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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 81.djvu/572

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the improvements in all lines of industry, and at the actual increase in the production of commodities! Is there any doubt of increased productivity? If not, then under normal economic law, part of the increase should have gone as an addition to the real wages of labor. If this assumption is correct, the working classes should have gained in comfort and well-being, while as a matter of fact they have lost. Do you wonder at the discontent and unrest in labor circles?


2. While prices have advanced faster than wages, all prices have not moved up at the same rate. As stated in another connection, farm products, building materials and food have led in the upward movement. Other things have advanced less rapidly, some have remained practically stationary, and a few have in fact declined. Not all industries then have benefited alike from the shifting exchange level; some have not gained at all, and a few have lost.

However—and here is the important point—all laborers, whatever the industry in which they are employed, have been affected alike by the higher prices—all pay 50 per cent, more for food and rent than in 1897. Consequently, there is a pressure for increased wages in all industries, whether they have gained from the changing prices or not. Where they have gained, the desired increases may be granted readily enough, to avoid interruption of business. But where they have not gained, higher wages mean diminished profits or even losses. It is particularly in these industries where we find serious labor difficulties. Both employers and employees have lost or are threatened a loss in income. Neither side understands the position of the other and is unduly embittered as a consequence. The shifting price standards have simply deprived these industries of their former relative prosperity, and until normal readjustment takes place, the losses can not be avoided. The question is who shall bear them—employer or employee?

Fundamentally, this is perhaps the trouble in the many threatened railway strikes. Costs of railway operation have steadily advanced, while rates and fares have remained practically stationary. While this point can not be definitely determined, it seems certain that the railroads have not shared in such undue gains as have fallen to other industries through the shifting of prices. Yet they face the same pressure for higher wages; the demands are supported not only by powerful labor organizations, but by the more powerful public opinion. Until proper readjustment takes place, we must expect discontent and mischievous disputes.

Likewise this was probably the real trouble in the recent Lawrence, Massachusetts, strike. The textile mills, especially those of New Eng-