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Typo: A Monthly Newspaper and Literary Review, Volume 4

Union Mistakes

page 18

Union Mistakes.

The bane of trade unions is the domineering spirit of their leaders. Just claims having been secured by union, unjust demands follow, and the most cruel coercion is employed to gain the object. We question if capital has ever tyrannized over labor to the extent that labor leaders have done, and are daily doing. The conscientious workman will hesitate to join a union if he finds that he thereby ceases to be a free agent. He may leave the service of a bad master; but if he objects to the tyranny of the union and withdraws, he is liable to be boycotted and branded with infamous titles, and to find the whole power of an extensive organization employed to prevent him from gaining an honest livelihood.

A remarkable instance has lately occurred in Wellington. A woollen factory found it necessary, if they were to carry on their business at a profit, to dispense with the night shift. The workmen (who generally know the state of a business pretty well) made no objection; but the matter was taken up by the federated trades, and action was taken in the name of the employés in the mill. The Company was communicated with ostensibly on behalf of their hands, but without their consent. The handful of men who had been dismissed were induced to form a « bogus » union, and attempted to dictate to those who remained. These, however, were well content with their position, and declined to join the organization. The directors called a meeting of the hands, and asked if there was any complaint, but there was none. This curious condition of things followed—that the entire staff of a large factory, working in harmony with their employers, are branded as « blacklegs, » by a few outsiders. The federated trades have very precipitately taken up the quarrel, and identified themselves with the anti-labor union. The whole matter was a piece of impertinent and ill-judged interference by outsiders, and the federated unions have placed themselves in a false position, from which it will be difficult to withdraw. Public sympathy is entirely against them, and their latest folly has been to proclaim a « boycot » against the products of the factory—and against retailers found selling them!

What would be thought of a master who wrung a fine of £3 from a workman for losing fifteen minutes' time? Yet what a single master dare not do, a union can and will, and few are found to denounce the crime. It happened or board a coastal steamer. One of the hands at a quarter to five, was given a job of painting. He reckoned he could get through it in the quarter of an hour. But the mixing of the paint took longer than he expected, and it was five o'clock before that part of his work was done. Then he had either to finish the work, or waste the time already devoted to it. Not being one of the lazy kind, he chose the former alternative, and finished his job at a quarter past five. A loafing comrade reported him to the union, for a breach of the rules, and he was « fined » £3. Evidently it is not the best men who draft the rules or enforce them. The « union, » in plain English, simply Stole the £3 from an industrious workman. Was any principle involved in the rule? None. But the man who puts a little extra energy into his work, and strives to identify himself with his employer's interests, is a « crawler, » and must be put down. He is the « enemy of labor. » When idlers are dispensed with in bad times, he keeps his billet. When there is a chance of promotion, he gets it, while the man who by virtue of longer service (and habitual shirking) thinks he has a prescriptive right to the « rise, » feels aggrieved. It appears to be the lamentable truth that indifferent and idle workmen are in the majority— and some of the rules of trade unions go far to demonstrate the fact.