A Look Round

That successor to Samuel Gompers, Mr. Wm. Green (the president of the American Federation of Labour), writes in the Daily Herald (March 8th) on High Wages in U.S.A. Mr. Green gets High Wages, like his fellow Labour Leaders, but doesn’t refer to that. He says that the principles for which they contended in their unions—high wages—is now accepted American practice. But his whole article is a series of admissions of the futility of a ”high wage” policy to assure any security or well-being to workers under Capitalism. Firstly, he tells us how obliging the American workers are :

“In industries where trade unions are an established agency, they have added to protective functions responsibility for helping to solve problems of production such as finding more efficient methods of work, the most economic use of materials, higher quality standards, regularising work and the number of work days.
Testimony as to the practical value of this kind of co-operation was given to the convention by the president of the Canadian National Railways.”

So not only are the workers exploited, but they assist the employers to find ways to do it better. The “directive ability” of the employer about which we hear so much is assisted bv the advice of the workers.

* * *

The Capitalists of the Northern States have found it more profitable to have cotton spun in the South, where it is grown—for there “labour” is cheap. About this Mr. Green says :

“During the past ten years rapid industrialisation of the South has come from textile mills seeking “cheap” labour in our Southern States, which have been slowly overcoming the economic handicaps of civil war between the States in the ’60’s.
Long hours in mills operating night as well as day shifts and employing child labour also, mill villages controlled by the textile companies and paying low wages, have exploited Southern workers.
They were driven to revolt last spring by work orders that more than doubled their work but decreased their pay.”

These workers have been left to their “fate” by the American Federation of Labour, who supported Capitalist Politics while all the forces of law and State were used to smash their strike.

* * *

In that “happy land” of rationalised industry—which is the ideal of industrial reformers here—Mr. Green confesses that only young’ workers are wanted.

“Another problem which the convention considered was discrimination against workers over 45 years of age. The speed of machine production is assumed to require young workers.
This idea, together with protective features which compensation laws, old age pensions or insurance plans provide for wage earners, has developed a prejudice against the middle-aged workers because of additional costs their greater liability is supposed to bring to industry.”

“The speed of machine industry” wants the nimble hands of the young-—hence the future is black while the machine is owned by the employers. The last paragraph quoted above shows that when reforms cost the employers’ money they reduce their liability by sacking those most liable to accident and those who would need to be pensioned.

* * *

How quickly workers are used up in modern developed industry is evident from Mr. Green :
“The Federation has collected information which shows that some large corporations refuse to employ workers over 35 years of age, and in some cases as low as 25 years.
The general trend towards decreasing employment opportunity to middle-aged workers increases the difficulties of providing for incomes for old age.
In addition we have the problem of workers displaced by machinery and technical changes, so that skills which have been developed through years of work are no longer of any value in production. The resulting so-called technical unemployment is very hard on older workers.”

* * *

After these remarks on “High Wages” in America, the leader of the American Unions tells us that the remedy for the conditions is to remove them from the area of conflict to the Conference Table ! He also advises the workers to practise “greater output,”

Nearly 30 years ago the American Labour Leaders formed the Civic Federation to get together with Employers “round the table.” And the result can be seen in Mr. Green’s own admissions to-day.
22 per cent. of organised Labour in U.S.A. is unemployed according to the Federation of Labour (Daily Herald, March 4th). What is the unions’ remedy ? More Capitalism. Mr. Ford says high wages are the remedy, but he wants other employers to pay high wages so that their workers can buy his motor-cars. When he announced higher wages for his employees he forgot to add that short time was general in his “shops” and that along with the extra dollar a day a greater speeding up of the machine slaves went on. High wages did not prevent his factories closing down many departments recently and when they re-started the pace was increased.

The land of high wages ! The Secretary of Labour recently complained that 2 million workers were getting 1s. 3d. (30 cents) per hour or less. (New York Telegram).

That means practically a starvation wage in a land with a high cost of living.

But more machinery is coming”!

The New York Post (November 18th) says that machinery in industry, mining and farming has displaced 2,300,000 in the last 8 years in the U.S.A.

The lesson for the workers is to own the machines and produce for use.

* * *

“There are 153,000 building workers unemployed.” (Chiozza Money, Daily Herald, February 27th.)
“There are 200,000 miners who will never work underground again.” (Tom Smith, M.P., of Department of Mines, Daily Herald, February 27th.)
“Some colliery companies laid it down that when they wanted fresh hands no men over 45 need apply.” (Same speaker.)

We were told that the dilution of labour in the building trade would provide work by making houses cheaper. Now after all the dilution there is vast unemployment. The Labour Party are rationalising mines, closing down uneconomic pits, and combining the others with the result that the 200,000 miners “out of work” will be added to. Rationalisation means efficiency in industry and the older men not wanted as they have been “worked out.”

. . . . . .

By the “aid” of the Banks the shipyards have combined into a huge trust, “National Shipbuilders Security, Ltd.,” and the banks will see that before loans are issued the unnecessary yards and smaller plants are closed down.

Beardmore’s recently dispensed with 600 men on the Clyde at Parkhead as their amalgamation with David Colville, Ltd., made that plant unnecessary. Mr. Brownlie, of the Engineering Union, said :

“I think the shipbuilders are adopting the right policy in dispensing with the obsolete and unnecessary shipyards and reducing* overhead and administration charges.”

This capitalist view of a trade union leader quoted in the Daily Herald (March 1st) contrasts with the view from the same paper of the representative of the Shipwrights’ Society, who said, “the scheme was one of the worst things which could happen to the employees.” We are assured by this “Labour” paper that the scheme is largely “a financial one,” which means, of course, a financier’s one. A scheme to assure profits to the detriment of wages and employment.

* * *

How true the Socialist view of rationalisation is, can be gathered from the figures given by the Daily Herald—the supporter of rationalisation and the Labour Government. Dealing with the Iron Ore industry in Cumberland, it states that last year was the most productive since the war, output totalling 1,050,000 tons. The next best was 1922 with 868,000 tons. But last year’s output was from 10 mines, while in 1922 it came from 30. “Moreover, the number of employees is half the total of a few years ago. The explanation lies chiefly in the increased use of machinery.” And the “Herald” adds that the volume of unemployment in the industry is very serious, and that the position has worsened since the beginning of the year.

25 per cent. of the Lancashire cotton workers are unemployed and over 5 million spindles are permanently idle, and a large number more are only used on short time. Such are the conditions in the highly developed industry—the backbone of British Export Trade. Now they form a huge combine and fewer mills than ever will be required.

The Labour leaders agreed to a reduction in wages of 1s. 3d. in the £, and the employers argued that a reduction in wages would mean more employment for cotton operatives. After several months of reduced wages they are faced with more unemployment than before.

In the weaving branch the employers are rationalising with a vengeance. Mills are being equipped with “up to date” looms; 8 looms per weaver instead of four. Thus the process of speeding up production means more output by fewer employed, and all the time the output is increased the market for it declines. With a view to using the most efficient machinery continuously the masters are advocating the two shift system as in America, but it has not saved the New England mill workers from unemployment.

. . . . .

We learn from the Daily Express that 120 drivers and Conductors have been dismissed by the London Bus Combine. These men were taken over from the independent companies when the Labour Government’s Traffic Act gave the Combine the control of the London ‘buses. The men were dismissed after medical examination and have no prospect of other employment. The London General Omnibus Company is “fully rationalised ” and Lord Ashfield, the director, sees that when the Company pays its “union wage” he gets the goods. They took over the rival ‘bus company’s ‘buses, but the men were not reckoned to be able to stand the terrific physical and mental strain of working the profit hunting ‘bus of the Combine with its merciless exploitation under “high wages.” So here again—combinaton of capital plays havoc with the worker. No wonder the Minister of Transport (Mr. Morrison) described his own Government’s bill as one of the worst bills ever passed through Parlia¬ment.


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