Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 87.djvu/59

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55
TRADE UNIONISM

develop the best type of citizenship. The chief weaknesses, then, of this system seem to me to be an inherent tendency toward paternalism, with its consequent emasculating or embittering of labor; its lack of the cooperative spirit; and its failure to hold up an ideal.

There are many things in life of more importance than window boxes filled with trailing vines and bright blossoms; there are more pressing needs for girls than fresh white aprons. And the would-be philanthropic employer who does not recognize this is doing less than his whole duty. While providing for the physical comfort of their employees, employers should recognize the fact that they assume certain moral as well as economic responsibilities when they bring together large numbers of workers. And it is this ethical side of welfare work that is most significant; it is the side that has the most direct bearing on good citizenship. It is quite possible for a working woman to discharge her full duty to society without having luxurious couches on which to lie when she grows ill or weary from toil, but it is not possible for that woman to fulfill her duty as a member of the social group unless she is capable of exercising the power of choice, of standing firm as a moral entity, of grasping and holding to a definite ideal of progress.

Now my contention is that the present tendency of welfare work is not to strengthen labor's power of initiative, and is not to summon to the fore that virile zeal which belongs to sturdy manhood and womanhood. When the employer has been the means of rousing his employees to action, of encouraging them to evolve methods of betterment, and of stimulating them to an appreciation of their opportunity to do things for themselves, the situation is much more hopeful. Some few employers in this country have been able to do this, but the general trend of the work is in another direction. And employees, surfeited with comfort for which they can give no return, are liable to become limp of will and uncertain of purpose. Their power of initiative becomes dwarfed. They are always open to the charge of ingratitude. The pampered children of industrial Utopias may become unfit for the competitive system of industry. There are remedies of course that could be suggested for all these difficulties, but it is not my purpose here to show how to revolutionize welfare work, but rather to point out its present tendency.

Now having before us the essence of the two betterment movements for women known as trade unionism and welfare work, and some comments thereon, it becomes pertinent to enquire which one merits the greater degree of approval and support from people interested in industrial and social amelioration, so far as young wage-earning women are concerned. The question really resolves itself into a very simple one, but nevertheless one that we may not be able to answer satisfactorily for a generation or more, that is, which method tends to give us the more efficient women, women who can function most capably in a democracy?