1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Strikes and Lock-outs
STRIKES AND LOCK-OUTS. A strike, in the labour sense, is a stoppage of work by common agreement on the part of a body of work-people for the purpose of obtaining or resisting a change in the conditions of employment. The body of work-people may be large or small, and the cessation of work may be simultaneous or gradual; e.g. if the notices to cease work happen to expire at different dates, the cessation may nevertheless be a strike, provided it takes place as the result of a common agreement. It will be seen from the above definition that a strike, though the immediate result of an agreement, formal or tacit, on the part of work-people to withhold their labour, may originate in a demand on the part of the employer as well as on the part of the employés. In the former case the stoppage is often (though loosely) termed a “lock-out.” It is obvious, however, that to distinguish stoppages as strikes or lock-outs according to the source of the original demand for a change of conditions would lead to a very arbitrary and misleading classification. Frequently it is not easy to say which side made the original demand to which the dispute is to be attributed, and frequently a stoppage is the result of a break-down of negotiations in the course of which demands have been made by both sides. Moreover, in so far as the distinction can be drawn, it would lead to the result that in almost all cases a dispute in times of improving trade would be termed a strike, and in times of declining trade a lock-out. It is not possible to frame an entirely satisfactory definition of a lock-out which shall enable it always to be discriminated from a strike. It may be noticed that the attempt to make this distinction has been abandoned in the board of trade statistics since 1894, both kinds of stoppages being now included under the comprehensive title of “trade disputes.”
The only basis of distinction between a “strike” and a “lock-out,” which is sufficiently definite for precise or statistical purposes, is the source from which the actual notice to cease work emanates, cessations resulting from notices given by the employers being termed “lock-outs,” while those which either result from notices given by the men, or from their withdrawal from work without notice, would be termed “strikes.” But whether the term “lock-out” be restricted as above, or applied, as in the popular use of the term, to any dispute in which the employers appear to be the aggressors, the distinction does not afford a sound basis for the statistical classification of disputes. The source of the actual notices to leave work is often quite an unimportant matter; while, on the other hand, if the ordinary current use of the terms be followed, there will be many disputes which, according to the workmen's view, should be termed lock-outs, and, according to the employers, should be termed strikes—a difficulty which was well illustrated in the controversy as to whether the “strike clauses” in admiralty contracts could be invoked in the case of work stopped through the engineering dispute of 1897. In the present article, therefore, no distinction is drawn for statistical purposes between a strike and a lock-out.
Another distinction, perhaps of greater importance than the above, but which in practice it is sometimes difficult to draw, is between a stoppage in pursuance of a trade dispute and a stoppage due to a bona-fide dismissal or change of employment arising from the intention of an employer to cease to employ a particular set of men, or of a group of workmen to cease to work for a particular employer. Generally speaking, a stoppage may rightly be termed a trade dispute if there be an intention on the part of both parties (at least at the beginning) to resume the relations of employer and employed on the satisfaction of certain specified conditions. Where the willingness to resume this relation exists on one side only the question is more difficult, and accordingly it is not uncommon for an employer to deny the existence of a trade dispute, although the men formerly in his employ may be actually drawing “strike pay” from their unions and “picketing” his works to prevent their places being filled. Such cases sometimes arise when the workmen consider that the dismissal of some of their colleagues is due not to personal faults or slackness of employment, but to some collective action which they have taken, or to their membership of some organization. Broadly speaking, however, the distinction is that a trade dispute is a temporary stoppage entered into to obtain or to resist a change of conditions of employment.
The essence of a strike or lock-out is a refusal on the part of a number of workmen collectively or of an employer to renew contracts of employment except on certain changed conditions. This simple situation may be complicated by actual breaches of contract, as when a body of work-people leave work without notice, or by attempts on their part to prevent other persons from entering into contracts of service, or to persuade other persons to terminate or break their contracts. But such features as these, though common to many strikes, are not essential. The question of the legal position of strikes, and of the methods adopted for the conduct of strikes, is discussed below. Here it is only necessary to point out that strikes, as such, are incidents arising out of the modern relationship of free contract as between employers and workmen, and have little real analogy with the revolts of servile or semi-servile labour in ancient or medieval times.
Trade Disputes in the United Kingdom.
Since 1888 the board of trade have kept a record of strikes and lock-outs in the United Kingdom. The following table, based on the official returns published by that department, shows the number and importance of these stoppages in the United Kingdom from 1893 to 1907:
|Year.|| Number of
|Number of Work-people affected.||Aggregate|
It should be noted that by “indirectly affected” are meant the work-people employed in the same establishments as those on strike, who are thrown out of employment owing to the strike, but are not themselves engaged in it. The board of trade statistics do not take into account the persons employed in kindred trades who are indirectly affected.
An important thing to note about the above statistics is that in many years they are dominated by a few large disputes. Some of the larger cases are shown on the following page.
In 1907 487 of the recorded disputes (or about four-fifths of the whole number) accounted for less than one-third of the total time lost, and this, it is to be remembered, is after the very small disputes have been excluded.
By “aggregate duration” or “time lost” is meant the product of the number affected multiplied by the duration of the dispute in working days, with some allowance for those who have found work elsewhere or been replaced by others. Though this figure is the best general index of the importance of the disputes of each year, it is but a rough approximation to the time actually lost through disputes.
|Year.||Principal Disputes of the Year.||All other Disputes.|
|Trade and Locality.||Number of
| Number of
For example, if a strike causes a postponement or accumulation of work, the extra demand for labour, and the overtime worked after its conclusion, may partially compensate for the stoppage. On the other hand, if a dispute should drive away trade or cause the closing of works, it may lessen the field of employment for a long period after its termination, and such lost time cannot be taken into account in the estimates of “aggregate duration.”
For these reasons all estimates of wages lost through disputes are somewhat fallacious. The real importance of strikes lies less in the value of the actual time consumed by their duration, than in their indirect effects on the organization and effectiveness of the industry, and on the relations of employer to employed, and also in their reaction on the conditions of allied trades. The comparative insignificance of the actual loss to production owing to the mere loss of time caused by strikes will be seen from the fact that the total duration of strikes during the seven years 1901-1907, if spread over the entire adult male working population, would be equivalent to less than the loss of one-third of a day per head per annum. As a matter of fact, however, the loss owing to strikes is very unequally distributed over the industrial population. In large groups of industries, e.g. agriculture, strikes are of rare occurrence. In others, such as the building trades, they are frequent, but mostly small and local; while in mining they are not only frequent and often prolonged, but in many cases they involve large numbers of persons and extend over wide areas. Thus on an average of the seven years 1901-1907 there were 43 disputes annually in the building trades, and 133 in mining and quarrying, but the latter disputes have involved nearly seventeen times as many persons and had an aggregate duration nearly six times as great. Intermediate between these groups of trades is the metal, engineering and shipbuilding group, in which, more perhaps than in any other group, the importance of disputes varies according to the state of trade.
|Group of Trades.||Mean Annual||Percentage of
| Number of
|Mining and Quarrying||133||87,509||1,348,289||8.7||0.45|
|Metal, Engineering and Shipbuilding||95||22,470||534,549||1.6||0.13|
| All Industries, except
Seamen and Domestic Servants
The principal facts relating to the distribution of trade disputes among the more important groups of trades are given in the above table for the mean of the seven years 1901-1907.
It would be natural to expect that trade disputes would be most prevalent at or just after a turn in the tide of employment, when there is most room for bona-fide disagreement as to the conditions of the labour market. These are undoubtedly the most critical times in the relations of employers and employed, but the disturbing influence of accidental causes is too great to enable any regular law of variations in disputes to be established by statistical evidence. It is to be remembered that in recent years there has been a great development in the means available for avoiding stoppages by conciliatory action (see Arbitration and Conciliation), and this of itself would greatly complicate the task of tracing any correspondence between the prevalence of actual stoppages and the state of employment. Broadly it may be said that the great majority of upward and downward changes of wages are settled nowadays without strikes, and in many trades actual stoppages, instead of being a normal feature in the relations between employer and employed, are rather to be looked on as cases of accidental breakdown of the recognized machinery of negotiation.
The causes of disputes are of course very varied, embracing all the matters relating to conditions of Causes. employment on which differences may arise between employers and employed. Experience shows, however, that the great bulk of disputes relate to questions of wages, a much smaller proportion to hours of labour, and the balance to a large number of miscellaneous questions, such as the employment of persons or classes obnoxious to the strikers on the ground that they do not belong to their union, or have worked against its interests, or because they are held to have no “right” to the particular occupation on which they are employed, either on account of not having gone through the recognized training or of belonging to another trade. Among this class of strikes are to be included the so-called “demarcation” disputes between two bodies of workmen as to the limits of their trades, which frequently cause suspension of work by both groups, to the great inconvenience of the employer. Strikes are also not uncommon on the question of trade unionism pure and simple—i.e. to obtain or defend freedom to belong to a union, or to act through its agency in negotiations with employers. This question enters more or less as a factor into a large number of disputes, most usually, however, as a secondary cause or object, so that it does not appear prominently in the tabulation of causes in the board of trade statistics, which is based on principal causes only. Thus the formulated demands of the strikers are usually for improved conditions of work, the question of “recognition” of the trade union only arising incidentally when the parties attempt to negotiate as to these demands. The following table, showing the principal causes of disputes for the seven years 1901-1907, is based on the official statistics:—
| Percentage Proportion of Work-people directly affected by |
Disputes in the seven years, 1901-1907, relating to
The results of trade disputes are nearly as varied as their
causes. Sometimes a strike goes on until the employer is
Methods of Settlement and Results.
ruined or retires from business, and is only ended
by the permanent closing of the works; sometimes,
especially when trade is slack and the dispute
not large, the places of the men are almost
immediately filled, and the only economic result of the strike is to
replace one body of men by another without perceptible
interruption of business. There have been frequent cases of this
kind in strikes of unskilled labourers. Sometimes, on the other
hand, the demand for labour is so active that the whole of the
strikers immediately find work elsewhere, and the only
monic result is to transfer a body of men from one set of employers
to another with little or no interruption of their employment.
In years of active employment the building trades have afforded
many examples of this issue of a trade dispute. In other cases,
after a more or less prolonged stoppage, the disputes end by the
permanent “blocking” of an employer's establishment by a
union, or the permanent refusal of the employer to take back
any of his former employes. All these, however, are extreme,
and on the whole exceptional cases. The vast majority of
trade disputes are settled by mutual arrangement, and whether
such arrangement is wholly in favour of one or other party, or
involves a compromise, its terms provide that the whole or part
of the body of work-people whose labour was withheld or
excluded shall return on agreed conditions to their former
During the period 1901 to 1907 there were on an average 465 disputes settled annually, affecting directly and indirectly 156,800 work-people, and of these only 44 disputes, involving 15,700 work-people, were ended by the return to work of the strikers on their employers' terms without negotiation of any kind, and 69 disputes involving 5500 persons by replacement of the work-people or by the closing of works. All the remaining disputes, 352 in number, involving 135,600 persons, were concluded by negotiation between the parties either with, or more usually without, the aid of an outside mediator or arbitrator.
The following figures for 1901-1907 (which practically coincide with those of the previous decennial average) show the comparative results of trade disputes. The percentages refer to the proportion of work-people directly involved in disputes which resulted in the manner indicated:—
|Year.||In favor of
|In favor of
| Mean of
It is, of course, to be understood that the figures in the above table only relate to the immediate results, as determined by the relative extent to which one or other of the parties succeed in enforcing their demands. The question of the ultimate effect of the stoppages on the welfare of the parties or of the community generally is an entirely different question.
Organization of Strikes and Lock-outs.
In the great majority of cases strikes are organized and controlled by trade unions. It does not, however, follow from Influence of Trade Unions. this that the growth of trade unionism has always fostered and encouraged strikes, there being evidence that in many trades the strengthening of organization has had the effect, not only of restraining ill-considered partial stoppages, but also of preventing more serious dislocations of industry by providing a channel for the expression of grievances and a recognized means of negotiating with employers. Much of the evidence given before the Royal Commission on Labour (1891-1894) tended to show that the growth of trade unions has the effect on the whole of lessening the frequency, though of widening the area, of disputes. The commission, moreover, laid down that the stage of industry in which disputes are likely to be most frequent and bitter is that in which it is emerging from the “patriarchal” condition, in which each employer governs his establishment and deals with his own men with no outside interference, but has not fully entered into that other condition in which transactions take place between strong associations fully recognizing each other. In this state of industrial organization bitterness is often caused by the insistence of the work-people on the “recognition” of their unions, and by the treatment of these unions by the employers as outside parties interfering and causing estrangement between them and the work-people actually in their employ.
Probably next to the patriarchal stage, in which each factory is a happy family, the industrial conditions most favourable to peace are when a powerful trade union is face to face with a representative employers' association, both under the guidance of strong but moderate leaders and neither feeling it beneath its dignity to treat on equal terms with the other. When, on the other hand, some or all of these conditions are absent, the growth of combinations may tend to war rather than peace.
Whether, however, trade unionism tends generally to encourage or to restrain strikes, the organization and policy of all trade-unions, as at present constituted, are based on the possibility of a collective withdrawal from work in the last resort. Dispute pay is consequently the one universal form of trade-union benefit. Though, however, in most of the disputes recorded the strikers are financially supported by some trade union, this is by no means always the case. Many strikes have been entirely carried out without the instrumentality of a permanent combination, the work-people affected belonging to no union and merely improvising a more or less representative strike committee to control the movement. It is not uncommon, however, for a permanent union to originate in a strike of non-unionists. In other cases (e.g. in the London dock strike of 1889) an insignificant trade union may initiate a strike movement involving several thousands of labourers outside its membership. In the case quoted the membership of the Dockers' Union rose during the few weeks of strike from 800 to over 20,000. A conspicuous case of a widespread strike of workmen not belonging to a trade union was the South Wales coal-miners' dispute of 1898. Of the 100,000 men affected, probably not more than 12,000 belonged at the time to any trade union, but the workmen's representatives on the committee of the sliding scale (against which the movement was directed) formed the nucleus of a strike committee, and one result of the strike was the formation of the “South Wales Miners' Federation,” affiliated to the Miners' Federation. In the case of strikes of non-unionists, the strikers, of course, have to depend for their maintenance on their own resources or on the proceeds of public subscriptions. Frequently grants are made in their aid by sympathetic trade unions, and in the case of the South Wales dispute above referred to, several boards of guardians gave outdoor relief illegally to strikers who had exhausted their resources.
The majority of strikers, however, belong to trade unions and receive “dispute benefit,” which usually consists of a weekly payment of from 10s. to 15s. In 1906 the sum expended by 100 of the principal trade unions in support of men engaged in disputes was £212,000. In years of big disputes this sum has been largely exceeded.
Although most strikes are controlled by trade unions, cases are comparatively rare in this country in which the central committee of a trade union takes the initiative and directs its members to cease work. More usually a local strike movement is initiated by the local workmen, and the central committee is generally empowered by the rules to refuse its sanction to a strike and to close it at its discretion, but has no authority to order it. In many unions a ballot is taken of the members of the districts affected before a strike is authorized, and a two-thirds (or even greater) majority, either of members or of branches, in favour of a stoppage may be required before the sanction of the central executive is granted. Some unions in their rules draw a distinction between strikes to enforce new conditions (e.g. a rise of wages, a restriction of hours or of overtime) and strikes to oppose the introduction of new conditions by the employers, greater freedom being allowed to the local members in the case of “defensive” than of “offensive” strikes.
Sometimes also the executive committee, while refusing their official sanction to a strike, and declining to allow the funds of the society to be used to support the strikers, may tacitly permit a local committee to take what action it pleases and to collect funds for the purpose. Some strong unions, however, especially those which have entered into general agreements with employers' associations, not only refuse financial support to an unauthorized strike, but even expel from their society strikers who refuse to obey their order to return to work. The Boilermakers' and Iron Shipbuilders' Union has more than once taken drastic action of this kind, even to the extent of fining or superseding recalcitrant members and officials. In 1899 the National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives, which is a party to an agreement with the Employers' Federation (known as the “Terms of Settlement”) was fined £300 by the umpire under that agreement for failing to expel or to induce to return to work certain of their members who took part in a strike contrary to the provisions of the agreement. It sometimes happens, however, that the central committee of a trade union is not strong enough to withhold financial support even from an unauthorized strike.
When a strike has been authorized by the executive, the conduct of it is frequently entrusted to a “strike committee,” appointed ad hoc, one reason being that a strike of any considerable dimensions often affects members of several unions, so that the common action necessary in a conflict with employers can only be attained by a committee representing all the societies involved. A strike committee has often no power to draw on the funds of the unions represented, each of which pays dispute pay in accordance with its rules to its own members, the financial power of the strike committee being limited to the support of non-unionists out of any funds available for the purpose, or the collection and administration of funds in case of the exhaustion of the resources of any of the unions represented.
The financial support of a local or sectional strike imposes but little strain on the resources of a large society, but where a considerable proportion of the members are affected it is usual for a union to replenish its funds by imposing a “levy” or special contribution on members remaining at work. During the engineering dispute of 1897-1898 the levies imposed by the Amalgamated Society of Engineers rose to 2s. 6d. per week, and one of the main objects of the federated employers was to diminish the revenue obtained from this source by enlarging the area of the dispute.
When there is no regular provision for the financial support of strikers, or when this provision is exhausted, the strike leaders have a much more difficult task in preventing the return to work of some of their followers; and it is in these cases that intimidation and violence are most to be apprehended. In all strikes, however, except in the few cases in which the whole of the workmen in the trade are in the union, and the skill required is such that no new labour can enter the trade during the dispute, there is the possibility of the strikers being replaced by other labour, and the efforts of the strike organizers are largely directed to the prevention of this by all means in their power. The chief method employed has generally been that known as “picketing,” viz. the placing of members of the union to watch the approaches to the works or factories affected, to give information as to the strike to any workmen who attempt to enter, and to endeavour to dissuade them from accepting employment.
Other methods of preventing workmen from taking the place of strikers may also be adopted or attempted, ranging from the publication of information in leaflets or otherwise as to the existence of a dispute, or appeals to workmen to avoid the works affected, to systematic annoyance or intimidation of workmen who take or retain employment during a stoppage by threats or by actual violence and outrage.
The methods adopted by strikers and strike organizers naturally suggest the counter measures adopted by employers. To break down the resistance of a body of work-people supplied with a weekly strike allowance by a powerful trade union employers sometimes have recourse to some method of mutual indemnification by which the financially weaker of their number are temporarily subsidized by the stronger, whether through the machinery of a permanent employers' association or of an emergency committee. Employers' associations being usually composed of much smaller numbers than trade unions, are, as a rule, able to act in concert with greater secrecy and less formality than is possible in a workmen's union. Apart from any financial support which employers may guarantee their colleagues when attacked by a trade union, they have in some cases formed or aided organizations for the systematic provision of a reserve of “free labourers” available to replace men on strike. By “free labourers” is meant not necessarily non-unionist, but labourers pledged to work amicably with others whether members of a union or not. The Shipping Federation, an organization of shipowners and shipowners' associations which was formed in 1890 to combat the strikes than prevalent Free Labour. among seamen, arranged a system of shipping offices at which seamen could be engaged who were prepared to give a pledge that they would work with non-unionists. They also opened similar offices for shore labourers in some ports. Other independent agencies exist for supplying employers with labour during a dispute. It is not uncommon, in disputes in which there is any apprehension of intimidation or violence, for employers to board and lodge the imported work-people. Another method on which employers in recent years showed an increased tendency to rely was the institution of legal proceedings to restrain individual strikers or the union to which they belong from taking wrongful action injurious to their business. This led to the passage of the Trade Disputes Act of 1906 legalizing several forms of action by strikers which the courts had declared illegal (see below). There has been no attempt in England to induce the courts to restrain bodies of work-people from striking by injunction, as has been frequently done in American strikes affecting inter-state commerce. In many disputes the attitude of public opinion is of some importance in determining the results, and accordingly both sides frequently issue statements or manifestoes giving their versions of the difference, and in other ways (e.g. by an offer of arbitration) one party or the other endeavours to enlist public opinion on its side.
Public Action with regard to Strikes and Lock-outs.
Though the majority of labour disputes have little importance for third parties, stoppages of this kind sometimes acquire a special interest for the general public either by reason of the large number of work-people whose livelihood is affected, or of their indirect effects on employment in kindred trades, or of the danger and inconvenience that may be caused to the public, or of the fear that industry may be diverted abroad, or that a breach of the peace may be caused by attempts on the part of the strikers to coerce persons outside their combinations. For these and other reasons, strikes and lock-outs are usually regarded as a class of disputes in which legislative interference has more justification than in the case of other kinds of industrial and commercial differences.
Legislative action, with the view of providing alternative methods of adjusting labour difficulties, is discussed in the article Arbitration and Conciliation. It is there shown that in New Zealand, New South Wales, Western Australia, the commonwealth of Australia and Canada (for certain industries) alternative methods have been made compulsory, but there are indications that the great majority of employers and workmen in Great Britain would not be prepared for such measures, involving as they would the surrender by those directly concerned of their freedom to arrange these matters by voluntary agreement or by a trial of strength. Without the provision of some alternative by the state, it would be impossible in a free country to prohibit altogether the termination of labour contracts by collective agreement among work-people or employers.
The law, however, may and does restrict or prohibit the use of some of the methods of promoting or carrying on strikes which interfere with the liberty of other labourers, or inflict a wrong on employers, or injuriously affect the public interest.
The relation of the law in the United Kingdom to strikes and lock-outs is briefly as follows. Since the legislation of 1871 and 1875 Law of the United Kingdom dealing with Strikes. there has been no question of the legality of a strike as such, viz. of a combined abstention from work in order to influence the conditions of employment, but the method in which the strike is carried out may subject the strikers either to criminal or civil liabilities. In this connexion the chief questions of interest relate to the limits within which strikers may lawfully act for the purpose of inducing other persons not to take their places, and for the purpose of bringing indirect pressure to bear upon the employer by influencing others not to work for or deal with him; and, on the other hand, the limits within which employers may act in inducing other employers to abstain from employing workmen or members of a trade union with whom they have a dispute.
Strikers are necessarily liable to the general criminal law, but the Conspiracy and Protection of Property Act 1875 enacted that an agreement or combination by two or more persons to do, or procure to be done, any act in contemplation or furtherance of a trade dispute between employers and workmen shall not be indictable as a conspiracy if such act if committed by one person would not be punishable as a crime, namely, on indictment or on summary conviction with the statutory liability of imprisonment either absolutely or alternatively for some other punishment. The Trade Disputes Act 1906 extended the exemption to civil liability providing that an act done in pursuance of an agreement or combination in contemplation or furtherance of a trade dispute shall not be actionable unless the act if done without such agreement or combination would be actionable. This act also extended the definition of trade dispute so as to include disputes between workmen and workmen, and also to make it clear that the workmen referred to need not necessarily be in the employment of the employer with whom a trade dispute arises.
The act of 1875 does not affect any conspiracy punishable by statute nor the law relating to riot, unlawful assembly, breach of the peace or sedition, or any offence against the state or sovereign. The act also does not apply to seamen, or to apprentices to the sea service.
Sudden breach of contract of service in gas and water undertakings, or under circumstances likely to endanger human life or cause serious bodily injury, or expose valuable property to destruction or serious injury, are made punishable offences by special sections, but the miscellaneous provisions of the act are the most important in trade disputes. These provisions, as amended by the act of 1906, subject to a penalty of fine or imprisonment every person who, with a view to compel any other person to abstain from doing, or to do any act which such other person has a legal right to do or abstain from doing, wrongfully and without legal authority,
1. Uses violence to or intimidates such other person, or his wife or children, or injures his property; or
2. Persistently follows such other person about from place to place; or
3. Hides any tools, clothes or other property owned or used by such other person, or deprives him of or hinders him in the use thereof; or
4. Watches or besets the house or other place where such person resides, or works, or carries on business, or happens to be, or the approach to such house or place; or
5. Follows such other person with two or more other persons in a disorderly manner in or through any street or road.
It has, however, expressly provided by § 2 of the act of 1906 that “it shall be lawful for one or more persons, acting on their own behalf or on behalf of a trade union or of an individual employer or firm in contemplation or furtherance of a trade dispute, to attend at or near a house or place where a person resides or works or carries on business or happens to be, if they so attend merely for the purpose of peacefully obtaining or communicating information, or of peacefully persuading any person to work or abstain from working.”
The above amendment of the law introduced by the act of 1906 was intended to nullify the effect of a series of recent decisions (of which Lyons v. Wilkins, 1896 and 1899, was the most important), which interpreted the act of 1875 to mean that all picketing was illegal except such as was merely for the purpose of obtaining or communicating information. Until recently it was supposed that for wrongs committed in strikes only the individual wrong-doers
could be made responsible. But the decision of the House of Lords in the Taff Vale railway case (1901) showed that a trade union could be sued in tort for acts done by its agents within the scope of their authority and might be sued in its collective capacity, and execution of any damages recovered could be enforced against its general funds. The effect of this decision was nullified by § 4 (1) of the Trade Disputes Act of 1906, which expressly forbids any court to entertain any action against a trade union on behalf of all the members of the union in respect of any tortious act alleged to have been committed by or on behalf of the union.
The question of the effectiveness or otherwise of strikes and lock-outs for the purpose of influencing the conditions of employment is part of the wider question of the economic effect of combinations, the strike or lock-out being only one of many methods adopted by combinations of workmen or employers to enforce their demands. (This matter is discussed in the article Trade Unions.) Apart, however, from the question of the extent of the immediate advantage, if any, which one party or the other is able to obtain from a stoppage, we have to consider generally the economic effects of strikes and lock-outs to the community as a whole. Stoppages of work are in their nature wasteful. Time, which might be employed in work yielding wages to the work-people and profits to the employers, is lost never to be recovered, while many forms of fixed capital deteriorate during idleness. In attempting, however, to estimate the utility or disadvantage of strikes and lock-outs, whether to the parties themselves or to the industrial community as a whole, it is insufficient to take into account the value of the wages and profits foregone during the stoppage, and to balance these against the gains made by one party or the other. Attempts have often been made to measure the loss or gain due to strikes in this way, but even as applied to particular stoppages, looked at purely from the point of view of one or other of the parties involved, the method is unsatisfactory. On the one hand, the time and work apparently lost may be afterwards partially recouped by overtime, or some of the strikers may be replaced by others, or may themselves find work elsewhere, so that the actual interruption of production may be less than would appear from the magnitude of the dispute. On the other hand, the total loss due to the stoppage may be augmented by the diversion of trade for a longer or shorter period after the resumption of work. Again, the ultimate effect of the forced concession of excessive demands may be damaging instead of advantageous to the nominal victors, by contracting the field of employment or by lowering the efficiency of the labour. If, however, the arithmetical computation of the value of the time lost compared with the value of the terms gained is an unsatisfactory test of the benefit or disadvantage of a particular strike to the parties concerned, it is wholly fallacious as a method of estimating the social utility or otherwise of strikes and lock-outs as instruments for effecting changes in the condition of employment. For any satisfactory consideration of this wider question we must look not merely to the actual strike, but to the whole process of free bargaining between employers and organized bodies of work-people, of which, as already shown, the strike may be regarded as merely an untoward incident. The actual cessation of work is a symptom that for the time there is a deadlock, and frequency of such cessations in any trade is a sign of the imperfection of means of negotiation. In many trades in which both employers and workmen are strongly organized various forms of machinery have been brought into existence for the purpose of minimizing the chance of stoppages (see Arbitration and Conciliation). But wherever there is free combined negotiation there is always in the background the possibility of combined stoppage. This being understood, the question of the utility of strikes as an industrial method resolves itself into the questions: (1) Whether the process of settling the terms of employment by agreements affecting considerable bodies of work-people and employers is superior to the method of individual settlements of labour contracts, or, at least, whether its advantages are sufficient to outweigh the cost of strikes and lock-outs; (2) whether free collective negotiation could be replaced with advantage by any other method of settling the conditions of employment of bodies of work-people, which would dispense with the necessity of testing the labour market by a suspension of work.
1. The first of these questions is virtually the question of the advantages and disadvantages to the community of combinations of workmen and employers, which is discussed at length in the article Trade Unions. As regards the question of the direct cost of strikes and lock-outs, it is proper to remember that individual bargaining does not do away with stoppages; in fact, the aggregate amount of time lost in the process of adjusting ten thousand separate labour contracts may be considerable—possibly not less than that consumed on an average in effecting a single agreement involving the whole body, even if the chance of a collective stoppage of work occurring during the process of combined bargaining be taken into account.
While, then, the strikes and lock-outs which accompany the system of combined bargaining are rightly to be described as wasteful, this is not so much because of the excessive amount of working time which they consume, as because of the disturbance and damage done to industry by the violent breach of continuity—a breach which may dislocate trade to an extent quite disproportionate to the actual loss of time involved, and the fear of which undoubtedly affects the minds of possible customers and hampers enterprise on the part of employers. The extent of the injury directly inflicted on the consuming public by a strike varies greatly in different cases, being at its maximum in the case of industries having the total or partial monopoly of supplying some commodity or service of prime necessity, e.g. gas-works, water-works, railway or tramway service; and least in the case of a local stoppage in some widely-spread manufacturing or constructive industry open to active competition from other districts.
In speaking above of the loss occasioned by strikes and lock-outs attention has only been paid to the effects of the actual stoppage as such, and not to the particular methods adopted by the strikers to make the stoppage effective. The evils arising from the practice of intimidation or violence towards other workmen, or from the increase of class-hatred and bitterness engendered by the strike between employer and employed, are patent to all, though they cannot be estimated from an economic point of view.
2. As to the second question, viz. the possibility of maintaining combined negotiation, but of substituting some better method than strikes of resolving a deadlock, it is hardly necessary to say that so far as such substitution can be voluntarily carried out with the assent of both parties, whether by the establishment of wages boards or joint-committees, or by agreements to refer differences to third parties, the result is an economic as well as a moral advantage.
But the increasing adoption of these voluntary expedients for diminishing the chance of industrial friction lends no countenance to the expectation that a satisfactory universal substitute for strikes and lock-outs can be devised except at the price of economic liberty. Compulsory reference of disputes to a state tribunal cannot be reconciled with freedom of voluntary negotiations.
Unless, then, we are prepared for a scheme of compulsory regulation of industry by the state, strikes and lock-outs must be accepted as necessary evils, but their frequency may be greatly diminished with the improvement of means of information as to the true condition of the labour market, and the influences by which it is determined. Many disputes arising purely from mismanagement and misunderstanding are wholly avoidable. While there is no warrant for expecting the total abolition of strikes and lock-outs, it is not unreasonable. to hope that the spread of education and the means of rapidly obtaining information, the improvement of class relations, and the adoption, where practicable, of conciliatory methods, may gradually tend to confine actual stoppages to the comparatively few cases in which there is a genuine and serious difference of principle between the parties.
Important British Strikes and Lock-outs.
Some of the more important labour disputes which have occurred in various groups of trades in the United Kingdom are noted below. With regard to the statistics given, it may here be noted that although for the sake of brevity it is stated in some places that a certain number of men were idle for a specified number of days, it must not be supposed that in all cases the whole number affected were idle for the whole number of days.
Coal-Mining is an industry which has always been more convulsed by labour disputes than any other, probably owing to the violent oscillations of prices and wages, and to the varied and ever-changing conditions under which work is carried on. Several of the earliest recorded disputes among coal-miners, however, referred to the term of engagement rather than the rate of wages. In 1765 the Northumberland miners struck for several weeks unsuccessfully against the system of a yearly bond of service, which was then prevalent. In 1810 a strike of seven weeks in the same district against a variation of the yearly bond ended in a compromise. Turbulent strikes in Northumberland and Durham are also recorded in 1831 and 1832; the former, in which the men were successful, for a general removal of grievances, and the latter, in which they were defeated, for the maintenance of the union. These strikes were attended with violence and destruction of property. In 1844 still another prolonged strike took place in the north of England to enforce alterations in the terms of the yearly bond. From 30,000 to 40,000 men were out for 18 weeks. New men, however, were obtained, and there were many evictions. In 1864 widespread strikes took place in South Yorkshire and South Staffordshire, the one for an advance and the other against a reduction of wages. The Yorkshire strike is said to have affected 37,000 men, and the Staffordshire strike 20,000. The latter lasted over four months.
The rapid fall in the price of coal after the abnormal inflation in 1871-1872 produced a series of obstinate strikes and lock-outs arising out of reductions of wages, in which the men were usually defeated. The South Wales miners, to the number of 70,000, were out for 11 weeks in 1873 and for 19 weeks in 1875, the latter dispute being a combined strike and lock-out, and leading to the formation of the first of the series of sliding scales under which the industry in South Wales was regulated until the end of the year 1902. In 1877 the West Lancashire miners (30,000) were out for 6 weeks, and the Northumberland men (14,000) for 8 weeks. The last-mentioned dispute was terminated by an arbitration award in the miner's favour. In 1879, 70,000 Durham men were out for 6 weeks, the dispute being terminated by an arbitration award giving half the reduction claimed by the coal-owners. The introduction of sliding scales in Durham and Northumberland in 1877 and 1879 did something to preserve peace in those districts, though the Durham scale did not prevent the dispute of 1879 mentioned above. Both scales, however, were terminated by the men in 1889 and 1887 respectively. In 1880-1881 the Lancashire coal-mining industry was stopped for 7 weeks by a strike of 50,000 to 60,000 men against “contracting out” of the Employers' Liability Act of 1880.
The fall of prices after 1890 led to a renewal of disputes. In 1892 there was a prolonged stoppage in the Durham coalfield, 75,000 men being out for about 11 weeks.
In 1893 the greatest dispute took place that has ever been recorded in the coal-mining industry, affecting the whole area covered by the Miners' Federation, viz. Yorkshire, Lancashire and Cheshire, and the Midlands. During the years 1891 and 1892 most of the districts covered by the Miners' Federation submitted to reductions of wages varying from 15% off the standard in Durham to 42½% in South Wales and 50% in Scotland, where the previous rise had been greatest. The Miners' Federation, however, refused to recognize the principle that wages should follow prices, and put forward instead the theory that a minimum or “living wage” should be fixed and prices left to adjust themselves to this rate. They declined altogether to agree to any reduction, and so strong was their combination that the coal-owners deferred any definite action until the middle of 1893, when they considered that some reduction was absolutely necessary to enable the trade to be carried on. On the 30th of June they passed a resolution after a conference with the men, demanding a reduction of 25% off the “standard” (equivalent to about 18% off current rates of wages), and offered arbitration as an alternative; but the federation absolutely refused any reduction, and the contest began. Shortly before the beginning of the dispute Northumberland and Durham had become affiliated to the federation, but these districts were not threatened by a reduction, and they seceded from the federation sooner than strike, as demanded by that body to obtain the return of the reductions sustained since 1891. These districts consequently remained at work throughout the dispute, as well as Scotland and (except for a part of August and September) South Wales, reaping the advantage of the increased prices and wages resulting from the restriction of production due to the stoppage.
Within the federation districts proper there were some localities in which no notices of reduction were posted, but the policy of the Miners' Federation was to make the stoppage as universal as possible, and all its members were required to leave work. The Cumberland miners, however, though members of the federation, were for special reasons permitted to continue at work. By the middle of August nearly 300,000 men were idle, or nearly half the total number of coal-miners in the United Kingdom. The early stages of the dispute were uneventful, but as the funds of the unions affiliated to the federation became exhausted, and the pinch of distress was felt, feeling ran high, and in some districts deplorable acts of violence were committed. At Featherstone, in Yorkshire, an attack was made on a colliery, in the course of which the military fired on the rioters, two of whom were killed.
The decision of the federation requiring all its members to leave work, whether under notice of reduction or not, had from the beginning met with considerable opposition in certain districts, and this opposition naturally grew stronger as the distress caused by the stoppage increased. At the end of August a ballot on the question showed a small majority still in favour of a universal stoppage, but the experience of another month led to a formal reversal of policy in this respect, a meeting of the federation at Chesterfield on the 29th of September deciding to allow all men to return to work who could do so at the old rates of pay, such men to pay a levy of 1s. a day in aid of those still on strike. Up to October no step was taken towards a settlement beyond an offer on the part of the miners on the 22nd of August to pledge themselves not to ask for an advance until prices reached the 1890 level, and also to assist the employers to prevent underselling—an offer which was rejected by the coal-owners. On the 9th of October a meeting of the representatives of the parties was held at Sheffield, at the invitation of the mayors of six important towns affected, but without definite result, beyond leading to an amended proposal on the part of the coal-owners for an immediate 15% reduction, and the regulation of future changes in wages by a conciliation board. The men, however, still refused all reduction, and during October a number of coal-owners, especially in the Midlands, threw open their pits at the old rate of wages.
A further advance towards a compromise was made by the owners on the 25th of October, when they offered that the proposed 15% reduction should be returned to the men in the event of the conciliation board (with an independent chairman) deciding in their favour. In consequence of this offer a meeting was held between the representatives of the owners and the men in London on the 3rd and 4th of November, but without arriving at a settlement. Matters had now reached a deadlock, and accordingly, on the 13th of November, the government addressed an invitation to both parties to be represented at a conference under the presidency (without a casting vote) of Lord Rosebery, who was then foreign secretary. The conference took place at the foreign office on the 17th of November, and resulted in a settlement, the men to resume work at once at the old rate of wages, to be continued until the 1st of February 1894, from which date wages were to be regulated by a conciliation board, consisting of fourteen representatives of the coal-owners' and miners' federations respectively, with a chairman mutually elected, or in default nominated by the Speaker of the House of Commons, the chairman to have a casting vote.
This agreement terminated the dispute. The Speaker appointed Lord Shand as chairman of the board. In the middle of the following year, by mutual arrangement, the constitution of the conciliation board was modified so as to provide for limits below and above which wages should not move during a definite period. These limits have since been modified from time to time, but (with a gap from July 1896 to January 1899) the conciliation board continued to regulate miners' wages in the federated districts, and its formation has been followed by the institution of conciliation boards in most of the other important centres of the mining industry.
During the summer of 1893 there was also a strike of about 90,000 men in South Wales, which lasted about 5 weeks. 1894 saw a prolonged dispute in the Scottish coal-mining industry, the men vainly attempting to resist the fall of wages which followed the fall of coal prices from the abnormal level to which they had risen during the English stoppage of the previous year; 70,000 men were out from 15 to 16 weeks. In 1898 there was an unsuccessful stoppage lasting 25 weeks in South Wales and Monmouth affecting 100,000 men, for the abolition or amendment of the sliding scale agreement. In 1902 the dissatisfaction of the pit-lads with a reduction of wages awarded by the conciliation board threw a large body of miners idle for some time in various parts of the “federated districts.” In 1906 a series of local strikes occurred in South Wales in order to compel non-unionists to join the Miners' Union, while in 1910 strikes in the Tonypandy district led to much rioting.
The record of strikes and lock-outs in the Cotton Trade goes back to a time before the repeal of the Combination Laws. Thus the year 1810 was marked by lock-outs of spinners in Lancashire and Glasgow, the former caused by a strike in the Stalybridge district to enforce Manchester rates of wages, and the latter having for its object the break-up of the men's union. In both cases the employers were successful. In 1812 there was a stoppage of
40,000 looms in Scotland for some weeks, arising out of a wages dispute, in which the men were beaten, their union broken up, and their leaders imprisoned. Another unsuccessful strike attended with imprisonment of the men's leaders took place among the Manchester spinners in 1818, when 20,000 to 30,000 men were out for three or foui months to obtain an advance of wages and reduction of hours. The year 1853 was one of great disturbance in the Lancashire cotton-spinning trade. For seven months 20,000 to 30,000 spinners in the Preston district were engaged in an unsuccessful strike for an advance of wages, and in the same year there was a stoppage of 65,000 spinners in Lancashire generally. The period of bad trade culminating in 1879 was marked by bitter disputes in the cotton trade, the men vainly trying to resist the reductions of wages which marked that period. Partial disputes at Bolton in 1877, and Oldham in 1878 were followed in the latter year by a general stoppage in north and north-east Lancashire affecting 70,000 persons for 9 weeks. The general dispute was attended with violent riots, and 68 persons were tried and convicted. The next important dispute was a strike of 18,000 weavers in north-east Lancashire in 1884 against a reduction of wages, which ended after 8 weeks in a compromise. Next year there was a strike at Oldham against a reduction of wages affecting 24,000 persons in the spinning and weaving branches. The dispute ended in a compromise, half the proposed reduction of 10% being agreed to. In 1892-1893 a great dispute in the cotton-spinning trade took place, 50,000 persons in the Oldham and surrounding districts being out for 20 weeks against a proposed reduction of 5%. The dispute was ended by the so-called “Brooklands Agreement,” which provided for a reduction of about 3%, and also contained rules for the settlement of future disputes by conciliatory methods. These rules do not, however, provide for a final appeal in cases of deadlock. A considerable strike in 1910, brought about by a dispute as to the allocation of duties of a single operative, was terminated by the intervention of the board of trade.
The Building Trades have in most years been characterized by a large number of local and sectional disputes sometimes affecting comparatively small bodies of men. Often, however, all branches of building trades in a given district have been stopped simultaneously, but few of the building trade stoppages have affected a sufficiently large body of men to be noticed here as important disputes except in London. The years 1810 and 1816 were marked by strikes on the part of the London carpenters, the first being a successful attempt to obtain a rise in wages, the second an unsuccessful resistance to a fall. In 1833 an important dispute laid idle the building trades of Liverpool and Manchester. The dispute arose out of the objection of the men to the contract system, and led to a general lock-out to compel the men to leave their unions, in which the employers were generally successful. In 1859-1860 a partial strike in London against the discharge of a delegate led to a lock-out of 25,000 building operatives for 7 months, and in 1861-1862 a renewed strike for a reduction of hours resulted in a compromise. In 1872 there was a successful strike of 10,000 London building operatives for a rise of wages, a shortening of hours being also obtained. In 1891 there was an unsuccessful strike of carpenters in London for a rise in wages, affecting 9000 men and lasting 24 weeks.
Engineering, Shipbuilding and Metal Trades.—Among the most noteworthy disputes in the engineering trade was that in 1852, soon after the formation of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers by the fusion of a number of local and sectional societies. The dispute originated in Lancashire, and turned on demands from the men for the abolition of piecework and overtime, the dispute being further complicated by questions relating to the employment of labourers in working machines. The men ceased working overtime, and were locked out to the number of over 13,000 for periods ranging from three to nine months. The men were completely beaten, and many engineering shops required the men to leave the union before resuming work. In 1871 a strike of 8000 to 9000 men in the north of England for a reduction of hours from 59 to 54 was successful after a stoppage of 20 weeks, and led to the general introduction of the nine-hour-day throughout the country.
In 1897-1898 there was a widespread and prolonged dispute turning on questions of hours and of freedom of management of works, which lasted 29 weeks and affected 47,500 men. The immediate occasion of the stoppage was a demand on the part of the men for an eight-hour-day in London workshops, but this issue was soon overshadowed in importance by other questions relating to the freedom of employers from interference by the unions in the management of their business, especially in such matters as piece-work, overtime, selection and training of workmen to work machines, employment of unionists and non-unionists, and other matters affecting the relations of employer and employed generally throughout the United Kingdom. For some time previous to the general dispute there had been a growing dissatisfaction on the part of the employers with the encroachments of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers and other societies in kindred trades on matters affecting the management of business, which the employers considered to be outside the legitimate functions of trade unions. In the absence of any general combination of employers, the unions were able to bring their whole force to bear on employers in particular localities,
with the result that the stringency of the conditions and restrictions enforced varied very greatly in different districts, according to the comparative strength of the unions in those districts. Employers complained of being subject to vexatious restrictions not imposed on their competitors, and they declared that they were severely handicapped as compared with America and other countries, where engineering employers had much more complete control over the management of their business. In 1895 was formed the Federation of Engineering Employers by the coalition of the local associations on the Clyde and in Belfast, and this federation gradually spread to other districts until it finally embraced the United Kingdom generally. The policy of the federation was to defeat the attempts of the unions to put pressure on particular individuals or localities by the counter-threat of a general lock-out of trade unionists over a wide area in support of the employers thus attacked. The lock-out notices were framed in such a way that 25% of the trade unionists employed were to be discharged at the end of each week until the whole were locked out. Lock-out notices of this kind were twice—posted in August of 1896 and in the spring of 1897—before the general dispute, but in each case the dispute was averted before the notices took effect. But the conferences which took place in April 1897 between the representatives of employers and unions led to no agreement except on comparatively unimportant points. When, therefore, in June 1897 the London employers, threatened with a strike for an eight-hour-day, put their case in the hands of the Employers' Federation, and the federation determined to support them by a general lock-out, it was understood that this lock-out was enforced, not only in order to resist the reduction of hours in London, but to obtain a settlement of all the important questions at issue between the federation and the unions as a whole. The engineers replied to the notices of a gradual lock-out by withdrawing the whole of their members from work in federated workshops. At first the lock-out affected some 25,000 men employed in 250 establishments, but by the close of the dispute the number of employers involved had risen to 702, and of work-people to 47,500.
Until November no meeting between the parties took place, but on the 24th of November and following days a conference was held in pursuance of negotiations with the parties by the board of trade, each side having its own chairman. The main point for which the employers contended was freedom on the part of each employer to introduce into his workshop any condition of labour under which any members of the trade unions were working in any of the federated workshops at the beginning of the dispute, except as regards rates of wages and hours of labour. Arising out of this general principle of freedom of management, a number of special points were discussed and subsequently embodied in separate articles of the provisional agreement, and a system of local and general conferences for the settlement and avoidance of future disputes was also included therein. The employers absolutely declined to grant any reduction of hours of labour. The negotiations dragged on for a considerable time, and were at one time broken off owing to the refusal of the men to ratify the provisional agreement. By the end of the year, however, it was evident that the position of the men was very much weakened owing to the depletion of their funds, while that of the employers was stronger than ever. On the 13th of January the London demand for an eight-hour-day was formally withdrawn, and after some further negotiation, and the embodiment in the agreement of the notes and explanations published by the employers, a settlement was arrived at and ratified by more than a two-thirds majority of the men, the final agreement being signed on the 28th of January.
The victory of the employers was complete, but the use made of it was moderate, and the relations between employers and workmen in the engineering trades on the whole improved, all matters likely to cause dispute being now amicably discussed between the representatives of the respective associations.
In 1866 a strike of 3000 shipwrights on the Clyde led to a general lock-out of shipbuilders in the district. In 1877, 25,000 iron shipbuilders on the Clyde struck for 23 weeks for an advance of wages, the dispute being settled by arbitration.
In 1906 the shipbuilders in the Clyde district struck work for about 7 weeks to obtain an advance of wages of 1s. 6d. a week. The dispute ended in their defeat, about 15,000 men being affected.
In 1891 a prolonged dispute took place between the plumbers and engineers engaged in shipyards on the Tyne as to “demarcation”; 2460 men were idle from 7 to 8 weeks, the result being the drawing up of an elaborate list of apportionment applicable to the Tyne and Wear. The shipbuilding trades have from early times been marked by numerous “demarcation” disputes, mostly of a local character, as to the limits of the work of the various bodies of work-people—e.g. between shipwrights and boatbuilders; shipwrights and joiners; shipwrights and boilermakers; joiners and cabinetmakers; boilermakers and engineers; engineers and plumbers; engineers and brassfinishers. Some of these matters are now dealt with by joint trade boards (see Arbitration and Conciliation).
Among the more important disputes in the iron trade are to be mentioned a strike and lock-out of 30,000 ironworkers in Staffordshire in 1865, in which the men were beaten after a costly stoppage of 18 weeks; an unsuccessful strike of 12,000 ironworkers in Middlesbrough for 18 weeks in 1866; and an unsuccessful strike of 20,000
ironworkers in Staffordshire for 4 weeks in 1883 against a reduction of wages, attended by rioting and destruction of plant.
The nailmakers in the Dudley district engaged in widespread disputes in 1840, 1881 and 1887. The strike of 1840 against a reduction of wages was unsuccessful. Those of 1881 and 1887 were for advance of wages; the former was wholly, the latter partially successful. The women chain-makers of Cradley Heath successfully struck in 1910 for an increase of wages.
Other Trades.—Among other noteworthy disputes are to be mentioned:—
1. A successful strike of 14,000 persons in the Leicester hosiery trade in 1819 for an advance in wages.
2. An unsuccessful strike of 13,000 or more tailors in London in 1834 for a rise of wages and reduction of hours, lasting several months.
3. A dispute among the pottery workmen in the Midlands in 1836 against the terms of yearly hiring, leading to a general lock-out of over 15,000 men for 10 weeks, which ended in the defeat of the men.
4. A series of disputes among agricultural labourers in 1872-1874 for increases of wages and other improvements in the conditions of employment, in which the men were mostly successful. These disputes, which are almost the only widespread disputes recorded in agriculture, evoked much public interest.
5. In 1889 there was a prolonged strike of dock and waterside labourers in London for a rise in wages and other alterations in conditions of employment, which was successful, mainly through the financial support received from the Australian trade unions and from the general public. It began on the 13th of August with a small local dispute at the West India Docks about the wages earned for discharging a certain cargo, but spread rapidly among all classes of dock labourers in the port, who took the opportunity of demanding an increase in the rate of pay for time work from 5d. to 6d., the abolition of contract and piece-work, and the remedy of other grievances. They were joined by the stevedores and lightermen, who came out “in sympathy,” though the latter class of men soon formulated a set of demands of their own. Employment was brisk, the weather fine, and the public sympathetic, and in a few days' time not less than 16,000 men were idle. For the most part they were unconnected with trade unions which could give them strike pay, but during the month that the strike lasted the public at home and abroad subscribed nearly £50,000 in support of the strikers. Of this total over £30,000 came from Australia, where from the 29th of August onwards a series of meetings were held for the purpose of raising funds to assist the London labourers. The Australian subscriptions practically decided the issue of the contest. On the very day on which the first Australian meeting was held at Brisbane the leaders of the strike attempted by means of a “no-work manifesto” to widen the area of the dispute and cause a general stoppage of industry. Though this attempt was soon abandoned it caused considerable alarm and threatened to alienate public sympathy from the men. Early in September many of the wharfingers made separate settlements with the strikers, and the shipowners attempted to put pressure on the dock companies to allow them to employ labour direct within the docks. The apprehensions of the public led to the formation of a conciliation committee at the Mansion House, including the Lord Mayor, the bishop of London, Cardinal Manning, Sir John Lubbock (Lord Avebury), and others, who mediated between the strikers and the dock directors, with the result that after one abortive attempt at a settlement, the terms of which were rejected by the men, an agreement was arrived at on the 14th of September, under which the dock labourers obtained the greater part of their demands. From the 4th of November the rate of hourly wages for time work was raised to 6d., with 8d. overtime; contract work was converted into piece-work, with a minimum rate of 6d., and other points in dispute were settled. Though during the strike cases of intimidation and violence on the part of pickets were by no means absent, the police-court charges arising out of the dispute were remarkably few. By the end of the year the Dock Labourers' Union (which had previously been known as the Tea Operatives and General Labourers' Union, and at the beginning of the dispute numbered about 800 members) had increased its membership in London to over 20,000—a number which was afterwards further increased by the formation of provincial branches. In London, however, the membership rapidly declined during the following years of depression of trade. The stevedores, who, as above remarked, came out “in sympathy” with the dock labourers, returned to work as soon as the latter were satisfied, but the lightermen's demands were adjusted by an award of Lord Brassey before they returned to work.
6. The organization of labour at the principal ports which followed this dispute led to a series of struggles between the new unions and the shipowners, who formed an organization called the Shipping Federation Limited, and successfully established their right to employ “free labour” in opposition to the unions of seamen and other bodies of labourers. The last of these disputes on a large scale occurred at Hull in 1893, and ended in the defeat of the dock labourers after a stoppage affecting 11,000 men for 6 weeks.
7. In 1895 a general stoppage of 46,000 boot and shoe operatives was terminated, after a stoppage of 6 weeks, by a settlement effected through the board of trade. The issues of this dispute were of
interest as involving the scope and limits of the functions of trade union action and of arbitration in relation to the management of business. The terms of settlement, which were of an elaborate character, are still in operation.
8. Two prolonged disputes at Lord Penrhyn's slate quarries in North Wales in 1896 and 1900 attracted public notice from the obstinacy with which the contests were conducted on both sides. About 2500 work-people were affected, and the questions at issue were the recognition of the men's combination and the remedy of a number of alleged grievances, including the abolition of the contract system. After 48 weeks' stoppage, during which the board of trade vainly tried to mediate, the first dispute was ended by a compromise; but in 1900 another struggle began which was persisted in by many of the men until November 1903, but without success.
Below is given a brief account of the most recent strike statistics in the principal countries other than the United Kingdom, except those of the United States, which are dealt with in a separate section.
France.—Detailed statistics of strikes and lock-outs in France have been published annually since 1890 by the French office du travail. The following are the figures for 1900-1906:—
|Year.|| Number of
| Mean of
The principal groups of industries affected by disputes were in 1900 and 1901 the transport, involving 47,125 and 36,636 work-people respectively; in 1902 the mining and quarrying, involving 119,181 work-people; in 1903 the textile manufacturing industry, involving 76,376 work-people; in 1904 the textile manufacturing industry, involving 76,293 work-people; the transport, involving 69,293 work-people, and the agricultural, forestry and fishing group, involving 52,333 work-people; in 1905 the building and metal trade groups of industries, involving about 32,000 work-people in each; and in 1906 the building, metal and mining quarrying groups of industries, involving about 90,000 work-people in each.
|Number of strikes||117||73||70||81||133||220||227|
|Number of work-people directly affected by strikes||43,814||10,477||7,649||12,375||75,672||26,858||46,908|
In the French statistics of causes of disputes a dispute due to several causes is entered as many times as there are causes, not merely under its principal cause, as in the United Kingdom statistics. It would be possible to summarize the relative prevalence of different groups of causes of trade disputes by the numbers involved, but it is sufficient to say that the results during the period 1900 to 1906 were as follows: 12% in favour of the work-people, 25% in favour of the employers, and 63% compromised. A general strike of railway employees all over France in 1910 threatened to spread to other industries and caused an acute political crisis, but the energetic measures taken by M. Briand's government, especially the issue of mobilization orders to all the reservists on the affected lines, brought about its collapse in little more than a week.
Germany.—Before 1899 there were no official statistics of strikes and lock-outs throughout the German Empire, but certain figures were collected and published by the committee of the “Gewerkschaften,” or Social Democratic trade unions, in their Correspondenzblatt. These figures, however, were admittedly incomplete. From 1899, however, statistics have been published by the German imperial statistical office for strikes and lock-outs other than in agriculture.
The figures from 1901 are summarized below:—
|Year.||Number of Disputes
terminating in the year.
| Number of Work-people |
directly and indirectly
In 1905, 232,425 work-people employed in the mining and smelting group were involved in disputes, and in 1906 and 1907 102,888 and 90,890 work-people employed in the building group of trades were so involved.
In the German statistics disputes are counted more than once if due to more than one separate cause. Of the total number of disputes tabulated in this way during the period 1901-1907, 56% were on questions of wages, 15% on questions of hours, 10% on questions of the employment of particular classes of persons and the balance on questions of working rules and other causes.
During the same period 20% of the disputes were settled in favour of the work-people, 45% in favour of the employers, and 35% were compromised.
Belgium.—The following figures are based on reports published by the Belgian labour department.
The table given below shows the number of strikes and the number of work-people directly affected by strikes in each of the years 1901 to 1907.
The mining industry and the transport trades accounted for 20,813 and 15,063 of the work-people affected in 1901, and the mining industry and the textile industry accounted for 59,168 and 7975 of the work-people in 1905. In 1906 the mining industry accounted for 12,189 of the work-people affected, and in 1907 the transport trades accounted for 10,660, the mining industry for 9626 and the textile industry for 7961 of the work-people affected. The causes of the strikes during the period were mainly questions of wages, nearly 80% of the work-people being involved on this account, and the results were mainly in favour of the employers, viz. 71%. Of the total number of work-people affected by strikes in the period 1901-1905 68% returned to work on employers' terms without negotiation. From 1906 particulars are given of lock-outs and of the number of work-people indirectly affected by strikes.
In 1906 five lock-outs were recorded, all in the textile industry, affecting 23,621 work-people, and in 1907 four lock-outs were recorded affecting 16,274 work-people (one of these lock-outs affecting 16,000 work-people employed in the transport trade).
The number of work-people indirectly affected by strikes was 11,468 in 1906 and 19,248 in 1907.
Sweden.—The Swedish labour department has published statistics of strikes since 1903. There were in 1903 142 disputes directly affecting 22,568 work-people, in 1904 215 disputes directly affecting 11,485 work-people, in 1905 175 disputes directly affecting 32,368 work-people, in 1906 277 disputes directly affecting 18,612 work-people, and in 1907 298 disputes directly affecting 21,722 work-people. Of the 1107 disputes recorded in the five years 691 were caused by questions of wages. Of the 1107 disputes 362 ended in favour of the work-people, 272 in favour of the employers, and 395 in a compromise. In 1909 there was a great national strike involving almost every industry, and lasting some six months.
Denmark.—The statistics of disputes in Denmark are published by the Danish statistical bureau. During the period 1900 to 1906 the number of disputes varied from 57 in 1901 to 89 in 1906, and the number of work-people directly affected, from 7606 (involved in 68 disputes) in 1900 to 1148 (involved in 43 disputes) in 1903. The number of work-people shown is the maximum number affected at any one time, but the number involved is not obtained for all disputes. Of the total number of disputes which took place during the seven years' period 1900-1906, viz. 518, 53% were caused by questions of wages, 3% by hours of labour, 7% by working arrangements, rules, &c., 6% by questions of trade unionism, and 31% by other causes or causes unknown.
Holland.—Statistics of disputes in Holland are published by the central statistical bureau. During the three years 1904, 1905 and 1906 the number of disputes recorded were 102, 132 and 181 respectively, and the number of work-people directly affected 11,186, 7364 and 18,858 respectively, but the number of work-people affected was not ascertained in every dispute. The causes of disputes are measured by the number of days lost by the work-people directly affected (though these particulars were not obtained for all disputes), and the days lost by disputes which had more than one cause are included under each cause or object. In 1904 25%, in 1905 53% and in 1906 51% of the time lost was caused by questions of wages. The results of disputes in the three years are shown in the following table:—
|Result.||Number of Disputes.|
|In favour of work-people||24||25||35|
|In favour of employers||43||49||63|
|Indeterminate or unknown||4||3||7|
The figure for 1906 does not include 8 “sympathetic” disputes which came to an end when the original dispute terminated in connexion with which they occurred.
Austria.—Particulars of strikes and lock-outs are published by the Austrian labour department.
The following table shows the number of strikes, the number of strikers and non-strikers affected, the number of working days lost by strikers, and the number of lock-outs and work-people involved in each of the seven years 1900 to 1906.
|Number of strikes||303||270||264||324||414||686||1,083|
|Number of work-people taking part in strikes||105,128||24,870||37,471||46,215||64,227||99,591||153,688|
|Number of non-strikers affected||7,737||2,846||6,354||5,245||9,301||11,340||13,098|
|Number of working days lost by strikers||3,483,963||157,744||284,046||500,567||606,629||1,151,310||2,191,815|
|Number of lock-outs||10||3||8||8||6||17||50|
|Number of work-people directly involved in lock-outs||4,036||302||1,050||1,334||23,742||11,197||67,872|
In the tabulation of causes or objects of disputes the work-people are entered as many times as there are causes. During the period 1900 to 1906 questions of wages were the predominating cause of dispute.
Twenty-five% of the work-people were involved in disputes during 1900 to 1906 which resulted in favour of the employers, 13% in disputes which resulted in favour of the work-people, and 62% in disputes which were compromised.
The British Colonies.
Canada.—Statistics of disputes are published by the department of labour. During the seven years 1901 to 1907 the total number of disputes recorded was 859, the number each year being as follows:—
In 1904 the number of work-people involved was 15,665; in 1905, 16,127; in 1906, 26,014 and in 1907, 34,972. The number of working days lost during the same four years were 278,956, 284,140, 489,775 and 613,986 respectively. Of the total number of disputes in the seven years (859), 208 occurred in the building trades, 139 in the metal trades, 79 in the clothing trades, 62 in the mining industry, 60 in the transport trades and 48 in the food and tobacco preparation industry. Of the 740 disputes occurring in the same period for which a cause could be tabulated, 248 were for an increase in wages, 94 against the employment of particular persons, 64 were for both an increase in wages and a decrease in hours of labour, and 45 against a reduction in wages; and of the 841 disputes for which the result could be tabulated, 293 were in favour of the employers, 250 were in favour of the work-people, 200 were settled by compromise, and the balance (98) were indefinite in their settlement. Four of the Canadian provinces, Ontario, Nova Scotia, British Columbia and Quebec, and the Dominion government have enacted laws with a view to the peaceful settlement of industrial disputes. Under the Industrial Disputes Investigation Act of 1907 strikes and lock-outs are unlawful in industries termed public utilities prior to or during a reference of such dispute to a board of conciliation, a provision which is enforced by heavy penalties. Thirty days' notice of intended changes in wages or hours have to be given under the act.
Australia and New Zealand.—Four of the Australian states (Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia) and the Commonwealth as a whole have enacted laws with a view to the peaceable settlement of disputes between employers and work-people, but the laws of Victoria and South Australia are inoperative though unrepealed. These two states and Queensland have, however, established wages boards which tend to prevent disputes on the question most frequently the cause of strikes or lock-outs. The original inspiration of the conciliation and arbitration laws arose from the great strikes of 1890 to 1892, which turned to a great extent on the attempt of labour unions to secure a monopoly of employment. They all ended in the defeat of the work-people and in a great weakening of trade unionism in the colony.
In New Zealand a law has also been in force since 1894 for the encouragement of the formation of industrial unions and associations, and to facilitate the settlement of industrial disputes. Strikes and lock-outs are now illegal in New Zealand.
Authorities.—The following are among the more important official publications on strikes and lock-outs: Reports of the Chief Labour Correspondent of the Board of Trade on Strikes and Lock-outs (annually from 1888); Labour Gazette (Board of Trade, monthly from May 1893); Reports of Royal Commission on Labour (1891-1894); Report of the Royal Commission on Trade Disputes and Trade Combinations (1906); Third Abstract of Foreign Labour Statistics (Board of Trade, 1906—Section on Trade Disputes), and the publication of the offices given as the authorities for the strike statistics of the various foreign countries and colonies. (See also list of authorities on Trade Unions and Arbitration and Conciliation.) (X.)
The first recourse to a strike in the United States occurred in 1740 or 1741, when a combined strike of journeymen bakers occurred in New York City. An information was filed in 1741 against the strikers for conspiracy not to bake until their wages were raised. On this they were tried and convicted, but it does not appear that any sentence was ever passed. In May 1796 an association of journeymen shoemakers in Philadelphia ordered a “turn-out” or strike to secure an increase of wages, and again in 1798, for the same purpose, both strikes being successful. In 1799 the shoemakers of Philadelphia struck against a reduction of wages, the strike lasting about ten weeks, and being only partially successful. These four are the only strikes to which any reference can be found that occurred in the United States prior to the 19th century. The conditions of industry generally during the colonial days was not conducive to strikes. The factory system had not taken deep root, masters and men worked together, and so there was no opportunity for concerted action.
The first notable American strike occurred in November 1803, in the city of New York, and is commonly known as the Notable Early Strikes. “sailors' strike.” The sailors in New York had been receiving $10 per month. They demanded an increase to $14. In carrying out their purpose they formed in a body, marched through the city, and compelled other seamen who were employed at the old rates to leave their ships and join the strike. The strikers were pursued and dispersed by the constables, who arrested their leader and lodged him in gaol, the strike thus terminating unsuccessfully. In 1805 the Journeymen Shoemakers' Association of Philadelphia again turned out for an increase of wages. The demands ranged from 25 to 75 cents per pair increase. This strike lasted six or seven weeks and was unsuccessful. The strikers were tried for conspiracy, the result of the trial being published in a pamphlet which appeared in 1806. An account of this trial may be found in the United States Supreme Court library. In November 1809 a strike among the cordwainers occurred in the city of New York. The proprietors quietly took their work to other shops, and by this stratagem defeated the strikers; but the action being discovered, a general turn-out was ordered by the Journeymen Cordwainers' Association against all the master workmen of the city, nearly 200 men being engaged in the strike. At that time a stoppage of work in one shop by the journeymen was called a “strike”; a general stoppage in all shops in a trade was known as a “general turn-out.” A member of a journeymen's association who did not keep his obligations to the organization was denominated a “scab.”
In 1815 some of the journeymen cordwainers of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, were tried for conspiracy on account of their connexion with a strike, and were convicted. In 1817 a peculiar labour difficulty occurred at Medford, Massachusetts. Thacher Magoun, a ship-builder of that town, determined to abolish the grog privilege customary at that time. Mr Magoun gave notice to his people that no liquor should be used in his ship-yard, and the words “No rum!” “No rum!” were written on the clapboards of the workshop and on the timbers in the yard. Some of Mr Magoun's men refused to work; but they finally surrendered, and a ship was built without the use of liquor in any form.
The period from 1821 to 1834 witnessed several strikes, but rarely more than one or two in each year. These strikes occurred among the compositors, hatters, ship carpenters and caulkers, journeymen tailors, labourers on the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal, the building trades, factory workers, shoemakers and others. One of the most notable of these, for its influence upon succeeding labour movements, occurred in 1834, in the city of Lynn, Massachusetts. During the latter part of the preceding year the female shoebinders of that town began to agitate the question of an increase of wages. The women engaged in this work usually took the materials to their homes. The manufacturers were unwilling to increase the prices paid, so a meeting for consultation was held by more than one thousand binders. This was on the 1st of January 1834. The binders resolved to take out no more work unless the increase was granted. The employers, however, steadily refused to accede to the demands, as they found no difficulty in having their work done in neighbouring towns at their own prices. The strike, after three or four weeks, came to an unsuccessful termination. In February of the same year a disturbance of short duration occurred at Lowell, Mass., among the female factory operatives. Their strike was to prevent a reduction of wages. During the year 1835 there was a large number of strikes throughout the country, instigated by both men and women. The number of strikes by dissatisfied employees had at this time become so numerous as to call forth protests from the public press, the New York Daily Advertiser of the 6th of June 1835 declaring that “strikes are all the fashion,” and suggesting that it was “an excellent time for the journeymen to come from the country to the city.”
The United States government, through the census office and the department (now bureau) of labour, has investigated Investigation. the question of strikes, the result being a fairly continuous record from 1880 to the 31st of December 1905 inclusive. In 1880, according to the tenth census, there were 610 strikes, but the number of establishments involved in them was not reported; the record must therefore commence with 1881, and since then the facts have been continuously and uniformly reported by the department (now bureau) of labour. This record, so far as numbers are concerned, is shown in the following table:—
| Number of
Statistics of Strikes.—Out of the total of 181,407 establishments at which strikes took place during the period named, 69,899 were in building trades, 17,025 in coal and coke, 7381 in tobacco, 20,914 in clothing, 4450 in stone-quarrying and cutting, 1555 in boots and shoes, 1551 in furniture, 1476 in brick-making, 2999 in printing and publishing, and 1086 in cooperage. These ten industries supplied 128,336, or 70.74% of the whole number of establishments in which strikes occurred during the twenty-five years. In the lock-outs occurring during the same time five industries bore a very large proportion of the burden, involving 13,716, or 73.95% of the whole number of establishments, which was 18,547. The industries affected were: building trades, 10,142; clothing, 1943; stone-quarrying and cutting, 901; boots and shoes, 337; tobacco 393. The whole number of persons thrown out of employment by strikes was 8,703,824, of whom 90.57% were males and 9.43% were females; and the total number thrown out of employment by lock-outs during the same period was 825,610, of whom 84.18% were males and 15.82% were females. About 70% of the whole number of strikes were ordered by labour organizations; and of the number so ordered (25,353) 49.48% succeeded, 15.87% succeeded partly, and 34.65% failed. Of the whole number of strikes, 47.94% succeeded, 15.28% succeeded partly and 36.78% failed. Of the lock-outs, 50.79% succeeded, 10.71% succeeded partly and 32.09% failed. The average duration of the strikes for the whole period was 25.4 days, and of the lock-outs 84.6 days.
More strikes were occasioned by demands for increase of wages than for any other one cause, 32.24% of all strikes being for this cause, but this in combination with other causes attributable in whole or in part to demands for increase of wages brings the demands up to 40.72%.
The next most fruitful cause of strikes is disagreement concerning the recognition of the union and union rules. For this 18.84% of strikes were declared, and both alone and combined with other causes produced 32.35%. Objection to reduction of wages caused 11.90% while demands for reduction of hours alone and combined with other causes produced 9.78% of strikes.
Of the total number of establishments involved in strikes 57.91% were involved for causes either in whole or in part due to demands for increase of wages. The most important cause of lock-outs during the twenty-five years was disputes concerning the recognition of the union and union rules and employees' organizations, which alone and combined with various causes, produced nearly one-half of all lock-outs and more than one-half of all establishments involved in lock-outs. The United States government's account of losses from strikes is for the period from January 1881 to the 31st of December 1900, the five years from 1901 to 1905 inclusive not being included in that account. It is difficult to ascertain exactly the losses of employees and employers resulting from strikes and lock-outs. Differences may counterbalance each other, so that the results given below for the period named may be considered as fairly accurate.
| To date when Strikers were
re-employed or employed
| To date when Employees locked
out were re-employed or
| Wage-loss of
| Wage-loss of
The total loss to employees and employers alike in the establishments in which strikes and lock-outs occurred, for the period of twenty years, was thus $468,968,581. The number of establishments involved in strikes during this period was 117,509, making an average wage loss of $2194 to employees in each establishment in which strikes occurred. The number of persons thrown out of employment by reason of strikes was 6,105,694, making an average loss of $42 to each person involved. The number of establishments involved in lock-outs was 9933, making an average loss of $4915 to employees in each establishment in which lock-outs occurred, while the number of employees thrown out was 504,307, making an average loss of $97 to each person involved. Combining the figures for strikes and lock-outs, it is seen that the number of establishments involved was 127,442, while 6,610,001 persons were thrown out of employment. These figures show an average wage-loss of $2406 to the employees in each establishment, and an average loss of $46 to each person involved. The assistance given to strikers by labour organizations during the period was $16,174,793; to those involved in lock-outs, $3,451,461, or a total of $19,626,254. This sum represents but 6.40% of the total wage-loss incurred in strikes and lock-outs, and is probably too low. Much assistance was also furnished by outside sympathizers, the amount of which cannot be readily ascertained. The total loss to the establishments or firms involved in strikes and lock-outs during this period was $142,659,104.
The states of Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania, being the leading manufacturing states, necessarily experienced the largest number of strikes. Out of 117,509 establishments having strikes during the period named, 87,878, or 74.78% of the whole, were in these five states; and out of 9933 establishments having lock-outs, 8424, or 84.81% were in these states. In 1900 these states contained 45.02% of all the manufacturing establishments in the United States, and employed 55.15% of the entire capital invested in mechanical industries.
A significant feature of the report for the twenty-five year period relates to efforts to settle strikes, during the years 1901 to 1905 inclusive, a feature which had not been embodied before. The results are shown in the following table:—
The figures given relate to all strikes, of whatever magnitude, occurring in the United States from 1881 to the 31st of December Historic Strikes. 1900 inclusive. Among them have occurred what may be called historic strikes, the first of which was in 1877, though of course many very severe strikes had taken place prior to that year. The great railway strikes of 1877 began on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad at Martinsburg, West Virginia, the immediate cause of the first strike being a 10% reduction of wages of all employees. This, however, was but one of many grievances. There was irregular employment. Men with families were permitted to work only three or four days per week, the remainder of the time being forced to spend away from home at their own expense, leaving them but little money for domestic use. Wages, payable monthly, were often retained several months. The tonnage of trains was increased, and the men were paid only for the number of miles run, irrespective of the time consumed. So there were many alleged causes for the great strikes of 1877. Riot, destruction of property and loss of life occurred at Martinsburg, Baltimore and various places in Pennsylvania. The state militia at Martinsburg and Pittsburg sympathized with the strikers,
affiliated with them and refused to fire upon them. United States troops were ordered from Eastern garrisons, and they dispersed the mobs. In Cincinnati, Toledo and St Louis mobs of roughs and tramps collected, and succeeded in closing most of the shops, factories and rolling-mills in those cities. There were also formidable demonstrations in Chicago, as well as in Syracuse, Buffalo, West Albany and Hornell, New York, where mobs were dispersed by the state militia without violence or destruction of property.
The Pennsylvania Railroad also had a memorable strike, accompanied by riots and much violence and destruction of property, during the same year, the strike being ordered on account of a general reduction in wages and some other causes which came in to create the difficulty. The complete story of this strike is too long to relate here, but from the beginning the strikers had the active sympathy of a large proportion of the people of Pittsburg, where the chief movements occurred. The actual loss to the Pennsylvania Company, not including freight, has been estimated at $2,000,000, while the loss of property and loss of business at Pittsburg amounted to $5,000,000. Claims were presented before the courts in Allegheny county to the amount of over $3,500,000, while the actual amount paid by compromise and judgments was over $2,750,000. Both the foregoing strikes were unsuccessful.
The next great strike was that of the telegraphists, which occurred in the year 1883. This strike was inaugurated to secure the abolition of Sunday work without extra pay, the reduction of day-turns to eight hours, and the equalization of pay between the sexes for the same kind of work. Universal increase of wages was also demanded. The strike commenced on the 19th of July and ended on the 23rd of August 1883, although it was declared off on the 17th of the latter month. It was unsuccessful, the employees losing $250,000 and expending $62,000 in assistance to destitute fellow operators. The employers lost nearly $1,000,000.
Another historic strike, only partially successful, was that on the South-Western or Gould system of railways in the years 1885-1886, but the most prominent labour controversies in the 19th century were those at Homestead, Pa., in July 1892, and at Chicago in 1894, concerning which a more detailed account is given below. Other great labour convulsions have occurred which help to identify the decade beginning 1890 with the great strike era of the century. Among them may be named the Lehigh Valley railroad strike in December 1893, the American Railway Union strike on the Great Northern railway in April 1894; the great coal strike, which occurred in the same month; the difficulties at Lattimer, Pa.; and those in the Coeur d'Alene district of Idaho.
In July 1892 there occurred a most serious affair between the Carnegie Steel Company and its employees at what is known as the Homestead Strike or Riot. Homestead Works, near Pittsburg, growing out of a disagreement in the previous month in regard to wages. The parties were unable to come to an agreement, and the company closed its works on the 30th of June and discharged its men. Only a small portion of the men were affected by the proposed adjustment of wages. The larger portion of them, who were members of the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers, were not affected at all, nor was the large force of employees, some three thousand in number, who were not members of that association. The company refused to recognize the association as an organization, or to hold any conference with its representatives. Upon the failure to arrive at an adjustment of the wage difficulty the company proposed to operate its works by the employment of non-union men. The men, who could not secure recognition, refused to accept the reduced rates of wages, and also came to the determination that they would resist the company in every attempt to secure non-union workers.
The history of the events at Homestead shows that the lodges composing the Amalgamated Association proceeded to organize what was styled an “advisory committee” to take charge of affairs for the strikers. All employees of the company were directed to break their contracts and to refuse to work until the Amalgamated Association was recognized and its terms agreed to. The works were shut down two days prior to the time provided by the contract under which the men were working, and, as alleged, because the workmen had seen fit to hang the president of the company in effigy. On the 4th of July the officers of the company asked the sheriff of the county to appoint deputies to protect the works while they carried out their intention of making repairs. The employees, on their part organized themselves to defend the works against what they called encroachments or demands to enter; in fact, they took possession of the Homestead Steel Works. When the sheriff's men approached, the workmen, who were assembled in force, notified them to leave the place, as they did not intend to create any disorder, and would not allow any damage to be done to the property of the company. They further offered to act as deputies, an offer which was declined. The advisory committee, which had been able to preserve the peace thus far, dissolved on the rejection of their offer to serve as deputies and conservators of the peace, and all of their records were destroyed. The immediate cause of the fighting which subsequently took place at Homestead was the approach of a body of Pinkerton's detectives, who were gathered in two barges on the
Ohio river, some miles below the works. When the Pinkertons arrived the workmen broke through the mill fence, entrenching themselves behind the steel billets, and made all preparations to resist the approach of the Pinkerton barges; and they resisted all attempts to land, the result being a fierce battle, brought on by a heavy volley of shots from the strikers. The Pinkertons were armed with Winchesters, but they were obliged to land and ascend the embankment single file, and so were soon driven back to the boats, suffering severely from the fire of the strikers. Many efforts were made to land, but the position of the men they were attacking, behind their breastworks of steel rails and billets, was very strong, and from this place of safe refuge the detectives were subjected to a galling fire. This opening battle took place on the 5th of July, about four o'clock in the morning, and was continued in a desultory way during the day. It was renewed the following day. A brass ten-pound cannon had been secured by the strikers, and planted so as to command the barges moored at the banks of the river. Another force of one thousand men had taken up a position on the opposite side of the river, where they protected themselves and a cannon which they had obtained by a breastwork of railway ties. A little before nine o'clock a bombardment commenced, the cannon being turned on the boats, and the firing was kept up for several hours. The boats were protected by heavy steel plates inside, so efforts were made to fire them. Hose was procured and oil sprayed on the decks and sides, and at the same time many barrels of oil were emptied into the river above the mooring place, the purpose being to ignite it and then allow it to float against the boats. Under these combined movements the Pinkertons were obliged to throw out a flag of truce, but it was not recognized by the strikers. The officers of the Amalgamated Association, however, interfered, and a surrender of the detectives was arranged. It was agreed that they should be safely guarded, under condition that they left their arms and ammunition; and, having no alternative, they accepted the terms. Seven had been killed and twenty or thirty wounded. On the 10th of July, after several days' correspondence with the state authorities, the governor sent the entire force of the militia of the state to Homestead. On the 12th the troops arrived, the town was placed under martial law, and order was restored. There had been much looting, clubbing and stoning, and as the detectives, after surrender, passed through the streets they were treated with great abuse. Eleven workmen and spectators were killed in the fights.
Congress made an investigation of this strike, but no legislative action was ever taken. Some indictments were made and lawsuits ensued. The mills were gradually supplied with new people, but the strike was not declared off until the 20th of November 1892. The Homestead strike must be considered as the bitterest labour war in the United States prior to the Chicago strike in 1894. It was unsuccessful.
Probably the most expensive and far-reaching labour controversy which can properly be classed among the historic controversies of The Chicago or Pullman Strike. this generation was the Chicago strike of June and July 1894. Beginning with a private strike at the works of Pullman's Palace Car Company at Pullman, a suburb of Chicago, it ended with a practical insurrection of the labour employed on the principal railways radiating from Chicago and some of their affiliated lines, paralysing internal commerce, putting the public to great inconvenience, delaying the mails, and in general demoralizing business. Its influences were felt all over the country, to greater or less extent, according to the lines of traffic and the courses of trade. The contest was not limited to the parties with whom it originated, for soon there were Drought into it two other factors or forces. The original strike grew out of a demand of certain employees of the Pullman Company in May 1894 for a restoration of the wages paid during the previous year. The company claimed that the reduction in the volume of business, owing to business depression, did not warrant the payment of the old wages. On account of the increased production of rolling-stock to meet the traffic incident to the World's Fair in 1893, orders for building cars were not easily obtainable, a large portion of the business of the Pullman Company being contract business in the way of building cars for railway companies generally. This state of affairs resulted in a partial cessation of car-building everywhere in the country, the Pullman Company suffering with all others. The demand of the employees therefore was not acceded to, and on the 11th of May 1894 a strike was ordered. Several minor grievances were claimed to have existed and to have led to the action of the strikers, who had joined the American Railway Union, an association of railway employees which had achieved a partial success in a contest with the Great Northern Railway a few weeks previous to the Pullman strike. The Railway Union espoused the cause of the Pullman employees on the ground that they were members thereof. This union was said to number about 150,000 members. It undertook to force the Pullman Company to accede to the demands of its employees by boycotting Pullman cars; that is to say, they declared that they would not handle Pullman cars on the railways unless the Pullman Company would accede to the demands made upon it. The immediate antagonist of the Pullman Company in the extended controversy was therefore the American Railway Union.
Another force was soon involved in the strike, which was, very naturally, an ally of the Pullman Company. This was the General Managers' Association, a body of railway men representing all the roads, twenty-four in number, radiating from Chicago, and it was said to be the necessity of protecting the traffic of its lines that brought about its struggle with the American Railway Union. These roads represented a combined capital of more than $2,000,000,000, and they employed more than one-fourth of all the railway employees in the United States. These three great forces, therefore, were engaged in a battle for supremacy, and that rivalry alone, without reference to the conditions and circumstances attending the strike or accompanying it, makes this one of the historic strikes of the period.
According to the testimony of the officials of the railways involved, they lost in property destroyed, hire of United States deputy marshals and other incidental expenses, at least $685,308. The loss of earnings of these roads on account of the strike is estimated at nearly $5,000,000. About 3100 employees at Pullman lost in wages, as estimated, probably $350,000. About 100,000 employees upon the twenty-four railways radiating from Chicago, all of which were more or less involved in the strike, lost in wages, as estimated, nearly $1,400,000. Beyond these amounts very great losses, widely distributed, were suffered incidentally throughout the country. The suspension of transportation at Chicago paralysed a vast distributive centre, and imposed many hardships and much loss upon the great number of people whose manufacturing and business operations, employment, travel and necessary supplies depend upon and demand regular transportation to, from and through Chicago. The losses to the country at large are estimated by Bradstreets to be in the vicinity of $80,000,000. Whatever they are, whether more or less, they teach the necessity of preventing such disasters, and the strike illustrates how a small local disturbance, arising from the complaints of a few people, can affect a whole country. When the American Railway Union took up the cudgels for the Pullman strikers and declared their boycott against Pullman cars, and the General Managers' Association took every means to protect their interests and prevent the stoppage of transportation, the sympathies and antagonisms of the whole country were aroused. An unsuccessful attempt was made to induce all trades in Chicago to join in a great sympathetic strike.
The inevitable accompaniments of a great strike were brought into play at Chicago. Riots, intimidations, assaults, murder, arson and burglary, with lesser crimes, attended the strike. In this, as in some of the other historic strikes, troops were engaged. The city police, the county sheriffs, the state militia, United States deputy marshals and regulars from the United States army were all brought into the controversy. The United States troops were sent to Chicago to protect Federal property and to prevent obstruction in the carrying of the mails, to prevent interference with interstate commerce, and to enforce the decrees and mandates of the Federal courts. They took no part in any attempt to suppress the strike, nor could they, as such matters belong to the city and state authorities. The police of the city were used to suppress riots and protect the property of citizens, and the state militia was called in for the same service. The total of these forces employed during the strike was 14,186.
Many indictments and law-suits originated in the difficulties occurring in Chicago. But all the attending circumstances of the strike point to one conclusion—that a share of the responsibility for bringing it on belongs in some degree to each and every party involved. The strike generated a vast deal of bitter feeling—so bitter that neither party was ready to consider the rights of the other. The attacking parties claimed that their grievances warranted them in adopting any means in their power to force concessions. This is the attitude of all strikers. The other parties, on the other hand, claimed that they were justified in adopting any means in their power to resist the demands of the attacking party. The probability is that neither recognized the rights of the public to such an extent as to induce them to forbear bringing inconvenience and disturbance to it. It was the most suggestive strike that has ever occurred in the United States, and if it only proves a lesson sufficiently severe to teach the public its rights in such matters, and to teach it to adopt measures to preserve these rights, it will be worth all it cost. It was unsuccessful, and resulted ultimately in the downfall of the American Railway Union.
The so-called steel strike of the year 1901 was a contest between the Amalgamated Association of Iron, Steel and Tin Workers and The Steel Strike, 1901. the United States Steel Corporation. It began on the first day of July, and lasted until the 15th of September 1901, when work was resumed in accordance with an adjustment agreed to on the 13th of the latter month. The difficulty grew out of an attempt to adjust a sliding scale of wages with some of the constituent companies of the United States Steel Corporation, a new company having $1,404,000,000 capitalization. This corporation was perfected after the difficulties really began, so the Amalgamated Association ultimately had to confront the new powerful corporation. The real nut of the difficulty was not a question of wages, hours of labour, or rules or conditions of work, but a contest for recognition of the right of the association
to demand the unionizing of mills, a demand, of course, which was positively refused by the United States Steel Corporation. There were no grievances, as intimated; it was clearly and solely a conflict on the demand for recognition in the trade-union sense, and it was the first great struggle in the United States that was conducted solely on this issue. This issue has been contested many times, but usually in conjunction with some grievance or complicated with some demand as to wages or other economic conditions. The result was that the Amalgamated Association did not secure the terms demanded; and it lost further, because some of the mills which were subject to the union's rules were taken out and made non-union mills. The strike was conducted without any of the dramatic and tragic circumstances which attended the Homestead affair in 1892, in which the Amalgamated Association was one of the parties. In the contest of 1901 the association did not have the hearty endorsement of a large number of workmen, as it was not a movement to redress any grievance. It was fought for a principle, but the movers did not consider the power against which they were obliged to contend. Officers of the Amalgamated Association estimated that the number of men out of employment during the strike averaged 30,000 per day. At a conservative estimate there must have been a loss of more than $4,000,000 in wages. The steel company through its officers claimed that it experienced no great loss as the result of the strike.
A strike affecting more individual interests than any preceding it was the anthracite coal strike of 1902, which formally began Coal Strike, 1902. on the 12th of May. It was ordered at a convention held at Hazleton, Pa., on the 15th of May, by a vote of 461 to 349. The leaders of the miners, with one or two exceptions, opposed the strike. It was therefore a strike of the workers themselves. Grievances had existed in the anthracite coal region for many years, but more especially since the strike of 1900. An attempt was made in 1901 to secure some concessions, but the operating railways declined even to enter into a conference. This, of course, caused irritation, and constant appeals were made to the officers of the union to make new demands, and failing to secure concessions, to organize a strike. The demands of the miners were as follows: (1) An increase of 20% to those miners who are paid by the ton; (2) a reduction of 20% in the time of per diem employees; (3) that 2240 lb constitute the ton on which payment is made for coal mined by weight. No grievances were presented. The powder question was practically settled in 1900. The miners' demands being rejected by the operators, the demands were subsequently reduced one-half; i.e. 10% increase per ton where mining is paid by the ton, and 10% decrease in the working day. The miners also voted to leave the whole matter to arbitration and investigation, and to accept the results. They were willing to make a three years' contract on the terms proposed. The fundamental difficulty on the part of the operators related to efforts to secure and preserve discipline. They claimed that every concession already made had defeated this. The strike involved nearly 150,000 employees, and affected the consumers of anthracite coal throughout the eastern states.
After the most strenuous efforts of both parties to this strike, the president of the United States, at the request of the great coal operators and the officers of the Miners' Union, appointed a commission to adjust their differences, and after five months of hearings, listening to nearly six hundred witnesses, the commission submitted an award which was to be in effect three years from the 1st of April 1903. Both parties had agreed to abide by the award, whatever it might be. After the three years had expired, that is, the 31st of March 1906, the miners concluded to strike again, but after some negotiations both parties again unanimously agreed to extend the award made by the commission for three years more, i.e. until the 31st of March 1909.
After the coal strike of 1902 many very important disturbances occurred. There was one among the silver miners at Cripple Creek, Colorado, 1894, at Leadville, 1896-1897, at Lake City, 1899, and at Telluride in 1901; also another at Colorado City in 1903. All these strikes were attended with a great deal of violence, the militia was ordered out, many murders took place, and in three counties of Colorado there was a reign of terror, but on the whole the strikes were unsuccessful. The Western Federation of Miners was seriously crippled in these affairs.
It is gratifying to note the reduction in the number of strikes as shown by recent statistics. In 1903 the number of establishments was 20,248, but it had dropped to 8292 in 1905.
Authorities.—U. S. Commissioner of Labor, Twenty-first Annual Report (1906); reports of various State Bureaus of Labor Statistics; Pennsylvania Bureau of Industrial Statistics, Twentieth Annual Report (1892); U.S. House of Representatives, “Employment of Pinkerton Detectives at Homestead, Pa.,” Report No. 2447, 52nd Congress, 2nd Session (1892); United States Strike Commission, Report on Chicago Strike, Senate Ex. Doc. No. 7, 53rd Congress, 3rd Session (1894); “The Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers,” Quarterly Report of Economics for November 1901; Industrial Evolution of United States, chs. xxv. and xxvi.; Report of the Anthracite Coal Strike Commission; U.S. Bulletin of Labor (May
1903); Report of Commissioner of Labor (1905) on labour disturbances in Colorado.
(C. D. W.)
- Noteworthy in this respect was the strike of boilermakers on the Tyne in 1910, in defiance of their executive.