THE CLOSED OR OPEN SHOP --- WHICH?
by Elbert Hubbard,
Published by The Roycrofters, East• Aurora • Erie • County • N.Y.
Done into a Book by The Roycrofters at their shop, which is in East Aurora, State of New York.
Copyright 1910 By Elbert Hubbard
The Closed or Open Shop?
THE Federation of Labor has placed The Roycroft Shop on the Unfair List.
Isn't that terrible !
It occurred two years ago, and here I have never heard of it until day before yesterday.
Hic, My God ! or words to that effect. We are up against it !
When this bad news was brought to me I set the wheels in motion to find out the whyfore. And here are the reasons : First, The Roycroft Shop is teaching trades to an unlimited number of boys and girls.
Second, I have quoted J. K. Turner, who says, "Nothing that is secret can succeed." Also, I am a personal friend of C. W. Post, D. M. Parry, J. W. Van Cleave, John D. Archbold and James J. Hill, and have spoken well of these men in print.
To all these things I plead guilty ; and I might also add that I am a personal friend of Eugene Debs, T. V. Powderly, Clarence Darrow and Samuel Gompers.
The way I found out I was on the Unfair List
was when an advertiser canceled his contract with us, explaining that a certain Union had notified him that our publications did not bear the Union-Label, that we were officially "Unfair," and that he should cease advertising with us or stand the consequences.
Further investigation proved the facts as stated.
¶ Let it here be said that the Roycroft Shop has never had a strike ; that the wages we pay are above Union scale ; that the conditions under which the Roycrofters work are better than any Union ever demanded or imagined. Our offense is simply that by teaching trades to young people we increase the supply of skilled laborers ; and that to be a friend of men who have spoken in opposition to Unionism is a thing to invite displeasure. This displeasure then finds form in an endeavor to injure our business by posting us as "Unfair."
The hope, of course, is to drive us out of business, or else to force us to adopt the "Label" ; that is, force us to employ only those tho have a Union-Card. This means turning our business over to the Unions, and allowing them to say whom we shall teach and when and how. ¶ Did tyranny ever go further?
Did any "Trust" ever try to do worse? ¶ The Roycroft Shop has been placed on the "Unfair List," not because we are unfair to labor, but because we are not favorable to the Labor Trust. And it is a distortion of language to say we have been unfair to the Labor Trust, simply because we have told the truth about it. Is this not America, the home of free speech?
So let this fact be stated : The Federation of Labor does not stand for labor –– it only stands for such a portion of it as consents to be owned and dictated to by itself. For the multitude of young men and women who wish to gain an education through the skilled use of hands, it cares nothing. It knows nothing about educating the brain by use of the hand. The "pay-envelope" is all it knows or cares about.
Also it cares nothing for production or the net result of labor. All it thinks of is more wages and shorter hours.
The despotism of Unionism, if it could have its way, would reach past human belief. It seeks to paralyze human freedom and stop progress. The building of railroads and growth of cities is nothing to it. The pursuit of another's happiness is its chief concern.
¶ It intimidates my customer until he cancels his contract, fearing that he, too, will be placed on the Unfair List, and that customers will desert him.
¶ It seeks to chain my pen, and say whom I shall speak well of, and whom not.
It tries to name my friends, and if it could separate me from those I respect and admire, it would make their names anathema.
It steps into my household and tells me how my boys shall be educated and how not.
It examines my magazines and warns me to buy only of those advertisers who patronize magazines bearing the "Label."
And then when I protest, it says, "Oh, we do not want to hurt anybody –– if you employ only Union labor and use the Label, nothing will happen to you."
Isn't this disunionism?
Isn't it exactly the attitude of Spain during the Inquisition? Did not Spain say to the Jews, "Come into the Catholic Church, be one with us, and no harm shall befall you !"
The man with the big stick, who flashes a dark lantern in your face, and assures you that if you give him your watch, no harm shall happen to you,
is not a robber. Oh, certainly not ! Gompers just can't see the other side–– it is a matter of human limitation and so we will have to see it for him. He would stop manual training in schools, fearing trades in all prisons, for fear the prisons will become popular and honest men will be left without jobs. ¶ The endeavor of Unionism is to make the job last, not to get it done.
It assumes that the supply of work is limited and, if there are too many apprentices, the working man will soon be on half-time.
Any man with this buzzing bee in his bonnet is already a failure. Superior men see no end to work and all great men make work for thousands. Hill and Archibold are the best friends that labor ever had. They set armies to work and build cities where before were only prairie-dog towns.
Now the men who belong to the Unions are not bad men. Gompers is not a bad man. He gets five thousand dollars a year, and God knows he earns it. I don't want his job. His end will be the hatred of the people he seeks to serve, for labor is always ungrateful. Gompers is a Jew, and above all men the Jews ought to know the sin of persecution by
this time. But Gompers is a man, and no man is fit to be trusted with unlimited power. We are only safe where there is a strong opposition. To gain his lamented point Gompers would outdo his old friend, the lamented Torquemada, who chased the ancestors with sword and fagot. The only word of cheer Sam has for me is this, "Run a Union shop, and I'll guarantee you protection."
And that means, give Gompers the key to my shop and let him appoint a superintendent.
Men are Men––that is the trouble. When Debs indicts "Capitalism," all he does is to indict human nature. Men clutch for personal power, and forget the rights of other men.
The safety of this country demands that we shall resist coercion and intimidation, whether offered by a Church Trust or a Labor Trust. Why does n't Gompers start a factory of his own? Let him run a closed shop if he wants––we do not care.
The Unions have, as we have said, done much good in the past––to them we owe factory-inspection, child-labor laws and the shorter working day. But because a thing is good in small doses is no proof that we can stand an unlimited quantity of it.
A United States Court has declared that posting a
man as "Unfair" because this man employs certain men is itself unfair and must not be continued. For this offense before the law, Gompers may go to jail, and he declares that he is willing to to to jail. If need be, Gompers will be taught the lesson––the leisure will give him a chance to see the truth, which is that the boycott is un-American and must be bundled into the rag-bag of things that were. Lessee, what was it Patrick Henry said about freedom?
Both the word "boycott" and the thing itself are importations, borrowed from a people who, says my old college chum, Wu Ting Fang, govern everybody but themselves, and have influence everywhere, save in their own country. The boycott, I repeat, is un-American. It is a fight in a fog––a secret, treacherous, sneaking stab in the back––a crawling in the tall uncut. If we are going to fight let us fight in the open. Rightly has Judge Gould placed an injunction on the boycott. Let it be deported to the land where it originated.
It cose the Gobeille Pattern Company, of Cleveland, forty thousand dollars to get its name off the Unfair List. But that was ten years ago. I wouldn't give forty cents to have my name blotted from the
"Index Expurgation" of the Federation of Labor, any more than I would give Collier's thirty cents––Collier's who are doing my advertising gratis, to avoid publicity in their columns.
Commercial excommunication now is no worse than church excommunication. When the Church cuts you off, you can go to God direct. You simply eliminate the middleman. When organized-labor leaders seek to starve you out, you make your appeal to the people––and wax fat. Who represents the folks that actually work in this country, anyway ! On your life it is not the Walking Delegate!
When Gompers reaches out his long pole from Washington, New York, or Boston and endeavors to lambaste a man in Battle Creek, Indianapolis or St. Louis, he only wakes the party up and soon has a fight on hand. That a laborer shall not sell his labor where and when he desires ; that an employer shall employ only certain people ; that my boy shall not be educated ; that an advertiser shall not patronize certain periodicals––all this is shockingly Russian and overwhelmingly Irish.
We long ago decided not to be ruled by a person in England, or a man in Italy. The Anglo-Saxon is a transplanted Teuton, with a dash of hardy Norse
in his fiber that makes slavery for him out of the question. In every land upon which he has placed his foot, he has found either a throne or a grave. ¶ When those Norsemen with their yellow hair flying in the breeze sailed up the Seine, the people on the shore called to them in amazement and asked, "Where are you from and who are your masters?"
And the defiant answer rang out over the waters, "We are from round the world, and we call no man master !"
To these men we trace a pedigree. And think you we are to trade the freedom for which we have fought, for the rule of a Business Agent graduated from a cigar factory?
Excuse this smile––I really can't help it.
When that punk party known as George the Three Times disregarded the warning of one Edmund Burke, who said, "Your Majesty, you must not forget that these Colonists are Englishmen––our own people, and they can not be coerced," he invited his own fate.
The English and hired Hessians fought Washington five to one, but Washington was an Anglo-Saxon, a transplanted Teutonic Norse-American, and in
his bright lexicon no such word as "fail" could be found.
Imagine Sam Gompers handing an ultimatum to George Washington, and you get a spectacle no more ridiculous than that of the Federation of Labor saying to the people of America, "You shall not introduce manual training into your public schools for fear it will deprive Michael Mulaney of a job as plumber's monkey !"
Let Gompers rule his Hessians, but remember this, their children will be Americans.
Yet a Labor-Union may do good. I never ask a man whether he belongs to a Union any more than I would ask if he belongs to a Church. That is his business. I most certainly would not ask him to renounce his Union unless the Union were trying to throttle him. Even then it is his affair. But certainly we will not be dictated to by men with less intelligence, energy, initiative and ambition than we ourselves possess.
All attempts to build up class hatred in this country must fail. We stand for co-operation, reciprocity, mutuality. "Once a laborer, always a laborer," is not our shibboleth.
Our Labor-Union friends are lifting a fine cry about
the injustice of injunctions. But what is their whole intent but to place an injunction of fear and coercion upon the employer, so that he dare not turn a wheel without permission ! ¶ Is sending Gompers to jail, for violating a court order, any more tragic than for Gompers to send me to the poorhouse for disregarding his orders? In God's name, where is the difference? ¶ We have agreed as a people to obey the courts––that is civilization––and we should obey them right or wrong. We have all been stung at times by the courts, and we take our medicine, knowing that in the long run the courts are right. But we have never agreed to abide by the edicts of the secret conclave of Amalgamated Molders, and I hardly think we will. ¶ There are inequalities in this country that must be worked out ; there are injustices that must be righted ; but the boycott, the club, the fagot, the bomb and the secret conclave––the air brakes on prosperity's wheels––can never right them. We must bring patience, good nature and reason to bear. To solve the problems we must discuss, agitate, write, talk and educate––and yet again educate. Some day, then, the fog will lift, and the sun will shine out. In fact, it is beginning to shine out now.
Thus ends part 2.