^ of age, and to be legally bound apprentice till twenty-one years of age. No boy to work more than three months without being legally bound. . . . The sons, or step-sons of masons be allowed the scale


4-62 » Trade Union Function

The case of the Stonemasons will bring home to the reader the manner in which the Trade Union regulations as to apprenticeship elude any scientific classification. Here we have a trade which seems, at first sight, to be strictly regulated in numbers, age, and fixed period of apprenticeship, all formally defined and rigidly enforced. From this point of view it belongs to the same class as the United Society of Boilermakers. Closer scrutiny reveals, however, the presence, not of formal indentures, reciprocal obligations, fixed period of servitude and limitation of numbers, but of the laxity characterising the hereditary right of all crafts- men's sons to scramble up into journeymen as best they can, insisting all the time on getting the full market rate of wages for boy-labor. Indeed, if we took the extreme case of Cornwall, or other quarrying districts, where the journey- man takes the apprentice, we should have an exact repro- duction of the type presented by the Sheffield trades.

We have chosen the Boilermakers, the Sheffield cutlers, and the Stonemasons for special description, because they comprise between them by far the majority of workmen who systematically enforce any apprenticeship regulations at all. All the other trades in which any effective regulation of numbers exists, do not together include as many numbers as the United Society of Boilermakers.^ But it is among these smaller unions that we find some of the most stringent limitations. Thus, whilst the Boilermakers allow two apprentices to seven journeymen, the Felt Hat Makers and the Flint Glass Cutters * have one to five only ; the Litho- graphic Printers permit one to five, but with a maximum of

of initiation, the same as legal apprentices at the a^e of eighteen years. ... No boys to be admitted into this society . . . except they have been legally bound, or are masons' sons or step-sons."

' Among them may be mentioned the hand papermakers, gold-beaters, basketmakers, brushmakers, coopers, sailmakers, woolstaplers, calico block- printers, and block-catters — all characteristically old-fashioned handicrafts.

2 Rules of the Amalgamated Society of Journeymen Felt Hatters (Denton, 1890), p. 26.

' Amendel Laws of the United Flint Glass Cutter^ Mutual Assistance and Protective Society (Birmingham, 1887), p. 19.


The Entrance to a Trade 463

six in any one firm ; ^ the Flint Glass Makers allow one to six ; ^ the Trimming Weavers of Leek declare that there shall be only one " to every seven going looms " ; * and the same ratio of one learner to seven journeymen is prescribed by the Nottingham Lace Trade.* The old - established union of Silk Hat Makers declares that any manufacturer "employing three journeymen and having been in business twelve months, shall be entitled to one apprentice, and for ten men, two apprentices ; and one for every ten men in addition to that number," and " that employers' sons be reckoned as other apprentices, and not additional as hereto- fore." * Finally, the Yorkshire Stuff Pressers insist that " in any one shop the number of apprentices shall not exceed one to every ten men,"* and this extreme liniitation is also insisted on by our old friends the Pearl Button Makers, though the fact is not mentioned in the rules.

The apprenticeship regulations that we have so far described have one characteristic in common. The elaborate national treaty of the Boilermakers, the stringent exclusive- ness of the Pearl Button Makers, the hereditary succession of the Sheffield trades, and the curiously duplex system of the Stonemasons are all actually enforced in their respective trades. It is just this characteristic of reality which makes these instances exceptional in the Trade Union world of to-day. Other unions retain in their books of rules a more or less formal definition of apprenticeship, and a vote of the members would at any time reveal an overwhelming majority theoretically in favor of the strictest regulations of entrance.

  • Rules of the Amalgamated Society of Lithographic Printers of Great Britain

and Irelafui {Majachestex, 1887), p. 26.

  • Xules and Regulations of the National Flint Glass Makers' Sick and Friendly

Society of Great Britain a?id Ireland t^axichesttr, 1890), p. 19.

3 Rules of the Associated Trimming Weavers' Society (Leek, 1893), p. 5.

  • Priees to be paid for various classes of goods in the Levers Branch of the

Lace Trade (Nottingham, 1893), p. 47. The same rule obtains in the other branches of the trade.

s Riilss of the Journeymen Hatters' Fair Trade Union of Great Britain and /reland (London, 1891), p. 46.

' Rules of the Leeds, Halifax, and Bradford Stuff Pressers' Trades Union Society (Bradford, 1888), p. 23.


464 Trade Union Function

And yet in these same trades we find the actual conditions oi entrance so unregulated that the ranks of the Trade Unionists themselves are largely recruited by men who have not come in by the recognised gate. Typical instances are afforded by the printing and engineering industries.

The case of the Compositors is specially significant. We have here a handicraft requiring no small degree of education and manual dexterity, which has ranked, from the outset, as a highly-skilled craft. During the eighteenth century a seven years' term of apprenticeship was universal, and the local trade clubs at the beginning of the present century unhesitatingly excluded from membership and employment any person who presumed to come into the trade through any but the traditional avenue. Nor has the trade become any easier to learn. Neither machinery nor division of labor has yet enabled the capitalist employer to split up the old craft into sections, each calling only for a low grade of skill. Employers and workmen still agree that the only way to attain proficiency is for a boy to be put through a prolonged course of actual technical instruction in a number of separate processes, from deciphering manuscripts to "displaying" advertisements.* Accordingly, a large proportion of the best employers in each generation have cordially acquiesced in the attempt made by the Compositors' Trade Unions to maintain the long period of formal servitude, and have often not objected to a reasonable limitation of the number of apprentices. Yet to-day it is probable that a very consider- able proportion of the men who obtain work as compositors, and join Compositors' Trade Unions,have undergone no period of educational servitude at all, with or without indentures, and have " picked up " such knowledge of the trade as they possess whilst earning a full market rate of wages. What is of even more importance from the Trade Unionist poiat of view, the attempt to set any limit to the total number of persons entering the trade has totally failed.

  • The most improved machine, the linotype, demands, indeed, an even higher

level of skill and a more varied proficiency than that of the compositor at case.


The Entrance to a Trade 465

This failure of the Compositors' Trade Unions to carry out their apprenticeship regulations is mainly due to the remarkable spread of the printing industry during the present century. In the case of the Boilermakers the rapid increase of the industry has progressively strengthened the union, and has, in particular, resulted in the actual enforcement of a genuine apprenticeship system. But the development of iron -shipbuilding has taken place almost exclusively in gigantic establishments, carried on by a distinct class of employers. The printing trade, on the other hand, once concentrated in half a dozen towns, has to-day crept into every village, the vast majority of printing offices being tiny enterprises of small working masters. The compositor, moreover, has to deal with a variety of employers, from the London daily newspaper or the great publishers' printer, down to the stationer's shop in a country town or the fore- man of a subsidiary department of a railway company, wholesale grocer or manufacturer of indiarubber stamps. When the enterprising workman sets up his hand press in a suburban back street, and takes a boy to help him in his jobbing trade, he is not the kind of employer over whom a Trade Union can exercise any effective control. The Trade Union does not even hear of the numerous instances in which a printing press is set up in the basement of a great advertising manufacturer who chooses to do his own printing on the premises. In all such cases the employment of boy- labor is absolutely unrestricted in numbers, and unregulated by any educational requirements. The standard of quality and speed of working is of the lowest, but the youth who in such shops picks up an elementary acquaintance with " case," presently gets taken on as a cheap " improver " by the little country stationer, and eventually, whether competent or not, drifts to London to pick up casual employment as a journeyman.

With an industry pushing out shoots in this way into all the nooks and crannies of the industrial world, it would tax the ingenuity of the most astute Trade Union official to


466 Trade Union Function

maintain any effective control over entrance to the craft, Unfortunately for the Compositors, the rules which their local societies have enforced have actually played into the hands of their enemies. Every Compositors' union has persistently striven to maintain something very like the mediaeval apprenticeship in its own town, quite irrespective of what was happening elsewhere. The boy who would enter the printing trade in Manchester or Newcastle must be formally " bound " to an employer for seven years, during which he naturally has to forego part of the market rate of wages. He must commence his service at an early age, and complete it with one and the same firm. Nor does he find it easy to become an apprentice at all. Instead of the Boilermakers' ratio of two apprentices to seven journeymen, applied im- partially to all firms, the Compositors' unions almost always impose a definite maximum, however large the establishment. Thus, no printing office in Glasgow may have more than ten apprentices ; in Leeds none more than seven ; in Hull none more than three ; and in Manchester, " in order to adjust the balance of supply and demand, and maintain a fair remu- neration of labor, the maximum number of apprentices in each recognised office shall be three for the composing room and two for the machine room." ^ Thus, the great printing establishment of the Mancliester Guardian, employing over a hundred compositors, is allowed to take no more apprentices than the jobbing master with a dozen men.*

This lopsided limitation has had a most ' unexpected

^ Rules of the Manchester Typographical Society ("instituted November 1797"), Manchester, 1892, p. 35.'

2 The rules of the compositors' unions generally prescribe a ratio of apprentices to journeymen, which, in the case of small masters, is liberal. The Manchester Typographical Society, for instance, allows a small master, having only two journeymen, to take a couple of apprentices. But, unlike the apprentice- ship regulations in other trades, this ratio is not applied to the large establish- ments, which are subject to a definite maximum, far below the number that the ratio would allow. How severely this maximum limits the total number of apprentices in the best Manchester firms may be judged from the fact that twelve of its printing establishments employ half the compositors in the city, having between them 1000 men, and being entitled according to the rule to only sixtj apprentices.


The Entrance to a Trade 467

result. It might be imagined that Trade Union statesman- ship would aim at recruiting the trade from boys brought up in the large establishments, affording systematic training in every branch of the craft, and pervaded, as they usually are, by a strong Trade Union feeling.^ But the aggregate number of apprentices allowed to such firms is grotesquely insufficient to maintain the trade. When new journeymen are wanted, they have, in three cases out of four, to be drawn from the small establishments, and ultimately from the small towns and rural districts in which neither Trade Unionism nor apprenticeship can be said to exist. Here there is nothing to prevent an unscrupulous employer from taking on as many boys as he chooses, keeping them to the most elementary processes of the craft, and turning them adrift in an untrained state as soon as they begin-to ask journeyman's wages. The direct result of the Compositors' " maximum " of apprentices in the large establishments of the strong Trade Union towns is, accordingly, to use, as the chief breeding ground and recruiting ground of the craft, exactly those shops and those districts in which there is the least likeli- hood of the boys receiving any proper training. Hence we.i arrive at the paradoxical conclusion that it is the very maintenance of these apprenticeship regulations by the local | Compositors' unions that has made the trade now practically an " open " one. As in the country districts any number of boys are, in fact, learning to be compositors, and eventually drifting into the towns, the unions are in a dilemma. If they rigidly maintain their apprenticeship rules, and decline to admit these " illegal men," they find themselves foiled in their negotiations with the employers by the presence of a steadily growing crowd of non-union men, indisposed to

1 It is interesting to note that there is at least one instance of a Trade Union which consciously adopts this more enlightened policy. The Manchester Union of Upholsterers (now the Manchester Branch of the Amalgamated Society of Upholsterers) has a by-law for the regulation of apprentices which limits the number of lads in small shops and those doing only the cheap common kinds of work to one to six men, while the large shops and those doing high-class work are allowed one to three men.


468 Trade Union Function

defer to an organisation from which they are excluded. In order to gain any effective power of Collective Bargaining, the union must make up its mind to admit practically all the men who are actually working at the trade in the particular district, whether they have been apprenticed or not Nearly all the local Compositors' unions have had periodically thus to " open their books," and take in the " illegal men." And the London Society of Compositors, which includes a third of the Trade Unionist compositors in the United Kingdom, has, since 1879, avowedly admitted to membership any compositor who actually obtains employment in a "fair house" in London, whether he has learnt the trade by apprenticeship or not.^ The provincial societies still usually profess to confine their membership to men who can produce evidence of having served a seven years' term, but as they all admit without demur any printer who gets employment in the town with a card of membership of any other Com- positors' union, including the large open society of the Metropolis, any journeyman whom an employer will engage on the standard piece scale finds no difficulty, whether he has been apprenticed or not, in becoming a fully recognised member of the trade. In short, what is limited is, not the total number of recruits to the trade in the kingdom as a whole, but the proportion of such recruits who receive the educational advantages of the apprenticeship system.

The experience of the Engineers has been no less in- structive than that of the Compositors, though in another way. The local trade clubs of smiths and millwrights at the beginning of the present century autocratically excluded from employment all men who could not produce their indentures.^ Sir William Fairbairn relates how, when in 1 8 1 1 he obtained a situation as a millwright at Rennie's,

^ " Every compositor working as a journeymac, overseer, storekeeper, reader, or in any other capacity in a fair house . . . shall be eligible as a member." — Rules of the London Society of Compositors (London, 1894), p. 6.

2 Clubs of smiths, millwrights, and "mechanics" took a leading part in the prosecutions and petitions of the 1813 movement to enforce the apprenticeship laws. — History of Trade Unionism, pp. S3-56'


The Entrance to a Trade 469

the foreman told him that he could not start until he had been accepted by the Trade Union. Failing to produce duly attested indentures, he was refused permission to work, and driven to tramp away from London and seek a situation in a non-unionist district.^ Similar regulations lasted down to our own day. The Amicable and Brotherly Society of Journeymen Millwrights, a Lancashire Union dating certainly from the beginning of the century, maintained down to 1855 its old by-laws restricting the number of apprentices, and rigidly insisting on proof of servitude. They declare that " any person wishing to join, whose parents have neglected to provide him \yith a proper indenture, shall be compelled to produce a sworn affidavit, attested by two respectable witnesses, that he has worked at the trade five, six, or seven years, in a millwright's shop, or with a millwright known to the trade, as an apprentice, and he shall pay any sum not less than £■}, : los., or more than £t,, that a general meeting may decide." He shall be " proposed by a free member, and if it afterwards be proved that he was not legally qualified the said member shall be fined £t,. Any person bringing a doubtful indenture shall be subject to the same terms of entrance."* The same conception underlay the rules of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers for the first thirty years of its existence. The preface to the edition of 1864 de- clares that " if constrained to make restrictions against the admission into our trade of those who have not earned a right by a probationary servitude, we do so, knowing that such

1 The Life of Sir William Fairbaim, edited by W. Pole (London, 1877), p. 89; Trade Unionism, by W. Saunders (London, 1878); History of Trade Unionism, pp. 75 and 187.

  • Another old union declared " that one apprentice be allowed to five

journeymen ; nevertheless if the number be complete, the eldest, or next eldest, son of a millwright be allowed to work at the trade " (Rules of the Philanthropic Society of Journeymen Millwrights, 1855). How far the high entrance fees and rigid requirements were intended to provide technical education and restrict the actual numbers entering the trade, and how far they were designed merely to protect the hereditary " vested interest " of the members' sons, is unknown to us. It is quite possible that the millwrights, at the beginning of this century, were, in reality, mainly recruited much in the same way as the stonemasons of to-day : a reference to the privileges of the eldest sons of millwrights, in the preface to Sir W. Fairbaim's Treatise on Mills and Millwork, seems to point in this direction.


470 Trade Union Function

encroachments are productive of evil, and when persevered in unchecked, result in reducing the condition of the artisan to that of the unskilled laborer, and confer no permanent advantage on those admitted. It is our duty, then, to exercise the same care and watchfulness over that in which we have a vested interest, as the physician does who holds a diploma, or the author who is protected by a copy- right." ^ And yet to-day we find the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, and nearly all its sectional rivals, freely admit- ting to membership any man, whether apprenticed or not, who has worked for five years in an engineering establish- ment, even if* merely as a boy or as a machine minder, and who, at the time of his candidature, is obtaining the Standard Rate of wages for his particular branch of the trade.

This complete collapse of the apprenticeship regulations among the Engineers has not, we think, been due to any unreasonableness in the regulations themselves. Unlike the Compositors, the Engineers have never sought to impose an absolute maximum limit of apprentices, or in any way to dis- courage the instruction of a proportionate number of boys by the large firms. What they have aimed at in their rules and in their negotiations with employers, has been some such arrangement as that now universally accepted by the iron- \ shipbuilders. But, less fortunate than the United Society of Boilermakers, the Engineers have found their efforts brought to nought by a progressive disintegration of their old handi- craft. We have here, in fact, the typical case of the break- down of apprenticeship under the influence of the Industrial j Revolution. " The millwright of the last century," says Sir William Fairbairn, " was an itinerant engineer and mechanic of high reputation. He could handle the axe, the hammer, and the plane with equal skill and precision ; he could turn, bore or forge with the ease and despatch of one brought up to these trades, and he could set out and cut in furrows of a millstone with an accuracy equal or superior to that of the miller himself. . . . Generally he was a fair arithmetician, 1 Rules of the A malgamaied Society of Engineers, etc. (London, 1864).


The Entrance to a Trade 471

knew something of geometry, levelling, and mensuration, and in some cases possessed a very competent knowledge of practical mathematics. He could calculate the velocities, strength, and power of machines : could draw in plan and section, and could construct buildings, conduits, or water- courses, in all the forms and under all the conditions required in his professional practice ; he could build bridges, cut canals, and perform a variety of work now done by civil engineers." ^ So varied a proficiency could only be attained by a long period of educational servitude. The workshops of a great engineering firm of to-day present us with an entirely different spectacle. What the millwright formerly executed with the hammer and the file is now broken up into innumerable separate operations, each of which has its appropriate machine. But this is not all. A distinctive feature of the introduction of machinery into the engineering trade is the remarkable variety and diversity of the " power-moved tools " now required in a large machine shop. A gigantic cotton mill often contains only row after row of a single type of self-acting mule or power loom. An engineering establishment will have in use a long array of different types of drilling, planing, boring, slotting, and milling machines, together with a bewildering variety of applications of the old-fashioned lathe. The precise degree of skill and trustworthiness required to work each of these machines, or even to execute different jobs upon one of them, is infinitely varied. The simple drilling machine or the automatic lathe continuously turning out identical copies of some minute portion of an engine can be tended by a mere boy. Some work executed on an elaborate milling machine, on the other hand, taxes the powers of the most accomplished mechanic. Yet so numerous are the inter- mediate types that the increase in difficulty from each machine to the next is comparatively small. Thus the youth or the laborer who begins by spending his whole day

' A Treatise on Mills and Millwork, by Sir William Fairbairn (London, 1861), preface.


472 Trade Union Function

in " minding " the simplest driller or automatic lathe, may " progress " from one process to another with little further instruction, until, by mere practice on a succession of machines, the sharp boy becomes insensibly a qualified turner or fitter. We need not here discuss whether this " progression " of the more intelligent boys and laborers is not accompanied by the drawback that the majority, from lack of deliberate technical instruction, remain all their lives incapable of any but the simplest routine work. Nor need we dispute the assertion often made that such a "progression" fails, even with the clever and ambitious, to produce an all- round proficiency in mechanical engineering. The fact remains that an ever-increasing number of boys and laborers do climb up this ladder, and become sufficiently competent to obtain employment as fitters, turners, and erectors.

The Amalgamated Society of Engineers has, therefore, during a whole generation, been in a dilemma. Its traditional policy was to exclude the unapprenticed interlopers as " illegal men," and this, on the whole, was the tendency down to 1885. But it found itself powerless to prevent progression within the trade, or to draw a line at any particular machine, in order effectively to separate into distinct classes the " machine-minders " who were " engineers " from those who were " laborers." A Trade Union may conceivably strengthen its position if, by limiting the number of persons learning the trade, it restricts the number of competitors for its particular kind of employment. But once those com- petitors exist, their presence on the market as non-unionists is fatal to the Method of Collective Bargaining. Hence the Amalgamated Society of Engineers has had to recognise facts and abandon regulations which were being so exten- sively evaded. For the last ten years each successive delegate meeting has opened the society to new classes of workmen, whether apprenticed or not, until, as we have already mentioned, any adult man who actually obtains employment at the Standard Rate of his particular town and grade, is, in practice, welcomed as a recruit.


The Entrance to a Trade 473

We need not enumerate all the trades which stand approximately, with regard to apprenticeship regulations, in the same position as the Engineers and the Compositors. With the important exceptions of the Boilermakers, the Sheffield trades, and the Stonemasons, together with some minor Trade Unions, the whole of the organised workmen in the metal, building, and printing industries belong to this type. The same may be said of the vast majority of the old crafts that have been gradually transformed by the Industrial Revolution. The apprenticeship tradition is still strong, and may often find expression in the rules.^ In certain towns, or in certain sections of the industry, a real period of educational servitude may still be the customary method of entering the trade. But in some' way or another the craft is, as a matter of fact, acquired by unapprenticed men, ana there cannot be said to be any real limit to the total number of persons entering the trade. To give some definiteness to our estimate, we may add that we reckon about 500,000 Trade Unionists as belonging to this group of trades.

This leaves a membership of about 900,000, or three- fifths of the whole, in unions which in no way restrict apprenticeship or the learning of their members' occupation by newcomers. We need not dwell on the case of the two

• Mr. Sanger, in the mathematical article already cited, says, " Roughly speaking, there exist about lOO Trade Unions which have a more or less definite rule for the limitation of the number of apprentices. But the total number of men belonging to the Unions in all probability does ilot exceed 200,000. I have considered the effect of the rules of each of the Unions separately, and have come to the following conclusions : —

" (1) In the case of 21 Trade Unions whose total membership exceeds 26,500, the rule is such that if carried out strictly it would cause the number of journey- men to decline.

" (2) In the case of 23 Trade Unions, whose total membership exceeds 3S)Soo, the rule is such that if carried out strictly it would not . . . permit the number of journeymen to increase as fast as the male population of England is increasing.

" (3) In the case of 43 Trade Unions, whose total membership exceeds 86,500, the rule is such as to permit the number of journeymen to increase at least as fast as the male population of England.

"... It must be admitted that at the present time it is not a question of very great practical importance. If a Trade tTnion has had an unfair rule on this


474 Trade Union Function

or three hundred thousand imperfectly organised genera] laborers, transport workers, and unskilled operatives of all kinds, among whom apprenticeship could never find a place. But among the "open trades" we find some of the strongest and most successful of Trade Unions, notably those of the Cotton Operatives and the Coalminers, who together make up one-fifth of the total membership of the Trade Union world.

The case of the Cotton-spinners is one of peculiar interest. The Amalgamated Association of Operative Cotton-spinners is, as we have already mentioned, one of the strongest, most efficient, and most successful of Trade Unions. In good years and bad alike it has for a whole generation maintained the net earnings of its meihbers. at the relatively high level of from 35 s. to 50s. a week. During that period it has succeeded in getting the hours of labor reduced, and the conditions of the factory greatly improved. Its success in confining the profits of the capitalist in cotton-spinning to the irreducible minimum is attested by the capitalists them-

point it has rarely been able to actually carry it into effect." — Economic Joumd, December 1895.

Our own enumeration, based not on what is said but on what is actually done in the various trades, is as follows : —

(i) Membership of Trade Unions actually enforcing apprenticeship regula- tions : —

(a) Really restrictive of numbers. . . 15,000

(b) Not really restrictive of numbers at all

(Patrimony restricts choice but not numbers) ...... 25,000

{f) Nominally restrictive, but allowing suffi- cient recruits to the trades . . . 50,000


90,000

(2) Membership of Trade Unions nominally retaining

apprenticeship regulations, but effectively open 500,000

(3) Membership of Trade Unions having no apprentice-

ship regulations :^-

(a) Transport workers and laborers . . 250,000

{j>) Textile, mining, and other occupations . 650,000


The Entrance to a Trade 475

selves. Yet no part of the strength and success of this Trade , Union can be attributed to a limitation of apprentices, or toi any monopoly feature whatsoever. The number of persons] learning to be cotton -spinners is, and has always been unrestricted. The trade is usually recruited from the class of " piecers," two of whom work under each spinner, and are paid by him.^ Thus, instead of the ratio of two apprentices to seven journeymen insisted on by the Boilermakers, or that of one to ten men maintained by the Pearl Button Makers, the Cotton-spinners positively encourage as many as two to each spinner, a ratio which is approximately ten times as great as is required to recruit the trade. Far from there being any scarcity of candidates for employment, the great majority of piecers have to abandon all hope of getting mules, and find themselves compelled to turn to other occupations. Nor is any definite period of service insisted upon. Any man may become a spinner as soon as he can induce an employer to trust him with a pair of mules, and to pay him for his product according to the standard list of piece-work prices.^ The fact that under these circumstances the Standard Rate of a cotton-spinner has been kept up for a whole generation, and that his average earnings have positively increased, may be for the moment left as an economic problem to those who still retain the old belief that the limitation of numbers and the exclusion of competitors is a necessary part of efficient Trade Unionism.^

  • Occasionally the employer has tried to have only one boy-piecer to two

spinneis. This system, called "joining" or "partnering," is always resisted by the union, which insists on each spinner having two piecers under him, on the ground that any other arrangement must necessarily involve a diminution of spinners' earnings. The delegate meeting of the Amalgamated Association of Operative Cotton -spinners in December 1878 resolved "that this meeting greatly deplores the system of joining, and pledges itself to use every effort to get that system abolished." Since that date, at the cost of many small strikes, the Lancashire operatives have gained their point, and have now each two piecers.

2 Once in the trade, he is required to join the Trade Union, but no impediment is placed in his way.

' The London Plumbers present an interesting case, economically similar in this respect to the Cotton-spinners. The employers in London do not engage boys or apprentices to assist the men in plumbing, or to learn the trade. The custom is for each plumber to be attended by an adult laborer, known as the


476 * Trade Union Function

Thus, notwithstanding a strong Trade Union feeling in favor of apprenticeship regulations, these cannot be said to be enforced to-day over more than a small fraction of the Trade Union world, and, with the remarkable exception of ' the Boilermakers, even this fraction is steadily dwindling. It is especially in such industrial backwaters as Dublin and Cork ; in such homes of the small-master system as Sheffield and Birmingham ; and in such old-fashioned handicrafts as glass- blowing and hat -making, that the archaic apprenticeship regulations linger. Over by far the largest part of the limited field in which apprenticeship once prevailed, the system has gone practically out of use, and restrictive barriers, once supported by universal approval, and fondly kept up by the trade clubs of the eighteenth century, have, during the past hundred years, gradually been swept away. Finally, so far from apprenticeship regulations forming a necessary part of Trade Unionism, a positive majority of the Trade Unionists now belong to occupations in which no shadow of apprenticeship has ever existed.

To explain this state of affairs, we must distinguish between the disuse of apprenticeship as an educational system, and its failure as a method of restricting the entrance into a craft. The abandonment of apprenticeship as a form of technical training is not due to the discovery of any satis- factory alternative. There is, on the contrary, a remarkable consensus of opinion among " practical men," that the present state of things is highly unsatisfactory. But many economic causes have contributed to make obsolete the definite period of educational servitude at wages below the market value of the boy's time. Whatever might be the ultimate effect on the welfare of the trade or the future of the boy, this educational servitude does not now immediately remunerate

"plumber's mate." Any employer is at liberty to promote a plumber's raate to be a plumber whenever he chooses, provided only that he pays him the plumber's Standard Rate. Notwithstanding the fact that the number of " plumber's mates," who form the class of learners, is four or five times as numerous as would suffice to recruit the trade, the London branches of the United Operative Plumbers' Society effectively maintain a high Standard Rate.


The Entrance to a Trade 477

any of the parties concerned. The employer with a large establishment does not care to be bothered with boys if he has to teach them the whole trade. Even if the thrifty father oflfers ;^20 or ;^30 as a premium, this is no temptation to the capitalist of our own day, paying hundreds of pounds a week in wages alone. He prefers to divide his processes into men's work and boys' work, and to keep each grade permanently to its allotted routine. Now that it is no longer possible for the apprentice to enter his master's house- hold, and all gild discipline has been abolished, the employer feels that he has little control over a boy whom he is legally bound to keep for the stated term. " The advantage," as a great builder remarked to us, " is all on the side of the apprentice." But the boy does not think so. There are to-day so many opportunities for boys to earn relatively high wages without instruction, that they are not easily induced either to enter upon a term of educational servitude at low rates, or to continue on it if they have begun. " The anxiety of the boy to obtain full money as soon as possible is largely responsible," we are told, " for the absence of apprentices." The father, too, is naturally tempted to let his son earn six to fifteen shillings a week either as a tele- graph messenger or errand boy, or as porter in some factory or workshop, rather than forego most of this supplement to the family income in order merely that his son may be called an apprentice instead of a boy.

But it would be unfair to attribute this disinclination to apprenticeship merely to a dislike to sacrifice present income to future advantage. In the industrial organisation of to-day, the workman finds it very difiicult, if not in some cases impossible, to place his boy in any occupation in which he will be taught a skilled trade. Even when he can apprentice him, he has little security that the boy's instruction will be attended to. And if we pass from the individual father to the members of the craft in their corporate capacity, we shall see that the system of apprenticeship has lost what was really its main attraction. " No one," said Blackstone.


478 Trade Union Function

" would be induced to undergo a seven years' servitude, if others, though equally skilful, were allowed the same advantages without having undergone the same discipline. What the father and the apprentice were willing to pay for was, not the instruction, but the legal right to exercise a protected trade. When this right to a trade could be obtained without apprenticeship, as, for instance, by way of " patrimony," father and sons alike have always been eager to forego its educational advantages. Whenever a Trade Union has failed to maintain an effective limitation of numbers, it very soon gives up striving after any educational servitude.^

In certain exceptional occupations, apprenticeship can still be made use of to regulate the entrance to the trade. Where the work is carried on, not by individual craftsmen, but by associated groups of highly skilled wage-earners, it is practically within the power of these groups, if supported by the public opinion of their own community, to exclude any newcomer from admission. This " group-system " goes far, we think, to account for the exceptional effectiveness of the Trade Union regulations on apprenticeship among the Boilermakers, Flint Glass Makers, Glass Bottle Makers, and Stuff Pressers. Qf the trade concerned constitutes by itself only a tiny but indispensable fraction of a large industry, it will not be worth the employer's while to object to even unreasonable demands, so long as the Trade Union takes care to fill each vacancy as it occurs, and ensures him against any interruption of workJ The proprietor of a cotton mill is comparatively indifferent to the restrictive rules insisted on by the Tapesizers, the Beamers, Twisters, and Drawers,

1 It will be noticed that, as among the various forms of apprenticeship that we have described, the actual educational advantages vaiy roughly in proportion to the actual exclusiveness. The " patrimony " of the SheflSeld trades and Stone- masons involves practically little limitation of numbers, and offers, on the other hand, the very minimum of security for technical instruction. The real limitations of the Boilermakers and Flint Glass Makers, on the contrary, whilst they result in something like a craft monopoly, do give the community in return a genuine educational servitude, and provide for the constant " selection of the fittest " boys by the employers.


The Entrance to a Trade 479

and even the Overlookers, whose wages form but a trifling percentage of the total cost of production.^ It is only in tHe industries in which, by exception, one or other of these con- ' ditions prevails, that we see maintained or revived any effective Trade Union limitation of apprenticeship. Ovei all the rest of the industrial field the barrier is broken down by the stronger forces of the mobility of capital, and the perpetual revolutionising of industrial processes. No Trade Union has been really able to enforce a limitation of appren- tices if new employers are always starting up in fresh centres ; if the craft is frequently being changed by the introduction of new processes or machinery ; if alternative classes of workers can be brought in to execute some portion of the operation. These are precisely the conditions which are typical of most of the industries of the present century.

Trade Unions might, it is true, appeal to the law. But apart from the insuperable difficulties of adapting any legally enforced apprenticeship to the circumstances of modern industry, it is easy to see that no revival of the system would gain the support of public opinion. From the point of view of the community the old system has three capital disadvan- tages. There is no security to the public that the appren- tice will be thoroughly and efficiently taught. It is no longer the " master craftsman " who himself instructs the boy and has a direct pecuniary interest in his early pro- ficiency. The scores of apprentices in a modern shipyard

• It is to this consideration, we think, that the Patternmakers in engineering establishments, and the Lithographic Printers in the great firms which now dominate that trade, owe their relatively effective position as regards apprentice- ship.

^ The sawyers exhibit a curious evolution. The old hand sawyers of the early part of the century were notorious for the strength and exclusiveness of their Trade Unions. The introduction of the circular saw, driven by steam power, led to the supersession of the old handicraftsmen by a new class of comparatively unskilled workers, who were drawn from the ranks of the laborers, and remained for some years unorganised. With the increasing speed and growing complica- tion of mill-sawing machinery, these mill-sawyers have, in their turn, become a highly specialised class, whom an employer finds some difficulty in supplanting by laborers. The comparative stability which the industry has now attained has enabled these machine workers to establish an effective union, which is gradu ally enforcing a fixed period of apprenticeship.


480 Trade Union Function

are necessarily left mainly to learn their business for them- selves, by watching workmen who are indifferent or even unfriendly to their progress, with possibly some occasional hints from a benevolent foreman. In these days of peda- gogic science, elaborately trained teachers, and " Her Majestj^s Inspectors of Schools," the haphazard relation between the apprentice and his instructors will certainly not commend itself to the deliberate judgment of the community. More- over, all history indicates that an apprenticeship system must leave outside its scope the large proportion of boys who recruit the vast army of unskilled laborers. In the absence of an apprenticeship system, the abler and more energetic of these succeed, as we have seen, in " picking up " a trade, and in progressing, as adults, according to their capacities. One of the darkest features of the whole history of apprenticeship is the constant necessity, if the system is to be maintained at all, of excluding, from the protected occupations, all " illegal men." We need not weary the reader with mediaeval in- stances.^ But it will be obvious that the elaborate Appren- ticeship Treaty concluded between the Boilermakers and their

' It is usually forgotten that gild membership, and the right to carry on a skilled craft, at no time extended to the great army of laborers. The case of the Bladesmiths may serve to remind us of the existence of a vast mass of unappren- ticed workers. On the loth October 1408 the masters of the trade of the " Blaydesmiths " in London presented a petition and a code of articles for the government of the trade to the Mayor and Corporation. These articles were read and approved, and they include one, " That no one of the said trade shall teach his journeymen the secrets of his trade as he would his apprentice, on the pain aforesaid " (namely a fine of 6s. 8d. for the first offence, los. for the second, and 1 3s. 4d. for any further offence). The journeymen alluded to here were no doubt the " strikers " who assisted the smiths in their task. — See Riley's Memc- riah of London and London Life (London, 1868), p. 570.

How large was the proportion of unapprenticed laborers is perhaps roughly indicated by the fire regulations of the Common Council of London in 1667, when the " handicraft companies " of Carpenters, Bricklayers, Plasterers, Painters, Masons, Smiths, Plumbers and Paviours were ordered to elect yearly for each company, z Master Workmen, 4 Journeymen, 8 Apprentices and 16 Laborers to form a Fire Brigade (Jupp, History of the Carpenter^ Company, London, p. 284). There are many occupations to-day in which the number of unskilled laborers exceeds that of the skilled craftsmen ; and it may well be that the gilds at no time included more than a minority even of the adult male workers. — See His- tory of Trade Unionism, p. 37 ; DuCellier, Histoire des Classes Laborieuses enFranci (Paris, i860), p. 204; Mrs. Green, Town Life in Fifteenth Century, ii. 103,


The Entrance to a Trade 481

employers necessarily closes the door of advancement to the crowd of rivet-boys and platers' helpers in an iron-shipyard, some of whom would otherwise find themselves able to pick up the trade. The Carpet-weavers are driven to prohibit any person, other than a " registered creeler " (the apprentice), " to be at the front of the loom or otherwise doing the work of the weaver," ^ lest he should insidiously learn the art. The Calico-printers absolutely forbid their " tenters," or laborers, ever to touch the "doctor" (the long knife which adjusts the precise amount of coloring matter), or even to come in front of the machine. Unless a sharp line is drawn, either by law or by custom, between duly apprenticed craftsmen and " illegal men, it is obvious that no apprenticeship system can long exist. Finally, when such a separate class is created, the community can never tell to what extent it is being mulcted for the maintenance of the system. It was, in fact, the cost to the community, and, as he thought, the excessive cost, that led Adam Smith so fervently to denounce the whole apprenticeship system, with its inevitable conse- quences of monopoly wages and profits. In our own day, it is impossible to calculate how much it costs the community to educate a boilermaker or glassblower. We may infer that we are paying for it in the relatively high wages of these protected trades, but how much we are paying in this way, and upon whom this burden is falling, it is impossible to compute. Undemocratic in its scope, unscientific in its educational methods, and fundamentally unsound in its financial aspects, the apprenticeship system, in spite of all the practical arguments in its favor, is not likely to be deliberately revived by a modern democracy.^

' Rults of the Power Loom Carpet-wiaver^ Mutual Defence and Provident Association (Kidderminster, 1 89 1).

^ It may be inferred that technical education, even more than common schooling, is too immediately costly, if not also too remote in its advantages, to be within the means of the great majority of parents. Individual capitalists, who are not necessarily interested in the future welfare even of their own trades, will not bear the expense of teaching a new generation of skilled workmen — whom they may never need to employ. Thus, though Mr. Inglis strongly objected to any Umitation of the number of apprentices, he explains why he and othe? VOL. II R


482 Trade Union Function


{V) The Limitation of Boy-Labor

The abandonment of the old period of educational servi- tude has, in some instances, created a new problem. When the employer finds himself freed from all obligation to teach his boys, and is, on the other hand, obliged to pay them the full market value of their time, he naturally prefers to keep them continuously employed on such routine work as they can best perform. The manufacturing process is therefore subdivided, so that as large a portion as possible shall fall within the competence of boys kept exclusively to one particular task. From the point of the Trade Union, this constitutes a new grievance. It is no longer a case of objecting to an undue multiplication of apprentices, leading in course of time to an unnecessary increase in the number of competent workmen seeking employment. What the men complain of is that the employers are endeavouring, by an alteration of the manufacturing process, to dispense with skilled labor, or, indeed, with adult labor altogether. So far this complaint may appear only another instance of " New Processes and Machinery," a subject sufficiently dealt with in a preceding chapter. If the employer, by any change of process, can bring his work within the capacity of operatives of a lower grade of strength or skill, it is useless, as we have seen, for the superior workers who were formerly employed to resist the change. When, however, the innovation involves, not the substitution of one class of adults for another, but of boys for men, a new argument has to be considered. To the grown-up workmen in a trade, it seems preposterous that they should be thrown out of employment by their youthful sons being taken on in their places. Their aggravation is

employers agreed to the Trade Union restriction. "We have," he says, "om business proper to attend to, and cannot devote all our energies to striving for the greatest good of the greatest number " ( The Apprentice Question, p. 10). If the community desires to see a constant succession of skilled craftsmen, the community as a whole will have to pay for their instruction. Even with an apprenticeship system, the community, as we suggest above, really paid in the long run.


The Entrance to a Trade 483

increased when they see these sons, not taught any skilled craft, but kept, year after year, at the simplest routine work, and discharged in favor of their younger brothers as soon as they begin to ask the ordinary wage of an adult laborer.

To prevent this evil, some Trade Unions, which have given up the requirement of a period of educational servitude, have attempted to enforce a simple limitation of boy-labor. They may make no objection to any number gf boys being properly taught their craft, and so rendered competent workmen. Such apprentices would naturally be put first to the simpler processes. But when these simpler tasks are permanently separated from the rest, and handed over to a distinct race of boys, who are not intended to learn the reniainder of the work ; when the number of boys so employed is steadily increased, and the number of adult workmen diminished, the change is always fiercely resisted by the Trade Union. We need only describe the leading instance, that of the National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives. Here the substitution of boys for men has been hotly con- tested for many years. At first the union sought to meet the case by enforcing the usual apprenticeship regulations. But with the growing use of machinery and subdivision of labor, " any attempt to restrict the entrance by making the conditions not so profitable at first — by making the wage small and the» years long"^ — was broken down by the fact that boys, taking short views of their own advantage, preferred to earn the relatively higher wages of unapprenticed machine-minders. This led, as one of the men's spokesmen declared in 1892, to "the wholesale flooding of the market with boys, and the wholesale discharging of men. ... I have proof before me of where a number of fathers in this town (Leicester) have been discharged, and their sons set on in their places. . . . We have firms to-day — though we ask for the limitation of i boy to 5 men — we have firms in Leicester where they have 5 men to 6 boys, 19 men to 1 National Q}nference, 1893 ; proceedings before Umpire,


484 Trade Union Function

1 4 boys, 2 3 men to 1 1 boys, 5 men to 2 1 boys, 1 3 men to 18 boys, 6 men to 4 boys, 3 men to 9 boys, and 3 men to I boy." ^ The men complained that this state of things not only deprived them of employment, but that it also prevented those who were employed from getting the Standard Rate. " In the town I come from (Norwich)," said another re- presentative, " it is all very well for employers to say, ' I will pay a certain price for your labor.' But the moment a man asks for. the price agreed upon he is discharged, and a boy is put in his place." ^

The union accordingly asked that the maximum number of boys in any factory should be fixed at the ratio of one to every five journeymen. The employers did not dispute the facts. They refused to discuss whether the change was for the public advantage or not. They fell back on the simple position that the employment of boys was a matter entirely " within the province of the employer, and that it is not a question in which the workmen may rightly interfere." They declared that any limit on the number of boys would be " not oqly an encroachment on the right of manufacturers to manage their own business in their own way, but also it is impracticable, and cannot be carried out, because of the varying circumstances of the various portions of the trade, and of the various employers and various towns." ' The issue was in due course remitted to the umpire. Sir Henry (now Lord) James, in pursuance of the collective ^reement de- scribed in our chapter on " The Method of Collective Bargain- ing." The employers used every argument in defence of their " right " to carry on their own business in their own way. The men's demonstration of the evils of this excessive use of boy-labor was, however, so overwhelming that the umpire felt bound to admit their contention. In a remark- able award, dated 22nd August 1892, the principle of re- stricting, by Common Rule, the proportion of boys to be i employed by any manufacturer in the boot and shoe trade

^ National Conference, 1893 ; proceedings before Umpire, 1892, p. 63. 2 Ibid. p. 63. 3 Ibid. pp. 94, 96.


The Entrance to a Trade 485

was definitely established, the ratio being fixed at one to three journeymen.^

It is not easy to imagine the feelings with which Nassau Senior or Harriet Martineau would have viewed the spectacle of an eminent Liberal lawyer imposing such a restriction on " the right of every man to employ the capital he inherits, or has acquired, according to his own discretion, without molestation or obstruction, so long as he does not infriilge on the rights or property of others."* Lord James was con- vinced that he had to cope with a real evil. That a genera- tion of highly-skilled craftsmen should be succeeded by a generation incapable of anything but the commonest routine labor, seemed to him to be a disadvantage, not only to the craftsmen themselves, but also to the community. The com- petition between the boys and their fathers is, it was argued, an " unfair " one.* The wages paid in a boot factory to a boy between thirteen and eighteen, though large in comparison with those given to the old-fashioned apprentice, are far below the sum on which the race of operatives could be

1 " In the matter of an arbitration between the National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives, and the National Federation of Associated Employers of Labor in the Shoe Trade, I, the undersigned, having taken upon myself the burden of the said Arbitration, and having heard the parties thereto by themselves and their Witnesses, do now in respect of the matters in dispute submitted to me, adjudge and determine as follows : ' That in respect of the work carried on by Clickers, Pressmen, Lasters, and Finishers, the Employers of Labor in Shoe Factories and Workshops shall in each department respectively be restricted in the employ- ment of boys (under i8) to one boy to every three men employed. And that where the number of men employed shall not be divisible by three, one boy may also be employed in respect of the fraction existing, either less than three, or above each unit of three.

" That whilst the above restriction is general in its prima facie application, I further adjudge that it may be inexpedient in certain Factories and Workshops in which the manufacture of goids called 'Nursery Goods,' and other goods of a common quality and of a low price is carried on." Other clauses provided for the adaptation by the Local Boards of the general restriction to such low-class firms, and for the reference of disputes to an umpire. — National Conference, 1892, p. 149

2 Report of the Committee on the State of the Woollen Manufacture in England, 4th July 1806, p. 12; History of Trade Unionism, p. 56.

3 See our chapter on "New Processes and Machinery," for other instances of, in this sense, "unfair" competition ; and our chapter on "The Economic Characteristics of Trade Unionism," for fuller consideration of the results of" parasitic trades."


486 Trade Union Function

permanently maintained, and therefore below what may be called the boy's cost of production. An employer carrying' on his factory entirely by boy - labor, and yet giving the boys no educational training, is, therefore, enjoying a positive subsidy in aid of just that form of industrial organisation which is calcylated to be, in the long run, the most injurious to the community.

But though the excessive multiplication of boy - labor may be a grave social danger, and though Lord James's remedy of limitation is not without precedent,^ we think that experience points to the impossibility of any Trade Union coping with the evil in this way. Even Lord James's award, with all its decided acceptance of the principle of restriction, gave away the men's case by its exceptions. He refused to bind those employers who " manufactured goods called ' Nursery goods ' and other goods of a common quality and of a low price," on the ground that no uniform ratio of boys to men was applicable to their branch of the trade. In this refusal there can be no doubt that he exercised a wise discretion. To have insisted on these " Nursery " manu- facturers doing work by adult labor which was actually being performed by boys would have resulted only in their immediate withdrawal from the Federation of Employers, and so from the scope of the award. Thus, these low-class

  • We know of no other instance of the direct limitation of the number of boy

workers in a trade by the award of an arbitrator, or even by mutual consent of the employers and men, though the award of Mr. T. (afterwards Judge) Hughes in the case of the Kidderminster Carpet Weavers in 1875, ^7 which the number of boys allowed to actually work on looms was limited to one to five men, was given partly on these grounds (see Report of Conference of Manufacturers and Work- men before T. Hughes, Esq., Q.C., at . . . Kidderminster, ■^oth July 1875. Kidderminster 1875). But there are several instances of regulations by Trade Unions aiming at this end. Thus in 1892 the Brassfounders' Society at Hull succeeded in enforcing a very strict limitation of the number of boys in each shop, in order to stop the competition of excessive boy-labor. The Whitesmiths in the North of England, the Coppersmiths of Glasgow, and the Packing-case Makers in Bradford and other towns have made similar efforts to check the growth of this practice, whilst the Amalgamated Wood Turners' Society of London, in a circular to their employers in 1890, urged that all lads in the trade should be apprenticed for five years, ' ' a system which, when carried out, would be as great a blessing for the lad as for the master, and remove the unfair competition of boy-labor,"


The Entrance to a Trade 487

manufacturers, together with all small masters and non- associated firms, go on employing as many boys as they choose. The umpire's award, in fact, only applied to those cases in which it was least required. The National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives accordingly finds itself in much the same position with regard to boy -labor as the Typographical Association does with regard to apprentices. It nominally possesses the power of limiting the number, but this power is only effective in high-class establishments, and not even in all these. The only result of enforcing the limit is thus, not any restriction of the total number of boys in the trade, but merely their concentration in particular districts or particular establishments from which, as they grow up, they overflow to the others. The trade remains, therefore, as overrun as ever, with the added evil that it tends more and more to be recruited from the least educational channels.

In other trades the failure to put any effective restriction on the employment of boy-labor has been even more decided than among the Boot Operatives and the Compositors. The Engineers and Ironmoulders, for instance, have from time to time attempted to enforce a limit of boy -labor. Such regulations can for a time be enforced in strong Trade Union towns, in those branches of the trade which absolutely demand skilled workmen, and in establishments where Trade Unionism has gained a firm hold. But in the meantime the boys, even in Trade Union strongholds, will have been crowding into the workshops of small masters, or of those low-grade establishments which rely almost exclusively on boy-labor. At the same time, as in the analogous case of Trade Union Regulations on apprenticeship, the non-unionist districts will be bringing in an unlimited number of recruits, who have grown up outside Trade Union influence.

It may be objected that this drawback to any limitation of boy-labor relates, not to the regulation itself, but to the method by which it is enforced. If instead of a mere voluntary agreement, the limitation were imposed by law,


488 Trade Union Function

its universal application would, it may be argued, effectually put a stop to the abuse that is complained of. Such a law would, however, have to be considered from the point of view of those whom it excluded from the trade, as well as from that of those whom it protected. A community which per- emptorily limited the number of boys whom employers might engage would find itself under an obligation to provide some other means of maintenance for those who remained over. If the law attempted to distribute the annual supply of boys proportionately over all the industries of the country, it would have to get over the difficulty, which Lord James found insuperable, of framing any Common Rules that could be applied to the different grades of establishments, in all the innumerable varieties of occupation — to say nothing of the complications arising from trades which employ no boys at all, and from others in which boys only are required. Finally, in order to arrive at the necessary adjustment between the total supply of boy-labor and the demand for it, as well as to hit off the hapj5y mean between undue laxness and economic monopoly in any particular trade, it would need to be based upon data as yet absolutely unknown, as to the rate at which each trade was increasing, and the length of the average operative's working life.^ In short, whilst any legal restriction on the number of boys to be

1 See "The Fair Number of Apprentices in a Trade," by C. P. Sanger, in Economic Journal, December 1895.

The Factories and Shops Act of 1896 (No. 144S) of the Colony of Victoria empowers (sec. 15) a special Board appointed by the Governor, and consisting of equal numbers of employers and employed, to fix, in the Clothing, Bootmaking, Furniture, and Breadmaking industries, " the number or proportionate number of apprentices and improvers under the age of eighteen years who may be em- ployed within any factory or workroom, and the lowest price or rate of pay payable " to them. Any person employing more than the number or proportion so fixed is made liable to fine, and, on a third offence, the registration of his factory or workroom " shall without further or other authority than this Act be forthwith cancelled by the Chief Inspector." If this law is ever put effectively in force, its working will deserve the careful attention of economists.

We should ourselves be inclined to look for a remedy of the evil of excessive boy-labor, not to any Trade Union Regulation, nor yet to any law limiting numbers, but (following the precedent set with regard to children's employment) to a simple extension of Factory Act and educational requirements ; see our chapter on "The Economic Characteristics of Trade Unionism. "


The Entrance to a Trade 489

employed in a particular industry can scarcely fail to be inequitable, any general restriction on the number of; boys to be employed in all trades whatsoever is plainly impossible.

{c) Progression within the Trade

We come now to a small but interesting series of Trade Union Regulations which have hitherto escaped attention. There are some trades which are not recruited from boys at all, but from adult men, who leave their previous work and " progress " to more responsible duties. Thus, the London Builders having practically ceased to employ boys, the Operative Society of Bricklayers is now largely recruited, in the very numerous Metropolitan branches, from young builders' laborers, who are permitted to decide, up to'the age of twenty-five, whether they will permanently abandon the hod for the trowel.^ In this case the pro- gression is practically unregulated by any definite rule. Elsewhere the arrangements are sometimes more elaborate. Thus, the small Manchester Slaters' and Laborers' Society practically admits to membership, as a laborer, any man who is actually working with a slater, and it is from such laborers that the ranks of the slaters are recruited. But , although the laborers form a majority of the society, the rules^ provide for strict regulation of this progression. Any slater's laborer who desires to become a slater must first serve seven years in the lower grade, and then apply to the secretary of the union. A committee of six practical slaters is then appointed, by whom the candidate is examined in all the mysteries of the art. If he passes this ordeal, he is recognised as a slater, and entitled to demand the full slater's pay. The number of laborers so promoted is limited to three in each year.^

1 It must be borne in mind that, as part of the defence of the Standard Rate, no laborer is permitted to do occasional work as a bricklayer.

  • Rules of the Manchester and Salford District Slaters' and Laborer^ Society

(Manchester, 1890). The London plumbers, in the absence of boy apprentices, VOL. II R 2


490 Trade Union Function

A more complicated system of progression is to be found in some trades in which the operatives are divided into different grades. Among the Steel Smelterg the sub- ordinates, known as wheel-chargemen, who are recruited from ordinary laborers, perform the onerous task of bringing to the furnace the heavy loads of pig-iron with which it is charged. The men actually engaged in the smelting opera- tions are divided into three grades, having varying degrees of responsibility for the successful issue of this very costly process, but all alike engaged in severe physical exertion and exposed to excessive heat. When a vacancy occurs in the third or lowest grade, one of the wheel-chargemen is promoted to fill it. A vacancy in any of the higher grades must be offered first to any workman of that particular grade who happens to be out of employment. If no such candidate appears, it is then filled by selection by the employer from the next lower grade. A precisely similar arrangement is combined with apprenticeship among the Silk-dressers, who are divided into apprentices, third hands, second hands, and first hands. Among the Flint Glass Makers the hierarchy of grades is even more complex. An apprentice may become either a " footmaker " or may, if he is competent, skip that grade and become at once a " servitor." But no '■ servitor " may become a " workman," and no " footmaker " a " servitor," so long as any man in the higher grade is out of employment.^ In the strongly-organised United Society

are, as we have already mentioned, assisted by men known as " plumbers' mates," who have a union of their own. An employer is free to promote a plumber's mate to be a plumber, whenever he considers him to be worth the plumbers' Standard Rate. In most parts of the country the "forgers" or smiths in manufacturing establishments are similarly recruited from the strikers who work in conjunction with them, and who are in the same union.

' Thus a Flint Glass Maker, advocating a scheme for the absorption of the unemployed, declared that " the servitor that has been waiting for an opportunity to get to the Workman's chair would then get his desire ; the Footmaker that was put to make foot when he was bound apprentice, and is still in that position, although he may be thirty years of age, and perhaps more than that, with a wife and family dependent upon him, and the reason of his still being in that position is not that he has not the ability to be in a higher one, but because there has been no vacancy only where there has been an unemployed man ready to fill it and keep him back." — Letter in Flint Glass Makers Moiguzine, November 1888.


The Entrance to a Trade 491

of Boilermakers this system of progression is curiously worked in with the existence of an inferior grade of operatives, who are freely admitted to the union, but are only permitted to progress under certain conditions. The platers, angle-iron smiths, and rivetters who form the bulk of the society are mostly recruited under the strictly-regulated apprenticeship system which we have described. But there is also another class of members, called " holders up," who are less skilled than their colleagues, and who were only admitted to the union in 1882. A "holder up" may progress to be a plater or rivetter if he becomes competent for their work, but only on condition that no member of the superior grade is out of work in the district in question. Similarly, a plater, rivetter, or angle-iron smith is not allowed to change to another division of the trade so long as any member of that division is seeking employment.

The trades in which this system of regulated progression prevails cannot be said to be entirely " open," as an employer is not permitted to promote a favourite operative in such a way as to leave unemployed any workman of a higher gradej^ On the other hand, regulated progression differs from apprenticeship, in the total absence of any desire to reduce the number of candidates below that of places to be filled. No obstacle is thus placed in the way of an expansion of trade ; and when bad times return there are more operatives of all classes than there are places to fill. The arrangement is, in fact, merely one for giving to all the members of each grade the utmost possible continuity of employment, at the cost of practically confining the opportunities of individual promotion to the periods of expanding trade.

There are some reasons for expecting this system of regulated progression to become more widely prevalent in British industry. It is specially characteristic of modern trades, and the modern form of business on a large scale. It is adapted to the typical modern device of splitting up a handicraft into a number of separate processes, each of which falls to the lot of a distinct grade of workmen. It is con-


492 Trade Union Function

sistent with the decay of apprenticeship, and the " picking up " of each process in turn by the sharp lad and ambitious young mechanic. It goes a long way to secure both the main objects of Trade Unionism, continuity of livelihood, and the maintenance of the Standard of Life. It has no invidious exclusiveness, or attempt at craft monopoly. It lends itself to a combination of all the different grades of workmen in a single industry, whilst enabling each grade to preserve its own feeling of corporate interest. What is even more significant, the system secures to the manufacturing opera- tives in large industries much the same sort of organisation as has spontaneously come into existence among the great army of railway workers, and in the Civil Service itself. In the graded service of the railway world, whilst there is no fixed rule on the subject, it is usual for the general manager and the directors to fill vacancies in the higher posts by selecting the most suitable candidates from the next lower grade. New- comers enter, in the ordinary course, at the bottom of the ladder, and progress upwards as vacancies occur. In times of depression, when the staff remains stationary, or has to be reduced, the contraction operates mainly at the bottom. Recruiting for the lowest grade is practically suspended. Higher up, vacancies may remain unfilled and promotion thus be checked, but actual dismissals for want of work are rare, and are only resorted to in cases of absolute necessity. This continuity of livelihood, which prevails largely in great banking corporations, and, indeed, in all extensive business undertakings, is still more characteristic of the British Civil Service. The Postmaster-General, who is by far the largest employer of labor in the country, never dismisses a man for lack of business, and fills practically all the higher grades of his service by promotion from the lower as vacancies occur. The union of competing firms into great capitalist corpora- tions or syndicates, such as those already prevailing in the salt, alkali, and cotton thread trades, and the growth of colossal commercial undertakings under single management, appears likely to bring with it, as a mere matter of con-


The Entrance to a Trade 493

venience and discipline, the creation of a similarly graded service in each monopolised industry.

In the case of the Civil Service, as in the Army and Navy, this system of regulated progression is combined with an objectionable feature. Although here and there a man of exceptional ability or influence may be pitch- forked into a high post, over the heads of others, the great majority of vacancies in the upper grades are filled by mere seniority, tempered only by the passing over of officers who are notoriously inefficient. No such idea of seniority is to be found in the Trade Union regulations. The manager of a steel works has full liberty to pick out the most com- petent wheel-chargeman to be a Third Hand. He may fill vacancies in the class of Second Hands from the ablest of the Third Hands, and then choose the very best of the Second Hands to keep up the select group of First Hands on whom the principal responsibility rests.^ The Silk-dressers leave it absolutely to the employer to pick out, for any vacancy in the higher grades, whichever workman in the lower he may think best qualified for the place. Once a man has been deliberately promoted by his employer to a particular grade, he is entitled, under the Trade Union system of regulated progression as in the Civil Service, to a preference for work of that or any higher class, over any man of an inferior grade. But under these Trade Union regulations the members of any particular grade can urge, as among themselves, no other claim than that of superior efficiency. The very conception of seniority, as constituting a claim to advancement, is foreign to Trade Unionism. Whatever arrangements may be made to protect the vested interests of those already within the circle, there is never any idea of preferring, among the candidates for admission, either those who are oldest or those

  • A short period of service in the lower grade before promotion is sometimes

stipulated for in the rules : —

" That no person be allowed to work (as a) second hand before being one year, nor (as a) first hand before being three years at the trade." — Constitution and Rules of the British Steel Smelter^ Amalgamated Association (Glasgow, 1892), p. 30-


494 Trade Union Function

who have served longest. It is a special characteristic of the industrial world, as compared with the more genteel branches of the public service, that such special promotion comes, as a rule, not to the old but to the young ; not to the workman grown gray, and stiff at his mechanical task, but to the clever young artisan who reveals latent powers of initiative organisation or command.' Against such promotion according to merit no Trade Union ever urges a word of objection.

But although the Trade Union world is singularly free from any idea of promotion by seniority, there are, here as elsewhere, traces of what may be called local protectionism, in conflict with the more general class interest. Thus it is a cardinal tenet of the Amalgamated Association of Opera- tive Cotton-spinners that, whilst it is for the operatives to insist on a universal enforcement of the Standard Rate, it is for the employer, and the employer alone, to determine whom he will employ. When a pair of mules are vacant, the mill- owner may entrust them to whomsoever he pleases, provided that the selected person instantly joins the union and is paid according to the " List." But the operatives in the particular mill have not infrequently resented the introduction of a spinner from another mill, even if he is a member of their own union, when there are piecers who have grown up in the service of the firm, and have long been waiting for the chance of becoming spinners. The able officials and leaders of the Amalgamated Association of Operative Cotton-spinners throw their weight against any such feeling on the ground that it is inconsistent with Trade Unionism. The same con- flict of the local with the general interest has come up among the Steel Smelters, whose system of regulated progression is so elaborate. At one branch (Blochairn Works, Glasgow) the Wheel-chargemen (there called " helpers ") objected to vacan-

1 This is, to some extent, the case also in the more business-like branches of the British Civil Service, where the aristocratic tradition is absent. The large graded services of the Post Office, Customs, and Excise are mainly governed by a system of " promotion according to merit," vacancies being filled by selection among the next lower grade, irrespective of seniority.


The Entrance to a Trade 495

cies among the Third, Second, or First Hands in their particular establishment being filled by unemployed men of those grades, coming from elsewhere. They demanded that the wheel-chargemen, and the men in other lower grades, should have a preference for any vacancies that occurred in their own steelworks. Any such substitution of a vertical for a horizontal cleavage of the trade would, it is clear, be incon- sistent with the regulated progression enforced by the British Steel Smelters' Amalgamated Association, and would have seriously hampered the employers' choice of operatives. The union accordingly refused to recognise the claim of the Blochairn helpers, and they were eventually excluded from its ranks.^

{d) The Exclusion of Women

So far we have taken for granted that the candidate for admission to the trade belongs to the male sex. In this we have followed the ordinary Trade Union books of rules, which, in nine cases out of ten, have found no need to refer to the sex of the members. The middle-class Anglo-Saxon is so accustomed to see men and women engaged in identical work as teachers, journalists, authors, painters, sculptors, comedians, singers, musicians, doctors, clerks, and what not, that he unconsciously assumes the same state of things to exist in manual labor and manufacturing industry.^ But in the hewing of coal or the making of engines, in the building of ships or the erecting of houses, in the railway service or the mercantile marine, it has never occurred to the most

' We need not do more tlian mention the demand — put forward by the Enginemen's and the Plumbers' Trade Unions — that the possession of a certificate of competency, awarded by some public authority, should be made a condition of practising their respective trades. Regulations of this kind already govern, not only the learned professions, but also the mercantile marine, and, to a growing extent, the elementary school service. Protection of the interests of the consumer may possibly cause them to be extended to some other occupations ; Massachusetts Law 265 of 1896 requires a certificate for gasfitters.

' Similarly, the entrance into industrial occupations of a relatively small number of middle-class women has given rise to a quite disproportionate impression as to the extent to which the employment of women has increased ; see the Board of Trade Report by Miss Collet on the Employment of Women and Girls, p. 7.


496 Trade Union Function

economical employer to substitute women for men.^ And thus we find that, contrary to the usual impression, nine- 1 tenths of the Trade Unionists have never had occasion to [exclude women from their organisations. Even in the industries which employ both men and women, we nearly always find the sexes sharply divided in different depart- ments, working at different processes, and performing different operations.^ In the vast majority of cases these several departments, processes, and operations are mutually com- plementary, and there is no question of sex rivalry. In others we find what is usually a temporary competition, not so much between the sexes, as between the process requiring a skilled man, and that within the capacity of a woman or a boy laborer. Our chapter on " New Processes and Machinery " has described the Trade Union policy with regard to- the substitution of unskilled for skilled labor. The present section has, therefore, only to treat of the com- paratively small number of cases in which, without any change of process, women attempt to learn the same trade and perform the same work as men.

The intensity of the resentment and abhorrence with which the average working man regards the idea of women entering his trade, equals that displayed by the medical practitioner of the last generation. We have, to begin with, a deeply-rooted conviction in the minds of the most con- servative of classes, that, to use the words of a representative compositor, " the proper place for females is their home."' The respectable artisan has an instinctive distaste for the promiscuous mixing of men and women in daily intercourse,

' The women who worked in coalpits before the Mines Regulation Act of 1842 did the work, not of the coal-hewers, but of boys. The sweeping pro- hibition of women working in underground' mines happened not to be a Trade Union demand, for the miners were at the moment unorganised. It was pressed for by the philanthropists on grounds of morality.

2 See "The Alleged Difference between the wages of Men and Women," by Sidney Webb [Economic Journal^ December 1 891); Women and the Factory Acts, by Mrs. Sidney Webb (Fabian Tract, No. 67).

' Report of Proceedings of the Meeting of Delegates from the TypgrapUcd Societies of the United Kingdom and the Continent (London, 1886), p. 35.


The Entrance to a Trade 497

whether this be in the workshop or in a social club.^ These objections, which often spring from mere old-fashioned prejudice, tend to hide, and in the eyes of progressive reformers, to discredit, the Trade Union objection to a new class of "blacklegs." No employer would dream of sub- stituting women for men, unless this resulted in his getting the work done below the men's Standard Rate. The facts that women have a lower standard of comfort than men, that they seldom have to support a family, and that they are often partially maintained from other sources, all render them, as a class, the most dangerous enemies of the artisan's Standard of Life. The instinctive Trade Union attitude towards women working at a man's trade is exactly the same as that towards men who habitually " work under price," except that it is reinforced in the case of women by certain social and moral prejudices which, in our day,-and among certain reformers, are beginning to be considered obsolete. But under the pressure of the growing feeling in favor of the " equality of the sexes " the Trade Unions have, as we shall see, changed front. They began with a simple prohibition of women as women. From this point we shall trace the development of a new policy, based, like that relating to new processes, not on exclusion, but on the

' As regards many trades, there is much force in this objection. Where men and women work independently of each other, in full publicity, and in com- paratively decent surroundings, as is the case with the male and female weavers in a Lancashire cotton mill, there is little danger of sexual immorality. But where a woman or girl works in conjunction with a man, especially if she is removed from constant association with other female workers, experience both in the fectory and the mine shows that there is a very real danger to morality. This is increased if the work has to be done in unusual heat or exceptional dress. But the most perilous of relations is that in which the girl or woman stands in a position of subordination to the man by whose side she is working. No one acquainted with the relation between cotton-spinner and piecer can doubt the wisdom, from the point of view of public morality, of the imperative refusal of the Amalgamated Association of Operative Cotton-spinners to allow its members to employ female piecers. Even in the weaving sheds, where the relations between the weavers themselves are satisfactory, the subordination of the women weavers to the male overlooker leads to frequent scandals. The statutory exclusion of women from working in widerground mines is, we believe, universally approved.


498 Trade. Union Function

maintenance of a definite Standard Rate for each grade of labor.

The eighteenth-century trade clubs of hatters, basket- makers, brushmakers, or compositors would have instantly struck against any attempt to put a woman to do any part of their craft.^ It is interesting that the only case in which we can discover this categorical prohibition still actually existing in a current book of rules of to-day is that of the archaic society of the Pearl Button Makers, whom we have already noticed as extreme in their limitation of apprentices and unique in their peremptory prohibition of machinery. " No female allowed," laconically observes their regulation, " in the capacity of either piecemaker, turner, or bottomer. Any member working where a female does either [process] shall forfeit one pound, and should he continue to do so shall be excluded." ^ In some other small indoor handicrafts, where the work requires no great strength or endurance, employers have, here and there, fitfully sought to teach women the trade. The men, whether organised or not, have done their best to exclude these new competitors, and the employers have not found the experiment sufficiently successful to induce them to continue it.*

Wherever any considerable number of employers have resolutely sought to bring women into any trade within their

' It will be needless to recall to the reader similar prohibitions by the masters' gilds. Thus the Articles of the London Girdlers (1344) provided " that no one of the said trade shall set any woman to work, other than his wedded wife or his daughter." The "Braelers" (brace-makers) and Leather-sellers of London and the Fullers of Lincoln had the same rule. — Riley's Memorials, pp. 217, 278, 547 ; Toulmin Smith's English Gilds, p. 180.

^ Rules and Regulations to be observed by the Members of the Operative Pearl Button and Stud Worker^ Protection Society (Birmingham, 1887), p. 12.

' It has sometimes happened that the women, though acquiring a certain amount of skill in most of the process, have failed in some essential part. Thus when an employer brought his own daughters into the trade of silver-engraving, they were never able, with all his tuition, to pick up the knack of "pointing" their " gravers." The experiment has not been repeated. An attempt was made, some years ago, to teach women to be " twisters and drawers " in a Lancashire cotton mill. The innovation did not, however spread, as the women could never do the " beaming," and it has been abandoned. In this case, by exception, the incident has left its trace in the Trade Union rules. The very exclusive society of " Beamers, Twisters, and Drawers" now provides "That all malt


The Entrance to a Trade 499

capacity, the Trade Unions have utterly failed to prevent them. The most interesting case is that of the compositors.- About 1848 the great printing firm of M'Corquodale intro- duced women apprentices into its letterpress-printing works at Newton-le- Willows in Lancashire, and this example has since been followed by other employers in various towns. There can be no doubt that the male compositors, whether Trade Unionists or not, have been, from first to last, ex- tremely hostile to this innovation, and that they have done their best to prevent it. Down to 1886 all the compositors' Trade Unions expressed, either in their rules or in their practice, this uncompromising policy of exclusion. This policy was justified by the men on the ground that the women worked far below the Standard Rate, and that "unfair" employers made use of them to break down the men's position. In Edinburgh, for instance, the compositors' great strike of 1872-73 was defeated, and the union reduced to impotence by the importation of " female blacklegs," who, as the Board of Trade declares, have completely revolu- tionised the trade in that city.* In London, where there are probably two hundred women compositors, these set up "1000 ens" of copy for 5^d. to 6d., as compared with a Standard Rate which works out at about 8^d., for work of identical quantity and quality.

The compositors' policy of rigid exclusion from member- ship failed to keep the women out of their trade. Whenever an employer thought it worth his while to engage women compositors, he ignored the union altogether, and set up a distinct establishment. More than one great London firm has, for instance, a " fair house " in the Metropolis, where

persons wishing to learn the trade of Twisting and Drawing, shall first obtain a shop to work at when he has learned, and procure a certificate from the manager to show that he has engaged him. No youth under sixteen years of age shall be allowed to learn the trade of Twisting and Drawing, and not then, unless there be a vacancy in the mill where he is introduced, and no member out of work on the books." — Rules of the Blackburn District of the Amalgamated Beamers, Twisters, and Drawers' Association (Blackburn, 1891), p. 12.

' See " Women Compositors," by Amy Linnett, in Economic Review, January 1892.

" Board of Trade Third Report on Trade Unions, C. 5808, 1889, p. 125.


500 Trade Union Function

none but Trade Unionists are employed, and another estab- lishment in one of the small towns of the Home Counties, where no Trade Unionist works, and where the employment of women is absolutely unrestricted. Smaller firms employ- ing women take girl apprentices, and rely almost exclusively on female labor.

The futility of the policy of exclusion, combined with the growth of a Socialistic disapproval of trade monopoly, induced the largest compositors' society to alter its tactics. In 1886 we find the able general secretary of the London Society of Compositors (Mr. C. J. Drummond)^ carrying, at an important conference of all the compositors' Trade Unions, a resolution "that, while strongly of opinion that women are not physically capable of performing the duties of a compositor, this conference recommends their admission to membership of the various Typographical Unions upon the same conditions as journeymen, provided always the females are paid strictly in accordance with scale." ^ This resolution has been acted upon by the London Society of Compositors, the most important of the unions represented, which is now open to women on exactly the same terms as to men.'

What the London Society of Compositors has only lately discovered, the Lancashire weavers have, for two generations, unconsciously acted upon. Here there has never been any sex distinction. The various organisations of weavers have, from the introduction of the power-loom, always included women as members on the same terms as men. The piecework list of prices, to which all workers

' Now on the staff of the Labor Department of the Board of Trade.

  • Report of Proceedings of the Meeting of Delegates from the Typografhicd

Societies of the United Kingdom and the Continent (London, 1886), pp. 23-25.

' It is interesting to trace this change of attitude among the London com- positors, partly to a dim and imperfect appreciation of the foregoing argument, and partly also to the growth of Socialist ideas, and the conception of equality of rights ; see the History of Trade Unionism, pp. 384, 394. We believe that during ten years only one woman compositor has ever claimed admission to the London Society of Compositors. On it being proved that, employed at Mr. William Morris's Kelmscott Press, she was paid at the Standard Rate, she was promptly enrolled as a member (Printing f/ews, October 1892).


The Entrance to a Trade 501

must conform, applies to men and women alike. But it is interesting to observe that the maintenance of a Standard Rate has resulted in a real, though unobtrusive, segregation. There is no attempt to discriminate between women's work and men's work as such. The uniform scale of piecework prices includes an almost infinite variety of articles from the plain calico woven on narrow looms to the broad and heavy figured counterpanes which tax the strength of the strongest man. In every mill we see both men and women at work, often at identical tasks. But, taking the cotton-weaving trade as a whole, the great majority of the women will be found engaged on the comparatively light work paid for at the lower rates. On the other hand, a majority of the men win be found practically monopolising the heavy trade, priced at higher rates per yard, and resulting in larger weekly earn- ings. But there is. no sex competition. A woman of excep- tional strength, who is capable of doing the heavy work, cannot take advantage of her lower Standard of Life, to offer her services at a lower rate than has been fixed for the men. She is not, as a woman, excluded from what is generally the men's work, but she must win her way by capacity, not by underbidding. On the other hand, though the rates fixed for the lighter work have been forced up to a point that is high relatively to the women's Standard of Life, the wages that can be earned at this grade are too low to tempt any but the weaker men to apply for such looms. In short, the enforcement of a definite Standard Rate, practically unalterable in individual cases, serves, in itself, to prevent sex competition. The candidates for employment tend to segregate into virtually non- competing groups according to their grades of strength and skill.*

1 This principle of a classification of work, and strict segregation of the sexes, is now to be found in various other trades. Thus, the very old-fashioned society of goldbeaters sought, down to recent years, absolutely to exclude women. The Rules of the Goldbeater f Trade Society (London, 1875) provided "That no mem- ber be allowed to work for a master who employs females on the premises 01 elsewhere under the penalty of immediate erasure." But this absolute exclusion is now given up in favor of a strict separation between the men's and women's tasks. The later Rules of the Goldbeater^ Trade Society (London, 1887) expressly


502 Trade Union Function

Precisely the same result has occurred in the hosiery trade, where men and women have for many years belonged to the same organisations and worked side by side. Here the machinery is undergoing a constant evolution, one stage of which affords an interesting example of the relation of men and women workers. At the beginning of 1888 the men working on " circular rib frames " found themselves being ousted by the women working at lower rates. They accordingly demanded, in March 1888, that a uniform rate of 3d. per dozen should be paid to men and women alike. The women protested, saying that if they were to charge the men's price they would be all dismissed. A compromise was agreed to, which allowed the women to work at a farthing per dozen less than the men. This led in May to " the dis- missal of the (male) circular rib frame hands from H.'s firm for women to work. The farthing difference as agreed to by the workpeople themselves under the pressure of circum- stances created the evil." ..." It seems to us," continues the Secretary of the Union, " that the simplest and best way of meeting the difficulty will be to agree what frames shall be a man's and what a woman's job." From the June report we see that this suggestion of the Executive Council was adopted by both male and female workers, it being decided that the women should work the " old machines and the men the " new" ones ! This ingenuous proposal was accepted by the women until they found that the "old" machines were, of necessity, being steadily replaced by new ones. Ultimately an agreement was arrived at that the men should work the large, or " eight -head " frames, and the women the small, or " six-head " frames. This segregation of the sexes was secured, not by the exclusion of one sex or the other from either machine, but an ingenious

allow that a member " may work at any shop where females are employed, provided he does not assist them or be assisted by them in any part of the work." And the brushmakers, who once strove against women working at all, now seek merely to keep them to their own class of work. " Any member boring pan or machine work for women shall be expelled." — General Trade Rules of th United Society of Brushmakers (London, 1891), p. 24.


The Entrance to a Trade 503

adjustment of the Standard Rate. The women retained their privilege of working at a farthing per dozen less than the men, a concession which gave them a virtual monopoly of their own machine. On the other hand, it was agreed between the union and the employers that, as between the " six-head " frame and the " eight-head " frame, an extra allowance of a farthing per dozen should be paid to com- pensate for the lesser output of the smaller machine. This prevented the smaller (or women's) machine from encroaching on the work for which the larger (or men's) machine was best fitted. The result has been that, whilst their weekly earnings may differ widely, the women actually obtain the same rate per dozen on their own machine as the men do on theirs, whilst complete segregation of the sexes is secured, and all competition between men and women as such is practically prevented.^

The experience of the Lancashire Cotton-weavers and the Leicestershire Hosiers affords, we think, a useful hint to the London Society of Compositors. To complete its policy with regard to women's labor, the latter should not merely admit to membership those women who prove their capacity to do a man's work, but should also take steps to organise the weaker or less efHcient female compositors whom this condition excludes. As in the case of alternative processes, the welfare of each party is bound up with the maintenance of the other's Standard Rate. It is easy to see that the women compositors, as a class, stand to lose if the men's employers were to regain the trade from the firms employ- ing women by reducing the men's wages. On the other hand, the men suffer if, owing to the defenceless state of the women and their partial maintenance from other sources, employers are able to obtain their labor at wages positively below what would suffice to keep it in constant efficiency, if the women depended permanently on their wages alone. To prevent any such " bounty " being indirectly paid by other

' Amalgamated Hosiery Union, Monthly Reports for 1888 ; and personal information in 1893 and 1896.


504 Trade Union Function

classes of the community to the employer of female labor, it is necessary that the women should be in a position to maintain a Standard Rate for their own work, even though this may have to be fixed lower than that of the men. Now, Trade Union experience shows that the first condition of the con- temporary maintenance of two different Standard Rates, in different grades of the same industry, is that there should be a clear and sharp distinction between them. In the case of the Cotton-weavers this is secured by the different kinds of work, to each of which a definite scale of prices is assigned. The Hosiery Workers accomplish the same result by a differ- entiation of machine. In the case of the Compositors, though there are many kinds of work for which women have never been found suitable, it is impossible to make any complete classification of men's work and women's work. The only way of preventing individual underbidding by persons of a lower standard of comfort is to segregate the women in separate establishments or departments, and rigidly to exclude each sex from those in which the other is employed in type- setting.' If this segregation, which is desirable for moral as well as for economic reasons, were strictly enforced, it would be highly advantageous for the London Society of Com- positors to recognise these women, and to organise them, either as a " woman's branch," or as an affiliated society. The women could then collectively decide for themselves the standard weekly earnings that ought to be demanded by the ordinary woman compositor, and get a " scale " of piecework prices for women's jobs worked out on this basis. The • fundamental necessity for the Compositors, from a Trade Union point of view, is, therefore, not the exclusion of women as women, but the rigid insistence that any candidate for admission into their particular branch of the trade should obtain the Standard Rate. If women are incapable of earning the same piece-work rate as men, they are, on this argument, rightly relegated to the easier

' This need not exclude the employment of a man in the women's department to do laboring or engineering work.


The Entrance to a Trade 505

lines of work in which their lower standard of effort can be fully remunerated.

We may now sum up the present Trade Unionist: position. The old prohibition of women competitors, against^ which the women's advocates have so often protested, was as unnecessary as it was iavidious. All that is requisite, from a Trade Union point of view, is that the woman's' claim for absolute equality should be unreservedly con- ceded, and that women should be accepted as members upon precisely the same terms as m^n. Nor can the champion of the "equality of the sexes" logically demand from the Trade Unions any further concession. The women's advo- cates are, in fact, in a dilemma. If they argue that women, though entitled to equality of treatment, may nevertheless work " under price," in order to oust male Trade Unionists from employment, they negative the whole theory and practice of Trade Unionism. If, on the other hand, they ask that women shall be specially privileged to act as black- legs, without suffering the consequences, they abandon the contention of an equality of treatment of both sexes. Within the world of manual labor, at any rate, " equality " between the sexes leads either to the exclusion of women from the men's trades, or else to the branding of the whole sex as blacklegs.

There is, however, no necessity to get into this dilemma. It is unfair, and even cruel, to the vast army of women workers, to uphold the fiction of the equality of the sexes in the industrial world. So far as manual labor is concerned, women constitute a distinct class of workers, having different faculties, different needs, and different expectations from those of men. To keep both sexes in the same state of health and efficiency — to put upon each the same degree of strain — implies often a differentiation of task, and always a differentiation of effort and subsistence.^ The Common

1 Professor Edgeworth puts an interesting problem (Mathematical Psychics, p. 95). "When Fanny Kemble visited her husband's slave plantations, she found that the same (equal) tasks were imposed on the men and the women, the


5o6 Trade Union Function

Rules with regard to wages, hours, and other conditions by which the men maintain their own Standard of Life, are usually unsuited to the women. The problem for the Trade Unionist is, whilst according to women the utmost possible freedom to earn an independent livelihood, to devise such arrangements as shall prevent that freedom being made use of by the employers to undermine the Standard of Life of the whole wage -earning class. The experience of the Lancashire Cotton -weavers and the Leicestershire Hosiers points, we think, to a solution being found in the frank recognition of a classification of work. The essential point is that there should be no under-bidding of individuals of one sex by individuals of the other. So long as the competition of men is virtually confined to the men's jobs, and the competition of women to the women's jobs, the fact that the women sell their labor at a low price does not endanger the men's Standard Rate, and the fact that men are legally permitted to work all night does not diminish the women's chance of employment. In the vast majority of trades, as we have seen, this industrial segregation of the sexes comes automatically into existence, and needs no ex- press regulation. In the very small number of cases in which men and women compete directly with each other for employment, on precisely the same operation, in one and the same process, there can, we believe, be no effective Trade Unionism until definite Standard Rates are settled for men's work and women's work respectively.

This does not mean that either men or women need to be explicitly excluded from any occupation in virtue of their sex. All that is required is that the workers at each opera- tion should establish and enforce definite Common Rules, binding on all who work at their operation, whether they be men or women. The occupations which demanded the

women accordingly, in consequence of their weakness, suffering much more fatigue. Supposing the [employer] to insist on a certain quantity of work being done, and to leave the distribution of the burden to the philanthropist, what would be the most beneficent arrangement — that the men should have the sanu fatigue, or not only more task, but more fatigue ? "


The Entrance to a Trade 507

strength, skill, and endurance of a trained man would, as at present, be carried on with a relatively high Standard Rate. On the other hand, the operatives in those processes which were within the capacity of the average woman would aim at such Common Rules as to wages, hours, and other con- ditions of labor, as corresponded to their position, efforts, and needs. The experience of the Lancashire Cotton-weavers indicates that such a differentiation of earnings is not necessarily incompatible with the thorough maintenance of a Standard Rate, and also that it results in an almost com- plete industrial segregation of the sexes. Women are not engaged at the men's jobs, because the employers, having to pay them at the same high rate as the men, find the men's labor more profitable. On the other hand, the ordinary man does not offer himself for the woman's job, as it is paid for at a rate below that which he can earn elsewhere, and upon which, indeed, he could not permanently maintain him- self. But there need be no rigid exclusion of exceptional individuals. If a woman proves herself capable of working as well and as profitably to the employer as a man, and is engaged at the man's Standard Rate, there is no Trade Union objection to her being admitted to membership, as in the London Society of Compositors, on the same terms as a •man. If, on the other hand, a man is so weak that he can do nothing but the light work of the women, these may well admit him, as do the Lancashire Weavers, at what is virtu- ally the women's rate. The key to this as to so many other positions is, in fact, a thorough application of the principle of the Standard Rate.


CHAPTER XI THE RIGHT TO A TRADE[edit]

An " overlap " between two trades, leading to a dispute as to which section of workmen has a " right " to the job, may occur in more than one way. A new process may be invented which lies outside the former work of any one trade, but is nearly akin to two or more of them. In such a case, each trade will vehemently claim that the new pro- cess " belongs " to its own members, either because the same material is manipulated, the same tools are used, or the same object is effected. But even without a new invention the same conflict of rights may arise. The lines of division between allied trades have hitherto often differed from town to town, and the migration of employers or workmen, or even the mere imitation of the custom of one town by the establishments of another, will lead to serious friction. A new firm may introduce fresh ways of dividing its work, or an old establishment may undertake a new branch of trade. There may even be an unprovoked and naked aggression, by a strongly organised class of workmen, upon the jobs hitherto undertaken by a humbler section. In any or all of these ways, the employers may find their desire to allot their work to particular classes of workmen sharply checked by conflicting claims of " right to the trade."

It is in the great modern industry of iron-shipbuilding that we find the most numerous and complicated disputes about " overlap " and " demarcation." The gradual trans-


The Right to a Trade 509

formation of the passenger ship from the simple Deal lugger into an elaborate floating hotel has obscured all the old lines of division between trades. Sanitary work, for instance, has always been the special domain of the plumber, and when the sanitary appliances of ships became as elaborate as those of houses, the plumber naturally followed his work. But, from the very beginning of steam navigation, all iron piping on board a steamship, whatever its purpose, had been fitted by the engineer. Hence the plumbers and fitters both complained that " the bread was being taken out of their mouths " by their rivals. We need not recite the numberless other points at which the craftsmen working on a modern warship or Atlantic liner find each new improvement bringing different trades into sharp conflict. The Engineers have, on different occasions, quarrelled on this score with the Boiler- makers, the Shipwrights, the Joiners, the Brassworkers, the Plumbers, and the Tinplate Workers ; the Boiler- makers have had their own differences with the Ship- wrights, the Smiths, and the Chippers and Drillers ; the Shipwrights have fought with the Caulkers, the Boat and Barge Builders, the Mast and Blockmakers, and the Joiners ; the Joiners themselves have other quarrels with the Mill-sawyers, the Patternmakers, the Cabinetmakers, the Upholsterers, and the French Polishers ; whilst minor trades, such as the Hammermen, the Ship Painters, and the " Red Leaders," are at war all round. Hence an employer, bound to complete a job by a given date, may find one morning his whole establishment in confusion, and the most important sections of his workmen " on strike," not because they object to any of the conditions of employment, but because they fancy that one trade has " encroached " on the work of another. The supposed encroachment may consist of the most trivial detail. The shipwrights admit that the joiners may case (or line with wood) all telegraph connections throughout the ship, except only when these happen to go through cargo spaces, coal bunkers, and the hold. When a joiner passes this magic line even in a job of a few hours.


5IO Trade Union Function

the whole of the shipwrights will drop their tools. On the other hand, when the joiners' blood is up, they will all go on strike rather than see the shipwrights do even a few feet of what they regard as essentially their own work. Under these circumstances a task which one man could do in an hour may stop a whole shipyard. On one occasion, indeed, a great shipbuilder on the Tyne, finding his whole establish- ment laid idle by such a quarrel, and utterly unable to bring the men to reason, finally took off his coat and did the disputed work with his own hands.^

These trivial disputes sometimes blaze up into industrial wars of the first magnitude. The leading case which took place on the Tyne a few years ago is thus described by a great shipbuilder. "For some time before 1890 the division of work between joiners and shipwrights had led to unpleasant relations between them, and to interference with the progress of work. . . . The disputes became so frequent and angry when the large amount of Government work came to the Tyne, that the employers urged the delegates of the two

  • Demarcation disputes, though frequent and serious in certain industries, are

entirely absent from some, and only rarely occur in others. They are, for instance, practically unknown in the textile trades and the extractive industries, which together make up a half of the Trade Union world. It is especially in the group of trades connected with the building and equipping of ships that they are trouble- some. They also occur, though to a lesser extent, throughout the engineering and building trades. Roughly speaking, we may say that they are characteristic of about one quarter of the whole Trade Union membership. We know of no systematic description or analysis of this controversy. The student can only be referred to the materials relating to the particular cases elsewhere cited, especially the minutes of proceedings of the various joint committees, and to the evidence given before the Royal Commission on Labor, 4Sth day. (See Digest for Group A, vol. iii. C. 6894, x. pp. 48-54. ) In earjier ages, when the right to a continuance of the accustomed livelihood was recognised by law and public opinion, disputes arising from (foe encroachments of one craft on ie work of another were habitually settled by what was, in effect, a judicial decree, exactly as if the point at issue had been the boundary between two landed estates. Thus the apportioiiT ment of work between the carpenters and the joiners was a fruitfiil cause of dispute. A Committee of the Common Council of the City of London made an elaborate award in 1632, defining in detail the particular kinds of work to be done by the Companies of Carpenters and Joiners respectively, " deal coffins " being assigned, as a knotty question, to both in common. — The History of the Carpenter^ Company, by Jupp (London, 1 848). A similar dispute between the carpenters and joiners pf Newcastle-on-Tyne, who, down to 1589, were combined in a single gild, was


The Right to a Trade 5 1 1

societies to refer their differences to an independent and capable arbitrator, promising that they would, as employers, accept any award that he made. . . . Mr. Thomas Burt, M.P., was proposed by the joiners and accepted by the shipwrights. A very long, patient, and exhaustive inquiry was made into the practices in the Tyne and other places, past and present ; evidence was taken from old hands, delegates, and all who could throw light upon the history of the division of work. . . , After an investigation extending over five and a half months, Mr. Burt issued his award, allotting, out of 168 items in question, 96 to the joiners and 72 to the shipwrights. The joiners . . . disputed the fairness of the findings of the arbitrator they had themselves proposed, and left their employment for fourteen weeks. . . . Many vigorous attempts were made by the employers to induce the joiners to work to the award without success. . . . Ultimately . . . the joiners were called upon by the united trades in the Tyne to submit their contentions absolutely to a Committee or Court com-

settled by an award of similar character, " chists for corpses " being, curiously enough, equally made common to the two trades (Beach's Newcastle Companies, pp. 31-33). And, to turn to quite other industries, we find the tanners and whit- tawyers disputing as to the limits of their crafts, "the assize of a white tawyer" being, as Stow declared, " that he make nor tawe no Ledder but Shepe's Ledder, Gotes Ledder, Horses' Ledder, and Hindes Ledder " (Jupp, p. 337), leaving to the tanner the dressing of ox skins, which required the use of bark. The disputes between the London Cordwainers and the " cobelers from beyond sea" raged in 1395 so fiercely that the king " commanded John Fresshe, Mayor of the said city, that the said Cobelers should gain their living as they had done from of old . . . and that it might be declared what of right should belong to the one party and the other." Whereupon, after solemn inquiry, it was ordained, among other things, " that no person who meddles with old shoes shall meddle with new shoes to sell." [Indenture of Agreement between the Cordwainers and the Cobblers, 14th August 139s ; Memorials of London and London Life, by H. T. Riley (London, 1868), pp. 539-541.] This, however, did not bring peace, and in 1409 "our most dread lord the King sent his gracious letters under his Privy Seal unto Drew Barantyn," the then Mayor, which led to renewed inquiry, and a more detailed apportionment of work, assigning to the cobblers the clouting of "old boots and old shoes with new leather upon the old soles, before or behind," but " that if it shall happen that any person desires to have his old boots or bootlets resoled, or vamped and soled, or his galoches or shoes resoled, the same, if it can be done, shall pertain at all times to the said workers called Cordwainers to do it." [Inquisition made for the Regulation of the Cordwainers and the Cobblers, 15th June 1409, iZ«i/. pp. 571-574.] A detailed study of the demarca- tion disputes of former ages would probably be of considerable interest.


512 Trade Union Function

posed of one representative from six or seven different trade societies. . . . This Court, at their first meeting, ordered the joiners to resume work on Mr. Burt's award. ... In January 1 8 9 1 ,the plumbers and fitters agreed to appoint representatives to discuss and settle the demarcation of their respective trades . . . owing to the friction that was growing between the two. . . . Conferences between the parties took place : witnesses were examined for the fitters and for the plumbers ; the practice for several years back was carefully investigated ; an agreement was eventually signed by the parties, but . . . it led to disputes . . . the moment it was published, and produced a strike as soon as it was attempted to be worked to. . . . Each of the two parties read the provisions in utter disregard of the other's views and interests, and in equal disregard of the interests of the employers, and . . . disputed points , . . kept the two trades apart for nine weeks. . . . An agreement was arrived at, however, on the i8th June 1 89 1, at a conference between employers, fitters, and plumbers. . . . The Committee met seventeen times . . . settled two sections out of a list of twenty-six, the Chairman giving his decision against the objection of the engineers to the three-inch limit on iron-piping. . . . The fitters rose in a body, charged the Chairman with unfairness, and left the Committee altogether. . . . The other two parties . . . issued an award on the 28th October 1891. The employers were appealed to by the plumbers ... to put the award into force, and did so, with the result that the fitters left their employment . . . and a second strike ensued on the division of the same work as before in April. . . . After a strike of twelve weeks . . . they [were driven to resume] work upon the award of the Joint Committee. . . . The principal difficulty in composing the disputes has arisen from the variety of the practice in different works and districts. . . . Each society proposes to itself to have the largest possible number of its members employed at the same time . . . and to this end tries to secure the whole of the work it considers belongs to its members according to usage and custom. . . .


The Right to a Trade 513

The employers' interest is remorselessly sacrificed by the disputants."^

It will not, we think, be difficult for the reader to picture, even from this bald narrative, the state of disorganisation and chaos into which these recurring disputes threw the great industries of Tyneside between 1890 and 1893. Within the space of thirty-five months, there were no fewer than thirty-five weeks in which one or other of the four most ' important sections of workmen in the staple industry of the district absolutely refused to work. This meant the stoppage of huge establishments, the compulsory idleness of tens of thousands of other artisans and laborers, the selling -up of households, and the semi-starvation of thousands of families totally unconcerned with the dispute. Nor was the effect confined, as far as the Trade Unionists were concerned, to these sensational but temporary results. The men were, in fact, pla ying into the hands of those employers who wished to ^ee Trade Unionism destroyed. Theji^emecine warfare on the Tyne has left all unions concerned in a state of local weak ngs b fiuui w hich they nave, by no rtea nS yet r ecov tiffcd , and under which they will probably suffer for many years. Their loss of members and of money is the least part of> the evil. When one society is fighting another, the whole efficacy of Trade Unionism, as a means of improving the conditions of employment, is, for the moment, paralysed. Even if the angry strife between the two sets of workmen does not lead actually to mutual " blacklegging," it effectively

1 Extracted from an interesting Memorandum by Mr. John Price, of Palmer and Co., Limited, Shipbuilders and Engineers, Jarrow, which was prepared for the Royal Commission on Labor but was not published by that body.

Among the voluminous pamphlet literature on these disputes the most important documents are the several Reports of Conferences between the employers and the several engineering unions in Newcastle on 9th March, 22nd March, 22nd April, and 26th April 1892 ; the set oi Manifestoes published by the United Operative Plumber^ Association (Liverpool, 1892) ; the Report of the Arbitration Proceedings on the question of the apportionment of work to be done by the Ship- virights and the Joiners (Neyicastle, 1890) ; the publications on the subject by the Shipwrights and the Joiners respectively ; and the Report of the Proceedings of the Board of Coruiliation in rcTjising the award of Mr. Thomas Burt, M.P. (Newcastle, 1890). The Newcastle Daily Chronicle from 1890 to 1893 contain^ frequent references.

VOL. II S


514 Trade Union Function

destroys their power of resisting any capitalist encroachment. An employer who desires to beat down his men's terms need only send, on some trivial pretext, for the district delegate of the overlapping trade. The mere rumour that the agent of the rival union has been seen to enter his office will probably excite sufficient apprehension to bring his men to instant submission. Thus, whilst these demarcation disputes cause, to the employers, the wage-earners, and the community at large, all the moral irritation and pecuniary loss of an ordinary strike or lock-out, they must, under all circum- stances, ■ weaken all the unions concerned in their struggle for better conditions.

We are, therefore, face to face with an apparently in- comprehensible problem. Lf ^e workme n have all to lose and nothi ng to gain b y fighting over the demarcation be tween trades, h ow is it that their responsible^ leaders do not_2grem ptorily interfere to prevent such qua rrels? TKe explanation is to be found in the character of the workmen's claims. To them the issue is not one of expediency, but of moral right. " We are fighting this battle," declared the United Pattern-makers' Association in 1889, "on the prin- .ciple that every trade shall have the right to earn its bread ^without the interference of outsiders ; a principle jealously guarded by every skilled trade . . . and one which we are fully determined shall likewise apply to us." ^ " It is our duty," declared the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, " to exercise the same care and watchfulness over that in which we have a vested interest as the physician does who holds a diploma, or the author who is protected by a copyright."^ "The machine," says their Tyne District Delegate in 1897, "no doubt is part of the employer's invested capital, but so is the journeyman's skilled labor." ^ The Associated Shipwrights' Society expressly stated in 1893, with reference to a new

' Circular of United Pattern-makers' Association, 19th December 1889. ^ Preface to Rules of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers (London, 1891)1 p. 6.

  • Amalgamated Society of Engineers' Journal, March 1897.


The Right to a Trade 515

dispute on the Clyde, that " while we do not object to any firms dividing their works into departments, or sub-letting portions of the vessels they are building, still we do most respectfully and emphatically contend that no employers should, in suiting their convenience, give away another man's means of living, any more than that no workman would be allowed or justified to go into an employer's office and take his money from his safe and give it to another."^ "The sacredness of property," writes the Liverpool Delegate of the Engineers in 1897, "is surely applicable to labor, which is as much our property as the lathes are the property of the employer."^ And if we look through the reports of the unions we have mentioned, or of those in any branch of the building trades, we shall find abundant references, not to the pecuniary advantage of the workmen or the convenience of the employer, but to " our trade rights," or " our universal " right and custom," and to a righteous resistance of " encroach- ment, theft, and confiscation." " Do the Bricklayers aim at extinguishing us altogether?" pathetically remonstrate the Slaters and Tilers. " They roam all over a building from the cellar to the highest point, devouring everything and any- thing that they choose, no matter what other trade it may belong to — slating, roof-tiling, wall-tiling, floor-tiling, paving, setting stone landings, sills, heads, and steps, plastering, knobbing, whitewashing, etc." ^

It is, fortunately, unnecessary for us to discuss the work- man's initial assumption that it is desirable, in the public

1 Minutes of Line of Demarcation Joint-Committee of Shipwrights and Joiners (Glasgow, 1893), Part II. p. 7, "The Shipwrights' Statement."

^ Amalgamated Society of Engineer^ Journal, March 1897.

  • Correspondence in the Star, quoted in Builder, 8th April 1893. This

sense of wrong is aggravated by an exaggerated consciousness of the pecuniary drain on the union funds involved in the payment of out-of-work benefit to the displaced members. At a branch meeting attended by one of the authors, when a demarcation dispute was under discussion, the fact that the work wrong- fully engrossed by the rival trade would have sufficed to take three unemployed members off the books, and so save this great amalgamated union thirty-six shillings a week, was repeatedly adduced as a reason for aggressive action. The aggressive action subsequently cost that same union, at the lowest computation, many thousands of pounds.


5 1 6 Trade Union Function

interest, for him to be assured of a reasonable continuity of livelihood.^ Nor need we here determine whether, if it were possible to secure this end by fencing off each craft from encroachment, the social advantage of this assurance of livelihood would or would not outweigh the drawbacks of the expedient. It so happens that in the advanced industrial communities of our time, the circumstances are so complex, and so perpetually changing, that it passes the wit of man to define the "right to a trade" in any way that will not produce the most palpable absurdities.

The first attempt is always to base the right on custom . It is natural enough that the workmen in any one town should expect and desire that the prevailing habits of work should be adhered to. But irrespective of the fact that the " custom of the trade " is found to vary from town to town, and even from establishment to establishment, it is obvious that this affords, of itself, no rule when, as is almo st invariably the casgj ^ the poij it ff^ iggii>> ig gfimp novel proc ess or some hither to u nfamiliar product. Each party then interprets the custom in a different way. It may at first sight seem to be con- venient to take, as a guide, t he object or purpose of the product. The shipwrights, in fact, will sometimes claim as their right all that concerns the construction and fitting of ships. But a modern ship now includes everything that is found in a luxurious hotel ; and a shipwright, on this inter- pretation, would not only have to work in steel as well as in wood, but would also have to be an accomplished engineer, boilermaker, brassfinisher, plumber, joiner, 'cabinetmaker, French polisher, upholsterer, painter, decorator, and electric light and bell fitter. And if, in search of some dividing line between these manifestly different crafts, we turn to the tools required, we come to no less incongruous results. Fifty years ago it would have been admitted without question that it was for the shipwright to use the adze and the mallet, and for the joiner to employ the hammer and the plane. But the deck of a modern passenger steamer cannot be completed ' We recur to this point in our chapter on "Trade Union Assumptions,"


The Right to a Trade 517

without using all these tools, together with others borrowed from the cabinetmaker and glazier, and machines altogether unheard of in former times. If each craft is to be confined to the tools which have characterised it from time immemorial, the ship would be crowded with workmen each waiting for the moment to perform his little bit of the common task ; all responsibility for the watertight character of the deck would be lost, and there would still be altercations as to who should use the newly- invented machines. Nor does th e material used afford us any dividing line. If this were accepted, the advance of sanitation, with the disuse of leaden pipes, would involve the ousting of the whole body of certificated plumbers, in favor of engineers and bricklayers destitute of sanitary knowledge. Moreover, in the cru cial insta nces of fl pm a rr a tinn trniihlp^ thp matp rial concerned is com mon to both partie s. Shipwrights, joiners, and cabinet- makers all work in wood ; and shipwrights, boilermakers, engineers, tinplate workers, and plumbers all handle iron. If the substance fails to afford a dividing line, the disputants will often fall back on its thickness. The central point in dispute on the Tyne for two years may, in fact, be said to have resolved itself into whether the limit of size of the iron pipes to be fitted by the engineers and the plumbers respectively, should be 7,\ or 3 inches, and whether the joiners should or should not be confined to wood-work of i^ inch thickness.* The demarcation disputes between the boilermakers on the one hand, and the Chippers and Drillers

• " Mr. Ramsey (Shipwrights). — The question of the thickness of material is E^ain introduced. I ask is it fair that the joiner trade should have all the say as to thickness of wood 7 Is it not a fact that hoth trades manipulate all thicknesses of wood in their jobs ? We lay and fix any kind of feathered and grooved ceiling in cargo spaces in the hold of a vessel. . . . We have objected all along to this Joint Committee dealing with this question of thickness of wood because we con- sider the principle is not sound. . .

" Mr. Roger (Joiners). — . . . Have we not the same liberty as a trade to introduce a thickness as the other side has to object to it ? . . . We hold we are not exorbitant in onr claim for lining i^ inches and under. It stands to reason that joiners are the more competent men to do that class of work. I would like to ask the other side where, in the ancient shipbuilding from Noah up to fifty years since, they used nails for fastening. . . . We claim all lining from i^ inches


5 1 8 Trade Union Function

on the other, turn chiefly on the size of the holes which each "trade may cut in the iron plates.^ The doctrine of the right to the trade thus leads us to the absurd result that a par- ticular task has to be allotted to one trade or another, not according to its acquaintance with the purpose to be sei-ved, or to its familiarity with the tools or material used, but ac- cording to the exact thickness of the pipe or board, or the precise diameter of the hole in the iron plates, which the fad, fashion, or science of the hour may prescribe. The necessity of discovering some line which can be precisely defined and accurately measured, leads, in fact, to a purely arbitrary distribution of work, which has the added demerit [of the greatest possible instability.

For all this turmoil the employers have an easy remedy. " The proper cure," declared the representative of the Belfast shipbuilders, " is to revert to the old state of affairs, where the employer selected the men most suited to do the work " ; or, as the representative of the Tyneside ship- builders put it, " to uphold the right of an employer to employ whatever workmen he believes will best serve the purposes of his trade or business without any regard to trade societies." And the Scottish shipbuilders declared through their representative, that "whether a plumber may join a 2 -inch pipe, but not one of 2^ inches, whether a joiner may dub a plank or a shipwright may plane a rail, must appear to a disinterested person extremely trivial ; " and they proposed summarily to " get rid altogether of this fertile cause of quarrel by abolishing all arbitrary boundaries

and under, simply because it is material we are in the habit of working, and because it is fastened to the grounds. . . .

" Mr. Wilkie (Shipwrights). — ... In past years when there was no ma- chinery [the joiners] might have made this claim, but that has all disappeared with the introduction of machinery. . . . The joiners lay claim to this work because the vessels carry passengers one way. I hold our claim is far more legitimate, seeing they carry cargo the other way. . . . Clearly, if it is to be fitted up for cargo it is shipwrights' work pure and simple." — Minutes of Line of Demarcation foint- Committee of Shipwrights and Joiners (Glasgow, 1893).

^ Report of Proceedings of the Sixth Annual Meeting of the Federation oj Engineering and Shipbuilding Trades (Manchester, 1896).


The Right to a Trade 5 1 9

between different handicrafts, and leaving it to the mastei . . to settle . . . how work is to be distributed. . . ."

To the reader of the foregoing chapters, the Trade Union objection to any such abolition of the boundaries between craft and craft will at once be clear. If there is toi be concerted action among the workmen — if, for instance,' there is to be any representative machinery for Collectivej Bargaining, — it is absolutely necessary that the membership of each Trade Union should be precisely defined, so that' each workman may know by what collective agreements he is bound.^ It is, in fact, a condition of any organisation by trades that the lines between the trades, though not necessarily unalterable, should not be wantonly infringed at the mere caprice of a single employer.

But there is a further objection. If an individual em- ployer were free, without encountering any resistance from the Trade Union concerned, to dispense with the services of men to whom he was paying the agreed Standard Rate, and to hand their work over bit by bit to some other sections of workmen, whom he could induce — perhaps actually through their own Trade Union — to work at a lower price, all hope of maintaining a Standard Rate for the more highly skilled un ions would be at an end. Unless a Trade Union is tO" give up its whole case, it is bound, at all hazards, to maintairf the principle that the Standard Rate, agreed to by the associated employers, shall be paid, in all establishments, for all the kinds of work to which it was mutually intended to apply.

A solution has therefore to be found which, whilst pro- tecting the employer against the intolerable annoyance of unprovoked stoppages, the worry caused by any friction between trades, and the loss occasioned by. "overlap" of work,^ shall guarantee the Trade Unionists against encroach-

1 This would obviously be even more necessary than at present if the Duke of Devonshire's proposal to make these collective j^eements legally enforcible were adopted ; see the chapter on "The Method of Collective Bargaining."

2 " A further and most material point in the estimation of the employer, and largely affecting his interest in cheapening and expediting the work, lies in the


520 Trade Union Function

ments on their Standard Rate, and prevent any undermining of their organisation. The experience of the last few years points, we think, to the need, if they are to cope with the difficulty, for the development of new structure in the Trade Union world, and for the adoption of a new principle.

When a demarcation dispute now occurs between two well-organised trades, the first attempt of their more reason- able representatives is to come to a mutual agreement as to how the work should be divided between them. Thus the numerous differences between the Boilermakers and the Engineers at Cardiff were amicably settled in 1891 by a formal treaty between the local branches.^ But such negotiations will, like other Collective Bargaining, occasionally end in a deadlock. Here we have a case for which arbitration would seem to be specially fitted. There is, it is true, no dominant assumption shared by both sides on which the award can be based. But all the trades concerned accept, in principle, the same inconsistent array of different assumptions, and the decision cannot, as we have seen, be other than an arbitrary one. The main requirement, there- fore, is that the arb itrator should not be suspected of being influenced by any other assumption than those admitted by

necessity there is that no one trade should, what is called, ■ overlap ' another. Which means that when one trade takes up a job on which others are to be sub- sequently engaged before it is completed, the work shall be so divided to each, that each in due rotation shall complete his share before the next commences upon his share, and that when the last has finished his portion the job shall be finished too. This is necessary to secure economy, quickness, and to fix responsibility in the performance of the job. "

1 This treaty is embodied in the " Ports of Cardiff, Penarth, and Bany By- laws " signed by five representatives of the United Society of Boilermakers, five of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, one of the Steam-Engine Makers' Society, and one of another smal ler body of engineers. The preamble is as follows : " For the purpose of more clearly defining and setting forth particular questions in dispute, and in consequence of certain misunderstandings arising between members of the Boilermakers' Society and those of the above-named engineers, respecting their respective claims to particular jobs in connection with the art of boilermaking and iron shipbuilding, we hereby agree that the undermentioned jobs may be worked at in the above ports by the respective parties without let or hindrance." The by-laws consist of five printed pages of technical details, providing for the assignment of certain specified work to the boilermakers and the engineers respectively.


The Right to a Trade 521

t he partie s. This points to the establishment nf a tribunal b y the Trade Unions themselves.

We see such a tribunal arising in the Federation of the Engineering and Shipbuilding Trades, to which we have more than once alluded. During the last seven years innumerable cases of " overlap " and " encroachment " have been quietly disposed of by this tribunal, to the general satisfaction of all concerned. The transformation of the Executive Council of this Federation, formed of the chief salaried officials of fourteen unions, into a supreme court of arbitration in demarcation disputes takes place in the simplest manner.^ If the Boilermakers of any port make a complaint that the Smiths are encroaching on their trade, neither party is allowed to cause any stoppage of work, and the Federal Executive is summoned to meet at a convenient centre. The officials of the two trades concerned bring up their witnesses and act as advocates. If the council is not satisfied that all the facts have been brought out, two members — say the general secretaries of the Steam Engine Makers' and Shipwrights' societies — are deputed to investigate the dispute on the spot, to consult with the employer, and to

' The present rule is as follows : —

Dispute between Societies. — If any dispute takes place between any of the societies forming this Federation, unless amicably settled, such dispute shall be referred to a Court of Arbitration selected by the parties affected by the dispute. AVhen a Court is required the parties shaJil, if possible, mutually agree upon three disinterested referees ; failing this, each party to the dispute shall appoint one or two Arbitrators, who must be Trade Unionists ; the two or four Arbitrators to appoint an Umpire, and, in the event of the Arbitrators failing to agree, his decision shall be final and binding. The Umpire shall not be selected from any trade which may come into conflict with either of the parties to the difference. If a Court of Arbitration is not appointed within one month of an application being made for a reference to arbitration, the Executive shall have power to step in and appoint either Arbitrators or Umpire, as the case might be. The Court, when formed, to decide as to place of meeting, method of procedure, etc ; each party to pay half of the expenses, unless otherwise ordered by the Court. That when a Court of Arbitration is required by any society in the Federation the Executive of said society shall notiiy the Secretary, of the Federation, who shall then write to the other party affected to appoint an Arbitrator or Arbitrators as the Federation rules prescribe. — Refort of Proceed- ings of the Fifth Annual Meeting of Federation of Engineering and Shipbuilding Trades (Manchester, 189S).

VOL. II S 2


522 Trade Union Function

report to a future meeting, when a decision is come to. The ten or twelve experienced Trade Union officials, who thus •adjust the differences between trade and trade, form an almost ideal body for this purpose. They are free not only from personal but also from class bias. Whether 2\ inch iron piping shall be fixed by an engineer or a plumber is/ of no consequence to the pattern-maker or the shipwrighti Whether cabin lockers are to be prepared by the cabinetjj maker and fixed by the joiner, or whether either trade should begin and finish the whole job, is a matter of indifference to the plater or the ironmoulder. Neither directly nor indirectly have the adjudicators any other interest than that of prevent- ing all stoppage of work by effecting a permanent settlement. In this task they are aided by the fact that they start with the same stock of unconscious assumptions as both the trades concerned. Such arguments as "priority, position, and purpose," which appear to the aggrieved capitalist as fantastic and irrelevant as the lawyer's doctrine of " common employment" does to the injured workman, receive that serious attention which their iteration on both sides demands. The adjudicators are steeped in the technical details of the workshop, from processes and material to the evasions of the employers and the tricks of the workmen. They possess, in fact, to the full, the highest possible qualification of a judicial authority, the unbounded confidence of the disputants, not only in their knowledge and sympathy, but also in their absolute impartiality as regards the issues in dispute. Finally, it is no small advantage that, although their awardv has no legal validity, it carries with it a certain latent coercive] authority. It would be difficult, if not impossible, for any/ constituent body of the Federation deliberately to disregard! an award to which it had consented, without incurring thai serious penalty of finding its members practically excluded! from employment by a general boycott of the other workmen.'/

1 We may here remind the reader how, in our chapter on " Interunion Rela- tions," we pointed out that a federation of heterogeneous bodies would not be stable if based on simple majority rule. It is interesting to notice that the success o<


The Right to a Trade 523

But though a tribunal of this kind may, in demarcation cases, cut the Gordian knot, neither its deliberations norl its awards can permanently command confidence unless it is able to map out some definite and consistent policy, accepted by its litigants and adhered to in all its own decisions. Moreover, it cannot permanently secure industrial peace unless this policy coincides with the interests of the em- ployers and is based on some assumption in which they can agree. Such a policy cannot be found in any doctrine of " the right to a trade," because, as we have shown in the crucial instances of new kinds of work, both parties may, with equal reasonableness, claim that equity is on their side. The solution of the problem is to be found in quite another direction. It is admitted that, within the limits of a single trade and a single union, it is for the employer, and the employer alone, to decide which individual workman he will engage, and upon which particular jobs he will employ him. Wha t each Trade Union asks is t hat th? rp^^f^fmH- Stan dard Rate for the particular work in .qiipg^^'"" "^"11 hp main tained a nd defended against possible encroachment. If the same conception were extended to the whole group of allied trades, any employer might be left free, within the wide circle of the federated unions, to employ whichever man he pleased on the disputed process, so long as he paid him

the Federation of the Engineering and Shipbuilding Trades as a court of arbitra- tion is entirely dependent on its frank abandonment of any idea of representation in proportion to membership. Every union admitted, whether large or small, sends two representatives to the annual meeting, which elects one from each trade — invariably its salaried official — to form the federal executive. It is obvious that if the United Society of Boilermakers or the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters insisted on having twenty times the amount of representation or voting power as the Associated Blacksmiths or the United Pattern-makers, these latter would have no confidence in any award of an executive on which their rivals had so predominant a voice. Unfortunately, this very idea of equality, which has been a condition of the success of this federation, has hitherto stood in the way of the adhesion of the largest society concerned in the engineering and shipbuilding trades. The Amalgamated Society of Engineers, claiming to include within its own ranks all sections of skilled engineering mechanics, has hitherto found it inconsistent with its dignity to associate on equal terms with such smaller sectional societies as the United Pattern-makers' Association and the Associated Blacksmiths. Here again the idea of an all-embracing amalgamation has prevented the effective organisation of the Trade Union world.


524 Trade Union Function

the Standard Rate agreed upon for the particular task. The federated Trade Unions, instead of vainly trying to settle to which trade a task rightfully belongs, should, in fact, confine themselves to determining, in consultation with the associated employers, at what rate it should be paid for}

If this simple principle were adopted, — say, in the great shipbuilding yards of the North-East coast, — and if it were frankly accepted by the associated employers and the Federation of Engineering and Shipbuilding Trades, the way would clear. The Standard Rate within the un- questioned domain of each particular trade would be deter- mined, as at present, by Collective Bargaining between the associated employers and the Trade Union concerned. But directly any dispute arose as to which trade a job should belong — whether between employer and workman, or between different sections of wage-earners — the Collective Bargaining as to the rate of payment for that job would at once pass out of the hands of both the unions concerned, and would be undertaken, on behalf of the whole body of allied trades, 1 by the Federation. The dispute would, therefore, be referred to the federal officials to negotiate, with the representatives of the associated employers, a definite Standard Rate for that particular task. In determining this special rate, they would \be guided solely by the character of the work relatively to jother operations in the same district. When, as in the notorious disputes between the fitters and plumbers, and the joiners and shipwrights, the earnings of both sets of work- men were practically identical, and the volume of work in

' This suggested solution has now been tentatively put forward by the young man of exceptional ability who in 1896 became general secretary of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers. Writing on the dispute with the Federation of Engineering Employers as to the employment of laborers on machines, Mr. George Barnes declared that " the whole question from our point of view is really one of wages, and inasmuch as the employers disclaim any intention of invading our territory as skilled mechanics, we believe that a mutually satisfactory solution of the difficulty is to be found in local joint committees, with a reference to the Board of Trade : such committees to decide — having due regard to class oj machines, quality of work, and standard rate of district — upon the wage to bt paid. We shall send in these proposals in proper form." — Amalgamated Engitueri Monthly Journal, April 1897.


The Right to a Trade 525

dispute was of little consequence, the officials of the federated workmen and the associated employers would quickly arrive at an agreed rate. When, as in the more difficult case of a laborer being put to work a new machine, the rates widely diverged, the agreement would involve a longer bargaining. The representative of the associated employers would try to adduce evidence that the work was within the capacity of any general laborer fetched out of the street, and was therefore only worth sixpence an hour. The repre- sentative of the federated Trade Unionists would seek to establish that the work really required an engineer's skill or training, and that the particular laborer employed happened to be an exceptional man, who ought to be earning the engineer's rate of tenpence an hour. The advocates on both sides, representing great federations of which the actual dis- putants formed an infinitesimal proportion, would certainly manage to agree upon a rate for that special work, rather than involve the whole body of their clients in war. Once the special rate for the disputed process was authoritatively determined, the individual employer might engage any work- man he pleased at that rate, whether he belonged to the Amalgamated Society of Engineers or to the humbler United Association of Machine Workers, or even to the National Laborers' Union. Thus, subject to the Standard Rate for the disputed work being fixed by Collective Bargaining between the associated employers and the federated Trade Unions, any shipbuilder would be at liberty, as between trade and trade, to select which man he pleased to do the work.

For the federated Trade Unions there would remain the further question whether, in the interests of the most perfect organisation, the workman so selected should be transferred from one union to another, or allowed to remain in his old society. If the job was only a temporary one, it would be unnecessary to make any change. If, on the other hand, the task for which he was selected was habitually performed by members of another union, or if it necessitated close com- panionship with them, it would probably avoid friction if he


526 Trade Union Function

were transferred to the roll of the other union. With this, however, the employers would have nothing to do, and the particular internal regulations decided upon by the federation would, as in all other cases, be finally determined by its constituents.^

This solution would not, we think, be objected to by employers who, like the great captains of industry of the North -East coast, have become accustomed to deal- ing with bodies of organised workmen. It involves no assumptions other than those to which they have long since agreed. The rates for the disputed jobs would be" settled, as they are at present, not by the individual em- ployer or workman, but by collective agreements made by the associated employers. The only difference would be that instead of making that collective agreement with a- single Trade Union, the officials of the associated employers would deal, as regards the disputed jobs, with officials repre- senting the whole body of Trade Unionists in the district JThe employers would be freed from the annoyance of finding their works stopped by the men's quarrels, and they would Ibe confirmed in their freedom to allot their jobs in the way Ithey thought best.

The Trade Unionists, on the other hand, would secure their fundamental principle of maintaining the Standard Rate and all the machinery for Collective Bargaining. They would gain complete protection against any attempt to make the introduction of a new machine or a new product an

1 In making these transfers of particular workmen from union to union, a difficulty might arise from the difference in rates of contribution and scales of benefit between different societies. This could easily be surmounted, as regards the workman, by the new society admitting him at once to full benefits, accord- ing to his length of membership in the union he leaves. Mutual arrangements of this sort already exist for the transfer of members between Scottish and English unions in the same trade, and some others. If the unions giving large benefits demurred to accepting members on these terms, it would be easy for the Federa- tion to smooth the way by giving from federal funds, in respect of each man officially transferred on demarcation grounds, a sum equal to the accumulated balance per member possessed by his new colleagues. Any such question of financial adjustment between union and union would easily be settled by the practical good sense of Trade Union officials.


The Right to a Trade 527

excuse for lowering the rate hitherto paid for a particular' grade of skill. On the other hand, they would have frankly! to abandon the obsolete doctrine of a " right to a trade." 'f>iej7__ wniiM have to allow each individual employer com - pjete freedom, provided that he paid the Standard Rate s agree 3~upon for t hevarious kinds of work, to allot them am ong^ the J jndnn nT-^^*"""ri rpngt rpnvpnipnt, ji- respective. o f past custom . And if the Trade Unions wished to avoid friction among the workmen, and perfect their organisation, they would have to give up all idea of restricting the entrance into the several unions, otherwise than by requiring their recruits to be able to earn the recognised Standard Rate, In both cases, as this and the preceding chapter will have shown, they would only be giving up a principle which the vast majority of unions, over the greater part of the field of British industry, have found it impossible to carry out.


CHAPTER XII THE IMPLICATIONS OF TRADE UNIONISM[edit]

In the preceding chapters we have attempted systematically to analyse all the current regulations of British Trade Unionism ; we have still to set forth and explain certain features of Trade Union policy which are implied in the use of its Methods or are subsidiary to the enforcement of its Regulations.

We will begin with the Method of Mutual Insurance. We have seen how important a part is played, except in a few industries, by the friendly society side of Trade Unionism — how it supplies both adventitious attraction and adven- titious support to the workmen's combinations, even when its use as a separate method of enforcing common rules has faded out of sight. Trade Unionists are proud of the great insur- ance societies which have been built up by their own efforts, and most determinedly oppose any project which seems inimical to their continued prosperity. This affords an explanation of the deadweight of silent opposition which the Trade Unions have hitherto thrown against all compet- ing schemes of insurance. When the rival project is an employer's benefit society, the Trade Unionists object to it for many additional reasons, with which we shall deal in a I subsequent part of this chapter. But even when an insur- ance project is quite unconnected with industrial objects, and takes the impersonal form of a Government Old Age Pension scheme, the Trade Unionists strenuously object to


The Implications of Trade Unionism 529

any premium to be levied by way of deduction from their weekly earnings or other form of direct contribution, which would, it is feared, make the workmen less ready to subscribe to a trade friendly society. We find this feeling clearly expressed in Mr. Broadhurst's Minority Report in the Aged Poor Commission of 1895. "The evidence tendered by working class witnesses goes, in my opinion, to show that any scheme involving contributions, otherwise than through the rates and taxes, would meet with rnuch opposition from the wage -earners of every grade. The Friendly Societies and the Trade Unions, to which the working class owe so much, naturally view with some apprehension the creation of a gigantic rival insurance society backed by the whole power of the Government. The collection of contributions from millions of ill-paid households is already found to be a task of great difficulty, intensified by every depression of trade or other calamity. For the State to enter into com- petition for the available subscriptions of the wage-earners must necessarily increase the difficulty of all Friendly Societies, Trade Unions, and Industrial Insurance Companies, whose members and customers within the United Kingdom probably number, in the aggregate, from eleven to twelve millions of persons. On the other hand, Mr. Charles Booth's proposal for the grant of a pension from public funds, without personal contributions, may secure the hearty support both of the Trade Unions and the Friendly Societies."^

So far the Trade Unions stand shoulder to shoulder with the ordinary friendly societies. But when it comes to defin- ing the legal status of the two forms of combination, they at once part company. The friendly societies, confining them-

1 Minority Report of Mr. Henry Broadfaurst, M.P. (Friendly Society of Operative Stonemasons), in Report of the Royal Commission on Aged Poor (C. 7604), 189s, p. xcix.

This hostility is naturally most marked among members of the great trade fdendly societies. The coalminers, who make practically no use of friendly benefits in their Trade Unionism, have always shown themselves willing to encourage the Permanent Relief Funds, through which, by the joint subscriptions of employers and employed, provision is now made for the sufferers from accident within the limits of a given coalfield.


530 Trade Union Function

selves strictly to one definite function, have obtained the privilege, on registration of their rules and submission of their accounts, of becoming legally incorporated bodies, able to enter into enforcible contracts with their members and outsiders, and to sue or be sued in their corporate capacity. Such complete legalisation does not suit the great trade societies. Some measure of incorporation they must have, in order that the money subscribed by all alike may not, with impunity, be embezzled by those in whose hands it is placed. But the whole friendly society business of a Trade Union is, as we have seen in the chapter on " The Method of Mutual Insurance," only an adventitious adjunct, strictly sub- ordinate to its main function of securing, for its members, better conditions of employment. In pursuit of these better conditions the Trade Union must be free, in any emergency, to use every penny of its funds in the fight. It does not therefore undertake to maintain all or any of its benefits, if a majority of the members for the time being wish the cash in hand to be applied to other purposes. Moreover, it is, as we explained in the chapter on " The Method of Collective Bar- gaining," an essential condition of Trade Union action that the decision of the great mass of the members should be enforced on individual recalcitrants. A member who persists in acting in flagrant disobedience to the rules of the associa- tion he has joined, whether they relate to friendly benefits or not, must eventually incur the penalty of expulsion, in- volving the forfeiture of all claim to future benefit. A Trade Union would therefore be fatally hampered if it entered into legally binding contracts to pay particular benefits, or if it were possible for an aggrieved member to appeal, against the decision of his fellow-members, to the unfriendly courts of justice. But this inimical action of discontented members is not the whole danger. Though combination in restraint of trade is no longer a criminal offe nce, if ma"v~ still^_a£we shall see, be made the ground of a civil as^ioiLfoLJl^SS^^ The indefinite and anomalous state of the law with regard ' See the Appendix on "The Legal Position of Collective Bargaining.


The Implications of Trade Unionism 531

to libel and conspiracy leaves open, too, a wide door for harassing proceedings. Already, any agent or official of a Trade Union is liable to be sued by an employer or non- unionist workman, whenever the Trade Union action has, through him, caused loss or damage. If the Trade Union could be sued in its corporate capacity, the members would quickly find the funds which they had subscribed for sick and funeral benefits, attached at the suit of employers aggrieved by a threat to strike, by the libel of an injudicious branch secretary, or by the insolence of a picket. Thus, whilst complete incorporation might protect the individual member against a majority of his fellows, it would put his provision for sickness and old age at the mercy of employers' claims for damages. The insecurity of the friendly society side of Trade Unionism is, in fact, inherent in the conjunc- tion of trade and friendly purposes, and complete legalisation would actually diminish, rather than increase, the likelihood of the funds subscribed for friendly benefits being ultimately applied to meet them.

These considerations explain the peculiar legal status which the Trade Unionists of 1868-71 succeeded in winning for their associations. The Trade Union Act of 1 871, whilst giving a duly registered union much the same status as a friendly society so far as the protection of its property was concerned, expressly provided that a Trade Union should not be able to sue, nor be liable to be sued, in respect of any agreement between itself and its members, or with an employers' association or another union. T rade Unions, in fact^have_not been clothed w;ith legal personality any further < th an for the limited purpose of prot^tirig their funds against theft or e mbezzlement . They are thus iii the anomalous position, to quote the Majority Report of the Labor Com- mission, of exercising "collective action without legal col- lective responsibility." 1 This peculiar status the Trade Unionists wish to maintain. The Trade Union Minority of

• Fifth and Fined Report of the Royal Commission on Labor, 1894 (C. 7421), par. 149, p. 54.


532 Trade Union Function

the Labor Commission resolutely refused to entertain the suggestion " that it would be desirable to make Trade Unions liable to be sued by any person who had a grievance against the action of their officers or agents. To expose the large amalgamated societies of the country with their accumulated funds sometimes reaching a quarter of a million sterling, to be sued for damages by any employer in any part of the country, or by any discontented member or non- unionist, for the action of some branch secretary or delegate, would be a great injustice. If every Trade , Union were liable to be perpetually harassed by actions at law on account of the doings of individual members ; if Trade Union funds were to be depleted by lawyers' fees and costs, if not even by damages or fines, it would go far to make Trade Unionism impossible for any but the most prosperous and experienced artisans. The present freedom of Trade Unions from any interference by the courts of law — anomalous as it may appear to lawyers — was, after prolonged strug^ and Parliamentary agitation, conceded in 1871, and finally became law in 1875. Any attempt to revoke this hardly- won charter of Trade Union freedom, or in any way to tamper with the purely voluntary character of their associa- tions, would, in our opinion, provoke the most embittered resistance from the whole body of Trade Unionists, and would, we think, be undesirable from every point of view." ^ Passing now to the Method of Collective Bargaining, we notice, in the first place, that it implies the removal of all legal prohibition of combination " in restraint of trade." So long as trade combination was a criminal offence, the Method of Collective Bargaining was not open either to employers or to workmen, and Trade Unionists, when they could not get legislation, had to resort to secret compacts among them- selves, resting on the Method of Mutual Insurance. Free- dom pf_ conibination is now professedly c onceded, so far as the criminal Jaw is_ concerned, but even in England there are

' Fifth and Final Report of the Royal Commission on Labor, 1S94 (C. 7421)1 p. 146.


The Implications of Trade Unionism 533

signs, as will be seen from our appendix on the Legal Position of Collective Bargaining, that, as regards civil liability. Trade Unionists have still a battle to fight. If the recent decisions are upheld, the employers will be able to proceed for heavy damages against any Trade Union official who uses the ordi- nary arts of bargaining on behalf of his constituents, or who even advises the workmen of a particular firm to refuse the employer's terms. Every strike will bring a shower of writs, ending in bankruptcy proceedings ; and Trade Union executives, finding themselves exposed to this harassing persecution, will again become secret conspiracies. If, there-, fore. Collective Bargaining is to survive as a method of Trade Unionism, Parliament will have to complete the work of 1871-75, and definitely instruct the judges that nothing is to be actionable in labor disputes when done by or in pursuance of a combination of workmen, which would not be actionable if done by a partnership of traders as part of their business, and in the pursuit of their personal gain.

But the workman's freedom of contract, and, still more, his freedom of combination, necessarily involves, as we have seen, his fre edom to stipulate with wh om he will consent tr> asfinriate jn his labor . This liberty to refuse to accept engagements in establishments where non-unionists are employed, is, in such highly-organised trades as the North- umberland Coalminers or the Lancashire Cotton-spinners, tantamount to compulsory Trade Unionism. And wherever Collective Bargaining is perfected by such formal machinery as the Joint Boards or Joint Committees of the North of England Manufactured Iron Trade, or the Northumberland and Durham Miners, or by such national treaties as those regulating the wages and other conditions of labor of the Boilermakers, hand Papermakers, and factory Boot and Shoe Operatives, the collective regulations become virtually binding throughout the whole trade. The compulsion on the in- dividual, it need hardly be said, is none the less real and efTective because it takes an impersonal, peaceful, and entirely decorous form. A plater or rivetter who, because he is out


534 Trade Union Function

side the United Society of Boilermakers, is politely refused work by every shipbuilder on the North-East coast, is just as much compelled to join the union, as if membership were, by a new Factory Act, made a legal condition of employment. Collective Barg ai ning thus imp lie s ,^ in its fullest develop- ment, compulsory Trade Unionism. It was the recognition of this fact which led to the remarkable proposal of the Duke of Devonshire, and some of the most eminent of his colleagues on the Labor Commission, to enable Trade Unions to enter into legally binding collective agreements on behalf of all their members. The great employers of the North of England find that there is, in their highly - organised industries, practically no non-unionist minority which they can play off against the Trade Union, whose officials therefore virtually speak in the name of all the available workmen. On the other hand, they have no guarantee that individual branches or members will loyally abide by the collective agreement when it is made. It was therefore proposed, by five of the largest employers of labor on the Commission,^ that when a collective agreement had been made between a Trade Union and an Employers' Association, these bodies should be, in their corporate capacities, responsible in damages for any breach by their members, and should be entitled, on the other hand, to recover such damages from the individuals who had in- fringed the treaty. This suggestion was, as we have mentioned, vehemently objected to by the Trade Unionists, because it

• See the "Observations appended to the Report" (C. 7421), pp. 115-119. These were signed, not only by the Duke of Devonshire (himself a great employer of labor in many industrial undertakings), but also by Sir David Dale of Darling- ton (Ironmaster and Coalowner), Mr. Thomas Ismay (Shipowner), Mr. George Livesey (Gas Company Director), and Mr. William Tunstill (Railway Director). They also gained the support of Sir Michael Hicks-Beach, Mr. Leonard Courtney, and Sir Frederick Pollock. This proposal has more than once received the approval of the Times. Thus, in a leading article of the loth June 1897, relating to the progress of the Trade Unions, it observed that " at present, though freed from the most serious of the disabilities under which they once labored, they have no true corporate existence ; they cannot make enforceable contracts ; they can bind, broadly speaking, their members to nothing. One of the few practical suggestions which emerged from the stream of loose talk passing through the Labor Commission was a proposal that this should be altered — a proposal which found favor with some of the most sober-minded of the members of the Commission."


The Implications of Trade Unionism 535

was incidentally intended to give the Trade Union a legal personality, which would render it liable to be sued in the law courts by any disaffected member or aggrieved outsider. So sweeping a change in Trade Union status was, how- ever, not necessary for the Duke of Devonshire's proposal. His object would have been secured if it had been provided that the Trade Union should be liable to be sued only in respect of collective agreements made with the Employers' Association, and then only for definite penalties specified in such agreements. To this definitely restricted liability no Trade Union need object, provided that it were given, as was contemplated, the corresponding right to recover the penalty from its members in default, and provided that the Employers' Association were made reciprocally responsible to the Trade Union for the defaults of particular employers.

Any such legal enforcement of collective agreements as was proposed by the Duke of Devonshire and his colleagues would, of course, greatly encourage the use of Collective Bargaining as a Method of Trade Unionism. It was, in fact, expressly with the view of facilitating this " substitution of agreements between associations for agreements between individual employers and individual workmen," which the Commissioners had found to be " on the whole, in accordance with the public interest," that so momentous a change was proposed. Trade Unionists would entirely agree that it would " result in the better observance, for definite periods, of agreements with regard to wage-rates, hours of labor, apprenticeship rules, demarcation of work, profit-sharing, and joint insurance schemes." In all but the best organised industries, the workmen's difficulty is, not so much to get better terms granted, as to get them adhered to. Such grievously oppressed trades as the bakers, the tramwaymen, the dock laborers, and almost any section of women workers, may often, by a sensational strike, and the support of public opinion, secure an agreement promising better conditions of employment. But the day after the agreement is signed it begins to crumble away. One employer after another


536 Trade Union Function

" interprets " it in hi& own fashion, and the workers in hia establishment, no longer upheld by the excitement of a general strike, and frequently not precisely understanding what is happening, are induced to acquiesce by fear of losing I their employment, if not by actual threats of dismissal. If jthe Trade Union could sue any such employer for damages ! for breaking the collective agreement, its terms would, for the time being, become, in effect, part of the law of the land. The highly -organised trades would find their advantage rather in the direction of improved discipline among their own members. Until the expiration of the collective agree- ment at any rate, a recalcitrant minority would find itself confronted, not only by the displeasure of the majority, but also by all the terrors of the law courts.^ Any such arrange- ment would therefore greatly strengthen the influence of the Trade Union as a whole, and would, in all industries, tend enormously to the development of such an expert Trade Union Civil Service as is already enjoyed by the Cotton Operatives. Whether this addition to the compulsory character of Collective Bargaining would prove as harmless to the consumers as it would to the great employers ; whether, to use the phrase of Mr. Gerald Balfour, M.P., the Duke of Devonshire's " Socialism by Trade Option " is a safe kind of Socialism for the community to establish ; affords an interest- ing problem for consideration by economists and statesmen. The Method of Legal Enactment has implications of its own, which compel us to touch on the wider question of the part taken by the Trade Unionists in the party struggles of politics. We have already described how Mutual Insurance and Collective Bargaining depend on the legal status of the Trade Unions. Freedom of combination, protection for

• If a Trade Union were made liable for the observance of the agreement for a definite period, it is obvious that no member of the union could be permitted to withdraw for that period, at any rate so far as concerns observing the agreement and contributing towards its expenses. Thus, Trade Union membership would become, in effect, not only universally compulsory, but also irrevocable for a long term. The same would be the case with regard to membership of an employers' association.


The Implications of Trade Unionism 537

Trade Union funds, and liberty to strike have not been gained without political conflicts, in which the Trade Unionists have had to use every means of influencing the legislature. But these questions have involved only certain definite legal reforms, outside the scope of party politics ; and they could, once Parliament was convinced, be finally disposed of. It is only in connection with the Method of Legal Enactment that the Trade Unions, as such, find it necessary to secure a permanent influence in the House of Commons. Every year one section or another calls for new regulations to be passed into law, in the form of an amendment of the Factory or Mines, Railway or Merchant Shipping Acts. The administration of these statutes requires constant supervision, which can only be effectively exercised from the House of Commons. And with the growth of the public administration of industry, whether central or local, the Trade Unions consider it essential that they should be in a position to secure the strict observance of the standard conditions by the national and municipal employers of labor.

It was, therefore, a vital political necessity that the Trade Unionists should obtain complete electoral rights. From 1 8 3 1 to 1884 the banners of the Unions always appeared at the great demonstrations in favor of Parliamentary Reform. The whole strength of the Trade Union movement was thrown on the side of the ballot, the removal of tests and property qualifications, and everything that promised to facilitate the expression of Trade Union views in Parliament and on local bodies. Thus, between i860 and 1885, when the Liberal Party was striving for extensions of the franchise, and the Conservative Party was, with the exception of a few months in the session of 1867, fiercely resisting reform, the Liberal leaders could count on the adhesion of the great bulk of the Trade Unionists. During these years every prominent Trade Union official belonged to the Radical Wing of the Liberal Party.^

1 The revulsion of feeling between 1871 and 1874, caused by the incredible stupidity of the Liberal Cabinet of those years in connection with the criminal


538 Trade Union Function

But this alliance with the Liberal Party has proved only temporary. The completion of electoral reform has, since 1885, fallen into the background, the Liberal leaders being indifferent, if not actually hostile, to the Trade Union demands for Manhood Suffrage, Payment of Members, and Payment of Election Expenses, whilst the lukewarm official proposals for Registration Reform have evoked no enthusiasm. Trade Union politics have therefore entered on a new phase. The Trade Unionists, having obtained the vote, now wish to make use of it to enforce, by Legal Enactment, such of their Common Rules as they see a chance of getting public opinion to support. Here they find themselves almost equally balanced between the claims of rival political parties. Judged by past performances, the Conservatives are less un- sympathetic to the legal regulation of industry than the Liberals ; whilst the Workmen's Compensation Act of 1897 has placed the Trade Unionists under a fresh obligation to the Conservative Party. On the other hand, the Collectivist wing of the present Liberal Party is beginning, by pro- fessions of conversion from " Manchesterism," and large pro- mises of future legislation, to make a special bid for Trade Union support. The leaders on both sides are candidly hostile to the principle of collective regulation, and the Yorkshire Coalminer or Lancashire Cotton -spinner may well doubt whether Sir William Harcourt and Mr. John Morley are any nearer in agreement with him than Mr. Balfour or Mr. Chamberlain. Meanwhile a third party has arisen, to point the moral and compete for the workmen's suffrages. The Socialist candidates are ready to promise

persecution of Trade Unionism, led, as we have described in our History of Trade Unionism (pp. 256-280), to an organised revolt, to independent candidatures, and to a certain transference of votes to progressive Conservatives who agreed to satisfy the Trade Union demands. The popular Conservative legislation of 1874-75 (the Trade Union Act and the " Factories (Health of Women) Act"), which embodied a great measure of what the Trade Unionists had been asking for, no doubt detached a large section of workmen from their alliance with Liberalism, especially in Lancashire. But so strong was the impulse towards an extension of the franchise that the leaders, even in Lancashire, made up their quarrel with the Liberal Party, and acted with it until the Reform Bills of 1884-85 were passed into law.


The Implications of Trade Unionism 539

the Trade Unionists a systematic and complete regulation of all the conditions of employment. But they show a lament- able deficiency of technical knowledge of the exact regula- tions required, and they mingle their proposals with revolutionary Shibboleths as to the " nationalisation of the means of production, distribution, and exchange," which the bulk of the Trade Unionists fail even to comprehend. Accordingly, the strong desire of nearly all sections of Trade Unionists for this or that measure of legal enactment does not at present produce much effect on general politics. Unlike their demand for the franchise, it does not, for the moment, attach them, as Trade Unionists, to any political party. But it implies that they would be strongly, and even' permanently, drawn to any political leader, of whatever party, who shared their faith in the efficacy of the Common Rule, and who convinced them that he had the technical know- ledge, the will, and the Parliamentary power to carry into law such proposals for legal regulation as each trade from time to time definitely demanded.

If now we leave the Methods of Trade Unionism, and pass to its Regulations, we shall see that these, too, have their own implications, and that Trade Unionists oppose or accept certain industrial forms according as these appear to be inimical to Trade Union progress, or the reverse. Fore- most among these implications is the strong Trade Union objection to " Home Work," that is, to work being given out by the employer, to be done elsewhere than in the factory or workshop which he provides.^ In all the industries in which " out-working " prevails to any considerable extent, this

1 Under this head we include all arrangements under which the manual- working wage-earner performs his task elsewhere than in a factory or workshop provided and controlled by his employer. The term " home work " is sometimes used to designate only work taken home by factory, workers after the expiration of their factory day (see Home Work amongst Women, by Margaret H. Irwin, Glasgow, 1897). On the other hand, the "outworker" may not work in his own home, but (as at Sheffield) on a " wheel " or " trough " rented in a " tene- ment factory," or (as sometimes among the Scottish hand Shoemakers) in a co-operative workshop rented by a group of workmen or by the Trade Union itself.


540 Trade Union Function

objection, steadily growing in intensity for the last half- century, has latterly risen into a crusade. The National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives ' and the Scottish Tailors' Society now put the complete abolition of home work in the front of their programme. The English Tailors' Union, though it includes home workers, is scarcely less emphatic. " If," reports the General Secretary, " we cannot altogether abolish this curse we can at least prevent its growth, and wherever there is the slightest sign of the system being introduced into towns where it has hitherto been unknown, it is our duty not to tolerate it for a single minute, but use our utmost endeavors to oppose its introduction, and stamp it out as far as lies in our power in all places where it at present exists." ^

This vehement objection to home work comes as a surprise to persons unfamiliar with the actual conditions of the wage-earner's existence. One of the principal grievances that Trade Unions are formed to remedy is, as we have seen, the autocratic manner in which the employer, in any unregu- lated trade, determines at what hours his workshop will open and close, when his workpeople shall take their meals or enjoy their holidays, how fast and how continuously they shall work, and a host of petty regulations, easily passing, with a brutal foreman, into gross personal tyranny. From all this the man or woman working in the home is apparently free. Once the work is taken out of the employer's ware- house, the worker is at liberty to do it when and where and how he pleases, free from the constant supervision and arbitrary meddling of the foreman. Home work has, to the philanthropist, certain sentimental attractions. There is no breaking-up of family life. Husband and wife can work side

' The National Union of .Boot and Shoe Operatives puts high up among its objects the " establishment of healthy and proper workshops, the employers to find room, grindery, fixtures, fire, and gas free of charge." — Rules of the National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives (Leicester, 1892).

^ Report of the Fourteenth Conference of Deputies of the Amalgamated Society of Tailors, held in Liverpool, August 1891 (Manchester, 1891) ; Secretary! Report to the Conference, p. 17.


The Implications of Trade Unionism 541

by side at a common task, whilst the babies frolic around, and the child from school prepares its lessons under the father's eye. No peremptory factory bell summons the wife and mother from her housekeeping or family cares. Cook- ing the dinner, nursing the baby, teaching the child apprentice — all can be dovetailed into each other, and into the breadwinning craft. The task of every member of the household can be adjusted to their several capacities, even the aged grandfather by the fireside, and the school-girl on her half-holiday, being usefully employed. When illness comes, one member of the family can nurse another, whilst continuing to earn a subsistence. The custom of working at home seems, in fact, to combine all possible advantages. To personal freedom and domestic bliss, there is added the i greatest economy of time and the utmost utilisation of capacity.^

Unfortunately, the facts of the home worker's life in no way correspond to this Utopian picture. To take work home means, in the words of a boot operative, " to make home miserable."* It is conceivable that the highly -educated and well -disciplined journalist, barrister, banker, or stock- broker might find it pleasant to do all his professional work under the eyes of his wife, and amid the playing of his well- bred children. But even he would hardly like to work, eat, and sleep, not to say also cook and wash, in one and the same apartment. The middle-class admirer of home work ! forgets that the "home" of the ordinary town wage- earner consists of one, or, at most, of two small rooms, and that his work is not done in pen and ink, but in leather, cloth, fur, hot metal, glue, and other substances involving dirt, smells, and effluvia. It is impossible to use, as a workshop, the living room of a family, without submitting to conditions of tem- perature and atmosphere, crowding and disorder, which are

• See the description in Dr. Kuno Frankenstein's Der Arbeiterschuti (Leipzig, 1896].

  • Monthly Report, National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives, March

1891.


542 Trade Union Function

destructive to health and comfort. All these conditions make the workshop -home positively repulsive to father, mother, and children alike, and every opportunity is sought of escaping from it — the man to the public-house, the woman to gossip with her neighbours, and the children to the streets.^ Instead of maintaining the integrity of the family, and fostering the domestic virtues, it is accordingly frequently asserted by the most experienced observers that no influence is at the present day more ruinous than home work in its effect on family life and personal character.

Public opinion is, therefore, for reasons of sanitation, family life, and personal character, tending more and more to deprecate any combination of the workshop with the living-room. What has influenced the Trade Unionist is much more the discovery that the custom of home work has a ruinous effect upon wages. In the trades in which this custom prevails, the standard earnings of the home workers are far below the wage customary for equally skilled labor

' Some glimpse of what home work implies even to a man of very exceptional character, is afforded by the following extract from the Autobiography of Francis Place. (See the History of Trade Unionism, chap, ii.) " The consequences of a man and his vpife living in the same room in which the man works is mischievous to them in all respects, and I here add, as a recommendation to all journeymen, tradesmen, and other workmen ... to make almost any sacrifice to keep possession of two rooms, however small and however inconveniently situated as regards the place of their employment. Much better is it to be compelled to walk a mile or even two miles to and from their work to a lodging with two rooms, than to live close to their work with one room. ... A neat clean room, though it be as small as a closet, and however few the articles of furniture, is of more importance in its moral consequences than any one seems hitherto to have supposed. The room in which we now lived was a front room at a baker's shop. The house had three windows in the front, two in the room and one in a large closet at the end of the room. In this closet I worked. It was a great accommodation to us ; it enabled my wife to keep the room in better order ; it was advantageous, too, in its moral effects. Attendance on the child was not, as it had been, always in my presence. I was shut out from seeing the fire lighted, the room washed and cleaned, and the clothes washed and ironed, as well as the cooking. We frequently went to bed as we had but too often been accustomed to do, with a wet or damp floor, and with wet clothes hanging in the room. Still a great deal of the annoyance and too close an interference with each other in many disagreeable particulars (which having but one room made it inevitable) were removed — ^happily removed for ever." — Place's MS. Autobiography, quoted in Labor in the Longest Reign, by Sidney Webb (T^ondon, 1897) ; now included in the Life of Francis Place by Graham Wallas (London, 1897).


The Implications of Trade Unionism 543

in the factory industries. The chain and nail workers in the Black Country, the trouser and " juvenile suit " hands in East London, the garret cabinetmakers of Bethnal Green, the cottage bootmakers of the Leicestershire villages, and more noteworthy even than these, the skilled outwork- ing cutlers of Sheffield, were all found, by the House of Lords' Committee on the Sweating System (1890), to be suffering to an extent that could " hardly be exaggerated," from " earnings barely sufficient to sustain existence ; hours of labor such as to make the lives of the workers periods of almost ceaseless toil, hard and unlovely to the last degree ; sanitary conditions injurious to the health of the persons employed and dangerous to the public." * In every one of the trades in which this august Committee reported that " sweating " prevailed, the custom of working in the operatives' own homes was discovered to exist. To the Trade Unionist this close connection between home work and low wages is no mere coincidence. Experience shows that work given out to be done otherwise than on the employers' premises almost invariably becomes the subject

1 Report and Evidence of the Select Committee of the House of Lords on the Seating System (H. L. 62 of 1890); see also "The Lords and the Sweating System," by Beatrice Potter (Mrs. Sidney Webb) in Nineteenth Century, June 1890 ; and the references given in Fabian Tract, No. 50, " Sweating, its Cause and Remedy."

It must not be supposed that the custom of "giving out" work to be done in the workers' own homes is a new or an increasing evil. It is, on the contrary, merely the surviving remnant of what was once in many trades the prevailing system. In our History of Trade Unionism (pp. 28, 32, 48) we have incidentally described its prevalence in the West of England cloth manufacture, in the hosiery trade, among the Sheffield cutlers, the Spitalfields silk-workers, and the Scottish cotton-weavers. In the early stages of capitalist industry a manufactory, as Du Celjier observes with regard to France, " was not the site but the centre of an industry ; the manufacturer produced the samples and designs . . . but had generally not a single loom working in his own house " (Histoire des Classes Laborieuses en France, p. 222). It was an innovation to collect a number of wage-earners in the employer's own workshop, where they worked under constant supervision, and could practise division of labor. In all important industries of Great Britain this has now become the dominant indus- trial form. It is where the two systems are still competing with each other — where factory and home work co-exist and produce for the same market — that the evil of " sweating " is at its worst. — Der Arbeiterschutz, by Dr. Kuno Franken- stein (Leipzig, 1896), p. 492.


544 Trade Union Function

of isolated, personal bargaining between the individual wage- earner and the capitalist employer. " To people working each in their own little shop" writes Mr. John Burnett, " from early morning until late at night, combination is above all things difficult. . . . One man or one woman can be played off against another, and the prices of labor are thus subject to the daily haggle of workers competing for bread. This is clearly and unmistakably the result of the small workshop system, which is undoubtedly the root of many, if not all the evils from which the nailworkers suffer."^ The same con- sequences of " outwork " were noticed by a careful observer of the Liverpool tailors as long ago as 1 860. " The work," wrote Mr. (now Sir) Godfrey Lushington, " admits of being done at home, and the operative who engages himself on these terms loses the benefit of the check which the presence of his fellows maintains upon the encroachments of the employer. In such a trade it must always be difficult to establish united action. . . . The common method of reduc- tion is for the employer to produce a garment and say, ' I had this made for los. 6d., I cannot pay you 13s. 6d. for a similar article. You too must make it for los. 6d. or go

I elsewhere.' The Society cannot prevent this." * Home work, in fact, necessarily involves Individual Bargaining,

i and makes, moreover, the enforcement of any Common Rule

I practically impossible.

Finally, experience proves the home worker's " freedom " as to the hours of labor to be delusive. It is true that the Soho tailor can break off when he chooses, and go round to the public-house for a drink ; or the woman " picking peas " in a back alley of Peterborough * may get up now and again

• Report to the Board of Trade on the Sweating System at the East End of London, H. C. No. 331 of 1888.

^ Report of the Social Science Association on Trade Societies and Strika (London, i860). Article on the Liverpool Tailors by Mr. (afterwards Sir) Godfrey Lushington, who subsequently became permanent Under-Secretary o( State for the Home Department.

^ One of the principal women's industries in the City of Peterborough is picking dried peas ; sorting by hand the black or defective peas from those of lighter


' The Implications of Trade Unionism 545

to gossip with a friend without fear of a foreman's reprimand. But when the rate of pay is so small that even sixteen hours' work does not earn more than the bare day's subsistence, all " free " time disappears ; and to quote again the House of Lords' Committee, " the lives of the workers " become " periods of almost ceaseless toil." This subtle economic compulsion to "work all the hours that God made," is heightened by the ease with which the giver-out of work can demand that the product shall be delivered by a definite time. It is one of the chief attractions of outwork" to the employers, as they frankly told the House of Lords' Committee, that the utmost possible rapidity in the execution of pressing orders is unfettered by any conception of a normal working day. To meet the spasmodic demands of the "season," thousands of home-working families can, by a word, be automatically compelled to labor all the night through.

The economic effect of home work is thus to undermine the Standard Rate, to destroy the Normal Day, and to abstract, from the total remuneration of the operative, all the advantages of room, fire, light, and sanitary conveniences which would otherwise be provided by the employer. Nor are these insidious effects confined nierely to the outworkers. The operatives employed on similar tasks on the employer's premises have to submit to reductions of wages and extensions of hours, under the threat of the diversion of more and more of the business to their out-working competitors.^ Home work, in fact, makes all Trade Unionism impossible.

Closely related to the Trade Unionists' opposition to Home Work is their rooted objection to the " small master "

color, in order that, when ground into flour, the mass may be as nearly white as possible.

1 See the cases described from actual experience in " Pages from a Work-girl's Diary," by Beatrice Potter (Mrs. Sidney Webb), in Nineteenth Century, September 1888. It is not that the home workers are paid actually lower rates than the workshop hands : a recent Glasgow inquiry again shows this common impression to be erroneous {Home Work amongst Women, by Margaret H. Irwin, Glasgow, 1897). The competition of the outdoor with the indoor hands drags down the wages of both.

VOL. II T


546 Trade Union Function

system. To a certain section of social reformers this seems incomprehensible. The wage-earners are perpetually com- plaining that they are deprived of access to the means of production, and that rents and profits are monopolised by a relatively small class. The existence, in certain industries, of numerous small establishments would seem to afford, at least to the most energetic workmen, an obvious means of rising to the rank of masters. Yet these " stepping-stones to higher things " are objected to, not so much by the thriftless work- man, careless of his future, but by the most thoughtful and experienced Trade Unionists, that is, by exactly the men whose superiority in energy, persistency, and organising power might reasonably be expected to lead to their personal success.

The explanation of this paradox will not be difficult for those who appreciate the Trade Union position. Working men do not combine in order to assist a few of the best among their number to escape out of their class, but for I the purpose of raising the class itself. To some shrewd economists it seems even a misfortune to the wage-earning class that they should, as Professor Marshall observes, " every year give over to the ranks of the rich a great number of the strongest and ablest, the most enterprising and far- seeing, the bravest and the best of those who were born among themselves." ^ " What is really important for working men," says Dr. J. K. Ingram, " is, not that a few should rise out of their class — this sometimes rather injures the class by depriving it of its more energetic members. The truly vital interest is that the whole class should rise in material com- fort and security, and still more in moral and intellectual attainments." ^

' Inaugural Address delivered at the Ipswich Co-operative Congress (Man- chester, 1889), p. 14.

2 Work and the Workman, being an address to the Trade Union Congress ai their meeting in Dublin, i6tA September 1880, by J. K. Ingram (Dublin, 1880). It must not be inferred that, because Trade Unions are opposed to the small master system, they have any objection to theiri members rising to superior positions. The energetic Trade Unionist, often a branch official, is frequently selected for the post of foreman, which he accepts with the fiiU approval of his


The Implications of Trade Unionism 547

Enlightened Trade Unionism, therefore, will judge the small master system according to its effect on the wage- earning class as a whole. On this point there is neither hesitation nor difference of opinion. If we exclude the small master himself, we find a practically unanimous, agreement among economists, capitalists, and workmen, that the con- ditions of employment which the small master offers to his wage-earners are habitually, and in all directions, worse than those of the great establishments. In all that concerns the health, decency, and convenience of the operatives, for instance, there is no comparison between the modern boot- factory and the crowded tenement house or " garden work- shop " of the small master. Nor need we weary the reader with quotations to prove that the hours of labor are longer, and the rates of payment lower in the struggling small establishments than in the great capitalist enterprises with which they compete. The very advantages which are causing industry on a large scale to supersede the small master system — the utmost possible application of machinery and division of labor, the obtaining of capital, and raw material on the cheapest terms, the use of the highest inventive and managerial ability — compel the small master, in his desperate struggle for existence, to be perpetually nibbling at wages, and lengthening the hours of labor, both for himself and for those whom he employs. It is a significant fact that the small master system is found to be as characteristic of the sweated trades as Home Work itself. " If we descend to the lower sections of the furniture trade, in which the evils of sweating

fellow-members. In some unions, this promotion involves his exchanging an active for an honorary membership, but in the building, engineering, and ship- building trades foremen are welcomed as ordinary members. From foreman the superior man frequently rises to be manager, or even partner, in a large firm ; and it would not be difficult to compile a list of great employers of to-day who were, in their wage-earning stage, staunch members of their Trade Unions. To the man of exceptional ability, the system of the Great Industry offers, indeed, more real opportunity of rising to eminence than was before open to him. The pro- portion of foremen and overlookers to mere manual workers is no doubt smaller to-day than was the proportion of small masters to wage-earners two centuries ago. But the official hierarchy of modem industry affords both a safer and a higher ladder for special talent.


548 Trade Union Function

were proved to exist, we may watch the poverty-stricken maker of tables and chairs hawking his wares along Curtain Road, selling direct to the export merchant or to the retail tradesman, or perchance to the private customer. In the manufacture of cheap boots in the Metropolis, of cheap cutlery at Sheffield, of indifferent nails at Halesowen, we meet with this same sorrowful figure — the small master or outworker buying his material on credit, and selling his product to meet the necessities of the hour ; in all instances underselling his competitors great and small. Respectable employers, interested in a high standard of production. Trade Unionists keen for a high standard of wage, agree in attri- buting to this pitiful personage the worst evils of the sweating system." '

If then the Trade Unionists declare, to use the words of a Sheffield secretary, that the small masters " are a curse to the trade . . . paying starvation wages to those whom necessity compels to work for them," this is not due to any personal dislike of the small masters, or to any aspersion on their character. It is merely the recognition by Trade Unionists of an economic fact. Thoughtful workmen in the staple trades have become convinced, by their own experi- ence, no less than by the repeated arguments of the econo- mists, that a rising standard of wages and other conditions of employment must depend ultimately on the productivity of labor, and therefore upon the most efficient and econo- mical use of credit, capital, and capacity. In all these respects the small master system stands, by common con- sent, condemned. When, therefore, we find the whole influence of Trade Unionism constantly acting against this system, and, as one employer naifvely put it to us, " playing into tRe hands of the great establishments," we must at any rate credit it with the desire so far to promote the utmost possible efficiency of production.

This scientific argument against the small master system

1 "The Lords and the Sweating System," by Beatrice Potter (Mrs. Sidney Webb), Nineteenth Century, June 1890.


The Implications of Trade Unionism 549

appeals chiefly to such enlightened experts as the salaried officials of the Cotton Operatives. What the ordinary work- man in other trades sees is, not that the total product per man employed is far less where small establishments prevail, but that, under such circumstances, his own strategic position is seriously weakened. Those better conditions which, as he is convinced, can be secured by enforcing the Common Rule, are put practically beyond his reach. The Operative Bricklayers' Society finds little difficulty in agreeing with the large contractors in London, but is utterly baffled by the host of small jerry-builders in the suburbs, who refuse to conform to fixed conditions of any kind. The Factory Inspector can see that the sanitary conditions of the prin- cipal factories are up to the standard, and has little difficulty there in detecting illicit overtime. But without a whole army of assistants it is impossible for him to exercise any check on the myriads of small workshops, which crop up and disappear in our town slums with mushroom-like rapidity. Large establishments, in fact, facilitate both Collective Bargain- ing itself, and the enforcement of Common Rules however arrived at. And thus we find the small masters frequently complaining that the systematic and uniform arrangements preferred by the great employers " play into the hands " of the Trade Unionists. In 1 891, for instance, the small boot manufacturers actually protested against the " capitalist manu- facturers' conspiracy" to crush out, by enforcing uniform standards of wages, their smaller competitors. This, explains the employers' editor, " is a ridiculous superstition, but one which we are aware has obtained credence among a certain section of the trade, and is not confined to London. Where- ever a Uniform Statement policy has been agreed upon by the leading men of Trades Associations (employers), small manufacturers have rafsed the cry that it is a conspiracy directed against them by the large houses for sordid ends. The suggestion fe too obviously absurd to merit a moment's thought. If small manufacturers cannot continue to exist except by paying less than a proper standard of wages for


550 Trade Union Function

work done, that is the clearest possible proof that they have no right to exist as such. There is no animus against small manufacturers, but a praiseworthy determination to place all, large and small, upon an equal wage basis ; and he would be a bold man who would dare to find fault with such an arrangement." ^ It is exactly at this " equal wage basis " and similar Common Rules throughout the whole of an industry that Trade Unionism persistently aims. The ablest leaders of the workmen's combinations are therefore instinctively biassed in favor of what we may term a horizontal cleavage of industrial classes, and they are necessarily prejudiced against any interference with this stratification. They are conse- quently found opposing all vertical cleavages whatever, not merely where, as in the cases of Home Work and Small Masters, these involve worse conditions for the wage-earners, but also in the less noxious forms of employers' benefit societies and profit-sharing.

At first sight nothing seems more kindly and humane on the part of the employer, and less open to objection from the workman's standpoint, than the establishment of a Sick and Burial Club in connection with each large establishment A few pence per week are stopped from the operatives' earnings, and to the fund thus formed the employer often adds the disciplinary fines, and frequently a substantial con- tribution from the firm, in whose business the growing capital is invested. To the middle-class philanthropist the work- man's sullen hostility to any such arrangement appears " ungrateful." But to any one who has ever understood the assumptions on which the whole Trade Union movement is based, the wage-earner's objection will be clear enough. It is not merely that the workmen feel no guarantee that, in the particular financial arrangements imposed on them, they are getting their money's worth ; nor is the objection due to any doubt as to the security of the fund — to any feat that, just when they need their sick pay or superannuation, the trade may be depressed and the firm bankrupt. What

^ Editorial in Shoe and Leather Record, vol. x, p, 254, loth April 1891.


The Implications of Trade Vnionism ^^i

the Trade Unionists recognise is that the separate interest thus created cuts them off from their fellow-workmen in other establishments — that a vertical cleavage is set up which interferes with Trade Unionism. We have seen how the fact of the men being compelled to insure against sickness, cost of burial, and old age in the employer's fund renders them indisposed to pay over again to the Trade Union.^ But there is a more fundamental objection. If, as is usual, a workman forfeits all his benefits should he voluntarily leave the service of the particular firm, there is a strong and growing inducement held out to him to remain where he is, and thus to accept the employer's terms. He loses, in fact, that perfect mobility which, as economists have often pointed out, is a necessary condition of his making the best possible bargain for the sale of his labor. And, to the Trade Unionist, it is a crowning objection that the workman so tied shuts himself out from all the advantages of concerted action with his fellows. Any general adoption of employers' benefit societies would, in fact, go far to render Trade Unionism impossible.

Schemes of profit-sharing are, from a Trade Union point of view, open to similar objections. Unless the Standard Rate and other conditions are rigidly adhered to, the work- men in profit-sharing establishments ' may easily be losing far more in wages than they gain in " bonus " or share of profit.^ But it is an even more serious objection that any separate arrangements with particular employers destroy that community of interest throughout the trade on which Collective Bargaining depends. The men employed by a

' It was stated at the Annual Conference of Friendly Societies in March 1897 that particulars had been obtained of forty large industrial undertakings, including the Midland Railway Company, in which insurance in the employer's own benefit society was made compubory on all persons employed, the premium being peremptorily deducted from wages.

^ Thus, it is unusual for a profit-sharing establishment to afford its operatives a ^ger bonus than 5 per cent on their wages, and few do even as well as this. But except in the most rigidly organised trades, in the strongest Trade Union districts, it is common to find some employers paying several shillings per week below the Standard Rate ; still more, to find Piecework Lists in different establish- ments varying from 10 to 20 per cent.


c^2 Trade Union Function

specially "benevolent" firm, with a really generous profit sharing scheme, will not be disposed to join heartily with the rest in any movement for higher wages, lest they should lose the bonus or other privileges which they already enjoy. Yet whilst they stand aloof, contented with their Standard Rate of wages because of these exceptional privileges, it is difficult for the workmen elsewhere to make any effective stand for a higher rate. To the Trade Unionist it seems a very doubtful kindness for an employer to indulge his feelings of philanthropy in such a way as to weaken the capacity of the workmen for that corporate self-help on which their defence against unscrupulous employers depends. Looking at the matter from the Trade Union standpoint, an employer who desired permanently to benefit the workmen in his trade would seek in every way to promote the men's own organisation, and would therefore make his own establish- ment a pattern to the rest in respect of the strictest possible maintenance of the Standard Rates of wages, hours of work, and other conditions of employment. This would tend to make it more easy for the workmen in other establishments to insist on the same advantages. If he wished to do more for his own workmen, and could afford it, he would scrupu- lously avoid any departure from the standard methods of remuneration, and any form of benevolence which created any division between his workmen and their fellows. What he would do would be to offer a simple addition to the common Standard Rate, or a simple reduction of the Normal Day without any diminution of earnings. In this way any indirect effect upon the workmen in the other establishments would be in the direction of facilitating their claiming similar advances.

This strong objection of the Trade Unionists to any blurring of the line between the capitalist profit-maker and the manual-working wage-earner, and their preference for the Great Industry, might, at first sight, seem to point to- wards the desirability of concentrating each trade in the hands of one great employer. But such a concentration of


The Implications of Trade Unionism 553

business may, from the Trade Union point of view, easily be carried too far. When in any trade the establishments are all sufficiently large to make it easy for the workmen to combine, the Trade Union fights at the greatest strategic advantage if it is confronted by a number of employers, varying considerably in their pecuniary resources and oppor- tunities for profit-making. Thus, in any coal, engineering, or cotton strike, the circumstances of the employers differ so greatly that, however closely they may be combined, there is a strong tendency for some of them to split off from the rest. Those making exceptional profits will not care obstinately to stand out against the men's demands, and so lose trade which they may never regain, when agreement with the Trade Union would still leave them a handsome surplus. To firms insufficiently supplied with capital, moreover, a long stoppage may easily be more disastrous than anything that the Trade Union asks for. In the private meetings of any employers' association during a strike, these two classes are always pressing for a settlement, and if they fail to persuade their more slow-going and highly-capitalised com- petitors to accept their view, they are apt at last to make peace on their own account, and so destroy any chance of the employers' successful resistance.^ If, on the other handj the whole industry is controlled by a single colossal em- ployer, or if it is distributed among a small number of non- competing employers — especially if the monopoly is in any way protected against new rivals — the Trade Union finds its Methods of Mutual Insurance and Collective Bargaining practically useless. This is the case with the railway com-

1 " I was one of the committee," observed Mr. Samuda, the great London shipbuilder, "for carrying on that contest (the engineers' lock-out of 1851), and the difliculties that existed in maintaining a combination among the masters were enormous, because there were so many masters whose necessities were so great that they could not act to the extent of resisting demands that they thought unjust. It was only men who were thoroughly independent, and who did not care for closing their works, that could stand the difiSculty, and face the insolvency that was brought upon weaker houses by resisting the unjust demands of the workmen." — Evidence before the Royal Commission on Trade Unions, 1868, Q. 16,805.

VOL. II T 2


554 Trade Union Function

panics in the United Kingdom, and some of the great capitalist trusts in the United States. Against the unlimited resources, the secured monopoly of custom, and the absolute unity of will enjoyed by these modern industrial leviathans, the quarter of a million accumulated funds of the richest Trade Union, and the clamor of even one or two hundred thousand obstinate and embittered workmen, are as arrows against ironclads. In such cases the only available method of securing a Common Rule is Legal Enactment — difficult, in the face of interests so powerful,- for the Trade Unions to obtain, but once obtained, in so highly organised an industry, easy of application and enforcement. We may therefore infer that the extreme concentration of industry into trusts and monopolies will lead, either to Trade Union failure and decay, or else to an almost exclusive reliance on the Method of Legal Enactment.

When the concentration reaches its most complete form, and industry passes into State Ownership, the Trade Unions find new considerations entering into their problems. When the employer is the State itself, the strongest and richest Trade Union is as powerless to stand out for terms as the individual workman. A long strike will bankrupt dozens of employers and seriously reduce the dividends of even the wealthiest trust. But if all the workmen in the Admiralty dockyards stayed out for a year, neither the Civil Servant manager nor the citizen proprietor would find his daily income even fractionally diminished. The Trade ^Unions are so conscious of this economic helplessness that they never order a strike in a Government establishment, and they scarcely, indeed, attempt to bargain with so over- whelming an omnipotence. Wherever the State is dominated by classes or interests who do not share the Trade Union faith, the Trade Unionists, as such, will therefore be dead against the extension of State Socialism in their own particular industries.^ The case is altered if the conditions of Govern-

^ Thus, the German delegates to the International Miners' Congress of 1897 (held in London) objected to the resolution in favor of the " nationalisation of the


The Implications of Trade Unionism 555

ment employment can be influenced by democratic public opinion. If Parliament were really prepared to insist on the conditions of Government employment being brought into conformity with Trade Union regulations, any extension of the public administration of industry might well secure Trade Union support. At present, however, the Trade Union in- fluence on the conditions of Government employment is, in spite of appearances, extremely ineffective. The Trade Union world, with the exception of the Cotton Operatives and Coalminers, is, as we have pointed out, unable to make its political power felt in Parliament. Nor is the House of Commons, as at present organised, competent, even if it were really willing, effectively to supervise the internal administration of the great public departments. Finally, we have the fact that the present generation of the higher Civil Servants — our real rulers in points of administrative detail — are, for the most part, invincibly ignorant both of industrial organisation and modern economics, and are usually imbued with the crudest prejudices of the Manchester School. It is in vain that Ministry after Ministry avows its intention of abandoning competition wages, and of making the Government a " model employer." The permanent heads of departments have no intention of departing from the " sound " principles which they brought into the service in 1 860 or 1 870. Hence, a Trade Union secretary will often declare that the Government, instead of being the best, is one of the very worst employers with whom he has to deal.

But even in the most complete and the most perfectly organised Democracy, there would be influences which would

mines," on the express ground that " they in Germany had found that the capitalistic State was the worst possible employer, and the worst enemy and opponent of the workers. There happened to be in Germany some very large State mines, and the conditions of the workers in these mines was infinitely worse than else- where. Now the State was indifferent during mining disputes. If it possessed all the mines, it would be as an employer more powerful and more tyrannical than a private employer" (Daily Chronicle, 1 2th June 1897). It is interesting to note that the French and Belgian delegates unanimously supported the resolution, together with a majority of the English (those from Northumberland and Durham alone dissenting), whilst the Germans, though mostly members ol the Social Democratic Party, abstained.


556 Trade Union Function

prevent the Government, as an employer, giving universal satis- faction to the Trade Unions. Though the working-class vote would be overwhelming, each section of wage-earners would find itself a small minority among the rest, and would dis- cover accordingly how difficult it was to force its own peculiar grievances upon public attention. And, though any section that was " underpaid " or " overworked " would get sympathetic support, there would be a strong tendency in the average man to object to any terms that were out of the common. Sections of workmen who had, under private enterprise, been enjoying exceptionally high wages or short hours, or who had been enforcing strict limitation of numbers or other monopoly conditions, would find it difficult to maintain these by appeals to the multitude. The men in these trades would accordingly, as Trade Unionists, tend always to be discontented with Government employment Thus, public administration of industry" under Democratic control will be most popular among those larger sections of the wage-earners, who at present suffer from the weakness of their strategic position, and will remain unpopular among the smaller and better organised sections, who can now take advantage of their corporate strength to exact from their private employers monopoly terms.

These considerations apply with less force to municipal employment. The Town Council, though more powerful in Collective Bargaining than any private employer, has nothing like the omnipotence of the great State Department. A strike at the municipal gas retorts, or in the workshops of the Borough Engineer, is a serious matter, which must be quickly brought to an end, under penalty of the immediate displeasure of the citizen-consumers. And whilst the Town Council is weaker than Parliament in strategic position, it is also more amenable to public opinion. Municipal electoral machinery has been more thoroughly democratised than parliamentary, and is therefore easier of access to the local unions. No great issues of foreign policy, religion, currency, or constitutional reform divide the workmen's ranks. The


The Implications of Trade Unionism 557

moral effect of the Town Council's policy with regard to the conditioijs of employment is understood by every Trade Unionist, Once the Town Councillors are converted, the per- manent officials have no chance of evading or obstructing the decision of the local Representative Assembly. Moreover, the lowlier grades of manual labor contribute a larger pro- portion of the municipal than they do of the national employees.! There is as yet nothing in the municipal service comparable to the great establishments of highly skilled shipwrights and engineers of the national dock- jrards and arsenals. It is, as we have suggested, far more easy for the Trade Unions to obtain electoral support for a universal " moral minimum," or " fair wages," based on the cost of subsistence, than for any superior conditions, established by trade custom or gained by strategic advantage, in respect of particular sections of workmen. We therefore find the skilled trades less hostile, as Trade Unionists, to the municipal administration of industry than to any extension of State employment, whilst the " sweated trades " and the unskilled laborers clamor for the abolition of the con- tractor, and the direct employment of labor, as their main hope of salvation.

If, now, we look back on the incidental features of Trade Union policy described in this chapter, we may gain some insight into the kind of social arrangements to which Trade Unionism predisposes the British workman of our own day.

Most fundamental of all considerations to the Trade Unionist is complete freedom of association. This means, that whilst the law must afford full protection to the funds of workmen's associations, it should leave them as much as possible alone ; and that it should, in particular, regard nothing as criminal or actionable if done by or in pursuance

^ Thus, in London in 189 1, even after a general improvement of conditions, Mr. Charles Booth found that the great class of " Municipal Labor " came within six of the worst of his eighty-seven occupations, in the percentage of families living in an overcrowded condition. — J^ife and Labour of the People, vol. ix. p. 8.


558 Trade Union Function

of a combination of workmen which would not be criminal or actionable if done by a partnership of traders in pursuit of their own gain. But whilst the Trade Unionists insist on their combinations being let alone by the law, they wish to use the law to attain their own particular end — the systematic regulation of the conditions of employment by means of the Common Rule, Hence their desire for a completely demo- cratised electoral system, in which the will of the majority shall really prevail. With regard to the organisation of industry, we see the Trade Unions setting themselves decidedly against any vertical cleavage of society, which interferes with the solidarity of the manual-working wage- earners as against the capitalist employers. This means that Trade Unionists, as such, are not in favor of the " abolition of the wage system," or even of any tampering with it. They would, on the contrary, wish to see simple employment at wages supersede all forms of profit-making by manual workers. They are thus solidly against Home Work, Small Masters, and Profit-Sharing, and in favor of the Great Industry, with its bureaucratic hierarchy of salaried officials. When, however, the Great Industry passes into public administration. Trade Unionists, as such, regard the change with mixed feelings. Government Employment goes far to make two out of their three Methods impracticable, and they have as yet no confidence in the will and capacity of the House of Commons to overcome the hostility to labor of the permanent Civil Service. With local authorities the Trade Unions have a better chance, but even here, though the underpaid and overworked sections welcome municipal employment, the most highly paid unions hesitate to invite the verdict of public opinion on their restrictive regulations and monopoly conditions.


CHAPTER XIII THE ASSUMPTIONS OF TRADE UNIONISM[edit]

So far we have confined ourselves to setting forth and explaining the actual policy of British Trade Unionism, as manifested in the Methods and Regulations of the several Unions, and their direct implications. We have still to examine these Methods and Regulations, together with the policy of Trade Unionism as a whole, in the light of economic science, and from the point of view of the com- munity. But before we pass to this new task it is important to drag into full light the assumptions on which the Trade Unionists habitually base both their belief in Trade Union- ism itself and their justification of particular demands. These assumptions, seldom explicitly set forth, will serve at once to explain, and in a sense to summarise, the Methods and Regulations which they inspire.

We have first the typical a.^sumption of all reformers inl all ages — the conviction that economic and social conditionsl can, by deliberate human intervention, be changed for the\ better.^ Trade Unionists have never even understood the

' This belief in the possibility and desirability of deliberately altering the conditions of social life is often regarded as unscientific, if not as impious. Any intentional change is denounced as " artificial " — it being apparently supposed that changes unintentionally produced are more " natural " than others, and more likely to result in the ends we desire. Even Mr. Lecky makes it a matter of reproach to Trade Unionism, modern Radicalism, and other movements which he dislikes, that their policy is "to create a social type different from that which the unrestricted play of social forces would have produced " — a policy which he declares " belongs to the same order of ideas as the Protectionism of the past "


560 Trade Union Function

view — still occasionally met with — that there is an abso- lutely predetermined " Wage- Fund,", and that the average workman's share of the produce depends exclusively on the arithmetical proportion between the total of this fund and the number of wage-earners. They assume, on the contrary, that the ratio in which the total product of industry is shared between the , property-owners, the brainrworkers, and the

'manual laboring class respectively, is a matter of human arrangement, and that it can be altered, effectively and per- manently, to the advantage of one class or another, if the

' appropriate action be taken. This assumption we shall examine in detail in the next chapter.

For the improvement of the conditions of employment, whether in respect of wages, hours, health, safety, or comfort, the Trade Unionists have, with all their multiplicity of Regu- lations, really only two expedients, which we term, respect- ively, theVDevice of the Common Rule, and the Device of Restriction of Numbers. , The Regulations which we have described in our chapters on the Standard Rate, the Normal Day, and Sanitation and Safety, are but different forms of one principle — the settlement, whether by ' Mutual Insurance, Collective Bargaining, or Legal Enactmentyof minimum con- ditions of employment, by Common Rules applicable to whole bodies of workers. All these Regulations are based on the assumption that when, in the absence of any Com- mon Rule, the conditions of employment are left to "free competition," this always means, in practice, that they are arrived at by Individual Bargaining between contracting parties of very unequal economic strength. Such.a.settle- ment, it is asserted, invariably tends, for the mass of the

{Democracy and Liberty, vol. ii. p. 383). To any scientific student of sociology such language is unintelligible. "To create a social type different from that which the free play of social forces would have produced " without such " artificial intervention " is a policy which Trade Unionism shares, not only with fiscal pro- tection, but with all education and invention, the Church of England and the Courts of Justice, private property and the family, and all other social institutions, good, bad, or indifferent. Civilisation itself is nothing but the creation of a social type different from that which the unrestricted play of social forces would have pro- duced without the deliberate, or " artificial," intervention of man.


The Assumptions of Trade Unionism 561

workgrs,_JmyarHs tViP wnrst pnaaib je con ditions of lab or — ulti mately, indeed, to t he barest subsistence level — ^whilst even the exceptional few do not permanently gain as much as they otherwise could. We find accordingly that the Device of the Common Rule is a universal feature of Trade Unionism, and that the assumption on which it is based is held from one end of the Trade Union world to the ' other. The Device of Restriction of Numbers stands in a different position. In our chapter on the Entrance to a Trade we have described how the Regulations embodying this device, once adopted as a matter of course, have suc- cessively been found inapplicable to the circumstances of modern industry. The assumption on which they are based — that better conditions can be obtained by limiting the number of competitors — would not be denied by any Trade Unionist, but it cannot be said to form an important part in the working creed of the Trade Union world. In summing up the economic results of Trade Unionism it is on these two Devices of the Common Rule and Restriction of Numbers that we shall concentrate our criticism.

But these initial assumptions as to the need for Trade Unionism and the efficacy of j^ two devices do not, of them- selves, account for the mar ked divergence betwee n different Unions, alike in the general character of their policy and in the Regulations which they enforce. The universal belief in a Common Rule affords, to begin with, no guidance as to how much wages the members of a particular trade will claim or receive, or how many hours they will consider to be a proper working day. There is, in fact, no " Trade Union Rate of Wages," but many different rates — not even a " Trade Union Working Day," but hours of labor varying from occupation to occupation. This divergence of policy comes out even more strikingly in the adoption or rejection of the Device of Restriction of Numbers, a few trades still making the strict Limitation of Apprentices and the Exclu- sion of Illegal Men a leading feature of their policy, whilst others throw their trades absolutely open to all comers, and


562 Trade Union Function

rely exclusively on the maintenance of the Common Rule. This divergence of policy and difference in type between one Trade Union and another comes out strongly in the choice of the Methods by which they enforce their Regulations. The Boilermakers, for instance, rely very largely on Collective Bargaining, whilst the Coalminers get at least as much by Legal Enactment as by any other Method. During the eighteenth century any trade wishing to enforce apprentice- ship regulations turned, as a matter of course, to the law. To-day no union would resort to Parliament on such a point. A hundred and fifty years ago it was especially the skilled craftsmen who wanted their wages fixed by Legal Enactment. At present such favor as is shown to this idea comes almost exclusively from the lowlier grades of labor. On all these points the action of any particular union — the way in which it will seek to use the Device of the Common Rule — is mainly determined by the views of its members as to what is socially expedient. In the wider world of politics we see the electors supporting the policy of one or other political party mainly according as they approve or dis- approve of the general conception of society on which it pro- ceeds. The Trade Unionists, in their narrower sphere of the conditions of employment, are influenced by three divergent conceptions of the principle upon which wages, hours, and other terms of the labor contract ought to be determined. These three assumptions, which we distinguish as the) Doctrine of Vested Interests, the Doctrine of Supply and Demand, and the Doctrine of a Living Wage, give us the x:lue to the conflicting policies of the Trade Union world. N By the Doctrine of Vested Interests we mean the assumption that the wages and other conditions of employ- ment hitherto enjoyed by any section of workmen ought under no circumstances to be interfered with for the worse. It was this doctrine, as we have seen, which inspired the long struggle, lasting down to about i860, against the introduction of machinery, or any innovation in processes. It is this doctrine which to-day gives the bitterness to demarcation


The Assumptions of Trade Unionism 563

disputes, and lies at the back of all the Regulations dealing with the " right to a trade." ^ It does more than anything else to keep alive the idea of " patrimony " and the practice of a lengthened period of apprenticeship, whilst it induces the workmen of particular trades to cling fondly to the ex- pedient of limiting the numbers entering those trades, even after experience has proved such a limitation to be imprac- ticable. But the Doctrine of Vested Interests extends much further than these particular Regulations. There is scarcely an industry in which it will not be found, on one occasion or another, inspiring the defence of the customary rates of wages or any threatened privilege. In some cases, indeed, we find the whole argument for Trade Unionism based on this one conception. The Engineers, for instance, in 1845 supported their case by a forcible analogy. " The youth who has the good fortune and inclinations for preparing himself as a useful member of society by the study of physic, and who studies that profession with success so as to obtain his diploma from the Surgeons' Hall, or the College of Surgeons, naturally expects in some measure that he is entitled to privileges to which the pretending quack can lay no claim ; and if in the practice of that useful profes- sion he finds himself injured by such a pretender, he has the power of instituting a course of law against him. Such are the benefits connected with the learned professions. Biit the mechanic, though he may expend nearly an equal fortune, and sacrifice an equal portion of his life, in becoming ac- quainted with the different branches of useful mechanism, has no law to protect his privileges. It behoves him, therefore,

' We see this, for instance, among the Engineers. " The question as to a turner working the horizontal boring lathe at the Pallion [Works] . . . remains unsettled ; the employers adhering to their right of ' selecting the men and apportioning the work.' The issue appears to be clean cut, and stated with perfect frankness. The vested interest — equally with employers — of workmei> in a trade by probationary servitude is apparently to be set at naught. To displace a journeyman, as indicated, in the exercise of the 'right of selecting,' in the manner proposed, is as much a wrong as if the same process was proposed to be adopted vnth respect to the employer's capital." — Report of Tyneside District Delegate, in Amalgamated Engineer^ Monthly Journal, May 1897.


564 Trade Union Function

on all reasonable grounds, and by all possible means, to secure the advantages of a society like this to himself." ^ The same idea is put with no less clearness by some of the smaller trades. " Considering," say the Birmingham Wireworkers, " that the trade by which we live is our property, bought by certain years of servitude, which gives to us a vested right, and that we have a sole and exclusive claim on it, as all will have hereafter who purchase it by the same means. Such being the case, it is evident it is our duty to protect, by all fair and legal means, the property by which we live, being always equally careful not to trespass on the rights of others. To that end we have formfed this Association," etc.*

This conception of vested interests is sometimes carried as far .by working men as by the powerful organisation which has latterly become distinctively known as "The Trade." Thus the Coopers, whose chief employers then as now were the brewers, were in 1883 keenly resenting the spread of education and temperance, and the threatened measure of " Local Option." " Several Yorkshire towns," remarked their official circular, " have for years until recently been great centres of industry in the export line. These centres of industry are swept away, and nothing I am sorry to say has turned up to replace them, the consequence being that all these men had to obtain blocks elsewhere. There is also the spread of education, an all-powerful influence we are bound to feel, and a blow from which we shall not easily recover. There is also that great Northern baronet. Sir Wilfrid, he too, like Demetrius the Silversmith of Macedonia, and Alexander the Athenian Coppersmith, has wrought us

1 Rules and Regulations to be observed by the Members of the Journeymen Steam Engine and Machine Maker^ and Millwright^ Friendly Society (Glasgow, 1845). This analogy is repeated in substance in many editions of the rules of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers.

. * "ExttajAbom AAdxess, iittfa.cti to ^iha Rules and Regulations of the Birming- ham Friendly Society of Wire Weavers, a small union instituted August 1869, The same preamble was used by the Railway Springmakers of Shefifield in the Rules of their Society in i860; see "Report on Trade Societies' Rules" in the Report on Trade Societies and Strikes of the National Association for the Pro- motion of Social Science {'Laaio'a, i860), pp. 1 31-132


The Assumptions of Trade Unionism 565

much evil, and from the tone of his speeches means to continue to do so." ^

It is difficult for middle-class observers, accustomed to confine the doctrine of " vested interests " to " rights of property," to understand the fervor and conviction with which the skilled artisan holds this doctrine in its application to the " right to a trade." This intuitive conviction of natural right we ascribe, in great part, to the long and respectable history of the idea. Down to the middle of the eighteenth century it was undisputed. To the member of a Craft Gild or Incorporated Company it seemed as outrageous, and as contrary to natural justice, for an unlicensed, interloper to take his trade as for a thief to steal his wares. Nor was this conception confined to any particular section of the community. To the economists and statesmen of the time the protection of the vested interests of each class of trades- men appeared a no less fundamental axiom of civilised society than the protection of property in land or chattels. "Our forefathers," said the Emperor Sigismund in 1434, " have not been fools. The crafts have been devised for this purpose that everybody by them should earn his daily bread, and nobody shall interfere with the craft of another. By this the world gets rid of its misery, and every one may find his livelihood." * " The first rule of justice," said the Parlia- ment of Paris three hundred and fifty years later, "is to preserve to every one what belongs to him ; this rule consists,

  • Monthly Report of the Mutual Association of Coopers, Feb. 1883. This

conception of a "vested interest " in the nation's drinking habits may be paralleled by the attempts made to give the "sanctity of property " to the employer's power of hiring his labor cheap, or working it excessive hours. Thus Sir James Graham, speaking in the House of G)mmons as a responsible minister of the Crown, solemnly denounced the Ten Hours' Bill of 1844 as "Jack Cade Legislation " (Greville's Journal (if the Reign of Queen Victoria, vol. ii. p. 236 ; see The Eight Hours' Day by Sidney Webb and Harold Cox, London, 189 1, p. 240), and a leading Lancashire manufacturer in i860 publicly argued that " the power of the Trade Union . . . robs (for I can use no milder term) . . . the capitalist of his right to purchase." — "Trades Unions and their Tendencies," by Edmund Potter, a paper printed in the Transactions of the National Association for the Promotion of Social Science, i860, p. 758.

2 Goldasti's Constitutions Impiriales, vol. iv. p. 189, quoted by Dr. Brentano, p. 60; History of Trade Unionism, p. 19.


566 Trade Union Function

not only in preserving the rights of property, but still more in preserving those belonging to the person, which arise from the prerogative of birth and of position." ^ " To give to all subjects indiscriminately," argued on that occasion the eminent Advocate- General Siguier, "the right to hold a store or to open a shop is to violate the property of those who form the incorporated crafts."^

But this conception of a vested interest in a trade, though it derives sanction among an essentially conservative class from its long and venerable history, does not rest upon tradition alone. To men dependent for daily existence on continuous employment, the protection of their means of livelihood from confiscation or encroachment appears as fundamental a basis of social order as it does to the owners of land. What both parties claim is security and continuity of livelihood — that maintenance of the " established expecta- tion" which is the "condition precedent" of civilised life. And it is ea^y to trace this social expediency to an elementary observation on personal character. When misfortune arrives in consequence of a man's own act or default, it may well bring the compensation of inducing him to change his habits But when individuals or classes are overwhelmed by disasters which they could have done nothing to avert, experience shows that, though they may be led to passive resignation, they are not stimulated to self-reliance, and they are apt, on the contrary, to be rendered inert or reckless. We do not expect deliberate foresight or persistent industry from a community living on a volcano.^ This, indeed, is the

' Remonstrance by the Parliament of Paris against Turgot's Decrees abolishing the Corvee and the Jurandes ; Life and Writings of Turgot, by W. Walker Stephens, p. 132 ; Jobez, La France sous Louis XVL i. 329-331.

2 Speech of the Advocate Siguier on behalf of the Jurandes at the Lit de Justice for registering Turgot's Decree ; Life and Writings of Turgot, by W. Walker Stephens, p. 134 ; (Etwrts de Turgot, ii. 334-337 ; Fondn, Uv. iii. c ix.

' Buckle notices the eCFect of earthquakes in weakening character; "men witnessing the most serious dangers which they can neither avoid nor understand, become impressed with a conviction of their inability, and of the poverty of their own resources" (History of Civilisation, vol. i. p. 123). Middle-class critics often deplore the "heedlessness" as to the future — the lack of persistent carrying out of a deliberate plan of life — which marks the laborer engaged in a fluctuating


The Assumptions of Trade Unionism 567

fundamental argument against anything which weakens ,the

feeling of security of private property, that is, against any

" shock or derangement being given to the expectation which

has been founded on the laws of enjoying a certain portion

of good." ^ And if we pass from the ownership of property

to its occupation under contract, we shall recognise the same

argument in the agitation long and successfully carried on

by Irish and English farmers for a law which should secure

them in their "tenant right." It has now been conceded

that we cannot expect occupiers of land to exercise the

self-sacrifice, foresight, and energy necessary to keep their

holdings in the highest possible efficiency, if the results of

their work can be arbitrarily confiscated whenever a landlord

chooses to exercise his legal right of ejecting a tenant. A

similar consideration lies at the base of the universal conviction

in favor of a legally regulated currency. Bimetallists and

monometallists alike deplore the disastrous effect on national

enterprise if, in the absence of a deliberately settled standard

of value, the reasonable expectations of merchants and

manufacturers are set at naught by currency fluctuations

over which they can have no control. We need not weary

the reader by citing other instances (such as the law of

patents and copyright, the universal practice of compensation

for abolition of office, and all the thousand and one claims

of persons " injuriously affected," which are sanctioned by

the English Lands Clauses Consolidation Acts),^ whereby the

community has deliberately sought to defend particular

trade, and, to some extent, the whole manual labor -class. We attribute this characteristic difference between the English middle and working classes largely to the feeling of the weekly wage-earner that he is dependent for the continuity of his livelihood on circumstances over which he has no control, and that he is, by the modem habit of engaging and dismissing workmen for short jobs, made keenly sensible of fluctuations which he can do nothing to avert.

1 Beotham, Principles of the Civil Code, part i. ch. vii. The Whig leaders in 18 16 deprecated any discussion by the House of Commons of sinecure offices, and even of excessive salaries, on the ground, as Francis Horner wrote to Lord Holland, that " it is a ticklish thing to begin to draw subtle distinctions about property." — Memoirs and Corresfondence of Francis Horner, M.P. (London, 1843), vol. ii. p. 386.

  • Principles of ike Law of Compinsation, by C. A. Cripps, Q.C., 3rd edition

(London, 1892).


568 Trade Union Function

persons or classes against the evil effect on character that ensues on finding their efforts and sacrifices nullified by circumstances which they were powerless to avert. When we remember this vast network of defence, built up during the present century in protection of the security and continuity of livelihood of brain-workers and property-holders, it is strange that it is just these classes who fail to comprehend the weekly wage-earner's craving for the same boon. " An industrious man," says one of the workmen's spokesmen, " having learnt a trade, or enabled by any honest means to earn a superior living, is equally entitled to an adequate indemnity if his trade or property is interfered with, or rendered less advantageous, as the owner of a water-mill, who has compensation if the water is withdrawn. Every description of property has ample protection, except the poor man's only property, his and his children's industrious habits." »

' A Comparative Statement of the Number of Laborers employed in the Execu- tion of the sa?ne Quantity of Work if executed by Hand or Machine, J. Jarrold (Norwich, 1848). Sismondi pointed out in 1834 that "to make a true calctila- tion of what society gains by any mechanical invention there must be deducted from it the loss experienced by all the working men who had been dismissed by it, till they have found an employment as advantageous as the one they had before." — " On Landed Property," in Reruue Mensuelle d'Economie Politique, February 1834; translated in his Political Economy and the Philosophy of Government (London, 1837), page 168.

It is not enough to assert, as is often done, that any recognition of the workman's vested interest in his trade would be incompatible with the industrial mobility which is indispensable to modem society. The community cannot, of course, allow the vested interest of any individual or section to stand in the way of a change which is for the public benefit. This admittedly. applies to all vested interests, whether in land, personal property, public offices, or anything else. But when the property owner or the holder of a public ofiSce is concerned,, the necessary mobility is secured without inflicting loss on the individuals affected, by the simple device of pecuniary compensation. It is difficult to see why persons whose occupations are " injuriously affected " by a railway or other enterprise carried out by Parliamentary powers, should not be compensated for the injury done to their means of livelihood in the same way as the landowner is. This claim to legislative indemnity of displaced workmen was recognised by J. S. Mill. The social advantage derived from the application of new processes and machinery does not, he declares, " discharge governments from the obligation of alleviating, and, if possible, preventing, the evils of whigh this source of ultimate benefit is or may be productive to an existing generation . . . and since improvements which do not diminish employment on the whole almost always throw some particular class out of it, there cannot be a more legitimate object of the legislator's care


The Assumptions of Trade Unionism 569

But although the philosophic student may recognise the common origin of all forms of " vested interest " in man's shrinking from the great social evil of a disappointment of " established expectation," he will not so readily admit the virtue of the panacea. It may well be that, as applied to particular forms of personal interest, the remedy may bring with it social evils greater than those which it cures. Thus, public opinion now sides with Turgot and Adam Smith in their denunciation of the evil effects of the close corporations, by which successive generations of craftsmen

than the interests of those who are thus sacrificed to the gains of their fellow- citizens and of posterity " (Principles of Political Economy, by J. S. Mill, Book I. chap. vi. sec. 3, p. 62). We are not aware of any case in which this humane principle has been acted upon. It is true that, in the case of workmen displaced by an invention, it would neither be possible nor desirable to pay them lump sums of money. But if they are willing to work the new process, there seems no equitable reason why they should not be kept on at their former wages, even at a considerable temporary loss to the community. The action of the English legislature in awarding compensation for disturbance of vested interests has, indeed, been capricious in the extreme, depending, perhaps, on the momentary political influence of the class concerned. Thus, no compensation was given to the large class of lottery keepers and their servants, either for loss of capital or loss of occupation, when private lotteries were, in 1698, suddenly prohibited. The shipowners and merchants who had invested a large capital in specially designed slave-carrying ships received no compensation when the slave trade was abolished in 1807. On the other hand, when, in 1834, the slaves in the British Colonies were converted into indentured servants, twenty millions sterling were voted to the owners, though no other country, before or after, has taken this course. The owners of Irish Parliamentary Boroughs were compensated when the Union deprived them of these seats, but the owners of English Parliamentary Boroughs, which had equally been recognised sources of income, received nothing when the Reform Bill of 1832 swept them away. In our own day, when a Town Council sets up its own works, and uses public funds to dispense altogether with its former contractors, it pays them no compensation for loss of capital or livelihood. But if the new workshops so much as darken the view from the contractor's windows, the town must pay damages. Parliament gives public authorities full power to ruin, if they can, the private owners of existing gas-works by setting up public electric lighting works, and even to destroy the business of joint-stock cemeteries by starting public burial-grounds. But the House of Commons has jealously refused to permit any Town Council to put up gas-works of its own, whilst any private gas-works are in the field as opponents ; or even to sink its own wells to get a new and entirely different supply of water for the public, without first fully compensating any existing water company, not for taking away any land, works, or water, or infringing any monopoly righfs, but simply for loss of income. Whether the holder of an annually- granted terminable license to sell intoxicating liquors would or would not be equitably entitled to compensation if Parliament decided for the future not to renew it, is a hotly contested question.


570 Trade Union Function

were legally assured of a customary livelihood, whether they kept pace with the times, or jogged along contentedly in the old routine. In exactly the same strain it has been urged by opponents of the institution of private property, that, at any rate, in the form of inherited wealth, it over- reaches its aim, and by securing a livelihood independent of personal exertion, positively counteracts its primary purpose of encouraging each generation to put forth its fullest energies. As against the gilds, modern democracy denies the right of any group or section to monopolise, to the exclusion of less fortunate outsiders, any opportunity of public service. In the same way opponents have argued against private property that, by creating a virtual monopoly of land and capital in the hands of a comparatively small class, the right of exclusive ownership actually hinders whole sections of citizens from that access to the instruments of production by which alone they can exercise their faculties. It is significant that almost the same phrase — " the right to work " — was used by .Turgot as an argument against the gilds, and by Louis Blanc as an indictment against private property in capital and land.^

It was, however, not these general arguments that in- duced Parliament to throw over the vested interests of the handicraftsmen. Amid the rush of new inventions, a legal " right to a trade, or a legal limitation of apprentices, whilst it remained an irksome restriction, ceased to safeguard the workman's livelihood. The only remedy for the consequent disturbance of vested interests would have been to have stereotyped the existing industrial order, by the absolute prohibition of machinery or any other innovation. To the I statesman, keen on securing the maximum national wealth, ' any such prohibition appeared suicidal. To the new class of enterprising captains of industry, all restrictions stood in

' " The right to work is the property of every man, and this property is the first, the most sacred, and the most inalienable of all " (Introduction to the Law for the Suppression of " Jurandes," (Euvres de Turgot, par E. Daire, Paris, 1844, vol. ii. p. 306). This ' ' droit k travailler " preceded by seventy years the " droit su travail " of Louis Blanc.


The Assumptions of Trade Unionism 571

the way of that free use of their capital from which they could derive private wealth. The dispossessed craftsmen could themselves devise no feasible alternative to laisser fatre, and no one among the dominant classes thought of any means of compensation. As the Industrial Revolution progressed, the objection to any interference with mobility increased in strength. New armies of workpeople grew up, ^ without vested interests of their own, and accordingly opposed to any conception of society which excluded them from the most profitable occupations. Finally, we have the rise in influence of the great body of consumers, loth toj admit that the disappointment of the " established expecta- tion " of particular sections of workers is any adequate ground for refraining from the cheapest method of satisfying their ever-changing desires. The result is that even Trade Unionists feel the Doctrine of Vested Interests to be out of date. It is still held with fervor by the more conservative- minded members of every trade, to whom it fully justifies such restrictive regulations as they are able to maintain.^ It is naturally strongest in the remnants of the time-honored ancient handicrafts. Those who have troubled to explore the nooks and crannies of the industrial world, which have hitherto escaped the full intensity of the commercial struggle, will have found in them a peculiar type of Trade Union character. Wherever the Doctrine of Vested Interests is still maintained by the workmen, and admitted by the employers — where, that is to say, the conditions of employ- ment are consciously based, not on the competitive battle, but on the established expectations of the different classes — we find an unusual prevalence, among the rank and file, of what we may call the " gentle " nature — that conjunction of quiet dignity, grave courtesy, and consideration of other

1 Thus, even in 1897 we find an aged compositor writing, " It is useless saying we cannot resist the machine. I say we can and must Are we to prostrate ourselves before this Juggernaut of a 'higher civilisation,' and be crushed out of existence without a protest ? ... To live by his own industry is every man's birthright, and whoever attempts to curtail that right is a traitor to the community." — Letter in Typo^aphical Circular, February 1897.


572 Trade Union Function

people's rights and feelings, which is usually connected with old family and long-established position. But this type of character beconaes every day rarer in the Trade Union world. The old Doctrine of Vested Interests has, in fact, lost its vitality. It is still secretly cherished by many workmen, and its ethical validity is, in disputes between different Trade Unions, unhesitatingly assumed by both sides. But we no longer find it dominating the mind of Trade Union leaders, or figuring in their negotiations with employers, and appeals for public support. Whatever fate may be in store for other forms of vested interests, the modern passion for progress, demanding the quickest possible adaptation of social structure to social needs, has effectually undermined the assumption that any person can have a vested interest in an occupation.

When, at the beginning of this century, the Doctrine of Vested Interests was, as regards the wage-earners, definitely repudiated by the House of Commons, the Trade Unionists were driven back upon what we have termed the Doctrine of Supply and Demand. Working men were told, by friends and foes alike, that they could no longer be regarded as citizens entitled to legal protection of their established ex- pectations ; that labor was a commodity like any other ; and that their real position was that of sellers in a market, entitled to do the best they could for themselves within the limits of the law of the land, but to no better terms than they could, by the ordinary arts of bargaining, extract from those with whom they dealt. It was the business of the employer to buy " labor " in the cheapest market, and that of the workman to sell it in the dearest. It followed that the only criterion of justice of any claim was ability to en- force it, and that the only way by which the workmen could secure better conditions of employment was by strengthen- ing their strategic position against the employer. In the History of Trade Unionism, we have described how, after the collapse of the Owenite Utopianism of 1833-34, this doctrine came as a new spirit into the Trade Union move-


The Assumptions of Trade Unionism 573

ment. Thus the Flint Glass Makers, whose strong and restrictive combination dates from 1849, ^^^^e avowedly based their whole policy upon " Supply and Demand." "When," wrote their chief officer in 1869, "we find Mr. Nasmyth explaining [to the Royal Commission on Trade Unions] the advantage to the employer of a supply of surplus labor, it is easy to understand the consequences to the workmen that an unlimited supply of new hands might have in any market, and their objections to the practice. That the State should enforce any such limitation would certainly be most impolitic. But the conduct of those who refuse to work under a system of an unlimited number of apprentices appears to us precisely similar to that of those employers who insist on it. Both parties are seeking tb do the best for their own interests, and neither pretends to consider the interests of those whom their conduct may affect The masters find it cheaper to employ as many boys as they can, and they leave the displaced workmen to their own resources. The men on their side find it their interest to decline to work with an unrestricted supply of boys, and leave the unemployed youth to do the best they can for themselves. The employer declines all responsibility as to the consequences of displacing a number of middle- aged workmen by boys, on the ground that it is the interest of capital to find the cheapest labor it can. The workmen find it is the interest of their body not to work on such terms. In this battle of interest, in which neither party acknowledge any obligation beyond that of securing their own interests, absolute impartiality appears to us to be the only safe rule of the State. So long as no breach of the general law results, and no legislative restriction exists, the consequences of their conduct must be borne by each party for themselves." ^

Between 1843 and 1880 the Doctrine of Supply and Demand, though never universally accepted, occupied a dominant place in the minds of most of the leaders of Trade

' Editorial in the Flint Glass Makers' Magazine, vol. vi. No. 7 (March 1869).


574 Trade Union Function

Union thought. Viewed in the light of the workmen's ex- perience of the evils of Individual Bargaining, and of the weakness of merely local unions, it meant the establishment of strong national societies, heaping up great reserve funds, and seeking to control the supply of labor in a whole industry from one end of the kingdom to the other. It involved, moreover, the gradual substitution of a policy of inclusion for that of exclusion. Instead of jealously restrict- ing Trade Union membership to men who had " earned " a right to the trade by a definite apprenticeship under re- strictive conditions, the unions came more and more to use all lawful means of enforcing membership on every com- petent workman whom they found actually working at their trade, however questionable might have been the means by which he had acquired his skill. The policy with regard to apprenticeship underwent, accordingly, a subtle change. The ideas of patrimony, of the purchase and sale of " the right to a trade," and of a traditional ratio between learners and adepts, gradually faded away, to be replaced by a frank and somewhat cynical policy of so regulating the entrance to an industry as to put the members of the union in the best possible position for bargaining with the employers./ This conscious manipulation of the labor market, the direct outcome of the Doctrine of Supply and Demand, took different forms in different industries. Among the Flint Glass Makers, for instance, it led to an absolutely precise adjustment, entrance to the trade and progression from grade to grade being so regulated as instantly to fill every vacancy as it occurred, but so as to leave no man in any grade unemployed. " It is," they declared, " simply a question of supply and demand, and we all know that if we supply a greater quantity of an article than what is actually demanded, that the cheapening of that article, whether it be labor or any other commodity, is a natural result." ^ The inference was a strict limitation of boy-labor. " Look to the rule and keep boys back ; for this is the foundation of ' History of Trade Unionism, p. 183.


The Assumptions of Trade Unionism 575

the evil, the secret of , our progress, the dial on which our society works, and the hope of future generations." ^ The Cotton-spinners, accepting the same assumption that their wages must depend exclusively on the strength of their strategic position in the market, find that exactly the opposite policy is the best suited to attain their end. In- stead of attempting to restrict the number of boys, they insist that every spinner shall be attended by two piecers, a ratio of learners to adepts ten times as great as is needed to keep up the supply. This regulation is insisted on in all negotiations with the employers, expressly on the ground that only by such an arrangement can the union secure for its members the highest possible remuneration.* But the most obvious result of the change of doctrine was a revolu- tion in policy with regard to wages and hours. Under the influence of the Doctrine of Vested Interests, the eighteenth- century Trade Unionists had confined themselves, in the main, to protecting their customary livelihood ; asking advances, therefore, not when profits were large, but when the cost of living had risen. Under the influence of the view that wages should be determined by the strategic position of the combined wage-earners, the Trade Unionists of the middle of the present century boldly asserted a claim, '■ in times of good trade, to the highest possible rates that they could exact from employers eager to fulfil immensely profitable orders. Middle-class public opinion, which had accepted as inevitable the starvation wages caused by Supply and Demand in the lean years, was shocked in 1872-73 at the rumor of coalminers and ironworkers, in those times of plenty, demanding ten shillings or even a pound a day, and faring sumptuously on green peas and champagne. The great captains of industry, though genuinely alarmed at the Trade Union pretensions to share in the

' Flint Glass Maker^ Magazine, September 1857; History of Trade Unionism, p. 184.

  • For the economics of this paradox — in our opinion more valid than the

position of the Flint Glass Makers — see the subsequent chapter on " The Economic Characteristics of Trade Unionism."


576 Trade Union Function

profits of good times, found it difficult to refuse this application of their own Doctrine of Supply and Demand. We find them accordingly arranging, particularly in the coal and iron industries, an intellectual compromise with the Trade Union leaders, which took form in the celebrated device of the Sliding Scale. The Durham and Northumberland coal- owners, and the North of England iron-masters, abandoned, once for all, the theory that wages should be determined by the competition of individual workmen among themselves, or by the skill in bargaining of the individual employer. They thus frankly conceded the central position of Trade Unionism, namely, the advantage of a Common Rule co- extensive with the industry. They gave up, moreover, any claim to take advantage of the glut of labor, which occurs from time to time, and which, under the Sliding Scale, is not admitted as a plea for any reduction of wages. The Trade Unionists, on their side, agreed to forego making any use of the occasional short supply of labor, when they might otherwise have secured an advance. But they also made a more important concession. By agreeing that the rate of wages should automatically vary with the price of the product, they accepted the employers' contention that the workman's income should be determined by Supply and Demand, though it was Supply and Demand applied, not directly to labor, but to the product of labor. In the coal and iron trades, the selling price of the product, as fixed by the competitive market, was taken as a rough index of the average profitableness of the industry for the time being. Thus, the workman's position, as regards his proportion of the pro- duct of industry, became that of a humble partner. But he was a partner without any share in the management — with- out, in particular, any voice in that adjustment of the amount of production to the intensity of demand, upon which the selling price of his product, and therefore his, livelihood, necessarily depended. Hence the cry among the coal- miners that no one coal-owner should be allowed, by reckless over-production, to depress the price for the whole trade,


The Assumptions of Trade Unionism 577

and so lower both profits and wages all round. They argued that, if the daily bread of half a million miners' households was to vary automatically with the price of coal — if the workmen, by agreeing to a Sliding Scale, were to forego their right to fight for better terms — then the fixing of the price, as against the consumer, should itself form a part of the general collective agreement upon which the whole industry depended.^ This would have meant, in fact, a gigantic coal-trust governed by a joint committee of capi- talists and workmen, regulating output, prices, and rates of wages, a combination which British coal-owners, despite several attempts, have hitherto failed to establish. The miners, except in South Wales, have therefore abandoned the Sliding Scale, and have now, as we shall presently describe, come under the influence of another doctrine.

Meanwhile, the step which the coal-owners have never been able to take has been taken by most of the Birmingham metal trades. Since 1890 a remarkable series of " Alliances " have been concluded between the Employers' Associations and the Trade Unions of the various sections of the staple industry of Birmingham, based on the idea of a partnership

^ See our chapter on " Continuity of Employment " for a description of the policy of restricting output.

  • The fall of prices since 1873, to whatever cause it may be attributed, would

have made any general adoption of the Sliding Scale disastrous to the wage- earners. Between 1867-77 (taken as par) and 1896, Mr. Sauerbeck's Index Number, representing the general level of prices, has fallen continuously from 100 to 61, the decline having no relation to the extent of business or. to the aggregate employers' profits, both of which are much greater now than at any former period. The advocates of a Sliding Scale contemplate, it is true, a periodical revision of the basis. But in a period of falling prices, the onus of making the change would always be on the wage-earners, and even if they over- came this serious obstacle, they would necessarily stand to lose so long as each particular basis was adhered to. In a period of rising prices, as, for instance, between 1850 and 1873, the employers would be at a similar disadvantage. The fact is that, whether we adopt one assumption or another, the rate of wages has no assignable relation to the fluctuations in the price of the product. There seems no valid reason why the wage-earner should voluntarily put himself in a position in which every improvement in productive methods, every cheapening of the cost of carriage, every advance in commercial organisation, every lessening of tiie risks of business, every lightening of the taxes or other burdens upon industry, and every fell in the rate of interest — all of which are calculated to lower price — should automatically cause a shrinking of his wages.

VOL. II U


578 Trade Union Function

between employers and workmen to increase the profitableness of the trade as a whole.^ The terms of the " Alliance " be- tween "the Associated Bedstead and Fender Mount Manu- facturers, and those operatives (strip casters, stampers, spinners, turners, burnishers, dippers, and solderers) who are members of the Bedstead and Fender Mount (Operatives) Association," are typical of all these agreements. " The object of the Alliance shall be the improvement of selling prices, and the regulation of wages upon the basis of such selling prices . . . thereby securing better profits to manufacturers and better wages to workpeople." To secure this object the employers and workmen alike agree to combine against any manufacturer who sells below the agreed price, or attempts to reduce wages. " This understanding shall include a pledge on the part of the manufacturers not to employ any but association workpeople (over 21 years of age), excepting by special arrangement with the Operatives' Association," and on the part of the workmen not to work for any but those manufacturers who sell their goods at such prices as are from time to time decided upon by " a Wages Board, to be formed of an equal number of employers and employed." " The first advances of prices would be recommended to the Wages Board whenever it was con- sidered safe to make such advance . . . that is, when all the workpeople have joined their Association, and when all the manufacturers have agreed together to sell at the prices fixed by the Employers' Association. . . . The bonus paid to the members of the Operatives' Association shall be increased at the rate of five per cent advance of bonus upon wages for every ten per cent advance . . . upon present

' These "Alliances," which form a significant even though perhaps a temporary industrial development, have elaborate printed agreements, almost identical in their terms. Some idea of the spirit underlying them may be gathered from a pamphlet. The New Trades Combination Movement, its Frinciplts and Methods, by E. J. Smith (Birmingham, 1895), on behalf of the employers; and from an article by W. J. Davis (Secretary of the National Society of Amalgamated Brassworkers) in the Birmingham and District Trades Journal for July 1896. The Birmingham Daily Post for the years 1895-96 contains m«nj articles and letters on the subject.


The Assumptions of Trade Unionism 579

selling prices " (irrespective of changes in the market price of metal as the raw material).

We have in these Birmingham "Alliances," of which half a dozen have lately sprung into existence, an ex- ceptionally developed manifestation of the doctrine that the conditions of employment should be left to Supply and Demand, or, to put it in another way, should correspond to the relative strategic position of the parties to the bargain. Each party naturally does its best, within the limits of the law, to improve its own position in the market. The work- men, finding themselves individually powerless to stand out for better terms, combine in order to strengthen themselves against the employers. The employers, on their side, combine to protect themselves against the workmen. Finally both parties, discovering no other way of maintaining the price of their product, upon which both wages and profits are deemed to depend, unite their forces in order to exact better terms from the community for the trade as a whole, and incidentally to protect themselves against what they choose to consider the unfair competition of a few individuals among them. Nor is such an alliance either so new or so unique as might be supposed. The imperfect organisation of employers and workmen alike, and the absence of a mutual understanding between them, has hitherto stood in the way of the adoption of formal or elaborate treaties of this nature. But a tacit assumption, acted on by both employers and workmen, may, in some industries, be as effective in keeping up prices and excluding competitors as a published treaty. Thus, the uniformly friendly relations between the litt