- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 8 Apr 1926, p. 145-158
- Moore, Tom, Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- The need for proper understanding between the various sections of the community so that real national and international unity might be achieved. A definition of labour, and its various meanings under Trades and Labour Congress, Labour Unions, the Labour Political Party, etc. Observations made by the speaker to be those of what is usually termed the organized Labour Movement, or the Trades Union movement in Canada. The policy of that movement one of evolution, or a revolution by reasoning, the policy which the Trades Union movement in Canada in trying to follow. The meaning of the terms "Community" or "Community's interest," and of "Cooperation." The growing belief in, and the propaganda carried on for, cooperation by its members as Organized Labour's first contribution to the community interest. What has been done in that direction. Cooperation based on organization, and if organizations are established and recognized, to some degree on collective bargaining. Industries that are adopting this policy, with the Canadian National Railway as an example. Cooperation set up during the war period by the running trades of the railway organizations, generally termed the Brotherhoods. The setting up of an Adjustment Board, to which grievances might be referred, with equal membership of employers and employees. Contributions on the social side of Labour. Labour organizations blazing the way for much of the legislation we have now on the Statute Books, based first on the ground secured by the efforts of Labour organizations in providing themselves with those measures that they thought were good. Instances of the protection of the aged and needy, the control of child labour, the dealing with unemployment, the question of sanitation, industrial diseases and industrial hygiene. Labour's natural interest in these areas due to this group's suffering from unsound public policy on these particular questions. Ways in which organized labour does not always benefit either as early as to as great a degree as the unorganized workers or the rest of the community, for instance as in the case of old-age pensions. Issues with regard to sickness and accident insurance, on which the Workmen's Compensation Act was based. Ways in which the Trades Unions took care of these problems long before legislation was passed, and are still doing so. An interesting feature with regard to sanitation. Origins of the term "Union Label" and what that still means today. Factory inspection laws which today insist on general sanitary conditions. Licensing laws. The realization that hardship would probably be inflicted on some of the working people through legislation such as the Child Labour laws and our Factory Acts. Efforts to secure minimum wage laws and Mothers' Allowance to counteract these hardships. Seeking legislation which to the organized workers means the consolidation of that which Labour has already established. Labour's contributing to the community interest by demonstrating the practicability of what can be done. Turning actual public opinion into concrete legislation as something that Parliament has to do. A summary of Labour's activities under Safety, Health, and Welfare. Some extracts from a pamphlet issued last year under the title, "A Challenge to Canadians" and Labour's answer to that challenge, much of which they have already met.
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- 8 Apr 1926
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LABOUR'S CONTRIBUTION TO COMMUNITY PROGRESS
AN ADDRESS By MR. TOM MOORS, PRESIDENT OF THE TRADE, AND LABOUR CONGRESS OR CANADA.
Before the Empire Club of Canada, Toronto,
Thursday, April 8, 1926.
THE PRESIDENT introduced the speaker.
Mr. President and members of the Empire Club, I cannot help feeling that it is incumbent on me at this time to pay tribute to those who are here today, demonstrating as it does the interest taken by those outside the wage-earning class, not only in labour matters, but in those movements for the improvement of conditions that have taken place. I can hardly conceive that even fifteen or twenty years ago you would have honoured a representative of organized labour by asking him to speak on matters which ire so close and dear to us. It shows the improvement that has taken place generally in the national life when we can meet across the luncheon table and discuss freely and frankly the things which we consider of general community interest.
I think we can all agree that possibly there was never a time in the history of this country or any other when it was more essential to have proper understanding between the various sections of the community so that real national and international unity might be achieved.
I notice that I have been somewhat vague in some of the terms used in the title of this address. Perhaps my residence in Ottawa, in close touch with many of our parliamentarians, and reading the documents emanating from the House of Commons, has led me to be a little loose in the definition of things, in order, perhaps, that I might interpret them as I like a little later. I am going to follow parliamentary practice, and we will have a little interpretation clause at the beginning, if you are agreeable. Of course "labour" is rather a broad definition. It reminds me of the banquet of the Chamber of Commerce given in Detroit to some prominent visitors, when all the speakers had emphasized the fact that Detroit was the Automobile City, but one member of the Chamber felt that the visitors ought to know what an industrial centre Detroit was, and he remarked in his speech that Detroit manufactured other things besides automobiles; to which one of the visitors replied, "You are right, you do; I have ridden in one of the damn things too. " The illustration I want to draw is that naturally members of the Chamber of Commerce thought automobiles covered all means of transportation of that character, whereas those who had a more intimate knowledge from riding in them saw the distinction. So it is with Labour.
I suppose the ordinary citizen who takes up his paper and finds that Labour has declared this, or Labour has decided the other, makes no distinction in his mind between the different forms of organization, or organizational activity that Labour may be carrying on. In my title I should have said "Labour Unions' Contribution, " because I am only entitled to speak for the followers of the organized Labour Unions, being not only their direct representative, but not having membership in the political or other labour parties. As you know, there is another section of labour which devotes its activities on the political field. The Trades and Labour Congress and the Labour Unions themselves do not fully participate in that direction, but naturally many of its members do belong to the Labour Political party. During the last few years we have found that there is another section which also uses the name " Labour " with which neither many of the Political party nor certainly fewer of the Trades Union group have sympathy so far as their policies are concerned; I refer to that section sometimes spoken of as the Left Wing, and sometimes as the Communist Party, and sometimes under other names, but nevertheless all the one.
Binding themselves unable to inflict their ideas on the Trades Union movement, finding it too broadly based, too old and experienced to accept the wild theories propounded by them-they have turned their attention to the newer and younger movement, the Political movement, and in some sections of the country they have launched an attempt to control or so use the Labour movement as to get the necessary publicity and propaganda for their policy which they desire. I wish, however, to make it clear that I am not in any manner criticising the political activities of Labour, because I realize that in that section there are a great number of members, especially the Trades Union group, who are using their best efforts to recover that position-and it is only a temporary position-that their policies may not be distorted from time to time by the announcements of that small, closely-knit, well-organized and well.financed group known as the Communist Party.
I therefore want to leave with you, particularly at the beginning-that what observations I may make will be those of what is usually termed the organized Labour Movement, or the Trades Union movement of this country. The policy of that movement has been one of evolution-or, if you want to quicken it a little, we would say a revolution by reasoning. It is that policy which the Trades Union movement of this country is trying to follow.
The next term that perhaps needs a little less explanation is " Community" or "Community's interest. " Naturally there are those in our ranks who sometimes lend themselves to the belief that the wage-earners are the community. They are certainly more numerous than any other section of the community, and they probably have more votes, but they do not use them quite as well as the rest of the community, and therefore they take a second place when it comes to the actual administration of many of the laws that are on our Statute Book. I may illustrate this point by the story of the circus lion that was made up of the usual typical Irishman. He got into the lion's skin and started prowling around the cage, doing a little growling, when he heard louder growls than his own, and looking across the show he saw a cage with a tiger in it. The tiger was rattling the bars and growling, and the party in the lion's skin became a little alarmed, and called out to the proprietor; but a voice came from the tiger's cage saying, "Don't get excited; I am an Irishman, too!" The point I would like to leave with you is that so long as they remained in the cages growling, and didn't open their mouths, you were likely to think that they were different from what they really were-but immediately they got under the skin and spoke a little to each other they found out that they were much alike. So, probably if the different sections of the community of this country would take their skins off sometimes, or get out of the cages and mix a little, as we are doing today, there would be less misunderstanding and liability of trouble occurring.
Of course that, in its broadest definition, is merely preaching a policy of cooperation. Again, when we use the word "Cooperation" there is liable to be some misunderstanding. A person on the employing side is sometimes liable to think that cooperation means that the people operating should agree to everything that he thinks is best for them, while the employee is sometimes liable to think that whatever the workers decide is cooperation so long as the employer will accept it. However, as we all know, cooperation is something different from that. Cooperation often brings in its trail a compromise, not necessarily subservience or the loss of principle, but merely an honest recognition that there are two sides to the question, and that it is necessary to understand those two sides if we would make progress.
Organized Labour's first contribution to the community interest to which I wish to refer is the growing belief in, and the propaganda carried on for, cooperation by its members. Much has been done in that direction. The first step towards that was naturally the creation of organizations themselves; the breaking down of the resistance towards the formation of Labour Unions which was often met with, and which unfortunately is still met with even in the present day by some unthinking employers who are disloyal to their own class, as they are to the working class, by following a policy of that kind. Only a few days ago I read of an employer in one of the textile districts of New Jersey, where they are having trouble headed by the Union Labour, who said that he wished he had given greater support to the labour organization. Perhaps he is in the position referred to in the old rhyme, " When the devil was sick the devil a saint would be. " Nevertheless, the great majority of employers today who have had relations with labour organizations recognize that they are here to stay, and that all the attempts made in the past to wipe them out have failed, and only added strength to the Labour bodies, and therefore that the best policy is to seek to use their energies and vitality in the direction of construction instead of destruction.
Of course that can only be done by recognizing the equal status of the worker who is organized as having an interest in industry. Let me say that while the investment of capital in industry is great, it is often insignificant compared to the investment of the individual worker, who invests all that he has-his knowledge, his technical skill, and many times his savings in a little home, and puts all of any value in the industry in that particular town which may be closed up. Therefore the worker makes a 100 per cent investment, whereas that of the employer is practically trifling compared with that of Labour; and the employers realize that they can be prosperous only if the industry is prosperous. There are many mistakes we make, but I want you to believe that Labour's endeavors are not towards destroying or weakening an industry, but rather hoping to strengthen it, while at the same time improving their condition, which they believe is possible, otherwise we have no confidence in the development of civilization as a whole.
Cooperation, therefore, is based, firstly on organization, and secondly, if organizations are established and recognized, to some degree on collective bargaining which confines itself very largely to the more immediate things of wages and hours and shop conditions; but through collective bargaining we develop the cooperation whereby we get out of the strife on which collective bargaining may be founded. Some think that we have only to bargain when we want something, whereas cooperation says we should lend our interests, our energy and our initiative not when we want something but when we can do something towards building up the industry as a whole.
Many industries are adopting that policy. I am glad to say that foremost, and best established in Canada, is that of the Canadian National Railway. Through the cooperative system, established first in the repair shop, it has been possible during the past two years to so vastly change the conditions in those shops as not only to increase production but to increase stability of employment; and while other railway workers are still suffering from short time, and hence from short wages and discontent, the workers on that part of the Canadian National Railways have been able to stabilize their employment, and secure more regular wages, and therefore much more satisfactory conditions; and there is no worker who does so well as the one who is satisfied. Fortunately there is nobody so easily satisfied as the mass of workers, for very little will satisfy them.
In passing I may mention the cooperation set up during the war period by the running trades of the railway organizations, generally termed the Brotherhoods. They agreed, in order to avoid industrial strife on the railroads, to set up what was known as an Adjustment Board, to which grievances might be referred; and, strange to say, that Adjustment Board has equal membership of employers and employees, neither side having the balance of power. Matters referred to it are accepted as final. It is a voluntary Board, which was set up only for the war-time period, but its success was so great that at the close of the War they determined to carry on voluntarily, and it still exists, and no case has been referred to it that they have not been able to settle, and thus avoid industrial disputes.
I think, therefore, that I am correct in saying that Labour has some right to feel proud of that contribution to community interests, because probably no one suffers more during industrial strife than the innocent bystander, or consumer-the community on the outside. We know that the suffering is intense on the workers' side, but we do not always know how hard it may be on the employers' side; generally we do not think it is going hard enough, because it lasts too long. However, we do know that the community suffers, and while the surrendering of that last right indicates the last resort, when conditions are such that Labour cannot honestly accept them, and we withdraw our Labour, feeling that we would be false to ourselves and to the future conditions if we did not make the sacrifice, Labour today realizes more and more that the way to progress is not through the indiscriminate use of that weapon, but is through more general use of the cooperative weapon, and the means of arbitration.
I do not desire to go into greater detail as to what we might call the strictly economic side. I want to turn rather to the social side, because probably nowhere has Labour assisted more in the development of higher conditions, higher civilization, or contributed more to the general improvement of community life than through its social activities.
Industrial development naturally brought in its train many unsatisfactory conditions. I am not blaming individual employers for that. They are driven by the same machine that many times drives us-the machine of unnecessary and unjust competition. We know the circumstances under which many times they have to labour. How much trade could the employer with the highest ideals, if he attempted to put the Sermon on the Mount into effect today in his factory, secure on that basis so long as the rest of the industries continued on the ordinary commercial basis of today, where dollars are paramount? We know the difficulties there, and it has been because of these that legislation has been necessary which would force along in certain directions the minority of the employers who were dragging back, legislation which could sometimes be used to convince them, against their will, of something that was really good for them. That sounds like a wild statement, but only recently I heard a prominent employer state publicly that though he had opposed the Workmen's Compensation Act in Ontario he had found it one of the greatest blessings and one of the best things that had ever been forced upon them-because it had led them not only to pay for accidents, but to realize the volume of industrial accidents, and then start an initiative to reduce that volume, in which they are doing very active work at present.
Labour organizations have blazed the way for much of the legislation we have now on the Statute Books. Much, if not all of it, was based first on the ground secured by the efforts of Labour organizations in providing themselves with those measures that they thought were good, through their own contributions or though the medium of collective bargaining, inducing a sufficient number of right-thinking employers to try out the experiment, and in those directions they had gone together, and sometimes separately, to secure certain legislation to make it good for the rest of the community.
In this category I might mention the protection of the aged and needy, the control of child labour, the dealing with unemployment, the question of sanitation, industrial diseases and industrial hygiene. Labour's interest in those things is naturally more pronounced than other interests, because there is no group that suffers more by unsound public policy on those particular questions. Labour being closer to the result of bad administration or unsound policy is naturally more pronounced in its advocacy of sick benefits probably before others gave much thought to it.
However, organized labour does not always benefit either as early or to as great a degree as the unorganized workers or the rest of the community. May I mention the question of old-age pensions? There is before the House of Commons at present a Bill proposed to grant old-age pensions to aged and needy workers who have reached seventy years of age, to give to them $20 per month provided that they have not over $120 additional income per year, which would make the total income a dollar per day, and if they have over that it would deduct from the $20 that would be paid to them. The strongest advocates of that pension scheme are to be found in the circles of organized labour, yet a very large percentage of our organization would not come under this scheme, because through their individual efforts they now receive greater benefits. The Typographical Union, of which my good friend Simpson is a member, pays their aged members, 65 years of age, $8 per week. The Carpenters' organization, of which I am a member, have their scheme paying $30 a month. The Bricklayers and Plasterers and other organizations provide that protection for themselves, or for their aged members, through their own efforts. Therefore, legislation of this kind is not based primarily on our own needs, but rather on the realization of the need of the community to protect those aged workers who no longer can continue their work.
With regard to sickness and accident insurance, on which our Workmen's Compensation Act has been based, including many industrial diseases, the Trades Unions, long before that legislation was passed, were paying disability donations and benefits to their disabled members; they were paying to the widows of men killed in industry a sum varying from $100 in some organizations up to $1,000 in others, thus giving protection to the widow in the most critical time, and helping her to tide over the difficulties for a period. There are very few Labour organizations that I know of that do not still provide that protection. Yet, from our knowledge of the vast multitude who were not covered by those benefits and did not think fit to make that voluntary sacrifice in the Labour organizations themselves, we pressed for legislation, knowing that it would be good for the community, removing the necessity of destroying somebody's fibre and morale by making them feel that they were objects of charity, and therefore translating into legislation that Compensation Act because it would give some of them protection.
In regard to sanitation rather an interesting feature arises. Perhaps one of the earliest attempts to protect the community from unsanitary products was that made by the Cigar Makers in the early years of Trades Unionism. The native South American cigar maker worked under such low and filthy conditions that the white workers felt that the goods made under more sanitary conditions should be introduced to the public, as distinct from those made under those unsanitary conditions, and a label was introduced and fixed to their product. Of course that carried with it the fact that the label was only affixed where the Union had control and where their members were employed. That was the origin of what is today known commonly as "Union Label." It had its inception in the protection of the community against unsanitary products which were a danger and a menace to the life of the people.
So, even today, in the ladies' clothing industry, the label is a guarantee that the goods are turned out in factories where the highest sanitary conditions prevail. The tailors refused to affix their label on work done in homes where often suits for which you would pay $100 are used for the little children to sleep on because they have no bed-clothes. So the union label recognizes one of the first efforts towards establishing sanitary conditions Take the printers, again; through their efforts to improve hygiene in the industry, and to establish a home for those who suffer from disease which they have contracted, they have managed through their short period of existence to lengthen the average life of the men employed in the printing industry from 35 to 51 years. I think that is a valuable contribution to any community-to be able to add sixteen years to the life of a man at the prime of his productivity.
Based on those efforts we have the factory inspection laws, which today insist on general sanitary conditions. We have the licensing laws, governing those who particularly come in contact with the public, such as the catering and barbering trades, etc., where hygiene and sanitation are essential, and plumbers who have to do with sanitary installation in our homes, must be licensed, as capable, competent and under control, to see that the work done is safe for the community, for the customer and for the consumer.
Through these things we have made some contribution to the community's interest; also with regard to Child Labour laws, bringing out of the factories the children who were often used in earlier years; raising the school age, creating a class of workers, workers who will not refuse to do manual work because they are educated, but who can intelligently apply their man-power to the work because they have the education to do it; through the encouragement of educational facilities raising the school age, and the age at which they go into factories; the prevention of women working during the night, and in filthy occupations; all those things which are covered by our Factory Acts have done much to improve the community's status of life.
But, in doing that, it was realized that hardship would probably be inflicted on some of the working people, by compelling them to leave their children at school, and refusing to allow their children to go into industry at an early age, though economic conditions surrounding them were so stringent that it would be practically impossible for them to continue unless some provision was made. Therefore Labour devoted itself to efforts first to secure the minimum wage laws, which provided that women and children could not be exploited, and should be given a reasonable remuneration for the work which they did; then, also the Mothers' Allowance Act, whereby a woman, instead of being compelled to send her children into a factory or leave them to run the streets and become gamins, in order that she may go into a factory, is provided from State aid, not with charity or a dole, but with an actual pension for the most valuable work that anyone can do for a community-the raising of a future generation.
In the 8-hour day, the one day's rest in seven, and other matters we are pressing at present, we are not asking that experiments shall be made. We are merely asking that conditions which we have established as sound shall be turned into legislation in order that they may extend the benefits to others. Organized Labour today can cheerfully say that in Canada practically 75 per cent of its membership already enjoy the 8-hour day through collective bargaining and through collective agreements with their employers. Therefore the percentage of members of Labour Unions who would benefit by 8-hour day legislation is insignificant compared with the masses of other workers who have not yet organized or been able to organize, but who are compelled to devote almost every hour that they can physically devote to the continuation of their own particular calling.
We are therefore asking for legislation which to the organized worker means merely the consolidation of that which they have established. Labour has contributed to the community interest by demonstrating the practicability of what can be done, and it merely turns to the public and says, " Having demonstrated this, we seek your understanding and support in order that those charged with enacting legislation should only translate public opinion into enactment. " If we go ahead of public opinion we have failure, as the O. T. A. experience has shown you many times. It is only with turning actual public opinion into concrete legislation that Parliament really has to do. We do not complain of Parliaments and Legislatures not passing legislation before they are convinced that public opinion is behind it. Therefore one of the contributions of Labour organizations is to cultivate public opinion, to understand the ideals and the basis and the practicability of that which Labour has been searching for, and has accomplished for itself.
I think I could summarize Labour's activities in many ways by saying that they could be classed under three heads-Safety, Health, and Welfare. There is a more indirect one which is carried on through this country by the Labour Unions and the Central bodies such as the trained leaders, the Labour Council of Hamilton, etc., some 60 of which are in existence throughout the country. They interest themselves in the broader matters of community life, and perhaps would be much easier understood by you as actually contributing to community life, through the assistance they give to all matters which will improve educational facilities, etc., through the institution of, and the pressure for, playgrounds instead of children roaming the streets; through the betterment of building by-laws so that the homes in which they live shall not be jerry-built, but shall be sanitary and safe. Through community activities of that kind you find those Councils taking an interest, watching their City Councils, passing resolutions which may guide to some extent the great masses of wage-earners in the community as to what is better for the raising of the status of themselves; and in other directions not so closely related as wage negotiations and other matters, Labour is making a vast contribution to community interest.
May I read a few extracts from a pamphlet whose origin I do not know; it was issued last year under the title, "A Challenge to Canadians," and as good Canadians I think we ought to hear what that challenge was. It says: "It is true that Canada is favoured with much fertile land, large forests, timber, wide-spread mining deposits, much water power, much of it undeveloped, and good fisheries. Yes, Nature has done very well for Canada, and Nature may boast if she will. So far, those entrusted with the affairs of Government and of industrial development have no great cause for boasting. In spite of those boundless resources, Canada has her hungry thousands, her unemployed, and her industries idle. She has forests of timber, but not enough houses for her people; tremendous yields of wheat, yet many are hungry; extensive possibilities of industrial development, but with many idle hands. Is it not a pity that someone could not fittingly and truthfully boast of a nation of homes, a well-fed and well-educated people, free from the burden of debt, and fear, and want? That is really what the Canadian people would like to see, but cannot."
Labour has accepted the challenge, gentlemen, of the last paragraph; it has attempted to realize its ideals and its responsibilities to fit in with the fulfillment of that last challenge.
I want to thank you again for the opportunity you have given me to place before you these few simple facts of Labour's activities and ideals, realizing that in doing so you have provided one more avenue where the challenge contained in the paragraph I have read may be brought nearer accomplishment by the assistance that I know many of you are going to lend us in achieving our objects.
THE PRESIDENT voiced the hearty Thanks of the Club to the speaker for his informing and inspiring address.