The next step for producing efficiency must be no strikes.
The annual convention of the American Federation of Labor, consisting of international unions, will be held at Buffalo on November 12th. I would urge that about thirty executives of the unions, which more directly control essential war production, be invited to confer with you prior to that date, to determine on a policy which will prevent the constant interruption of production for war purposes. The Commissioners of Conciliation of the Department of Labor and the President’s Commission have a wonderful record of accomplishments for settling strikes after they have occurred. Organized labor should give the Government the opportunity to adjust controversies before strikes occur.
At this conference it could safely be made plain that for the war, employers would agree not to object to the peaceable extension of trade unionism; that they would make no efforts to “open” a “closed shop”; that they would submit all controversies concerning standards, including wages and lockouts, to any official body on which they have equal representation with labor, and would abide by its decisions; that they would adhere strictly to health and safety laws, and laws concerning woman and child labor; that they would not lower prices now in force for piece work, except by Government direction; that if a union in a “closed” shop after due notice was unable to furnish sufficient workers, any non-union employees taken on would be the first to be dismissed on the contraction of business, and the shop restored to its previous “closed” status; that the only barrier in the way of steady production is the unwillingness of the unions to uphold the proposition of settlement before a strike, instead of after a strike.
The imminence of this convention seems to me to make some step necessary at this time. I would take the matter up with Secretary Wilson were he here, and have sent a copy of this letter to him. You undoubtedly can put an end to this most serious situation by calling on the international labor leaders to take a stand that will not be so radical as that taken in England, and yet will insure to the men good wages and good conditions, and make sure that our industry will not be paralyzed. Cordially yours,
TO J. O’H. COSGRAVE NEW YORK WORLD
Washington, December 21, 1917
My dear Jack,—My spirit does not permit me to give you an interview on the moral benefits of the war. This would be sheer camouflage. Of course, we will get some good out of it, and we will learn some efficiency—if that is a moral benefit—and a purer sense of nationalism. But the war will degrade us. That is the plain fact, make sheer brutes out of us, because we will have to descend to the methods that the Germans employ.
So you must go somewhere else for your uplift stuff. Cordially yours,