Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 41.djvu/669

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THE WAGE-CONTRACT AND PERSONAL LIBERTY.

to conduct it as they see fit, without the State's interference. This is true to a great extent. For instance, the employer may decide what business he will adopt, where he will transact it, what goods he will manufacture, when and where and at what prices he will offer them for sale, what persons he will employ, and in many other ways act on his own judgment, uncontrolled "by the State or the general public. But when disputes, strikes, and lockouts arise, it is only right that the State should require him to submit the matter to some superior power for determination and settlement. If the public has sufficient interest in a dispute between A and B respecting the ownership of an acre of land, or the liability of B to A for a pair of shoes, to justify the State in compelling them to submit to the decision of a court, it is extremely difficult to understand why the public has not sufficient interest in labor disputes, which frequently entail loss and suffering upon thousands of the public as well as upon the immediate parties to the dispute, to justify the State in requiring the parties to submit to the decision of a State tribunal.

Within the past ten or twelve years the principle of arbitration as a means of settling labor disputes has made considerable progress. The States of Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Missouri, and Montana have all established Boards of Arbitration. The new State of "Wyoming has provided in its Constitution for the creation of such a board. By the act of October 1, 1888, Congress legalized a Board of Arbitration, to consist of three members, one to be chosen by each side and the third by the other two, with power to adjust differences between interstate railroads and their employés. Under these various boards some good results have been attained, some labor disputes have been settled, and some strikes and lockouts have been prevented. But the practical value and utility of these boards have been largely impaired by the provision in the law of their organization requiring both employer and employed to agree to submit the matter to the board, and also by the failure of the law to confer any power upon the board to enforce its decision or orders. In other words, under existing laws, these boards have jurisdiction only when both sides are willing, and even after the board has rendered a decision, the unsuccessful party may disobey its orders with impunity, as the board has no power to fine or imprison for disobedience. The result is that the board only acts in the small number of cases in which both sides believe themselves right, and never acts in the more numerous and important cases in which one side is conscious of the injustice of its demands. The board's decision has merely a moral but no legal force. The law should be amended in these respects so as to give the board jurisdiction upon the request of a certain number of either side,