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Teachers Unions mark a new departure in trade union methods and ideals. Teachers place their main reliance upon aroused public opinion instead of the strike. In addition to the need for improvements in salaries and conditions of work which are the important causes of their formation, their objects go beyond the interests of merely their own group, as the work of the Chicago teachers well shows. The Constitution of the Federation emphasizes especially the necessity of democratising education and the schools, and substituting self reliance for subserviency among the teachers, so that they may better equip their pupils to take their place in the industrial, social, and political life of the community.
THE JEWISH LABOR MOVEMENT IN THE UNITED
By J. B. SALUTSKY. Out of more than 2,000,000 Jewish immigrants residing in the United States at least 400,000 are wage-earners, salespeople, insurance agents, and others. The majority are employed in shops and factories, principally in the “needle industries.” Despite the fact that Jews are well represented among the leaders of industry, trade, and finance, the Jewish population is primarily proletarian. The Jewish immigrants who arrived before the eighties of the last century from Germany and other parts of Western Europe had money and education, and were able to enter the front ranks of business enterprise, which at that time was greatly expanding. These German Jews became the "upper class” of the Jewish population, with such prominent leaders as Jacob Schiff, Julius Rosenwald, Louis Marshal, and Louis D. Brandeis. On the other hand the Jewish immigrants who left Russia during the revolutionary period of 1903-1908 form an entirely different class. Many of them had participated in, or sympathised with, the emancipation movement. Of the many who cherished the hope to become "independent” a few penetrated the middle class as contractors, factory-owners, and store-keep
Those who had been tradespeople or "intellectuals” emerged from the “melting pot” as proletarians. They were compelled to enter factories and shops and become wageearners.
None of those who came from Russia and few from Austria knew anything of labor unions or of political parties. Yet these Jewish immigrants have not only developed solid organization, but have also, as they claim, evolved a more advanced type of unionism, more modern and aggressive in methods and tactics than some of the organizations of native labor. Belonging to unions affiliated to the American Feder-,
ation of Labor there are 250,000 Jewish proletarians, sixty per cent of them in New York City. Thus, while the Jews form only slightly more than 2 per cent. of the population of the United States, they constitute over 10 per cent. of those organized under the A. F. of L.
The tendency toward Americanization is strong among Jewish unionists. They strive to assimilate whatever they have of revolutionary tradition with the conservative methods worked out by American labor leaders during the last sixty years. This fact is interesting in view of the "foreign" leadership of the Jewish unions. Nearly all the organizers, speakers, and writers are "green" immigrants. The few exceptions are Russian Jews who spent several years in England, where they imbibed the first principles of trade unionism. These leaders are the most conservative and of late have been supplanted by men and women who have risen directly from the ranks of the workers.
Judging from available figures supplied by unions, there are nearly 300,000 Jews, male and female, employed in the "needle industries." Others are to be found among the building trades, inside iron works, leather factories, etc. There are 30,000 Jews in locals of the Brotherhood of Carpenters throughout the country. There is probably an equal number in the painting and paperhanging trades. While the Jews form the predominating racial group (the Italians being the next largest), in the “needle industries,” in the other trades they are insignificant minorities. The international unions, in some cases, have separate Jewish locals; for instance, the Typographical Union, in which the Jewish printers of New York City, separately organized, have succeeded in getting the highest scale of wages.
The first large union of Jewish workers was formed in New York City in 1888 when, with the help of "intellectuals," the United Hebrew Trades was organized. Morris Hillquit, Abraham Cahan, and several other prominent Socialists of today were among the initiators. Until then attempts to organize the men and women employed in the sweat shops had not been very successful. But with the United Hebrew Trades in existence it was possible to get nearly 15,000 of the Jewish tailors to strike for better conditions. “The strikers were unorganized and undisciplined,” says Morris Hillquit in his History of Socialism in the United States, “and it is very doubtful whether they would have accomplished anything substantial without the aid of the Socialists. The latter practically assumed entire charge of the contest. They organized the strikers into trade-unions, collected funds for them, directed their battles, and led them to victory. It was, therefore, natural that there should have been at all
times a strong bond of sympathy between the Jewish trades union movement and the Socialist movement. Most of the organizers, leaders, and speakers of the Jewish trade-unions came from the ranks of the Socialist Labor Party, and in return the organized Jewish working men heartily co-operated with the party in all it undertook, and promptly responded to all its appeals." Though the Jewish unions have tried, even in matters of detail, to adopt the ways of the American organizations, they have never abandoned their close relationship with the Socialist movement. At times many unionists show a strong tendency toward still more aggressive methods than those recommended by acknowledged Socialist leaders, and so sections of the Jewish workers and some of their unions have been active in the organization of the Socialist Trade and Labor Alliance, promoted by the S. L. P., and later in the I. W. W. But the great majority have never forsaken the A. F. of L.
Until about 1905 the Jewish labor movement did not consolidate its advances. Many unions had only a short existence. As a rule organized through a strike they began to fall to pieces as soon as work was resumed. The United Hebrew Trades, of course, strove to strengthen the movement. Although efforts to organize in other cities such as Philadelphia, Chicago, and Boston were not very successful, the United Garment Workers of America, as the organization was now called, maintained a nucleus of organized Jewish tailors in New York and Chicago. The Cloak and Skirt Makers of New York were more successful. They formed part of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union, which at times was strongly organized and conducted effective general strikes as far back as 25 years ago. But all that was of short duration. The continuous influx of immigrants and the movement of Jewish workers from trade to trade and from city to city made strong and permanent organization extremely difficult. Lack of experience and education were also adverse factors.
The present organized movement of the Jewish workers really began with the two big strikes of 1909-10 and the preceding fight of the Jewish bakers' workmen for the recognition of their union and label. The Furriers (8,000 in all) followed suit (1911). The tailors in Chicago (1910), where the Jews number 40 per cent. of the trade, and then the general strike of the men's clothing workers in New York City, over 100,000 strong-founded the era of organization. Men and women rose from the ranks to leadership, and the immigrants of yesterday are today an efficient division of the labor army.
Reference should be made to the recent split in the
United Garment Workers Union and the formation of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America, which is not affiliated to the A. F. of L. The idea of secession from the official labor movement of the country does not appeal much to the leading elements in the Jewish workers' organizations. Abuse and neglect on the part of officials had to reach their climax before the Jewish tailors could be driven to break away. If the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America still refuses to join the A. F. of L., the latter must be blamed for its methods of routine. There is no lack of desire in the seceding body to affiliate with the central movement of the nation's workers.
To the American observer, to whom the apparently revolutionary tendencies of the Jewish labor movement seem at variance with the national movement, the extreme loyalty of Jewish workers to the generally conservative leadership of unionism is puzzling. But there is no contradiction. Part of the explanation is to be found in the life of the Jews in the countries from which they have emigrated. Another point to note is that made by Professor Hoxie, of Chicago, who drew a distinction between business unionism and social unionism. The first looks on organization as a business investment. It measures its strength in numbers and money, and is possibly more efficient. It is the honest, conservative type of unionism as represented by Samuel Gompers and its slow and cautious policy. The second type of unionism views organization from the standpoint of social service. It places ultimate aims above immediate gains, though by no means neglectful of material advancement. It demands a higher quality of devotion. The conflict in the United Garment Workers arose from this difference in fundamental philosophy. This side of Jewish labor unionism, of course, has its shortcomings, but it must be recognized as an eventual source of strength and not of weakness. It also explains the bond which unites the Jewish unions with the Socialist movement.
The Jewish labor movement is not confined to trade unions. An important auxiliary is to be found in the Mutual Benefit and Educational Societies. The best known is the Workmen's Circle, with nearly 600 branches throughout the country and over 50,000 members. There are also many local organizations of the kind. They do valuable work in educating immigrants, who know little or nothing of political rights, and initiating them in the ideas of citizenship and economic organization. This is doing the work of Americanization in the best sense.
THE NATIONAL WOMEN'S TRADE UNION LEAGUE
Organization and Affiliation. The founding of the National Women's Trade Union League of America in 1903 marked a new stage in the trade organization of women. It has grown in numbers and influence. It now has headquarters in Chicago and branches for local work in New York, Chicago, Springfield (I11.), Boston, Worcester (Mass.), St. Louis, Baltimore, Denver, Philadelphia, Kansas City (Mo.), and Los ngeles.
The Women's Trade Union League is endorsed by the American Federation of Labor, and the Trades and Labor Congress of Canada, and is represented at their conventions by a fraternal delegate. It receives moral and financial assistance from the American Federation of Labor, and from international and local unions in many trades. It has held five biennial conventions, the last in New York in 1915.
The League was the prime mover in obtaining public support for the federal investigation into the conditions of woman and child wage-earners.
It publishes its own magazine, Life and Labor, and issues from time to time a great amount of literature on women in industry, their problems and how to handle them.
It conducts a school for training women as active workers in the trade union movement. The need for women organizers is admittedly a crying one, which this school is doing much to fill.
The League claims an affiliated membership of 125,000 women trade unionists, while many thousands of trade union men are also enrolled in its ranks.
The trades of the women members, and the women's locals in active connection with the branch leagues cover such widely varied occupations as bag makers, bakery and confectionery workers, beer bottlers, bindery women, boot and shoe workers, bookkeepers and stenographers, cigar makers, cooks, garment workers in many subdivisions, glove workers, hospital attendants, hat trimmers, laundry workers, office cleaners, paper box makers, printers, teachers, telephone operators and waitresses.