The New Student's Reference Work/Labor Organizations and Parties

The New Student's Reference Work (1914)
Labor Organizations and Parties

La′bor Or′ganiza′tions and Parties. These began in the United States in 1825, when industrial progress showed itself in earnest and immigration from Europe began to attract attention and incite fears of competition in the field of labor. The first national convention of labor was held at Louisville, Ky, in 1865, only some 25 delegates being present. A second convention was held at Baltimore in 1866, one at Chicago in 1867 and another at New York in 1886. At this meeting the questions of female suffrage and labor-reform were agitated. A convention was held at Philadelphia in 1869, and it was decided to hold a greater congress at Cincinnati in the following year. At this meeting many radical reforms were proposed, and the immediate organization of a political party to be known as the National Labor Reform party. This was the definite beginning of the labor-in-politics movement, which continued for some years, the Labor Reform party holding its first national convention at Louisville in 1872. After the panic of 1873 many organizations arose: a Workingman's Party, the Labor Party of the United States, the National party or, as it was otherwise known, the Greenback-Labor party. At the election of 1878 this party polled votes in 37 states, and gained immensely over the number cast at any previous election. Encouraged by this success, a convention that met in Chicago in June, 1880, nominated James B. Weaver for president and B. J. Chambers for vice-president, but at the polls the vote for these candidates was comparatively small. In 1884 B. F. Butler of Massachusetts was nominated. At the following election less than 134,000 votes were polled, and the party ceased to exist. In later years labor interests have occupied themselves more particularly with interior organization in the way of compact and efficient unions that exist without regard to the politics of their members. These trade-unions are, as to their origin, very old. In the United States they belong to the 19th century. The principle on which these trade-unions are formed is that men whose industrial interests are the same should act together in furthering them. A union is an organization that takes an active interest in the welfare of its own members and a secondary interest in the welfare of all similar unions. These unions affiliate and become powerful and influential organizations. An instance of this was the Knights of Labor and (at the present time) the American Federation of Labor.

The American Federation of Labor comprises 119 international and national unions, representing approximately 27,000 local unions, 37 state branches, 538 city central unions and 854 local unions. The total membership is about 2,000.000. The official organ is the American Federationist; besides this representative journal, the affiliated unions issue about 250 weekly or monthly papers devoted to the cause of labor.

In England labor parties and their organizations constitute a new power in politics, 30 members representing labor in Parliament in addition to those known as the Liberal-Labor members. In 1907 the trade-union congress represented 1,693,000 trade unionists, a considerable number of whom are socialists. The labor party in the House of Commons, it is estimated, represents nearly 1,000,000 workers, of whom 975,182 are trade unionists and 2,271 are co-operators. International trade unionism has of recent years grown apace. In 1907 it was estimated that there were 6,505,683 (including working women) laborers organized in trade-unions in the chief countries of Europe.

A feature of the labor situation which deserves special mention is workmen's insurance (q. v.). In the United States, outside of the industrial departments of the regular insurance companies, there are a large number of funds or societies maintained by labor organizations to insure members against sickness, accident, death, old age or other adversity. Some are conducted by workmen for mutual benefit without regard to common employment or connection with any particular union. Of these organizations three-fourths are managed by members, and the majority of the remainder managed by joint arrangement between employer and employe. Nearly all of these funds attempt to secure little more than to relieve immediate necessities. They include “tool,” “unemployment,” and “marriage” benefits.

Trade union (q. v.) demands embrace (1) more efficient enforcement of the eight-hour principle; (2) further restriction of immigration; (3) no relaxation of the Chinese exclusion laws; (4) elaboration of the shipping laws and protection for seamen; (5) no antipilotage laws; (6) reorganization of the Congressional committees on labor; (7) safeguarding against the competition of convict labor; and (8) a more radical antiinjunction bill.