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The Dignity, Power and Responsibility of Organized Labor:
Labor Day Address, Greensboro, N.C., September 4, 1905

Electronic Edition.

Faison, W. E.

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(cover page) The Dignity, Power and Responsibility of Organized Labor: Labor Day address, Greensboro, N.C., September 4, 1905.
Faison, W. E.
15 p.
[S. l.]
[s.n.] (Raleigh, N.C. : Allied Printing Trades Council)

Call number Cp331.8 F17d (North Carolina Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)

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[cover page]

Power and
Organized Labor
Labor Day Address
Greensboro, N. C.
September 4, 1905



Page [2]

        Greensboro, N. C., Sept. 4.--The Labor Day Celebration and parade here to-day was the most successful ever held. Floats representing every class of trade and industry paraded the streets until 11 o'clock, hundreds of representatives of labor unions, appropriately costumed, marched in procession. Large crowds of home people and visitors witnessed the imposing spectacle. After this there was a grand concert at the city hall.

        At 2 o'clock the Grand Opera House was packed with people to hear the speeches. Rev. Dr. H. W. Battle opened with prayer and was followed by an address of welcome from Mayor Thomas J. Murphy. Mr. W. E. Faison, of Raleigh, then delivered an admirable address on the dignity, the power, the responsibility of organized labor, which was frequently applauded and has been highly complimented. After a short and eloquent address from Mr. A. W. Cooke, the meeting closed with an invocation from the chaplain, Dr. Battle.--Special to Raleigh (N. C.) News and Observer.

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Mr. Chairman, Fellow Unionists, Ladies and Gentlemen:

        In appearing on this platform to-day as a speaker, I can not say that I am very glad to be here. Not that I feel no interest in the cause for which this day is set apart and celebrated, nor yet because I am not in full sympathy with everything that tends to advance the cause of the wage-earner, and more especially the cause of organized labor. But the reason lies in the fact that I am not a public speaker by training, and on an occasion like the present I greatly fear I shall be unable to properly present to this audience those things for which organized labor stands, and those things, too, which it opposes.

Organized Labor Misunderstood.

        Were I speaking to an assembly of working men it would be unnecessary to explain many things, or so much as mention others, that before an audience like this must be thoroughly discussed. For it has been my observation and experience during the fifteen years that I have carried the working card of the Typographical Union, that there is no other subject of which the general public is so densely ignorant as that of organized labor. And so to-day it will be my object to make clear to you, as best I can, what trades unions are not, as well as what they are.

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Labor Humanity's Heritage.

        You have all listened to the orator as he eloquently portrayed the picture of the boy born in poverty and at the very bottom of the ladder, and yet fired with an ambition to attain unto greater things in life, sets his foot upon the bottom rung of the ladder of fame, performs the most menial tasks of labor as if in their performance he found his greatest joy. Slowly, yet surely, he ascends rung after rung, masters a trade in half the time required by his ambitionless brother-worker, and before a weaker vessel would have gotten his bearings as a mechanic, we find this prodigy mastering a profession--and behold he has scaled the topmost rung of the ladder of fame!

        You have all heard this beautiful story, usually rehearsed on occasions like the present, and always to gatherings of working people. And so often have you seen this youth, in your mind's eye, as he has been presented from time immemorial in the beautiful word-painting of the orator, that doubtless many of you have come to believe that he actually exists in flesh and blood. He may; but it has never been my privilege to meet him.

        I would not say one word to-day that might dampen the ardor of youth in the God-given aspiration to attain unto better things in this life. I would place no stumbling-block in the path of the toiler in his struggles with poverty, buoyed up by the hope of one day reaching the goal of his ambition--a life of ease and plenty after years of toil and privation. I am a firm believer in the maxim, "there's always room at the top"; and the addition to this maxim, made by a latter-day philosopher, that "the top is about the only place where there is any room," is equally true.

        Men have risen from the ranks of the low and humble to prominence in the world. Men have gone out from the trades into the professions and achieved success. But these are the exceptions which only prove the rule.

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        And this brings me to the point which I desire to impress upon you to-day--a truth that no amount of sophistry can change. Pleasing it may not be, and yet it were well that we appreciate its significance. It is this: That from the beginning of time until this day--and until time shall be no more--the great mass of humanity must eat their bread by the sweat of their face, under the edict of Almighty God. And of all the forces at work in the world to-day organized labor is the one agency that has accomplished most for the amelioration of the material condition of the toilers.

Organized Labor Protects the Individual.

        Organized labor means for the worker shorter hours, larger pay, better conditions, and greater independence.

        But we are told that labor unions destroy one's individuality, and our pretended friends preach "individualism," and endeavor to show us the beauties of individual contracts and the folly of paying money into the union to be squandered by venal leaders.

        I am here to tell you, my friends, that organized labor is conducive to the highest type of individualism. If the individualism they preach is so great a virtue, why is it that our advisers along this line fail to put it into practice? Why is it that the great evangel of individualism, one David M. Parry, finds it necessary to organize his forces? How is it that we find him to-day the president of an organization whose sole object is the destruction of organized labor?

        Organized labor stands for the man, and it does more--it protects him. It is one of the stock arguments of the enemies of organized labor, that in our scales of prices we force better workmen to accept the same wage as the less skilled. And this charge is on a par with the majority of the arguments made against organized labor. On the contrary organized labor fixes the minimum and never the maximum wage. I do not know how it is in Greensboro, but in

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my own trade in Raleigh the larger per cent work at a wage in excess of the scale of prices as prescribed by the union.

Labor Leaders are not Corrupt.

        Another constant charge of the enemies of organized labor is that our leaders are corrupt. I have the honor to know personally the great labor leaders of this country--Sam Gompers, John Mitchell, James Duncan, Frank Morrison, James Lynch, and a score of others, and I stand here to-day and defy any man to produce their superiors from any walk of life. No, my friends, if any cause ever had faithful, self-sacrificing, honest, fearless leaders our cause has them to-day, and has had them in the past, or we would never have attained unto the position we occupy to-day against the combined opposition of the forces that make for human slavery.

        But some one asks, "How about Sam Parks?" Only a few months ago Sam was in the lime-light, every paper in the country featured Sam with great scare-heads, and held him up as an awful example of the effect of organized labor and as a sample of labor leaders. You all recall Sam--but can you mention a single other? I can not, though I do not doubt in the least there are many others. The truth is, organized labor has not yet made any claim to perfection or infallibility, and as long as men are human we shall expect to find sinners even in the "amen corners" of our churches. But what great crime did Sam Parks commit? They charged him with accepting a bribe, and sentenced him to jail. What became of the bribe-giver? I presume he is still engaged in the laudable endeavor of crushing out organized labor.

        A gentleman over in Milwaukee the other day stole something like two millions of dollars--and he was actually the president of the national union of bankers of America. It

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was an awful crime for Sam Parks, a "walking delegate" of a labor union, to accept a bribe of a few hundred dollars, tendered by a wealthy employer, and the press of the country and the enemies of organized labor rolled it as a sweet morsel under their tongues, and organized labor was held up to ridicule. The bank president walks off with millions, and no one has yet made it a charge against the bankers' association. I take it there are about as many labor union officials in North Carolina as there are bank officials. How many bank officials can you recall having gone wrong in North Carolina during the past few years? When you have figured that out, then try to recall the number of union officials that have gone wrong in the same period of time.

Organization the Order of the Day.

        Only a few years ago, and organized labor was practically unknown in North Carolina. To-day we find the leading trades organized in the cities and larger towns, and the work has but commenced. The day has happily passed when any one questions the right of labor to organize, although I can well remember, as doubtless can many before me to-day, the time when it was necessary that we defend even our right to organize. To-day is a day of organization, and the man who is a skilled mechanic and yet refuses to align himself with his fellows in their efforts to better his and their condition is a traitor, and deserves what he generally receives at the hands of organized workers.

The Strike Labor's Last Resort.

        But you ask: "How about strikes?" I believe in strikes. And I will say further, that no man has any business in the ranks of organized labor who is not a firm believer in strikes. I am not here to say that there are not ill-advised strikes, that there are not strikes where organized labor is in the wrong. But I do say, and most emphatically, that there

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are fewer mistakes made by organized labor along this line than by the employers. A strike is labor's last resort, and is never wholly lost, for if it accomplished nothing more, it was a wholesome lesson to capital that labor, however humble, was not yet ready to bow in abject servitude.

Organized Labor Wins Oftener than It Loses.

        How many of you know anything personally about a strike, anyhow? Is it not true that all the information you have about strikes is that gathered from the press reports? Now let me give you a new standard by which to measure the enormity of the crimes committed by organized labor as reported by the press. Did you ever seen the pictures that are used in a moving-picture machine? Then have you seen these same pictures flashed on the canvas enlarged to more than life-size? The picture goes into the machine only a few inches in diameter--it appears on the canvas ten feet high! The picture as it goes into the machine is the strike as it really is; the picture as it appears on the canvas, enlarged an hundredfold, is the strike as it is portrayed in the press of the country.

        The statistics as gathered by the Departments of Labor of the several States, those wonderful institutions usually presided over by one-horse politicians whose every thought is inimical to the interests of organized labor, actually show that more than fifty per cent of the strikes in this country are won by organized labor! But the fact is that more than seventy-five per cent are won by us. Granting, however, that we only succeed against the combinations of capital, the unfriendliness of the press, and in many instances the bitter opposition of the church, in a little more than half of our fights for better conditions, is it not a record of which we can justly feel proud?

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Labor's Greater Conquests.

        Our greatest achievements, however, are not the results of strikes. We accomplish far more by peaceful methods than could possibly be obtained through strife. When the history of the great labor movement of to-day is written, it will be the record of a peaceful conquest which revolutionized the conditions of the toilers, and accomplished stupendous reforms which have blessed mankind, and thus brought us nearer the recognition and acceptance of that divine truth--"the Fatherhood of God, and the brotherhood of man."

        And, so, when you come to contemplate what is gained by organized labor without recourse to a strike, you will begin to appreciate the great work that is being accomplished by organized labor, and you will begin to recognize in the men who are the leaders in the labor movement a devotion to duty and the welfare of their fellow-workers seldom witnessed among men. To illustrate: When I became a member of Raleigh Typographical Union the minimum scale was $14 per week and ten hours per day, and not a half dozen men received more than the scale. To-day the minimum scale for hand composition is $15 per week and 8 1-4 hours (and it will be 8 hours after January 1, 1906), and $16 per week for day and $18 for night work, at 8 hours per day on machines, and three-fourths at least receive wages in excess of the scale. Now, all this was accomplished without a strike. Does any sane man believe for a moment that it would have been possible to have accomplished this much for the printers of Raleigh by any other method than organization?

The Friend of Every Reform.

        While the primary object of organized labor is, of course, the bettering of the condition of its members, yet we stand for other things that are of vital interest to the whole people. Organized labor is a unit for compulsory education, is

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most bitterly opposed to the system of child labor as practiced in the mills of the State, is opposed to immigration, and is the friend of every reform movement for the uplifting of humanity.

Compulsory Education and Child Labor

        We believe in compulsory education because it means the taking of the child out of the mill and giving him a common school education, which will prepare him to take his place as a citizen and an intelligent worker.

        Child labor in North Carolina must be abolished. Baby hands and baby feet are chained and helpless. How long shall the cry of the defenseless little toiler be unheard? The forces that make for human slavery--child slavery; that would "grind up the seed-corn"; that would cast a withering blight upon the minds and bodies, yea, the very souls of innocent childhood, and condemn them to a life--short, indeed, it will be, but long enough to reap the fearful curse of ignorance, disease and servile dependence, are indeed strong in North Carolina--strong enough to control Legislatures, to violate their own agreements, and to defy the written law. Strong enough, too, to muzzle to a great extent the press, and its influence even reaches into the pulpit and finds a defender.

        We are irrevocably committed to compulsory education. Vote for no man to represent you in the Legislature who puts the dollar above the man, and therefore sees no wrong in child slavery.

        The leaven has already begun to work. A number of towns and cities as well as counties in North Carolina now have compulsory school laws by special acts of the Legislature. Raleigh township, in which is located the capital of the State, is under a compulsory school law, and the day is not far distant when we will have a general compulsory school law for the entire

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State, and free text-books for the children too poor to buy them.

The Curse of Foreign Immigration.

        Organized labor is opposed to foreign immigration. The last Legislature placed its seal of disapproval upon the proposition to establish an immigration bureau for North Carolina, and it acted most wisely. But there were those who were not satisfied with this action of the Legislature, and a mighty effort has been and still is being put forth, through the State Agricultural Department, to force upon the people of North Carolina the criminal hordes of Europe. They tell us that they will only secure the desirable classes who will work on the farms and make good citizens, and to this end they have flooded the State with circulars asking the farmers to make application for such labor as they need. And after an exhaustive campaign for the past six months, the secretary of the department gives out the startling information that he has had applications from the entire State for fifty immigrants. I presume this order was turned down as they only furnish this class of labor in car-load lots. This should put an effective quietus on the immigration question so far as North Carolina is concerned. But it will not, for there are those who seem determined to inject into the purest American citizenship in this country to-day, the citizenship of a State whose proudest boast should be that only two-tenths of one per cent of her entire population is foreign born, the deadly virus of an old-world civilization.

The Cry of Greed.

        The great cry raised by these promoters of immigration is the "scarcity of labor." This is the cry of greed. There is enough labor in North Carolina to supply all the demand that may be created, and if by any possible chance there should be a shortage in the labor supply there are thousands of American-born citizens willing and anxious to come to

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us. And here we come face to face with the real issue--that of wages rather than laborers. A standard of wages that makes possible but the bare necessities of life will ever force the American citizen to seek other fields of labor. Raise the standard of wages to a point where the laborer may enjoy a few, at least, of the comforts of life and educate his children, and the Old North State will bloom as a rose. Fail in this, and we will continue to witness the annual exodus of our own people to more fertile fields.

The Threat of Capital.

        But all this is to be remedied by cheap foreign labor, they tell us. Only the other day I read in one of our leading dailies an interview with a capitalist, in which he said if the time ever came when the mill labor of the State should rebel against their long, tedious hours of toil, and their short, scanty pay, their places would be immediately filled by cheap, foreign labor, as had already been done in the mills of New England. It will be a dark day for North Carolina when the hordes of cheap foreign labor cross her borders. I have seen this class at their best and at their worst in the anthracite regions of Pennsylvania, in the manufacturing centers of New England and in the slums of our great cities. And I say to you to-day, that taking them at their very best, their standards of living, to say nothing of the other elements to go to make good citizens, are far below that of the most illiterate and lowly of our own American-born citizenship.

Degradation, Vice, Treason and Anarchy.

        There is yet another feature of this question that should receive the consideration of the "powers that be." We have eliminated the negro as a factor in politics; shall we now inject into our citizenship the germs of degradation, vice, treason and anarchy?

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Little Fear of Foreign Invasion.

        Candidly, I have little fear of the Old North State ever being cursed with foreign immigration. Those who would make good citizens and whom we would they came, and they settle in the great Northwest and Canada, and not one in 10,000 ever has or will find his way to North Carolina. Those we do not want, and please God we will not have, come from Southern Europe, and herd amid the crime, disease and corruption of our great centers of population. We should thank God to-day that we have no large cities to draw, as magnets, this "froth of the pit."

Political Action the Only Remedy.

        And now I come to the discussion of a subject that most vitally affects the laboring classes of this State, and especially organized labor. For years I have consistently advised the workers to steer clear of partisan politics, for this is the rock upon which many another reform movement has met its doom. But we can not, if we would, longer blind ourselves to the fact that in a government like ours, where the people are the sovereigns, if we ever hope to bring about the reforms for which we stand, we must take a hand in politics. Let me give you a few pointers: There are to-day in the ranks of organized labor in North Carolina more men by far than are to be found in the professions and all the business callings combined. In the ranks of labor, organized and unorganized, is the great mass of the citizenship of the State, not even exceeded in numbers by the farmer. Now, where are me at politically? How is this, the largest class of citizenship in the State, represented in its government? In all the varied departments of our State government, among the boards of our numerous institutions, from the heads of the departments and institutions down to and including the janitors, how is this great class of our citizenship represented? By one lone man, B. R. Lacy, the State

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Treasurer. And how did he get there? I will tell you. The working people of North Carolina put him there, and if they are alive to their interests and would show their appreciation of the best friend they have to-day, and the only friend they "have at court," they will put him in the Governor's chair in 1908.

The Labor Department a Farce and an Insult.

        There is a department of our State government which was created about twenty years ago at the demand of the laboring classes, that we might have a representative at the seat of government, and for the special purpose of bringing about the reforms for which we stand. And in all these years who have been the men who have presided over the Labor Bureau of North Carolina? A lawyer, a school teacher, a farmer, and at only one time have we had a representative of organized labor as Commissioner, and then in the person of Hon. B. R. Lacy. And this department is to-day presided over by one unfitted by every possible standard to represent the honest toilers of North Carolina, a standing insult to the intelligence and integrity of the wage-earners of North Carolina.

What are You Going to do About It?

        What are you going to do about it? With you is the power to change the present condition of things. Will you do it? Are you satisfied with being so completely ignored that but one, single, solitary representative of yours succeeds in landing in any place of honor or trust throughout the entire system of our State government? I think not.

        Some one is going to say, "O, yes, Faison is after a political job." Well, suppose I am. One thing is certain--I can never get it under present conditions, and if I get it at all it must come through a revolution set on foot by the men who do the voting, and therefore have the right to name men for the offices. But the truth is, I have held office, and but

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for the fact that the time came when I must either sacrifice character or resign, I might be holding one to-day.


        And now, my fellow unionists, in conclusion I want to say to you that you represent a great class of the citizenship of this State--a class which has ever been the bulwark of the liberties of the people; a class that in peace and war has ever been the strength and support of our government. The vast majority of you must ever remain toilers; few may hope to gather great wealth or attain unto positions of power and influence. But you have it in your power to make better conditions for those who come after you, by standing firmly on the platform as enunciated by organized labor. Hold sacred your obligations to your brother toilers, assert your rights as men--and ever remember that character alone is the supreme test.