Industrial Democracy/Part I Trade Union Structure

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PART I TRADE UNION STRUCTURE

VOL.1

CHAPTER I PRIMITIVE DEMOCRACY[edit]

In the local trade clubs of the eighteenth century,, democracy appeared in its simplest form. Like the citizens^ of Uri or Appenzell * the workmen were slow to recognise any other authority than " the voices " of all concerned! The members of each trade, in general meeting assembled] themselves made the regulations, applied them to particular cases, voted the expenditure of funds, and decided on such action by individual members as seemed necessary for the common weal. The early rules were accordingly occupied with securing the maintenance of order and decorum at these general meetings of " the trade " or "the body." With this view the president, often chosen only for the particular meeting, was treated with great respect and invested with special, though temporary,

• Copyright in the United States of America, 1896, by Sidney and Beatrice Webb.

  • The eariy Trade Union general meetings have, indeed, many interesting

resemblances, both in spirit and in form, to the "Landesgemeinden," or general meetings of all citizens, of the old Swiss Cantons. The best description of these archaic Swiss democracies, as they exist to-day, is given by Eugene Rambert in his work Les Alpes Suisses : Etudes Jlistoriqties et Nationales (Lausanne, 1889). J. M. Vincent's State and Federal Government in Switzerland (Baltimore, 189 1) is more precise and accurate than any other account in the English language. Freeman's picturesque reference to them in The Growth of the English Constitu- tion (London, 1872) is well known.


4 Trade Union Structure

authority. Thus the constitution of the London Society of Woolstaplers, established 1785, declares "that at every meeting of this society a president shall be chosen to preserve the rules of decorum and good order ; and if any member should not be silent on due notice given by the president, which shall be by giving three distinct knocks on the table, he shall fine threepence ; and if any one shall in- terrupt another in any debate while addressing the president, he shall fine sixpence ; and if the person so fined shall return any indecent language, he shall fine sixpence more ; and should any president misconduct himself, so as to cause uproar and confusion in the society, or shall neglect to enforce a strict observance of this and the following article, he shall be superseded, and another president shall be chosen in his stead. -The president shall be accommodated with his own choice of liquors, wine only excepted." ^ And the Articles of the Society of Journeymen Brushmakers, to which no person was to be admitted as a member " who is not well-affected to his present Majesty and the Protestant succession, and in good health, and of a respectable char- acter," provide " that on each evening the society meets there shall be a president chosen from the members present to keep order ; to be allowed a shilling for his trouble ; any member refusing to serve the office to be fined sixpence.' If any member dispute on politics, swear, lay wagers, promote gambling, or behave otherwise disorderly, and will not be silent when ordered by the chairman, he shall pay a fine of a shilling." ^

The rules of every old society consist mainly of safe^ guards of the efficiency of this general meeting. Wjiilst, political or religious wrangling, seditious sentiments or soiigs^ cursing, swearing, or obscene language, betting, wagering, gaming, or refusing to keep silence were penalised by fines, elaborate and detailed provision was made for the entertain-

1 The Artkles of the London Society of Woolstaplers (London, 1813). ' Articles of the Society of Journeymen Brushmakers, held at the sign of the Craven Head, Drury Latie (London, 1806).


Primitive Democracy 5

nient of the members. Meeting, as all clubs did, at a public- house in a room lent free by the landlord, it was taken as a matter of course that each man should do his share of drinking. The rules often prescribe the sum to be spent at each meeting : in the case of the Friendly Society of Iron- founders, for instance, the meniber's monthly contribution in 1 809 was a shilling " to the box," and threepence for liquor, " to be spent whether present or not." The Brushmakqrs provided " that on every meeting night each member shall receive a pot ticket at eight o'clock, a pint at ten, and no more."^ And the Manchester Compositors resolved in 1826 " that tobacco be allowed to such members of this society as require it during the hours of business at any meeting of the society." *

Afterthe president, the most important oflficers were, accordingly, the stewards or marshalmen, two or four members usually chosen^ by rotation. Their duty was, to use the words of the Cotton-spinners, " at every meeting to fetch all the liquor into the committee room, and serve it regularly round  ; * and the members were, in some cases, " forbidden to drink out of turn, except the officers at the table or a member on his first coming into the town." * Treasurer

1 The account book of the little Preston Society of Carpenters, whose mem- bership in 1807 averj^ed about forty-five, shows an expenditure at each meeting of 6s. to 7s. 6d. As late as 1837 the rules of the SteSin-Engine Makers' Society provided that one-third of the income — fourpence out of the monthly contribution of a shilling — " shall be spent in refreshments. ... To prevent disorder no person shall help himself to any drink in the club-room during club hours, but what is served him by the waiters or marshalmen who shall be ^(ipointed by the president every club night." Some particulars as to the dying away of this custom are given in our History if Trade Unionism, pp. 185, 186 ; see also the article by Pro£ W. J. Ashley on "Journeymen's clubs," in Political Science Quarterly, March 1897.

  • MS. Minutes of the Manchester Typographical Society, 7th March 1826.

' Articles, Rules, Orders, and Regulations made and to be observed by and between the Friendly Associated Cotton-spinners within the township of Oldham (Oldham, 1797 : reprinted 1829).

♦ Friendly Society of Ironfounders, Rules, 1809. The Rules of the Liverpool Shipwrights' Society of 1784 provided also "that each member that shall call for drink without leave of the stewards shall forfeit and pay for the drink they call for to the stewards for the use of the box. . . . That the marshalmen shall pay the over- plus of drink that comes in at every monthly meeting more than allowed by the


6 Trade Union Structure

there was often none, the scanty funds, if not consumed as quickly as collected, being usually deposited with the publican who acted as host. Sometimes, however, we have the archaic box with three locks, so frequent among the gilds ; and in such cases members served in rotation as " keymasters, or, as we should now say,

^Jiajstees, Thus the Edinburgh Shoemakers provided that " the keymasters shall be chosen by the roll, beginning at the top for the first keymaster, and at the middle of the roll for the youngest keymaster, and so on until the roll be finished. If any refuse the keymaster, he shall pay one shilling and sixpence sterling." ^ The ancient box of the Glasgow Ropemakers' Friendly Society (established 1824), elaborately decorated with the society's "coat of arms," was kept in the custody of the president, who was elected annually.* Down to within the last thirty years the custom was maintained on the " deacons' choosing," or annual election day, of solemnly transporting this box through the streets of Glasgow to the house of the new president, with a procession of ropespinners headed by a piper, the ceremony terminating with a feast. The keeping of accounts and the writing of letters was a later develop- mentj and when a clerk or secretary was needed, he had perforce to be chosen from the small number qualified for

ithe work. But there is evidence that the early secre- taries served, like their colleagues, only for short periods,

society ; and no member of this society is allowed to call for or smoak tobacco during club hours in the club room ; for every such offence he is to forfeit and pay fourpence to the stewards for the use of the box." — Articles to he obseroed ty a Society of Shipwrights, or the True British Society, all Freemen (Liverpool, 1784), Articles 8 and 9.

1 Articles of the Journeymen Shoemakers of the City of Edinburgh (Edinburgh, 1778) — a society established in 1727.

^ Articles and Regulations of the Associated Jiopemaker^ Friendly Society (Glasgow, 1836), repeated in the General Laws and Regulations of the Glasgow Ropemakers' Trade Protective and Friendly Society (Glasgow, 1 884). The members-j of the Glasgow Typographical Society resolved, in 1823, "that a man be pro- vided on election nights to carry the box from the residence of the president to the place of meeting, and after the meeting to the new president's house." — MS. Minutes of general meeting, Glasgow Typographical Society, 4th October 1823.


Primitive Democracy 7

and occupied, moreover, a position very subordinate to the! president.

Even when it was necessary to supplement the officers by some kind of committee, so far were these infant demo-j cracies from any superstitious worship of the ballot- box.j that, although we know of no case of actual choice by lot,*j- the committee-men were usually taken, as in the case, of the' Steam-Engine Makers' Society, " in rotation as their names appear on the books." * "A fine of one shilling," say the rules of the Southern Amicable Union Society of Wool- staplers, " shall be levied on any one who shall refuse to serve on the committee or neglect to attend its stated meetings, . . . and the next in rotation shall be called in his stead." ° The rules of the Liverpool Shipwrights declared " that the committee shall be chosen by rotation as they stand in the books ; and any member refusing to serve the office shall forfeit ten shillings and sixpence."* As late as 1843 we find the very old Society of Curriers resolving that for this purpose " a list with three columns be drawn up of the whole of the members, dividing their ages as near as possible in the following manner : the elder, the middle-aged and the young ; so that- the experience of the elder and the sound

1 The selection of officers by lot was, it need hardly be said, frequent in primitive times. It is interesting to find the practice in the Swiss " Landes- gemeinden." In 1640 the " Landesgemeinde " of Glarus began to choose eight candidates for each office, who then drew lots among themselves. Fifty years later Schwyz followed this example. By 1793 the " Landesgemeinde " of Glarus was casting lots for all offices, including the cantonal secretaryship, the steward- ships of dependent territories, etc. The winner often sold his office to the highest bidder. The practice was not totally abolished until 1837, and old men still remember the passing round of the eight balls, each wrapped in black cloth, seven being silvern and the eighth gilt. — Les Alpes Suisses : j&tudes Historiques el Nationala, by Engine Rambert (Lausanne, 1889), pp. 226, 276.

  • Jiules of the Steam-Engine Makers' Society, edition of 1837.

' Rules of the Southern Amicable Union of jVoelstaplers (London, 1837).

  • Articles to be observed by the Association of the Friendly Union of Shipwrights,

instituted in Liverpool on Tuesday, nth November 1800 (Liverpool, 1800), Rule 19. The London Sailmakers resolved, in 1836, "that from this evening the calling for stewards shall begin from the last man on the committee, and that ftom and after the last steward the twelve men who stand in rotation on the book do form the committee." — MS. Minutes of general meeting, 26th September 1836.


8 Trade Union Structure

judgment of the middle-aged will make up for any deficiency on the part of the young." ' In some cases, indeed, the members of the committee were actually chosen by the officers. Thus in the ancient society of Journeymen Paper- makers, where each " Grand Division " had its committee of eight members, it was provided that " to prevent imposition part of the committee shall be changed every three months, by four old members going out and four new ones coming in ; also a chairman shall be chosen to keep good order, which chairman, with the clerk, shall nominate the four new members which shall succeed the four old ones." ^ ' ^The early trade club was thus a democracy of the most rudimentary type, free alike from permanently differentiated officials, executive council, or representative assembly. The general meeting strove itself to transact all the business, and grudgingly delegated any of its functions either to officers or to committees. When this delegation ■ could no longer be avoided, the expedients of rotation and short periods of service were used " to prevent im- position " or any undue influence by particular members. In this earliest type of Trade Union democracy we find, in Ifaqt, the most childlike faith not only that "all men are l^qual," but also that " what concerns all should be decided by all."

It is obvious that this form of democracy was compatible only with the smallest possible amount of business. But it was, in our opinion, not so much the growth of the financial and secretarial transactions of the unions, as the exigencies of

• MS. Minutes of the London Society of Journeymen Curriers, January 1843.

' Rules and Articles to be observed by the Journeymen Papermakers throughout iB«^/a»</(i823), Appendix 18 to Report on Combination Laws, 1825, p. 56. The only Trade Union in which this example still prevails is that of the Flint Glass Makers, where the rules until lately gave the secretary " the power to nominate a central committee (open to the objection of the trade), in whose hands the executive power of the society shall be vested from year to year." — Rules and Regulations of the National Flint Glass Makers' Sick and Friendly Society (Man- chester, 1890). This has lately been modified, in so far that seven members are now elected, the central secretary nominating four " from the district in which he resides, but open to the objection of the trade." — Rule 67 (Rules, reprinted with additions, Manchester, 1893).


Primitive Democracy g

their warfare with the employers, that first led to a departure from this simple ideal. Th e legal an d social persecutionr^fo^ which Trade Unionists were subject, at any rate up to 1824, made secrecy and promptitude absolutely necessary for sue- 1 cessful operations ; and accordingly at all critical times we find the direction of affairs passing out of the hands of the general meeting into those of a responsible, if not a repre- sentative, committee. Thus the London Tailors, whose militant combinations between 1720 and 1834 repeatedly attracted the attention of Parliament,^ had practically two constitutions, one for peace and one for war. In quiet times, the society was made up of little autonomous general meet- ings of the kind described above at the thirty " houses of call " in London and Westminster. The organisation for war, as set forth in 1 8 1 8 by Francis Place, was very different : " Each house of call has a deputy, who on particular occasions is chosen by a kind of tacit consent, frequently without its being known to a very large majority who is chosen. The deputies form a committee, and they again choose, in a somewhat similar way, a very small committee, in whom, on very particular occasions, all power resides, from whom all orders proceed, and whose commands are implicitly obeyed ; and on no occasion has it ever been known that their commands have exceeded the necessity of the occasion, or that they have wandered in the least from the purpose for which it was understood they were appointed. So perfect indeed is the organisation, and so well has it been carried into effect, that no complaint has ever been heard ; with so much simplicity and with so great certainty does the whole business appear to be conducted that the great body of journeymen rather acquiesce than assist in any way in it." ^ Again, the protracted legal proceedings of the Scottish Hand-

1 See the interesting Se/eci Documents illustrating the History of Trade Unionism: I. The Tailoring Trade, edited by F. W. Galton (London, 1896), being one of the " Studies " published by the London School of Economics and Political Science.

  • The Gorgon, No. 20, 3rd October 1818, reprinted in The Tailoring Trade

by F. W. Galton, pp. 153, 154-

VOL. I - B 2


lo Trade Union Structure

loom Weavers, ending in the great struggle when 30,000 looms from Carlisle to Aberdeen struck on a single day (lOth November 1 8 1 2), were conducted by an autocratic com- mittee of five, sitting in Glasgow, and periodically summon- ing from all the districts delegates who carried back to their constituents orders which were implicitly obeyed.^ | Before the repeal of the Combination Laws in 1824, the enlfployers in all the organised trades complained bitterly of these " self- appointed" committees, and made repeated attempts to scatter them by prosecutions for combination or conspiracy! To this constant danger of prosecution may be ascribed some of the mysteiy which surrounds the actual constitution" of these tribunals gout .their appearance on the scene when- ever"an emergency calle^ ioi strong action was a necessary consequence of the failure of the clubs to provide any con- stitutional authority of a representative characteni

So far we have dealt principally with trade clubs confined to particular towns or districts. When, in any trade, these local clubs united to form a federal union, or when one of them enrolled members in other towns, government by a j general meeting of " the trade," or of all the members, be- came impracticable.^ Nowadays some kind of representa-

1 Evidence before the House of Commons Committee on Artisans and Machinery, 1824, especially that of Richmond.

  • A branch of a national union is still governed by the members in general

meeting assembled ; and for this and other reasons, it is customary for several separate branches to be established in large towns where the number of members becomes greater than can easily be accommodated in a single branch meeting- place. Such branches usually send delegates to a district committee, which thus becomes the real governing authority of the town or district. But in certain unions the idea of direct government by an aggregate meeting of the trade still so far prevails that, even in so large a centre as London, resort is had to huge mass meetings. Thus the London Society of Compositors will occasionally summon its ten thousand members to meet in council to decide, in an excited mass meeting, the question of peace or war with their employers. And the National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives, which in its federal constitution adopts a large measure of representative institutions, still retains in its local organisation the aggregate meeting of the trade as the supreme governing body for the district. The Shoemakers of London or Leicester frequently hold meetings at which the attendance is numbered by thousands, with results that are occasionally calamitous to the union. Thus, when in 1891 the men of a certain London firm had impetuously left their work contrary to the agreement made by the union with


Primitive Democracy 1 1

tive institutions would seem to have been inevitable at this stage. But it is significant to notice how slowly, reluctantly, and incompletely the Trade Unionists have incorporated ir their constitutions what is often regarded as the specifically Anglo-Saxon form of democracy — the elected representative! assembly, appointing and controlling a standing executive. Until the present generation, no Trade Union had ever formed its constitution on this model. It is true that in the early days we hear of^ meetings of delegates from local ^

the employers, their branch called a mass meeting of the whole body of /the London members (seven thousand attending), which, after refusing even to hear the union officials, decided to support the recalcitrant strikers, with the result that the employers " locked out " the whole trade. (^Monthly Report of the National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives, November 1 891.) In 1893 the union executive found it necessary to summon at Leicester a special delegate meeting of the whole society to sit in judgment on the London members who had decided, at a mass meeting, to withdraw from- the national agreement to submit to arbitration. The circular calling the delegate meeting contains a vivid description of the scene at this mass meeting : " The hall was well filled, and Mr. Judge, president of the union, took the chair. From the outset it was soon found that the rowdy element intended to ^ain prevent a hearing, and thus make it impossible for our views to be laid before the bulk of the more intelligent and reasonable members. ... If democratic unions such as ours are to have the meetings stopped by such proceedings, ... if the members refuse to hear, and insult by cock-crowing and cat-calls their own accredited and elected executive, then it is time that other steps be taken." The delegate meeting, by 74 votes to 9, severely censured the London members, and reversed their decision (Circular of Executive Committee, 14th March 1893 : Special Report of the Delegate Meeting at Leicester, 17th April 1893). In most unions, however, experience has shown that in truth "aggregate meetings" are "aggravated meetings," and has led to their abandonment in favor of district committees or delegate meetings.

  • In the History of Trade Unionism, p. 46, we described the Hatters as hold-

ing in 1772, 1775, and 1777, "congresses" of delegates from all parts of the country. Further examination of the evidence (House of Commons Journals, vol. xxxvi. ; Place MS. 27,799-68; Committee on Artisans and Machinery) inclines us to believe that these " congresses," like another in 1816, comprised only delegates from the various workshops in London. We can discover no instance during the eighteenth century of a Trade Union gathering made up of delegates from the local clubs throughout the country. But though the con- gresses of the Hatters probably represented only the London workmen, their " bye-laws " were apparently adopted by the clubs elsewhere, and came thus to be of national scope. Similar instances of national regulation by the principal centre of a trade may be seen in the "resolutions" addressed "to the Wool- staplers of England" by the London Society of Woolstaplers, and in the " articles to be observed by the Journeymen Papermakers throughout England," formulated at a meeting of the trade at large held at Maidstone. In the loose alliances of the local clubs in each trade, the chief trade centre often acted, in fiict, as the "governing branch."


12 Trade Union Structure

clubs to adopt or amend the " articles " of their association. A "deputation" from nine local societies of Carpenters met thus in London in 1827 to form the Friendly Society of Operative House Carpenters and Joiners, and similar meetings were annually held to revise the rules and adjust the finances of this federation. It would have been a natural development for such a representative congress to appoint a standing committee and executive ofificers to act on behalf of the whole trade. But when between 1824 and 1840 the great national societies of that generation settled down into their constitutions, the congress of elected representatives either found no place at all, or else was called together only at long intervals and for strictly limited purposes. In no case do we see it acting as a permanent supreme assembly. The Trade Union met the needs of expanding democracy by some remarkable experiments in constitution-making.

"C^^'The first step in the transition from the loose alliance of separate local clubs into a national organisation was the appointment of a seat of government or " governing branch.". The members residing in one town were charged with the responsibility of conducting the current business of the whole society, as well as that of their own branch. The branch ofificers and the branch committee of this town accord- ingly became the central authority.' Herft again the Ip aHing i dea was not so much to_ get a gover nment that wa iu-rpprp-

' In some of the more elaborate Trade Union constitutions formulated between 1820 and 1834 we find a hierarchy of authorities, none of them elected by the society as a whole, but each responsible for a definite part of the common admini- stration. Thus The Rules and Articles to be observed by the Journeymen Paper- makers m 1823 provide "that there shall be five Grand Divisions throughout England where all money shall be lodged, that when wanted may be sent to any part where emergency may require." These " Grand Divisions " were the branches in the five principal centres of the trade, each being given jurisdiction over all the mills in the counties round about it. Above them all stood " No. i Grand Division " (Maidstone), which was empowered to determine business ot too serious a nature to be left to any other Grand Division. This geographical hierarchy is interesting as having apparently furnished the model for most of the constitutions of the period, notably of the Owenite societies of 1833-1834, includ- ing the Builders' Union and the Grand National Consolidated Trades Union ifself.


Primitive Democracy 13

sentative of the socie ty as to make e ach sectio n take its turn at the privileges ami bu rdens~of~admin istratioa The seat of government was accordingly always changed at short) intervals, often by rotation. Thus the Steam-Engine Makers' rules of 1826 provide that " the central branch of the society shall be held alternately at the different branches of this society, according as they stand on the books, commencing with Branch No. i, and tihe secretary of the central branch shall, after the accounts of the former year have been balanced, send the books to the next central branch of the society." ^ In other cases the seat of government was periodically deter- mined by vote of the whole body of members, who appear usually to have been strongly biassed in favor of shifting it from town to town. The reason appears in this statement by one of the lodges of the Ironfounders : " What, we ask, has been the history of nearly every trade society in this respect ? Why, that when any branch or section of it has possessed the governing power too long, it has become care- less of the society's interests, tried to assume irresponsible powers, and invariably by its remissness opened wide the doors of peculation, jobbery, and fraud." *

The institution of a " governing branch " had the advantagQ of being the cheapest machinery of central administration^ that could be devised. By it the national union secured, its executive committee, at no greater expense than a small local society.^ And so long as the function of the national

The same geographical hierarchy was a feature of the constitution of the Southern Amicable Society of Woolstaplers until the last revision of rules in 1892. In only one case has a similar hierarchy survived. The United Society of Brushmakers, established in the eighteenth century, is still divided into geographical divisions governed by the six head towns, with London as the centre of communication. The branches in the West Riding, for instance, are governed by the Leeds com- mittee, and when in 1892 the Sheffield branch had a strike, this was managed by the secretary of the Leeds branch.

I Rule 19 ; rules of 1826 as reprinted in the Annual Report for 1837.

' Address of the Bristol branch of the Friendly Society of Ironfounders to the members at large (in Annual Report for 1849).

' Both the idea of rotation of office, and that of a local governing branch, can be traced to the network of village sick-clubs which existed all over England in the eighteenth century. In 1824 these clubs were described by a hostile critic as " under the management of the ordinary members who succeed to the several offices


14 Trade Union Structure

executive was confined to that of a centre of communication between practically autonomous local branches, no alteration in the machinery was necessary. The duties of the secretary, like those of his committee, were not beyond the competence of ordinary artisans working at their trade and devoting only their evenings to their official business. But with the multir plication of branches and the formation of a central fund, the secretarial work of a national union presently absorbed the whole time of a single officer, to whom, therefore, a salary jjad to be assigned. As the salary came from the common fund, the right of appointment passed, without question, from the branch , rneeting to " the voices " of the whole body of members. ( Thus the general secretary was singled out for a unique positiofi : alone among the officers of the union he was elected by the whole body of members. \ Meanwhile the supreme authority continued to be " the TOfees." Every pro-, position not covered by the original " articles," together with all questions of 'peace and war, was submitted to the votes of the members.^ But this was not all. Each branch, in

in rotation ; frequently without being qualified either by ability, independence, or impartiality for the due discharge of their respective offices ; or under the control of a standing committee, composed of the most active and often the least eligible members residing near i he place of meeting." — The Constitution cf Friendly Societies upon Legal and Scientific Principles, by Rev. John Thomas Becher (2nd edition, London, 1824), p. 50,

Comparing small things with great, we may say that the British Empire is administered by a " governing branch," The business common to the Empire as a whole is transacted, not by imperial or federal officers, but by those of one part of the Empire, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland ; and they are supervised, not by an Imperial Diet or Federal Assembly, but by the domestic legislature at Westminster.

' The very ancient United Society of Brushmakers, which dates from the early part of the eighteenth century, retains to this day its archaic method of collecting " the voices." In London, said to be the most conservative of all the districts, no alteration of rule is made without " sending round the box " as of yore. In the society's ancient iron box are put all the papers relating to the subject under dis- cussion, and a member out of employment is deputed to carry the box from shop to shop until it has travelled " all round the trade." When it arrives at a shop, all the men cease work and gather round ; the box is opened, its contents are read and discussed, and the shop delegates are then and there instructed how to vote at the next delegate meeting. The box is then refilled and sent on to the next shop. Old minutes of 1829 show that this custom has remained unchanged, down to the smallest detail, for, .at any rate, a couple of generations. It is probably nearly two centuries old.


Primitive Democracy 1 5

general meeting assembled, claimed the right to have any proposition whatsoever submitted to the vote of the society as a whole. And thus we find, in almost every Trade Union which has a history at all, a most instructive series of experi- ments in the use, misuse, and limitations of the Referendum^

Such was the typical Trade Union constitution of the last generation. In a few cases it has survived, almost unchanged, down to the present day, just as its pre- decessor, the archaic local club governed by the general meeting, still finds representatives in the Trade Union world. But wherever an old Trade Union has maintained its vitality, its constitution has been progressively modified, whilst the most powerful of the modern unions have been formed on a different pattern. An examination of this evolutionary process will bring home to us the transitional character of the existing constitutional forms, and give us valuable hints towards the solution, in a larger field, of the problem of uniting efficient administration with popular control.

We have already noted that, in passing from a local tSN a national organisation, the Trade Union unwittingly left behind the ideal of primitive democracy. The setting apart j of one man to do the clerical work destroyed the possibility of equal and identical service by all the members, and laid the foundation of a separate governing class. The practice of requiring members to act in rotation was silently abandoned^ Once chosen for his post, the general secretary could rely with confidence, unless he proved himself obviously unfit or grossly incompetent, on being annually re-elected. Spending all day at office work, he soon acquired a professional expert- ness quite out of the reach of his fellow- members at the bench or the forge. And even if some other member possessed natural gifts equal or superior to the acquired skill of the existing officer, there was, in a national organisa- tion, no opportunity of making these qualities known. The general secretary, on the other hand, was always adver- tising his name and his personality to the thousands of


1 6 Trade Union Structure

members by the printed circulars and financial reports, which became the only link between the scattered branches, and afforded positive evidence of his competency to perform the regular work of the office. With every increase in the society's membership, with every extension or elaborationy of its financial system or trade policy, the position of the salaried official became, accordingly, more and more sequrej^ "The general secretaries themselves changed with the develop ment of their office. The work could no longer be efficiently performed by an ordinary artisan, and some preliminary office training became almost indispensable^ The Coalminers, for instance, as we have shown in t5uf- description of* the Trade Union world, have picked their secretaries to a large extent from a specially trained section, the checkweigh-men.^ The Cotton Operatives have even adopted a system of competitive examination among the candidates for their staff appointments." In other unions any candidate who has not proved his capacity for office work and trade negotiations would stand at a serious disadvantage in the election, where the choice is coming evpry /day to be confined more clearly to the small class of minor officials. The paramount necessity of efficient administration has co-operated with this permanence in producing a progressive differentiation of an official governing class, more and more marked off by character, training, and duties from the bullT ^ the members. The annual election of the general secretary by a popular vote, far from leading to frequent rotation of office and equal service by all the members, has, in fact, invariably resulted in permanence of tenure exceeding even that of the English civil servant. It is^ accordingly interesting to notice that, in the later rules of some of the most influential of existing unions, the ipractical permanence of the official staff is tacitly recognised (by the omission of all provision for re-election. Indeed, the

1 History of Trade Unionism, p. 291.

2 Ibid. p. 294 ; see also the subsequent chapter on ' ' The Method of Collective Bargaining," where a specimen examination paper is reprinted.


Primitive Democracy 17

Amalgamated Association of Operative Cotton-spinners goes so far as expressly to provide in its rules that the general secretary " shall continue in office so long as he gives satis- faction." ^

While everything was thus tending to exalt the position^ of the salaried official, the executive committee, under whose direction he was placed, being composed of men working at their trade, retained its essential weakness. Though modi- fied in unimportant particulars, it continued in nearly all the old societies to be chosen only by one geographical sectionj of the members. At first each branch served in rotation as the seat of government. This quickly gave way to a system of selecting the governing branch from among the more important centres of the trade. Moreover, though the desire 1 periodically to shift the seat of this authority long manifested itself and still lingers in some trades,* the growth of anj official staff, and the necessity of securing accommodation on some durable tenancy, has practically made the head-f quartgrs— stationary, even if the change has not been ex-j pressly recorded in the rules. Thus the Friendly Society of Ironfounders has retained its head office in London since 1 846, and the Friendly Society of Operative Stonemasons since 1883. The United Society of Boilermakers, which long wandered from port to port, has remained in Newcastle since 1880; and finally" settled the question in 1888 by building itself palatial offices on a freehold site.' Here again

^ Rule 12 in the editions of Rules of 1891 and 1894.

' Notably the Plumbers and Irondressers. In 1877 a proposal at the general council of the Operative Bricklayers' Society to convert the executive into a shift- ing one, changing the headquarters every third year, was only defeated by a cast- ing vote. — Operative Bricklaytrf Society Trade Circular, September 1877.

^ Along with this change has gone the differentiation of national business from that of the branch. The committee work of the larger societies became more than could be undertaken, in addition to the branch management, by men giving only their evenings. We find, therefore, the central executive committee becoming a body distinct from the branch committee, sometimes (as in the United Society of Operative Plumbers) elected by the same constituents, but more usually by the members of all the branches within a convenient radius of the central office. Thus the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters gives the election to the members within twelve miles of the head office— that is, to the thirty-five branches in and near Manchester— and the Friendly Society of Ironfounders to the six branches of the


1 8 Trade Union Structure

^the deeply -rooted desire on the part of Trade Union demo- icrats to secure to each section an equal and identical share «n the government of the society has had to give way before >the necessity of obtaining e fficient ad ministration. In ceas- ing to be movable the executive committee lost even such , moral influence over the general secretary as was conveyedj^ by an express and recent delegation by the remainder of the society. The salaried official, elected by the votes of all the members, could in fact claim to possess more representative authority than a committee whose functions as an executive depended merely on the accident of the society's offices being built in the town in which the members of the committee happened to be working. In some societies, moreover, the idea of Rotation of Office so far survived that the committee men were elected for a short term and disqualified for re-election. Such inexperienced and casually selected I^^QSEmittees of tired manual workers, meeting only in the evening, usually found themselves incompetent to resist, or even to criticise, any practical proposal that might be brought forward by the permanent trained professional whom they were supposed to direct and control.^

In face of so weak an executive committee the most obvious check upon the predominant power of the salaried officials was the elementary device of a written constitution. The ordinary workman, without either experience or imagina- tion, fondly thought that the executive government of a great national organisation could be reduced to a mechanical obedience to printed rules. Hence the constant elaboration of the rules of the several societies, in the vain endeavor to leave nothing to the discretion of officers or corhmittees. It was an essential part of the faith of these primitive democrats that the difficult and detailed work of drafting and amendindf

London district. In the United Society of Boilennakeis, down to 1897, the twenty lodges in the Tyne district, each in rotation, nominated one of the seven members of which the executive committee is composed.

• The only organisation, outside the Trade Union world, in which the execu- tive committee and the seat of government are changed annually, is, we believe,' the Ancient Order of Foresters, the worldwide federal friendly society.


Primitive Democracy ig

these rules should not be delegated to any partkular person or persons, but should be undertaken by " the body " or " the trade " in general meeting assembled.^

When a society spread from town to town, and a meeting of all the members became impracticable, the " articjes-i^ere settled, as we have mentioned, by a meeting ofSelegates, and any revision was undertaken by the same body. Accordingly, we find, in the early history of such societies as the Iron- founders, Stonemasons, Carpenters, Coachmakers, and Steam- Engine Makers, frequent assemblies of delegates from the different branches, charged with suppTementing or revising the somewhat tentative rules upon which the society had been based. But it would be a serious misconception to take these gatherings for " parliaments," with plenary power to determine the policy to be pursued by the society. The delegates came together only for specific and strictly limitedv purposes. Nor were even these purposes left to be dea^ with at their discretion. In all cases that we know of th6 delegates were bound to decide according to the votes already taken in their respective branches. In many societies the delegate was merely the vehicle by which" " the voices " of the members were mechanically con- veyed. Thus the Friendly Society of Operative Stone- masons, at that time the largest and most powerful Trade

1 This preference of Trade Unionists for making their own rules wall remind the political student that " direct legislation by the people " has an older and wider history with regard to the framing and revising of constitutions than with regard to ordinary legislation. Thus, already in 1779 the citizens of Massa- chusetts insisted on asserting, by popular vote, that a constitution should be fiamed, and equally on deciding that the draft prepared should be adopted. In 1818 the Connecticut constitution included a provision that any particular amendment to it might be submitted to the popular vote. In Europe the first constitution to be submitted to the same ordeal was the French constitution of 1793, which, though adopted by the primary assemblies, never came into force. The practice became usual with regard to the Swiss cantonal constitutions after the French Revolution of 1830, St. Gall leading the way in July 1831. See the elaborate treatise of Charles Borgeaud on The Adoption and Amendment 0/ Constitutions (London, 1895); Bryce's The American Commonwealth (London,

^i)i); and Le Referendum en Suisse hy Simon Deploige (Brussels, 1892), of

which an English translation by C. P. Trevelyan and Lilian Tomn, with additional notes and appendices, will shortly be published by the London School of Economics and Political Science.


20 Trade Union Structure

Union, held annual delegate meetings between 1834 and 1839 foi" the sole purpose of revising its rules. How limited was the power of this assembly may be judged from the following extract from an address of the central executive; " As the delegates are about to meet, the Grand Committee submit to all lodges the following resolutions in reference to the conduct of delegates. It is evident that the duty of delegates is to vote according to the instructions of the majority' of their constituents, therefore they ought not to propose any ^e33ure unl ess r ecommended by the Lodges or Districts they rej3fese§%-^ To effect this we propose the following resolutions : that each Lodge shall furnish their delegates! with written instructions how to vote on each question thq^ diave taken into their consideration, and that no delegate shall vote in opposition to his instructions, and when it Appears by examining the instructions there is a majority for any measure, it shall be passed without discussion." ^ The ^felegate meeting of 1838 agreed with this view. All lodges were to send resolutions for alterations of rules two months before the delegate meeting ; they were to be printed in the Fortnightly Return, and discussed by each lodge ; the delegate was then to be instructed as to the sense of the members by a majority vote ; and only if there was no decided majority on any point was the delegate to have discretion as to his vote. But even this restriction did not satisfy the Stone- masons' idea of democracy. In 1837 the Liverpool Lodge demanded that " all the alterations made in our laws at the grand delegate meeting" shall be communicated to all the lodges " for the consideration of our society before they are printed." ' The central executive mildly deprecated such a course, on the ground that the amendment and passing of the laws would under those circumstances take up the whole time of the society until the next delegate meeting came round. The request, however, was taken up by other

• Stonemason/ Fortnightly Return, May 1836 (the circular issued fortnightly to all the branches by the executive committee). 2 Ibid. May 1837.


Primitive Democracy 2 1

branches, and by 1844 we find the practice established of making any necessary amendment in the rules by merely submitting the proposal in the Fortnightly Return, and adding! together the votes taken in each lodge meeting. A similarl change took place in such other great societies as the Iron- founders, Steam-Engine Makers, and Coachmakers. The great bulk of the members saw no advantage in incurring the very considerable expense of paying the coach fares of delegates to a central town and maintaining them there at the rate of six shillings a day,^ when the introduction of penny postage made possible the circulation of a fortnightly or monthly circular, through the medium of which their votes on any particular proposition could be quickly and inexpensively collected. The delegate meeting became, in fact, superseded by the Referendum."

By the term Referendum the modern student of political, institutions understands the submission to the votes of the ' whole people of any measure deliberated on by the repre- sentative assembly. Another development of the same prin- ciple is what is called the Initiative, that is to say, the right of a section of the community to insist on its proposals being submitted to the vote of the whole electorate. As a repre-| sentative assembly formed no part of the earlier Trade Union constitutions, both the Referendu m and theljoitiative-took with them the crudest shape. Any new rule or amendment of a rule, any proposed line of policy or particular application^ of it, might be straightway submitted to the votes of all the

  • In 1838 a large majority of the lodges of the Friendly Society of Operative

Stonemasons voted " that on all measures submitted to the consideration of our Society, the number of members be taken in every Lodge for and against such a measure, and transmitted through the district Lodges to the Seat of Government, and in place of the number of Lodges, the majority of the aggregate members to sanction or reject any measures." — Fortnightly Return, 19th January 1838.

^ It is interesting to find that in at least one Trade Union the introduction of the Referendum is directly ascribed to the circulation in England between 1850 and i860 of translations of pamphlets by Rittinghausen and Victor Consid^rant. It is stated in the Typographical Circular for March 1889, that John Melson, a Liver- pool printer, got the idea of " Direct Legislation by the People " from these pamphlets, and urged its adoption on the union, at first unsuccessfully, but at the 1861 delegate meeting virith the result that the Referendum was adopted as the future method of legislation.


22 Trade Union Structure

members. Nor was this practice of consulting the members confined to the central executive. Any branch might equally have any proposition put to the vote through the medium of the societ3r's official circular. And however imperfectly the question was framed, however inconsistent the result might be with the society's rules and past practice, the answer re- turned by the members' votes was final and instantly operative.

,n"hose who believe that pure democracy implies the direct

^Hecision, by the mass of the people, of every question as it arises, will find this ideal realised without check or limit in the

iiistory of the larger Trade Unions between 1834 and 1870.

i The result was significant and full of political instruction.

Whenever the union was enjoying a vigorous life we find, to

begin with, a wild rush of propositions. Every active branch had some new rule to suggest, and every issue of the official circular was filled with crude and often inconsistent projects of amendment. The executive committee of the United Kingdom Society of Coachmakers, for instance, had to put no fewer than forty-four propositions simultaneously to the vote in a single circular.^ It is difficult to convey any adequate idea of the variety and, in some cases, the absurdity of these propositions. To take only those recorded in the annals of the Stonemasons between 1838 and 1839; ^^ have one branch proposing that the whole society should go in for payment by the hour, and another that the post of general secretary should be put up to tender, " the cheapest to be considered the person elected to that important office." ^ We have a delegate meeting referring to a vote of the members the momentous question whether the central executive should be allowed " a cup of ale each per night," and the central executive taking a vote as to whether all the Irish branches should not have Home Rule forced upon them. The members, under fear of the coming Parliamentary

1 Quarterly Report, June l85o.

^ The sale of public offices by auction to the highest bidder was a frequent incident in the Swiss " Landesgemeinden " of the seventeenth century. Sec Eugine Rambert's Les Alpes Suisses : Etudes ffistoriques et Nationales, p. 225.


Primitive Democracy 23

inquiry, vot^ the abolition of all "regalia, initiation, and pass-words," but reject the proposition of the Newcastle Lodge for reducing the hours of labor " as the only method of striking at the root of all our grievances." The central executive is driven to protest against " the continual state of agitation in which the society has been kept for the last ten months by the numerous resolutions and amendments to laws, the tendency of which can only be to bring the laws and the society intb disrespect." ^ As other unions come to the same stage in development, we find a similar result. " It appears eviderjt," complains the executive committee of the Friendly Soci'ity of Ironfounders, " that we have got into a regular propo? tigji-in^ni^. One branch will make propo- sitions^simpIyL cause another does ; hence the absurd and ridiculous propositions that are made." ^ The system worked most disastrously in connection with the rates of contributions anffjBenefits. It is not surprising that the majority of work- jnen -shouLd have beeri unable to appreciate the need for ^xpert„.advice on these points, or that they should have disregarded all actuarial considerations. Accordingly, we^ find the members always reluctant to believe that the rate of contribution must be raised, and generally prone to listen to any proposal for extending the benefits — a popular bias which led many societies into bankruptcy. Still more dis- integrating^ in its tendency was fiie disposition to appeal to t:he^TOtes.of-the-m^iibers against the'executive decision that particular individuals werejneligible for certain benefits. In tlieTrnifgd"Kingc(om Society of Coachmakers, for instance, we find the executive bitterly complaining that it is of no use for them to obey the rules, and rigidly to refuse accident benefit to men who are suiifering simply from illness ; as in almost every case the claimant's appeal t.o the members, backed by eloquent circulars from his friends, has resulted in the decision being overruled.* The Friendly Society of

^ .Fortnightly Return, July 1838.

' Ironfounders' Monthly Report, April 1855.

  • United Kingdom Society of Coachmakers' Quarterly Report, September 1859.


24 Trade Union Structure i

Ironfounders took no fewer than nineteen votes in a single year, nearly al! on details of ben^t administration.^ And the executive of the Ston^nlasonriiaa early occasion to protest against the growing practice under which branches, preparatory to taking a vote, sent circulars throughout the society in support of their cfeims to the redress of what they deemed to be personal grievances.^

The disadvantages of a free resort td) the Referendum soon became obvious to thoughtfiil Trade T(Jnionists. It stands to the credit of the majority of the men^bers that wild and absurd propositions were almost uniformly rejected ; and in many societies a similar fate became cus \)mary in case of any proposition that did not emanate froi \ the responsible executive.* The practical abandonment "q)f the Initiative ensued. Branches got tired^f^ending up proposals which uniformly met with defeat. But the right of the whole body of members themselves to decide every question as it arose was too much bound up with their idea of democracy to permit of its being directly abrogated, or even expressly criticised. Where the practice did not die out from sheer weariness, it was quietly got rid of in other ways. In one society after another the central executive and the general secretary — the men who were in actual contact with the problems of administration — silently threw their influence against the practice of appealing to the members' vote. Thus the executive committee of the United Kingdom Society of Coachmakers made a firm stand against the members' habit of overruling its decision in the grant of benefits under the [rules. The executive claimed the sole right to decide who wias eligible under the rules, and refused to allow discontented claimants to appeal through the ofificial circular. This caused great and recurring discontent ; but the executive committee

> Report for 1869.

  • Fortnightly Return, 1 8th Janiftry 1 849.

' The political student will be reminded of the very small number of cases in which the Initiative in Switzerland has led to actual legislation, even in cantons, such as Ziirich, where it has been in operation for over twenty years. See Stiissi, Referendum und Initiative im Canton Zurich.


Primitive Democracy 25

held firmly to their position and eventually maintained it. When thirteen branches of the Operative Bricklayers' Society proposed in 1868 that the age for superannuation should be lowered and the office expenses curtailed, the general secretary bluntly refused to submit such inexpedient proposals to the members' vote, on the excuse that the question could be dealt with at the next delegate meeting.* The next step was to restrict the number of opportunities for appeals on any questions whatsoever. The Coachmakers' executive announced that, in future, propositions would be put to the vote only in the annual report, instead of quarterly as hereto- fore, and this restriction was a few years later embodied in the rules.* Even more effectual was the enactment of a rulej throwing the expense of taking a vote upon the branch whichl had initiated it, in case the verdict of the society proved to', be against the proposition.' Another device was to seize the' occasion of a systematic revision of rules to declare that no | proposition for their alteration was to be entertained for a specified period : one year, said the General Union of Car- penters in 1863; three years, declared the Bookbinders' Consolidated Union in 1869, and the Friendly Society of Operative Stonemasons in 1878 ; ten years, ordained the] Operativ e Brid clayers' Society in 1889.* Finally, we have'^ the Re ferendumj abolished altogether, as regards the making^ or^alteration of rules. In 1866 the delegate meeting of the_ Amalgamated Society of Carpenters decided that the execu- tive should " not take the votes of the members concerning any alteration or addition to rules, unless in cases of great emergency, and then only on the authority of the General Council."* In 1878 the Stonemasons themselves, who forty years previously had been enthusiastic in their passion for voting on every question whatsoever, accepted a rule

  • Monthly Circular, April 1868.
  • Quarterly Report, November 1854 ; Rules of 1857.

' Rules of the Associated Blacksmiths' Society (Glasgow, 1892), and many others.

  • Monthly Report, October 1889.

' Monthly Circular, April 1866.


26 Trade Union Structure

wtrfch confined the work of revision to a specially elected committee.

Thus we see that half a century of practical experience [of the Initiative and the Referendum has led, not to its extension, but to an ever stricter limitation of its application. iThe attempt to secure the participation of every member in /the management of his society was found to lead to in- stability in legislation, dangerous unsoundness of finance, and "general weakness of administration. The result was the early abandonment of the Initiative, either by express rule or through the persistent influence of the executive. This produced a further shifting of the balance of power in Trade Union con- stit>itions. When the ri^ht qf jputtin^ guestions to the-A tote "Ca me practically to be confins djto theexecutive, the(Referen- ,(m m ceased to provide the members with any effectiv e control. If the executive could choose the issues to be submitted, the occasion on which the question sh9irid-bft.gHjt, and the form in judiich it should be couched, the^eferendum/far from supply- ing any counterpoise to the exectrttvej^ was soon found to be an immense addition to its power. Any change which the executive desired could be stated in the most plausible terms and supported by convincing arguments, which almost invariably secured its adoption by a large majority. Any executive resolution could, when occasion required, thus be given the powerful moral backing of a plebiscitar^vofe.* The reliance of Trade Union democrats on the^ Referendum resulted, in fact, in the virtual exclusion of the generafbody of members from all real share in the government. And

' Mr. Lecky points out (Democracy and Liberty, vol. i. pp. 12, 31, 32) how, in France, " successive Governments soon learned how easily a plebiscite vote could be secured and directed by a strong executive, and how useful it might become to screen or justify usurpation. The Constitution of 1795, which founded the power of the Directors ; the Constitution of 1799, which placed the executive^ power in the hands of three Consuls elected for ten years ; the Constitution of i!o2, which made Buonaparte Consul for life, and again remodelled the electoral system ; the Empire, which was established in 1804, and the additional Act of the Con- stitution promulgated by Napoleon in 1815, were all submitted to a direct popular vote." The government of Napoleon III., from 1852 to 1870, was ratified by four separate plebiscites. See also Laferri^re, Constitutions de la France depuis fj8g ; Jules Clire, Histoire du Souffrage Universel.


Primitive Democracy 27

when we remember the practical subordination of the" executive committee to its salaried permanent officer, we shall easily understand that the ultimate effect of such a Referendum as we have described was a further strengthen- i ng of th e^ in fluence of the general secretary. who^raf?e3~tHe^ propositions, wrote the arguments in support of them, and edited the official circular which formed the only means of communication with the members. ,

We see, therefore, that almost every influence in the' Trade Union organisation has tended to magnify and con-i solidate the power of the general secretary. |lf democracy could furnish no other expedient of popular control than the- mass meeting, the annual election of public officers, the Initiative and the Referendum, Trade Union history makes it quite clear that the mere pressure of a dnnnigtrative needs w ould inevitably result in ^ the genera^ body of citizens losin g all ef fective control over th e government.^ It would not Se difficult to point to influential Irade Unions at the present day which, possessing only a single permanent official, have not progressed beyond the stage of what is virtually a personal dictatorship. But it so happens that the very development of the union and its business which tends, as we have seen, to increase the influence of the general secretary, calls into existence a new check upon his personal authority. If we examine the constitution of a bank or joint stock company, or any other organisation not formed by the working clas^Ke shall find it almost invariably the rule that the chief exe^R^e officers are appointed, not by the members at large, but by the governing committee, and that these officejp are allowed a free hand, if not absolute power, in the choice and dismissal of their- subordinates. Any other plan, it is contended, would seriously detract from the efficient working of the organisation. Had the Trade Unions j,adopted this course, the^^ne^jJ^-^cretary would have been absolutely supreme. But working-class organisations in England have, almost v#lhout exception, tenaciously clung to the direct elec^n of all officers by the general


28 Trade Union Structure

body of members. Whether the post to be filled be that of assistant secretary at the head office or distrijcf delegate to act for one part of the_counil3!:,Jli£LJCn^jnber have jealously- retained'Therji^pl^^^ent^in-jh^^ nri3ie-foger trade iooeties" of fhe^ present day^lHF genera secretary finds himself, therefore, at the head, not of a staff o) docile subordinates who owe office and promotion to himself, but of a number of separately elected functionaries, each holding his appointment directly from the members at large.' Any attempt at a personal dictatorship is thus quickly checked. There is more danger that friction and personal jealousies may unduly weaken the administration. But the usual outcome is the close union of all the salaried officials to conduct the business of the society in the way they think best. Instead of a personal dictatorship, we have, therefore, a closely combined and practically irresistible bureaucracy. ^ Under a constitution of this type the Trade Union may attain a high degree of efficiency. The United Society of Boilermakers and Ironshipbuilders (established 1832; membership in December 1896, 40,776) is, for instance, admittedly one of the most powerful and best conducted of English trade societies. For the last twenty years its career, alike in good times and bad, has been one of continuous prosperity. For many years past it has dominated all the shipbuilding ports, and it now includes practically every ironshipbuilder in the United Kingdom. As an insurance company it has succeeded in paying, even in the worst years of an industry subject to the most acute depressions, benefits of an unusually elaborate and generous character. Notwith- standing these liberal benefits, it has built up a reserve fund of no less than ;^ 175,560. Nor has this prosperity been

1 Even the office staff ha^jjaeen, until quite recently, invariably recruited by the members from the members ; and only in a few unions has it begun to be realised that a shorthand clerk or trained bookkeeper, chosen by the general ' secretary or the executive committee, can probably render better service at the desk than the most digible workman trained to manual labor. The OperatiTe Bricklayers' Society, however, lately allowed their executive oommittee to appoint a shorthand clerk.


Primitive Democracy 29

attained by any neglect of the militant side of Trade Unionism. The society, on the contrary, has the reputa- tion of exercising stricter control over the conditions of its members' work than any other union. In no trade, for instance, do we find a stricter and more universally enforced limitation of apprentices, or a more rigid refusal to work with non-unionists. And, as we have elsewhere described, no society has more successfully concluded and enforced elaborate national agreements applicable to every port in the kingdom. Moreover, this vigorous and successful trade policy has been consistent with a marked abstention from strikes — a fact due not only to the financial strength and perfect combination of the society, but also to the implicit obedience enforced upon its members, and the ample dis- ciplinary power vested in and exercised by the central executive.^

The efficiency and influence of this remarkable union is, no doubt, largely due to the advantageous strategic position which has resulted from the extraordinary expansion of iron- shipbuilding. It is interesting, however, to notice what a perfect example it affords of a constitution retaining all the features of the crudest democracy, but becoming, in actuak practice, a bureaucracy in which effective popular control has sunk to a minimum. The formal constitution of the Boiler- makers' Society still includes all the typical features of the early Trade Union. The executive government of this great national society is vested in a constantly changing committee, the members of which, elected by a single district, serve only for twelve months, and are then ineligible for re-election during three years. All the salaried officials are separately elected by the whole body of mepibers, and hold their posts only for a prescribed term of two to five years. Though provision is made for a delegate meeti«ag in case the society desires it, all the rules, including the rates of contribution and

1 See the enthusiastic description of this organisation in Zum Socialen Frieden (Leipzig, 1890), 2 vols., by Dr. G. von Schulze-Gaevemite, translated as Socio! Peace (London, 1893), pp. 239-243.


30 Trade Union Structure

benefit, can be altered by aggregate vote ; and even if a delegate meeting assembles, its amendments have to be submitted to the votes of the branches in mass meeting. Any branch, moreover, may insist that any proposition whatsoever shall be submitted to this same aggregate vote. The society, in short, still retains the form of a Trade Union democracy of the crudest type.

But although the executive committee, the branch meeting and the Referendum occupy the main body of the society's rules, the whole policy has long been directed and the whole administration conducted exclusively by an infor- mal cabinet of permanent officials which is unknown to the printed constitution. Twenty years ago the society had the good fortune to elect as general secretary, Mr. Robert Knight, a man of remarkable ability and strength of character, who has remained the permanent premier of this little kingdom. During his long reign, there has grown up around him a staff of younger officials, who, though severally elected on their individual merits, have been in no way able to compete with their chief for the members' allegiance. These district dele- gates are nominally elected only for a term of two years, just as the general secretary himself is elected only for a term of five years. But, for the reasons we have given elsewhere, all these officials enjoy a permanence of tenure practically equal to that of a judge. Mr. Knight's unquestioned superiority in Trade Union statesmanship, together with the invariable support of the executive committee, have enabled him to construct, out of the nominally independent district delegates, a virtual cabinet, alternately serving as councillors on high issues of policy and as ministers carrying out in their own spheres that which they have in council decided. From the written constitution of the society, we should suppose that it was from the evening meetings of the little Newcastle committee of working platers and rivetters that emanated all those national treaties and elaborate collective bargains with the associated employers that have excited the admiration of economic students. • But its unrepresentative character, the


Primitive Democracy 31

short term of service of its members and the practical rota- tion of office make it impossible for the constantly shifting executive committee to exercise any effective influence over even the ordinary routine business of so large a society. The complicated negotiations involved in national agreements are absolutely beyond its grasp. What actually happens is that, in any high issue of policy, Mr. Knight summons his district delegates to meet him in council at London or Manchester, to concert, and even to conduct, with him the weighty negotiations which the Newcastle executive formally endorses. And although the actual administration of the benefits is conducted by the branch committees, the absolute centralisa- tion of funds and the supreme disciplinary power vested in the executive committee make that committee, or rather the general secretary, as dominant in matters of finance as in trade policy. The only real opportunity for an effective' expression of the popular will comes to be the submission oT" questions to the aggregate vote of the branches in mass meeting assembled. It is needless to point out that a ' Referendum of this kind, submitted through the official circular in whatsoever terms the general secretary may choose, and backed by the influence of the permanent staff in every district, comes to be only a way of impressing the official view on the whole body of members. In effect^ the general secretary and his informal cabinet were, until the change of 1895, abs^ut elv supreme .^ ._

In the case of the Boilermakers, government by an informal cabinet of salaried officials has, up to the present time, been highly successful. It is, however, obvious that a less competent statesman than Mr. Knight would find great difficulty in welding into a united cabinet a body of district

1 In 1895, after this chapter was written, the constitution was changed, owing to the growing feeling of the members in London and some other towns, that their bureaucracy was, under the old forms, completely beyond their control. By the new rules the government is vested in a representative executive of seven salaried members, elected by the seven electoral districts into which the whole society is divided, for a term of three years, one-third retiring annually. — Rules of tht United Society of Boilermakers, etc. (Newcastle, 1895). It is as yet too soon to comment on the effect of this change, which only came into operation in 1897.


32 Trade Union Structure

officers separately responsible to the whole society, and nominally subject only to their several district committees. Under these circumstances any personal friction or disloyalty : might easily paralyse the whole trade policy, upon which the prosperity of the society depends. Moreover, though under Mr. Knight's upright and able government the lack of any supervising authority has not been felt, it cannot but be regarded as a defect that the constitution provides no prac- tical control over a corrupt, negligent, or incompetent general secretary. The only persons in the position to criticise effectually the administration of the society are the salaried officials themselves, who would naturally be indisposed to risk their offices by appealing, against their official superior, to the uncertain arbitrament of an aggregate vote. Finally, this constitution, with all its parade of democratic form, secures in reality to the ordinary plater or rivetter little if 'any active participation in the central administration of his Trade Union ; no real opportunity is given to him for expressing his opinion ; and no call is made upon his intelligence for the formation of any opinion whatsoever. In short, the Boilermakers, so long as they remaine3\ content with this form of government, secured efficient administration at the expense of losing all the educative influences and political safeguards of democracy. ^_^ _

  • " Among the well-organised Coalminers of the North of

England the theory of " direct legislation by the people " is still in full force. Thus, the 19,000 members of the Northumberland Miners' Mutual Confident Association (estab- lished 1863) decide every question of policy, and even many merely administrative details, by the votes taken in the several lodge meetings ; ^ and although a delegate meeting is held every quarter, and by a rule of 1894 is expressly declared to " meet for the purpose of deliberating free and untrammelled upon the whole of the programme," its function is strictly limited to expressing its opinion, the entire list of propositions

1 See, for instance, the twenty-five separate propositions voted on in a single batch, 9th June 1894. — Northumberland Miners^ Minutes, 1894, pp, 23-26.


Primitive Democracy 2)2>

being then " returned to the lodges to be voted on." ' The executive committee is elected by the whole body; and the members, who retire after only six months' service, are ineligible for re-election. Finally, we have the fact that the salaried officials are themselves elected by the members at large. To this lack of organic connection between the different parts of the constitution, the student will perhaps attribute a certain inst ability of polic y manifested in successive popular votes. In June 1894, a vote of all the members was taken on the question of joining the Miners' Federation, and an affirmative result was reached by 6730 to 5807. But in the very next month, when the lodges were asked whether they were pre- pared to give effect to the well-known policy of the Federa- tion and claim the return of reductions in wages amounting to sixteen per cent, which they had accepted since 1892, they voted in the negative by more than two to one ; and backed this up by an equally decisive refusal to contribute towards the resistance of other districts. " They had joined a Federation knowing its principles and its policy, and im- mediately after joining they rejected the principles they had just embraced," was the comment of one of the members

1 Rule 15. We see here a curious instance of the express separation of the deliberative from the legislative function, arising out of the inconvenient results of the use of the Imperative Mandate. The committee charged with the revision of the rules in 1893- 1 894 reported that "the present mode of transacting business at delegate meetings has long been felt to be very unsatisfactory. Suggestions are sent in for programme which are printed and remitted to the lodges, and delegates are then sent with hard and fast instructions to vote for or against as the case may be. It not unfrequently happens that delegates are sent to support a vote against suggestions which are found to have an entirely different meaning, and may have a very different effect from those expected by rfie lodges when voting for them. To avoid the mischief that has frequently resulted from our members thus committing themselves to suggestions upon insufficient information, we suggest that after the programmes have been sent to the lodges, lodges send their delegates to a meeting to deliberate on the business, after which they shall return and report the results of the discussion and then forward their votes by proxy to the office. To cany out this principle, which we consider is of the greatest possible interest and importance to our members, no inore meetings will be required or expense incurred than under the present system, while on the other hand lodges will have the opportunitji of casting their votes on the various suggestions with full information before them, instead of in the absence of this information in most cases, as at present." — Report of 3rd February 1S94, in Northumberland Mincr^ Minutes, 1894, pp. 87-88.

VOL. I C


34 Trade Union Structure

of their own executive committee.^ This inconsistent action led to much controversy, and the refusal of the Northumber- land men to obey the decision of the special conference, the supreme authority of the Federation, was declared to be inconsistent with their remaining members of the organisation. , Nevertheless, in July 1894 they again voted, by 8445 to 5507, in favor of joining the Federation, despite the power- ful adverse influence of their executive committee. The Federation officials not unnaturally asked whether the re- newed application for membership might now be taken to imply a willingness to conform to the policy of the organisa- tion which it was wished to join. On this a further vote was taken by lodges, when the proposition to join was negatived by a majority of over five to one.^

It may be objected that, in this instance of joining the Miners' Federation, the question at issue was one of great difficulty and of momentous import to the union, and that some hesitation on the part of the members was only to be expected. We could, however, cite many similar instances of contradictory votes by the Northumberland men, on both matters^of policy and points of internal administration. We suggest that their experience is only another proof that, whatever advantages may be ascribed to government by the Referendum, it has the capital drawback of not providing the executive with any/>policy. In the case of the Northumber- land Miners' Union, the result has been a serious weakening of its influence, and, on more than one occasion, the gravest

  • Report of Conference, 23rd September 1893, i" Northumberland Miner!

Minutes, 1893.

2 It should be explained that the Referendum among the Northumberland Miners takes two distinct forms, the "ballot," and the so-called "proxy voting." Questions relating to strikes, and any others expressly ordered by the delegate, meeting, are decided by a. ballot of the members individually. The ordinary business remitted from the delegate meeting to the lodges is discussed by the general meeting of each lodge, and the lodge vote, or " proxy," is cast as a whole according to the bare majority of those present. The lodge vote counts firom one to thirty, in strict proportion to its men^Jjership. It is interesting to note (though we do not know whether any inference can be drawn from the fact) that the two votes in favor of the Federation were taken by ballot of the members, whilst those against it were taken by the " proxy " of the lodges.


Primitive Democracy 35

danger of diMntegration.^ Fortunately, the union has enjoyed the services of executive officers of perfect integrity, and of exceptional ability and experience. These officers have throughout had their own clearly defined and consistent policy, which the uninformed and contradictory votes of the members have failed to control or modify.

It will not be necessary to give in detail the constitution of the Durham Miners' Association (established 1869), since this is, in essential features, similar to that of the Northumber- land Miners.^ But it is interesting to notice that the Durham experience of the result of government by the Referendum has been identical with that of Northumberland,' and even more detrimental to the organisation. The Durham Miners' Association, notwithstanding its closely concentrated 60,000 members, fails to exercise any important influence on the Trade Union world, and even excites complaints from the employers as to " its internal weakness." The Durham coal-" owners declare that, with the council overruling the executive, and the ballot vote reversing the decision of the council, they never know when they have arrived at a settlement, or how long that settlement will be enforced on a recalcitrant lodge.

It is significant that|Cthe newer organisations which have sprung up in these same counties in direct imitation of the miners' unions give much less power to the members at large) Thus the Durham Cokemen's and Laborers' Association, which, springing out of the Durham Miners' Association in 1874, follows in its rules the actual phrases of the parent organisa- tion, vests the election of its executive committee and officers, not in the members at large, but in a supreme "council."

1 See, for instance, the report of the special conference of 23rd September 1893, expressly summoned to resist the "disintegration of our Association." — Northumberland Mitur^ Mirmtes, 1893.

2 In the Durham Miners' Association the election of officers is nominally vested in the council, but express provision is made in the rules for each lodge to "empower" its delegate how to vote.

^ This may be seen, for instance, from the incidental references to the Durham votes given in the Miners' Federation Minutes, 1893- 1 896 ; or, with calamitous results, in the history of the great Durham strike of 1892 ; or in that of the Silk- stone strike of 1891. The Durham Miners' Minutes are not accessible to any non-member.


36 Trade Umon Structure

Much the same may be said of the Durham County CoUiery Enginemen's Mutual Aid Association, established 1872; the Durham Colliery Mechanics' Association, established 1879; and (so far as regards the election of officers) the Northumber- land Deputies' Mutual Aid Association, established 1887. " If, therefore, democracy means that everything which " concerns all should be decided by all," and that each citizen should enjoy an equal and identical share in the government, Trade Union history indiqates clearly the inevitable result. Government by such contrivances as Rotation o{\ Office, the Mass Meeting, the Referendum and Initiative, or the Delegate restricted by his Imperative Mandate, leads straight either to ■inefficiency and disintegration, or to the uncontrolled domin- ance of a personal dictator or an expert bureaucracy. Dimly and almost unconsciously this conclusion has, after a whole century of experiment, forced itself upon the more advanced trades. The old theory of democracy is still an article of faith, and constantly comes to the front when any organi- sation has to be formed for brand-new purposes ;^ but Trade Union constitution have undergone a silent revolution. The old ideal of the Rotation of Office among all the members in succession has been practically abandoned. Resort to the aggregate meeting diminishes steadily in frequency and im- portance. The use of the Initiative and the Referendum has

' We may refer, by way of illustration, to the frequent discussions during 1894-1895 among the members of the political association styled the " Independ- ent Labor Party." On the formation of the Hackney Branch, for instance, the members " decided that no president and no executive committee of the branch be appointed, its management devolving on the members attending the weekly conferences" (Labour Leader, 26th January 1895). Nor is this view confined to the rank and file. The editor of the Clarion himself, perhaps the most influential man in the party, expressly declared in his leading article of 3rd November 1 894 : "Democracy means that the people shall rule themselves ; that the people shall manage their own affairs ; and that their officials shall be public servants, or dele- gates, deputed to put the will of the people into execution. ... At present there is too much sign of a disposition on the part of the rank and file to overvalue the talents and usefulness of their officials. ... It is tolerably certain that in so far as the ordinary duties of officials and delegates, such as committee men or members of Parliament, are concerned, an average citizen, if he is thoroughly honest, will be found quite clever enough to do all that is needful. . . . Let all officials be retired after one year's services, and fresh ones elected in their place,'


Primitive Democracy 37

been tacitly given up in all complicated issues, and gradually limited to a few special questions on particular emergencies. The delegate finds himself every year dealing with more numerous and more complex questions, and tends therefore- inevitably to exercise the larger freedom of a representative. Finally, we have the appearance in the Trade Union world of the typically modern form of democracy, the elected repre- se ntative assembly, appointing and controlling an executive committee under whose direction the permanent official staff pertorms its work.


CHAPTER II REPRESENTATIVE INSTITUTIONS[edit]

The two organisations in the Trade Union world enjoying the greatest measure of representative institutions are those which are the most distinctly modern in their growth and pre- eminence. In numbers, political influence, and annual income the great federal associations of Coalminers and Cotton Operatives overshadovii all others, and now comprise one-fifth of the total Trade Union membership. We have elsewhere pointed out that these two trades are both distinguished by their establishment of an expert civil service, exceeding in numbers and efficiency that possessed by any other trade.' They resemble each other also, as we shall now see, in the success with which they have solved the fundamental problem of democracy, the combination of administrative efficiency and popular contro l. In each case the solution has been found in the frank acceptance of representative institutions.

In the Amalgamated Association of Operative Cotton- spinners, which may be taken as typical of cotton organisa- tions, the "legislative power" is expressly vested " in a meeting comprising representatives from the various provinces and dis- tricts included in the association." * This " Cotton-spinners' Parliament" is elected annually in strict proportion to

> History of Trade Vnionhm, p. 298 ; see also the subsequent chapter on " The Method of Collective Bargaining." -^

2 Rules of the Amalgamated Association of Operative Cotton-spinners (Man- chester, 1894), p. 4, Rule 7.


Representative Institutions 39

membership, and consists of about a hundred representatives. It meets in Manchester regularly every quarter, but can be called together by the executive council at any time. Once elected, this assembly is, like the British Parliament, abso- lutely supreme. Its powers and functions are subject to no express limitation, and from its decisions there is no appeal. The rules contain no provision for taking a vote of the members ; and though the agenda of the quarterly meeting is circulated for information to the executives of the district associations, so little thought is there of any necessity for the representatives to receive a mandate from their constituents, that express arrangements are made for transacting any other business not included in the agenda.^

The actual " government of the association is conducted by an executive council elected by the general representative meeting, and consisting of a president, treasurer, and secretary, with thirteen other members, of whom seven at least must be working spinners, whilst the othef six are, by invariable custom, the permanent officials appointed and maintained by the principal district organisations. Here we have the " cabinet " of this interesting constitution — the body which practically directs the whole work of the association and exercises great weight in the counsels of the legislative body, preparing its agenda and guiding all its proceedings. For the daily work of administration this cabinet is authorised by the rules to appoint a committee, the " sub-council," which consists in practice of the six " gentlemen," as the district officials are commonly called. The actual executive work is performed by a general secretary, who himself engages such office assistance as may from time to time be necessary. In marked contrast with all the Trade Union constitutions which we have hitherto described, the Cotton-spinners' rules do not

' Rule 9, p. S- The general representative meeting even resembles the British Parliament in being able itself to change the fundamental basis of the constitution, mcluding the period of its own tenure of office. The rules upon which the Amalgamated Association depends can be altered by the general representative meeting in a session called by special notice, without any confirmation by the constituents. — Rule 45, pp. 27-28.


40 Trade Union Structure

■ give the election of this chief executive officer to the general body of members, but declare expressly that " the sole right of electing a permanent general secretary shall be vested in the provincial and district representatives when in meeting assembled, by whom his salary shall be fixed and deter- mined." ^ Moreover, as we have already mentioned, the candidates for this office pass a competitive examination, and when once elected the general secretary enjoys a permanence of tenure equal to that of the English civil service, the rules providing that he " shall be appointed and continue in office so long as he gives satisfaction."^

The Amalgamated Association of Operative Cotton- spinners is therefore free from all the early expedients for securing popular government. The general or aggregate meeting finds no place in its constitution, and the rules con- tain no provision for the Referendum or t he Initia tivg. _ No countenance is given to the idea of RotatiOT_of Officgj^ No officers are elected by the members themselves. Finally, we have the complete abandonment of the delegate, and the sub- stitution, both in fact and in name, of the representat ive. On' the other hand, the association is a fully-equipped democratic state of the modern type. It has an elected parliament, exercising supreme and uncontrolled power. It has a cabinet appointed by and responsible only to that parliament. And its chief executive officer, appointed once for all on grounds of efficiency, enjoys the civil-service permanence of tenure.^

> Rule 12, p. 6. , 2 Tiid.

^ The other branches of the cotton trade, notably the federations of weavers and cardroom hands, are organised on the same principle of an elected repre- sentative assembly, itself appointing the officers and executive committee, though there are minor differences among them. The United Textile Factory Workers' Association, of which the spinners form a part, is framed on the same model, a "legislative council," really an executive committee, being elected by the "conference," or representative assembly. (This organisation temporarily suspended its functions in 1896.) Moreover, the rules of the several district associations of the Amalgamated Association of Operative Cotton-spinners exhibit the same formative influences. In the smaller societies, confined to single villages, we find the simple government by general meeting, electing a committee and officers. Permanence of tenure is, however, the rule, it being often expressly provided that the secretary and the treasurer shall each "retain office as long as he gives satisfaction." More than half the total membership, moreover, is


Representative Institutions 41

We have watched the working of this remarkable consti- tution during the last seven years, and we can testify to the success with which both efficiency and popular control are secured. jThe efficiency we attribute, to the existence of the adequate, highly-trained, and relatively well-paid and permanent civil service.^ But that this civil service is effectively under public control is shown by the accuracy with which the cotton . officials adapt their political and industrial policy to the developing views of the members whom they serve. This sensitiveness to the popular ' desires is secured by the reaL sup remacy of th e elected r epresentativesj For the " Cotton-spimTerJ^ParliaSient *'^is no formal gathering of casual members to register the decrees of a dominant bureaucracy. It is, on the contrary, a highly -organised deliberative assembly, with active repre- sentatives from the different localities, each alive to the distinct, and sometimes divergent, interests of his own constituents. Their eager participation shows itself in constant " party meetings " of the different sections, at which the officers and workmen from each district consult together as to the line of policy to be pressed upon the assembly. Such consulta- tion and deliberate joint action is, in the case of the Oldham representatives at any rate, carried even further. The consti- tution of the Oldham Operative Cotton-spinners' Provincial Association is, so far as we know, unique in all the annals of democracy in making express provision for the " caucus." ^

included in two important " provinces," Oldham and Bolton, which possess elaborate federal constituJtioDS of their own. These follow, in general outline, the federal constitution, but both retain some features of the older form. Thus in Oldham, where the ofiScers enjoy permanence of tenure and are responsible only to the representative assembly, any vacancy is filled by general vote of the members. And though the representative assembly has supreme legislative and executive powers, it is required to take a ballot of all the members before deciding on a strike. On the other hand, Bolton, which leaves everything to its repre- sentative assembly, shows a lingering attachment to rotation of office by providing that the retiring members of its executive council shall not be eligible for re-election during twelve months.

> The nineteen thousand members of the Amalgamated Association of Opera- tive Cotton-spinners command the services of ten permanent officials, besides numerous local officers still working at their trade.

' The "caucus," in this sense of the term, is supposed to have been first VOL. I C 2


42 Trade Union Structure

The rules of 1891 ordain that "whenever the business to be transacted by the representatives attending the quarterly or special meetings of the Amalgamation is of such import- ance and to the interest of this association as to require unity of action in regard to voting by the representatives from this province, the secretary shall be required to summon a special meeting of the said representatives by announcing in the monthly circular containing the minutes the date and time of such meeting, which must be held in the council room at least seven days previous to the Amalgamation meeting taking place. The provincial representatives on the amalga- mated council shall be required to attend such meeting, to give any information required, and all resolutions passed by a majority of those present shall be binding upon all the representatives from the Oldham province attending the amalgamated quarterly or special meetings, and any one acting contrary to his instructions shall cease to be a repre- sentative of the district he represents, and shall not be allowed to stand as a candidate for any office connected with the association for the space of twelve months. The allowance for attending these special meetings shall be in accordance with the scale allowed to the provincial executive council."* But even without so stringent a rule, there would be but little danger_of_the.. representatives failing to express the desires of the rank and file. Living the same life as thefT constifu entiTand sub ject to annual election, they can scarcely fail tp be in touch, wjth ..the general body, of the members. The common practice of requiring each representatrve'To repor^ his action to the next meeting of his constituents, by whom it is discussed in his presence, and the wide circulation

introduced about the beginning of this century, in the United States Congress, by the Democratic Party. See the Statesman's Manual, vol. i. pp. 294, 338; Woodrow Wilson, Congressional Government, 1 2th edit. (New York, 1896), pp. 327-330; Lalor's Cyclopedia of Political Science (New York, 1891), vol. 1. p. 357. The "caucus" in the sense of "primary assembly" is regulated by law in many American States, especially in Massachusetts. See Nominations for Elective Office in the United States, by F. W. Dallinger (London, 1897).

1 Rule 64, pp. 41-42, of Rules and Regulations for the Government of thi Oldham Operative Cotton-spinners' Provincial Association (Oldham, 1891).


Representative Institutions 43

of printed reports among all the members furnish efficient substitutes for the newspaper press. On the other hand, the. facts that the representative assembly is a permanent insti- tution wielding supreme power, and that in practice its' membership changes little from year to year, give it a very real authority over the executive council which it elects every six months, and over the officers whom it has appointed. The t5^ical member of the " Cotton-spinners' Parliament " is not only experienced in voicing the desires of his constituents, but also possesses in a comparatively large measure that knowledge of administrative detail and of current affairs which enables him to understand and control the proceedings of his officers.

The Coalminers are, as we have elsewhere mentioned, not so unanimous as the Cotton Operatives in their adoption of representative institutions. The two great counties of Northumberland and Durham have unions which preserve constitutions of the old-fashioned type. But when we pass to other counties, in which the Miners have come more thoroughly under the influence of the modern spirit, we find representative government the rule. The powerful * associations of Yorkshire, Lancashire, and the Midlands are all governed by elected representative assemblies, which appoint the executive committees and the permanent officers. But the most striking example of the adoption of repre- sentative institutions among the Coalminers is presented by 1 the Miners' Federation of Great Britain, established 1887, This great federal organisation, which now comprises two- thirds of the Coalminers in union, adopted from the outset a completely representative constitution. The supreme authority is vested in a "conference," summoned as often as required, consisting of representatives elected by each county or district association. This conference exercises ' uncontrolled power to determine policy, alter rules, and levy unlimited contributions.^ From jits decision there is no

• This was expressly pointed out, doubtless with reference to some of the old- fashioned county unions which still clung to the custom of the Referendum or the


44 Trade Union Structure

appeal. No provision is made for taking the votes of the general body of members, and the conference itself appoints the executive committee and all the officers of the Federa- tion. Between the sittings of the conference the executive committee is expressly given power to take action to promote the interests of the Federation, and no rule savoring of Rotation of Ofifice deprives this executive of the services of its experienced members.

The " Miners' Parliament," as this conference may not improperly be termed, is in many respects the most im- portant assembly in the Trade Union world. Its regular annual session, held in some midland town, lasts often for a whole week, whilst other meetings of a couple of days' dura- tion are held as business requires. The fifty to seventy members, who represent the several constituent bodies, consti- tute an exceptionally efficient deliberative assembly. Among them are to be found the permanent ofificers of the county unions, some of the most experienced of the check weigh-m en and the influential leaders of opinion in the mining villages. The official element, as might be expected, plays a prominent part in suggesting, drafting, and amending the actual pro- posals, but the unofficial members frequently intervene with effect in the business-like debates. The public and the press are excluded, but the conference usually directs a brief and guarded statement of the conclusions arrived at to be supplied to the newspapers, and a full report of the proceedings — sometimes extending to over a hundred printed pages — is subsequently issued to the lodges. The subjects dealt with include the whole range of industrial and political policy, from the technical grievance of a particular district up to the ' " nationalisation of mines." ^ The actual carrying out of the

Imperative Mandate, in the circular summoning the important conference oi July 1893 : "Delegates must be appointed to attend Conference with full power to deal with the wages question. "

1 Thus the agenda for the Annual Conference in 1894 comprised, besides formal business, certain revisions of rules and the executive committee's report, the Eight Hours Bill, the stacking of coal, the making of Saturday a regular whole holiday, the establishment of a public department to prevent unscrupulous competition in trade, the amendment of the Mines Regulation and Employers'


Representative Institutions 45

policy determined on b y the conference is left unreserved ly '■• to the executive committee, but the conference expects to be called together whenever any new departure in policy iss required. In times of stress the executive committee shows its real dependence on the popular assembly by calling it together every few weeks.^ And the success with which the. Miners' Federation wields its great industrial and political power over an area extending from Fife to So merset and a

Liability Acts, international relations with foreign miners' organisations and the nationalisation of mines. It may here be observed that the representatives at the Federal Conference have votes in proportion to the numbers of' the members in their respective associations. This practice, often called "proxy voting," or, more accm-ately, " the accumulative vote," has long been characteristic of the Coalminers' organisations, though unknown to any other section of the Trade Union World. Thus the rules of the Miners' Federation of Great Britain are silent as to the number of representatives to be sent to the supreme "Conference," but provide "that each county, federation or district vote upon all questions as follows, viz. : one vote for every looo financial^members or fractional part of Idbo, and that the vote in every case shall be taken by numbers " (Rule lo, Rules of the Miners' Federation of Great Britain, 1895). A similar principle has always been applied at the International Miners' Conferences, and the practice prevails also in the several county unions or federations. The l>ancashire and Cheshire Federation fixes the number of representatives to be sent to its Conferences at one per 500 members, but expressly provides that the voting is to be " by proxy " in the same proportion. The Midland Federation adopts the same rule. The Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, Durham, and West Cumberland associations allow each branch or lodge only a single representative, whose vote counts strictly inproportion to the membership he represents. This " accumulative vote " is invariably resorted to in the election of officers and in all important decisions of policy, but it is not uncommon for minor divisions to be taken, unchallenged, on the principle of " one man one vote." It is not easy to account for the exceptional preference of the Coalminers for this method of voting, especially as their assemblies are, as we have pointed out, in practice more " representative " in their character, and less trammelled by the idea of the imperative mandate, than those of any other trade but the Cotton Operatives. The practice facilitates, it is true, a diminution in the size of the meetings, but this appears to be its only advantage. In the absence of any system of " pro- portional representation " it affords no real guide to the relative distribution of opinion ; the representatives of Yorkshire, for instance, in casting the vote of the county, can at best express the views only of the majority of their constituents, and have therefore no real claim to outvote a smaller district, with whose views nearly half their own constituents may be in sympathy. If, on the other hand, the whole membership of the Miners' Federation were divided into fairly equal electoral districts, each electing a single member, there would be more chance of every variety of opinion being represented, whilst an exact balance between the large and the small districts would nevertheless be preserved.

  • During the great strike in 1893 the Conference met eight times in six

months.


46 Trade Union Structure

membership numbering two hundred thousand, furnishes eloquent testimony to the manner in which it has known how to combine efficient administration with genuine popular assent.

The great federal organisations of Cotton Operatives and Coalminers stand out from among the other Trade Unions in respect of the completeness and success with which they have adopted representative institutions. But it is easy to trace a like tendency throughout the whole Trade Union world. We have already commented on the innovation, now _almgst universal, of entrustinglthej^k: of reyising^rules to a specially pIprtpH^ jrnmmittee. It was at first taken for granted that the work of such a revising committee was limited to putting into proper form the amendments pro- posed by the branches themselves, and sometimes to choosing between them. Though it is still -u&uaUbr ^ the revi sed rules to be formally ratified by a vote of the meinberA-tbe- revising Committees have been given an ever wider discretion, until in most unions they are nowadays in practice free to make_ changes according to their own judgment.^ But it is in "the constitution of the' central executive that the trend towards representative institutions is most remarkable, the old expedient of the " governing branch " being superseded by an executive committee representative of the whole body of the members.^

1 There is a similar tendency to disapprove of the Imperative Mandate in the principal Friendly Societies. The Friendly Societies Monthly Magazine for April 1890 observes that "Lodges are advised ... to instruct their delegates as to how they are to vote. With this we entirely disagree. A proposition till it is properly thrashed out and explained, remains in the husk, and its full import is lost. Delegates fettered with instructions simply become the mechanical mouthpiece of the necessarily unenlightened lodges which send them, and there- fore the legislation of the Order might just as well be conducted by post."

' Thus the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants (established 1872) administers the affairs of its forty-four thousand members by an executive committee of thirteen (with the three officers), elected annually by ballot in thirteen equal electoral districts. This committee meets in London at least quarterly, and can be summoned oftener if required. Above this is the supreme authority of the annual assembly of sixty delegates, elected by sixty equal electoral districts, !i and sitting for four days to hear appeals, alter rules, and determine the policy of the union. A similar constitution is enjoyed by the Associated Society of


Representative Institutions 47

This revolution has taken place in the National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives (37,000 members) and the Amalgamated Society of Engineers (87,313 members), the two societies which, outside the worlds of cotton and coal, exceed nearly all others in membership. Down to 1890 the National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives was governed by a local executive council belonging to a single town, controlled only by occasional votes of a delegate assembly, meeting, at first, every four years, and afterwards every two years. Seven years ago the constitution was entirely trans- formed. The society was divided into five equal electoral districts, each of which elected one member to serve for two years on an executive council consisting of only these five representatives, in addition to the three other officers elected by the whole body of members. To the representative execu- tive thus formed was committed not only all the ordinary business of the society, but also the final decision in cases of appeals by individual members against the decision of a branch. The delegate meeting, or " National Conference," meets to determine policy and revise rules, and its decisions no longer require ratification by the members' vote. Although the Referendum and the Mass Meeting of the district are still formally included in the constitution, the complication and difficulty of the issues which have cropped up during the last few years have led the executive council to call together the national conference at frequent intervals, in preference to submitting questions to the popular vote.

Locomotive Enginemen and Firemen (established 1880). It is this model that has been followed, with unimportant variations in detail, by the more durable of the labor unions v/hich sprang into existence in the great upheaval of 1889, among which the Gasworkers and the Dockers are the best known. The practice of electing the executive committee by districts is, as far as we know, almost unknown in the political world. The executive council of the State of Penn- sylvania in the eighteenth century used to be elected by single - member districts (Federalist, No. LVII.), and a similar arrangement appears occa- sionally to have found a place in the ever-changing constitutions of one or two Swiss Cantons. (See State and Federal Government in Switzerland, by J. M. Vincent, Baltimore, 189 1.) We know of no case where it prevails at present (Lowell's Governments and Parties in Continental Europe, London, 1896).


48 Trade Union Structure

In the case of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers the constitutional revolution has been far more sweeping. In the various editions of the Engineers' rules from 185 i to 1 89 1 we find the usual reliance on the Mass Meeting, the Referendum and the direct election of all officers by the members at large. We also see the executive control vested in a committee elected by a single district, — the chairman, moreover, being forbiddten to serve for more than two years in succession. In the case of the United Society of Boiler- makers we have already described how a constitution of essentially similar type has resulted in remarkable success and efficiency, but at the sacrifice of all real control by the ^members. In the history of the Boilermakers from 1872 onwards we watch the virtual abandonment in practiceflo?" the sake of a strong and united central administration, of everything that tended to weaken the executive power. \5"he Engineers, on the contrary, clung tenaciously to every institution or formality which protected the individual member against the central executive.^ Meanwhile, although the very object of the amalgamation in 1851 was to secure uniformity of trade policy, the failure to provide any salaried official staff left the central executive with little practical control over the negotiations conducted or the decisions arrived at by the local branch or district committee. The result was not only failure to cope with the vital problems

1 In financial matters, for instance, though every penny of the funds belonged to the whole society, each branch retained its own receipts, subject only to the cumbrous annual " equalisation." The branch accordingly had it in its power to make any disbursement it chose, subject only to subsequent disallowance by the central executive. Nor was the decision of the centrah executive in any way final. The branch aggrieved by any disallowance couTd, and habitually did, appeal — not to the members at large, who would usually have supported the executive — but to another body, the general council, which met every three years for the express purpose of deciding such appeals. There was even a further appeal from the general council to the periodical delegate meeting. In the meantime the payment objected to was not required to be refunded, and it will therefore easily be understood that the vast majority of executive decisions were instantlv appealed against. And when we add that each of these several courts of Appeal frequently reversed a large proportion of the decisions of its immediate inllk-ior, the effect of these frequent appeals in destroying all authority can easily be imagined.


Representative Institutions 49

of trade policy involved in the changing conditions of the industry, but also an increasing paralysis of administration,^ against which officers and committee-men struggled in vain.' When in 1892 the delegates met at Leeds to find a remedy for these evils, they brought from the branches two leading suggestions. One party urged the appointment, in aid o^ the central executive, of a s alaried staff of distric t delegates, ' elected, in direct imitation of those of the BoiTeSrmaKefsTby the whole society. Another section favored the transforma- tion of the executive committee into a representative body, and proposed the division of the country into eight equal electoral districts, each of which should elect a representative to a salaried executive council sitting continually in London, and thus giving its whole time to the society's work. Probably these remedies, aimed at different sides of the trouble, were intended as alternatives. It is significant of the deep impression made upon the delegate meeting that it eventually adopted both, thus at one blow increasing the number of salaried officers from three to seventeen.^

Time has yet to show how faf thfs revolution in the constitution of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers wilT conduce either to efficient administration or to genuine popular control. It is easy to see that government by an executive committee of this character differs essentially from government by a representative assembly appointing! its own cabinet, and that it possesses certain obvious dis-J advantages. The eight members, who are thus transferrea by the vote of their fellows from the engineer's workshop tq the Stamford Street office, become by this fundamental change of life completely severed from their constituents, \ Spending all their days in office routine, they necessarily lose the vivid appreciation of the feelings of the man

' It is interesting to observe that the United Society of Boilermakers, by adopting in 1895 a Representative Executive, has made its foffi&I constitution almost identical with that of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers. The vital difiference between these two societies now lies in the working relation between the central executive and the local branches and district committees ; see the subsequent chapter on "The Unit of Government."


5© Trade Union Structure

who works at the lathe or the forge. Living constantly in London, they are subject to new local influences, and tend unconsciously to get out of touch with the special grievances or new drifts of popular opinion on the Tyne or the Clyde, at Belfast or in Lancashire. It is true that the representa- tives hold office for only three years, at the expiration of which they must present themselves for re-election ; but there would be the greatest possible reluctance amongst the members to relegate to manual labor a man who had once served them as a salaried official. Unless, therefore, a re- vulsion of feeling takes place among the Engineers against the institution itself, the present members of the representa- tive executive committee may rely with some confidence on becoming practically permanent officials.

These objections do not apply with equal force to other examples of a representative executive. The tradition of the Stamford Street office — that the whole mass of friendly- society business should be dealt with in all its details by the members of the executive committee themselves — involves their daily attendance and their complete absorption in office work. In other Trade Unions which have adopted"" the same constitutional form, the members of the represent- ative executi ve residj . in thpir r gnstituenc ies and, in some cases, even continue to work at their trade. They are called, together, like the members of a representative assembly, at ■quarterly or other intervals to decide only the more im- portant questions, the detailed executive routine being •(jfelegated to a local sub -committee or to the official staff! Thus the executive committee of the National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives usually meets only for one day a month ; the executive committee of the Associated Loco- motive Engineers and Firemen is called together only when required, usually not more than once or twice a month ; the executive council of the Amalgamated Society of' Railway Servants comes to London once a quarter, and the same practice is followed by the executive committee of the National Union of Gasworkers and General Laborers. It is


Representative Institutions 51

evident that in all these cases the representative executive, whether formed of the salaried officials of the districts or of men working at their trade, has more chance of remaining in touch with its constituents than in the case of the Amalga- mated Society of Engineers.

/Butjybgre .is, la. our opinion,^ a fundamental drawback to government by a represejitajive executive, even under the most favorable conditions. | One jof_the chief duties of a "representative governing bod^^'lS to criticise, control, arid direct the permanent official staff, by whom the policy of the organisation must actually be carried out. Its main function, in fact, is to exercise real and continuous authority over the civir service. Now all experience shows„it to be. an essential ' condition that the permanent officials should be dependent; on and genuinely subordinate to the representative boHy. This condition is fulfilled in the constitutions such as those of the Amalgamated Association of Operative Cotton-spinners and the Miners' Federation, where the representative assembly^ itself appoints the officers, determines their duties, and fixesv, their salaries. But 'it is entirely absent in ^1 Trade Union constitutions based on a representative ex p^"tivp- Under thiy arrangement the executive committee neither appoints the] officers nor fixes their salaries. Though the representative^ executive, unlike the old governing branch, can in its corporate capacity claim to speak in the name of all the' members, so can the general secretary himself, and often each assistant secretary." All alike hold their positions from the same supreme power — the votes of the members ; and have their ( respective duties and emoluments defined by the same- written constitution — the society's rules.

This absence of any co-ordination of the several parts of the constitution works out, in practice, in one of two ways. There may arise jealousies between the several officers;^ or between them and some of the members o'f the executive committee. J We have known instances in which an incom- petent and arbitrary general secretary has been pulled up by one or other of his colleagues who wanted to succeed to


52 Trade Union Structure

his place. The suspicion engendered by the relation of competitors for popular suffrage checks, it may be, some positive malpractices, but results also in the obstruction of useful measures of policy, or even in their failure through dis- loyalty. ( More usually the^ executive conimittee^feelingjtself powerless to control the officials, te nds to ma ke a tacit and half-unconscious compact with themj_ based on mutual support against the criticism of their common constituenjsj If the members of the committee are themselves salted officials, they not only have a fellow-feeling for the'weak- nesses of their brother officials, but they also realise~viv^ly the personal risk of appealing against them to the popular vote. If, on the other hand, the Piembers-xontinue to work at their trade, they feel themselves at a hopeless disadvaatage in any such appeal. They have neither the business ex- perience nor the acquaintance with details~necessary for a successful indictment of an officer who is known from one end of the society to the otherj^nd who enjoys the aarontage^ of controlling its machinery. 'Thus we have in many unions governed by a Representative Executive the formation of a ruling clique, half officials, half representativ e^. \ fjThis i has all the disadvantages of such a bureaucracy as we have^ described in the case of the United Society of Boilermakers, without the efficiency made possible by its hierarchical organisation and the predominant authority of the head of the staffjjraPo sum up, if there are among the salaried repre- sentatives or officials restless spirits, " conscientious critids," or disloyal comrades, the general body of members may rest assured that they will be kept informed of what is going on, but at the cost of seeing their machinery of government constantly clogged by angry recriminations and appeals. If, on the other hand, the men who meet at headquarters in one or another capacity are " good fellows," the machine will work smoothly with such efficiency as their industry and capacity happens to be equal to, but all popular control over this governing clique will disappear^" } , \We see, then, that though government by a representa-1


Representative Institutions 53

Live exegutlye Js a real advance on the old expedients, it is IHielj^tq grove Jnferior to government by a representative, assembly, appointing its own cabinet and officers. But a great national Trade Union extending from one end of the kingdom to the other cannot easily adopt the superior form, even if the members desire it. ) The Cotton Operatives enjoy the special advantage of having practically all their member- ship within a radius of thirty miles from Manchester. The frequent gatherings of a hundred delegates held usually on a Saturday afternoon entail, therefore, no loss of working time and little expense to the organisation. The same con- sideration applies to the great bulk of the membership of the Miners' Federation, three-fourths of which is concentrated in Lancashire, West Yorkshire, and the industrial Midlands. Even the outlying coalfields elsewhere enjoy the advantage of close local concentration, so that a single delegate may effectively represent the hundreds of lodges in his own county. And it is no small consideration that the total membership of the Miners' Federation is so large that the cost of frequent meetings of fifty to seventy delegates bears only a trifling proportion to the resources of the union. Very different is the position of the great unions in the engineering and building trades. The 46,000 members of the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters in the United Kingdom, for instance, are divided into 623 branches, scattered over 400 separate towns or villages. Each town has its own Working Rules, its own Standard Rate and Normal Day, and lacks intimate connection with the towns right and left of it. The representative chosen by the Newcastle , branch might easily be too much absorbed by the burning local question of demarcation against the Shipwrights to pay much attention to the simple grievances of the Hexham branch as to the Saturday half-holiday, or to the multiplication of apprentices in the joinery shops at Darlington. Similar considerations apply to the 497 branches of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, whose 80,000 members in the United Kingdom are working in 300 different towns. In view of the increasing


54 Trade Union Structure

uniformity of working conditions throughout the country, the concentration of industry in large towns, the growing facili- ties' of travel and the steady multiplication of salaried local officials,' we do not ourselves regard the geographical difficulty as insuperable. But it is easy to understand why, with so large a number of isolated branches, it has not yet seemed practicable to constitutional reformers in the building or the engineering trades, to have frequent meetings of repre- sentative assemblies.

The tardiness and incompleteness with which Trade" Unions have adopted representative institutions is mainly due to a more general cause. The workman has been slow to recognise the special function of the representative "vtC^ democracy. In the early constitutional ideals of Trade Unionism the representative finds, as we have seen, absolutely no place. The committee-man elected by rotation of offic e o r the de leg ate deputed to take part in a revision of ru les wa s habitua lly re garded only as a vehicle by which "t he voices " could be mecha nically conv eyed. His task required, therefore, no special qualification beyond intelligence to comprehend his instructions and a spirit of obedience in carrying them out. Very different is the duty cast upon the representative in such modern Trade Union constitutions_ as those of the Cotton Operatives and Coalminers. His 'main function is still to express the mind of the average man. But unlike the delegate, he is not a mechanica l yehicle of votes on particular subjects. The ordinary Trg.^e ' Unionist has but little facility in expressing his desires ; unversed in the technicalities of administration, he is unable to judge by what particular expedient his grievances can best be remedied. In default of an expert representative he has to depend on the professional administrator. But for this particular task the professional administrator is no more competent than the ordinary man, though for a different reason. The very apartness of hi s life fro m that of th e avera ge workman depr ives him of close acquaintan ce with th e actua l gr ievances of the mass of the people. Immersed


Representative Institutions 55

in office routine, he is apt to fail to understand from their inconsistent complaints and impracticable suggestions what it is they really desire. [To act as an interpreter between the people and their servants is, therefore, the first function of the representative.

But this is only half of his duty. To him is entrusted also the difficult and delicate task of CQiitrQlling-.±he_ pro-, fe ssional expert s.) Here, as we have seen, the ordinary man completely breaks down. The task, to begin with, requires a certain familiarity with the machinery of government, and a sacrifice of time and a concentration of thought out of the reach of the average man absorbed in gaining his daily bread. So much is this the case that when the administra- tion is complicated, a further specialisation is found necessary, I and the representative assembly itself chooses a cabinet, or executive committee of men specially qualified for this duty. A large measure of intuitive capacity to make a wise choic'ei of men is, therefore, necessary even in the ordinary repre- sentative. Finally, there comes the important duty qt- deciding upon questions of policy or tactics. The ordinkry citizen thinks of nothing but clear issues on broad lines. The representative, on the other hand, finds himself con-*' stantly called upon to choose between the nicely balanced expediencies of compromise necessitated by the complicated facts of practical life. On his shrewd judgment of actual circumstances will depend his success in obtaining, not all that his constituents desire — for that he will quickly recognise as Utopian, — but the largest instalment of those desires that may be then and there possible.

To construct a perfect representative assembly can, therefore, never be an easy task ; and in a community ex- clusively composed of manual workers dependent on weekly wages, the task is one of exceptional difficulty. A community of bankers and business entrepreneurs finds it easy to secure a representative committee to direct and control the paid officials whom it engages to protect its interests. Constituents, representatives and officials are


56 Trade Union Structure

living much the same life, are surrounded by the same intellectual atmosphere, have received approximately the same kind of education and mental training, and are con- stantly engaged in one variety or another of what is essentially the same work of direction and control, More-

'over, there is no lack of persons able to give the necessary time and thought to expressing the desires of their class and to seeing that they are satisfied. It is, therefore, not surprising that representative institutions should be seen at their best in middle- class communities.^ In all these

^respects the manual workers stand at a grave disadvantage. Whatever may be the natural endowment of the workman selected by his comrades to serve as a representative, he starts unequipped with that special training and that general familiarity with administration which will alone enable him to be a competent critic and director of the expert pro-

/fessional. Before he can place himself on a level with tS? trained official whom he has to control he must devote his whole time and thought to his new duties, and must there- fore give up his old trade. This unfortunately tends to alter his manner of life, his habit of mind, and usually also" his intellectual atmosphere to such an extent that he gradually loses that 'vivid appreciation of the feelings of the man at the bench or the forge, which it is his function to express. There is a certain cruel irony in the problem which accounts, we think, for some of the unconscious exasperation of the wage-ear ners all over the world against representative institutions. pDirectly the working - man representative becomes properly equipped for one -half of] his duties, he ceases to be specially qualified for the other. If he remains essentially a manual worker, he fails to cope with the brain-working officials ; if he takes on the character of the brain-worker, he is apt to get out of touch with the constituents whose desires he has to interpretl It will, therefore, be interesting to see how the shrewd workmen of

.1 In this connection see the 'interesting suggestions of Achille Loria, Les Baits Economiques de la Constitution Sociale (Paris, 1893), pp. 150-154.


Representative Institutions 57

Lancashire, Yorkshire, and the Midlands have surmounted this constitutional difficulty.

In the parliaments of the Cotton-spinners and Coalminers we find habitually two classes of members, salaried officials| of the several districts, and representative wage-earners still working at the mule or in the mine. It would almost seeffr as if these modern organisations had consciously recognised the impossibility of combining in any individual representa- tive both of the requirements that we have specified. As it is, the presence in their assemblies of a large proportion of men who are still following their trade imports into their deliberations the full flavor^ of working-class sentiment. And the association, with these picked men from each industrial village, of the salaried officers from each county, secures that combination 0/ knowledge, ability, and practical experience in administration,'which is, as we have suggested, absolutely i iydispensab le for the exercise of control over the professional experts, irthe constituencies elected none but their fellow - w brker s. it is more than doubtful whether the representative assembly so created would be competent for its task. If, on the other hand, the assembly consisted merely of a conference of s alaried o fficials, appointing one or more of themselves to carry out the national work of the federation, it would inevitably fail to retain the confidence, even if it continued to express the desires of the members at large. J'he conjunction of the two elements in the sanie repre- sentative assembly h'asTn practice resulted in a very efficient working bodyjj

It is important to notice that in each of the trades the success of the experiment hasjdsperi^ed^n the iact that the organisation is formed on a (federal basis^ The constituent bodies of the Miners' Federation and the Amalgamated Association of Operative Cotton - spinners have their separate constitutions, their distinct funds, and their own official staffs. The salaried officers whom they elect to sit as representatives in the federal parliament have, therefore, quite other interests, obligations, and responsibilities than those of


58 Trade Union Structure

the official staff of the Federation itself. The secretary of the Nottinghamshire Miners' Association, for instance, finds himself able, when sitting as a member of the Conference o^^ the Miners' Federation, freely to criticise the action of the federal executive council or of the federal official staff, with-j out in any way endangering his own position as a salarieJ officer. Similarly, when the secretary of the Rochdale Cotton-spinners goes to the quarterly meeting at Manchester, he need have no hesitation in opposing and, if possible, defeating any recommendation of the executive council of the Amalgamated Association of Operative Cotton-spinners which he considers injurious to the Rochdale spinners. In the form of the representative executive, this use of salaried officers in a representative capacity is likely_ to tend, as we have seen, to the formation of a virtually irresponsible governing clique. But in the form of a federal representative assembly, where the federal executive and official staff are dependent, not on the members at large but on the assembly itself, and where the representatives are responsible to quite other constituencies and include a large proportion of the non-official element, this danger is reduced to a minimum.

We have now set before the reader an analysis of the constitutional development of Trade Union democracy. The facts will be interpreted in different ways by students of different temperaments. To us they represent the long and inarticulate struggle of unlettered men to solve the problem of how to <;qtnbin.e 3.dmimsJtra,.tive__ efficiency- with- popular control . Assent was the first requirement. The very formation of a continuous combination, in face of legal persecution and public disapproval, depended on the active concurrence of all the members. And though it is con- ceivable that a strong Trade Union might coerce a few individual workmen to continue in its ranks against their will, no such coercive influence could permanently prevail over a discontented majority, or prevent the secession, either individually or in a body, of any considerable number who were seriously disaffected. It was accordingly assumed


Representative Institutions 59

without question that everything should be submitted to the voices" of the whole body, and that each member should take an equal and identical share in the common project. As the union developed from an angry crowd u nanimously 'demandtflg the redress of a particular grievance mto an insurance company of national extent, obfigea" to followsoine^efiriite trade policy, the need for administrate efficiency' more and more forced itself on the minds of the , members. This efficiency involved an ever-increasing special ■ isation pfjunctiqn.^ .The growing mass of business and th ; difficulty and complication of the questions dealt with involved the growth of an official class, marked off by capacity, training, and^^Jiitof life Jrpm the rank and file. Failure to specialise the executive function quickly brought about extinction. On the other hand this very specialisation undermined the popular control, and thus risked the loss of the indispensable popular assent ) The early expedients of Rotation of Office, the Maas-MeeBng, arid the Referendum proved, in practice, utterly inadequate as a means of securing genuine popular "control. Atjeach particular crisis the individual member found himself overmatche3~by" the official machinery which he had created. At this^tage lrresponsible bureaucracy seemed the inevitable outcome. But democracy found yet another expedient, which in some favored unions has gone far to solve the problem.

(The specialisation of the executive into a^ permanent expert civTl^servTce was balanced by^the specialisation of the legis-

Jaiuri^ Jn the establishment of a supreme representative assembly, itself Undertaking the work of direction and control fo r wh ich the members at_large.. had proved incpm^etentj. We have seen how difficult it is for a community of manual workers to obtain such an assembly, and how large a part is

> " The progressive division of labour by which bofh science and government prosper." — Lord Acton, The Unity of Modern History (London, 1896), p. 3. " If there be one principle clearer than another, it is this : that in any business, whether of government or of mere merchandising, somebody must be trusted. . . . Power and strict accountability for its use, are the essential constituents of good government" — Woodrow Wilson, Congressional Government (^evYot)L, 1896), I2th edit.


6o Trade Union Structure

inevitably played in it by the ever-growing number of salaried officers. But in the representative assembly these salaried officers sit in a new capacity. The work expected from them by their employers is not that of execution, but of criticbjn and direction. To balance the professional civil servant we have, in fact, the professional representative.

This detailed analysis of humble working-class organisa- tions will to many readers be of interest only in so far as it furnishes material for political generalisations. It is there- fore important to consider to what extent the constitutional problems of Trade Union democracy are analogous to those of national or municipal politics.

The fundamental requisites of government are the same in the democratic state as in the Trade Union. In^ both cases the problem is how to combine administrative efficiency with popular control. Both alike ultimately depend on a continuance of general assent. In a voluntary, association, such as the Trade TTrilOn, this ge neral asstent is, as we have j;e(; ;n, the foremost requirement : in the demo cratic stat e rHinqiiishment of citizen s hip Js seldom a prac ticable alter n ative, whilct- the r\^p r r , \\nr \ rS changing gover nors i s_ not an pasy cxr\p Hence, even in the most democratic of states the continuous assent of the governed is not so imperative a necessity as in the Trade Union. On the other hand, the deg^ ree of adminis trative e fficiency necessary for the healthy existence of the state is far greater than in the case of the Trade Union. But whilst admitting this transposition in relative importance, it still remains true that, in the democratic state as in the Trade Union, government cannot continue to exist without com- bining a certain degree of popular assent with adequate administrative efficiency.

More important is the fact that the popular asspnt is in both cases of the same nature. In the democratic state, as in the Trade Union, the eventual judgment of the people is pronounced not upon projects but upon results. It avails not that a particular proposal may have received the prior


Representative Institutions 6i

authorisation of an express popular vote ; if th e results are

not ■■;iirVi^ as tVip p enplis. Hp-si rp, thp p Y prnt-ivp wt1t~n <;?)- rnnHniip

to rece ive their .s upport. Nor does this, in the democratic state any more than in the Trade Union, imply that an all-wise government would necessarily secure this popular assent If any particular stage in the march of civilisation happens to be momentarily distasteful to the bulk of the citizens, the executive which ventures to step in that direction will be no less ruthlessly dismissed than if its deeds had beei?_ evil. All that we have said as to the logical futility of the Referendum, and as to the necessity for the representative, therefore applies, we suggest, even more strongly to demo- cratic states than to Trade Unions. For what is the lesson . to be learned from Trade Union history ? (The Referendum, introduced for the express purpose of ensuring popular assent, has in almost all cases failed to accomplish its object This failure is due, as the reader will have observed, to the constant inability of the ordinary man to estimate what will be the effect of a particular proposal. W h at D emoeraey^^ requir es is assent tn rf.xul fr • Tnhnf ih« -f?i>fiatiM,liJM^gviii>t is 'a ssent to proiectsT ~\^o Trade Union has, for instance, deliberately desired^ laankruptcy ; but many Trade Unions have persistently voted for scales of contributions and benefits which have inevitably resulted in bankruptcy. If this is the case in the relatively simple issues of Trade Union admini- stration, still more does it apply to the infinitely complicated questions of national politics.

But though in the case of the Referendum the analogy is sufificiently exact to warrant the transformation of the empirical conclusions of Trade Union history into a political generalisation, it is only fair to point out some minor differences between the two cases. We have had occasion to describe how, in Trade Union history, the use of the Referendum, far from promoting popular control, has some- times resulted in increasing the dominant power of the permanent civil service, and in making its position practically! impregnable against any uprising opinion among its con-


62 Trade Union Structure

stftuents. This particular danger would, we imagine, scarcely occur in a democratic state. In the Trade Union the Executive committee occupies a unique position. It alone kas access to official information ; it alone commands expert professional skill and experience ; and, most important of all, St monopolises in the society's official circular what corre- 'sponds to the newspaper press. The existence of political parties fairly equal in knowledge, ability, and electoral organisation, and each served by its own press, would always save the democratic state from this particular perversion of the Referendum to the advantage of the existing government. But any party or sect of opinion which, from lack of funds, education, or social influence, could not call to its aid the forces which we have named, would, we suggest, find itself as helpless in face of a Referendum as the discontented section of a strong Trade Union.

We have seen, moreover, that there is in Trade.Union government a certain special class of questions in which-the Referendum has a distinct use. Where a decisioiL will involve at some future time the personal co-operation_of the members in some positive act essentially optional in its nature — still more where that act involves a voluntary personal sacrifice, or where not a majority alorie~^but practically the whole body of the members must on.paiiTof failure join in it, — the Referendum may be useful, not as a legislative act, but as an index of the probability that the members will actually do what will be required of ffiem. The decision to strike is obviously a case in point. Another instance may be found in the decisions of Trade Unions or other bodies that each member shall use his municipal or parliamentary franchise in a particular manner. Here the success or failure of the policy of the organisation depends not on the passive acquiescence of the rank and file in acts done by the executive committee or the officers, but upon each member's active performance of a personal task. We cannot think of any case of this kind within the sphere of the modern democratic state. If indeed, as Mr. Auberon Herbert


Representative Institutions 63

proposes, it were left to the option of each citizen to determine from time to time the amount and the application of his

  • contributions to the treasury, the Chancellor of the Exchequer

would probably find it convenient, prior to making up the estimates, to take a Referendum as a guide to how much would probably be paid. Or, to take an analogy very near to that of the Trade Union decision to strike, if each soldier in the army were at liberty to leave at a day's notice, it would probably be found expedient to take a vote of the rank and file before engaging in a foreign war. In the modern democratic state, however, as it actually exists, it is not left to the option of the individual citizen whether or not he will act in the manner decided on. T he su ccess or failure of t he policy does not there fr"-" Ae-^c^-nA r.n obtaining universal assent and personal participation in tha ar t itself. Whether thg^ citizen likes it eve nnt-, \\e- Tc -<a<: M -n | i HllHi1 tn pay the t axes and obey ^he laws whirh ha^re been H p ri deH on by the co mpetent au thority. Whether or not he will maintaia that authority i n power, will depend no t on His original impulsive judgment as to the expedien cy_o f the ta x or the law, but oiT ^s deliberate approval or disapproval of the subse ^uenfTesul ts.

If 'Trade Union history throws doubt on the advantages of tKe~Eeiefendum, still less dofes it favor the institution of the delegate as distinguished from the representative. Even in the"comparatively simple issues of Trade Union admini- stration, it has been found, in practice, quite impossible to obtain definite instructions from the members on all the matters which come up for decision. When, for instance, the sixty delegates of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers met in 1892 to revise the constitution and trade policy of their society, they were supposed to confine themselves to such amendments as had previously received the sanction of one or other of the branches. But although the amendments so sanctioned filled over five hundred printed pages, it was found impossible to construct from this material alone any consistent constitution or line of policy. The delegates were


>^'4 Trade Union Structure

necessarily compelled to exercise larger freedom and to frame a set of rules not contemplated by any one of the branches. And this experience of the Engineers is only a type of what has been going on throughout the whole Trade Union world. The increased facilities for communication, on the one hand, and the growth of representative institutions, on the other, have made the delegate obsolete. Wherever a Trade Union has retained the old ideal of direct government by the people, it has naturally preferred to the Delegate Meeting the less expensive and more thoroughgoing device of the Referendum. For the most part the increasing complication and intricacy of modern industrial affairs has, as we have seen, compelled the substitution of representative institutions. These con- siderations apply with even greater force to the democratic state. )

r>. Trade Union history gives, therefore, little support to the Referendum or the Delegate Meetjng, and points rather to government by a Representative Assembly as the kst word of democracy.^ It is therefore important to see whether these Trade Union parliamAits have any lesson for the political student. The governing assemblies of even the most democratic states have, unlike Trade Union parliaments, hitherto been drawn almost exclusively from the middle or upper classes, and have therefore escaped the special difficulties of communities of wage-earners. If, however, we assume that the manual workers, who number four-fifths of the population, will gradually become the dominant influence in the elector- ate, and will contribute an important and increasing section of the representatives, the governing assemblies of the Coal-

  • " There are two elements co-existent in the conduct of human affairs — policy

and administration — but, though the confines of their respective jurisdictions overlap, the functions of each must of necessity be exercised within its own domain by its own hierarchy — the one consisting of trained specialists and experts, intimately conversant with the historical traditions of their own depart- ment and with the minutest details of the subjects with which they are concerned, the other qualified by their large converse with whatever is influential and intelligent in their own country or on the European Continent, and, above all, by their Parliamentary talents and their tactful appreciation of public opinion, to determine the general lines along which the destinies of their country should be led." — Speech by the Marquis of Dufferin, Times, I2th June 1897.


Representative Institutions 65

miners or Cotton Operatives to-day may be to a large extent prophetic of the future legislative assembly in any English- speaking community.

One inference seems to us clear. Any effective participa- tion of the wage-earning class in the councils of the nation involves the establishment of a new calling, that of the professional rpprp«;f^ntflt"^ For the parish or town councH it is possible to elect men who will continue to work at their trades, just as a Trade Union branch can be administered by committee-men a^nd officers in full work. The adoption of the usual Co-operative and Trade Union practice of paying travelling expenses and an allowance for the actual time spent on the public business would suffice to enable workmen to attend the district or county council. But the governing assembly of any important state must always demand practically the whole time of its members. The working-man representative in the House of Commons is therefore most closely analogous, not to the working miner or spinner who attends the Coal jor Cotton Parliament, bu^ to the permanent and sglaried' official representatives, who, in both these assemblies,"~e5cEn:ise-thfr pi edouiluaul inliuence, and control the executive work. The analogy may therefore seem to point to the election to the House of Commons of the trained representative who has been successful in the parliament of his trade.

Such a suggestion misses the whole moral of Trade Union history. The cotton or coal -mining official repre- sentative succeeds in influencing his own trade assembly because he has mastered the technical details of all the business that comes before it ; because his whole life has been one long training for the duties which he has to discharge ; because, in short, he has become a professionals expert in ascertaining and representing the desires of his constituents and in bringing about the conditions of their fulfilment. But transport this man to the House of- Commons, and he finds himself confronted with facts and problems as foreign to his experience and training as his VOL. I D


66 Trade Union Structure

own business would be to the banker or the country gentle- man. What the working class will presently recognise is that the duties of a parliamentary representative constitute as much a new business to the Trade Union official as the duties of a general secretary are to the ordinary ftiechanic. When workmen desire to be as efficiently represented in the Parliament of the nation as they are in their own trade assemblies, they will find themselves compelled to establish a class of expert parliamentary representatives, just as they have had to establish a class of expert trade officials.

We need not consider in any detail what effect an influx of " labor members " of this new type would probably have upon the British House of Commons. Any one who has watched the deliberations of the Coal or the Cotton Parlia- ment, or the periodical revising committees of the other great unions, will have been impressed by the disinclination of the professional representative to mere talk, his impatience of dilatory procedure, and his determination to " get the business through" within working hours. Short speeches, rigorous closure, and an almost extravagant substitution of printed matter for lengthy " front bench " explanations render these assemblies among the most efficient of demo- cratic bodies.^

More important is it to consider in what respects, judging from Trade Union analogies, the expert professional representative will differ from the unpaid politician to whom the middle and upper classes have hitherto been accustomed. We have already described how in the Trade Union world the representative has a twofold function, neither part of which may be neglected with impunity. He makes it just as much his business to ascertain and express the real desires of his constituents as he does to control and direct the operations of the civil servants of his trade. With the

1 These representative assemblies present a great contrast to the Trade Union Congress, as to which see the subsequent chapter on " The Method qI Legal Enactment."


Representative Institutigns 67

entrance into the House of Commons of men of this type, the work of ascertaining and expressing the wishes of the constituencies would be much more deliberately pursued than at present. The typical member of Parliament to-day attend? to such actual expressions of opinion as reach him from his constituency in a clear and definite form, but regards it as no part of his work actively to discover what the silent or inarticulate electors are vaguely desiring. He visits his constituency at rare intervals, and then only to expound his own views in set speeches at public meetings, whilst his personal intercourse is almost entirely limited to persons of his own class or to political wire-pullers. Whatever may be his intentions, he is seldom in touch with any but the middle or upper class, together with that tiny section of all classes to whom " politics " is of constant interest. Of the actual grievances and "dim in- articulate " aspirations of the bulk of the people, the lower middle and the wage-earning class, he has practically no conception. When representation of working-class opinion becomes a profession, as in the Trade Union world, we see a complete revolution in the attitude of the representative towards his constituents. iTo fiad-QUt,^iat his constituents desire becomes an essential paxt-oLhis vrorlc.) "Ifwill not do to wait until they write to him, for the working-man is slow to put pen to paper. Hence the professional Trade Union representative takes active steps to learn what the silent members- are thinking. He spends his whole time, when not actually in session, in his constituency. He makes few set speeches at public gatherings, but he is diligent in attending branch meetings, and becomes an attentive listener at local committees. At his office he is accessible to every one of his constituents. It is, moreover, part of the regular routine of such a functionary to be constantly communicat- ing with every one of his constituents by means of frequent circulars on points which he believes to be of special interest to them. If, therefore, the professional representative, as we know him in the Trade Union world, becomes a feature of


68 Trade Union Structure

the House of Commons, the future member of Parliament will feel himself not only the authoritative exponent of the votes of his constituents, but also their "London Correspondent," their parliamentary agent, and their expert adviser 1h all matters of legislation or general politics.^

It is impossible to forecast all the consequences that would follow from raising (or, as some would say, degrading) the parliamentary representative from an amateur to a pro- fessional. But among other things the whole etiquette of the situation would be changed. At present it is a point of honor in a member of Parliament not to express his constituents' desires when he conscientiously differs from them. To the " gentleman politician " the only alternative to voting as he himself thinks best is resigning his seat. This delicacy is unknown to any paid professional cigent The architect, solicitor, or permanent civil servant, after t endering his advice and supporting his views with all his expert authority, finally carries out whatever policy his employer commands. Thi s is also the view which the professional representative of the T rade Union world ta kes ot his own duties. It is his business not only to put before his constituents what he believes to be their best policy and to back up his opinion with all the argumentative power he can bring to bear, but also to put his entire energy into wrestling with what he conceives to be their ignorance, and to become for the time a vigorous propagandist of his own policy. But if, when he has done his best in this way, he fails to get a majority over to his view, he loyally accepts the decision and records his vote in accordance with his constituents' desires. We imagine that professional repre- sentatives of working-class opinion in the House of Commons would take the same course.^


' " Representatives ought to give light and leading to the people, just as the people give stimulus and momentum to their representatives." — J. Bryce, TH American Commonwealth (London, 1891), vol. i. p. 297.

  • It is interesting to notice that in the country in which the "sovereignty of


Representative Institution!! 69

This may at first seem to indicate a return of the pro- fessional representative to the position of a delegate. Trade Union experi ence points, however, to the very reverse. In the grggit ^majority of cases a constituency cannot be said to have any clear and decided views on particular*^ projects. What th ey ask from their representative is that he shal l act in the manner which, in his opinion, will best serve to promote the irgeneral desires. It is only in particular instances, usually when some well-intentioned proposal entails im- mediately inconvenient results, that a wave of decided opinion spreads through a working-class constituency. It is exactly in cases of this kind that a propagandist campaign by a professional debater, equipped with all the facts, is of the greatest utility. Such a campaign would be the very last thing that a member of Parliament of the present type would venture upon if he thought that his constituents were against him. He would feel that the less the points of difference were made prominent, the better for his own.- safety. But once it came to be under^bod that the final command of the constituency would beWobeyed, the repre- sentative would run no risk of losing his seat, merely because he did his best to convert his constituents. Judging from^ Trade Union experience he would, in nine cases out Cff Ten, succeed~in converting them to His own view, and thus perform a valuable ~peeg" of "political education. In the tenth " case the campaigri would have been no less educa- tional, though in another way ; and, whichever was the fight view, the issue would have been made clear, the facts brought out, and the way opened for the eventual conversion of one or other of the contending parties.

Trade Union experience indicates, therefore, a still further development in the evolution of the representative. Working-

the people " has been most whole-heartedly accepted, the Trade Union practice prevails. The members of the Swiss " Bundesrath " (Federal Cabinet) do not resign when any project is disapproved of by the legislature, nor do the members of the " Nationalrath " throw up their legislative functions when a measure is rejected by the electors on Referendum. Both cabinet ministers and legislators set themselves to carry out the popular will.


70 Trade Union Structure

class democracy will expect him not only to be able to understand and interpret the desires of his electors, and effectively to direct and control the administrating executive : he must also count it as part of his duty to be the experjt parliamentary adviser of his constituency, and at times an active propagandist of his own advice. Thus, if any inference from Trade Union history is valid in the larger sphere, the whole tendency of working-class democracy will unconsciously be to exalt the real power of the representative, and more and more to differentiate his functions from those of the ordinary citizen on the one hand, and of the expert admini- strator on the other. The typical representative assembly of the future will, it may be suggested, be as far removed from the House of Commons of to-day as the latter is from the mere Delegate Meeting. We have already travelled far from the one man taken by rotation from the roll, and changed mechanically to convey " the voices " of the whole body. We may in the future leave equally behind the member to whom wealth, position, or notoriety secures, almost by accident, a seat in Parliament, in which he can, in such intervals as his business or pleasure may leave him, decide what he thinks best for the nation, fin his stead we may watch appearing in 'increasing numbers t he pro fessional representative, — a man selected for natural aptitude, delibgrately trained for his new~- work as a special vocation, devoting his whole time to the discharge of his manifold duties, and actively maintaining an intimate and reciprocal intellectual relationship with his constituency.

How far such a development of the representative will fit in with the party system as we now know it ; how far it will increase the permanence and continuity of parliamentary life ; how far it will promote collective action and tend to increasing bureaucracy ; how far, on the other hand, it will bring the ordinary man into active political citizenship, and rehabilitate the House of Commons in popular estimation ; how far, therefore, it will increase the real authority of the people over the representative assembly, and of the repre-


Representative Institutions 71

sentative assembly over the permanent civil service ; how far, in fine, it will give us that combination of administrative efficiency with popular control which is at once the requisite and the ideal of all democracy — all these are questions that make the future interesting.


CHAPTER III THE UNIT OF GOVERNMENT[edit]

The trade clubs of the eighteenth century inherited from the Middle Ages the tradition of strictly localised corpora- tions, the unit of government necessarily coinciding, like that of the English craft gild, with the area of the particular city in which the members lived. And we can well imagine that a contemporary observer of the constitution and policy of these little democracies might confidently have predicted that they, like the craft gilds, must inevitably remain strictly localised bodies. The crude and primitive form of popular government to which, as we have seen, the workmen were obstinately devoted, could only serve the needs of a small and local society. Government by general meeting of all fee members, administration by the forced service of indi- viduals taken in rotation from the roll — in short, the ideal of each member taking an equal and identical share in the management of public affairs — was manifestly impracticable in any but a society of which the members met each other with the frequent intimacy of near neighbours. Yet in spite of all difficulties of constitutional machinery, the historian watches these local trade clubs, in marked contrast with the craft gilds, irresistibly expanding into associations of national extent. Thus, the little friendly club which twenty -three Bolton ironfounders established in 1809 spread steadily over the whole of England, Ireland, and Wales, until to-day it numbers over 1 6,000 members, dispersed among 122 separate


The Unit of Government 73

branches. The scores of little clubs of millwrights apd steam-engine makers, fitters and blacksmiths, as if impelled by some overmastering impulse, drew together between 1 840 and 1 85 1 to form the great Amalgamated Society of Engineers. The Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners (established i860) has, in the thirty-five years of its existence, absorbed several dozens of local carpenters' .'societies, and now counts within its ranks four-fifths of the organised carpenters in the kingdom. . Finally, we see organisations established, like the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants in 1872, with the deliberate intention of covering the whole trade from one end of the kingdom to the other. How slowly, painfully, and reluctantly the workmen have modified their crude ideas of democracy to meet the exigencies of a national organisation, we have already described.

But it was not merely the workman's simplicity in matters N of government that hampered the growth of National organisa- tion. The traditional policy of the craftsman of the English town — the restriction of the right to work j^o those who had acquired the " freedom " of the corporation, the determined exclusion of " interlopers," and the craving to keep trade from going out of the town — has left deep roots in English industrial life, alike among the shopkeepers and among th&, workmen. Trade Unionism has had constantly to struggle against this spirit of local monopoly, specially noticeable in the seaport towns.^ , ^ — -

Down to the middle of the present century the ship- wrights had an independent local club in every port, each of which strove with might and main to exclude from any chance of work in the port all but men who had learnt their trade within its bounds. These monopoly rules caused incessant friction between the men of the several ports. Shipwrights out of work in one town could not perma- nently be kept away from another in which more hands were

1 It is interesting to note that the modern forms of the monopoly spirit are also specially characteristic of the industry of shipbuilding ; see the chapter on " The Right to a Trade."

VOL. I D 2


74 Trade Union Strtuture

wanted. The newcomers, refused admission into the old port society, eventually formed a new local union among them- selves, and naturally tended to ignore the trade regulations maintained by the monopolists. To remedy this disastrous state of things a loose federation was between 1850 and i860 gradually formed among the local societies for the express purpose of discussing, at annual congresses, how to establish more satisfactory relations between the ports. In the records of these congresses we watch, for nearly thirty years, the struf yprle of the monopolist SQekties_against the efforts ot those, SUCli da Glasgew— a«d— Neatsastle^^^ose drcumstanres had rnnvpri-p d them to a belief in compl ete mobility of labor with in a trad e. The open societies at last lost patience with tne conservative spirit of the others, and in 1882 united to form a national amalgamated union, based on the principle of a common purse and complete mobility between port and port. This organisa- tion, the Associated Shipwrights' Society, has, in fifteen years, succeeded in absorbing all but three of the local societies, and now extends to every port in the kingdom. "In thesd times of mammoth firms, with large capital," writes the general secretary, " the days of local societies' utility have gone by, and it is to be hoped the few still remaining outside the consolidated association of their trade will ere long lay aside all local animus and trivial objections, or personal feeling ... for the paramount interest of their trade." ^

The history of the Shipwrights' organisation is typical of^-tbat_Q£_other port unions. The <mmerous societies of Sail makers, once ngJUty -mewftpnljat., are now ^. united in a fe deration, within whrV.h complete mobility p revails. The Coopers' societies, which in the port town."? "^ had formerly much in common with the Shipwrights, now, with one excep- tion, admit to membership any duly apprenticed cooper from

1 Twelfth Annual Report of Associated Shipwrights' Society (Newcastle, 1894), p. xi.

  • Rules for the Guidance of the Federation of the Sailmakers of Great Britain

and Ireland (Hull, 1890).


The Unit of Government 75

another town. But the main citadels of local monopoly in the Trade Union world have always been the trade clubs of Dublin, Cork, and Limerick. The Dublin Coopers have, even at the present time, a rigidly closed society, which refuses all intercourse with other unions, and maintains, through an ingenious arrangement, a strict monopoly of this important coopering centre;^ and the Cork Stonemasons, who are combjped in an old local club, whilst insisting on working at Fermoy whenever they please, will not, as we learn, suffer any mason, from Fermoy or elsewhere, to obtain employment at Cork.

Even in Ireland, however, the development of Tra de> Unionism is hostile to local monopoly. Any growing in-i dustry is quickly invaded by members "of the great English I societies, who establish their own branches and force thef local clubs to come to terms. One by one old Irish unions] apply to be admitted as branches into the richer and more powerful English societies, and have in consequence to accept the principle of com plete mobility of labor. ^ The famous^

1 The arrangement is as follows : The Dublin Coopers do not prohibit strainers from working in Dublin when more coopers are wanted. On such occasions the secretary writes to coopers' societies in other towns, notably Burton, stating the number of men required. Upon all such outsiders a tax of a shilling a week is levied as " working fee," half of which benefits the DuTlftl society, the other half being accumulated to pay the immigrant's return fare. As soon as work shows signs of approaching slackness, the "foreigner" receives warning that he must instantly depart : it is said that his return ticket is presented to him, with any balance remaining out of his weekly sixpence. As many as 200 " strangers " will in this way sometimes be paid off, and sent away in a single week. By this means the Dublin Coopers (3) secure absolute regularity of employment for their own members, (i) provide the extra labor required in busy times, and (?) maintain their own control over the conditions under which the work is done. The employers appear to be satisfied with the arrangement, which, so far as we have •;en able to ascertain, is the only surviving instance of what was once a common rule of port unions. Thus, the rules of Queenstown Ship- wrights' Society, right down to its absorption in the Associated Shipwrights' Society (in 1894), included a provision that "no strange shipwright" should be allowed to work in the town while a member was idle. And the Liverpool Sailmakers' Society (established 1817) has, among the MS. rules preserved in the old minute-book, one providing that "strangers" with indentures should be allowed to work at " legal sail-rooms," but should members be unable to obtain employment elsewhere, then " the stranger shall be discharged and the member be engaged."


76 Trade Union Structure

"Dublin Regulars," a rigidly monopolist local carpenters' union, claiming descent from the gilds, and always striving to exclude from admission any but the sons of the members,' became, in 1890, at the instance of its younger members, one of the 629 branches of the Amalgamated Society of Car- penters and Joiners, bound to admit to work fellow-members from all parts of the world. A^mong the Irish Shipwrights, too, once the most rigidly monopolist of all, this tendency has progressed with exceptional rapidity. The annual report of the Associated Shipwrights' Society for 1893 records' the absorption irl that year alone of no fewer than six old Irish port unions, each of which had hitherto striven to maintain for its members all the work of its own port. > But although the growth of national organisation has (done much to break down this spirit of local monopoly, we do not wish to imply that it has been completely eradicated. The workman, whether a Trade Unionist or not, still shares with the shopkeeper and the small manu- facturer, the old instinctive objection to work " going out of the town." The proceedings of local authorities often reveal to us the " small master," the retail tradesman, and the local artisan kll insisting that "the ratepayers' money " should be spent so as directly to benefit the local trade. Trade Unionists are not backward in making use of this vulgar error when it suits their purpose, and the " labor members " of town or county councils can seldom refrain, whenever it is proposed "t6 send work into the country," from adopting an argument which they find so convincing to many of their middle-class colleagues.*

' See, for instance, the detailed account of It given in the Report on Tradt Societies and Strikes of the National Association for the Promotion of Social Science (i860), pp. 418-423. -

2 Twelfth Annual Report of the Associated Shipwright^ Society, p. xi. (New- castle, 1894).

' During the first eight years of the London County Council (1889-97) several attempts were made to confine contracts to London firms. It is interesting to note that these all emanated from middle-class members of the Moderate Party, and that they were opposed by John Burns and a large majority of the " Laboi Members " and Progressives, as well as by the more responsible of the " Moderates."


The Unit of Government 'j'j

But if we follow the Labor Member from the council chamber to his Trade Union branch meeting, we shall I'recognise that the grievance felt by his Trade Unionist GQjistituents is not exclusively, or even mainly, based on the " local protectionism " of the shopkeeper and the small manufacturer. What the urban Trade Unionist actually ^ resists is not any loss of work to a particular locality, but the incessant- attempt of contractors to evade the Trade Union regulations, by getting the work done in districts in which the workmen are either not organised at all, or in which they are working at a low Standard Rate. Thus the Friendly Society of Operative Stonemasons incurs consider- able odium because the branches in many large towns insert in their local rules a prohibition of the use of stone imported in a worked state from any outside district. But this general prohibition arises from the fact that the practical alternative to working the stone on the spot is getting it worked in the district in which it is quarried. Now, whatever mechanical or economic advantage may be claimed for the latter practice, it so happens that the quarry districts are those in which the Stonemasons are worst organised. In these districts for the most part, no Standard Rate exists, the hours of labor are long and variable, and competitive piece- work, unregulated by any common agreement, usually prevails. Moreover, any transference of work from the Stonemasons of large cities where jobs dovetail with each other, to the Stonemasons of quarry villages, entirely dependent on the spasmodic orders for worked stone received by the quarry owner, necessarily involves an increase in the number of Stonemasons exposed to irregularity of work, and habitually " on tramp " from county to county.^

  • For instance the " Working Rules to be observed by the Master Builders

and Operative Stonemasons of Portsmouth," signed in 1893, by ten master builders and four workmen, on behalf of their respective associations, include the following provision, "That no piecework be allowed and no worked stone to come into the town except square steps, flags, curbs, and landings, and no brick- layers to fix worked stone." The London rules are not so explicit. As fonna.lly agreed to in 1892 by the associations of employers and employed, they provide


78 Trade Union Structure

We may trace a similar feeling in the protests frequently made by the branches of the National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives, against work being sent into the country villages, or even from a centre in which wages are high, to one working under a lower " statement." That this is not merely a disguised " local protectionism " may be seen from the fact that the Northampton Branch actually resolved in 1888 to strike, not against Northampton employers sending work out of the town, but against a London manufacturer sending his work to Northampton.^ In 1889, the Executive Council of the same union found itself driven to take action against the systematic, attempts of certain employers to evade the wages agreement which they had formally entered into, by sending their work away to have certain processes

that " piecework and subcontracting for labor only shall on no account be resorted to, excepting for granite kerb, York paving and turning." The London Stone- masons, however, claim, as for instance in their complaint in 1894 against the Works Department of the London County Council, that this rule must be interpreted so as to exclude the use in London of stone worked in a quarry district. This claim was successfully resisted by the Tradte Union repre- sentatives who sat on the Works Committee. We subsequently investigated this case ourselves, tracing the stone (a long run of sandstoiie.kerb for park railings) back to Derbyshire, where it was quarried and worked. We found the district totally unorganised, the stonemasons' work being done largely by boy- labor, at competitive piecework, without settled agreement, by non-unionists, working irregular and sometimes excessive hours. It was impossible not to feel that, although the London Stonemasons had expressed their objection in the wrong terms and therefore had failed to obtain redress, they were, according to the " Fair Wages " policy adopted by the County Council and the House of Commons, justified in their complaint. Unfortunately, instead of bringing to the notice of the Committee the actual conditions under which the stone was being worked, they relied on the argument that the London ratepayers' money should be spent on London workmen. This argument, as they afterwards explained to us, had been found the most effective with the shopkeepers and small manufacturers who dominate provincial Town Councils. The Trade Unionist members of the London County Council proved obdurate to this economic heresy.

1 Shoe and Leather Record, 28th July 1888. In the same way a general meeting of the Manchester Stonemasons, in 1862, decided to support a strika against a Manchester employer who, carrying out a contract at Altrincham, eight miles off, had his stone worked at Manchester, instead of at Altrincham, as required by the working rules of the Altrincham branch. In this case, the Manchester Stonemasons struck against work coming to themselves at a higher rate per hour than was demanded by the Altrincham masons. — Stonemason^ fortnightly Return, September 1862.


The Unit of Government 79

done in lower - paid districts. These employers were accordingly informed, not that the work must be kept in the town, but that, wherever it was executed, the "shop statement " which they had signed must be adhered to. It was at the same time expressly intimated that if these employers chose to set up works of their own in a new place, " they will be at perfect liberty to do so," without objection from the union, even if they chose a low-paid district, " provided that they pay the highest rate of wages of the district to which they go." ^

We have quoted the strongest instances of Trade Union objection to " work going out of the town," in order to unravel, from the common stocE" Of ecunuiiTic~prejuaice, the impulse which is distinctive of Trade Unionism itself. It is customary for persons interested in the prosperity of one establishment, one town or one district, to seek to obtain trade for that particular establishment, town or district. Had Trade Unions remained, like the mediaeval craft gilds, organisations of strictly lo.cal membership, they must, almost inevitably, have been marked by a similar local favoritism. But the whole tendency of Trade Union history has beeij towards the solidarity of each trade as a whole. Th^ natural selfishness of the local branches is accordingly always; being combated by the central executives and national' lielegate meetings, in the wider interests of the whole body of the members wherever they may be working. Just in proportion as Trade Unionism is strong and well established we find the old customary favoritism of locality replaced by the impartial enforcement of uniform conditions upoij all districts alike. When, for instance, the Amalgamated Association of Cotton Weavers, in delegate meeting assembled, finally decided to adopt a uniform list of piecework prices, the members then working at Great Harwood found no sympathy for their plea that such a measure would reduce

1 The " National Conference " of the JUnion passed a similar resolution in 1886; Monthly Report of the National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives. January 1887/and February 1889.


8o Trade Union Structure

their own exceptionally high rates. And although it was foreseen and declared that uniformity would tend to the concentration of the manufacture in the most favorably situated districts, to the consequent loss of the more remote villages, the delegates from these villages almost unanimously supported what was believed to be good for the trade as a whole.^

In another industry, the contrast between the old " local protectionism " and the Trade Unionist view has resulted in an interesting change in electioneering tactics. The London Society of Compositors and the Typographical Association have, for the last ten years, used more electoral pressure with regard to the distribution of local work, than any other Trade Union. So long as parliamentary electors belonged mainly to^ the middle class, a parliamentary candidate was advised by his agent to distribute his large printing orders fairly among all parts of his constituency, and under no circumstances to employ a printer living beyond its boundary. Now the astute agent, eager to conciliate the whole body of organised workmen in the constituency, confines his printing strictly to the best Trade Union establishments, although this usually involves passing over most of the local establishments and sometimes even giving work to firms outside the district. The influence of the Trade Union leaders is used, not to maintain their respective trades in all the places in which they happen to exist, but to strengthen, at the expense of the rest, those establishments, those towns, and even those districts, in which the conditions of work are most advantageous. \ fWe see, therefore, that in spite of the difficulties ^ government, in spite of the strong inherited tradition of |local exclusiveness, and in spite, too, of the natural selfish- ness of each branch in desiring to preserve its own local monopoly, the unit of government in the workmen's organ- isations, in complete contrast to the gilds of the master-

■ 1 Special meeting of General Council of Amalgamated Association of Cotton Weavers, 30th April 1892, attended by one of the authors ; see other instances cited in the chapter on "The Standard Rate."


The Unit of Government 8i

craftsmen, has become th elfi-ade l instead of the Jown.^_ Our description of this irresistiMe tendency to eipan-" sion has already to some extent /r evealed its cause, in the Trade Union desire to secure uniform minimum rnnHj^f f^^-a t hroughout each industiyj In our examination of the Methods and Regulations of Trade Unionism, and in our analysis of their economic working, we shall discover the means by which the wage-earners seek to attain this end, and the reasons which convince them of its importance. In the final part of our work we shall examine how far such an equality is economically possible or (^esirable. For the moment the reader must accept the fact thatfSiis uniformity of minimum is, whether wisely' or not, the most permanent of Trade Union aspirationsJ

Me anwhile it is interestmg to no te that 1 this conceptio n of^the jsolidarity ol each trade as a whol'g \'\ rbpckfrl by raci ^ differe nces^ 1 ne great national unions of Engineers and Carpenters find no difficulty in exte^iding their /)rganisa- tions beyond national boundaries, and 'easily (ppen^KaSches in the United States or the South African Republic, France" or Spain, provided that these branches are composed of British workmen.^ i^Vit it is needless' to say that it has not yet appeared practicable to any British Trade Union even to suggest amalgamation with the Trade Union of any other country^ Differences in legal position, in political status, in industrial methods, and in the economic situation between

1 Where at the present day a widespread English industry is without a pre- ponderating national Trade Union, it is simply a mark of imperfect organisation. Thus the numerous little Trade Unions of Painters, and Chippers and Drillers include only a small proportion of those at work in the trades.

  • The Amalgamated Society of Engineers had, in 1896, 82 branches beyond

the United Kingdom, and the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners no fewer than 87. About half of these are in the United States or Canada, and most of the remainder in the Australian Colonies or South Africa. The Engineers had one branch in France, at Croix, and forinerly one in Spain, at Bilbao, where the United Society of Boilermakers also had a branch until 1894. I" the years 1 880-82 the United Society of Boilermakers even had a. branch at Con- stantmople. The only other English Trade Union having branches beyond sea is the Steam-Englne Makers' Society, which has opened lodges at New York, Montreal, and Brisbane.


82 Trade Union Structure

French and English workers — not to mention the barrier of language — easily account for the indisposition on the part of practical British workmen to consider an international amalgamated union. And it is significant that, even within the British Isles, the progress towards national union has been much hampered by differences of racial sentiment and divergent views of social expediency. The English carpenter, plumber, or smith who finds himself working in a Scotch town, is apt to declare the Scotch union in his trade to be little better than a friendly society, and^ to complain that Scotch workmen are too eager for immediate gain and for personal advancement sufficiently to resist such dangerous innovations as competitive piecework, nibbling at the Standard Rate, or habitual overtime. The Scotchman retorts that the English Trade Union is extravagant in its expenditure, especially at the head office in London or Manchester, and unduly restrictive in its Regulations and Methods. In some cases the impulse towards amalgama^ tion has prevailed over this divergence as to what is socially expedient. The United Society of Boilermakers, which extends without a rival from sea .to sea, was able in 1 88^ through the loyalty of the bulk of its Scottish members, to stamp out an attempted secession, aiming at a national society on the banks of the Clyde, which evoked the support of Scottish national feeling, voiced by the Glasgow Trades Council. In other cases Scotch pertinacity has conquered England. The Associated Shipwrights' Society, the rise and national development of which we have already described, sprang out of the Glasgow Shipwrights' Uiiion, which gave to the wider organisation its able and energetic secretary, Mr. Alexander Wilkie. The British Steel Smelters' Associa- tion (established 1886) haT spread from Glasgow over the whole industry in the Northern and Midland districts of England. In both these cases the Scotch, have " stooped to conquer," the Scottish secretary moving to an English town as the centre of membership shifted towards the south. But in other trades the prevailing tendency towards complete


The Unit of Government 83

national amalgamation is still baffled by the sturdy Scotch determination — due partly to differences of administration but mainly to racial sentiment — not to be " governed from | England."^ The powerful English national unions of Car- penters, Handworking Bootmakers, Plumbers, and Bricklayers have either never attempted or have failed to persuade their Scottish fellowrworkmen to give up their separate Scottish societies. The-xival national societies of Tailors are always at war, making periodical excursions across the Border, this establishment of branches in each other's territories giving rise to heated recriminations. In many important trades, such as the Compositors, Stonemasons, and Ironfounders, effective Trade Unionism is as old in Scotland as in England, and the two national societies in each trade, whilst retaining complete Home Rule, have settled down to a fraternal relationship, which amounts to tacit if not formal federation.

Ireland, presents a similar case of racial differences, working in a somewhat different manner. Whereas the English Trade Unions have keenly desired union with Scottish local societies, they have, until lately, manifested a m arked dislike to having anything to do with Ireland.'^ This has been, in some cases at least, the result of experience,

' Analogous tendencies may be traced in the Friendly Society movement, though to a lesser extent. The Scottish lodges of the Manchester Unity of Odd- fellows have their own peculiar rules. The Scottish delegates to the Foresters' High Court at Edinburgh in 1894, were among the most strenuous opponents of the proposal to fix the headquarters (at present moving annually from town to town) in London or Birmingham. And though exclusively Scottish Orders have never yet succeeded in widely establishing themselves, it is not uncommon for Scottish lodges to threaten secession, as when, in 1889, five Scottish lodges of the Bolton Unity of the Ancient Noble Order of Oddfellows endeavoured to start a new "Scottish Unity" (Oddfellows' Magazine, March 1889, p. 70). Such a secession from the Manchester Unity resulted in the "Scottish Order of Odd- fellows" which has, however, under 2000 members. There exist also the "St. Andrew's Order of Ancient Free Gardeners of Scotland," with 6000 members, and a " United Order of Scottish Mechanics," with 4000 members, which refuse to merge themselves in the larger Orders.

2 Scottish branches are declared by Trade Union secretaries to be profitable recruits from a financial point of view, because they are habitually frugal and cautious in dispensing friendly benefits.


84 Trade Union Structure

From 1832 down to 1840, Irish lodges were admitted to the Friendly Society of Operative Stonemasons, on the same footing as English, whilst the Scotch masons had already their independent organisation. The fortnightly reports during these years reveal constant friction between the central executive and the Irish branches, who would not agree among themselves, and who persisted in striking against members from other Irish towns. At the Delegate Meeting in 1839 the Irish branches had to be specially deprived of the right to strike without prior permission, even in those cases in which the rules allowed to English branches the instantaneous cessation of work to resist encroachments on established customs.^ But even with this precaution the drain of the Irish lodges upon the English members became unendurable. At length in 1 840, the general

"secretary was sent on a special- mission of investigation, which revealed every kind of financial irregularity. The Irish lo dges \y ere found to have a n in curable p rgpensjt^o d ispense benefits toall and sund r y irr e spective of th e_nUes,

>aSd^^inyincibIe _objection to Enfrlish methods nf arrnrmf- keeping . The Dublin lodge had to be dissolved as a punisljment for retaining to itself monies remitted by the Central Committee for other Irish lodges. The central executive who, in 1837, had successfully resisted a proposi- tion emanating from a Warwickshire district in favor of Home Rule for Ireland, " as such separation would injure the stability of the society," " now reported in its favor. " We are convinced," says the report, " that a very great amount of money had been sent to Ireland for the reli ef of tra mps, etc. ... to which they had no legal fight. . . . However much a separation may be regretted, we feel convinced that until they are thrown more on their own resources, they will not sufficiently estimate the benefits derivable from such an institution to exert themselves on its behalf." * The receipts

1 Rules of the Friendly Society of Operative Stonemasons (edition of 1839).

2 Resolutions of the Delegate Meeting 1837.

S Stonemason^ Fortnightly Return, 2nd January 1840.


The Unit of Government 85

from Ireland for the year had been £i,y : los., whilst the remittances to Ireland had amounted to no less than ;^545. It is not surprising that the society promptly voted the exclusion of all the Irish branches.

In 1850 the Executive Committee of the Provincial Typographical Association were " reluctantly compelled to declare their conviction that no English executive can successfully "manage an Association embracing branches so geographically distant and so materially different in their regulations and their mode of remuneration as those of the sister kingdom." The union thereupon gave up the one Irish branch (Waterford) which had not already insisted on its independence, and refused to entertain any proposals for new ones.^ Other societies which, in more recent years, have had Irish branches appear to have found them equally un- profitable, and a source of constant trouble. The records of the Amalgamated Society of Tailors are full of references to the extravagance and financial mismanagement of its Irish branches. During the year 1892 no less than four of the principal Irish branches of the society were rebuked by the Executive Council upon this account. One of these had sub- sequently to be closed, the Executive stating that its " report is altogether wrong, and does not balande. The contributions! do not average lod. per member, and the rent of the club- room is more than the whole income from the branch. If a . satisfactory explanation is not sent at once the branch must be closed."" Finally, in 1896, the Executive of the Associated

1 Half -Yearly Report »f the Provincial Typographical Association, 31st December 1850.

  • Quarterly Report of the Amalgamated Society' of Tailors, April 1892.

Report on the Ennis branch. In this connection the following extract from the proceedings of the High Court of the Ancient Order of Foresters in 1894 will be interesting. The executive had found it necessary to hold a special investiga- tion into the afifairs of the Dublin District ; and they recommended the grant of certain advantages upon condition of reform. This proposal led to a lively debate. "Were they going," said one prominent Forester, "to encourage extravagant, reckless, and fraudulent mismanagement? The report presented to them showed distinctly that there had been extravagant, reckless, and fraudulent mismanagement. . . . Not less than ;^997 had been voted by previous High Courts towards the relief of Dublin Courts. . . . The Order's


86 Trade Union Structure

Shipwrights' Society reported that it had been compelled " to close the Dublin branch, notwithstanding that the E. C. had instructed both the general secretary and the Humber Delegate to visit them. We have not been able to receive any correct reports from them for some time, and the only word we could get from them was that there was no work and no money, yet when your representatives visited them the officers were so busy working they had not time to convene a meeting of members. . . . Your E. C, offered to have all the idle men sent to ports where em- ployment could be found them, but we are informed where this has been done some of these men, notwithstanding all that has been done for them, refused to pay up their arrears, and rather than pay left their employment and went home. . . . When the branch books were examined it was found they were paying both sick and unemployed benefit to members who were not entitled to it, and, the branch officers were receiving salary for work they failed or refused to do. Seeing the Dublin branch entirely ignored the registered rules, your E. C. had no other option but to close the branch. The different branches must deal with these men should they come to their ports." ^

/So strong, however, is the dominant impulse towards the complete union of a trade from one end of the United Kingdom to the other, that it seems, during the last few years, to be slowly overcoming the reluctance of both English and Irish organisations. From 1889 onward, we find such, great national unions as the Carpenters, Railway Servants, Engineers, Tailors, and Shipwrights freely opening branches in Irish towns and absorbing the surviving trade clubs of


Chief Official Valuer said ' the members have never done their duty.' That officer thereupon interposed with the remark, ' It was believed that in connection with sickness there was a good deal of malingering.' Another prominent Forester said he would attach the (Dublin) Courts to the Glasgow District. . . . There was only one element of danger, and it was of putting too many Irishmen together." — Foresters' Miscellany (September 1894), p. 180.

1 The Fifty-eighth Quarterly Report, July to September 1896, of the Assod ated Society of Shipwrights, p. 8.


The Unit of Government 87

local artisansjj The Provincial Typographical Association, now become the Typographical Association, has, since 1878, opened sixteen branches in Ireland, and now employs a salaried organiser for that island, whose efforts have brought in many recruits. This tendency has been greatly assisted, especially in the engineering and shipbuilding trades, by -the remarkable industrial development of Belfast. Since i860 a constant stream of skilled artisans from England and Scotland have settled in that town, with the result that it ftow possesses strong branches of all the national unions of both countries. With the shifting of the effective centre of Irish Trade Unionism from Dublin to Belfast has come an almost irresistible tendency to accept an English or Scottish government |Dn the other hand, attempts to unite the separate local societies of Irish towns in national Trade Unions for Ireland have almost invariably failed, the Irish clubs displaying far more willingness to become branches of British unions than to amalgamate among themselvesij

iPast experience of British Trade Unionism seems, there- fore, to point to the whole extent of each trade within the British Isles as forming the proper unit of government for any combination pf the wage-earners >in that trade. Any unit of smaller area produces an organisation of unstable, equilibrium, either tending constantly to expansion, or liable to supersession by the growth of a rival society. But there is a marked contrast between the union of" Scotland with England, and that effected between either of them and Ireland. The English and Scottish Trade Unions federate or combine with each other on equal- termj. - If complete amalgamation is decided on, it is frequently the Scotchman, bringing with him Scotch procedure and Scotch traditions,

' The Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants now (1897) possesses no fewer than 56 Irish branches, the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners 56, the Amalgamated Society of Tailors 35, the Amalgamated Society of Engineers 19, and the Associated Shipwrights' Society 9.

  • Almost the only Irish national trade society is the Operative Bakers of

Ireland National Federal Union, formed in November 1889. An Irish Trade Union Congress has been held annually since 1894.


88 Trade Union Structure

who is chosen to reign in England, the centre of government being shifted almost automatically to the main centre of the industry. Union with Ireland invariably means the simple absorption of the Irish branch, and the unconditional accept- ance of the English or Scottish rules and organisation. This is usually brought about by the English or Scottish immi- grants into Ireland, aided by sections of Irish members who desire to escape from the weakness of internal dissensions, and to secure the benefits of efficient administration, with the -support of a comparatively wealthy and powerful organisation^ Passing now from the boundaries of the autonomous state to the relation between central and local authorities within it, we watch the Trade Unionists breaking away from the traditions of British Denipcra^^ In the political expansion of the Anglo-Saxon rac^'tne development- 'ot ' local institutions has at least kept pace with the extension of empire. In the other great organisations of the British working class, which have, equally with Trade Unionism, grown from small local beginnings' to powerful corporations^ of national, or even international extent, the workmen have , successfully maintained the complete independence of eachj local unit. The Co-operative Movement includes within the British Isles a nominal membership as great as that of Trade Unionism, with financial transactions many times larger in amount The 1700 separate Co-operative Societies have united in the colossal business federations of the English and Scottish Wholesale Societies, and in the educational and political federation called the Co-operative Union. But though the Co-operative Movement has gone through many developments since its re-birth in 1844, and has built up a " State within the State, " the great federal bodies ha ve

1 It may not be improper to observe, for English political readers, that the authors are divided in opinion as to the policy of granting Home Rule to Ireland, and are therefore protected against bias in drawing political inferences from Trade Union experience in this respect. If it is thought that the tacts adduced in this chapter tell against Irish self-government, the considerations brought forward in the next chapter may be regarded as making against the policy of complete union with Great Britain,


The Unit of Government 89

temained in all cases nothing but the agents an d servant s of the local societies / And if we turn to a movement still more closely analoggus to Trade Unionism, we may watch in the marvellous expansion of the " Affiliated Orders," among the friendly societies, the growth of a world-wide working^lass organisatibn, based on an almost complete autonomy of the separate " lodges " within each " Order." ^ To the members of an Oddfellows' Court or a Foresters' Lodge any proposal to submit an issue of policy to the federal executive would seem an unheard-of innovation. But it is in their financial system that this insistence on com- plete local autonomy shows itself most decisively. How- ever strongly the qualities of benevolence or charity may prevail among the Foresters or the Oddfellows, it has never occurred to their rich Courts or Lodges to regard their surplus funds as being freely at the disposal of those which were unable to meet their engagements. Each retains and controls its own funds for its own purposes, and its surplus balances are considered as being as much the private property of its own particular members as their individual investments.

To outward seeming the scattered members of a national Trade Union enjoy no less local self-government than those of the Ancient Order of Foresters or the Manchester Unity of Oddfellows. If the reader were to seek out, in som?" tavern of an industrial centre, the local meeting-place of thev Foresters or ,the Carpenters, the Oddfellows or the Boiler- makers, he might easily fail, on a first visit, to detect any important difference between the Trade Union branch and the court or lodge of the friendly society. The Oddfellows^ who use the club-room on a Monday, the Carpenters who meet there on a Tuesday, the Foresters who assemble on a Thursday, and the Stonemasons or Boilermakers who come

- 1 The Co-operative Movement in Great Britain, by Beatrice Potter (Mrs. Sidney Webb).

2 See The Friendly Societies' Movement (London, 1885) and Mutual Thrift (London, 1892), by the Rev. J. Frome Wilkinson, and English Associations oj Working Men, by Dr. J. Baernreither (London, 1892).


90 Trade Union Structure

on successive Fridays, all seem " clubs " managing their own affairs. Every night sees the same interminable proces- sion of men, women, and children bringing the contribution money. When the deliberations begin, they all affect the same traditional mystery about " keeping the do(|)r," and retain the long pause outside before admitting the nervous aspirant for " initiation " ; they all " open the lodge " with the same kind of cautious solemnity, and dignify with strange titles and formal methods of address the officers whom they are perpetually electing and re-electing. But if the visitor listens carefully he will notice, in the Trade Union business, constant references to mysterious outside authorities.' The whole branch may show itself in favor of the grant of benefit to a particular applicant, but the secretary will observe that any such payment would have to come out of his own pocket, as the central executive has intimated that the case is not within its interpretation of the rules. The branch treasurer may announce that the balance in hand has suddenly sunk to a few pounds, as he has been ordered by the central office to remit ;^ioo to a branch at the other end of the kingdom. And when a question arises as to some dispute with an employer, the visitor will be surprised to find that this characteristic Trade Union business is not in the hands of the branch at all, but is being dealt with by another outside authority, the " district," on instruc- tions from the general secretary. ^

y . Trade Unionism has, in fact, been based, from the outset' T jn the principle of the solidarity of the trade . Even the eighteenth-century clubs of handicraftsmen, without nation^ organisation of any kind, habitually contributed their surplus

1 Branch meetings of Trade Unions are private, but it is not impossible for a bona-fide student of Trade Unionism to gain admission as the friend of one of the officials. The authors have attended branch meetings of almost every trade in various industrial centres, and have found their proceedings of great interest, not only as revealing the inner working of Trade Unionism, but also as displaying the marked differences of physique, intellect, and character between the different sections of the wage-earning class, often erroneously regarded as homogeneousl Some of these differences are referred to in the- chapter on " The Assumptions of Trade Unionism."


The Unit of Government 91

balances in support of each other's temporary needs. When the clubs drew together in a national union, it was assumed, as a matter of course, that any cash in pos- session of any branch was available for the needs of any •other branch. Thus we learn from the resolution of th^ Stonemasons' Delegate Meeting of 1833, that the several lodges were expected spontaneously to send their surplus monies to the aid of any district engaged in a strike.^ This archaic trustfulness in the brotherhood of man still contents such a conservative- minded trade as the Coopers, whose " Mutual Association " remains only a loose alliance of local clubs, aiding each other's disputes by voluntary grants." But in the large industries the same spirit soon embodied itself in formal machinery. Among the Stonemasons the primi- tive arrangement was, it is not surprising to learn, in the opinion of the "Grand Central Committee," wholly in- efficient," each district sending only such funds as it chose, and selecting which out of several districts on strike it would support. The next step, which appears in the first manu- script rules (probably of 1834), was to make each branch " immediately contribute a proportionate share " of the cost of maintaining each strike, fixed by the Grand Committee. Finally, in 1837, we have what has become the typical Trade Union arrangement of a fund belonging, not to the branch, but to the society ; available only for the purposes prescribed by the rules, but within those purposes common to the whole organisation.

It is easy to unders:and why the Stonemasons, dispersed over the country in rwlatively small groups, each conscious of its own isolation and weakness in face of the great capitalist contractor, should quickly seize the idea of a common " war-chest." The Carpenters, working under much ,

  • Circular of " Grand Central Committee," held in Manchester, 28th

November 1833, preserved in the records of the Friendly Society of Operative Stonemasons.

2 See the various " monthly reports " of the Mutual Association of Coopers. A proposal is under discussion to form a central fund, fed by regular contributions for the aid of any branch un^er attack.


92 Trade Union Structure

the same circumstances, express this feeling in the following terms : " Although oceans may separate us from each other, our interests are identical ; and if we become united under one constitution, governed by one code of rules, having one common fund available wherever it may be required, we thus acquire a power which, if judiciously exercised, will protect our interests more effectually and will confer greater advan- tages than can possibly be derived from any partial union." ^ But we may see the same process of financial centralisation at work in trades densely concentrated in a small area.j The Cotton-spinners of Oldham and the surrounding towns were, down to 1879, organised as a federation of ten financially autonomous societies, each collecting, expending, and invest- ing its own funds. The great trade struggle of 1877-78 revealed the weakness of this form of organisation. To quote the words of an official of the trade,*^ "The result was that when a strike occurred, some of the branches were on the point of bankruptcy, whilst others were in a good position as regards funds for maintaining the struggle. They soon found out their real fighting strength was gauged, not by the worth of their richest branch, but by the poorest. It was another exemplification of the old law of mechanics that the strength of the chain is represented by its weakest link. After the struggle they remedied the defect by enacting that all surplus funds should be deposited in one common account." Since that time each division of the Lancashire Cotton-spinners has adopted the principle of centralised funds]. " We hold," says the General Secretary of the Bolton Spinners, " that where the labour of any number of men is subject to the same fluctuatioiis of trade, when the product of their labour goes into the same market, and when the prices and conditions which regulate their wages are identical, it is imperative upon such men, if they (ivish to protect their

' Preface to the Rules of the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joinen (Manchester, 1891).

' The late John Fielding, secretary of the Bolton Provincial Operative Cotton- spinners' Association, one of the ablest leaders of tho Cotton-spinneis.


The Unit of Government 93

labour, to combine together in one association. It is not sufBcient that they shall join separate district societies which in time may boast of possessing a respectable resei've fund entirely under their own control. We have no hesitation in saying that any such accumulated funds are of little use in promoting their purely trade interests." ^

The paramount ri ecessity of a. central fund, available fol^ the defence of any branch that might be involved in indus- trial war, has becpme so plain to every Trade Unionist that society after society has adopted the principle of a common purser- But a common purse, as one or two striking inttany psj amo ng successf ul friendly societies prove, does not, in itself; nece ssarily, involve the establishp r ^nt "* n d n m inn nt f i ' iilTi i lj <>vpriitivpjyip1HiTi[T all arii^i'^igtr^f ivp pnwpr . Where business, ran "Ge reduced to prec-ise rules, into the carrying out oK which no quest ion of policy enters, and no discretion' is allowed^ experience shows, as we shall presently see, that , local branch administratioiT may be as efficient and econo- ' mical as that of a central authority^ But the expenditures of the Trade Union funds is determined, not exclusively byj the legislation of its members, but largely by the judgment! of its administrators. In all matters of trade protection, whether it be the elaboration of a complicated list of piece- work prices, the promotion of a new factory bill, the nego- tiation of a national agreement with the associated employers,] or the conduct of a strike, it passes the wit, of man to pre- scribe by any written rule the exact method or amount of the expenditure to be incurred. It follows that the larger' and most distinctive part of Trade Union administration,! unlike the award of friendly benefits, cannot be predeter- mined by any law or scale, but must be left to the discretion] of the executive authority. To vest this discretion abso-N lutely and exclusively in the central executive representing the whole body of members is, it is plain, the only way by which those who have contributed the income can retain

1 Annual Refort of the Bolton Provincial Operative Cotton-siinner^ Associa- tion, 1882.


94 Trade Union Struchire

\^ ' any control over its expenditure. But this developmenn

necessarily entails the withdrawal from the branches of alK real autonomy in issues of policy and in the expenditure ofl their part of the common income. iLibllQWSjiecessarilYJromj t he merging of the fa aBch -iiT aQiffi i nfo n fu n d nomgion to the whole society, and froni. the . repl enishn ient of this fund by~levles Upon'^11 thTlmembers alike,4hat__iia.locanBraiich T!afl~sateiy be permitted'to "mvolve the whole organisatioii in wan" n^entraIIsatIonl)f finance implies, in a milita nt ^organi - sation, cg uUdlibation a f adm m istratio n. inose irade Unions which have most completely recognised this fact have proved most efficient, and therefore most stable. Where funds have been centralised, and power nevertheless left, through the inadvertence or lack of skill of the framers of the rules, to

local authorities, the result has ^been weakness, divided

counsels, and financial disaster.

This cardinal principle of democratic finance has been only slowly and imperfectly learnt by Trade Unionists, and a lack of clear insight into the matter still produces calami- tous results in large and powerful organisations. To take, for instance, the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, which was formed for the express "purpose of bringing about a uniform trade policy under the control of a central executive. It was intended to secure this result by providing that strike pay should be awarded only by the central executive, leaving the branches to dispense the other benefits prescribed by the rules. But unfortunately this strike pay amounts only to five shillings a week, it being assumed that the member leav- ing his work will also be receiving the Out of Work donation of ten shillings a week, awarded by his branch. This con- fusion of Jtrade with friendly benefits has resulted in a serious weakening of the authority of the central executive in matters of trade policy. Whenever the men working in any engineer- ing establishmeint are dissatisfied with any decision of their employer, they can appeal to their own branch, and, on obtaining its permission, may drop their tools, with the certainty that they will receive at the cost of the whole :


The Unit of Government • 95

society the Out of Work benefit of ten shillings a week.* The matter will be reported, in due course, by the district committee to the central executive, even if the branch itself does not trouble to apply for permission to pay the additional five shillings A ' week contingent benefit. But meanwhile, war has been -declared, and has actually begun ; the local employers may have retaliated with a lock-out, the whole district may even have "come out" in support of their fellow-workmen ; and the society may find its prestige and honor involved in maintaining a great industrial conflict without its central executive ever having decided that the* point at issue was one which should be fought at all. This, indeed, is precisely what happened in the most disastrous"^ and discreditable of recent trade disputes, the prolonged strike of the Engineers and Plumbers in the Tyneside ship- building yards in 1892, when thousands of men were idle for over three months, not in order to raise the Standard of Life of themselves or any other section of the workers, but because the local Engineers and Plumbers could not agree as to which of them should fit up two-and-a-half incl/ iron piping. It would be easy for any student of the records of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers to pick out many other cases in which branches have, by paying the Out of Work donation to members refusing work, initiated important trade movements on their own account, without the prior knowledge or consent of the central • executive.

This uiifortunate confusion between Out of Work benefit and strike pay is not the only ambiguity that perplexes the administrators of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers. Although any authorised dispute is supported

• This injurious practice has been greatly strengthened by the fact that the "contingent fund," out of which alone the strike pay could formerly be granted, has often been abolished and subsequently re-established, by votes of the members. -During the periods in which the contingent fund did not exist, the society had no other means of resisting encroachments than the award of Out of Work benefit to members who refused to submit to them. But this left the decision to the branch, though the funds which it dispensed were levied equally on the whole society.


96 Trade Union Structure

from the funds of the society as a whole, it is left to th^ local members through their district committee to begin the quarrel. This would seem to mean complete local autononi}^ and it is cherished as such by the more active branches. But the rule also provides that the resolutions of district committees shall be " subject to the approval " of the central executive, the ultimate veto, though not the direction of the policy, being thus vested in headquarters. The incapacity of the Engineers to make up their minds whether or not they desire local autonomy in trade policy, has more than once placed the society in an invidious and even ludicrous position. Tlius, in the autumn of 1895 the Belfast branches, with the confirmation of the central fexecutive, struck for an advance. The federated employers thereupon locked out, not only all the Belfast engineers, but also those on the Clyde. In the negotiations which ensued the central executive naturally represented the society, and eventually arranged a com- promise, which was approved by the Clyde branches. The Belfast branches, on the other hand, refused to accept the agreement or to consider the strike at an end, and went on issuing full strike pay, from the funds of -the whole society, to all their members. The central executive found itself bitterly reproached by the federated employers for what seemed a breach of faith, and public opinion was scandalised by the lack of loyalty and discipline. Eventually the dead- lock was ended by the central executive taking upon itself peremptorily to order the Belfast members to resume work, without waiting for the resolution of the district committee. Whether the central executive had any right to intervene 'atx all, otherwise than by confirming or disallowing a resolution of the district committee, became a matter of heated con- troversy; and the Delegate Meeting of 1896 not only passed a resolution censuring this action, but also framed a new rule which expressly deprives both the central executive and the district committee of the. power of closing a dispute, by making the consent of a two-thirds majority of the local., members — some or all of whom must be the very persons


The Unit of Government ' 97

concerned — necessary to the closing of a strike.* This fanatical attachment of the Engineers to an extreme local autonomy — their persistent assumption that any one section, however small and unimportant, ought to be allowed to draw on the funds of .the whole society in support of a policy of which the majority of the members may disapprove — has done incalculable harm to the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, It has been jbhe source of a continuous and need- less drain on the society's resources. It has more than once involved thousands of members in a lock-out, when they had no quarrel of their own. It deprives the federated employers of all confidence in those who meet them on the workmen's behalf. And, most important of all, it effectually prevents the society from maintaining any genuine defence of the conditions of its members' employment. National agree- ments such as are concluded by the United Society of Boiler- makers, the Amalgamated Association of Operative Cotton- spinners, and the National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives, by which a general levelling-up of conditions is secured, must necessarily be out of the power of an organ- isation which cannot give its negotiators the mandate of a common will.

The same conflict between centralisation of finance and the surviving local autonomy of the branches may be traced in the rules of most of the unions in the building trade.' Here the tradition has »been to require the assent of the whole society, or of the central executive as its representa- tive, before any branch may strike, or even negotiate, for an increase of wages or new trade privileges. But it has been no less firmly rooted in the practice of the building trades, for any branch, or even any individual workman, instantly to cease work, without consulting the central executive, whenever an employer makes an encroachment on the existing Working Rules of thjat town. In such cases, by the rules of most of 'the national unions in these trades, strike pay is granted by the branch as a matter of course,

1 Rules of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers (London, 1896), p. 54. VOL. I


98 Trade Union Structure

A branch is accordingly expressly authorised to involve the whole society in war, whenever its own interpretation of existing customs is challenged by an employer, even in the minutest particular. We may easily imagine how greatly international hostilities would be increased,, if the governor of every colony or out-lying dependency were authorised instantly to declare war, in the name and on the resources of the whole empire, whenever, in his own private judg- ment, any infringement of national rights had taken place. And although, in the Trade Unioii instance, each particular branch dispute is usually neither momentous nor prolonged, the result is a captious and spasmodic trade policy, some- times even ridiculous in its inconsistency, which the cefltral executive has no effective power to check. The Friendly Society of Operative Stonemasons and the Operative BrickV layers' Society have, until recent years, specially suffered froc a constant succession of petty quarrels with particular em-| ployers, most of which would have been avoided if the pointi at issue had been made the subject of quiet negotiation by an ofificer acting on behalf of the whole society.^ ThisJias been dimly perceived by the leaders of the building^teades. Among the Bricklayers and Stonemasons, the traditiotiak right of the branch to strike against encroachments, without authorisation from the central executive, has hitherto been too firmly held to be abolished ; but the newer editions of the rules expressly limit this right to certain kin3s" of encroachment, and require the branch to obtain the

• Sometimes the interpretation placed by two branches on the Working Rules of one or both of them may seriously differ. The Kendal branch of the Friendly Society of* Operative Stonemasons had, in 1873, in its Working Rules, a provision requiring employers to provide dinner for men sent to work beyond a certain distance from their homes in the town. A Kendal employer sent members of the Kendal branch to a. place twenty miles away which was within the district of another branch having no such rule. The Kendal masons insisted on their employer complying with the Kendal rules, whereupon he replaced them by men belonging to the local branch, who contended that the Kendal rules did not apply to work done in the J district. This fine point in interpretation led to endless recrimination between the two branches, and much local friction. Finally the issue was referred to a vote of the whole society, which went against the Kendal branch. — Fortnightly Return, October i87,'{.


The Unit of Government 99

authority of the whole society before resisting any other kind pf attack. The Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners has advanced a step further in centralisation of policy. For the last twenty years its rules have expressly forbidden any branch to strike " without first obtaining the sanction of the executive council , . . whether it be for a new privilege or against an encroachment on existing ones." ' It is no mere coincidence that the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners, though younger than many other societies in the building trades, is now the largest and most wealthy of them all.

The difficulties that beset the Amalgamated Society of Engineers and the Operative Bricklayers' Society have been overcome by the United Society of Boilermakers, a union which has found a way to combine efficient administration of friendly benefits with a strong and uniform trade policy. Here the problem has been solved by an absolute separa- tion, both in name and in application, between the trade and friendly benefits. The "donation benefit" for the support of the unemployed is restricted to "a man thrown out of employment through depression of trade or other causes," testified by • " a note signed by the foreman or by three full members that are working in the shop or yard he has left," and proved to the satisfaction of the officers of the branch. This benefit cannot be given to a man leaving his employment on a dispute of any kind whatsoever. Strike ^ pay is an entirely separate benefit, awarded, even in the case of a single workman, only by the central executive, and payable only upon its express and particular direction.^ It follows that, although the branches administer the friendly benefits, they are not allowed to deal in any way with trade matters. If any dispute arises betweenj an employer and his workmen, or even between him and one of his workmen, the case is at once taken up by the district, delegate, an officer appointed by and acting for the whole

1 Rule 28, sec. lO of edition of 1893, p. 66. ' Rules of the United Society of Boilermahrs (^t^casWs, 1895).


loo Trade Union Structure

society, in constant communication witli the general secretary at headquarters. No workman may drop his tools, or even give notice to his employer, over any question of trade privileges, except with the prior authorisation of the district delegate ; and to make doubly sure that this law shall be implicitly obeyed, not a penny of beneifit may be paid 1^ the branch in any such case, except on the express direction of the central executive.

Nevertheless, the Trade Union branch, even in the most centralised society, continues to fulfil an indispensable function in Trade Union administration, As an association for mutual insurance, for the provision of sick pay, funeral expenses, and superannuation allowance, the Trade Union, like the friendly society, governs its action by definite rules and fixed scales of benefit, which are nowadays settled as an act of legisla- tion by the society as a whole. Even the Out of Work benefit — the " Donation " or " Idle Money," which none but trade societies have found it possible to undertake, is dealt with in the same manner. The printed constitution of the typical modern union prescribes in minute detail what sums are to be paid for sickness or out of work benefit, and attemptis to provide by elaborate rules for ^very possible contingency. The central executive rigidly insists on the^ rules being obeyed to the letter, and it might at first seem as if nothing had been left for the branch to do. This is very far from being the case. To protect the fun^ from imposition, local and even personal knowledge is indispensable. Is a man sick or malingering? Has an unemployed member lost his situation through slackness of his employer's business or slackness of his own energy? These are questions that can best be answered by men who have worked with him in the factory, know the foreman who has dismissed him, and the employer who has refused to take him on, and are acquainted ■with the whole circumstances of his life. Here we find the practical utility whicn has kept the Trade Union branch alive as a vital part of Trade Union organisation


The Unit of Government loi

It serves as a jury for determining, not questions of policy, but issues of fact.^

And if for a moment we leave the question of local self- government, and consider all the functions of the branch, we shall recognise the practical convenience of this institution' even in the most highly centralised society.,__]jLis_ao small! gain in ar-de mocratic organisation ^r} h?^^" incnrfri tVio. regular meetincT tofrpfher rtf tVip p; reat bulk of the membe rs, under conditi ons whic h lead direc Uy to the discussion of th eir comm on need_§ ^ i>lor< xs tEeeducational val ue of the branch meeting its only justification! In every Trade^ U nion, vPhether governed by Ihu Refeieudum or by a Representative Assembly,

' The utility of this jury system, if we may so describe the branch function, may be gathered from the experience of other benefit organisations. It is, to begin with, significant that the great industrial insurance companies and collecting societies, with their millions of working-class customers, and their ubiquitous network of paid officials, but without a jury system, find it financially impossible to undertake to give even sick pay, let alone out of work benefit. The Prudential Assurance Company, the largest and best managed of them all, begaJto'do so,' but had to abandon it because, as the secretary told the Royal Commission on Friendly Societies in 1873, "after five years' experience we found we were unable to cope with the fraud that was practised." Among friendly societies proper, in which sick benefit is the main feature, it is instructive to find that it is among the Poiesters and Oddfellows, where each court or lodge is financially autonomous, that the rate of sickness is lowest. One interesting society, the Rational Sick and Burial Association (established in 1837 by Robert Owen and his ' ' Rational Religionists "), is organised exactly like a national amalgamated Trade Union, with branches administering benefits payable from a common fund. In this society, as we gather, the rate of sickness is slightly greater than in the Affiliated Orders, where each lodge not only decides on whether benefit shall be given, but also has itself to find the money. Finally, when we come to the Hearts of Oak Benefit Society, the largest and most efficient of the centralised friendly societies having no branches at all, and dispensing all benefits from the head office, we find the rate of sickness habitually far in excess of the experience of the Foresters or the Oddfellows, or even of the Rationals, an excess due, according to the repeated declarations of the actuary, to nothing but inadequate provision against fraud and malingering. During the eight years 1884-91, for instance, the "expected sickness," according to the 1866-70 experience of the Manchester U^ity of Oddfellows (all districts), was 1,111,553 weeks; the actual weeks for which benefit was drawn numbered no fewer than 1,452,106, an excess of over 30 per cent (An Enquiry into the Methods, etc, of a Friendly Society, by R. P. Hardy, 1894, p. 36). " Centralised societies," says the Rev. Frome Wilkinson, " will never be able to avoid being imposed upon ; not so, however, a well-regulated branch of an affiliated society with its machinery in good working order" (The Friendly Societies Movement, p. 193). See also " Fifty Years of Friendly Society Progress," by the same author, in the Oddfellowi \fagatine for 1888.


I02 Trade Union Structure

the branch forms an integral part of the legislative machinery If the laws are made by the votes of the members, it is t Ee^ranch meeting which is the deliberative assembly, anH usually also th e polling plac ed When the society enjoys Tally developed representative institutions, the branch becomes

[ at once a natural and convenient electoral division, and supplies, what is so sorely needed in political democracy, a means by which the representative must regularly meet every section of his constituents. In other trades it is common to

' require that nq important alteration of the society's rules shall be put before the Representative Assembly until it has been first discussed, and sometimes voted on, by one or more of the branches. In attending branch meetings we have found most interesting that jiart of the evening which is taken up with the reports made by the branch representatives on the local Trades Council, on a district or joint committee of the trade, or in the Representative Assembly of the society itself It has often occurred to us how much it would enliven and invigorate political democracy if the member of Parliament or the Town Councillor had habitually to report to, and discuss with, every section of his constituents, supporters and opponents alike, all the public business in which they were interested. Quite apart, therefore, from any administrative functions, organisation by branches has manifold uses, even in the most centralised society. But these usps have little connection with the problem of centralisation and local autonomy. In all these respects the branches are not separate units of government, but constitute, iri effect, a single mass meeting of members, geographically sliced up into aggregates of convenient size.

' Thus, in the vexed problem of how to divide ad-

iministration between central and local authorities. Trade Union experience affords no g:uide, either to other volun- tary associations or to political democracy. /The extreme centralisation of finance and policy, which the Trade Union has found to be a condition pf^ efficiency, has been forced

^upon it by the unique character of its functions, i The lavish


The Unit of Government 103

generosity with which the early trade clubs granted their surplus funds right and left to the clubs in other towns that needed assistance, was not simply an outburst of brotherly unselfishness. Each club had a keen appreciation that a reduction of wages in one centre was likely soon to spread to other towns, as a result either of the competition among the employers, or of the migration among the workmen. And when the various local clubs drew together into a national combination and appointed one salaried officer after another, to execute the commands of a central executive, this was not due to any indifference to local self-government or liking for bureaucracy, nor even to any philanthropic impulse to be kind to their weaker brethren, but |to a dim recognition of their own dependence upon securing a trade policy uniform from one end of the kingdom to the other^ This aspiration has crystallised in the minds of all experienced Trade Unionists into a fixed conviction, which has long since spread to the rank and file. It is obvious t hat a uniform policy can only b^ a rrived at and maintained by a central body act ing for the whole trade. A nd thus it comes about that the constant tendency to a centralised and bureaucratic administration is, in the Trade Union world, accepted, and even welcomed, by men who, in all the other organisations to which they belong, are sturdy defenders of local autonomy.^

' This generalisation applies, in its entirety, only to the trade funds and trade policy of the unions. In so far as the friendly society side of Trade Unionism is used only as an adventitious attraction in obtaining members, there is no inherent difficulty in each local branch, in its capacity of " benefit club," fixing its own rates of contribution, retaining its own funds, and administering its own affairs, whilst at the same time forming part, for all trade protection purposes, of a strictly centralised national combination. More usually, however, the friendly society side of Trade Unionism is valued also for the adventitious aid which its accu- mulating funds bring to the war chest. Thus we find that the , national Trade i Unions, with very few exceptions, have now centralised not only their trade but also their friendly society resources, the whole of each member's contribution being paid into a common fund available for all the purposes of the society. The result is, accordingly, to conc entrate still m ore asthority in the hands of the central executive- "" '


CHAPTER IV INTERUNION RELATIONS[edit]

Throughout the foregoing chapters we have accepted the current assumption that there is such a thing as a " trade," as to the boundaries of wrhich no question can arise. In the preface to nearly every Trade Union book of rules we find some passage to the following effect : " Every artisan following a given occupation has an interest, in common with all those similarly engaged, in forming rules by which that particular trade shall be regulated." But what is a " trade," and how are its limits to be defined ? By the journalist or professional man, every mechanic employed at Armstrong's or Whitworth's would naturally be classed as an engineer ; would be expected to belong to the " Engineers' Trade Union " ; and would at any rate ,be clearly distin- guished from a plumber, a joiner, or a shipwright. Yet the grouping of these mechanics into their several organisations, and the relations of these organisations to each other, are responsible for some of the most serious difficulties of British Trade Unionism,

We had better first state the problem as it appears in some of the principal trades. A single industry will often include sections of workers differing widely from each other in their standard earnings, in the kind and amount of pro- tection called for by their circumstances, and in the strategic strength of their respective positions against the employer, upon which, in the end, their trade policy will depend. Thus


Interunion Relations


'^5


a cotton-spinning mill, with 40 pairs of mules, will employ about 90 cardroom operatives, mostly women, the men earn- ing from 1 8s. to 30s. per week and the women 12s. 6d. to 1 9s. 6d, ; 40 adult male mule-spinners, earning, by piecework, from 30s. to SOS. per week ; 80 boys and men as piecers, engaged and paid by the mule-spinners at 6s. 6d. to 20s. per week ; and 2 overlookers with weekly salaries of 42s. and upwards. The adjacent cotton -weaving shed, with 800 looms, will employ about 260 male and female weavers, paid by the piece and earning from 14s. to 20s. per week; 8 overlookers (men), paid by a percentage on the weavers' earnings, and getting 32s. to 42s. per week ; 10 twisters and drawers, earning at piecework 2Ss. to 32s. per week; 5 warpers and beamers working by the piece and making from 20s. to 30s. per week ; 3 or 4 tapesizers with a fixed weekly wage of 42s. per week ; a number of children varying from I to 50, employed by the weavers as tenters, and paid small sums ; and a manager over the whole with a salary of ;f 200 or ;^300 per annum.^

All these operatives may be engaged by a single em- ployer, work upon the same raw material, and produce for the same market. They have obviously many interests in common. But for all that they do not form a simple unit of government. It is impossible to devise any-«onstitution which" would enable these %ix or more classes of cotton operatives to form an amalgamated union, having a common policy, a common purse, a common executive, and a common staff of officials, without sacrificing the financial and trade interest, of one, or even all of the different sections. It suits the well- paid sections, such as the Spinners, Tapesizers, Beamers, Twisters, Drawers, and Overlookers, to pay a high weekly contribution, which would be beyond the means of the Cardroom Operatives and the Weavers. But the manner in which each section desires to apply its funds varies even

' Compare the still more detailed classification of workers incidentally given in the Board of Trade Report by Miss Collet on the Statistics of Employment of Women and Girls, C. 7564, 1894.

VOL. I E 3


ro6 Trade Union Structure

more than their amount. The Tapesizers, , deriving their strategic strength from their highly specialised skill, the impossibility of replacing them, and the small proportion which their wages bear to the total cost of production, can afford to spend their funds on ample sick and funeral benefits. With a uniform time rate in each district, and few occasions for dispute with their employers, they need no offices or salaried officials whatsoever. It pays the Spinners and Weavers, on the other hand, to maintain a highly skilled professional staff for the purpose of computing and maintain- ing their earnings under the complicated lists of ^fecework prices. But the Weavers stand at the disadvantage of need- ing also a large staff of paid collectors to secure the regular payment of contributions from the girls and married women, who are indisposed to bring their weekly pence to the public- house in which the branch meeting is still frequently held. This applies also to the 'Cardroom Operatives, but these, working usually at time rates, do not need the weavers' skilled calculator. The Beamers, Twisters, and Drawers, on the one hand, and the Overlookers on the other, have again their own peculiarities. To unite, in any common scheme of contri- butions and benefits, classes so diverse in their means and requirements, appears absolutely impossible. Still more difficult would it be to provide for the effective representation upon a common executive of sections so different in numerical strength. Not to mention the Tapesizers and Overlookers, who must be completely submerged by the rest, it would be difficult to induce the 19,000 well-paid, well-officered, and well-disciplined Spinners to submit their trade policy to the decision of the 22,000 ill-paid Cardroom Operatives or the 85,000 Weavers, of whom two-thirds are women. On the other hand, the Weavers would not permanently forego the advantage of their overwhelming superiority in numbers, nor would the Spinners allow the Tapesizers an equal voice with themselves. But even if a representative executive could, by some device, be got together, it would not form a fit body to decide the technical questions peculiar to each class


Interunion Relations 107

On each point as it arose, the experts would be in a minority, and the decisions, whatever their justice, would invariably cause dissatisfaction to one section or anofeer. Moreover, quite apart from technical details, the moments of strategic advantage differ from section to section. It may suit the Spinners to move for an advance, at a time when the weaving trade is depressed, and both will be more ready to move than the Overlookers. The Tapesizers, on the other hand, will prefer, to any overt strike, the silent withdrawal of one man after another from a recalcitrant employer, until he is ready to offer the Trade Union terms. It is obvious that a council representing such diverse elements would find it' extremely difflfcult to maintain an active and consistent course. On the other hand, all the sections of Cotton Operatives have njanifold interests in common. Every factory act regulating the sanitation, hours of labor,! machinery, age of children, anS inspection of factories, directly or indirectly concerns every worker in the mill. Such industrial dislocations as Liverpool "cotton corners," or the employers' mutual agreement to reduce stocks by working short time, affect all alike. The policy of the Indian Secretary, the Minister of Education, or the Chan- cellor of the Exchequer, may, any moment, touch them all on a vital point. If, therefore, the Cotton Operatives are to have any effective voice in regulating these essentially trade matters, their organisation must in some form be co-extensive with the whole cotton industry.

Another instance of these difificulties is presented by the great industry of engineering. A century ago the small skilled class of millwriglits executed every kind of engineer- ing operation, from making the wooden patterns to erecting in the mill the machines"; which had been constructed by their own hands. The enormous expansion of the engineer- ing industry has long since brought about a division of labor, and the mechanics in a great engineering establish- ment to-day are divided into numerous distinct classes oi' workers, who are rarely able to do each other's work. The


ro8 Trade Union Structure

pattern-makers, working in wood, have become sharply marked off from the boilermakers and the ironfounders. The smiths, again, are distinguished from the fitters, turners, and erectors. Another form of specialisation has arisen with the increased use of other metals than iron and steel, and we have brass -founders, brass-finishers, and coppersmiths. Each generation sees a great development in the use of machines to make machines, so that a modern engineering shop, in addition to the time-honored lathe, includes a be- wildering variety of drilling, shaping, boring, planing, slotting, milling, and other machines, attended by wholly new classes of machine-minders and tool-makers, displaying every grade of skill. Finally, we have such new kinds of work, with new classes of specialists, as are involved in the innumerable applications of iron and steel in modern civilisation, such as iron ships and bridges, ordnance and armour-plating, hydraulfc apparatus and electric-lighting, sewing-machines and bicycles. ■To discover the exact limits of a " trade " in these closely related but varied occupations is a task of supreme difficulty. All are working in the s^me industry, and in the large establishments of to-day, all may be engaged by a single employer. The same recurring waves of expansion and , contraction sooner or later affect all alike. On the other hand, there exist between the separate occupations great varieties of methods of remuneration, standard earnings, and strategic position. The strictly - apprenticed boilermakers (shipyard platers) working in compact groups, at co-operative piecework, earning sometimes as much as a pound a day, find it advantageous in good times to roll up, by large sub- scriptions, a huge reserve fund, to maintain a staff of special trade officers to arrange their piecework prices at every port, and to provide handsomely for their recurring periods of trade depression. At the other end of the scale we have the intelligent laborer become an automatic machine-minder, securing relative continuity of low-paid employment by working any simple machine in , any kind of engineering establishment, and interested mainly in the opening of every


Interunion Relations 109

operation to the quickwitted outsider. The pattern-maker again, working in wood, at a high time rate, has little in common with the piece-working smith at the forge. When trade begins to improve, the pattern-makers, followed by the ironfounders, will be busy long before the smiths, fitters, and turners, and, if they wish to recover the wages lost in the previous depression, must move for an advance whilst all the rest of the engineering industry is still on short time. Finally, t here is the difficulty of the method and basis of repres entation. Shall the government be centred in an trnn shipbuilding port, where the boilermakers would be supreme, or in an inland engineering centre, when the fitters and turners would have an equally great preponderance ? How can the tiny groups of pattern-makers, dispersed over the whole kingdom, get their separate interests attended to amid the overwhelming majorities of the other classes ? Any attempt to represent, upon an executive council, each dis- tinct occupation, let alone each great centre, must either' ignore all proportional considerations, or involve the forma- tion of a body of impossible dimensions and costliness.

We se e, therefore, that within the circle of what is usuallyf called a trade, there are often smaller circles of specialised! classes of workmen, each sufficiently distinctive in character to claim separate consideration. The first idea is always to cut the Gordian knot by ignoring these differences, and making the larger circle the unit of government. So fas-_ cinating is this idea of f amalgamation '| that it has been tried in almost every industry. The reader of the History} of Trade Unionism will remember the remarkable attempt - in 1 83 3-34 to form a national "Builders' Union," to com- prise the seven different branches of building operatives. 1 The s^me years saw a succession of general unions in the cloth-making industry. In 1844, and again in 1863, the coalminers sought to combine in qne amalgamated union every person employed in or about thie mines, from one end*' of the kingdom to the other. The " Iron Trades " again" were, between 1840 and 1850, the subject of innumerable!


no Trade Union Structure

local projects of amalgamaticin, in which not only the " Five Trades of Mechanism," but also the Boilermakers and the Ironfounders were all to be included. We need not describe the failure of all these attempts. More can, perhaps, be learnt from the experience of the great modern instance, the Amalgamated Society of Engineers.

It does not seem to have occurred to William Newton,, when he launched this famous amalgamation, that any diffi- culty could arise as to the classes of workers to be included. What he was primarily concerned about was to merge in one national organisation all the various local societies of engineering mechanics, whether pattern-makers,smiths, turners, fitters, or erectors, working either in iron or brass. But " sectionalism " stood, from the very first, in the way. The various local clubs of Smiths and Pattern-makers objected strongly to sink their individuality in a general engineers' union. In the same way, the more exclusive Steam-Engine Makers' Society, in which millwrights, fitters, and turners predominated, refused to merge itself in the wider organisa- tion. To Newton and Allan all these objections seemed to arise from the natural reluctance of local clubs to lose their individuality in a national union. This dislike, as they rightly felt, was destined to give way before the superior advantages of national combination. But subsequent ex- perience has shown that the resistance to the amalgamation was due to more permanent causes. The "merely local societies dropped in, one by one, to their greater rival. But this only revealed a more serious cleavage. The present rivals of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers are, not any local engineers' clubs, but national societies each claiming the exclusive allegiance of different sections of the trade^ The pattern-makers, for instance, came to the conclusion in 1872 that their interests were negfected in the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, and formed the United Pattern-makers' Association, which now includes a large and increasing majority of this highly skilled class. Tte -Associated Society of Blacksmiths, originally a Glasgow local club, now dominates


Interunion Relations \ 1 1

its particular section of the trade on the Clyde and in Belfast, and has branches in the North of England. The Brass-workers, the Coppersmiths, and the Machine-minders have now all their own societies of national extent. The result has been that the Amalgamated Society of Engineers does not realise Newton's idea as regards any section what- ever. The' Boilermakers, who refused to have anything to do with amalgamation, and who have persistently put their energy into organising their own special craft, have succeeded, as we have mefitioned, in forming one undivided, consolidated, and centralised society for the entire kingdom. Very different is the condition of the engineers. Neither the fitters nor the smiths, the pattern-makers nor the machine-minders, the brass-workers nor the coppersmiths, are united in any one society, or able to maintain a uniform trade policy, even for their own section of the industry. For all this confusion, the enthusiastic adherents of the Amalgamated Society have gone on preaching the one remedy of an ever-wider amalgama- tion. " The future basis of the Amalgamated Society," urged Mr. Tom Mann in 1891, " must be one that will admit every workman engaged in connection with the engineering trades, and who is called upon to exhibit mechanical skill in the performance of his labor. This would include men on milling and drilling machines, tool-makers, die-sinkers, and electrical engineers, and it would make it necessary to have the requisite staff at the general ofifice to cater for so large a constituency, as there are at least 250,000 men engaged in the engineering and machine trades of the United Kingdom, and the work of organising this body must be undertaken by the A. S. E."^ Somewhat against the advice of the more experienced ofiScials, successive delegate meetings have included within the society one section of workmen after another. At the delegate meeting of 1892, which opened, the society to practically every competent workman in thei most miscellaneous engineering establishment, it was even

' Address to the East End Institute of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, London, in Trade Unionist, loth October 1891.


1 1 2 Trade Union Structure

urged by some branches that the boundaries should be still further enlarged, so as to perniit the absprption of plumbers and ironfounders. This proposal was with some reluctance rejected, but only on the ground that it would have brought the Amalgamation into immediate collision with the 16,278 members of the Friendly Society of Iron- founders (established 1809); and with the compact and militant United Operative Plumbers' Society (established 1848, membership 8758), rivals too powerful to be lightly encountered. Each successi ve widenit^jy of_th e amals[a ina- tion bringsi t in fact, into con flict_witb^ a ^^^V,^'^ nnmhpr of ptlier unions, who _ becom e its_e mbittered en emies. The very competition between rival societies which Nfewton's amal- gamation was intended to supersede, has, through this all- inclusive policy itself, been rendered more intense and jntractable.

And here it is imperative that the reader should fully appreciate the disastrous effect of this competition and rivalry between separate Trade Unions. The evil will be equally apparent whether we regard the Trade Union merely as a friendly society for insuring the weekly wage-earner against loss of livelihood through sickness, old age, and depression of trade, or as a militant orgainisation for enabling the manual worker to obtain better conditions from the capitalist employer.

Let us consider first Jthe side of Trade Unionism which has, from the outset, been universally praised and admired, the " ancient and most laudable custom for divers artists within the United Kingdom to meet and form themselves into societies for the sole purpose of assisting each other in cases of sickness, old age, and other infirmities, and for the burial of their dead." ^ Now, whatever weight may be given, in matters of commerce, to the maxim caveat emptor — how- ever thoroughly we may rely, as regards articles of personal consumption, on the buyer's watchfulness over his own

1 Preamble to Rules of the Friendly Society of Ironmoulders (Manchestei, 1809), and to those of many other unions of this epoch.


Interunion Relations 113

interests — it is indisputable that, in the whole realm of insurance, competition does practically nothing to promote efficiency. The assumption which underlies the faith in unrestricted competition is that the consumer is competent to judge of the quality of what he pays for, or that he will at any rate become so in the act of consumption. In matters of financial insurance no such assumption can reasonably be maintained. Apart from the dangers of irregularities and defalcations, the whole question of efficiency or inefficiency in friendly society administration is bound up with the selection of proper actuarial data, the collection and verifica-| tion of the society's own actuarial experience, and the conJ sequent fixing of the due rates of contribution and benefits. When rival societies bid against each other for members, competition inevitably takes the form, either of offering the common benefits at a lower rate, or of promising extravagant benefits at the common rate of subscription. The ordinary man, innocent of actuarial science, is totally unable to appreciate the merits of the rival scales put before him. To the raw recruit the smallness of the weekly levy offers an almost irresistible attraction. Nor does such illegitimate competition between societies work, as might be supposed, its own cure. The club charging rates insufficient to meet its liabilities will, it is true, in the end bring about its own destruction. But the actuarial nemesis is slow to arrive, as many years must elapse before the full measure of the liability for death claims and superannuation allowances can be tested. And when the inevitable collapse comes, the prudent society gains little by the dissolution of its unsound rival. A club which has failed to meet its engage- ments, and has been broken' up, leaves those who have been its members suspicious of all forms of organisation and indisposed to renew their contributions. The payment for some time of high benefits in return for low subscriptions will have falsified the standard of expectation. Those who have lost their money ascribe the failure to the dishonesty or incapacity of the officers, to the workmen's lack of loyalty,


114 Trade Union Structure

to any cause, indeed, rather than to their own unreasonable- ness in expecting a shilling's worth of benefits for a sixpenny contribution.

In the case of Friendly Societies proper, and in that of Insurance Companies, the untrustworthiness of competition as a guarantee of financial eflficiency has been fully recog-' nised by the community, and dealt with by the legislature.' Trade Unions, however, have, for good and sufficient reasons, been left outside the scope of these provisions.^ But, as a matter of fact, competition between Trade Unions on their benefit club side is even more injurious to their soundness than it is to Friendly Societies proper, Dealing as they do, not with a specially selected class -of thrifty citizens, but with the whole body of men in their trade ; unable, owing to their other functions, to concentrate their members' attention upon the actuarial side of their affairs ; and destitute of any authoritative data or scientific calculation for such benefits as Out of Work pay. Trade ^nions must always find it , specially difficult to resist a demand for increase of benefits, or lowering of contribution. If two unions are competing for the I same class of members, the pressure becomes irresistible.

The history of Trade Unionism is one long illustration of this argument. In one trade after another we watch the cropping up of " mushroom unions," their heated rivalry

' It is unnecessary for us to do more than refer to the long series" of statutes, beginning in 1786, which provide for the registration, publication of accounts, public audit, and even compulsory valuation of Friendly Societies and Industrial Insurance Companies. By every means, short of direct prohibition, the State now seeks to put obstacles in the way of " under-cutting," and, to use the words of Mr. .Reuben Watson before the Select Committee on National Provident Insurance in 1885 (Question 893), discourages "the formation of new societies on the unsound principles of former times." Within the two great "affiliated orders" of Oddfellows and Foresters, which together comprise at least half the friendly society world, the legal requirements are backed by an absolute prohibi- tion to open any new lodge or court without adopting, as a minimum, the definitely approved scale of contributions and benefits. Even with regard to middle-class life assurance companies. Parliament has not only insisted on a specific account- keeping and publication of financial position, but has, since 1872, practically stopped the uprising of additional competitors, by requiring a deposit of ;^20,ooo from any new company before business can be begun.

  • ' See the chapter on "The Method of Mutual Insurance."


Interunion Relations 115

with the older organisations, and consequent mad race for members ; and finally, after a few years of unstable existence, their ignoble bankruptcy and ' dissolution. Meanwhile the responsible officials of the older societies will have been struggling with their own " Delegate Meetings " and " Revising Committees," to maintain a relatively sound scale of con- tributions and benefits. ' Any attempt at financial improve- ment will have been checked by the representations of the branch officers that the only result would be to divert all the recruits to their rasher and more open-handed competitors. The records of every important union contain bitter complaints of this injurious competition. The Friendly Society of Ironfounders, for instance, which dates from 1 809, is one of the oldest and most firmly established Trade Unions. Its 16,000 members include an overwhelming majority of the competent ironmoulders in England, Ireland, and Wales. For over sixty years it has collected and preserved admirable statistical data of the cost of its various benefits, to provide for which it maintains a relatively high rate of contribution and levies. In August 1891, a leading member called attention to the touting for membership that was going on among his trade in certain districts. " I have now noticed," he concludes, " three distinct societies that enter moulders (ironfounders) who are eligible to join us. They offer, more or less, a high rate of benefit at a low rate of contribution. Whether they are likely to fulfil their promises I leave to the judgment of any thoughtful man who will sit down and compare their rates of contribution and benefits with the statistical figures of our society, as shown continually in the annual reports. Those figures have been arrived at by experience, which is the truest basis of calculation for the future, and I would commend them to the notice of all who set themselves the task of computing the maximum rate of benefit to be obtained at the minimum rate of subscription." ^ Nor was

« I^ttei from H. G. Percival in the Monthly Report of the Friendly Society of Ironfounders (August 1891), pp. 18-21.


ii6 Trade Union Structure

this warning unneeded. When, in the very next month, the Ironfounders met in delegate meeting to revise their rules, branch after branch suggested, in order to outstrip the attractions of their extravagant rivals, an increase of benefits, without any addition to the contribution. Thus Gateshead, Keighley, and Greenwich urged that the Out of Work benefit should be increased by more than ten per cent ; Huddersfield and Oldham sought to raise the maxi- mum sum receivable in any one year ; Barrow, Halifax, and Liverpool asked that travellers should be allowed sixpence per night instead of fourpence ; Oldham tried largely to increase the scale of superannuation allowances, and to raise the Accident Grant from ;^50 to ;^ioo ; St. Helens and many other branches demanded a ten per cent increase of the sick benefit ; whilst Brighton, Keighley, and Wakefield proposed to raise the funeral money from

^io to £\2. On the other hand, Chelsea proposed a

reduction of the entrance fee by 33 per cent, whilst Gloucester sought to lower it by one-half ; Liverpool would take in men up to the age of 45, instead of stopping at 40; and Wakefield suggested the abandonment of any medical examination at entrance.^ Fortunately for the Ironfounders, their officers, with the statistical tables at their back, were able to stave off most of these pro- posals. But even responsible officials are forced to pay heed to this reckless competition. Thus in 1885, when certain branches of the Steam - Engine Makers' Society, getting anxious about their old age, suggested that the provision for the superannuation benefit should be increased, the central executive demurred to raising the contribution, pointing out " the keen competition " for membership which they had to meet, "just as though we were engaged in commerce. In every workshop," they continue, "we have numerous societies to contend with, some of whose members

' Su^estioKS from Branches of the Friendly Society of Ironfounders . . . for consideration at the Delegate Meeting to be held in September 189 1 (London, 1891X


Interunion Relations 117

think that taking a man from another society and squeezing him into theirs is a valiant act. Many cases will occur to all, but we give one instance. We learned of the Pattern- makers' Association taking members of ours for an entrance fee of 5 s., placing them in benefit at once, and even giving them credit for ten years' membership, should they apply for superannuation in the future." ^ These examples enable us to understand why it is that the Trade Unions accumulating the largest reserve funds to meet their prospective liabilities are to be found in the trades in which a single union is co-extensive with the industry. Thus, among the larger organisations, the United Society of Boilermakers with a balance in 1896 of ;£^ 175,000, or ;^4 : 7 : 6 per head of its 41,000 members, towers above all other societies in the engineering and shipbuilding trades.

ifWe have dwelt in some detail upon the evils of com- petition between Trade Unions considered merely as benefit clubs, because this part of their function has secured universal approval. But assuming that the workmen are right in believing trade combination to be economically useful to them — assuming, that is to say, that the institutioh of Trade Unionism has any justification at all — the case against com- petition among unions becomes overwhelming in strength. If a trade is split up among two or more rival societies,^ especially if these are unequal in numbers, scope, or the; character of their members, there is practically no possibility] of arriving at any common policy to be pursued by all the branches, or of consistently maintaining any course of action, whatsoever. "The general position of our society in Liverpool," reports the District Delegate of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers in 1893, "is far from satisfactory, the work of organising the trade being rendered exceptionally difficult, not only by the existence of a large non-union element, but by the existence of a number of sectional societies. Here, as elsewhere, these small and unnecessary organisations

' Steam-Engine Makers' Society ; Executive Council Report on Revision oj Rules, 2SthJuly 1885.


r 1 8 Trade Union Structure

are the causes of endless complications and inconvenience, How many of these absurd and irritating institutions actually exist here I am ijot yet in a position to say, but the following are those with which I am at present acquainted : Smiths and Strikers (Amalgamated), Mersey Shipsmiths, Steam-Engine Makers, United Pattern-makers, Liverpool Coppersmiths, Brass -finishers (Liverpool), Brass -finishers (Birmingham), United Machine Workers, Metal Planers, National Engineers. All these societies are naturally inimical to our own, yet how long shall we be able to tolerate their existence is another question. . . . The Boilermakers would never permit any section of their trade to organise apart from them ; why we should do so is a question which will assuredly have to be settled definitely sooner or later." ^ The " small and unnecessary organisations" naturally take a different view. The general secretary of the United Pattern-makers' Association, in a circular full of bitter complaints against the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, thus describes the situation : " For the information of those who may not be intimately acquainted with the engineering trade, we may explain that the Pattern- makers form almost the smallest section of that trade — ^the organised portion being split up into no less than four different sections [societies] — the largest section outside the ranks of the United Pattern-makers' Association belonging to the Amalgamated Society of Engineers. It will be easily understood that this division makes it very difficult for our society to act on the offensive with that promptitude which is often essential to the successful carrying out of a particular movement, as we have to consult with and obtain the co- operation of three societies other than our own ; and as our trade in these societies are in an insignificant minority, it is perhaps only natural that so far as the Amalgamated Society of Engineers is concerned, legislation for the trades that comprise the vast majority of its members should have a priority over a consideration of those questions which concern

' " Report of Oi^anising District Delegate (No. 2 division) of Amalgamated Society of Engineers" in Quarterly Report for quarter ended March 1893.


Interunion Relations 119

so small a handful as the Pattern-makers belonging to their society." ^ An actual example of the everyday working life of a Trade Union branch will show how real is the difficulty thus caused. "Our Darlington members," reports the Pattern- makers' Executive, " have been engaged in a wages movement which has had in one respect a most unsatisfactory termination. The ' Mais ' ^ and non-society men pledged themselves to assist our members to get the money up, until the critical moment arrived when notices were to be given in. The non-society element and the ' Mais ' then formed an ignominious com- bination, and declined to go any further in the matter, the Darlington branch of the ' Mais ' writing our Secretary to the effect that they would not permit their P.M.'s [Pattern- makers] to strike. They only number three, and the non- society men twice as many, so fortunately they could not do , the cause very much injury. The advance was conceded by every firm excepting the Darlington Iron and Steel Works, where oijr men were drawn out, leaving two ' Mais ' and their present allies, the non-society men, at work. Your general secretary wrote the executive committee of the ' Mais ' on the subject over three weeks ago, but so insignificant a matter as this is apparently beneath the notice of this august body, as no reply has yet been vouchsafed." ^

Trade Union rivalry has, however, a darker side. /When

the officers of the two organisations have been touting for members, and feeling keenly each other's competition, oppor- tunities for friction and ill-temper can scarcely fail to arise^ Accusations will be made on both sides of disloyalty and unfairness, which will be echoed and warmly resented by the

  • Circular of United Pattern-makers' Association (on Belfast dispute), 22nd

June 1892. The same note recurs in the Report of Proceedings of^ the Sixth Anntial Meeting of the Federation of Engineering and Shipbuilding Trades (Manchester, 1896). " As a consequence of their present divided state," said Mr. Mosses, the general secretary of the United Pattern-makers' Association, at this meeting, " they had one district going in for advances, foUovfed in a haphazard fashion by other districts ; and one body of men coming out on strike for the benefit of others v/ho remained at their work."

2 Members of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers.

3 Monthly Report of the United Pattem-makerf Association, September 1889,


I20 Trade Union Structure

rank and file. Presently some dispute occurs between an employer and the members of one of the unions. These workmen may be dismissed by the employer, or withdrawn by order of their own district committee. The officers of the rival union soon hear of the vacancies from the firm in question. Members of their own society are walking the streets in search of work, and drawing Out of Work pay from the funds, f^o let i these take the places left vacant — to " blackleg " the rival society — is to commit the gravest crime against the Trade Unionist faith._J Unfortunately, in many cases, the temptation is irresistible. The friction between the rival organisations, the personal ill-feeling of their officers, the traditions of past grievances, the temptation of pecuniary gain both to the workmen and to the union, all co-operate to make the occasion " art exception." At this stage any pretext suffices. The unreasonableness of the other society's demand, the fact that it did not consult its rival before taking action, even the non-arrival of the letter officially announcing the strike, serves as a phiusible excuse in the subsequent recrimi- nations. Scarcely a year passes without the Trade Union Congress being made the scene of a heated accusation by one society or another, that some other union has " blacklegged " a dispute in which it was engaged, and thereby deprived its members of all the results of their combination.^

• Whenever rivalry and competition for members have existed between unions in the same industry we iind numberless cases of " blacklegging." The relations, for instance, between the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, and all the sectional societies, abound in unfortunate instances on the one side or the other. The twc societies of Bricklayers have, in the past, frequently accused each other's members of the same crime. The "excursions across the Border" of the English and Scottish societies of Tailors and Plumbers have been enlivened by similar recrimi- nations, which are also bandied about among the several unions of general laborers. The Coalmining and Cotton manufacturing industries are honorably free from this feature. An exceptionally bad case of an established union becoming, through blacklegging, a mere tool of the employers, came to light at the Trade Union Congress of 1892, and was personally investigated by us.

The Glasgow Harbour Laborers' Union, established among the Clyde steve- dores in 1853, had, up to 1889, maintained an honorable record for stability and success. In the latter year it found itself, with only 230 members, menaced with extinction by the sudden uprising of the National Union of Dock Laborers in Great Britain and Ireland, a society organised on the antagonistic idea of including every kind of dock and wharf laborers in a national amalgamation. The small.


Interunion Relations 1 2 1

The foregoing detailed description has placed the reader in a position to appreciate the disastrous effect oL com- petition between Trade Unions for members. [Whilst seriously impairing their financial stability as benefit clubs, this rivalry cuts at the root of all effective trade combination. It is no exaggeration to say that to competition between overlapping unions is to be attributed nine- tenths of the ineffectiveness of the Trade Union worldj The great army of engineering operatives, for instance, though exceptional in training and intelligence, and enrolled in stable and well- administered societies, have as yet not succeeded either in negotiating with the employers on anything like equal terms, or in maintaining among themselves any common policy whatsoever. An even larger section of the wage -earning world — that engaged in the great industry of transport — has so far failed, from a similar cause, to build up any really effective Trade Unionism. The millions of laborers, who

old-fashioned, and local society, with its traditions of exclusiveness and "privilege," refused to merge itself, but offered to its big rival a mutual "next preference" working arrangement — that is to say, whilst each society maintained for its own members a preferential right to be taken on at the wharves or yards where they were accustomed to work, it should accord to the members of the other society the right to fill any further vacancies at those yards or wharves in preference to outsiders. The answer to this was a peremptory refusal on the part of the National Union to recognise the existence of its tiny predecessor, whose members accordingly found themselves absolutely excluded from work. The National Union no doubt calculated that it would, in this way, compel the smaller society to yield. But at the very moment it had a great struggle on hand, both in Liver- pool and Glasgow, with one of the principal shipping firms. Communications were quickly opened up between that firm and the Glasgow Harbour Laborers' Society, with the result that the latter undertook to do the firm's work, and thus at one blow not only defeated tlje aggressive pretensions of the National Union but also secured its own existence. This line of conduct was repeated whenever a dispute arose between the employers and any Union on the Clyde. When the Blast-fiimacemen on strike had successfully appealed to the National Amalgamated Sailors' and Firemen's Union, not to unload Spanish pig iron, the Glasgow Harbour Laborers' Union promptly came to the employers' rescue. During the strike of the Scottish Railway Servants' Union, the same society was to the fore in supplying "scab laborers." Its crowning degradation, in Trade Union eyes, came in an alliance with the Shipping Federation, the powerful combination by which the employers hav'e, since 1892, sought to crush the whole Trade Union movement !n the waterside industries. Its conduct was, in that year, brought before the Trade Union Congress, which happened to meet at Glasgow, and the Congress almost unanimously voted the exclusion of its delegates.


122 Trade Union Structure

must in any case find it difficult to maintain a common organisation, are constantly hampered in their progress by the existence of competing societies which, starting from different industries, quickly pass into general unions, in- cluding each other's members. Indeed, with the remarkable exceptions of the coal and cotton industries, and, to a lesser extent, that of house-building, there is hardly a great trade in the country in which the workmen's organisations are_not seriously crippled by this fatal dissension.

) Now, experience shows that the permanent cause o f this competitive rivalry and overlapping between unions is th eir o rganisatio n upon bases inconsistent with each other. When two societies mclude and exclude precisely the same sections of workmen, competition between them loses half its bitter- ness, and the solution of the difficulty is only a question of timej We see, for instance, since 1862, the Amalgamated SocifityLflLCa rpente rs and Joiners rapidly distancing its elder competitor, the General Union of Carpenters and Joiners (established 1827)! But — because — »he . mem bers of both societies belong to identically the same trade, are paid by the same methods, earn the same rates, work the same hours, have the same customs and needs, and are in no way to be distinguished from each other, the branches in a given town find no difficulty in concerting, by means of a joint committee, a common trade policy. riA.nd although the existence of two societies weakens the financial position of the one* as well as of the other, the identity of the members' income and requirements, and jtheir constant intercourse, tend steadily to an approximation of the respective scales of contribution and benefitsjCTlnder these circumstances the tendency to amalgamation is, as we have seen in the pre- ceding chapter, almost irresistible, and is usually delayed only by the natural reluctance of some particular official to abdicate the position of leadership.

1 VThe problem which the ^gineers, the transit workers,

'and the laborers have so far failed to solve, is how to

define a trade.) |_Among the engineers, for instance, there is


Interumon Relations 123

no general agreement which groups of workmen have interests sufficiently distinct from the remainder as to make it necessary for them to combine in a sectional organisation ; and there is but little proper appreciation of the relation of these sectional mterests to those which all engineering mechanics have in commoii|^ The enthusiast for amalgama- tion is always harping on the necessity of union amongst all classes of engineering workmen in order to abolish systematic overtime, to reduce the normal hours of labor, and to obtain recognition of Trade Union conditions from \ the government. To the member of the United Pattern- makers' Association or of the Associated Blacksmiths, these objects, however desirable, are subordinate to some re - arrangement of the method or scale of remuneration > peculiar to his own occupation. \The solution of the problem is to be found in a form of organisation which secures Home Rule for any group possessing interests divergent from those of the industry as a whole, whilst at the same time maintaining effective combination through- out the entire industry for the promotion of the interests which are common to all the sections^j , „..^ ,1,^1

Foj^tunsrtely, we are not left to our imagination to devise a paper constitution which would fulfil these conditions. In another industry we find the problem solved with almost perfect success. We have already described the half- dozen distiriCt-classes into which the Cotton -Operatives are naturally divided. Each of these has its own independent union, which carries on its own negotiations with the employers, and would vigorously resist any proposal for amalgamation. But in addition to the sectional interests of each of the six classes, there are subjects upon which two or more of the sections feel in common, and others which concern them all. JTAccordingly, instead of amalgamation on the one hand, Vt isolation on the other, we find the sectional unions combining with each other in various federal organisations of great efficiencyN The Cotton- spinners and the Cardroom Operatives, flying always for


124 Trade Union Structure

the same employers in the same establishments, have [formed the Cotton - Workers' Association, to the funds of which both societies contribute. Each constituent union carried on its own collective bargaining and has its own funds. But it agrees to call out its members in support of the other's dispute, whenever requested to do so, the members so withdrawn being supported from the federal ,/und.^ The Cotton-spinners thus secure the stoppage of the material for their work, whenever they withdraw their labor, and thereby place an additional obstacle in the way of the employer obtaining blackleg spinners. The Card- room Operatives on the other hand, whose labor is almost pnskilled, and could easily be replaced, obtain in their disputes the advantage of the support of the indispensable I Cotton-spinners. No federation for these purposes would be of use to the Cotton -weavers, who often work for employers devoting themselves exclusively to weaving, and whose product goes to a different market, ^ut the Cotton-weavers join with the Cotton-spinners and the Cardroom Operatives in the United Textile Factory Workers' Association, a purely political organisation for the purpose of obtaining and en- forcing the factory and other legislation common to the whole trade^ And it is interesting to notice that the Cotton Operatives not only refrain from converting this strong and stable federation into an amalgamation, but even carry the federal form into the different sections of their industry. The ig.ooo Cotton -spinners, for instance, form a single fighting unit, which, for compactness and absolute discipline, bears comparison even with the United Society of Boilermakers. But though the Cotton-spinners call their union an amalgamation, the larger " provinces " retain the privilege of electing their own officers, and of fixing their own contributions for local purposes and special benefits, and even preserve a certain degree of legislative autonomy. The student who derives his impression of these organisa- tions merely from their elaborate separate rules and reports, 1 This organisation was temporarily suspended in 1896.


Interunion Relations 125

might easily conclude that, in the relation between the Oldham or Bolton " province," and the " Representative Meeting " of the Amalgamated Association of Operative Cotton-spinners, we have a genuine case of local and central government. This, however, is not the case. The partial) autonomy of the " provinces " of Oldham and Bolton is noti a case of geographical, but of industrial specialisation^ Each " province has its own peculiar trade, spinning different " counts " for widely different markets. Each is governed by its own peculiar list of piecework prices, based on different considerations. And though the prevailing tendency is towards a greater uniformity of terms and methods, there is still a sufficient distinction between the Oldham and Bolton trades themselves, and between those of the smaller districts, to make any amalgamation a hazardous experiment. Similar considerations have hitherto applied to the Cotton - weavers, who have, indeed, only recently united into a single body. Differences of trade interests, not easy of explanation to the outsider, have hitherto separated town and town, each working under its own piecework list. These sectional differences resulted, until lately, in organisation by loosely federated autonomous groups. It is at least an interesting coincidence that the increasing uniformity of conditions which, in 1884, per- mitted the concentration of these groups into the Northern Counties Amalgamated Association of Cotton-weavers, re- sulted, in 1892, in the adoption, from one end of Lancashire to the other, of a uniform piecework list.

U^e history of Trade Unionism among the Coalminers also supplies instructive instances of federal action- In Northumberland and Durham the present unions included, for the first ten years of their existence, not only the actual hewers of the coal, but also the Deputies (Overlookers), the Enginemen, the Cokemen, and the Mechanics employed in connection with the collieries. This is still the type of union in some of the more recently organised districts. Both in Northumberland and in


126 Trade Union Structure

Durham, however, experience of the difficulties of com- bining such diverse workers has led to the formation of distinct unions for Deputies, Cokemen, and Colliery (Mechanics. IlEach of these acts with complete independ- lence in dealing with the special circumstances of its own loccupation, but unites with the others in the same county in a strong federation for general wage movements.' p And if we pass from the " county federations which are so characteristic of this industry, to the attempts to weld all coal-hewers into aisingle national organisation, we shall see that these attempts have hitherto succeeded only when they have taken the federal form. In 1868 and again in 1874 attempts at complete amalgamation quickly came to grief. Effective federation^pf all the organised districts has, on the other hand, endured\ since 1863.^ B'V^e attribute this pre- ference for the federal form, not to the difficulty of uniting the geographically separated coalfields, but to the divergence of interests between the^i^ Nor^thumberland, Durham, and South Wales, producing chiefly for foreign export, feel that their trade has little in common with that of the Midland Coalfields, which supply, the home market. The thin seams of Somersetshire demand different methods of working, different rates of remuneration, and different allowances, from those in vogue in the rich mines of York- shire. The " fiery " mines of Monmouthshire demand quite a different set of working rules from the harmless seams (A Cannock Chase.* It was, therefore, quite natural that, in 1887, when a demand arose for a strong and active national organisation, this did not take the form of an amalgamated union. [The Miners' Federation, which now includes 200,000 members from Fife to Somerset, is composed of separate

' The Durham County Mining Federation, established 1878, includes the Durham Coalminers, Enginemen's, Cokemen's, and Mechanics' Associations. The Northumberland associations have not established any formal federation but act constantly together.

' See History of Trade Unionism, pp. 274, 287, 335, 350, 380.

' See, for instance, the animated discussion on proposed clause to restrict shot-firing, National Conference of Miners, Birmingham, 9th- 12th January 1893.


Interunion Relations 127

unions, each retaining complete autonomy in its own affairs, and obly asking for the help of the federal body in matters common to the whole kingdom, or in case of a local dispute extending to over 15 per cent of the members^j Any attempt to draw tighter these bonds of union would, in all probahility, at once cause the secession of the Scottish Miners' unions, and would absolutely preclude the adhesion of Northumbei-land, Durham, and South Wales.*

' Other industries afford instances of federal union. The compositors employed in the offices of the great London daily newspapers, at specially high wages, and under quite exceptional conditions, have, since 1853, formed an integral part ol the London Society of Compositors. But they have, from the beginning, had their own quarterly meetings, and elected their own separate executive committee and salaried secretary, who conduct all their distinctive trade business, moving for new privileges and advances independently of the general body. One or more delegates are appointed by the News Department to represent it at general or delegate meetings of the whole society, whilst two representatives of the Book Department (which comprises nine-tenths of the society) sit on the newsmen's executive committee. There is even a tendency to establish similar relations with the special " music printers." The National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives presents an example of incipient federation. The union is made up of large branches in the several towns, each possessing local iimds and appointing its own salaried ofScials. In so far as the members belong to an identical occupation, the tendency is towards increased centralisation. But it has become the rule for the members in each town to divide into branches, not according to geographical propinquity, but according to the class of work which they do. Thus, in any town, " No. i Branch " is composed exclusively of Rivetters and Finishers, " No. 2 Branch " are the Clickers, and where a separate class of Jewish workers exists, these form a "No. 3 Branch." The central executive is elected by electoral divisions according to membership, and has hitherto usually been composed exclusively of the predominating classes of Rivetters and Finishers. But the Clickers, whose interests diverge from those of their colleagues, have, for some time, been demanding separate representation, which they have now been informally granted by the election of their chief salaried official as treasurer of the whole union. A similar movement may be discerned among the Finishers, as against the Rivetters (now become "Lasters"), and it seems probable that this desire for sectional representation, following on partial sectional autonomy, will presently find formal recognition in the constitution.

The building trades afford an interesting case of the abandonment of the experiment of a general union in favor of separate national societies, which are not at present united in any national federation. The Builders' Union of 1830-34 aimed at the ideal afterwards pursued in the engineering industry. All the operatives engaged in the seven sections of the building trade were to be united in a single national amalgamation. This attempt has never been repeated. In its place we have the great national unions of Stonemasons, Carpenters, Brick- layers, Plumbers, and Plasterers', whilst the Painters and the Builders' Laborers have not yet emerged from the stage of the local trade club. Between the central executives of these societies there is no federal union. In almost every


128 Trade Union Structure

frhese examples of success and failure in uniting sieveral sections of workmen in a single unit of government , point to the existence of an upper and a lower limit to the process of amalgamation. It is one of the conditions of effective trade action that a union should include all the workmen whose occupation or training is such as to jenable them, at short notice, to fill the places held by its m^mbets^ It would, for instance, be most undesirable for such inter- changeable mechanics as fitters, turners, and erectors, to maintain separate Trade Unions, with distinct trade policies. And if the Cardroom Operatives could easily " mind " the self-acting mule of the Cotton-spinners, it might possibly suit the latter to arrange an amalgamation between the two societies, just as the Rivetters found it convenient to absorb the Holders-up into the United Society of Boilermakers and Iron Shipbuilders.^ VThere appears to be no advantage in carrying amalgamation (as distinct from federation) beyond this point. But there are often serious difficulties in going even thus farj The efficient working of an amalgamated> society requires that all sections of the members should be fairly uniform in the methods of their remuneration, the conditions of their employment, and the amount of their standard earnings. (Moreover, it may confidently be pre- dicted that no amalgamation will be stable in which the several sections differ appreciably in strategic position, in such a manner as to make it advantageous for them to

town there has, however, grown up a local Building Trades' Federation, formed by the local branches to concert joint action against their common employers, as regards hours of labor and local advances or reductions of wages, bodi of which are in each town usually simultaneous and identical for all sections. We have elsewhere referred to the difficulties arising from this separate action of each town, and it is at least open to argument whether the building trades would not be better advised to form a national federation to concert a common national policy, having federal officials in the large towns, who would, like the district delegates of the United Society of Boilermakers, represent the whole organisation, though acting in consultation with local committees.

' The Holders-up were admitted into the society in 1881, at the instance oi the general secretary, who represented that Holders-up were indispensable fellow- workers and possible blacklegs, and must therefore be brought under the control of the organisation, more especially as they were beginning to form separate clubs of their own.


Tnterunion Relations 129

move at different times, or by different expedients. Finally, experience seems to show that in no trade will a I well-paid and well-organised but numerically weak section permanently consent to remain in the subordination to inferior operatives, which any amalgamation of all sections of a large and varied industry must usually involve.^

Let us apply these axioms to the tangle of competing societies in the engineering trade. The fitters, turners, and erectors who work in the same shop, on the same job, under identical methods of remuneration, for wages ap- proximately equal in amount, and who can without difficulty do each other's work, form, no doubt,) a natural unit' of governmen t.^ * We might perhaps add to these the smiths, though the persistence of a few separate smiths' societies, and the uprising of joint societies of smiths and strikers, may indicate a different cleavage. With regard to the pattern-makers, it is easy to understand why the United Pattern-makers' Association is now attracting a majority of the men entering this section of the trade. These highly skilled and superior artisans constitute a tiny minority amid the great engineering army ; they usually enjoy a higher Standard Rate than any other section ; and any advances or reductions in their wages must almost necessarily occur at different times from similar changes among the engineers proper. It is even open to argument whether, for Collective Bargaining, the pattern-makers are not actually stronger when acting alone than when in alliance with the whole engineering industry. CWe are, therefore, disposed to agree with the con- tention of the United Pattern-makers' Association that "when the interests of our own particular section are concerned, we hold it as the first principle of our Association that these interests can only be thoroughly understood, and effectively looked after, by ourselves." *^ The same conclusions apply,

' In 1896, though the Amalgamated Society of Engineers enrolled the un- precedented total of 13,321 new members, all but 1803 of these belonged to the classes of fitters, turners, or millwrights.

2 Preface to Rules of the United Pattern-makers' Association (Manchester, 1892).

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130 Trade Union Structure

though in a lesser degree, to some other sections now included in the Amalgamated Society, and they would decisively negative the suggestion to absorb such distinct and highly organised trades as the Plumbers and Ironfounders.^

This conclusion does not mean that each section of the engineering trade should maintain a complete independence. " We quite acknowledge," state the Pattern-makers, " that it would be neither politic nor possible to completely sever our connection with the organisation representative of the engineering trade, and we are always ready to co-operate with contemporary societies in movements which affect the 1 interests of the general body." * jThere are, indeed, some Imatters as to which the whole engineering industry must act in concert if it is to act at all. A great establishment like Elswick, employing 10,000 operatives in every section of the industry, would find it intolerable to conduct separate negotiations, and fix different meal-times or different holidays for the different branches of the tradej We find, in fact, the associated employers on the North-east Coast expressly com-

1 Our analysis thus definitely refutes the suggestion that the quarrels be- tween the engineers and plumbers, and the shipwrights and joiners respectively, might be obviated by the amalgamation of the competing unions. The two trades overlap in a few shipbuilding jobs, but in nine-tenths of their work it would be impossible for an engineer to take the place of the plumber, or a ship- wright that of a joiner, or vice versd. In strategic position the plumber differs fundamentally from the engineer, and the joiner from the shipwright The engineering and shipbuilding trades are subject to violent fluctuations, which depend upon the alternate inflations and depressions of the national commerce. The building trades, on the other hand, with which nine-tenths of the joiners and plumbers must be counted, vary considerably according to the season of the year, but fluctuate comparatively little from year to year ; and the general fluctuations to which they are subject do not coincide with those of the shipbuilding and engineering industries. By the time that the wave of expansion has reached the building trades, the staple industries of the country are already in the trough of the succeeding depression. It would have been difficult to have persuaded a Newcastle engineer or a shipwright in the spring of 1893, when 20 per cent of his colleagues were out of work, that the plumbers and carpenters were well advised in choosing that particular moment to press for better terms. Finally, we have the almost insuperable difficulty of securing adequate representation for the 9000 plumbers, scattered in every town amid the 87,000 engineers ; and, on the other hand, the 14,000 shipwrights concentrated in a few ports amid the 49,000 joiners spread over the whole country.

' Preface to Rules of the United Pattern-makers' Association (Manchester, 1892).


Interunion Relations 131

plaining in 1890, "of the great inconvenience and difficulty experienced in the settlement of wages and other general questions between employers and employed"; and ascribing the constant friction that prevailed to the " want of uniformity of action and similarity of demand put forward by the various societies representing the skilled engineering labor." 'Collective Bargaining becomes impracticable when different' societies are proposing new regulations on overtime in- consistent with each other, and when rival organisations, each claiming to represent the same section of the trade, are putting forward divergent claims as to the methods and| rates of remuneration. The employers were driven to insist that the " deputations meeting them to negotiate . . . should represent all the societies interested in the question underv consideration." ^ _\ And when the method to be employed is not Collective Bargaining but Parliamentary action, federal union is even more necessary.\ If the mechanics in the great government arsenals and factories desire modifica- tions in their conditions of employment, union of purpose among the tens of thousands of engineering electors all over

the country is indispensable for success.

>§o long, however, as the Amalgamated Society of Engineers claims to include within its own ranks every kind of engineering mechanic, and to decide by itself the. policy to be pursued, a permanent and effective federal organisation is impossible. Any attempt to combine in the same industry the mutually inconsistent schemes of amal- gamation and federation may even intensify the friction. I Thus we find, in 1888, to quote again from a report of the

1 Circular of the Iron Trades Employers' Association on the Overtime Ques- tion, October 1891. We attribute the practical failure of the Engineering operatives to check systematic overtime, an evil against which they have been striving ever since 1836, to the chaotic state of the organisation of the trade. A similar lack of federal union stood in the way of the London bookbinders in 1893, when they succeeded without great diflEculty in obtaining an Eight Hours' Day from those employers who were bookbinders only. In the great printing estab- lishments, such as Waterlow's and Spottiswoode's, they found it practically impossible to arrange an Eight Hours' Day in the binding departments, whilst the printers continued to work for longer hours.


132 Trade Union Structure

United Pattern-makers' Association, "the sectional societies (on North-east Coast), indignant at the arbitrary manner in which the Amalgamated Society of Engineers had acted, federated together with the avowed object of resisting a repetition of any such behaviour in case of further wages movements, and asserting their right to be consulted before definite action was taken. ... It is impossible," continues the report, "to dissociate the action of our contemporaries (the Amalgamated Society of Engineers) from their recent unsuccessful attempt at amalgamating the various sectional societies ; and it would seem that they, finding it impossible to absorb their weaker brethren by fair means, had resolved to shatter the confidence they have in their unions by showing them their impotence to influence, of themselves, their relations between their employers and members." ^ The "Federal Board," thus formed by the smaller engineering societies on Tyneside in antagonism to their more powerful rival, lasted for three years, but failed, it is needless to say, in securing industrial peace. A more important and more promising attempt has been marred by the persistent absten- tion of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers. Hn 1890, Mr. Robert Knight, the able general secretary of the United Society of Boilermakersjsucceeded, after repeated failures, in drawing together in a powerful national federation the great majority of the unions connected with the engineering and shipbuilding industries. This Federation of Engineering and Shipbuilding Trades of the United Kingdom "J includes such powerful organisations as the United Society of Boilermakers, 40,776 members; the Associated Shipwrights' Society, 14,235 members ; and the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners, 48,631 members, who are content to meet on equal terms such smaller unions as the Steam-Engine Makers' Society, 7000 members ; the United Operative Plumbers' Society, 8758 members; the United Pattern-makers' Associa- tion, 3636 members; the National Amalgamated Society of Painters and Decorators, and half a dozen more minute 1 Monthly Report of the United Pattern-maker^ Society, January 1889.


Interunion Relations 133

sectional societies. fThis federation has now lasted over seven years, and has fulfilled a useful function in settling disputes between the different unions. \ But as an instrument for<j Collective Bargaining with me employers, or for taking^ concerted action on behalf of the whole industry, it is useless ^ so long as 'the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, with itsj 87,455 members, holds resolutely aloof. And the Amal- ; gamated Society of Engineers, still wedded to the ideal of one undivided union, cannot bring itself to accept as per- manent colleagues, the sectional societies which it regards as illegitimate combinations undermining its own position.^

' The first numbers of the Amalgamated Engineer^ Monthly Journal — an official organ started on the accession of Mr. George Barnes to the general secretaryship — shows that thinking members of the Amalgariation are coming roimd to the idea of federal union with the sectional societies, and others con- nected with the engineering and shipbuilding industry. Thus Mr. Tom Mann, in the opening number (January 1897, pp. lo-ii), declares "that the bulk of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers' men are ashamed ... of their present power- lesscess. . . . Whence comes the weakness ? Beyond any doubt it is primarily due to the feet that no concerted action is taken by the various unions. . . . That is, the Amalgamated Society of Engineers has not yet learnt the necessity for form- ing part of a real federation of all trades connected with this particular profession. . . . What member can look back over the last few years and not blush with shame at what has taken place between the Amalgamated Society of Engineers and the Plumbers, and the Boilermakers and Shipbuilders ; and who can derive satisfac- tion in reflecting upon the want of friendly relations between the Amalgamated Society of Engineers . . . and the Pattern-makers and Shipwrights, and Steam- Engine Makers, etc. ? A fighting force is wanted . . . and this can only be obtained by a genuine federation of societies connected with the trades referred to. . . . The textile workers (cotton) have federated the various societies, and are able to secure united action on a scale distinctly in advance of that of the engineering trades." And in the succeeding issue Mr. John Bums vigorously strikes the same note. " To really prevent this internecine and disintegrating strife, the first step for the Amalgamated Engineers this year is to join at once with all the other unions in [a] federation of engineering trades." Two months later (April 1897, pp. 12-14) comes a furious denunciation of the proposal, signed "Primitive," who invokes the "shades of Allan and eloquence of Newton " against this attempted undoing of their work. "Just because a few interested labor busybodies have got it into their heads that they can run a cheap-jack show for every department of our trade with the same effect as our great combina- tion, we are to drop our arms, pull down our socks, hide our tail under our nether parts, and shout 'peccavi.' . . . Sectional societies for militant purposes are useless, and therefore they only exist — where such is practised — as friendly societies. . . . Amalgamation is our title, our war-cry and our principle ; and once we admit that it is necessary to ' federate ' with sectional societies we give away the whole case to the enemy. . . . Federatibn with trades whose work- shop practice is keenly distinct from our own is a good means to a better end.


134 Trade Union Structure

hi now, looking back on the whole history of organisation in the engineering trade, we may be " wise after the event," we suggest that it would have been better if the local trade clubs had confined themselves each to a single section of engineering workmen, and if they had then developed into national societies of like scope.J^ Had this been the case, and could Newton and Allan have foreseen the enormous growth and increasing differentiation of their industry, they would have advocated, not a single comprehensive amalgamation, but a federation of sectional societies of national extentjfor such purposes as were common to the whole engineering trade. This federation would have, in the first instance, included a great national society of fitters, turners, and erectors on the one hand, and smaller national societies of smiths and pattern-makers respectively. And as organisa- tion proceeded among the brass-workers, coppersmiths, and machine-workers, and as new classes arose, like the electrical engineers, these could each have been endowed with a sufficient measure of Home Rule, and admitted as separate sections to the federal union. This federal union might then have combined in a wider and looser federation, for specified purposes, with the United Society of Boilermakers, the Friendly Society of Ironfounders, the Associated Shipwrights' Society, and the other organisations interested in the great industry of iron steamship building and equipping.M

One practical precept emerges from our consideration of all these forms of association. It is a fundamental condi- tion of stable and successful federal action that the degree of unionbe tween the constituent bodies should corresp ond ^trictly w ith the degree of their unity of interest. This will

-Federation with trades whose shop practice is similar, whose interests are identical, and who ought to be with us in every fight, is a maudlin means to a general fizzle." The question is now (August 1897) a subject of keen debate in the society.

1 The several national societies of Carpenters, Plumbers, Painters, Cabinet- makers, etc., would, in respect of their members working in shipbuilding yards, also join this Federation ; whilst they would, at the same time, continue to be in closer federal union with the Bricklayers, Stonemasons, and other societies o< building operatives.


Inierunion Relations 135

be most easily recognised on the financial side. We have already more than once adverted to the fact that a scale of contributions and benefits, which would suit the require- ments of one class, might be entirely out of the reach of other sections, whose co-operation was nevertheless indis- pensable for effective common action. But this is not all. We have to deal, not only with .{"classes differing in the> amount of their respective incomes, but also with wide > divergences between the ways in which the several classes need to lay out their incomes,^ vThe amount levied by the federal body for the common purse must therefore not on^y be strictly limited to the cost of the services in which all the constituent bodies have an identical interest, but must also not exceed, in any case, the amount which the poorest section finds it advantageous to expend on these serviceg,^

But our precept has a more subtle application to the aims and policy of the federal bodig^and to the manner ih which its decisions are arrived at. rThe permanence of the> federation will be seriously menaced if it pursues any course of action which, though beneficial to the majority of its constituent bodies, is injurious to any one among thejal The constituent bodies came together, at the outset, for the promotion of purposes desired, not merely by a majority, but by all of them ; and it is a violation of the implied contract between them to use the federal force, towards the creation of which all have jcontributed, in a manner inimical to any one of them. \This means that, where the interests diverge, any federal decision must be essentially the result of consultation between the representa- tives of the several sections, with a view of discovering the " greatest common measurej These issues must, therefore, never be decided merely by counting votes. So long as the questions dealt wi|h affect all the constituents in approxi- mately the same manner, mere differences of opinion as to projects or methods may safely be decided by a majority vote. If the results are, in fact, advantageous, the dis- approval of the minority will quickly evaporate ; if, on the


136 Trade Union Struchire

other hand, the results prove to be disadvantageous, the dissentients will themselves become the dominant force. In either case no permanent cleavage is caused. fBut if the difference of opinion between the majority and the minority arises from a real divergence of sectional interests, and is therefore fortified by the event, any attempt on the part of the majority to force its will on the minority will, in a voluntary federation, lead to secession. J

^^.JfTKus, we are led insensibly to a whole theory of " pro- ' ^ggstional representation" in federal constitutions. In a homo- geneous association, where no important divergence of actual interest can exist,' the supreme governing authority can safely be elected, and fundamental issues can safely be decided, by mere counting of heads. Such an association will naturally adopt a representative systeni based on universal suffrage and equat electoral districts. /But when in any federal body" we have a combination of sections of unequal numerical strength, having different interests, decisions cannot safely be left to representatives elected or voting according to the' numerical membership of the constituent bodies. For this, in effect, would often mean giving a decisive voice to the members of the largest section, or to those of the two or three larger sections, without the smaller sections having any effective voting influence on the resultLj Any such arrange- ment seldom fails to produce cleavage and eventual secession, as the members of the dominant sections naturally vote for their own interest. \^ It is therefore pref erable, as a means of se curing the permanence of the federatio r i, tH^*' tV rTr ° ™n- ta tion of the constituent bodies should noJi J'p pvartly pmp nr- tion ate to their respective membersh ip s. Jm ^^ ^ representative system of a federation should, in fact, nice its finances, vary with the degree to which the interests of the constituent bodies are really identical. Wherever interests are divergent, the scale must at any rate be so arranged that no one con- stituent, however large, can outvote the remainder ; and, indeed, so that no two or three of the larger constituents could, by mutual agreerhent, swamp all t^eir colleagues/ If


Interunion Relations 137

for instance, it is proposed to federate all the national unions in the engineering trade, it would be unwise for the Amalga- mated Society of Engineers to claim proportional represen- tation for its 87,000 members, mainly fitters and turners, as compared with the 10,000 pattern-makers, smiths, and machine -workers divided among three sectional societies. And when a federation includes a large number of very" different constituents, and exists for common purposes so limited as to bear only a small proportion to the particular interests of the several sections, it may be desirable frankly to give up all idea of representation according to member- ship, and to accord to each constituent an equal voice . Hence the founders of the Federation of the Engineering and Shipbuilding Trades exercised, in our opinion, a wise discretion when they accorded to the 9000 members of the Operative Plumbers' Society exactly the same representation and voting power as is enjoyed by the 41,000 members of the United Society of Boilermakers, or by the 40^00 members of the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters. \K federal body«  of this kind, formed only for certain definite purposes, and composed of unions with distinct and sometimes divergent interests, stands at the opposite end of the scale from Jhe homogeneous " amalgamated " societyJ^-'irEe representatives of the constituent bodies meet for the composing of mutual differences and the discovery of common interests. They resemble, in fact, ambassadors who convey the desires of their respective sovereign states, contribute their special knowledge to the common council, but are unable to promise obedience to the federal decision, unless it commends itself as a suit- able compromise, or carries with it the weight of an almost unanimous consensus of opinion.^

The problem of finding a stable unit of government and of determining the relation between superior and subordinate authorities seems, therefore, to be in a fair way of solution

1 We revert to these considerations when, in describing the Trade Union machinery for political action, we come to deal with such federations as th«  Trade Union Congress and the local Trades Councils.

VOL. I F 2


13S Trade Union Structure

in the Trade Union world. With the ever - increasing mobility of labor and extension of industry, the local trade club has had to give place to a combination of national extent. So long as the craft or occupation is fairly uniform from one end of the kingdom to the other, the geographical boundaries of the autonomous state must, in the Trade Union world, ultimately coincide with those of the nation itself. We have seen, too, how inevitably the growth of national Trade Unions involves, for strategic, and what may be called military reasons, the reduction of local autonomy to a minimum, and the complete centralisation of all financial, and therefore of all executive government at the national headquarters. This tendency is strengthened by economic considerati^s which we shall develop in a subsequent chapter. Of the Trade Union is to have any success in I its main function of improving the circumstances of its i members' employment, it must build up a dyke of a uniform minimum of conditions for identical work throughout the kingdomj This uniformity of conditions, or, indeed, any industrial influence whatsoever, implies a cer tain uniformity and consistency of trade policy, which is Jonly rendered possible by centralisation of administraticuy So far, our conclusions lead, it would seem, to the absolute simplicity of one all-embracing centralised autocracy. But, in the Trade Union world, the problem of harmonising local ad- ministration and central control, which for a moment we seemed happily to have e;ot rid of, comes back in an even more intractable form. VThs very aim of uniformity of con- ditions, the very fact that uniformity of trade policy is indispensable to efficiency, makes it almost impossible to combine in a single organisation, with a common piirse, a common executive, and a common staff of salaried officials, men of widely different occupations and grades of skill, widely different Standards of Life and industrial needs, or widely different numerical strengths and strategic oppor- tunifiesj^ A Trade Union is essentially an organisation for securing certain concrete and definite advantages for all its


Interunion Relations 139

members — advantages which differ from trade to trade according to its technical processes, its economic position, and, it may be, the geographical situation in which it is carried on. Hence all the attempts at "General Unions\ have, in our view, been inevitably foredoomed to failu^J The hundreds of thousands of the working class who joined the "Grand National Consolidated Trades Union" in 1833-34 came together, it is true, on a common basis of human brother- hood, and with a common faith in the need for a radical reconstruction of society. But instead of inaugurating a " New Moral World," either by precept or by political revolu- tion, they found themselves as a Trade Union, fighting the employers in the Lancashire cotton mills to get shorter hours of labor, in the Leeds cloth trade to obtain definite piecework rates, in the London building trade to do away with piecework altogether, in Liverpool to abolish the sub- contractor, in the hosiery trade to escape from truck and deductions. Each trade, in short, translated " human brother- hood" into the remedying of its own particular technical grievance, and the central executive wg£_jquite unable to check the accuracy of the translation. ^The whole history of Trade Unionism confirms the inference that a Trade Union, formed as it is, for the distinct purpose of obtaining concrete and definite material improvements in the conditions of its members' employment, cannot, in its simplest form, safely extend beyond the area within which thos e ident ical improvements are shared by all its members — cannot spread, that is to say, beyond the bo undaries of a single occupa- tionv_jBut the discovery ol thiT simple unit of government does not exhaust the problem. Whilst the differences between the sections render complete amalgamation im- practicable, their identityjn other interests makes some bond of union imperative. I The most efficient form of Trade Union organisation is therefore one in which the several secfiortS can be united ibr the purposes that they have m common, to the exte nt to which identity of interest prevails, and no further, whilst at the same time each section preserves


140 Trade. Union Structure

complete auto nomy wherever its interests or purposes diverg e j rom those of its allies^ \ But this is only another form'of the difficult political problem of the relation of supreme to subordinate authorities. Whilst the student of political democracy has been grappling with the question of how to distribute administration between central and local author- ities, the unlettered statesmen of the Trade Union world nave had to decide the still more difficult issue of ^w to distribute power between general and sectio nal industrial combinations, both of national extent./ |Tne solution has been found in a series of widening an3cross-cutting federa- tions, each of which combines, to the extent only of its own particular objects, those organisations which are conscious ^ their identity of purpose. Instead of a simple form of democratic organisation we get, therefore, one of extreme complexity. Where the difficulties of the problem have feen rightly apprehended, and the whole industry has been organised on what may be called a single plane, the result may be, as in the case of the Cotton Operatives, a complex but harmoniously working democratic machine of remarkable efficiency and stability. Where, on the other hand, the industry has been organised on incompatible bases, as among the Engineers, we find a complicated tangle of relationships producing rivalry and antagonism, in which effective common action, even for such purposes as are common to all sections, becomes almost impossibjgj

") Tfade Union organisation, if it is to reach its highest possible efficiency, must therefore assume a federal form.^ Instead of a supreme central government, delegating parts of its power to subordinate local authorities, we may expect to see the Trade Union world developing into an elaborate series of federations, among which it will be difficult to decide where 1 the sovereignty really resides. Where the several sections closely resemble each other in their cirO cumstances and needs, where their common purposes are! relatively numerous and important, and where, as a result/ individual secession and subsequent isolation would be)


Interunion Relations 14^

dangerous, the federal tie will be strong, and the federal" government will, in_ effect, become the supreme authority. At the other end of the scale will stand those federations, little more than opportunities for consultation, in which the contracting parties retain each a real autonomy, and use the federal executive as a convenient, but strictly subordinate machinery for securing those limited purposes that they have in common. And we have ventured to suggest, as an interesting corollary, that the basis of re- presentation s hould, in all these c o nstitutions, vary accord- ing to the charact er of the bond of union, r epresent ation propo rtionate to membership being;' perfe ^tV spplirnhln nrrl^' to a homogeneous organisati on, and decreasing in sui tability with every degree 01 dissimilarity hetvfreen the- cnnatk-aefKfe- bodies;^ Where the sectional interests are not only distinct, but may, in certain cases, be even antagonistic, as, for instance, in industries subject to demarcation disputes, rule by majority vote must be frankly abandoned, and the repre- sentatives of societies widely differing in numerical strength must, under penalty of common failure, consent to meet on equal terms, to discover, by consultation, how best to conciliate the interests of all.