Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 87.djvu/55

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51
TRADE UNIONISM

been done by organizations large and small, but out of all this endeavor two types of undertakings stand out conspicuously as coming close to the heart of labor and trying to correct abuses. They are trade unionism and employer's welfare work. A consideration of these two agencies, in so far as they affect wage-earning women, forms the subject-matter of this discussion. The two agencies represent distinct, even antagonistic methods, and in fact are usually mutually exclusive.

For about half a century, the trade organizations have been striving, by fair means and foul, to get a voice in the conduct of the businesses in which they work, for the purpose of improving their own condition. The end for which they have striven is laudable. They have been calling for sanitary workshops and living wages; for shorter hours and more certainty of employment; and all the time emphasizing their right to be heard. This movement is especially deserving of notice because it is a movement by the wage workers, for the wage workers—those who are admitted to need help striving to help themselves. This, in theory at least, is the most hopeful of all undertakings, and it is the spirit that should be fostered. The working people have set up for themselves a definite standard of living, which they desire to reach, when they organize together in their trades.

Whatever may be said about methods sometimes employed by the trade organizations, it must be admitted that their theory of industrial betterment is rational. They stand for the uplift of labor, and theirs is a herculean task. They are attempting to push themselves up against forces apparently conspiring to keep them down. This opposition has lent a strength and militant vigor to their purpose. They hold up to themselves the definite ideal of self-improvement, and the tenacity with which they cling to this ideal shows the faith they have in it. A more comfortable working class is their hope. They pursue their purpose oftentimes with set teeth and clenched fists, and their zeal is an inspiration in itself. They have a goal, and with steadfast purpose they are striving to reach it.

Industrial betterment of this kind tends to produce a virile body of citizens, and the test of any ameliorative work must, in the last analysis, be the effectiveness of the citizens it develops. This method of improving conditions is only beginning to seize the imagination of women; its possibilities are only beginning to be realized, and by representative bodies of women fully as much as by wage earners themselves. The great majority have been slow to avail themselves of the benefits arising from organization. Many of the workers feel that their stay in the industrial world is temporary, and they are either indifferent to the conditions under which they must work for a time, or they are unwilling to subject themselves to what they frequently regard as the tyranny of leaders, preferring rather to endure low wages and bad