History and Functions of Central Labor Unions

By William Maxwell Burke | Go to book overview

CHAPTER V.
THE FUTURE OF CENTRAL LABOR UNIONS.

WHAT was said in the last chapter leads directly to the question, what is to be the future of the Central Labor Union? From the beginning to the present, the real end of all its work has been to place labor on something of an equal footing with capital in the matter of bargaining. This is true, not alone of the central bodies, but as far as aggressive work is concerned, it is the mainspring of all action in the case of large and small trade unions alike.

Even the subject of insurance, which takes up a large part of the time of the great national trade unions, and the matter of influencing legislation, with which the federations concern themselves, have this object in view, viz., To put the laborer in a position where he may bargain for the sale of his labor with a combination of capital which is no stronger than the combination of labor which he represents.

The former, or what Webb calls the "method of mutual insurance," does not touch the question of competition by those men outside the unions, but is simply a method of evening up the wages of different men in the unions. If individual bargaining were the rule in all unions, certain men who by reason of a large family or other necessities would be forced to accept a lower wage, would then help to support those who are out of work because they would not accept the same rate. The non-union man, however, assumes none of the burdens and shares none of the advantages. All this naturally helps to put the trade unionist in a posi-

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