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INDUSTRIAL DEMOCRACY 



INDUSTRIAL DEMOCRACY 
BY SIDNEY AND BEATRICE 

WEBB. NEW EDITION IN TWO 
VOLUMES BOUND IN ONE. 



LONGMANS, GREEN AND CO., 39 
PATERNOSTER ROW, LONDON, 
NEW YORK, AND BOMBAY. 1902. 



HD 




PREFACE 

WE have attempted in these volumes to give a scientific 
analysis of Trade Unionism in the United Kingdom. To 
this task we have devoted six years' investigation, in the 
course of which we have examined, inside and out, the 
constitution of practically every Trade Union organisation, 
together with the methods and regulations which it uses to 
attain its ends. In the History of Trade Unionism, published 
in 1894, we traced the origin and growth of the Trade 
Union movement as a whole, industrially and politically, 
concluding with a statistical account of the distribution of 
Trade Unionism according to trades and localities ; and a 
sketch from nature of Trade Union life and character. The 
student has, therefore, already had before him a picture of 
those external characteristics of Trade Unionism, past and 
present, which borrowing a term from the study of animal 
life we may call its natural history. These external 
characteristics the outward form and habit of the creature 
are obviously insufficient for any scientific generalisation as to 
its purpose and its effects. Nor can any useful conclusions, 
theoretic or practical, be arrived at by arguing from " common 
notions" about Trade Unionism ; nor even by refining these 
into a definition of some imaginary form of combination 
in the abstract. Sociology, like all other sciences, can ad- 
vance only upon the basis of a precise observation of actual 
facts. 

The first part of our work deals with Trade Union Struc- 
ture. In the Anglo-Saxon world of to-day we find that Trade 
Unions are democracies : that is to say, their internal constitu- 



vi Industrial Democracy 

lions arc all based on the principle of " government of the 
people by the people for the people." How far they are 
marked off from political governments by their membership 
being voluntary will be dealt with in the course of the analysis. 
They are, however, scientifically distinguished from other 
democracies in that they are composed exclusively of manual- 
working wage -earners, associated according to occupations. 
We shall show how the different Trade Unions reveal this 
species of democracy at many different stages of development. 
This part of the book will be of little interest to those who 
want simply to know whether Trade Unionism is a good or 
a bad influence in the State. To employers and Trade 
Union officials on active service in the campaign between 
Capital and Labor, or to politicians hesitating which side 
to take in a labor struggle, our detailed discussions of the 
relations between elector, representative, and civil servant ; 
between central and local government ; and between taxation 
and representation not to speak of the difficulties connected 
with federation, the grant of " Home Rule " to minorities, or 
the use of the Referendum and the Initiative will seem 
tedious and irrelevant. On the other hand, the student of de- 
mocracy, not specially interested in the. commercial aspect of 
Trade Unionism, will probably find this the most interesting 
part of the book. Those who regard the participation of the 
manual-working wage-earners in the machinery of government 
as the distinctive, if not the dangerous, element in modern 
politics, will here find the phenomenon isolated. These thou- 
sands of working-class democracies, spontaneously growing up 
at different times and places, untrammelled by the traditions or 
interests of other classes, perpetually recasting their constitu- 
tions to meet new and varying conditions, present an unrivalled 
field of observation as to the manner in which the working 
man copes with the problem of combining administrative 
efficiency with popular control. 

The second part of the book, forming more than half its 
total bulk, consists of a descriptive analysis of Trade Union 
Function : that is to say, of the methods used, the regulations 



Preface vii 

imposed, and the policy followed by Trade Unions. We 
have done our best to make this analysis both scientifically 
accurate and, as regards the United Kingdom at the present 
day, completely exhaustive. We have, of course, not enumer- 
ated every individual regulation of every individual union ; 
but we have pushed our investigations into every trade in 
every part of the kingdom ; and our analysis includes, we 
believe, every existing type and variety of Trade Union 
action. And we have sought to make our description 
quantitative. We have given statistics wherever these could 
be obtained ; and we have, in all cases, tried to form and 
convey to the reader an impression of the relative proportion, 
statical and dynamic, which each type of regulation bears to 
the whole body of Trade Union activity. In digesting the 
almost innumerable technical regulations of every trade, our 
first need was a scientific classification. After many experi- 
ments we discovered the principle of this to lie in the psycho- 
logical origin of the several regulations : that is to say, the 
direct intention with which they were adopted, or the im- 
mediate grievance they were designed to remedy. Our 
consequent observations threw light on many apparent con- 
tradictions and inconsistencies. Thus, to mention only two 
among many instances, the student will find, in our chapter on 
" The Standard Rate," an explanation of the reason why some 
Trade Unions strike against Piecework and others against 
Timework ; and, in our chapter on " The Normal Day," why 
some Trade Unions make the regulation of the hours of 
labor one of their foremost objects, whilst others, equally 
strong and aggressive, are indifferent, if not hostile to it. 
The same principle of classification enables the student to 
comprehend and place in appropriate categories the seem- 
ingly arbitrary and meaningless regulations, such as those 
against " Smooting " or " Partnering," which bewilder the 
superficial observer of working-class life. It assists us to 
unravel the intricate changes of Trade Union policy with 
regard to such matters as machinery, apprenticeship, and the 
admission of women. It serves also for the deeper analysis 



viii Industrial Democracy 

of the division of the whole action of Trade Unionism into 
three separate and sometimes mutually exclusive policies, 
based on different views of what can economically be effected, 
and what state of society is ultimately desirable. It is 
through the psychology of its assumptions that we discover 
how significantly the cleavages of opinion and action in the 
Trade Union world correspond with those in the larger world 
outside. 

It is only in the third part of our work the last four 
chapters of the second volume that we have ventured into 
the domain of theory. We first trace the remarkable change 
of opinion among English economists as to the effect of Trade 
Unionism on the production and distribution of wealth. Some 
readers may stop at this point, contented with the authorita- 
tive, though vague, deliverances favorable to combination 
among wage-earners now given by the Professors of Political 
Economy in the universities of the United Kingdom. But 
this verdict, based in the main upon an ideal conception 
of competition and combination, seems to us unsubstantial. 
We have, therefore, laid before the student a new analysis of 
the working of competition in the industrial field our vision 
of the organisation and working of the business world as it 
actually exists. It is in this analysis of the long series of 
bargainings, extending from the private customer in the 
retail shop, back to the manual laborer in the factory or the 
mine, that we discover the need for Trade Unionism. We 
then analyse the economic characteristics, not of combination 
in the abstract in a world of ideal competition, but of the 
actual Trade Unionism of the present day in the business, 
world as we know it. Here, therefore, we give our own 
theory of Trade Unionism our own interpretation of the 
way in which the methods and regulations that we have 
described actually affect the production and distribution of 
wealth and the development of personal character. This 
theory, in conjunction with our particular view of social 
expediency, leads us to sum up emphatically in favor 
of Trade Unionism of one type, and equally emphatically 



Preface ix 

against Trade Unionism of another type. In our final 
chapter we even venture upon precept and prophecy ; and we 
consider the exact scope of Trade Unionism in the fully 
developed democratic state the industrial democracy of the 
future. 

A book made up of descriptions of fact, generalisations 
into theory, and moral judgments must, in the best case, 
necessarily include parts of different degrees of use. The 
description of structure and function in Parts I. and II. will, 
we hope, have its own permanent value in sociology as an 
analytic record of Trade Unionism in a particular country at 
a particular date. The economic generalisations contained 
in Part III., if they prove sound on verification by other 
investigators, can be no more than stepping-stones for the 
generalisations of reasoners who will begin where we leave 
off. Like all scientific theories, they will be quickly broken 
up, part to be rejected as fallacious or distorted, and part 
to be absorbed in later and larger views. Finally, even 
those who regard our facts as accurate, and accept our 
economic theory as scientific, will only agree in our judg- 
ment of Trade Unionism, and in our conception of its 
permanent but limited function in the Industrial Democracy 
of the future, in so far as they happen to be at one with us 
in the view of what state of society is desirable. 



Those who contemplate scientific work in any depart- 
ment of Sociology may find some practical help in a brief 
account of the methods of investigation which we have found 
useful in this and other studies. 

To begin with, the student must resolutely set himself 
to find out, not the ultimate answer to the practical 
problem that may have tempted him to the work, but what 
is the actual structure and function of the organisation 
about which he is interested. Thus, his primary task is 
to observe and dissect facts, comparing as many specimens 



x Industrial Democracy 

as possible, and precisely recording all their resemblances 
and differences whether or not they seem significant. This 
does not mean that the scientific observer ought to start with 
a mind free from preconceived ideas as to classification and 
sequences. If such a person existed, he would be able to 
make no observations at all. The student ought, on the 
contrary, to cherish all the hypotheses he can lay his hands 
on, however far-fetched they may seem. Indeed, he must 
be on his guard against being biassed by authority. As an 
instrument for the discovery of new truth, the wildest sugges- 
tion of a crank or a fanatic, or the most casual conclusion 
of the practical man may well prove more fertile than verified 
generalisations which have already yielded their full fruit. 
Almost any preconceived idea as to the connection between 
phenomena will help the observer, if it is only sufficiently 
limited in its scope and definite in its expression to be capable 
of comparison with facts. What is dangerous is to have only a 
single hypothesis, for this inevitably biasses the selection of 
facts ; or nothing but far-reaching theories as to ultimate 
causes and general results, for these cannot be tested by any 
facts that a single student can unravel. 

From the outset, the student must adopt a definite prin- 
ciple in his note -taking. We have found it convenient to use 
separate sheets of paper, uniform in shape and size, each of 
which is devoted to a single observation, with exact particulars 
of authority, locality, and date. To these, as the inquiry 
proceeds, we add other headings under which the recorded 
fact might possibly be grouped, such, for instance, as the 
industry, the particular section of the craft, the organisation, 
the sex, age, or status of the persons concerned, the psycho- 
logical intention, or the grievance to be remedied. These 
sheets can be shuffled and reshuffled into various orders, 
according as it is desired to consider the recorded facts in 
their distribution in time or space, or their coincidence 
with other circumstances. The student would be well- 
advised to put a great deal of work into the completeness 
and mechanical perfection of his note-taking, even if this 



Preface xi 

involves, for the first few weeks of the inquiry, copying and 
recopying his material. 

Before actually beginning the investigation it is well to 
read what has been previously written about the subject. 
This will lead to some tentative ideas as to how to break 
up the material into definite parts for separate dissection. 
It will serve also to collect hypotheses as to the con- 
nections between the facts. It is here that the voluminous 
proceedings of Royal Commissions and Select Committees 
find their real use. Their innumerable questions and 
answers seldom end in any theoretic judgment or practical 
conclusion of scientific value. To the investigator, however, 
they often prove a mine of unintentional suggestion and 
hypothesis, just because they are collections of samples 
without order and often without selection. 

In proceeding to actual investigation into facts, there are 
three good instruments of discovery : the Document, Personal 
Observation, and the Interview. All three are useful in 
obtaining preliminary suggestions and hypotheses ; but as 
methods of qualitative and quantitative analysis, or of verifica- 
tion, they are altogether different in character and unequal 
in value. 

The most indispensable of these instruments is the 
Document. It is a peculiarity of human, and especially of 
social action, that it secretes records of facts, not with any 
view to affording material for the investigator, but as data 
for the future guidance of the organisms themselves. The 
essence of the Document as distinguished from the mere 
literature of the subject is the unintentional and automatic 
character of its testimony. It is, in short, a kind of 
mechanical memory, registering facts with the minimum of 
persona] bias. Hence the cash accounts, minutes of private 
meetings, internal statistics, rules, and reports of societies of 
all kinds furnish invaluable material from which the in- 
vestigator discovers not only the constitution and policy of 
the organisation, but also many of its motives and intentions. 
Even documents intended solely to influence other people, 



xii Industrial Democracy 

such as public manifestoes or fictitious reports, have their 
documentary value if only as showing by comparison with 
the confidential records, what it was that their authors 
desired to conceal. The investigator must, therefore, 
collect every document, however unimportant, that he can 
acquire. When acquisition is impossible, he should copy the 
actual words, making his extracts as copious as time permits ; 
for he can never know what will afterwards prove significant 
to him. In this use of the Document, sociology possesses a 
method of investigation which to some extent compensates 
it for inability to use the method of deliberate experiment. 
We venture to think that collections of documents will be to 
the sociologist of the future, what collections of fossils or skele- 
tons are to the zoologist ; and libraries will be his museums. 
Next in importance comes the method of Personal 
Observation. By this we mean neither the Interview nor 
yet any examination of the outward effects of an organisation, 
but a continued watching, from inside the machine, of the 
actual decisions of the human agents concerned, and the play 
of motives from which these spring. The difficulty for the 
investigator is to get into such a post of observation without 
his presence altering the normal course of events. It is 
here, and here only, that personal participation in the work of 
any social organisation is of advantage to scientific inquiry. 
The railway manager, the member of a municipality, or the 
officer of a Trade Union would, if he were a trained investi- 
gator, enjoy unrivalled opportunities for precisely describing 
the real constitution and actual working of his own organisa- 
tion. Unfortunately, it is extremely rare to find in an active 
practical administrator, either the desire, the capacity, or the 
training for successful investigation. The outsider wishing 
to use this method is practically confined to one of two 
alternatives. He may adopt the social class, join the 
organisation, or practise the occupation that he wishes to 
study. Thus, one of the authors has found it useful, af 
different stages of investigation, to become a rent collector, 
a tailoress, and a working-class lodger in working-class 



Preface xiii 

families ; whilst the other has gained much from active 
membership of democratic organisations and personal par- 
ticipation in administration in more than one department. 
Participation of this active kind may be supplemented by 
gaining the intimacy and confidence of persons and organisa- 
tions, so as to obtain the privilege of admission to their 
establishments, offices, and private meetings. In this passive 
observation the woman, we think, is specially well-adapted 
for sociological inquiry ; not merely because she is accustomed 
silently to watch motives, but also because she gains access and 
confidence which are instinctively refused to possible com- 
mercial competitors or political opponents. The worst of 
this method of Personal Observation is that the observer can 
seldom resist giving undue importance to the particular facts 
and connections between facts that he happens to have seen. 
He must, therefore, record what he has observed as a set of 
separate, and not necessarily connected facts, to be used merely 
as hypotheses of classification and sequence, for verification by 
an exhaustive scrutiny of documents or by the wider-reaching 
method of the Interview. 

By the Interview as an instrument of sociological inquiry 
we mean something more than the preliminary talks and 
social friendliness which form, so to speak, the antechamber 
to obtaining documents and opportunities for personal 
observation of processes. The Interview in the scientific 
sense is the skilled interrogation of a competent witness as 
to facts within his personal experience. As the witness is 
under no compulsion, the interviewer will have to listen 
sympathetically to much that is not evidence, namely to 
personal opinions, current tradition, and hearsay reports of 
facts, all of which may be useful in suggesting new sources 
of inquiry and revealing bias. But the real business of the 
Interview is to ascertain facts actually seen by the person 
interviewed. Thus, the expert interviewer, like the bedside 
physician, agrees straightway with all the assumptions and 
generalisations of his patient, and uses his detective skill to 
sift, by tactful cross-examination, the grain of fact from the 



xiv Industrial Democracy 

bushel of sentiment, self-interest, and theory. Hence, though 
it is of the utmost importance to make friends with the head 
of any organisation, we have generally got much more actual 
information from his subordinates who are personally occupied 
with the facts in detail. But in no case can any Interview 
be taken as conclusive evidence, even in matters of fact. It 
must never be forgotten that every man is biassed by his 
creed or his self-interest, his class or his views of what is 
socially expedient. If the investigator fails to detect this bias, 
it may be assumed that it coincides with his own ! Conse- 
quently, the fullest advantage of the Interview can be obtained 
only at the later stages of an inquiry, when the student has 
so far progressed in his analysis that he knows exactly what 
to ask for. It then enables him to verify his provisional 
conclusions as to the existence of certain specified facts, and 
their relations to others. And there is a wider use of the 
Interview by which a quantitative value may be given to a 
qualitative analysis. Once the investigator has himself 
dissected a few type specimens, and discovered which among 
their obviously recognisable attributes possess significance for 
him, he may often be able to gain an exhaustive knowledge 
of the distribution of these attributes by what we may call 
the method of wholesale interviewing. One of the most 
brilliant and successful applications of this method was Mr. 
Charles Booth's use of all the School Board visitors of the 
East End of London. Having, by personal observation, dis- 
covered certain obvious marks which coincided with a scien- 
tific classification of the East End population, he was able, 
by interviewing a few hundred people, to obtain definite par- 
ticulars with regard to the status of a million. And when 
results so obtained are checked by other investigations say, 
for instance, by the Census, itself only a gigantic and some- 
what unscientific system of wholesale interviewing a high 
degree of verified quantitative value may sometimes be given 
to sociological inquiry. 

Finally, we would suggest that it is a peculiar advantage, 
in all sociological work, if a single inquiry can be conducted 



Preface xv 

by more than one person. A closely-knit group, dealing 
contemporaneously with one subject, will achieve far more 
than the same persons working individually. In our inquiry 
into Trade Unionism we have found exceptionally useful, not 
only our own collaboration in all departments of the work, 
but also the co-operation, throughout the whole six years, of 
our colleague and friend, Mr. F. W. Galton. When the 
members of a group " pool " their stocks of preconceived 
ideas or provisional hypotheses ; their personal experience of 
the facts in question, or of analogous facts ; their knowledge 
of possible sources of information ; their opportunities for 
interviewing, and access to documents, they are better able 
than any individual to cope with the vastness and com- 
plexity of even a limited subject of sociological investigation. 
They can do much by constant criticism to save each other 
from bias, crudities of observation, mistaken inferences, and 
confusion of thought. But group -work of this kind has 
difficulties and dangers of its own. Unless all the members 
are in intimate personal communication with each other, 
moving with a common will and purpose, and at least so far 
equal in training and capacity that they can understand each 
other's distinctions and qualifications, the result of their 
common labors will present blurred outlines, and be of little 
real value. Without unity, equality, and discipline, different 
members of the group will always be recording identical 
facts under different names, and using the same term to 
denote different facts. 

By the pursuit of these methods of observation and 
verification, any intelligent, hard-working, and conscientious 
students, or group of students, applying themselves to 
definitely limited pieces of social organisation, will certainly 
produce monographs of scientific value. Whether "they will 
be able to extract from their facts a new generalisation, 
applicable to other facts whether, that is to say, they will 
discover any new scientific law will depend on the possession 
of a somewhat rare combination of insight and inventiveness, 
with the capacity for prolonged and intense reasoning. When 

b 



xvi Industrial Democracy 

such a generalisation is arrived at, it provides a new field of 
work for the ensuing generation, whose task it is, by an 
incessant testing of this " order of thought " by comparison 
with the " order of things," to extend, limit, and qualify the 
first imperfect statement of the law. By these means alone, 
whether in sociology or any other sphere of human inquiry, 
does mankind enter into possession of that body of organised 
knowledge which is termed science. 

We venture to add a few words as to the practical value 
of sociological investigation. Quite apart from the interest 
of the man of science, eager to satisfy his curiosity about 
every part of the universe, a knowledge of social facts 
and laws is indispensable for any intelligent and deliberate 
human action. The whole of social life, the entire structure 
and functioning of society, consists of human intervention. 
The essential characteristic of civilised, as distinguished from 
savage society, is that these interventions are not impulsive 
but deliberate ; for, though some sort of human society may 
get along upon instinct, civilisation depends upon organised 
knowledge of sociological facts and of the connections between 
them. And this knowledge must be sufficiently generalised to 
be capable of being diffused. We can all avoid being practical 
engineers or chemists ; but no consumer, producer, or citizen 
can avoid being a practical sociologist. Whether he pursues 
only his own pecuniary self-interest, or follows some idea of 
class or social expediency, his action or inaction will promote 
his ends only in so far as it corresponds with the real order of 
the universe. A workman may join his Trade Union, or 
abstain from joining ; but if his decision is to be rational, 
it must be based on knowledge of what the Trade Union is, 
how far it is a sound benefit society, whether its methods 
will increase or decrease his liberty, and to what extent its 
regulations are likely to improve or deteriorate the conditions 
of employment for himself and his class. The employer who 
desires to enjoy the maximum freedom of enterprise, or to 
gain the utmost profit, had better, before either fighting his 
workmen or yielding to their demands, find out the cause and 



Preface xvii 

meaning of Trade Unionism, what exactly it is likely to give 
up or insist on, its financial strength and weakness, and its 
hold on public opinion. Common hearsay, or the gossip of 
a club, whether this be the public-house or a palace in Pall 
Mall, will no more enable a man intelligently to " manage his 
own business," than it will enable the engineer to build a 
bridge. And when we pass from private actions to the par- 
ticipation of men and women as electors, representatives, or 
officials, in public companies, local governing bodies, or the 
State itself, the inarticulate apprehension of facts which often 
contents the individual business man, will no longer suffice. 
Deliberate corporate action involves some definite policy, 
communicable to others. The town councillor or the cabinet 
minister has perpetually to be making up his mind what is 
to be done in particular cases. Whether his action or 
abstention from action is likely to be practicable, popular, 
and permanently successful in attaining his ends, depends on 
whether it is or is not adapted to the facts. This does not 
mean that every workman and every employer, or even every 
philanthropist and every statesman, is called upon to make 
his own investigation into social questions any more than 
to make for himself the physiological investigations upon 
which his health depends. But whether they like it or not, 
their success or failure to attain their ends depends on their 
scientific knowledge, original or borrowed, of the facts of the 
problem, and of their causal connections. Perfect wisdom 
we can never attain, in sociology or in any other science ; 
but this does not absolve us from using, in our action, the 
most authoritative exposition, for the time being, of what is 
known. That nation will achieve the greatest success in the 
world-struggle, whose investigators discover the greatest body 
of scientific truth, and whose practical men are the most 
prompt in their application of it. 

What is not generally recognised is that scientific investi- 
gation, in the field of sociology as in other departments of 
knowledge, requires, not only competent investigators, but a 
considerable expenditure. Practically no provision exists in 



xviii Industrial Democracy 

this country for the endowment or support from public funds 
of any kind of sociological investigation. It is, accordingly, 
impossible at present to make any considerable progress 
even with inquiries of pressing urgency. Social reformers are 
always feeling themselves at a standstill, for sheer lack of 
knowledge, and of that invention which can only proceed 
from knowledge. There is, we believe, no purpose to which 
the rich man could devote his surplus with greater utility to 
the community than the setting on foot, in the hands of 
competent investigators, of definite inquiries into such 
questions as the administrative control of the liquor traffic, 
the relation between local and central government, the popu- 
lation question, the conditions of women's industrial employ- 
ment, the real incidence of taxation, the working of municipal 
administration, or many other unsolved problems that could 
be named. It may be assumed that to deal adequately 
with any of these subjects would involve an out-of-pocket 
expenditure for travelling, materials, and incidental outlays 
of all kinds, of something like ;iooo, irrespective of the 
maintenance of the investigators themselves, or the possible 
expense of publication. To make any permanent provision 
for discovery in any one department to endow a chair 
requires the investment of, say, ; 10,000. At present, in 
London, the wealthiest city in the world, and the best of all 
fields for sociological investigation, the sum total of the 
endowments for this purpose does not reach ;ioo a year. 

It remains only to express our grateful acknowledgments 
to the many friends, employers as well as workmen, who have 
helped us with information as to their respective trades. 
Some portions of our work have been read in manuscript or 
proof by Professor Edgeworth, Professor Hewins, Mr. Leonard 
Hobhouse, and other friends, to whom we are indebted for 
many useful suggestions and criticisms. Early drafts of 
some chapters have appeared in the Economic Journal, 
Economic Review, Nineteenth Century, and Progressive Revieiv 
in this country ; the Political Science Quarterly in New York ; 



Preface xix 

and Dr. Braun's Archiv fur Sociale Gesetzgebung und Statistik 
in Berlin. They are reproduced here by permission of the 
editors. A large portion of the book was given in the form 
of lectures at the London School of Economics and Political 
Science during 1896 and 1897. 

SIDNEY AND BEATRICE WEBB. 



41 GROSVENOR ROAD, WESTMINSTER, 
LONDON, November 1897. 



INTRODUCTION TO THE 1902 
EDITION 

(FOURTH IMPRESSION. FIFTH THOUSAND.) 

THE issue of Industrial Democracy in a cheaper edition, 
uniform with the History of Trade Unionism, gives us an 
opportunity of writing a new introductory chapter. 

We have practically nothing to add to the descriptive 
and analytic part of the book. During the four years which 
have elapsed since its publication, the Trade Union world 
has not appreciably changed in structure or function. 1 The 
Trade Union " methods " of Mutual Insurance, Collective 
Bargaining, and Legal Enactment the multifarious Trade 
Union " regulations " described in our chapters on the 
Standard Rate and the Normal Day, New Processes and 
Machinery, and the Entrance to a Trade retain their 
several places in the workmen's constant struggle to uphold 
and improve the Standard of Life of their class. But whilst 
the Trade Union world itself has remained unaltered, the 
closing years of the nineteenth century have witnessed a 
gradual change in Trade Union environment, alike in law 
and in public opinion, which has lately risen, suddenly and 
dramatically, into public consciousness. By a series of 
remarkable legal decisions of the House of Lords, the Trade 
Unions of the United Kingdom have seen their use of the 

1 Trade Union membership and Trade Union funds have, indeed, greatly 
increased, until, at the present time, there are not far short of two million 
members, with accumulated funds of nearly four millions sterling. But these 
statistical details, including some analysis of the direction of growth, we reserve 
for the forthcoming edition of the History of Trade Unionism, in which we deal 
also with the principal strikes of the last decade. 



xxii Industrial Democracy 

Method of Collective Bargaining seriously curtailed. At 
the same time, an equally remarkable series of legislative 
experiments in the Britains beyond the sea have made 
possible applications of the Method of Legal Enactment 
hitherto undreamt of. 

We must first refer, in order to bring our analysis up to 
date, to a few statutory changes in the United Kingdom 
between 1897 and 1902. The minimum age at which 
children may be employed in factories or workshops (pp. 
768-69) is now twelve, and in mines, thirteen ; but practically 
nothing has been done to prevent other industrial work by 
children of school age, 1 and we are still very far from any 
effective enforcement of the National Minimum of Educa- 
tion which our Legislature professes to have adopted. The 
serious evil of " boy labor " (pp. 482-89, 768-71) has not been 
grappled with. The long array of Acts and Amending Acts 
dealing with the conditions of employment in factories and 
workshops (pp. 771-73) have now been consolidated in the 
Factory and Workshops Act of 1901, which includes a few 
amendments of detail. But the law still fails to secure, 
even to women and children, that National Minimum of 
Sanitation and Rest which it purports to give. Whole 
classes of women workers (p. 772) remain excluded by 
pedantries of definition. The numerous exceptions as 
to overtime and other relaxations still hamper administra- 
tion (pp. 349-51). The sections dealing with laundries 
(P- 365), outworkers (p. 772), and unhealthy trades (pp. 
363-64) continue, in the main, illusory and inoperative. 
We may refer, on this whole subject, to The Case for the 
Factory Acts (London, 1901), edited by Mrs. Sidney 
Webb. The objectionable Truck Act of 1896 (pp. 211, 
373 799) has not been amended, but it is right to say 
that it has been found, in practice, much less irksome to 
employers or workmen than they severally expected. This 
is due to the fact that it has been only slightly operative. 

1 See the Report of the Departmental Committee on the Employment of Chil- 
dren of School Age, 1 90 1 . 



Introduction to the 1902 Edition xxiii 

The grievances with which the workmen hoped that it 
would deal (pp. 315-18, 840) have still to be remedied. 1 
The Workmen's Compensation Act of 1897 (pp. 387- 
91) has now been extended to persons employed in 
a^nculliire^but not yet to workshop operatives, seamen, 
carmen, or building workrjieja--engajred J3n_jbuiljdjngs less 
than thirty feet in height. The employers (or, rather, the 
insurance companies in their names) have displayed a most 
fertile ingenuity in raising quibbles intended to limit the 
application of the law, but the highest judicial tribunal has, 
on the whole, given full effect to the intention of Parliament, 
and has made a badly-drafted statute really operative. It 
should be added that the actual cost of compensating for 
accidents has proved less than was anticipated unfortu- 
nately, as we suggested (pp. 375-76), much less than it would 
cost the employers to prevent them. It remains, therefore, 
more important than ever, not only to extend the Act to 
the workers at present outside its scope, but also, in the 
interest of the community as a whole, to enforce in all 
occupations an effective National Minimum of Sanitation 
and Safety (pp. 375-78, 385-87, 771-73)- 

But the changes in the law effected by Parliament 
during the past four years are of less importance to Trade 
Unionism than those made by the judges, notably by the 
House of Lords in its judicial capacity. By a series of 
unexpected decisions, beginning with Allen v. Flood, on the 
1 4th of December 1897, and ending, for the moment, with 
Quinn v. Leathern, on the $th of August 1901, the highest 
court of appeal has entirely changed the legal position of 
Trade Unions. We have, therefore, to consider in what 
way these decisions affect the conclusions expressed in our 
Appendix on " The Legal Position of Collective Bargaining " 
(pp. 8S3-62). 2 

1 We may correct an error in the note to p. 211. The Act proved not to 
apply to the deductions referred to, and no exemption order was necessary. 

2 The principal judgments in these cases have been reprinted in The Law and 
Trade Unions : a Brief Review of Recent Litigation specially prepared at the in- 
stance of Richard Bell, M.P. (London, 1901). But the law on the whole subject 



xxiv Industrial Democracy 

The most far-reaching of these decisions, and the one") 
which gives importance to all the others, is that in the case( 
of The Taff Vale Railway Company v. The Amalgamated I 
Society of Railway Servants. There had been a disput/ 
between the railway company and many of its employees. 
A strike took place, which was sanctioned by the governing 
body of the Trade Union, and was conducted by its 
authorised officers. It was alleged that, in furtherance of 
this strike, some of the agents of the Trade Union had 
committed unlawful acts, and incited others to commit 
them, to the injury and damage of the railway company. 
Instead of prosecuting in a criminal court the persons 
alleged to have been guilty of these offences, the company 
applied to the Chancery Division of the High Court of 
Justice for an injunction to restrain from committing such 
acts, not only certain of the persons implicated, but also the 
Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants itself. The 
company also commenced a civil suit against the society in 
its corporate capacity, claiming a large sum as damages for 
what were alleged to be its wrongful acts. The society 
pleaded that, whatever might be the personal liability of 
individual officers or members, the Trade Union itself could 
not, in its corporate capacity, be made the object of an 
injunction, or be sued for damages. It was contended that, 
under the circumstances described in our History of Trade 
Unionism, the Legislature had deliberately abstained from 
giving Trade Unions the privileges of incorporation, and 
had expressly provided against their being sued as corporate 
bodies. This view had been universally accepted by friends 
and foes alike. The immunity of Trade Unions from 
corporate liability for damages had been repeatedly made 
the subject of official comment, and even of recommendations 
by Royal Commissions. For twenty years after the Act 

is now most conveniently to be found in the little volume of annotated statutes 
and cases, of which we have made use, entitled Trade Union Law, by 
Herman Cohen and George Howell (London, 1901). This gives exact 
references to the official reports. 



Introduction to the 1902 Edition xxv 

of 1871 no action against a Trade Union in its corporate 
capacity was ever maintained in the English Courts. 1 But 
on the 22nd of July 1901, the House of Lords decided that 
the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants, though 
admittedly not a corporate body, could be sued in a 
corporate capacity for damages alleged to have been caused 
by the action of its officers, and that an injunction could be 
issued against it, restraining it not merely from criminal, 
but also from other unlawful acts. Moreover, in their 
elaborate reasons for their judgment, the law lords expressed 
the view that not only an injunction, but also a mandamus 
could be issued against a Trade Union ; that a registered 
Trade Union could be sued in its registered name ; that 
even an unregistered Trade Union might be made collect- 
ively liable for damages, and might be sued in the names 
of its proper officers, the members of its executive committee, 
and its trustees ; that the corporate funds of a Trade 
Union could be made answerable for costs and damages, 
even if they were in the hands of trustees ; and that the 
trustees of Trade Union funds might be joined as parties 
to a suit against the Trade Union, or might be separately 
proceeded against for recovery of damages and costs 
awarded against their Trade Union, whether registered 
not. The effect of the judgment, in short, is to impose 
upon a Trade Union, whether registered or not although 
not incorporated for other purposes complete corporate 
liability for any injury or damage caused by any person 
who can be deemed to be acting as the agent of the Trade 
Union, not merely in respect of any criminal offence which 
he may have committed, but also in respect of any act, not 
contravening the criminal law, which the judges may, froi 
time to time, deem wrongful. 

1 In 1892, and again in 1895, civil proceedings were successfully taken 
by employers against combinations of workmen ; see Trollope and Others v. 
The London Building Trades' Federation and Others, 1892 (mentioned at p. 
86 1), and Pink v. The Federation of Trade Unions, etc., 1895. These 
cases were, however, not seriously defended, not fully argued, and not carried 
to the highest tribunal. 



xxvi Industrial Democracy 

We do not propose to waste time in discussing whether 
this judgment of the House of Lords was or was not in 
accordance with the law of the land on the morning of the 
decision. There has seldom been an instance in which a 
judicial decision has so completely and extensively reversed 
the previous legal opinions, and we do not hesitate to say 
the conscious intention, thirty years before, of Parliament 
itself. But the case was fully and ably argued, and the 
decision of the five law lords was unanimous. According 
to the British Constitution, the view which they have taken 
of the law is now as definitely the law as if it had been 
embodied in an Act of Parliament. How does it affect 
Trade Unionism ? 

At first sight there would seem little or nothing to 
complain about. The judgment professes to make no 
change in the lawfulness of Trade Unionism. No act is 
ostensibly made wrongful which was not wrongful before. 
And if a Trade Union, directly or by its agents, causes 
injury or damage to other persons, by acts not warranted in 
law, it seems not inequitable that the Trade Union itself 
should be made liable for what it has done. The real 
grievance of the Trade Unions, and the serious danger to 
their continued usefulness and improvement, lies in the un- 
certainty of the English law, and its liability to be used as a 
means of oppression. This danger is increased, and the 
grievance aggravated, by the dislike of Trade Unionism and 
strikes which nearly all judges and juries share with the rest 
of the upper and middle classes. 

The public opinion of the propertied and professional 
classes is, in fact, even more hostile to Trade Unionism and 
strikes than it was a generation ago. In 1867-75, when 
Trade Unionism was struggling for legal recognition, it 
seemed to many people only fair that, as the employers 
were left free to use their superiority in economic strength, the 
workmen should be put in a position to make a good fight 
of it against the employers. Accordingly, combinations and 
strikes were legalised, and some sort of peaceful picketing 



Introduction to the 1902 Edition xxvii 

was expressly authorised by statute. So long as no physical 
violence was used or openly threatened, the mild tumult 
and disorder of a strike, a certain amount of harmless 
obstruction of the thoroughfares, and the animated persuasion 
of blacklegs by the pickets, were usually tolerated by the 
police, and not seriously resented by the employers. Jjt-alJ- 
belonged to the conception of a labor dispute as a stand-up 
Eween the parties, in which "~tEe~ State' could do no 
more than keep the ring. Gradually this conception has 
given way in favour of the view that, quite apart from the 
merits of the case } the stoppage of work by an industrial 
dispute is a public nuisance, an injury to the commonweal, 
which ought to be prevented by the Government. More- 
over, the conditions of the wage contract are no longer 
regarded only as a matter of private concern. The gradual 
extension of legislative regulation to all industries, and its 
successive application to different classes of workers and 
conditions of employment, decisively negatives the old 
assumption of the employer that he is entitled to hire his 
labor on such terms as he thinks fit. On the other hand, 
public opinion has become uneasy about the capacity of 
English manufacturers to hold their own against foreign 
^colfipetition, and therefore resents, as a crime against the 
community, any attempt to restrict output or obstruct 
machinery, of which the Trade Unions may be accused. 
And thus we have a growing public opinion in favour of 
some authoritative tribunal of conciliation or arbitration, and 
an intense dislike of any organised interruption of industry 
by a lock-out or~ strike, especial ly^wherr-this^ is promoted by 
a Trade Union which is believed often on the strength of 
the wildest accusations in the newspapers to be unfriendly 
to the utmost possible improvement of processes in its trade. 
Under the influence of this adverse bias the courts of 
law have, for the last ten years, been gradually limiting 
what were supposed to be the legal rights of Trade Unions. 
There has been, it is true, no attempt to bring back the 
terrors of the criminal law, the use of which, as an instru- 



xxx Industrial Democracy 

the official's incitement, some of the workmen strike without 
notice, or otherwise break their contracts of service, even 
though the Trade Union official did not intend that they 
should do so. And if the judges should eventually hold 
that any particular strike was not warranted, or, though 
warranted in itself, that wrongful (though not criminal) acts 
were committed in pursuance of it, which he might have 
been expected to foresee, the Trade Union official who 
ordered the strike might very likely be made answerable in 
damages for the loss suffered by any person through the 
wrongful acts which he had indirectly but unwillingly 
caused. In all these cases, wherever a Trade Union official 
would be liable, the Trade Union itself is now made 
collectively liable. And it follows from the general law of 
principal and agent, that whenever any officer of a Trade 
Union, in the ordinary course of his business, and within 
the apparent scope of his employment, does anything for 
which he is liable to be sued for damages, the Trade Union 
for which he is acting becomes also liable, though he may 
have acted without orders, or contrary to the general policy 
of his Trade Union, or even in direct contradiction to the 
private instructions which he had received from its executive 
committee. Finally, whenever the Trade Union is liable to 
be sued, it will be open to the aggrieved person to apply 
to the Chancery Division of the High Court of Justice for 
an injunction against the Trade Union and its officials, 
peremptorily restraining them from committing any of the 
acts complained of. The issue of such an injunction will 
be within the discretion of a single Chancery judge, and if 
it is disobeyed, it can be enforced by summary imprison- 
ment, without trial, for an indefinite period, for what is 
called " contempt of court." 

Such we believe to be now the law, according to the 
best opinion that a well-informed counsel could give to his 
client. But so vague and ill-defined, so complicated and 
uncertain, is the English law on such subjects as conspiracy 
and libel indeed, the whole law of torts to say nothing 



Introduction to the 1902 Edition xxxi 

of that relating to principal and agent, that we cannot 
pretend that our statement is to be depended on. The 
very uncertainty is in itself a serious grievance. If a 
Trade Union executive could know precisely what was the 
law, it could take care not to infringe it, and might have 
some chance of compelling its officers to keep within their 
legal rights. This is now impossible. All that a Trade 
Union can be sure of is that, whenever the action of any 
one of its officers causes any injury^ or loss to ati^-etrrpToyer, 
or to any workman outside its ranks, it will be open to any 
such person, at slight expense, to commence an action 
against the Trade Union for damages. This will mean, at 
least, a solicitor's bill. If the action comes into court the 
Trade Union will know that, though the jury may give a 
verdict as to the bare facts, the judgment will, in nine cases 
out of ten, depend practically on the judge's view of the 
law. And though we all thoroughly believe in the honesty 
and impartiality of our judges, it so happens that, in the 
present uncertainty, the very law of the case must necessarily 
turn on the view taken of the general policy of Trade 
Unionism. If the judges believed, as we believe, that 
the enforcement of Common Rules in industry, and the 
maintenance of a Standard Rate, a Normal Day, and 
stringent conditions of Sanitation and Safety, were positively 
beneficial to the community as a whole, and absolutely 
indispensable to the continued prosperity of our trade, they 
would no more hold liable, for any damage v/hich, in the 
conduct of its legitimate purpose, it incidentally caused to 
particular individuals, a reasonably managed Trade Union 
than a militant Temperance Society or the Primrose League. 
But a clear majority of our judges evidently believe, quite 
honestly, that Trade Unionism meaning the enforcement 
of Common Rules on a whole trade is anomalous, objec- 
tionable, detrimental to English industry, and even a wicked 
infringement of individual liberty, which Parliament has 
been foolishly persuaded to take out of the category of 
crimes. Their lack of economic training and their ignorance 

c 



XXX11 



Industrial Democracy 



of economic science is responsible for this state of mind. 
Unfortunately, their preoccupation with the technical side 
of their own profession renders it unlikely that they will 
dispel this ignorance by any careful study of labor 
problems. When, therefore, they have to decide whether 
a particular injury, caused by the operations of such a 
combination, is or is not actionable, they would not be doing 
their duty, holding the view that they do of its harmfulness, 
if they did not treat it much more severely than they would 
if precisely similar acts were committed by associations which 
they thought to be beneficial to the community say, for 
instance, by a combination of capitalist employers, in the 
course of the fierce and unrelenting competition of inter- 
national trade. The result is that Trade Unions must expect 
to find practically every incident of a strike, and possibly 
every refusal to work with non-unionists, treated as action- 
able, and made the subject of suits for damages, which the 
Trade Union will have to pay from its corporate funds. 

We do not mean to suggest that every little labor 
trouble is likely to be followed by a crop of actions against 
the Trade Union concerned. Employers generally find it 
too convenient to be on good terms with well-managed 
Trade Unions to wish to break off friendly negotiations 
with them. But it will always be open for employers or 
non-unionist workmen to issue a writ, and in cases of serious 
dispute it is scarcely likely that they will all forego so easy 
a means of harassing their opponents. Trade Unions will 
not all of them find their funds denuded by heavy law costs 
and damages. It may even be some time before a serious 
case occurs. But the liability will be always present. It 
is not too much to say that, except in the most compact 
and well-disciplined industries, a Union will, so far as its 
finances are concerned, when fighting is necessary, henceforth 
have to fight with a halter round its neck. 1 

1 No mere pious declarations in the rules will protect a Trade Union from 
actions for damages, if wrongful acts are done by the Trade Union itself or by 
iis agents acting within the apparent scope of their authority. The judges will 



Introduction to the 1902 Edition xxxiii 

Ought the law to be amended ? We say, at once, that 
Trade Unions would, in our opinion, not be warranted in 
claiming to have restored that complete immunity from 
legal proceedings which Parliament intended to confer upon 
them in 1871-76. We see no valid reason why, if the law 
were put into a proper state. Trade Unions should not be 
liable to be sued for damages in their corporate capacity, in 
respect of any injury wrongfully done by them or their 
agents to other persons. If, for instance, a Trade Union 
in its corporate capacity publishes a newspaper, it can 
hardly claim, as regards actions for libel, to be treated 
differently from any individual publisher of a newspaper. 
Nor can we see any justification for such an amendment of 
the Conspiracy and Law of Property Act, 1875, as would 
make lawful the only sort of picketing likely to be effective 
in keeping off blacklegs during a strike. Moreover, if a 
Trade Union violates its own rules, or does anything plainly 
outside their scope, there seems no ground for preventing 
any dissatisfied member from restraining its action by an 
injunction. 1 Finally, if a Trade Union or its official 
deliberately persuades or induces men to break legally 
binding existing contracts of service into which they have 
entered, the Trade Union deserves to pay damages. So 
far the recent interpretation of the law must, we think, be 
accepted. But Trade Unions have certainly a good claim 
to have their legal rights and liabilities clearly defined, and 
precisely and authoritatively set forth. At present the law 
is merely a trap in which any one of them may at any 
moment be caught. We may go further. So long as the 
community decides to let the conditions of the wage-contract 
be settled by bargaining, both parties must, in common 
fairness, be left equally free to protect their own interest by 
combined action, even if such combined action causes 
damage to the opponent or to others. It is a mockery of 

go behind the rules, if necessary, and form their own conclusion as to the real in- 
tentions, purposes, and instructions of the executive committee or general secretary. 
1 Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants for Scotland v. The Motherwell 
Branch of the Society. 



xxxiv Industrial Democracy 

justice to fell the workmen that they are allowed to com- 
bine, and to strike, in order to exact better terms from their 
employers, and then to cast them in damages whenever 
they, in the exercise of this right, and without infringing 
the criminal law, cause damage to other persons. Every 
strike, like every other kind of war, necessarily causes 
damage to other persons damage which the strikers can 
clearly foresee, and which the Legislature must as clearly 
have foreseen when it sanctioned the terms of labor being 
left to this kind of private war. 1 Moreover, every strike 
as public opinion now keenly feels causes injury to the 
community as a whole. 2 This may well be a reason for 
superseding strikes as a method of settling the terms of 
the contract of service. But it is not fair to the workmen 
to try indirectly to put down strikes by making the Trade 
Unions liable for damages for what is incidental to a strike. 
It is handing them over to the employers with their hands 
tied. Trade Unions have, therefore, a good claim for an 
alteration of the law. 3 

1 "The third section of [the Conspiracy and Protection of Property] Act 
distinctly legalises strikes in the broadest terms, subject to the exceptions 
enumerated in the fourth and fifth sections." Lord Chief-Justice Coleridge in 
Gibson v. Lawson (1891). 

2 Here lurks a danger to the Trade Unions of a revival of the old use 
of the criminal law against them. It is by no means clear that a conspiracy, 
neither contemplating nor committing any criminal act, but violating an actionable 
private right, may not in itself be a criminal offence, if the actionable private 
right is one in which the public has a sufficient interest. See p. 857. 

3 It may be of service if we submit in precise form the draft of such a bill 
as Trade Unionists might properly press upon the Cabinet, members of Parlia- 
ment, and candidates for that position. 

A BILL ENTITLED AN ACT TO AMEND THE LAW RELATING TO 
TRADE DISPUTES 

1. No agreement, combination, or conspiracy entered into by or on behalf 
of an association of employers or a Trade Union in contemplation or furtherance 

if a trade dispute, and no act committed in pursuance of any such agreement, 
combination, or conspiracy, shall be actionable, if such act would not be action- 
able if committed by one person without agreement, combination, or conspiracy 

1 any kind, and if such agreement, combination, or conspiracy would not be 
indictable as a crime. 

2. No act committed, and no agreement, combination, or conspiracy entered 
into, by or on behalf of an association of employers or a Trade Union in con- 



Introduction to the 1902 Edition xxxv 

However unlikely it may seem that our present Parlia- 
ment would consent to effect such an alteration of the law 
as the Trade Unionists desire, we venture to point out that 
the existing position is not one that can endure. The two 
millions of Trade Unionists, comprising probably one-fifth 
of the nationat'eTectoraTe, Twill certainly not consent to give 
up the enforcement of Common Rules determining standard 
minimum wages and other conditions throughout each trade. 
In this policy they will be supported by all working-class 
opinion, and will be acting in accordance with the teachings 
of economic science. 1 The alternative of free and unfettered 
Individual Bargaining in which each workshop has its own 
peculiar working hours, its own standard of sanitation, and 
its own arrangements for preventing accidents, exactly as its 
owner chooses to prescribe, whilst each workman makes his 
own separate contract for each job with his own employer 
has been proved, by a whole century of experience, to lead 

templation or furtherance of a trade dispute, shall be actionable by reason only 
of the motive for which it was committed or entered into, or of there being no 
lawful excuse or motive for such act, agreement, combination, or conspiracy. 

3. No agreement, combination, or conspiracy by or on behalf of an associa- 
tion of employers or a Trade Union in contemplation or furtherance of a trade 
dispute shall be indictable as a crime if no act itself punishable as a crime is 
contemplated or committed, whether as means or end, by or in pursuance of 
such agreement, combination, or conspiracy. 

4. The words "trade dispute between employers and workmen" in the third 
section of the Conspiracy and Law of Property Act of 1875 shall therein have 
the same meaning as " trade dispute" in this Act. 

5. The words "association of employers" and "Trade Union" shall, for 
the purposes of this Act, both include any association of persons, whether 
registered or not, which attempts to regulate or influence any or all of the 
conditions of employment in one or more occupations, and shall also include any 
alliance, federation, or combination of two or more such associations. 

6. The words "trade dispute" shall include any dispute, difference of 
opinion, or failure of agreement, existing or contemplated, between one or more 
employers or an association of employers, and one or more workmen or a Trade 
Union, or any alliance, federation, or combination of any of them, whether 
registered or incorporated or not, and whether or not such dispute, difference of 
opinion, or failure of agreement relates to the employment of any of the persons 
concerned, or to any pecuniary or other interest of any of them, and whether 
they or any of them belong to the same or different trades or places or societies. 

1 See Part III. Chap. i. "The Verdict of the Economists"; Chap. ii. "The 
Higgling of the Market"; and Chap. iii. "The Economic Characteristics of 
Trade Unionism " 



xxxvi Industrial Democracy 

to "sweating." The necessary Common Rules can be 
enforced only by two methods, Collective Bargaining and 
Legal Enactment. If Collective Bargaining, with its in- 
evitable accompaniment of collective abstention from work 
and .occasional stoppages of industry, is, by the judges' 
interpretation of the law, made impossible, or even costly 
and difficult, the whole weight of working-class opinion will 
certainly be thrown in favor of Legal Enactment. We do 
not ourselves deprecate this course, but whether Lord 
Penrhyn and trie railway companies, the Shipping Federation 
and the engineering employers, would see any advantage in 
it seems to us doubtful. 

We pass now to the second great change in Trade Union 
environment. Whilst in the United Kingdom the House of 
Lords has been making the Method of Collective Bargaining 
virtually inoperative, the Legislatures of the young and 
vigorous democracies of Australia and New Zealand have 
been proving how much more elastic, and how much more 
applicable to modern conditions than has hitherto been 
supposed, is the alternative Method of Legal Enactment. 
When we were writing in 1897, the legislation of Victoria 
and New Zealand was still in its first experimental stage, 
and but little was known of its actual working (see pp. 246, 
488, 770, 776, 814). It has since been greatly extended 
in scope as experience has been gained, and it has been 
carefully described by both official and critical observers. 
We had ourselves, in 1898, the opportunity of seeing both 
the Victorian and the New Zealand systems at work, and 
we spent some time in watching and inquiring, among friends 
and foes alike, as to the actual results of the experiment. 
We are more than ever convinced that both Victorian and 
New Zealand statutes deserve favorable consideration by 
the employers and the statesmen, no less than by the work- 
men and the philanthropists of the Mother Country. 

The Victorian legislation * is less well known in England 

1 The best account of the Victorian system and its actual working is the New 
South Wales Government Report of Royal Commission of Inqziiry into the Work- 



Introduction to the 1902 Edition xxxvii 

than that of New Zealand. By the Factories and Shops 
Act, 1896, after a series of vain attempts to put down 
" sweating " by other means, special " wage boards " were 
constituted in certain oppressed trades. These were em- 
powered to fix a minimum standard wage for the trade, for 
both factory and outworkers, by time and by the piece ; 
and also the maximum proportionate number of apprentices 
or improvers under eighteen years of age, and the minimum 
to be paid to them. The " Common Rules " thus prescribed 
for the trade became, in effect, part of the Factory Acts, 
and were enforced by the factory inspectors, like any other 
requirements of the Acts, by summary proceedings in the 
police courts. 

This Act only related to six specially sweated trades, 
and applied only to Melbourne and its suburbs. In 1900, 
after four years' experience, the law was widened in all 
directions. The powers of the boards were extended so as 
to cover practically the whole colony. It was also provided 
that a board should be formed in any trade or business for 
which either House of Parliament had passed an approving 
resolution. It is significant of the appreciation of the law 
that no fewer than twenty-one more boards were at once 
constituted, in protected and unprotected industries alike, 
and many of them at the request of the employers in the 
trades concerned. This was the case, for instance, with the 



ing of Compulsory Conciliation and Arbitration Laivs (Sydney, 1901), by Judge 
Backhouse. The laws themselves can be best consulted in the convenient 
edition of the Factories and Shops Acts^ by Harrison Ord (Melbourne, 1900). 
A succinct account of the system, with particulars of recent decisions by the 
boards, is given by Mrs. W. P. Reeves, in her chapter in The Case for the 
Factory Acts (London, 1901). See also an article by the Hon. W. P. 
Reeves in the Economic Journal, Sept. 1901, entitled "The Minimum Wage 
Law in Victoria and South Australia " ; the annual reports of the Chief 
Inspector of Factories (Melbourne) for 1896-1900 inclusive; and the evidence 
given to the Royal Commission at present (December 1901) sitting to inquire 
into the results of the law. The report of this Commission, to be published 
shortly, will give us the most authoritative account of the working of the 
system. It should be added that the Victorian wage board clauses were, in 
December 1900, enacted almost word for word by the Legislature of South 
Australia. 



xxxviii Industrial Democracy 

boards for the printers (compositors), carriage-builders, cigar- 
makers, coopers, engravers, saddlers, stonecutters, tanners, 
and others. 

These wage-boards are composed of between four and 
ten representatives, half elected by the employers and half 
by the operatives in the particular trade. The board may 
choose its own chairman, who has a casting vote ; and in 
many of the trades employers and employed have easily 
agreed upon a trusted outsider a judge, a minister of 
religion, or a responsible government official. In case of 
disagreement the Government appoints a chairman, choosing 
usually an outsider of judicial character. The board then 
sets to work to determine what shall be the standard 
minimum rate of wages in the trade, and it is interesting to 
find that, after a more or less protracted but quite friendly 
" higgling," the representatives have frequently been able to 
agree on their decision without invoking the chairman's 
casting vote. The minimum rate thus fixed may be made 
applicable to any person or class of persons, factory hands 
or outworkers, by time or by piece ; and it is expressly 
provided that the board is to take into consideration " the 
nature, kind, and class of the work, and the mode and 
manner in which the work is to be done, and the age and 
sex of the workers, and any matter which may from time to 
time be prescribed." The board prescribes the maximum 
number of hours, usually eight, to be worked for the daily 
wage, and what minimum rate shall be paid for overtime, 
but does not actually limit the working time (which is 
limited by law only for women, miners, etc.). Power is 
reserved to the Chief Inspector of Factories to grant to 
aged or infirm workers a licence, for twelve months at a 
time, to work for less than the prescribed rates, and he may 
also do the same for young improvers without full experi- 
ence. This provision was added in the 1 900 Act, experience 
having shown both its necessity and its practicability. It 
should be added that the members of the boards receive from 
public funds a payment of ten shillings for a full day's 



Introduction to the 1902 Edition xxxix 

session, and five shillings for a half-day's session, the chair- 
man receiving double pay. 

Under this Act a legal minimum wage has, in certain 
trades, been fixed and enforced for five years, and in many 
other trades for a shorter period. Thus, the minimum 
weekly wage for tailoresses was fixed, to begin with, at 
twenty shillings a week, that for shirtmakers at sixteen 
shillings, and that for adult male boot and shoe operatives 
at forty-two shillings, these time rates being in each trade 
also translated into equivalent piecework lists. These wages 
were considerably above what many of the operatives had 
previously been receiving, but notwithstanding this fact 
neither the volume of trade nor the employers' profits appear 
to have been affected. We could not ascertain that there 
had been, up to 1898, any diminution of employment in the 
trades concerned ; on the contrary, the numbers at work had 
certainly increased. We could find no evidence that prices 
had risen, and we were informed by employers that they had 
not done so. Nor were the employers themselves dissatis- 
fied with the result. The explanation of the paradox lies, 
as we satisfied ourselves, in the very significant fact that, 
when the employers found themselves compelled to pay a 
standard wage to all whom they employed, they took care 
to make the labor as productive as possible they chose 
their workers more carefully, kept them fully employed, 
introduced new processes and machinery, and in every way 
made the industry more efficient. The effect of stopping 
competition of wages is, as Mundella from practical experi- 
ence pointed out over thirty years ago (see p. 723), to 
concentrate it upon efficiency. The whole experience of 
the Victorian wage-boards, alike in their successes and in 
their failures, confirms our analysis of the economic results 
of the Common Rule (pp. 7I5-39)- 1 

1 It should be stated that this Act, like all factory and sanitary laws, has 
absolutely failed to become effective among the Chinese. Experience in Victoria, 
as elsewhere, seems to show that it is impossible to enforce any form of the 
" National Minimum " on a Chinese population in a white city a fact of extreme 
significance in the question of the desirability of their admission or exclusion. 



xl Industrial Democracy 

What the Victorian law does is, in effect, to compel 
employers and workmen to formulate, by common consent, 
minimum conditions for their own trade, which can be 
altered when and as required, but which are for the time 
being enforced by law. No employer is compelled to con- 
tinue his business, or to engage any workman ; but if he 
chooses to do so, he must, as a minimum, comply with 
these conditions, in exactly the same way as he does with 
regard to the sanitary provisions of the Factory Acts. No 
workman is compelled to enter into employment or for- 
bidden to strike for better terms, but he is prevented from 
engaging himself for less than the minimum wage, exactly 
as he is prevented from accepting less than the minimum 
sanitation. The law, in fact, puts every trade in which a 
wage-board is established in the position of the best organised 
industries in this country, where every firm and every 
workman finds the conditions of employment effectively 
regulated (as regards a minimum) by a collective agreement 
with the added advantages that in Victoria the enforce- 
ment of the Common Rules becomes the business of the 
professional factory inspector ; that no individual can break 
away from the agreement ; and that no strikes, picketing, or 
other disorderly proceedings are ever needed to maintain its 
operation. This seems to us a distinct advance on the 
anarchic private war to which the settlement of the condi- 
tions of employment is otherwise abandoned. 

It is obvious that the Victorian system brings greater 
advantages to the weaker trades than to those strongly 
organised. This, to our mind, is one of its merits. The 
pressing need in the England of to-day is not any increase 
in the money wages of the better-paid and stronger sections 
of the wage-earners, but a levelling up of the oppressed classes 
who fall below the " Poverty Line." The boilermakers in the 
shipbuilding towns, the Lancashire cotton-spinners, and the 
Northumberland coalminers may do by their own strength 
(though not without the cost of constant friction and occa- 
sional disastrous wars), as much as, qr more than any suqh 



Introduction to the 1902 Edition xli 

law could do for them. But the unskilled laborers, the opera- 
tives whose organisation is crippled by home work, and the 
women workers everywhere, can never, in our opinion, by 
mere bargaining, obtain either satisfactory Common Rules 
or any real enforcement of such illusory standards as they 
may get set up. We think that experience in this and 
other countries confirms the economic conclusion that there 
is no way of raising the present scandalously low Standard 
of Life of these classes, except by some such legal stiffening 
as that given by the Victorian law. 

We do not suggest that the Victorian law is by any 
means perfect. It is reported, no doubt correctly, that it is 
evaded and disobeyed in particular cases, as is also the law 
against theft and murder, but this we do not count as a 
serious objection to it or any other law. The Chief Inspector's 
licences to work under price are liable to abuse, but honestly 
worked as the system now is, we do not regard this excep- 
tional treatment of workers actually incapable of " a fair 
day's work " as any drawback. It is anomalous that the 
wage-boards should not be able to frame Common Rules as 
to the maximum working hours and the many conditions of 
employment other than wages. More serious is the attempt 
to limit the number of apprentices, which in spite of the 
action of Lord James in the English boot and shoe manu- 
facture (pp. 482-89) we think wholly inexpedient and 
prejudicial. We doubt, moreover, whether it will be found 
possible, in the long-run, to work a system of separate 
boards for the innumerable separate and often badly defined 
trades. Finally, we object to the retention, as the basis of 
the whole law, of the old conception that the amount of the 
wage in each trade is a matter for each trade to settle 
exclusively for itself, without regard to the interests of the 
community. In our view, the real justification for the inter- 
ference of the law is the injury to the community as a whole 
that results from any form of industrial parasitism from 
the payment, for instance, of wages insufficient for the full 
maintenance, under healthy conditions, of the workers and 



xlii Industrial Democracy 

their families. We should, therefore, have preferred an 
explicit statement of this principle by the Legislature, exactly 
as is done in the Factory Acts with regard to certain other 
conditions of employment, together with a definite statutory 
minimum wage and maximum normal day, determined by 
physiological considerations, and not to be infringed by any 
trade whatsoever. 1 It would then have been possible to 
have limited the formation of wage-boards to those occupa- 
tions in which the operatives were alleged to be working 
under conditions in any respect worse than those of the 
" National Minimum " a much more limited task than that 
of fixing standard rates in all industries whatsoever and 
to have confined their scope to the comparatively easy duty 
of applying the statutory minimum to the particular circum- 
stances of those trades. 

It is interesting to notice that, although New Zealand 2 
attacked the problem from the other end, aiming primarily 
at preventing strikes, this has worked out, in practice, to 
the Victorian solution of enforcing by law certain definite 
minimum conditions of employment throughout each trade. 
By the Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration Act of 1894, 
now superseded by the consolidating Act of 1900, a com- 
plete system of industrial tribunals was established, and 
empowered to deal with labor disputes of all kinds. Taking 
the law as it now stands, we find, in each of the seven 
districts into which the Colony is geographically divided, a 

1 The obvious difficulties in the way of such a minimum are dealt with at 
PP- 774-95- 

2 The latest and most impartial account of the New Zealand system is the 
New South Wales Report of Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Working of 
Compulsory Conciliation and Arbitration Laws (Sydney, 1901), by Judge Back- 
house. The Hon. W. P. Reeves (Agent-General in London for New Zealand), 

devised and carried through the Act of 1894, has graphically described its 

*mg in The Long White Cloud (London, 1899) and other works; and in 

rate detail in his Experiments of Seven Colonies, shortly to be published. 

:e also A Country -without Strikes and Newest England, both by H. D. Lloyd ; 

ind Le Socialisms sans Doctrines, by Albert Metin. For the ablest hostile 

the law, apart from mere theoretical denunciations, the student must 

1 to the series of articles in the Otago Daily Times for September 1901, 

by Dr. John Macgregor. 






Introduction to the 1902 Edition xliii 

local Board of Conciliation, composed of two members 
elected by the registered Employers' Associations and two 
by the registered Trade Unions, with a chairman chosen by 
themselves. In default of election of members or chairman, 
the Government appoints. This Board does not initiate 
any proceedings, but deals with any local industrial dispute, 
whatever the trade, which may be referred to it by a Trade 
Union, an Employers' Association, or a single employer. 
Immediately any dispute has been, by either party, so referred 
to the Board, anything in the nature of a strike or lock-out 
is expressly prohibited, under penalty of .50. The Board 
has authority to make full inquiry into the circumstances, 
except that it cannot compel the production of books. It 
then makes suggestions for a settlement. If these sugges- 
tions are accepted by both parties, they are embodied in an 
" industrial agreement," which may be made unalterable for 
any specified term not exceeding three years, and which in 
any event binds the parties until it is superseded by any 
new agreement or award. Every such agreement is now 
enforceable by legal process, with the same effective authority 
as if it had been enacted as a law. If the parties will not 
agree the Board is to make a definite " recommendation " as 
to what, in its opinion, ought to be the settlement. Any 
dissatisfied party may thereupon, within a month, carry the 
case to the Court of Arbitration. Failing such an appeal, 
the Board's " recommendation " becomes binding on the 
parties as if it were an industrial agreement. 

The Court of Arbitration consists of three members 
appointed by the Government : the president, a judge of 
the Supreme Court ; and two persons recommended by the 
Employers' Associations and Trade Unions respectively. This 
Court has the full powers of an ordinary court of justice to 
investigate any case brought before it by way of appeal 
from the " recommendation " of a Board of Conciliation ; 
and is free to act according to " equity and good conscience " 
without being bound by legal pedantries. It makes an 
award in such terms as it thinks fit, extending, it may be, 



xliv Industrial Democracy 

to a whole trade, either in a specified district or throughout 
the Colony, and including at its discretion any related or 
competing industry. The penalty for breach of the award 
may be any sum not exceeding ^500 on an association, for 
payment of which the members of the association are made 
liable individually up to ;io each. Thus, once any dispute 
is referred to a Board of Conciliation, either by a Trade 
Union or an employer, it is certain to lead, either by agree- 
ment of the parties, or by their acceptance of the " recom- 
mendation " of the Board, or else by the authoritative 
award of the Court of Arbitration, to the enactment of 
legally binding " Common Rules " for the trade, which 
continue in force until they are varied by subsequent pro- 
ceedings of a similar character. 1 

The evolution of the New Zealand system, from 1894 
to 1900, appears to us to be full of instruction. In its first 

1 How extensive is the scope of the authority of these tribunals may be seen 
from the definition of their sphere. They are to settle all disputes about 
"industrial matters," and 

"'Industrial matters' mean all matters affecting or relating to work done, 
or to be done by workers, or the privileges, rights, and duties of employers or 
workers in any industry, not involving questions which are or may be the subject 
of proceedings for an indictable offence ; and without limiting the general nature 
of the above definition, includes all matters relating to 

" (a) The wages, allowances, or remuneration of workers employed in any 
industry, or the prices paid or to be paid therein in respect of such 
employment. 
" (6) The hours of employment, sex, age, qualification, or status of workers, 

and the mode, terms, and conditions of employment. 

" ( f ) The employment of children or young persons, or of any person or 
persons, or class of persons in any industry, or the dismissal of or 
refusal to employ any particular person or persons or class of persons 
therein. 

" (d) The claim of members of an industrial union of employers to preference 
of service from unemployed members of an industrial union of 
workers. 
" (e) The claim of members of industrial unions of workers to be employed 

in preference to non-members. 
" (/) Any established custom or usage of any industry, either generally or in 

the particular district affected. 

Industry ' means any business, trade, manufacture, undertaking, calling 
or employment ^in which workers are employed. 

Worker ' means any person of any age or either sex employed by any 
employer to do any skilled or unskilled manual or clerical work for hire or reward 
in any industry." Act of 1900. 



Introduction to the 1902 Edition xlv 

form, the law aimed ostensibly and primarily at affording 
means by which labor disputes could be amicably composed, 
and, in case of need, compulsorily settled by an award, 
which might, if certain steps were taken by the parties, be 
made enforceable by legal process. The local Boards of 
Conciliation failed, in two-thirds of the cases brought before 
them, to bring about any settlement, one party or the other 
promptly carrying the issue to the Court of Arbitration. 
This seems to have been due partly to the employers' dis- 
satisfaction with the composition of the Boards, to which 
they had at first refused to elect members. But it soon 
became evident that the workmen valued the Court of 
Arbitration more than the Boards, for the very important 
reason that the award of the Court could be made legally 
binding on the trade, which was, until 1900, not the case 
with any decision of a Board. The Trade Unions, at first 
somewhat cold, became enthusiastic supporters of the Act 
when they found that, instead of merely preventing strikes, 
it enabled Common Rules for the industry to be made as 
legally binding as the Factory Acts. They became, in fact, 
as Mr. Reeves, the author of the law, admits, "rather too 
enthusiastic indeed, for they have shown a tendency to make 
too frequent a use of it." 1 Every trade sought to get its 
Common Rules embodied in law. This, however, is a rush 
which will probably exhaust itself as trade after trade finds 
its conditions settled by an authoritative award, which will, 
in any case, need amendment only on specific points, and 
may be made unalterable for a three years' term. The 
result is, to use the words of a bitter opponent, " it is 
necessary to put aside altogether the idea that our Act is 
simply a device for preventing strikes. It is nothing of the 
kind. It is a device for putting the regulation of trades, 
occupations, and industries under the control of a statutory 
court" 2 

Nor do the employers object. At first they usually 

1 The Long White Clozid. 
2 Dr. John Macgregor, of Wellington, New Zealand. 



xlvi Industrial Democracy 

stood aloof, allowed the Government to appoint their 
members to the Conciliation Boards in default of election, 
and practically ignored the Act. But this attitude was 
given up on better acquaintance with the law and its 
working. After a time the great majority of employers 
openly professed their approval of the principle of the Act, 
and their satisfaction with the Court of Arbitration. One 
great captain of industry, who had been badly beaten in the 
Court of Arbitration, and compelled to accept an award 
which he bitterly resented, candidly confessed to us in 1898 
that he had since found that the peace and assurance of 
peace given by the award, together with the certainty that 
he was not being undercut by rival employers, quite made 
up to him the increase of wages he had been compelled to 
pay. He could now, he said, "sleep at night," confident 
that there would be no interruption of his business. The 
enactment of Common Rules for each trade has, in fact, 
been discovered, in practice, not only to increase produc- 
tivity, but also to leave unaffected the opportunities of 
particular employers to reap the full advantage of their 
position, connection, or capacity. And thus we find, to give 
only one instance, when the Act of 1900 was before the 
Legislature, with its express authorisation of the enactment 
of a Legal Minimum Wage, " the Canterbury Employers' 
Association," one of the most influential bodies in the Colony, 
desiring " to impress upon the Government that they are 
thoroughly in accord with the principles laid down in the 
Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Any hostility they may 
have shown in the past was mainly due to the fact that the 
Act was made to apply to a certain section of the industrial 
community only. The Government now propose to remove 
this, and if the Bill now before the House is amended in the 
direction suggested by the Association, they are strongly of 
opinion that it would be impossible to conceive of a more use- 
ful measure, properly administered, that would prove of such 
immense benefit to all sections of the industrial community." 
It is, however, not strictly accurate to say that the Act 



Introduction to the 1902 Edition xlvii 

has prevented all strikes. There have been about half a 
dozen small strikes in New Zealand since 1894, but they 
have all been among workmen to whom the Act had not, at 
the time, been applied. If there is no industrial agreement 
or award in force in any trade, a strike may still occur, but 
it can be stopped at once if the employer chooses to apply 
to the local Conciliation Board. The operatives cannot 
approach the Board except in the capacity of a Trade 
Union or registered " industrial association," so that, in 
absolutely unorganised trades, in which the employers prefer 
not to apply to the Board, disputes may still take place. 
As, however, any seven workers in any occupation may form 
a registered association, the case is now of rare occurrence. 
There has at no time been a strike in contravention of an 
award under the Act. " It is hardly necessary to point out," 
writes Judge Backhouse, "that the Act makes no attempt 
to insist on an employer's carrying on his business, or on a 
man's working under a condition that he objects to. All it 
says is that, where a Board or the Court has interfered, the 
business, if carried on at all, shall be carried on in the 
manner prescribed ; if the workman works, he shall work 
under the conditions laid down. There is nothing to pre- 
vent a strike in detail ; nothing which will preclude a man 
from asking for his time [i.e. wages earned] and leaving." 
That is to say, the conditions of employment imposed by 
the New Zealand Court, like those of the Victorian wage- 
boards, become binding on the employers only as standard 
minimum conditions, analogous to those of the Factory Acts. 
By the end of 1 901, after seven years' experience of the system, 
with the one exception of agriculture, all important industries, 
whether protected by the tariff or not, including coal and gold 
mining, the mercantile marine, the building, textile, and en- 
gineering trades, printing, the railway service, sheep-shearing, 
meat-freezing, and many minor occupations, have brought 
themselves voluntarily within the scope of the law. We can 
only add our personal testimony to that given by every careful 
investigator into the circumstances of New Zealand, that there 

d 



xlviii Industrial Democracy 

is, so far, no evidence of injury to its industrial prosperity; that 
after seven years' trial, there is no party scarcely even any 
section of a party advocating or desiring the repeal of the 
law ; that it is, on the contrary, almost universally approved 
of by employers as well as workmen ; and that there is 
every indication that its operation has been of great and 
enduring benefit to the community as a whole. The world 
is certainly indebted to New Zealand and, in particular, to 
Mr. W. P. Reeves for an original and highly significant 
object lesson in labor legislation. It may be added that 
New South Wales and Western Australia, after elaborate in- 
vestigation and prolonged discussion, enacted, in 1900-1901, 
laws following closely the text of that of New Zealand. 

The differences between the Victorian and New Zealand 
systems are full of interest. In Victoria the wage-board, 
once established, itself takes the initiative, and immediately 
sets to work, without waiting for a dispute, to frame Common 
Rules for the whole trade. The New Zealand tribunals 
cannot themselves initiate proceedings, and must wait until 
a dispute -which means, in practice, a mere refusal by em- 
ployer or Trade Union of the other's request is expressly 
referred to them. But once any occupation in New Zealand 
has come under an industrial agreement or an award, though 
the terms may be indefinitely varied from time to time, some 
" Common Rules " for the trade will practically always exist. 
In Victoria, again, the award of the wage-board can never be 
anything but a minimum. It can contain nothing to prevent 
an employer from offering better terms, or a Trade Union 
from striking to get better terms. In New Zealand the law 
originally contained no mention of a minimum wage, and 
though this is now expressly authorised by the statute, there is 
theoretically nothing to prevent the tribunals (like the justices 
under the Elizabethan statutes) from enacting precise rates or 
conditions, which would be maxima as well as minima, for- 
bidding employers to offer more, and binding the Trade Union 
not merely to abstain from a strike, but also to refrain from 
collectively asking for better terms, or conspiring to obtain 



Introduction to the 1902 Edition xlix 

them by a concerted refusal to renew contracts of service. 
In practice, however, the New Zealand awards are always 
worded as minima, not as maxima a distinction which we 
regard as vitally important to the interest of the community, 
as well as to that of the wage-earners, as the enactment 
of any maximum discourages efficiency and stops all pro- 
gress. There is, in fact, no real difference between the 
Colonies on this point, as it was, from the first, taken for 
granted in New Zealand that the agreements and awards 
must take the form only of minimum conditions, seeing that 
any individual workman above the lowest grade of efficiency 
could, even with a maximum, always have resorted to the 
" strike in detail " as a means of enforcing his " rent of 
ability." The point is, however, of such vital importance 
that we should prefer to see the tribunal expressly limited to 
the enactment of minimum, not maximum conditions. A 
more practical difference between the two Colonies is that, 
in Victoria, the enforcement of the prescribed minimum 
becomes the duty of the Government, through its factory 
inspectors, and breaches of the award are proceeded against, 
at the public expense, in the police courts. In New Zea- 
land the enforcement of the award is left to the vigilance of 
the parties concerned, and the necessary legal proceedings 
are at their own expense, and take place only in the Court 
of Arbitration. In Victoria each trade must have its own 
board, which now acts for the whole of that trade through- 
out the Colony. In New Zealand, though there is provision 
for the appointment, by way of exception, of special boards 
for particular cases, this has not been taken advantage of, 
and each district has its own local board, dealing with all 
the trades in that district, whilst a single Court of Arbitra- 
tion deals with all trades all over the Colony. Finally, we 
have the highly significant difference that, whereas in 
Victoria the settlement of the conditions of employment is 
regarded as entirely a matter for the trade concerned, with- 
out opportunity of appeal, in New Zealand they are dealt 
with by tribunals of first instance and a court of appeal, both 



1 Indiistrial Democracy 

representing, not the trade concerned, but the community 
as a whole, and thus charged to have regard to the para- 
mount interest which the public has in the maintenance 
and progressive advance, alike of the operatives' Standard of 
Life and of industrial productivity. It is the conscious 
adoption of this latter principle, by public opinion and the 
Legislatures of three such important states as New Zealand, 
New South Wales, and Western Australia, that we regard 
as the most important feature of these proceedings. 

We venture to forecast some of the changes in Trade 
Union structure and function which will be brought about 
by these alterations in its environment. First and foremost 
we anticipate a change among Trade Unionists in their 
appreciation of the relative merits of Collective Bargaining 
and Legal Enactment (pp. 253-57). Collective Bargaining 
necessarily implies the alternative of a collective refusal to 
come to terms, that is to say, a strike or lock-out. But the 
decisions of the judges go very far in the direction of 
making a strike impossible. A Trade Union may, it is 
true, still lawfully conduct a strike, provided that it is 
carried out without a breach of the peace ; without threaten- 
ing any employer that his business will be temporarily 
brought to a standstill ; without causing any damage to 
third parties ; without publishing anything that, though 
true, is technically libellous ; without obstructing the 
thoroughfare, or " watching and besetting " any place ; and 
without even any two men trying, in concert, peacefully to 
persuade a blackleg to remain loyal to his order. There 
may be a few Trade Unions, such as the Lancashire Cotton- 
spinners, the Northumberland Coalminers, or the ship- 
building Boilermakers which (able as they are to enforce 
compulsory membership on all persons working at the 
trade, and so highly skilled as to be incapable of being 
replaced) could successfully conduct a strike under these 
conditions, without rinding their funds denuded by law 
expenses and damages. But the vast majority of Trade 
Unions comprise only a part of the workers in their trades, 



Introduction to the 1902 Edition li 

and in many cases it would be possible, in an emergency, 
for the employers to get workers of other trades to replace 
them. With Trade Unions of this kind every strike 
inevitably leads to proceedings which, though not criminal, 
may now be held actionable. Moreover, Trade Unions are 
becoming every day more conscious of the fact that, for the 
great mass of manual workers who exist below the " Poverty 
Line," even this amount of collective action is impracticable. 
To the underfed, badly housed, and overworked man or 
woman, deprived of the leisure as well as of the strength 
necessary for organisation to the isolated outworker or 
assistant in the small workshop Collective Bargaining is 
wholly and for ever out of the question. All these con- 
siderations are cutting at the root of that buoyant faith of 
the older Trade Unionists in the abstract " right of combina- 
tion," by which they meant the right to a free fight with 
the employers. On the other hand, the success of the 
Colonial experiments is rapidly opening the eyes of English 
employers and workmen to new ways of using the Method 
of Legal Enactment, and new advantages of its application. 
For instance, the word " arbitration " has, in the course of 
four years, completely changed its common meaning. 
When we wrote our chapter on Arbitration (pp. 222-45) 
we could still use the term exclusively for a voluntary 
recourse to a voluntarily chosen tribunal whose award was 
only voluntarily accepted. Now arbitration in labor disputes 
has come to mean, in most people's minds, merely a par- 
ticular form of social machinery by which the conditions 
of employment can be authoritatively settled, and strikes 
prevented, whether individual employers or individual work- 
men like it or not. The interesting differences between 
the systems of New Zealand and Victoria, with their 
equally interesting imitations in New South Wales, Western 
Australia, and South Australia, show how elastic and how 
closely applicable to the details of each trade and town the 
once rigid law may be. 

Passing now from the " methods " to the " regulations " 



Hi Industrial Democracy 

of Trade Unionism, we look for even greater changes. Our 
analysis of these regulations showed that they fell, for all 
their multifariousness, into two classes the Device of the 
Common Rule and the Device of Restriction classes which 
are sharply marked off from each other, which rest on 
absolutely different assumptions, and which are mutually 
contradictory in their social results. We showed that 
economic science found nothing to condemn in the Device 
of the Common Rule ; that, in fact, in all regulations 
based on this principle notably those relating to the 
Standard Rate, the Normal Day, and prescribed conditions 
of Sanitation and Safety Trade Unionism positively pro- 
moted efficiency, stimulated both workmen and employers 
to greater productivity, and tended constantly to improve 
both human character and technical processes. On the 
other hand, we demonstrated that the regulations based 
on the Device of Restriction whether of numbers or 
output, whether in the use of machinery or in transformation 
of processes were wholly injurious not only to the trade 
concerned and to the community as a whole, but also to 
the manual worker himself. It is to be counted as one of 
the great merits of British Trade Unionism that it has, 
during the past hundred years, with practically no outside 
assistance, been steadily subordinating and discarding the 
Device of Restriction, which it had inherited partly from 
the regulations of the Craft Gilds and partly from the 
instincts of unorganised hired labor ; substituting for it, 
as we proved with reference to trade after trade, its own 
characteristic invention of the Device of the Common Rule. 
Already, in 1897, we were able to show that the Device of 
the Common Rule was, in British Trade Unionism, both 
the predominant and the growing element, whilst the 
Device of Restriction lingered only in a minority of trades, 
in which it was becoming steadily more discredited. 

This eminently desirable tendency will now, it is clear, 
receive a great stimulus. Public opinion so keenly appre- 
ciates the danger of German and American rivalry in 



Introduction to the 1902 Edition liii 

industry, and international competition is becoming so 
intense and all-pervading, that every kind of limitation or 
restriction of productive power is seen to be almost criminal. 
What with law and popular disapproval, and the better 
instruction of the workmen themselves, to which Trade 
Unionism has so much contributed, we expect to see the 
remnants of the Device of Restriction especially all forms 
of Restriction of Numbers rapidly disappear from the 
Trade Union world. Restriction of effort, and reluctance 
to make the most of machinery already extinct in the 
trades governed by collectively-agreed-to Standard Lists of 
Piecework Prices will linger longest in those occupations 
in which either timework or competitive piecework survives, 
and in which the employers refuse or neglect to set their 
brains to work, in conjunction with the Trade Union 
officials, to devise more intelligent methods of remuneration. 
In such trades employers and workmen alike will continue 
to suffer the consequences of their own stupidity. 

On the other hand, the decisive approval which economic 
science gives to the Device of the Common Rule is reinforced 
by the growing public appreciation of the national import- 
ance of preventing every kind of " sweating." As a nation 
we are becoming keenly conscious of the fact that the 
existence of whole classes who are chronically underfed, 
ill-clothed, badly housed, and overworked, constitutes not 
only a grievance to these unfortunates themselves, but also 
a serious drain upon the vitality and productivity of the 
community as a whole. The only effective way to prevent 
the national loss involved in the existence of " parasitic 
trades " is seen to be the compulsory extension to them of 
those Common Rules which the stronger trades have got 
for themselves. The idea of a compulsorily enforced 
" National Minimum " already embodied in our law as 
regards sanitation and education is now seen to be appli- 
cable as regards rest and subsistence. And just at the time 
when the successful experiments of Victoria and New 
Zealand have been proving to us that a Legal Minimum 



liv Industrial Democracy 

Wage is not at all an impossibility, and that it actually 
works, and works well, there comes the new Act of the 
New South Wales Legislature, with its express adoption of 
the principle, under the very name that we invented for it 
four years ago. By this statute, passed in December 1901, 
at the instance of Mr. Bernhard Wise, the Court of Arbitra- 
tion is empowered to declare that any practice, usage, 
condition of employment, or industrial dealing shall, with 
such limitations and exceptions as the Court may declare, 
become a " Common Rule " for all persons employed in the 
industry under consideration, to be henceforth obeyed by 
every employer, and to be enforced by drastic penalties. 

One probable application of the policy of the National 
Minimum seems to us so urgently required for national safety 
that we give it special prominence. Perhaps the gravest 
social symptom at the opening of the twentieth century is 
the lack of physical vigor, moral self-control, and technical 
skill of the town-bred, manual-working boy. In the indus- 
trial organisation of to-day there are hundreds of thousands 
of youths, between fourteen and twenty-one, who are taken 
on by employers to do unskilled and undisciplined work, at 
comparatively high wages for mere boys, who are taught no 
trade, who are kept working long hours at mere routine, and 
who are habitually turned adrift, to recruit the ranks of 
unskilled labor, as soon as they require a man's subsistence 
(pp. 482-85, 704-15, 768-69, 811). We see four acute 
evils arising out of the existence of this class. Ministers of 
religion deplore the " hooliganism " of our great cities. No 
less serious is the physical degeneracy, which is leading our 
military advisers to declare that 60 per cent of the adult 
male population now fail to reach the already low standard 
of the recruiting sergeant. At the same time, there is a 
constant deficiency in the supply of highly skilled labor, 
whilst all educationists agree that it is impossible to give 
adequate technical training with such voluntary attendance as 
can be got from lads after ten or twelve hours' employment 
(p. 77)- Finally, in this suppression of the adult male 



Introduction to the 1902 Edition Iv 

operative by successive relays of boys between fourteen and 
twenty-one, we have, as we have shown (pp. 482-89, 768-7 i), 
one of the most insidious forms of industrial parasitism. From 
the point of view of the community, we cannot afford to 
regard the growing boy as an independent wealth-producer, 
to be satisfied by a daily subsistence : he is the future citizen 
and parent, for whom, up to twenty-one, proper conditions 
of growth and training are of paramount importance. Every 
industry employing boy-labor, and not providing adequate 
physical and mental training, is using up the stock of the nation, 
and comes under condemnation as a parasitic trade (p. 771). 

Now, although philanthropists and statesmen have de- 
plored this complex evil, no systematic treatment of it 
has yet been undertaken. The Trade Unions, to whom it 
presents itself primarily as the increase of " boy-labor," have 
found no better device against it than the so-called " appren- 
ticeship " regulations (pp. 482-89). But the old system of 
individual apprenticeship to the master craftsman, with its 
anomalous restrictions of age and number, and its haphazard 
amateur instruction, is, as regards nearly all trades, dead 
and past reviving. Any attempt to resuscitate it inevitably 
takes the form of a mere limitation of numbers, or other 
narrowing of the entrance to a trade a policy which, as we 
have demonstrated, does not cure the evil, and is seriously 
prejudicial to masters and men alike, to the trade itself, and 
to the whole community (pp. 454-89, 768-71). Unfortu- 
nately, this limitation of the number of apprentices has now 
been embodied in both New Zealand and Victorian law, 
and we desire therefore to draw pointed attention, not only 
to the utter futility of this device, but also to the existence 
of a more excellent way. 

We see no remedy for the grave social evils resulting 
from the illegitimate use of boy-labor, and the consequent 
industrial parasitism, except in an appropriate application of 
the Policy of the National Minimum (pp. 770-71). The 
nation must, at any inconvenience, prevent such conditions 
of employment of boys as are demonstrably inconsistent 



Ivi Industrial Democracy 

with the maintenance of the race in a state of efficiency as 
producers and citizens. As regards youths under twenty-one 
the community is bound, in its own interest, to secure for 
them, not as at present, daily subsistence and pocket-money, 
but such conditions of nurture as will allow of the con- 
tinuous provision, generation after generation, of healthy and 
efficient adults. What is required for the " hooligan " is 
adequate opportunity for physical culture and effective 
technical training, and the systematic enforcement of these 
by law. This means, we suggest, an extension of the exist- 
ing " half-time " system. We see no reason why the present 
prohibition to employ a boy in a factory or workship for 
more than thirty hours in a week should not be extended 
to all occupations, and at least up to the age of eighteen. 
The twenty or thirty hours per week thus saved from in- 
dustrial employment should be compulsorily devoted to a 
properly organised course of physical training and technical 
education, which could, under such circumstances, be carried 
out with a thoroughness and efficiency hitherto undreamt of. 
Meanwhile employers would remain free to engage boys, but 
as they could get them only for half-time, they would not 
be tempted to hire them except for the legitimate purpose of 
training up a new generation of craftsmen. Finally, we may 
add that if at any time it should be deemed necessary for 
the purpose of home defence to have the nation trained to 
arms, a mere extension of such a half-time system to the 
age of twenty-one would enable every citizen to be drilled 
and taught the use of the rifle without the slightest interrup- 
tion of wage-earning or any segregation in barracks. We 
suggest that the "citizen-army" of the future will, in the 
United Kingdom, more probably take this form than that of 
conscription by ballot or any universal military service for 
one or two years at a stretch. 

SIDNEY AND BEATRICE WEBB. 

41 GROSVENOR ROAD, WESTMINSTER, 
LONDON, December 1901. 



CONTENTS 

PART I 
TRADE UNION STRUCTURE 

CHAPTER I 

PAGE 

PRIMITIVE DEMOCRACY . . ... . . 3 

CHAPTER II 

REPRESENTATIVE INSTITUTIONS . . . . 38 

CHAPTER III 
THE UNIT OF GOVERNMENT . . . . . . 72 

CHAPTER IV 

INTERUNION RELATIONS 104 

PART II 
TRADE UNION FUNCTION 

CHAPTER I 

INTRODUCTION .... MS 

THE METHOD OF MUTUAL INSURANCE . . . . 152 



Iviii Industrial Democracy 



CHAPTER II 

PAGE 

THE METHOD OF COLLECTIVE BARGAINING 173 

CHAPTER III 
ARBITRATION ...... 222 

CHAPTER IV 
THE METHOD OF LEGAL ENACTMENT . . . . 247 

CHAPTER V 
THE STANDARD RATE . . . . . . . 279 

CHAPTER VI 
THE NORMAL DAY ........ 324 

CHAPTER VII 
SANITATION AND SAFETY . . . . . . . 354 

CHAPTER VIII 
NEW PROCESSES AND MACHINERY ..... 392 

CHAPTER IX 
CONTINUITY OF EMPLOYMENT ...... 430 






PART II 
TRADE UNION FUNCTION Continued 

CHAPTER X 

PAGE 

THE ENTRANCE TO A TRADE . . . . . -453 

(a) APPRENTICESHIP . . - . . . . . 454 

(b} THE LIMITATION OF BOY-LABOR . . . .482 

(<:) PROGRESSION WITHIN THE TRADE . . . . 489 

(d) THE EXCLUSION OF WOMEN . . . . 495 

CHAPTER XI 

THE RIGHT TO A TRADE . ..... . . . 508 

CHAPTER XII 

THE IMPLICATIONS OF TRADE UNIONISM . . ". . . 528 

CHAPTER XIII 

THE ASSUMPTIONS OF TRADE UNIONISM . -. ,< . . 559 



l x Industrial Democracy 

PART III 
TRADE UNION THEORY 

CHAPTER I 

PAGE 

THE VERDICT OF THE ECONOMISTS . . 63 

CHAPTER II 
THE HIGGLING OF THE MARKET . 654 

CHAPTER III 
THE ECONOMIC CHARACTERISTICS OF TRADE UNIONISM . 703 

(a) THE DEVICE OF RESTRICTION OF NUMBERS . 704 

(b) THE DEVICE OF THE COMMON RULE . . . 715 

(c) THE EFFECT OF THE SECTIONAL APPLICATION OF THE 

COMMON RULE ON THE DISTRIBUTION OF INDUSTRY 740 

(d) PARASITIC TRADES 749 

(e) THE NATIONAL MINIMUM ..... 766 

(/) THE UNEMPLOYABLE ' 784 

(g) SUMMARY OF THE ECONOMIC CHARACTERISTICS OF 

THE DEVICE OF THE COMMON RULE . . . 789 

(//) TRADE UNION METHODS ..... 796 

CHAPTER IV 
TRADE UNIONISM AND DEMOCRACY . . . 807 



Contents Ixi 

APPENDICES 

PAGE 

I. THE LEGAL POSITION OF COLLECTIVE BARGAINING IN 

ENGLAND ......... 853 

II. THE BEARING OF INDUSTRIAL PARASITISM AND THE 
POLICY OF A NATIONAL MINIMUM ON THE FREE TRADE 
CONTROVERSY ........ 863 

III. SOME STATISTICS BEARING ON THE RELATIVE MOVE- 
MENTS OF THE MARRIAGE AND BIRTH-RATES, PAUPER- 
ISM, WAGES, AND THE PRICE OF WHEAT . . . 873 

IV. A SUPPLEMENT TO THE BIBLIOGRAPHY OF TRADE 

UNIONISM 878 

INDEX . ....... 901 






PART I 
TRADE UNION STRUCTURE 



VOL. I 



CHAPTER I 



PRIMITIVE DEMOCRACY 



IN the local trade clubs of the eighteenth century, 
democracy appeared in its simplest form. Like the citizens 
of Uri or Appenzell 2 the workmen were slow to recognise 
any other authority than " the voices " of all concerned. 
The members of each trade, in general meeting assembled, 
themselves made the regulations, applied them to particular 
cases, voted the expenditure of funds, and decided on 
such action by individual members as seemed necessary 
for the common weal. The early rules were accordingly 
occupied with securing the maintenance of order and 
decorum at these general meetings of " the trade " or 
" the body." With this view the president, often chosen 
only for the particular meeting, was treated with great 
respect and invested with special, though temporary, 

1 Copyright in the United States of America, 1896, by Sidney and Beatrice 
Webb. 

2 The early Trade Union general meetings have, indeed, many interesting 
resemblances, both in spirit and in form, to the " Landesgemeinden," or general 
meetings of all citizens, of the old Swiss Cantons. The best description of these 
archaic Swiss democracies, as they exist to-day, is given by Eugene Rambert in 
his work Les Alpes Suisses : Etudes Historiques et Nationales (Lausanne, 1889). 
J. M. Vincent's State and Federal Government in Switzerland (Baltimore, 1891) 
is more precise and accurate than any other account in the English language. 
Freeman's picturesque reference to them in The Growth of the English Constitu- 
tion (London, 1872) is well known. 



4 Trade Union Structure 

authority. Thus the constitution of the London Society 
of Woolstaplers, established 1785, declares "that at every 
meeting of this society a president shall be chosen to 
preserve the rules of decorum and good order ; and if any 
member should not be silent on due notice given by the 
president, which shall be by giving three distinct knocks on 
the table, he shall fine threepence ; and if any one shall in- 
terrupt another in any debate while addressing the president, 
he shall fine sixpence ; and if the person so fined shall 
return any indecent language, he shall fine sixpence more ; 
and should any president misconduct himself, so as to cause 
uproar and confusion in the society, or shall neglect to 
enforce a strict observance of this and the following article, 
he shall be superseded, and another president shall be chosen 
in his stead. The president shall be accommodated with 
his own choice of liquors, wine only excepted." x And the 
Articles of the Society of Journeymen Brushmakers, to 
which no person was to be admitted as a member " who is 
not well-affected to his present Majesty and the Protestant 
succession, and in good health, and of a respectable char- 
acter," provide " that on each evening the society meets there 
shall be a president chosen from the members present to 
keep order ; to be allowed a shilling for his trouble ; any 
member refusing to serve the office to be fined sixpence. If 
any member dispute on politics, swear, lay wagers, promote 
gambling, or behave otherwise disorderly, and will not be 
silent when ordered by the chairman, he shall pay a fine of 
a shilling." 2 

The rules of every old society consist mainly of safe- 
guards of the efficiency of this general meeting. Whilst 
political or religious wrangling, seditious sentiments or songs, 
cursing, swearing, or obscene language, betting, wagering, 
gaming, or refusing to keep silence were penalised by fines, 
elaborate and detailed provision was made for the entertain- 

1 The Articles of the London Society of Woolstaplers (London, 1813). 

2 Articles of the Society of Journeymen Brushmakers, held at the sign of the 
Craven Head, Drury Lane (London, 1806). 



Primitive Democracy 5 

ment of the members. Meeting, as all clubs did, at a public- 
house in a room lent free by the landlord, it was taken as 
a matter of course that each man should do his share of 
drinking. The rules often prescribe the sum to be spent at 
each meeting : in the case of the Friendly Society of Iron- 
founders, for instance, the member's monthly contribution in 
1809 was a shilling " to the box," and threepence for liquor, 
" to be spent whether present or not." The Brushmakers 
provided "that on every meeting night each member shall 
receive a pot ticket at eight o'clock, a pint at ten, and 
no more." l And the Manchester Compositors resolved 
in 1826 " that tobacco be allowed to such members of this 
society as require it during the hours of business at any 
meeting of the society." 2 

After the president, the most important officers were, 
accordingly, the stewards or marshalmen, two or four members 
usually chosen by rotation. Their duty was, to use the 
words of the Cotton-spinners, " at every meeting to fetch all 
the liquor into the committee room, and serve it regularly 
round " ; 3 and the members were, in some cases, " forbidden 
to drink out of turn, except the officers at the table or 
a member on his first coming into the town." 4 Treasurer 

1 The account book of the little Preston Society of Carpenters, whose mem- 
bership in 1807 averaged about forty-five, shows an expenditure at each meeting 
of 6s. to 75. 6d. As late as 1837 the rules of the Steam-Engine Makers' 
Society provided that one-third of the income fourpence out of the monthly 
contribution of a shilling "shall be spent in refreshments. . . . To prevent 
disorder no person shall help himself to any drink in the club-room during club 
hours, but what is served him by the waiters or marshalmen who shall be 
appointed by the president every club night." Some particulars as to the dying 
away of this custom are given in our History of Trade Unionism, pp. 185, 186 ; 
see also the article by Prof. W. J. Ashley on "Journeymen's clubs," in Political 
Science Quarterly, March 1897. 

2 MS. Minutes of the Manchester Typographical Society, 7th March 1826. 

3 Articles, Rules, Orders, and Regulations made and to be observed by and 
between the Friendly Associated Cotton- spinners within the township of Oldham 
(Oldham, 1797 : reprinted 1829). 

4 Friendly Society of Ironfounders, Rules, 1809. The Rules of the Liverpool 
Shipwrights' Society of 1784 provided also " that each member that shall call for 
drink without leave of the stewards shall forfeit and pay for the drink they call for 
to the stewards for the use of the box. . . . That the marshalmen shall pay the over- 
plus of drink that comes in at every monthly meeting more than allowed by ths 



6 Trade Union Stritcture 

there was often none, the scanty funds, if not consumed 
as quickly as collected, being usually deposited with the 
publican who acted as host. Sometimes, however, we 
have the archaic box with three locks, so frequent 
among the gilds; and in such cases members served 
in rotation as " keymasters," or, as we should now say, 
trustees. Thus the Edinburgh Shoemakers provided that 
" the keymasters shall be chosen by the roll, beginning at 
the top for the first keymaster, and at the middle of the 
roll for the youngest keymaster, and so on until the roll 
be finished. If any refuse the keymaster, he shall pay 
one shilling and sixpence sterling." 1 The ancient box of 
the Glasgow Ropemakers' Friendly Society (established 
1824), elaborately decorated with the society's "coat of 
arms," was kept in the custody of the president, who was 
elected annually. 2 Down to within the last thirty years 
the custom was maintained on the " deacons' choosing," 
or annual election day, of solemnly transporting this box 
through the streets of Glasgow to the house of the new 
president, with a procession of ropespinners headed by a 
piper, the ceremony terminating with a feast. The keeping 
of accounts and the writing of letters was a later develop- 
ment, and when a clerk or secretary was needed, he had 
perforce to be chosen from the small number qualified for 
the work. But there is evidence that the early secre- 
taries served, like their colleagues, only for short periods, 

society ; and no member of this society is allowed to call for or smoak tobacco 
during club hours in the club room ; for every such offence he is to forfeit and 
pay fourpence to the stewards for the use of the box." Articles to be observed by 
a Society of Shipwrights, or the True British Society, all Freemen (Liverpool, 
1784), Articles 8 and 9. 

1 Articles of the Journeymen Shoemakers of the City of Edinburgh (Edinburgh, 
! 778) a society established in 1727. 

2 Articles and Regulations of the Associated Ropemakers 1 Friendly Society 
(Glasgow, 1836), repeated in the General Laws and Regulations of the Glasgow 
Ropemakers' Trade Protective and Friendly Society (Glasgow, 1 884). The members 
of the Glasgow Typographical Society resolved, in 1823, "that a man be pro- 
vided on election nights to carry the box from the residence of the president to the 
place of meeting, and after the meeting to the new president's house." MS. 
Minutes of general meeting, Glasgow Typographical Society, 4th October 1823. 



Primitive Democracy 7 

and occupied, moreover, a position very subordinate to the 
president. 

Even when it was necessary to supplement the officers 
by some kind of committee, so far were these infant demo- 
cracies from any superstitious worship of the ballot-box, 
that, although we know of no case of actual choice by lot, 1 
the committee-men were usually taken, as in the case of the 
Steam-Engine Makers' Society, " in rotation as their names 
appear on the books." 2 "A fine of one shilling," say the 
rules of the Southern Amicable Union Society of Wool- 
staplers, " shall be levied on any one who shall refuse to serve 
on the committee or neglect to attend its stated meetings, 
. . . and the next in rotation shall be called in his stead." 3 
The rules of the Liverpool Shipwrights declared " that the 
committee shall be chosen by rotation as they stand in the 
books ; and any member refusing to serve the office shall 
forfeit ten shillings and sixpence." 4 As late as 1843 we 
find the very old Society of Curriers resolving that for this 
purpose " a list with three columns be drawn up of the 
whole of the members, dividing their ages as near as possible 
in the following manner : the elder, the middle-aged and the 
young ; so that the experience of the elder and the sound 

1 The selection of officers by lot was, it need hardly be said, frequent in 
primitive times. It is interesting to find the practice in the Swiss " Landes- 
gemeinden." In 1640 the " Landesgemeinde " of Glarus began to choose eight 
candidates for each office, who then drew lots among themselves. Fifty years 
later Schwyz followed this example. By 1793 the " Landesgemeinde " of Glarus 
was casting lots for all offices, including the cantonal secretaryship, the steward- 
ships of dependent territories, etc. The winnei often sold his office to the 
highest bidder. The practice was not totally abolished until 1837, and old men 
still remember the passing round of the eight balls, each wrapped in black cloth, 
seven being silvern and the eighth gilt. Les Alpes Suisses ; fetudes Historiques 
et Nationals, by Eugene Rambert (Lausanne, 1889), pp. 226, 276. 

2 Rules of the Steam- Engine Maker? Society, edition of 1837. 

3 Rules of the Southern Amicable Union of Woolstaplers (London, 1837). 

4 Articles to be observed by the Association of the Friendly Union of Shipivrights, 
instituted in Liverpool on Tuesday, \\th November 1800 (Liverpool, 1800), Rule 
19. The London Sailmakers resolved, in 1836, "that from this evening the 
calling for stewards shall begin from the last man on the committee, and that 
from and after the last steward the twelve men who stand in rotation on the 
book do form the committee." MS. Minutes of general meeting, 26th September 
1836. 



8 Trade Union Structure 

judgment of the middle-aged will make up for any deficiency 
on the part of the young." l In some cases, indeed, the 
members of the committee were actually chosen by the 
officers. Thus in the ancient society of Journeymen Paper- 
makers, where each " Grand Division " had its committee of 
eight members, it was provided that " to prevent imposition 
part of the committee shall be changed every three months, 
by four old members going out and four new ones coming 
in ; also a chairman shall be chosen to keep good order, 
which chairman, with the clerk, shall nominate the four 
new members which shall succeed the four old ones." 2 

The early trade club was thus a democracy of the most 
rudimentary type, free alike from permanently differentiated 
officials, executive council, or representative assembly. 
The general meeting strove itself to transact all the 
business, and grudgingly delegated any of its functions 
either to officers or to committees. When this delegation 
could no longer be avoided, the expedients of rotation 
and short periods of service were used " to prevent im- 
position " or any undue influence by particular members. 
In this earliest type of Trade Union democracy we find, in 
fact, the most childlike faith not only that "all men are 
equal," but also that " what concerns all should be decided 
by all." 

It is obvious that this form of democracy was compatible 
only with the smallest possible amount of business. But it 
was, in our opinion, not so much the growth of the financial 
and secretarial transactions of the unions, as the exigencies of 

1 MS. Minutes of the London Society of Journeymen Curriers, January 1843. 

2 Rules and Articles to be observed by the Journeymen Papermakers throughout 
England '(1823), Appendix 1 8 to Report on Combination Laws, 1825, p. 56. The 
only Trade Union in which this example still prevails is that of the Flint Glass 
Makers, where the rules until lately gave the secretary "the power to nominate 
a central committee (open to the objection of the trade), in whose hands the 
executive power of the society shall be vested from year to year." Rules and 
Regulations of the National Flint Glass Maker? Sick and Friendly Society (Man- 
chester, 1890). This has lately been modified, in so far that seven members are 
now elected, the central secretary nominating four "from the district in which 
he resides, but open to the objection of the trade." Rule 67 (Rules, reprinted 
with additions, Manchester, 1893). 



Primitive Democracy 9 

their warfare with the employers, that first led to a departure 
trom this simple ideal. The legal and social persecutions to 
which Trade Unionists were subject, at any rate up to 1824, 
made secrecy and promptitude absolutely necessary for suc- 
cessful operations ; and accordingly at all critical times we 
find the direction of affairs passing out of the hands of the 
general meeting into those of a responsible, if not a repre- 
sentative, committee. Thus the London Tailors, whose 
militant combinations between 1720 and 1834 repeatedly 
attracted the attention of Parliament, 1 had practically two 
constitutions, one for peace and one for war. In quiet times, 
the society was made up of little autonomous general meet- 
ings of the kind described above at the thirty " houses of 
call " in London and Westminster. The organisation for war, 
as set forth in I 8 1 8 by Francis Place, was very different : 
" Each house of call has a deputy, who on particular occasions 
is chosen by a kind of tacit consent, frequently without its 
being known to a very large majority who is chosen. The 
deputies form a committee, and they again choose, in a 
somewhat similar way, a very small committee, in whom, 
on very particular occasions, all power resides, from whom 
all orders proceed, and whose commands are implicitly 
obeyed ; and on no occasion has it ever been known that 
their commands have exceeded the necessity of the occasion, 
or that they have wandered in the least from the purpose 
for which it was understood they were appointed. So perfect 
indeed is the organisation, and so well has it been carried 
into effect, that no complaint has ever been heard ; with so 
much simplicity and with so great certainty does the whole 
business appear to be conducted that the great body of 
journeymen rather acquiesce than assist in any way in it." 2 
Again, the protracted legal proceedings of the Scottish Hand- 

1 See the interesting Select Documents illustrating the History of 7*rade 
Unionism : I. The Tailoring Trade, edited by F. W. Gallon (London, 1896), 
being one of the "Studies" published by the London School of Economics 
and Political Science. 

2 The Gorgon, No. 20, 3rd October 1818, reprinted in The Tailoring 7radt 
by F. W. Gallon, pp. 153, 154. 



I0 Trade Union Structure 

loom Weavers, ending in the great struggle when 30,000 
looms from Carlisle to Aberdeen struck on a single day 
( i oth November 1812), were conducted by an autocratic com- 
mittee of five, sitting in Glasgow, and periodically summon- 
ing from all the districts delegates who carried back to their 
constituents orders which were implicitly obeyed. 1 Before 
the repeal of the Combination Laws in 1824, the employers 
in all the organised trades complained bitterly of these " self- 
appointed " committees, and made repeated attempts to 
scatter them by prosecutions for combination or conspiracy. 
To this constant danger of prosecution may be ascribed 
some of the mystery which surrounds the actual constitution 
of these tribunals ; but their appearance on the scene when- 
ever an emergency called for strong action was a necessary 
consequence of the failure of the clubs to provide any con- 
stitutional authority of a representative character. 

So far we have dealt principally with trade clubs confined 
to particular towns or districts. When, in any trade, these 
local clubs united to form a federal union, or when one of 
them enrolled members in other towns, government by a 
general meeting of " the trade," or of all the members, be- 
came impracticable. 2 Nowadays some kind of representa- 

1 Evidence before the House of Commons Committee on Artisans and 
Machinery, 1824, especially that of Richmond. 

2 A branch of a national union is still governed by the members in general 
meeting assembled ; and for this and other reasons, it is customary for several 
separate branches to be established in large towns where the number of members 
becomes greater than can easily be accommodated in a single branch meeting- 
place. Such branches usually send delegates to a district committee, which thus 
becomes the real governing authority of the town or district. But in certain 
unions the idea of direct government by an aggregate meeting of the trade still so 
far prevails that, even in so large a centre as London, resort is had to huge mass 
meetings. Thus the London Society of Compositors will occasionally summon 
its ten thousand members to meet in council to decide, in an excited mass 
meeting, the question of peace or war with their employers. And the National 
Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives, which in its federal constitution adopts a 
large measure of representative institutions, still retains in its local organisation 
the aggregate meeting of the trade as the supreme governing body for the district. 
The Shoemakers of London or Leicester frequently hold meetings at which the 
attendance is numbered by thousands, with results that are occasionally calamitous 
to the union. Thus, when in 1891 the men of a certain London firm had 
impetuously left their work contrary to the agreement made by the union with 



Primitive Democracy 1 1 

tive institutions would seem to have been inevitable at this 
stage. But it is significant to notice how slowly, reluctantly 
and incompletely the Trade Unionists have incorporated in 
their constitutions what is often regarded as the specifically 
Anglo- Saxon form of democracy the elected representative 
assembly, appointing and controlling a standing executive. 
Until the present generation, no Trade Union had ever 
formed its constitution on this model. It is true that in the 
early days we hear of 1 meetings of delegates from local 

the employers, their branch called a mass meeting of the whole body of the 
London members (seven thousand attending), which, after refusing even to hear 
the union officials, decided to support the recalcitrant strikers, with the result 
that the employers "locked out" the whole trade. (Monthly Report of the 
National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives, November 1891.) In 1893 tne 
union executive found it necessary to summon at Leicester a special delegate 
meeting of the whole society to sit in judgment on the London members who 
had decided, at a mass meeting, to withdraw from the national agreement to 
submit to arbitration. The circular calling the delegate meeting contains a vivid 
description of the scene at this mass meeting: "The hall was well filled, and 
Mr. Judge, president of the union, took the chair. From the outset it was soon 
found that the rowdy element intended to again prevent a hearing, and thus make 
it impossible for our views to be laid before the bulk of the more intelligent and 
reasonable members. ... If democratic unions such as ours are to have the 
meetings stopped by such proceedings, ... if the members refuse to hear, and 
insult by cock-crowing and cat-calls their own accredited and elected executive, 
then it is time that other steps be taken." The delegate meeting, by 74 votes to 
9, severely censured the London members, and reversed their decision (Circular of 
Executive Committee, I4th March 1893 : Special Report of the Delegate 
Meeting at Leicester, I7th April 1893). In most unions, however, experience 
has shown that in truth "aggregate meetings" are "aggravated meetings," and 
has led to their abandonment in favor of district committees or delegate meetings. 
* In the History of Trade Unionism, p. 46, we described the Hatters as hold- 
ing in 1772, 1775, and 1777, "congresses" of delegates from all parts of the 
country. Further examination of the evidence (House of Commons Journals, 
vol. xxxvi. ; Place MS. 27,799-68; Committee on Artisans and Machinery) 
inclines us to believe that these "congresses," like another in 1816, comprised 
only delegates from the various workshops in London. We can discover 
no instance during the eighteenth century of a Trade Union gathering made up 
of delegates from the local clubs throughout the country. But though the con- 
gresses of the Hatters probably represented only the London workmen, their 
" bye-laws " were apparently adopted by the clubs elsewhere, and came thus to 
be of national scope. Similar instances of national regulation by the principal 
centre of a trade may be seen in the "resolutions" addressed "to the Wool- 
staplers of England " by the London Society of Woolstaplers, and in the 
"articles to be observed by the Journeymen Papermakers throughout England," 
formulated at a meeting of the trade at large held at Maidstone. In the loose 
alliances of the local clubs in each trade, the chief trade centre often acted, in 
fact, as the "governing branch." 



i 2 Trade Union Structure 

clubs to adopt or amend the " articles " of their association. 
A "deputation" from nine local societies of Carpenters 
met thus in London in 1 8 2 7 to form the Friendly Society 
of Operative House Carpenters and Joiners, and similar 
meetings were annually held to revise the rules and 
adjust the finances of this federation. It would have 
been a natural development for such a representative 
congress to appoint a standing committee and executive 
officers to act on behalf of the whole trade. But when 
between 1824 and 1840 the great national societies of 
that generation settled down into their constitutions, the 
congress of elected representatives either found no place at 
all, or else was called together only at long intervals and for 
strictly limited purposes. In no case do we see it acting 
as a permanent supreme assembly. The Trade Union met 
the needs of expanding democracy by some remarkable 
experiments in constitution-making. 

The first step in the transition from the loose alliance of 
separate local clubs into a national organisation was the 
appointment of a seat of government or " governing branch." 
The members residing in one town were charged with 
the responsibility of conducting the current business of the 
whole society, as well as that of their own branch. The 
branch officers and the branch committee of this town accord- 
ingly became the central authority. 1 Here again the leading 
idea was not so much to get a government that was repre- 

1 In some of the more elaborate Trade Union constitutions formulated between 
1820 and 1834 we find a hierarchy of authorities, none of them elected by the 
society as a whole, but each responsible for a definite part of the common admini- 
stration. Thus The Rules and Articles to be observed by the Journeymen Paper- 
makers'^ 1823 provide "that there shall be five Grand Divisions throughout 
England where all money shall be lodged, that when wanted may be sent to 
any part where emergency may require." These "Grand Divisions" were the 
branches in the five principal centres of the trade, each being given jurisdiction 
over all the mills in the counties round about it. Above them all stood " No. I 
Grand Division " (Maidstone), which was empowered to determine business of 
too serious a nature to be left to any other Grand Division. This geographical 
hierarchy is interesting as having apparently furnished the model for most of the 
constitutions of the period, notably of the Owenite societies of 1833-1834, includ- 
ing the Builders' Union and the Grand National Consolidated Trades Union itself. 



Primitive Democracy 1 3 

sentative of the society as to make each section take its turn 
at the privileges and burdens of administration. The seat 
of government was accordingly always changed at short 
intervals, often by rotation. Thus the Steam-Engine Makers' 
rules of 1826 provide that " the central branch of the society 
shall be held alternately at the different branches of this 
society, according as they stand on the books, commencing 
with Branch No. I, and the secretary of the central branch 
shall, after the accounts of the former year have been balanced, 
send the books to the next central branch of the society." l 
In other cases the seat of government was periodically deter- 
mined by vote of the whole body of members, who appear 
usually to have been strongly biassed in favor of shifting it 
from town to town. The reason appears in this statement 
by one of the lodges of the Ironfounders : " What, we ask, 
has been the history of nearly every trade society in this 
respect ? Why, that when any branch or section of it has 
possessed the governing power too long, it has become care- 
less of the society's interests, tried to assume irresponsible 
powers, and invariably by its remissness opened wide the 
doors of peculation, jobbery, and fraud." 2 

The institution of a " governing branch " had the advantage 
of being the cheapest machinery of central administration 
that could be devised. By it the national union secured 
its executive committee, at no greater expense than a small 
local society. 3 And so long as the function of the national 

The same geographical hierarchy was a feature of the constitution of the Southern 
Amicable Society of Woolstaplers until the last revision of rules in 1892. In only 
one case has a similar hierarchy survived. The United Society of Brushmakers, 
established in the eighteenth century, is still divided into geographical divisions 
governed by the six head towns, with London as the centre of communication. 
The branches in the West Riding, for instance, are governed by the Leeds com- 
mittee, and when in 1892 the Sheffield branch had a strike, this was managed by 
the secretary of the Leeds branch. 

1 Rule 19 ; rules of 1826 as reprinted in the Annual Report for 1837. 

2 Address of the Bristol branch of the Friendly Society of Ironfounders to the 
members at large (in Annual Report for 1849). 

3 Both the idea of rotation of office, and that of a local governing branch, can 
be traced to the network of village sick-clubs which existed all over England in 
the eighteenth century. In 1824 these clubs were described by a hostile critic as 
"under the management of the ordinary members who succeed to the several offices 



14 Trade Union Structure 

executive was confined to that of a centre of communication 
between practically autonomous local branches, no alteration 
in the machinery was necessary. The duties of the secretary, 
like those of his committee, were not beyond the competence 
of ordinary artisans working at their trade and devoting only 
their evenings to their official business. But with the multi- 
plication of branches and the formation of a central fund, the 
secretarial work of a national union presently absorbed the 
whole time of a single officer, to whom, therefore, a salary 
had to be assigned. As the salary came from the common 
fund, the right of appointment passed, without question, from 
the branch meeting to "the voices" of the whole body of 
members. Thus the general secretary was singled out for a 
unique position : alone among the officers of the union he 
was elected by the whole body of members. Meanwhile the 
supreme authority continued to be " the voices." Every pro- 
position not covered by the original " articles," together with 
all questions of peace and war, was submitted to the votes 
of the members. 1 But this was not all. Each branch, in 

in rotation ; frequently without being qualified either by ability, independence, or 
impartiality for the due discharge of their respective offices ; or under the control 
of a standing committee, composed of the most active and often the least eligible 
members residing near the place of meeting." The Constitution of Friendly Societies 
upon Legal and Scientific Principles, by Rev. John Thomas Becher (2nd edition, 
London, 1824), p. 50. 

Comparing small things with great, we may say that the British Empire is 
administered by a "governing branch." The business common to the Empire as 
a whole is transacted, not by imperial or federal officers, but by those of one part 
of the Empire, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland ; and they are 
supervised, not by an Imperial Diet or Federal Assembly, but by the domestic 
legislature at Westminster. 

1 The very ancient United Society of Brushmakers, which dates from the early 
part of the eighteenth century, retains to this day its archaic method of collecting 
" the voices." In London, said to be the most conservative of all the districts, no 
alteration of rule is made without " sending round the box " as of yore. In the 
society's ancient iron box are put all the papers relating to the subject under dis- 
cussion, and a member out of employment is deputed to carry the box from shop 
to shop until it has travelled "all round the trade." When it arrives at a shop, 
all the men cease work and gather round ; the box is opened, its contents are read 
and discussed, and the shop delegates are then and there instructed how to vote 
at the next delegate meeting. The box is then refilled and sent on to the next 
shop. Old minutes of 1829 show that this custom has remained unchanged, down 
to the smallest detail, for, at any rate, a couple of generations. It is probably 
nearly two centuries old. 



Primitive Democracy 1 5 

general meeting assembled, claimed the right to have any 
proposition whatsoever submitted to the vote of the society 
as a whole. And thus we find, in almost every Trade Union 
which has a history at all, a most instructive series of experi- 
ments in the use, misuse, and limitations of the Referendum. 
Such was the typical Trade Union constitution of the 
last generation. In a few cases it has survived, almost 
unchanged, down to the present day, just as its pre- 
decessor, the archaic local club governed by the general 
meeting, still finds representatives in the Trade Union 
world. But wherever an old Trade Union has maintained 
its vitality, its constitution has been progressively modified, 
whilst the most powerful of the modern unions have been 
formed on a different pattern. An examination of this 
evolutionary process will bring home to us the transitional 
character of the existing constitutional forms, and give us 
valuable hints towards the solution, in a larger field, of the 
problem of uniting efficient administration with popular 
control. 

We have already noted that, in passing from a local to 
a national organisation, the Trade Union unwittingly left 
behind the ideal of primitive democracy. The setting apart 
of one man to dcrthe clerical work destroyed the possibility of 
^equal and^d^ntical service by all the members, and laid the 
rauji^kfion of a separate governing class. The practice of 
requiring members to act in rotation was silently abandoned. 
Once chosen for his post, the general secretary could rely with 
confidence, unless he proved himself obviously unfit or grossly 
incompetent, on being annually re-elected. Spending all 
day at office work, he soon acquired a professional expert- 
ness quite out of the reach of his fellow -members at 
the bench or the forge. And even if some other member 
possessed natural gifts equal or superior to the acquired 
skill of the existing officer, there was, in a national organisa- 
tion, no opportunity of making these qualities known. The 
general secretary, on the other hand, was always adver- 
tising his name and his personality to the thousands of 



[ 6 Trade Union Structure 

members by the printed circulars and financial reports, which 
became the only link between the scattered branches, and 
afforded positive evidence of his competency to perform 
the regular work of the office. With every increase in the 
society's membership, with every extension or elaboration 
of its financial system or trade policy, the position of the 
salaried official became, accordingly, more and more secure. 
The general secretaries themselves changed with the develop- 
ment of their office. The work could no longer be 
efficiently performed by an ordinary artisan, and some 
preliminary office training became almost indispensable. 
The Coalminers, for instance, as we have shown in our 
description of the Trade Union world, have picked their 
secretaries to a large extent from a specially trained section, 
the checkweigh-men. 1 The Cotton Operatives have even 
adopted a system of competitive examination among the 
candidates for their staff appointments. 2 In other unions any 
candidate who has not proved his capacity for office work 
and trade negotiations would stand at a serious disadvantage 
in the election, where the choice is coming every day to be 
confined more clearly to the small class of minor officials. 
The paramount necessity of efficient administration has 
co-operated with this pe.manence in producing a progressive 
differentiation of an official governing class, more and more 
marked off by character, training, and duties from the bulk 
of the members. The annual election of the general 
secretary by a popular vote, far from leading to frequent 
rotation of office and equal service by all the members, 
has, in fact, invariably resulted in permanence of tenure 
exceeding even that of the English civil servant. It is 
accordingly interesting to notice that, in the later rules 
of some of the most influential of existing unions, the 
practical permanence of the official staff is tacitly recognised 
by the omission of all provision for re-election. Indeed, the 

1 History of Trade Unionism, p. 291. 

2 Ibid. p. 294 ; see also the subsequent chapter on " The Method of Collective 
Bargaining," where a specimen examination paper is reprinted. 



Primitive Democracy ij 

Amalgamated Association of Operative Cotton-spinners goes 
so far as expressly to provide in its rules that the general 
secretary " shall continue in office so long as he gives satis- 
faction." l 

While everything was thus tending to exalt the position 
of the salaried official, the executive committee, under whose 
direction he was placed, being composed of men working at 
their trade, retained its essential weakness. Though modi- 
fied in unimportant particulars, it continued in nearly all the 
old societies to be chosen only by one geographical section 
of the members. At first each branch served in rotation as 
the seat of government. This quickly gave way to a system 
of selecting the governing branch from among the more 
important centres of the trade. Moreover, though the desire 
periodically to shift the seat of this authority long manifested 
itself and still lingers in some trades, 2 the growth of an 
official staff, and the necessity of securing accommodation 
on some durable tenancy, has practically made the head- 
quarters stationary, even if the change has not been ex- 
pressly recorded in the rules. Thus the Friendly Society 
of Ironfounders has retained its head office in London since 
1846, and the Friendly Society of Operative Stonemasons 
since 1883. The United Society of Boilermakers, which 
long wandered from port to port, has remained in Newcastle 
since 1880; and finally settled the question in 1888 by 
building itself palatial offices on a freehold site. 3 Here again 

1 Rule 12 in the editions of Rules of 1891 and 1894. 

2 Notably the Plumbers and Irondressers. In 1877 a proposal at the general 
council of the Operative Bricklayers' Society to convert the executive into a shift- 
ing one, changing the headquarters every third year, was only defeated by a cast- 
ing vote. Operative Bricklayers' Society Trade Circular, September 1877. 

3 Along with this change has gone the differentiation of national business from 
that of the branch. The committee work of the larger societies became more than 
could be undertaken, in addition to the branch management, by men giving only 
their evenings. We find, therefore, the central executive committee becoming a 
body distinct from the branch committee, sometimes (as in the United Society of 
Operative Plumbers) elected by the same constituents, but more usually by the 
members of all the branches within a convenient radius of the central office. Thus 
the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters gives the election to the members within 
twelve miles of the head office that is, to the thirty-five branches in and near 
Manchester and the Friendly Society of Ironfounders to the six branches of the 

VOL. I C 



1 8 Trade Union Structure 

the deeply-rooted desire on the part of Trade Union demo- 
crats to secure to each section an equal and identical share 
in the government of the society has had to give way before 
the necessity of obtaining efficient administration. In ceas- 
ing to be movable the executive committee lost even such 
moral influence over the general secretary as was conveyed 
by an express and recent delegation by the remainder of the 
society. The salaried official, elected by the votes of all the 
members, could in fact claim to possess more representative 
authority than a committee whose functions as an executive 
depended merely on the accident of the society's offices being 
built in the town in which the members of the committee 
happened to be working. In some societies, moreover, 
the idea of Rotation of Office so far survived that the 
committee men were elected for a short term and disqualified 
for re-election. Such inexperienced and casually selected 
committees of tired manual workers, meeting only in the 
evening, usually found themselves incompetent to resist, or 
even to criticise, any practical proposal that might be brought 
forward by the permanent trained professional whom they 
were supposed to direct and control. 1 

In face of so weak an executive committee the most 
obvious check upon the predominant power of the salaried 
officials was the elementary device of a written constitution. 
The ordinary workman, without either experience or imagina- 
tion, fondly thought that the executive government of a 
great national organisation could be reduced to a mechanical 
obedience to printed rules. Hence the constant elaboration 
of the rules of the several societies, in the vain endeavor to 
leave nothing to the discretion of officers or committees. It 
was an essential part of the faith of these primitive democrats 
that the difficult and detailed work of drafting and amending 

London district. In the United Society of Boilermakers, down to 1897, the 
twenty lodges in the Tyne district, each in rotation, nominated one of the seven 
members of which the executive committee is composed. 

1 The only organisation, outside the Trade Union world, in which the execu- 
tive committee and the seat of government are changed annually, is, we believe, 
the Ancient Order of Foresters, the worldwide federal friendly society. 



Primitive Democracy 19 

these rules should not be delegated to any particular person 
or persons, but should be undertaken by " the body " or " the 
trade " in general meeting assembled. 1 

When a society spread from town to town, and a meeting 
of all the members became impracticable, the " articles " were 
settled, as we have mentioned, by a meeting of delegates, and 
any revision was undertaken by the same body. Accordingly, 
we find, in the early history of such societies as the Iron- 
founders, Stonemasons, Carpenters, Coachmakers, and Steam- 
Engine Makers, frequent assemblies of delegates from the 
different branches, charged with supplementing or revising 
the somewhat tentative rules upon which the society had 
been based. But it would be a serious misconception to 
take these gatherings for " parliaments," with plenary power 
to determine the policy to be pursued by the society. The 
delegates came together only for specific and strictly limited 
purposes. Nor were even these purposes left to be dealt 
with at their discretion. In all cases that we know of the 
delegates were bound to decide according to the votes 
already taken in their respective branches. In many 
societies the delegate was merely the vehicle by which 
" the voices " of the members were mechanically con- 
veyed. Thus the Friendly Society of Operative Stone- 
masons, at that time the largest and most powerful Trade 

1 This preference of Trade Unionists for making their own rules will remind 
the political student that "direct legislation by the people" has an older and 
wider history with regard to the framing and revising of constitutions than with 
regard to ordinary legislation. Thus, already in 1779 the citizens of Massa- 
chusetts insisted on asserting, by popular vote, that a constitution should be 
framed, and equally on deciding that the draft prepared should be adopted. In 
1818 the Connecticut constitution included a provision that any particular 
amendment to it might be submitted to the popular vote. In Europe the first 
constitution to be submitted to the same ordeal was the French constitution of 
r 793> which, though adopted by the primary assemblies, never came into force. 
The practice became usual with regard to the Swiss cantonal constitutions after 
the French Revolution of 1830, St. Gall leading the way in July 1831. See the 
elaborate treatise of Charles Borgeaud on The Adoption and Amendment of 
Constitutions (London, 1895); Bryce's The American Common-wealth (London, 
1891); and Le Referendum en Suisse by Simon Deploige (Brussels, 1892), of 
which an English translation by C. P. Trevelyan and Lilian Tomn, with 
additional notes and appendices, will shortly be published by the London 
School of Economics and Political Science. 



2O Trade Union Structure 

Union, held annual delegate meetings between 1834 and 
1839 f r tne s l e P ur P ose of revising its rules. How limited 
was the power of this assembly may be judged from the 
following extract from an address of the central executive : 
" As the delegates are about to meet, the Grand Committee 
submit to all lodges the following resolutions in reference to 
the conduct of delegates. It is evident that the duty of 
delegates is to vote according to the instructions of the majority 
of their constituents, therefore they ought not to propose any 
measure unless recommended by the Lodges or Districts 
they represent. To effect this we propose the following 
resolutions : that each Lodge shall furnish their delegates 
with written instructions how to vote on each question they 
have taken into their consideration, and that no delegate 
shall vote in opposition to his instructions, and when it 
appears by examining the instructions there is a majority 
for any measure, it shall be passed without discussion." * The 
delegate meeting of 1838 agreed with this view. All lodges 
were to send resolutions for alterations of rules two months 
before the delegate meeting ; they were to be printed in the 
Fortnightly Return, and discussed by each lodge ; the delegate 
was then to be instructed as to the sense of the members by 
a majority vote ; and only if there was no decided majority 
on any point was the delegate to have discretion as to his 
vote. But even this restriction did not satisfy the Stone- 
masons' idea of democracy. In 1837 the Liverpool Lodge 
demanded that " all the alterations made in our laws at the 
grand delegate meeting" shall be communicated to all the 
lodges " for the consideration of our society before they are 
printed." 2 The central executive mildly deprecated such a 
course, on the ground that the amendment and passing of 
the laws would under those circumstances take up the whole 
time of the society until the next delegate meeting came 
round. The request, however, was taken up by other 

1 Stonemason? Fortnightly Return, May 1836 (the circular issued fortnightly 
to all the branches by the executive committee). 
a Ibid. May 1837. 



Primitive Democracy 21 

branches, and by 1844 we find the practice established of 
making any necessary amendment in the rules by merely 
submitting the proposal in the Fortnightly Return^ and adding 
together the votes taken in each lodge meeting. A similar 
change took place in such other great societies as the Iron- 
founders, Steam-Engine Makers, and Coachmakers. The 
great bulk of the members saw no advantage in incurring 
the very considerable expense of paying the coach fares of 
delegates to a central town and maintaining them there at 
the rate of six shillings a day, 1 when the introduction of 
penny postage made possible the circulation of a fortnightly 
or monthly circular, through the medium of which their 
votes on any particular proposition could be quickly and 
inexpensively collected. The delegate meeting became, in 
fact, superseded by the Referendum. 2 

By the term Referendum the modern student of political 
institutions understands the submission to the votes of the 
whole people of any measure deliberated on by the repre- 
sentative assembly. Another development of the same prin- 
ciple is what is called the Initiative, that is to say, the right of 
a section of the community to insist on its proposals being 
submitted to the vote of the whole electorate. As a repre- 
sentative assembly formed no part of the earlier Trade Union 
constitutions, both the Referendum and the Initiative took 
with them the crudest shape. Any new rule or amendment 
of a rule, any proposed line of policy or particular application 
of it, might be straightway submitted to the votes of all the 

1 In 1838 a large majority of the lodges of the Friendly Society of Operative 
Stonemasons voted "that on all measures submitted to the consideration of our 
Society, the number of members be taken in every Lodge for and against such a 
measure, and transmitted through the district Lodges to the Seat of Government, 
and in place of the number of Lodges, the majority of the aggregate members to 
sanction or reject any measures." Fortnightly Return, ipth January 1838. 

2 It is interesting to find that in at least one Trade Union the introduction of 
the Referendum is directly ascribed to the circulation in England between 1850 and 

1860 of translations of pamphlets by Rittinghausen and Victor Considerant. It is 
stated in the Typographical Circular for March 1889, that John Melson, a Liver- 
pool printer, got the idea of "Direct Legislation by the People" from these 
pamphlets, and urged its adoption on the union, at first unsuccessfully, but at the 

1861 delegate meeting with the result that the Referendum was adopted as the 
future method of legislation. 



22 Trade Union Structure 

members. Nor was this practice of consulting the members 
confined to the central executive. Any branch might equally 
have any proposition put to the vote through the medium of 
the society's official circular. And however imperfectly the 
question was framed, however inconsistent the result might 
be with the society's rules and past practice, the answer re- 
turned by the members' votes was final and instantly operative. 
Those who believe that pure democracy implies the direct 
decision, by the mass of the people, of every question as it 
arises, will find this ideal realised without check or limit in the 
history of the larger Trade Unions between 1834 and 1870. 
The result was significant and full of political instruction. 
Whenever the union was enjoying a vigorous life we find, to 
begin with, a wild rush of propositions. Every active branch 
had some new rule to suggest, and every issue of the official 
circular was filled with crude and often inconsistent projects 
of amendment. The executive committee of the United 
Kingdom Society of Coachmakers, for instance, had to put 
no fewer than forty-four propositions simultaneously to the 
vote in a single circular. 1 It is difficult to convey any 
adequate idea of the variety and, in some cases, the absurdity 
of these propositions. To take only those recorded in the 
annals of the Stonemasons between 1838 and 1839; we 
have one branch proposing that the whole society should go 
in for payment by the hour, and another that the post of 
general secretary should be put up to tender, " the cheapest 
to be considered the person elected to that important 
office." 2 We have a delegate meeting referring to a vote of 
the members the momentous question whether the central 
executive should be allowed " a cup of ale each per night," 
and the central executive taking a vote as to whether all the 
Irish branches should not have Home Rule forced upon 
them. The members, under fear of the coming Parliamentary 

1 Quarterly Report, June 1860. 

2 The sale of public offices by auction to the highest bidder was a frequent 
incident in the Swiss " Landesgemeinden " of the seventeenth century. See 
Eugene Rambert's Les Alpes Suisses ; Etudes Historiques et Nationales, p. 225. 



Primitive Democracy 23 

inquiry, vote the abolition of all " regalia, initiation, and 
pass-words," but reject the proposition of the Newcastle 
Lodge for reducing the hours of labor " as the only method 
of striking at the root of all our grievances." The central 
executive is driven to protest against " the continual state of 
agitation in which the society has been kept for the last ten 
months by the numerous resolutions and amendments to 
laws, the tendency of which can only be to bring the laws 
and the society into disrespect." l As other unions come to 
the same stage in development, we find a similar result. 
" It appears evident," complains the executive committee of 
the Friendly Society of Ironfounders, " that we have got into 
a regular proposition mania. One branch will make propo- 
sitions simply because another does ; hence the absurd and 
ridiculous propositions that are made." 2 The system worked 
most disastrously in connection with the rates of contributions 
and benefits. It is not surprising that the majority of work- 
men should have been unable to appreciate the need for 
expert advice on these points, or that they should have 
disregarded all actuarial considerations. Accordingly, we 
find the members always reluctant to believe that the rate 
of contribution must be raised, and generally prone to listen 
to any proposal for extending the benefits a popular bias 
which led many societies into bankruptcy. Still more dis- 
integrating in its tendency was the disposition to appeal to 
the votes of the members against the executive decision that 
particular individuals were ineligible for certain benefits. In 
the United Kingdom Society of Coachmakers, for instance, 
we find the executive bitterly complaining that it is of no 
use for them to obey the rules, and rigidly to refuse accident 
benefit to men who are suffering simply from illness ; as in 
almost every case the claimant's appeal to the members, 
backed by eloquent circulars from his friends, has resulted 
in the decision being overruled. 8 The Friendly Society of 



1 Fortnightly Return, July 1838. 

* Ironfounders 1 Monthly Report, April 1855. 



United Kingdom Society of Coachmakers' Qtwrterly Report, September 1859. 



24 Trade Union Structure 

Ironfounders took no fewer than nineteen votes in a single 
year, nearly all on details of benefit administration. 1 And 
the executive of the Stonemasons had early occasion to 
protest against the growing practice under which branches, 
preparatory to taking a vote, sent circulars throughout the 
society in support of their claims to the redress of what they 
deemed to be personal grievances. 2 

The disadvantages of a free resort to the Referendum 
soon became obvious to thoughtful Trade Unionists. It stands 
to the credit of the majority of the members that wild and 
absurd propositions were almost uniformly rejected ; and in 
man)/ societies a similar fate became customary in case of 
any proposition that did not emanate from the responsible 
executive. 8 The practical abandonment of the Initiative 
ensued. Branches got tired of sending up proposals which 
uniformly met with defeat. But the right of the whole 
body of members themselves to decide every question as 
it arose was too much bound up with their idea of 
democracy to permit of its being directly abrogated, or even 
expressly criticised. Where the practice did not die out 
from sheer weariness, it was quietly got rid of in other ways. 
In one society after another the central executive and the 
general secretary the men who were in actual contact with 
the problems of administration silently threw their influence 
against the practice of appealing to the members' vote. Thus 
the executive committee of the United Kingdom Society of 
Coachmakers made a firm stand against the members' habit 
of overruling its decision in the grant of benefits under the 
rules. The executive claimed the sole right to decide who 
was eligible under the rules, and refused to allow discontented 
claimants to appeal through the official circular. This caused 
great and recurring discontent ; but the executive committee 

1 Report for 1 869. 

2 Fortnightly Return, 1 8th January 1849. 

3 The political student will be reminded of the very small number of cases 
in which the Initiative in Switzerland has led to actual legislation, even in 
cantons, such as Zurich, where it has been in operation for over twenty years. 
See Stiissi, Referendum und Initiative ini Canton Zurich. 



Primitive Democracy 25 

held firmly to their position and eventually maintained it. 
When thirteen branches of the Operative Bricklayers' Society 
proposed in 1868 that the age for superannuation should 
be lowered and the office expenses curtailed, the general 
secretary bluntly refused to submit such inexpedient proposals 
to the members' vote, on the excuse that the question could 
be dealt with at the next delegate meeting. 1 The next step 
was to restrict the number of opportunities for appeals on 
any questions whatsoever. The Coachmakers' executive 
announced that, in future, propositions would be put to the 
vote only in the annual report, instead of quarterly as hereto- 
fore, and this restriction was a few years later embodied in 
the rules. 2 Even more effectual was the enactment of a rule 
throwing the expense of taking a vote upon the branch which 
had initiated it, in case the verdict of the society proved to 
be against the proposition. 3 Another device was to seize the 
occasion of a systematic revision of rules to declare that no 
proposition for their alteration was to be entertained for a 
specified period : one year, said the General Union of Car- 
penters in 1863 ; three years, declared the Bookbinders' 
Consolidated Union in 1869, and the Friendly Society of 
Operative Stonemasons in 1878 ; ten years, ordained the 
Operative Bricklayers' Society in iSSp. 4 Finally, we have 
the Referendum abolished altogether, as regards the making 
or alteration of rules. In 1866 the delegate meeting of the 
Amalgamated Society of Carpenters decided that the execu- 
tive should " not take the votes of the members concerning 
any alteration or addition to rules, unless in cases of great 
emergency, and then only on the authority of the General 
Council." 5 In 1878 the Stonemasons themselves, who forty 
years previously had been enthusiastic in their passion for 
voting on every question whatsoever, accepted a rule 

1 Monthly Circular, April 1868. 

8 Quarterly Report^ November 1854; Rules of 1857. 

3 Rules of the Associated Blacksmiths Society (Glasgow, 1892), and many 
others. 

4 Monthly Report, October 1889. 
6 Monthly Circular, April 1866. 



26 Trade Union Structiire 

which confined the work of revision to a specially elected 
committee. 

Thus we see that half a century of practical experience 
of the Initiative and the Referendum has led, not to its 
extension, but to an ever stricter limitation of its application. 
The attempt to secure the participation of every member in 
the management of his society was found to lead to in- 
stability in legislation, dangerous unsoundness of finance, and 
general weakness of administration. The result was the early 
abandonment of the Initiative, either by express rule or through 
the persistent influence of the executive. This produced a 
further shifting of the balance of power in Trade Union con- 
stitutions. When the right of putting questions to the vote 
came practically to be confined to the executive, the Referen- 
dum ceased to provide the members with any effective control. 
If the executive could choose the issues to be submitted^the 
occasion on which the question should be put, and the form in 
which it should be couched, the Referendum, far from supply- 
ing any counterpoise to the executive, was soon found to be 
an immense addition to its power. Any change which the 
executive desired could be stated in the most plausible 
terms and supported by convincing arguments, which almost 
invariably secured its adoption by a large majority. Any 
executive resolution could, when occasion required, thus be 
given the powerful moral backing of a plebiscitary vote. 1 
The reliance of Trade Union democrats on the Referendum 
resulted, in fact, in the virtual exclusion of the general body 
of members from all real share in the government. And 

1 Mr. Lecky points out (Democracy and Liberty ', vol. i. pp. 12, 31, 32) how, 
in France, "successive Governments soon learned how easily a plebiscite vote 
could be secured and directed by a strong executive, and how useful it might 
become to screen or justify usurpation. The Constitution of 1795, which founded 
the power of the Directors ; the Constitution of 1799, which placed the executive 
power in the hands of three Consuls elected for ten years ; the Constitution of 1802, 
which made Buonaparte Consul for life, and again remodelled the electoral system ; 
the Empire, which was established in 1804, and the additional Act of the Con- 
stitution promulgated by Napoleon in 1815, were all submitted to a direct popular 
vote." The government of Napoleon III., from 1852 to 1870, was ratified by 
four separate plebiscites. See also Laferriere, Constitutions de la France depuh 
If8<); Jules Clere, Histoire du Souffrage Universel. 



Primitive Democracy 27 

when we remember the practical subordination of the 
executive committee to its salaried permanent officer, we 
shall easily understand that the ultimate effect of such a 
Referendum as we have described was a further strengthen- 
ing of the influence of the general secretary, who drafted the 
propositions, wrote the arguments in support of them, and 
edited the official circular which formed the only means 
of communication with the members. 

We see, therefore, that almost every influence in the 
Trade Union organisation has tended to magnify and con- 
solidate the power of the general secretary. If democracy 
could furnish no other expedient of popular control than the 
mass meeting, the annual election of public officers, the 
Initiative and the Referendum, Trade Union history makes 
it quite clear that the jriere_rjr,ssure of aHministrative needs 
would inevitably result in the general body of citizens losing 
all effective control over the government. It would not be 
difficult to point to influential Trade Unions at the present 
day which, possessing only a single permanent official, have 
not progressed beyond the stage of what is virtually a 
personal dictatorship. But it so happens that the very 
development of the union and its business which tends, as 
we have seen, to increase the influence of the general 
secretary, calls into existence a new check upon his personal 
authority. If we examine the constitution of a bank or joint 
stock company, or any other organisation not formed by the 
working class, we shall find it almost invariably the rule that 
the chief executive officers are appointed, not by the members 
at large, but by the governing committee, and that these 
officers are allowed a free hand, if not absolute power, in the 
choice and dismissal of their subordinates. Any other plan, 
it is contended, would seriously detract from the efficient 
working of the organisation. Had the Trade Unions 
adopted this course, the general secretary would have 
been absolutely supreme. But working-class organisations 
in England have, almost without exception, tenaciously 
clung to the direct election of all officers by the general 



28 Trade Union Structure 

body of members. Whether the post to be filled be 
that of assistant secretary at the head office or district 
delegate to act for one part of the country, the members 
have jealously retained the appointment in their own hands. 
In the larger trade societies of the present day the general 
secretary finds himself, therefore, at the head, not of a staff of 
docile subordinates who owe office and promotion to himself, 
but of a number of separately elected functionaries, each 
holding his appointment directly from the members at large.! 
Any attempt at a personal dictatorship is thus quickly 
checked. There is more danger that friction and personal 
jealousies may unduly weaken the administration. But the 
usual outcome is the close union of all the salaried officials 
to conduct the business of the society in the way they think 
best. Instead of a personal dictatorship, we have, therefore, 
a closely combined and practically irresistible bureaucracy. 

Under a constitution of this type the Trade Union 
may attain a high degree of efficiency. The United Society 
of Boilermakers and Ironshipbuilders (established 1832; 
membership in December 1896, 40,776) is, for instance, 
admittedly one of the most powerful and best conducted of 
English trade societies. For the last twenty years its career, 
alike in good times and bad, has been one of continuous 
prosperity. For many years past it has dominated all the 
shipbuilding ports, and it now includes practically every 
ironshipbuilder in the United Kingdom. As an insurance 
company it has succeeded in paying, even in the worst years 
of an industry subject to the most acute depressions, benefits 
of an unusually elaborate and generous character. Notwith- 
standing these liberal benefits, it has built up a reserve fund 
of no less than 175,560. Nor has this prosperity been 

1 Even the office staff has been, until quite recently, invariably recruited by 
the members from the members ; and only in a few unions has it begun to be 
realised that a shorthand clerk or trained bookkeeper, chosen by the general 
secretary or the executive committee, can probably render better service at the 
desk than the most eligible workman trained to manual labor. The Operative 
Bricklayers' Society, however, lately allowed their executive committee to appoint 
a shorthand clerk. 



Primitive Democracy 29 

attained by any neglect of the militant side of Trade 
Unionism. The society, on the contrary, has the reputa- 
tion of exercising stricter control over the conditions of its 
members' work than any other union. In no trade, for 
instance, do we find a stricter and more universally enforced 
limitation of apprentices, or a more rigid refusal to work 
with non-unionists. And, as we have elsewhere described, 
no society has more successfully concluded and enforced 
elaborate national agreements applicable to every port in the 
kingdom. Moreover, this vigorous and successful trade 
policy has been consistent with a marked abstention from 
strikes a fact due not only to the financial strength and 
perfect combination of the society, but also to the implicit 
obedience enforced upon its members, and the ample dis- 
ciplinary power vested in and exercised by the central 
executive. 1 

The efficiency and influence of this remarkable union is, 
no doubt, largely due to the advantageous strategic position 
which has resulted from the extraordinary expansion of iron- 
shipbuilding. It is interesting, however, to notice what a 
perfect example it affords of a constitution retaining all the 
features of the crudest democracy, but becoming, in actual 
practice, a bureaucracy in which effective popular control has 
sunk to a minimum. The formal constitution of the Boiler- 
makers' Society still includes all the typical features of the 
early Trade Union. The executive government of this great 
national society is vested in a constantly changing committee, 
the members of which, elected by a single district, serve only 
for twelve months, and are then ineligible for re-election 
during three years. All the salaried officials are separately 
elected by the whole body of members, and hold their posts 
only for a prescribed term of two to five years. Though 
provision is made for a delegate meeting in case the society 
desires it, all the rules, including the rates of contribution and 

1 See the enthusiastic description of this organisation in Ztim Socialen Frieden 
(Leipzig, 1890), 2 vols., by Dr. G. von Schulze-Gaevernitz, translated as Social 
Peace (London, 1893), pp. 239-243. 



30 Trade Union Structure 

benefit, can be altered by aggregate vote ; and even if a 
delegate meeting assembles, its amendments have to be 
submitted to the votes of the branches in mass meeting. 
Any branch, moreover, may insist that any proposition 
whatsoever shall be submitted to this same aggregate vote. 
The society, in short, still retains the form of a Trade Union 
democracy of the crudest type. 

But although the executive committee, the branch 
meeting and the Referendum occupy the main body of the 
society's rules, the whole policy has long been directed and 
the whole administration conducted exclusively by an infor- 
mal cabinet of permanent officials which is unknown to the 
printed constitution. Twenty years ago the society had the 
good fortune to elect as general secretary, Mr. Robert Knight, 
a man of remarkable ability and strength of character, who 
has remained the permanent premier of this little kingdom. 
During his long reign, there has grown up around him a staff 
of younger officials, who, though severally elected on their 
individual merits, have been in no way able to compete with 
their chief for the members' allegiance. These district dele- 
gates are nominally elected only for a term of two years, just 
as the general secretary himself is elected only for a term of 
five years. But, for the reasons we have given elsewhere, all 
these officials enjoy a permanence of tenure practically equal 
to that of a judge. Mr. Knight's unquestioned superiority in 
Trade Union statesmanship, together with the invariable 
support of the executive committee, have enabled him to 
construct, out of the nominally independent district delegates, 
a virtual cabinet, alternately serving as councillors on high 
issues of policy and as ministers carrying out in their own 
spheres that which they have in council decided. From the 
written constitution of the society, we should suppose that 
it was from the evening meetings of the little Newcastle 
committee of working platers and rivetters that emanated all 
those national treaties and elaborate collective bargains with 
the associated employers that have excited the admiration of 
economic students. But its unrepresentative character, the 



Primitive Democracy 3 1 

short term of service of its members and the practical rota- 
tion of office make it impossible for the constantly shifting 
executive committee to exercise any effective influence over 
even the ordinary routine business of so large a society. The 
complicated negotiations involved in national agreements are 
absolutely beyond its grasp. What actually happens is that, 
in any high issue of policy, Mr. Knight summons his district 
delegates to meet him in council at London or Manchester, 
to concert, and even to conduct, with him the weighty 
negotiations which the Newcastle executive formally endorses. 
And although the actual administration of the benefits is 
conducted by the branch committees, the absolute centralisa- 
tion of funds and the supreme disciplinary power vested in 
the executive committee make that committee, or rather the 
general secretary, as dominant in matters of finance as in 
trade policy. The only real opportunity for an effective 
expression of the popular will comes to be the submission of 
questions to the aggregate vote of the branches in mass 
meeting assembled. It is needless to point out that a 
Referendum of this kind, submitted through the official 
circular in whatsoever terms the general secretary may 
choose, and backed by the influence of the permanent staff 
in every district, comes to be only a way of impressing the 
official view on the whole body of members. In effect 
the general secretary and his informal cabinet were, until the 
change of 1895, absolutely supreme. 1 

In the case of the Boilermakers, government by an 
informal cabinet of salaried officials has, up to the present 
time, been highly successful. It is, however, obvious that a 
less competent statesman than Mr. Knight would find great 
difficulty in welding into a united cabinet a body of district 

1 In 1895, a ft gr tn i s chapter was written, the constitution was changed, owing 
to the growing feeling of the members in London and some other towns, that their 
bureaucracy was, under the old forms, completely beyond their control. By the 
new rules the government is vested in a representative executive of seven salaried 
members, elected by the seven electoral districts into which the whole society 
is divided, for a term of three years, one-third retiring annually. Rules of the, 
United Society of Boilermakers, etc. (Newcastle, 1895). It is as yet too soon to 
comment on the effect of this change, which only came into operation in 1897. 



32 Trade Union Structure 

officers separately responsible to the whole society, and 
nominally subject only to their several district committees. 
Under these circumstances any personal friction or disloyalty 
might easily paralyse the whole trade policy, upon which the 
prosperity of the society depends. Moreover, though under 
Mr. Knight's upright and able government the lack of any 
supervising authority has not been felt, it cannot but be 
regarded as a defect that the constitution provides no prac- 
tical control over a corrupt, negligent, or incompetent general 
secretary. The only persons in the position to criticise 
effectually the administration of the society are the salaried 
officials themselves, who would naturally be indisposed to 
risk their offices by appealing, against their official superior, 
to the uncertain arbitrament of an aggregate vote. Finally, 
this constitution, with all its parade of democratic form, 
secures in reality to the ordinary plater or rivetter little if 
any active participation in the central administration of 
his Trade Union ; no real opportunity is given to him for 
expressing his opinion ; and no call is made upon his 
intelligence for the formation of any opinion whatsoever. 
In short, the Boilermakers, so long as they remained 
content with this form of government, secured efficient 
administration at the expense of losing all the educative 
influences and political safeguards of democracy. 

Among the well-organised Coalminers of the North of 
England the theory of "direct legislation by the people" 
is still in full force. Thus, the 19,000 members of the 
Northumberland Miners' Mutual Confident Association (estab- 
lished 1863) decide every question of policy, and even many 
merely administrative details, by the votes taken in the several 
lodge meetings ; l and although a delegate meeting isTield 
every quarter, and by a rule of 1894 is expressly declared to 
" meet for the purpose of deliberating free and untrammelled 
upon the whole of the programme," its function is strictly 
limited to expressing its opinion, the entire list of propositions 

1 See, for instance, the twenty-five separate propositions voted on in a single 
batch, gtli June 1894. Northumberland Miners' Minutes, 1894, pp. 23-26. 



Primitive Democracy 33 

being then " returned to the lodges to be voted on." 1 The 
executive committee is elected by the whole body ; and 
the members, who retire after only six months' service, are 
ineligible for re-election. Finally, we have the fact that the 
salaried officials are themselves elected by the members at large. 
To this lack of organic connection between the different parts 
of the constitution, the student will perhaps attribute a certain 
instability of policy manifested in successive popular votes. 
In June 1894, a vote of all the members was taken on the 
question of joining the Miners' Federation, and an affirmative 
result was reached by 6730 to 5807. But in the very next 
month, when the lodges were asked whether they were pre- 
pared to give effect to the well-known policy of the Federa- 
tion and claim the return of reductions in wages amounting to 
sixteen per cent, which they had accepted since 1892, they 
voted in the negative by more than two to one ; and backed 
this up by an equally decisive refusal to contribute towards 
the resistance of other districts. " They had joined a 
Federation knowing its -principles and its policy, and im- 
mediately after joining they rejected the principles they had 
just embraced," was the comment of one of the members 

1 Rule 15. We see here a curious instance of the express separation of the 
deliberative from the legislative function, arising out of the inconvenient results 
of the use of the Imperative Mandate. The committee charged with the revision 
of the rules in 1893-1894 reported that "the present mode of transacting business 
at delegate meetings has long been felt to be very unsatisfactory. Suggestions 
are sent in for programme which are printed and remitted to the lodges, and 
delegates are then sent with hard and fast instructions to vote for or against as 
the case may be. It not unfrequently happens that delegates are sent to support 
a vote against suggestions which are found to have an entirely different meaning, 
and may have a very different effect from those expected by the lodges when 
voting for them. To avoid the mischief that has frequently resulted from our 
members thus committing themselves to suggestions upon insufficient information, 
we suggest that after the programmes have been sent to the lodges, lodges send 
their delegates to a meeting to deliberate on the business, after which they shall 
return and report the results of the discussion and then forward their votes by 
proxy to the office. To carry out this principle, which we consider is of the 
greatest possible interest and importance to our members, no more meetings will 
be required or expense incurred than under the present system, while on the other 
hand lodges will have the opportunity of casting their votes on the various 
suggestions with full information before them, instead of in the absence of this 
information in most cases, as at present." Report of 3rd February 1894, in 
Northumberland Miners' Minutes, 1894, pp. 87-88. 

VOL. I P 



34 Trade Union Structure 

of their own executive committee. 1 This inconsistent action 
led to much controversy, and the refusal of the Northumber- 
land men to obey the decision of the special conference, the 
supreme authority of the Federation, was declared to be 
inconsistent with their remaining members of the organisation. 
Nevertheless, in July 1894 they again voted, by 8445 to 
5507, in favor of joining the Federation, despite the power- 
ful adverse influence of their executive committee. The 
Federation officials not unnaturally asked whether the re- 
newed application for membership might now be taken to 
imply a willingness to conform to the policy of the organisa- 
tion which it was wished to join. On this a further vote was 
taken by lodges, when the proposition to join was negatived 
by a majority of over five to one. 2 

It may be objected that, in this instance of joining the 
Miners' Federation, the question at issue was one of great 
difficulty and of momentous import to the union, and that 
some hesitation on the part of the members was only to be 
expected. We could, however, cite many similar instances 
of contradictory votes by the Northumberland men, on both 
matters of policy and points of internal administration. We 
suggest that their experience is only another proof that, 
whatever advantages may be ascribed to government by the 
Referendum, it has the capital drawback of not providing the 
executive with any policy. In the case of the Northumber- 
land Miners' Union, the result has been a serious weakening 
of its influence, and, on more than one occasion, the gravest 

1 Report of Conference, 23rd September 1893, in Northumberland Miners' 
Minutes, 1893. 

2 It should be explained that the Referendum among the Northumberland 
Miners takes two distinct forms, the " ballot," and the so-called "proxy voting." 
Questions relating to strikes, and any others expressly ordered by the delegate 
meeting, are decided by a ballot of the members individually. The ordinary 
business remitted from the delegate meeting to the lodges is discussed by the 
general meeting of each lodge, and the lodge vote, or "proxy," is cast as a whole 
according to the bare majority of those present. The lodge vote counts from one 
to thirty, in strict proportion to its membership. It is interesting to note (though 
we do not know whether any inference can be drawn from the fact) that the two 
votes in favor of the Federation were taken by ballot of the members, whilst 
those against it were taken by the " proxy " of the lodges. 



Primitive Democracy 35 

danger of disintegration. 1 Fortunately, the union has enjoyed 
the services of executive officers of perfect integrity, and of 
exceptional ability and experience. These officers have 
throughout had their own clearly defined and consistent 
policy, which the uninformed and contradictory votes of the 
members have failed to control or modify. 

It will not be necessary to give in detail the constitution 
of the Durham Miners' Association (established 1869), since 
this is, in essential features, similar to that of the Northumber- 
land Miners. 2 But it is interesting to notice that the Durham 
experience of the result of government by the Referendum 
has been identical with that of Northumberland, 3 and even 
more detrimental to the organisation. The Durham Miners' 
Association, notwithstanding its closely concentrated 60,000 
members, fails to exercise any important influence on the 
Trade Union world, and even excites complaints from the 
employers as to " its internal weakness." The Durham coal- 
owners declare that, with the council overruling the executive, 
and the ballot vote reversing the decision of the council, they 
never know when they have arrived at a settlement, or how 
long that settlement will be enforced on a recalcitrant lodge. 

It is significant that the newer organisations which have 
sprung up in these same counties in direct imitation of the 
miners' unions give much less power to the members at large. 
Thus the Durham Cokemen's and Laborers' Association, which, 
springing out of the Durham Miners' Association in 1874, 
follows in its rules the actual phrases of the parent organisa- 
tion, vests the election of its executive committee and officers, 
not in the members at large, but in a supreme " council." 

1 See, for instance, the report of the special conference of 23rd September 
1893, expressly summoned to resist the "disintegration of our Association." 
Northumberland Miners' Minutes, 1893. 

2 In the Durham Miners' Association the election of officers is nominally 
vested in the council, but express provision is made in the rules for each lodge to 
"empower" its delegate how to vote. 

3 This may be seen, for instance, from the incidental references to the Durham 
votes given in the Miners' Federation Minutes, 1893-1896; or, with calamitous 
results, in the history of the great Durham strike of 1892 ; or in that of the Silk- 
stone strike of 1891. The Durham Miners' Minutes are not accessible to any 
non-member. 



^6 Trade Union Structure 

\j 

Much the same may be said of the Durham County Colliery 
Enginemen's Mutual Aid Association, established 1872; the 
Durham Colliery Mechanics' Association, established 1879; 
and (so far as regards the election of officers) the Northumber- 
land Deputies' Mutual Aid Association, established 1887. 

If, therefore, democracy means that everything which 
" concerns all should be decided by all," and that each citizen 
should enjoy an equal and identical share in the government, 
Trade Union history indicates clearly the inevitable result. 
Government by such contrivances as Rotation of Office, the 
Mass Meeting, the Referendum and Initiative, or the Delegate 
restricted by his Imperative Mandate, leads straight either to 
inefficiency and disintegration, or to the uncontrolled domin- 
ance of a personal dictator or an expert bureaucracy. Dimly 
and almost unconsciously this conclusion has, after a whole 
century of experiment, forced itself upon the more advanced 
trades. The old theory of democracy is still an article 
of faith, and constantly comes to the front when any organi- 
sation has to be formed for brand-new purposes ; * but Trade 
Union constitutions have undergone a silent revolution. The 
old ideal of the Rotation of Office among all the members 
in succession has been practically abandoned. Resort to the 
aggregate meeting diminishes steadily in frequency and im- 
portance. The use of the Initiative and the Referendum has 

1 We may refer, by way of illustration, to the frequent discussions during 
1894-1895 among the members of the political association styled the " Independ- 
ent Labor Party." On the formation of the Hackney Branch, for instance, the 
members "decided that no president and no executive committee of the branch 
be appointed, its management devolving on the members attending the weekly 
conferences " (Labour Leader, 26th January 1895). Nor is this view confined to 
the rank and file. The editor of the Clarion himself, perhaps the most influential 
man in the party, expressly declared in his leading article of 3rd November 1894 : 
"Democracy means that the people shall rule themselves; that the people shall 
manage their own affairs ; and that their officials shall be public servants, or dele- 
gates, deputed to put the will of the people into execution. ... At present there 
is too much sign of a disposition on the part of the rank and file to overvalue the 
talents and usefulness of their officials. ... It is tolerably certain that in so 
far as the ordinary duties of officials and delegates, such as committee men or 
members of Parliament, are concerned, an average citizen, if he is thoroughly 
honest, will be found quite clever enough to do all that is needful. . . . Let all 
officials be retired after one year's services, and fresh ones elected in their place.' 



Primitive Democracy 37 

been tacitly given up in all complicated issues, and gradually 
limited to a few special questions on particular emergencies. 
The delegate finds himself every year dealing with more 
numerous and more complex questions, and tends therefore 
inevitably to exercise the larger freedom of a representative. 
Finally, we have the appearance in the Trade Union world of 
the typically modern form of democracy, the ejected-repfe- 
sentatiye assembly, appointing and controlling an executive 
committee^uTrder whoseMdirection the permanent official staff 
performs its work, 



CHAPTER II 

REPRESENTATIVE INSTITUTIONS 

THE two organisations in the Trade Union world enjoying 
the greatest measure of representative institutions are those 
which are the most distinctly modern in their growth and pre- 
eminence. In numbers, political influence, and annual income 
the great federal associations of Coalminers and Cotton 
Operatives overshadow all others, and now comprise one-fifth 
of the total Trade Union membership. We have elsewhere 
pointed out that these two trades are both distinguished by 
their establishment of an expert civil service, exceeding in 
numbers and efficiency that possessed by any other trade. 1 
They resemble each other also, as we shall now see, in the 
success with which they have solved the fundamental problem 
of democracy, the combination of administrative efficiency 
and popular control. In each case the solution has been 
found in the frank acceptance of representative institutions. 

In the Amalgamated Association of Operative Cotton- 
spinners, which may be taken as typical of cotton organisa- 
tions, the "legislative power" is expressly vested " in a meeting 
comprising representatives from the various provinces and dis- 
tricts included in the association." 2 This " Cotton-spinners' 
Parliament " is elected annually in strict proportion to 

1 History of Trade Unionism, p. 298 ; see also the subsequent chapter on 
"The Method of Collective Bargaining." 

2 Ruks of the Amalgamated Association of Operative Cotton-spinners (Man- 
chester, 1894), p. 4, Rule 7. 



Representative Institutions 39 

membership, and consists of about a hundred representatives. 
It meets in Manchester regularly every quarter, but can be 
called together by the executive council at any time. Once 
elected, this assembly is, like the British Parliament, abso^ 
lutely supreme. Its powers and functions are subject to no 
express limitation, and from its decisions there is no appeal. 
The rules contain no provision for taking a vote of the 
members ; and though the agenda of the quarterly meeting 
is circulated for information to the executives of the district 
associations, so little thought is there of any necessity for the 
representatives to receive a mandate from their constituents, 
that express arrangements are made for transacting any other 
business not included in the agenda. 1 

The actual " government " of the association is conducted 
by an executive council elected by the general representative 
meeting, and consisting of a president, treasurer, and secretary, 
with thirteen other members, of whom seven at least must 
be working spinners, whilst the other six are, by invariable 
custom, the permanent officials appointed and maintained 
by the principal district organisations. Here we have the 
" cabinet " of this interesting constitution the body which 
practically directs the whole work of the association and 
exercises great weight in the counsels of the legislative body, 
preparing its agenda and guiding all its proceedings. For 
the daily work of administration this cabinet is authorised 
by the rules to appoint a committee, the " sub-council," which 
consists in practice of the six " gentlemen," as the district 
officials are commonly called. The actual executive work is 
performed by a general secretary, who himself engages such 
office assistance as may from time to time be necessary. In 
marked contrast with all the Trade Union constitutions which 
we have hitherto described, the Cotton-spinners' rules do not 

1 Rule 9, p. 5. The general representative meeting even resembles the British 
Parliament in being able itself to change the fundamental basis of the constitution, 
including the period of its own tenure of office. The rules upon which the 
Amalgamated Association depends can be altered by the general representative 
meeting in a session called by special notice, without any confirmation by the 
constituents. Rule 45, pp. 27-28. 



40 Trade Union Structure 

give the election of this chief executive officer to the general 
body of members, but declare expressly that " the sole right 
of electing a permanent general secretary shall be vested in 
the provincial and district representatives when in meeting 
assembled, by whom his salary shall be fixed and deter- 
mined." l Moreover, as we have already mentioned, the 
candidates for this office pass a competitive examination, and 
when once elected the general secretary enjoys a permanence 
of tenure equal to that of the English civil service, the rules 
providing that he " shall be appointed and continue in office 
so long as he gives satisfaction." 2 

The Amalgamated Association of Operative Cotton- 
spinners is therefore free from all the early expedients for 
securing popular government. The general or aggregate 
meeting finds no place in its constitution, and the rules con- 
tain no provision for the Referendum or the Initiative. No 
countenance is given to the idea of Rotation of Office. No 
officers are elected by the members themselves. Finally, we 
have the complete abandonment of the delegate, and the sub- 
stitution, both in fact and in name, of the representative. On 
the other hand, the association is a fully-equipped democratic 
state of the modern type. It has an elected parliament, 
exercising supreme and uncontrolled power. It has a cabinet 
appointed by and responsible only to that parliament. And 
its chief executive officer, appointed once for all on grounds 
of efficiency, enjoys the civil-service permanence of tenure. 3 



1 Rule 12, p. 6. 2 

3 The other branches of the cotton trade, notably the federations of weavers 
and cardroom hands, are organised on the same principle of an elected repre- 
sentative assembly, itself appointing the officers and executive committee, though 
there are minor .differences among them. The United Textile Factory Workers' 
Association, of which the spinners form a part, is framed on the same model, 
a "legislative council," really an executive committee, being elected by the 
"conference," or representative assembly. (This organisation temporarily 
suspended its functions in 1896.) Moreover, the rules of the several district 
associations of the Amalgamated Association of Operative Cotton-spinners exhibit 
the same formative influences. In the smaller societies, confined to single 
villages, we find the simple government by general meeting, electing a committee 
and officers. Permanence of tenure is, however, the rule, it being often expressly 
provided that the secretary and the treasurer shall each "retain office as long as 
he gives satisfaction." More than half the total membership, moreover, is 



Representative Institutions 41 

We have watched the working of this remarkable consti- 
tution during the last seven years, and we can testify to the 
success with which both efficiency and popular control are 
secured. The efficiency we attribute to the existence of 
the adequate, highly-trained, and relatively well-paid and 
permanent civil service. 1 But that this civil service is 
effectively under public control is shown by the accuracy 
with which the cotton officials adapt their political and 
industrial policy to the developing views of the members 
whom they serve. This sensitiveness to the popular 
desires is secured by the real supremacy of the elected 
representatives. For the " Cotton-spinners' Parliament " is 
no formal gathering of casual members to register the decrees 
of a dominant bureaucracy. It is, on the contrary, a 
highly -organised deliberative assembly, with active repre- 
sentatives from the different localities, each alive to the distinct, 
and sometimes divergent, interests of his own constituents. 
Their eager participation shows itself in constant " party 
meetings " of the different sections, at which the officers and 
workmen from each district consult together as to the line 
of policy to be pressed upon the assembly. Such consulta- 
tion and deliberate joint action is, in the case of the Oldham 
representatives at any rate, carried even further. The consti- 
tution of the Oldham Operative Cotton-spinners' Provincial 
Association is, so far as we know, unique in all the annals of 
democracy in making express provision for the " caucus." 2 

included in two important " provinces," Oldham and Bolton, which possess 
elaborate federal constitutions of their own. These follow, in general outline, 
the federal constitution, but both retain some features of the older form. Thus 
in Oldham, where the officers enjoy permanence of tenure and are responsible 
only to the representative assembly, any vacancy is filled by general vote of the 
members. And though the representative assembly has supreme legislative and 
executive powers, it is required to take a ballot of all the members before deciding 
on a strike. On the other hand, Bolton, which leaves everything to its repre- 
sentative assembly, shows a lingering attachment to rotation of office by providing 
that the retiring members of its executive council shall not be eligible for re-election 
during twelve months. 

1 The nineteen thousand members of the Amalgamated Association of Opera- 
tive Cotton-spinners command the services of ten permanent officials, besides 
numerous local officers still working at their trade. 

2 The " caucus," in this sense of the term, is supposed to have been first 



4$ Trade Union Structure 

The rules of 1891 ordain that "whenever the business to be 
transacted by the representatives attending the quarterly 
or special meetings of the Amalgamation is of such import- 
ance and to the interest of this association as to require unity 
of action in regard to voting by the representatives from this 
province, the secretary shall be required to summon a special 
meeting of the said representatives by announcing in the 
monthly circular containing the minutes the date and time 
of such meeting, which must be held in the council room at 
least seven days previous to the Amalgamation meeting 
taking place. The provincial representatives on the amalga- 
mated council shall be required to attend such meeting, to 
give any information required, and all resolutions passed by 
a majority of those present shall be binding upon all the 
representatives from the Oldham province attending the 
amalgamated quarterly or special meetings, and any one 
acting contrary to his instructions shall cease to be a repre- 
sentative of the district he represents, and shall not be allowed 
to stand as a candidate for any office connected with the 
association for the space of twelve months. The allowance 
for attending these special meetings shall be in accordance 
with the scale allowed to the provincial executive council." 1 
But even without so stringent a rule, there would be but 
little danger of the representatives failing to express the 
desires of the rank and file. Living the same life as their 
constituents, and subject to annual election, they can scarcely 
fail to be in touch with the general body of the members. 
The common practice of requiring each representative to 
report his action to the next meeting of his constituents, by 
whom it is discussed in his presence, and the wide circulation 

introduced about the beginning of this century, in the United States Congress, by 
the Democratic Party. See the Statesman's Manual, vol. i. pp. 294, 338 ; 
Woodrow Wilson, Congressional Government ', 1 2th edit. (New York, 1896), pp. 
327-330; Lalor's Cyclopedia of Political Science (New York, 1891), vol. i. p. 
357. The " caucus" in the sense of "primary assembly" is regulated by law 
in many American States, especially in Massachusetts. See Nominations for 
Elective Office in the United States, by F. W. Dallinger (London, 1897). 

1 Rule 64, pp. 41-42, of Rules and Regulations for the Government of the 
Oldham Operative Cotton-spinners' Provincial Association (Oldham, 1891). 



Representative Institutions 43 

of printed reports among all the members furnish efficient 
substitutes for the newspaper press. On the other hand, the 
facts that the representative assembly is a permanent insti- 
tution wielding supreme power, and that in practice its 
membership changes little from year to year, give it a very 
real authority over the executive council which it elects every 
six months, and over the officers whom it has appointed. 
The typical member of the "Cotton-spinners' Parliament" 
is not only experienced in voicing the desires of his 
constituents, but also possesses in a comparatively large 
measure that knowledge of administrative detail and of 
current affairs which enables him to understand and control 
the proceedings of his officers. 

The Coalminers are, as we have elsewhere mentioned, 
not so unanimous as the Cotton Operatives in their 
adoption of representative institutions. The two great 
counties of Northumberland and Durham have unions which 
preserve constitutions of the old-fashioned type. But when 
we pass to other counties, in which the Miners have come 
more thoroughly under the influence of the modern spirit, 
we find representative government the rule. The powerful 
associations of Yorkshire, Lancashire, and the Midlands are 
all governed by elected representative assemblies, which 
appoint the executive committees and the permanent officers. 
But the most striking example of the adoption of repre- 
sentative institutions among the Coalminers is presented by 
the Miners' Federation of Great Britain, established 1887. 
This great federal organisation, which now comprises 
two -thirds of the Coalminers in union, adopted from the 
outset a completely representative constitution. The supreme 
authority is vested in a "conference," summoned as often 
as required, consisting of representatives elected by each 
county or district association. This conference exercises 
uncontrolled power to determine policy, alter rules, and levy 
unlimited contributions. 1 From its decision there is no 

1 This was expressly pointed out, doubtless with reference to some of the old- 
fashioned county unions which still clung to the custom of the Referendum or the 



44 Trade Union Structure 

appeal. No provision is made for taking the votes of the 
general body of members, and the conference itself appoints 
the executive committee and all the officers of the Federa- 
tion. Between the sittings of the conference the executive 
committee is expressly given power to take action to promote 
the interests of the Federation, and no rule savoring of 
Rotation of Office deprives this executive of the services of 
its experienced members. 

The " Miners' Parliament," as this conference may not 
improperly be termed, is in many respects the most im- 
portant assembly in the Trade Union world. Its regular 
annual session, held in some midland town, lasts often for a 
whole week, whilst other meetings of a couple of days' dura- 
tion are held as business requires. The fifty to seventy 
members, who represent the several constituent bodies, consti- 
tute an exceptionally efficient deliberative assembly. Among 
them are to be found the permanent officers of the county 
unions, some of the most experienced of the checkweigh-men 
and the influential leaders of opinion in the mining villages. 
The official element, as might be expected, plays a prominent 
part in suggesting, drafting, and amending the actual pro- 
posals, but the unofficial members frequently intervene with 
effect in the business-like debates. The public and the press 
are excluded, but the conference usually directs a brief and 
guarded statement of the conclusions arrived at to be supplied 
to the newspapers, and a full report of the proceedings 
sometimes extending to over a hundred printed pages is 
subsequently issued to the lodges. The subjects dealt with 
include the whole range of industrial and political policy, 
from the technical grievance of a particular district up to the 
" nationalisation of mines." l The actual carrying out of the 

Imperative Mandate, in the circular summoning the important conference of 
July 1893 > "Delegates must be appointed to attend Conference with full power 
to deal with the wages question." 

1 Thus the agenda for the Annual Conference in 1894 comprised, besides 
formal business, certain revisions of rules and the executive committee's report, 
the Eight Hours Bill, the stacking of coal, the making of Saturday a regular 
whole holiday, the establishment of a public department to prevent unscrupulous 
competition in trade, the amendment of the Mines Regulation and Employers' 



Representative Institutions 45 

policy determined on by the conference is left unreservedly 
to the executive committee, but the conference expects to be 
called together whenever any new departure in policy is 
required. In times of stress the executive committee shows 
its real dependence on the popular assembly by calling it 
together every few weeks. 1 And the success with which the 
Miners' Federation wields its great industrial and political 
power over an area extending from Fife to Somerset and a 

Liability Acts, international relations with foreign miners' organisations and the 
nationalisation of mines. It may here be observed that the representatives at 
the Federal Conference have votes in proportion to the numbers of the members 
in their respective associations. This practice, often called "proxy voting," or, 
more accurately, " the accumulative vote," has long been characteristic of the 
Coalminers' organisations, though unknown to any other section of the Trade 
Union World. Thus the rules of the Miners' Federation of Great Britain are 
silent as to the number of representatives to be sent to the supreme " Conference," 
but provide "that each county, federation or district vote upon all questions 
as follows, viz. : one vote for every 1000 financial members or fractional part of 
1000, and that the vote in every case shall be taken by numbers " (Rule lo, 
Rules of the Miners' Federation of Great Britain, 1895). A similar 
principle has always been applied at the International Miners' Conferences, 
and the practice prevails also in the several county unions or federations. The 
Lancashire and Cheshire Federation fixes the number of representatives to be 
sent to its Conferences at one per 500 members, but expressly provides that the 
voting is to be "by proxy" in the same proportion. The Midland Federation 
adopts the same rule. The Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, Durham, and West 
Cumberland associations allow each branch or lodge only a single representative, 
whose vote counts strictly in proportion to the membership he represents. This 
"accumulative vote" is invariably resorted to in the election of officers and in all 
important decisions of policy, but it is not uncommon for minor divisions to be 
taken, unchallenged, on the principle of " one man one vote." It is not easy to 
account for the exceptional preference of the Coalminers for this method of voting, 
especially as their assemblies are, as we have pointed out, in practice more 
" representative " in their character, and less trammelled by the idea of the 
imperative mandate, than those of any other trade but the Cotton Operatives. 
The practice facilitates, it is true, a diminution in the size of the meetings, but 
this appears to be its only advantage. In the absence of any system of " pro- 
portional representation " it affords no real guide to the relative distribution of 
opinion ; the representatives of Yorkshire, for instance, in casting the vote of the 
county, can at best express the views only of the majority of their constituents, 
and have therefore no real claim to outvote a smaller district, with whose views 
nearly half their own constituents may be in sympathy. If, on the other hand, 
the whole membership of the Miners' Federation were divided into fairly equal 
electoral districts, each electing a single member, there would be more chance 
of every variety of opinion being represented, whilst an exact balance between 
the large and the small districts would nevertheless be preserved. 

1 During the great strike in 1893 the Conference met eight times in six 
months, 



46 Trade Union Structure 

membership numbering two hundred thousand, furnishes 
eloquent testimony to the manner in which it has known 
how to combine efficient administration with genuine popular 
assent. 

The great federal organisations of Cotton Operatives and 
Coalminers stand out from among the other Trade Unions 
in respect of the completeness and success with which they 
have adopted representative institutions. But it is easy to 
trace a like tendency throughout the whole Trade Union 
world. We have already commented on the innovation, 
now almost universal, of entrusting the task of revising rules 
to a specially elected committee. It was at first taken for 
granted that the work of such a revising committee was 
limited to putting into proper form the amendments pro- 
posed by the branches themselves, and sometimes to choosing 
between them. Though it is still usual for the revised rules 
to be formally ratified by a vote of the members, the revising 
committees have been given an ever wider discretion, until 
in most unions they are nowadays in practice free to make 
changes according to their own judgment. 1 But it is in 
the constitution of the central executive that the trend 
towards representative institutions is most remarkable, the 
old expedient of the " governing branch " being superseded 
by an executive committee representative of the whole body 
of the members. 2 

1 There is a similar tendency to disapprove of the Imperative Mandate in the 
principal Friendly Societies. The Friendly Societies' Monthly Magazine for 
April 1890 observes that " Lodges are advised ... to instruct their delegates 
as to how they are to vote. With this we entirely disagree. A proposition till 
it is properly thrashed out and explained, remains in the husk, and its full import 
is lost. Delegates fettered with instructions simply become the mechanical 
mouthpiece of the necessarily unenlightened lodges which send them, and there- 
fore the legislation of the Order might just as well be conducted by post." 

2 Thus the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants (established 1872) 
administers the affairs of its forty-four thousand members by an executive committee 
of thirteen (with the three officers), elected annually by ballot in thirteen equal 
electoral districts. This committee meets in London at least quarterly, and 
can be summoned oftener if required. Above this is the supreme authority of 
the annual assembly of sixty delegates, elected by sixty equal electoral districts, 
and sitting for four days to hear appeals, alter rules, and determine the policy of 
the union. A similar constitution is enjoyed by the Associated Society of 



Representative Institutions 47 

This revolution has taken place in the National Union 
of Boot and Shoe Operatives (37,000 members) and the 
Amalgamated Society of Engineers (87,313 members), the 
two societies which, outside the worlds of cotton and coal, 
exceed nearly all others in membership. Down to 1890 the 
National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives was governed 
by a local executive council belonging to a single town, 
controlled only by occasional votes of a delegate assembly, 
meeting, at first, every four years, and afterwards every two 
years. Seven years ago the constitution was entirely trans- 
formed. The society was divided into five equal electoral 
districts, each of which elected one member to serve for two 
years on an executive council consisting of only these five 
representatives, in addition to the three other officers elected 
by the whole body of members. To the representative execu- 
tive thus formed was committed not only all the ordinary 
business of the society, but also the final decision in cases of 
appeals by individual members against the decision of a 
branch. The delegate meeting, or " National Conference," 
meets to determine policy and revise rules, and its decisions 
no longer require ratification by the members' vote. Although 
the Referendum and the Mass Meeting of the district are 
still formally included in the constitution, the complication 
and difficulty of the issues which have cropped up during the 
last few years have led the executive council to call together 
the national conference at frequent intervals, in preference 
to submitting questions to the popular vote. 

Locomotive Enginemen and Firemen (established 1880). It is this model that 
has been followed, with unimportant variations in detail, by the more durable of 
the labor unions which sprang into existence in the great upheaval of 1889, 
among which the Gasworkers and the Dockers are the best known. The practice 
of electing the executive committee by districts is, as far as we know, almost 
unknown in the political world. The executive council of the State of Penn- 
sylvania in the eighteenth century used to be elected by single -member 
districts (Federalist, No. LVII.), and a similar arrangement appears occa- 
sionally to have found a place in the ever-changing constitutions of one or two 
Swiss Cantons. (See State and Federal Government in Switzerland, by 
J. M. Vincent, Baltimore, 1891.) We know of no case where it prevails 
at present (Lowell's Governments and Parties in Continental Europe, London, 
1896). 



48 Trade Union Structure 

In the case of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers 
the constitutional revolution has been far more sweeping. 
In the various editions of the Engineers' rules from 1851 to 
1891 we find the usual reliance on the Mass Meeting, the 
Referendum and the direct election of all officers by the 
members at large. We also see the executive control vested 
in a committee elected by a single district, the chairman, 
moreover, being forbidden to serve for more than two years 
in succession. In the case of the United Society of Boiler- 
makers we have already described how a constitution of 
essentially similar type has resulted in remarkable success 
and efficiency, but at the sacrifice of all real control by the 
members. In the history of the Boilermakers from 1872 
onwards we watch the virtual abandonment in practice, for 
the sake of a strong and united central administration, of 
everything that tended to weaken the executive power. 
The Engineers, on the contrary, clung tenaciously to every 
institution or formality which protected the individual 
member against the central executive. 1 Meanwhile, although 
the very object of the amalgamation in 1851 was to secure 
uniformity of trade policy, the failure to provide any salaried 
official staff left the central executive with little practical 
control over the negotiations conducted or the decisions 
arrived at by the local branch or district committee. The 
result was not only failure to cope with the vital problems 

1 In financial matters, for instance, though every penny of the funds belonged 
to the whole society, each branch retained its own receipts, subject only to the 
cumbrous annual "equalisation." The branch accordingly had it in its power to 
make any disbursement it chose, subject only to subsequent disallowance by the 
central executive. Nor was the decision of the central executive in any way 
final. The branch aggrieved by any disallowance could, and habitually did, 
appeal not to the members at large, who would usually have supported the 
executive but to another body, the general council, which met every three years 
for the express purpose of deciding such appeals. There was even a further 
appeal from the general council to the periodical delegate meeting. In the 
meantime the payment objected to was not required to be refunded, and it will 
therefore easily be understood that the vast majority of executive decisions were 
instantly appealed against. And when we add that each of these several courts 
of appeal frequently reversed a large proportion of the decisions of its immediate 
inferior, the effect of these frequent appeals in destroying all authority can easily 
be imagined. 



Representative Institutions 49 

of trade policy involved in the changing conditions of the 
industry, but also an increasing paralysis of administration, 
against which officers and committee-men struggled in vain. 
When in 1892 the delegates met at Leeds to find a remedy 
for these evils, they brought from the branches two leading N 
suggestions. One party urged the appointment, in aid of 
the central executive, of a salaried staff of district delegates, 
elected, in direct imitation of those of the Boilermakers, by 
the whole society. Another section favored the transforma" 
tion of the executive committee into a representative body, 
and proposed the division of the country into eight equal 
electoral districts, each of which should elect a representative 
to a salaried executive council sitting continually in London, 
and thus giving its whole time to the society's work. 
Probably these remedies, aimed at different sides of the 
trouble, were intended as alternatives. It is significant of 
the deep impression made upon the delegate meeting that it 
eventually adopted both, thus at one blow increasing the 
number of salaried officers from three to seventeen. 1 

Time has yet to show how far this revolution in the 
constitution of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers will 
conduce either to efficient administration or to genuine 
popular control. It is easy to see that government by 
an executive committee of this character differs essentially 
from government by a representative assembly appointing 
its own cabinet, and that it possesses certain obvious dis- 
advantages. The eight members, who are thus transferred 
by the vote of their fellows from the engineer's workshop to. 
the Stamford Street office, become by this fundamental 
change of life completely severed from their constituents. 
Spending all their days in office routine, they necessarily 
lose the vivid appreciation of the feelings of the man 

1 It is interesting to observe that the United Society of Boilermakers, by 
adopting in 1895 a Representative Executive, has made its formal constitution 
almost identical with that of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers. The vital 
difference between these two societies now lies in the working relation between 
the central executive and the local branches and district committees ; see the 
subsequent chapter on "The Unit of Government." 

VOL. I E 



50 Trade Union Structure 

who works at the lathe or the forge. Living constantly in 
London, they are subject to new local influences, and tend 
unconsciously to get out of touch with the special grievances 
or new drifts of popular opinion on the Tyne or the Clyde, 
at Belfast or in Lancashire. It is true that the representa- 
tives hold office for only three years, at the expiration of 
which they must present themselves for re-election ; but 
there would be the greatest possible reluctance amongst the 
members to relegate to manual labor a man who had once 
served them as a salaried official. Unless, therefore, a re- 
vulsion of feeling takes place among the Engineers against 
the institution itself, the present members of the representa- 
tive executive committee may rely with some confidence on 
becoming practically permanent officials. 

These objections do not apply with equal force to other 
examples of a representative executive. The tradition of 
the Stamford Street office that the whole mass of friendly- 
society business should be dealt with in all its details by the 
members of the executive committee themselves involves 
their daily attendance and their complete absorption in 
office work. In other Trade Unions which have adopted 
the same constitutional form, the members of the represent- 
ative executive reside in their constituencies and, in some 
cases, even continue to work at their trade. They are called 
together, like the members of a representative assembly, at 
quarterly or other intervals to decide only the more im- 
portant questions, the detailed executive routine being 
delegated to a local sub -committee or to the official staff. 
Thus the executive committee of the National Union of 
Boot and Shoe Operatives usually meets only for one day 
a month ; the executive committee of the Associated Loco- 
motive Engineers and Firemen is called together only when 
required, usually not more than once or twice a month ; the 
executive council of the Amalgamated Society of Railway 
Servants comes to London once a quarter, and the same 
practice is followed by the executive committee of the 
National Union of Gasworkers and General Laborers. It is 



Representative Institutions 5 1 

evident that in all these cases the representative executive, 
whether formed of the salaried officials of the districts or of 
men working at their trade, has more chance of remaining in 
touch with its constituents than in the case of the Amalga- 
mated Society of Engineers. 

But there is, in our opinion, a fundamental drawback to 
government by a representative executive, even under the 
most favorable conditions. One of the chief duties of a 
representative governing body is to critin'sp. ^control, and 
direct the permanent official staff, by whom the policy of the 
"organisation muyractualljTbe carried out. Its main function, 
in fact, is to exercise real and continuous authority over the 
civil service. Now all experience shows it to be an essential 
condition that the permanent officials should be dependent 
on and genuinely subordinate to the representative body. 
This condition is fulfilled in the constitutions such as those 
of the Amalgamated Association of Operative Cotton-spinners 
and the Miners' Federation, where the representative assembly 
itself appoints the officers, determines their duties, and fixes 
their salaries. But it is entirely absent in all Trade Union 
constitutions based on a representative executive. Under this 
arrangement the executive committee neither appoints the 
officers nor fixes their salaries. Though the representative 
executive, unlike the old governing branch, can in its corporate 
capacity claim to speak in the name of all the members, so 
can the general secretary himself, and often each assistant 
secretary. All alike hold their positions from the same 
supreme power the votes of the members ; and have their 
respective duties and emoluments defined by the same 
written constitution the society's rules. 

This absence of any co-ordination of the several parts 
of the constitution works out, in practice, in one of two 
ways. There may arise jealousies between the several officers, 
or between them and some of the members of the executive 
committee. We have known instances in which an incom- 
petent and arbitrary general secretary has been pulled up 
by one or other of his colleagues who wanted to succeed to 



52 Trade Union Structure 

his place. The suspicion engendered by the relation of 
competitors for popular suffrage checks, it may be, some 
positive malpractices, but results also in the obstruction of 
useful measures of policy, or even in their failure through dis- 
loyalty. More usually the executive committee, feeling itself 
powerless to control the officials, tends to make a tacit 
and half-unconscious compact with them, based on mutual 
support against the criticism of their common constituents. 
If the members of the committee are themselves salaried 
officials, they not only have a fellow-feeling for the weak- 
nesses of their brother officials, but they also realise vividly 
the personal risk of appealing against them to the popular 
vote. If, on the other hand, the members continue to work 
at their trade, they feel themselves at a hopeless disadvantage 
in any such appeal. They have neither the business ex- 
perience nor the acquaintance with details necessary for a 
successful indictment of an officer who is known from one 
end of the society to the other, and who enjoys the advantage 
of controlling its machinery. Thus we have in many unions 
governed by a Representative Executive the formation of 
a ruling clique, half officials, half representatives. This 
has all the disadvantages of such a bureaucracy as we have 
described in the case of the United Society of Boilermakers, 
without the efficiency made possible by its hierarchical 
organisation and the predominant authority of the head of 
the staff. To sum up, if there are among the salaried repre- 
sentatives or officials restless spirits, " conscientious critics," or 
disloyal comrades, the general body of members may rest 
assured that they will be kept informed of what is going on, 
but at the cost of seeing their machinery of government 
constantly clogged by angry recriminations and appeals. If, 
on the other hand, the men who meet at headquarters in 
one or another capacity are "good fellows," the machine 
will work smoothly with such efficiency as their industry and 
capacity happens to be equal to, but all popular control 
over this governing clique will disappear. 

We see, then, that though government by a representa- 



Representative Institutions 53 

tive executive is a real advance on the old expedients, it is 
likely to prove inferior to government by a representative 
assembly, appointing its own cabinet and officers. But a 
great national Trade Union extending from one end of the 
kingdom to the other cannot easily adopt the superior form, 
even if the members desire it. The Cotton Operatives enjoy 
the special advantage of having practically all their member- 
ship within a radius of thirty miles from Manchester. The 
frequent gatherings of a hundred delegates held usually on 
a Saturday afternoon entail, therefore, no loss of working 
time and little expense to the organisation. The same con- 
sideration applies to the great bulk of the membership of 
the Miners' Federation, three-fourths of which is concentrated 
in Lancashire, West Yorkshire, and the industrial Midlands. 
Even the outlying coalfields elsewhere enjoy the advantage 
of close local concentration, so that a single delegate may 
effectively represent the hundreds of lodges in his own 
county. And it is no small consideration that the total 
membership of the Miners' Federation is so large that the 
cost of frequent meetings of fifty to seventy delegates bears 
only a trifling proportion to the resources of the union. 
Very different is the position of the great unions in the 
engineering and building trades. The 46,000 members of the 
Amalgamated Society of Carpenters in the United Kingdom, 
for instance, are divided into 623 branches, scattered over 
400 separate towns or villages. Each town has its own 
Working Rules, its own Standard Rate and Normal Day, and 
lacks intimate connection with the towns right and left of it. 
The representative chosen by the Newcastle branch might 
easily be too much absorbed by the burning local question of 
demarcation against the Shipwrights to pay much attention 
to the simple grievances of the Hexham branch as to the 
Saturday half-holiday, or to the multiplication of apprentices 
in the joinery shops at Darlington. Similar considerations 
apply to the 497 branches of the Amalgamated Society of 
Engineers, whose 80,000 members in the United Kingdom 
are working in 300 different towns. In view of the increasing 



54 Trade Union Structicre 

uniformity of working conditions throughout the country, the 
concentration of industry in large towns, the growing facili- 
ties of travel and the steady multiplication of salaried local 
officials," we do not ourselves regard the geographical difficulty 
as insuperable. But it is easy to understand why, with so 
large a number of isolated branches, it has not yet seemed 
practicable to constitutional reformers in the building or 
the engineering trades, to have frequent meetings of repre- 
sentative assemblies. 

The tardiness and incompleteness with which Trade 
Unions have adopted representative institutions is mainly 
due to a more general cause. The workman has been slow 
to recognise the special function of the representative in a 
democracy. In the early constitutional ideals of Trade 
Unionism the representative finds, as we have seen, absolutely 
no place. The committee-man elected by rotation of office 
or the delegate deputed to take part in a revision of rules 
was habitually regarded only as a vehicle by which "the 
voices " could be mechanically conveyed. His task required, 
therefore, no special qualification beyond intelligence to 
comprehend his instructions and a spirit of obedience in 
carrying them out. Very different is the duty cast upon 
the representative in such modern Trade Union constitutions 
as those of the Cotton Operatives and Coalminers. His 
main function is still to express the mind of the average 
man. But unlike the delegate, he is not a mechanical 
vehicle of votes on particular subjects. The ordinary Trade 
Unionist has but little facility in expressing his desires ; 
unversed in the technicalities of administration, he is unable 
to judge by what particular expedient his grievances can 
best be remedied. In default of an expert representative he 
has to depend on the professional administrator. But for 
this particular task the professional administrator is no more 
competent than the ordinary man, though for a different 
reason. The very apartness of his life from that of the 
average workman deprives him of close acquaintance with 
the actual grievances of the mass of the people. Immersed 






Representative Institutions 55 

in office routine, he is apt to fail to understand from their 
inconsistent complaints and impracticable suggestions what 
it is they really desire. To act as an interpreter between 
the people and their servants is, therefore, the first function 
of the representative. 

But this is only half of his duty. To him is entrusted 
also the difficult and delicate task of controlling the pro- 
fessional experts. Here, as we have seen, the ordinary man 
completely breaks down. The task, to begin with, requires 
a certain familiarity with the machinery of government, and 
a sacrifice of time and a concentration of thought out of the 
reach of the average man absorbed in gaining his daily 
bread. So much is this the case that when the administra- 
tion is complicated, a further specialisation is found necessary, 
and the representative assembly itself chooses a cabinet, or 
executive committee of men specially qualified for this duty. 
A large measure of intuitive capacity to make a wise choice 
of men is, therefore, necessary even in the ordinary repre- 
sentative. Finally, there comes the important duty of 
deciding upon questions of policy or tactics. The ordinary 
citizen thinks of nothing but clear issues on broad lines. 
The representative, on the other hand, finds himself con- 
stantly called upon to choose between the nicely balanced 
expediencies of compromise necessitated by the complicated 
facts of practical life. On his shrewd judgment of actual 
circumstances will depend his success in obtaining, not all 
that his constituents desire for that he will quickly recognise 
as Utopian, but the largest instalment of those desires 
that may be then and there possible. 

To construct a perfect representative assembly can, 
therefore, never be an easy task ; and in a community ex- 
clusively composed of manual workers dependent on weekly 
wages, the task is one of exceptional difficulty. A 
community of bankers and business entrepreneurs finds it 
easy to secure a representative committee to direct and 
control the paid officials whom it engages to protect its 
interests. Constituents, representatives and officials are 



56 Trade Union Structure 

living much the same life, are surrounded by the same 
intellectual atmosphere, have received approximately the 
same kind of education and mental training, and are con- 
stantly engaged in one variety or another of what is 
essentially the same work of direction and control. More- 
over, there is no lack of persons able to give the necessary 
time and thought to expressing the desires of their class and 
to seeing that they are satisfied. It is, therefore, not 
surprising that representative institutions should be seen 
at their best in middle- class communities. 1 In all these 
respects the manual workers stand at a grave disadvantage. 
Whatever may be the natural endowment of the workman 
selected by his comrades to serve as a representative, he 
starts unequipped with that special training and that general 
familiarity with administration which will alone enable him 
to be a competent critic and director of the expert pro- 
fessional. Before he can place himself on a level with the 
trained official whom he has to control he must devote his 
whole time and thought to his new duties, and must there- 
fore give up his old trade. This unfortunately tends to 
alter his manner of life, his habit of mind, and usually also 
his intellectual atmosphere to such an extent that he 
gradually loses that vivid appreciation of the feelings of the 
man at the bench or the forge, which it is his function to 
express. There is a certain cruel irony in the problem 
which accounts, we think, for some of the unconscious 
exasperation of the wage-earners all over the world against 
representative institutions. Directly the working-man 
representative becomes properly equipped for one -half of 
his duties, he ceases to be specially qualified for the other. 
If he remains essentially a manual worker, he fails to cope 
with the brain-working officials ; if he takes on the character 
of the brain-worker, he is apt to get out of touch with 
the constituents whose desires he has to interpret. It will, 
therefore, be interesting to see how the shrewd workmen of 

1 In this connection see the interesting suggestions of Achille Loria, Les Bases 
Economiques de la Constitution Sociale (Paris, 1893), PP- 150-154. 



Representative Institutions 57 

Lancashire, Yorkshire, and the Midlands have surmounted 
this constitutional difficulty. 

In the parliaments of the Cotton-spinners and Coalminers 
we find habitually two classes of members, salaried officials 
of the several districts, and representative wage-earners still 
working at the mule or in the mine. It would almost seem 
as if these modern organisations had consciously recognised 
the impossibility of combining in any individual representa- 
tive both of the requirements that we have specified. As it 
is, the presence in their assemblies of a large proportion of 
men who are still following their trade imports into their 
deliberations the full flavor of working-class sentiment. And 
the association, with these picked men from each industrial 
village, of the salaried officers from each county, secures that 
combination of knowledge, ability, and practical experience 
in administration, which is, as we have suggested, absolutely 
indispensable for the exercise of control over the professional 
experts. If the constituencies elected none but their fellow- 
workers, it is more than doubtful whether the representative 
assembly so created would be competent for its task. If, 
on the other hand, the assembly consisted merely of a 
conference of salaried officials, appointing one or more of 
themselves to carry out the national work of the federation, 
it would inevitably fail to retain the confidence, even if it 
continued to express the desires of the members at large. 
The conjunction of the two elements in the same repre- 
sentative assembly has in practice resulted in a very efficient 
working body. 

It is important to notice that in each of the trades the 
success of the experiment has depended on the fact that the 
organisation is formed on a federal basis. The constituent 
bodies of the Miners' Federation and the Amalgamated 
Association of Operative Cotton - spinners have their 
separate constitutions, their distinct funds, and their own 
official staffs. The salaried officers whom they elect to sit as 
representatives in the federal parliament have, therefore, quite 
other interests, obligations, and responsibilities than those of 



58 Trade Union Structure 

the official staff of the Federation itself. The secretary of 
the Nottinghamshire Miners' Association, for instance, finds 
himself able, when sitting as a member of the Conference of 
the Miners' Federation, freely to criticise the action of the 
federal executive council or of the federal official staff, with- 
out in any way endangering his own position as a salaried 
officer. Similarly, when the secretary of the Rochdale 
Cotton-spinners goes to the quarterly meeting at Manchester, 
he need have no hesitation in opposing and, if possible, 
defeating any recommendation of the executive council of 
the Amalgamated Association of Operative Cotton-spinners 
which he considers injurious to the Rochdale spinners. In 
the form of the representative executive, this use of salaried 
officers in a representative capacity is likely to tend, as we 
have seen, to the formation of a virtually irresponsible 
governing clique. But in the form of a federal representative 
assembly, where the federal executive and official staff are 
dependent, not on the members at large but on the assembly 
itself, and where the representatives are responsible to quite 
other constituencies and include a large proportion of the 
non-official element, this danger is reduced to a minimum. 

We have now set before the reader an analysis of the 
constitutional development of Trade Union democracy. The 
facts will be interpreted in different ways by students of 
different temperaments. To us they represent the long and 
inarticulate struggle of unlettered men to solve the problem 
of how to combine administrative efficiency with popular 
control. Assent was the first requirement. The very 
formation of a continuous combination, in face of legal 
persecution and public disapproval, depended on the active 
concurrence of all the members. And though it is con- 
ceivable that a strong Trade Union might coerce a few 
individual workmen to continue in its ranks against 
their will, no such coercive influence could permanently 
prevail over a discontented majority, or prevent the secession, 
either individually or in a body, of any considerable number 
who were seriously disaffected. It was accordingly assumed 



Representative Institutions 59 

without question that everything should be submitted to 
" the voices " of the whole body, and that each member 
should take an equal and identical share in the common 
project. As the union developed from an angry crowd 
unanimously demanding the redress of a particular grievance 
into an insurance company of national extent, obliged to 
follow some definite trade policy, the need for administrative 
efficiency more and more forced itself on the minds of the 
members. This efficiency involved an ever-increasing special- 
isation of function. 1 The growing mass of business and the 
difficulty and complication of the questions dealt with involved 
the growth of an official class, marked off by capacity, training, 
and habit of life from the rank and file. Failure to specialise 
the executive function quickly brought about extinction. On 
the other hand this very specialisation undermined the popular 
control, and thus risked the loss of the indispensable popular 
assent. The early expedients of Rotation of Office, the 
Mass Meeting, and the Referendum proved, in practice, utterly 
inadequate as a means of securing genuine popular control. 
At each particular crisis the individual member found himself 
overmatched by the official machinery which he had created. 
At this stage irresponsible bureaucracy seemed the inevitable 
outcome. But democracy found yet another expedient, which 
in some favored unions has gone far to solve the problem. 
The specialisation of the executive into a permanent expert 
civil service was balanced by the specialisation of the legis- 
lature, in the establishment of a supreme representative 
assembly, itself undertaking the work of direction and control 
for which the members at large had proved incompetent. 
We have seen how difficult it is for a community of manual 
workers to obtain such an assembly, and how large a part is 

1 " The progressive division of labour by which both science and government 
prosper." Lord Acton, The Unity of Modern History (London, 1896), p. 3. 
" If there be one principle clearer than another, it is this : that in any business, 
whether of government or of mere merchandising, somebody must be trusted. . . . 
Power and strict accountability for its use, are the essential constituents of good 
government." Woodrow Wilson, Congressional Government (New York, 1896), 
1 2th edit. 



60 Trade Union Structure 

inevitably played in it by the ever-growing number of salaried 
officers. But in the representative assembly these salaried 
officers sit in a new capacity. The work expected from them 
by their employers is not that of execution, but of criticism 
and direction. To balance the professional civil servant we 
have, in fact, the professional representative. 

This detailed analysis of humble working-class organisa- 
tions will to many readers be of interest only in so far as it 
furnishes material for political generalisations. It is there- 
fore important to consider to what extent the constitutional 
problems of Trade Union democracy are analogous to those 
of national or municipal politics. 

The fundamental requisites of government are the same 
in the democratic state as in the Trade Union. In 
both cases the problem is how to combine administrative 
efficiency with popular control. Both alike ultimately 
depend on a continuance of general assent. In a voluntary 
association, such as the Trade Union, this general assent 
is, as we have seen, the foremost requirement : in the 
democratic state relinquishment of citizenship is seldom a 
practicable alternative, whilst the operation of changing 
governors is not an easy one. Hence, even in the 
most democratic of states the continuous assent of the 
governed is not so imperative a necessity as in the Trade 
Union. On the other hand, the degree of administrative 
efficiency necessary for the healthy existence of the state is 
far greater than in the case of the Trade Union. But whilst 
admitting this transposition in relative importance, it still 
remains true that, in the democratic state as in the Trade 
Union, government cannot continue to exist without com- 
bining a certain degree of popular assent with adequate 
administrative efficiency. 

More important is the fact that the popular assent is in 
both cases of the same nature. In the democratic state, as 
in the Trade Union, the eventual judgment of the people is 
pronounced not upon projects but upon results. It avails 
not that a particular proposal may have received the prior 



Representative Institutions 61 

authorisation of an express popular vote ; if the results are 
not such as the people desire, the executive will not continue 
to receive their support. Nor does this, in the democratic 
state any more than in the Trade Union, imply that an 
all-wise government would necessarily secure this popular 
assent. If any particular stage in the march of civilisation 
happens to be momentarily distasteful to the bulk of the 
citizens, the executive which ventures to step in that direction 
will be no less ruthlessly dismissed than if its deeds had been 
evil. All that we have said as to the logical futility of the 
Referendum, and as to the necessity for the representative, 
therefore applies, we suggest, even more strongly to demo- 
cratic states than to Trade Unions. For what is the lesson 
to be learned from Trade Union history ? The Referendum, 
introduced for the express purpose of ensuring popular 
assent, has in almost all cases failed to accomplish its object. 
This failure is due, as the reader will have observed, to the 
constant inability of the ordinary man to estimate what will 
be the effect of a particular proposal. What Democracy 
requires is assent to results ; what the Referendum gives is 
assent to projects. No Trade Union has, for instance, 
deliberately desired bankruptcy ; but many Trade Unions 
have persistently voted for scales of contributions and benefits 
which have inevitably resulted in bankruptcy. If this is the 
case in the relatively simple issues of Trade Union admini- 
stration, still more does it apply to the infinitely complicated 
questions of national politics. 

But though in the case of the Referendum the analogy 
is sufficiently exact to warrant the transformation of the 
empirical conclusions of Trade Union history into a political 
generalisation, it is only fair to point out some minor 
differences between the two cases. We have had occasion 
to describe how, in Trade Union history, the use of the 
Referendum, far from promoting popular control, has some- 
times resulted in increasing the dominant power of the 
permanent civil service, and in making its position practically 
impregnable against any uprising opinion among its con- 



62 Trade Union Structure 

stituents. This particular danger would, we imagine, scarcely 
occur in a democratic state. In the Trade Union the 
executive committee occupies a unique position. It alone 
has access to official information ; it alone commands expert 
professional skill and experience ; and, most important of all, 
it monopolises in the society's official circular what corre- 
sponds to the newspaper press. The existence of political 
parties fairly equal in knowledge, ability, and electoral 
organisation, and each served by its own press, would always 
save the democratic state from this particular perversion of 
the Referendum to the advantage of the existing government. 
But any party or sect of opinion which, from lack of funds, 
education, or social influence, could not call to its aid the 
forces which we have named, would, we suggest, find itself as 
helpless in face of a Referendum as the discontented section 
of a strong Trade Union. 

We have seen, moreover, that there is in Trade Union 
government a certain special class of questions in which the 
Referendum has a distinct use. Where a decision will 
involve at some future time the personal co-operation of 
the members in some positive act essentially optional in its 
nature still more where that act involves a voluntary 
personal sacrifice, or where not a majority alone but 
practically the whole body of the members must on pain of 
failure join in it, the Referendum may be useful, not as a 
legislative act, but as an index of the probability that the 
members will actually do what will be required of them. 
The decision to strike is obviously a case in point. Another 
instance may be found in the decisions of Trade Unions 
or other bodies that each member shall use his municipal or 
parliamentary franchise in a particular manner. Here the 
success or failure of the policy of the organisation depends not 
on the passive acquiescence of the rank and file in acts done 
by the executive committee or the officers, but upon each 
member's active performance of a personal task. We cannot 
think of any case of this kind within the sphere of the 
modern democratic state. If indeed, as Mr. Auberon Herbert 



Representative Institutions 63 

proposes, it were left to the option of each citizen to determine 
from time to time the amount and the application of his 
contributions to the treasury, the Chancellor of the Exchequer 
would probably find it convenient, prior to making up the 
estimates, to take a Referendum as a guide to how much 
would probably be paid. Or, to take an analogy very near 
to that of the Trade Union decision to strike, if each soldier 
in the army were at liberty to leave at a day's notice, it 
would probably be found expedient to take a vote of the 
rank and file before engaging in a foreign war. In the 
modern democratic state, however, as it actually exists, it is 
not left to the option of the individual citizen whether or not 
he will act in the manner decided on. The success or 
failure of the policy does not therefore depend on obtaining 
universal assent and personal participation in the act itself. 
Whether the citizen likes it or not, he is compelled to pay 
the taxes and obey the laws which have been decided on by 
the competent authority. Whether or not he will maintain 
that authority in power, will depend not on his original 
impulsive judgment as to the expediency of the tax or the 
law, but on his deliberate approval or disapproval of the 
subsequent results. 

If Trade Union history throws doubt on the advantages 
of the Referendum, still less does it favor the institution of 
the delegate as distinguished from the representative. Even 
in the comparatively simple issues of Trade Union admini- 
stration, it has been found, in practice, quite impossible to 
obtain definite instructions from the members on all the 
matters which come up for decision. When, for instance, the 
sixty delegates of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers 
met in 1892 to revise the constitution and trade policy of 
their society, they were supposed to confine themselves to 
such amendments as had previously received the sanction of 
one or other of the branches. But although the amendments 
so sanctioned filled over five hundred printed pages, it was 
found impossible to construct from this material alone any 
consistent constitution or line of policy. The delegates were 



64 Trade Union Structure 

necessarily compelled to exercise larger freedom and to frame 
a set of rules not contemplated by any one of the branches. 
And this experience of the Engineers is only a type of what 
has been going on throughout the whole Trade Union world. 
The increased facilities for communication, on the one hand, 
and the growth of representative institutions, on the other, 
have made the delegate obsolete. Wherever a Trade Union 
has retained the old ideal of direct government by the people, 
it has naturally preferred to the Delegate Meeting the less 
expensive and more thoroughgoing device of the Referendum. 
For the most part the increasing complication and intricacy 
of modern industrial affairs has, as we have seen, compelled 
the substitution of representative institutions. These con- 
siderations apply with even greater force to the democratic 
state. 

Trade Union history gives, therefore, little support to 
the Referendum or the Delegate Meeting, and points rather 
to government by a Representative Assembly as the last 
word of democracy. 1 It is therefore important to see whether 
these Trade Union parliaments have any lesson for the 
political student. The governing assemblies of even the 
most democratic states have, unlike Trade Union parliaments, 
hitherto been drawn almost exclusively from the middle or 
upper classes, and have therefore escaped the special difficulties 
of communities of wage-earners. If, however, we assume that 
the manual workers, who number four-fifths of the population, 
will gradually become the dominant influence in the elector- 
ate, and will contribute an important and increasing section 
of the representatives, the governing assemblies of the Coal- 

1 " There are two elements co-existent in the conduct of human affairs policy 
and administration but, though the confines of their respective jurisdictions 
overlap, the functions of each must of necessity be exercised within its own 
domain by its own hierarchy the one consisting of trained specialists and 
experts, intimately conversant with the historical traditions of their own depart- 
ment and with the minutest details of the subjects with which they are concerned, 
the other qualified by their large converse with whatever is influential and 
intelligent in their own country or on the European Continent, and, above all, 
by their Parliamentary talents and their tactful appreciation of public opinion, to 
determine the general lines along which the destinies of their country should be 
led." Speech by the Marquis of Dufferin, Times, I2th June 1897. 



Representative Institutions 65 

miners or Cotton Operatives to-day may be to a large extent 
prophetic of the future legislative assembly in any English- 
speaking community. 

One inference seems to us clear. Any effective participa- 
tion of the wage-earning class in the councils of the nation 
involves the establishment of a new calling, that of the 
professional representative. For the parish or town council 
it is possible to elect men who will continue to work 
at their trades, just as a Trade Union branch can be 
administered by committee-men and officers in full work. 
The adoption of the usual Co-operative and Trade Union 
practice of paying travelling expenses and an allowance for 
the actual time spent on the public business would suffice 
to enable workmen to attend the district or county council. 
But the governing assembly of any important state must 
always demand practically the whole time of its members. 
The working-man representative in the House of Commons 
is therefore most closely analogous, not to the working miner 
or spinner who attends the Coal or Cotton Parliament, but 
to the permanent and salaried official representatives, who, 
in both these assemblies, exercise the predominant influence 
and control the executive work. The analogy may therefore 
seem to point to the election to the House of Commons of 
the trained representative who has been successful in the 
parliament of his trade. 

Such a suggestion misses the whole moral of Trade 
Union history. The cotton or coal -mining official repre- 
sentative succeeds in influencing his own trade assembly 
because he has mastered the technical details of all the 
business that comes before it ; because his whole life has 
been one long training for the duties which he has to 
discharge ; because, in short, he has become a professional 
expert in ascertaining and representing the desires of his 
constituents and in bringing about the conditions of their 
fulfilment. But transport this man to the House of 
Commons, and he finds himself confronted with facts and 
problems as foreign to his experience and training as his 
VOL. i F 



66 Trade Union Structure 

own business would be to the banker or the country gentle- 
man. What the working class will presently recognise is 
that the duties of a parliamentary representative constitute 
as much a new business to the Trade Union official as the 
duties of a general secretary are to the ordinary mechanic. 
When workmen desire to be as efficiently represented in 
the Parliament of the nation as they are in their own 
trade assemblies, they will find themselves compelled to 
establish a class of expert parliamentary representatives, 
just as they have had to establish a class of expert trade 
officials. 

We need not consider in any detail what effect an influx 
of " labor members " of this new type would probably have 
upon the British House of Commons. Any one who has 
watched the deliberations of the Coal or the Cotton Parlia- 
ment, or the periodical revising committees of the other 
great unions, will have been impressed by the disinclination 
of the professional representative to mere talk, his impatience 
of dilatory procedure, and his determination to "get the 
business through" within working hours. Short speeches, 
rigorous closure, and an almost extravagant substitution 
of printed matter for lengthy " front bench " explanations 
render these assemblies among the most efficient of demo- 
cratic bodies. 1 

More important is it to consider in what respects, 
judging from Trade Union analogies, the expert professional 
representative will differ from the unpaid politician to whom 
the middle and upper classes have hitherto been accustomed. 
We have already described how in the Trade Union world 
the representative has a twofold function, neither part of 
which may be neglected with impunity. He makes it just 
as much his business to ascertain and express the real 
desires of his constituents as he does to control and direct 
the operations of the civil servants of his trade. With the 

1 These representative assemblies present a great contrast to the Trade 
Union Congress, as to which see the subsequent chapter on "The Method of 
Legal Enactment." 



Representative Institutions 67 

entrance into the House of Commons of men of this type, 
the work of ascertaining and expressing the wishes of the 
constituencies would be much more deliberately pursued 
than at present. The typical member of Parliament to-day 
attends to such actual expressions of opinion as reach him 
from his constituency in a clear and definite form, but 
regards it as no part of his work actively to discover what 
the silent or inarticulate electors are vaguely desiring. He 
visits his constituency at rare intervals, and then only to 
expound his own views in set speeches at public meetings, 
whilst his personal intercourse is almost entirely limited 
to persons of his own class or to political wire-pullers. 
Whatever may be his intentions, he is seldom in touch 
with any but the middle or upper class, together with 
that tiny section of all classes to whom " politics " is of 
constant interest. Of the actual grievances and " dim in- 
articulate" aspirations of the bulk of the people, the lower 
middle and the wage-earning class, he has practically no 
conception. When representation of working-class opinion 
becomes a profession, as in the Trade Union world, we see 
a complete revolution in the attitude of the representative 
towards his constituents. To find out what his constituents 
desire becomes an essential part of his work. It will not do 
to wait until they write to him, for the working-man is slow 
to put pen to paper. Hence the professional Trade Union 
representative takes active steps to learn what the silent 
members are thinking. He spends his whole time, when 
not actually in session, in his constituency. He makes few 
set speeches at public gatherings, but he is diligent in 
attending branch meetings, and becomes an attentive listener 
at local committees. At his office he is accessible to every 
one of his constituents. It is, moreover, part of the regular 
routine of such a functionary to be constantly communicat- 
ing with every one of his constituents by means of frequent 
circulars on points which he believes to be of special interest 
to them. If, therefore, the professional representative, as we 
know him in the Trade Union world, becomes a feature of 



68 Trade Union Structure 

the House of Commons, the future member of Parliament 
will feel himself not only the authoritative exponent of 
the votes of his constituents, but also their " London 
Correspondent," their parliamentary agent, and their 
expert adviser in all matters of legislation or general 
politics. 1 

It is impossible to forecast all the consequences that 
would follow from raising (or, as some would say, degrading) 
the parliamentary representative from an amateur to a pro- 
fessional. But among other things the whole etiquette of 
the situation would be changed. At present it is a point 
of honor in a member of Parliament not to express his 
constituents' desires when he conscientiously differs from 
them. To the " gentleman politician " the only alternative 
to voting as he himself thinks best is resigning his seat. 
This delicacy is unknown to any paid professional agent. 
The architect, solicitor, or permanent civil servant, after 
tendering his advice and supporting his views with all his 
expert authority, finally carries out whatever policy his 
employer commands. This is also the view which the 
professional representative of the Trade Union world takes 
of his own duties. It is his business not only to put before 
his constituents what he believes to be their best policy and 
to back up his opinion with all the argumentative power he 
can bring to bear, but also to put his entire energy into 
wrestling with what he conceives to be their ignorance, and 
to become for the time a vigorous propagandist of his own 
policy. But if, when he has done his best in this way, he 
fails to get a majority over to his view, he loyally accepts 
the decision and records his vote in accordance with his 
constituents' desires. We imagine that professional repre- 
sentatives of working-class opinion in the House of Commons 
would take the same course. 2 

1 " Representatives ought to give light and leading to the people, just as the 
people give stimulus and momentum to their representatives." J. Bryce, The 
American Commonwealth (London, 1891), vol. i. p. 297. 

2 It is interesting to notice that in the country in which the "sovereignty of 






Representative Institutions 69 

This may at first seem to indicate a return of the pro- 
fessional representative to the position of a delegate. Trade 
Union experience points, however, to the very reverse. In the 
great majority of cases a constituency cannot be said to have 
any clear and decided views on particular projects. What 
they ask from their representative is that he shall act in the 
manner which, in his opinion, will best serve to promote 
their general desires. It is only in particular instances, 
usually when some well-intentioned proposal entails im- 
mediately inconvenient results, that a wave of decided 
opinion spreads through a working-class constituency. It 
is exactly in cases of this kind that a propagandist campaign 
by a professional debater, equipped with all the facts, is of 
the greatest utility. Such a campaign would be the very 
last thing that a member of Parliament of the present type 
would venture upon if he thought that his constituents were 
against him. He would feel that the less the points of 
difference were made prominent, the better for his own 
safety. But once it came to be understood that the final 
command of the constituency would be obeyed, the repre- 
sentative would run no risk of losing his seat, merely because 
he did his best to convert his constituents. Judging from 
Trade Union experience he would, in nine cases out of ten, 
succeed in converting them to his own view, and thus 
perform a valuable piece of political education. In the 
tenth case the campaign would have been no less educa- 
tional, though in another way ; and, whichever was the 
right view, the issue would have been made clear, the facts 
brought out, and the way opened for the eventual conversion 
of one or other of the contending parties. 

Trade Union experience indicates, therefore, a still further 
development in the evolution of the representative. Working- 

the people " has been most whole-heartedly accepted, the Trade Union practice 
prevails. The members of the Swiss " Bundesrath " (Federal Cabinet) do not 
resign when any project is disapproved of by the legislature, nor do the members 
of the " Nationalrath " throw up their legislative functions when a measure is 
rejected by the electors on Referendum. Both cabinet ministers and legislators 
set themselves to carry out the popular will. 



70 Trade Union Structure 

class democracy will expect him not only to be able to 
understand and interpret the desires of his electors, and 
effectively to direct and control the administrating executive : 
he must also count it as part of his duty to be the expert 
parliamentary adviser of his constituency, and at times an 
active propagandist of his own advice. Thus, if any inference 
from Trade Union history is valid in the larger sphere, the 
whole tendency of working-class democracy will unconsciously 
be to exalt the real power of the representative, and more 
and more to differentiate his functions from those of the 
ordinary citizen on the one hand, and of the expert admini- 
strator on the other. The typical representative assembly of 
the future will, it may be suggested, be as far removed from 
the House of Commons of to-day as the latter is from the 
mere Delegate Meeting. We have already travelled far from 
the one man taken by rotation from the roll, and changed 
mechanically to convey " the voices " of the whole body. We 
may in the future leave equally behind the member to whom 
wealth, position, or notoriety secures, almost by accident, a 
seat in Parliament, in which he can, in such intervals as his 
business or pleasure may leave him, decide what he thinks 
best for the nation. In his stead we may watch appearing in 
increasing numbers the professional representative, a man 
selected for natural aptitude, deliberately trained for his new 
work as a special vocation, devoting his whole time to the 
discharge of his manifold duties, and actively maintaining 
an intimate and reciprocal intellectual relationship with his 
constituency. 

How far such a development of the representative will 
fit in with the party system as we now know it ; how far it 
will increase the permanence and continuity of parliamentary 
life ; how far it will promote collective action and tend to 
increasing bureaucracy ; how far, on the other hand, it will 
bring the ordinary man into active political citizenship, and 
rehabilitate the House of Commons in popular estimation ; 
how far, therefore, it will increase the real authority of the 
people over the representative assembly, and of the repre- 



Representative Institutions 71 

sentative assembly over the permanent civil service ; how far, 
in fine, it will give us that combination of administrative 
efficiency with popular control which is at once the requisite 
and the ideal of all democracy all these are questions that 
make the future interesting. 



CHAPTER III 

THE UNIT OF GOVERNMENT 

TPIE trade clubs of the eighteenth century inherited from 
the Middle Ages the tradition of strictly localised corpora- 
tions, the unit of government necessarily coinciding, like that 
of the English craft gild, with the area of the particular city 
in which the members lived. And we can well imagine that 
a contemporary observer of the constitution and policy of 
these little democracies might confidently have predicted that 
they, like the craft gilds, must inevitably remain strictly 
localised bodies. The crude and primitive form of popular 
government to which, as we have seen, the workmen were 
obstinately devoted, could only serve the needs of a small 
and local society. Government by general meeting of all 
the members, administration by the forced service of indi- 
viduals taken in rotation from the roll in short, the ideal 
of each member taking an equal and identical share in the 
management of public affairs was manifestly impracticable 
in any but a society of which the members met each other 
with the frequent intimacy of near neighbours. Yet in spite 
of all difficulties of constitutional machinery, the historian 
watches these local trade clubs, in marked contrast with the 
craft gilds, irresistibly expanding into associations of national 
extent. Thus, the little friendly club which twenty -three 
Bolton ironfounders established in 1809 spread steadily over 
the whole of England, Ireland, and Wales, until to-day it 
numbers over 16,000 members, dispersed among 122 separate 



The Unit of Government 73 

branches. The scores of little clubs of millwrights and 
steam-engine makers, fitters and blacksmiths, as if impelled 
by some overmastering impulse, drew together between 1 840 
and 1851 to form the great Amalgamated Society of 
Engineers. The Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and 
Joiners (established 1860) has, in the thirty-five years of its 
existence, absorbed several dozens of local carpenters' societies, 
and now counts within its ranks four-fifths of the organised 
carpenters in the kingdom. Finally, we see organisations 
established, like the Amalgamated Society of Railway 
Servants in 1872, with the deliberate intention of covering 
the whole trade from one end of the kingdom to the other. 
How slowly, painfully, and reluctantly the workmen have 
modified their crude ideas of democracy to meet the exigencies 
of a national organisation, we have already described. 

But it was not merely the workman's simplicity in matters 
of government that hampered the growth of national organisa- 
tion. The traditional policy of the craftsman of the English 
town the restriction of the right to work to those who had 
acquired the " freedom " of the corporation, the determined 
exclusion of " interlopers," and the craving to keep trade 
from going out of the town has left deep roots in English 
industrial life, alike among the shopkeepers and among the 
workmen. Trade Unionism has had constantly to struggle 
against this spirit of local monopoly, specially noticeable in 
the seaport towns. 1 

Down to the middle of the present century the ship- 
wrights had an independent local club in every port, each of 
which strove with might and main to exclude from any 
chance of work in the port all but men who had learnt their 
trade within its bounds. These monopoly rules caused 
incessant friction between the men of the several ports. 
Shipwrights out of work in one town could not perma- 
nently be kept away from another in which more hands were 

1 It is interesting to note that the modern forms of the monopoly spirit are 
also specially characteristic of the industry of shipbuilding ; see the chapter on 
" The Right to a Trade." 



74 Trade Union Structure 

wanted. The newcomers, refused admission into the old port 
society, eventually formed a new local union among them- 
selves, and naturally tended to ignore the trade regulations 
maintained by the monopolists. To remedy this disastrous 
state of things a loose federation was between 1850 and 
1860 gradually formed among the local societies for the 
express purpose of discussing, at annual congresses, how to 
establish more satisfactory relations between the ports. In 
the records of these congresses we watch, for nearly thirty 
years, the struggle of the monopolist societies against the 
efforts of those, such as Glasgow and Newcastle, whose 
circumstances had converted them to a belief in complete 
mobility of labor within a trade. The open societies 
at last lost patience with the conservative spirit of the 
others, and in 1882 united to form a national amalgamated 
union, based on the principle of a common purse and 
complete mobility between port and port. This organisa- 
tion, the Associated Shipwrights' Society, has, in fifteen 
years, succeeded in absorbing all but three of the local 
societies, and now extends to every port in the kingdom. 
" In these times of mammoth firms, with large capital," writes 
the general secretary, " the days of local societies' utility have 
gone by, and it is to be hoped the few still remaining outside 
the consolidated association of their trade will ere long lay 
aside all local animus and trivial objections, or personal 
feeling ... for the paramount interest of their trade." l 

The history of the Shipwrights' organisation is typical 
of that of other port unions. The numerous societies of 
Sailmakers, once rigidly monopolist, are now united in a 
federation, within which complete mobility prevails.' 2 The 
Coopers' societies, which in the port towns had formerly 
much in common with the Shipwrights, now, with one excep- 
tion, admit to membership any duly apprenticed cooper from 

1 Twelfth Annual Report of Associated Shipwrights' Society (Newcastle, 1 894), 
p. xi. 

2 Rules for the Guidance of the Federation of the Sailmakers of Great Britain 
and Ireland (Hull, 1890). 



The Unit of Government 75 

another town. But the main citadels of local monopoly 
in the Trade Union world have always been the trade clubs 
of Dublin, Cork, and Limerick. The Dublin Coopers have, 
even at the present time, a rigidly closed society, which 
refuses all intercourse with other unions, and maintains, 
through an ingenious arrangement, a strict monopoly of this 
important coopering centre j 1 and the Cork Stonemasons, 
who are combined in an old local club, whilst insisting on 
working at Fermoy whenever they please, will not, as we 
learn, suffer any mason, from Fermoy or elsewhere, to obtain 
employment at Cork. 

Even in Ireland, however, the development of Trade 
Unionism is hostile to local monopoly. Any growing in- 
dustry is quickly invaded by members of the great English 
societies, who establish their own branches and force the 
local clubs to come to terms. One by one old Irish unions 
apply to be admitted as branches into the richer and more 
powerful English societies, and have in consequence to accept 
the principle of complete mobility of labor. The famous 

1 The arrangement is as follows : The Dublin Coopers do not prohibit 
strangers from working in Dublin when more coopers are wanted. On such 
occasions the secretary writes to coopers' societies in other towns, notably Burton, 
stating the number of men required. Upon all such outsiders a tax of a shilling 
a week is levied as " working fee," half of which benefits the Dublin society, the 
other half being accumulated to pay the immigrant's return fare. As soon as 
work shows signs of approaching slackness, the "foreigner" receives warning 
that he must instantly depart : it is said that his return ticket is presented to him, 
with any balance remaining out of his weekly sixpence. As many as 200 
" strangers " will in this way sometimes be paid off, and sent away in a single 
week. By this means the Dublin Coopers (a) secure absolute regularity of 
employment for their own members, (b] provide the extra labor required in busy 
times, and (c) maintain their own control over the conditions under which the 
work is done. The employers appear to be satisfied with the arrangement, which, 
so far as we have been able to ascertain, is the only surviving instance of what 
was once a common rule of port unions. Thus, the rules of Queenstown Ship- 
wrights' Society, right down to its absorption in the Associated Shipwrights' 
Society (in 1894), included a provision that "no strange shipwright" should be 
allowed to work in the town while a member was idle. And the Liverpool 
Sailmakers' Society (established 1817) has, among the MS. rules preserved in the 
old minute-book, one providing that "strangers" with indentures should be 
allowed to work at "legal sail-rooms," but should members be unable to obtain 
employment elsewhere, then " the stranger shall be discharged and the member be 
engaged." 



76 Trade Union Structure 

" Dublin Regulars," a rigidly monopolist local carpenters' 
union, claiming descent from the gilds, and always striving 
to exclude from admission any but the sons of the members, 1 
became, in 1890, at the instance of its younger members, one 
of the 629 branches of the Amalgamated Society of Car- 
penters and Joiners, bound to admit to work fellow-members 
from all parts of the world. Among the Irish Shipwrights, 
too, once the most rigidly monopolist of all, this tendency 
has progressed with exceptional rapidity. The annual report 
of the Associated Shipwrights' Society for 1893 records 2 
the absorption in that year alone of no fewer than six old 
Irish port unions, each of which had hitherto striven to 
maintain for its members all the work of its own port. 

But although the growth of national organisation has 
done much to break down this spirit of local monopoly, 
we do not wish to imply that it has been completely 
eradicated. The workman, whether a Trade Unionist or 
not, still shares with the shopkeeper and the small manu- 
facturer, the old instinctive objection to work "going out 
of the town." The proceedings of local authorities often 
reveal to us the " small master," the retail tradesman, 
and the local artisan all insisting that " the ratepayers' 
money " should be spent so as directly to benefit the local 
trade. Trade Unionists are not backward in making use 
of this vulgar error when it suits their purpose, and the 
" labor members " of town or county councils can seldom 
refrain, whenever it is proposed "to send work into the 
country," from adopting an argument which they find so 
convincing to many of their middle-class colleagues. 8 

1 See, for instance, the detailed account of it given in the Report on Trade 
Societies and Strikes of the National Association for the Promotion of Social Science 
(1860), pp. 418-423. 

2 Tivelfth Annual Report of the Associated Shipwrights' Society, p. xi. (New- 
castle, 1894). 

3 During the first eight years of the London County Council (1889-97) several 
attempts were made to confine contracts to London firms. It is interesting to 
note that these all emanated from middle-class members of the Moderate Party, and 
that they were opposed by John Burns and a large majority of the " Labor 
Members " and Progressives, as well as by the more responsible of the " Moderates." 



The Unit of Government 77 

But if we follow the Labor Member from the council 
chamber to his Trade Union branch meeting, we shall 
recognise that the grievance felt by his Trade Unionist 
constituents is not exclusively, or even mainly, based on 
the " local protectionism " of the shopkeeper and the small 
manufacturer. What the urban Trade Unionist actually 
resists is not any loss of work to a particular locality, but 
the incessant attempt of contractors to evade the Trade 
Union regulations, by getting the work done in districts in 
which the workmen are either not organised at all, or in 
which they are working at a low Standard Rate. Thus the 
Friendly Society of Operative Stonemasons incurs consider- 
able odium because the branches in many large towns insert 
in their local rules a prohibition of the use of stone imported 
in a worked state from any outside district. But this general 
prohibition arises from the fact that the practical alternative 
to working the stone on the spot is getting it worked in the 
district in which it is quarried. Now, whatever mechanical 
or economic advantage may be claimed for the latter 
practice, it so happens that the quarry districts are those 
in which the Stonemasons are worst organised. In these 
districts for the most part, no Standard Rate exists, the 
hours of labor are long and variable, and competitive piece- 
work, unregulated by any common agreement, usually prevails. 
Moreover, any transference of work from the Stonemasons 
of large cities where jobs dovetail with each other, to the 
Stonemasons of quarry villages, entirely dependent on the 
spasmodic orders for worked stone received by the quarry 
>wner, necessarily involves an increase in the number of 
Stonemasons exposed to irregularity of work, and habitually 
on tramp " from county to county. 1 

1 For instance the "Working Rules to be observed by the Master Builders 
and Operative Stonemasons of Portsmouth," signed in 1893, by ten master 
builders and four workmen, on behalf of their respective associations, include the 
following provision, " That no piecework be allowed and no worked stone to 
come into the town except square steps, flags, curbs, and landings, and no brick- 
' yers to fix worked stone." The London rules are not so explicit. As formally 
jreed to in \ 893 by the associations of employers and employed, they provide 



78 Trade Union Structure 

We may trace a similar feeling in the protests frequently 
made by the branches of the National Union of Boot and 
Shoe Operatives, against work being sent into the country 
villages, or even from a centre in which wages are high, to 
one working under a lower " statement." That this is not 
merely a disguised " local protectionism " may be seen from 
the fact that the Northampton Branch actually resolved in 
1888 to strike, not against Northampton employers sending 
work out of the town, but against a London manufacturer 
sending his work to Northampton. 1 In 1889, the Executive 
Council of the same union found itself driven to take action 
against the systematic attempts of certain employers to 
evade the wages agreement which they had formally entered 
into, by sending their work away to have certain processes 

that " piecework and subcontracting for labor only shall on no account be resorted 
to, excepting for granite kerb, York paving and turning." The London Stone- 
masons, however, claim, as for instance in their complaint in 1894 against the 
Works Department of the London County Council, that this rule must be 
interpreted so as to exclude the use in London of stone worked in a quarry 
district. This claim was successfully resisted by the Trade Union repre- 
sentatives who sat on the Works Committee. We subsequently investigated 
this case ourselves, tracing the stone (a long run of sandstone kerb for park 
railings) back to Derbyshire, where it was quarried and worked. We found the 
district totally unorganised, the stonemasons' work being done largely by boy- 
labor, at competitive piecework, without settled agreement, by non-unionists, 
working irregular and sometimes excessive hours. It was impossible not to feel 
that, although the London Stonemasons had expressed their objection in the 
wrong terms and therefore had failed to obtain redress, they were, according 
to the " Fair Wages " policy adopted by the County Council and the House 
of Commons, justified in their complaint. Unfortunately, instead of bringing 
to the notice of the Committee the actual conditions under which the stone 
was being worked, they relied on the argument that the London ratepayers' 
money should be spent on London workmen. This argument, as they afterwards 
explained to us, had been found the most effective with the shopkeepers and 
small manufacturers who dominate provincial Town Councils. The Trade 
Unionist members of the London County Council proved obdurate to this 
economic heresy. 

1 Shoe and Leather Record, 28th July 1888. In the same way a general 
meeting of the Manchester Stonemasons, in 1862, decided to support a strike- 
against a Manchester employer who, carrying out a contract at Altrincham, eight 
miles off, had his stone worked at Manchester, instead of at Altrincham, as 
required by the working rules of the Altrincham branch. In this case, the 
Manchester Stonemasons struck against work coming to themselves at a higher 
rate per hour than was demanded by the Altrincham masons. Stonemasons' 
Fortnightly Return^ September 1862. 



The Unit of Government 79 

done in lower - paid districts. These employers were 
accordingly informed, not that the work must be kept in 
the town, but that, wherever it was executed, the "shop 
statement " which they had signed must be adhered to. It 
was at the same time expressly intimated that if these 
employers chose to set up works of their own in a new 
place, " they will be at perfect liberty to do so," without 
objection from the union, even if they chose a low-paid 
district, " provided that they pay the highest rate of wages 
of the district to which they go." l 

We have quoted the strongest instances of Trade Union 
objection to " work going out of the town," in order to 
unravel, from the common stock of economic prejudice, the 
impulse which is distinctive of Trade Unionism itself. It is 
customary for persons interested in the prosperity of one 
establishment, one town or one district, to seek to obtain 
trade for that particular establishment, town or district. 
Had Trade Unions remained, like the mediaeval craft gilds, 
organisations of strictly local membership, they must, almost 
inevitably, have been marked by a similar local favoritism. 
But the whole tendency of Trade Union history has been 
towards the solidarity of each trade as a whole. The 
natural selfishness of the local branches is accordingly always 
being combated by the central executives and national 
delegate meetings, in the wider interests of the whole body 
of the members wherever they may be working. Just in 
proportion as Trade Unionism is strong and well established 
we find the old customary favoritism of locality replaced 
by the impartial enforcement of uniform conditions upon 
all districts alike. When, for instance, the Amalgamated 
Association of Cotton Weavers, in delegate meeting assembled, 
finally decided to adopt a uniform list of piecework prices, 
the members then working at Great Harwood found no 
sympathy for their plea that such a measure would reduce 

1 The "National Conference" of the Union passed a similar resolution in 
1886; Monthly Report of the National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives, 
January 1887 and February 1889. 



80 Trade Union Structure 

their own exceptionally high rates. And although it was 
foreseen and declared that uniformity would tend to the 
concentration of the manufacture in the most favorably 
situated districts, to the consequent loss of the more remote 
villages, the delegates from these villages almost unanimously 
supported what was believed to be good for the trade as a 
whole. 1 

In another industry, the contrast between the old " local 
protectionism " and the Trade Unionist view has resulted in 
an interesting change in electioneering tactics. The London 
Society of Compositors and the Typographical Association 
have, for the last ten years, used more electoral pressure with 
regard to the distribution of local work, than any other Trade 
Union. So long as parliamentary electors belonged mainly to 
the middle class, a parliamentary candidate was advised by his 
agent to distribute his large printing orders fairly among all 
parts of his constituency, and under no circumstances to employ 
a printer living beyond its boundary. Now the astute agent, 
eager to conciliate the whole body of organised workmen in 
the constituency, confines his printing strictly to the best 
Trade Union establishments, although this usually involves 
passing over most of the local establishments and sometimes 
even giving work to firms outside the district. The influence 
of the Trade Union leaders is used, not to maintain their 
respective trades in all the places in which they happen to 
exist, but to strengthen, at the expense of the rest, those 
establishments, those towns, and even those districts, in which 
the conditions of work are most advantageous. 

We see, therefore, that in spite of the difficulties of 
government, in spite of the strong inherited tradition of 
local exclusiveness, and in spite, too, of the natural selfish- 
ness of each branch in desiring to preserve its own local 
monopoly, the unit of government in the workmen's organ- 
isations, in complete contrast to the gilds of the master- 

i Special meeting of General Council of Amalgamated Association of Cotton 
Weavers, soth April 1892, attended by one of the authors j see other instances 
cited in the chapter on "The Standard Rate. n 



The Unit of Government 8 1 

craftsmen, has become the trade instead of the town. 1 
Our description of this irresistible tendency to expan- 
sion has already to some extent revealed its cause, in the 
Trade Union desire to secure uniform minimum conditions 
throughout each industry. In our examination of the 
Methods and Regulations of Trade Unionism, and in our 
analysis of their economic working, we shall discover the 
means by which the wage-earners seek to attain this end, 
and the reasons which convince them of its importance. 
In the final part of our work we shall examine how far such 
an equality is economically possible or desirable. For the 
moment the reader must accept the fact that this uniformity 
of minimum is, whether wisely or not, the most permanent 
of Trade Union aspirations. 

Meanwhile it is interesting to note that this conception 
of the solidarity of each trade as a whole is checked by 
racial differences. The great national unions of Engineers 
ind Carpenters find no difficulty in extending their organisa- 
tions beyond national boundaries, and easily open branches 
in the United States or the South African Republic, France 
or Spain, provided that these branches are composed of British 
workmen. 2 But it is needless to say that it has not yet 
ippeared practicable to any British Trade Union even to 
suggest amalgamation with the Trade Union of any other 
mntry. Differences in legal position, in political status, in 
industrial methods, and in the economic situation between 

1 Where at the present day a widespread English industry is without a pre- 
Dnderating national Trade Union, it is simply a mark of imperfect organisation. 

ms the numerous little Trade Unions of Painters, and Chippers and Drillers 
:lude only a small proportion of those at work in the trades. 

2 The Amalgamated Society of Engineers had, in 1896, 82 branches beyond 
ic United Kingdom, and the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners no 

fewer than 87. About half of these are in the United States or Canada, and 
most of the remainder in the Australian Colonies or South Africa. The Engineers 
had one branch in France, at Croix, and formerly one in Spain, at Bilbao, 
where the United Society of Boilermakers also had a branch until 1894. In the 
years 1880-82 the United Society of Boilermakers even had a branch at Con- 
stantinople. The only other English Trade Union having branches beyond sea 
is the Steam-Engine Makers' Society, which has opened lodges at New York, 
Montreal, and Brisbane. 

VOL. I G 



82 Trade Union Structure 

French and English workers not to mention the barrier of 
language easily account for the indisposition on the part 
of practical British workmen to consider an international 
amalgamated union. And it is significant that, even within 
the British Isles, the progress towards national union has 
been much hampered by differences of racial sentiment and 
divergent views of social expediency. The English carpenter, 
plumber, or smith who finds himself working in a Scotch 
town, is apt to declare the Scotch union in his trade to be 
little better than a friendly society, and to complain that 
Scotch workmen are too eager for immediate gain and for 
personal advancement sufficiently to resist such dangerous 
innovations as competitive piecework, nibbling at the 
Standard Rate, or habitual overtime. The Scotchman 
retorts that the English Trade Union is extravagant in its 
expenditure, especially at the head office in London or 
Manchester, and unduly restrictive in its Regulations and 
Methods. In some cases the impulse towards amalgama- 
tion has prevailed over this divergence as to what is socially 
expedient. The United Society of Boilermakers, which 
extends without a rival from sea to sea, was able in 1889, 
through the loyalty of the bulk of its Scottish members, to 
stamp out an attempted secession, aiming at a national 
society on the banks of the Clyde, which evoked the support 
of Scottish national feeling, voiced by the Glasgow Trades 
Council. In other cases Scotch pertinacity has conquered 
England. The Associated Shipwrights' Society, the rise and 
national development of which we have already described, 
sprang out of the Glasgow Shipwrights' Union, which gave 
to the wider organisation its able and energetic secretary, 
Mr. Alexander Wilkie. The British Steel Smelters' Associa- 
tion (established 1886) has spread from Glasgow over the 
whole industry in the Northern and Midland districts of 
England. In both these cases the Scotch have " stooped 
to conquer," the Scottish secretary moving to an English 
town as the centre of membership shifted towards the south. 
But in other trades the prevailing tendency towards complete 



The Unit of Government 83 

national amalgamation is still baffled by the sturdy Scotch 
determination due partly to differences of administration 
but mainly to racial sentiment not to be " governed from 
England." l The powerful English national unions of Car- 
penters, Handworking Bootmakers, Plumbers, and Bricklayers 
have either never attempted or have failed to persuade their 
Scottish fellow-workmen to give up their separate Scottish 
societies. The rival national societies of Tailors are always 
at war, making periodical excursions across the Border, this 
establishment of branches in each other's territories giving 
rise to heated recriminations. In many important trades, 
such as the Compositors, Stonemasons, and Ironfounders, 
effective Trade Unionism is as old in Scotland as in 
England, and the two national societies in each trade, whilst 
retaining complete Home Rule, have settled down to a 
fraternal relationship, which amounts to tacit if not formal 
federation. 

Ireland presents a similar case of racial differences, 
working in a somewhat different manner. Whereas the 
English Trade Unions have keenly desired union with 
Scottish local societies, they have, until lately, manifested a 
marked dislike to having anything to do with Ireland. 2 This 
has been, in some cases at least, the result of experience. 

1 Analogous tendencies may be traced in the Friendly Society movement, 
though to a lesser extent. The Scottish lodges of the Manchester Unity of Odd- 
fellows have their own peculiar rules. The Scottish delegates to the Foresters' 
High Court at Edinburgh in 1894, were among the most strenuous opponents 
of the proposal to fix the headquarters (at present moving annually from town to 
town) in London or Birmingham. And though exclusively Scottish Orders have 
never yet succeeded in widely establishing themselves, it is not uncommon for 
Scottish lodges to threaten secession, as when, in 1889, five Scottish lodges of 
the Bolton Unity of the Ancient Noble Order of Oddfellows endeavoured to start 
a new "Scottish Unity" (Oddfellows' Magazine, March 1889, p. 70). Such a 
secession from the Manchester Unity resulted in the " Scottish Order of Odd- 
fellows" which has, however, under 2000 members. There exist also the "St. 
Andrew's Order of Ancient Free Gardeners of Scotland," with 6000 members, and 
a " United Order of Scottish Mechanics," with 4000 members, which refuse to 
merge themselves in the larger Orders. 

2 Scottish branches are declared by Trade Union secretaries to be profitable 
recruits from a financial point of view, because they are habitually frugal and 
cautious in dispensing friendly benefits. 



84 Trade Union Structure 

From 1832 down to 1840, Irish lodges were admitted to 
the Friendly Society of Operative Stonemasons, on the same 
footing as English, whilst the Scotch masons had already 
their independent organisation. The fortnightly reports 
during these years reveal constant friction between the 
central executive and the Irish branches, who would not 
agree among themselves, and who persisted in striking 
against members from other Irish towns. At the Delegate 
Meeting in 1839 the Irish branches had to be specially 
deprived of the right to strike without prior permission, even 
in those cases in which the rules allowed to English branches 
the instantaneous cessation of work to resist encroachments 
on established customs. 1 But even with this precaution 
the drain of the Irish lodges upon the English members 
became unendurable. At length in 1840, the general 
secretary was sent on a special mission of investigation, 
which revealed every kind of financial irregularity. The 
Irish lodges were found to have an incurable propensity to 
dispense benefits to all and sundry irrespective of the rules, 
and an invincible objection to English methods of account- 
keeping. The Dublin lodge had to be dissolved as a 
punishment for retaining to itself monies remitted by the 
Central Committee for other Irish lodges. The central 
executive who, in 1837, had successfully resisted a proposi- 
tion emanating from a Warwickshire district in favor of 
Home Rule for Ireland, " as such separation would injure 
the stability of the society," 2 now reported in its favor. " We 
are convinced," says the report, " that a very great amount 
of money had been sent to Ireland for the relief of tramps, 
etc. ... to which they had no legal right. . . . However 
much a separation may be regretted, we feel convinced that 
until they are thrown more on their own resources, they will 
not sufficiently estimate the benefits derivable from such an 
institution to exert themselves on its behalf." 3 The receipts 

1 Rules of the Friendly Society of Operative Stonemasons (edition of 1839). 

2 Resolutions of the Delegate Meeting 1837. 
3 Stonemason? Fortnightly Return, 2nd January 1840. 



The Unit of Government 85 

from Ireland for the year had been 47 : IDS., whilst the 
remittances to Ireland had amounted to no less than 545. 
It is not surprising that the society promptly voted the 
exclusion of all the Irish branches. 

In 1850 the Executive Committee of the Provincial 
Typographical Association were "reluctantly compelled to 
declare their conviction that no English executive can 
successfully manage an Association embracing branches so 
geographically distant and so materially different in their 
regulations and their mode of remuneration as those of the 
sister kingdom." The union thereupon gave up the one 
Irish branch (Waterford) which had not already insisted on 
its independence, and refused to entertain any proposals for 
new ones. 1 Other societies which, in more recent years, have 
had Irish branches appear to have found them equally un- 
profitable, and a source of constant trouble. The records of 
the Amalgamated Society of Tailors are full of references to 
the extravagance and financial mismanagement of its Irish 
branches. During the year 1892 no less than four of the 
principal Irish branches of the society were rebuked by the 
Executive Council upon this account. One of these had sub- 
sequently to be closed, the Executive stating that its " report 
is altogether wrong, and does not balance. The contributions 
do not average lod. per member, and the rent of the club- 
room is more than the whole income from the branch. If a 
satisfactory explanation is not sent at once the branch must be 
closed." 2 Finally, in 1896, the Executive of the Associated 

1 Half -Yearly Report of the Provincial Typographical Association, 3ist 
December 1850. 

2 Quarterly Report of the Amalgamated Society of Tailors, April 1892. 
Report on the Ennis branch. In this connection the following extract from the 
proceedings of the High Court of the Ancient Order of Foresters in 1894 will 
be interesting. The executive had found it necessary to hold a special investiga- 
tion into the affairs of the Dublin District ; and they recommended the grant of 
certain advantages upon condition of reform. This proposal led to a lively 
debate. "Were they going," said one prominent Forester, "to encourage 
extravagant, reckless, and fraudulent mismanagement? The report presented 
to them showed distinctly that there had been extravagant, reckless, and 
fraudulent mismanagement. . . . Not less than 997 had been voted by 
previous High Courts towards the relief of Dublin Courts. . . . The Order's 



86 Trade Union Structure 

Shipwrights' Society reported that it had been compelled 
" to close the Dublin branch, notwithstanding that the E. C. 
had instructed both the general secretary and the Humber 
Delegate to visit them. We have not been able to 
receive any correct reports from them for some time, and 
the only word we could get from them was that there was 
no work and no money, yet when your representatives 
visited them the officers were so busy working they had not 
time to convene a meeting of members. . . . Your E. C. 
offered to have all the idle men sent to ports where em- 
ployment could be found them, but we are informed where 
this has been done some of these men, notwithstanding all 
that has been done for them, refused to pay up their 
arrears, and rather than pay left their employment and went 
home. . . . When the branch books were examined it was 
found they were paying both sick and unemployed benefit 
to members who were not entitled to it, and the branch 
officers were receiving salary for work they failed or refused 
to do. Seeing the Dublin branch entirely ignored the 
registered rules, your E. C. had no other option but to 
close the branch. The different branches must deal with 
these men should they come to their ports." 1 

So strong, however, is the dominant impulse towards the 
complete union of a trade from one end of the United 
Kingdom to the other, that it seems, during the last few 
years, to be slowly overcoming the reluctance of both English 
and Irish organisations. From 1889 onward, we find such 
great national unions as the Carpenters, Railway Servants, 
Engineers, Tailors, and Shipwrights freely opening branches 
in Irish towns and absorbing the surviving trade clubs of 

Chief Official Valuer said 'the members have never done their duty.' That 
officer thereupon interposed with the remark, ' It was believed that in connection 
with sickness there was a good deal of malingering.' Another prominent 
Forester said he would attach the (Dublin) Courts to the Glasgow District. . . . 
There was only one element of danger, and it was of putting too many Irishmen 
together." Foresters' Miscellany (September 1894), p. 180. 

1 The Fifty-eighth Quarterly Report, July to September 1896, of the Associ- 
ated Society of Shipwrights, p. 8. 



The Unit of Government 87 

local artisans. 1 The Provincial Typographical Association, 
now become the Typographical Association, has, since 1878, 
opened sixteen branches in Ireland, and now employs a 
salaried organiser for that island, whose efforts have brought 
in many recruits. This tendency has been greatly assisted, 
especially in the engineering and shipbuilding trades, by the 
remarkable industrial development of Belfast. Since 1860 
a constant stream of skilled artisans from England and 
Scotland have settled in that town, with the result that it 
now possesses strong branches of all the national unions of 
both countries. With the shifting of the effective centre of 
Irish Trade Unionism from Dublin to Belfast has come an 
almost irresistible tendency to accept an English or Scottish 
government. On the other hand, attempts to unite the 
separate local societies of Irish towns in national Trade 
Unions for Ireland have almost invariably failed, the Irish 
clubs displaying far more willingness to become branches of 
British unions than to amalgamate among themselves. 2 

Past experience of British Trade Unionism seems, there- 
fore, to point to the whole extent of each trade within the 
British Isles as forming the proper unit of government for 
any combination of the wage-earners in that trade. Any 
unit of smaller area produces an organisation of unstable 
equilibrium, either tending constantly to expansion, or liable 
to supersession by the growth of a rival society. But there 
is a marked contrast between the union of Scotland with 
England, and that effected between either of them and 
Ireland. The English and Scottish Trade Unions federate 
or combine with each other on equal terms. If complete 
amalgamation is decided on, it is frequently the Scotchman, 
bringing with him Scotch procedure and Scotch traditions, 

1 The Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants now (1897) possesses no 
fewer than 56 Irish branches, the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and 
Joiners 56, the Amalgamated Society of Tailors 35, the Amalgamated Society of 
Engineers 19, and the Associated Shipwrights' Society 9. 

2 Almost the only Irish national trade society is the Operative Bakers of 
Ireland National Federal Union, formed in November 1889. An Irish Trade 
Union Congress has been held annually since 1894. 



88 Trade Union Structure 

who is chosen to reign in England, the centre of government 
being shifted almost automatically to the main centre of the 
industry. Union with Ireland invariably means the simple 
absorption of the Irish branch, and the unconditional accept- 
ance of the English or Scottish rules and organisation. This 
is usually brought about by the English or Scottish immi- 
grants into Ireland, aided by sections of Irish members who 
desire to escape from the weakness of internal dissensions, 
and to secure the benefits of efficient administration, with the 
support of a comparatively wealthy and powerful organisation. 1 
Passing now from the boundaries of the autonomous 
state to the relation between central and local authorities 
within it, we watch the Trade Unionists breaking away 
from the traditions of British Democracy. In the political 
expansion of the Anglo-Saxon race, the development of 
local institutions has at least kept pace with the extension 
of empire. In the other great organisations of the British 
working class, which have, equally with Trade Unionism, 
grown from small local beginnings to powerful corporations 
of national, or even international extent, the workmen have 
successfully maintained the complete independence of each 
local unit. The Co-operative Movement includes within the 
British Isles a nominal membership as great as that of Trade 
Unionism, with financial transactions many times larger in 
amount. The 1 700 separate Co-operative Societies have 
united in the colossal business federations of the English 
and Scottish Wholesale Societies, and in the educational 
and political federation called the Co-operative Union. 
But though the Co-operative Movement has gone through 
many developments since its re-birth in 1 844, and has built 
up a u State within the State," the great federal bodies have 

1 It may not be improper to observe, for English political readers, that 
the authors are divided in opinion as to the policy of granting Home Rule to 
Ireland, and are therefore protected against bias in drawing political inferences 
from Trade Union experience in this respect. If it is thought that the facts 
adduced in this chapter tell against Irish self-government, the considerations 
brought forward in the next chapter may be regarded as making against the 
policy of complete union with Great Britain. 



The Unit of Government 89 

remained in all cases nothing but the agents and servants of 
the local societies. 1 And if we turn to a movement still 
more closely analogous to Trade Unionism, we may watch 
in the marvellous expansion of the "Affiliated Orders" 
among the friendly societies, the growth of a world-wide 
working-class organisation, based on an almost complete 
autonomy of the separate " lodges " within each " Order." 2 
To the members of an Oddfellows' Court or a Foresters' 
Lodge any proposal to submit an issue of policy to the 
federal executive would seem an unheard-of innovation. But 
it is in their financial system that this insistence on com- 
plete local autonomy shows itself most decisively. How- 
ever strongly the qualities of benevolence or charity may 
prevail among the Foresters or the Oddfellows, it has never 
occurred to their rich Courts or Lodges to regard their 
surplus funds as being freely at the disposal of those which 
were unable to meet their engagements. Each retains and 
controls its own funds for its own purposes, and its surplus 
balances are considered as being as much the private 
property of its own particular members as their individual 
investments. 

To outward seeming the scattered members of a national 
Trade Union enjoy no less local self-government than those 
of the Ancient Order of Foresters or the Manchester 
Unity of Oddfellows. If the reader were to seek out, in some 
tavern of an industrial centre, the local meeting-place of the 
Foresters or the Carpenters, the Oddfellows or the Boiler- 
makers, he might easily fail, on a first visit, to detect any 
important difference between the Trade Union branch and 
the court or lodge of the friendly society. The Oddfellows 
who use the club-room on a Monday, the Carpenters who 
meet there on a Tuesday, the Foresters who assemble on a 
Thursday, and the Stonemasons or Boilermakers who come 

1 The Co-operative Movement in Great Britain, by Beatrice Potter (Mrs. 
Sidney Webb). 

2 See The Friendly Societies' Movement (London, 1885) and Mutual Thrift 
(London, 1892), by the Rev. J. Frome Wilkinson, and English Associations of 
Working Men, by Dr. J. Baernreither (London, 1892). 



9<D Trade Union Structure 

on successive Fridays, all seem " clubs " managing their own 
affairs. Every night sees the same interminable proces- 
sion of men, women, and children bringing the contribution 
money. When the deliberations begin, they all affect the 
same traditional mystery about "keeping the door," and 
retain the long pause outside before admitting the nervous 
aspirant for " initiation " ; they all " open the lodge " with the 
same kind of cautious solemnity, and dignify with strange 
titles and formal methods of address the officers whom they 
are perpetually electing and re-electing. But if the visitor 
listens carefully he will notice, in the Trade Union business, 
constant references to mysterious outside authorities. The 
whole branch may show itself in favor of the grant of 
benefit to a particular applicant, but the secretary will 
observe that any such payment would have to come out 
of his own pocket, as the central executive has intimated 
that the case is not within its interpretation of the rules. 
The branch treasurer may announce that the balance in 
hand has suddenly sunk to a few pounds, as he has been 
ordered by the central office to remit 100 to a branch at 
the other end of the kingdom. And when a question arises 
as to some dispute with an employer, the visitor will be 
surprised to find that this characteristic Trade Union business 
is not in the hands of the branch at all, but is being tlealt 
with by another outside authority, the " district," on instruc- 
tions from the general secretary. 1 

Trade Unionism has, in fact, been based from the outset 
on the principle of the solidarity of the trade. Even the 
eighteenth-century clubs of handicraftsmen, without national 
organisation of any kind, habitually contributed their surplus 

1 Branch meetings of Trade Unions are private, but it is not impossible for a 
bona-fide student of Trade Unionism to gain admission as the friend of one of the 
officials. The authors have attended branch meetings of almost every trade in 
various industrial centres, and have found their proceedings of great interest, not 
only as revealing the inner working of Trade Unionism, but also as displaying 
the marked differences of physique, intellect, and character between the different 
sections of the wage-earning class, often erroneously regarded as homogeneous. 
Some of these differences are referred to in the chapter on " The Assumptions of 
Trade Unionism." 



The Unit of Government g i 

balances in support of each other's temporary needs. When 
the clubs drew together in a national union, it was 
assumed, as a matter of course, that any cash in pos- 
session of any branch was available for the needs of any 
other branch. Thus we learn from the resolution of the 
Stonemasons' Delegate Meeting of 1833, that the several 
lodges were expected spontaneously to send their surplus 
monies to the aid of any district engaged in a strike. 1 This 
archaic trustfulness in the brotherhood of man still contents 
such a conservative -minded trade as the Coopers, whose 
" Mutual Association " remains only a loose alliance of local 
clubs, aiding each other's disputes by voluntary grants. 2 But 
in the large industries the same spirit soon embodied itself 
in formal machinery. Among the Stonemasons the primi- 
tive arrangement was, it is not surprising to learn, in the 
opinion of the " Grand Central Committee," " wholly in- 
efficient," each district sending only such funds as it chose, 
and selecting which out of several districts on strike it would 
support. The next step, which appears in the first manu- 
script rules (probably of 1834), was to make each branch 
" immediately contribute a proportionate share " of the cost 
of maintaining each strike, fixed by the Grand Committee. 
Finally, in 1837, we have what has become the typical Trade 
Union arrangement of a fund belonging, not to the branch, 
but to the society ; available only for the purposes prescribed 
by the rules, but within those purposes common to the whole 
organisation. 

It is easy to understand why the Stonemasons, dispersed 
over the country in relatively small groups, each conscious 
of its own isolation and weakness in face of the great 
capitalist contractor, should quickly seize the idea of a 
common " war-chest." The Carpenters, working under much 

1 Circular of "Grand Central Committee," held in Manchester, 28th 
November 1833, preserved in the records of the Friendly Society of Operative 
Stonemasons. 

2 See the various " monthly reports" of the Mutual Association of Coopers. 
A proposal is under discussion to form a central fund, fed by regular contributions 
for the aid of any branch under attack. 



0,2 Trade Union Structure 

the same circumstances, express this feeling in the following 
terms : " Although oceans may separate us from each other, 
our interests are identical ; and if we become united under 
one constitution, governed by one code of rules, having one 
common fund available wherever it may be required, we thus 
acquire a power which, if judiciously exercised, will protect 
our interests more effectually and will confer greater advan- 
tages than can possibly be derived from any partial union." 1 
But we may see the same process of financial centralisation 
at work in trades densely concentrated in a small area. The 
Cotton-spinners of Oldham and the surrounding towns were, 
down to 1879, organised as a federation of ten financially 
autonomous societies, each collecting, expending, and invest- 
ing its own funds. The great trade struggle of 1877-78 
revealed the weakness of this form of organisation. To 
quote the words of an official of the trade, 2 " The result 
was that when a strike occurred, some of the branches were 
on the point of bankruptcy, whilst others were in a good 
position as regards funds for maintaining the struggle. They 
soon found out their real fighting strength was gauged, not 
by the worth of their richest branch, but by the poorest. It 
was another exemplification of the old law of mechanics that 
the strength of the chain is represented by its weakest link. 
After the struggle they remedied the defect by enacting that 
all surplus funds should be deposited in one common 
account." Since that time each division of the Lancashire 
Cotton-spinners has adopted the principle of centralised funds. 
"We hold," says the General Secretary of the Bolton 
SpinnerSj " that where the labour of any number of men is 
subject to the same fluctuations of trade, when the product 
of their labour goes into the same market, and when the 
prices and conditions which regulate their wages are identical, 
it is imperative upon such men, if they wish to protect their 

1 Preface to the Rules of the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners 
(Manchester, 1891). 

^ 2 The late John Fielding, secretary of the Bolton Provincial Operative Cotton- 
spinners' Association, one of the ablest leaders of the Cotton-spinners. 



The Unit of Government 93 

labour, to combine together in one association. It is not 
sufficient that they shall join separate district societies which 
in time may boast of possessing a respectable reserve fund 
entirely under their own control. We have no hesitation in 
saying that any such accumulated funds are of little use in 
promoting their purely trade interests." l 

The paramount necessity of a central fund, available for 
the defence of any branch that might be involved in indus- 
trial war, has become so plain to every Trade Unionist that 
society after society has adopted the principle of a common 
purse. But a common purse, as one or two striking instances 
among successful friendly societies prove, does not, in itself, 
necessarily involve the establishment of a dominant central 
executive wielding all administrative power. Where business 
can be reduced to precise rules, into the carrying out of 
which no question of policy enters, and no discretion is 
allowed, experience shows, as we shall presently see, that 
local branch administration may be as efficient and econo- 
mical as that of a central authority. But the expenditure 
of the Trade Union funds is determined, not exclusively by 
the legislation of its members, but largely by the judgment 
of its administrators. In all matters of trade protection, 
whether it be the elaboration of a complicated list of piece- 
work prices, the promotion of a new factory bill, the nego- 
tiation of a national agreement with the associated employers, 
or the conduct of a strike, it passes the wit of man to pre- 
scribe by any written rule the exact method or amount of 
the expenditure to be incurred. It follows that the larger 
and most distinctive part of Trade Union administration, 
unlike the award of friendly benefits, cannot be predeter- 
mined by any law or scale, but must be left to the discretion 
of the executive authority. To vest this discretion abso- 
lutely and exclusively in the central executive representing 
the whole body of members is, it is plain, the only way by 
which those who have contributed the income can retain 

1 Annual Report of the Bolton Provincial Operative Cotton-stinners' Associa- 
tion, 1882. 



94 Trade Union Structure 

any control over its expenditure. But this development 
necessarily entails the withdrawal from the branches of all 
real autonomy in issues of policy and in the expenditure of 
their part of the common income. It follows necessarily from 
the merging of the branch monies into a fund common to 
the whole society, and from the replenishment of this fund 
by levies upon all the members alike, that no local branch 
can safely be permitted to involve the whole organisation in 
war. Centralisation of finance implies, in a militant organi- 
sation, centralisation of administration. Those Trade Unions 
which have most completely recognised this fact have proved 
most efficient, and therefore most stable. Where funds have 
been centralised, and power nevertheless left, through the 
inadvertence or lack of skill of the framers of the rules, to 
local authorities, the result has been weakness, divided 
counsels, and financial disaster. 

This cardinal principle of democratic finance has been 
only slowly and imperfectly learnt by Trade Unionists, and 
a lack of clear insight into the matter still produces calami- 
tous results in large and powerful organisations. To take, 
for instance, the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, which 
was formed for the express purpose of bringing about a 
uniform trade policy under the control of a central executive. 
It was intended to secure this result by providing that strike 
pay should be awarded only by the central executive, leaving 
the branches to dispense the other benefits prescribed by 
the rules. But unfortunately this strike pay amounts only to 
five shillings a week, it being assumed that the member leav- 
ing his work will also be receiving the Out of Work donation 
of ten shillings a week, awarded by his branch. This con- 
fusion of trade with friendly benefits has resulted in a serious 
weakening of the authority of the central executive in matters 
of trade policy. Whenever the men working in any engineer- 
ing establishment are dissatisfied with any decision of their 
employer, they can appeal to their own branch, and, on 
obtaining its permission, may drop their tools, with the 
certainty that they will receive at the cost of the whole 



The Unit of Government 95 

society the Out of Work benefit of ten shillings a week. 1 
The matter will be reported, in due course, by the district 
committee to the central executive, even if the branch itself 
does not trouble to apply for permission to pay the additional 
five shillings a week contingent benefit. But meanwhile, 
war has been declared, and has actually begun ; the local 
employers may have retaliated with a lock-out, the whole 
district may even have " come out " in support of their 
fellow-workmen ; and the society may find its prestige and 
honor involved in maintaining a great industrial conflict 
without its central executive ever having decided that the 
point at issue was one which should be fought at all. This, 
indeed, is precisely what happened in the most disastrous 
and discreditable of recent trade disputes, the prolonged 
strike of the Engineers and Plumbers in the Tyneside ship- 
building yards in 1892, when thousands of men were idle 
for over three months, not in order to raise the Standard ot 
Life of themselves or any other section of the workers, but 
because the local Engineers and Plumbers could not agree 
as to which of them should fit up two -and -a -half inch 
iron piping. It would be easy for any student of the 
records of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers to pick 
out many other cases in which branches have, by paying 
the Out of Work donation to members refusing work, 
initiated important trade movements on their own account, 
without the prior knowledge or consent of the central 
executive. 

This unfortunate confusion between Out of Work 
benefit and strike pay is not the only ambiguity that 
perplexes the administrators of the Amalgamated Society of 
Engineers. Although any authorised dispute is supported 

1 This injurious practice has been greatly strengthened by the fact that the 
"contingent fund," out of which alone the strike pay could formerly be granted, 
has often been abolished and subsequently re-established, by votes of the 
members. During the periods in which the contingent fund did not exist, the 
society had no other means of resisting encroachments than the award of Out of 
Work benefit to members who refused to submit to them. But this left the 
decision to the branch, though the funds which it dispensed were levied equally 
on the whole society. 



9 6 Trade Union Structure 

from the funds of the society as a whole, it is left to the 
local members through their district committee to begin the 
quarrel. This would seem to mean complete local autonomy, 
and it is cherished as such by the more active branches. 
But the rule also provides that the resolutions of district 
committees shall be " subject to the approval " of the central 
executive, the ultimate veto, though not the direction of the 
policy, being thus vested in headquarters. The incapacity of 
the Engineers to make up their minds whether or not they 
desire local autonomy in trade policy, has more than once 
placed the society in an invidious and even ludicrous position. 
Thus, in the autumn of 1895 the Belfast branches, with the 
confirmation of the central executive, struck for an advance. 
The federated employers thereupon locked out, not only all 
the Belfast engineers, but also those on the Clyde. In the 
negotiations which ensued the central executive naturally 
represented the society, and eventually arranged a com- 
promise, which was approved by the Clyde branches. The 
Belfast branches, on the other hand, refused to accept the 
agreement or to consider the strike at an end, and went on 
issuing full strike pay, from the funds of the whole society, 
to all their members. The central executive found itself 
bitterly reproached by the federated employers for what 
seemed a breach of faith, and public opinion was scandalised 
by the lack of loyalty and discipline. Eventually the dead- 
lock was ended by the central executive taking upon itself 
peremptorily to order the Belfast members to resume work, 
without waiting for the resolution of the district committee. 
Whether the central executive had any right to intervene at 
all, otherwise than by confirming or disallowing a resolution 
of the district committee, became a matter of heated con- 
troversy; and the Delegate Meeting of 1896 not only passed 
a resolution censuring this action, but also framed a new 
rule which expressly deprives both the central executive and 
the district committee of the power of closing a dispute, by 
making the consent of a two-thirds majority of the local 
members some or all of whom must be the very persons 



The Unit of Government 9 7 

concerned necessary to the closing of a strike. 1 This 
fanatical attachment of the Engineers to an extreme local 
autonomy their persistent assumption that any one section, 
however small and unimportant, ought to be allowed to draw 
on the funds of the whole society in support of a policy of 
which the majority of the members may disapprove has 
done incalculable harm to the Amalgamated Society of 
Engineers. It has been the source of a continuous and need- 
less drain on the society's resources. It has more than once 
involved thousands of members in a lock-out, when they had 
no quarrel of their own. It deprives the federated employers 
of all confidence in those who meet them on the workmen's 
behalf. And, most important of all, it effectually prevents 
the society from maintaining any genuine defence of the 
conditions of its members' employment. National agree- 
ments such as are concluded by the United Society of Boiler- 
makers, the Amalgamated Association of Operative Cotton- 
spinners, and the National Union of Boot and Shoe 
Operatives, by which a general levelling-up of conditions is 
secured, must necessarily be out of the power of an organ- 
isation which cannot give its negotiators the mandate of a 
common will. 

The same conflict between centralisation of finance and 
the surviving local autonomy of the branches may be traced 
in the rules of most of the unions in the building trade. 
Here the tradition has been to require the assent of the 
whole society, or of the central executive as its representa- 
tive, before any branch may strike, or even negotiate, for an 
increase of wages or new trade privileges. But it has been 
no less firmly rooted in the practice of the building trades, 
for any branch, or even any individual workman, instantly 
to cease work, without consulting the central executive, 
whenever an employer makes an encroachment on the 
existing Working Rules of that town. In such cases, by 
the rules of most of the national unions in these trades, 
strike pay is granted by the branch as a matter of course. 

1 Rules of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers (London, 1896), p. 54. 
VOL. I H 



98 Trade Union Structure 

A branch is accordingly expressly authorised to involve the 
whole society in war, whenever its own interpretation of 
existing customs is challenged by an employer, even in the 
minutest particular. We may easily imagine how greatly 
international hostilities would be increased, if the governor 
of every colony or out-lying dependency were authorised 
instantly to declare war, in the name and on the resources 
of the whole empire, whenever, in his own private judg- 
ment, any infringement of national rights had taken place. 
And although, in the Trade Union instance, each particular 
branch dispute is usually neither momentous nor prolonged, 
the result is a captious and spasmodic trade policy, some- 
times even ridiculous in its inconsistency, which the central 
executive has no effective power to check. The Friendly 
Society of Operative Stonemasons and the Operative Brick- 
layers' Society have, until recent years, specially suffered from 
a constant succession of petty quarrels with particular em- 
ployers, most of which would have been avoided if the point 
at issue had been made the subject of quiet negotiation by 
an officer acting on behalf of the whole society. 1 This has 
been dimly perceived by the leaders of the building trades. 
Among the Bricklayers and Stonemasons, the traditional 
right of the branch to strike against encroachments, without 
authorisation from the central executive, has hitherto been 
too firmly held to be abolished ; but the newer editions 
of the rules expressly limit this right to certain kinds 
_of encroachment, and require the branch to obtain the 

1 Sometimes the interpretation placed by two branches on the Working Rules 
of one or both of them may seriously differ. The Kendal branch of the 
Friendly Society of Operative Stonemasons had, in 1873, m ^ ts Working Rules, 
a provision requiring employers to provide dinner for men sent to work beyond 
a certain distance from their homes in the town. A Kendal employer sent 
members of the Kendal branch to a place twenty miles away which was 
within the district of another branch having no such rule. The Kendal masons 
insisted on their employer complying with the Kendal rules, whereupon he 
replaced them by men belonging to the local branch, who contended that the 
Kendal rules did not apply to work done in their district. This fine point in 
interpretation led to endless recrimination between the two branches, and much 
local friction. Finally the issue was referred to a vote of the whole society, which 
went against the Kendal branch. Fortnightly Return, October 1873. 



The Unit of Government 99 

authority of the whole society before resisting any other 
kind of attack. The Amalgamated Society of Carpenters 
and Joiners has advanced a step further in centralisation 
of policy. For the last twenty years its rules have expressly 
forbidden any branch to strike " without first obtaining the 
sanction of the executive council . . . whether it be for a 
new privilege or against an encroachment on existing ones." l 
It is no mere coincidence that the Amalgamated Society of 
Carpenters and Joiners, though younger than many other 
societies in the building trades, is now the largest and most 
wealthy of them all. 

The difficulties that beset the Amalgamated Society of 
Engineers and the Operative Bricklayers' Society have been 
overcome by the United Society of Boilermakers, a union 
which has found a way to combine efficient administration 
of friendly benefits with a strong and uniform trade policy. 
Here the problem has been solved by an absolute separa- 
tion, both in name and in application, between the trade 
and friendly benefits. The " donation benefit " for the 
support of the unemployed is restricted to " a man thrown 
out of employment through depression of trade or other 
causes," testified by " a note signed by the foreman or 
by three full members that are working in the shop 
or yard he has left," and proved to the satisfaction of 
the officers of the branch. This benefit cannot be given to 
a man leaving his employment on a dispute of any kind 
whatsoever. Strike pay is an entirely separate benefit, 
awarded, even in the case of a single workman, only by the 
central executive, and payable only upon its express and 
particular direction. 2 It follows that, although the branches 
administer the friendly benefits, they are not allowed to deal 
in any way with trade matters. If any dispute arises between 
an employer and his workmen, or even between him and one 
of his workmen, the case is at once taken up by the district 
delegate, an officer appointed by and acting for the whole 

1 Rule 28, sec. 10 of edition of 1893, p. 66. 
2 Rules of the United Society of Boilermakers (Newcastle, 1895). 



ioo Trade Union Structure 

society, in constant communication with the general secretary 
at headquarters. No workman may drop his tools, or even 
give notice to his employer, over any question of trade 
privileges, except with the prior authorisation of the district 
delegate ; and to make doubly sure that this law shall be 
implicitly obeyed, not a penny of benefit may be paid by 
the branch in any such case, except on the express direction 
of the central executive. 

Nevertheless, the Trade Union branch, even in the most 
centralised society, continues to fulfil an indispensable function 
in Trade Union administration. As an association for mutual 
insurance, for the provision of sick pay, funeral expenses, and 
superannuation allowance, the Trade Union, like the friendly 
society, governs its action by definite rules and fixed scales 
of benefit, which are nowadays settled as an act of legisla- 
tion by the society as a whole. Even the Out of Work 
benefit the " Donation " or " Idle Money," which none but 
trade societies have found it possible to undertake, is dealt 
with in the same manner. The printed constitution of the 
typical modern union prescribes in minute detail what sums 
are to be paid for sickness or out of work benefit, and 
attempts to provide by elaborate rules for every possible 
contingency. The central executive rigidly insists on the 
rules being obeyed to the letter, and it might at first seem 
as if nothing had been left for the branch to do. This 
is very far from being the case. To protect the funds 
from imposition, local and even personal knowledge is 
indispensable. Is a man sick or malingering ? Has an 
unemployed member lost his situation through slackness of 
his employer's business or slackness of his own energy? 
These are questions that can best be answered by men 
who have worked with him in the factory, know the 
foreman who has dismissed him, and the employer 
who has refused to take him on, and are acquainted 
with the whole circumstances of his life. Here we find 
the practical utility which has kept the Trade Union 
branch alive as a vital part of Trade Union organisation. 



The Unit of Government 101 

It serves as a jury for determining, not questions of policy, 
but issues of fact. 1 

And if for a moment we leave the question of local self- 
government, and consider all the functions of the branch, we 
shall recognise the practical convenience of this institution 
even in the most highly centralised society. It is no small 
gain in a democratic organisation to have insured the regular 
meeting together of the great bulk of the members, under 
conditions which lead directly to the discussion of their 
common needs. Nor is the educational value of the branch 
meeting its only justification. In every Trade Union, whether 
governed by the Referendum or by a Representative Assembly, 

1 The utility of this jury system, if we may so describe the branch function, 
may be gathered from the experience of other benefit organisations. It is, to 
begin with, significant that the great industrial insurance companies and collecting 
societies, with their millions of working-class customers, and their ubiquitous 
network of paid officials, but without a jury system, find it financially impossible 
to undertake to give even sick pay, let alone out of work benefit. The Prudential 
Assurance Company, the largest and best managed of them all, began to do so, 
but had to abandon it because, as the secretary told the Royal Commission on 
Friendly Societies in 1873, "after five years' experience we found we were 
unable to cope with the fraud that was practised." Among friendly societies 
proper, in which sick benefit is the main feature, it is instructive to find that 
it is among the Foresters and Oddfellows, where each court or lodge is financially 
autonomous, that the rate of sickness is lowest. One interesting society, the 
Rational Sick and Burial Association (established in 1837 by Robert Owen and 
his "Rational Religionists"), is organised exactly like a national amalgamated 
Trade Union, with branches administering benefits payable from a common fund. 
In this society, as we gather, the rate of sickness is slightly greater than in the 
Affiliated Orders, where each lodge not only decides on whether benefit shall be 
given, but also has itself to find the money. Finally, when we come to the 
Hearts of Oak Benefit Society, the largest and most efficient of the centralised 
friendly societies having no branches at all, and dispensing all benefits from the 
head office, we find the rate of sickness habitually far in excess of the experience 
of the Foi-esters or the Oddfellows, or even of the Rationals, an excess due, 
according to the repeated declarations of the actuary, to nothing but inadequate 
provision against fraud and malingering. During the eight years 1884-91, for 
instance, the "expected sickness," according to the 1866-70 experience of the 
Manchester Unity of Oddfellows (all districts), was 1,111,553 weeks; the actual 
weeks for which benefit was drawn numbered no fewer than 1,452,106, an 
excess of over 30 per cent (An Enquiry into the Methods, etc., of a Friendly 
Society, by R. P. Hardy, 1894, p. 36). "Centralised societies," says the 
Rev. Frome Wilkinson, " will never be able to avoid being imposed upon ; not 
so, however, a well-regulated branch of an affiliated society with its machinery in 
good working order" (The Friendly Societies Movement, p. 193). See also 
" Fifty Years of Friendly Society Progress," by the same author, in the Oddfellow? 
Magazine for 1888. 



tO2 Trade Union Strucfaire 

the branch forms an integral part of the legislative machinery. 
If the laws are made by the votes of the members, it is 
the branch meeting which is the deliberative assembly, and 
usually also the polling place. When the society enjoys 
fully developed representative institutions, the branch becomes 
at once a natural and convenient electoral division, and 
supplies, what is so sorely needed in political democracy, a 
means by which the representative must regularly meet every 
section of his constituents. In other trades it is common to 
require that no important alteration of the society's rules shall 
be put before the Representative Assembly until it has been 
first discussed, and sometimes voted on, by one or more of 
the branches. In attending branch meetings we have found 
most interesting that part of the evening which is taken up 
with the reports made by the branch representatives on the 
local Trades Council, on a district or joint committee of the 
trade, or in the Representative Assembly of the society itself. 
It has often occurred to us how much it would enliven and 
invigorate political democracy if the member of Parliament 
or the Town Councillor had habitually to report to, and 
discuss with, every section of his constituents, supporters and 
opponents alike, all the public business in which they were 
interested. Quite apart, therefore, from any administrative 
functions, organisation by branches has manifold uses, even 
in the most centralised society. But these uses have little 
connection with the problem of centralisation and local 
autonomy. In all these respects the branches are not separate 
units of government, but constitute, in effect, a single mass 
meeting of members, geographically sliced up into aggregates 
of convenient size. 

Thus, in the vexed problem of how to divide ad- 
ministration between central and local authorities, Trade 
Union experience affords no guide, either to other volun- 
tary associations or to political democracy. The extreme 
centralisation of finance and policy, which the Trade Union 
has found to be a condition of efficiency, has been forced 
upon it by the unique character of its functions. The lavish 



Interunion Relations 105 

a cotton-spinning mill, with 40 pairs of mules, will employ 
about 90 cardroom operatives, mostly women, the men earn- 
ing from 1 8s. to 305. per week and the women 123. 6d. to 
1 93. 6d. ; 40 adult male mule-spinners, earning, by piecework, 
from 303. to 503. per week ; 80 boys and men as piecers, 
engaged and paid by the mule-spinners at 6s. 6d. to 2os. per 
week ; and 2 overlookers with weekly salaries of 425. and 
upwards. The adjacent cotton -weaving shed, with 800 
looms, will employ about 260 male and female weavers, paid 
by the piece and earning from 143. to 2os. per week ; 8 
overlookers (men), paid by a percentage on the weavers' 
earnings, and getting 323. to 423. per week ; 10 twisters and 
drawers, earning at piecework 255. to 323. per week; 5 
warpers and beamers working by the piece and making from 
2 os. to 303. per week ; 3 or 4 tapesizers with a fixed weekly 
wage of 425. per week ; a number of children varying from 
I to 50, employed by the weavers as tenters, and paid small 
sums ; and a manager over the whole with a salary of 200 
or 300 per annum. 1 

All these operatives may be engaged by a single em- 
ployer, work upon the same raw material, and produce for 
the same market. They have obviously many interests in 
common. But for all that they do not form a simple unit of 
government. It is impossible to devise any constitution which 
would enable these six or more classes of cotton operatives 
to form an amalgamated union, having a common policy, a 
common purse, a common executive, and a common staff of 
officials, without sacrificing the financial and trade interest of 
one, or even all of the different sections. It suits the well- 
c paid sections, such as the Spinners, Tapesizers, Beamers, 
^ Twisters, Drawers, and Overlookers, to pay a high weekly 
a l s( contribution, which would be beyond the means of the 
paitTardroom Operatives and the Weavers. But the manner in 
ls> a %ich each section desires to apply its funds varies even 



execut 



Compare the still more detailed classification of workers incidentally given 
e Board of Trade Keport by Miss Collet on Ike Statistics of Employment 
/omen and Girls, C. 7564, 1894. 



106 Trade Union Structure 

more than their amount. The Tapesizers, deriving their 
strategic strength from their highly specialised skill, the 
impossibility of replacing them, and the small proportion 
which their wages bear to the total cost of production, can 
afford to spend their funds on ample sick and funeral benefits. 
With a uniform time rate in each district, and few occasions 
for dispute with their employers, they need no offices or 
salaried officials whatsoever. It pays the Spinners and 
Weavers, on the other hand, to maintain a highly skilled 
professional staff for the purpose of computing and maintain- 
ing their earnings under the complicated lists of piecework 
prices. But the Weavers stand at the disadvantage of need- 
ing also a large staff of paid collectors to secure the regular 
payment of contributions from the girls and married women, 
who are indisposed to bring their weekly pence to the public- 
house in which the branch meeting is still frequently held. 
This applies also to the Cardroom Operatives, but these, 
working usually at time rates, do not need the weavers' skilled 
calculator. The Beamers, Twisters, and Drawers, on the one 
hand, and the Overlookers on the other, have again their own 
peculiarities. To unite, in any common scheme of contri- 
butions and benefits, classes so diverse in their means and 
requirements, appears absolutely impossible. Still more 
difficult would it be to provide for the effective representation 
upon a common executive of sections so different in numerical 
strength. Not to mention the Tapesizers and Overlookers, 
who must be completely submerged by the rest, it would be 
difficult to induce the 19,000 well-paid, well-officered, and 
well-disciplined Spinners to submit their trade policy to the 
decision of the 22,000 ill-paid Cardroom Operatives or the 
85,000 Weavers, of whom two-thirds are women. On the 
other hand, the Weavers would not permanently forego the 
advantage of their overwhelming superiority in numbers, nor 
would the Spinners allow the Tapesizers an equal voice with 
themselves. But even if a representative executive could, by 
some device, be got together, it would not form a fit body 
to decide the technical questions peculiar to each class. 



Interunion Relations 107 

On each point as it arose, the experts would be in a 
minority, and the decisions, -whatever their justice, would 
invariably cause dissatisfaction to one section or another. 
Moreover, quite apart from technical details, the moments of 
strategic advantage differ from section to section. It may 
suit the Spinners to move for an advance, at a time when the 
weaving trade is depressed, and both will be more ready to 
move than the Overlookers. The Tapesizers, on the other 
hand, will prefer, to any overt strike, the silent withdrawal of 
one man after another from a recalcitrant employer, until he 
is ready to offer the Trade Union terms. It is obvious that 
a council representing such diverse elements would find it 
extremely difficult to maintain an active and consistent 
course. On the other hand, all the sections of Cotton 
Operatives have manifold interests in common. Every 
factory act regulating the sanitation, hours of labor, 
machinery, age of children, and inspection of factories, 
directly or indirectly concerns every worker in the mill. 
Such industrial dislocations as Liverpool " cotton corners," 
or the employers' mutual agreement to reduce stocks by 
working short time, affect all alike. The policy of the 
Indian Secretary, the Minister of Education, or the Chan- 
cellor of the Exchequer, may, any moment, touch them all 
on a vital point. If, therefore, the Cotton Operatives are to 
have any effective voice in regulating these essentially trade 
matters, their organisation must in some form be co-extensive 
with the whole cotton industry. 

Another instance of these difficulties is presented by the 
great industry of engineering. A century ago the small 
skilled class of millwrights executed every kind of engineer- 
ing operation, from making the wooden patterns to erecting 
in the mill the machines which had been constructed by 
their own hands. The enormous expansion of the engineer^ 
ing industry has long since brought about a division of 
labor, and the mechanics in a great engineering establish- 
ment to-day are divided into numerous distinct classes of 
workers, who are rarely able to do each other's work. The 



io8 Trade Union Structure 

pattern-makers, working in wood, have become sharply 
marked off from the boilermakers and the ironfounders. 
The smiths, again, are distinguished from the fitters, turners, 
and erectors. Another form of specialisation has arisen with 
the increased use of other metals than iron and steel, and 
we have brass -founders, brass-finishers, and coppersmiths. 
Each generation sees a great development in the use of 
machines to make machines, so that a modern engineering 
shop, in addition to the time-honored lathe, includes a be- 
wildering variety of drilling, shaping, boring, planing, slotting, 
milling, and other machines, attended by wholly new classes 
of machine-minders and tool-makers, displaying every grade 
of skill. Finally, we have such new kinds of work, with new 
classes of specialists, as are involved in the innumerable 
applications of iron and steel in modern civilisation, such as 
iron ships and bridges, ordnance and armour-plating, hydraulic 
apparatus and electric-lighting, sewing-machines and bicycles. 
To discover the exact limits of a " trade " in these closely 
related but varied occupations is a task of supreme difficulty. 
All are working in the same industry, and in the large 
establishments of to-day, all may be engaged by a single 
employer. The same recurring waves of expansion and 
contraction sooner or later affect all alike. On the other 
hand, there exist between the separate occupations great 
varieties of methods of remuneration, standard earnings, and 
strategic position. The strictly - apprenticed boilermakers 
(shipyard platers) working in compact groups, at co-operative 
piecework, earning sometimes as much as a pound a day, 
find it advantageous in good times to roll up, by large sub- 
scriptions, a huge reserve fund, to maintain a staff of special 
trade officers to arrange their piecework prices at every port, 
and to provide handsomely for their recurring periods of 
trade depression. At the other end of the scale we have the 
intelligent laborer become an automatic machine-minder, 
securing relative continuity of low-paid employment by 
working any simple machine in any kind of engineering 
establishment, and interested mainly in the opening of every 



Interunion Relations 109 

operation to the quickwitted outsider. The pattern-maker 
again, working in wood, at a high time rate, has little in 
common with the piece-working smith at the forge. When 
trade begins to improve, the pattern-makers, followed by the 
ironfounders, will be busy long before the smiths, fitters, 
and turners, and, if they wish to recover the wages lost in 
the previous depression, must move for an advance whilst 
all the rest of the engineering industry is still on short time. 
Finally, there is the difficulty of the method and basis of 
representation. Shall the government be centred in an iron 
shipbuilding port, where the boilermakers would be supreme, 
or in an inland engineering centre, when the fitters and 
turners would have an equally great preponderance ? How 
can the tiny groups of pattern-makers, dispersed over the 
whole kingdom, get their separate interests attended to amid 
the overwhelming majorities of the other classes ? Any 
attempt to represent, upon an executive council, each dis- 
tinct occupation, let alone each great centre, must either 
ignore all proportional considerations, or involve the forma- 
tion of a body of impossible dimensions and costliness. 

We see, therefore, that within the circle of what is usually 
called a trade, there are often smaller circles of specialised 
classes of workmen, each sufficiently distinctive in character 
to claim separate consideration. The first idea is always to 
cut the Gordian knot by ignoring these differences, and 
making the larger circle the unit of government. So fas- 
cinating is this idea of " amalgamation " that it has been 
tried in almost every industry. The reader of the History 
of Trade Unionism will remember the remarkable attempt 
in 1 833-34 to form a national "Builders' Union," to com- 
prise the seven different branches of building operatives. 
The same years saw a succession of general unions in the 
cloth-making industry. In 1844, and again in 1863, the 
coalminers sought to combine in one amalgamated union 
every person employed in or about the mines, from one end 
of the kingdom to the other. The " Iron Trades " again 
were, between 1840 and 1850, the subject of innumerable 



i io Trade Union Structure 

local projects of amalgamation, in which not only the " Five 
Trades of Mechanism," but also the Boilermakers and the 
Ironfounders were all to be included. We need not describe 
the failure of all these attempts. More can, perhaps, be 
learnt from the experience of the great modern instance, the 
Amalgamated Society of Engineers. 

It does not seem to have occurred to William Newton, 
when he launched this famous amalgamation, that any diffi- 
culty could arise as to the classes of workers to be included. 
What he was primarily concerned about was to merge in 
one national organisation all the various local societies of 
engineering mechanics, whether pattern-makers, smiths, turners, 
fitters, or erectors, working either in iron or brass. But 
" sectionalism " stood, from the very first, in the way. The 
various local clubs of Smiths and Pattern-makers objected 
strongly to sink their individuality in a general engineers' 
union. In the same way, the more exclusive Steam-Engine 
Makers' Society, in which millwrights, fitters, and turners 
predominated, refused to merge itself in the wider organisa- 
tion. To Newton and Allan all these objections seemed to 
arise from the natural reluctance of local clubs to lose their 
individuality in a national union. This dislike, as they 
rightly felt, was destined to give way before the superior 
advantages of national combination. But subsequent ex- 
perience has shown that the resistance to the amalgamation 
was due to more permanent causes. The merely local 
societies dropped in, one by one, to their greater rival. But 
this only revealed a more serious cleavage. The present 
rivals of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers are, not any 
local engineers' clubs, but national societies each claiming 
the exclusive allegiance of different sections of the trade. 
The pattern-makers, for instance, came to the conclusion in 
1872 that their interests were neglected in the Amalgamated 
Society of Engineers, and formed the United Pattern-makers' 
Association, which now includes a large and increasing 
majority of this highly skilled class. The Associated Society 
of Blacksmiths, originally a Glasgow local club, now dominates 



Interunion Relations \ 1 1 

its particular section of the trade on the Clyde and in 
Belfast, and has branches in the North of England. The 
Brass-workers, the Coppersmiths, and the Machine-minders 
have now all their own societies of national extent. The 
result has been that the Amalgamated Society of Engineers 
does not realise Newton's idea as regards any section what- 
ever. The Boilermakers, who refused to have anything to 
do with amalgamation, and who have persistently put their 
energy into organising their own special craft, have succeeded, 
as we have mentioned, in forming one undivided, consolidated, 
and centralised society for the entire kingdom. Very different 
is the condition of the engineers. Neither the fitters nor the 
smiths, the pattern-makers nor the machine-minders, the 
brass-workers nor the coppersmiths, are united in any one 
society, or able to maintain a uniform trade policy, even for 
their own section of the industry. For all this confusion, the 
enthusiastic adherents of the Amalgamated Society have gone 
on preaching the one remedy of an ever-wider amalgama- 
tion. " The future basis of the Amalgamated Society," urged 
Mr. Tom Mann in 1891, " must be one that will admit every 
workman engaged in connection with the engineering trades, 
and who is called upon to exhibit mechanical skill in the 
performance of his labor. This would include men on 
milling and drilling machines, tool-makers, die-sinkers, and 
electrical engineers, and it would make it necessary to have 
the requisite staff at the general office to cater for so large a 
constituency, as there are at least 250,000 men engaged in 
the engineering' and machine trades of the United Kingdom, 
and the work of organising this body must be undertaken 
by the A. S. E." * Somewhat against the advice of the 
more experienced officials, successive delegate meetings have 
included within the society one section of workmen after 
another. At the delegate meeting of 1892, which opened 
the society to practically every competent workman in the 
most miscellaneous engineering establishment, it was even 

1 Address to the East End Institute of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, 
London, in Trade Unionist ', loth October 1891, 



1 1 2 Trade Union Structure 

urged by some branches that the boundaries should be 
still further enlarged, so as to permit the absorption of 
plumbers and ironfounders. This proposal was with some 
reluctance rejected, but only on the ground that it would 
have brought the Amalgamation into immediate collision 
with the 16,278 members of the Friendly Society of Iron- 
founders (established 1809); and with the compact and 
militant United Operative Plumbers' Society (established 
1848, membership 8758), rivals too powerful to be lightly 
encountered. Each successive widening of the amalgama- 
tion brings it, in fact, into conflict with a larger number of 
other unions, who become its embittered enemies. The very 
competition between rival societies which Newton's amal- 
gamation was intended to supersede, has, through this all- 
inclusive policy itself, been rendered more intense and 
intractable. 

And here it is imperative that the reader should fully 
appreciate the disastrous effect of this competition and rivalry 
between separate Trade Unions. The evil will be equally 
apparent whether we regard the Trade Union merely as a 
friendly society for insuring the weekly wage-earner against 
loss of livelihood through sickness, old age, and depression 
of trade, or as a militant organisation for enabling the 
manual worker to obtain better conditions from the capitalist 
employer. 

Let us consider first the side of Trade Unionism which 
has, from the outset, been universally praised and admired, 
the " ancient and most laudable custom for divers artists 
within the United Kingdom to meet and form themselves 
into societies for the sole purpose of assisting each other in 
cases of sickness; old age, and other infirmities, and for the 
burial of their dead." l Now, whatever weight may be given, 
in matters of commerce, to the maxim caveat emptor how- 
ever thoroughly we may rely, as regards articles of personal 
consumption, on the buyer's watchfulness over his own 

1 Preamble to Rules of the Friendly Society of Ironmongers (Manchester, 
1809), and to those of many other unions of this epoch. 



Interunion Relations 1 1 3 

interests it is indisputable that, in the whole realm of 
insurance, competition does practically nothing to promote 
efficiency. The assumption which underlies the faith in 
unrestricted competition is that the consumer is competent 
to judge of the quality of what he pays for, or that he will at 
any rate become so in the act of consumption. In matters 
of financial insurance no such assumption can reasonably be 
maintained. Apart from the dangers of irregularities and 
defalcations, the whole question of efficiency or inefficiency 
in friendly society administration is bound up with the 
selection of proper actuarial data, the collection and verifica- 
tion of the society's own actuarial experience, and the con- 
sequent fixing of the due rates of contribution and benefits. 
When rival societies bid against each other for members, 
competition inevitably takes the form, either of offering the 
common benefits at a lower rate, or of promising extravagant 
benefits at the common rate of subscription. The ordinary 
man, innocent of actuarial science, is totally unable to 
appreciate the merits of the rival scales put before him. 
To the raw recruit the smallness of the weekly levy offers 
an almost irresistible attraction. Nor does such illegitimate 
competition between societies work, as might be supposed, 
its own cure. The club charging rates insufficient to meet 
its liabilities will, it is true, in the end bring about its own 
destruction. But the actuarial nemesis is slow to arrive, as 
many years must elapse before the full measure of the 
liability for death claims and superannuation allowances 
can be tested. And when the inevitable collapse comes, 
the prudent society gains little by the dissolution of its 
unsound rival. A club which has failed to meet its engage- 
ments, and has been broken up, leaves those who have been 
its members suspicious of all forms of organisation and 
indisposed to renew their contributions. The payment for 
some time of high benefits in return for low subscriptions 
will have falsified the standard of expectation. Those who 
have lost their money ascribe the failure to the dishonesty 
or incapacity of the officers, to the workmen's lack of loyalty, 
VOL. I I 



i 1 4 Trade Union Structure 

to any cause, indeed, rather than to their own unreasonable- 
ness in expecting a shilling's worth of benefits for a sixpenny 
contribution. 

In the case of Friendly Societies proper, and in that of 
Insurance Companies, the untrustworthiness of competition 
as a guarantee of financial efficiency has been fully recog- 
nised by the community, and dealt with by the legislature. 1 
Trade Unions, however, have, for good and sufficient reasons, 
been left outside the scope of these provisions. 2 But, as a 
matter of fact, competition between Trade Unions on their 
benefit club side is even more injurious to their soundness 
than it is to Friendly Societies proper, Dealing as they do, 
not with a specially selected class of thrifty citizens, but 
with the whole body of men in their trade ; unable, owing to 
their other functions, to concentrate their members' attention 
upon the actuarial side of their affairs ; and destitute of any 
authoritative data or scientific calculation for such benefits 
as Out of Work pay, Trade Unions must always find it 
specially difficult to resist a demand for increase of benefits, or 
lowering of contribution. If two unions are competing for the 
same class of members, the pressure becomes irresistible. 

The history of Trade Unionism is one long illustration of 
this argument. In one trade after another we watch the 
cropping up of " mushroom unions," their heated rivalry 

1 It is unnecessary for us to do more than refer to the long series of statutes, 
beginning in 1786, which provide for the registration, publication of accounts, 
public audit, and even compulsory valuation of Friendly Societies and Industrial 
Insurance Companies. By every means, short of direct prohibition, the State 
now seeks to put obstacles in the way of "under-cutting," and, to use the words 
of Mr. Reuben Watson before the Select Committee on National Provident 
Insurance in 1885 (Question 893), discourages "the formation of new societies 
on the unsound principles of former times." Within the two great "affiliated 
orders " of Oddfellows and Foresters, which together comprise at least half the 
friendly society world, the legal requirements are backed by an absolute prohibi- 
tion to open any new lodge or court without adopting, as a minimum, the definitely 
approved scale of contributions and benefits. Even with regard to middle-class 
life assurance companies, Parliament has not only insisted on a specific account- 
keeping and publication of financial position, but has, since 1872, practically 
stopped the uprising of additional competitors, by requiring a deposit of ^"20,000 
from any new company before business can be begun. 

2 See the chapter on "The Method of Mutual Insurance." 



Inierunion Relations 1 1 5 

with the older organisations, and consequent mad race for 
members ; and finally, after a few years of unstable existence, 
their ignoble bankruptcy and dissolution. Meanwhile the 
responsible officials of the older societies will have been 
struggling with their own " Delegate Meetings " and " Revising 
Committees," to maintain a relatively sound scale of con- 
tributions and benefits. Any attempt at financial improve- 
ment will have been checked by the representations of the 
branch officers that the only result would be to divert all the 
recruits to their rasher and more open-handed competitors. 
The records of every important union contain bitter 
complaints of this injurious competition. The Friendly 
Society of Ironfounders, for instance, which dates from 1809, 
is one of the oldest and most firmly established Trade 
Unions. Its 16,000 members include an overwhelming 
majority of the competent ironmoulders in England, Ireland, 
and Wales. For over sixty years it has collected and 
preserved admirable statistical data of the cost of its various 
benefits, to provide for which it maintains a relatively high 
rate of contribution and levies. In August 1891, a leading 
member called attention to the touting for membership 
that was going on among his trade in certain districts. 
" I have now noticed," he concludes, " three distinct 
societies that enter moulders (ironfounders) who are 
eligible to join us. They offer, more or less, a high rate 
of benefit at a low rate of contribution^ Whether they 
are likely to fulfil their promises I leave to the judgment of 
any thoughtful man who will sit down and compare their 
rates of contribution and benefits with the statistical figures 
of our society, as shown continually in the annual reports. 
Those figures have been arrived at by experience, which is 
the truest basis of calculation for the future, and I would 
commend them to the notice of all who set themselves the 
task of computing the maximum rate of benefit to be 
obtained at the minimum rate of subscription." J Nor was 

1 Letter from H. G. Percival in the Monthly Report of t fie Friendly Society 
of Ironfounders (August 1891), pp. 18-2 1. 



1 1 6 Trade Union Structure 

this warning unneeded. When, in the very next month, the 
Ironfounders met in delegate meeting to revise their rules, 
branch after branch suggested, in order to outstrip the 
attractions of their extravagant rivals, an increase of 
benefits, without any addition to the contribution. Thus 
Gateshead, Keighley, and Greenwich urged that the Out of 
Work benefit should be increased by more than ten per 
cent ; Huddersfield and Oldham sought to raise the maxi- 
mum sum receivable in any one year ; Barrow, Halifax, 
and Liverpool asked that travellers should be allowed 
sixpence per night instead of fourpence ; Oldham tried 
largely to increase the scale of superannuation allowances, 
and to raise the Accident Grant from ^50 to ;ioo ; 
St. Helens and many other branches demanded a ten per 
cent increase of the sick benefit ; whilst Brighton, Keighley, 
and Wakefield proposed to raise the funeral money from 
10 to 12. On the other hand, Chelsea proposed a 
reduction of the entrance fee by 33 per cent, whilst 
Gloucester sought to lower it by one-half ; Liverpool would 
take in men up to the age of 45, instead of stopping at 
40 ; and Wakefield suggested the abandonment of any 
medical examination at entrance. 1 Fortunately for the 
Ironfounders, their officers, with the statistical tables at 
their back, were able to stave off most of these pro- 
posals. But even responsible officials are forced to pay 
heed to this reckless competition. Thus in 1885, when 
certain branches of the Steam - Engine Makers' Society, 
getting anxious about their old age, suggested that the 
provision for the superannuation benefit should be increased, 
the central executive demurred to raising the contribution, 
pointing out " the keen competition " for membership which 
they had to meet, "just as though we were engaged in 
commerce. In every workshop," they continue, " we have 
numerous societies to contend with, some of whose members 

1 Suggestions from Branches of the Friendly Society of Ironfounders . . . for 
consideration at the Delegate Meeting to be held in September 1891 (London, 
1891). 



Interunion Relations 1 1 7 

think that taking a man from another society and squeezing 
him into theirs is a valiant act. Many cases will occur to 
all, but we give one instance. We learned of the Pattern- 
makers' Association taking members of ours for an entrance 
fee of 55., placing them in benefit at once, and even giving 
them credit for ten years' membership, should they apply for 
superannuation in the future." J These examples enable us 
to understand why it is that the Trade Unions accumulating 
the largest reserve funds to meet their prospective liabilities 
are to be found in the trades in which a single union is 
co-extensive with the industry. Thus, among the larger 
organisations, the United Society of Boilermakers with a 
balance in 1896 of 175,000, or 4 : 7 : 6 per head of its 
41,000 members, towers above all other societies in the 
engineering and shipbuilding trades. 

We have dwelt in some detail upon the evils of com- 
petition between Trade Unions considered merely as benefit 
clubs, because this part of their function has secured universal 
approval. But assuming that the workmen are right in 
believing trade combination to be economically useful to 
them assuming, that is to say, that the institution of Trade 
Unionism has any justification at all the case against com- 
petition among unions becomes overwhelming in strength. 
If a trade is split up among two or more rival societies, 
especially if these are unequal in numbers, scope, or the 
character of their members, there is practically no possibility 
of arriving at any common policy to be pursued by all the 
branches, or of consistently maintaining any course of action 
whatsoever. "The general position of our society in Liverpool," 
reports the District Delegate of the Amalgamated Society 
of Engineers in 1893, "is far from satisfactory, the work of 
organising the trade being rendered exceptionally difficult, 
not only by the existence of a large non-union element, 
bwt by the existence of a number of sectional societies. 
Here, as elsewhere, these small and unnecessary organisations 

1 Steam- Engine Makers' Society ; Executive Council Report on Revision of 
Rules, 25th July 1885. 



1 1 8 Trade Union Structure 

are the causes of endless complications and inconvenience. 
How many of these absurd and irritating institutions actually 
exist here I am not yet in a position to say, but the following 
are those with which I am at present acquainted : Smiths and 
Strikers (Amalgamated), Mersey Shipsmiths, Steam-Engine 
Makers, United Pattern-makers, Liverpool Coppersmiths, 
Brass -finishers (Liverpool), Brass -finishers (Birmingham), 
United Machine Workers, Metal Planers, National Engineers. 
All these societies are naturally inimical to our own, yet how 
long shall we be able to tolerate their existence is another 
question. . . . The Boilermakers would never permit any 
section of their trade to organise apart from them ; why we 
should do so is a question which will assuredly have to be 
settled definitely sooner or later." 1 The "small and unnecessary 
organisations " naturally take a different view. The general 
secretary of the United Pattern-makers' Association, in a 
circular full of bitter complaints against the Amalgamated 
Society of Engineers, thus describes the situation : " For the 
information of those who may not be intimately acquainted 
with the engineering trade, we may explain that the Pattern- 
makers form almost the smallest section of that trade the 
organised portion being split up into no less than four 
different sections [societies] the largest section outside the 
ranks of the United Pattern-makers' Association belonging to 
the Amalgamated Society of Engineers. It will be easily 
understood that this division makes it very difficult for our 
society to act on the offensive with that promptitude which 
is often essential to the successful carrying out of a particular 
movement, as we have to consult with and obtain the co- 
operation of three societies other than our own ; and as our 
trade in these societies are in an insignificant minority, it is 
perhaps only natural that so far as the Amalgamated Society 
of Engineers is concerned, legislation for the trades that 
comprise the vast majority of its members should have a 
priority over a consideration of those questions which concern 

1 " Report of Organising District Delegate (No. 2 division) of Amalgamated 
Society of Engineers" in Quarterly Report for quarter ended March 1893. 



Interunion Relations 119 

so small a handful as the Pattern-makers belonging to their 
society." l An actual example of the everyday working life 
of a Trade Union branch will show how real is the difficulty 
thus caused. "Our Darlington members," reports the Pattern- 
makers' Executive, " have been engaged in a wages movement 
which has had in one respect a most unsatisfactory termination. 
The * Mais ' 2 and non-society men pledged themselves to assist 
our members to get the money up, until the critical moment 
arrived when notices were to be given in. The non-society 
element and the * Mais ' then formed an ignominious com- 
bination, and declined to go any further in the matter, the 
Darlington branch of the ' Mais ' writing our Secretary to 
the effect that they would not permit their P.M.'s [Pattern- 
makers] to strike. They only number three, and the non- 
society men twice as many, so fortunately they could not do 
the cause very much injury. The advance was conceded by 
every firm excepting the Darlington Iron and Steel Works, 
where our men were drawn out, leaving two * Mais ' and their 
present allies, the non-society men, at work. Your general 
secretary wrote the executive committee of the ' Mais ' on 
the subject over three weeks ago, but so insignificant a 
matter as this is apparently beneath the notice of this august 
body, as no reply has yet been vouchsafed." 3 

Trade Union rivalry has, however, a darker side. When 
the officers of the two organisations have been touting for 
members, and feeling keenly each other's competition, oppor- 
tunities for friction and ill-temper can scarcely fail to arise. 
Accusations will be made on both sides of disloyalty and 
unfairness, which will be echoed and warmly resented by the 

1 Circular of United Pattern-makers' Association (on Belfast dispute), 22nd 
June 1892. The same note recurs in the Report of Proceedings of the Sixth 
Annual Meeting of the Federation of Engineering and Shipbuilding Trades 
(Manchester, 1896). "As a consequence of their present divided state," said 
Mr. Mosses, the general secretary of the United Pattern-makers' Association, 
at this meeting, "they had one district going in for advances, followed in a 
haphazard fashion by other districts ; and one body of men coming out on strike 
for the benefit of others who remained at their work." 

2 Members of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers. 

3 Monthly Report of the United Pattern-makers' Association, September 1889. 



1 20 Trade Union Structure 

rank and file. Presently some dispute occurs between an 
employer and the members of one of the unions. These 
workmen may be dismissed by the employer, or withdrawn 
by order of their own district committee. The officers of the 
rival union soon hear of the vacancies from the firm in 
question. Members of their own society are walking the 
streets in search of work, and drawing Out of Work pay from 
the funds. To let these take the places left vacant to 
" blackleg " the rival society is to commit the gravest crime 
against the Trade Unionist faith. Unfortunately, in many 
cases, the temptation is irresistible. The friction between 
the rival organisations, the personal ill-feeling of their officers, 
the traditions of past grievances, the temptation of pecuniary 
gain both to the workmen and to the union, all co-operate to 
make the occasion " an exception." At this stage any pretext 
suffices. The unreasonableness of the other society's demand, 
the fact that it did not consult its rival before taking action, 
even the non-arrival of the letter officially announcing the 
strike, serves as a plausible excuse in the subsequent recrimi- 
nations. Scarcely a year passes without the Trade Union 
Congress being made the scene of a heated accusation by one 
society or another, that some other union has " blacklegged " 
a dispute in which it was engaged, and thereby deprived its 
members of all the results of their combination. 1 

1 Whenever rivalry and competition for members have existed between unions 
in the same industry we find numberless cases of " blacklegging." The relations, 
for instance, between the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, and all the sectional 
societies, abound in unfortunate instances on the one side or the other. The two 
societies of Bricklayers have, in the past, frequently accused each other's members 
of the same crime. The "excursions across the Border" of the English and 
Scottish societies of Tailors and Plumbers have been enlivened by similar recrimi- 
nations, which are also bandied about among the several unions of general 
laborers. The Coalmining and Cotton manufacturing industries are honorably 
free from this feature. An exceptionally bad case of an established union becoming, 
through blacklegging, a mere tool of the employers, came to light at the Trade 
Union Congress of 1892, and was personally investigated by us. 

The Glasgow Harbour Laborers' Union, established among the Clyde steve- 
dores in 1853, had, up to 1889, maintained an honorable record for stability and 
success. In the latter year it found itself, with only 230 members, menaced with 
extinction by the sudden uprising of the National Union of Dock Laborers in 
Great Britain and Ireland, a society organised on the antagonistic idea of including 
every kind of dock and wharf laborers in a national amalgamation. The small, 



Interunion Relations 1 2 1 

The foregoing detailed description has placed the reader 
in a position to appreciate the disastrous effect of com- 
petition between Trade Unions for members. Whilst 
seriously impairing their financial stability as benefit clubs, 
this rivalry cuts at the root of all effective trade combination. 
It is no exaggeration to say that to competition between 
overlapping unions is to be attributed nine- tenths of the 
ineffectiveness of the Trade Union world. The great army 
of engineering operatives, for instance, though exceptional in 
training and intelligence, and enrolled in stable and well- 
administered societies, have as yet not succeeded either in 
negotiating with the employers on anything like equal terms, 
or in maintaining among themselves any common policy 
whatsoever. An even larger section of the wage -earning 
world that engaged in the great industry of transport has 
so far failed, from a similar cause, to build up any really 
effective Trade Unionism. The millions of laborers, who 

old-fashioned, and local society, with its traditions of exclusiveness and "privilege," 
refused to merge itself, but offered to its big rival a mutual " next preference " 
working arrangement that is to say, whilst each society maintained for its own 
members a preferential right to be taken on at the wharves or yards where they 
were accustomed to work, it should accord to the members of the other society 
the right to fill any further vacancies at those yards or wharves in preference to 
outsiders. The answer to this was a peremptory refusal on the part of the 
National Union to recognise the existence of its tiny predecessor, whose members 
accordingly found themselves absolutely excluded from work. The National 
Union no doubt calculated that it would, in this way, compel the smaller society 
to yield. But at the very moment it had a great struggle on hand, both in Liver- 
pool and Glasgow, with one of the principal shipping firms. Communications 
were quickly opened up between that firm and the Glasgow Harbour Laborers', 
Society, with the result that the latter undertook to do the firm's work, and thus 
at one blow not only defeated the aggressive pretensions of the National Union 
but also secured its own existence. This line of conduct was repeated whenever 
a dispute arose between the employers and any Union on the Clyde. When the 
Hlast-furnacemen on strike had successfully appealed to the National Amalgamated 
Sailors' and Firemen's Union, not to unload Spanish pig iron, the Glasgow Harboui 
Laborers' Union promptly came to the employers' rescue. During the strike of 
the Scottish Railway Servants' Union, the same society was to the fore in supplying 
"scab laborers." Its crowning degradation, in Trade Union eyes, came in an 
alliance with the Shipping Federation, the powerful combination by which the 
employers have, since 1892, sought to crush the whole Trade Union movement 
in the waterside industries. Its conduct was, in that year, brought before the 
Trade Union Congress, which happened to meet at Glasgow, and the Congress 
almost unanimously voted the exclusion of its delegates. 



i 2 2 Trade Union Structure 

must in any case find it difficult to maintain a common 
organisation, are constantly hampered in their progress by 
the existence of competing societies which, starting from 
different industries, quickly pass into general unions, in- 
cluding each other's members. Indeed, with the remarkable 
exceptions of the coal and cotton industries, and, to a 
lesser extent, that of house-building, there is hardly a great 
trade in the country in which the workmen's organisations 
are not seriously crippled by this fatal dissension. 

Now, experience shows that the permanent cause of this 
competitive rivalry and overlapping between unions is their 
organisation upon bases inconsistent with each other. When 
two societies include and exclude precisely the same sections 
of workmen, competition between them loses half its bitter- 
ness, and the solution of the difficulty is only a question of 
time. We see, for instance* since 1862, the Amalgamated 
Society of Carpenters and Joiners rapidly distancing its elder 
competitor, the General Union of Carpenters and Joiners 
(established 1827). But because the members of both 
societies belong to identically the same trade, are paid by 
the same methods, earn the same rates, work the same hours, 
have the same customs and needs, and are in no way to 
be distinguished from each other, the branches in a given 
town find no difficulty in concerting, by means of a joint 
committee, a common trade policy. And although the 
existence of two societies weakens the financial position of 
the one as well as of the other, the identity of the members' 
income and requirements, and their constant intercourse, tend 
steadily to an approximation of the respective scales of 
contribution and benefits. Under these circumstances the 
tendency to amalgamation is, as we have seen in the pre- 
ceding chapter, almost irresistible, and is usually delayed 
only by the natural reluctance of some particular official to 
abdicate the position of leadership. 

The problem which the engineers, the transit workers, 
and the laborers have so far failed to solve, is how to 
define a trade. Among the engineers, for instance, there is 



Interunion Relations 123 

no general agreement which groups of workmen have 
interests sufficiently distinct from the remainder as to make 
it necessary for them to combine in a sectional organisation ; 
and there is but little proper appreciation of the relation 
of these sectional interests to those which all engineering 
mechanics have in common. The enthusiast for amalgama- 
tion is always harping on the necessity of union amongst 
all classes of engineering workmen in order to abolish 
systematic overtime, to reduce the normal hours of labor, 
and to obtain recognition of Trade Union conditions from 
the government. To the member of the United Pattern- 
makers' Association or of the Associated Blacksmiths, 
these objects, however desirable, are subordinate to some 
re - arrangement of the method or scale of remuneration 
peculiar to his own occupation. The solution of the 
problem is to be found in a form of organisation which 
secures Home Rule for any group possessing interests 
divergent from those of the industry as a whole, whilst 
at the same time maintaining effective combination through- 
out the entire industry for the promotion of the interests 
which are common to all the sections. 

Fortunately, we are not left to our imagination to devise 
a paper constitution which would fulfil these conditions. In 
another industry we find the problem solved with almost 
perfect success. We have already described the half- 
dozen distinct classes into which the Cotton Operatives are 
naturally divided. Each of these has its own independent 
union, which carries on its own negotiations with the 
employers, and would vigorously resist any proposal for 
amalgamation. But in addition to the sectional interests 
of each of the six classes, there are subjects upon which two 
or more of the sections feel in common, and others which 
concern them all. Accordingly, instead of amalgamation 
on the one hand, or isolation on the other, we find the 
sectional unions combining with each other in various 
federal organisations of great efficiency. The Cotton- 
spinners and the Cardroom Operatives, working always for 



124 Trade Union Structure 

the same employers in the same establishments, have 
formed the Cotton -Workers' Association, to the funds of 
which both societies contribute. Each constituent union 
carried on its own collective bargaining and has its own 
funds. But it agrees to call out its members in support 
of the other's dispute, whenever requested to do so, the 
members so withdrawn being supported from the federal 
fund. The Cotton-spinners thus secure the stoppage of 
the material for their work, whenever they withdraw their 
labor, and thereby place an additional obstacle in the way 
of the employer obtaining blackleg spinners. The Card- 
room Operatives on the other hand, whose labor is almost 
unskilled, and could easily be replaced, obtain in their 
disputes the advantage of the support of the indispensable 
Cotton-spinners. No federation for these purposes would be 
of use to the Cotton -weavers, who often work for employers 
devoting themselves exclusively to weaving, and whose 
product goes to a different market. But the Cotton-weavers 
join with the Cotton-spinners and the Cardroom Operatives 
in the United Textile Factory Workers' Association, a purely 
political organisation for the purpose of obtaining and en- 
forcing the factory and other legislation common to the 
whole trade. 1 And it is interesting to notice that the 
Cotton Operatives not only refrain from converting this 
strong and stable federation into an amalgamation, but even 
carry the federal form into the different sections of their 
industry. The 19,000 Cotton-spinners, for instance, form 
a single righting unit, which, for compactness and absolute 
discipline, bears comparison even with the United Society 
of Boilermakers. But though the Cotton-spinners call their 
union an amalgamation, the larger " provinces " retain the 
privilege of electing their own officers, and of fixing their 
own contributions for local purposes and special benefits, 
and even preserve a certain degree of legislative autonomy. 
The student who derives his impression of these organisa- 
tions merely from their elaborate separate rules and reports, 

1 This organisation was temporarily suspended in 1896. 



Interunion Relations. 125 

might easily conclude that, in the relation between the 
Oldham or Bolton " province," and the " Representative 
Meeting" of the Amalgamated Association of Operative 
Cotton-spinners, we have a genuine case of local and central 
government. This, however, is not the case. The partial 
autonomy of the " provinces " of Oldham and Bolton is not 
a case of geographical, but of industrial specialisation. 
Each " province " has its own peculiar trade, spinning 
different "counts" for widely different markets. Each is 
governed by its own peculiar list of piecework prices, based 
on different considerations. And though the prevailing 
tendency is towards a greater uniformity of terms and 
methods, there is still a sufficient distinction between the 
Oldham and Bolton trades themselves, and between those 
of the smaller districts, to make any amalgamation a 
hazardous experiment. Similar considerations have hitherto 
applied to the Cotton - weavers, who have, indeed, only 
recently united into a single body. Differences of trade 
interests, not easy of explanation to the outsider, have 
hitherto separated town and town, each working under its 
own piecework list. These sectional differences resulted, 
until lately, in organisation by loosely federated autonomous 
groups. It is at least an interesting coincidence that the 
increasing uniformity of conditions which, in 1884, per- 
mitted the concentration of these groups into the Northern 
Counties Amalgamated Association of Cotton-weavers, re- 
sulted, in 1892, in the adoption, from one end of Lancashire . 
to the other, of a uniform piecework list. 

The history of Trade Unionism among the Coalminers 
also supplies instructive instances of federal action. 
In Northumberland and Durham the present unions 
included, for the first ten years of their existence, not 
only the actual hewers of the coal, but also the Deputies 
(Overlookers), the Enginemen, the Cokemen, and the 
Mechanics employed in connection with the collieries. This 
is still the type of union in some of the more recently 
organised districts. Both in Northumberland and in 



126 Trade Union Structure 

Durham, however, experience of the difficulties of com- 
bining such diverse workers has led to the formation of 
distinct unions for Deputies, Cokemen, and Colliery 
Mechanics. Each of these acts with complete independ- 
ence in dealing with the special circumstances of its own 
occupation, but unites with the others in the same county 
in a strong federation for general wage movements. 1 And 
if we pass from the " county federations " which are so 
characteristic of this industry, to the attempts to weld all 
coal-hewers into a single national organisation, we shall see 
that these attempts have hitherto succeeded only when they 
have taken the federal form. In 1868 and again in 1874 
attempts at complete amalgamation quickly came to grief. 
Effective federation of all the organised districts has, on the 
other hand, endured since i863. 2 We attribute this pre- 
ference for the federal form, not to the difficulty of uniting 
the geographically separated coalfields, but to the divergence 
of interests between them. Northumberland, Durham, and 
South Wales, producing chiefly for foreign export, feel 
that their trade has little in common with that of the 
Midland Coalfields, which supply the home market. The 
thin seams of Somersetshire demand different methods of 
working, different rates of remuneration, and different 
allowances, from those in vogue in the rich mines of York- 
shire. The " fiery " mines of Monmouthshire demand quite 
a different set of working rules from the harmless seams of 
Cannock Chase. 3 It was, therefore, quite natural that, in 
1887, when a demand arose for a strong and active national 
organisation, this did not take the form of an amalgamated 
union. The Miners' Federation, which now includes 200,000 
members from Fife to Somerset, is composed of separate 

1 The Durham County Mining Federation, established 1878, includes the 
Durham Coalminers, Enginemen's, Cokemen's, and Mechanics' Associations. 
The Northumberland associations have not established any formal federation but 
act constantly together. 

2 See History of Trade Unionism, pp. 274, 287, 335, 350, 380. 

3 See, for instance, the animated discussion on proposed clause to restrict 
shot-firing, National Conference of Miners, Birmingham, 9th-i2th January 1893. 



Inter union Relations \ 2 7 

unions, each retaining complete autonomy in its own affairs, 
and only asking for the help of the federal body in matters 
common to the whole kingdom, or in case of a local dispute 
extending to over 1 5 per cent of the members. Any 
attempt to draw tighter these bonds of union would, in all 
probability, at once cause the secession of the Scottish 
Miners' unions, and would absolutely preclude the adhesion 
of Northumberland, Durham, and South Wales. 1 

1 Other industries afford instances of federal union. The compositors employed 
in the offices of the great London daily newspapers, at specially high wages, and 
under quite exceptional conditions, have, since 1853, formed an integral part of 
the London Society of Compositors. But they have, from the beginning, had 
their own quarterly meetings, and elected their own separate executive committee 
and salaried secretary, who conduct all their distinctive trade business, moving 
for new privileges and advances independently of the general body. One or 
more delegates are appointed by the News Department to represent it at general 
or delegate meetings of the whole society, whilst two representatives of the Book 
Department (which comprises nine-tenths of the society) sit on the newsmen's 
executive committee. There is even a tendency to establish similar relations 
with the special " music printers." The National Union of Boot and Shoe 
Operatives presents an example of incipient federation. The union is made up 
of large branches in the several towns, each possessing local funds and appointing 
its own salaried officials. In so far as the members belong to an identical 
occupation, the tendency is towards increased centralisation. But it has become 
the rule for the members in each town to divide into branches, not according 
to geographical propinquity, but according to the class of work which they do. 
Thus, in any town, " No. I Branch " is composed exclusively of Rivetters and 
Finishers, "No. 2 Branch" are the Clickers, and where a separate class of 
Jewish workers exists, these form a "No. 3 Branch." The central executive 
is elected by electoral divisions according to membership, and has hitherto 
usually been composed exclusively of the predominating classes of Rivetters and 
Finishers. But the Clickers, whose interests diverge from those of their 
colleagues, have, for some time, been demanding separate representation, which 
they have now been informally granted by the election of their chief salaried 
official as treasurer of the whole union. A similar movement may be discerned 
among the Finishers, as against the Rivetters (now become "Lasters"), and it 
seems probable that this desire for sectional representation, following on partial 
sectional autonomy, will presently find formal recognition in the constitution. 

The building trades afford an interesting case of the abandonment of the 
experiment of a general union in favor of separate national societies, which are 
not at present united in any national federation. The Builders' Union of 1830-34 
aimed at the ideal afterwards pursued in the engineering industry. All the 
operatives engaged in the seven sections of the building trade were to be united 
in a single national amalgamation. This attempt has never been repeated. ^ In 
its place we have the great national unions of Stonemasons, Carpenters, Brick- 
layers, Plumbers, and Plasterers, whilst the Painters and the Builders' Laborers 
have not yet emerged from the stage of the local trade club. Between the 
central executives of these societies there is no federal union. In almost every 



128 Trade Union Structitre 

These examples of success and failure in uniting several 
sections of workmen in a single unit of government, point 
to the existence of an upper and a lower limit to the 
process of amalgamation. It is one of the conditions of 
effective trade action that a union should include all the 
workmen whose occupation or training is such as to enable 
them, at short notice, to fill the places held by its members. 
It would, for instance, be most undesirable for such inter- 
changeable mechanics as fitters, turners, and erectors, to 
maintain separate Trade Unions, with distinct trade policies. 
And if the Cardroom Operatives could easily " mind " the 
self-acting mule of the Cotton-spinners, it might possibly 
suit the latter to arrange an amalgamation between the two 
societies, just as the Rivetters found it convenient to absorb 
the Holders-up into the United Society of Boilermakers and 
Iron Shipbuilders. 1 There appears to be no advantage in 
carrying amalgamation (as distinct from federation) beyond 
this point. But there are often serious difficulties in going 
even thus far. The efficient working of an amalgamated 
society requires that all sections of the members should be 
fairly uniform in the methods of their remuneration, the 
conditions of their employment, and the amount of their 
standard earnings. Moreover, it may confidently be pre- 
dicted that no amalgamation will be stable in which the 
several sections differ appreciably in strategic position, in 
such a manner as to make it advantageous for them to 

town there has, however, grown up a local Building Trades' Federation, formed 
by the local branches to concert joint action against their common employers, 
as regards hours of labor and local advances or reductions of wages, both of 
which are in each town usually simultaneous and identical for all sections. We 
have elsewhere referred to the difficulties arising from this separate action of each 
town, and it is at least open to argument whether the building trades would not 
be better advised to form a national federation to concert a common national 
policy, having federal officials in the large towns, who would, like the district 
delegates of the United Society of Boilermakers, represent the whole organisation, 
though acting in consultation with local committees. 

1 The Holders-up were admitted into the society in 1881, at the instance of 
the general secretary, who represented that Holders-up were indispensable fellow - 
workers and possible blacklegs, and must therefore be brought under the control 
of the organisation, more especially as they were beginning to form separate clubs 
of their own. 



InierUnion Relations 129 

move at different times, or by different expedients. 
Finally, experience seems to show that in no trade will a 
well-paid and well-organised but numerically weak section 
permanently consent to remain in the subordination to 
inferior operatives, which any amalgamation of all sections 
of a large and varied industry must usually involve. 

Let us apply these axioms to the tangle of competing 
societies in the engineering trade. The fitters, turners, 
and erectors who work in the same shop, on the same job, 
under identical methods of remuneration, for wages ap- 
proximately equal in amount, and who can without difficulty 
do each other's work, form, no doubt, a natural unit of 
government. 1 We might perhaps add to these the smiths, 
though the persistence of a few separate smiths' societies, 
and the uprising of joint societies of smiths and strikers, 
may indicate a different cleavage. With regard to the 
pattern-makers, it is easy to understand why the United 
Pattern-makers' Association is now attracting a majority of 
the men entering this section of the trade. These highly 
skilled and superior artisans constitute a tiny minority amid 
the great engineering army ; they usually enjoy a higher 
Standard Rate than any other section ; and any advances 
or reductions in their wages must almost necessarily occur 
at different times from similar changes among the engineers 
proper. It is even open to argument whether, for Collective 
Bargaining, the pattern-makers are not actually stronger when 
acting alone than when in alliance with the whole engineering, 
industry. We are, therefore, disposed to agree with the con- 
tention of the United Pattern-makers' Association that "when 
the interests of our own particular section are concerned, we 
hold it as the first principle of our Association that these 
interests can only be thoroughly understood, and effectively 
looked after, by ourselves." 2 The same conclusions apply, 

1 In 1896, though the Amalgamated Society of Engineers enrolled the un- 
precedented total of 13,321 new members, all but 1803 of these belonged to the 
classes of fitters, turners, or millwrights. 

2 Preface to Rules of the United Pattern-makers' Association (Manchester, 
1892). 

VOL. I K 



1 3 o 



Trade Union Structure 



though in a lesser degree, to some other sections now included 
in the Amalgamated Society, and they would decisively 
negative the suggestion to absorb such distinct and highly 
organised trades as the Plumbers and Ironfounders. 1 

This conclusion does not mean that each section of the 
engineering trade should maintain a complete independence. 
" We quite acknowledge," state the Pattern-makers, " that 
it would be neither politic nor possible to completely sever 
our connection with the organisation representative of the 
engineering trade, and we are always ready to co-operate 
with contemporary societies in movements which affect the 
interests of the general body." 2 There are, indeed, some 
matters as to which the whole engineering industry must act 
in concert if it is to act at all. A great establishment like 
Elswick, employing 10,000 operatives in every section of 
the industry, would find it intolerable to conduct separate 
negotiations, and fix different meal-times or different holidays 
for the different branches of the trade. We find, in fact, the 
associated employers on the North-east Coast expressly com- 

1 Our analysis thus definitely refutes the suggestion that the quarrels be- 
tween the engineers and plumbers, and the shipwrights and joiners respectively, 
might be obviated by the amalgamation of the competing unions. The two 
trades overlap in a few shipbuilding jobs, but in nine-tenths of their work it 
would be impossible for an engineer to take the place of the plumber, or a ship- 
wright that of a joiner, or vice versd. In strategic position the plumber differs 
fundamentally from the engineer, and the joiner from the shipwright. The 
engineering and shipbuilding trades are subject to violent fluctuations, which 
depend upon the alternate inflations and depressions of the national commerce. 
The building trades, on the other hand, with which nine-tenths of the joiners and 
plumbers must be counted, vary considerably according to the season of the year, 
but fluctuate comparatively little from year to year ; and the general fluctuations 
to which they are subject do not coincide with those of the shipbuilding and 
engineering industries. By the time that the wave of expansion has reached the 
building trades, the staple industries of the country are already in the trough of 
the succeeding depression. It would have been difficult to have persuaded a 
Newcastle engineer or a shipwright in the spring of 1893, when 20 per cent of 
his colleagues were out of work, that the plumbers and carpenters were well 
advised in choosing that particular moment to press for better terms. Finally, we 
have the almost insuperable difficulty of securing adequate representation for the 
9000 plumbers, scattered in every town amid the 87,000 engineers ; and, on the 
other hand, the 14,000 shipwrights concentrated in a few ports amid the 49,000 
joiners spread over the whole country. 

2 Preface to Rules of the United Pattern-makers' Association (Manchester, 
1892). 



Interunion Relations 131 

plaining in 1890, " of the great inconvenience and difficulty 
experienced in the settlement of wages and other general 
questions between employers and employed"; and ascribing 
the constant friction that prevailed to the " want of uniformity 
of action and similarity of demand put forward by the 
various societies representing the skilled engineering labor." 
Collective Bargaining becomes impracticable when different 
societies are proposing new regulations on overtime in- 
consistent with each other, and when rival organisations, 
each claiming to represent the same section of the trade, are 
putting forward divergent claims as to the methods and 
rates of remuneration. The employers were driven to insist 
that the " deputations meeting them to negotiate . . . should 
represent all the societies interested in the question under 
consideration." * And when the method to be employed is 
not Collective Bargaining but Parliamentary action, federal 
union is even more necessary. If the mechanics in the 
great government arsenals and factories desire modifica- 
tions in their conditions of employment, union of purpose 
among the tens of thousands of engineering electors all over 
the country is indispensable for success. 

So long, however, as the Amalgamated Society of 
Engineers claims to include within its own ranks every 
kind of engineering mechanic, and to decide by itself the 
policy to be pursued, a permanent and effective federal 
organisation is impossible. Any attempt to combine in the 
same industry the mutually inconsistent schemes of amal- 
gamation and federation may even intensify the friction. 
Thus we find, in 1888, to quote again from a report of the 

1 Circular of the Iron Trades Employers' Association on the Overtime Ques- 
tion, October 1891. We attribute the practical failure of the Engineering 
operatives to check systematic overtime, an evil against which they have been 
striving ever since 1836, to the chaotic state of the organisation of the trade. A 
similar lack of federal union stood in the way of the London bookbinders in 1893, 
when they succeeded without great difficulty in obtaining an Eight Hours' Day 
from those employers who were bookbinders only. In the great printing estab- 
lishments, such as Waterlow's and Spottiswoode's, they found it practically 
impossible to arrange an Eight Hours' Day in the binding departments, whilst 
the printers continued to work for longer hours. 



132 Trade Union Structure 

United Pattern-makers' Association, "the sectional societies 
(on North-east Coast), indignant at the arbitrary manner in 
which the Amalgamated Society of Engineers had acted, 
federated together with the avowed object of resisting a 
repetition of any such behaviour in case of further wages 
movements, and asserting their right to be consulted before 
definite action was taken. ... It is impossible," continues 
the report, " to dissociate the action of our contemporaries 
(the Amalgamated Society of Engineers) from their recent 
unsuccessful attempt at amalgamating the various sectional 
societies ; and it would seem that they, rinding it impossible 
to absorb their weaker brethren by fair means, had resolved 
to shatter the confidence they have in their unions by 
showing them their impotence to influence, of themselves, 
their relations between their employers and members." l The 
" Federal Board," thus formed by the smaller engineering 
societies on Tyneside in antagonism to their more powerful 
rival, lasted for three years, but failed, it is needless to say, 
in securing industrial peace. A more important and more 
promising attempt has been marred by the persistent absten- 
tion of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers. In 1890, 
Mr. Robert Knight, the able general secretary of the United 
Society of Boilermakers, succeeded, after repeated failures, in 
drawing together in a powerful national federation the great 
majority of the unions connected with the engineering and 
shipbuilding industries. This " Federation of Engineering and 
Shipbuilding Trades of the United Kingdom " includes such 
powerful organisations as the United Society of Boilermakers, 
40,776 members ; the Associated Shipwrights' Society, 1 4,2 3 5 
members ; and the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and 
Joiners, 48,631 members, who are content to meet on equal 
terms such smaller unions as the Steam-Engine Makers' 
Society, 7000 members ; the United Operative Plumbers' 
Society, 8758 members; the United Pattern-makers' Associa- 
tion, 3636 members; the National Amalgamated Society of 
Painters and Decorators, and half a dozen more minute 

1 Monthly Report of the United Pattern-makers' Society, January 1889. 




Interunion Relations 133 



sectional societies. This federation has now lasted over seven 
years, and has fulfilled a useful function in settling disputes 
between the different unions. But as an instrument for 
Collective Bargaining with the employers, or for taking 
concerted action on behalf of the whole industry, it is useless 
so long as the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, with its 
87,455 members, holds resolutely aloof. And the Amal- 
gamated Society of Engineers, still wedded to the ideal of 
one undivided union, cannot bring itself to accept as per- 
manent colleagues, the sectional societies which it regards 
as illegitimate combinations undermining its own position. 1 

1 The first numbers of the Amalgamated Engineers' Monthly Journal an 
official organ started on the accession of Mr. George Barnes to the general 
secretaryship shows that thinking members of the Amalgamation are coming 
round to the idea of federal union with the sectional societies, and others con- 
nected with the engineering and shipbuilding industry. Thus Mr. Tom Mann, in 
the opening number (January 1897, pp. 10-11), declares "that the bulk of the 
Amalgamated Society of Engineers' men are ashamed ... of their present power- 
lessness. . . . Whence comes the weakness ? Beyond any doubt it is primarily due 
to the fact that no concerted action is taken by the various unions. . . . That is, 
the Amalgamated Society of Engineers has not yet learnt the necessity for form- 
ing part of a real federation of all trades connected with this particular profession. 
. . . What member can look back over the last few years and not blush with shame 
at what has taken place between the Amalgamated Society of Engineers and the 
Plumbers, and the Boilermakers and Shipbuilders ; and who can derive satisfac- 
tion in reflecting upon the want of friendly relations between the Amalgamated 
Society of Engineers . . . and the Pattern-makers and Shipwrights, and Steam - 
Engine Makers, etc. ? A fighting force is wanted . . . and this can only be 
obtained by a genuine federation of societies connected with the trades referred 
to. ... The textile workers (cotton) have federated the various societies, and 
are able to secure united action on a scale distinctly in advance of that of the 
engineering trades." And in the succeeding issue Mr. John Burns vigorously 
strikes the same note. " To really prevent this internecine and disintegrating 
strife, the first step for the Amalgamated Engineers this year is to join at once 
with all the other unions in [a] federation of engineering trades." Two months 
later (April 1897, pp. 12-14) comes a furious denunciation of the proposal, 
signed "Primitive," who invokes the "shades of Allan and eloquence of Newton " 
against this attempted undoing of their work. "Just because a few interested 
labor busybodies have got it into their heads that they can run a cheap-jack 
show for every department of our trade with the same effect as our great combina- 
tion, we are to drop our arms, pull down our socks, hide our tail under our 
nether parts, and shout 'peccavi.' . . . Sectional societies for militant purposes 
are useless, and therefore they only exist where such is practised as friendly 
societies. . . . Amalgamation is our title, our war-cry and our principle ; and 
once we admit that it is necessary to ' federate ' with sectional societies we give 
away the whole case to the enemy. . . . Federation with trades whose work- 
shop practice is keenly distinct from our own is a good means to a better end. 



134 Trade Union Structure 

If now, looking back on the whole history of organisation 
in the engineering trade, we may be " wise after the event," 
we suggest that it would have been better if the local 
trade clubs had confined themselves each to a single section 
of engineering workmen, and if they had then developed into 
national societies of like scope. Had this been the case, and 
could Newton and Allan have foreseen the enormous growth 
and increasing differentiation of their industry, they would 
have advocated, not a single comprehensive amalgamation, 
but a federation of sectional societies of national extent, for 
such purposes as were common to the whole engineering 
trade. This federation would have, in the first instance, 
included a great national society of fitters, turners, and 
erectors on the one hand, and smaller national societies of 
smiths and pattern-makers respectively. And as organisa- 
tion proceeded among the brass-workers, coppersmiths, and 
machine-workers, and as new classes arose, like the electrical 
engineers, these could each have been endowed with a 
sufficient measure of Home Rule, and admitted as separate 
sections to the federal union. This federal union might then 
have combined in a wider and looser federation, for specified 
purposes, with the United Society of Boilermakers, the 
Friendly Society of Ironfounders, the Associated Shipwrights' 
Society, and the other organisations interested in the great 
industry of iron steamship building and equipping. 1 

One practical precept emerges from our consideration of 
all these forms of association. It is a fundamental condi- 
tion of stable and successful federal action that the degree 
of union between the constituent bodies should correspond 
strictly with the degree of their unity of interest. This will 

Federation with trades whose shop practice is similar, whose interests are 
identical, and who ought to be with us in every fight, is a maudlin means to a 
general fizzle." The question is now (August 1897) a subject of keen debate in 
the society. 

1 The several national societies of Carpenters, Plumbers, Painters, Cabinet- 
makers, etc., would, in respect of their members working in shipbuilding yards, 
also join this Federation ; whilst they would, at the same" time, continue to be in 
closer federal union with the Bricklayers, Stonemasons, and other societies of 
building operatives. 



Interunion Relations 135 

be most easily recognised on the financial side. We have 
already more than once adverted to the fact that a scale 
of contributions and benefits, which would suit the require- 
ments of one class, might be entirely out of the reach of 
other sections, whose co-operation was nevertheless indis- 
pensable for effective common action. But this is not all. 
We have to deal, not only with classes differing in the 
amount of their respective incomes, but also with wide 
divergences between the ways in which the several classes 
need to lay out their incomes. The amount levied by the 
federal body for the common purse must therefore not only 
be strictly limited to the cost of the services in which all 
the constituent bodies have an identical interest, but must 
also not exceed, in any case, the amount which the poorest 
section finds it advantageous to expend on these services. 

But our precept has a more subtle application to the 
aims and policy of the federal body, and to the manner in 
which its decisions are arrived at. The permanence of the 
federation will be seriously menaced if it pursues any course 
of action which, though beneficial to the majority of its 
constituent bodies, is injurious to any one among them. 
The constituent bodies came together, at the outset, for 
the promotion of purposes desired, not merely by a 
majority, but by all of them ; and it is a violation of the 
implied contract between them to use the federal force, 
towards the creation of which all have contributed, in a 
manner inimical to any one of them. This means that, 
where the interests diverge, any federal decision must be 
essentially the result of consultation between the representa- 
tives of the several sections, with a view of discovering the 
" greatest common measure." These issues must, therefore, 
never be decided merely by counting votes. So long as the 
questions dealt with affect all the constituents in approxi- 
mately the same manner, mere differences of opinion as to 
projects or methods may safely be decided by a majority 
vote. If the results are, in fact, advantageous, the dis- 
approval of the minority will quickly evaporate ; if, on the 



136 Trade Union S true litre 

other hand, the results prove to be disadvantageous, the 
dissentients will themselves become the dominant force. In 
either case no permanent cleavage is caused. But if the 
difference of opinion between the majority and the minority 
arises from a real divergence of sectional interests, and is 
therefore fortified by the event, any attempt on the part of 
the majority to force its will on the minority will, in a 
voluntary federation, lead to secession. 

Thus, we are led insensibly to a whole theory of " pro- 
portional representation" in federal constitutions. In a homo- 
geneous association, where no important divergence of actual 
interest can exist, the supreme governing authority can safely 
be elected, and fundamental issues can safely be decided, by 
mere counting of heads. Such an association will naturally 
adopt a representative system based on universal suffrage 
and equal electoral districts. But when in any federal body 
we have a combination of sections of unequal numerical 
strength, having different interests, decisions cannot safely 
be left to representatives elected or voting according to the 
numerical membership of the constituent bodies. For this, 
in effect, would often mean giving a decisive voice to the 
members of the largest section^ or to those of the two or 
three larger sections, without the smaller sections having any 
effective voting influence on the result. Any such arrange- 
ment seldom fails to produce cleavage and eventual secession, 
as the members of the dominant sections naturally vote for 
their own interest. It is therefore preferable, as a means of 
securing the permanence of the federation, that the represen- 
tation of the constituent bodies should not be exactly propor- 
tionate to their respective memberships. The representative 
system of a federation should, in fact, like its finances, vary 
with the degree to which the interests of the constituent 
bodies are really identical. Wherever interests are divergent, 
the scale must at any rate be so arranged that no one con- 
stituent, however large, can outvote the remainder ; and, 
indeed, so that no two or three of the larger constituents 
could, by mutual agreement, swamp all their colleagues. If 



Inter union Relations 137 

for instance, it is proposed to federate all the national unions 
in the engineering trade, it would be unwise for the Amalga- 
mated Society of Engineers to claim proportional represen- 
tation for its 87,000 members, mainly fitters and turners, 
as compared with the 10,000 pattern-makers, smiths, and 
machine -workers divided among three sectional societies. 
And when a federation includes a large number of very 
different constituents, and exists for common purposes so 
limited as to bear only a small proportion to the particular 
interests of the several sections, it may be desirable frankly 
to give up all idea of representation according to member- 
ship, and to accord to each constituent an equal voice. 
Hence the founders of the Federation of the Engineering 
and Shipbuilding Trades exercised, in our opinion, a wise 
discretion when they accorded to the 9000 members of the 
Operative Plumbers' Society exactly the same representation 
and voting power as is enjoyed by the 41,000 members of 
the United Society of Boilermakers, or by the 49,000 members 
of the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters. A federal body 
of this kind, formed only for certain definite purposes, and 
composed of unions with distinct and sometimes divergent 
interests, stands at the opposite end of the scale from the 
homogeneous " amalgamated " society. The representatives 
of the constituent bodies meet for the composing of mutual 
differences and the discovery of common interests. They 
resemble, in fact, ambassadors who convey the desires of their 
respective sovereign states, contribute their special knowledge 
to the common council, but are unable to promise obedience 
to the federal decision, unless it commends itself as a suit- 
able compromise, or carries with it the weight of an almost 
unanimous consensus of opinion. 1 

The problem of finding a stable unit of government and 
of determining the relation between superior and subordinate 
authorities seems, therefore, to be in a fair way of solution 

1 We revert to these considerations when, in describing the Trade Union 
machinery for political action, we come to deal with such federations as the 
Trade Union Congress and the local Trades Councils. 



138 Trade Union Structure 

in the Trade Union world. With the ever - increasing 
mobility of labor and extension of industry, the local trade 
club has had to give place to a combination of national 
extent. So long as the craft or occupation is fairly uniform 
from one end of the kingdom to the other, the geographical 
boundaries of the autonomous state must, fn the Trade 
Union world, ultimately coincide with those of the nation 
itself. We have seen, too, how inevitably the growth of 
national Trade Unions involves, for strategic, and what may 
be called military reasons, the reduction of local autonomy 
to a minimum, and the complete centralisation of all financial, 
and therefore of all executive government at the national 
headquarters. This tendency is strengthened by economic 
considerations which we shall develop in a subsequent 
chapter. If the Trade Union is to have any success in 
its main function of improving the circumstances of its 
members' employment, it must build up a dyke of a uniform 
minimum of conditions for identical work throughout the 
kingdom. This uniformity of conditions, or, indeed, any 
industrial influence whatsoever, implies a certain uniformity 
and consistency of trade policy, which is only rendered 
possible by centralisation of administration. So far, our 
conclusions lead, it would seem, to the absolute simplicity 
of one all-embracing centralised autocracy. But, in the 
Trade Union world, the problem of harmonising local ad- 
ministration and central control, which for a moment we 
seemed happily to have got rid of, comes back in an even 
more intractable form. The very aim of uniformity of con- 
ditions, the very fact that uniformity of trade policy is 
indispensable to efficiency, makes it almost impossible to 
combine in a single organisation, with a common purse, a 
common executive, and a common staff of salaried officials, 
men of widely different occupations and grades of skill, 
widely different Standards of Life and industrial needs, or 
widely different numerical strengths and strategic oppor- 
tunities. A Trade Union is essentially an organisation for 
securing certain concrete and definite advantages for all its 



Internnion Relations 139 

members advantages which differ from trade to trade 
according to its technical processes, its economic position, 
and, it may be, the geographical situation in which it is 
carried on. Hence all the attempts at " General Unions " 
have, in our view, been inevitably foredoomed to failure. 
The hundreds of thousands of the working class who joined 
the "Grand National Consolidated Trades Union "in 1833-34 
came together, it is true, on a common basis of human brother- 
hood, and with a common faith in the need for a radical 
reconstruction of society. But instead of inaugurating a 
" New Moral World," either by precept or by political revolu- 
tion, they found themselves as a Trade Union, fighting the 
employers in the Lancashire cotton mills to get shorter 
hours of labor, in the Leeds cloth trade to obtain definite 
piecework rates, in the London building trade to do away 
with piecework altogether, in Liverpool to abolish the sub- 
contractor, in the hosiery trade to escape from truck and 
deductions. Each trade, in short, translated " human brother- 
hood " into the remedying of its own particular technical 
grievance, and the central executive was quite unable to 
check the accuracy of the translation. The whole history 
of Trade Unionism confirms the inference that a Trade 
Union, formed as it is, for the distinct purpose of obtaining 
concrete and definite material improvements in the conditions 
of its members' employment, cannot, in its simplest form, 
safely extend beyond the area within which those identical 
improvements are shared by all its members cannot spread, 
that is to say, beyond the boundaries of a single occupa- 
tion. But the discovery of this simple unit of government 
does not exhaust the problem. Whilst the differences 
between the sections render complete amalgamation im- 
practicable, their identity in other interests makes some bond 
of union imperative. The most efficient form of Trade 
Union organisation is therefore one in which the several 
sections can be united for the purposes that they have in 
common, to the extent to which identity of interest prevails, 
and no further, whilst at the same time each section preserves 



140 Trade Union Structure 

complete autonomy wherever its interests or purposes diverge 
from those of its allies. But this is only another form of 
the difficult political problem of the relation of supreme to 
subordinate authorities. Whilst the student of political 
democracy has been grappling with the question of how to 
distribute administration between central and local author- 
ities, the unlettered statesmen of the Trade Union world 
have had to decide the still more difficult issue of how to 
distribute power between general and sectional industrial 
combinations, both of national extent. The solution has 
been found in a series of widening and cross-cutting federa- 
tions, each of which combines, to the extent only of its own 
particular objects, those organisations which are conscious 
of their identity of purpose. Instead of a simple form of 
democratic organisation we get, therefore, one of extreme 
complexity. Where the difficulties of the problem have 
been rightly apprehended, and the whole industry has been 
organised on what may be called a single plane, the result 
may be, as in the case of the Cotton Operatives, a complex 
but harmoniously working democratic machine of remarkable 
efficiency and stability. Where, on the other hand, the 
industry has been organised on incompatible bases, as among 
the Engineers, we find a complicated tangle of relationships 
producing rivalry and antagonism, in which effective common 
action, even for such purposes as are common to all sections, 
becomes almost impossible. 

Trade Union organisation, if it is to reach its highest 
possible efficiency, must therefore assume a federal form. 
Instead of a supreme central government, delegating parts 
of its power to subordinate local authorities, we may expect 
to see the Trade Union world developing into an elaborate 
series of federations, among which it will be difficult to 
decide where the sovereignty really resides. Where the 
several sections closely resemble each other in their cir- 
cumstances and needs, where their common purposes are 
relatively numerous and important, and where, as a result, 
individual secession and subsequent isolation would be 



Interunion Relations 141 

dangerous, the federal tie will be strong, and the federal 
government will, in effect, become the supreme authority. 
At the other end of the scale will stand those federations, 
little more than opportunities for consultation, in which 
the contracting parties retain each a real autonomy, and 
use the federal executive as a convenient, but strictly 
subordinate machinery for securing those limited purposes 
that they have in common. And we have ventured to 
suggest, as an interesting corollary, that the basis of re- 
presentation should, in all these constitutions, vary accord- 
ing to the character of the bond of union, representation 
proportionate to membership being perfectly applicable only 
to a homogeneous organisation, and decreasing in suitability 
with every degree of dissimilarity between the constituent 
bodies. Where the sectional interests are not only distinct, 
but may, in certain cases, be even antagonistic, as, for 
instance, in industries subject to demarcation disputes, rule 
by majority vote must be frankly abandoned, and the repre- 
sentatives of societies widely differing in numerical strength 
must, under penalty of common failure, consent to meet 
on equal terms, to discover, by consultation, how best to 
conciliate the interests of all. 



PART II 

TRADE UNION FUNCTION 



INTRODUCTION 

"THE chief object of our society is to elevate the social 
position of our members," is the comprehensive truism by 
which the ordinary Trade Union defines its function. This 
simple assertion, of what we may term " corporate self-help," 
is, in many of the older unions, embellished by rhetorical 
appeals to the brotherhood of man, and realistic descriptions 
of the precarious position of the weekly wage-earners. Thus 
the " main principle " that actuated the " originators " of the 
Friendly Society of Ironfounders " was that of systematic 
organisation, and the desire of forming a bond of brotherhood 
and sympathy throughout the trade, in order that those who, 
by honest labor, obtained a livelihood in this particular 
branch of industry might, in their combined capacity, more 
successfully compete against the undue and unfair encroach- 
ments of capital than could possibly be the case by any 
number of workmen when acting individually." l " We are 
willing to admit," observe the founders of the Amalgamated 
Society of Engineers, " that whilst in constant employment 
our members may be able to obtain all the necessaries, and 
perhaps some of the luxuries of life. . . . Notwithstanding 
all this, there is a fear always prominent on the mind of him 
who thinks of the future that it may not continue, that to- 
morrow may see him out of employment, his nicely-arranged 

1 Rtiles of the Friendly Ironmoulders' [now Ironfounders'] Society, instituted 
for the purpose of muttial relief in cases of old age, sickness, and infirmity, and 
for the burial of their dead : "Made at Bolton, igth June 1809. Allowed 
at Quarter Sessions, igth July 1809" (Bolton, 1809); see edition of 1891, 
preface. 

VOL. I If 



146 Trade Union Function 

matters for domestic comfort overthrown, and his hopes of 
being able, in a few years, by constant attention and frugality, 
to occupy a more permanent position, proved only to be a 
dream. How much is contained in that word continuance, 
and how necessary to make it a leading principle of our 
association ! " 

But these descriptions of the ultimate objects of working- 
class organisation afford us little clue to the actual operation 
of Trade Unionism. The Trade Unionists of our own 
generation are more explicit. With dry and ungrammatical 
precision the great modern unions give as their " Objects " 
long strings of specific proposals, in which are incidentally 
revealed, with perfect frankness, the means relied upon to 
achieve these ends. The Amalgamated Association of Opera- 
tive Cotton-spinners " is formed to secure to all its members 
the fair reward of their labor ; to provide for the settlement 
in a conciliatory manner of disputes between employer and 
employed, so that a cessation of work may be avoided ; the 
enforcement of the Factory Acts or other legislative enact- 
ments for the protection of labor ; to afford pecuniary 
assistance to any member who may be victimised or without 
employment in consequence of a dispute or lock-out or when 
disabled by accident." 2 The Miners' Federation of Great 
Britain declares that its objects of association " are to take 
into consideration the question of trade and wages, and to 
protect miners generally ; to seek to secure mining legislation 
affecting all miners connected with this Federation ; to call 
conferences to deal with questions affecting miners, both of a 
trade, wage, and legislative character ; to seek and obtain an 
eight hours' day from bank to bank in all mines for all 
persons working underground ; to deal with and watch all 
inquests upon persons killed in the mines where more 
than three persons are killed by any one accident ; to seek 

1 The original Rules and Regulations of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers 
(London, 1851), made at Birmingham, September 1850. 

2 Rules of the Amalgamated Association cf Operative Cotton-spinners (Man- 
chester, 1891). 



Introduction 147 

to obtain compensation where more than three persons are 
injured or killed in any one accident, in all cases where 
counties, federations, or districts have to appeal, or are 
appealed against, from decisions in the lower courts." l The 
National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives (established 
1874) declares that "The objects of the union are: the 
establishment of a central fund for the protection of members 
and advancement of wages ; the establishment of healthy and 
proper workshops, the employers to find room, grindery, 
fixtures, fire, and gas, free of charge ; the establishment, as 
far as practicable, of a uniform rate of wages for the same 
class of work throughout the union ; to abolish sweaters and 
control the system of apprentices ; to reduce the hours of 
labor ; to assist members who are compelled to travel in 
search of employment ; the introduction of Industrial Co- 
operation in our trade ; the use of all legitimate means for 
the moral, social, educational, and political advancement of 
its members ; also to make provision for the union being 
represented by a Parliamentary Agent ; to raise funds for the 
mutual support of its members in time of sickness, and for 
the burial of deceased members and their wives ; to establish 
a system of inter-communication with the Boot and Shoe 
Operatives of other countries." 2 Finally, we may cite the 
most prominent and successful of the so-called " new unions," 
formed in the great uprising of 1889. The rules of the 
National Union of Gasworkers and General Laborers state 
that " The objects of the union are to shorten the hours of 
labor, to obtain a legal eight hours' working day or forty-eight 
hours' week ; to abolish, wherever possible, overtime and Sun- 
day labor, and where this is not possible, to obtain payment 
at a higher rate ; to abolish piecework ; to raise wages, and 
where women do the same work as men, to obtain for them 
the same wages as paid the men ; to enforce the provisions 
of the Truck Acts in their entirety ; to abolish the present 
system of contracts and agreements between employers and 

1 Miners' Federation of Great Britain Kttles (Openshaw, 1893). 
2 Rules of the National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives (Leicester, 1892). 



148 Trade Union Function 

employed ; to settle all labor disputes by amicable agree- 
ment whenever possible ; to obtain equality of employers and 
employed before the law ; to obtain legislation for the better- 
ing of the lives of the working class ; to secure the return of 
members of the union to vestries, school boards, boards of 
guardians, municipal bodies, and to Parliament, provided such 
candidates are pledged to the collective ownership of the 
means of production, distribution, and exchange ; to set aside 
annually a maximum sum of 200, to be used solely for the 
purpose of helping to return and maintain members on public 
representative bodies ; to assist similar organisations having 
the same objects as herein stated." l 

We must, however, not look to the formal rules or 
rhetorical preambles for a scientific or complete account of 
Trade Union action. Drafted originally by enthusiastic 
pioneers, copied and recopied by successive revising com- 
mittees, the printed constitutions of working-class associa- 
tions represent rather the aspirations than the everyday 
action of the members. More trustworthy data may be 
obtained from a scrutiny of the cash accounts, or from a 
close study of the voluminous internal literature of the 
unions the monthly, quarterly, and yearly reports of the 
central executives, the frequent official circulars on particular 
questions, and the elaborate verbatim notes of conferences 
and joint committees. The printed documents circulated by 
some societies include the diary of their principal trade 
official, detailing his day-by-day negotiation with employers. 2 
Other unions publish to their members periodical reports 
from their district delegates stationed in the principal indus- 
trial centres, containing valuable information as to the move- 
ments of trade, graphic accounts of disputes with employers 
or other societies, and appeals for guidance as to the policy to 
be pursued. To the student of sociology this literature 
poured out to the extent of hundreds of volumes annually 

J Rules of the National Union of Gasworkers and General Laborers of Great 
Britain and Ireland (London, 1894). 

2 See the extracts printed in the chapter on "The Standard Rate," 



Introduction \ 49 

is of fascinating interest. It affords a graphic picture of the 
actual structure and working of the modern world of manu- 
facturing industry, with its constant changes of process and 
shiftings of trade. It lays bare, more completely than any 
other records known to us, the real nature and action of 
democratic organisation in the Anglo-Saxon race. And, 
what is most relevant to our present purpose, it reveals, with 
all the pathos of success and failure, the working of the 
various Trade Union Methods and Regulations with the 
underlying assumptions as to social expediency on which 
they are based. 

But documents, however frank and confidential, are apt to 
distort facts as well as to display them. A heated recrimi- 
nation between a local official and the general secretary, a 
dispute about the wages on a new process, affecting only a 
tiny minority of the members, or a Parliamentary agitation 
for a new clause in the Factory Acts will loom large in the 
proceedings of the year, and may seem to represent the bulk 
of the union's activity. Meanwhile, the branches may have 
been engaged in a peaceful but successful maintenance of 
their old-standing Working Rules, or a new regulation may 
silently have become habitual, or an old one silently dropped, 
without this action on the part of the majority of the 
members rising to the surface in any document whatsoever, 
public or private. To complete the knowledge yielded by 
documents, the student must watch the men at work, and 
discuss the application of particular regulations with em- 
ployers, managers, and foremen not omitting the factory 
inspector and the secretary to the Employers' Association 
he must listen to the objections of the small master and the 
blackleg ; above all, he must attend the inside meetings of 
branches and district committees, where the points at issue 
are discussed in technical detail with a frank explicitness 
which is untrammelled either by the prejudices of the rank 
and file or the fear of the enemy. 

This combined plan of studying documents and observing 
men is the one that we have, during our six years' investi- 



150 Trade Union Function 

gation, attempted to follow. In the ensuing chapters we 
endeavor to place before the reader an accurate descrip- 
tion of the Methods and Regulations actually practised by 
British Trade Unionism. We shall see the Trade Unionists, 
from the beginning of the eighteenth century down to the 
present day, enforcing their Regulations by three distinct 
instruments or levers, which we distinguish as the Method 
of Mutual Insurance, the Method of Collective Bargaining, 
and the Method of Legal Enactment. From the Methods 
used to enforce the Regulations, we shall pass to the Regu- 
lations themselves. These we shall find grouping themselves, 
notwithstanding an almost infinite variety of technical detail, 
under seven main heads the Standard Rate, the Normal 
Day, Sanitation and Safety, New Processes and Machinery, 
Continuity of Employment, the Entrance into a Trade, 
and the Right to a Trade all of which we examine in 
separate chapters. This will lead us to the Implications of 
Trade Unionism certain practical outgrowths and necessary 
consequences of Trade Union policy which require elucida- 
dation. Finally, we shall bring into light the Assumptions 
of Trade Unionism the fundamental prejudices, opinions, or 
judgments lying at the root of Trade Union policy an 
analysis of which will serve at once to explain and to sum- 
marise the various forms of Trade Union action. 

In the course of this comprehensive description of Trade 
Unionism as it is, we shall not abstain from incidentally 
criticising the various Methods and Regulations, and the 
different types of Trade Union policy, in respect of the 
success or failure of Trade Unions to apply them to the facts 
of modern life. But in this part of our book we care- 
fully avoid any discussion as to the effects of Trade Unionism 
upon industry, and, above all, we make no attempt to decide 
whether it has or has not resulted in effectively raising 
wages, or otherwise improving the conditions of employment. 
We venture to think that there can be no useful discussion 
of the economic validity of Trade Unionism until the student 
has first surveyed its actual contents. Our examination of 



Introduction 1 5 1 

the theory of trade combination the possibility, by deliberate 
common action, of altering the conditions of employment ; 
the effect of the various Methods and Regulations upon the 
efficiency of production and the distribution of wealth ; and 
the ultimate social expediency of exchanging a system of 
unfettered individual competition for one of collective regula- 
tion in a word, our judgment upon Trade Unionism as a 
whole we reserve for the third and final part of this book. 



CHAPTER I 

THE METHOD OF MUTUAL INSURANCE 

IN a certain sense it would not be difficult to regard all the 
activities of Trade Unionism as forms of Mutual Insurance. 
Whether the purpose be the fixing of a list of piecework 
prices, the promotion of a new factory bill, or the defence 
of a member against a prosecution for picketing, we see 
the contributions, subscribed equally in the past by all the 
members, applied in ways which benefit unequally particular 
individuals or particular sections among them, independently 
of the amount which these individuals or sections may them- 
selves have contributed. But this interpretation of insurance 
would cover, not Trade Unionism alone, but practically every 
form of collective action, including citizenship itself. By 
the phrase " Mutual Insurance," as one of the Methods of 
Trade Unionism, we understand only the provision of a 
fund by common subscription to insure against casualties ; 
to provide maintenance, that is to say, in cases in which a 
member is deprived of his livelihood by causes over which 
neither he nor the union has any control. This obviously 
covers the " benevolent " or friendly society side of Trade 
Unionism, such as the provision of sick pay, accident benefit, 
and superannuation allowance, together with " burial money," 
and such allowances as that made to members of the 
Amalgamated Society of Tailors who are prevented from 
working by the sanitary authorities, owing to the presence 
of infectious disease in their homes. But it includes also 



The Method of Mutual Insurance 1 5 3 

what are often termed " trade " benefits ; grants for replacing 
tools lost by theft or fire, and " out-of-work pay," from the 
old-fashioned "tramping card " to the modern " donation " 
given when a member loses his employment by the tem- 
porary breakdown of machinery or " want of pit room," by 
the bankruptcy of his employer or the stoppage of a mill, 
or merely in consequence of a depression in trade. " The 
simplest and universal function of trades societies," it 
was reported in 1 860, " is the enabling the workman to 
maintain himself while casually out of employment, or 
travelling in search of it." 1 On the other hand, our 
definition excludes all expenditure incurred by the union as 
a consequence of action voluntarily undertaken by it, such 
as the cost of trade negotiations, the " victim pay " accorded 
to members dismissed for agitation, and the maintenance of 
men on strike. These we omit as more properly incidental 
to the Method of Collective Bargaining. We also leave to 
be dealt with under the Method of Legal Enactment the 
provision for the legal aid of members under the Employers' 
Liability, Truck, or Factory Acts. 

Trade Union Mutual Insurance, thus defined, comprises 
two distinct classes of benefit : " Friendly " and " Out of 
Work." There is an essential difference between the 
insurance against such physical and personal casualties as 
sickness, accident, and old age on the one hand, and, on the 
other, the stoppage of income caused by mere inability to 
obtain employment. 

Friendly Mutual Insurance, in many industries the oldest 
form of Trade Union activity, has been adopted by practically 
every society which has lasted. Here and there, at all times, 
one trade or another has, in the first emergence of its 
organisation, preferred to confine its action to Collective 
Bargaining or to aim at Legal Enactment. 2 But directly 

1 Report of the National Association for the Promotion of Social Science on 
Trade Societies and Strikes (London, 1860), p. xx. 

2 See for the so-called "New Unionism" of 1889, the History of Trade 
Unionism, pp. 401, 406. 



154 Trade Union Function 

the combination has settled down to everyday life, we find 
it adding one or other of the benefits of insurance, and often 
developing into the most comprehensive Trade Friendly 
Society. For the past hundred years this insurance business 
has been steadily growing, not only in volume, but also in 
deliberateness and regularity. 

In providing friendly benefits the Trade Union comes 
into direct competition with the ordinary friendly society 
and the industrial insurance company. The engineer or 
carpenter who joins his Trade Union might insure against 
sickness, old age, and the expenses of burial, by joining the 
" Oddfellows " and the " Prudential " instead. And from 
an actuarial point of view the Amalgamated Society of 
Engineers or Carpenters is not for a moment to be com- 
pared with a friendly society of good standing. Unlike the 
registered friendly society, the Trade Union, even if registered, 
does not enter into any legally binding contract. A Trade 
Union cannot be sued ; and the members have individually 
no legal remedy against it. A member who has paid for a 
whole lifetime to the sick and superannuation funds may, at 
any moment, be expelled and forfeit all claim, for reasons 
quite unconnected with his desire for insurance in old age. 
Against the decision of his fellow-members there is, in no 
case, any appeal. Moreover, the scale of contributions and 
benefits may at any time be altered, even to the extent of 
abolishing benefits altogether ; and such alterations do, in 
fact, frequently take place, in spite of all the protests of 
minorities of old members. And it is no small drawback 
to the security of the individual member that, in a time of 
trade depression, just when he himself is probably poorest, 
he is invariably required to pay extra levies to meet the 
heavy Out of Work liabilities, on pain of being automatically 
excluded, and thus forfeiting all his insurance. It is a 
further aggravation that in any crisis the Trade Union, 
unlike the friendly society, regards the punctual discharge of 
its sick and superannuation liabilities as a distinctly secondary 
consideration. The paramount requisite of an organisation 



The Method of Mutual Insurance 1 5 5 

professing to provide against sickness and old age is abso- 
lute security that the accumulated funds will be reserved 
exclusively to meet the growing liabilities. But in a Trade 
Union there is no guarantee that any of its funds will be 
reserved for this purpose. During a long spell of trade 
depression the whole accumulated balance may be spent in 
maintaining the members out of work. An extensive strike 
may, at any time, drain the society absolutely dry. The 
Friendly Society of Operative Stonemasons, for instance, 
has, during its sixty years' existence, twice been reduced 
to absolute beggary, in 1841 by a prolonged strike, and in 
1879 by the severe depression in trade. A still older and 
richer union, the Friendly Society of Ironfounders, not only 
spent every penny of its funds in 1879, but borrowed many 
thousands of pounds from its members' individual savings to 
meet the most pressing of its liabilities. 1 This " hole in the 
stocking" is not mended by any nominal allocation of a 
certain part of the income, or a specific share of the funds, 
to the sick or superannuation liabilities. No Trade Union 
ever dreams of putting any part of its funds legally or 
effectively out of the control of its members for the time 
being ; and when a time of stress comes, the nominal alloca- 
tion offers no obstacle to the " borrowing " of some or all 
the ear-marked balance for current purposes. Trade Union- 
ists, in short, subscribe their money primarily for the main- 
tenance or improvemervtjof their wages or other conditions, 
of employment : "onlyafter this object has been secured do * 
they expect or desire any sick or other friendly benefits, and 
their rules proceed always on the assumption that such 
benefits are payable only if and when there is a surplus in 
hand. 

This entire want of legal or financial security has 
hitherto prevented actuaries from giving serious considera- 
tion to the problems of Trade Union insurance. 2 The 

1 History of Trade Unionism , pp. 157, 334. 

2 This lack of knowledge and absence of serious study has not prevented 
leading actuaries from denouncing stable and well-managed Trade Unions as 



156 Trade Union Function 

consequence is that the Trade Union scales of contributions 
and benefits do not rest on any actuarial basis, and represent, 
at best, the empirical guess-work of the members. Scarcely 
any attempt has yet been made to collect the data necessary 

financially unsound, even on their friendly society side, and inevitably destined to 
early bankruptcy. Before the Royal Commission of 1867-68, for instance, two 
of the principal actuaries demonstrated that both the Amalgamated Society of 
Engineers and the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters were insolvent to the 
extent of many hundreds of thousands of pounds, and that they were necessarily 
doomed to collapse. In spite of the patent falsification of these prophecies, and 
the continued growth in wealth of the great unions, similar denunciations and 
predictions are still repeated by actuarial authorities ignorant of their own 
ignorance. 

A Trade Union differs fundamentally from a friendly society or insurance 
company, which undertakes to provide definite payments for a specified premium. 
A Trade Union is not only free at any time to revise, or even suspend, its 
benefits ; it can, and habitually does, increase its income by levies. Thus, 
whilst the nominal contribution of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers is a 
shilling per week, the actual amount received from the members during the ten 
years 1886-95 averaged, for the whole period, one shilling and twopence halfpenny 
per week (Eighth Report by the Chief Labour Correspondent on Trade Unions^ 
C. 8232, 1896, p. 404), and the rules expressly provide that "when the funds 
are reduced to ^3 per member the contributions shall be increased by such sum 
per week as will sustain the funds at not less than that amount" (Rule XXV. of 
edition of 1896, p. 121). A society with such a rule can obviously never 
become insolvent so long as it retains any members, and chooses to meet its 
engagements. 

But there is another and no less important difference in actuarial position 
between a Trade Union and a friendly society. A friendly society is rightly 
deemed unsound if the contributions paid by the members when young do not 
enable a fund to be accumulated to meet the greatly increased liabilities for sick- 
ness, superannuation, and burial as they grow older. A society may have cash in 
hand, and yet be steering into bankruptcy, if the average age of its members is 
increasing, or might presently (by a stoppage of recruiting) be found to be 
increasing. This rapid increase of liabilities with advancing age constitutes what 
insurance experts denounce as "the vice of assessmentism " the fallacious 
assumption that the year's payments can safely be met by the year's levies on the 
members for the time being. But where membership is universal, the average 
age, and therefore the liabilities, do not, and cannot, increase. If sick-pay, 
superannuation, and burial were provided by the State for all citizens, the number 
of cases year by year would, from an actuarial point of view, remain constant, or 
would be affected only by the slow and gradual changes in national health. A 
single trade is, in this respect, in much the same position as the nation, and when 
a Trade Union habitually includes all the operatives in its industry the percentage 
of benefit cases is remarkably uniform. Moreover, even in less universal organ- 
isations, where the motives for joining are very largely unconnected with 
friendly benefits, and there is no competing union, the result is practically the 
same. As a matter of fact, the average age of the members of well-established 
Trade Unions, so far as this can be ascertained, remains remarkably stable, and 
seems to increase only with the general improvement in sanitation. 



The Method of Mutual Insurance 1 5 7 

for a more precise computation ; and even such elementary 
facts as the average age of the members, or the special 
death rate or sickness rate of the occupation, are often 
unknown. There is no graduation of contributions accord- 
ing to age, practically no attempt at medical selection of can- 
didates for membership, and a complete uncertainty as to 
what interest will be received on investments, or whether the 
funds will be invested at interest at all. In short, the Trade 
Union, considered merely as a friendly society, does not 
profess to afford its members any legal security or certain 
guarantee against destitution in sickness or old age. Its 
promises of superannuation allowances, and even of sick pay, 
are, in reality, conditional on there being money left over 
after providing for other purposes. " The right " [of members 
to] "any benefit," wrote Daniel Guile, in 1869, in the name 
of the Ironfounders' Executive, " only exists as long as the 
Society has power to pay it. Any determination of the 
exact amount of return a member may rightly expect for a 
particular amount of contribution rests upon averages of a 
nature far too abstruse to be entered upon here, and for 
which, indeed, even the groundwork is wanting." * In face 
of this lack of security, and absence of actuarial basis, it 
seems at first sight surprising that union after union should 
add to its purely trade functions the business of an ordinary 
friendly society. But, as Professor Beesly remarked in 1867, 
" it is much more economical to depend upon one society 
combining all benefits, than to contribute to a friendly 
society for sick and funeral benefits, and to a union for tool 
and accident benefit and trade purposes." 2 Whether or not 
the ordinary artisan appreciates the economy effected by 
" concentration of management and consequent lessening of 
working expenses," he at any rate realises that it is less 
irksome to pay to one club than to several. But this hardly 
explains the persistent advocacy of sick pay and superannua- 

1 Monthly Report of the Friendly Society of Ironfounders, October 1869. 
* E. S. Beesly, The Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners (London, 
1867), p. 4. 



1 58 Trade Union Function 

tion allowance by experienced Trade Union officials. Their 
belief in the advantage of developing the friendly society 
side of Trade Unionism rests frankly on the adventitious 
aid it brings to working-class organisation. The benefit 
club side serves, in the first place, as a potent attraction to 
hesitating recruits. To the young man just " out of his 
time " the prospect of securing support in sickness or un- 
employment is a greater inducement to join the union, and 
regularly to keep up his contributions, than the less obvious 
advantages to be gained by the trade combination. " It 
helps," says Mr. George Howell, "to bind the members to 
the union when possibly other considerations might inter- 
pose to diminish the zeal of the Trade Unionist pure and 
simple." J 

Moreover, when, as is usually the case, the whole contri- 
bution goes into a common fund, the society gains the advan- 
tage of an additional financial reserve, which can be used in 
support of its trade policy in time of need, and replaced as 
opportunity permits. Such great Trade Friendly Societies 
as the Boilermakers', Engineers', Stonemasons', and Iron- 
founders' have, as we have seen, never hesitated to deplete 
their balances in order to enable their members to withstand 
encroachments on their Standard of Life. Thus, the addition 
of friendly society benefits, bringing, as it does, greatly 
increased contributions, enables the Trade Union to roll 
up an imposing reserve fund, which, even if not actually 
drawn upon, is found to be an effective " moral influence " in 
negotiations with employers. 

We see, therefore, that the friendly society element 
supplies to Trade Unionism both adventitious attractions 
and an adventitious support. But this is not all. In a 
strong and well-organised union, the existence of important 
friendly benefits may become a powerful instrument for 
maintaining discipline among the members, and for enforcing 
upon all the decisions of the majority. If expulsion carries 
with it the loss of valuable prospective benefits, such, for 

1 Trade Unionism, New and Old, by George Howell (London, 1892), p. 102. 



The Method of Mutiial Insurance 159 

instance, as superannuation, it becomes a penalty of great 
severity. Similarly, when secession involves the abandon- 
ment of all share in a considerable accumulated balance, a 
branch momentarily discontented with some decision of the 
majority thinks twice before it breaks off in a pet to set up 
as an independent society. Thus the addition of friendly 
benefits has been, on the whole, a great consolidating force 
in Trade Unionism. We can, therefore, quite understand 
why thoroughgoing opponents of trade combinations have, 
like the associated employers who came before the Royal 
Commission in 1867, vehemently denounced the combination 
of trade and friendly society as illegitimate and dangerous. 1 

Friendly benefits have yet another advantage from the 
point of view of the Trade Union official. To the permanent 
salaried officer of a great union, with his time fully occupied 
by his daily routine, it is no small gain that sick pay and 
superannuation allowance exercise a great effect in " keeping 
the members quiet." This was perceived, as early as 1867, 
by a shrewd friend of the great Amalgamated Societies, the 
" New Unionism " of that time. " The importance of the 
principle [of providing all the usual benefits offered by 
friendly societies] will be best understood," observes Professor 
Beesly, " by looking at the character and working of the 

1 " The combination of trade with benefit purposes was astutely conceived, 
with a view to increase the strength of trade organisations. The benefit element 
was first to decoy, and then to control. The lure of prospective benefits having 
attracted members, the dread of confiscation was to enforce obedience." Trade 
Unionism, by James Stirling (Glasgow, 1869), p. 43. 

There is absolutely no warrant for the accusation still often repeated that 
the use of all the Trade Union funds for strike purposes when the members so 
decide, amounts, morally if not legally, to malversation. The Chief Registrar of 
Friendly Societies, questioned on this very point by the Royal Commission on 
Labor, emphatically upheld the Trade Union practice. "The primary object of 
the Trade Union," said Mr. Brabrook, " is protection of trade, and all the rest 
is merely subsidiary. . . . The great bulk of members of Trade Unions know 
perfectly well that they will not get the benefit in sickness if their money has 
been previously spent in trade purposes, and they are perfectly willing it should 
be so spent if emergency or necessity arises " (Questions 1561-3). Mr. J. M. 
Ludlow, who preceded him in office, entirely confirmed this view. To hypothe- 
cate any Trade Union funds for benefit purposes, he added, "might be to the 
ruin of the Trade Union, and therefore to the ruin of the men who had contri- 
buted those funds" (Questions 1783-8). 



1 60 Trade Union Function 

old-fashioned unions in which it is not adopted. The men 
combine purely for ' trade purposes.' The subscription is 
insignificant, sometimes only a penny a week. The members 
probably belong to the Oddfellows or Foresters for the 
benefit purposes ; and their financial tie to their union being 
so weak, they join it or leave it with equal carelessness. 
Nevertheless, small as the subscription is, a fund will in 
course of time be accumulated. There is nothing to do with 
this fund. There it is, eating its head off, so to speak. The 
men become impatient to use it ; so a demand is made on 
the employers, irrespective perhaps of the circumstances of 
the trade. A strike follows. The members live on their 
fund for a few weeks, and when it is exhausted they give in. 
Such societies may be called Strike Societies, for they exist 
for nothing else." l " A trade society without friendly 
benefits," Mr. John Burnett has frequently declared, " is 
like a standing army. It is a constant menace to peace." 
And thus we find the employers of this generation abandon- 
ing the criticisms of their predecessors in 1867, and reserving 
their bitterest denunciations for the purely trade society. 

With regard to the other branch of their Mutual Insurance 
business, the Trade Unions occupy a unique position. How- 
ever imperfectly Trade Unions may discharge the function of 
providing maintenance for their members when out of work, 
they undertake here a service which must, in their absence, 
remain unperformed. No other organisation, whether com- 
mercial or philanthropic, has yet come forward to protect 
the wage-earner against the destitution arising from lack of 
employment. 2 Experience seems to indicate that Out of 

1 E. S. Beesly, The Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners, p. 3 
(London, 1867). 

2 Certain experiments have been made since 1894 at Berne, Basle, and St. Gall 
(Switzerland) ; at Cologne (Germany) ; and at Bologna (Italy), in the direction 
of municipal insurance against unemployment, either voluntary or compulsory. 
An account of these experiments, which do not appear to have been very 
successful, will be found in the Rapport sur la Question du Chdinage, published 
by the French Government, Conseil Superieur du Travail (Paris, 1896, 398 pp.) ; 
and Circulars 2. and 5 (Series B) of the Musee Social, Paris, containing an 
elaborate bibliography ; to which we can add Charles Raaijmakers, Verzekering 
tegen IVerkloosheid (Amsterdam, 1895). 



The Method of Mutual Insurance 1 6 1 

Work pay cannot be properly administered except by bodies 
of men belonging to the same trade and working in the 
same establishments. Therefore it is not remarkable that 
Trade Unions should give most of their attention to the 
administration of their Out of Work benefits. We find, in 
fact, that although funeral benefit is almost universal, and 
accident allowance very widely adopted, these, like insurance 
of tools, make up in the aggregate a very small proportion 
of the total expenditure. And though sick pay and super- 
annuation stand for appreciable sums, it is Out of Work 
benefit which takes the most important place in the Mutual 
Insurance business, its limits being extended in many instances, 
whilst others are cut down. 1 To a middle-class body it 
would seem natural to give a kind of preferential lien on 
the funds, to insure the continuance of the weekly allowances 
to the sick and superannuated members already on the books. 
A Trade Union not only refrains from taking this course, 
but actually gives a preference, in effect, to its Out of Work 
payments, usually continuing them at the full rate, even 
when its funds are being rapidly exhausted, until it has 
parted with its last penny. The secret of this bias does 
not lie altogether in the immense difference in permanence 
between middle class and working class employment. The 
main object of the individual member may be to provide 
against the personal distress which would otherwise be caused 
to himself and his family by the stoppage of his weekly 
income. But the object of the union, from the collective 
point of view, is to prevent him from accepting employment, 
under stress^jDiLsta^vatieiV^ 11 "^^ common 

'jurlgmeiiT'of the trade, would be injurious to its interests. 
This has been recognised from the earliest times as a leading 

1 Thus, the Rules and Regulations of the Operative Bleachers, Finishers, and 
Dyers' Association (Bolton, 1891) provide (Rule 24), under the head of sick pay, 
only for a case not met by the mere friendly society. " Should any member, 
having his family afflicted with smallpox or other infectious disease and as a 
consequence be temporarily discharged from following his employment, such 
member shall be entitled to the ordinary out of work pay. But if such member 
become afflicted himself his pay shall cease," 

VOL. I M 



1 62 Trade Union Function 

object of Out of Work pay. Already, in 1741, it was 
remarked that the woolcombers " support one another, 
insomuch that they are become one society throughout the 
kingdom. And that they may keep up their price^ to encourage 
idleness rather than labor, if any one of their club is out 
of work, they give him a ticket and money to seek for work 
at the next town where a box-club is, where he is also 
subsisted, suffered to live a certain time with them, and used 
as before ; by which means he can travel the kingdom round, 
be caressed at each club, and not spend a farthing of his 
own or strike one stroke of work. This has been imitated 
by the weavers also, though not carried through the kingdom, 
but confined to the places where they work." 1 

We find the economic result of this tramping system 
exercising the minds of the Assistant Poor Law Commissioners 
of 1834. A leatherdresser "belongs to an incorporated or 
combined trade ; the directors of this Combination issue 
tickets to the members. These tickets are renewed from 
time to time. The holder of one goes from place to place, 
but must not take the same road more than once in six 
months. With these intervals he is again and again 
assisted. . . . This ticket is available in every part of the 
United Kingdom where a club or lodge of the trade is 
established. The individual in question might have had 
work at ^i per week, but he refused to take it, or indeed 
3<DS. per week ; nothing under 2 would satisfy him ; and 
when pressed for reasons to account for his refusing such 
offers when asked whether it would not be better to get 
i per week than to trust to casual sources of support, he 

1 A Short Essay upon Trade in General, by a Lover of his Country (London, 
1741), quoted in the History of the Worsted Manufacture in England, by John 
James (London, 1857). How the employers felt the independence thus given to 
the workers may be inferred from the following advertisement in the Leicester 
Herald, of June 1792: "To Master Woolcombers. The Journeymen Wool- 
combers in Kendal have left their work, and illegally combined to raise their wages 
which are already equal to what is paid to the Trade in any part of the Kingdom : 
they have also granted blanks, or certificates, to E. Hewitson, apprentice to Mr. 
Pooley ; T. Parkinson, to Mr. Barton ; and W. Wilkinson, to Mr. Strutt, who 
without such blanks or certificates must have remained with their masters," 



The Method of Mutual Insurance 163 

replied that he should not like to be * turned black ' (query 
' returned black ') which would be the case if he worked under 
price." 1 

Gradually the Trade Unions themselves make clear the 
real object of this system of mutual insurance. In 1844 
the Spring Knife Grinders' Protection Society of Sheffield 
declare that the " object to be accomplished is to grant relief 
to all its members that are out of work ; that none may 
have the painful necessity of applying for relief from the 
parish, or comply with the unreasonable demands of our 
employers or their servants? 2 The Flint Glass Makers 
express the same idea. " Our wages depend on the supply 
of labor in the market ; our interest is therefore to restrict 
that supply, reduce the surplus, make our unemployed com- 
fortable^ without fear for the morrow accomplish this> and we 
have a command over the surplus of our labor, and we need 
fear no unjust employer?* Four years later the Delegate 
Meeting of the Amalgamated Engineers resolved to extend 
by nine weeks the period during which a member was allowed 
to receive continuously the Out of Work allowance. It was 
successfully argued that "when bad trade did arrive ... it 
brought with it the absolute necessity of a continuous dona- 
tion ; for men, who were unemployed for so long a time as 
to run through their donation altogether, would be compelled 
either to seek parish relief, or take situations on terms injurious 
to the trade. In the event of their doing the latter, the 
Society would exercise but little control over them if it 
did not entitle them to some benefit. For the protection of 
the trade, then, it was stated to be absolutely necessary to make 
the donation continuous, so that the members of the Society 
should be able to resist the inducement of acting contrary to 
the general rules of a District? 4 Finally, we may cite the 

1 Report of Poor Law Commission of 1834 ; Appendix, p. 900 a. 

2 Manuscript Rules of the Spring Knife Grinders' Protection Society of Sheffield 
in old account book, dated 1844. 

3 Flint Glass Makers' Magazine , opening editorial, No. I, Sept. 1850. 

4 Minutes of the Second Delegate Meeting of the Amalgamated Society of 
Engineers^ p. 38 (London, 1854). The Constitution and Rules qf the Associated 



164 Trade Union Function 

case of the Associated Shipwrights' Society, which has only 
within recent years systematically adopted regular Out of 
Work payments. The argument, used by the general 
secretary at the Delegate Meeting in 1885, which finally 
decided the matter, was as follows : " It is utterly impossible," 
Mr. Wilkie told his members, "to secure trade protection 
when a third or a half of your trade are walking about idle 
and starving. And unless members of the trade were pre- 
pared to buy up, more or less, its surplus labor in the market, 
it never could have the actual trade protection desired." * 

This historical explanation of the underlying object of 
the Out of Work benefit is borne out by the actual practice 
of to-day. Whilst all the members of a Trade Union are 
enjoined to do their utmost to find situations for their unem- 
ployed brethren, and whilst these are forbidden, under severe 
penalty, to "refuse work when offered," yet this is always 
subject to a fundamental condition, so obvious to the Trade 
Union mind as to need no explicit statement in the rules. 
A member is not only permitted to refuse job after job 
if these are offered to him below the " Standard Rate " of 
remuneration, or otherwise in contravention of the normal 
terms : he is absolutely forbidden to accept work on any 
but the conditions satisfactory to his branch. The visitor 
at a branch meeting of the Engineers or Carpenters will 
hear members, in receipt of Out of Work pay, report to the 
branch that they have been offered situations on such and 
such terms, and ask whether it is considered right that they 
should accept them. The branch will discuss the question 

Ironmoulders of Scotland (Glasgow, 1892) explicitly recognise the use of the 
Out of Work Benefit as a means of maintaining their standard of wages. " Any 
member leaving for want of work . . . shall be paid idle benefit . . . but, 
if leaving on own accord, he shall have no claim to benefit. The phrase 
' want of work ' shall refer to all kinds of dismissal without fault of the member 
slackness, underpayment, resisting a reduction of wages, or unjustifiable abuse or 
ill-treatment from employer or foreman. . . . ' Own accord ' shall mean all kinds 
of dismissal for irregularity, absence without leave except from illness, in- 
sobriety, and captious or voluntary dismissal." (Rule 30, sec. 4.) 

1 Address of General Secretary at Delegate Meeting of Associated Shipwrights' 
Society, 1885. 



The Method of Mutual Insurance 165 

from the point of view of the probable effect on the Standard 
Rate ; and whilst they may permit a maimed or aged member 
to accept five shillings a week less than the normal wage of 
the district, they will prefer to keep a fully competent and 
able-bodied man "on donation," rather than sanction any 
departure from the Common Rule. 1 

Here we are outside the domain of actuarial science. 
Even if it should prove possible to reduce to an arithmetical 
scale of contributions and benefits the loss of income caused 
by mere slackness of trade, it must always be out of the ques- 
tion to determine what rate of Out of Work benefit can safely 
be awarded in return for a given subscription, if the accept- 
ance of employment depends on the policy of the society 
with regard to its Standard Rate. Such a condition takes 
us out of the category of insurance as provisionally defined 
above. As understood and administered by all Trade Unions, 
the Out of Work benefit is not valued exclusively, or even 
mainly, for its protection of the individual against casualties. 
In the mind of the thoughtful or experienced Trade Unionist 
its most important function is to protect the Standard Rate 
of wages and other normal conditions of employment from 
being "eaten away," in bad times, by the competition of 
members driven by necessity to accept the employers' terms. 

The reader will now understand why this Mutual Insur- 
ance must be regarded, not as the end or object, but as one 
of the Methods of Trade Unionism. At first sight nothing 
could appear more simple than the mutual provision of 
support in order to enable a man to seek work elsewhere, 
and not be under an absolute compulsion to accept whatever 
terms an employer may offer. In its economic effect upon 
the labor market it seems no more than would result from 
the existence of individual savings in a savings bank. But 

1 The Rules to be observed by the members of the Bury and District Tape- 
sizers' Friendly Protective Society (Bury, 1888) provide (p. 7) that "if any member 
who is out of work and receiving pay make application for a situation or be sent 
for, and he is offered a less rate of wage than he has been paid before, he shall 
be at liberty to take it or not, and if he refuse to take it he shall not have his pay 
stopped." 



1 66 Trade Union Function 

Trade Unions, as Fleeming Jenkin pointed out, are far more 
potent in this respect than any savings bank, " because they 
enable the community of workmen to acquire wealth. . . . 
The individual workman knows that his reserve fund will be 
nearly useless unless his neighbour has a reserve fund also. 
If each workman in a strike trusted to his own funds only, 
the poorer ones must give in first ; and these would secure 
work, while the richer, after spending a part of their reserve, 
would find themselves supplanted by the poorer competitors, 
and the sacrifice made uselessly. A combined reserve fund 
gives great power by insuring that all suffer alike. The 
Trade Union, therefore, has a permanent action in raising 
wages, because it enables men to accumulate a common 
fund, with which they can sustain their resolution not to work 
unless they obtain such pay as will give increased comfort." l 
If this collective reserve fund coexists with a common 
understanding as to the terms without which no member 
will accept employment, it is obvious that we have a deliberate 
and conscious use of Mutual Insurance, not to relieve indi- 
vidual distress, but to enforce a Trade Union Regulation. 

The Method of Mutual Insurance is pursued, more or 
less consciously, by every union that gives benefits at all. 
Until Collective Bargaining was permitted by the employers, 
and before Legal Enactment was within the workmen's reach, 
Mutual Insurance was the only method by which Trade 
Unionists could lawfully attain their end. Hence its high 
favor with the group of astute officials who led the work- 
men between 1845 an ^ l $7$- Dunning, in fact, expressly 
gives it as the main method of Trade Unionism. " Singly 
the employer can stand out longer in the bargain than the 
journeyman ; and as he who can stand out longest in the 
bargain will be sure to command his own terms, the work- 
men combine to put themselves on something like an equality 
in the bargain for the sale of their labor with their employer. 
This is the rationale of trade societies. . . . The object in- 

1 " Graphic Representation of the Laws of Supply and Demand," by Fleeming 
Jenkin, in Recess Studies (Edinburgh, 1870), pp. 183-4. 



The Method of Mutual Insurance 1 6 7 

tended is carried out by providing a fund for the support of 
its members when out of employ, for a certain number of 
weeks in the year. This is the usual and regular way in 
which the labor of the members of a trade society is protected, 
that the man's present necessities may not compel him to 
take less than the wages which the demand and supply of 
labor in the trade have previously adjusted." 1 

The same view was expressed by William Allan, the 
first secretary of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers. 
" We are very little engaged in regulating " rates of wages, he 
told the Royal Commission in 1867, "they regulate them- 
selves, if I may use the expression. If a member believed," 
he continued, "that he was not getting a proper rate of 
wages, the society would encourage him in objecting, that is 
to say, would pay him his benefit while out of employment. 
. . . The man would go to the branch to which he belonged, 
and would there state that he was only receiving a certain 
rate of wages ; if he wished to leave his employment he 
would ask the question whether under the circumstances he 
would be entitled to what we call donation, that is Out of 
Work Benefit, if he left the situation ; and in all probability 
the society would say, you can leave and we will pay you 
the benefit. Or they might say, we believe you are getting 
as much as you ought to expect." 2 

In some small and highly organised trades of skilled 
handicraftsmen, this method of enforcing Trade Union 
regulations by Mutual Insurance has tacitly elaborated into 
an effective weapon, not only of defence, but also of aggres- 
sion. We may instance the Spanish and Morocco Leather 
Finishers' Society, a small but powerful union, practically 
co-extensive with the craft, which has not for fifty years 

1 T. J. Dunning, Trades Unions and Strikes : their Philosophy and Intention 
(London, 1860), p. 10. See also Dunning's articles on " Wages of Labour and 
Trade Societies," in the second, third, and fourth numbers of the Bookbinders' 
Trade Circular (1851) ; History of Trade Unionism, p. 179. 

2 First Report of the Commissioners appointed to enquire into the Organisation 
and Rules of Trades Unions and other Associations (London, 1867). Evidence of 
W. Allan, Questions 787-789. 



1 68 Trade Union Function 

ordered a formal strike, or in any way overtly " intervened 
between employer and employed." Nevertheless, it has 
known how to enforce a detailed uniform price-list in every 
centre, new or old, in which the trade is carried on ; it has 
maintained this piece-work list practically unaltered for fifty 
years, notwithstanding many improvements in processes ; it 
has, consequently, kept up its members' earnings to certainly 
more than 2 per week ; and it has successfully enforced a 
rigid limitation of apprentices, there being nowhere more 
than one to seven journeymen. Yet no overt collective 
movement is ever made. If any employer refuses to conform 
to the regulations, even in the slightest degree, the members 
leave him one by one, and receive Out of Work benefit, which 
may continue for thirty-nine weeks. 1 It is usually found, we 
are told, that an employer remedies any grievance after he 
has had to put up with a new man every week or two for a 
few months. In 1845 tne Old Smiths' Society, which had 
suffered severely between 1827 and 1844 from numerous 
small strikes, removed from their rules all provision for these 
pitched battles with their employers, in favor of this more 
silent form of pressure. The preamble to the rules, drawn up 
by the Delegate Meeting of 1845, adds, "Disputes . . . can 
only be settled by friendly consultations between both master 
and man, imbued with the spirit of mutually imparting facts, 
with a view to render assistance to each other ; if this, in con- 
nection with the efforts of mutual and disinterested friends, 
cannot be accomplished, we say then let men and masters 
part ; offer no opposition ; the men, however great or small 
their number, to be supplied with means of existence until 
they obtain other situations of work from the funds of the 
society ; and the employers to obtain other men as best they 
may ; and we contend that this unassuming quiet plan of 
operations is, according to its number of members, accom- 
plishing, and will continue to accomplish, infinitely more real 
good to the trade in all its ramifications, at a minimum 

1 Rules to be observed by the Members of the Leeds Friendly Society of Spanish 
and Morocco Leather Finishers (Leeds, 1879). 



The Method of Mutual Insurance 1 69 

expense to its members, than any other plan of operation by 
any other society." * The same position was aimed at by 
the Flint Glass Makers in 1850, when their magazine was 
advocating the use of this nameless weapon which we have 
christened, for our own convenience, the " Strike in Detail." 
" As man after man leaves, . . . then it is that the proud 
and haughty spirit of the oppressor is brought down, and he 
feels the power he cannot see." 2 

This application of mutual insurance may be made the 
method of enforcing any Common Rule whatsoever ; and a 
very effective instrument it is. An employer whose workmen 
leave him one by one, after due notice, may find little diffi- 
culty in filling their places. But if the new-comers, after a 
brief stay, one by one give notice that they, too, will leave, 
he is placed in a serious difficulty. He cannot close his 
doors and appeal for support to his fellow-employers, as 
there is no strike, and no refusal on the part of the Trade 
Unionists to accept his terms. Nevertheless, his constant 
inability to retain any workman for more than a week or 
two, may easily become so harassing that he will be forced 
to inquire carefully in what respect his employment falls 
below the standard of the trade, and to conform to it. The 
Trade Union, on the other hand, runs no risk of retaliation, 
and, as only a few men are on the books at any one time, 
incurs the minimum of expense. As a deliberate Trade 
Union policy, the Strike in Detail depends upon the extent 
to which the union has secured the adhesion of all the com- 
petent men in the trade, and upon their capacity for 
persistent and self-restrained pursuit of a common end. It 
could, accordingly, never become the sole method of any but 
a small, wealthy, and closely knit society ; but in such a 
society it may easily, in its coercive effect on the employer, 
surpass even an Act of Parliament itself. 

1 Report on Trade Societies' Rules by Mr. (now the Rt. Hon.) G. Shaw 
Lefevre in Social Science Association's Report on Trades Societies and Strikes 
(London, 1860). 

2 Flint Glass Makers' Magazine, July 1850. 



170 Trade Union Function 

The Strike in Detail is only a more deliberate and 
self-conscious application of the method of maintaining the 
standard of life by Mutual Insurance customary among all 
Trade Unionists. It is impossible to draw any logical dis- 
tinction between the action of the little union of Leather 
Finishers and that of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, 
as explained by William Allan and T. J. Dunning, or indeed 
any union which maintains a member in idleness rather than 
allow him to accept work " contrary to the interests of the 
trade." The persistent adhesion of Trade Unionists to the 
Out of Work benefit, and their secondary adoption of what 
we have called the friendly society business, appear as a 
perfectly consistent, homogeneous policy the moment the 
true Trade Union point of view is caught. Any provision 
which secures the members of the trade against destitution 
prevents an employer taking advantage of their necessities. 1 
Not Out of Work benefit alone, but also sick pay, grants to 
replace tools or property lost or burnt, burial money for wife 
or child, and especially accident benefit and superannuation 
allowance, all serve to enforce the claim of the workman " to 
be dealt with as an intelligent being, and not merely as a 
bale of goods or article of merchandise. This," emphatically 
declares the Friendly Society of Ironfounders, " is, then, the 
main and central pillar of our organisation. Around it are 
clustered those monetary benefits that are stated above, and 
it is from this grand standpoint those benefits must all be 
estimated : for from this point only it is at all possible to 
come to a right and fair conclusion as to their real value to 
individual members." 2 

1 We may cite a curious small case among the Curriers. The London 
journeymen curriers have always strenuously resisted the employers' attempts to 
make them take out shoe hides at an average weight, instead of weighing each 
one separately. In 1854 certain members represented to the union that their 
employer had taken advantage of the slackness of work in the winter season to 
try to enforce this practice upon them ; and that if the union would make them 
each a loan, they could dispense with sending in their bills to their employer for 
that week, which would have a good effect as demonstrating their power to stand 
out. The union readily agreed to lend each man a pound on condition that he 
drew no wages that week. MS. Minute Book, 1854. 

2 Preface to Rules to be observed by the Members of the Friendly Society of 



The Method of Mutual Insurance 171 

Mutual Insurance, even when considered purely as a 
Method of Trade Unionism, is by no means beyond criticism. 
The lack of legal or financial security of the friendly benefits 
may be worth tolerating by a wage-earner for the sake of the 
trade as a whole ; but it is none the less an evil on that 
account. And even the successful Strike in Detail of the 
Leather Finishers has grave drawbacks, from its own stand- 
point. No Trade Unionist would deny that the deliber- 
ately concerted Common Rules, to which workmen and 
employers must alike conform, ought to be framed after 
consideration, not of the desires of one class alone, but from 
all points of view. The method of Mutual Insurance leaves 
no place for discussion with the employers. Each party 
makes up its own mind, relies on its power of holding out, 
and leaves the issue to depend merely on secret endurance. 
Frank and full discussion might have revealed facts previously 
unknown, which would have altered the views of the parties. 
It might have been discovered that some points most keenly 
insisted on by one side were regarded as unimportant by the 
other. The influence of public opinion would have moderated 
the negotiations. These tendencies make, in Collective Bar- 
gaining, for a compromise often representing a real gain to 
both parties. For all this, the Method of Mutual Insurance 
allows no place. It is, therefore, not surprising to find that 
the most highly developed and successful modern organisa- 
tions make little use of Mutual Insurance as a method of 
industrial regulation. Among the Coalminers and Cotton 
Operatives, who together comprise a fifth of the Trade 
Union world, friendly benefits, and even Out of Work 
donation, play only the most trifling part. And it is sig- 
nificant that the United Society of Boilermakers, in many 

Ironfounders (London, 1891). It is interesting to find that this use of Mutual 
Insurance among workers was elaborately explained and defended in 1819 by 
the well-known Baptist minister, the Reverend Robert Hall ; see his pamphlets, 
An Appeal to the Pttblic on the Subject of the Framework Knitters' Fund (Leicester, 
1819), and A Reply to the Principal Objections advanced by Cobbett and others 
against the Framework Knitters' Friendly Relief Society (Leicester, 1821), both 
included in his Works (London, 1832), vol. iii. 



172 



Trade Union Function 



respects the most successful of the great unions, whilst 
utilising to the full a most elaborate system of Mutual 
Insurance, keeps the provision against unavoidable casualties 
entirely distinct from its trade objects. For all that concerns 
the maintenance and improvement of the conditions of em- 
ployment the Boilermakers, like the Coalminers and the 
Cotton Operatives, resort to one or other of the alternative 
Methods of Trade Unionism, Collective Bargaining, or Legal 
Enactment. 



CHAPTER II 

THE METHOD OF COLLECTIVE BARGAINING 

THE nature of the Method of Collective Bargaining will be 
best understood by a series of examples. 

In unorganised trades the individual workman, applying 
for a job, accepts or refuses the terms offered by the employer, 
without communication with his fellow-workmen, and with- 
out any other consideration than the exigencies of his own 
position. For the sale of his labor he makes, with the 
employer, a strictly individual bargain. 1 But if a group of 
workmen concert together, and send representatives to con- 
duct the bargaining on behalf of the whole body, the position 
is at once changed. Instead of the employer making a 
series of separate contracts with isolated individuals, he meets 
with a collective will, and settles, in a single agreement, the 
principles upon which, for the time being, all workmen of a 
particular group, or class, or grade, will be engaged. For 
instance, in' a cabinet-making shop, if a new pattern is 
brought out, the men in the shop hold a brief and informal 
meeting to discuss the price at which it can be executed, the 

1 The phrase " Individual Bargaining " is used incidentally by C. Morrison 
in his Essay on the Relations between Labour and Capital (London, 1854), as 
equivalent to "what may be called the commercial principle," according to which 
" the workman endeavours to sell his labor as dearly and the employer to pur- 
chase it as cheaply as possible" (p. 9). 

We are not aware of any use of the phrase "Collective Bargaining" before 
that in The Cooperative Movement in Great Britain (London, 1891), p. 217, by 
Beatrice Potter (Mrs. Sidney Webb), where it is employed in the present sense. 



1 74 Trade Union Function 

rough basis being whether, taking into account the un- 
familiarity of the work, and the nature of the task, they can 
make no less net wages per hour than they have been 
hitherto earning. The foreman has meanwhile been estimat- 
ing the job in his own way, on much the same basis as the 
men, but probably arriving at a slightly lower figure. The 
men's representative talks the matter over with the foreman, 
and some compromise is come to, the job standing at that 
price for the whole shop. This process differs from that of 
a series of individual bargains with the separate workmen, in 
that the particular exigencies of each are ruled out of con- 
sideration. If the foreman had dealt privately with each 
man, he might have found some in such necessity that he 
could have driven them to take the job practically at any 
price rather than be without work for even half a day. 
Others, again, relying on exceptional strength or endurance, 
would have seen their way to make the standard earnings at 
a piecework rate upon which the average worker could not 
even subsist. By the Method of Collective Bargaining the 
foreman is prevented from taking advantage of the competi- 
tion of both these classes of men to beat down the earnings 
of the other workmen. The starving man gets his job at 
the same piecework rate as the workman who could afford 
to stand out for his usual earnings. The superior crafts- 
man retains all his advantages over his fellows, but without 
allowing his superiority to be made the means of reducing 
the weekly wage of the ordinary worker. 

This example of the Method of Collective Bargaining is 
taken from the practice of a " shop club " in a relatively 
unorganised trade. The skilled artisans in the building 
trades afford a typical instance of the second stage. The 
" shop bargain " of such a trade as the cabinet-makers merely 
rules out the exigencies of the particular workmen in a 
single establishment. But this establishment is exposed to 
the undercutting of other establishments in the same town. 
One employer might have to give exceptional terms to his 
" shop club " in a sudden rush of urgent orders, whilst the 



The Method of Collective Bargaining 175 

workmen in other firms might be virtually at the masters' 
mercy owing to bad trade. Directly a Trade Union is 
formed in any town, an attempt is made to exclude from 
influence on the terms, the exigencies of particular employers 
no less than those of particular workmen. Thus in the 
building trades we find the unions of Carpenters, Bricklayers, 
Stonemasons, Plumbers, Plasterers, and sometimes those of 
the Painters, Slaters, and Builders' Laborers obtaining formal 
" working rules," binding on all the employers and work- 
men of the town or district. This Collective Bargaining, 
arranged at a conference between the local master builders, 
and the local officials of the national unions, settles, for a 
specified term, the hours of beginning and ending work, the 
minimum rate of wages, the payment for overtime, the age 
and number of apprentices to be taken, the arrangements as 
to piecework, the holidays to be allowed, -the notice to be 
given by employers or workmen terminating engagements, 
the accommodation to be provided for meals and the safe 
custody of tools, and numerous allowances or extra payments 
for travelling, lodging, "walking time," "grinding money," 
etc. These elaborate codes, unalterable except by formal 
notice from the organisations on either side, thus place on a 
uniform footing as regards the hiring of labor the wealthiest 
contractor and the builder on the brink of bankruptcy, the 
firm crowded with orders and that standing practically idle. 
On the other hand, the superior workman retains his freedom 
to exact higher rates for his special work, whilst the employer 
of superior business ability, or technical knowledge, and the firm 
enjoying the best machinery or plant, preserve, it is claimed, 
every fraction of their advantage over their competitors. 1 

1 The number of these " working rules " in force in the United Kingdom 
has never been ascertained, but it must be very large, there being scarcely any 
town in which one or other of the building trades has not obtained a formal 
treaty with its employers. Our own collection of these treaties, in the building 
trades alone, numbers several hundreds. Specimens will be found in the Labour 
Gazette of the Board of Trade for November 1894 ; and in Le Trade Unionisme 
en Angleterre, edited by Paul de Rousiers (Paris, 1897), pp. 68-70. The British 
Library of Political Science, 10 Adelphi Terrace, London, contains these and 
other Trade Union documents. 



176 Trade Union Function 

The building trades, in which one town does not 
obviously compete with another, have hitherto stopped at 
this stage of Collective Bargaining. Where the product of 
different towns goes to the same market, we see, in the best 
organised industries, a still further development. The great 
staple trades of cotton-spinning and cotton-weaving have 
ruled out, not merely the exigencies of particular workmen 
in one mill, or of particular mills in one town, but also those 
of the various towns over which the industries have spread. 
The general level of wages in all the cotton-spinning towns 
is, for instance, settled by the national agreements between 
the Amalgamated Association of Operative Cotton-spinners 
and the Master Cotton-spinners' Association. No employer, 
and no group of workmen, no district association of em- 
ployers, and no " province " of the Trade Union, can propose 
an advance or accept a special reduction from the estab- 
lished level of earnings. General advances or reductions are 
negotiated at long intervals, and with great deliberateness, 
between the national representatives of each party. Thus 
we see ruled out, not merely all personal or local exigencies, 
but also the temporary gluts or contractions of the market, 
whether in the raw material or in the product. All firms 
in a district, and all districts in the industry being, as far as 
possible, placed upon an identical footing as to the rate at 
which they obtain human labor, their competition takes, it is 
contended, the form of improving the machinery, getting the 
best and cheapest raw material, and obtaining the most 
advantageous market for their wares. 

A similar series of collective agreements exists in some 
other industries. Among the iron-shipbuilders, for instance, 
a gang of platers will bargain, through their first hand, as to 
the exact terms upon which they will undertake a job in the 
building of an iron ship. But the foreman cannot offer, or 
the men accept terms which in any way conflict with the 
" district by-laws " a detailed code regulating hours, over- 
time, extra allowances, and often also the piecework rates 
for ordinary work, formally agreed to by the district com- 



The Method of Collective Bargaining 177 

mittee of the Trade Union and the local association of 
employers. Moreover, the district by-laws, unalterable for 
a fixed term, exclude the influence of any sudden glut or 
famine in the labor market, or any temporary fluctuation of 
the trade of the port. But this is not all. The district 
by-laws are themselves subject to the formal treaties on such 
matters as apprenticeship and the standard level of wages 
concluded between the United Society of Boilermakers and 
Iron-shipbuilders and the Employers' Federation of Ship- 
building and Engineering Trades. These treaties, settling 
certain questions for the whole kingdom, rule out on those 
points the exigencies of particular localities, and place all 
ports upon an equality. Thus the collective bargain made 
by the group of platers on a particular job in one establish- 
ment of a certain town imports a hierarchy of other collective 
bargains, concluded by the representatives of the contracting 
parties in their gradually widening spheres of action. 

This practice of Collective Bargaining has, in one form 
or another, superseded the old individual contract between 
master and servant over a very large proportion of the 
industrial field. " I will pay each workman according to 
his necessity or merit, and deal with no one but my own 
hands," once the almost universal answer of employers 
is now seldom heard in any important industry, except in 
out-of-the-way districts, or from exceptionally arbitrary 
masters. 1 But it is interesting to notice that Collective 
Bargaining is neither co- extensive with, nor limited to, 
Trade Union organisation. A few old -standing wealthy 
unions of restricted membership have sometimes preferred, 
as we saw in the last chapter, to attain their ends by the 
Method of Mutual Insurance, whilst others, at all periods, 
have been formed with the express design of attaining their 
ends by the Method of Legal Enactment. On the other 

1 Mr. Lecky observes (Democracy and Liberty, vol. ii. p. 361) that collective 
agreements "are becoming, much more than engagements between individual 
employers and individual workmen, the form into which English industry is 
manifestly developing. " 

VOL.1 N 



1 78 Trade Union Function 

hand, whole sections of the wage-earning class, not included 
in any Trade Union, habitually have their rate of wages and 
often some other conditions of their employment settled by 
Collective Bargaining. We do not here refer merely to such 
cases as the " shop-bargain," which we have just described. 
The historic strikes of the London building trades in 1859, 
and the Newcastle engineers in 1871, were both conducted 
by committees elected at mass meetings of members of the 
trade, among whom the Trade Unionists formed an insig- 
nificant minority. 1 In the history of the building and 
engineering trades there are numerous instances of agree- 
ments being concluded, on behalf of a whole district, by 
temporary committees of non - unionists, and where the 
Trade Unions themselves initiate and conduct the negotia- 
tions the agreements arrived at habitually govern in these 
industries, not the members alone, but the great bulk of 
similar workmen in the district. Here and there an 
eccentric employer may choose to depart from the regular 
terms, but the great majority find it more convenient to 
comply with what becomes, in fact, the " custom of the 
trade." So thoroughly has the Collective Bargaining been 
recognised in the building trades, that county court judges 
now usually hold that the " working rules " of the district 
are implied as part of the wage -contract, if no express 
stipulation has been made on the points therein dealt with. 
Collective Bargaining thus extends over a much larger 
part of the industrial field than Trade Unionism. Precise 
statistics do not exist, but our impression^js__that. in all 
skilled trades, where men work in concert, on the employers' 
premises, ninety per cent of the workmen find, either their 
rate of wages or their hours of work, and often many other 
details, predetermined by a collective bargain in which they 
personally have taken no part, but in which their interests 
Have beerTdealt with by representatives of their class. 

But though Collective Bargaining prevails over a much 
larger area than Trade Unionism, it is the Trade Union 

1 History of Trade Unionism, pp. 210, 299 ; compare pp. 302, 305. 



The Method of Collective Bargaining 1 79 

alone which can provide the machinery for any but its most 
casual and limited application. Without a Trade Union 
in the industry, it would be almost impossible to get a 
Common Rule extending over a whole district, and hopeless 
to attempt a national agreement. If therefore the collective 
bargain aims at excluding from influence on the bargain, the 
exigencies of particular firms or particular districts, and not 
merely those of particular workmen in a single establishment, 
Trade Union organisation is indispensable. Moreover, it is 
the Trade Union alone which can supply the machinery for 
the automatic interpretation and the peaceful revision of the 
general agreement. To Collective Bargaining, the machinery 
of Trade Unionism may bring, in fact, both continuity and 
elasticity. 

The development of a definite and differentiated 
machinery for Collective Bargaining in the Trade Union 
world coincides, as might be expected, with its enlargement 
from the workshop to the whole town, and from the town to 
the whole industry. As soon as a Trade Union properly so 
called comes into existence with a president and secretary, 
it becomes more and more usual for these officers to act as 
the workmen's representatives in trade negotiations. This is 
the stage in which we find nearly all the single-branched 
unions, such as those of the Sheffield trades, the Dublin 
local societies, the Coopers, Sailmakers, and other small and 
compact bodies of workmen all over the kingdom. Even 
where the growth of a local union into a national society 
has necessitated the appointment of a salaried general 
secretary, giving his whole time to his duties, it is exceptional 
to find him conducting all, or even the bulk of the negotia- 
tions of its members with their employers. In the United 
Operative Plumbers' Association, for instance, practically the 
whole of the Collective Bargaining is still conducted by the 
branch officials, or by representative workmen specially selected 
as delegates. A further stage is marked by the creation of 
permanent committees, unconcerned with the ordinary branch 
administration, to deal solely with local trade questions. 



1 80 Trade Union Function 

Thus the bulk of the Collective Bargaining of the members 
of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers was, until 1892, 
conducted by the society's district committees, each acting 
for the whole of a local industrial district, in which there 
-e often many branches. These negotiators are, like the 
>ranch officials, men working at their trade, and only spas- 
todically engaged in special business of industrial nego- 
tiation. Even disputes of such national importance as the 
costly and disastrous strikes of the Tyneside engineers of 
1891, were initiated and managed by the local district 
committees and their officials, that is to say, by workmen 
called from the workshop only for the time required by the 
society's business. Over more than one-third of the Trade 
Union world, including such old established and widely 
extended unions as the Friendly Society of Operative Stone- 
masons, the Friendly Society of Ironfounders, and the 
Operative Bricklayers' Society, the workmen have not 
developed ^an^_jnpj^L_s^eidajisedmachinery for Collective 
Bargaining than the branch or^onsWct--ee{ffi4ttee of men 
working at their trade, meeting representative employers 
when occasion arises. This primitive machinery, although a 
great advance on the " shop-club," has manifest disadvantages. 
If, as often happens, a personal quarrel or local bitterness is 
at the bottom of the dispute, the prominent local workman 
who represents his fellows can hardly escape its influence. 
And, apart from personal antagonisms and questions of 
temper, the fact that it is the conditions of his own life that 
are involved does not conduce to that combination of 
courage and reasonableness most likely to lead to a lasting 
settlement. If the negotiator himself is fortunately placed, 
or would personally be much injured by a strike, he will 
be tempted to acquiesce in conditions not advantageous to 
the whole trade. In the reverse case perhaps the more 
common the energetic and active-minded workman, whom 
his fellows choose to represent them, is apt to find, in the 
joy of the fight, a relief from the monotony of manual 
labor. If a strike ensues, it brings to him at any rate the 



The Method of Collective Bargaining 1 8 1 

compensation that for a few weeks, or perhaps months, 
he becomes the paid organise1r~6F"the^mieVJQyerwhelrned, 
it is true, with anxious and harassing work, but temporarily 
exchanging a position of passive obedience for one of active 
leadership. 

But, apart altogether from the disturbing influence of the 
" personaf equation," it is obvious that the manual workers 
will stand at a grave disadvantage if they do not command 
the services of an expert negotiator. Unfortunately for his 
interests, the workman has an inveterate belief in what he 
calls a " practical man " that is, one who is actually working 
at the trade concerned. He does not see that negotiation 
is in itself a craft, in which a man must have had a special 
training before he can be considered a " practical " man for 
the business in hand. The proper adjustment of the rate 
of remuneration in a given establishment requires, to begin 
with, a wide range of industrial and economic knowledge. 
Unless the workman's negotiator is accurately acquainted 
with the rates and precise conditions prevailing in other 
establishments and in other districts, he will be unable to 
criticise the statements which will be made by the employer, 
and incapable of advising his own clients whether their 
demand is a reasonable one. Without some knowledge of 
the economic conditions of the industry, the state of trade, 
the number of orders in hand or to be expected, and the 
condition of the labor market, his judgment of the opportune- 
ness or strategic advantage of the men's demand will be of 
no value. The mechanic kept working for fifty or sixty 
hours a week at one narrow process in a single establishment 
would be an extraordinary genius if he could acquire this 
information. Nor would a knowledge of the facts alone 
suffice. The best kit of tools will not make a man a good 
carpenter without that training in their use which experience 
alone can give. The quick apprehension and mental agility 
which make up the greater part of the art of using facts are 
not fostered by days spent in physical toil. Finally, the 
perfect negotiator, like the perfect carpenter, attains his 



1 82 Trade Union Fimction 

expertness only by incessant practice of his art. Here again, 
the workman is at a special disability compared with the 
captain of industry. The making of bargains and agree- 
ments, which occupies only an infinitesimal fraction of a 
workman's life and thought, makes up the daily routine of 
the commercial man. 

These considerations have slowly overcome the work- 
man's objections, and have, in the most powerful unions, 
together comprising over a third of the aggregate member- 
ship, caused the bulk of the Collective Bargaining to be 
gradually transferred from the non-commissioned officers to 
the salaried civil service of the movement. Especially in 
the piecework trades has the amateur negotiator most clearly 
demonstrated his inefficiency. When the workman's re- 
muneration depends on a combination of many different and 
constantly changing factors the novelty of the pattern, the 
character of the material, the variations in the machinery, 
the speed of the engine success in bargaining demands, in 
addition to all the other qualifications, a special aptitude for 
quickly seizing the net result of proposed changes in one or 
more of the factors. It is in the piecework trades therefore 
that we find the machinery for Collective Bargaining in its 
most highly developed form. The great staple industries of 
cotton, coal, and iron, together with boot and shoe-making, 
and the hosiery and lace trades, have especially developed 
elaborate and complicated organisations for Collective Bar- 
gaining which have excited the admiration of economic 
students all over the world. 

We must here plunge into a maze of complicated 
technical detail relating to these industries, each of which 
has developed its machinery for Collective Bargaining in its 
own way, and we despair of making the reader understand 
either our exposition or our criticism unless he will keep 
constantly in mind one fundamental distinction, which is all- 
important. This vital distinction is between the making of 
a new bargain, and the interpreting of the terms of an 
existing one. Where the machinery for Collective Bargaining 



The Method of Collective Bargaining 1 83 

has broken down, we usually discover that this distinction 
has not been made ; and it is only where this fundamental 
distinction has been clearly maintained that the machinery 
works without friction or ill-feeling. Let us consider first 
the interpretation of an existing bargain. Directly a general 
agreement or formal treaty has been concluded in any trade 
between the general body of employers, on the one hand, 
and the general body of workmen on the other, there arises 
a practically incessant series of disputes as to the applica- 
tion of the agreement to particular cases. Thus, as we shall 
see, the highly elaborate and precisely detailed lists of the 
English Cotton-spinners do not prevent, in one or other of 
the thousands of mills to which they apply, the almost 
daily occurrence of a difference of opinion between employer 
and operative as to the wages due. Similarly the unanimous 
agreement of a " uniform statement " in the boot and shoe 
trade leaves open endless questions as to the classification of 
the ever-changing patterns called for by the fashion of each 
season. The determination of the " county average " of the 
Northumberland or Durham coalminer leaves it still to be 
determined what tonnage rate should be fixed for any 
particular seam, in order that the workmen may earn the 
normal wage. The point at issue in these cases is not the 
amount per week which the workmen in any particular 
establishment should be permitted to earn for that has, in 
principle, already been settled but the rate at which, under 
the actual conditions of that establishment, and the class of 
goods in question, the piecework price must be computed in 
order that the average earnings of a particular section of 
workmen shall amount to no more and no less than the 
agreed standard. This, it will be seen, is exclusively an 
issue of fact, in which both the desires and the tactical 
strength of the parties directly concerned must be entirely 
eliminated. For conciliation, compromise, and balancing of 
expediencies, there is absolutely no room. On the other 
hand, it is indispensable that the ascertainment of facts 
should attain an almost scientific precision. Moreover, the 



184 Trade Union Function 

settlement should be automatic, rapid, and inexpensive. 
The ideal machinery for this class of cases would, in fact, 
be a peripatetic calculating-machine, endowed with a high 
degree of technical knowledge, which could accurately 
register all the factors concerned, and unerringly grind out 
the arithmetical result. 

When we come to the settlement of the terms upon 
which a new general agreement should be entered into, an 
entirely different set of considerations is involved. Whether 
the general level of wages in the trade should be raised or 
lowered by I o per cent ; whether the number of boys to 
be engaged by any one employer should be restricted, and if 
so, by what scale ; whether the hours of labor should be 
reduced, and overtime regulated or prohibited, are not 
problems which could be solved by even the most perfect 
calculating-machine. Here nothing has been decided, or 
accepted in advance by both parties, and the fullest possible 
play is left for the arts of diplomacy. In so far as the issue 
is left to Collective Bargaining there is not even any question 
of principle involved. The workmen are frankly striving to 
get for themselves the best terms that can permanently be 
exacted from the employers. The employers, on the other 
hand, are endeavouring, in accordance with business prin- 
ciples, to buy their labor in the cheapest market. The issue is 
a trial of strength between the parties. Open warfare the 
stoppage of the industry is costly and even disastrous to 
both sides. But though neither party desires war, there is 
always the alternative of fighting out the issue. The 
resources and tactical strength of each side must accordingly 
exercise a potent influence on the deliberations. The pleni- 
potentiaries must higgle and cast about to find acceptable 
alternatives, seeking, like ambassadors in international con- 
ference, not to ascertain what are the facts, nor yet what 
is the just decision according to some ethical standard or 
view of social expediency, but to find a common basis which 
each side can bring itself to agree to, rather than go to war. 
Finally, however wise may be the decision come to, the 



The Method of Collective Bargaining 1 85 

acceptance and carrying out of the collective bargain 
ultimately arrived at, depends upon the extent to which the 
negotiators express the feelings and command the confidence 
of the whole class affected. All these considerations must 
be taken carefully into account in the formation of successful 
machinery for Collective Bargaining. 

The most obvious form of permanent machinery for 
Collective Bargaining is a joint committee, consisting of 
equal numbers of representatives of the employers and work- 
men respectively. This may almost be called the " orthodox " 
panacea of industrial philanthropists. For over thirty years, 
since the experiments of Sir Rupert Kettle and Mr. Mun- 
della, employers and workmen have been persistently urged 
to adopt the form of a " board of arbitration and concilia- 
tion," consisting of representatives of each side, and with or 
without an impartial chairman or an umpire. Such a joint 
committee, it has been supposed, could thrash out in friendly 
discussion all points in dispute, and arrive at an amicable 
understanding. In intractable cases, the umpire's decision 
would cut the Gordian knot. Readers of the History of 
Trade Unionism will remember how eagerly this idea was 
taken up by the organised workmen in certain great 
industries, and how, in coalmining and iron and steel in 
particular, it has since enjoyed the favor both of employers 
and employed. We need not stop to describe all the cases 
in which this form of machinery has, from time to time, been 
adopted. We shall best understand its operation by con- 
sidering a couple of leading instances, the " joint boards " of 
the boot and shoe trade, and the " joint committees " of the 
Northumberland and Durham coalminers. 

The great machine industry of boot and shoe-making 
has been provided, for some years past, with a formal and 
elaborate constitution, mutually agreed to by employers and 
employed, and expressly designed " to prevent a strike or 
lock-out, and to secure the reference of all trade disputes to 
arbitration." J The machinery for Collective Bargaining thus 

1 Rules for the Prevention of Strikes and Lockouts, etc., i6th August 1892, 



1 86 Trade Union Function 

established puts into concrete form all the aspirations of 
enthusiastic advocates of " industrial peace." We have first 
a " local board of conciliation and arbitration " in every 
important centre of the trade. To this board, formed of 
an equal number of elected representatives of the local 
employers and the local Trade Unionists, must be referred 
"every question, or aspect of a question, affecting the 
relations of employers and workmen individually or col- 
lectively." If the board cannot agree, the question goes 
to an impartial umpire, acceptable to both sides. Issues 
affecting the whole industry were, until 1894, dealt with by 
a national conference of great dignity and importance. 
Nine chosen leaders of the Federated Associations of Boot 
and Shoe Manufacturers of Great Britain met, in the council 
chamber of the Leicester Town Hall, an equal number of 
elected representatives of the National Union of Boot and 
Shoe Operatives. These elaborate debates, conducted with 
all the ceremony of a State Trial, were presided over by an 
eminent and universally respected solicitor, sometime mayor 
of the town. If no agreement could be arrived at, the 
conference enjoyed the services, as umpire, of no less an 
authority than Sir Henry (now Lord) James, formerly 
Attorney-General, before whom, sitting as a judge, the issue 
was elaborately reargued by the spokesmen of each side. 
Finally as a means of influencing the public opinion of the 
trade, there were published, not only the precise and 
authoritative decisions of the conference or the umpire, but 
also a verbatim report of all the proceedings. 1 

We can imagine how this elaborate and carefully 
thought out machinery for Collective Bargaining would have 

appended to Report of Conference, 1892. These rules, which are signed by 
three employers and three workmen, on behalf of their respective associations, 
consist of fifteen clauses defining the constitution and method of working both 
of the "Local Board of Conciliation and Arbitration," and of the "National 
Conference." They will be found in the Board of Trade Report on Strikes and 
Lockouts 0/1893, c > 7566 of 1894, pp. 253-257. 

2 The "transcript of the shorthand writers' notes" of the Conference of August 
1892, and the subsequent trial before the umpire, forms a volume of 152 pages 
of rich material for the student of industrial organisation. 



The Method of Collective Bargaining 1 8 7 

delighted the heart of the enthusiastic believers in " boards 
of conciliation and arbitration." Nor need it be contested 
that it has been the means of effecting many peaceful settle- 
ments in the industry. But we do not think that any one 
conversant with the trade, or any student of the voluminous 
reports of the proceedings, will deny that the boards have 
been the cause of endless friction, discontent, and waste of 
energy among workmen and employers alike. Scarcely a 
quarter passes without the operatives, in some district or 
another, revolting against their local board ; condemning or 
withdrawing their representatives ; and even occasionally 
refusing to obey the award of the umpire. 1 The employers 
are, on their side, no better satisfied than the men, and in 
1894 the national conference was brought to an end by the 
secession of the federated manufacturers, and their resolute 
refusal to submit the issues to arbitration. The result was a 
stoppage in 1895 of practically the entire industry from one 
end of the kingdom to the other, which was only brought to 
an end by the half-authoritative interference of the Board of 
Trade. 2 

If we examine this general discontent we find it taking 
different forms among the workmen and the employers 
respectively. The operatives complain that, when a general 
agreement has been concluded they cannot get any speedy 
or certain enforcement of it through the local boards. 
Thus, the Bristol representative at the annual delegate 
meeting in 1894, complained bitterly of the dilatory way in 
which his local board acted in its interpretation work. 
Questions " had been hanging about from six to nine months 
from the board to the umpire. Decisions had been given 
by the umpire on boots after a delay of eight or nine 

1 The local boards, of which twelve were in existence at the end of 1894, 
date from 1875. The Stafford Board was dissolved in 1878, and the Leeds 
Board in 1881. The years 1891-94 saw no fewer than seven dissolutions, and 
the important centres of Stafford, Manchester, and Kingswood still remain without 
boards. The National Conference, established in August 1892, met five times 
in the next three years, the sittings being suspended on the withdrawal of the 
employers in December 1894. 

2 See the Labour Gazette, April and May 1895. 



1 88 Trade Union Function 

months. ... In one case in the factory where he worked a 
boot was sent to the arbitration board, and thence to the 
umpire. The decision arrived at by the latter was in favor 
of the men. There was something like seven shillings each 
due to two or three men on that particular boot. But one 
of them had left the town in the interim, and the result of 
the delay was that he was practically swindled out of the 
seven shillings. New samples had been introduced at the 
beginning of the year, and the shoes had been made under 
protest, at a price the employers had quoted, till the end of 
the season. Then, perhaps, when the season was ended, 
they got a decision in their favor, face to face with all the 
difficulties of getting back the money due to them. . . . 
This continual delay sickened the whole of them in Bristol, 
and although there had not been a ballot taken on the 
question of arbitration in Bristol, he felt sure there were over 
ninety per cent of the men opposed to it." ] 

The Kingswood Local Board broke up in 1894, the 
umpire resigning his post in disgust. Discussion had pro- 
ceeded upon a " statement " for " light " boots, and points 
in dispute were submitted to the umpire by the board. The 
bulk of the manufacturers thereupon flatly refused to send 
any samples of the boots in question, and thus made it im- 
possible for the umpire to decide the cases submitted to him. 2 
This produced the greatest possible irritation among the men, 
who urged that, as the employers had failed to submit to the 
umpire's award, the operatives' claim should be adopted. 
These cases might be indefinitely multiplied from all the 
centres of the industry. But delay is not the only objection 
brought by the operatives against the working of the local 
boards. When at last the umpire's decision has been given 
it has often failed to command the assent, and sometimes 
even to secure the obedience of the workmen. This arises, 
we believe, from the class of umpire whom it has been 

1 Report of the Edinburgh Conference, May 1894 (the delegate meeting of 
the National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives). 

2 Shoe and Leather Record, 3<Dth November 1894. 



The Method of Collective Bargaining 189 

necessary to choose. The questions of interpretation neces- 
sarily turn, not on any general principle, but on extremely 
technical trade details, which are unintelligible to any person 
outside the industry. 1 In the absence of any paid pro- 
fessional expert, permanently engaged for precisely this 
work, the umpire has in practice to be chosen from among 
the employers, the board usually agreeing upon a leading 
manufacturer in another district. This reliance on the 
unpaid service of a non-resident increases the delay. But 
what is more important is, that however generally respected 
such an umpire may be, it is inevitable that, when his award 
runs counter to the claim of the operatives, these should 
accuse him of class bias. The alternative of choosing one 
of the officials of the union would, it need hardly be said, be 
equally distasteful to the employers. 

The discontent of the employers is directed chiefly to 
another feature of the organisation. The work of the local 
boards is so laborious and incessant that the great magnates 
of the industry cannot spare time to attend. On questions 
of interpretation, they would be willing to leave the busi- 
ness to their managers or smaller employers. But besides 
questions of interpretation the local board have perpetually 
brought before them disputes which turn upon the admission of 
what the employers regard as " new principles." If the local 
board, with the concurrence of its employer-members, decides 
the issue, all the other employers in the district, some of 
whom may be " captains of industry " on a huge scale, find 
a new regulation made binding on them in the conduct of 
what they regard as " their own business." If on the other 
hand the local board remits such issues virtually the 

1 Thus the umpire for the Norwich Local Board had to award rates to be 
paid in the following cases, remitted from a single meeting, (i) "A woman's 
5ths if changed from self- vamp to calf vamp; (2) a girl's 4ths if changed from 
self-vamp to glace kid vamp ; (3) a woman's 4th's ditto ; (4) a girl's kid button 
levant seal vamp or golosh ; (5) a girl's glace kid one finger strap ; (6) a woman's 
kid elastic mock button front shoe sew-round." The award, which is equally 
unintelligible to the general reader, will be found in the Shoe and Leather Record 
Annual for 1892-93, p. 121. 



190 Trade Union Function 

conclusion of new general agreements to the national con- 
ference, all the employers in the kingdom find themselves 
in a similar predicament. Moreover, in a publicly conducted 
national conference, formed of equal numbers from each 
party, neither the representative workmen nor the representa- 
tive employers dare concede anything to their opponents, or 
even submit to a compromise. The result is that every 
important issue is inevitably remitted by the conference to 
the umpire. Lord James has accordingly found himself in 
the remarkable position of imposing laws upon the entire 
boot and shoe-making industry, prescribing for instance, not 
only a minimum rate of wages, but also a precise numerical 
limitation of the number of boy-learners to be engaged by 
each employer, the conditions under which alone a wholesale 
trader may give work out to sub-contractors, and the extent 
to which employers shall themselves provide workshop 
accommodation, and the date before which such premises 
shall be in use. This, it is obvious, goes beyond Collective 
Bargaining. The awards of Lord James amount, in fact, 
to legislative regulation of the industry, the legislature in 
this case being, not a representative assembly acting on 
behalf of the whole community, but a dictator elected by the 
trade. 1 

It is therefore not surprising to find the employers 
quickly protesting against so drastic and far-reaching 
an arrangement. But it was one to which they had ex- 
plicitly and unreservedly pledged themselves. They had 
promised, by the rules of the i6th August 1892, that 
" every question or aspect of a question affecting the 
relations of employers and workmen individually or collectively 
should in case of disagreement be submitted for settlement," 
first to the local board, then to the national conference, and 

1 It is a minor grievance of the employers that no distinguished lawyer 
can be found to give the unpaid and laborious service of an umpire, who is not 
also a politician. It is impossible for the employers to avoid the suspicion 
that any politician will be unconsciously biassed in favor of the most numerous 
section of the electors. See the significant quotation given in the footnote at 
p. 240. 



The Method of Collective Bargaining 1 9 1 

finally, if need be, to the umpire. That this promise was 
not confined to questions of interpretation is made manifest 
by the express mention in the same document of the settle- 
ment of disputes involving " new principles." In the long 
discussion which led up to the signing of the rules, they 
had, in fact, successfully pleaded for adopting " honestly and 
unreservedly arbitration pure and simple, and for every 
dispute, and under all conditions." * In their anxiety to 
remove every chance of a stoppage of their industry, they 
had overlooked the fundamental distinction between questions 
of the interpretation of an existing contract and questions 
as to the terms of a new settlement. If they had listened 
to the warning of the able editor of their own trade organ, 
they would not have made this blunder. The very month 
before the conference of 1892 he was urging exactly the 
distinction upon which we insist. " Employers," he wrote, 
"have never contended that arbitration would settle every 
conceivable kind of dispute between capital and labor. 
But they have contended that where certain established 
principles are already recognised by both szdes y the adjustment 
of details can better be settled by arbitration than in any 
other way. ... It must be obvious that, whatever the 
future may bring, employers could not now prudently allow 
every dispute with their workmen to be settled by a third 
person. To say nothing of the question of boy labor which 
is now at issue, a number of others may be mentioned 
regarding which the employer could not consent to surrender 
any portion of his discretion or responsibility." 2 The sub- 
sequent events quickly proved that this view of the state 
of mind of the average employer was correct, and that the 
chosen representatives of the Federated Associations of Boot 
and Shoe Manufacturers had failed to understand the words 
which they were, with all solemnity, using. When the 

1 Speech of Mr. Gale, a leading employer. Third day of Conference, 
August 1892. The men had wished to exclude any question of a general reduc- 
tion of wages, whereupon the employers had insisted that no exception whatever 
should be made. 

2 Shoe and Leather Record^ July 1892. 



192 Trade Union Function 

workmen brought up cases of actual disputes that had arisen 
about boy labor, machinery, the "team system," and the 
employment of non-unionists, the employers protested that 
they had never meant such questions as these to be discussed 
at all. The president had, of course, no alternative but to 
hold them bound to their explicit agreement, and to overrule 
their protests. After prolonged ill-feeling, the associated 
employers revolted, and withdrew their representatives from 
the national conference, alleging first of all, that the work- 
men had in some cases refused to abide by the award of 
the umpire, and further, that the national conference had 
become " a legislative tribunal for the trade." * 

Thus experience of the working of the elaborate machinery 
for Collective Bargaining provided in the boot and shoe 
industry has revealed many imperfections. Some of these 
have been avoided in our second example, the conciliation 
boards and the joint committees of the Northumberland and 
Durham coalminers. Here we have, to begin with, a clear 
distinction maintained between the machinery for interpreta- 
tion and that for concluding a new agreement. The earnings 
of the miners in both counties are determined ultimately by 
general principles 2 applicable to the whole of each county, 
which are revised at occasional conferences of representative 

1 Manifesto of Federated Associations of Boot and Shoe Manufacturers of 
Great Britain, 2Oth December 1894. For documents and exact particulars of 
the dispute which thereupon arose, see Labour Gazette, April and May 1895 > 
also the Shoe and Leather Record^ and the Monthly Reports of the National Union 
of Boot and Shoe Operatives from October 1894 to June 1895. We nave here 
dealt with the matter, not on its merits, but only in so far as it illustrates the 
machinery for collective bargaining. The agreement brought about by the Board 
of Trade on igth April 1895, which now governs the industry, expressly excludes 
four specified subjects from discussion by the local boards and makes no provision 
for a national conference. But so far as we understand the document, no dis- 
tinction is even now made between questions of interpretation and questions as 
to the terms of a new agreement. Both kinds of questions are, as before, to be 
decided where necessary by the umpire. 

2 These general principles include a normal standard wage, with a corre- 
sponding normal tonnage rate, applicable to the whole county. This is called 
the " County Average," a somewhat misleading phrase as the normal rate is not, 
and has long not been, a precise "average" of the actual earnings of all the 
miners in the county, and is now only a conventional figure upon which percentages 
of advance or reduction are based. 



The Method of Collective Bargaining \ 93 

workmen and employers. 1 Neither in Durham nor in 
Northumberland has this board of conciliation anything to 
do with the interpretation of the formal agreement from time 
to time arrived at, or with the incessant labor involved in 
its application. Its meetings, held only at rare intervals, 
command the presence of the greatest coal-owners in the 
county, and of the most influential miners' leaders specially 
elected for the purpose. The board deliberates in private, 
and publishes only its decisions. Resort to the umpire, 
or in Northumberland to the casting vote of the chairman, 
is rare, the usual practice being for a frank interchange 
of views to go on until a basis of agreement can be 
found. On the other hand, all questions of interpretation or 
application are dealt with by another tribunal, which goes 
on undisturbed even when one or other party has temporarily 
withdrawn its representatives from the board of conciliation. 
In marked distinction from the conciliation board, the "joint 
committee " in each county meets frequently, and is engaged 
in incessant work. But this committee is expressly debarred 
from dealing with " such as may be termed county questions, 
or which may affect the general trade," 2 and is rigidly con- 
fined to the application of the existing general agreement to 
particular mines or seams. 3 

1 In Durham this conference is, since February 1895, called "The Board of 
Conciliation for the Coal Trade." The rules of that date provide for eighteen 
representatives of each side, with an umpire to be mutually agreed upon, or in 
default nominated by the Board of Trade. In Northumberland, the corresponding 
" Board of Conciliation " now consists of fifteen on each side, with an independent 
chairman having a casting vote, to be nominated, in default of agreement, by the 
Chairman of the Northumberland County Council. The name and constitution 
of these boards are frequently varied in minor details. 

2 Durham Miners' Joint Committee Rules, November 1879. 

3 Owing to the great differences in the ease and facilities with which the coal 
is got in different mines and different seams of the same mine, it is impossible, 
consistently with uniformity in the rate of payment for the whole work done, to 
apply any identical tonnage rate throughout the county. When it is found that 
the men in any mine constantly earn per day an amount which departs appreciably 
from the normal (the so-called " County Average"), the employer or the work- 
men appeal for a readjustment of the tonnage rate in that particular instance. It 
must be counted as a grave defect in the miners' organisations outside North- 
umberland and Durham that no systematic arrangements exist for this adjust- 
ment of the standard wage to the particular circumstances of each mine or seam. 

VOL. I O 



194 Trade Union Function 

For deliberateness and impartiality this tribunal leaves 
nothing to be desired. The members, all of whom are 
practically acquainted with the industry, do not directly 
represent either of the parties concerned in any dispute, and 
have no other interest than that of securing uniformity in 
the application of a common agreement. The chief dis- 
advantage of the tribunal is that which we have already 
seen complained of in the local boards of the boot and shoe 
trade. For deciding mere issues of fact, as to the circum- 
stances of a particular seam or pit, a joint committee is 
necessarily a cumbrous, expensive, and dilatory machine. 
Every case involves the journeying to Newcastle of witnesses 
on both sides, and their examination by all the members of 
the committee. This consumes so much time that cases 
frequently stand in the agenda for several months before 
being reached, a fact which leads to great dissatisfaction to 
those concerned. 1 Moreover, it is often impossible to come 
to any decision without personal inspection of the seam, and 
difficult cases are therefore constantly referred for decision 
to one employer and one workman, with power to choose an 
umpire. This results in a more precise ascertainment of 
facts, but increases the delay and expense. Finally, there is 
in such cases no guarantee that the decisions, arrived at by 
different sets of people, will preserve that exact uniformity 
which it is the special function of the tribunal to enforce. 

Thus, the much-advertised expedient of a single joint 
committee of employers and employed to deal with all 
questions that arise between them, has not proved a wholly 

In Lancashire, Derbyshire, and other districts of the Miners' Federation, for 
instance, there is no better protection of the standard wage than pit-lists, pre- 
scribing tonnage rates for individual collieries. No machinery exists for ensuring 
uniformity (of the rate of pay for the amount of work) between these lists, or even 
for revising their rates to meet the changing circumstances of particular seams. 
If a miner finds he is earning a very low amount per day, he applies to his lodge 
meeting for permission to leave and receive strike benefit. More or less informal 
negotiations may then be opened with the mine manager, who often fixes a new 
rate, in consultation either with the group of miners themselves, or with the lodge 
officials, or in some instances with salaried agents of the union. 

1 This is especially the case in Durham, where the number of mines dealt 
with is very large. 



The Method of Collective Bargaining \ 95 

satisfactory machinery for Collective Bargaining. The ex- 
pediency of having separate machinery for the essentially 
different processes of interpreting an existing agreement and 
concluding a new one is, we think, clearly demonstrated. 
For one of these two processes, the application and inter- 
pretation of an existing agreement, a joint committee is a 
cumbrous and awkward device. A better solution of the 
problem has been found in the Lancashire cotton trade. 
The cotton operatives, like the Northumberland and Durham 
coalminers, have distinguished, clearly and sharply, between 
the formation of a new general agreement and the applica- 
tion of an existing agreement to particular cases. But they 
have done more than this. Unconsciously and, as it were, in- 
stinctively, they have felt their way to a form of machinery for 
Collective Bargaining which uses the representative element 
where the representative element is needed, whilst on the 
other hand it employs the professional expert for work at 
which the mere representative would be out of place. 

We will first describe the machinery for the interpreta- 
tion of an existing agreement. The factors which enter into 
the piecework rates of the Lancashire cotton operatives are 
so complicated that both the employers and the workpeople 
have long since recognised the necessity of maintaining 
salaried professional experts who devote their whole time to 
the service respectively of the employers' association and the 
Trade Union. The earnings of a cotton-spinner, for instance, 
depend upon the complex interaction of such factors as the 
" draw " of the mule, the number of its spindles, and the 
speed with which the machinery works. To compute the 
operative's earnings, even with the aid of the elaborate 
printed tables known as the " List," entails no ordinary 
amount of arithmetical facility. But it is especially the 
custom of allowing the operative compensation for defective 
material or old-fashioned machinery and the employer a 
corresponding allowance for improvements, which has thrown 
the collective bargaining, as regards interpretation, entirely 
into the hands of professional experts. Thus, if an Oldham 



196 Trade Union Function 

operative finds his earnings falling below the current figure, 
either because the raw cotton is inferior or the machinery 
obsolete, or if an employer speeds up his engine or introduces 
improvements, the experts on each side visit the mill, and 
confer together as to the net effect of the change. If the 
deficiency in earnings is considered to be due to imperfection 
in the raw material, or to the old-fashioned character of the 
machinery, the employer is required to add a specified per- 
centage to the normal piecework rate, so that the work- 
man may not suffer. On the other hand, if the employer 
has effected special improvements, by which the product is 
augmented, without increasing the strain on the operative, 
he is allowed to deduct a corresponding percentage from the 
" List " price. The cotton -weavers have what is essentially 
the same machinery for calculating the characteristic technical 
details of their trade. 

The importance and complication of the duties thus 
entrusted to the salaried officials of the cotton-spinners' and 
cotton-weavers' unions has led to the adoption of an interest- 
ing method of recruiting this branch of the Trade Union 
Civil Service. The Cotton -weavers, in 1 86 1, subjected the 
candidates for the then vacant office of general secretary to 
a competitive examination. 1 This practice was adopted by 
the Cotton-spinners, and is now the regular way of selecting 
all the officials who are to concern themselves with the 
intricate trade calculations. The branches retain the right of 

1 Mr. Thomas Birtwistle, the successful candidate on this occasion, was, 
after over thirty years' honorable service of his Trade Union, appointed by the 
Home Secretary an Inspector in the Factory Department, as the only person 
competent to understand and interpret the complicated methods of remuneration 
in the weaving trade. His son, brought up in the Trade Union office, has since 
also been appointed a factory inspector. The successful candidate at the Bolton 
Cotton-spinners' examination in 1895 was > a ^ er two y ears ' service as Trade 
Union Secretary, engaged in a similar capacity by the local Master Cotton- 
spinners' Association. So far as we know, this is the first instance of a Trade 
Union official transferring his services from the operatives to the employers, and it 
throws an interesting light on the transformation of the " labor leader " into the 
professional accountant. The bulk of the daily work of the Trade Union 
officials in the cotton industry consists, in fact, in securing the uniform observance 
of a collective agreement, a service which, like that of a legal or medical pro- 
fessional man, could, with equal propriety, be rendered to either client. 



The Method of Collective Bargaining 1 97 

nominating the candidates, and the members, acting through 
their Representative Assembly, their right of election. But 
between the day of nomination and that of election all 
the candidates submit to a competitive examination, con- 
ducted by the most experienced officers of the unions. A 
fairly stiff paper is set in the arithmetic and technical cal- 
culations required in the trade, and each candidate writes 
an essay. But a prominent part is played by an oral 
examination, in which the examiners assume the part of 
employers, cross-question the candidates one by one on the 
alleged grievances of which they are supposed to have come 
to complain, and do not refrain, in order to test their wits 
and their good temper, from adopting the bullying manners 
of the worst employers. The marks gained by all the candi- 
dates are printed in full detail, the name of the glib-tongued 
" popular leader " being sometimes followed by the comment 
of " entirely wrong " or " not worked " in all his arithmetical 
calculations, and by infinitesimal marks for spelling, writing, 
and conduct under cross-examination. The result is usually 
the election of the candidate who has obtained the highest 
marks, but the Representative Assembly occasionally exercises 
its discretion in giving a preference to a candidate of known 
character or good service, who has fallen a few marks behind 
the best examinee. 1 

1 OPERATIVE COTTON-SPINNERS' PROVINCIAL ASSOCIATION OF 
BOLTON AND DISTRICT. 

Offices : 77 St. George's Road, Bolton. 

Examination Paper for Candidates applying for situation of Gen. Sec. of the 
above Association. 

2$th January 1895. 

Subject I. Calculations. 

1. Find the number of stretches put up in a week, and the price per 100 
required to produce a gross wage of 3 : 9 : 7 per pair of mules, from the follow- 
ing particulars : Number of spindles in one mule, 1090. From 56^ hours, 
deduct 2j hours for cleaning and accidental stoppages, and one hour and ten 
minutes for doffing. Speed of each mule, 4 stretches in 75 seconds. 

2. Taking the stretches as ascertained by the previous question to be each 



198 Trade Union Function 

It is to this method of selection that we attribute the 
remarkable success of the officials of the Cotton Trade Unions 
in obtaining the best possible terms for their members. We 
regard it as a great disadvantage to the Trade Union world 
that the system has not hitherto spread to other unions. 
It seems to us to combine the advantages of competitive 
examination and popular selection, and it ensures the union 
against the serious calamity of finding itself saddled with an 
incompetent officer. 

This part of the machinery for Collective Bargaining 
among the Cotton Operatives the meeting of the salaried 
professional experts on each side deals, as we have said, 
only with questions of interpretation, that is, the application 

64^ inches long, how many hanks would the week's production amount to, and 
what price per 1000 hanks would be required to bring out the wage previously 
given ? 

3. Assuming the standard price paid for producing a certain count of yarn to 
be I2s. yd. per 100 Ibs., what would the price be after a reduction of 7.9 per 
cent, and what percentage would it require to bring back the reduced price to 
the original amount ? 

4. Divide .3364502 by .001645. 

5. Extract the square root of 8o's counts to three places of decimals, and 
then ascertain the required turns per inch for both twist and weft, the assumed 
standard being the square root of the counts, multiplied by 3^ ior weft, and 3$ 
for twist. 

6. If good fair Egyptian cotton is advanced from 4 7 A r ths to 4$d. per lb., what 
would be the rate per cent of the increase ? Also what would be the amount of 
the broker's commission on a sale of 1000 bales of 480 Ibs. each, at one-quarter 
of one per cent, and what would be the difference in his commission as between 
selling at one price and the other ? 

7. An upright shaft runs at the rate of 80 revolutions per minute, and has on 
it a wheel with 70 teeth driving a wheel with 40 teeth on the line shaft. Over 
each pair of mules there is on the line shaft a drum 40 inches in diameter driving 
a counter pulley 16 inches in diameter. On the counter shaft is a drum 30 inches 
in diameter, driving a rim-pulley 15 inches in diameter. Give the revolutions of 
the rim shaft per minute. 

8. Assuming a rim shaft to be making 680 revolutions per minute, with a 
2o-inch rim, a ii^-inch tin roller-pulley, a 6-inch tin roller, and spindle wharves 
rfths of an inch in diameter, what will be the number of revolutions of the 
spindles per minute, after allowing T \th of an inch each to the diameter of the tin 
roller and spindle wharves for slipping of bands ? 

17. Writing; Composition, and Spelling. 

Compile an essay on Trade Unions, with special reference to their useful 
features. The essays must not exceed about 1200 words, and the points taken 



The Method of Collective Bargaining \ 99 

to particular jobs, or particular processes, of the existing 
general agreements accepted by both 'sides. When it comes 
to concluding or revising the general agreement itself a 
matter in which not one firm or operative alone is interested, 
but the whole body of employers and workmen we find the 
machinery for Collective Bargaining taking the form of a joint 
committee composed of a certain number of representatives 
of each side. Thus the Cotton-spinners, whilst leaving to 
the arbitrament of the secretaries of the district union 
and district employers' association all questions relating to 
particular mills or particular workmen, revise the details of 
their lists in periodical conferences in which the leading 
employers of the district concerned arrange the matter with 
the leading trade union officials and representative operatives. 
And when the point at issue is not the alteration of the 
technical details of the list, but a general reduction or advance 
of wages by so much per cent throughout the trade, or a 
general shortening of the working time, we see the matter 

into consideration will be handwriting, spelling, composition, and the clear concise 
marshalling of whatever facts or arguments are adduced. 

III. Oral Examination. 

Each candidate will be examined separately as to his capacity for dealing 
orally with labour disputes. On this point they will have to formulate what 
they consider would be a complaint requiring immediate attention, and the 
examiners will question them, and possibly urge some arguments against the 
views advanced. 

Candidates will be allowed from ten in the forenoon to five in the afternoon 
to complete their examination in the two first subjects, with one hour for dinner. 
Candidates will not be allowed to refer to any books or papers. The third 
subject (oral examination) will not be taken until Sunday, the 27th instant, at 
I o'clock. 

THOMAS ASHTON, j Examiners , 
JAS. MAWDSLEY, ) 

Thirteen candidates in all entered for this examination. The examiners 
allowed a maximum of 50 marks for each sum, and loo marks each for writing, 
spelling, composition, and oral examination, making 800 marks the maximum 
attainable. The number of marks obtained by the candidates varied from 195 
to 630. The post was finally given to the second candidate in the list (610 
marks), who was an old and esteemed officer of the union, and whose second 
place at the examination was chiefly due to his obtaining lower marks for hand- 
writing than the most successful candidate. 



20O Trade Union Function 

discussed between appointed representatives of the whole 
body of the employers, attended by their agents and solicitors, 
and the central executive of the Amalgamated Association 
of Operative Cotton-spinners as representing all the district 
unions. 

In the case of the English Cotton-spinners the lists of 
prices have been so carefully and elaborately worked out 
that even district conferences are of only occasional occur- 
rence. The general policy of both employers and operatives 
is against any but rare and moderate variations of the 
standard earnings. Such questions as hours of labor and 
sanitation do not, among the Cotton Operatives, for reasons 
that we shall explain in a subsequent chapter, fall within the 
sphere of the Method of Collective Bargaining. The joint 
conferences of the whole trade take place therefore only in 
momentous crises, and are accompanied by all the solemnity 
and strenuousness of an assembly on whose decision turns 
the question of peace or war. 

It is interesting to see one of these momentous confer- 
ences at work. The historic all-night sitting which settled 
the great Cotton-spinners' dispute of 1893, and concluded 
the agreement which has since governed the trade, was 
vividly described by one of the leading Trade Union officials 
who took part in it. The employers had demanded a 
reduction of 10 per cent, whilst the men had urged that it 
would be better to reduce the number of hours worked per 
week. The stoppage had lasted no less than twenty weeks, 
practically every mill in the whole industry being closed. 
Feeling on both sides had run high, but after frequent 
negotiations and incessant newspaper comment, the points 
at issue had been narrowed down, and both parties felt the 
need of bringing the struggle to an end. To escape the 
crowd of reporters the place of meeting was kept secret, and 
fixed for 3 P.M. at a country inn, to which the whole party 
journeyed together in the same train. 

" On the employers' side was Mr. A. E. Rayner, looking 
all the better for his holiday at Bournemouth. With him 



The Method of Collective Bargaining 201 

were some sixteen or seventeen others, amongst whom were 
Mr. Andrew, Mr. John B. Tattersall, and Mr. James Fletcher 
of Oldham. There was also Mr. John Fletcher, Mr. R S. 
Buckley, and Mr. Smethurst of the Ashton district, who 
took with them Mr. Dixon to keep them in countenance. 
Mr. Sidebottom of Stockport also gave a kind of military 
flavor to his colleagues, whilst Mr. John Mayall of Moseley 
attended to look in and lend some dignity to the occasion, 
in which he was assisted by Mr. W. Tattersall, secretary of 
the federation. On the operatives' side Mr. Ashton, Mr. 
Mellor, and Mr. Jones did duty for Oldham ; Mr. Wood, Mr. 
Rhodes, and Mr. Carr represented the Ashton district ; whilst 
the general business was attended to by Mr. Mullin, Mr. 
Mawdsley, Mr. Fielding, and some dozen others, whilst Mr. 
D. Holmes, Mr. Wilkinson, and Mr. Buckley had a watch- 
ing brief for the winders and reelers. Perhaps we ought not 
to omit mentioning that the employers had brought with 
them Mr. Hesketh Booth, clerk to the Oldham magistrates, 
who was counterbalanced by Mr. Ascroft, another Oldham 
solicitor, who had accompanied the cardroom hands. 

" Those whose names we have mentioned, with others, 
made up a party of between thirty and forty, and after taking 
a few minutes to straighten themselves up after leaving the 
train, they settled down to business. Mr. A. E. Rayner was 
unanimously voted to the chair. . . . Both sides had prepared 
and got printed a series of proposals, and the employers had 
. . . them printed side by side on the same sheet. In many 
of them there was nothing to differ about except the word- 
ing, as the idea aimed at was the same in both cases. But 
the clause dealing with the reduction was the first, and in 
their sheets the employers had left the amount out, whilst 
the operatives had put in 2\ per cent. The employers wished 
the discussion on this point to be deferred to the end of the 
meeting, but feeling that unless a settlement could be arrived 
at on this, the whole of the time spent on the other clauses 
would be wasted, the operatives insisted it should be taken 
first. The employers then retired, and after being absent some 



2O2 Trade Union Function 

time, returned and offered to accept a reduction of 3 per 
cent. The operatives then retired, and after a prolonged 
absence, offered to recommend the acceptance of sevenpence 
in the pound. 1 Then came an adjournment for tea, and 
further discussion on the same subject followed, which was, 
however, carried on by means of deputations from one section 
to the other, as it was found that much better progress was 
made by this system than by all being together, with its 
concomitant long speeches, which generally came to nothing. 
This point ultimately disposed of in favour of the sevenpence, 
some minor clauses were got through, the next discussion 
being on the arrangement of intervals between the times 
when wages can be disturbed. This discussion brought up 
the time to after ten o'clock, and everybody was tired and 
anxious to be going home. . . . But as there seemed to be 
every prospect of being able to ultimately agree, it was con- 
sidered that they should not run the risk of rendering the 
meeting useless by separating. In order to give the jaded 
men an opportunity for freshening up, an adjournment for 
half an hour was therefore agreed to, during which cold 
remains of the tea vanished. This, combined with a smoke 
and a stroll in the open air, put everybody right, and when 
business was resumed it went on swimmingly. There was 
little said by the employers over their clause, that union 
operatives must work amicably with non-union men, and 
another affirming that in any proposal to change the rate of 
wages the state of trade for the three previous years must be 
taken into account. . . . When this work was done the 
remaining clauses which affirm the desirability of (employers 
and operatives) working together for the promotion of 
measures conducive to the general interests of the trade, were 
soon gone through, and at nearly four o'clock in the morning 
the jaded disputants rushed off to get a little change of air 
whilst the agreement was being picked out from piles of 
papers and put together in proper form. At this stage a 
little diversion was occasioned by the arrival of a cab con- 

1 Equal to 2.916 per cent. 



The Method of Collective Bargaining 203 

taining a reporter of one of the Manchester papers, who, 
after hunting all over South-east Lancashire for the meeting- 
place, had at last found the right spot. This bit of enterprise 
having been rewarded by about six lines of something, he 
rushed off back to catch his paper. Just after five (after 
fourteen hours) the documents were in shape, and the 
requisite signatures attached, and with a few, evidently heart- 
felt congratulatory remarks from the chairman, and a vote of 
thanks having been given to him, the proceedings closed." * 

The machinery for Collective Bargaining developed by 
the Cotton Operatives, in our opinion, approaches the ideal. 
We have, to begin with, certain broad principles unreservedly 
agreed to throughout the trade. The scale of remuneration, 
based on these principles, is worked out in elaborate detail 
into printed lists, which (though not yet identical for the 
whole trade) automatically govern the actual earnings of 
the several districts. The application, both of the general 
principles and of the lists, to particular mills and particular 
workmen, is made, not by the parties concerned, but by the 
joint decision of two disinterested professional experts, whose 
whole business in life is to secure, not the advantage of 
particular employer or workmen by whom they are called in, 
but uniformity in the application of the common agreement 
to all employers and workmen. The common agreements 
themselves are revised at rare intervals by representative 
joint committees, in which the professional experts on both 
sides exercise a great and even a preponderating influence. 
The whole machinery appears admirably contrived to bring 
about the maximum deliberation, security, stability, and 
promptitude of application. And whilst absolutely no room 
is left for the influence upon the negotiations of individual 
idiosyncrasies, temper, ignorance of fact, or deficiency in 
bargaining power, whether on the side of the employer or 

1 "How matters were arranged," Cotton Factory Times, 3ist March 1893; 
see Labour Gazette, May 1893. The formal treaty, known as the " Brook lands 
Agreement," will be found in the Board of Trade Report on Wages and Hours 
of Labour, Part II., Standard Piece Rates, 1894, C, 7567, p. 10. 



204 Trade Union Function 

the operative, the uniform application of an identical method 
of remuneration throughout the whole trade leaves the able 
capitalist or energetic workman free to obtain for himself the 
full advantage of his superiority. 1 

The reader who has had the patience to follow the fore- 
going exposition will have seen that, taking the Trade Union 
world as a whole, the machinery for Collective Bargaining 
must be regarded as extremely imperfect. We do not here 
discuss whether Collective Bargaining is, or is not, economi- 
cally advantageous to the workmen or to the community. 
We may, however, assume that it is desirable, if it exists, 
that it should be carried on without friction. And if for the 
moment we take the Trade Union point of view, and assume 
the expediency of a Common Rule, excluding the influence 
of particular exigencies, it is essential that this Common 
Rule should be wisely and deliberately determined on, 
uniformly applied, and systematically enforced. This de- 
mands machinery which, over the greater part of the Trade 
Union world, has not yet been developed. Throughout the 
great engineering and building trades, and indeed, in nearly all 
the timework trades, Collective Bargaining, though practically 
universal, is carried on in a haphazard way with the most 
rudimentary machinery, and usually by amateurs in the craft 
of negotiation. The piecework trades have, in the main, 
been forced to recognise the importance of commanding the 
services of salaried professionals to deal with their complicated 
lists of prices. Only among the Cotton-spinners and Cotton- 
weavers, however, do we yet find any arrangement for 
ensuring, by a technical examination, for continuity of expert 

1 The United Society of Boilermakers, whose hierarchy of agreements we 
have described, has, in effect, similar machinery for Collective Bargaining. New 
agreements are concluded at meetings with the employers, in which the expert 
salaried officials are associated, at any rate in form, with representative workmen. 
The machinery for interpretation consists, in effect, of a joint visit by salaried 
officials representing respectively the associated employers and the Trade Union. 
"They had tried a joint committee on the Tyne," said Mr. Robert Knight, " but 
the employers could not spare the time, for all their local disputes mostly required 
visiting, and so they came to prefer a reference to a delegate who was their 
representative, and he met the men's delegate with the best results." Newcastle 
Leader "Extra" on Conciliation in Trade Disfrites (Newcastle, 1894), p. 15. 



The Method of Collective Bargaining 205 

services. Finally, we see the whole machinery for Collective 
Bargaining seriously hampered, except in two or three trades, 
by the failure to make the vital distinction between inter- 
preting an existing wage contract, and negotiating the terms 
upon which a new general agreement should be entered into. 
We must, in fact, conclude that, among the great unions 
only the Cotton-spinners, Cotton-weavers, and the Boiler- 
makers, and, to a lesser extent, the North of England and 
Midland Iron-workers * and the Northumberland and Durham 

1 For the rules, history, and working of these Boards, see Industrial 'Conciliation , 
by Henry Crompton ; Industrial Peace, by L. L. F. R. Price (London, 1887) ; 
Sir Bernhard Samuelson's paper in February 1876 before the British Iron Trade 
Association; the evidence before the Royal Commission on Labor, 1892, 
particularly that of Messrs. Whitwell and Trow, Group A, 14,974 to 15,482; 
and the summary of the rules at p. 368 of the Parliamentary Paper, c. 6795, xn - 
Reports of their proceedings are given in the monthly Ironworkers' Journal, the 
organ of the Iron and Steel Workers of Great Britain. Though these Boards 
have repeatedly been described, their observers have, in our opinion, dealt rather 
with the formal than with the real constitution, and with the aspirations rather 
than with the actual results of the organisation. An important but scarcely 
noticed element in the problem is the fact that a certain proportion of the work- 
men are themselves employers of subordinate labor. Exactly what classes of 
workmen puddlers, millmen, mechanics, enginemen, laborers, etc. are entitled 
to vote in the election of representatives, and how effectively all the different 
grades are actually represented on the Boards, has never been described. It is 
reported that a large number of the cases dealt with by the Midland Board at 
any rate, concern differences, not between a firm and its wage-earners, but 
between a manual-working sub-contractor and his subordinates, the latter not 
being represented on the Board. With regard to the actual results of the Boards, 
the student would have to investigate whether the rates fixed from time to time 
did not operate rather as maxima than as minima ; whether, that is to say, the 
incompleteness and lack of authority of both the employers' and the workmen's 
organisations did not lead to many firms taking advantage of the awards of the 
Board to stave off larger demands from their workmen, whilst at other times 
using their own strategic position to compel the men to accept lower terms than 
the Board was awarding. In January 1893, for instance, one of the union 
officials deplored, in a meeting of the members, " the private reductions which 
they had submitted to all round," in contravention of the rates fixed by the 
Midland Board (Ironworkers 1 Journal, January 1894). Some years later the 
men's dissatisfaction led to the following manifesto: "Amongst large numbers 
of the workmen there is a growing opinion that the Board is unsatisfactory, and 
that it would be to the workers' interests to dissolve it. It is stated that 
employers only appeal to the Wages Board when it suits them, and that they 
ignore its principles and rules, when by so doing they can take undue advantage 
of their workmen, so that the maintenance of the Wages Board is only beneficial 
to the employer and prejudicial to the interests of the workmen. . . . Even the 
employer section fear to enforce adherence to its rules because of giving offence 
to those employers who simply look upon the Board as a convenience for imposing 



206 Trade Union Function 

Miners, can be said to be adequately equipped with efficient 
machinery for Collective Bargaining. 

The foregoing analysis of the Method of Collective 
Bargaining, and of the machinery by which it is carried out, 
will have revealed to the student two of its incidental charac- 
teristics, which to some persons appear as fatal evils, and to 
others merely as the " defects of its qualities." The keen 
Individualist will scent an element of compulsion in the 
so-called " voluntary " agreements governing the conditions 
of a whole trade. The ardent advocate of " industrial peace" 
will fail to discover any guarantee that the elaborate nego- 
tiations between highly-organised classes will not end in a 
declaration of war instead of a treaty of agreement. 

That some measure of compulsion is entailed by the 
Method of Collective Bargaining no Trade Unionist would 
deny. Trade Unionists, as we have explained, value Collec- 
tive Bargaining precisely because it rules out of account the 
particular exigencies of individual workmen or establishments. 
With this exclusion of exigencies there comes necessarily 
a certain restriction on personal idiosyncrasy, which some 
would describe as a loss of liberty. When, for instance, the 
employers and workmen in a Lancashire town collectively 
settle which week shall be devoted to the annual " wake," 
even the exceptionally industrious cotton-spinner or weaver 
finds himself bound to keep holiday, whether he likes it or 
not. It is impossible to make common arrangements for 
numbers of men without running counter to the desires of 
some of them. The wider the range of the Common Rule, 
and the more perfect is the machinery for its application and 
enforcement, the larger may be the minority which finds 
itself driven to accept conditions which it has not desired. 
It follows that the Trade Union must provide, in its consti- 

unjust conditions upon their workmen." (Official Circular from the Executive 
Council of the Associated Iron and Steel Workers of Great Britain, loth August 
1896, in Ironworkers' Journal, September 1896). For analogous cases under 
the North of England Hoard, the student should investigate the action of the 
Stockton Malleable Iron Company (see Ironworkers Journal, January 1894). 
and that of the Barrow Steel Works (Ibid. January 1896). 



The Method of Collective Bargaining 207 

tution, some means of securing the obedience of all its 
members to the regulations decided upon by the majority. 
The rules of all unions, from the earliest times down to the 
present day, contain clauses empowering the fining of dis- 
obedient members, the alternative to paying the fine being 
expulsion from the union. We have already pointed out 
that the development of the friendly society side of Trade 
Unionism incidentally makes this sanction a penalty of very 
real weight, and one which can be easily enforced. To this 
pecuniary loss may, moreover, be added the incidents of 
outlawry. When a union includes the bulk of the workmen 
in any industry, its members invariably refuse to work along- 
side a man who has been expelled from the union for 
" working contrary to the interests of the trade." In such a 
case expulsion from the union may easily mean expulsion 
from the trade. But whilst the Trade Union has thus most 
drastic punishments at its command, the individual member 
is habitually protected from tyranny or caprice by an elab- 
orate system of appeals, which ensure him against condemna- 
tion otherwise than according to the positive laws of his 
community. This disciplinary system is, of course, usually 
applied to men who deliberately undermine the Common 
Rule by accepting lower terms than those collectively agreed 
to. 1 But it is also used against workmen who break the 
agreement in the other direction. " To give one illustration," 
said the general secretary of the United Society of Boiler- 
makers, to the Royal Commission on Labor, " we had a case 

1 The Trade Unionist feeling against men who work "under price" is 
expressed in the following quotation from the Amended General Laws of the 
Amalgamated Society of Cordwainers (London, 1867), one of the most ancient 
of unions : 

" A scab is to his trade what a traitor is to his country, and though both 
may be useful to one party in troublesome times, when peace returns they are 
detested alike by all ; so when help is wanted a scab is the last to contribute 
assistance, and the first to grasp a benefit he never labored to procure ; he cares 
only for himself, but he sees not beyond the extent of a day ; and for momentary 
and worthless approbation would betray friends, family, and country. In short, 
he is a traitor on a small scale he first sells the journeymen and is himself after- 
wards sold in his turn by his master, until at last he is despised by both and 
deserted by all. He is an enemy to himself, to the present age, and to posterity/' 



208 Trade Union Function 

at Hartlepool a short time since, where a vessel was in for 
repairing, and the men knew that the vessel was in a hurry, 
and thought there was a very good chance to get an advance 
in their wages, so they went to their foreman, and made a 
demand for 2s. a week advance. The foreman, knowing the 
arrangement between our association and the employers' 
association, refused to give the advance, and at once wired to 
me at Newcastle, and by the orders of the council I sent back 
to say that the employer was to give the men the advance 
as asked for, because we did not want to stop the work, as 
the ship was in a hurry, and we wanted to get her off. The 
employer gave the men the advance as asked for, and we at 
once sent to the firm requesting the firm to tell us the 
amount of money they had paid to the men as advances of 
wages on that job. When the job was completed those 
particulars and details were sent to us at Newcastle, and also 
the names of the men who were engaged upon the job, and 
who had made the demand. As soon as that was done our 
council ordered the members who received the money to 
refund that again to the Society, and we sent a cheque from 
the head office to that firm equal to the amount of the 
advances given." l In another case men knowing that their 
employer was under a time limit for the completion of a 
ship made a sudden demand for a rise. Precisely the same 
action was taken by the union, and the men were also fined 
" for dishonorable behaviour to employer under contract to 
deliver." 

1 Royal Commission on Labor, Group A, Question 20,718. The frequency 
with which this disciplinary power is exercised may be judged from an extract 
from the Monthly Report for May 1897, referring only to a single district. The 
list is not usually published. 

"The following members have been dealt with by the committee during 
April : 

F. F., foreman, holding two jobs at Heyes, 405. 

T. B., rivetter, doing plater's work, IDs. 

E. T., plater, neglecting his work through drinking, los. 

J. J., rivetter, doing plater's work, 2OS. 

H. R., excessive overtime, 305. 

T. C., using abusive language to Strike Secretary, IDS. 

R. D., using disgusting and obscene language to Mr. W. H., foreman, ios, M 






Tke Method of Collective Bargaining 209 



In the world of modern industry this submission of the 
personal judgment to the Common Rule extends far beyond 
the range of those who, by Trade Union membership, 
may be considered to have agreed to forego an individual 
decision. When the associated employers in any trade 
conclude an agreement with the Trade Union, the Common 
Rule thus arrived at is usually extended by the employers, 
as a matter of course, to every workman in their establish- 
ments, whether or not he is a member of the union. 1 This 
universal application of a collective bargain to workmen 
who have neither personally nor by representatives taken 
any part in it, is specially characteristic of the Sliding Scale. 
In the ironworks of the North and Midlands the awards 
of the accountants engaged by the joint committees of 
employers and workmen habitually govern every wage 
contract in the establishments concerned, however distaste- 
ful the whole proceeding may be to a particular section of 
workmen. The position of the South Wales coalminers is 
even more striking. Not a third of the 120,000 men are 
even professedly members of any Trade Union, or in any way 
represented in the negotiations, and of the organised work- 
men a considerable proportion, forming three separate unions, 
each covering a distinct district, expressly refused to agree 
to the 1893 Sliding Scale, and withdrew their representatives 
from the joint committee. Nevertheless, the whole of the 
120,000 men, with infinitesimal special exceptions, find 
their wages each pay-day automatically determined by the 
accountant's award. In this case the associated employers, 
in alliance with a minority of the workmen, enforce, upon 

1 This practice has recently received authoritative official confirmation. Certain 
boot manufacturers in Bristol and Northampton, whilst holding themselves bound 
to give to members of the National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives the terms 
specified in the collective agreements, claimed the right to pay what they liked to 
the non-unionists they employed. On the issue being referred, at the instance of 
the Trade Union, to the Permanent Secretary of the Board of Trade as umpire, 
he decided that the decisions of the Local Boards were, unless expressly re- 
stricted, applicable to unionists and non-unionists alike, although the latter were 
in no way parties to the agreement. See Award of 6th May 1896, in Labour 
Gazette, May 1896. 

VOL. I P 



2io Trade Union Function 

an apathetic or dissentient majority, under pain of exclusion 
from the industry or exile from the district, a method of 
remuneration and rates of payment which are fiercely 
resented by many of them. In instances of this kind it is 
the employers who are the instruments of coercion. In 
other industries we find the Trade Union, acting in alliance 
with the Employers' Association, putting its own forms of 
pressure on dissentient employers, who refuse to join the 
association, or to conform to the arrangements agreed to 
by the industry as a whole. The records of the local 
boards in the boot and shoe trade contain many appeals 
from the representatives of the Associated Employers to the 
National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives, in which the 
union is incited to use all its influence to compel rival firms 
to conform to the trade agreements. Here a majority of 
workmen, at the instance of, and in alliance with a majority 
of employers, practically force a minority of both masters 
and men to accept the Common Rules which have com- 
mended themselves to the main body of the trade. In 
short, experience shows that any successful attempt to 
arrange common terms in a highly - developed modern 
industry, inevitably leads, however " voluntary " may be 
the basis of the associations concerned, to a virtually com- 
pulsory acquiescence in the same terms, if not throughout 
the whole trade, at any rate by many firms and many work- 
men who have in no sense willingly agreed to them. 

This compulsion takes a more obvious form when it is a 
question of providing the cost of the machinery by which the 
common arrangements are made and applied. In the South 
Wales coalfield, where, as we have seen, the Silding Scale is 
practically universal, a compulsory deduction of sixpence 
per annum is made by the employers from the earnings of 
about 40,000 men, whether or not they individually agree 
with the Sliding Scale, or are members of any Trade Union. 
In the Rhondda Valley, and in a few other districts, the 
compulsion goes a step farther. The employers com- 
pulsorily deduct a few pence per month from their work- 



The Method of Collective Bargaining 2 i i 

icn's earnings, as the contribution to the Trade Union. A 
irtain agreed percentage is retained by the employer and 
lis clerks for their trouble, and the balance is handed over 
the agents of the men's unions. By far the largest and 
lost important miners' union in South Wales has no other 
ibscription than this compulsory deduction in the em- 
ployer's pay office, and is without any lodges, branch 
officials, or other organised machinery. To all intents and 
purposes, therefore, Trade Union membership, summed up, 
as it is, in this enforced contribution to maintain officials 
with whom the employers can negotiate, is, over a large 
part of the South Wales coalfield, absolutely compulsory. 1 

But whilst the compulsory Trade Unionism of the 
South Wales coalfields, as enforced by the employers, 
extends to the collective arrangements, and to payment 
for their cost, it makes no provision for ensuring that the 
apathetic or dissentient workers shall have any opportunity 
of expressing their desires, or of taking any part in con- 
trolling their own side of the business. As most of the 
men from whom the Sliding Scale pence are deducted are 
not even nominally on the roll of any Trade Union, they 
are never troubled to vote on any question, and the work- 
ing-men members on the Sliding Scale committee, repre- 
senting the small minority of men on the books of the 

1 A similar compulsory membership characterises the manufactured iron 
trade. The Midland Iron and Steel Wages Board decided that employers should 
compulsorily collect from all their operatives the contribution due in respect of 
the men's share of the Board's expenses. Some employers neglected to do this, 
and on complaint made by the Operatives' Secretary, the Chairman of the Board 
held that all employers were bound to make the deduction (Ironworkers' Journal, 
March 1895). The North of England Manufactured Iron Board adopts the 
same practice. The Truck Act of 1896 forbids any such^ deduction, and, in 
order to enable ilTEo-bu .lunlinuud, Mr. Trow, the Operatives' Secretary, moved 
and carried a resolution that the Home Secretary should be asked to make an 
order excluding their trade from the scope of the Act (Ironworkers' Journal, 
March 1897). The Midland Board unanimously joined in the application on 
the express ground, as stated by the Chairman, that the Act " might have the 
effect of preventing them deducting the contributions of the men to the Wages 
Board" (Iromvorker? Journal, April 1897). It will be interesting to see 
whether the Home Secretary extends his sanction to the principle of compulsory 
contribution, by complying with the request, and issuing an order exempting 
the whole trade from the Truck Act. 



212 Trade Union Function 

several unions, conclude such agreements with the employers, 
and make such disposition of the compulsory deductions, as 
seem best in their own eyes, or in those of their immediate 
constituents. We have, in fact, in this remarkable case, 
an instance of collective administration without democratic 
control. In another case in the same industry, where 
collective action and compulsory payment is enforced by 
the law, provision is at least made for a ballot to be taken. 
We have described elsewhere l how long and persistently 
the Miners' Trade Unions have fought to obtain the right 
to have their own agent at the pit mouth, to see that their 
members are not defrauded in the computation of their 
tonnage earnings ; and we have also pointed out how in- 
valuably these checkweighers have served as union officials. 2 
By the Coal Mines' Regulation Act of 1887 it was enacted 
that, whenever a mere majority of the workers in any coal 
pit, to be ascertained by a ballot vote, decided to appoint a 
checkweigher, the amount of his wages should be shared 
among all the workers in the pit who were paid according 
to the weight of coal gotten, and that it should be com- 
pulsorily deducted from their earnings, whether they voted 
for the appointment or against it. 

More generally, however, it is left to the Trade Union 
to take such steps as it can to enforce the common trade 
agreements, and to collect for itself the expenses involved. 
This may be effected in two ways. Following the example 
of the South Wales Coal-owners, the Trade Union may 
enforce, throughout the whole trade, an agreement concluded 
between a section of the employers and the employed, 
levying a compulsory tax for the purpose upon all persons 

1 History of Trade Unionism, pp. 289, 453. 

2 Among the amendments of the law now sought by the Miners' Federation 
is one enabling the hewers in any mine to appoint an assistant checkweigher, at 
the expense of the whole pit, to act whenever " the said checkweigher is acting in 
any other capacity for or on behalf of the workmen of the colliery." "What 
they wanted to do," explained the Yorkshire representatives at the Miners' 
Conference in 1896, "was to make it so that the men employed at any colliery 
could appoint an assistant checkweigher to look after the work when the weigher 
was away on association business." 



The Method of Collective Bargaining 2 1 3 

at work. Thus the old close corporation of Dublin Coopers, 
whilst allowing strangers to work, does not admit them to 
membership, but insists that they shall obey all the regula- 
tions of the union, and contribute weekly to its funds so 
long as they work in the town. But this " taxation without 
representation " is alien to working class sentiment, and the 
almost universal practice of Trade Unionism is to expect 
every member of the trade to bear his share, not only in the 
cost of its administration, but also in the work of its govern- 
ment. " We contend," declare the Flint Glass Makers, 
"that it is the imperative duty of men who live by a trade 
to support, protect, and keep it in a respectable condition. 
Men who refuse to subscribe to the funds of a Trade Union 
never can be looked upon by those who are members of 
such a union with that feeling of satisfaction and respect 
which makes one happy in the thought that unity of action 
is the aim of all for the good of each other." T Hence we 
have, not only compulsory acceptance of the trade customs 
but also compulsory membership of the Trade Union con- 
cerned. In old days, when any Trade Union action was 
a criminal offence, this compulsion easily passed into per- 
sonal violence. 2 But British Trade Unionists now content 
themselves with the more peaceful method practised by the 
employers. An employer habitually refuses to engage any 
workman who does not agree to his workshop rules, or to those 
adopted by the employers' association. In the same way, 
the Trade Unionist will, if he can, refuse to accept work in 
an establishment where he is obliged to associate with non- 
unionists ; " working beside a non-unionist," say the Flint 

1 Address of Central Committee, Flint Glass Makers' Magazine, May 1889. 

2 In the History of Trade Unionism we have described the practice of 
"rattening," for which some of the Sheffield trade clubs were, up to 1867, un- 
happily notorious. In the early part of the century the trade clubs of Dublin 
and Glasgow had an equally evil reputation for personal violence (see History of 
Trade Unionism, pp. 3, 31, 79, 149, 154, 242). With the growth of legal 
freedom for Trade Unions to employ peaceful, and really more effective, sanctions, 
this resort to summary lynch law has died out. We know personally of no 
instance in which, during the present generation, physical violence has been used 
to compel Trade Union membership. 



214 Trade Union Function 

Glass Makers, " is bad enough to a man of brain and 
principle, without having to suffer the indignity of being 
compelled to assist him in his labor. . . . This being so 
we do not hesitate to say that before an employer engages 
a unionist, he ought to clear all the non-unionists off the 
premises. Where we have demanded this, it has been 
done." This is put even more definitely by the Coal- 
miners. The minutes of the Derbyshire Miners record, for 
instance, under date of 1892, "that this Executive Com- 
mittee recommend our members, where the majority are 
union men, to use every legal effort to induce others to 
join, and failing this we advise our members neither to 
work nor ride with them, but that due notice of their 
intention to take such actions be given to the management 
in each case before being put into practice." l 

There is a strange delusion in the journalistic mind that 
this compulsory Trade Unionism, enforced by refusal to work 
with non-unionists, is a modern device, introduced by the 
"New Unionists" of 1889. Thus Mr. Lecky states as a 
fact 2 that the establishment of monopolies, and the exclusion, 
" often by gross violence and tyranny," of " non-unionists 
from the trades they can influence " is specially marked 
"among the New Unionists." But any student of Trade 
Union annals knows that the exclusion of non-unionists is, 
on the contrary, coeval with Trade Unionism itself, and that 
the practice is far more characteristic of its older forms than 
of any society formed in the present generation. The trade 
clubs of handicraftsmen in the eighteenth century would 
have scouted the idea of allowing any man to work at their 
trade who was not a member of the club. And at the 

1 Minutes of Executive Meeting, Derbyshire Miners' Association, July 1892. 
It is an incident of this refusal, on the part of the employer or on that of the 
wage-earner, to consent to work with persons of whose conduct he disapproves, 
that employers seek to insist on " character notes," workmen classify firms into 
"fair" and "unfair," and the associations on both sides circulate to their 
members "blacklists" of the men who have made themselves objectionable, 
towards the employers in the one case, and towards their fellow workmen in the 
other. 

2 Democracy and Liberty ', vol. ii. p. 348. 



The Method of Collective Bargaining 2 1 5 

present day it is especially in the old-fashioned and long- 
established unions that we find the most rigid enforce- 
ment of membership. Among the Coalminers it is the 
men of Northumberland, Durham, and the West Riding 
of Yorkshire, strongly combined for a whole generation, 
who have set the fashion of absolutely refusing to "ride" 
(descend in the cage) with non-unionists. 1 In the best 
organised industries indeed, whether great or small, such as 
the Boilermakers, Flint Glass Makers, Tape-sizers, or StufT- 
pressers the very aristocracy of " Old Unionists " the 
compulsion is so complete that it ceases to be apparent. No 
man not belonging to the union ever thinks of applying for 
a situation, or would have any chance of obtaining one. It 
is, in fact, as impossible for a non-unionist plater or rivetter 
to get work in a Tyneside shipyard, as it is for him to take 
a house in Newcastle without paying the rates. This silent 
and unseen, but absolutely complete compulsion, is the ideal 
of every Trade Union. It is true that here and there an 
official of an incompletely organised trade may protest to 
the public, or before a Royal Commission, that his members 
have no desire that any workman should join the union 
except by his own free will. But, however bond fide may 
be these expressions by individuals, we invariably see such 
a union, as soon as it secures the adhesion of a majority of 
its trade, adopting the principle of compulsory membership, 

1 For an extreme instance of this boycott of non-unionists, see the remarkable 
letter of William Crawford, the leader of the Durham miners, given in full, at 
p. 280 of the History of Trade Unionism, and written, we believe, about 1870. 
" Regard them," said Crawford, " as unfit companions for yourselves and your 
sons, and unfit husbands for your daughters. Let them be branded, as it were, 
with the curse of Cain, as unfit to mingle in ordinary, honest, and respectable 
society." But this extension of the ostracism from the workplace to the home, 
from industrial relations to social life, is repugnant to British working-class senti- 
ment, and has never extensively prevailed. However illogical may be the dis- 
tinction, there is a general feeling, now spreading, we think, to other classes of 
society, that it is inexpedient to extend social ostracism beyond the sphere of 
the offence. Business men habitually deal with others of known bad character in 
private life, so long as their commercial dealings are unobjectionable. On the 
other hand, English society does not refuse to meet at dinner statesmen of good 
private character, whose public acts it deems in the last degree unscrupulous. 
The more logical policy advocated by Crawford is regarded as fanaticism. 



216 Trade Union Function 

and applying it with ever greater stringency as the strength 
of the organisation increases. 

Whatever we may think of these various forms of com- 
pulsion, it is important to note that they are in no way 
inconsistent with the old ideal of " freedom of contract " 
the legal right of every individual to make such a bargain 
for the purchase or sale of labor as he may think most 
conducive to his own interest, and that they are, in fact, 
a necessary incident of that legal freedom. 

When an employer, or every employer in a district, makes 
the Sliding Scale a condition of the engagement of any work- 
man, the dissentient minority are " free " to refuse such terms. 
They may, in the alternative, break up their homes and leave 
the district, or learn another trade. The wage-earners can- 
not be denied a similar freedom. When a workman chooses 
to make it a condition of his acceptance of employment 
from a given firm, that he shall not be required to asso- 
ciate with colleagues whom he dislikes, he is but exercis- 
ing his freedom to make such stipulations in the bargaining 
as he thinks conducive to his own interest. The employer 
is " free " to refuse to engage him on these terms, and if the 
vast majority of the workmen are of the same mind, he is 
" free " to transfer his brains and his capital to another trade, 
or to leave the district. But to any one not obsessed by 
this conception of " freedom," it will be obvious that a mere 
legal right to refuse particular conditions of employment is 
no safeguard against compulsion. Where practically all the 
competent workmen in an industry are strongly combined, 
an isolated employer, not supported by his fellow capitalists, 
finds it absolutely impossible to break away from the " custom 
of the trade." The isolated workman who objects to Trade 
Unionism finds himself in the same predicament. The coal- 
hewer in a Northumberland village has no more real freedom 
of choice as to whether or not he will join the union than a 
Glamorganshire miner has about working under the Sliding 
Scale. The workmen's case for Trade Unionism and the 
employers' case against it both proceed on the same assump- 



The Method of Collective Bargaining 2 1 7 

tion. 1 Wherever the economic conditions of the parties concerned 
are unequal, legal freedom of contract merely enables the 
superior in strategic strength to dictate the terms. Collective 
Bargaining does not get rid of this virtual compulsion : it 
merely shifts its incidence. Where there is no combination 
of any kind, the strategic weakness of the individual wage- 
earner, unable to put a reserve price on his labor, forces 
him to accept the lowest possible terms. When the work- 
men combine the balance is redressed, and may even incline, 
as against the isolated employer, in favor of the wage-earner. 
If the employers meet combination by combination, the com- 
pulsion exercised upon individual capitalists or individual 
wage-earners may become so irresistible as to cease to be 
noticed. In the most perfected form of Collective Bargaining, 
compulsory membership becomes as much a matter of course 
as compulsory citizenship. 

If, indeed, we examine more closely the common argu- 
ments against this virtual compulsion, we shall see that the 
customary objection is not directed against the compulsion 
itself, but only against the persons by whom it is exercised, 
or the particular form that it takes. The ordinary middle- 
class man, without economic training, is wholly unconscious 
of there being any coercion in an employer autocratically 
deciding how he will conduct " his own business." 2 But the 
very notion of the workmen claiming to decide for themselves 
under what conditions they will spend their own working 
days strikes him as subversive of the social order. The 
ardent Trade Unionist, on the other hand, resents the 
" tyranny " of the employer's workshop rules, but sees no 
harm in a strong union relentlessly enforcing its will on the 
capitalists, without deigning to consult with them beforehand. 

1 This assumption is examined in detail in our chapter on "The Higgling of 
the Market." 

2 " The capitalists or master class . . . think the internal arrangements of 
their establishments, hours, mode of payment or contract no more the affairs of 
the public than the routine of a man's own household." " Trade Unions and their 
Tendencies," by Edmund Potter, F.R.S., Social Science Association Transactions, 
1860, p. 755. 



2i8 Trade Union Function 

The modern compromise between these diametrically opposite 
views, and one now attracting a growing share of public 
approval, is the settlement of the conditions, neither by the 
workmen nor by the employers, but by collective agreement 
between them. It is this feeling that accounts for the ever- 
increasing favor for Boards of Conciliation and Arbitration 
and joint committees of all sorts. Public opinion, that is to 
say, accepts as inevitable the submission of the individual to 
the Common Rule, and seeks merely to ensure that this 
submission should be based upon due representation of the 
persons directly concerned. The most fervent advocates of 
this Collective Bargaining between the representatives of 
employers and employed welcome, in the interests of In- 
dustrial Peace, the application of these collective agreements 
over whole districts of an industry, and for specified long 
terms, though this necessarily involves the compulsory 
acquiescence of individual firms and individual workmen 
who would have preferred to make separate bargains. And 
thus we come, step by step, to the remarkable proposal of 
the Chairman of the Royal Commission on Labor, the Duke 
of Devonshire, himself a great employer, concurred in by 
seven other eminent members, that Trade Unions and 
Employers' Associations, extending over whole trades, should 
be encouraged to become definitely incorporated bodies, 
expressly authorised to conclude collective agreements for 
their constituents, and empowered to secure the compliance 
of all their members with these new trade laws by legally 
enforcible penalties, " every member of a (duly registered) 
association being during membership held to be under a 
contract with the association for observance of the collective 
agreement," the association being given " the right to recover 
damages from those of its members who infringed the collec- 
tive agreement." l 

1 See the Report, signed by the Duke of Devonshire, the Right Honorable 
Leonard Courtney, M.P., and six other members, C, 7421, p. 117. This pro- 
posal is further examined in our chapter on "The Implications of Tiade 
Unionism." 



The Method of Collective Bargaining 2 1 9 

But the essential reasonableness of English public opinion 
sets limits to all these forms of legal freedom of contract and 
economic compulsion, whether it is the capitalist's " freedom 
of enterprise," the wage-earner's "freedom of combination," 
or the freedom of representative joint committees to decide 
what shall be the customs of the trade. When it becomes 
obvious that individual capitalists are using their strategic 
advantage to compel the wage-earners to accept conditions 
patently dangerous to life, health, or character, middle-class 
opinion supports legislation to curb their greed. When a 
group of workmen strike against machinery, or to enforce 
some obviously anti-social regulation, they find themselves 
deserted by the general body of Trade Unionists, frequently 
thwarted by other members of their trade, and even con- 
demned by the executive of their own union. And when 
the Duke of Devonshire and Mr. Leonard Courtney pro- 
posed, in the Royal Commission on Labor, to give increased 
power of trade regulation to free associations of employers 
and employed, they were met by the objection that such 
joint agreements in particular trades might easily become 
prejudicial to the interests of other industries or of the general 
body of consumers. At the root of all these instinctive 
qualifications of logical doctrines, there lies a half-conscious 
admission that neither employers nor employed are morally 
free to ignore the interest of the community as a whole. 
This reveals to us an inherent shortcoming of every attempt 
to determine the conditions of industry by mere contract 
between capitalists and workmen. Even in the most per- 
fected forms of Collective Bargaining, when each of the 
parties is fully represented, and the agreement arrived at 
really expresses the combined desires of both, there is no 
guarantee that the terms are such as will be conducive to 
the welfare of the community. 

We have left to the last what is usually regarded as the 
capital drawback to the Method of Collective Bargaining, 
even in its most perfect development. In the machinery 
adopted by the Lancashire Cotton Operatives, for instance, 



22O Trade Union Function 

there is no provision for the contingency of a failure to come 
to an agreement. In such a contingency the bargaining 
simply comes to an end, and we have that deliberate collec- 
tive refusal on the part of the employers to give work, or 
on the part of the operatives to accept work, which is known 
as a " lock-out " or a " strike." These cessations of work 
are, in our view, necessarily incidental to all commercial 
bargaining for the hire of labor, whether individual 
or collective, just as the customer's walking out of the 
shop, if he does not consent to the shopkeeper's price, is 
incidental to retail trade. 1 This, we need hardly observe, 
is a very different matter from the ignorant assumption that 
there is some necessary connection between strikes and 
Trade Unions. We have already noted the existence of 
Trade Unions which prefer the Method of Mutual Insurance 
to that of Collective Bargaining, and do not therefore engage 
in strikes at all ; and we shall elsewhere instance Trade 
Union organisations whose operation is confined to the 
Method of Legal Enactment. On the other hand, long 
before a Trade Union comes into existence in any industry. 
Collective Bargaining, as we have already explained, prevails 
in a more or less elaborate form ; and, with Collective Bar- 
gaining, the inevitable resort to concerted refusal to work. 
It is a matter of simple history that strikes have been far 
more numerous in industries which have practised Collective 
Bargaining without Trade Unionism, than in those in which 
durable combinations have existed. 2 The influence of Trade 
Unions on strikes is indeed exactly similar to their influence 
on Collective Bargaining. The elaboration of the " shop 

1 The bitterest opponents of Trade Unionism admit this. " Strikes, I con- 
sider," said a leading employer in 1860, "as the action and the almost inevitable 
result of commercial bargaining for labor. They will always exist." "Trade 
Unions and their Tendencies," by Edmund Potter, F.R.S., Social Science Associa- 
tion Transactions, 1860, p. 75^. 

2 We need only remind the reader of the incessant " pit strikes " of the 
Northumberland and other coalfields prior to the miners' organisation in per- 
manent Trade Unions ; of such angry insurrections as those of the Luddites in 
1811 and the "plug riots" of 1842; and of the perpetual series of "shop dis- 
putes " that still go on among those handicrafts which have not advanced in 
organisation beyond the "shop bargain." 



The Method of Collective Bargaining 2 2 1 

bargain " into the local " working rules," and of these again 
into the national agreement has naturally been accompanied 
by a similar extension of the " shop dispute," into a local 
strike, and of this again into a general stoppage of the 
industry. In this connection we may quote the Royal Com- 
mission on Labor, " that when both sides in a trade are 
strongly organised and in possession of considerable financial 
resources, a trade conflict, when it does occur, may be on a 
very large scale, very protracted and very costly. But just 
as a modern war between two great European States, costly 
though it is, seems to represent a higher state of civilisation 
than the incessant local fights and border raids which occur 
in times or places where governments are less strong and 
centralised, so, on the whole, an occasional great trade con- 
flict, breaking in upon years of peace, seems to be preferable 
to continued local bickerings, stoppages of work, and petty 
conflicts." * 

But whether or not we accept this flattering analogy, 
it is impossible to deny that the perpetual liability to 
end in a strike or a lock-out is a grave drawback to the 
Method of Collective Bargaining. So long as the parties to 
a bargain are free to agree or not to agree, it is inevitable 
that, human nature being as it is, there should now and again 
come a deadlock, leading to that trial of strength and endur- 
ance which lies behind all bargaining. We know of no 
device for avoiding this trial of strength except a deliberate 
decision of the community expressed in legislative enact- 
ment. One favourite panacea, incidentally referred to in our 
account of the boot and shoe trade the reference of the 
dispute to an impartial arbitrator we reserve for a separate 
chapter. 

1 Fifth and Final Report of the Royal Commission on Labor, 1894, C, 7421, 
p. 36. Mr. Lecky echoes this report. " There can be little doubt that the 
largest, wealthiest, and best-organised Trade Unions have done much to diminish 
labor conflicts." Democracy and Liberty, vol. ii. p. 355. 



CHAPTER III 

ARBITRATION 

THE essential feature of arbitration as a means of determin- 
ing the conditions of employment is that the decision is not 
the will of either party, or the outcome of negotiation between 
them, but the fiat of an umpire or arbitrator. It is dis- 
tinguished from that organised negotiation between Trade 
Unions and Employers' Associations which we have termed 
Collective Bargaining, in that the result is not arrived at by 
bargaining at all, the higgling between the parties being, in 
fact, expressly superseded. On the other hand, it is not 
Legal Enactment, though it bears some resemblance to this 
form, because the award is not obligatory on either of the 
parties. Their refusal to accept it, or their ceasing to obey 
it, even if they have promised to do so, carries with it no 
coercive sanction. 

These characteristics of arbitration, as a method of 
settling the conditions of employment, come to the front on 
every typical occasion. We see the employers and workmen 
at variance with each other. Negotiations, more or less 
formally carried on, proceed up to a point at which a dead- 
lock seems inevitable. To avert a stoppage of the industry, 
both parties agree to " go to arbitration." They adopt an 
impartial umpire, either to act alone or with assessors 
representing each side. Each party then prepares an 
elaborate " case," which is laid before the new tribunal. 
Witnesses are called, examined, and cross-examined. The 



Arbitration 223 

umpire asks for such additional information as he thinks 
fit. Throughout the proceedings the utmost latitude is 
allowed. The " reference " is seldom limited to particular 
alternatives, or expressed with any precision. 1 The umpire, 
in order to clear up points, is always entering into conversa- 
tion with the parties. Practically no argument, however 
seemingly irrelevant, is excluded ; and evidence may be 
given in support of claims founded on the most diverse 
economic theories. Finally, the umpire gives his award in 
precise terms, but usually without stating either the facts 
which have influenced him or the assumptions upon which 
he has made up his mind. The award and this is an 
essential feature carries with it no legal sanction, and may 
at any moment be repudiated or quietly ignored by any 
capitalist or workman. 2 

1 Thus the operatives may be asking for an Eight Hours' Day, the dismissal 
"of an unjust foreman, and the abolition of sub-contracting, whilst the employers 
urge a reduction of wages and the more regular attendance of the men. The 
umpire's award may include any or all of these points, and might conceivably 
decide all in favour of the respective claimants. 

2 A list of the principal works on arbitration will be found at p. 323 of our 
History of Trade Unionism. Mention should have been made among them of 
the report on Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration prepared by Carroll D. 
Wright for the Massachusetts Labor Bureau (Boston, i8Si); and J. S. Jeans's 
Conciliation and Arbitration in Labour Disputes (London, 1894) can now be 
added. The most important recent publications have been made on the Conti- 
nent. We may cite, in particular, the bulky volume of the French "Office du 
Travail," entitled De la Conciliation et de F arbitrage dans les Conflits Collectifs 
entre patrons et ouvriers en France et a I'ttranger (Paris, 1893) the numerous 
reports and pamphlets by Julien Weiller of Mariemont, Belgium ; and Conseils de 
Findustrie et du travail by Charles Morisseaux (Brussels, 1890). The English 
experience is well discussed by Dr. von Schulze-Gaevernitz in Zttm Socialen 
Frieden (Leipzig, 1890), translated as Social Peace (London, 1893). 

The student should note that there has been, until quite recently, no clear 
distinction drawn between Collective Bargaining, Conciliation, and Arbitration. 
Much of what is called Arbitration or Conciliation in the earlier writings on the 
subject amounts to nothing more than organised Collective Bargaining. Thus, 
the classic work of Mr. Henry Crompton (Industrial Conciliation, London, 1876) 
describes, as "conciliation," the typical cases in which representative employers 
and workmen meet to bargain on behalf of the trade. The Nottingham hosiery 
board, established in 1860, often described as a model of arbitration, was, in 
effect, nothing more than machinery for Collective Bargaining, no outsider being 
present, the casting vote being given up, and the decisions being arrived at by 
what the men called " a long jaw." In 1868 Mr. Mundella observed in a lecture, 
" It is well to define what we mean by arbitration. The sense in which we use 
the word is that of an arrangement for open and friendly bargaining ... in 



224 Trade Union Function 

Yet arbitration has one characteristic feature in common 
with the higgling of employers and workmen which it super- 
sedes. The arbitrator's award is a general ordinance, which, 
in so far as it is accepted, puts an end to Individual Bargain- 
ing between man and man, and thus excludes, from influence 
on the terms of employment, the exigencies of particular 
workmen, and usually also those of particular firms. It 
establishes, in short, like Collective Bargaining, a Common 
Rule for the industry concerned. We can therefore under- 
stand why the Trade Unionists from 1850 to 1876 so 
persistently strove for arbitration, and so eagerly welcomed 
the gradual conversion of the governing classes to a belief in 
its benefits. At a time when the majority of employers 
asserted their right to deal individually with each one of 
their " hands," habitually refused even to meet the men's 
representatives in discussion, and sought to suppress Col- 
lective Bargaining altogether by the use of ambiguous 
statutes and obsolete law, it was an immense gain for the 
Trade Unions to get their fundamental principle of a Common 
Rule adopted. 1 During the last twenty years arbitration has 
greatly increased in popularity among the public, and each 
ministry in succession prides itself on having attempted to 
facilitate its application. Whenever an industrial war breaks 
out, we have, in these days, a widespread feeling among the 
public that both parties should voluntarily submit to the 
decision of an impartial arbitrator. But however convenient 
this solution may be to a public of consumers, the two 
combatants seldom show any alacrity in seeking it, and can 

which masters and men meet together and talk over their common affairs openly 
and freely." Arbitration as a Means of Preventing Strikes, by A. J. Mundella 
(Bradford, 1868). 

1 Arbitration was accordingly opposed by the more clear-sighted of the 
opponents of Trade Unionism. "Our main objection," said one of the leading 
critics, "both to arbitration and conciliation, as palliatives of Unionism, is that 
they sanction, nay necessitate, the continuance of the system of combination, as 
opposed to that of individual competition. ... In so doing we lend the 
authority of public recognition to the pestilent principle of combination, and 
sanction the substitution of an artificial mechanism for that natural organism 
which Providence has provided for the harmonious regulation of industrial 
interests." Trade Unionism, by J^mes Stirling (Glasgow, 1869), p. 50. 



Arbitration 225 

rarely be persuaded to agree to refer their quarrel to any 
outside authority. Although arbitration has been preached 
as a panacea for the last fifty years, the great majority of 
" captains of industry " still resent it as an infringement of 
their right to manage their own business, whilst the leaders of 
the organised workmen, once enthusiastic in its favor, now 
usually regard it with suspicion. The four years, 1891-95, saw, 
in Great Britain, four great industrial disputes in as many 
leading industries. But neither in cotton manufacture nor in 
coal-mining, neither in the great machine industry of boot- 
making nor in engineering, could the capitalists and workmen 
agree to let their quarrels be settled by an impartial umpire. 
What happened in each of these instances and they were 
typical of many others was the breaking off of Collective 
Bargaining, a prolonged stoppage and trial of endurance, 
ending, not in arbitration but in a resumption of Collective 
Bargaining, and the conclusion of a fresh agreement under 
new and more favorable auspices. 

At first sight this disinclination of workmen or employers 
to submit their claims to an impartial tribunal appears per- 
verse and unreasonable. Business men, it is said, almost 
invariably refer disputes between themselves to more or less 
formal arbitration, and would never dream of stopping their 
own industry, or drying up the source of their own profits, 
merely because they could not agree upon an impartial 
umpire. And if this be true in commercial transactions, 
where the alternative is nothing worse than an action at law, 
how much stronger the need must seem when the alternative 
may easily involve the bankruptcy of capitalists, the semi- 
starvation of thousands of operatives, and the temporary 
paralysis, if not the permanent injury, of an important 
national industry? Unfortunately this taking analogy, 
drawn from the arbitration between business firms, rests on 
the old confusion between interpreting an existing agree- 
ment and concluding a new one. Commercial arbitrations 
are invariably concerned with relations already entered into, 
either by existing contracts or under the law of the land. 
VOL. I Q 



226 Trade Union Function 

No business man ever dreams of submitting to arbitration 
the terms upon which he shall make new purchases or future 
sales. 1 Arbitration in commercial matters is therefore strictly 
confined to questions of interpretation, both parties resting 
their claims on a common basis, the existence of which is 
not in dispute between them. Now, issues of interpretation 
of this kind are incessantly occurring between employers and 
employed, even in the best-regulated industries. In these 
cases, as we shall hereafter point out, whilst there is no in- 
superable objection to arbitration, there is no real necessity 
to resort to it. Nor is it for this class of disputes that 
arbitration is usually proposed. The great strikes and lock- 
outs which paralyse a whole industry almost invariably arise 
not on issues of interpretation, but on the proposal of either 
workmen or employers to alter the terms upon which, for 
the future, labor shall be engaged. 

The position of the employers who object to the fixing 
of the terms of the wage contract by the fiat of an arbitrator 
has, from the first, been logical and consistent. In a weighty 
article which appeared, twenty years ago, in the official organ 
of the National Association of Employers of Labor, we find 
the case stated with perfect lucidity : 

" The sphere of arbitration in trade disputes is strictly 
and absolutely limited to cases of specific contract, where the 
parties differ as to the terms of the contract, and are willing, 
for the sake of agreement and an honorable fulfilment of 
their engagements, to submit the points in dispute to 
competent men mutually chosen. Where there is a basis 
and instrument of agreement by the parties to which they 

1 The frequently cited " Conseils de Prud'hommes " of France (established 
first at Lyons in 1808, and since greatly developed in all industrial centres) are 
strictly confined to the settlement of disputes arising out of existing contracts, or 
(as regards minor matters) the application of the law. In no case do they presume 
to fix the rate of wages for future engagements. They are indeed merely cheap and 
convenient legal tribunals, which make efforts to compose a dispute before pro- 
ceeding to pronounce judgment upon it. For a useful account of these councils, 
see E. Thomas, Les Conseils ties Prud' 1 homines % leur Histoire et leur Organisation 
(Paris, 1888). We understand that this is the character also of the similar 
tribunals which exist in various German States and elsewhere. 



Arbitration 227 

wish to adhere, and on which arbiters have something 
tangible to decide upon, it is seldom difficult for impartial 
men to elicit an adjustment fair and equitable to both sides. 
Arbitration is thus constantly of use in business matters on 
which differences of view have arisen, and is as applicable to 
questions between workmen and employers where there is a 
specific contract to be interpreted as in any other branch of 
affairs. It is better than going to law, much better than 
running away from the contract, striking, coercing, and fall- 
ing into civil damages or criminal penalties, and raising on 
the back of such unfortunate consequences a blatant and 
endless protest against ' the labor laws.' But cases in which 
there are specific contracts absolutely define the sphere 
of arbitration. To apply the term ' arbitration ' to the rate 
of wages for the future, in regard to which there is no ex- 
plicit contract or engagement, and all the conditions of which 
are unknown to employers and employed, is the grossest 
misnomer that can be conceived. It is certain that neither 
workmen nor employers could be bound, nor would consent 
to be bound, even were it possible to bind them, by such 
arbitrary decrees ; and that the law, therefore, can never give 
such decrees even any temporary force, unless we are to fall 
back into the long obsolete tyranny of fixing the rate of 
wages by Act of Parliament, or by ' King in Council/ or 
by ' Communal Bureau of Public Safety,' or whatever the 
supreme power may be." 1 

Thus, from the employers' point of view, the supersession 
of the higgling of the market by the fiat of an arbitrator 
is, on its economic side, as indefensible an interference with 
industrial freedom as a legal fixing of the rate of wages. 
But an arbitrator's award has additional disadvantages. 
A law would at any rate be an authoritative settlement, 
which disposed of the question beyond dispute or cavil. An 
arbitrator's award, on the other hand, even if it is accepted 
by the Trade Union, may not commend itself to all the 
workmen. The employers who accept it may not unnaturally 

1 Capital and Labour, 1 6th June 1875. 



228 Trade Union Function 

feel that they have surrendered their own freedom, without 
securing any guarantee that the workmen, or some indispens- 
able sections of them, will not promptly commence a new 
attack on which to provoke a stoppage of the industry. A 
law, moreover, is a Common Rule, enforced with uniformity 
on all alike. The arbitrator's award, on the other hand, 
binds only those firms and those workmen who were parties 
to it. In almost all industries there are some establishments, 
and often whole districts, which remain outside the employers' 
association, and in which masters and men persist in conduct- 
ing their businesses in their own way. And there is no 
guarantee that some firms will not break away from the 
association, and join the ranks of these unfettered outsiders. 
If the arbitrator's award has secured better terms to the 
operatives than the masters are unanimously willing to 
concede, the good and honorable employers are penalised 
by their virtue. The proceedings of the " Boards of 
Conciliation and Arbitration " of the boot-making industry 
contain many complaints by employers that the awards are 
not enforced on rival firms, who are consequently undercut- 
ting them in the market. If our factory or mines legislation 
had been enforced only on specified good employers, and had 
left untouched any firm who objected to the regulations, so 
intolerable an injustice would quickly have led to a repudiation 
of the whole system. 

If we turn from the employers to the Trade Unionists, 
we find a steadily increasing disinclination among workmen 
to agree to the intervention of an arbitrator to settle the 
terms of a new wage contract. This growing antipathy l to 

1 We may cite as evidence of this antipathy some recent declarations made in 
the names of the three most powerful organisations in the United Kingdom. It 
is expressly stated (for instance, in the Derbyshire Miners' Executive Council 
Minutes of the 2nd of June 1891) that it was the idea that the Royal Commission 
on Labor was intended to introduce a ' ' huge arbitration system " that determined 
the whole Miners' Federation steadfastly to refuse to have anything to do with 
that inquiry. " We are opposed to the system altogether," declared Mr. Mawdsley 
before that Commission (Group C, Answer 776), on behalf of the Lancashire 
cotton operatives. And Mr. Robert Knight, giving evidence on behalf of the 
United Society of Boilermakers (Group A, Answer 20,833), definitely negatived 
the idea of arbitration, explaining as follows : "I speak from long experience of 






Arbitration 229 

arbitration is, we think, mainly due to their feeling of 
uncertainty as to the fundamental assumptions upon which 
the arbitrator will base his award. When the issue is whether 
the " standard earnings " of the Lancashire Cotton-spinners 
should or should not be decreased by ten per cent, there 
is no basis accepted by both parties, except the vague 
admission that the award should not be contrary to the 
welfare of the community. But this offers no guidance to 
the arbitrator. Judge Ellison, for instance, acting in 1879 
in a Yorkshire coal -mining case, frankly expressed the 
perplexity of an absolutely open-minded umpire. "It is 
[he said] for (the employers' advocate} to put the men's wages 
as high as he can. It is for (the merits advocate) to put them 
as low as he can. And when you have done that it is for 
me to deal with the question as well as I can ; but on what 
principle I have to deal with it I have not the slightest idea. 
There is no principle of law involved in it. There is no 
principle of political economy in it. Both masters and men 
are arguing and standing upon what is completely within their 
rights. The master is not bound to employ labor except 
at a price which he thinks will pay him. The man is not 
bound to work for wages that won't assist (subsist) him and 
his family sufficiently, and so forth. So that you are both 
within your rights ; and that's the difficulty I see in dealing 
with the question." * 

But this cold-blooded elimination of everything beyond 
the legal rights of the parties is neither usual in a wages 
arbitration, nor acceptable to either side. Each of the parties 
implicitly rests its case on a distinct economic assumption, 
or even series of assumptions, not accepted by the other side, 

the working of this large organisation that I represent here to-day, and I say that 
we can settle all our differences without any interference on the part of Parliament 
or anybody else." The same feeling is shared by smaller societies. "Our 
experience of arbitration," states the secretary of the North Yorkshire and Cleve- 
land (Ironstone) Miners' Association, " was that we always got the worst of it, and 
so since 1877 it has been firmly refused." Joseph Toyn, in Newcastle leader 
"Extra" on Conciliation in Trade Disputes (Newcastle, 1894), p. 9. 

1 Report of South Yorkshire Collieries Arbitration (Sheffield, 1879), P- 49- 
The umpire was the Judge of the Sheffield County Court. 



230 Trade Union Function 

and often not expressly stated. The employers will often 
hold that, in order to secure the utmost national prosperity, 
wages should rise and fall with the price which they can 
obtain for their product. Or it may be urged that the wage 
bill must, under no circumstances, encroach upon the parti- 
cular percentage of profit assumed to be necessary to prevent 
capital from leaving the trade. 1 These assumptions would, 
at one time, have been acquiesced in by many leading 
workmen, although, perhaps, not by the rank and file. But 
during the last twenty years, the leaders of the most power- 
ful organisations have definitely taken up the view that con- 
siderations of market price or business profit ought, in the 
interests of the community, to be strictly subordinated to 
the fundamental question of " Can a man live by the trade ? " 
It is urged that the payment of " a living wage " ought, under 
all circumstances, to be a " first charge " upon industry, taking 
precedence even of rents or royalties, and of the hypothetical 
percentage allowed as a minimum to capital in the worst 
times. The skilled mechanic moreover will claim that the 
length of his apprenticeship warrants him in insisting, like 
the physician or the barrister, on a minimum fee for his 
services below which he cannot be asked to descend. The 
arbitrator's award, if it is not a mere " splitting the difference," 
must be influenced by one or the other of these assumptions, 
either as a result of the argument before him, or as the 
outcome of his education or sympathies. However judicial 
he may be in ascertaining the facts of the case, the relative 
importance which he will give to the rival assumptions of 
the parties can scarcely fail to be affected by the subtle 

1 Mr. Mawdsley (Amalgamated Association of Cotton-spinners) is very emphatic 
on this point. " If we had arbitration we should have much less wages than we 
are getting now. Arbitrators generally go in for a certain standard of profit for 
capital generally speaking, it has been 10 per cent. Mr. Chamberlain has 
always said that capital ought to have 10 per cent. If the arbitrator went in 
for 10 per cent in the cotton trade, we should have a very big reduction of wages; 
and we are not going to have it." Evidence before Royal Commission on 
Labor, Group C, Answer 774. We believe the case to which Mr. Mawdsley 
referred is Mr. Chamberlain's award in the South Staffordshire Iron Trade in 
1878. 



Arbitration 231 

influences of his class and training. The persons chosen 
as arbitrators have almost invariably been representative of 
the brain -working class great employers, statesmen, or 
lawyers men bringing to the task the highest qualities of 
training, impartiality, and judgment, but unconsciously imbued 
rather with the assumptions of the class in which they live 
than with those of the workmen. The workmen's growing 
objection to arbitration is, we believe, mainly due to their 
deeply -rooted suspicion that any arbitrator likely to be 
accepted by the employers will, however personally impartial 
he may be, unconsciously discount assumptions inconsistent 
with the current economics of his class. 1 

There is, however, one industry in which, for eight-and- 
twenty years, arbitration has been habitually resorted to, for 
the settlement of the terms of new wage contracts. This 
one exception to the usual dislike of arbitration will, we 
think, prove the correctness of the foregoing analysis. " The 
Board of Conciliation and Arbitration for the Manufactured 
Iron Trade of the North of England," which has existed since 
1869, has long been the classical example of the success 
of arbitration. Besides providing by the machinery of a 
standing committee for the settlement of interpretation 
differences, and by half-yearly board meetings for discussing 
general questions, the rules direct the reference of intractable 
disputes to an outside umpire. On twenty separate occasions 

1 We have collected particulars of no fewer than 240 cases of industrial 
arbitration, ranging from 1803 to the present day. Excluding mere questions 
of interpretation, and disputes between workmen themselves, we have found only 
one case in which, in an arbitration for a new agreement between employers and 
employed, any person of the wage-earning class has been accepted as umpire. 
In May 1893 the Northampton Board of Arbitration for the Boot and Shoe 
Trade appointed Mr. F. Perkins, a working laster, as umpire. (Monthly Report 
of the National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives, May 1893). 

The arduous and often thankless task of acting as umpire or sole arbitrator is 
usually undertaken without fee or reward of any kind. Lord James has long 
given his invaluable services to the boot and shoe trade without remuneration. 
Dr. Spence Watson, who lately completed his fiftieth arbitration, told us that he 
had only thrice received any payment whatever, once his railway expenses, once 
a small fee, and in one case, which involved several weeks' labor, a more substantial 
payment. The barrister-umpire, called in, in some sense as a professional expert 
to unravel an intricate case, is occasionally paid. 



232 Trade Union Function 

during the last twenty-eight years this provision has come 
into operation with regard to the settlement of the con- 
ditions of future wage contracts ; and on every occasion the 
arbitrator's award has been accepted by both employers and 
employed. 

It is an interesting confirmation of the view we have 
taken that, in this one industry in which arbitration has 
achieved a continued success, we find the workmen and the 
employers agreeing in the economic assumptions upon which 
wages should be fixed, and upon which, therefore, the arbitrator 
is asked to proceed. It has for more than a generation been 
traditional among ironmasters that the wages of the opera- 
tives ought to vary with the market price of the product. 1 
Since the formation of the Board, in 1869, this assumption 
has been accepted by both parties as the main, and often as 
the exclusive, rule for the settlement of wages. In the reports 
of the arbitration proceedings we find both parties constantly 
reaffirming this principle, each in turn resorting to other 
considerations only for the sake of argument when the main 
assumption is for the moment calculated to tell against them. 
" We entirely agree," declare the operatives in 1877," that our 
wages should be regulated by the selling price of iron." 2 Next 
time it is the employers who assert the same rule. " The 
eight years sliding-scale arrangement," states their spokesman 
in 1882, "we believe was the principle of determining wages 
by the selling price of iron, and it would be extremely diffi- 
cult, if not dangerous, permanently to depart from that." 8 
There is, in fact, as a careful student observes, " a general 
understanding running throughout the cases and pleadings, 
both of masters and men, that wages should follow the 

1 See the illustration quoted at pp. 484-486 of the History of Trade Unionism. 
"Old Thorneycroft's Scale," by which puddlers' wages advanced or receded one 
shilling for each pound sterling per ton in the price of "marked bars," dates, it 
is said, from 1841 ; see Mr. Whitwell's evidence before Royal Commission on 
Labor, 1892, Group A. 

2 Report of Arbitration before Mr. (now Sir David) Dale, July 1877, Indus- 
trial Peace > p. 63. 

3 Report of Arbitration before Mr. (now Sir J. W.) Pease, April 1882, Ibid. 
p. 63. 



Arbitration 



233 



selling prices of iron." l This was expressly stated by Dr. R. 
Spence Watson in the letter which accompanied his fifth 
award as arbitrator for this board. Whilst observing that 
" the wages paid in the Staffordshire district, which competes 
with the North of England in the employment of ironworkers, 
as well as to some extent in the trade itself, is a factor which 
cannot be disregarded, [he declares that] in the course of the 
arguments it was admitted on both sides that . . . the realised 
price of iron, as shown by the figures taken out by the 
accountant to the board, may be considered the principal 
factor in the regulation of wages. ... It is upon this state- 
ment [he continues] and these admissions that I am called 
upon to give my award." 2 

It will be apparent that arbitration on issues of this 
kind comes really within the category of the interpretation 

>r application of what is, in effect, an agreement already 
arrived at between the parties. The question comes very 
near to being one of fact, answered as soon as the necessary 

igures are ascertained beyond dispute. It is therefore not 
surprising to learn that, during eight of the twenty-eight 

rears of the Board's existence, variations of wages were 
automatically determined by a formal sliding scale, and that 
even during the intervals in which no definite scale was 
adopted the Board itself was able, on eight separate occa- 
sions, to agree to advances or reductions without troubling 
the arbitrator at all. We need not discuss whether the 
acceptance by employers and operatives alike of the 
assumption that wages must follow prices is, or is not, 
advantageous to the workmen, or to the industry as a 
whole. But it is evident that the continued success of 

irbitration in the North of England Iron Board, dealing, as 
it does, mainly with the interpretation or application of an 
existing common basis of agreement, affords no guide to 
ler trades in which no such common basis is accepted, 

1 Industrial Peace, p. 90. 

2 Letter and award of the 28th November 1888 ; Report of Wages Arbitration 
before R. S. Watson, Esq., LL.D. (Darlington, 1888). 



234 Trade Union Function 

and in which the claims of the respective parties rest on 
opposite assumptions. 1 

But the success of the North of England Manufactured 
Iron Board, and the more qualified results of similar 
tribunals in the Midland iron trade, and the Northumber- 
land and Durham coal-mining industry, whilst they give no 
real support to arbitration as a panacea for strikes, seem at 
first to open up a new field of usefulness for the arbitrator 
in the settlement of issues of application or interpretation. 
These questions of interpretation or application to particular 
cases are always arising, even in the best-regulated trade, 
and to provide machinery for their peaceful and indisputable 
decision is of great importance. Here we have not merely 
identical assumptions by the two parties, but a precise 
bargain by which both agree to be bound. Unfortunately 
it is just in these issues, for which arbitration seems a 
natural expedient, that its adoption has been found, in 
practice, most difficult. The application of a general agree- 
ment to the earnings of particular individuals, or to the 

1 The Midland Iron and Steel Wages Board, which has had an intermittent 
existence since 1872, was formed on the model of the North of England Board, 
which it closely resembles. Owing to the inferior organisation of the workmen 
in Staffordshire and Worcestershire, it has not always worked smoothly, but 
wage variations have almost always been made by the Board according to a 
sliding scale, formal or implied, whilst a standing committee applies the general 
principles to "local questions." See the evidence of Mr. (now Sir B.) Hingley 
before the Royal Commission on Labor, 1892, and the references given in the 
preceding chapter. 

Among the Northumberland and Durham coalminers, though arbitration as 
to the terms of new agreements has been repeatedly resorted to, it has been only 
partially successful in preventing strikes. The Northumberland Miners' Mutual 
Confident Association went to arbitration on five occasions between 1873 and 
1877. But in 1878 the owners forced a reduction without submitting to arbitra- 
tion, the result being a nine weeks' strike. Between 1879 and 1886 the level of 
wages was automatically regulated by a sliding scale. In 1887 the employers 
again insisted on a special reduction, the result being a disastrous strike of 
seventeen weeks. Since that date alterations in the level of wages have been 
mutually agreed to by the joint " Wages Committee " without resort to arbitra- 
tion. The Durham Miners' Association (established 1869) had four arbitrations 
between 1874 and 1876, and worked under a sliding scale from 1877 to 1889. 
This did not prevent a six weeks' strike in 1879, terminated by another arbitra- 
tion. Variations in wages between 1889 and 1892 were mutally agreed to, but 
in 1892 there ensued the longest and most embittered dispute ever known in the 
trade. 



Arbitration 235 

technical details of particular samples or processes, is at 
once too complicated, and of too little pecuniary importance, 
to make it possible to call in an outside arbitrator. 1 The 
intractable questions, to take one trade as an example, 
which perplex the local boards in the boot and shoe 
industry relate only to a few shillings, and frequently 
concern only one or two workmen. For such issues it is 
obviously impossible to obtain, either for love or money, the 
services of any personality eminent enough to command the 
respect of the whole body of employers and workmen. 
Where the standard of earnings of large bodies of men, or 
the prevention of a serious industrial war, are concerned, 
public spirit will induce men of the calibre of Lord James 
or Dr. Spence Watson to spend whole days, without fee or 
reward, in bringing about an adjustment. In commercial 
arbitrations which involve considerable sums, recourse is had 
to eminent lawyers, who are paid large fees for mastering 
the intricate details of each case. This sort of arbitrator is 
far too expensive a person to be available for the applica- 
tion of general wage contracts to particular cases, and the 
statesman or philanthropist cannot spare the time. On the 
other hand, if, as in the boot and shoe trade, recourse is had 
to some one engaged in the industry, it is difficult to avoid 
the suspicion of class bias. The big employer from another 
district, whose services are usually called in, can hardly be 
expected to content the workmen. The employers, on the 

1 Thus, when in 1891, in an arbitration between the West Cumberland Iron 
and Steel Company and their workmen, the arbitrator (Dr. Spence Watson) was 
asked to fix the actual rates at which particular men were to be paid, he declined 
the task as one outside the possible capacity of any arbitrator. " What has 
always happened," said Dr. Spence W T atson, "in every arbitration I have had 
hitherto ? There has been a general question of percentage. . . . The principle 
of the thing is the thing to leave to arbitration. The detail of the thing, as to 
how it is to affect this or that or the other, never can be left to arbitration. . . . 
Already over this matter I have given up several nights to go through these 
papers and work them in this way and that way, but I have not the knowledge, 
and you cannot give me the knowledge. . . . Surely the question of individual 
payment is a question for the manager of the works and the men of the works, 
and not for a third party." MS. proceedings. We are indebted to Dr. Spence 
Watson for permission to examine these and other papers, and for many valuable 
suggestions and criticisms. 



236 Trade Union Function 

other hand, will not consent to be bound by the decision of 
an operative. 

It is, fortunately, unnecessary for the employers and 
workmen to get into this dilemma. The correct analogy 
from the commercial world for all these issues of interpreta- 
tion is, not the elaborate and costly reference to arbitration, 
but the simple arrangements for taking an inventory, in 
connection with a contract of purchase or hire. Instead of 
calling in an outside authority, eminent enough to be known 
and trusted by both sides, each party is represented by an 
inexpensive expert habitually engaged on the particular 
calculations involved. The two professional men seldom 
find any difficulty in agreeing upon an identical award. 
This corresponds exactly to the machinery which is em- 
ployed with such success in the Lancashire cotton trade. 
The two secretaries who visit the mill in which any question 
of interpretation has arisen correspond in all essentials to 
the two house-agents employed respectively by the owner 
and the incoming tenant of a furnished house. In the 
interpretation of wage contracts there is even more justifi- 
cation for this method than in taking an inventory. The 
object of the house-agent on either side is to get the best 
terms for his client. But the professional experts who visit 
a cotton mill, in response to a complaint from operative or 
employer, are not employed by or responsible to either of 
the parties directly concerned. And though one represents 
the associated employers, and the other the combined work- 
men, both are retained and paid to secure an identical 
object, namely, absolute uniformity between mill and mill. 
So far as regards the application to the particular cases of 
existing general contracts between employers and workmen, 
arbitration, though possible, is therefore but a clumsy device. 
The only way of getting an efficient umpire for such 
technical work would be permanently to employ a pro- 
fessional expert of high standing to give his whole time to 
the business. But directly an industry is sufficiently well 
organised to afford the expense of an efficient paid umpire, 



Arbitration 237 

it can find in the joint meeting of the salaried experts of 
both sides a far more speedy, economical, and uniform 
method of settling questions of interpretation than any 
arbitration could provide. 1 

The reader is now in a position to estimate how far 
arbitration is likely to serve as a panacea against strikes or 
lock-outs, or even to become a permanent feature of the 
most highly organised machinery for Collective Bargaining. 
In the really crucial instances the issues relating to the 
conclusion of a new agreement habitual and voluntary 
recourse to an umpire may be expected, we think, only in 
the unlikely event of capitalists and workmen adopting 
identical assumptions as to the proper basis of wages. We 
have seen how unreservedly the best-educated workmen of 
the North of England accepted, between 1870 and 1885, 
the capitalists' assumption that it was only fair that wages 
should vary with the selling price of the product. For 
twenty years the miners of South Wales have acquiesced in 
the same doctrine. If this view were to become accepted in 
other trades, it is conceivable that arbitration would become 
more popular among them. On the other hand, there is 
growing up among workmen a strong feeling in favor of a 
fixed minimum Standard of Life, to be regarded as a first 
charge upon the industry of the country, and to be deter- 
mined by the requirements of healthy family life and 
citizenship. If the capitalists should accept this view, 
arbitrations might become common, the explicit reference, 
in every case being what conditions were required in the 
industry to enable the various grades of producers to lead 
a civilised life. But no such agreement on fundamental 
assumptions is at present within view. We are therefore 

1 In the rare cases in which the two house-agents fail to agree, we understand 
that the practice is for them privately to refer the matter to another professional, 
whose decision they both adopt as their own. If in the Lancashire cotton trade, 
the employers' and workmen's district secretaries do not agree upon an issue of 
interpretation, it is, in practice, referred to the joint decision of the central 
secretaries. But on such issues of fact, if identical principles are thoroughly 
accepted by loth sides, there is seldom any intractable difference of opinion between 
frofessipnaj experts. 



238 Trade Union Function 

constrained not to place any high expectations upon the 
fiat of an umpire as a method of preventing disputes as to 
future conditions of labor. Nor can we estimate very 
highly the practical value of arbitration in the application 
to particular cases of existing general agreements. In 
promptitude, technical efficiency, and inexpensiveness the 
" impartial outsider " is inferior to the joint meeting of the 
salaried secretaries of either side. 

But although arbitration is not likely to supersede 
Collective Bargaining, or to prevent the occasional breaking 
off of negotiations, it has great advantages, in all but the 
best-organised trades, as a means of helping forward the 
negotiations themselves. The first requisite for efficient 
Collective Bargaining is for the parties to meet face to face, 
and in an amicable manner to discuss each other's claim. 
But this initial step is often one of difficulty. We are apt 
to forget, in view of the regular negotiations in such highly 
organised trades as the Cotton Operatives, the Boilermakers, 
and the Northumberland and Durham Coalminers, how new 
and unusual it still is for capitalists and workmen to meet 
on an equal footing, to recognise each other's representative 
capacity, and to debate, with equal good temper, technical 
knowledge, and argumentative skill, upon what conditions 
the employer shall engage " his own hands." Even to-day, 
in the great majority of trades, the masters would think it 
beneath their dignity voluntarily to confer with the Trade 
Union leaders on equal terms ; and they would resent as 
preposterous the idea of disclosing to them their profit and 
loss accounts, or even the prices they are obtaining for their 
product. Yet it is upon these facts that they base their 
demand for a reduction of wages, or their refusal of an 
advance. The workmen, on the other hand, especially in 
such half-organised trades, are full of prejudices, misconcep- 
tions of the facts, and Utopian aspirations. Under these 
circumstances, even if the employers consent to meet the 
men at all, there can be no frank interchange of views, no 
real understanding of each other's position in short, no 



Arbitration 239 

effective negotiation. Recourse to an impartial umpire is 
one way out of these difficulties. The employer's dignity is 
not offended by appearing before an eminent jurist or states- 
man, sitting virtually in a judicial capacity. It is regarded 
as only natural that the arbitrator should ask for the 
statistical facts upon which each party bases its case. The 
mere fact of each having to set forth its claims in pre- 
cise terms, in a way that can be maintained under cross- 
examination, is already a great gain. But if the arbitrator 
is tactful and experienced, he can do a great deal more 
to bring the parties to agreement. He discovers, by kindly 
examination, what precisely it is that each party regards as 
essential, and persuasively puts on one side any irritating 
reminiscences of past disputes, or theoretic arguments going 
beyond the narrow limits of the case. In friendly conversa- 
tion with each side in turn, he draws out the really strong 
arguments of both, restates them in their most effective form, 
and in due course impresses them, in the most conciliatory 
terms, on the notice of the opponent. Those who have read 
the proceedings before such an experienced arbitrator as Dr. 
Spence Watson, will, we are sure, agree with us in feeling 
that his wonderful success as an umpire is far more due to 
these arts of conciliation than to any infallibility in his 
awards. In case after case we have been struck by the fact 
that, long before the end of the discussion, many of the issues 
had already been disposed of, the points remaining in dis- 
pute being so narrowed down by a mutual recognition of 
each other's case that when the award is at last given each 
party is predisposed to accept it as inevitable. 

In this patient work of conciliation lies the real value of 
arbitration proceedings. There is no magic in the fiat of an 
arbitrator as a remedy for strikes or lock-outs. If either 
party really prefers fighting to conceding the smallest point 
to its adversary that is, in those cases in which either em- 
ployers or the workmen have an overwhelming superiority 
in strength there will be no submission to arbitration. If 
both parties are willing to bargain, and are sufficiently well 



240 Trade Union Function 

organised and well educated to be capable of it, no outside 
intervention will be needed. In those industries, however, 
where organisation has begun, but has not yet reached the 
highest form ; where the employers are forced to recognise 
the power of the men's union, but have not yet brought 
themselves to meet its officials on terms of real equality ; 
where the workmen are strong enough to strike, but do not 
yet command the services of experienced negotiators, the 
intervention of an eminent outsider may be of the utmost 
value. It is of small importance whether his intervention 
takes the form of " arbitration " or " conciliation " that is 
to say, whether he is empowered to close the discussion by 
himself delivering an " award " as umpire, or whether he 
must wait until he can bring the parties to sign an " agree- 
ment" drawn up by himself as chairman. In either case 
his real business is not to supersede the process of Collective 
Bargaining, but to forward it. And in view of the usual 
impossibility of agreeing upon any common assumption as 
to the proper basis of wages ; in face of the workman's 
suspicion of the brainworker's training, and the employer's 
fear l of electioneering considerations ; and having regard to 
the importance of securing universal concurrence in the 
result, we are inclined to believe that the intervention of the 
" eminent outsider " will, as a rule, be at once more accept- 
able and more likely to be successful if he avowedly acts 
only as a " conciliator." 2 

This inference is supported by the events of the last few 
years. On three notable occasions outside intervention has 
been evoked to settle a serious industrial conflict. In 1893 
Lord Rosebery, at the express desire of the Cabinet, settled 
a dispute which had for sixteen weeks stopped the coal 

1 Thus, in the draft rules of a Foreman's Benefit Society, established by some 
of the leading Tyneside employers, there is a provision for referring to arbitration 
any dispute between the society and a member. The draft rule significantly 
adds : " The following cannot be selected as arbitrator : Persons either candi- 
dates for or holding political, municipal, or other positions acquired by votes ; 
ministers of religion." 

2 "In conciliation the disputants endeavour to convince each other, in arbi 
tration to convince a third party. As in. the first case, both sides have equa? 



A rbitration 2 4 1 

trade of the Midlands of England. In 1895 Sir Courtenay 
Boyle, Permanent Secretary of the Board of Trade, drew 
up the agreement which terminated the great strike in the 
boot trade. And Lord James, a distinguished member of 
the Conservative Ministry of the day, in January 1896 
brought about, after protracted negotiations, a settlement 
of the dispute between the Clyde and Belfast shipbuilders 
and their engineers. But notwithstanding the official posi- 
tion of these magnates, it is significant that in no case were 
they asked, and in no case did they attempt, to cut the 
Gordian knot by the judicial decree of an umpire or arbi- 
trator. It was not their business to inquire into the merits 
of the case. They were not called upon to make up their 
minds whether the employers or the workmen were in the 
right. They had not even to choose between the rival 
economic assumptions on which the parties rested their 
respective claims. Their function was to persuade the 
representatives of both sides to go on negotiating until a 
basis was discovered on which it was possible for them to 
agree. 

This work of conciliation is, we believe, destined to play 
a great and for many years an increasing part in the labor 
struggles of this country. In the present state of public 
opinion the intervention of an outside " conciliator " is, as 
regards the imperfectly organised trades, a precursor of 
regular Collective Bargaining. In many trades the em- 
ployers themselves are not united in any association : in 
many others they still haughtily refuse to discuss matters 
with their workmen. In prolonged disputes public opinion 
now almost forces the parties to resume negotiations ; and 

knowledge of the matter in hand, they must endeavour to show clearly the strong 
points of the case, and those only. Any attempt at simple advocacy would be 
thrown away. The appeal must be to acknowledged facts. But, in the second 
case, advocacy is necessary, and all its many devices the undesirable as well as 
the undeniably good. There is a strong antagonism throughout. Arbitration is 
better than striking or locking out, but inferior to conciliation. Industrial peace 
in any form is better than industrial war." " Compulsory or Voluntary Concilia- 
tion," by R. Spence Watson, Ironworkers' Journal, June 1895. 

VOL. I R 



242 Trade Union Function 

the intervention of an eminent outsider is found the best 
lever for Collective Bargaining. His social position or official 
status secures for the proceedings, even among angry men, 
a certain amount of dignity, order, and consideration for 
each other's feelings, whilst it prevents any hasty rupture 
or withdrawal. So long as Lord Rosebery was willing to 
go on sitting, it was practically impossible for either the 
coalowners or the coalminers to stop discussing. But pro- 
longed discussion does not lead to agreement unless the 
parties get on good terms with each other, and are brought 
into a friendly mood. It is the conciliator's business to see 
that this atmosphere of good humour is produced and main- 
tained. The excellent luncheon which Lord Rosebery pro- 
vided for owners and workmen alike was probably more 
effective in creating harmony than the most convincing 
arguments about "the living wage." All this, however, is 
but preliminary to the real business. We have already 
described the important part played by a tactful and ex- 
perienced arbitrator in drawing out the best points in each 
party's case, restating them in the most persuasive form, and 
eliminating from the controversy all unnecessary sources of 
irritation or non-essential differences. The ideal conciliator 
adds to this a happy suggestiveness and fertility in devising 
possible alternatives. Throughout the discussion he watches 
for the particular points to which each party really attaches 
importance. He has a quick eye for acceptable lines of 
compromise. At the right psychological moment, when 
discussion is beginning to be tedious to both sides, he is 
ready with a form of words. This is the crisis of the pro- 
ceedings. If the parties are physically and mentally tired, 
and yet pleased with themselves and no longer angry with 
their opponents ; if the conciliator is adroit in his drafting, 
and finds a formula which, whilst making mutual concessions 
on minor points, includes, or seems to each party to include, 
a great deal of what each has been contending for, the 
resolution will be agreed to, if not by acclamation, at 
any rate after a few minor amendments to save the dignity 



Arbitration 



243 



of one side or the other ; and almost before some of the 
slower-minded representatives have had time to think out all 
the bearings of the compromise the agreement is signed, and 
peace is secured. 

We see, therefore, that outside intervention in wages 
disputes may be of the highest value, and we anticipate that 
it will, for many years to come, in all but the best-organised 
trades, play a great, and even an increasing, part. But its 
function will not be that of " arbitration," properly so called, 
but rather that of "conciliation," though this will continue 
to be sometimes carried on under the guise of arbitration. 
Instead of aiming at superseding Collective Bargaining, the 
arbitrator will more and more consciously seek to promote 
it. In fact, so far from being the crown of industrial organ- 
isation, the reference of disputes to an impartial outsider is 
a mark of its imperfection. Arbitration is the temporary 
expedient of incompletely organised industries, destined to 
be cast aside by each of them in turn when a higher stage, 
like that of the Cotton Operatives or the Boilermakers, is 
attained. The Government of 1896, therefore, did well to 
cut down its arbitration bill to a modest " Conciliation Act." 
The pretentious legislation of 1867 and 1872, from which 
so much was expected, is now simply repealed. The Board 
of Trade is empowered, in case of an industrial dispute, " to 
inquire into the causes and circumstances of the difference." 
It may intervene as the friend of peace, to persuade the 
parties to come to an agreement. If a conciliator is desired, 
it may appoint one. Finally, if both parties join in asking 
that the settlement shall proceed in the guise of arbitration, 
and wish the Board of Trade to select the arbitrator for them, 
the Board of Trade may accede to their request, as it might 
have done without any Act at all ! l 

1 The report of the first year's working of this Act, presented to Parliament 
in July 1897, shows that 35 applications were made to the Board of Trade. In 
7 cases the Board refused to intervene. Of the other 28 cases, 18 were settled 
by more or less formal conciliation, and 5 by arbitration, one of which was a 
demarcation dispute between different bodies of workmen, and the other 4 were 
small local disputes, all in badly-organised trades or districts. Three cases, 



244 Trade Union Function 

The conclusion will disappoint those who see in arbitra- 
tion, not a subordinate and temporary adjunct to Collective 
Bargaining, but a panacea for stoppages of industry. The 
popularity of arbitration has deep roots. At the back of 
the peremptory public demand for the settlement of any 
strike or lock-out, there lurks a feeling that in the interests 
of the whole community neither employers nor workmen 
ought to be allowed to paralyse their own industry. If one 
side or the other persists in standing out, we have a clamour 
for " compulsory arbitration " : that is, the intervention of 
the power of the State. We need not enter into the numer- 
ous suggestions that have been made for " State Boards of 
Arbitration," authoritative intervention by the Board of 
Trade, or the deposit, by both parties, of sums of money 
to be legally forfeited upon breach of the award. The 
authors of such suggestions always find themselves in a 
dilemma. If resort to this kind of arbitration is still to 
be voluntary, the liability to penalties or legal proceedings 
is not calculated to persuade either employers or workmen 
to come within its toils. 1 If, on the other hand, it is to be 
compulsory, it will amount to legal enactment of a novel 
kind. It may well be argued that the community, for the 
protection of the public welfare, is entitled to step in and 

including the notorious strike at Lord Penrhyn's slate quarries, and that of the 
boot operatives at Norwich, remained intractable, owing to arbitration being 
refused, twice by the employers and once by both parties. 

1 The following extract from a recent report of so experienced and well- 
informed a society as the United Textile Factory Workers' Association is 
significant : " Boards of Conciliation. Any number of Bills are constantly being 
introduced on this question, but your Council do not see that any useful purpose 
can be served by their becoming law. The assumption on which all these 
proposals are based is that . . . when the return goes down the wages of labor 
and the profits of capital should go down together. . . . The umpire is never a 
workman, but always a member of the upper class, whose sympathies and interest 
lie in the direction of keeping wages down. . . . They believe that the Bills 
now being brought forward are meant as so many traps with which to catch a 
portion of the workers' wages, and they have consequently opposed them " 
(Report of the Legislative Council of the United Textile Factory Worker? Associa- 
tion for 1893-94, p. 14). See also the reports of the conferences between the 
Miners' Federation and the leading coalowners during 1896, in which the work- 
men's representatives throughout opposed any arbitration scheme by which, as they 
repeated, " a man can come in and settle what we could not settle among ourselves. " 



Arbitration 245 

decide the terms upon which mechanics shall labor, and 
upon which capitalists shall engage them. In such a case 
the public decision could perhaps best be embodied in the 
award of an impartial arbitration tribunal, invested with all 
the solemnity of the State. But here we pass outside the 
domain of " arbitration " properly so called. The question 
is then no longer the patching up of a quarrel between 
capitalists and workmen, but the deliberate determination 
by the community of the conditions under which certain 
industrial operations shall be allowed to be carried on. 
Such an award would have to be enforced on the parties 
whose recalcitrance had rendered it necessary. This does 
not imply, as is sometimes suggested, that workmen would 
be marched into the works by a regiment of soldiers, or that 
the police would open the gates (and the cashbox) of stubborn 
employers. All that the award need decree is, that if 
capitalists desire to engage in the particular industry they 
shall do so only on the specified conditions. The enforce- 
ment of these conditions would become a matter for official 
inspection, followed by prosecutions for breaches of what 
would in effect be the law of the land. Here, it is true, 
we do find an effective panacea for strikes and lock-outs. 
Although industrial history records plenty of agitations and 
counter-agitations for and against the fixing by law of various 
conditions of employment, there has never been either a 
lock-out or a strike against a new Factory or Truck Act. 
But by adopting this method of avoiding the occasional 
breaking off of negotiations which accompanies Collective 
Bargaining, we should supersede Collective Bargaining alto- 
gether. The conditions of employment would no longer 
be left to the higgling of masters and men, but would be 
authoritatively decided without their consent in the manner 
which the community, acting through an arbitrator, thought 
most expedient. " Compulsory arbitration " means, in fact, 
the fixing of wages by law. 1 

1 Such a form of compulsory arbitration is contained in the Factories and 
Shops Act of 1896 of the Colony of Victoria, which provides (sec. 15) that, "in 



246 Trade Union Function 

order to determine the lowest price or rate which may be paid to any person for 
wholly or partially preparing or manufacturing either inside or outside a factory, 
or workroom, any particular articles of clothing, or wearing apparel, or furniture, 
or for breadmaking, or baking, the Governor in Council may, if he think fit, 
from time to time appoint a special Board," to consist half of representatives of 
employers and half of employed. The Board may then prescribe the minimum 
rates to be paid for particular articles, by piecework for home work, and by either 
time or piece for factory work. Any employer paying less than the minimum 
thus fixed is made liable to a fine, and, on a third offence, the registration of his 
factory or workroom (without which he cannot carry on business) "shall, without 
further or other authority than this Act, be forthwith cancelled by the Chief 
Officer." The working of this virtually legal fixing of a minimum wage will be 
watched with interest by economists. Under the New Zealand Act of 1894, 
passed by the Hon. W. P. Reeves, now Agent-General for the Colony in London, 
labor disputes in which Trade Unions are concerned may be referred, first to 
Public Conciliation Boards, and, failing a settlement, to an Arbitration Court, 
composed of a Judge of the Supreme Court, with two assessors. This Court 
may, at its discretion, make its award enforceable by legal process. A fuller 
account of this Act will be found in our final chapter. The Conciliation and 
Arbitration Acts of New South Wales (1892) and South Australia (1894) have 
been practically unsuccessful. ("Quelques experiences de la Conciliation par 
l'tat en Australasie," by Anton Bertram in Revue &conomie 
July 1897.) 



CHAPTER IV 

THE METHOD OF LEGAL ENACTMENT 

WE do not need to remind the student of the History of 
Trade Unionism that an Act of Parliament has, at all times, 
formed one of the means by which British Trade Unionists 
have sought to attain their ends. The fervor with which 
they have believed in this particular Method, and the extent 
to which they have been able to employ it have varied 
according to the political circumstances of the time. The 
strong trade clubs of the town handicraftsmen, and the 
widely extended associations of woollen workers of the 
eighteenth century relied mainly upon the law to secure the 
regulation of their trades. So much was this the case that 
the most celebrated student of eighteenth -century Trade 
Unionism declares that " the legal prosecution " of trans- 
gressors of the law was the chief object l of these combina- 
tions, and that, in fact, English Trade Unionism "originated 
with the non-observance of" the statutes fixing wages and 
regulating apprenticeship. Its fundamental purpose, says Pro- 
fessor Brentano, was " the maintenance of the existing legal 
and customary regulations of trade. As soon as the State 
ceased to maintain order it stepped into its place." 2 It is 
true that later investigation has brought to light some ancient 
unions, which, springing out of sick clubs, or impetuous 

1 Brentano's Gilds and Trade Unions (London, 1870), p. clxxiv. (or p. no 
of reprint). 

2 Ibid. p. clxxvii. (or p. 1 1 3 of reprint). 



248 Trade Union Function 

strikes, adhered to the rival Methods of Mutual Insurance 
and Collective Bargaining. But Dr. Brentano's generalisa- 
tion as to the objects and methods of eighteenth-century com- 
binations has, in the main, been confirmed and strengthened. 
It would have been remarkable if the Trade Unions had not 
taken this line. Even before the stringent act of 1799 
against all workmen's combinations, the very idea of Col- 
lective Bargaining was scouted by employers, and strongly 
condemned by public opinion. On the other hand, the 
majority of the educated and the governing classes regarded 
it as only reasonable that the conditions of labor should be 
regulated by law. Accordingly we find the operatives who 
objected to the innovations threatening their accustomed 
livelihood, confidently appealing against their new employers, 
to Quarter Sessions, Parliament, or the Privy Council. We 
see the Trade Unions forming committees to put the law in 
force ; maintaining solicitors to fight their cases in the law 
courts ; expending large sums in preparing tables of rates, 
to be enforced by the magistrates ; marshalling evidence 
before Quarter Sessions in support of these lists ; appearing 
by counsel at the bar of the House of Commons and before 
the House of Lords Committees in quest of new legislation, 
or in opposition to bills of the employers ; and finally organ- 
ising all the machinery of political agitation, with its showers 
of petitions, imposing demonstrations in the streets, Parlia- 
mentary lobbying, and occasionally, where the members 
happened, as freemen, to possess the franchise, the swaying 
of elections. 1 

With the adoption, by Parliament and the law courts, 
of the doctrine of laisser faire, all this machinery fell into 
abeyance. It soon came to be waste of money to organise 
petitions, to send up delegates and witnesses, or to pay the 
fees of solicitors and counsel, only to be met by a doctrinaire 
refusal to go into the merits of the case. From 1800 
onward we find every Committee of the House of Commons 

1 Illustrations of all these forms of Trade Union activity during the eighteenth 
century will be found in the History of Trade Unionism, pp. 27, 33, 34, 40-54. 



The Method of Legal Enactment 249 

reporting in the same strain. " They are of opinion that no 
interference of the legislature with the freedom of trade, or 
with the perfect liberty of every individual to dispose of his 
time and of his labor in the way and on the terms which 
he may judge most conducive to his own interest can take 
place without violating general principles of the first import- 
ance to the prosperity and happiness of the community, 
without establishing the most pernicious precedent, or even 
without aggravating, after a very short time, the pressure of 
the general distress, and imposing obstacles against that 
distress being ever removed." * Debarred alike from overt 
Collective Bargaining and from Legal Enactment, the Trade 
Unions of the first quarter of the century fell back on the 
Method of Mutual Insurance, largely tempered by the use 
of secret coercion. Those who refused to work " contrary 
to the interests of the trade " were supported with enthusi- 
astic generosity, whilst " knobsticks " were boycotted, and 
even assaulted. When employers retaliated by criminal 
prosecution, or dismissal of Trade Unionists, the operatives 
broke out into sullen strikes or angry riots, accompanied by 
machine breaking and crimes of violence. It was largely 
the hope of putting an end to this veiled insurrection that 
induced a landlord Parliament to repeal the Combination 
Laws, and thus, for the first time, enabled the Trade Unions 
openly to carry on negotiations with their employers. 

Throughout the next quarter of a century Trade Union 
activity was mainly devoted to building up the machinery 
for Collective Bargaining. 2 This is easily explained. Whilst 
the Philosophic Radicals, and indeed much of the educated 

1 Report of Committee on Petitions of Artisans, I3th June 1811 ; History of 
Trade Unionism, p. 54. 

2 The fact that it was at this stage in their history that the working class 
combinations forced themselves on the attention of Political Economists and the 
press, goes far, we think, to account for the common idea that Trade Unionism 
consists exclusively of Collective Bargaining, with its accompaniments of " sticks 
and strikes." Between 1824 and 1869, practically all the criticism or de- 
nunciation of Trade Unionism took the form of homilies about the futility of 
Collective Bargaining and the wickedness of strikes. Even the Political Econo- 
mists seem to have been unaware either of the history of the combinations which 



250 Trade Union Fimction 

public opinion of that generation, worked with the unions in 
widening and safeguarding their resort to the Method of 
Collective Bargaining, any idea of regulating by law the 
conditions of labor of the ordinary workman was regarded 
by a middle-class electorate as out of the question. Those 
industries in which there was (owing to the attention of 
philanthropists or the existence of peculiar grievances) any 
chance of obtaining special legislation still strove to enforce 
their Common Rules by the Method of Legal Enactment. 
The reader of the History of Trade Unionism will re- 
member how vigorously and effectively the unions of textile 
workers supported, between 1830 and 1850, the various 
" Ten Hours' " bills advocated by Robert Owen and Lord 
Shaftesbury. The combinations of the coalminers, basing 
their claims on the unknown horrors of underground life, 
were even more insistent, from 1843 onward, in demand- 
ing successive Mines Regulation Acts. The Hand-loom 
Weavers and the Stocking -frame Workers long continued 
pathetically to urge the old arguments in favor of a 
legal rate of wages, whilst all sections of organised workmen 
spasmodically attempted to get legal protection for their 
earnings by an effective prohibition of " truck." But with a 
House of Commons dominated by employers of labor, the 
operatives in trades employing only adult males, and free 
from exceptional grievances, for the most part laid aside 
their traditional method. 

With the enfranchisement of the town artisan in 1867, 
and the county operative and miner in 1885, we see the 
relative preference between the three methods again shifting. 
The case for the legal limitation of the hours of work of 
adult men was, for instance, explicitly stated at the beginning 
of the Cotton-spinners' agitation for the Nine Hours' Bill. 
" We are often told," declared their official manifesto in 1871, 
" that any legislative interference with male adult labor is 

they were criticising, or of the nature and variety of their objects and methods. 
This lop-sided appreciation of Trade Union purposes and Trade Union methods 
still lingers in leading articles and popular economic text-books. 



The Method of Legal Enactment 25 1 

an economic error, and it is further urged that as the labor 
of the working man is his only capital, he should not be 
restrained in the use or application of it. ... Now, though 
at first sight the above reasoning, if reasoning it may be 
called seems plausible enough, yet there is a lurking fallacy 
in it all the more dangerous because of the artful manner in 
which it is attempted to place the Legislature and the work- 
ing population in a false position in relation to each other. 
... It is a sound principle of universal law established by 
the wisdom of more than two thousand years that where in 
the necessary imperfection of human affairs the parties to a 
contract or dealing do not stand on an equal footing, but one 
has an undue power to oppress or mislead the other, law 
should step in to succour the weaker party. ... It behoves 
us as working men to inquire what is wrong in the present 
factory system, and, if need be, ask the legislature to interfere 
in our behalf . . . whether the time has not arrived when 
Parliament should be appealed to to secure a curtailment of 
the hours of factory labor. ... If some of our legislators 
should manifest a disposition to abdicate their legislative 
functions so far as we are concerned, it may be well to 
remind them that election day will again come round when 
their abdication will be accepted." * 

This change of political conditions explains, not only the 
increasing demand for new Factory and Mines Acts, addi- 
tional Railway and Merchant Shipping regulations, and the 
prevention of accidents and truck, but also the upgrowth, 
since 1868, of such exclusively political Trade Union organi- 
sations as the United Textile Factory Workers' Association, 
and such predominantly political associations as the Miners' 
Federation of Great Britain, together with the formation of 
a general political machinery throughout the Trade Union 

1 Circular signed by the general secretary of the Amalgamated Association of 
Operative Cotton-spinners, " on behalf of " the delegate meeting, nth December 
1871; History of Trade Unionism, pp. 295-96. It will be remembered that 
this Trade Union has always consisted exclusively of men. In our History of 
Trade Unionism we have pointed out how the Nine Hours' agitation was event- 
ually conducted to a successful issue " behind the women's petticoats." 



252 Trade Union Function 

world, in the form of Trades Councils, the Trade Union 
Congress, and the Parliamentary Committee. 

It is probable that no one who is not familiar with Trade 
Union records has any adequate conception of the number 
and variety of trade regulations which the unions have 
sought to enforce by Act of Parliament. The eighteenth- 
century combinations seem to have limited their aspirations 
to the fixing of a minimum rate of wages, the requirement 
of a period of apprenticeship, and the determination of the 
proper proportion of apprentices to journeymen. With the 
advent of manufacture on a large scale we see the factory 
operatives and miners taking up the subjects of sanitation 
and overcrowding, safety from accidents, and the length of 
the working day. Besides the universal demand that em- 
ployers should be made liable for accidents, and forbidden to 
make any deductions from wages, we have large sections of 
the Trade Union world demanding an Eight Hours' Day, the 
prohibition of overtime, and the specifying of definite holi- 
days ; others insisting on the weekly payment of wages, the 
disclosure of the " particulars " on which the piecework wage 
is based, and the abolition of all fines and deductions what- 
soever. The National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives 
ask for the exclusion of alien immigrants, and the compulsory 
provision of workshop accommodation by the employers ; 
whilst the Amalgamated Society of Tailors will be content 
with nothing short of the legal abolition of home work. The 
Carmen seek, year after year, for an Act of Parliament to 
enforce their rule that one man shall not be put in charge of 
two carts ; the Boilermakers, Enginemen, and Plumbers ask 
that none but certificated craftsmen shall be allowed to hold 
certain positions ; the Textile Workers want to regulate the 
temperature and humidity of the spinning-mills and weaving 
sheds ; whilst the Seamen have a lengthy code of their own 
extending from an amendment of the laws of marine in- 
surance to the qualifications of a sea-cook, from an improved 
construction of sea-going vessels to increasing the sum allowed 
on advance notes, from the enactment of a fixed scale of 



The Method of Legal Enactment 253 

manning to the inspection of the ship's medicine chest. Nor 
does this enumeration by any means exhaust the list. Every 
Parliament sees new regulations of the conditions of employ- 
ment embodied in the already extensive labor code, whilst 
each successive Trade Union Congress produces a crop of 
fresh demands. 1 Whether for good or for evil, it appears 
inevitable that the growing participation of the wage-earners 
in political life, and the rising influence of their organisations, 
must necessarily bring about an increasing use of the Method 
of Legal Enactment. 

But a resort to the law as a means of attaining Trade 
Union ends has, from the workmen's point of view, certain 
grave disadvantages. Its chief drawback is the prolonged 
and uncertain struggle that each new regulation involves. 
Before a Trade Union can get a Common Rule enforced by 
the law of the land, it must convince the community at large 
that the proposed regulation will prove advantageous to the 
state as a whole, and not unduly burdensome to the con- 
sumers. The workmen's grievance has, therefore, to be 
published to the world, to bear discussion in public meetings, 
and to meet the criticism of the newspapers. Members of 
Parliament must be persuaded to take the matter up, and 
made so far to believe in the justice of the claim as to be will- 
ing to importune ministers or bore the House of Commons 
with the -subject. In due course a Royal Commission is 
appointed, which hears evidence, collects statistics, and makes 
a report. Presently a new Factory or Mines Bill is drafted 
by the Home Secretary, and, on the combined advice of 

1 See the reports of the various Trade Union Congresses, especially since 
1885. It is to be observed that, under the Constitution of the United States, 
most of the statutes thus desired by English Trade Unionists, like much of the 
legislation already in force, might be held void, as violations of the constitutional 
right of freedom of contract. Among the American statutes already disallowed 
by the courts on this ground are truck acts, acts requiring weekly or fortnightly 
pays, or forbidding coalowners to compute their tonnage rates of wages on 
screened coal only, acts prohibiting employers from discharging men merely 
because they are Trade Unionists, and a factory act limiting the hours of labor 
of adult women. See Handbook to the Labor Law of the United States (New 
York, 1896), by F. J. Stimson. 



254 Trade Union Function 

Government inspectors, medical experts, sympathetic em- 
ployers, and, perhaps, a few representative workmen, some 
kind of clause is inserted to effect, usually not what the 
Trade Union has been asking for, but the minimum which, 
in the light of all the evidence, seems indispensable to avert 
the grossest of the evil. At the committee stage in the 
House of Commons the clause is pulled to pieces by the 
spokesmen of the employers on the one hand, and by those 
of the workmen on the other. But the great majority of the 
members have, like the minister himself, no direct interest on 
either side, and speak rather for the general public of con- 
sumers anxious to " keep trade in the country " and foster 
cheapness, than with a view to secure exceptional advan- 
tages for the particular section concerned. Thus each step 
has to be gained by a process of persuasion. To win over 
in succession the electors, the Members of Parliament, the 
Ministers of the Crown, and most difficult task of all the 
permanent professional experts, requires, in the officers of a 
Trade Union, a large measure of statesmanship, and, in the 
rank and file of the members, a combination of wise modera- 
tion, dogged persistency, steadfast loyalty to leaders, and 
" sweet reasonableness " at a compromise, not usually charac- 
teristic of popular movements. At its best the process is 
a slow one. The Lancashire " Nine Hours' Movement," for 
instance, attained, perhaps, a more rapid and complete success 
than any other agitation for factory legislation. Yet it cost 
the Cotton-spinners four years' expensive and harassing work 
before the bill reducing the factory day was wrung from a, 
reluctant legislature. 1 On the other hand, the " Nine Hours'' 
Day" of the engineers, gained in 1871 by the Method of 
Collective Bargaining, was won within six months of the first 
negotiations with the employers. 2 Nor is the victory ever 
complete. What Parliament ultimately enacts is never the 
full measure of what has been asked for. The Cotton 
Operatives, for instance, did not get their Nine Hours' Day, 

1 History of Trade Unionism, pp. 295-298. 
2 Ibid. pp. 299-302. 



The Method of Legal Enactment 255 

but only a 56^ hours' week. By the Method of Collective 
Bargaining, on the other hand, Trade Unions have not 
infrequently gained from employers, at times of strategic 
advantage, not only the whole of their demands, but also con- 
ditions so exceptional that they would never have ventured 
to embody them in a legislative proposal. We shall here- 
after see how this consideration deters strong Trade Unions, 
like the United Society of Boilermakers and Iron Ship- 
builders, from going to Parliament about such unsettled 
problems as Demarcation of Work or the Limitation of 
Apprentices, on which they feel that they can exact better 
terms than would be conceded to them by the community 
as a whole. But taking merely the hours of labor we may 
note how, whilst Parliament has not yet been converted even 
to an Eight Hours' Day for Miners, the coal-hewers of North- 
umberland and Durham have long since secured by Collective 
Bargaining a working day for themselves of less than 7 hours, 
and a working week which never exceeds 37 hours. 

At first sight, it may seem strange that, in face of all 
these difficulties and disadvantages, the Trade Unions should 
so persistently, and even increasingly, seek for legislative 
regulation of their respective industries. The explanation 
is that, however tedious and difficult may be the process of 
obtaining it, once the Common Rule is embodied in an Act of 
Parliament, it satisfies more perfectly the Trade Union aspira- 
tions of permanence and universality than any other method. 
It is, as we have shown, as yet rare for a Trade Union to have 
been able to establish by the Method of Collective Bargain- 
ing anything like uniform conditions throughout the whole 
country. Such prominent and wealthy unions, for instance^ 
as the Amalgamated Society of Engineers and the Amal- 
gamated Society of Carpenters, find themselves compelled 
to recognise hours of labor varying, in different towns, from 
48 to 57 per week in the one case, and from 41 to 60 in 
the other. 1 

1 The Grays and Woolwich Arsenal branches of Engineers among others, 
stand at 48 hours, whilst the Vale of Leven branch works 57. Among the 



256 Trade Union Function 

But even where any Trade Union rule exists, either 
national or local, there are, as we have mentioned, always 
some extensive districts, and some important establish- 
ments, in which the rule is either not recognised at all, or 
is systematically evaded. An Act of Parliament, on the 
contrary, applies uniformly to all districts, whether the Trade 
Union is strong or non-existent, and to all employers, 
whether or not they belong to the Employers' Association. 
It corresponds, in fact, to the ideal form of Collective 
Bargaining, a National Agreement made between a Trade 
Union including every man in the trade, and an Employers' 
Association from which no firm stands aloof. Like such an 
agreement it excludes, from influence on the wage-contract, 
the exigencies, not only of particular workmen or particular 
establishments, but also those of particular districts. But it 
goes a stage farther in this direction. A National Agree- 
ment, however stable, is always liable to be changed, in 
accordance with the relative strength of employers and 
employed, at each of the successive inflations and depressions 
which characterise modern industry. The Cotton-spinners, 
for instance, whose standard earnings are determined by an 
exceptionally stable National Agreement, have, during the 
last twenty years, agreed to twelve alterations of this standard, 
five times upward and seven downward. But once any part 
of the conditions of employment has been deemed of suffi- 
cient importance to the community to be secured by law, it 
is beyond the reach of even the most extreme commercial 
crises. In the blackest days of 1879, when many cotton 
manufacturers were reduced to bankruptcy and the operatives 
suffered a reduction of twenty per cent of their wages, no 
one ever suggested that the expensive statutory requirements 
as to the sanitation of the factory, or the fencing of dangerous 

Carpenters, taking the mid-winter hours, the Middleton branch works 41^ hours, 
the Bury branch 43^, and those of Prestwich and Radcliffe 44, whilst Yarmouth, 
Yeovil, and many Irish branches are still at 60. See Statistics of Rates of Wages, 
etc.> published by the A.S.E. in 1895, and the Annual Report of the Amalgamates 
Society of Carpenters for 1 894. Compare, too, the Reports on Wages and 
of Labour ; published by the Board of Trade, C, 7567, 1894. 



The Method of Legal Enactment 257 

machinery should be relaxed. In our History of Trade 
Unionism we have shown 1 how seriously, in these years, the 
Nine Hours' Day of the engineering and building trades 
secured by Collective Bargaining, was nullified by the 
practice of systematic overtime. But neither inflation nor 
depression has, as a matter of fact, led to any alteration 
since 1874 m ^ e length of the Cotton-spinners' Normal Day, 
which the Factory Act in effect prescribes. The Common 
Rule embodied in an Act of Parliament has, therefore, 
the inestimable advantage, from the Trade Union point 
of view, of being beyond the influence of the exigencies of 
even the worst times of depression. And, if we may judge 
from the history of the last fifty years, such a rule is more 
apt to " slide up " than to " slide down." Once any regula- 
tion has been adopted, it becomes practically impossible 
altogether to rescind it, whilst the movement of public 
opinion, notably on such matters as education, sanitation, 
safety, and shorter hours of labor, has been steadily in 
favor of increased requirements in the normal Standard of 
Life. 2 These characteristics of the Method of Legal Enact- 
ment have, as we shall see in subsequent chapters, an 
important bearing on the kind of Regulations which the 
Trade Unionists seek to enforce by this particular Method. 
But before we consider the rules themselves, we have first to 
describe the nature and extent of the Trade Union machinery 
for using the method. 

The Trade Unions have not yet developed, for their 
application of the Method of Legal Enactment, even so 
much formal machinery as they possess for the Method of 
Collective Bargaining. This backwardness, is, in the main, 
to be attributed to the difficulty of the task. The dominant 
tendency in Trade Union history is, as we have seen, to 

1 Page 333. 

2 This "partiality," however, is not an inherent attribute of the Method of 
Legal Enactment. Its existence during the present generation is, we hold, due 
to the shifting of political power from the middle class, who had become opponents 
of any restriction of competition, to the wage-earners, who have continued to 
believe in regulation. 

VOL. I S 



258 Trade Union Function 

make the trade throughout the country the unit of organ- 
isation. But to bring any proposal effectively before the 
legislature, that is to say, to persuade members of Parliament 
to take the matter up, Trade Union leaders must convert, 
not the employers and workmen in their own industry 
wherever carried on, but the electors of particular con- 
stituencies, to whatever trade they belong. An organisation 
according to localities has, therefore, to be superposed upon 
an organisation according to trades. 

Two great industries cotton and coal have been able 
to surmount this difficulty, and these alone have as yet 
developed any effective political machinery. The powerful 
unions of Cotton Operatives, for instance, three-fourths of 
whose 132,000 members are to be found in ten constitu- 
encies within twenty miles of Bolton, have, during the past 
twenty -five years, constructed a special organisation for 
obtaining and enforcing the legislative regulations which 
they desire. The five societies of Spinners, Weavers, Card- 
room Operatives, Beamers, and Overlookers are federated 
in the United Textile Factory Workers' Association, which 
carries on no Collective Bargaining, and possesses no insur- 
ance side, but has for its sole object " the removal of any 
grievance . . . for which Parliamentary or Governmental 
interference is required." l The Representative Assembly 2 
of this federation, consisting of nearly 200 delegates from 
a hundred local branches, amalgamates all sections of the 
Cotton Operatives into one solid union for their common 
political purposes. But it is the Federal Executive, 8 
appointed annually by this Representative Assembly, that, 
governs the Parliamentary policy and organises the political 
force of the Trade. This Cabinet, composed in the main of 
the salaried officials of the separate unions, meets regularly 
throughout the year, exclusively for political business. At 
these private meetings, held in the parlor of a Manchester 

1 Rules of 1890. 

* Called the "General Council." 
8 Called the "Legislative Council" 



The Method of Legal Enactment 259 

public-house, all rhetoric and formality is banished, and the 
complaints of the constituents are discussed with cynical 
shrewdness. If they appear to admit of any legislative or 
administrative remedy, the president and secretary who 
are invariably leading officials of the Spinners and the 
Weavers respectively are directed to take the matter up. 
These officers are wise enough to call in expert assistance. 
There is usually some eminent lawyer representing a 
Lancashire constituency, who is glad to put his brains freely 
at the disposal of so influential an organisation. A clause 
or a bill is drafted, and communications are opened up with 
the Home Office. Once certain of the technical accuracy 
and administrative feasibility of the proposals, the Federal 
Executive opens a vigorous political campaign. Public 
meetings are organised, at which the local members of 
Parliament, or in default, the opposition candidates, are 
impartially invited to preside. By these meetings not only 
the 300,000 persons employed in or about the cotton mills, 
but also the other electors, and the Parliamentary candidates 
themselves, are patiently educated. It is no small help in 
this process that the Cotton Operatives have what is virtually 
their own organ in the press, and that their leading officials 
write, in addition, much of the " labor news " in the provincial 
newspapers. When the Parliamentary session opens, the 
struggle is transferred to the lobby of the House of Commons. 
It is perhaps a fortunate chance that the present general 
secretary of the Spinners belongs to the Conservative party, 
whilst the general secretary of the Weavers is a staunch 
adherent of the Liberals. No member for a cotton con- 
stituency, to whichever party he may belong, escapes the 
pressure. Meanwhile, in order to smooth the way for 
legislation, the employers will have been approached with 
a view to arriving at some common policy which the trade, 
as a whole, can press on the Government. The millowners, 
for instance, will be persuaded not to oppose increased 
factory regulation, on consideration of the operatives joining 
them to stop a threatened Indian import duty, or combining 



260 Trade Union Function 

in support of " the rehabilitation of silver." When a general 
election comes near an urgent appeal is issued to all the 
132,000 members, reminding them that they should vote 
only for those candidates, of whatever political party, who 
promise to support the trade programme. No one can read 
the frequent circulars, the minutes of the conferences with 
employers and members of Parliament, the reports of the 
public meetings, dinners to factory inspectors and deputa- 
tions to the Home Office, the leading articles in the Cotton 
Factory Times, and the " questions to candidates " for election 
in Lancashire constituencies, without admitting that the 
Cotton Operatives have known how to construct a political 
machine of remarkable efficiency. The result is that the 
legislative regulation of the Cotton trade has been carried 
to a point far in advance of any other industry, whilst the 
law is enforced with a stringent regularity unknown in other 
districts. 1 

In the case of the Cotton Operatives the close observer 
may suspect that the political machinery is better than the 
material out of which it is made. Absorbed in chapels and 
co-operative stores, eager by individual thrift to rise out of 
the wage-earning class, and accustomed to adopt the views 
of the local millowners and landlords, the Cotton Operatives, 
as a class, are not remarkable for political capacity. In the 
interest that they take in public affairs they are behind the 
coalminers of the North and Midland districts of England. 
Among these underground workers the instinct for democratic 
politics is so keen that they have, for over twenty years, sent 
their own officials to represent them in the House of Commons. 
Like the Cotton Operatives they have exceptional political 
opportunities, four -fifths of the whole membership being 
massed in a relatively small number of Parliamentary con- 
stituencies. These advantages are, however, largely neutral- 
ised by the fact that they are, for political purposes, divided 

1 The meetings of the United Textile Factory Operatives' Association were 
temporarily suspended in 1896, the officials stating that the time was inopportune 
for any further extension of factory legislation. 



The Method of Legal Enactment 261 

into two hostile factions, the Miners' Federation on the one 
hand, and the county unions of Northumberland and Durham 
on the other. 

The miners of Northumberland and Durham were, for 
over a generation, the pioneers and energetic leaders of the 
movement in favor of the legal regulation of the conditions 
of labor in the mine. We need not again describe the 
machinery of the active legal and Parliamentary campaigns 
between 1843 and 1887. From the appointment of the 
" Miners' Attorney-General " down to the death of Alexander 
Macdonald, the promoters of the successive Mines Regulation 
Acts drew their strongest support from the two Northern 
counties. We have described elsewhere * the curious com- 
bination of industrial circumstances and economic theories 
which have brought the Northumberland and Durham unions 
to a standstill as regards the legal regulation of their trade. 
They still nominally retain a separate political machinery 
under the name of the National Union of Miners. 2 But the 
effective political influence of the miners of these counties is 
now expressed mainly by their three officials having seats in 
the House of Commons. These members, in conjunction 
with the leading local officials of the Northumberland and 
Durham Unions, object to the extension of legal regulation, 
and actively oppose the Eight Hours' Bill. 

The great bulk of the miners have, however, retained 
their belief in the Method of Legal Enactment, and are to-day 
even more persistent than their fathers in demanding its 
further application. The Miners' Federation of Great Britain 
(established 1887, and now counting 200,000 members), 
which we described in our chapter on "The Unit of Govern- 
ment," is essentially a political organisation. It deals, it is 
true, also with Collective Bargaining, in so far as anything 

1 History of Trade Unionism, pp. 284-292, 377-380. 

2 This federal body, formed by Alexander Macdonald exclusively for Parlia- 
mentary purposes, once included practically all the miners' unions in the kingdom, 
and was, in its time, the most influential political organisation in the Trade 
Union world. To-day it is confined to the two unions of Northumberland and 
Durham, and retains only a shadowy separate existence. 



262 Trade Union Function 

approaching to a National Agreement is concerned. But all 
the ordinary business of Mutual Insurance and Collective 
Bargaining is performed by the separate county unions, and 
nine-tenths of the federal work relates, like that of the United 
Textile Factory Workers' Association, to matters in which 
legislative or governmental interference is required. Like the 
Cotton Operatives, too, the Miners' Federation acts through a 
Representative Assembly and an Executive which is virtually 
a cabinet of the salaried officials of the constituent Unions. 
It is a matter of common knowledge that this organisation 
exercises great political power, and it is, in Parliamentary 
influence, second only to the United Textile Factory Workers' 
Association. In one respect it is even stronger. Owing to 
the loyalty of the miners to their leaders, and to their demo- 
cratic fervor, the Parliamentary and local elections in mining 
constituencies may be said to be entirely controlled by the 
miners' organisations. No candidate can be elected who 
does not support their programme. It is in the manipula- 
tion of both political parties in the House of Commons that 
the Miners fall behind the Cotton Operatives. The Miners' 
Federation has, in the first place, to struggle against the very 
serious obstacle presented by the resolute hostility of the 
Northumberland and Durham unions. In the Parliament of 
1892-95 if Mr. Pickard or Mr. Woods proposed some measure 
desired by the Miners' Federation, he was pretty sure to be 
answered not by an employer, but by Mr. Burt or Mr. 
Fenwick, speaking for the miners of the two Northern 
counties. The fact too, that all the miners' representatives 
in the House of Commons are loyal supporters of one political 
party interferes, to some extent, with their influence both with 
that party and with its opponents. And although this great 
federation can count among its officials men of ability, 
experience, and unquestioned integrity, we are inclined to 
doubt whether the general level of technical and economic 
knowledge among them is quite as high as that of the staff 
of the Cotton Operatives, recruited as the latter is by 
competitive examination. It is, perhaps, due to this fact that 



The Method of Legal Enactment 263 

the Miners' officials do not as yet realise the necessity of 
expert legal and Parliamentary counsel in their deliberations, 
and make far less use than the Cotton Operatives of outside 
help. They have no intercourse with the Government Mines 
Inspectors, and, unlike the Cotton Operatives, they do not 
enjoy the advantage of constantly meeting, on terms of easy 
equality, the salaried officers of the employers' associations. 
Moreover, they have no organ of their own in the press, and 
they seldom contribute to other newspapers. Strong in their 
numbers and their concentrated electoral power, the Miners 
have, in fact, hitherto somewhat suffered from their isolation. 
But notwithstanding all these drawbacks, the steady improve- 
ment and progressive elaboration of the Mines Regulation 
Acts, in the face of powerful capitalist opposition, bears 
eloquent testimony to the past and present effectiveness of 
the Miners' political organisations. 

No trade society other than those connected with cotton 
and coal has developed any effective machinery for obtaining 
the legal regulations which are demanded by its members. 
This is, in some cases, to be attributed to the absence, among 
the rank and file, of any keen desire for special Acts of 
Parliament. Some powerful unions, like the United Society 
of Boilermakers, which enforces a rigid limit on the number 
of apprentices, are comparatively indifferent to the law as an 
instrument for obtaining the conditions of labor that they 
desire. But there are other trades which feel, even more 
strongly than the Cotton Operatives and Miners, their 
dependence on the Method of Legal Enactment as the only 
effective way of securing what they consider fair conditions 
of employment. Not to mention such modern organisations 
as those of the Gasworkers and Seamen, whose objects are 
mainly legislative, we watch old-established unions like the 
Amalgamated Society of Tailors, the several societies of 
cutlery workers of Sheffield, and the Hosiers of the Midland 
Counties all basing their aspirations on the legal regulation 
of homework, and the prohibition of insidious forms of 
"truck." Typical "old unionists" like the Ironfounders, 



264 Trade Union Function 

Stonemasons, and Engineers are constantly voting by large 
majorities in favor of drastic legal enactments providing for 
the better sanitation of their workplaces, for additional pre- 
cautions against accidents, for the compulsory compensation 
of those who suffer through negligence, for the adoption in 
all public contracts of the Standard Rates of Wages, and last, 
but in recent years not least, for the suppression of overtime, 
and the maintenance of a Legal Day. And yet it is not too 
much to say that, as regards all these points, the organised 
Trade Unions, with their hundreds of thousands of electors, 
exercise, to-day, practically no appreciable influence on the 
House of Commons and, unlike the Cotton Operatives and 
Miners, have not learnt either to supplement the efforts of 
sympathetic philanthropists, or to strengthen the hands of 
willing politicians. The problem of superposing an organisa- 
tion according to locality upon one according to trades, has, 
in fact, proved too complicated for Trade Union statesman- 
ship. 

We shall best understand this failure by considering first 
the difficulties that prevent any single trade from attaining 
political influence, and then the kind of organisation by which 
such difficulties might be overcome. The typical Trade 
Union has its members scattered in small groups, each of 
which makes up a tiny fraction of an electoral constituency. 
The adult male Cotton Operatives of Oldham practically 
dominate the local electorate, but the Oldham Plumbers 
number only 69, and the Oldham Carpenters only 152 
contingents too small to be able to impress their views 
on Parliamentary candidates. At Morpeth again, the Coal- 
miners have, for over twenty years, been able to actually 
return one of their own officials as the member. But the 
Morpeth Tailors number only five, and are thus practically 
helpless. Even in London, where the Amalgamated Society 
of Tailors dominates its own skilled branch of the trade, its 
two thousand members are spread over sixty constituencies. 
It is evident that the only way by which the men engaged 
in such widely dispersed industries as building and tailoring 



The Method of Legal Enactment 265 

can force their grievances on an ignorant public or a reluctant 
Parliament, is by combined action among the different trades 
of each constituency. Even the Engineers, who are in certain 
centres aggregated in large numbers, are politically weakened 
in their own strongholds by their division into sectional 
societies. And joint action is even more clearly necessary 
in the case of the great number of little local trades, which 
have not the compensation of numerous branches and a large 
aggregate membership. Now, the long and varied experience 
of the Cotton Operatives and, to a lesser extent, that of the 
Coalminers prove that if a political federation is to be 
successful, three conditions are absolutely indispensable. 
There must, in the first place, be a vigorous central executive, 
to which is entrusted the entire direction of all the pro- 
ceedings. In effective connection with this central committee, 
there must be local organisations in the various constituencies, 
always prompt to obey the directions of the leaders, and to 
subordinate other interests to the main object. Finally, the 
central committee must not only have in its service an 
adequate staff of able men as officials, but must also know 
how to command, either for love or money, and be willing 
frequently to use, the professional advice of trained experts in 
law, in Parliamentary procedure, in administration, and in 
what may be called general politics. 

It may at first be thought that, in the annual Trade 
Union Congress, the Parliamentary Committee, and the local 
Trades Councils, the Trade Union world possesses a political 
machinery fulfilling these elementary conditions. There is a 
Representative Assembly, to which nearly every organised 
trade sends delegates. This assembly has nothing to do 
with Mutual Insurance or Collective Bargaining, and deals 
exclusively with the political interests of the Trade Union 
world. It elects a Cabinet of thirteen members, on which 
sit some of the ablest salaried officers of the movement. 
The duty of this " Parliamentary Committee " is expressly 
defined to be "to watch all legislative measures directly 
affecting the question of Labor, to initiate such legislative 



266 Trade Union Function 

action as Congress may direct, and to prepare the programme 
for the Congress." 1 Finally there exist, in over a hundred 
towns, which together elect a third of the House of Commons, 
joint committees of the local Trade Union branches, formed 
" to watch over the general interests of Labor political and 
social both in and out of Parliament." 2 But a short 
examination of the constitution and working of this organ- 
isation will, we think, make clear that, whatever outward 
resemblances to an effective political machine it may pos- 
sess, it lacks all the essential conditions of efficiency and 
success. 

Let us, to begin with, take the Parliamentary Committee, 
upon which, to follow the analogy of the Cotton Operatives, 
should fall the duties of formulating a national Trade Union 
programme, of guiding the deliberations of the Trade Union 
Congress, of directing the necessary political campaign 
throughout the constituencies, and finally, of conducting the 
desired measures through Parliament. But the Parliamentary 
Committee has, for the last twenty years, had practically no 
means of fulfilling these functions. The central executives 
of the unions, from whom alone any responsible statement of 
the trade grievances and proposals can be obtained, seldom 
dream of communicating their desires to the Parliamentary 
Committee, This has naturally followed from the fact that 
there is no central staff able to cope with such proposals as 
have from time to time come in. 3 For all the Parliamentary 
and other business of the Trade Union world as a whole, 
there is provided only a single secretary, who is usually one 
of the " Labor Representatives " in the House of Commons, 

1 Amended Standing Orders, drawn up by Parliamentary Committee, 
November 1894. 

2 Rules of the London Trades Council, revised March 1895. The Manchester 
and Salford Trades Council (established 1866) declares that its objects are "to 
watch over the social and political rights and interests of Labor, local and 
national, but not of party political character. Its duties shall be to direct the 
power and influence possessed by its constituents, in promoting and supporting 
such measures as may appear likely to increase the comfort and happiness of the 
people, and generally to assist in securing the ends for which Trade Unions were 
called into existence." (Report for 1890.) 

3 Histcry of Trade Unionism^ pp. 356-358, 470-474. 



The Method of Legal Enactment 267 

with prior duties to his own constituency. For the last five 
years the occupant of the post has been a salaried official of 
his own union, busily occupied with its particular sectional 
interests. The Parliamentary Committee admittedly pays 
only for the leavings of his time and attention, a large part 
of the salary of 200 1 going, in fact, to the son or friend 
who does the routine office work during his frequent absences 
from London. It is therefore impossible for the Parlia- 
mentary Committee to investigate grievances, or to form an 
independent judgment on technical proposals. The members 
of the Committee are, no doubt, severally quite competent to 
deal with their own trades, but for the Committee as a whole 
to act on this assumption necessarily means its implicit 
acceptance of the technical proposals of any one of its 
members. As regards the vast majority of unrepresented 
trades the Committee has absolutely no means of ascertaining, 
either what is complained of, or what remedies are practicable. 
Nor does it ever occur to the Parliamentary Committee to 
attempt to make up for this deficiency by seeking expert or 
professional advice, for which Congress has never been asked 
to provide funds. We despair of making any middle-class 
student realise the strength and persistency of this disinclina- 
tion of Trade Unionists to call in outside counsel. A Board 
of Railway Directors or a Town Council do not imagine 
that they are bartering their independence or impairing their 
dignity when they consult an engineer or a solicitor, or when 
they employ an actuary or a Parliamentary draughtsman. 
Though they are themselves what the Trade Unionists would 
call " practical men " they invariably commit even their own 
proposals to professional experts to be critically examined 
and put into proper form. But owing, we believe, to a 
combination of sturdy independence, naYve self-complacency, 
and an extremely narrow outlook on affairs, the Parliamentary 
Committee, like most Trade Union organisations, apparently 
regard themselves as competent to be their own solicitors, 
their own actuaries, and even their own Parliamentary 

1 Raised, in 1896, to ,300. 



268 Trade Union Function 

draughtsmen. 1 It is unnecessary to add that, in each 
capacity, they attain the proverbial result. 

Any idea of intellectual leadership of the Trade Union 
world has accordingly long since been abandoned by the 
Parliamentary Committee. This has entailed the degenera- 
tion of the Trade Union Congress. The four or five hundred 
members coming from all trades and parts of the kingdom 
are largely unknown to each other and new to their work. 
Each delegate brings to the meeting his own pet ideas and 
legislative projects. In order to make such a Representative 
Assembly into a useful piece of democratic machinery, the 
first requisite is a strong " Front Bench " of responsible 
leaders, who have themselves arrived at a definite and con- 
sistent policy. But this, as we have seen, is beyond the 
capacity of the Parliamentary Committee in its present lack 
of information, staff, and expert counsel. What happens, in 
fact, is that a few stock resolutions are moved by members 
of the Committee, but nine-tenths of the time of Congress is 
given to the casual proposals sent in by the rank and file. 
These are not examined or reported on by the Parliamentary 
Committee, or even referred for consideration to special 
committees elected for the purpose. They appear higgledy- 
piggledy in the agenda of the Congress sitting as a whole, 
the order in which they are discussed being decided by lot. 2 
The bewildered delegates, fresh from the bench or the mine, 
find themselves confronted with a hundred and fifty hetero- 
geneous proposals, some containing highly technical amend- 
ments of the statutes relating to particular trades, others 
being mere pious aspirations for social amelioration, and 
others, again, involving far-reaching changes in the economic 
and political constitution of the country. All these come 
before Congress with equal authority ; are explained in five- 

1 We have already mentioned that the United Textile Factory Workers' 
Association is honorably distinguished among Trade Unions for its freedom from 
this defect. The Co-operative and Friendly Society Movements have, to a large 
extent, learnt a similar lesson. 

2 Some improvement has been made in this respect during the last year or 
two, the notices of motion being now classified according to their subjects. 



The Method of Legal Enactment 269 

minute speeches ; and as regards four out of every five, get 

deliberative assembly checking and ratifying a programme 
prepared, after careful investigation, by a responsible Cabinet, 
the Trade Union Congress is now an unorganised public meet- 
ing, utterly unable to formulate any consistent or practical 
policy. 

In the absence alike of an effective central executive, and 
of any definite programme, it is of minor import that the 
joint committees which should act in the several constituencies 
are themselves inefficient, and completely divorced from the 
other parts of the machine. We do not need to repeat our 
detailed description and working of the Trades Councils. 3 It 
is obvious that if such Councils are to be of any use in 
influencing the constituencies, they must receive the confidence 
and support of the central executive of each trade, and 
strictly co-ordinate all their political action with that of the 
Parliamentary Committee. But for reasons on which we 
have elsewhere dwelt, the central executives of the national 
trade societies view with suspicion and jealousy the very 
existence of local committees over whose action they have 
no control. The Parliamentary Committee, which ought to 
exercise that control, has, in the absence of a real programme 
and of anything like an office staff, for many years given up 
all attempts to direct, or even to influence, the bodies through 
which alone it could conduct an effective electoral campaign. 
Without leadership, without an official programme, and without 
any definite work, the Trades Councils have become, in effect, 
microscopic Trade Union Congresses, with all the deficiencies 
of unorganised public meetings. Their wild and inconsistent 
resolutions, no less than their fitful and erratic action, have 
naturally increased the dislike of the central executives, and 
of the salaried officials who dominate the Parliamentary 
Committee. Since 1895 they have even been excluded 
from participation in the Trade Union Congress. Thus 

1 History of Trade Unionism, pp. 467-470, 
2 Ibid. pp. 440-444, 466, 467. 



270 Trade Union Function 

there is now no working connection between the central com- 
mittee and the organisations in the several constituencies. 

We see therefore that, notwithstanding a great parade of 
political influence, the Trade Union world, as a whole, is 
really without an organised machinery for using the Method 
of Legal Enactment. This outcome of thirty years' effort 
may well lead to doubts whether it is practicable to construct 
efficient machinery for the political business of the whole 
Trade Union world. Some persons may suggest that the ex- 
perience of the Cotton Operatives and the Coalminers points 
rather to the development of separate political machinery 
for each great group of industries. On this assumption 
we should have political federations of the Engineering and 
Shipbuilding trades, of the various branches of the Clothing 
Trade, of the Building and Furniture Trades, and perhaps 
even of the Transport Workers and the General Laborers. 
But whether the machinery for using the Method of Legal 
Enactment covers the whole Trade Union world, or is con- 
fined to particular sections, it will not be possible for it to 
obtain even such success as has been won by the Cotton 
Operatives and the Coalminers without a radical change in 
spirit, if not also in form. It may safely be predicted that 
no Parliamentary organisation of the Trade Union world will 
be politically effective until the narrow limits of its action are 
definitely recognised, and until the separate functions of the 
Central Federal Executive, the Representative Assembly, 
and the Local Councils are clearly understood, and placed in 
proper co-ordination with each other. 

Let us first consider the importance of recognising the 
narrow limits within which such political influence must be 
exercised. We have here, in fact, a particular application 
of the principles upon which, as we showed in our chapter 
on " Interunion Relations," any combined action must be 
based. The paramount condition of stable federation is, as 
we have suggested, that the constituent bodies should be 
united only in so far as they possess interests in common, 
and that in respect of all other matters they should retain 



The Method of Legal Enactment 2 7 1 

their independence. The Trade Union Congress is a federa- 
tion for obtaining, by Parliamentary action, not social reform 
generally, but the particular measures desired by its constituent 
Trade Unions. 1 These all desire certain measures of legal 
regulation confined to their own particular trades, and they 
are prepared, if this limitation is observed, to back up each 
other's demands. On many important subjects, such as Free- 
dom of Combination, Compensation for Accidents, Truck, Sani- 
tation, " the Particulars Clause," the weekly payment of wages, 
and the abolition of disciplinary fines, they are united on 
general measures. But directly the Congress diverges from 
its narrow Trade Union function, and expresses any opinion, 
either on general social reforms or party politics, it is bound 
to alienate whole sections of its constituents. The Trade 
Unions join the Congress for the promotion of a Parlia- 
mentary policy desired, not merely by a majority, but by all 
of them ; and it is a violation of the implied contract between 
them to use the political force, towards the creation of which 
all are contributing, for the purposes of any particular political 
party. The Trade Unionists of Northumberland and Durham 
are predominantly Liberal. Those of Lancashire are largely 
Conservative. Those of Yorkshire and London, again, are 
deeply impregnated with Socialism. If the Congress adopts 
the Shibboleths, or supports the general policy of any of 
the three parties which now on questions outside Trade 
Unionism divide the allegiance of British workmen, its 
influence is at once destroyed. The history of the Trade 
Union Congress during the last twenty years emphatically 
confirms this view. Whether it is " captured " by the 
Liberals (as in 1878-85) or by the Socialists (as in 1893-94); 
whether it is pledged to Peasant Proprietorship or to Land 
Nationalisation ; whether it declares in favor of Bimetal- 
lism or the " Nationalisation of the means of production, 

1 In the course of our subsequent analysis of the Trade Union Regulations 
themselves, and in our final survey, we shall discover the political programme for 
the Trade Union world. See the chapters on " The Economic Characteristics 
of Trade Unionism " and " Trade Unionism and Democracy." 



272 Trade Union Function 

distribution, and exchange," it equally destroys its capacity 
for performing its proper work, and provokes a reaction 
which nullifies its political influence. 

Once this limitation were understood and definitely 
recognised, it would become possible to weld the separate 
parts of the existing Trade Union organisation into a political 
machinery of considerable influence. The first requisite 
would be a central federal committee, meeting exclusively 
for the definite political purposes which we have indicated. 
To this Parliamentary Committee the central executive of 
each national trade would bring its particular grievances, 
with the remedies proposed, just as the Weavers' executive 
submits to the United Textile Factory Workers' Association 
its objections to over- steaming and its proposals for the 
abolition of this practice. On no account must any proposal 
be taken up by the Parliamentary Committee which had not 
received the express endorsement of the central executive of 
the trade concerned. Any departure from this rule would 
bring the federal committee into conflict with its real con- 
stituents, and deprive it of all guarantee that the proposal 
had been accepted by the bulk of the members most directly 
to be affected. But this endorsement would not in itself 
suffice. The Parliamentary Committee, acting in- conjunction 
with the officers of the trade concerned, would have to take 
expert advice as to the extent of the grievance, the practica- 
bility of the remedy proposed, and the best form in which it 
could be put. The approved legislative proposals of the 
several trades could then be marshalled into a precise and 
consistent Parliamentary programme, from which all vague 
aspirations or rhetorical claptrap would be excluded. When 
the programme for the year had, after careful investigation 
and thought, at last been framed, it would have to be pre- 
sented to a Representative Assembly of all the trades. In 
emphatic contrast with the practice of the present Trade 
Union Congress, it should be made a cardinal rule that no 
proposition for political action should be brought before the 
Assembly, unless it had first been submitted to the Parlia- 



Tke Method of Legal Enactment 273 

mentary Committee for investigation and report. With such 
a rule the delegates from each trade would find before them 
the proposals which had been sent up by their executives, 
couched in the best possible language, and recommended to 
the delegates of the other trades by the cumulative authority 
of the officials of the industry concerned, the skilled political 
staff of the Parliamentary Committee itself, and the legal and 
administrative experts who had been consulted. At this 
stage, discussion by all the trades would serve to reveal any 
latent divergence of interest or policy which would militate 
against the electoral success of even a perfectly devised 
programme. But such an assembly would fulfil a much 
more important purpose than merely amending and ratify- 
ing an official programme. It would enable the leaders to 
explain the several items, and demonstrate to the whole 
Trade Union world their necessity, adequacy, and consistency 
with the common interests of all Trade Unionists. 

The programme once settled, the work of political 
agitation would begin. Here the Parliamentary Committee 
would have to be supplemented by a local federation in each 
constituency. This local body would naturally be formed, 
like the present Trades Councils, of representatives from all 
the Trade Union branches in the constituency, or in the 
town. It would be vital to its efficiency and success that 
the central executives of the several trades should regard its 
constitution as of national importance to them ; urge their 
branches to elect their most responsible members ; and give 
them every encouragement to contribute their quota of the 
local expenses from the society's funds. It goes without 
saying that these local councils must, no less strictly than 
the Trade Union Congress, avoid all bias in favor of one or 
other political party, and confine themselves rigidly to Trade 
Union objects. But their proceedings must be subject to a 
yet narrower limit. Unlike the existing Trades Councils, 
they must realise that it is no part of their business to 
frame the Parliamentary programme even in matters on 
which all their constituent branches are unanimous. This 
VOL. I T 



274 Trade Union Function 

follows from the fact that each trade must be dealt with as a 
national unit. Before the Engineers or the Tailors can hope 
to get any amendment of the law relating to their trade, all 
the branches from one end of the kingdom to the other must 
be prepared to back up an identical demand ; and the 
demand must be formulated in terms capable of being 
pressed upon Ministers and the administrative experts. 
This identity and precision can only be secured by central 
action. The work of the local Trades Councils must, there- 
fore, as regards all Parliamentary action, be executive only. 
Both in order to retain the confidence of the central executive 
of each trade, and to function properly as a part of the 
political machine, the local councils would have rigidly to 
confine themselves to pushing the official Trade Union 
programme for the time being. If any of their members 
wanted this programme altered, he could bring his proposal 
forward in the local branch of his own union, have it voted 
upon by his fellow-tradesmen, and get it sent up to his own 
central executive. If it was not a matter on which his own 
Trade Union could be induced to take action, it would most 
assuredly not be fit for adoption by a federation of Trade 
Unions. The local Trades Council would, without inter- 
fering with general policy, find abundant occupation in 
organising and educating the local Trade Unionist electors ; 
in carrying out the frequent instructions received from the 
skilled political staff of the Parliamentary Committee in 
watching and criticising the action of the Parliamentary 
representatives of the constituency, to whatever party they 
belonged ; in supplementing and supervising the local work of 
the mines, factory, and sanitary inspectors ; and, wherever it 
was thought fit, in conducting a municipal campaign. For 
all elections to local bodies, it could, of course, frame its 
own programme. Here it would have to act as its own 
Representative Assembly. Like the Trade Union Congress 
the Trades Council would have to elect and to trust a 
responsible cabinet ; to restrict it to a Trade Union as dis- 
tinguished from a general political programme ; to provide it 



The Method of Legal Enactment 275 

with officers and funds adequate to its task ; to expect that 
it should act only after inquiry and expert or professional 
advice ; and above all, to insist that it should keep itself free 
from suspicion of acting in the interests of any particular 
party. 

We are thus brought back, at each stage of the organ- 
isation, to the paramount need of intellectual leadership. 
Without concerted federal action between the trades, no 
progress can be made in carrying out their desires for the 
use of the Method of Legal Enactment. Without a central 
committee really directing and concentrating the action of 
the local councils, no electoral campaign can ever be effec- 
tive. Without a " Front Bench " of responsible leaders, no 
Representative Assembly can ever formulate a consistent 
programme, or rise above the dignity of a public meeting. 
The great officials of the leading trades must realise that it 
is their duty, not merely to stir up their own branches to 
feeble and fitful agitation for the particular legal reforms that 
they desire themselves, but to get constructed the federal 
organisation which alone can secure their accomplishment. 
In this federal organisation they must themselves take the 
leading part. For this work they are at present, with all 
their capacity and force, usually quite unfit. Each man 
knows his own trade, and the desires of his own union, but 
is both ignorant and indifferent as to the needs or desires of 
every other trade. Before they can form anything like a 
Cabinet with a definite and consistent policy, they must 
learn how to frame a precise and detailed programme which 
shall include the particular legislative regulations desired by 
each trade, whilst avoiding the Shibboleths of any political 
party. Nor is this an impossible dream. At one period, as we 
have elsewhere described, 1 the Trade Union world possessed, 
in " the Junta " and their immediate successors, an extremely 
efficient Cabinet, which both led the Trade Union Congress 
and directed the action of the Trades Councils. In close 
communication with the executives of the great trades, and 

1 History of Trade Unionism, pp. 215-283. 



276 Trade Union Function 

making unstinted use of expert counsel, this Junta prepared 
a reasoned and practicable programme ; explained it to 
representative gatherings by which it was ratified ; and 
enlisted the Trades Councils in an organised electoral 
campaign in its support. The result was seen in the 
memorable Parliamentary triumphs of 1871 and 1875. 
With the passing away of the Junta, and the breach between 
the Parliamentary Committee and its unpaid counsellors, 
this effective leadership came insensibly to an end. If the 
machinery is again to become effective, the Parliamentary 
Committee must realise that its duty is to lead both the 
Trade Union Congress and the Trades Councils ; to 
formulate its own policy ; to provide itself with an adequate 
salaried staff; and, above all, to make the fullest possible 
use of professional experts. With the creation of a 
strongly centralised, and thoroughly equipped political 
federation confining its work exclusively to Trade Union 
objects, the organised trades might reasonably hope to obtain 
the same measure of success in the detailed legal regulation 
of the conditions of their labor, as that achieved by such 
" old Parliamentary hands " as the Coalminers and the 
Cotton Operatives, whilst these latter unions would find 
their power to obtain further regulation in their own trades 
indefinitely increased by the effective support of the whole 
Trade Union world. 1 

1 The degeneration of the whole political machinery has, during the last 
few years, become so obvious to the leading Trade Unionists, that spasmodic 
attempts at reform have been made. We cannot, in this analytical volume, go 
into the details of the story of how the Parliamentary Committee of 1895, by tne 
casting vote of its chairman, imposed a brand new constitution on the Trade 
Union Congress. We need only remind the reader that by the new Standing 
Orders, which were held to govern the Cardiff Congress before they were 
adopted, the Parliamentary Committee brought in three important innovations. 
No Trade Unionist could be elected as a delegate unless he was either a paid 
official of his own union, or else still working at his original trade. The Trades 
Councils were excluded from all representation or participation in the Congress. 
And, most important of all, the method of voting in Congress was changed from 
the ordinary practice of Representative Assemblies to a system of voting by 
trades. These alterations, it will be seen, do not proceed along the lines which 
we have suggested. There is no proposal to increase the efficiency or strengthen 
the staff of the Parliamentary Committee, or to co-ordinate the several parts of 



The Method of Legal Enactment 277 

the political machine. Instead of intellectual leadership being provided, we see 
an attempt merely to silence or exclude the troublesome elements. We need 
not dwell upon the first of the alterations, aimed, as it was, merely at one or two 
influential delegates whose exclusion was desired by the dominant officials. By 
abruptly turning out the Trades Councils, who actually initiated the Congress 
twenty-seven years before, and had ever since taken a vigorous part, the 
Parliamentary Committee cut adrift the very bodies upon which any effective 
Trade Union campaign in the constituencies must depend. The Trades Councils, 
thus " outlawed " from the Trade Union world, are now centres of bitter hostility 
to the salaried officials of the great trades ; sources of dissension and political 
weakness, instead of being valuable supports and allies. But the most important 
and, as we think, most injurious change was that effected in the method of 
voting. Prior to 1895, though the Unions were allowed to send delegates in 
proportion to their membership and contribution to the Congress funds, each 
delegate had an individual vote, and no proxy voting was allowed. In this 
way, the larger unions could, if they chose to send their full number of dele- 
gates, exercise their due proportion of voting power. But the officials of some 
powerful societies found the arrangement inconvenient. In some cases their 
societies demurred to the expense of sending more than three or four delegates, 
and thus failed to secure a proportionate influence. In other cases when the full 
number of delegates was sent, some of these insisted on exercising an independent 
judgment, and voted according to their own political sympathies, or in response 
to appeals from the smaller trades. In the absence of any leadership of the 
Congress as a whole, independence degenerated into anarchy. To the practical 
officials of the Coal and Cotton industries, the flighty and irresponsible behaviour 
of the Congress appeared likely to militate against the success of the particular 
technical measures promoted by their own unions. It does not seem to have 
occurred to them that it might be their duty to put their brains into the 
business ; to come forward as the Cabinet of the Congress, formulating a con- 
sistent policy for the Trade Union world as a whole ; and boldly to appeal for 
the confidence and the pecuniary support by which alone any policy could be 
carried into effect. The investigation and co-ordination of the needs of the 
several trades would have involved, instead of an occasional pleasant jaunt to 
London, a good deal of hard thinking, and many tedious consultations with 
experts of all kinds. It was easier to put themselves in a position mechanically 
to stop the passing of any resolution which seemed likely to be injurious to their 
trades. The four representatives of the coal and cotton industries on the 
committee, therefore, insisted on the adoption of the so-called "proxy voting" 
used by the Miners' Federation in their own conferences. Under this system 
each trade as a whole is accorded the number of votes to which its aggregate 
membership entitles it, but is not required to send more than a single delegate. 
If more than one are sent, they may decide among themselves how the vote of 
the trade shall be cast, and may even entrust their voting cards to one among 
their number, and leave the Congress. It is obvious that this mechanical system 
of voting tends to throw the entire power in the hands of the officials. In fact, 
already at the Congress of 1895, one society, enjoying forty-five votes, sent only 
its general secretary to represent it, and as this economical practice leaves the 
voting power of the union unimpaired, it will certainly be adopted by others. 
By this system the officers of the great unions have secured their own permanent 
re-election on the Parliamentary Committee, and, whenever needed, the power 
to reject any proposal before Congress, without incurring either the " intolerable 
toil of thought," which due consideration of the needs of the smaller trades would 
involve, or the trouble of any intellectual leadership of the Congress as a whole. 



278 Trade Union Function 



It will henceforth be less than ever necessary for the officials of the great trades 
to intervene in the debates, or to seek to guide the less experienced sections of 
the Trade Union world. Already at Cardiff signs were not wanting that in 
future Congresses we shall see the big officials, holding the pack of voting cards 
allotted to their own unions, listening contemptuously to the debating of the 
smaller trades, and silently voting down any proposition which displeases them. 

But the new Standing Orders do more than destroy the value of the Trade 
Union Congress as a deliberative assembly, and deprive it of its functions as 
a representative gathering through which the policy and programme of the 
Parliamentary Committee might be explained to the Trade Union world. The 
new system of voting contravenes, in the worst possible way, the principles of 
representation which we have, in our chapter on " Interunion Relations," 
deduced from the nature of federal association, and is therefore fraught with 
the gravest danger to the stability of the Congress. The Congress, including as 
it does, many divergent, and even opposing interests, can never be more than a 
loose federation for the limited purposes which its several sections have really in 
common. Its decisions ought therefore to be arrived at, not by mere majority 
vote, but by consultation between the sections, with a view of discovering the 
"greatest common measure." But under the present system the Miners' Federa- 
tion and the United Textile Factory Workers' Association together number a 
third of the membership represented at the Congress, whilst so long as they act 
in conjunction with the Amalgamated Societies of Engineers and Carpenters, and 
the National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives, they constitute an absolute 
majority of any possible Congress. To give to five trades an absolute majority 
over the combined forces of all the rest, must, if persisted in, either extinguish 
any chance of energetic political co-operation by the others, or else lead to these 
forming a new federation of their own. 




CHAPTER V 



THE STANDARD RATE 

. s 

AMONG Trade Union Regulations there is one which stands 
out as practically universal, namely, the insistence on pay- 
ment according to some definite standard, uniform in its 
application. Even so rudimentary a form of combination as 
the " shop club " requires that all its members shall receive, 
as a minimum, the rate agreed upon with the foreman for 
the particular job. The organised local or national union 
carries the principle further, and insists on a Standard Rate 
of payment for all its members in the town or district. The 
Standard Rate, it should be observed, is only a minimum, 
never a maximum. The Friendly Society of Operative 
Stonemasons, for instance, agrees (1897) with the London 
Central Master Builders' Association that all its able-bodied 
members shall receive not less than tenpence halfpenny per 
hour. But the Society has no objection to an employer 
offering a particular stonemason, whose skill or character 
is valued, any higher rate that he may choose. The 
Amalgamated Society of Tailors, in conjunction with the 
Master Tailors' Association of the particular town, settles a 
" log " fixing the payment for each kind of garment. But 
this does not prevent West End master tailors, with the full 
sanction of the union, paying some members far above the 
London log rates. In fact, though there are certain seeming 
exceptions with which we shall deal separately, we know of 
no case in which a Trade Union forbids or discourages its 



280 Trade Union Fimction 

members from receiving a higher rate of remuneration, for 
the work actually performed, than the common Standard 
Rate fixed for the whole body. 

But although the Standard Rate is a minimum, not a 
maximum, the establishment of this minimum necessarily 
results in a nearer approximation to equality of rates than 
would otherwise prevail. Trade Union officials who have had 
to construct a piecework list, or to extend such a list from one 
shop to the whole town, or from one town to the whole 
trade, know that, in order to secure a standard list of prices, 
they have had to pare down the rates hitherto enjoyed by 
particular shops or even particular towns. It is exactly 
this willingness on the part of the more fortunately situated 
sections of the trade to forego, for the sake of a Standard 
Rate, the higher rates which happen, by some accident, to 
have become current for a particular line of work, that makes 
uniformity possible. We have already cited, in describing 
how Trade Unionism breaks down local monopoly, the case 
of the Cotton -weavers, who discovered that, in order to secure 
a uniform list of piecework prices meaning, to the majority 
of members, an advance of wages one or two districts had 
to consent to a positive reduction of the rates they had 
hitherto enjoyed. 1 The powerful society of Flint Glass 
Makers has recently afforded us an even more striking 
example. When in 1895 the Flint Glass Makers concerted 
with their employers a uniform "catalogue of prices" for all 
the glass works in Yorkshire, the York branch, which enjoyed 
higher rates than any other in the county, at first vehemently 
protested. A uniform list, they urged, "was impracticable, 
unless by some section of us making enormous sacrifices"; 
and its enforcement would involve the "edifying spectacle of 
a Trade Union compelling its members to work at a reduced 
wage, when neither they nor the employer desired it." z 
Notwithstanding this protest, the members of the union 

1 See the chapter on "The Unit of Government." 

z Letter from T. Mawson, a member of the York branch, in the Flint Glass 
Makers' Magazine, October 1895 ; vol. ii. No. 8, pp. 427, 428. 



The Standard Rate 281 

approved the preparation of the uniform list, which was 
submitted to general meetings of all the Yorkshire branches. 
The issue was thus put before the York members, and though 
it was made clear that the new list would involve a reduction 
of their own earnings, the feeling in favor of uniformity was 
so strong that, as the general secretary records, out of a total 
of eighty-four members in the branch at the time, " the vote 
against the catalogue was only the miserable total of nine." l 

This conception of a Standard Rate is, as we need hardly 
explain, an indispensable requisite of Collective Bargaining. 
Without some common measure, applicable to all the work- 
men concerned, no general treaty with regard to wages 
would be possible. But the use of a definite standard of 
measurement is not merely an adjunct of the Method of 
Collective Bargaining. It is required for any wholesale 
determination of wages upon broad principles. The most 
autocratic and unfettered employer spontaneously adopts 
Standard Rates for classes of workmen, just as the large 
shopkeeper fixes his prices, not according to the higgling 
capacity of particular customers, but by a definite percentage 
on cost. 2 This conception of a consistent standard of 
measurement the Trade Union seeks to extend from 
establishments to districts, and from districts to the whole 
area of the trade within the kingdom. 

This Trade Unionist insistence on a Standard Rate has 
been the subject of bitter denunciation. The payment of "bad 
and lazy workmen as highly as those who are skilled and indus- . 
trious," 3 " setting a premium on idleness and incapacity," 

1 Address of the Central Secretary of the Society, in the Flint Glass Makers' 
Magazine, October 1895 > vo ^ " No. 8, pp. 447-451. 

2 Practical convenience and the growth of large establishments have, no 
doubt, much to do with the adoption of uniformity. The little working master, 
or small employer, could know personally every workman, and adjust without 
much difficulty a graduated rate of wages. But the modern employer of labor 
on a large scale cannot be bothered with precisely graduated special rates for 
each of his thousand "hands." It suits him better to adopt some common 
principle of payment, simple of application by his clerks and easily comprehended 
by the workmen. 

Measures for putting an End to the Abuses of Trade Unions, by Frederic 
Hill (London, 1868), p. 3. So persistent is this delusion that Mr. Lecky, writing 



282 Trade Union Function 

"destructive to the legitimate ambition of industry and merit," 
that " worst kind of Communism, the equal remuneration of 
all men," are only samples of the abusive rhetoric of capitalists 
and philosophers on the subject. Even as lately as 1871 
a distinguished economist poured out the following tirade 
against the assumed wickedness of the Trade Unions in 
this respect : " Not yet, but in course of time, as economic 
principles become popularly understood, we shall see Trade 
Unions purged of their most erroneous and mischievous 
purpose of seeking an uniform rate of wages without regard 
to differences of skill, knowledge, industry, and character. 
There is no tenet of Socialism more fatal in its consequences 
than this insidious and plausible doctrine a doctrine which, 
if acted upon rigidly for any length of time by large classes 
of men, would stop all progress. Put in plain language it 
means that there shall not be in the world any such thing as 
superior talent or attainment ; that every art and handicraft 
shall be reduced to the level of the commonest, most 
ignorant, and most stupid of the persons who belong to it." 1 

Such criticisms are beside the mark. A very slight 
acquaintance with Trade Unionism would have shown these 
writers that a uniform Standard Rate in no way implies 
equality of weekly wages, and has no such object. For 
good or for evil, the typical British workman is not by any 
means a Communist, and the Trade Union regulations are, 
as we shall see, quite free from any theoretic " yearnings for 
equal division of unequal earnings." 

The misapprehension arises from a confusion between 
the rate of payment and the amount actually earned by the 
workman. What the Trade Union insists on, as a necessary 
condition of the very existence of Collective Bargaining, is a 
Standard Rate of payment for the work actually performed. 
But this is consistent with the widest possible divergence 

in 1896, naively echoes the charge against the Trade Unions by implying that 
" they insist on the worst workman being paid as much as the best." Demo- 
cracy and Liberty, vol. ii. p. 385. 

1 Presidential Address of William Newmarch at Social Science Congress of 
1871 (Transactions of Social Science Association, 1871, p. 117). 



The Standard Rate 283 

between the actual weekly incomes of different workmen. 
Thus we have the significant fact that the Standard Rate 
insisted on by the great majority of Trade Unionists is, not 
any definite sum per hour, but a list of piecework prices. 
The extent to which these piecework lists prevail throughout 
the country is seldom realised. Even those who have heard 
of the elaborate tonnage rates of the Ironworkers, Steel- 
smelters, and Coalminers, and the complicated cotton lists, 
which together govern the remuneration of a fourth of the 
Trade Union world, often forget the innumerable other 
trades, in which (as with the Tailors, Bootmakers, Com- 
positors, Coopers, Basketmakers, Brushmakers) lists of prices, 
signed by employers and employed, and revised from time to 
time, date from the very beginning of the century. 1 When, 
as in all these cases, the Standard Rate takes the form of a 
schedule of piecework prices, it is clear that there can be no 
question of equalising the actual earnings of different work- 
men. One basketmaker or one coalminer may be earning 
two pounds a week, whilst another, receiving the same 
Standard Rate and working the same number of hours, 
may get less than thirty shillings ; and another, putting in 
only half-time, may have only ten or fifteen shillings for his 
week's income. 

Nor can it be assumed that in the industries in which 
the Trade Union rate is not based on piecework, but takes the 
form of a definite standard wage per hour, this necessarily 
implies equality of remuneration. Even where workmen in 
such trades put in the same number of hours, their weekly 
incomes will often be found to differ very materially. Thus, 
whilst ordinary plumbing, bricklaying, and masonry is paid 
for at uniform rates per hour, directly the job involves any 
special skill, the employer finds it advantageous to pay a 
higher rate, and the Trade Union cordially encourages this 
practice. The superior bricklayer, for instance, is seldom 

1 These piecework lists can now be conveniently studied in the admirable 
selection published by the Labor Department of the Board of Trade as Part II. 
of the Report on Wages and Hours of Labor, 1894 [C, 7567,-!]. 



Trade Union Function 

employed at the Standard Rate, but is always getting jobs 
at brick-cutting (or " gauge work "), furnace-building, or sewer 
construction, paid for at rates from ten to fifty per cent 
over the standard wage. In all industries we find firms with 
"special reputations for a high class of production habitually 
paying, with full Trade Union approval, more than the 
Trade Union rate, in order to attract to their establishment 
the most skilful and best conducted workmen. In other 
cases, where the employer rigidly adheres to the common 
rate, the superior workman finds his advantage, if not 
actually in higher money earnings, in more agreeable 
conditions of employment. In a large building the 
employer will select his best stonemasons to do the carving, 
an occupation not involving great exertion and consistent 
with an occasional pipe, whilst the common run of workmen 
will be setting stones under the foreman's eye. The best 
carpenters, when not earning extra rates for " staircasing " 
or " handrailing," will get the fine work which combines 
variety and lightness, and is done in the workshop, leaving 
to the rougher hands the laying down of flooring and other 
heavy mechanical tasks. These distinctions may seem 
trivial to the professional or business man, who to a large 
extent controls the conditions under which he works. But 
no workman fails to appreciate the radical difference in 
net advantageousness between two different jobs, one in- 
volving exposure to the weather, wear and tear of clothing, 
monotonous muscular exertion, and incessant supervision, 
and the other admitting a considerable share of personal 
liberty, agreeably diversified in character, and affording scope 
for initiative and address. Though there may be in such 
cases equality in the number of shillings received at the end 
of the week, the remuneration for the efforts and sacrifices 
actually made will have been at very different rates in the 
two cases. 

We do not wish to obscure the fact that a Standard 
Rate on a timework basis does, in practice, result in a nearer 
approach to uniformity of money earnings than a Standard 



The Standard Rate 289 

If he were paid by the hour or the day, he would need, in 
order to maintain the same rate of remuneration for the 
work done, to discover each day precisely to what degree 
the machinery was being " speeded up," and to be perpetually 
making demands for an increase in his time wages. Such 
an arrangement could not fail to result in the employer 
increasing the work faster than the pay. 

Under a system of payment by the amount of yarn spun, 
the operative automatically gets the benefit of any increase in 
the number of spindles or rate of speed. An exact uniformity 
of the rate of remuneration is maintained between man and 
man, and between mill and mill. If any improvement takes 
place in the process, by which the operative's labor is 
reduced, the onus of procuring a change in the rate of pay 
falls on the employer. The result is, that so effectually is 
the cotton-spinner secured by his piecework lists against 
being compelled to give more work without more pay, that 
it has been found desirable deliberately to concede to the 
employers, by lowering the rates as the number of spindles 
increases, some share of the resulting advantages, in order 
that the Trade Union may encourage enterprising mill-owners 
in the career of improvement. The cotton-weavers have a 
similar experience. The weaver's labor depends upon the 
character of the cloth to be woven, involving a complicated 
calculation of the number of " picks," etc. Time wages 
would leave them practically at the employers' mercy for all 
but the very easiest work. But by a highly technical and 
complex list of piecework rates, every element by which the 
labor is increased effects an exactly corresponding variation 
in the remuneration. Only under such a system could any 
uniformity of rate be secured. 

In another great class of cases piecework is preferred by 

machine, i.e. mental strain. Those who have observed the mulespinner in 
Oldham in the midst of the whirling of 2500 spindles, or the female worker in 
Burnley environed by four or six shuttles, working at the speed of 200 picks per 
minute, know what a higher degree of mental application is here demanded." 
The Cotton Trade in England and on the Continent t by Dr. G. von Schulze- 
Gaevernitz (London, 1895), pp. 126, 127. 

VOL. I U 



290 Trade Union Function 

the workmen, with the same object of securing a Standard 
Rate, but under entirely different conditions. The coal- 
miners have, in some counties, had a long experience of 
both time wages and piecework, with the result that, where- 
ever there is a strong Trade Union, piecework is insisted on for 
all hewers. The explanation is to be found in the circum- 
stances under which the work is done. Employers have 
found it impossible to supervise by foremen or managers the 
numerous hewers scattered in the recesses of the mine. The 
only possible alternative to paying the hewers at piecework 
rates, was to let out the different parts of the mine to 
working contractors, who engaged hewers by the hour to 
work alongside them. This was the notorious " Butty 
System," against which the organised hewers have persistently 
struggled. It was found that, whatever was the customary 
standard of daily time wages, the " Butty Master," who set 
the pace, was always increasing the quantity of work to be 
done for those wages by himself putting in ah unusual 
intensity of effort. It is obvious that, under this system, the 
ordinary hewer lost all security of a Standard Rate. It paid 
the Butty Master to be always " speeding up," because he 
received the product, not of his own extra exertion alone, 
but of that of all his gang. The only method by which the 
ordinary hewers could secure identity of rate was to dispense 
with the Butty Masters, and themselves work by the piece. 

We shall find exactly the same preference for piecework 
wages in other trades among men who work under a sub- 
contractor, or in subordination to another class of workmen 
paid by the piece. The strikers, for instance, who work with 
smiths paid by the piece, were themselves formerly paid time 
wages. In most parts of the country they have now been 
successful in obtaining the boon of a piecework rate pro- 
portionate to that of the smiths, so that they are secured 
extra remuneration for any extra spurt put on by the smith. 
Another large class of workmen in a somewhat similar 
position have not been so fortunate. The shipyard " helpers,' 
who work under the platers (iron-shipbuilders), are paid b} 



The Standard Rate 291 

the day, whilst the platers receive piecework rates. The 
first object of any combination of helpers has always been 
to secure piecework rates, in order that their remuneration 
might bear some proportion to the rapidity and intensity of 
work, the pace being set by the platers. But owing to the 
strength of the Boilermakers' Union, to which the platers 
belong, the helpers have never been able to attain their 
object. 1 The iron and steel industries afford numerous other 
instances in which workers paid by the day are in sub- 
ordination to workers paid by the piece. In all these cases, 
the subordinate workers desire to be paid by the piece, in 
order that they may secure a greater uniformity in the rate 
of payment for the work actually done. 

Coming now to the trades in which piecework is most 
strongly objected to by the operatives, we shall find the 
argument again turning upon the question of uniformity of 
the rate of remuneration. The engineers have always protested 
that the introduction of piecework into their trade almost 
necessarily implied a reversion to Individual Bargaining. The 
work of a skilled mechanic in an engineering shop differs 
from job to job in such a way as to make, under a piece- 
work system, a new contract necessary for each job. Each 
man, too, will be employed at an operation differing, if only 
in slight degree, from those of his fellows. If they are all 
working by the hour, a collective bargain can easily be made 
and adhered to. But where each successive job differs from 
the last, if only in small details, it is impossible to work out. 
in advance any list of prices to which all the men can agree 
to adhere. The settlement for each job must necessarily be 
left to be made between the foreman and the workman 
concerned. Collective Bargaining becomes, therefore, im- 
possible. But this is not all. The uncertainty as to the 

1 See, for the Boilermakers' or Platers' Helpers, the paper by J. Lynch, in 
the Report of the Industrial Remuneration Conference (London, 1885), and the 
discussion at the Trade Union Congress of 1878. Many of the helpers are now 
members of the National Amalgamated Union of Labor and other laborers' 
unions ; see the evidence given on their behalf before the Royal Commission on 
Labor, I7th May 1892, Group A. 



292 Trade Union Function 

time and labor which a particular job will involve makes 
it impossible for the foreman, with the best intentions in the 
world, to fix the prices of successive jobs so that the workman 
will obtain the same earnings for the same effort. And 
when we remember the disadvantage at which, unprotected 
by collective action, the individual operative necessarily 
stands in bargaining with the capitalist employer, we shall 
easily understand how the Amalgamated Society of Engineers 
should have been led to declare that, under this system of 
settling a special price for each job, " it is well known that 
piecework is not a bargain, but a price dictated by the 
employer and lowered at will." And the report adds that 
" the system has often been made the instrument of large 
reductions of wages, which have ended in the deterioration of 
the conditions of the workmen. ... If an expert workman, 
by his skill and industry, earns more than his neighbour, and 
much more than his daily wages come to, a reduction is at 
once made, and made again until eventually the most expert 
is only able, by intense application and industry, to earn a 
bare living, whilst the less skilful is reduced below living 
prices." l 

We could cite from the reports of the great national 
unions of the Engineers, Ironfounders, and Carpenters innu- 
merable similar protests against piecework in their trades, 
all based upon the proved impossibility of maintaining a 
Standard Rate, if each job has to be separately priced. It 

1 Abstract Report of the Council's (of the A. S. E.) Proceedings, September 
1860 to April 1862, pp. 24-26. 

This process of fixing a piecework rate for all the men, by the speed of an 
exceptionally expert workman under special pressure, has been more than once 
unconsciously revealed by employers. Already in 1727, in a manual entitled 
The Duty of a Steward to his Lord, by Edward Laurence, naive directions are 
given how to achieve this object. ' ' Also if any new sort of work is to be done, 
not mentioned in the following particulars, the Steward's best way is to hire a 
good labourer and to stand by him the whole day to see that he does a good day's 
work, and then to measure the same, in order to know what it is worth." The 
efficacy of piecework, as an expedient for reducing wages was described in a letter 
to the Times in 1852 by Charles Walker and Sons, an engineering firm. " When 
work which has been done daywork is put on the piece, the employer usually 
regulates the piecework price a little tinder the price of it at day-work, knowing 



The Standard Rate 293 

is, however, more interesting to watch the same conviction 
being gradually borne in upon the mind of an exceptionally 
able employer. In 1876, William Denny, the well-known 
Clyde shipbuilder, who had put his whole establishment on 
piecework rates, delivered a remarkable lecture on the 
advantages of this method of remuneration, alike to the 
employer and to the workmen, specially commending the 
intensity of competition which it secured. He was utterly 
unable to understand why the workmen objected to a system 
which, in giving an "increase of from 25 to 50 per cent in 
his wages and this increase my experience confirms as a 
rule puts at once within his power a more comfortable and 
easy style of living, combined with an opportunity of saving, 
which, if he is a sober and careful man, will enable him to 
enjoy a pleasant old age, and even to lay by sufficient money 
to enable him to refuse on his own account any rate of 
payment which he deems insufficient." l 

Notwithstanding all these allurements, the Trade 
Unions persisted in their objection. After ten years' further 
experience of the working of piecework, William Denny at 
last perceived the real root of the men's protest. In an 
interesting letter written in 1886 he describes his own 
conversion : 

At the time I published my pamphlet The Worth of Wages, I was 
under the impression piecework rates would regulate themselves as I 
then assumed time wages did. A larger experience of piecework has 
convinced me that, excepting in cases where rates can be fixed and made 

how production is increased by it. But he finds that men do work in quantity 
far beyond what they have been doing daywork, earning often los. per day, when 
at daywork they had done much less than half the work at 55. 6d. per day. So 
much, indeed, is this the case, that manufacturers have made it a private rule that 
men for their extra work should earn 'time and quarter' or 'time and third,' 
and have reduced the price accordingly ; that is, where 55. was the man's day pay, 
the price should be so arranged that ultimately he should earn 6s. 3d. or 6s. 8d. 
per day. This method we do not quite agree with, and we believe it has made 
men complain" (Times, Qth January 1852). Thus the employer not only gets 
the advantage of an increased output upon the same fixed capital, but actually 
contrives also insidiously to alter, to his own profit, the proportion between the 
muscular energy expended by the workman and the amount of food which the 
latter obtains. 

1 The Worth of Wages, by William Denny (Dumbarton, 1876). 



294 Trade Union Function 

a matter of agreement between the whole body of the men in any works 
and their employers, piecework prices have not a self-regulating power, 
and are liable, under the pressure of heavy competition, to be depressed 
below what I would consider a proper level. You must understand 
there is a broad and very real distinction in piecework between the kind 
of work which can be priced in regular rates and that in which contracts 
are taken by the men for lump jobs of greater or less extent. In the 
former kind of piecework it is easily possible for the rates to be effectively 
controlled by the joint efforts of the employers and the workpeople, as 
it is in the case of time wages. In the latter, owing to there being no 
definite standard, it is quite possible that the prices may be raised too 
high for competitive efficiency, or depressed to too low a point to recoup 
the workmen for the extra exertion and initiative induced by the very 
nature of piecework. In such work as that of rivetters, iron fitters, and 
platers and in much of carpenters' work standards of price or rates can 
be arranged or controlled, and the workers are not likely to endure any 
arrangement they may consider inequitable. They are indeed much 
more likely by insisting on uniform rates for a whole district to do 
injustice to the more intelligent and energetic employers, who, by 
introducing new machinery and new processes, are directly influential 
in drawing work to their districts. It is evident that if piecework rates 
are not reduced so as to make the improvements in machinery and 
methods introduced by such employers fully effective in diminishing cost 
of production, there will be a tendency on their part to abandon these 
attempts, with diminished chances of work for their districts. In the 
case of such improvements it is possible to reduce rates without in any 
way reducing the effective earnings of the work-people. I may say that 
in our own experience we have almost invariably found our workers 
quite willing to consider these points fairly and intelligently. Frequently 
they themselves make such suggestions as materially help us to reduce 
cost of production. Such cases of invention and helpfulness on their 
part are rewarded directly through our awards scheme of which you have 
particulars. 

In the second kind of piecework, involving contracts which cannot 
be arranged by rates and controlled by the whole body of the workers, 
the prices are necessarily a matter of settlement between individual 
workmen and small groups of workmen and their foreman. Here it 
depends upon the control exercised by the heads of the business whether 
this kind of piecework drifts into extravagances, or into such reductions 
of contract prices as either to reduce them to less than the value of time 
wages or to so little above time wages that they do not compensate the 
men for their extra exertions. We have found in testing such piecework 
that the best method is to compare the earnings made by these piece- 
workers in a given period with the time wages which they would have 
received for the same period ; and it is the duty of one of our partners 
to control this section of the work, and he does it almost invariably to 



The Standard Rate 295 

the advantage of the men. Our idea is that the men should be able to 
average from 25 to 50 per cent more wages on such piecework within 
a given time than their time wages would amount to. There are 
occasional and exceptional cases where the results are less or more 
favourable. Where they are less favourable, we consider them to be 
not only a loss to the men, but disadvantageous to ourselves ; and our 
reason for this is very clear, as unless the men feel that their exertions 
produce really better wages, and that increased exertions and better 
arrangements of work will produce still further increases of wages, there 
is an end to all stimulus to activity or improvement. 

I know an instance in which a well-meaning foreman, desirous of 
diminishing the cost of the work in his department, reduced his piece- 
work prices to such a point that he not only removed all healthy stimulus 
to activity from his workmen, but produced among them serious discon- 
tent. Our method of piecework analysis and control enabled us to 
discover and remedy this before serious disaffection had been produced. 
I know another instance in which a foreman, while avoiding the mistake 
I have just mentioned, gave out his contracts in such small and scattered 
portions, and under such conditions as to the way in which the work 
was to be done and as to the composition of the co-partneries formed 
by the men, that he not only reduced their earnings to very nearly time 
rates, but created very serious disaffection among them. He was in the 
habit of forcing the men to take into their co-partneries personal 
favourites of his own, who very naturally became burdens upon those 
co-partneries. As soon as our returns and inquiries revealed to us these 
facts, we insisted that the contracts entered into with the men should be 
of a sufficient money amount to enable them to organise themselves and 
their work efficiently. We removed the defective arrangements above 
referred to, and laid down the principle that their co-partneries were to 
be purely voluntary. We were enabled by these means, and without 
altering a single price, to at once raise their earnings from a level a little 
above what they could have made on time wages to a very satisfactory 
percentage of increase and to remove all discontent. These two in- 
stances will show you how necessary it is in this kind of piecework that 
there should be a direct control over those who are carrying it out. 
When the heads of a business are absentees or indifferent the most 
effective way in which the workmen can control such piecework would 
be by taking care that the standard of time wages was always kept 
perfectly clear and effective, and that regular comparisons per hour on 
piecework were made. Such comparisons would immediately enable 
them to arrive at a correct conclusion as to whether the prices paid them 
were sufficiently profitable. 

There is besides a mixed kind of piecework in which skilled work- 
men employ laborers at time wages to do the unskilled portion of their 
work for them, Here, too, some kind of control is required, as instances 
occasionally occur in which the skilled workmen treat their laborers, 



296 Trade Union Function 

either intentionally or unintentionally, with harshness. I have even 
known an instance in which such piecework contractors reduced their 
laborers' time wages on the pay day without having given them any 
previous notice. On the other hand, there are instances in which these 
laborers behaved in an unreasonable and unfair spirit to the skilled work- 
men who employ them. 

In conclusion, I would say that the method of piecework is one 
which cannot be approved or condemned absolutely, but is dependent 
upon the spirit and the way in which it is carried out for the verdict 
which should be passed upon it. It is imperative in such kinds of 
piecework as by their nature cannot be reduced to regular rates that 
either the employer should take the responsibility of safeguarding his 
workmen's interests, or that the workmen themselves should, by such a 
method as I have suggested, obtain an effective control over them. 

There are besides conditions in which even piecework rates of a 
general nature may become instruments of very great hardship. I mean 
instances in which the workers are incapable of effective resistance, and 
in which employers are either themselves ground down under the force 
of a competition with which they are unable to cope, or in which, while 
the employers possess extreme powers of position and capital, they are 
deficient in any corresponding sense of responsibility to their workpeople. 
I hope the day is not far distant in which an absentee employer would 
be looked upon with as much contempt and disapproval as are absentee 
landlords. If such a healthy public opinion should ever become domi- 
nant, it is to be hoped it will be most active in influencing those employers 
whose works are conducted in great part or wholly upon the piecework 
method. 1 

We have, in this able explanation, a frank admission of 
the whole case of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers 
against the introduction of piecework into their trade. No 
Trade Unionist could have expressed more forcibly than 
Denny has done the impossibility of a uniform rate under 
a system of individual piecework bargains. It is true that 
Denny trusted to the personal intervention of an enlightened 
and benevolent employer to mitigate the evil. But we need 
not wonder that the workmen have hesitated to admit a 
system which avowedly involves the complete surrender of 
their position. Moreover, it is at least doubtful whether the 
good employer, who protected his workmen against his own 

1 Life of William Denny, by A. B. Bruce (London, 1889), p. 113 ; see the 
article on Denny (who lived from 1847 to 1887) in the Dictionary of Political 
Economy. 



The Standard Rate 297 

foreman's zeal to lower the expense of production, would long 
survive in competition with his less scrupulous rivals, who 
drove the sharpest possible bargain with their hands. 

It is interesting to observe that the hint thrown out by 
William Denny, as to the importance of workmen systemati- 
cally checking all the piecework earnings by the standard 
time rate, has since been followed up by the Amalgamated 
Society of Engineers. In some cases, piecework is now 
recognised by the union, even in highly organised districts, 
on the understanding that every man in the shop shall draw 
every week time and a quarter wages, ivhatever his production 
has been. If at the end of a job there is a balance due to 
him, he is allowed to receive it. Now, it is obvious that 
under this arrangement it is possible to maintain something 
like a uniform rate. The natural tendency of the foreman 
to reduce the rates is checked by his knowledge, first, that in 
no case will it profit him to make the piecework price work 
out at less than time and a quarter, even for the slowest men 
in the shop ; and secondly, that, unless the piecework prices 
work out sufficiently above that minimum to furnish a real 
incentive for extra exertion, the operatives, secure in any 
event of time and a quarter wages, would quietly drop back 
to time-work speed. Such a method of remuneration can- 
not, however, be classed as piecework proper. It is rather a 
high scale of time wages, with a bonus on extra output. 1 

The considerations which converted William Denny 
from his enthusiasm for competitive piecework apply, not 
only to the various departments of the engineering and ship- 
building trades, but also to the work of carpenters, plumbers, 
stonemasons, and bricklayers. In all these trades there is so 
much difference between job and job that piecework is 
inconsistent with Collective Bargaining. The work of the 
plumber engaged to lay pipes, of varying sizes, in all kinds 
of situations, can obviously be estimated only by the time 

1 For other varieties of "bonus on output," see the acute discriminations of 
Mr. D. F. Schloss in The Methods of Industrial Remuneration, 2nd ed. (London, 
1894). 



298 Trade Union Function 

employed. The masons, chiselling stones of varied hardness, 
different shapes, and more or less free from troublesome 
flaws, could not possibly frame a list of piecework rates 
which would yield identical wage to identical effort. The 
same is true of the multifarious work of the carpenter and 
joiner. When we come to the actual erection of houses, in 
brick or stone, it may, at first sight, seem as if uniformity 
was more possible. But if we watch the line of bricklayers 
or stonemasons working side by side at building a wall, or 
putting up the carcase of a house, we shall see that it would 
be impossible precisely to reckon up the work accomplished 
by any individual among them. Nor has this ever been 
attempted by the most exacting employer. " Piecework," in 
putting up walls or houses, has, indeed, been the subject of 
long and bitter controversy among the bricklayers. But 
piecework in this trade has always meant, not the payment 
of each individual workman by the piece, but the letting out 
of a sub-contract for the whole job to a " piecemaster," who 
gets it done by bricklayers at time wages. This system of 
sub-contract, mistermed " piecework " to the confusion of 
outsiders, is objected to for the same reason as the coal- 
miners allege against the " Butty System." The working 
sub-contractor forces the pace in order to gain the advantage, 
not of his own extra exertion alone, but also that of his 
gang. It is, in fact, a fraudulent attempt to obtain piece- 
work exertion whilst paying only time wages. And as the 
system, in the opinion of the experts, almost inevitably tends 
to the " scamping " of the work by the sub-contractor or piece- 
master, it has long since been given up by respectable builders, 
and is now usually prohibited in architects' specifications. 

In marked contrast with the Trade Unions, such as the 
Cotton Operatives and Coalminers, which insist on piece- 
work, and with those, such as the Bricklayers and Stone- 
masons, which insist on timework, stand those societies which 
accept with seeming indifference either method of remunera- 
tion. The various Trade Unions of the compositors, in all 
parts of the country, have, for over a century, formally 



The Standard Rate 299 

recognised both the " scale " of piecework rates and the 
" stab " or time wages. In the numerous revisions of the 
collective agreements between employers and employed, the 
compositors have constantly striven to maintain a standard 
rate. " Speaking generally," reports the Revision Sub- 
Committee to the London Society of Compositors in 1890, 
" our desire has been to so amend the scale as to place all 

>mpositors as far as possible on an equality, no matter what 
;lass of work they may be engaged upon, or whether employed 
is piece or 'stab hands allowance, of course, being made for 

le varying capabilities of those employed." l Although the 

rork of a compositor includes many different varieties, these, 
unlike certain engineering operations, are all capable of fairly 
>recise enumeration in a " scale" extending to between 30 and 
40 pages octavo. Thus, piecework is in no way inconsistent 
with Collective Bargaining, or the maintenance of a Standard 
Rate, and is therefore not objected to. On the other hand, 
the compositor is not liable to be " speeded up," nor yet over- 
Iriven by machinery or a zealous foreman, so that there is no 
ison to object to time wages, if the employer prefers this 

'stem. 2 As a matter of fact most straightforward setting-up 

1 Report of Sub- Committee appointed to revise the London Scale of Prices, 
[890. 

2 The system of payment by the piece was apparently universal in British 
printing offices in the eighteenth century. The introduction of "establishment," 
or time wages, was an innovation of the employers at the beginning of the present 
century, consented to by the operatives with much reluctance, and denounced by 
some of them as leading to reduction of rates. (See Place MSS. 27,799-99/103.) 
The acceptance of both systems of remuneration has involved the enactment of 
various subsidiary rules to check unfair wages calculated to depress rates. Thus 
employers are not allowed to change from one system to another without due 
notice, as otherwise the operative would be required to do all difficult composition 
by the piece, the "fat" (or profitable work) being given out at time wages. 
Elaborate arrangements are made for the fair distribution of " the fat," the 
"clicker" who hands out the "copy" to the different compositors being 
appointed and frequently paid by the "chapel," the ancient organisation of the 
workmen in each printing office. Many disputes have arisen from employers 
attempting to withhold "the fat" from the piecework compositors; or, on the 
other hand, to use the pieceworkers to force the pace of the timeworkers. 
Compositors' unions therefore prefer that the employer should confine himself to 
one system or the other. 

In 1876 a joint committee of the Glasgow master printers and their com- 
positors decided that the "clicking system," or fair sharing of the "fat," was 



3OO Trade Union Function 

of ordinary book matter and daily newspaper work is done 
by the piece, whereas corrections and special jobs difficult of 
calculation are done by " stab " men. 

The other leading instance of an impartial acceptance 
of both piecework and time wages is offered by the United 
Society of Boilermakers and Iron-shipbuilders. Here the 
bulk of the work in building new ships is done by the piece, 
at rates settled, as we have already mentioned, between the 
district committee of the union and the particular firms or 
the local employers' association. On the other hand, repair- 
ing work, which cannot be classified in advance, is done at 
time wages. Thus the by-laws for the Mersey district 
declare that " piecework of any description is not allowed on 
repair jobs in either wet or dry docks ; and no man shall be 
in any way compelled to put in any given number of rivets, 
or tasked as to other work, which he shall do during the 
day ; but in all cases, the principle of a fair day's work for 
a fair day's pay be faithfully and honorably carried out by 
every member of this Association." l We see the same 
distinction unconsciously influencing another trade, the Tin- 
plate Workers, who, less fortunate than the Boilermakers, 
have not succeeded in organising their whole trade into a 
single society. The General Union of Tinplate Workers, 
with Liverpool for its headquarters, whose work is mainly 
connected with shipbuilding, and is so diverse as to render it 
difficult, if not impossible, to construct any piecework list, 
insists on time wages. On the other hand, the National 
Amalgamated Tinplate Workers' Union, with its headquarters 
at Wolverhampton, which comprises mainly the artificers 
of sheet metal pots and pans, has a regular list of prices, and 
prefers to work by the piece. So closely does this difference 
of policy coincide with difference of work that the Manchester 
Branch of the General Union (the shipyard society), which 

equivalent to an addition to a farthing per 1000, this advance being conceded to 
the compositors in shops where that system did not prevail. MS. Minutes of 
Glasgow Typographical Society, I2th December 1876. 

1 By-laws for the Mersey District United Society of Boilermakers and Iron- 
shipbuilders (Liverpool, 1889). 



The Standard Rate 301 

finds itself by exception employed in the fashioning of pots 
and pans, refuses to abide by the principle of time work 
followed by the port branches, and elects to work by the 
piece. In both cases the aim is the same, namely the main- 
tenance of a Standard Rate. But the difference of policy 
between the two societies, arising, as can be seen, from the 
difference in their respective tasks, is not clearly understood 
by either, and is the subject of constant friction between 
lem. And so it happens that (forgetting the example of 
its own Manchester Branch) the General Union of Tin- 
plate Workers accuses the National Amalgamated Tinplate 
Corkers' Union of betraying the central position of Trade 
Unionism by not insisting on time wages. On the other 
ind, the latter society, confident in its piecework lists, sees 
10 reason why it should not establish branches of piece- 
workers in the ports, where time work has hitherto prevailed, 
ind where piecework would probably break down all Collec- 
ive Bargaining. 

This instance indicates how unconscious particular Trade 
Unions may be of the principles upon which their empirical 
iction has really been based. The same unconsciousness 
>metimes leads to a persistence in whichever method of 
remuneration has been customary, long after the circum- 
tances have changed. Thus the Cabinetmakers, among 
whom Collective Bargaining in any elaborate form has prac- 
tically disappeared, might possibly have maintained their 
>rganisation if they had, like the Bricklayers and Stone- 
lasons, insisted on reverting to time wages. At the begin- 
ning of this century, the Cabinetmakers had elaborate lists 
of prices, collectively agreed to between employers and 
employed ; and we have ample evidence of the efficiency 
with which the contemporary cabinetmakers' unions conducted 
their Collective Bargaining. In consequence of the great 
changes in and multiplication of patterns, and the alteration 
of processes, the lists have long since been obsolete, and no 
one has yet found it possible to classify the innumerable jobs 
now involved in the manufacture of furniture. " Estimate 



302 Trade Union Function 

work,"" lump work," and other forms of the individual bargain 
accordingly prevail. So strong, however, has been the tradi- 
tion and custom of piecework in the trade that none of the 
various unions which have from time to time arisen during 
the last half century have been able to stand out for time 
wages. Collective action accordingly now seldom rises higher 
than the " shop bargain," and even this frequently breaks 
down. 

Another instance of a customary adherence to a tradi- 
tional method of remuneration is to be found in the Iron- 
founders' and Engineers' rigid refusal to recognise piecework 
even on those jobs which involve the constant repetition of 
precisely the same operation. We have already explained 
why the bulk of the work in an engineering shop cannot be 
done at piecework rates consistently with Collective Bargain- 
ing. But with the enormous expansion of the trade, and the 
application of machinery to particular processes, a considerable 
section of engineers and " machine moulders " have long found 
themselves turning out a constant succession of identical 
articles for which it would be quite practicable to frame a 
uniform piecework list which would allow of Collective 
Bargaining. So strong, however, was the traditional feeling 
of the mechanics against piecework (meaning " estimate work " 
and Individual Bargaining) that the Amalgamated Society 
of Engineers positively refused, down to 1892, to allow any 
employer to introduce any piecework whatsoever, with the 
consequence that establishment after establishment became 
closed to the union. At last, at their quinquennial " Parlia- 
ment "in 1892, the Engineers decided to permit the formation 
of piecework lists, in the cases in which they were practicable, 
and appointed salaried officers to carry out this new form of 
Collective Bargaining. The Friendly Society of Ironfounders 
still refuses to take this step, with the result that the auto- 
matic machine process of casting has fallen to a separate 
class of workmen, who are not eligible for membership to 
this old-established union. 

We are now in a position to come to some general con- 



The Standard Rate 303 

elusion as to the attitude which Trade Unions take up with 
regard to piecework and time work. It is not true that 
Trade Unions object to piecework as such ; in fact, a majority 
of Trade Unionists either willingly accept, or else positively 
insist on, that system of remuneration. Nor is it true that 
employers universally prefer piecework. The members of 
the great race of sub-contractors in all industries are always 
trying to employ time workers, in order to obtain for them- 
selves the fullest possible advantage of their own driving 
power. In the same way, employers whose machinery is 
rapidly improving complain of the inequity of the piecework 
system, as being apt to deprive them of part of the advantage 
of an increase in the speed of working. What the capitalist 
seeks is to get more work for the old pay. Sometimes this 
can be achieved best by piecework, sometimes by time work. 
Workmen, on the other hand, strive to obtain more pay for 
the same number of working hours. For the moment, at 
any rate, the individual operative can most easily secure this 
by piecework. But not even for the sake of getting more 
pay for the same number of hours' work will the experienced 
workman revert to the individual bargain, with all its dangers. 
Accordingly the Trade Unions accept piecework only when 
it is consistent with Collective Bargaining, that is, when a 
standard list of prices can be arrived at between the em- 
ployers on the one hand, and the representatives of the whole 
body of workmen on the other. As a matter of fact this is 
practicable, so far as concerns anything above mere unskilled . 
laboring, in a majority of the organised industries, in which, 
therefore, piecework prevails by consent of both masters and 
men. It is, indeed, impossible to decide whether Trade 
Unionism has, on the whole, favored or discouraged the 
substitution of piecework for time wages. On the one hand, 
every increase in Trade Union organisation, and especially 
every extension of the class of salaried Trade Union officials, 
has made more possible the arrangement of definite piecework 
lists. This process is now extending from trade to trade. 
The very establishment of these lists has, on the other hand, 



304 Trade Union Function 

lessened the employers' desire to introduce piecework, whilst 
to any method of remuneration involving individual bargain- 
ing, such as " estimate " or " lump " work, the Trade Unions 
have shown implacable hostility. 

And just as the fundamental idea of the Standard Rate 
has enabled us to understand the Trade Union attitude 
towards piecework, so, too, we shall find it throwing light 
upon various minor regulations of particular Trade Unions. 
Various unions of operatives working at time wages have from 
time to time attempted to secure a real, as distinguished from 
a nominal identity in the rate of remuneration, by fixing, not 
merely the minimum money wage, but also the maximum 
amount of work to be done for that wage. Some of these 
rules have obtained notoriety as classic instances of the folly 
and perversity of Trade Unions. The fifth by-law of the 
Bradford Lodge of the Laborers' Union of 1867 was quoted 
before the Trade Union Commission as follows : " You are 
strictly cautioned not to outstep good rules by doing double 
the work you are required, and causing others to do the same, 
in order to gain a smile from the master." l And the fol- 
lowing rule of the Leeds Lodge of the Bricklayers' Laborers' 
Union was at the same time given : " Any brother in the 
Union professing to carry any more than the common 
number, which is eight bricks, shall be fined one shilling, to 
be paid within one month, or remain out of the benefit until 
such fine be paid." 2 Nor were such rules entirely confined 
to unskilled laborers. The Manchester Bricklayers' Associ- 
ation were stated, in 1869, to have a rule providing that 
" Any man found running or working beyond a regular speed 
shall be fined 2s. 6d. for the first offence, 5s. for the second, 
I os. for the third, and if still persisting, shall be dealt with 
as the Committee think proper." 3 The Friendly Society of 
Operative Stonemasons adopted, in 1865, the following rule : 

1 Evidence of Mr. A. Mault, Secretary of the Manchester Builders' Associa- 
tion.^ Q. 3120. 

Ibid. Q. 3122. 
3 \V. T. Thornton, On Labour (London, 1869), pp. 350, 351. 



The Standard Rate 305 

" In localities where that most obnoxious and destructive 
system generally known as ' chasing ' is persisted in, lodges 
should use every effort to put it down. Not to take less 
time than that taken by an average mason in the execution 
of the first portion of each description of work is the practice 
that should be adopted among us as much as possible ; and 
where it is plainly visible that any member or other in- 
dividual is striving to overwork or * chase ' his fellow-work- 
men, thereby acting in a manner calculated to lead to the 
discharge of members or a reduction of their wages, the party 
so acting shall be summoned before the lodge, and if the 
charge be satisfactorily proved a fine shall be inflicted." 1 

These and similar regulations, widely advertised by the 
Trade Union Commission of 1867-69, met with universal 
condemnation. It does not seem to have been perceived 
that, however bad were their secondary results, they were, in 
their inception, a necessary protection of any Standard Rate 
upon a time-work basis. It is a necessary incident of the 
collective bargain that one man should not underbid another ; 
and this underbidding can as easily take place by the offer 
of more work for the same hour's wage, as by the offer of 
the normal amount of work for a lower hourly wage. By 
underbidding in the hourly rate, this would be lowered for 
all. It follows equally that by underbidding in point of the 
intensity of effort, this would, in the same way, soon be 
raised for all. But the workmen's by-laws were designed 
also to meet a more insidious attack. Many pushing fore- 
men, in building contracts, intent on getting the utmost work 
out of their men, were accustomed to bribe particular work- 
men with beer, or by the promise of a slightly increased rate 
of pay, to work at exceptional speed, with the object of 
"pulling on" all the other workmen to the same speed. 
These " bell horses," as they were termed by the workmen, 
were, in fact, used to increase the intensity of the work be- 
yond the normal standard tacitly implied in the collective 

1 Rule n, Class 2, p. 31, in Laws of the Friendly Society of Operative 
Stonemasons (Bolton, 1867). 

VOL. I X 



306 Trade Union Function 

bargain, much in the same way as the pieceworking Butty 
Master forced the speed of the time-working coal hewer. 
The practice was, in fact, a method of obtaining extra work 
from the whole gang, whilst paying only one or two men in 
the gang for the extra exertion involved. When done with- 
out the men's knowledge, the practice amounted to a fraudu- 
lent evasion of the bargain. 

Such practices on the part of employers and their foremen 
would quickly have rendered a Standard Rate and Collective 
Bargaining impossible, and it was not unnatural that the 
workmen should have adopted regulations in their own de- 
fence. The coal hewers and the strikers, exposed, as we have 
seen, to being similarly " driven," met the attack by insisting 
on themselves receiving piecework rates. The cotton-spinners 
and cotton-weavers protected themselves against the constant 
" speeding up " of the machinery by elaborating their piece- 
work lists. The builder's laborer whose fetch and carry 
work could hardly be paid by the piece could find no other 
expedient than fixing by collective agreement the maximum 
task as well as the minimum wage. 

But if the use of " bell horses " is a fraud on the men, 
the regulations devised to check this practice may easily 
work out so as to be a fraud on the employer. He has, in 
effect, contracted for his labor at an all-round rate, on the 
assumption that he receives a normal average of work. In 
the group of workmen there will, of course, be some of 
average speed, together with a few quicker men, and a few 
slower. Any regulations which tend to restrict the quick 
workers necessarily lower the average of the whole, upon 
which the collective bargain has by implication been based. 

This practice of " levelling down " the quantity of labor 
is seen at its worst when it is used as a weapon not of 
defence but of aggression. It is one thing to prohibit indi- 
vidual workmen from allowing themselves to be used as a 
means of exacting unpaid extra labor from their fellows. It 
would be quite another matter if Trade Unions, unable to 
raise the sum of their wages, advocated to all their members 



The Standard Rate 307 

an insidious diminution of their energy without notice to the 
employer. This might be as much a fraudulent alteration of 
the implied bargain as the practice of the Butty Master. We 
know of one case of this nature, the so-called " go canny" 
policy, adopted for a short time by the National Union of 
Dock Laborers in Liverpool. The employers had stead- 
fastly refused to increase the remuneration for their low-paid 
work, and the men found themselves powerless to obtain 
what they considered a living wage. In desperation they 
adopted the expedient of not putting any energy into their 
work. In this somewhat remarkable case the laborers 
alleged that they were only following the practice of the 
commercial man. " There is no ground for doubting," observed 
the report of their executive committee, " that the real rela- 
tion of the employer to the workman is simply this to secure 
the largest amount of the best kind of work for the smallest 
wages ; and, undesirable as this relation may be to the work- 
man, there is no escape from it except to adopt the situation 
and apply it to the common-sense commercial rule which 
provides a commodity in accordance with the price. . . . The 
employer insists upon fixing the amount he will give for 
an hour's labor without the slightest consideration for the 
laborer ; there is, surely, therefore, nothing wrong in the 
laborer, on the other hand, fixing the amount and the 
quality of the labor he will give in an hour for the price 
fixed by the employer. If employers of labor or purchasers 
of goods refuse to pay for the genuine article^ they must be 
content with shoddy and veneer. This is their own orthodox 
doctrine which they urge us to study." x 

From the old standpoint of a purely competitive indi- 
vidualism, it is not easy to deny the men's right to sell an 
adulterated form of labor if they think it to their advantage 

1 Report of Executive of the National Union of Dock Laborers in Great Britain 
and Ireland, 1891 (Glasgow, 1891, pp. 14-15). The men quoted the following 
sentence from Jevons's Primer of Political Economy : " The employer, generally 
speaking, is right in getting work done at the lowest possible cost ; and if there 
is a supply of labor forthcoming at lower rates of wages, it would not be wise in 
him to pay higher rates." 



308 Trade Union Function 

to do so. If, as in the instance cited, the men openly pro- 
claim their intention, there is no question of fraud ; and they 
may, from this point of view, fairly claim to be acting like 
an exceptionally honest trader who, whilst selling shoddy 
goods, does not pretend that they are anything else. The 
employers may retaliate by dismissal. The men may, in 
return, persuade their successors to adopt the same method. 
The quarrel becomes a " struggle for existence," in which 
the " fittest " in these arts of war may survive. 

We have, however, come to believe that in such inter- 
necine struggles the interests of the community as a whole 
almost inevitably suffer. In spite of the protests of John 
Bright, successive Parliaments have prohibited the adultera- 
tion of commodities. But adulteration of labor is infinitely 
more injurious to the community. We have, in fact, in this 
case a striking illustration of the utter fallacy of the statement 
that " labor is a commodity, ... an article saleable and pur- 
chaseable," which could not logically be treated " as any- 
thing else." l We cannot separate the quantity or quality of 
the day's work from its effect upon the health and character of 
the human being who is rendering it. The sub-contractor's 
practice of " driving," the constant pressure upon a man to 
work always at the very top of his speed, will quickly break 
down the health of the worker, and impoverish the nation by 
producing premature old age. On the other hand, systematic 
loitering will destroy the character and efficiency of even the 
most resolute worker. In adulterating the product, you 
adulterate the man. To the unskilled laborers of a great 
city, already demoralised by irregularity of employment and 
reduced below the average in capacity for persistent work, 
the doctrine of " go canny" may easily bring about the final 
ruin of personal character. It was an instinctive apprecia- 
tion of this truth which led the responsible Trade Union 
officials unhesitatingly to denounce the new departure of the 

1 Speech of the well-known capitalist opponent of Trade Unions, Edmund 
Potter of Manchester, Social Science Association's Report on Trade Societies and 
Strikes, 1860, p. 603. 



The Standard Rate 309 

Liverpool dock laborers. It remains, so far as we know, a 
unique instance in Trade Union annals. l 

When we turn from time workers to pieceworkers, we 
find the subsidiary regulations called into being to defend the 
Standard Rate wholly free from any objectionable character, 
beyond a certain inevitable complexity. The first series of 
these is concerned with accuracy of measurement. Employers 
have always claimed the right of making, by their agents or 
themselves, all the calculations involved in preparing their 
pay sheets, and they have expected the operatives implicitly 
to accept their figures. Against this contention the Trade 
Unions have persistently and successfully struggled. In all 
the cases in which the operative is unable easily to check 
the computation, it is obvious that such an arrangement left 
the Standard Rate entirely at the master's mercy. " In weigh- 
ing how was the collier to obtain justice ? He was at the 
bottom of the pit, and could not see the master's nominee at 
the top and so again there arose the cry of being cheated 
in weight. For years this was a bone of contention ; and 
in revising the Inspections (Mines Regulation) Act of 1860, 
the delegates of the men prevailed upon the Government to 
insert a clause, ordering that coal should be duly weighed 
by a just steelyard at the pit's mouth, and that the men 
might, at their own cost, appoint a checkweigh-man who 
should not further interfere with the working but to see and 
take an account of the men's work. Opposition to this clause 
was strongly offered by the delegates of the employers . . . 
the masters did not want a weighing clause at all. ... A 
compromise was submitted to. The weighing clause was 
incorporated with another clause the 2Qth with a rider 

1 It is only fair to Trade Union officials to say that the two enthusiasts who, 
in despair of otherwise benefiting the unfortunate laborers, initiated this policy, 
did not belong to the ranks of the workmen a fact which the reader of their 
able and ingenious argument will already have perceived. They were shortly 
afterwards formally excluded, as middle-class men, from the Trade Union Con- 
gress at Glasgow in 1892. When, in 1896, it was suggested that a similar policy 
should be adopted by the International Federation of Ship, Dock, and River 
Workers, it was opposed by such leaders as Ben Tillett, and rejected by the 
members' vote. 



310 Trade Union Function 

added to it by the employers, viz. that the checkweigh-man 
should be selected from persons employed at that colliery." 1 

Without casting any special imputation on coalowners, 
it may be said that the miners' suspicions have been so far 
borne out by evidence that Parliament has progressively 
strengthened the clause thus adopted in 1860. As the law 
now stands, a simple majority of the miners in any one pit 
can decide to have a checkweigh-man elected by the pit, and 
paid by a compulsory stoppage from the earnings of every 
pieceworker employed, including even those who voted against 
the proposal. Any person who is or has been a miner may 
be elected to the post, whether the employer likes it or not, 
and the law courts insist that he shall be allowed free access 
to the weighing machines, and given every facility for check- 
ing the weights. 

A further step in the same direction has been taken at 
the instance of the powerful unions of cotton operatives. 
What the coal miners have obtained is the right to have the 
employers' calculations checked by the men's official. The 
textile operatives have obtained, not only the publication in 
advance by the employer of the exact particulars on which 
he will calculate the piecework earnings, but have also secured 
the appointment of a Government officer specially charged 
with seeing that these particulars are correctly stated. 2 The 
"particulars clause," adopted for cotton -weavers in the 
Factory Act of the Conservative Government of 1891, and 
extended to all textile workers by the amending Act of the 
Liberal Government of 1895, will, in all probability, be 
applied, within a few years, to all piecework trades in which 
the computation of earnings lends itself to mistake or fraud. 8 

1 Transactions and Results of the National Association of Coal, Lime, and 
Ironstone Miners of Great Britain (London, 1863), p. vii. 

2 It is much to the credit of the North-East Lancashire Operative Weavers' 
Association, and to the fair-mindedness of the leading employers, that the veteran 
official of the weavers' union, who had for a generation fought the men's battles, 
was, by common consent, marked out as the fittest person to hold this important 
new office. Mr. T. Birtwistle has fully justified his appointment, and has given 
universal satisfaction to all parties. 

3 The Factory Act of 1895 empowers the Home Secretary to apply this 



The Standard Rate 311 

By this clause the employer is required to state in writing, 
before the job is begun, all the particulars (including the rate 
of payment) required for the precise computation of the 
operatives' earnings. 

But there are other ways of defrauding the pieceworker 
besides inaccurate calculations. The weight of coal hewn by 
each miner may be accurately measured at the pit's mouth, 
but if he is sent to work in a distant or difficult seam, the 
standard tonnage rate may be very far from securing identical 
pay for identical effort. The cotton-spinner finds his list of 
prices a delusion if his mules have to be frequently stopped 
to repair breakages caused by the bad quality of the raw 
cotton. And even those who are aware of the coalminers' 
" county basis," and of the elaborate " cotton lists," seldom 
realise how technical and how minute are the adjustments 
which are necessary to attain this end, or how manifold and 
incessant are the complaints requiring attention. The best 
way of bringing the facts home to the general reader will, 
we think, be to give a few extracts from actual proceedings. 
Thus, the Joint Committee of the Northumberland Coal- 
owners and Miners settled, in a single day, the following as 
well as many other cases : 

Burradon. Agreement confirmed. Yard Seam, East Side, until 
end of current quarter, is. 7^d. per ton ; afterwards is. 6jd. per ton. 

Cramlington, Amelia Pit. Agreement confirmed : (a) Yankee Jack 
system shall be abolished whenever the owners find it convenient to do 
so, and upon such abolition the hewing prices in the Low Main and Yard. 
Seams shall be advanced 9 per cent. In the case of the Main Coal 
Seam the unscreened hewing prices shall be 63 per cent of the present 
round coal hewing prices, and upon such abolition they shall be advanced 
9 per cent. 

Walker. Agreement confirmed. Beaumont and Brockwell Seams. 
Long wall or broken hewing price shall be paid when 40 yards from 
commencement of long wall, i.e. 40 yards from fast wall side. 

New Backworth. Men request payment for lamps when required to 
use them in the whole. To be paid extra id. per ton in bord and pillar 

clause, by mere administrative order, to any piecework trade, and it was so 
applied in 1897 to manufacturies of handkerchiefs, aprons, pinafores, and blouses ; 
and to those of chains, anchors, and locks. 



312 Trade Union Function 

whole workings, in accordance with county arrangement, when required 
to use lamps. 

Seaton Burn. Owners desire hewing price for long wall in Bowes' 
coal in Low Main Seam to be fixed. That standard prices now being 
paid be reduced 3d. per ton. 1 

Even more diversified are the adjustments of the cotton 
operatives. Here are some extracts from the diary of the 
secretary of the Bolton spinners : 

January 5th, 1892. Mr. Pennington, of the Hindley Twist Com- 
pany, Hindley, called here this morning. He agreed to weekly pays, 
and to discontinue the system of one spinner to two pairs of mules. I 
am to go through the mills on Monday next, and if spinning is not satis- 
factory, will be made so ; and we are to see in what way the mules can 
be speeded up so as to give better wages. Work is to be resumed on 
Thursday morning. 

January 6th. Went to Peake's Place Mill (Messrs. Tristram's), 
Halliwell, and arranged that the men on the three pairs of mules 
spinning coarse counts shall receive 2s. 6d. a week extra, until certain 
alterations and repairs to the mules shall have been made. 

January 6th. Accompanied by Mr. Percival (the secretary of the 
employers' association), I went to Mr. Robert Briercliffe's Mill, Moses 
Gate. They have no less rims in stock, so it was agreed that the prices 
per 100 Ibs. for spinning in No. I Mill shall be increased 6d. for one 
month during which the work is to be made satisfactory. The firm 
have likewise conceded the request of their men, and will adopt payment 
by indicator. The notice to leave work is consequently withdrawn. 

January 8th. Complaints are to hand from Messrs. M'Connell and 
Co.'s Sedgwick Mill, Manchester, of bobbins breaking ; being short of 
doffing tins ; and of the men on six pairs of mules being unable to earn 
the basis wages. 

January 1 2th. From our men at Waterloo Mill, Bolton, comes a 
complaint of the rooms being too cold, and also irregular running of the 
engine. 

January iQth. Have tested the counts at Melrose Mill, and found 
the average 2^ hanks wrong. The men are to leave work at breakfast 
time to-morrow if counts are not put right. 

April 7th, 1893. Mr. Percival and myself, at the request of Messrs. 
James Marsden and Sons, went through their No. 4 Mill to look at the 
spinning on the counts complained of on Tuesday. We found it below 
the usual standard at this firm, and Mr. Joseph Marsden undertook to 
see to its rectification. 

1 Proceedings of Joint Committee on I4th November 1891 (Northumberland 
Miners' Minutes t 1891). 



The Standard Rate 313 

April loth. Want of window blinds is the complaint from our men 
at the Parkside Mill, Golborne. 

April 1 8th. Our members at Messrs. Robert Haworth, Ltd., Castle 
Hill Mill, Hindley, complain of the overbearing conduct of their over- 
looker. On investigation, found that they were more to blame than 
the overlooker. 

May Qth. The drosophore humidifier at Robin Hood, No. 2 Mill, 
is so detrimental to the health of the men that I am to request the firm 
not to use it further. 

June 1 2th. Mr. Percival, Mr. Robinson, and myself went to Howe- 
bridge Mills to test counts in No. 2 Mill. We found them fully one 
hank finer than are paid for. The firm promise to put them right, but 
that is not sufficient for us, as they will be wrong again before the week 
end. We suggested they should adopt payment by indicator, and the 
firm subsequently agreed to try a few pairs. 1 

We see the same determination to obtain identical pay- 
ment for identical effort in the Trade Union regulations 
enforcing specific additions for extra exertion or incon- 
venience. Hence the " Working Rules," drawn up in almost 
every town by the master builders and the several sections 
of building operatives, include, besides the standard rate 
for the normal hours and ordinary work, determinate charges 
for " walking time " beyond a certain distance, and " lodging 
money " when sent away from home. 2 In trades in which ^ 
men provide their own steel tools, " grinding money " is a 
usual extra. 8 When any class of work involves special un- 
pleasantness or injury to clothing, " black money " or " dirty 
money " is sometimes stipulated for. Thus, the boilermakers 
and engineers receive extra rates for jobs connected with 
oil-carrying vessels. " Men working inside the ballast-tanks or 
between the deep floors under the engine-beds, after the vessel 
has been regularly employed at sea, to receive one quarter 

1 These diaries are printed in the Annual Reports of the Bolton Operative 
Cotton-spinners' Provincial Association. 

2 See, for instance, the Local Code of Rules for the Guidance of Masons, 
signed by the Central Association of Master Builders of London and the Friendly 
Society of Operative Stonemasons, 2$rd June 1892. 

3 " Pattern-makers, millwrights, and machine joiners on dismissal must receive 
two hours' notice, so as to grind their tools, or be paid two hours in lieu thereof." 
London By-laws of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, April 1894, clause iv. 
Rule vi. p. 7. 



314 Trade Union Function 

day, or two and a quarter hours extra for each full day or night, 
as compensation for the very dirty work." ] The foregoing are 
all instances of "extras" charged by Trade Unions of time- 
workers. But we find a similar list put forward by Trade 
Unions on a piecework basis. The National Union of Boot 
and Shoe Operatives prescribes, in minute and technical 
detail, for a long list of extra pieces of work, to be specially 
paid for. And a large part of the length and complication 
of the well-known " scale " of the Compositors is due to their 
insistence on explicitly defined extra rates for every kind 
of composition involving more labor than " common matter." 
It is impossible to convey any adequate idea of the number 
and variety of the " extras " thus formally agreed to between 
employers and employed : " bottom notes," " side notes," 
" under runners," " small chases," " large pages," " pamphlets," 
" catalogues," " undisplayed broadsheets," " table work," 
" column work," "parallel matter," "split fractions," "superiors," 
" inferiors," " slip matter," " interlinear matter," " prefatory 
matter," " indices," " appendices," and what not. Finally, as 
if to discourage vain learning, Hebrew, Arabic, and Syriac, 
and similar languages, together with " pedigrees," are " to be 
paid double the price of common matter." 2 

We do not think that, after so long and detailed an 
examination of the Standard Rate, we need weary the reader 
by any lengthy exposition of the Trade Union regulations 
prohibiting arbitrary fines and deductions, or any form of 
" truck." It may seem unreasonable for the workmen to 
object to the employer's system of maintaining discipline in 
the factory. But if that system takes the form of imposition 
of fines for minor offences, and, as is usually the case, the 
employer puts the fines into his own pocket, it is clear that 
the average amount of the fines per week is, in effect, an 
exactly proportionate reduction of the Standard Rate. An 
employer using this method of enforcing the necessary 

1 Rule VI. of By-laws for the Mersey District, United Society of Boiler- 
makers. 1889. 

2 The London Scale of Prices for Compositors' Work. 1891. 



The Standard Rate 315 

discipline finds himself buying his labor cheaper than his 
competitors, by an amount varying precisely in proportion 
to the frequency and severity of the penalties which he him- 
self imposes. 1 The same arbitrary character attaches to the 
once universal system of making the operatives pay for minor 
breakages, or for incidental requirements of their work. " In 
the good old times of low wages, irregular work, and poor 
living," ironically writes an official of the Cotton-spinners, 
"operatives used to have to pay for broken bobbins, gas, 
new brushes, find their own oil-cans, renew parts of their 
machines that got broken, and no end of other nice little 
things that made a fair hole in their wages." 2 Against all 
these practices the Cotton-spinners have long since made 
good their protest. The Cotton- weavers, of whom a large 
majority are women, are still occasionally imposed upon, and 
the rules of their unions accordingly still include a peremptory 
injunction against submitting to any such deductions. " Never 
pay, or agree to pay," say, for instance, the Preston rules, 
" for any shuttles, forks, brushes, or any piece of machinery, 
matter, or thing belonging to the master, or used in his 
business in any way whatsoever, except what you may have 
by sheer negligence wilfully or maliciously broken or de- 
stroyed ; and if they stop it from your wages, bring the case 
before the Committee at their next meeting." 3 But it is not 

1 A system of fines may be less objectionable if the money goes to the 
operatives' sick club, or some other fund for their common benefit. But sick 
clubs or superannuation funds connected with particular establishments, especially 
if membership is compulsory, are objectionable from the Trade Union point of 
view on other grounds, notably that of diminishing the operative's independence. 
This subject is further examined in the chapter on " The Implications of Trade 
Unionism." 

2 Cotton Factory Times, 22nd July 1892. 

3 Rules of the Preston and District Power Loom Weavers' Association (Preston, 
1891), p. 20. 

In piecework trades, the employer seeks to escape paying for any but perfect 
articles, and usually claims the right to reject, without appeal, any that he chooses. 
This has led to a whole series of conflicts in different industries. The Trade 
Unionist contention has been ( I ) that the operative should not be made to suffer 
for failures due to the imperfection of material, or defects in the process ; (2) that 
in any case, if the employer refuses to pay anything for the work on the ground 
of its imperfection, he should not retain the article for his own profit, but destroy 



316 Trade Union Function 

only such arbitrary charges as fines and deductions, which 
necessarily vary from mill to mill, that are fundamentally 
inconsistent with the collective settlement of a Standard 
Rate. Even such uniform, regular, and definite payments 
as the " loom rent " of the hand-working weaver of cotton, 
silk, or carpets, the frame rent of the hosiery worker, and the 
trough or wheel rent of the Sheffield cutler, have been found, 
by long and painful experience, to be equally destructive of 
any definite standard of earnings. This arises from their 
being continuous and calculated by time, whilst the operative's 
work is irregular and paid for by the piece. In all these 
cases rent of the machine is exacted by the employer whether 
the operative is given work or not. Thus, as the framework 
knitters allege, when they paid rent for their frames, the 
employers were tempted to spin out the work over much 
longer periods than was necessary, doling it out in very small 
portions in order to keep them paying rent as long as 

it ; and (3) that there should be some means of appeal against the employer's 
arbitrary judgment in his own cause. Thus the Potters have fought a long battle 
for the last sixty years against the condition termed "good from oven," by which 
the workman is only paid for such articles as come out perfect from the firing 
oven. As he has no power to select material, and no control over the firing of 
the oven, this condition throws upon him not only the cost of his own negligence, 
but also that due to imperfection of raw material, defects of fixed plant, and care- 
lessness of foremen or other operatives. It is a further aggravation that the 
employer arbitrarily decides which articles should be rejected as imperfect, and 
was formerly even free to retain and sell those which he had thus escaped paying 
for. After the great strike of 1836 the Staffordshire Potters succeeded in 
remedying the latter grievance. It was agreed that articles rejected as imperfect 
should be broken up, a great temptation being thus removed from unscrupulous 
employers. But " good from oven " still remains the basis of payment, the 
Trade Union demand of "good from hand " being still resisted by the employers. 
In the same way the Glass Bottle Makers, who have several rules in their agree- 
ments with their employers defining minutely the circumstances under which 
men may or may not be charged for spoiled work, have one declaring " that 
bottles picked out (as spoiled) be not broken down until the men have had an 
opportunity of inspecting them, but in no case shall they be kept beyond the 
following day." Article 10 of the Agreement for 1895 . . . bet-ween the York- 
shire Glass Bottle Manufacturers' Association, and the Glass Bottle Makers of 
Yorkshire United Trade Protection Society (Castleford, 1895). 

A particularly aggravated form of the same grievance is resisted by the 
Friendly Society of Ironfounders, whose members are all paid by time. Not- 
withstanding this, and the fact that they neither choose the raw material nor 
direct the process, attempts are from time to time made by employers to make 
deductions for castings which turn out badly. 



The Standard Rate 3 1 7 

possible. And the Macclesfield silk-weavers complain that 
they are kept always half employed, the giver-out of work 
rinding his advantage in getting it done on as many separate 
looms as possible, from each of which a full weekly rent is 
derived. It is easy to see how such a system may open a 
way for personal tyranny and exaction. It is more to our 
immediate purpose to notice how incompatible it is with 
Collective Bargaining and a Standard Rate. If the employer 
can give out work in unequal quantities to different operatives, 
but deduct from each an equal sum at the end of the week, 
no fixed piecework list will secure identical pay for identical 
work. If A is given thirty pieces to weave, and B only 
fifteen, both may be paid at the same rate of a shilling per 
piece, and both may pay the same loom rent of five shillings 
per week. Yet at the end of the week, the net remuneration 
for weaving one piece will have been to A tenpence and to 
B eightpence. Thus the rate of payment for identical work 
will vary from operative to operative, from week to week, 
and even from firm to firm, according to the way in which, 
at the uncontrolled discretion of the employers, the work is 
distributed. 1 A similar objection applies, it will be seen, to 
the whole system of " truck," or the compulsory purchase by 
the operatives of commodities or^rrratcrials supplied by the 
employers. 2 This is resisted by the unions on the larger 

1 Many minor payments similar in principle to loom rent exist in various 
industries. Where the operatives are unorganised, and especially if they are 
women or girls, employers are apt to attempt to charge them for some part of the 
manufacturing process, or for incidental stores or material. This is sometimes 
done to avoid the cost and trouble of proper supervision to prevent waste and 
breakages. In other cases it arises as an incident of a growing specialisation of 
function. Thus, cotton-weavers used to oil their own looms, but the employers 
found that it was better done by a professional oiler, who was thereupon 
employed. Any attempt to deduct even a penny per week per pair of looms to 
pay his wages is peremptorily stopped by the Weavers' union. Similar develop- 
ments of specialisation in cotton-spinning might be cited the uprise of the 
" strap-piecer " and the "bobbin-carrier" for instance. But no deduction for 
their wages is permitted by the Cotton-spinners' unions (Cotton Factory Times, 
loth June 1892). Women woollen weavers are, however, still made to pay the 
"tuner" of their looms, his work of "setting " the warp and weft being done by 
the male weavers for themselves. 

2 The Miners' Conference in 1863 made this a special subject of complaint. 
1 The truck system still prevails in Scotland and Wales, despite of both equity 



318 Trade Union Function 

ground that it amounts to an insidious enslavement of the 
wage-earner and his family. But it is also inconsistent with 
any uniformity in the net rate at which employers obtain 
their labor, and with definite standard of real income of the 
wage-earner under such a system, notwithstanding a nominal 
uniformity of rate, both labor cost and real wages will vary 
according to the extent of the truck business in each firm, 
the economy and ability with which this subsidiary store- 
keeping is managed, and the profit or " loading" which each 
employer chooses to exact, the latter amounting, in effect, to 
a fraud upon the workman. 1 

We see, therefore, that the adoption of a Standard Rate 
that is, of payment for labor according to some definite 
standard, uniform in its application is not by any means 
so simple a matter as would at first sight appear. Whether 
we accept payment by the hour or payment by the piece, 
so great are the complications of modern industry, and so 
ingenious are the devices for evasion, that a long series of 
subsidiary regulations is found necessary to defend the main 
position. The whole argument for this series of subsidiary 

and law. That no man should be forced, as a condition of work, to spend his 
money on necessaries for the benefit of his employer is both law and reason. In 
Scotland . . . the men are only paid by the fortnight, the month, or longer ; 
and in the interim tickets for food or clothing are furnished, by which, at certain 
shops, articles are furnished at an enormous overcharge above a fair market 
average of cost. In some cases the poor collier rarely sees current coin, all being 
forestalled betwixt the term of pay and work. . . . Allied to this, in Stafford- 
shire and elsewhere, the butties and doggies, or middlemen, still continue to 
influence and compel the colliers to spend part of their wages in drink, as a 
condition of employment. In other cases, in Yorkshire, candles and powder 
must be purchased of the steward, or some other man, at exorbitant prices above 
the market rate of profit." 7"ransactions and Results of the National Association 
of Coal i Lime, and Ironstone Miners of Great Britain (London, 1863), p. xi. 

These practices have now been stopped by the miners' unions in all well- 
organised districts. Similar grievances are, however, still complained of in some 
other trades, where the operatives are powerless to insist on the Truck Acts being 
obeyed in spirit as well as in the letter. 

1 " Wherever the workmen are paid in goods, or are compelled to purchase 
at the master's shop, the evils are very great ; much injustice is done to the men, 
and much misery results from it. Whatever may have been the intentions of the 
master in such a case, the real effect is to deceive the -workman as to the amount 
he receives in exchange for his labor" On the Economy of Machinery and 
Manufactures, by Charles Babbage (London, 1832), p. 255. 



The Standard Rate 319 

regulations rests, it is clear, upon the principal contention. 
It seems, therefore, worth while to rehearse the Trade 
Unionist's argument. We have seen that it is a fundamental 
article of the Trade Union faith that it is impossible, in a 
system of competitive industry, to prevent the degradation 
of the Standard of Life, unless the conditions of labor are 
ittled, not by Individual Bargaining, but by some Common 
Lule. But, without the uniform application of some common 
standard, collective settlement of these conditions, whether 
by bargain, arbitration, or law, is plainly impossible. 1 Where 
employer is competing with employer, each will claim that, 
if he must forego the chances of Individual Bargaining, he 
should at any rate be made to pay no more for his labor 
lan his rivals. With this contention the Trade Unionist 
icartily agrees, and thus we get admitted, as the basis of the 
Common Rule, the principle of identical pay for identical 
iffort, or, as it is usually termed, the Standard Rate. This, 
we have seen, is the very opposite to equality of wages. 
[ow accurately this principle of identical pay for identical 
fort can be applied to the varying capacities of different 
workmen, or to the varying difficulties of particular tasks, 
whether it can be most precisely carried into effect by 
payment by time or payment by the piece, depends upon the 
character of the process and the intelligence and integrity of 
the parties. But it is obviously futile to settle, by collective 
regulation of any kind, a Standard Rate of identical pay for 
identical effort, if an unscrupulous employer is free to evade 
this by demanding extra work or additional wear and tear ; 
by deducting anything from the wage agreed upon ; or by 

1 The dependence of combination among workmen upon the existence of a 
Standard Rate was well expressed, from the employer's point of view, by 
Alexander Galloway, the well-known engineer, and friend to Francis Place. "I 
have always found that in those employments where the wages were uniform .... 
there have always been combinations among those men. Now in all those trades 
where the men have made their own individual engagements, we never see any- 
thing like combinations. . . . That which has struck most effectually at the 
root of all combination among workmen is to pay every man according to his 
merit, and to allow him to make his own agreement with his employer." Evidence 
in First Report of Committee on Artisans and Machinery^ 1824, p. 27. 



320 Trade Union Function 

obtaining, at the cost of his workmen, by any transaction 
with them, any other monetary advantage whatever. In 
short, if the fundamental object of Trade Unionism, the 
enforcement of a Common Rule, has any justification at all, 
the principle of the Standard Rate must be conceded, and 
if a Standard Rate is admitted, the subsidiary regulations 
which we have described follow as a matter of course. 

This general conclusion in favor of a Standard Rate- 
a point on which every Trade Unionist would unhesitatingly 
agree leaves many questions with regard to wages unsettled. 
One of these is, on what principle, and to what extent, the 
Standard Rate should, in the same industry, vary from town to 
town. The employers in the out-of-the-way districts are apt 
to contend that the workman must put up with a low rate, 
because of the inferiority of their machinery, their heavy 
charges for freight, and other local disadvantages. But there 
seems no reason why the workman should lower his standard 
of life, and forego his claim to identical pay for identical 
effort, merely because the capitalist chooses to carry on his 
business amid unprofitable surroundings. Whether Trade 
Unionists should go in for equality of nominal wages (a 
uniform national standard rate), or, making allowance for 
difference in the cost of living, claim only equality of real 
wages (involving varying local rates), has never been settled 
in principle. There are obvious practical difficulties in 
carrying out the latter idea, as it is impossible to measure 
with any precision differences in the cost of living in different 
districts. Accordingly we find most of the " county " unions, 
especially those of the cotton operatives and coalminers, 
aiming at a uniform county rate, irrespective of local circum- 
stances. Similarly, the strong old union of hand paper- 
makers, working entirely in a few small provincial towns, 
easily maintains a uniform rate for the whole industry. 1 But 

1 A uniform Standard Rate is said to have formed one of the principal demands 
of the great French strike of 1791, which extended to many trades and to all 
parts of France (Du Cellier, Histoire des Classes Laborieuses en France, pp. 320- 
322 ; Decree of the National Assembly of I4th June 1791). 



The Standard Rate 32 i 

directly the cost of living becomes appreciably different, even 
the strongest unions admit variations in local rates. The 
Journeymen Hatters' Fair Trade Union of Great Britain and 
Ireland, the old-established society of silk hat makers, has a 
uniform price list, but allows its London branch to add 10 
per cent to the general rates. When we come to the larger 
and more widely distributed unions, we see the widest 
possible divergence. Thus the 631 branches of the Amal- 
gamated Society of Carpenters in Great Britain and Ireland 
recognise no fewer than twenty rates, varying from 5d. per 
hour in Truro to lod. per hour in London. Here, as in 
many other cases, we may well doubt whether even equality 
of real wages has been attained. Not only has there been 
no attempt by any large union to secure a national uniform 
rate, but there is a tendency for officers and executive 
committees to be apathetic with regard to the process of 
" levelling up," which would be necessary to obtain equality 
of real wages. The result is that Trade Unionism cannot be 
said yet to have progressed beyond the securing of a local 
Standard Rate. This leaves the workmen exposed to the 
constant attempts of employers to " level down " the rates in 
the better-paid districts, in order, as they assert, to meet the 
competition of the lower -paid districts. Our own idea is 
that the assumed differences in the cost of living, taking one 
thing with another, resolve themselves practically into differ- 
ences in the rent of a workman's dwelling. The expedient of 
the Hatters seems, therefore, the most practical thing to aim at. 
There would be many advantages in the enforcement of a 
uniform Standard Rate in all districts of an industry, treating 
all provincial towns and urban districts on an equality, but 
adding a percentage for the exceptional high rents payable 
in London, and, if necessary, deducting a percentage in 
respect of the very low rents in a purely agricultural district, 
in the cases in which, as in the building trades, the industry 
comprises both town and country. These percentages could 
be calculated on easily ascertained and undisputed facts. 1 

1 Instead of a uniform Standard Rate for all the establishments in each town 
VOL. I Y 



322 Trade Union Function 

A more obvious problem with regard to wages must be 
deferred to a subsequent chapter. We can imagine that the 
reader has had in his mind an uneasy feeling that we are 
evading what he conceives to be the crucial point, namely, 
the share of the joint product to be allotted for the remunera- 
tion of the manual labor. But the Trade Union Regulation 
with which we are dealing the insistence on a Standard 
Rate is not an end but a means : not any particular sum 
of money per week, but a device for obtaining for the whole 
body of competitors something better than they would 
get by Individual Bargaining. Thus the Sheffield Fork- 
grinders, the Dock Laborers, the Engineers, and the Steel 
Smelters all insist on the Standard Rate. But if we look at 
the weekly earnings for which each trade is righting, we find 

or district, we occasionally find attempts to enforce two or three different rates for 
what are assumed to be different grades of work. Thus the Scottish Tailors 
recognise in many towns two, and in Glasgow and Edinburgh three classes of 
shops, those requiring a better quality of tailoring being compelled to pay a half- 
penny or even a penny per hour more than the lowest Trade Union rate. The 
custom is for the employers to classify themselves, the union objecting if any 
attempt is made, for instance, to get " dress goods " (superfine black broadcloth) 
made at the second-class rate, or (in Edinburgh and Glasgow) "tweeds" at the 
third class. In so far as these different rates correspond to real and ascertainable 
differences in the class of work, they are, it is clear, not inconsistent with the 
principle of a uniform Standard Rate. In some cases, however, the different 
rates depend more on the custom and tradition of the various shops than upon any 
definite difference in the work done. Thus the London branch of the National 
Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives has long recognised three different 
" Statements," applying respectively to firms deemed first, second, or third class. 
An establishment which has hitherto paid the first-class " Statement " is not 
allowed to do any work at a lower "Statement," for fear this should lead 
insidiously to the reduction of the rates of the first-class men. On the other hand, 
there is nothing to prevent a firm, hitherto classed as third or second class, from 
making at these lower rates goods nearly identical with those usually produced at 
the first-class "Statement." The result is that the first-class firms are always 
finding themselves undersold (or at any rate, believing themselves to be under- 
sold) by enterprising firms on the second-class statement. The employers and 
the experienced officials of the union have, for ten years, been urging the 
abolition of these separate " Statements," and the preparation of the uniform list 
for all London firms, with carefully gradated piecework rates for every kind of 
boot. Hitherto all attempts at uniformity have broken down, owing mainly to 
the rooted belief of the union that no reduction of existing rates ought anywhere 
to be conceded. As a consequence, the first-class employers are said to find a 
constantly increasing difficulty in maintaining their position in London. The 
controversy can be best followed in the Shoe and Leather Record for the last ten 
years. 



The Standard Rate 323 

this varying from twenty-four shillings a week up to three 
times that amount. One thing will be clear, even to the 
most superficial observer. There is, in the Trade Union 
world of to-day, absolutely no trace of any desire for 
equality of wages. The cardroom operatives in a Lanca- 
shire Cotton mill, earning from ten to twenty shillings a 
week, will unhesitatingly come out on strike to assist the 
cotton-spinners to maintain a Standard Rate, paid out of 
the products of the combined labor of the two sections, 
averaging forty shillings a week. The local federations of 
the building trades, whose members work side by side 
at the same job, collectively insist, in their treaties 
with the employers, on half a dozen different rates per 
hour for the different crafts, the Stonemason habitually 
getting fifty per cent more than the Builders' Laborciv-aad 
the rates, in the present generation, showing no tendency 
to approximate. Unanimity of Trade Union policy 
does not, in fact, extend beyond the use of a common 
device. How much money each trade will claim, no less 
than how much each will actually receive, depends, in 
practice, on the traditions, customs, and present opportunities 
of the particular trade and section concerned. The ex- 
pectations and aspirations of the operatives, the arguments 
adduced in justification of their demands, and, to some 
extent, the particular Trade Union Method employed 
to enforce them, will, as we shall show in our chapter on 
the Assumptions of Trade Unionism, depend principally 
on the Doctrine or Doctrines as to social expediency by 
which the policy of the particular union is, for the time 
being, directed. 



CHAPTER VI 

THE NORMAL DAY 

AFTER the Standard Rate, the most universal of the Trade 
Union Regulations is what we have termed the Normal 
Day, the determination of a uniform maximum working 
time for all the members of a craft. 1 This claim to fix the 
limits of the working day is peculiar to the manual-working 
wage -earner. Corporations of lawyers, doctors, architects, 
and other professional brainworkers insist, with more or less 
stringency, on scales of minimum fees, below which no 
practitioner is allowed to undertake work. But the con- 
ception of a precise Common Rule as to the hours during 
which an individual shall work is foreign both to the pro- 

1 By the term "Normal Day" we mean the "maximum working day" of 
Schaffle {Theory and Practice of Labour Protection, London, 1893) and 
Frankenstein (Der Arbeiterschtitz, Leipzig, 1896), not the elaborately equated 
"normal day" of Rodbertus (Der Normalarbeitstag, Berlin, 1871), varying 
according to the assumed intensity of labor in different occupations. The latter 
academic conception has never penetrated to the minds either of English Trade 
Unionists or German Social Democrats. 

From the economic standpoint there has been as yet little scientific investi- 
gation of the results of fixing the maximum working day. The Eight Hotirs 
Day, by Sidney Webb and Harold Cox (London, 1891), and E. L. Jaeger's 
Geschichte und Literatur des Normalarbeittages (Stuttgart, 1892) give the 
principal references, to which may now be added Hadfield and Gibbins' A 
Shorter Working Day (London, 1892) ; C. Deneus, La Journte de Huit 
Heures (Ghent, 1893); H. Stephan, Der Normalarbeitstag (Leipzig, 1893); 
Professor L. Brentano's Ueber das Verhaltniss von Arbeitslohn und Arbeit szeit 
zur Arbeitsleistung (Leipzig, 1893), translated as Hours and Wages in Relation 
to Production (London, 1894); J onn R ae > Eight Hours for Work (London, 
1894) ; and Maurice Ansiaux, Heures de Travail et Salaires (Paris, 1896). 



The Normal Day 325 

pertied and to the brain-working class. Nor has it always 
characterised the wage -earners. The trade clubs of the 
eighteenth century claimed a legal rate of wages, or a standard 
list of prices, they insisted on a limitation of apprentices, or 
sought to enforce the Elizabethan Statutes ; but not until 
the close of the century do we find any widespread com- 
plaints of the length or irregularity of the working day. 
From the beginning of the present century the demand for 
a deliberately fixed limit of hours for each day's work, to 
be arranged either by Collective Bargaining or by Legal 
Enactment, has spread from one occupation to another, 
until to-day the great majority of the Trade Unions make 
the regulation of working hours one of their foremost objects. 
Nevertheless, there exist even to-day small sections of the 
working class world who resist any Common Rule as to 
their hours, and prefer that each individual should be free to 
labor when and for as long as he may choose. We have, 
therefore, to seek some explanation, not only of the present 
popularity of the idea of a Normal Day, but also of its 
comparatively modern growth, and of its rejection by certain 
sections of Trade Unionists. 

In modern industry the settlement of the hours of labor 
differs in an essential particular from that of the rate of 
payment for the work done. In the absence of any form 
of collective regulation, the rates of wages are determined 
by Individual Bargaining between the capitalist employer 
and his several " hands " ; and a distinct and varying 
agreement as to the amount of remuneration is made with 
each operative in turn. This is seldom the case with 
regard to the length and distribution of the working day. 
In all the numerous industries in which work is not done 
on the employer's premises, but is still " given out " to be 
done at home, the manual worker, paid " by the piece," is as 
free as the author, doctor, or conveyancer, to fix the number 
of hours, and the exact part of the day or week or year, 
that he chooses to spend in labor. He has, of course, like 
the professional man, to suit the convenience of his clients. 



326 Trade Union Function 

He must be on the spot to receive work when it comes, and 
he must finish it by the time it is required. He must be 
willing to do extra work in the busy season, and even to 
turn night into day to cope with a special rush of orders. 
But subject to this condition, each man can settle for him- 
self the exact hours at which he will begin his work, and the 
intervals he will allow himself for meals and rest. Unless he 
is driven, by reason of the low rate at which he is paid, to 
work "all the hours God made" in order to get bare 
subsistence, he may break off when he likes to gossip with 
a friend or slip round to the public-house ; he may, in the 
intervals, nurse a sick wife or child ; and he can even 
arrange to spend the morning in his garden, or doing odd 
jobs about the house. No one acquainted with the daily 
life of the home-working, skilled craftsman, earning " good 
money," will ignore the large use that such a man makes of 
his freedom. For good or for evil his working hours are 
determined by his own idiosyncrasies. Whether he desires 
to earn much, or is content with little ; whether he is a slow 
worker or a quick one ; whether he is a precise and punctual 
person governing himself and his family by rigid rules, or 
whether he is " endowed with an artistic temperament," 
and needs to recover on Monday and Tuesday from the 
"expansion" of the preceding days these personal character- 
istics will determine the limits and distribution of his working 
time. 1 

1 The injurious effect upon the personal character of the " average sensual 
man" of this freedom to stop working whenever he feels inclined, is referred to 
in our chapter on " The Implications of Trade Unionism." The axiom that the 
vast majority of the manual workers, like other men, are the better for a certain 
degree of discipline, would not find ready acceptance among the rank and file of 
Trade Unionists, and, therefore, can hardly be given as a Trade Union argument 
in favor of a Normal Day. But the more thoughtful workmen would concur 
with the dictum of an early admirer of the factory system, that when operatives 
were " obliged to be more regular in their attendance at their work, they became 
more orderly in their conduct, spent less time at the ale-house, and lived better 
at "home " (Memoirs of the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society, 
Second series, London, 1819, vol. iii. p. 129, in a paper "On the Rise and 
Progress of the Cotton Trade," read in 1815 by John Kennedy). "I always 
observed," wrote an old compositor in 1859, " that those trades who had settled 
wages, such as masons, wrights, painters, etc., and who were obliged to attend 



The Normal Day 327 

Very different is the position of the factory operative, 
Instead of each individual being able to work as he chooses, 
the whole establishment finds itself, by the nature of things, 
subject to a Common Rule. In a textile mill, a coal mine, a 
shipbuilding yard, an engineering firm, or a great building 
operation it is economically impossible to permit the individual 
workman to come or go as he feels inclined. Each worker 
forms part of a complex co-operative process, needing for its 
proper fulfilment an exact dovetailing of the task of every 
machine and every " hand " in the work as a whole. To 
arrange particular hours of labor to suit the varying 
desires, capacities, and needs of the different operatives, 
would be obviously incompatible with the economical use 
of steam power, the full employment of plant, or the highly 
organised specialisation brought about by division of labor. 
There is no longer a choice between idiosyncrasy and uni- 
formity. A common standard, compulsory in its application, 
is economically inevitable. The only question is how and 
by whom the uniform rule shall be determined. In the 
absence of collective regulation, whether in the form of Legal 
Enactment or Collective Bargaining, this uniform rule is 
naturally made by the employer. 1 And it is a special 
aggravation of this subordination, that, under the circum- 
stances of the modern capitalist industry, the employer's 
decision will perpetually be biassed in favor of lengthening 
the working day. With regard to his domestic servants, 
the capitalist is free to determine the amount of toil solely 
with a view of keeping them in the highest possible efficiency. 
But the same man investing capital in expensive machines, 
worked by power, finds, even when he pays by the piece, a 

regularly at stated hours, were not so much addicted to day drinking as printers, 
bookbinders, tailors, shoemakers, and those tradesmen who generally were on 
piecework, and not so much restricted in regard to their attendance at work except 
when it was particularly wanted." Scottish Typographical Circular, March 
1859. 

1 " It should always be remembered," remark the Cotton-spinners in 1860 
" that anterior to the introduction of factory legislation, the employers dictated 
the hours of labor to their work-people." Rides of the Amalgamated Association 
of Operative Cotton- spinners, edition of 1860, preface. 



328 Trade Union Function 

positive profit in every additional moment that his costly 
plant is being employed. Competition is always forcing 
him to cut down the cost of production to the lowest 
possible point. Under this pressure other considerations 
disappear in the passion to obtain the greatest possible 
" output per machine." ] 

Between these two historic types of the domestic handi- 
craftsman and the factory operative, there are various 
intermediate forms in which Individual Bargaining as to the 
hours of labor is as possible as Individual Bargaining with 
regard to the rate of payment. In occupations such as 
agriculture, and even in special departments of the great 
industries, it is at any rate practicable for an employer to 
vary the hours of his several workpeople, or, in other words, 
to make, if he likes, a bargain with each according to his 
capacity, just as the ordinary capitalist claims to be allowed 
to pay each man " according to his merit." Where this is 
the case, the workman's need for a Normal Day depends 
on considerations strictly analogous to those which cause 
him to need a Standard Rate. If each workman is free to 
conclude what bargain he chooses with regard to his working 
hours, the employer will, it is contended, be able to use the 
desires or exigencies of particular individuals as a means of 
compelling all the others to accept the same longer working 
day. 

So far we have considered the Trade Union demand for 
a Normal Day only in relation to the personal freedom of 
the operative to take such leisure as he may deem necessary 

1 "The great proportion of fixed to circulating capital . . . makes long 
hours of work desirable. . . . The motives to long hours of work will become 
greater, as the only means by which a large proportion of fixed capital can 
be made profitable. When a laborer," said Mr. Ashworth to me, "lays 
down his spade, he renders useless for that period a capital worth eighteenpence. 
When one of our people leaves the mill, he renders useless a capital that has 
cost ^100." Nassau Senior, Letters on the Factory Act (London, 1837), 
pp. 11-14. 

" Hence that remarkable phenomenon in the history of modern industry, that 
machinery sweeps away every moral and natural restriction on the length of the 
working day." Marx, Capital^ Part iv. ch. xv. sec. 3 (vol. ii. p. 406 of 
English Translation of 1887). 



The Normal Day 329 

or desirable. But to the Trade Unionist, as to the rank and 
file of the manual working class, the length of the day's work 
and the amount left over for leisure is of secondary import- 
ance beside the vital question of the sum earned. Keen as 
is the average workman to secure more time to himself, he 
is far keener to obtain more money to spend. In all time- 
work trades in which Trade Unionism exists the operative 
gets extra pay for extra hours, usually at a higher rate, 
whilst the whole race of pieceworkers obviously increase 
their earnings by working overtime. 1 Every progressive 
lengthening of the working day would therefore seem to 
bring with it, as a compensating advantage, a corresponding 
increase in the weekly income of the wage-earner. 2 

1 In certain unorganised occupations men, and especially women, are still 
required to work longer hours to cope with a press of orders without getting any 
additional payment for the extra labor. But this is seldom the case in trades in 
which there is any kind of organisation. 

2 This is exactly how it appears to the well-to-do literary man. Thus, Mr. 
Lecky is much concerned at the diminution of earnings which he supposes to 
be caused by the Factoiy Acts. " Take, for example, the common case of 
a strong girl who is engaged in millinery. For, perhaps, nine months 
of the year her life is one of constant struggle, anxiety, and disappoint- 
ment, owing to the slackness of her work. At last the season comes 
bringing with it an abundant harvest of work, which, if she were allowed 
to reap it, would enable her in a few weeks to pay off the little debts 
which weigh so heavily upon her, and to save enough to relieve her from all 
anxiety in the ensuing year. She desires passionately to avail herself of her 
opportunity. She knows that a few weeks of toil prolonged far into the night 
will be well within her strength, and not more really injurious than the long 
succession of nights that are spent in the ball-room by the London beauty whom 
she dresses. But the law interposes, forbids her to work beyond the stated hours, 
dashes the cup from her thirsty lips, and reduces her to the same old round of 
poverty and debt. What oppression of the poor can be more real and more 
galling than this?" Democracy and Liberty (London, 1896), vol. ii. p. 342. 

It is interesting to contrast with this imaginary instance the reports of the 
responsible women officials who are in actual contact with facts, and conversant 
with the views of the operatives. Writing in 1894, Miss May Abraham (the 
Senior Woman Factory Inspector) reports that " by dressmakers and milliners . . . 
legal overtime is almost universally condemned. A dressmaker's assistant, whose 
legal working day had, for a considerable period, lasted from 8 A.M. to 10 P.M., 
said to me in the presence of her fellow- workers, ' The overtime exception just 
spoils the Factory Act.' The chorus of approval with which her remark was 
endorsed was a clear indication of general discontent, and further experience 
showed that this had been but one expression of an almost universal feeling. . . . 
In factories where the payment is by piecework, or in some districts, as in 
Dublin, where a stipulated sum is allowed for overtime, the weight of hostile 



330 Trade Union Function 

Now, if Trade Unionists believed that this apparent 
result was the real result, that freedom to work longer hours 
invariably, or even usually, meant a corresponding increase 
of income, we doubt whether there would have arisen any 
general movement in favor of limiting the hours of labor. 
But, rightly or wrongly, Trade Unionists are convinced that 
irregular or unlimited hours have an insidious influence upon 
wages, first upon the Standard Rate and ultimately upon 
the amount earned by each man per week. 

This conviction springs from the personal experience of 
the manual working wage-earner. At any Trade Union 
meeting where the hours of labor are discussed, it may 
happen that a young and energetic member will suggest 
that he would prefer a larger income to increased leisure. 
But one old member after another will get up and explain 
that as a young married man he had felt the same, but that 
experience of workshop life had taught him that " what was 
gained in hours was lost in rates " an assertion which finds 
immediate and unhesitating confirmation from the bulk of 
the meeting. If after the meeting the visitor argues the 
point with the leading men, and suggests that their personal 
experience may not warrant so large a generalisation as that 
a lengthening of hours will necessarily lead to a reduction 
of the rate of payment per hour or per piece, they will 
retort by asking, why it is that Royal Commissions and 
official statistics are always laying bare this almost universal 
coincidence between long and irregular hours, low rates of 
pay, and small weekly earnings. Nor will they fail to give 
an explanation, based on actual experience. " Our members," 

opinion is not so pronounced ; but even here, with the inducement of a supple- 
mentary wage, it is only the most unthinking of the workers who favor the 
system. . . . The consequent effect on the health of the workers is exceedingly 
injurious ... I believe . . . that by the, workers [the abolition of all over- 
time] would be welcomed with feelings of the warmest gratitude" (Report of (he 
Chief Inspector of Factories for 1893, c - 73 6 ^ of 1894, p. 11). This and other 
reports contain abundant confirmation of Miss Abraham's view. "Could a 
secret ballot be taken," says Mr. Cramp, one of the Superintending Inspectors, 
" of all the workers affected by the overtime clauses of the Factory and Workshop 
Acts, I am convinced that very few would be found voting for its continuance." 
Ibid. p. 299. 



The Normal Day 331 

they will say, " look on thirty shillings as a fair week's wage. 
If they make it, they are content ; if they don't make thirty 
shillings, they come to the branch and complain. When 
a master increases the hours, say from fifty-four to sixty, it 
seems at first a clear gain to the men, who make more money. 
Presently, on some excuse, the foreman announces a ten per 
cent cut in rates. The men grumble, but as most of them 
will still make thirty shillings a week, they put up with a 
reduction against which they would certainly have come out, 
if it had meant their only making twenty-seven shillings. 
After a time the weaker men find they can't keep up their 
output for such long hours. In a few months, the average 
weekly earnings of the shop will have dropped, and the men 
will be wearing themselves out for even less money at the 
end of the week than they had before. Again and again 
we have seen this happen, and no amount of middle-class 
theory will make us believe it is not so." 

The Trade Union official who has read his economic text- 
book will put the argument in more systematic form. When 
an employer engages a laborer at so much a week, the 
length of the working day clearly forms an integral part of 
the wage-contract. A workman who agrees to work longer 
time for the same money underbids his fellows just as 
surely as if he offered to work the same time for less money. 
He sells each hour's work at a lower rate. Among all time- 
workers, therefore, who are paid by the day, week, or month, 
the insistence on a Normal Day is a necessary element in 
the maintenance of their Standard Rate. 

Where piecework prevails, or where the time-worker is 
paid by the hour, the case is, to the Trade Unionist, no less 
clear. At first sight it would seem that liberty to work for 
longer hours leaves the Standard Rate unaffected, whilst it 
increases the amount of the weekly earnings of industrious 
men. This seems so obvious to the middle-class mind that 
employers have for generations been honestly unable to 
understand why a pieceworking Trade Union should concern 
itself about the hours of labor at all. According to the 



33 2 Trade Union Function 

Trade Unionists, this is to ignore the plain teaching of 
economics, as well as the experience of practical men. To 
them it seems obvious that the actual earnings of any class 
of workers are largely determined by its Standard of Com- 
fort, that is to say, the kind and amount of food, clothing, 
and other commodities to which the class has become firmly 
accustomed. 1 It would not be easy to persuade an English 
engineer to work at his trade for thirteen shillings a week, 
however excessive might be the supply of engineers. Rather 
than do such violence to his own self-respect, he would work 
as a laborer, or even sweep a crossing. On the other hand, 
however much in request a Dorsetshire laborer might find 
himself it would not enter into his head to ask two pounds a 
week for his work. There is, in fact, the Trade Unionist 
asserts, in each occupation a customary standard of livelihood, 
which is, within a specific range of variation, tacitly recognised 
by both employers and employed. Upon this customary 
standard of weekly earnings, the piecework or hour rates 
are, more or less consciously, always based. 2 If there is no 
limit to the number of hours that each man may work or the 
employer may require, some exceptionally strong men, able, 
if only for a few years, to work unceasingly from morning 
till night, will earn an income far beyond the customary 
standard of their class. In any bargaining about the Piece- 
work List these large earnings will be quoted by the employer 
as typical of what every workman might do if only he were 
industrious, and will be urged as grounds why a reduction 

1 This assumption that the rate of wages of any race or class of wage-earners 
is largely determined by the standard of expenditure enunciated by Adam Smith 
and generally accepted by later economists, will be further examined in our 
chapter on " The Higgling of the Market " ; and the argument that the bulwark 
against competitive pressure afforded by this instinctive Standard of Life is 
enormously strengthened by the Methods and Regulations of Trade Unionism, 
will be elaborately analysed in the chapter on "The Economic Characteristics of 
Trade Unionism." 

55 "A price list has always implicitly (and as will be seen sometimes explicitly) 
a time-basis, i.e. it is generally understood that the piece-rates agreed on are such 
as to enable the average worker with average exertion to earn a certain weekly 
wage." Board of Trade (Labor Department) Report on Wages and Hours oj 
Labour Part II.> Standard Piece Rates, C. 7567. I. 1894, p. vii. 



The Normal Day 333 

in the rate is only reasonable. 1 Nor is this merely a ques- 
tion of successful argument. The exceptional men them- 
selves will not be inclined to hazard, by any dispute, what 
is to them ample livelihood, and will oppose any attempt 
on the part of the Union to resist reductions or apply for 
advances. The hours thus exceptionally worked tend, there- 
fore, insidiously to become customary for the whole trade, 
and the piecework rates are gradually lowered so as to yield, 
on the longer hours, a weekly income corresponding to the 
standard of expenditure to which the class is accustomed. 
The ultimate result upon the Standard Rate of leaving the 
hours of labor unlimited is accordingly the same in the case 
of payment by the piece or hour as it is in the case of pay- 
ment by the day or week. If, as the Trade Unionists con- 
tend, unrestrained competition among the individual operatives 
tends to lengthen the working day for all alike, it also insidi- 
ously lowers the rate of remuneration for the work done. 
The men who have started longer hours gradually find 
themselves earning no more than they had formerly done in 
the customary day, whilst all the rest discover that they can 
only maintain their old wages by similarly increasing their 
working time. Thus the whole class gives in return for its 
customary livelihood increased labor and energy, involving 
greater wear and tear, and the weaker members, unable to 
keep up the strain, are forced down to a lower level of sub- 
sistence. The same arguments, therefore, which lead the 
Trade Unionist to insist on a definite Standard Rate, impel 
him, quite apart from any advantage to be gained from 
increased leisure and irrespective of the system under which 
he is paid, vigorously to uphold the Normal Day. 2 

1 See the instances cited by the Shipwrights and Coopers in the subsequent 
note. 

2 It might, indeed, be urged that the Trade Unionist argument in favor of 
collective regulation of the hours of labor, considered merely as a means of keeping 
up the price at which the wage-earner sells each unit of energy, has a broader 
psychological basis than the argument for a Standard Rate itself. If it be true, 
as is always asserted both by employers and by Trade Union officials, that the 
individual manual worker is far keener to maintain and add to his income than 
to preserve or increase his leisure, it seems to follow that a Trade Union which 



334 Trade Union Function 

The Trade Unionist position with regard to the Normal 
Day is therefore extremely complicated. So long as we fix 
our attention solely on the proportion between work and 
leisure, the wage-earners fall, as we have seen, into three 
classes. To the " hands " employed in a co-operative process, 
involving the use of costly plant and machinery, and carried 
on upon a large scale, the fixing of a Normal Day appears 
the only alternative to leaving their working hours to be 
determined, and in all probability gradually lengthened, 
according to the autocratic judgment of their employer. To 
the domestic handicraftsman, on the other hand, working in 
his own garret, any collective regulation of the hours of work 
is a distinct curtailment of his personal liberty, an evil in 
itself requiring considerable justification before he will be 
persuaded to adopt it. For the workmen in the intermediate 
class of industries, in which the length and distribution of 
the working day can practically vary from individual to 
individual, the question will depend partly on the extent to 
which hours of leisure offer any attraction to them, and partly 
upon the degree to which they realise the perils of Individual 
Bargaining. Assuming the Trade Unionist position that the 
wage-earners can obtain better conditions by collective action, 
all the workmen in the industries standing between the 
domestic handicraft and the factory system, who desire to 
protect or increase the amount of their leisure, will naturally 
come more and more to insist on a Normal Day as a neces- 
sary condition of this collective action. But this simple 
classification by no means disposes of all the variations. 
With all classes of workers a second and usually more potent 
consideration enters into the argument, namely, the result of 
irregular or unlimited hours of labor upon the weekly earn- 
ings. To the time-worker paid by the day, week, or month, 
the Normal Day is obviously a part of his bargain for a 

insisted on a rigid limitation of working time whilst leaving the rate of pay to the 
chances of Individual Bargaining, would, in the end, secure for its members a 
higher level of remuneration for a given expenditure of energy, than a Trade 
Union which insisted on a Standard Rate, but left the length and intensity of the 
day's labor to individual agreements. 



The Normal Day 335 

Standard Rate. The worker by the piece or by the hour 
will be more or less disposed to insist on Common Rules 
fixing working time, in the degree that the circumstances of 
his industry and his personal observations convince him that 
unregulated hours of labor tend to lower the rate of remunera- 
tion of the whole class. 1 

This elucidation of the Trade Union argument gives us 
the necessary clue both to the historical development of the 
Hours' Movement and to its present position in the Trade 
Union world. During the eighteenth century the predomi- 
nant type of Trade Unionist was the handicraftsman working 
as an individual producer. The weavers and frame -work 
knitters, whose combinations to enforce a Standard Rate 
date from the very beginning of that century, worked in their 
own homes. Out - work prevailed, too, alongside of the 
employers' workshop in many other of the organised trades, 
such as the shoemakers, cutlers, woolcombers, and hatters. 
And even where workshop industry was the rule the familiar 
relations between the master workman and the journeymen, 
the absence of machinery and motive power, and the general 
slackness of discipline enabled the members of such trade 
clubs as the sailmakers, coopers, curriers, and calico block- 
printers to put in attendance at irregular intervals. This 
practical freedom to leave off at any particular moment, 
though it was not incompatible with what we should now 
consider excessive hours of toil, gave the operative a sense of 
personal liberty which naturally disinclined him to suggest 
any collective regulation of his working day. Eighteenth- 
century attempts to impose a Common Rule fixing the hours 

1 It will be needless to remind the historical student of the numerous gild 
ordinances by which the independent master craftsmen of the Middle Ages, though 
individually at liberty to leave off when they chose, deliberately sought to fix the 
maximum hours of labor of each trade, mainly in order, as we think, to prevent 
the working time being insidiously lengthened, and the standard rate of payment 
undermined, by unfettered competition. Thus the Spurriers, in 1345, fix the 
maximum working day from dawn to curfew ; the Hatters, Pewterers, and many 
others in the fourteenth century prohibit night- work ; and the Girdlers, in 1344, 
forbid work "after none has been wrung" on Saturdays or festival eves. 
Memorials of London and London Life, by H. T. Riley (London, 1 868). 



336 'Irade Union Function 

of labor for all the members of a craft are accordingly con- 
fined to operatives paid by the day or week, and working on 
the premises of their employers. Thus, the establishment of 
a maximum day of fourteen hours (less meal-times) was a 
leading demand of that combination of " the Journeyman 
Taylors in and about the Cities of London and Westminster," 
which we have cited as one of the earliest Trade Unions. " 'Tis 
certain," runs the workmen's petition, " that to work fifteen 
hours per day is destructive to the men's health, and especially 
their sight, so that at forty years old a man is not capable 
by his work to get his bread." And from the masters' 
petition we learn that the men " insist upon and have twelve 
shillings and ninepence per week (instead of ten shillings and 
ninepence per week, the usual wages), and leave off work at 
eight of the clock of night (instead of nine, their usual hour, 
time out of mind)." 1 And turning to other trades, it is 
significant that while there is, during the whole of the 
eighteenth century, no trace of any hours' movement among 
the pieceworking coopers of London, the day-working coopers 
of Aberdeen are found, as early as 1732, " entering into 
signed associations among themselves, whereby they become 
bound to one another under a penalty not to continue in their 
masters' service, or to work after seven o'clock at night, 
contrary to the usual practice." 2 The only other cases of 
eighteenth-century movements that we know of for regular 
or shorter hours occurred among the saddlers and bookbinders 

1 An Abstract of the Master Taylors Bill before the Honourable House 
of Commons; with the Journeymen's Observations on each Clause of the 
said Bill (London, 1720). Similar movements are recorded among the tailors 
of Aberdeen in 1720 and 1768 (Bain's Merchant and Craft Gilds, p. 261), 
and those of Sheffield in 1720 (Sheffield Iris, 8th August 1820). See, for 
all these instances, the interesting collection of original Documents Illustrating 
the History of Trade Unionism, No. I. The Tailoring Trade, by F. W. 
Gallon, published by the London School of Economics and Political Science 
(London, 1896). 

2 Bain's Merchant and Craft Gilds of Aberdeen, p. 246. A similar distinction 
may be drawn between the pieceworking hatters, who continued to work unlimited 
hours in their own homes, and the London hat-finishers, who, working by time 
on the employers' premises, struck in 1777 for a reduction of hours. House of 
Commons Journals, vol. xxxvii. p. 192 (i8th February 1777)- 



The Normal Day 337 

in the last years of the century, 1 who at that time worked 
by the day and were in the employers' workshops. 

The isolated and exceptional cases of the tailors, hat- 
finishers, saddlers, and bookbinders emphasise the general 
indifference relating to the hours of labor which marks 
eighteenth-century Trade Unionism. 2 This indifference was 
not wholly due to the greater laxity with regard to hours 
and workshop discipline possible under a system of individual 
production. For the protection of their Standard Rate the 
eighteenth -century handicraftsmen were able to resort to 
methods no longer open to the modern Trade Unionist. The 
clubs of town artisans sought to protect their position by the 
stringent enforcement of the laws requiring a seven years' 
apprenticeship, and imposing a limit on the number of persons 
learning the craft. The home-working weavers petitioned 
Parliament, in some cases successfully, for the legal enforce- 
ment of their customary rates of payment. The position of 
the eighteenth-century Trade Unionist was in many respects 
analogous to that of the modern solicitor or doctor, who, 
maintaining his Standard Rate by high educational tests 
and the exclusion of unauthorised competitors, is unable to 
understand what justification can be urged for the imposition 
of a uniform Normal Day. 

Very different is the record of the nineteenth century. 
With the introduction of machinery moved by power, and 
the rapid development of the factory system, the operatives 
in the new textile industries lost all individual control over 
their working day. " Whilst the engine runs," wrote an 
, acute observer of the new industry, " the people must work. 
Men, women, and children are yoked together with iron and 
steam. The animal machine breakable in the best case, 

1 See the Saddlers' "Addresses," preserved in the Place MSS., 27,799-112, 
114; and Dunning's "Account of the London Consolidated Society of Book- 
binders, " in the Social Science Association Report on Trade Societies and Strikes, 

* 1860, p. 93. 

2 Adam Smith, as Marx pointed out, habitually treated the working-day as a 
constant quantity. Capital, Part IV. ch. xix. (vol. ii. p. 552 of English trans- 
lation of 1887). 

VOL. I 7. 



338 Trade Union Function 

subject to a thousand causes of suffering, changeable every 
moment is chained fast to the iron machine, which knows 
no suffering and no weariness." Accordingly we find the 
combinations of the Cotton-spinners, from the very begin- 
ning of their history, eagerly supporting the efforts of phil- 
anthropists to obtain from Parliament a legal regulation 
of the hours of Jabor. The successive Factory Acts thus 
obtained applied in terms, it is true, only to women and 
children. But it was obvious to contemporary observers that 
the whole strength of the agitation came from the men's 
desire for a legal restriction of their own working day. 1 In 
1867 the leaders of the Lancashire Cotton-spinners' unions 
summoned a delegate meeting expressly " to agitate for such 
a measure of legislative restriction as shall secure a uniform 
Eight Hours' Bill in factories, exclusive of meal -times, for 
adults, females, and young persons ; and that such Eight 
Hours' Bill have for its foundation a restriction on the moving 
power." 2 It was, however, impossible to induce the Parlia- 
ment of these years even to listen to the idea of a direct 
legal limitation of the hours of adult male workers ; and 
when, in 1872-74, the Lancashire operatives successfully 
agitated for a further reduction of the working day, they were 
astute enough to couch their demand in terms of a mere 
amendment to the Ten Hours' Act of 1847. Twenty years 
later we find the recognised organ of the same union declar- 
ing that " now the veil must be lifted and the agitation 
carried on under its true colours. Women and children 
must no longer be made the pretext for securing a reduction 
of working hours for men. The latter must speak out and 
declare that both they and the women and children require 

1 Thus, R. H. Greg, citing the Report of the Royal Commission on Factories, 
vol. i. p. 47 of 1837, observes : "It is obvious, therefore, that the condition of 
children has been only the cloak for an ulterior object, which object is now 
frankly avowed to be the same for which the agitation of 1833 took place, namely, 
the attainment of the Ten Hours' Bill, or a Bill for preventing any factory from 
working more than ten hours in any one day. " The Factory Question Considered 
in Relation to its Effects on the Health and Morals of those employed in Factories, 
etc. (London, 1837), p. 17. 

2 Beehive^ 23rd February 1867 ; History of Trade Unionism, p. 295. 



The Normal Day 339 

less hours of labor in order to share in the benefits arising 
from the improvements in productive machinery. The work- 
ing hours cannot be permanently reduced by Trade Union 
effort. ... It is only by the aid of Parliament that work- 
ing hours can be made somewhat uniform." 1 In another 
great industry the operatives had found themselves equally 
at the mercy of their employer's decision as to the working 
day. The coalminers, working underground, can descend 
and ascend only when the mine manager chooses to leave 
the shaft free from coal-drawing, and set the men's cage in 
motion. Hence the coalminers, as soon as they were effectively 
organised, began to agitate for a fixed working day. Already 
in 1844-47 we find Martin Jude, the miners' leader, making 
"an Eight Hours' Bill" one of the foremost objects of the 
Miners' Association of Great Britain and Ireland, which in 
those years covered all the English coalfields. From 1863 
to 1 88 1 it was, as we have described, 2 an important plank 
in the programme of Alexander Macdonald. Finally, in 
1885 we find the Lancashire Miners' unions expressly 
insisting that the legal limit should apply to men and 
boys alike a demand which was quickly taken up by all 
the miners' unions except those of Northumberland and 
Durham. 8 

Meanwhile the transformation of the building and 
engineering industries was causing the clubs of artisans and 
mechanics to insist on a definite limit to the working day 
also in these trades. The growth of large machine-making 
establishments, and the coming in of the general " con- 
tractor" for building operations, both dating from the first 
quarter of the present century, resulted in the supersession 
of the small working master, and the massing together of 
large numbers of workmen, using expensive machinery and 
plant, and co-operating under strict discipline in a single 
undertaking. In the great upheaval of the Building Trades 
in 1833-34, the prohibition of overtime appears as one of 

1 Cotton Factory Times, 26th May 1893. 
" History of Trade Unionism, pp. 284-289. 3 Ibid. pp. 378, 379. 



340 Trade Union Function 

the men's demands, and the Builders' Laborers, in particular, 
insisted on extra pay for working beyond their regular hours 
on Saturdays. 1 In 1836 we discover the London Engineers 
engaged in an eight months' struggle with their employers for 
the establishment by mutual agreement of a definite Normal 
Day for the whole trade ; a struggle which ended in the 
fixing of a Sixty Hours' week, and, for the first time in the 
engineering trade, the penalising of overtime by extra rates. 
Before this strike, though the day's work was nominally ten 
and a half hours, the constant prevalence of overtime, without 
any extra rate of payment, gave the men no protection what- 
ever against the systematic lengthening of hours by any 
individual employer. 2 How soon the building operatives 
secured the same hours is not recorded, but already in 1846 
we find the Liverpool Stonemasons demanding a Nine 
Hours' Day. From this time forward the records of both the 
engineering and building Trade Unions show the movement 
for the more strict observance and progressive shortening 
of the Normal Day to have been continued without inter- 
mission. The elaborate treaty concluded in 1892 between 
the London Building Trade Unions and the associated 
Master Builders, by which the working time for all building 
work within twelve miles of Charing Cross was fixed for 

1 See the Masters' Address, I2th June 1833, in An Impartial Statement of 
the proceedings of the members of the Trades Union Societies and of the steps taken 
in consequence by the Master Tradesmen of Liverpool (Liverpool, 1833). Also 
the Statement of the Master Builders of the Metropolis in explanation of the 
differences betiveen them and the -workmen respecting the Trades Unions (London, 
1834). It may be mentioned that the minute books of the Glasgow Joiners, 
whose secretary was a leading Owenite, contain, between 1833 and 1836, frequent 
regulations intended to secure the Normal Day. At the general meeting in March 
1833, for instance, they formally adopted the working rules of the Scottish 
National Union, which penalised overtime by "time and a half" rates. In 
1836 we find the Society, after a successful strike, insisting, not only on a 
standard wage of 2os. a week, but also on the total prohibition of overtime for 
that season. From 1834 onward they were waging constant war on the practice 
of working by artificial light, securing its prohibition in 1836 after a prolonged 
strike. 

2 Article by Mr. John Burnett in the Newcastle Weekly Chronicle, 3rd July 
1875 ; Paper read by William Newton on behalf of the Executive of the Amal- 
gamated Society of Engineers at the Dublin Meeting of the Social Science 
Association, 1861. 



The Normal Day 34 1 

every week in the year, with extra rates intended to penalise 
all overtime, is only one of the latest of a practically unbroken 
series of collective agreements. 

But though the conception of a Common Rule as to the 
hours of labor has now spread to all classes of Trade 
Unionists, whether paid by time or by the piece, handi- 
craftsmen or factory operatives, there is, among the different 
trades, a marked difference in the intensity with which the 
demand is pressed upon the employers and the public. Here 
again our analysis of the Trade Union argument helps us to 
understand the facts. The Cotton Operatives and Coal- 
miners are the most strenuous advocates of definitely limited 
and uniform hours of labor. This is not surprising when 
we remember that, in both these industries, the beginning 
and leaving off of work depends, not on the will of the 
operative but on the starting and stopping of the engine ; 
when we realise further that in both cases the trades are 
" open " to all comers, and that the Standard Rate is pro- 
tected neither by the Limitation of Apprentices nor the 
exclusion of laborers from other occupations. The engineer- 
ing and building operatives follow at some distance the 
textile operatives and miners in demanding a strictly defined 
working day. Almost invariably paid by time, they have 
recognised that some collective agreement as to the hours of 
work is a necessary part of their bargain for the sale of their 
labor. 1 But the economic necessity for uniform hours is 

1 We are able to watch the growth of the conception of the Normal Day in 
some of the handicrafts gradually passing into the system of capitalist establish- 
ments carried on upon a large scale. Thus, the Provident Union of Shipwrights 
of the Port of London, an old trade club which emerged into publicity when the 
Combination Laws were repealed, resolved, on the 4th of October 1824, "that every 
member of this Union will not engross a greater share of work than what he can 
accomplish by working regular hours, viz. : not before six o'clock in the morning, 
nor later than six in the summer evening ; and that no candle work be performed 
after the people on the outside have left work, so that every opportunity may be 
given to those out of employ." And it is instructive to notice that the men's 
main reason for this innovation was declared to be ''that it was necessary to 
regulate a day's work in consequence of the masters stating, when a man had 
worked for fourteen or sixteen hours, that they earned IDS. per day, although 
there was one-half as regarded the number of hours." The same motive shortly 
afterwards impelled the London Coopers, who are pieceworkers, to make a 



342 Trade Union Function 

with them neither so obvious nor so absolute as in the mine 
or the cotton-mill ; and in both these industries the unions 
have relied, for the protection of their Standard Rates, on 
their traditional policy of insisting on a period of apprentice- 
ship, limiting the number of boys, and excluding " illegal men." 
With the disuse of apprenticeship, and the impracticability 
of maintaining a policy of exclusion, the engineering and 
building Trade Unions are insisting, with ever -increasing 
urgency, on the rigid enforcement of a definitely limited 
Normal Day. Where, on the other hand, the unions still 
rely for the defence of their Standard Rate upon such 
apprenticeship regulations as are enforced by the United 
Society of Boilermakers, and, less universally, by the various 
unions of Compositors, their policy with regard to the Normal 
Day is more uncertain. In both these trades, as we have 
seen, timework and piecework are equally recognised by the 
union. In both cases the union unhesitatingly insists on a 
definite Normal Day for all work paid for by time. But 
owing to the existence of other defences of the Standard 
Rate, and of the practical freedom of these hand workers to 
arrange their own rate of speed, and the details of their 
working time, their faith in any uniform Normal Day for 
pieceworkers partakes rather of the nature of a pious 
opinion. 

With archaic trades this lukewarmness passes into in- 
difference, if not even hostility. The most important, and 
in many respects the most typical union of this class, is the 
Amalgamated Society of Boot and Shoe Makers. This 
small and highly skilled class of handicraftsmen, some of 
whom still work in their own homes, have been strongly 

similar regulation. Hitherto, as the secretary of the union explained, no limits 
had been set to the working day, and "some strong young men will work from 
three in the morning till nine at night." The result was that the men "found 
there was advantage taken by their employers ; and that where there was a differ- 
ence that was resorted to." And the London Compositors expressly stipulated 
in the Scale of Prices accepted by the employers in 1810, that the time of begin- 
ning work should be formally agreed upon between the master and the " com- 
panionship " ; that it should be uniform for all the men ; and that night or 
Sunday work should be paid for at higher rates. 



The Normal Day 343 

combined for more than a century, and have, from the first, 
strictly maintained a Standard List of prices. But working 
invariably by hand, paid by the piece, and enjoying a 
customary privilege of coming in and out of the employer's 
workshop as they thought fit, they have never troubled to 
settle a Normal Day. Although the trade has been, for 
half a century, steadily declining before the competition of 
the machine-made product, the workmen have not been 
driven to consider the effect of their irregular hours upon 
their Standard Rate. In olden times they enforced a strict 
limitation of apprentices, and during the present generation 
the number of boys who have learnt the trade has been so 
small 1 that the highly skilled bootmaker, supplying the 
perfect workmanship called for by a class of rich customers, 
has maintained what are really monopoly earnings. A some- 
what analogous case is that of the United Society of Brush- 
makers, a strong organisation of skilled handworkers, whose 
printed lists of prices have been accepted by the employers from 
1805 downwards. In this trade, where handwork has always 
prevailed, the operatives, who are individual producers, have 
from time immemorial gone in and out of the employer's work- 
shop when they chose. For the protection of their Standard 
Rate they have clung to their old limitation of apprentices, 
and have never yet sought to enforce a Normal Day. But 
it is the Sheffield trades which furnish the great majority of 
unions indifferent to the Normal Day. Here we have a 
system of individual production which dates, as regards its 
main features, from the last century. The employer gives 
work out, to be done by the operative, either on his own 
" wheel " at home, or on one temporarily rented in a public 
" tenement factory." The unions, unable properly to control 
the Individual Bargains made by their members, who receive 
and return their work alone, and at irregular intervals, 

1 This is due, we think, partly to the current impression that hand shoemaking 
is rapidly dying out, partly to the abnormal demand for boys at relatively good 
wnges in the enormously expanding machine bootmaking industry, and partly to 
the relatively high degree of technical proficiency now required to obtain employ- 
ment at the handmade trade. 



344 Tirade Union Function 

struggle fitfully to maintain a Standard Rate by the most 
archaic regulations on apprenticeship. The practical failure 
of these regulations, and the constant degradation of the 
rates, leads the more thoughtful workmen to denounce the 
whole system of individual production, and to urge its super- 
session by the factory system, where collective regulation, 
both of wages and hours, would become possible. But the 
average Sheffield cutler, accustomed to the apparent personal 
liberty of his present life, is as yet proof against the economic 
arguments of his leaders. 

The demand for a Common Rule determining the work- 
ing hours for all the members of a trade is therefore, even in 
the Trade Union world of to-day, neither so universal nor 
so unhesitating as the insistence on a Standard Rate of pay- 
ment. On the other hand, the regulation of hours is less 
complicated and more uniform than the regulation of wages. 
The most rigid enforcement of an absolutely uniform 
Standard Rate is not inconsistent, in well-organised trades, 
with a very large elasticity, specially devised to meet the 
highly complex conditions and varying circumstances of 
modern industry. Any such elasticity with regard to the 
hours of labor is fatal to the maintenance of a Normal Day. 
We see this illustrated by the actual working of Trade 
Union agreements with regard to " Overtime." As soon as 
the employer was precluded from requiring the attendance 
of his workmen for as long as he might choose, he very 
naturally made it a stipulation, in conceding a customary 
fixed working day, that some provision should be made for 
emergencies. It might any day become important to him, 
owing to a sudden rush of pressing orders or similar causes, 
that some or all of his operatives should give more than the 
usual hours of work. The Trade Union leaders found no 
argument against this claim. Moreover they saw their way, 
as they thought, to making the privilege a source of extra 
wages to their members. It was generally agreed that the 
overtime so worked should be paid for at a higher rate- 
frequently " time and a quarter," or " time and a half." This 



The Normal Day 345 

arrangement appeared a reasonable compromise, advantageous 
to both parties. The employers gained the elasticity which 
they declared to be necessary to the profitable carrying on 
of their business, and were able, moreover, to take full 
advantage of a busy season. The workmen, on the other 
hand, were recompensed by a higher rate of payment for the 
disturbance of their customary arrangement of life, and the 
extra strain of continuing work in a tired state. The con- 
cession involved a deviation from the Normal Day, but the 
exaction of extra rates would, it was supposed, restrict over- 
time to real emergencies. For a whole generation accord- 
ingly, both employers and workmen regarded the arrangement 
with complacenc)'. 

Further experience of these extra rates for overtime work 
has convinced nearly all Trade Unionists that they afford 
the smallest degree of protection to the Normal Day, whilst 
they are productive of evil consequences to both parties. In 
spite of the extra rates, employers have, in many trades, 
adopted the practice of systematically working their men 
for one or two hours a day overtime, for months at a stretch, 
and, in some cases, even all the year round. In the engin- 
eering and shipbuilding trades in particular, the desire for 
prompt delivery, in years of good trade, appears to be so 
great, and the competition for orders is at all times so keen, 
that each employer thinks it to his advantage to promise to 
complete the machine, or launch the vessel, at the earliest 
possible date. The result is that the long hours become 
customary, and subject to alteration at the will of the em- 
ployer. Nor has the individual workman any genuine 
choice. An establishment in which it is a constant practice 
to work ten or twenty hours a week overtime, does not long 
retain in employment a workman who prefers his leisure to 
the extra payment, and who therefore leaves his bench or 
his forge vacant when the clock strikes. 

Whilst the practice of systematic overtime deprives the 
workman of any control over his hours of labor, the Trade 
Unionists are beginning to realise that it insidiously affects 



346 Trade Union Function 

also the rate of wages. If there is any truth in the 
economists' assumption that it is the customary standard 
of life of each class of workers which, in the long run, subtly 
determines their average weekly earnings, systematic overtime, 
if paid for as an extra, must, it is clear, tend to lower the 
rate per hour. That frequent opportunities are afforded for 
working overtime is, in fact, often given by employers as an 
excuse for paying a low rate of weekly wages. Where pay- 
ment is made by the piece, it is usually impossible in practice 
to distinguish between " time " and " overtime," 1 and in such 
cases a promise of systematic overtime, enabling the men to 
make up their total earnings to the old standard, is a common 
inducement to them to submit to a reduction of their piece- 
work rates. But the timeworker is, in reality, as much at 
the mercy of the employer as the pieceworker. The promise 
of " time and a quarter " for the extra hours is a powerful 
temptation to the stronger men to acquiesce in a reduction 
of the Standard Rate of payment for the normal working day. 
Moreover, when bad times come, and the demand for a 
particular kind of labor falls off, there is an almost irre- 
sistible tendency for the amount of the overtime to increase. 
The employers see in it a chance of reducing the cost of 
production by spreading the heavy items of rent, interest on 
machinery, and office charges over more hours of work. 

1 A firm desiring to work overtime has thus a special inducement to introduce 
payment by the piece, and this has led, in some districts of the engineering trade, 
to the total destruction of Collective Bargaining. The Report specially prepared 
by t/ie Amalgamated Society of Engineers for the Royal Commission on Labor 
(London, 1892), which gives the result of an inquiry made of the branches as to 
the relative prevalence of Overtime and Piecework in the several towns of the 
kingdom. It is significant that it is the machine-making centres, Keighley, Col- 
chester, Gainsborough, Ipswich, Lincoln, and Derby that stand out as having the 
lowest Standard Rates (275. to 295. per week). Every one of these branches 
reports the prevalence of systematic overtime to a large extent, and of piecework. 
The case would be even stronger if statistics could be obtained from unorganised 
districts and non-union firms, where competitive piecework and systematic over- 
time are the invariable accompaniments of low rates. "For many years past," 
writes Mr. Tom Mann, "it has been the deliberate practice in some of the 
agricultural machine shops to run a quarter [day] overtime five nights in the 
week, and in consequence of this the Standard Rate is very low, and the actual 
working day is one of twelve hours." Amalgamated Engineers' Monthly Journal, 
January 1897, p. 12. 



The Normal Day 347 

The workmen are tempted to make up, by extra labor, their 
drooping weekly earnings. Exactly at the moment when 
the community needs, perhaps, ten per cent less work from 
its engineers or its building operatives, a large number of 
these are pressed and tempted to give ten per cent more 
work to the end that nearly twenty per cent of the trade 
can find no employment whatever ! The barrister or the 
medical man, when the demand for his labor is slack, is not 
expected or desired to work more hours in the day. The 
old-fashioned handicraftsman equally reduced his working 
hours in slack times, and increased them when trade was 
brisk. In the case of the great machine industries the tend- 
ency is, in the absence of a precisely fixed and rigid Normal 
Day, all in the contrary direction. It is impossible to con- 
vince the Trade Unionist of the excellence of an arrangement 
which periodically results in an extra large percentage of 
members draining the society's funds by Out-of-Work Pay, 
at the very moment that other members are working an 
extra large number of hours overtime. Even the employers 
are now beginning to object to the arrangement. They feel 
that it is unbusinesslike to pay higher rates for tired work. 
And they assert that the men's desire to get these higher 
rates sometimes leads to dawdling during the day, in order 
that the overtime may be prolonged. 1 

The necessity for precision and uniformity in the deter- 
mination of the working hours has been found by experience 
to be equally absolute where the Normal Day is enforced by 
the Method of Legal Enactment. The elaborate code which 
now regulates the hours of labor of women and children in 
British industry consists of two main divisions, relating re- 
spectively to textile manufacture and to other industries, the 

1 The really unprofitable character of systematic overtime was detected by a 
shrewd German lawyer in 1777. Justus Mb'ser relates that when the building 
operatives worked overtime on his new house, he saw himself thereby defrauded, 
as the men in the long hours really got through in the aggregate less work in 
return for the day's pay. " Public authority," he adds, " should here intervene 
and forbid overtime, which is a fraud on the employer and the customer alike." 
"On the Work clone in the Hours of Recreation," in Patriotische Phantasien 
(Berlin, 1858), vol. iii. p. 151, noticed \n'R'ce\i\.a.\\Q'sArbeitszeitundArbettsleistung. 



348 Trade Union Function 

former dating practically from 1833, the latter, it may almost 
be said, only from 1867. This difference in antiquity is 
reflected in the varying degree of rigidity attained. 

Dealing first with the Normal Day in textile manu- 
factures, the Act of 1833 (which applied, in express terms, 
only to persons under eighteen years of age) prescribed a 
maximum of twelve hours a day, less one and a half hours for 
meals. But it left it open to the discretion of the millowners 
to have their factories open any hours between 5.30 A.M. 
and 8.30 r.M., and to fix the meal-times as they chose, whilst 
time lost through breakdown of machinery might be made 
up as overtime. The factory inspectors soon found that this 
elasticity destroyed the efficacy of the law. We need not 
relate the incidents of the long struggle waged by the 
Cotton Operatives' unions to secure a genuine limitation of 
the factory day. One by one the loopholes for evasion were 
closed up. The right to make up time lost by breakdowns 
was (as regards mills worked by steam) expressly abolished, 
the hours of beginning and ending work were definitely 
prescribed, the times for meals were fixed, all hours were to 
be reckoned by a public clock. In short, by the Acts of 
1847, 1850, and 1874 the right of the millowner to work 
any extra, or even any different, hours from those prescribed 
by law, on any excuse whatsoever, has been absolutely taken 
away. However much the circumstances of one mill or 
one district may differ from those of another ; whatever may 
be the nature of their respective trades or the character of 
their markets ; whether they work with cotton or wool, flax 
or jute, silk or worsted ; however pressing may be the rush 
of sudden orders ; whatever time may have been lost by an 
accident to the boiler ; the precisely determined Normal 
Day for the protected classes in a textile mill must not be 
encroached upon, and may not even be temporarily varied 
to suit the convenience either of employer or operatives. 
In the case of the textile industry sixty years' experience 
enabled the Trade Unionists to persuade the expert officials 
of the Factory Department, and even a reluctant House of 



The Normal Day 349 

Commons, that however specious may be the arguments for 
elasticity and qualifications, it is only by the rigid enforce- 
ment of precisely fixed and uniform hours that the Normal 
Day can be really protected. 

In other trades, in which factory legislation is of more 
recent introduction, we see the same lesson in process of 
being learnt. Between 1860 and 1867 the Ten Hours' 
Normal Day was introduced for the protected classes in 
other industries. The Act of 1878 systematically applied 
it to all non- textile factories and workshops. But the 
House of Commons could not bring itself to make its 
uniform rule precise and effective. Endeavors were made, 
by sanctioning overtime under certain conditions, by en- 
abling the hours of beginning and ending work to be varied, 
by permitting the prescribed meal-times and holidays to 
be altered, and by exempting particular processes from 
particular restrictions, to meet the varying circumstances of 
different industries. So deeply rooted was the feeling 
against uniformity that the exceptions and qualifications of 
the 1878 Act commended themselves even to the Chief 
Inspector of Factories. In spite of his experience in the 
textile mills, Mr. Redgrave could welcome with complacency 
the " undulating and elastic " line of the new Act, " drawn to 
satisfy the absolute necessities and customs of different 
trades in different parts of the kingdom," especially men- 
tioning the " extension of hours to meet sudden emergencies, 
as the case of occupations in which the operatives have to. 
meet regular slack seasons." * Twenty years' trial of this 
" undulating and elastic line " has convinced the officials 
administering the Act that no such uncertain rule 
can be maintained. The whole experience of the Factory 
Department proves that no limitation of the working 
day can really be enforced, unless there are uniform and 
definitely prescribed hours before and after which work 
must not be carried on. The overtime regulations, 

1 Annual Report of ff.M. Chief Inspector of Factories and Workshops, 1878 
(C. 2274 of 1879), p. 5. 



Trade Union Function 

hailed as one of the sensible advantages of the Act of 
1878, have gone far to neutralise any regulation of hours 
at all. The report of the Chief Inspector for 1894 is full of 
complaints by his staff of the impossibility of maintaining 
the Normal Day in face of the " partial, unsound, and piece- 
meal privilege" thus given to unfair employers, and of 
the " modifications " which constitute " a most weakening 
element in workshop inspection." l The knowledge that 
overtime may be " carried on for forty-eight times in a year 
is often made," says one inspector, " an excuse for working 
until 10 P.M. for three or four nights every week in the 
season." 2 " The steady increase of overtime notices which 
we receive," declares another, " leads me to infer that . . . 
occupiers of factories or workshops . . . are exercising those 
privileges without due regard to the spirit of the law, which 
only regards overtime as an exceptional contingency, only 
to be used when exceptional circumstances require it. ... 
Overtime employment leads to more undetected evasions of 
the laws than all the other offences under factory and 
workshop legislation." 8 

Overtime, in fact, is to-day seldom the " exceptional over- 
time " contemplated by the Act ; but, to use the words of 
one inspector, merely a means of enabling the employers to 
" keep their shops open late " on Saturday nights, and of 
causing " females to be kept " systematically late at work 
" in dressmaking without a farthing of extra remuneration." 4 
" I believe, therefore," officially reports Miss May Abraham, 
Senior Woman Inspector in 1893, " that although a with- 
drawal of the overtime exception would meet with protest 
from employers who have developed its use from an excep- 
tion into a principle, there are' some who would welcome, 
and many who would be indifferent to such an amendment ; 
that the large class of employers engaged in the textile and 

1 Report of the Chief Inspector of Factories and Workshops ', 1894 (C. 7745, rf 
1895), pp. 49, 50. 

2 Ibid. p. 56 (Mr. Mackie, Assistant Inspector). 

8 Ibid. p. 194 (Mr. Dodgson, Inspector). * Ibid. p. 191. 



The Normal Day 35 1 

allied trades, from whom permission to work overtime has 
been rigidly withheld, would greet as a measure of justice its 
withdrawal now from trades logically no more entitled to 
the exception than their own : and that by the workers its 
abolition would be welcomed with feelings of the warmest 
gratitude." x When Mr. Lakeman, after a whole genera- 
tion of work in London factory inspection, has to account for 
the long and irregular hours still worked in defiance of the 
Act, he emphatically declares " that overtime is the root of 
the mischief, for it has choked the law with partiality and 
modifications." 2 

We have left to the last what is perhaps the most 
marked distinction between the Trade Union regulation of 
the Standard Rate and that of the Normal Day. Instead 
of the bewildering variety which characterises the claim to a 
Standard Rate, where each trade, and each section of a trade, 
has its own price, we have, with regard to the Normal Day, 
comparative simplicity and uniformity. During the last 
sixty years, the demand for a Normal Day has come in the 
guise of a succession of waves of popular agitation for a 
common and uniform reduction of the hours of labor for all 
trades alike. The Ten Hours' agitation of the Lancashire 
Cotton Operatives spread, as we have seen, to the builders, 
engineers, tailors, and other craftsmen, and resulted, between 
1830 and 1840, in the very general adoption of Ten Hours 
as the Normal Day in the larger towns. Similarly, the 
Nine Hours' Movement, started by the Stonemasons in 
1846, spread, during the next thirty years, throughout the 
whole range of industry, and resulted by 1871-74 in the 
almost universal acceptance of Nine Hours as the Normal 
Day of artisans, mechanics, and factory workers and the 
laborers working in association with any of these classes. 
And it may perhaps be inferred that we stand, at the 

1 Report of the Chief Inspector of Factories and Workshops for 1893 (C. 7368 
of 1894), pp. ii, 12. 

2 Ibid. p. 50. See also the Opinions on Overtime (London, 1894), published 
by the Women's Trade Union League. 



35 2 Trade Union Fimction 

present day, in the first years of a similar general move- 
ment which will result in the equally widespread adoption of 
Eight Hours as the standard working day in all branches of 
British industry. 1 

Here at last we do come to something like communistic 
feeling among British workmen. The aristocratic shipwright, 
pattern-maker, or cotton-spinner, who would resent the idea 
that the unskilled laborer or the woman worker had any 
moral claim to as high a Standard Rate as himself, readily 
accepts, when it comes to a question of hours, the doctrine 
of complete equality. The explanation is simple. The most 
rigid class distinctions of the wage -earning world have, in 
the matter of hours of labor, to bend before the mechanical 
necessity for a Common Rule. The same economic influ- 
ences which make it impossible for each weaver in a mill to 
come in and out as he or she chooses, make it convenient, 

1 The successive reductions in working hours have been very imperfectly 
recorded. At the beginning of the eighteenth century, the ordinary working day 
of indoor trades in London seems to have been from 6 A.M. to 9 P.M., whilst men 
working out of doors left off at 6 P.M., or at dark. We have described the attempt 
of the tailors in 1720 to shorten the day by one hour, and from a rare work in the 
Guildhall and Patent Office Libraries, dated 1747 (A General Description of All 
Trades, Anon.), it would seem that, by the middle of the century, a few other trades 
had followed their example. The bookbinders (1787) and saddlers (1793) 
secured a further reduction to thirteen hours less meal-times, and in 1794 the 
bookbinders gained what would now be called a io hours' day (12 hours less 
meal-times). Our impression is that at the opening of the present century this 
had become in London the usual working day for all the skilled handicraft trades 
working by time. By 1834, at any rate, the London building trades had secured 
a ten hours' day and in 1836, the London engineers obtained the same reduction. 
Within ten years this became general in most of the large towns, and was adopted 
for the textile factories in the celebrated Ten Hours' Bill of 1847. Tne Nine 
Hours' Movement begins with the Liverpool stonemasons in 1846, but does not 
become general until 1859-61, nor fully successful until 1871. Meanwhile an 
agitation had arisen among the skilled artisans for a Saturday half-holiday. The 
building trades had secured a " four o'clock Saturday" in some towns by 1847, 
making a 58^ hours' week. By 1861 this had become in London a "two 
o'clock Saturday," or 56^ hours a week, an arrangement which was adopted for 
the textile factories by the Act of 1874. When, in 1871, the Nine Hours' Day 
was won by the engineering and building trades, it took the form of 1 1 hours less 
i^ hours meal- times, for five days, and six hours less half an hour for breakfast on 
Saturday, thus securing 54 hours with a "one o'clock Saturday." In 1890 the 
engineering trades on the Tyne and Wear, desiring a more complete half-holiday, 
demanded and obtained a "twelve o'clock Saturday" (53 hours). On the great 
general revision of hours in the London building trades in 1892, the week was 



The Normal Day 353 

if not absolutely necessary, for the hours of beginning and 
leaving off work to be identical, not for the weavers only, 
but also for all the different classes of workpeople employed 
in the establishment. And it has been a special feature of 
the industrial development of the past thirty years more and 
more to include, in a single establishment, not merely different 
sections of one trade, but also the most diverse industrial 
processes subsidiary to the production of the finished article. 
In the leading engineering and shipbuilding yards of the 
Tyne and Clyde, or the great works of the railway com- 
panies to cite only a few out of many examples we find 
to-day workmen of a hundred different trades working in a 
single establishment whose hours of labor are almost neces- 
sarily governed by the same " steam hooter," or factory bell. 1 
Any regulations relating to the length or distribution of 
the working day tend, therefore, to be identical for all classes 
of operatives. 

fixed at 50, 47, and 44 hours according to the season, averaging 484 hours 
through the year, and always securing the Saturday half-holiday. Finally, we 
have the adoption, between 1889 and 1897, of the Eight Hours' Day in over five 
hundred establishments, including the Government dockyards and workshops, 
nearly all municipal gasworks, and a majority of the London engineering and 
bookbinding establishments, together with isolated firms all over the country. 

This progressive reduction relates, it need hardly be said, only to the nominal 
standard hours of the most advanced districts, and takes no account either of the 
prevalence of overtime, or of the lingering of longer hours in other districts. In 
the absence of precise and authoritative statistics as to the amount of overtime 
worked at different periods per person employed, it is impossible to give any 
inductive proof of the lengthening of hours by systematic overtime at the moment 
when, owing to a slackening of demand, less of the work is demanded by the 
community. But the same tendency may be seen in the recorded changes in the 
Normal Day itself. In the extraordinarily busy years of 1871-72 the engineering 
employers had agreed with the Trade Unions that the week's work should 
be 54 hours, and, on the Clyde, 51 hours only. When the great stagnation 
of 1878-79 fell upon the industry, and there was much less engineering work 
to be done, the employers decided " that the time has arrived . . . when the 
idle hours which have been unprofitably thrown away, must be reclaimed to 
industry and profit, by being redirected to reproductive work " (Secret Circular of 
the Iron Trades Employers' Association, December 1878). They therefore made 
a general attempt to increase the week's work to 57 or 59 hours. A similar 
attempt was made in the building trades. For an account of this backwardation 
in hours, see History of Trade Unionism, pp. 331, 334. 

1 See, for this tendency to an " integration of processes " in competitive industry, 
the Economic Heresies of the London County Council^ by Sidney Webb (London, 
1894), a paper read at the Economic Section of the British Association in 1894. 
VOL. I 2 A 



CHAPTER VII 

SANITATION AND SAFETY 

IN the great establishments of modern industry, where large 
numbers of manual workers are massed together, the wage- 
contract implicitly includes many other conditions besides 
those of the time to be spent in labor, and the rate at which 
this is to be paid for. The wage-earner sells to his employer, 
not merely so much muscular energy or mechanical ingenuity, 
but practically his whole existence during the working day. 1 
An overcrowded or badly-ventilated workshop may exhaust 
his energies ; sewer gas or poisonous material may under- 
mine his health ; badly -constructed plant or imperfect 
machinery may maim him or even cut short his days ; 
coarsening surroundings may brutalise his life and degrade 
his character yet, when he accepts employment, he tacitly 
undertakes to mind whatever machinery, use whatever 
materials, breathe whatever atmosphere, and endure what- 
ever sights, sounds, and smells he may find in the employer's 
workshop, however inimical they may be to health or safety. 
On all these points Individual Bargaining is out of the 
question. The most ingenious employer would find it 
impossible to bargain separately with individual workers as 

1 "It matters nothing to the seller of bricks whether they are to be used in 
building a palace or a sewer ; but it matters a great deal to the seller of labor, 
who undertakes to perform a task of given difficulty, whether or not the place in 
which it is to be done is a wholesome and a pleasant one, and whether or 
not his associates will be such as he cares to have." Principles of Economics^ 
by Professor A. Marshall (London, 1895), 3 rd edit - P- 6 4 6 - 



Sanitation and Safety 355 

to the temperature of the workshop or the use of the 
ventilating fan, the fencing of the machinery or the provision 
of sanitary accommodation : he cannot make any particular 
concession to a consumptive weaver in the matter of the 
amount of steam to be injected into the weaving shed, or 
give special terms to a cautious miner with regard to the 
construction of the cage or the thickness of the rope on 
which his life will depend. These conditions are necessarily 
identical for all the operatives concerned. The issue, therefore, 
is not whether there shall be a Common Rule excluding the 
exigencies of particular workers, but by whom and in whose 
interest that Common Rule shall be made. 1 

The Trade Unionist demands for safe, healthy, and com- 
fortable conditions of work appear to date only from about 
1 840, and can scarcely be said to have become a definite part of 
Trade Union policy until about iS/i. 2 This long-continued 
indifference to the risks of accident and disease was, as we 
need hardly remind the reader, common to all classes. So 
long as sickness and casualties were regarded as " visitations 

1 The individual operative " can quarrel no more with the foul air of his 
unventilated factory, burdened with poisons, than he can quarrel with the great 
wheel that turns below " (The Wages Question, by Francis A. Walker, New York, 
1876, London, 1891, p. 359). "Where a large number of men are employed 
together in a factory ... all must conform to the wishes of the majority, or the 
will of the employers, or the customs of the trade." The State in Relation to 
Labour, by W. Stanley Jevons (London, 1887), p. 65. 

2 The coalminers, however, always asked for safeguards against the perils of 
the mine. As early as 1662, it is said that 2000 colliers of Northumberland and 
Durham prepared a petition to the King, asking, among other things, that the 
mine owners should be required to provide better ventilation of the pits. Already 
in 1676, the Government, in the person of the Lord Keeper North, was suggesting 
that a second shaft ought always to be provided (The Miners of Northumberland 
and Durham, by Richard Fynes, Blyth, 1873). Similar desires were expressed 
by the earliest of the Miners' unions in 1809 and 1825, and in such pamphlets 
as A Voice from the Coalmines, or a Plain Statement of the grievances of the 
pitmen of the Tyne and Wear (South Shields, 1825), and An earnest address 
and urgent appeal to the people of England on behalf of the oppressed and 
suffering pitmen of the Counties of Northumberland and Durham (Newcastle, 
1831). In no other industry do we trace any request prior to 1840 for more 
sanitary conditions of employment (as distinguished from higher wages or shorter 
hours). Neither in the Parliamentary inquiries of 1824, 1825, and 1838, nor in 
the numerous investigations of the Commissioners connected with the Factory 
Acts, Poor Law, or Health of Towns, have we found any evidence that the 
operatives of that time pressed for healthier conditions of work. 



356 Trade Union Function 






of God," to be warded off by prayer and fasting, effective 
sanitary regulations were not to be expected either from 
the workmen's combinations or from Parliament itself. 1 
And whilst the theologian was attributing the workman's 
ill -health to the Act of God, the political economist 
was assuring him that any unusual risk to health or life, 
like any extra discomfort, inevitably brought with it sub- 
stantial compensation in the shape of higher wages. We 
therefore find that in the comparatively few cases between 
1700 and 1840, in which Trade Unions made any complaint 
of dangerous or insanitary conditions, they brought forward 
the grievance without any idea of establishing regulations to 
prevent such conditions for the future, but merely as an 
argument in favor of the concession of shorter hours or higher 
wages. 2 We need not follow the gradual disappearance of 
the theological explanation of disease before the progress of 
science. Of greater interest to the economic student is the 
growth of an opinion among the Trade Unionists, that the 
compensation for insanitary conditions brought about by 
" the free play of natural forces," was of a totally different 
character from that prophesied by Adam Smith and his 
followers. To the intelligent Trade Union official it became 
increasingly evident that the compensatory effect of bad 
conditions of employment took the form, not of higher rates 

1 Public health legislation dates only from about 1840 ; see Glen, Histoy of 
the Law relating to Public Health, loth edition (London, 1888). The first general 
Public Health Act was not passed until 1848. 

2 Thus, when in 1752, the combination of journeymen tailors of London com- 
plained that, by their having to work from six in the morning until eight at night, 
" sitting so many hours in such a position, almost double on the shopboard, with 
their legs under them, and poring so long over their work by candlelight, their 
spirits are exhausted, nature is wearied out, and their health and sight are soon 
impaired," all they asked for was an extra sixpence a day wages (77ie Tailoring 
Trade, by F. W. Gallon, London, 1896, p. 53 ; published by the London School 
of Economics and Political Science). And when, in 1777, the far-sighted and 
observant Justus Moser was impressed by the injury to health caused by the 
conditions under which apprentices and young journeymen were put to work, 
nothing in the nature of factory legislation occurred to him ; his remedy was a 
technical institute which should supersede apprenticeship altogether. " Is not 
an Institute required for Artisans ?" in Patriotische Phantasien (Berlin, 1858), 
vol. Hi. p. 135. 



Sanitation and Safety 357 

paid by the employer, but of a lower grade of character 
among the workpeople. When the conditions of safety, 
health, and comfort in the trade fell below the standard of 
other occupations, the Trade Union official did not find that 
his members got higher wages. 1 What happened was that 
his union was presently made up of workers of coarser fibre, 
worse character, and more irregular habits. And this result 
was brought about not entirely, or even mainly, by the 
refusal of respectable persons to enter trades in which the 
risks to life, health, and character were exceptionally great. 
For the great mass of workers, in districts dependent on 
particular industries, there was practically no choice of occu- 
pation, and hence, over large areas of the United Kingdom, 
physical enfeeblement and moral deterioration became the 
lot of good and bad alike. Even in the rare cases in which 
exceptionally strong unions obtained for their members some 
definite compensation for risk of disease and death, the more 
thoughtful workmen could not fail to realise that the extra 
money was no real equivalent for the lives prematurely cut 
short, the constitutions ruined by disease, or the characters 
brutalised by coarsening surroundings. 

Thus, in the Trade Union world of to-day, there is no 
subject on which workmen of all shades of opinion, and all 
varieties of occupation, are so unanimous, and so ready to 
take combined action, as the prevention of accidents and the 
provision of healthy workplaces. We do not propose to 
enumerate, or even to summarise in any detail, the various 
regulations upon which Trade Unions have insisted for the 
protection of the life, health, and comfort of their members. 
These necessarily differ from trade to trade according to the 

1 For over a century economic manuals have reproduced Adam Smith's 
celebrated analysis of the causes of differences in wages, without any investigation 
of the facts of industrial life. " There is hardly a grain of truth," wrote Fleeming 
Jenkin with refreshing originality in 1870, "in the doctrine that men's wages are 
in proportion to the [un-]pleasantness of their occupation. On the contrary, all 
loathsome occupations are undertaken by apathetic beings for a miserable hire. . . 
The best paid is [also] the most pleasant life." "Graphic Representation of 
the Laws of Supply and Demand," by Fleeming Jenkin, in Recess Studies 
(London, 1870), p. 182. 



358 Trade Union Function 

technical processes and particular grievances of the industry, 
Sometimes it is the prevention of accidents that is aimed at. 
Thus, the United Society of Boilermakers has insisted, in 
its elaborate agreement with the Ship Repairers' Federation 
of the United Kingdom, upon the following clause : " The 
employers undertake that, before men are put to work on 
[repairing the great tank ships for carrying petroleum in 
bulk, in which dangerous vapour accumulates], an expert's 
certificate shall be obtained daily to the effect that the tanks 
are absolutely safe. Such certificate to be posted in sorm 
conspicuous place." * Innumerable other regulations aim at 
the removal of conditions injurious to the workers' health. 
Thus, the various Trade Unions of " ovenmen " (potters] 
have for a whole generation protested against being fore 
to empty the ovens before these have been allowed to 
cool, on the express ground that this unnecessary exposui 
to a temperature between 170 and 210 degrees Fahrenheit 
is seriously detrimental to health. Several strikes hai 
taken place solely on this point, and the Staffordshire Oven- 
men's Union now has a by-law authorising the support 
any member who is dismissed for refusing to work in 
temperature higher than 120 degrees. 2 The Northern 
Counties Amalgamated Association of Operative Cotton- 
weavers has repeatedly withdrawn its members from weav- 
ing sheds into which the employers insisted on injecting an 
undue volume of steam, and it succeeded, in 1889, in obtain- 
ing a special Act defining the maximum limit to which thi< 
practice might be carried. 3 The carelessness of employei 

1 Payment for repairs on oil vessels : Agreement between the Ship Repairers 
Federation of the United Kingdom and the United Society of Boilermakers, signed 
at Newcastle, I2th January 1894. Similar agreements have been made by tl 
Amalgamated Society of Engineers (Tyneside District) with the Federation (I4th 
September 1894), and (Newport and Cardiff District) with the Engineers and 
Shipbuilders Employers' Association of Newport and Cardiff, 2ist March 1895, 
and in other seaports. 

2 Information given to us by the officials ; see also Dr. J. T. Arlidge, The 
Pottery Manufacture in its Sanitary Aspects (London, 1892), p. 17. 

3 Royal Commission on Labor, evidence Group C ; the Cotton Cloth 
Factories Act, 1889 (52 & 53 Viet. c. 62), amended by the Factory Acts of 1891 
and 1895. See the interesting investigation into the results of this legislation by 



Sanitation and Safety 359 

with regard to the sanitary condition of the places in which 
their wage -earners have to work has led to many fitful 
struggles. Perhaps the most notable, and at the same time 
significant example is that of the Glasgow tailors. As far 
back as 1854 we find the union resolving that the members 
employed in a certain notorious underground cellar " should 
finish their jobs and leave, until a better workshop was 
got." ] In the next year an attempt was made to prohibit 
all working in underground rooms. The general meeting 
resolved : " That those employers who have pit-shops at 
present receive notice to get proper workshops, otherwise the 
men will be obliged to refuse to work in all shops the same 
not being above ground." 2 During the following years, the 
energetic journeymen tailors put into force all the methods 
of Trade Unionism to attain their end. Mutual Insurance 
was employed to a remarkable extent, any member choosing 
to leave an underground workshop being allowed four shillings 
a week over and above the ordinary Out-of-Work pay. This 
induced the better class of employers to resume Collective 
Bargaining, to agree to provide suitable workrooms for their 
men, and even to submit them to the inspection of the 
Trade Union officials. But neither Mutual Insurance nor 
Collective Bargaining availed to put down the evil among the 
worst employers. The union then turned to the law. An in- 
fluentially signed memorial was presented to the Town Council 
in order to obtain a by-law prohibiting the use of underground 
workshops altogether, and though this request does not appear 
to have been complied with, the increasing stringency of the 
sanitary law to some extent served the purpose. 3 

a Home Office Committee of experts, Report of a Committee appointed to inquire 
into the -working of the Cotton Cloth Factories Act, 1889 [C, 8348], 1897. 

1 MS. Minutes of Glasgow Tailors' Society, April 1854. 

2 Ibid. January 1855. 

3 Report on Trade Societies and Strikes : National Association for the Promo- 
tion of Social Science, 1860, p. 280, where it is erroneously stated that the clause 
desired was actually embodied in a local Act of Parliament. We can trace no 
such provision, and underground workshops are, if properly ventilated, still per- 
mitted by law. But the use of premises below the ground-level as dwellings is 
restricted by the Public Health Acts, and the Factory Act of 1895, sec. 27, 



360 Trade Union Function 

But safety and health are not the only requirements. 
Many trades enforce a series of regulations designed merely 
to secure the comfort and convenience of the operatives. In 
the innumerable " Working Rules " which govern the build- 
ing trades of the various towns, the Trade Unions generally 
insist on a clause to compel the employer to provide a dry 
and comfortable place in which the men may take their 
meals, lock up their tools in safety, and rest under cover in 
storms of rain. 1 

It will be unnecessary to give further examples. The long 
and elaborate code of law which now governs employment 
in the factory and workshop, the bakehouse and printing 
office, on sea and in the depths of the mine, is itself largely 
made up of the Common Rules designed for the protection 
of the operatives' health, life, or comfort, which have been 
pressed for by Trade Unions, and have successively com- 
mended themselves to the wisdom of Parliament. And the 
Trade Union Regulations of this class, whether enforced by 
the Method of Collective Bargaining or by that of Legal 
Enactment, are constantly increasing in number and variety. 
Every revision of " Working Rules," or other collective 
agreements with employers, is made the occasion for new 
stipulations. Each meeting of the Trade Union Congress 
sees new proposals under this head formally endorsed by the 
representatives of other trades. Scarcely a session of Parlia- 
ment now passes without new Common Rules for the pro- 
forbids the occupation of any such premises as bakehouses if they were not 
actually employed as soch on 1st January 1896. 

1 Thus, to give only four instances out of our collection of many hundreds, 
the London Stone Carvers are found insisting, as early as 1876, "that, as a pro- 
tection from the weather, and to prevent loss of time, all carvers on outdoor jobs 
to be supplied with tarpaulins or other suitable covering " ; the London Plasterers 
stipulate (1892) that "employers shall provide, where practicable and reasonable, 
a suitable place for the workmen to have their meals on the works, with a 
laborer to assist in preparing them " ; the Nottingham Bricklayers require (1893) 
" that there shall be a lock-up shop provided for workmen to get their meals in 
and put their tools in safety"; and the Portsmouth Stonemasons (1893) insist 
" that suitable shops and mess-houses be erected on all jobs where necessary." 
All these Working Rules, it will be remembered, are formally agreed to and 
signed by the representatives of the employers and the Trade Union. 



Sanitation and Safety 361 

tection of the health or safety of one or other class of 
operatives being, amid general public approval, added to our 
Labor Code. 1 

We attribute the rapid development of this side of Trade 
Unionism to the discovery by the Trade Union leaders that 
it is the line of least resistance. Middle-class public opinion, 
which fails as yet to comprehend the Common Rule of the 
Standard Rate and is strongly prejudiced against the fixing 
of a Normal Day, cordially approves any proposal for pre- 
venting accidents or improving the sanitation of workplaces. 
The alacrity with which capitalist Parliaments met these 
requests came as a surprise to the Trade Union officials. 
To the sweated journeyman tailor at the East End, the fact 
that he was compelled to labor in an overcrowded workroom 
seemed less detrimental to his health than the excessive 
hours of daily toil that were exacted from him. The girls 
in a London jam factory are still puzzled as to why the 
Government should compel their employer to provide them 
with costly sanitary conveniences, and yet permit him to go 
on paying wages quite inadequate for their healthy subsist- 
ence. It cannot be of more urgent importance to the com- 
munity to insist on sanitary refinements than to secure the 
fundamental requisites of healthy life and citizenship. Nor 
is one set of Common Rules less inconsistent with " freedom 
of enterprise" than the other. With regard to Sanitation 
and Safety the law has not scrupled to " thrust a ramrod " 
into the delicate mechanism of British industry, in the shape 
of rigid rules enforced on all manufacturers alike. Whether 
a factory be new or old, large or small, in the crowded slums 
of a manufacturing town or on the breezy uplands of the 
country side, gaining huge profits for its proprietor or actually 
running at a loss, the community insists on the observance 
of uniform rules as to cubic space, ventilation, meal-times, 
stoppages for cleaning, fire-escapes, doors opening outwards, 

1 During the ten years, 1887-1896, there were passed no fewer than thirteen 
separate Acts relating to the conditions of employment in factories, workshops, 
mines, shops, or railways, besides several general Public Health Acts. 



362 Trade Union Function 

fencing of machinery, degrees of humidity and temperature, 
water supply, drainage, and sanitary conveniences, separate 
for each sex. It is in vain that the manufacturers point out 
to the House of Commons that these requirements constitute 
as real and as burdensome an increase in their cost of pro- 
duction as a shortening of the hours of labor, and that the 
Factory Inspector's requisition for a ventilating fan and the 
erection of additional sanitary conveniences may result in the 
actual closing of the oldest and least profitable mills. 

It is not easy to find an adequate explanation of this 
state of mind. Something, we think, is to be attributed to 
the general fear of infectious disease, which the ordinary 
middle -class man associates more with overcrowding and 
defective sanitation than with insufficient food or overtaxed 
energies. Along with this fear of infection there goes a real 
sympathy for the sufferers, ill-health and accidents being 
calamities common to rich and poor. More, perhaps, is due 
to the half-conscious admission that, as regards Sanitation 
and Safety at any rate, the Trade Union argument is borne 
out by facts, and that it is impracticable for the individual 
operative to bargain about these conditions of his labor. 
And another factor may come into the decision. There still 
exists a certain scepticism as to whether the wage-earner is 
capable of wisely expending any larger wages than will keep 
body and soul together, or of usefully employing any greater 
leisure than is necessary for sleep. 1 Ventilating bricks and 
shuttle-guards, whitewash and water-closets cannot be spent 
in drink or wasted in betting. Mingled with this economic 
consideration there is even a subtle element of Puritanism 
the vicarious asceticism of a luxurious class which prefers 

1 To the Iron Trades Employers' Association of 1878 an organisation which 
included the leading captains of British industry a reduction of wages and a 
lengthening of hours appeared a positive economic advantage to the community. 
"It has appeared to employers of labor," said their secret circular urging a 
return to longer hours of labor and a general reduction of rates of payment, 
" that the time has arrived when the superfluous wages which have been dissipated 
in unproductive consumption must be retrenched, and when the idle hours which 
have been unprofitably thrown away must be reclaimed to industry and profit by 
being redirected to reproductive work." History of Trade Unionism, p. 331. 



Sanitation and Safety 363 

to give the poor " what is good for them," rather than that 
in which they can find active enjoyment. 

With public opinion in this state, and a House of Com- 
mons predisposed to favor sanitary legislation, it might be 
imagined that the necessary Common Rules for securing 
health and safety would have been systematically applied to 
every industry. This, however, is not the British way of 
doing things. Neither the permanent officials of the Home 
Office, nor even the Cabinet Ministers themselves, ever dream 
of considering it their duty to discover and investigate evils 
which have not been formally brought to their notice, nor 
spontaneously to initiate remedial measures which have not 
been persistently pressed on them by outside agitation. 
The House of Commons itself has not yet outgrown its 
traditional attitude of a court, to which suitors must them- 
selves bring petitions if they desire to have their grievances 
remedied, and must present their case too, in certain pre- 
scribed forms, on pain of seeing it, however gross the evil, 
ignored for many years. The result is that the Common 
Rules necessary to secure health and safety in particular 
trades are placed on the Statute Book, not according to the 
urgency of the need, or the extremity of the evil, but accord- 
ing to the strength of the pressure which is brought to bear. 
In many individual cases this pressure has come from the 
philanthropists. The agitations which led to the prohibition 
of the use of "climbing boys" to clean chimneys (I84O), 1 

1 It took over sixty years' agitation to complete this reform. In 1817 a 
Select Committee exposed the horroi-s to which the "climbing boy" was exposed. 
Legislation followed in 1834, when the employment of boys under ten was for- 
bidden, and it was made a criminal offence for a master to send a child up a 
chimney when it was actually on fire ! This caused the insurance companies to 
petition against the measure. In 1840 the minimum age for chimney-sweep 
apprentices was raised to sixteen, and a formal prohibition of their being com- 
pelled to ascend chimneys was embodied in the law. This remained largely 
ineffective until, in 1 864, the Chimney Sweepers' Regulation Act punished with 
imprisonment and hard labor any master who sent a boy up a chimney. The 
last case of a boy dying in the chimney once not unusual occurred in 1875, 
when another Act was passed increasing the stringency of the law. For a general 
survey of the progress in this protective legislation, see The Queen's Reign for 
Children, by W. Clarke Hall (London, 1897). 



364 Trade Union Function 

and of the employment of children in theatres (1889), 
derived their force from the ability with which their advo- 
cates appealed to middle-class sentiment. Similar adroit 
management accounts for Mr. Plimsoll's success in 1876 in 
extending the Merchant Shipping Acts, though on this occa- 
sion the political influence of the organised Trade Unions 
came effectively into play. 1 The protective rules in the 
Mines Regulation Acts have, on the other hand, been 
initiated since 1843 by the Coalminers' leaders themselves, 
though the direct influence of the Mining Unions has been 
aided by general public sympathy. But it is in the Common 
Rules secured by the Cotton Operatives that we see the most 
striking result of Trade Union pressure. The Factory Acts 
which their support enabled Mr. Oastler and Lord Shaftes- 
bury to carry between 1833 and 1847 were mainly directed 
to a limitation of the hours of labor. Since 1870, how- 
ever, the ingenuity and persistence of the cotton officials 
have greatly extended the scope of the legal regulation of 
their trade. The elaborate and detailed provisions of the 
law as to stoppages for cleaning and protection of machinery, 
the ventilation of the mills, and the exact space to be allowed 
between the fixed and moving parts of the mule, the regu- 
lation of the temperature and the degree of humidity in the 
weaving-shed, go far beyond anything that Parliament has 
yet done in the way of collective regulation of the conditions 
of labor in the factories and workshops of other trades. 2 

1 History of Trade Unionism, p. 356. 

2 This is the more remarkable in that cotton manufacture is an industry in 
which the margin of profit has long been steadily declining, and has, according to 
many authorities, now almost vanished. Foreign competition, too, is admittedly 
keen and increasing. On the other hand, the wholesale slop clothing trade has, 
during the present generation, expanded by leaps and bounds, and has notoriously 
produced colossal fortunes. Yet whilst the cotton operatives secure from Parlia- 
ment refinement after refinement at the cost of their employers, the unfortunate 
men and women employed by the wholesale clothiers, whose woes were laid bare 
by the House of Lords Committee on the Sweating System, 1888-90, are still 
practically excluded from the protection of the Factory Inspector. See " The 
Lords' Report on the Sweating System," by Beatrice Potter, Nineteenth Century, 
Tune 1890 ; and Fabian Tract No. 50, Sweating: its Cause and Remedy (London, 
"i893)- 



Sanitation and Safety 365 

On the other hand, the genuine public sympathy with the 
unfortunate chain and nail worker in the Black Country, 
with the London " fur -puller " and match-box maker, with 
the laundress or the dock-laborer, has resulted in nothing 
but sham legislation of an entirely illusory character. 1 
Experience proves, in fact, that public sympathy with the 
worker's desire for Common Rules securing safe and healthy 
conditions of work leads to effective regulation only when 
the grievances, besides being graphically and persistently 
pressed on the House of Commons, are accompanied by 
proposals for reform which have been worked out in all their 
technical detail by practical experts. To put it concretely, 
the factory legislation which each trade has obtained, has, 
during the last twenty years, varied in stringency and 
effectiveness, not according to the misery of the workers or 
the profitableness of the enterprise, but almost exactly with 
the amount of money which the several unions have expended 
on official and legal assistance. 

So far we have dealt only with the promotion of health 
or safety by means of specific regulations prescribing the 
conditions which experience has shown to be necessary to 
prevent accident or disease. In one direction, however, the 
Trade Unionists have departed from this, the general line of 
their policy, and have sought safety in imposing upon the 
employer, not positive regulations to prevent the evil, but an 
obligation to pay compensation for it when it has happened. 
This leads us to the long and bitter controversy connected 
with " Employer's Liability," in which, during the last twenty 
years, both workmen and politicians have more than once 
shifted their ground. To understand the changing features 
of this controversy, we must examine, in some detail, both its 
history and its various aspects. 2 

1 On the futility of the laundry clause in the Factory Act of 1895, see tne 
article, "Law and the Laundries," in the Nineteenth Century, December 1896, 
published by the Industrial Sub-Committee of the National Union of Women 
Workers. 

2 The best account of this difficult subject is the Home Office Memorandum 
printed as Appendix CLIX. to the Labor Commission Blue Book, C. 7063, 



366 Trade Union Function 

By the common law of England a person is liable, not 
only for his own negligence, but for that of his servant acting 
as such. It does not appear that this law was, in old times, 
made use of by workmen against their employers probably 
no one thought of such an insurrectionary proceeding but 
in 1837 an action (Priestley v. Fowler) was brought against 
a butcher by one of his assistants to recover compensation 
for injuries resulting from the overloading of a cart. It was 
proved that the overloading was due to the negligence of a 
fellow-servant. On this ground the judges decided that the 
injured servant could not recover compensation from the 
common employer. This decision is now deemed by some 
scientific jurists to have been bad law ; l but, good or bad, it 
founded the distinction which has ever since been made 
between strangers, to whom the employer is responsible for 
the negligence of his servants, and the servants themselves. 

III. A (1894), pp. 363, 384, and the comments by Sir F. Pollock in the same 
volume (Appendix clviii. pp. 346-348), with Mr. A. Birrell's Four Lectures 
on the Law of Employers' Liability at Home and Abroad (London, 1897). 
The Report and Evidence of the Select Committee of 1887 (H. C. No. 285 
of 1887) is also important. For a more detailed and technical account of 
the law and its development, see Employers and Employed, by W. C. Spens 
and R. F. Younger (London, 1887), or Duty and Liability of Employers, by 
W. H. Roberts and G. H. Wallace (London, 1885). The Trade Union view is well 
given in the pamphlet Employers' Liability : " Past and Prospective Legislation, 
with Special Reference to Contracting- Out," by Edmond Brown (London, 1896). 
This is ably criticised in the Daily Chronicle pamphlet, The Workers' Tragedy 
(London, 1897). For another point of view, see Mr. Chamberlain's article in 
the Nineteenth Century, November 1892, and his speeches in Parliament during 
May and July 1897 ; Miners' Thrift and Employers' Liability, by G. L. Campbell 
(Wigan, 1891) ; and Employers' Liability: What it Ought to Be, by Henry W. 
Wolff (London, 1897). The exhaustive report of the French Government 
"Commission de Travail" for 1892 contains full information on Continental 
legislation, as to which see the interesting proceedings of the International 
Congresses on Industrial Accidents, held at Paris, 1889, Berne, 1891, Milan, 
1894 (Brussels, 1897) ; Dr. T. Bodiker's Die Arbeiterversichentng in den 
Europdischen Staaten (Leipzig, 1895) ; and the elaborate bibliography published 
in Circular No. I, Series B, of the Musee Social (Paris, 1896). 

1 Sir Frederick Pollock remarks, in the Memorandum already cited, " I 
think the doctrine of the American and English Courts (for it is American quite 
as much as English) is bad law as well as bad policy. The correct course, in my 
judgment, would have been to hold that the rule expressed by the maxim 
respondeat superior, whatever its origin or reason, was general. . . . No such 
doctrine as that of common employment has found place in the law courts of 
France or of any German State." 



Sanitation and Safety 367 

The lawyers explained that the workmen must be held 
implicitly to have contracted to take upon themselves, as 
part of the risk incidental to their calling, the possible negli- 
gence of fellow-employees, for whose action, therefore, the 
common employer could not fairly be considered liable. 

To the manual worker this distinction, for which Lord 
Abinger was chiefly responsible, seemed an intolerable piece 
of " class legislation." The workman, injured in the actual 
performance of his duty, was at least as fit an object for 
compensation as the chance passer-by. The exception, 
moreover, destroyed all real responsibility of the largest 
employers even for their own negligence. In mines and 
railways, and in the large establishments characteristic of 
modern industry, the legal " employer " was seldom present 
or in personal direction of the operations. He might be 
guilty of the grossest carelessness in choosing his managers ; 
he might not provide sufficient means for proper appliances ; 
he might worry his agents to increase the speed of working, 
deliberately bringing pressure to bear on his superintendents 
and foremen to increase the output or lower the cost of 
production, to the hazard of the lives of all concerned. Yet 
because he did not give the specific order, or direct the use 
of the particular machine, out of which the accident arose,, he 
escaped all liability for compensation to his injured workmen, 
on the plea that the negligence was that of their fellow- 
worker, the manager whom he had put in authority over 
them. 

Under these circumstances, a Trade Union agitation for 
" employers' liability " was sooner or later inevitable. It was 
started by Alexander Macdonald, the leader of the coal- 
miners, whose remarkable career we have traced in our 
History of Trade Unionism} At the conference of miners' 
delegates at Ashton-under-Lyne in 1858, bitter complaint 

1 See the History of Trade Unionism, pp. 284-292 ; the Report of the Confer- 
ence of the National Association of Coal, Lime, and Ironstone Miners of Great 
Britain and Ireland [at Leeds in 1863] (London, 1864) ; Macdonald 's speech in 
the similar report for 1881 (Manchester, 1881) ; and his speech in Report of tke 
Eleventh Annual Trade Union Congress (Bristol, 1878), pp. 17, 18. 



368 Trade Union Function 

was made that many of the collieries were without what 
would now be considered the most ordinary safeguards against 
accidents. No real effort was made by the Government to 
enforce the merely elementary provisions of the Mines 
Regulation Act of 1842. The frequent mine explosions 
which marked the years 1860-67, culminating in the terrible 
catastrophes at the Hartley, Edmunds Main, and Oaks 
Collieries, where hundreds of miners lost their lives, brought 
the question of the responsibility of the employer prominently 
to the front. " How long then," asked the miners at their con- 
ference in 1863," shall such conduct and workings be tolerated ? 
To talk of humanity is nothing, and the law as now carried 
out is useless. To make the result costly is, then, the only 
present remedy. . . . When men's lives are held to be sacred 
their safety will be looked to as a matter of vital importance. 
At present we ask them to be considered costly, and com- 
pensation to be awarded accordingly. Many are alive to 
costs who are dead to all higher feeling, and these should be 
dealt with accordingly." ] It is easy to understand the miners' 
policy. Their industry was already subject to elaborate 
Common Rules, which were steadily increasing in number and 
scope. What was lacking, in the absence of any serious 
Government inspection, was some means of compelling com- 
pliance with the rules. Failure to observe them was primd 
facie evidence of negligence on the part of the manager of 
the mine. If the Miners' union could recover damages from 
the mine-owner whenever an accident occurred in a colliery 
where the law had not been obeyed, the risk of having to pay 
out several thousand pounds would, it was argued, induce the 
employer to take the prescribed precautions against accidents. 
The proposed right of the operative to sue an employer was 
merely a practical method of enforcing obedience to the 
Common Rules regulating the industry. Thus, to Alexander 
Macdonald, employers' liability presented itself only as one 
of the instruments of his general policy of obtaining legal 

1 Transactions and Results of the National Association of Coal etc. Miners of 
Great Britain (London, 1863), pp. x.-xiii. 



Sanitation and Safety 369 

protection for the health and life of the underground 
workers. 

This argument was soon reinforced by another. In 1872 
the proposal was, at the instance of the newly-formed Amal- 
gamated Association of Railway Servants, taken up by the 
Trade Union Congress. Inspired, as the Congress then was, 
by the able men who were fighting the battle for the work- 
men's freedom of association, it was eager to denounce all 
laws which excluded manual workers from the personal 
rights enjoyed by other classes of the community. To the 
Parliamentary Committee of these years the wage-earner's 
disability to recover compensation from his employer, in cases 
in which a stranger could successfully have sued, seemed 
another of the invidious disabilities to which the law at that 
time subjected workmen as such. The lawyer's contention 
that the wage-earner, by entering into a contract of service, 
had placed himself in a position different from that of the 
ordinary citizen, was incomprehensible to them. "There seems 
to be no sufficient reason," declared the Parliamentary Com- 
mittee in 1876, "for these exceptions to the general law. 
Negligence in the employer, or in some person for whose 
conduct he is ordinarily responsible, and whom he has the 
power to dismiss, must of course be shown. But if that is 
shown, why should more be required in the case of a workman 
than in any other case. The present state of the law takes 
away a motive for the exercise of careful control and super- 
vision by the employer. It even makes it his interest not 
to examine too minutely into the way in which his work is 
carried on, lest he should be held to have personally inter- 
fered, and to have become personally liable. The proposed 
alteration of the law would not be any exceptional legislation 
in favor of workmen : it would be merely the repeal of an 
exceptional exclusion of them from the ordinary protection 
of the law." l 

1 Parliamentary Committee's Report to the Ninth Annual Trade Union 
Congress, i8th September 1876, pp. 3, 4 ; see History of Trade Unionism, 
chap. vii. Between 1872 and 1879 no fewer than eight Employers' Liability 
VOL. I 2 B 



370 Trade Union Function 

The energetic agitation between 1872 and 1880 was 
entirely based on these two arguments. Almost every 
session saw the matter brought before Parliament in one 
form or another ; and each Ministry in succession promised 
to effect an amendment of the law. At last, in 1880, by 
the skill and persistence of Mr. Broadhurst, an Employers' 
Liability Act was passed, which went far to meet the con- 
temporary Trade Union demands. The " doctrine of common 
employment " was not absolutely abolished ; but an employer 
was made liable to compensate his injured workmen when- 
ever the accident resulted from the negligence of any super- 
intendent, manager, or foreman, or from obedience to any 
improper order or rule. A special clause, put in for the 
benefit of railway servants, made the employer responsible 
for the negligence of any person in charge of railway signals, 
points, or engine. 

Though the workmen (and, in particular, the miners and 
railway servants) thus obtained a large measure of the reform 
they had demanded, experience soon convinced the Trade 
Unionists that, even to the extent that the 1880 Act went, 
placing the workman in the same position as the ordinary 
citizen did practically nothing to secure his safety from 
accident. The argument that the wage-earner ought to be 
placed, as regards compensation for accidents, in the same 
position as any one else, led also to the conclusion that he 
should be free to enter into any contract as to his legal rights, 
whether by way of compromising an accident already suffered 
or by way of compounding, in advance, for any possible acci- 
dent in the future. The employers accordingly met the new 
Act by inventing the device since known as " contracting out." 

It was decided in 1882, in Griffiths v. The Earl of 
Dudley, 1 that if a workman continued in employment after 
receipt of a notice that he must forego all his rights under 

Bills were introduced in the House of Commons ; see the interesting pamphlet 
by Mr. C. H. Green, Employers' Liability: Its History, Limitation, and Exten- 
sion (London, 1896), written by an insurance official from an insurance point of 
view. 

1 9 Queen's Bench Division, 357. 



Sanitation and Safety 371 

the Act, and accept, in lieu thereof, a claim on a benefit 
club to which the employer contributed, he was held to have 
entered into a contract to relinquish the rights given him by 
the Act of 1880. The consequences of this decision were 
soon apparent. It did not suit a large employer to be 
exposed to the risk of an indefinite liability, or to the worry 
of being sued for compensation by every aggrieved workman. 
It became a custom in many collieries, and in some railway 
and other large undertakings, to establish a special accident 
fund or benefit society, to which both employer and workmen 
subscribed, and from which was provided, without litigation 
substantial relief in all cases of accident, whether due to 
proved negligence or not. This enabled the partners or 
shareholders to satisfy their moral responsibilities to disabled 
workmen at the least possible expense and trouble to them- 
selves, since their wage-earners directly contributed a portion 
of the fund, and the total amount of the firm's payment was 
precisely defined in advance. Such a fund, moreover, tended 
to attach their workmen permanently to their service by dis- 
posing them to abide by the employer's conditions, rather 
than forfeit, by going elsewhere, their claims on the firm's 
benefit society. Above all, the existence of such a fund, 
providing as it did for all accidents whatsoever, enabled the 
firm confidently to insist that its workmen should "contract 
out " of the Employers' Liability Act, and thus forego the 
more limited but legally enforced claims for compensation 
which they could otherwise make under it. 

The vehemence and persistency with which the entire 
Trade Union world has protested against this practice of 
" contracting out " has all through been incomprehensible to 
the middle-class man. To him the whole object of Em- 
ployers' Liability is compensation to the injured workman or 
his family. If by a special accident fund this compensation 
can be provided, not merely for some, but for all accidents 
whatsoever, and if, moreover, the expense of litigation can 
thereby be avoided, it seems a clear gain to both parties. 
What the middle-class man fails to realise is that this is to 



37 2 Trade Union Function 

remit the all-important question of safety of the workman's 
life to the perils of Individual Bargaining. The Trade 
Unionists assert that the workman's consent to forego his 
legal claim is given practically under duress, since a man 
applying for employment has no free option whether or not he 
will join the firm's benefit society, and so relieve his employer 
from that pecuniary inducement to guard against accidents 
which the Act was intended to afford. Moreover, it is said 
that this inability of the individual workman to bargain 
about the conditions of his employment leads, in certain 
instances, to his being simply defrauded, the benefit of the 
employer's fund being inferior to what he could obtain by 
relying on the Act and paying his contributions to an ordi- 
nary friendly society. But the fundamental Trade Union 
objection is that this " contracting out," even if willingly 
acquiesced in by each individual workman, is against public 
policy, as defeating the primary purpose of the Act. If the 
employer, they say, can avoid all liability for negligence by 
making an annual contribution, fixed in advance, he has no 
inducement to take precautions against individual accidents. 
Macdonald's idea of protecting the workman's life by making 
accidents costly is, in fact, thereby entirely defeated. 

For the last fifteen years the Trade Union leaders have, 
therefore, waged bitter war against " contracting out," 1 and 
have persistently forced upon Parliament their demand for 
an express prohibition of the practice. In 1893 the Cabinet 
was converted to the Trade Union position. Once again the 
Trade Unionists found all their demands embodied in a 
Government Bill, which successfully passed the House of 
Commons. An amendment was inserted by the House of 
Lords preserving the liberty of contracting out of the Act, 
but under certain significant new safeguards. 2 In emphatic 
condemnation of the practice of the London and North- 

1 The London and North- Western Railway Company, and all but one of the 
South-West Lancashire coalowners at present (1897), explicitly compel all their 
operatives to "contract out." 

2 The House of Lords' Amendment, together with the final discussion upon 
it, will be found in Hansard's Parliamentary Debates, I3th February 1894. 



Sanitation and Safety 373 

Western Railway Company and the Lancashire Coalowners, 
the House of Lords declared that " contracting out " was in 
no case to be made a condition of the workman's being given 
employment. It was not even to be left any longer to Indi- 
vidual Bargaining. No " contracting out " was to be per- 
mitted unless the financial basis of the employer's benefit 
society had been approved by the Board of Trade as fair to 
the workmen. But this was not all. No " contracting out" 
was to be allowed, however favorable to the men might be 
the consideration offered, unless it had been collectively agreed 
to by the workers in the establishment considered as a whole. 
For this purpose, elaborate provision was proposed for a 
" secret ballot " of the workers to be taken under authority 
of the Board of Trade at intervals of not less than three 
years ; and a two-thirds majority was to be necessary for 
consent. Thus, under no circumstances was it to be within 
the option of an individual wage-earner, acting as an indi- 
vidual, to forego his legal rights. In spite of this remarkable 
concession to the central position of Trade Unionism the 
objection to Individual Bargaining the majority of the 
House of Commons, at the instance of its working-men 
members, preferred to abandon the Bill rather than accept an 
amendment allowing the detested contracting out under any 
conditions whatsoever. 1 

The controversy has now been narrowed down to so fine 
a point that the Trade Union leaders may any day get from 

1 The bitterness with which the Trade Union officials object to "contracting 
out," and the underlying reason which led them to refuse even the safeguarded 
provision of the House of Lords' Amendment, are, we think, connected not with 
"contracting out" as such, but with the existence of employers' benefit societies. 
An accident fund or benefit society, confined to the workmen in a particular 
establishment, is, as we shall see in our chapter on "The Implications of Trade 
Unionism," in many ways inimical to Trade Unionism. Employers' benefit 
societies are far older than the Act of 1880, and exist in many firms which do 
not contract out. Moreover, contracting out may take place, as in the South 
Wales coalmines, with an accident fund common to the whole area, and thus 
independent of any one employer. Employers' benefit societies cannot therefore 
be swept away by a side wind. If public opinion is to be led to agree to their 
prohibition, this must come, like the removal of other deductions from wages, by 
an amendment of the Truck Acts. 



374 Trade Union Fimction 

one party or the other the legislation they desire. We 
are, however, inclined to believe that just as they were dis- 
appointed with the Act of 1880, though it gave them prac- 
tically what they then demanded, so they will find equally 
unsatisfying any measure on the lines of the Bill of 1893-94, 
about which they were so enthusiastic. The fact is there is 
no reason to believe that the mere prohibition of " contracting 
out " will do anything to diminish the number of accidents. 
Attempts have been made to prove that the comparatively 
few undertakings in which contracting out prevails have a 
higher percentage of accidents than those in which the 
Act applies. But no statistical evidence yet adduced 
on the subject will stand examination. 1 It is said, for 
example, that in Lancashire and Wales, where the coal- 
miners contract out, the proportion of accidents is appreci- 
ably higher than in Yorkshire or Northumberland, where 
they do not. But this was the case also before the Act 
of 1880: moreover, the proportion of accidental deaths 
to persons employed seems to be diminishing more rapidly 
in Wales and Lancashire than in Northumberland. It is 
even gravely argued that the London and North -Western 
Railway Company has eight times as many accidents as the 
Midland as if nothing turned on the different definitions of 
an accident ! The truth is, there is no such difference of 
pecuniary interest as is supposed between the employer who 
" contracts out," and the one who remains subject to the Act. 
In the vast majority of cases the employer does not take 
the trouble to ask his workmen to bargain away their legal 
rights ; 2 he protects himself against the worry of litigation by 
the simpler device of insurance. On payment of a definite 
annual premium to an ordinary insurance company he is 
indemnified against any loss by claims under the Act, the 

1 A well-known barrister, who has been engaged in between three and four 
hundred Employers' Liability cases, almost exclusively on the side of the workmen, 
informed us that his experience has convinced him that the legal liability for 
compensation had no effect whatever in preventing accidents, at any rate in coal- 
mining. 

2 Thus, in 1891, only 119,122 coalminers, out of 648,450, had contracted 



Sanitation and Safety 375 

company, to boot, taking all the trouble off his hands. The 
fear of damages may here and there induce a small master 
to obey, more promptly than before, the factory inspector's 
order to guard a driving wheel or fence a lift shaft. But in 
the great staple industries, insurance against accidents, at a 
rate of premium which is, in practice, uniform for all the 
firms in the trade, is becoming almost as much a matter of 
course as insurance against fire. Thus, even where the work- 
men retain all their legal rights, the employer has usually no 
more pecuniary interest in preventing accidents than he has 
where they have been compelled to contract out of the Act. 
" Contracting out," with its accompanying contribution to an 
employer's benefit society, is, in fact, itself only a minor form 
of insurance. 

Insurance stands, therefore, in the way of the Trade 
Union plan of preventing accidents by making them costly. 
In the case of ships at sea, this fact has occasionally led 
philanthropists to suggest that insurance should be pro- 
hibited. But insurance is merely a private bargain, often 
indeed only a co-operative arrangement between friends ; 
and no such prohibition could possibly be enforced. Be- 
sides, insurance is itself only a device for spreading an 
occasional lump sum payment equally over a number of 
years : so that the largest establishments prefer to be their 
own insurers. Here the setting aside of a few hundred 
pounds a year to form a fund out of which to pay compen- 
sation for occasional workmen's accidents is a flea-bite 
compared with the cost and trouble of adopting the elab- 
orate precautions that might totally prevent their occurrence. 
This brings us to the economic centre of the whole argu- 
ment. What has been discovered is, that in the majority of 
industries it costs less, whether in the form of an annual 

out, the practice being unknown in Northumberland, Durham, Yorkshire, the 
Midlands, and Scotland. Of railway companies, only the London and North- 
Western (compulsorily), and the London, Brighton, and South Coast (optionally), 
employ this expedient. In other industries we know only very few cases such 
as Messrs. Chance's great glass works, and Mr. Assheton Smith's Dinorwic slate 
quarries where the men contract out. 



376 



Trade Union Function 



premium or in that of an occasional lump sum out of profits, 
to compensate for accidents than to prevent them. 1 

Considered as a method of preventing industrial accidents, 
the whole system of employers' liability is an anachronism. 
When Parliament became convinced that no coal mine could 
be safely worked without a second shaft, it did not seek to 
mend matters by conceding to the miners a right of recover- 
ing compensation from the mine-owner who worked without 
such a shaft. What happened was that all mine-owners 
were peremptorily ordered to have a second shaft, under 
penalty of heavy fines for each day's neglect to comply with 
the law. When public opinion demanded that the operatives 
in a crowded factory should not be exposed to the risk of 
being burnt to death, the House of Commons never thought 
of removing this risk by any process of compensation ; it 
commanded every mill-owner to provide proper fire-escapes, 
or be punished by the police magistrate. This is the 
method of our factory, mines, railways, and merchant ship- 
ping Acts, and all our public health legislation. " Imagine, 
for the sake of illustration," wrote Jevons in 1887, "that 
there is in some factory a piece of revolving machinery 
which is likely to crush to death any person carelessly 
approaching it. Here is a palpable evil which it would be 

1 Thus, to take only one industry, there can be little doubt that the large 
number of accidents to railway servants (on an average, over forty every day, 
a quarter of which are connected with moving vehicles) could, as regards 
shunters, be at once diminished by the universal adoption of such appliances 
as automatic couplings ; and that in particular, the almost daily sacrifice of 
platelayers could be avoided by the rigging-up of temporary signals. But to 
adopt such precautions throughout the extensive English railway system would 
be extremely expensive, and possibly irksome. 

The trifling amount of the premium that suffices to meet all compensation and 
costs under the Act of 1880 is, in this connection, very significant. The Iron 
Trades Employers' Association covers the liability of firms employing 28,000 men 
in engineering and shipbuilding by a premium varying from fifteen to twenty- 
seven pence per 100 paid in wages. In the building trade it is four shillings 
per ^100. In Northumberland and Durham the coalowners have a mutual insur- 
ance association, to which they pay annually a sum sufficient to meet all damages 
and costs which any of their members have to pay under the Act of 1 880. Their 
total payments during five years were only ^400 a year, a sum which would not 
have gone far in providing any safeguards in all their collieries. See Evidence 
before Select Committee on Employers' Liability, 1887 ( H - C. No. 285). 



Sanitation and Safety 377 

unquestionably well to avert by some means or other. But 
by what means ? " And he concluded that there was one 
" mode of solving the question, which is as simple as it is 
effective. The law may command that dangerous machinery 
shall be fenced ; and the executive government may appoint 
inspectors to go round and prosecute such owners as disobey 
the law." 1 

This sounds simple ; but it involves two troublesome 
preliminaries. First, an elaborate technical investigation to 
ascertain exactly what practical precautions should be 
adopted ; and, second, to induce a capitalist Parliament to 
enforce them against negligent employers. In 1872 the 
latter condition was so hopeless that the Trade Union 
leaders of that day could see nothing for it but to fall back 
on the indirect method of making accidents costly to the 
employer. But public opinion has made a prodigious stride 
during the last twenty years. Parliament no longer refuses 
to regulate, in minute detail, the processes of particular 
industries. Though both the scope and the administration 
of our industrial legislation still leave much to be desired, 
it now takes only a few years' agitation for a group of 
philanthropists or a well -organised Trade Union to get 
embodied, either in an Act of Parliament or in a " special 
rule " of the Home Secretary, any well-considered regulation 
for promoting health or safety which has been approved 
by the scientific experts. Meanwhile, in one industry after 
another, the inspection necessary for the enforcement of the 
law is steadily becoming a reality. By the Coal Mines 
Regulation Act of 1887 the miners in any pit are enabled 
to appoint two inspectors of their own, who are empowered 
to inspect, once a month, every part of the workings, and 
formally to record their report upon them. In 1858 there 
were only eleven Government inspectors of mines, all told. 
By 1896 this number had been increased to thirty-nine 
(including assistant inspectors), and the service made much 

1 The State in Relation to Labour, by W. S. Jevons (London, 1887), pp. 
1-4. 



378 Trade Union Function 

more efficient. In the ten years 1884-1893 over four 
thousand railway workers lost their lives by accidents with- 
out the Board of Trade troubling even to inquire into more 
than a dozen of the cases ; now, with the appointment of two 
railway workers as assistant inspectors, about half the fatal 
accidents that take place are made the subject of elaborate 
official investigation, with a view of suggesting precautions 
to prevent their recurrence. 1 In short, the protection of 
the worker against industrial accidents has now become part 
of the acknowledged work of Government. An avoidable 
casualty in a factory or a mine is no longer regarded merely 
as an injury to the individual, to be atoned for by the pay- 
ment of money compensation : under modern legislation it is 
an offence against the community punishable by the magistrate. 
From this public obligation to provide for health and safety 
there can obviously be no "contracting out." Nor is it 
possible for the employer to evade his liability by any 
payment to an insurance company. The inspector and the 
magistrate are empowered to see, not only that the fine is 
paid, but also that the law is complied with. The idea of 
relying for the protection of life and health upon the chance 
activity of interested plaintiffs in search of personal compen- 
sation, seems, to the modern jurist, archaic. Like murder, 
theft, and embezzlement, the unnecessary risking of the 
workers' lives has passed from the domain of civil to that of 
criminal law. 

Let us now leave the arguments used in support of 
employers' liability by the Trade Union officials, and con- 
sider why it secures the suffrages of the rank and file. 
What the individual workman sees in the proposal is, not 
so much a vague chance of lessening the risk of accidents, 
as the certainty of a lump sum down when one occurs, to 
enable him or his widow to set up a little shop. To the 
miner or the railway servant it seems an intolerable hardship 
that his family should be reduced to beggary through no 

1 Report of General Secretary to Annual General Meeting of the Gtneral 
Railway Workers' Union (London, 1897), pp. 12- 1 7. 



Sanitation and Safety 379 

fault of his own. What he wants is, not to find out whose 
fault the accident is as likely as not it is nobody's fault 
but to be compensated for his misfortune. That is also the 
concern of the community, which has an admitted interest in 
fulfilling for him that " established expectation " upon which 
foresight and deHberateness in life depend. Here all inquiries 
as to whether the accident is caused by the personal negligence 
of the manager or the carelessness of a fellow-workman, or 
whether it is the result of a fog or an inexplicable explosion, 
are quite beside the question. Whether from the standpoint 
of the community or from that of the injured workman, the 
notion of making compensation in any way dependent on 
such considerations is pure inconsequence. Accordingly, 
wherever the community itself undertakes public services, it 
is every day compensating more equitably those who suffer 
bodily injury in the performance of their duties. In the 
army and navy, the Civil Service, and the police, in the Fire 
Brigade, and other branches of municipal administration, 
though the treatment of weekly wage-earners is still far from 
being as favorable as that of salaried officers, we see con- 
stantly a fuller acceptance and more generous interpretation 
of their right to compensation. Private individuals and 
corporations sometimes show a sense of the same responsi- 
bility. In many particular instances large industrial under- 
takings will give a " light job," or even a pension, to a clerk 
or workman disabled in their service. Whenever a sensa- 
tional accident occurs at sea or in the mine, subscriptions 
pour in to save the sufferers or their widows and orphans 
from the workhouse. In short, in all those cases in which 
public opinion can now be directly appealed to, it is found 
to be largely in agreement with the workman that it is 
intolerable for his livelihood to be cut short through no 
shortcoming or fault in his own character or conduct. 

We have said above, parenthetically, that an accident is 
as likely as not to be nobody's fault. It is necessary to 
emphasise this, because most accidents are, to use the 
traditional phrase of the bill of lading, " the act of God." 



380 Trade Union Function 

In the great majority of industrial casualties probably in 
three cases out of four it is impossible to prove that the 
calamity has been due to neglect on any one's part. A flash 
of lightning or a storm at sea, a flood or a tornado, irre- 
sponsibly claim their victims. The greatest possible care in 
buying materials or plant will leave undiscovered hidden 
flaws which one day result in a calamity. In other cases, 
the accident itself destroys all trace of its own cause. In 
many, perhaps in most, of the casualties of the ocean or the 
mine, the shunting yard or the mill, the difficulties in the 
way of bringing home actual negligence to any particular 
person are insuperable. 1 

Here, then, we discover a fundamental objection to the 
doctrine of employers' liability its irrelevance to the issue 
between the community and the injured workman, and its 
practical inapplicability, even as an arbitrary makeshift, to 
most of the cases it is aimed at. Actual experience indi- 
cates that it neither prevents accidents, nor insures their 
victims. And it has the further drawback that to compel 
the workman to extract his compensation from the employer 
is inevitably to plunge him into litigation. Even where 
compensation can now be recovered the law costs are a 
serious evil. Moreover, unless the sufferer happens to 
belong to a strong and wealthy Trade Union, which takes 
his case up, it is usually quite impossible for him to fight 
it at all, from lack of both knowledge and funds ; so that he 
is practically driven to accept any compromise offered by the 
employer. The Home Office itself admits the failure. In 

1 The proportion of industrial accidents for which actual or constructive 
negligence by the employer can be shown has been variously estimated at from 
one-tenth to one-half of the whole. The Employers' Liability Assurance Cor- 
poration, which insures employers against their liability under the Act of 1880, 
found that, in this class of policies, claims were made on them for only 24 per 
cent of the accidents reported ; and estimated that, in another class of policies, 
where all accidents whatsoever were insured against, only 3026 out of 26,087 
admitted claims (or less than one-eighth) represented accidents for which the 
employer might have been held legally liable. See evidence before Select Com- 
mittee on Employers' Liability, 1887 (H. C. No. 285), pp. 4165-4308, and 
Appendices. 



Sanitation and Safety 381 

its official memorandum on the state of the law it goes so 
far as to say, " the truth is that to the workman litigation 
under the Act of 1880 has more than its usual terrors. It 
is not merely that litigation is expensive, and that he is a 
poor man and his employer comparatively a rich one : it 
is that when a workman goes to law with his employer, he, 
as it were, declares war against the person on whom his 
future probably depends ; he seeks to compel him by legal 
force to pay money ; and his only mode of doing so is the 
odious one of proving that his employer or his agents his 
own fellow -work men have been guilty of negligence." 
Finally, such migratory workers as seamen find legal 
remedies against their employers absolutely illusory, owing 
to the impossibility of collecting and keeping together their 
witnesses, if these are fellow-seamen, during the law's delays. 

Let us now examine the question from the employer's 
point of view. Why should he bear the cost of an accident 
which is the " act of God," merely because it happens to 
have occurred on his premises, especially when the same 
unavoidable calamity which has injured his employees may 
have crippled, or even ruined, his own business ? And even 
in the case of accidents due to his own neglect, how can any 
proportion be depended on between the degree of his culp- 
ability and the penalty of adequately providing for all the 
sufferers ? One accident may involve the payment of a five- 
pound note to a man who has been laid up for a week with 
a scalded hand : an exactly similar accident, caused in an 
exactly similar way, may kill or disable for life a score of 
people. The most criminal negligence may lead only to a 
breakdown which hurts nobody, whilst a very venial over- 
sight may make an employer liable to fabulous compensa- 
tion. Thus there is injustice in making him liable for 
avoidable accidents, and no justice at all no sense, in fact 
in making him liable for unavoidable ones. Is it to be 
wondered at that employers resolutely resist Liability Bills 
in Parliament without regard to party exigencies ? 

We now see why the provisions of the Employers' 



382 Trade Union Function 

Liability Act of 1880, like those of the score of Bills which 
have since been introduced for its amendment, are inadequate 
and even illusory. It was, no doubt, pleasant to get, under 
the Act, some pecuniary compensation for a comparatively 
small class of cases, which would otherwise have remained 
unprovided for. It would no doubt have been a boon to a 
larger number of sufferers if the Bill of 1893-94 had been 
passed. But such measures, however useful they may be to 
particular sections of wage-earners, deal only with a small 
proportion of the cases of hardship, and do not discriminate 
in their favor on any logical or permanently tenable ground. 
Abandoning, then, the idea that systematic provision for 
the sufferers from industrial accidents can be got out of 
any possible penalties for negligence, however widely the 
lawyers may stretch the term, what shall we say to the 
suggestion, as yet scarcely whispered by Trade Unionists, 
that the law should be so extended as to make provision for 
sufferers from all industrial accidents, whether due to the 
proved negligence of any superior or not. Both in Germany 
and Austria this idea has been already embodied in elaborate 
schemes of universal provision for accidents, which rank 
among the most remarkable of social experiments. In 
England the proposal has appeared as a natural outcome of 
the Trade Union idea of maintaining the continuity of the 
worker's livelihood. At the Trade Union Congress of 1877, 
universal provision for all industrial accidents, the funds to 
be provided by a tax on commodities, was suggested by a 
London compositor, as an alternative to the usual employers' 
liability resolution. It was vehemently denounced by 
Thomas Halliday, a leader of the coalminers, who said 
" they wanted no tax upon coal. What they wanted was 
that their lives and their bodies should be preserved. The 
best way to secure this was to make the employers re- 
sponsible,, and make them pay the cost. What they 
wanted was not money, but their lives and limbs preserved." 
This view was endorsed by Alexander Macdonald and 
accepted by the Congress amid loud cheers. Thus, the 



Sanitation and Safety 383 

rooted belief in employers' liability as a means of preventing 
accidents, coupled, perhaps, with the fear of a deduction from 
wages for compulsory insurance, brushed aside a proposal 
which deserved more careful consideration. By it we are, 
indeed, taken outside the domain of anything that can be 
called employers' liability, however much the phrase may 
be strained. This involves a reconsideration of the incidence 
of the burden. To compel employers to incur the liability 
implied by adequate compensation for all accidents what- 
soever, would, whether done directly or by insurance, involve 
a serious burden upon every enterprise, which would certainly 
be shifted, though not without friction and expense, on to 
the customers, in the form of higher prices. What is more, 
it would fall unequally upon different industries according to 
their risk, and would thus be transferred unequally to different 
classes of consumers, not at all in proportion to their ability 
to bear this new burden, but partly at haphazard, partly in 
proportion to their actual consumption. At every " reper- 
cussion " of the tax, there would be an additional " loading," 
so that the ultimate charge on the consumer would, as in 
the case of excise duties on raw materials, far exceed the 
original sum. As soon as public opinion is prepared to 
decide that all accidents ought to be compensated for, it 
will be at once easier, fairer, and more economical to provide 
the necessary annual sum from public funds, and to raise a 
corresponding revenue in accordance with the recognised 
canons of taxation. 

Upon the question likely to interest politicians how 
soon public opinion will arrive at such a point all that can 
be said is that the electors are rapidly becoming aware that 
accidents are an inevitable part of the cost of modern 
industry ; indeed, statistically considered, they are not 
accidents at all, but certainties. And, as we have seen, the 
public conscience, which has never been perfectly easy on 
the subject how could it be in a great mining, manufac- 
turing, and seafaring community like ours ? grows per- 
ceptibly more sensitive from decade to decade. The question 



384 Trade Union Function 

cannot be let alone : some solution must be found. At 
present what stands most conspicuously in the way of 
public provision for all sufferers from accidents, coupled 
with factory legislation for their prevention, and criminal 
prosecutions for the punishment of negligence, is the 
belief in Employers' Liability. And Employers' Liability, 
as we have seen, breaks down at every point. The con- 
clusion is obvious. 

It would be an incidental, but very advantageous, result 
of any scheme of public provision that every accident would 
have its inquest. There would be many gains in extending 
the present system of public inquiry into casualties. Such 
an inquiry is now held, (a) by the coroner, if death .has 
resulted, or (in the City of London) if there has been a fire ; 
(b) by an officer of the Board of Trade, in cases where a 
ship has been wrecked or a railway accident involving 
injury to passengers has occurred ; and (c) by an officer of 
the Home Office in mining accidents. Industrial accidents 
of every kind must at least be notified to a public office. 
If a public " inquest " were held, by a duly qualified public 
officer (with or without a jury), whenever an accident caused 
loss of life or limb, or other serious bodily harm, to a 
wage-earner in the course of his employment, the investi- 
gation and publicity would probably do much to secure 
compliance with the Factory or Mines Regulation Acts, 
and so diminish the number of accidents. If any system 
of public provision for the sufferers were established, such 
an inquest would serve a useful purpose in determining 
whether a casualty had been caused by somebody's negli- 
gence or by carelessness on the part of the sufferer himself, 
or whether it was, in the strict sense, an accident. Where 
the casualty had arisen from the employer's failure to 
comply with the law, or from any other gross negligence, a 
criminal prosecution would naturally follow, any fine im- 
posed thus indirectly reimbursing the State for the expense 
caused. When the sufferer himself had, by carelessness, 
brought about his own calamity, his compensation could be 



Sanitation and Safety 385 

wholly or in part withheld, though if death had ensued 
there would be no public advantage in making his widow 
and orphans go short of necessary maintenance. The 
compensation itself should in all cases be payable by the 
Government out of public funds. Whether there is any 
practical advantage in the Government, as in Germany 
and Austria, then levying the amount on corporations of 
employers (and through them upon the consumers and wage- 
earners), instead of directly upon the taxpayers as such, 
seems to us extremely doubtful. Such a system of finance 
contravenes, like an excise duty on raw materials, all 
the orthodox canons of taxation. It is perhaps more to 
the point to say that any attempt to levy an insurance 
premium upon the workman's weekly wage would, in 
this country, encounter the unrelenting opposition of the 
whole Trade Union and friendly society world. 1 

If now we look back on the whole Trade Union argu- 
ment from the workman's point of view, it is easy, we think, 
to see running through it one simple idea. Whether we 
study the regulations imposed by the Collective Bargaining 
of the iron and building trades, or the elaborate technical 
provisions of the Factory, Mines, and Merchant Shipping 
Acts ; whether we disentangle the complicated issues of 
" common employment " or those of " contracting out," we 
always strike the same root principle, a resolute protest by 
the manual worker against being required to sell his life or 
health, in a3ctftioTr-to his labor. The individual wage-earner 
knows that he may always be bribed or terrorised into 
accepting conditions of employment injurious to health or 
dangerous to life or limb. He therefore seeks, through his 
Trade Union, to prohibit Individual Bargaining on these 
points, and to enforce, in all establishments, those conditions 
of employment which experience has shown to be necessary 
for sanitation and safety. It is in vain that the economists 

1 See, on this point, the significant Minority Report by Mr. Henry Broadhurst, 
M.P., in the Report of the Royal Commission on the Aged Poor, 1893-95, C. 
7684, p. xcviii. 

VOL. I 2 C 



386 Trade Union Function 

have assured him that extra risks bring higher wages ; or 
the employers offered him liberal inducements in return 
for " contracting out " of protective legislation. What the 
Trade Unionist has, for a whole generation, uniformly 
answered, is that he will not " coin his blood for drachmas." 
Hence his persistent hankering after Common Rules, which 
shall definitely prescribe how much cubic space shall be 
allowed, what safeguards against accidents shall be adopted, 
and what provisions shall be made for protection against 
disease and discomfort. What is remarkable is that, in 
this resolute determination to lift out of the sphere of 
"personal freedom" the option to suffer disease, maiming, 
or death, public opinion has emphatically endorsed the 
Trade Union view. It is no longer permitted to the sailor 
to decide whether he will, for extra wages, accept the risk 
of going to sea in an overloaded ship, or to the cotton 
operative whether, in order to get employment at all, he will 
put up with a weaving-shed dripping with steam. We do 
not now leave it to the white lead worker or the enameller to 
bargain with their employers as to the extent to which they 
will risk their health by dispensing with costly precautions ; 
or allow the coalminer the option of earning high wages 
by foregoing the elaborate ventilation of an exceptionally 
perilous pit. And it is not only in the ever -lengthening 
Factory, Mines, Railways, and Merchant Shipping Acts that 
this conversion of the public is apparent. The Employers' 
Liability Act of 1880 was itself a proof that Parliament 
overrode the lawyers' contention that the workmen must im- 
plicitly accept, as part of the wage contract, whatever risk to 
life or health was incidental to their industry. When, in 
order to evade this law, employers invented the device of 
" contracting out," a Liberal House of Commons decided 
actually to prohibit the risk of accident being made a matter 
of contract at all, whilst even the Conservative House of 
Lords resolved that under no circumstances could it be left 
to Individual Bargaining. Finally, the slackness which has 
now come over the whole controversy of Employers' 



Sanitation and Safety 387 

Liability is, we think, to be attributed largely to a half- 
conscious appreciation by the public that the mere making 
of accidents costly a liability which can always be insured 
against is not the way to prevent them, and that to foist 
an illusory liability on the employer for constructive negli- 
gence is not the way to provide for the sufferers. As far as 
the United Kingdom is concerned, the practical conclusion is 
to prescribe, by definite technical regulations, the precautions 
against accident and disease which experience and science 
prove to be necessary ; to punish any breach of these 
regulations whether any accident has happened or not ; to 
hold a public inquiry into every serious case of accident, 
and (as part of the punishment) make the employer pay a 
forfeit to the State according to the degree of his guilt, 
whenever the accident has resulted from any breach of the 
rules or other clear negligence ; and to provide from public 
funds for the injured workman and his family, however the 
accident has happened, according to the extent of their 
needs. 



The foregoing analysis of the Trade Union controversy 
upon Employers' Liability was written in August 1896, and 
published in January iSp?. 1 Since that date the whole 
situation has been changed by the introduction and passage 
into law of Mr. Chamberlain's revolutionary " Workmen's 
Compensation Bill." This measure is admittedly no final 
solution of the problem, and we prefer, therefore, to leave 
intact our detailed examination of the position in which the 
controversy stood in 1896, rather than attempt a hasty 
reconstruction on the basis of an Act as yet untested by 
experience. 

The measure which the Conservative Government of 
1897 has passed as an alternative to the Liberal Govern- 

1 Progressive Review. 



388 Trade Union Function 

ment's proposal of 1893-94, seems, in an almost dramatic 
manner, to give the go-by to all the old controversies. 1 
Instead of quibbling over the degree to which the employer's 
liability for negligence can be stretched, the new law makes 
him, in most of the great industries of the country, individ- 
ually liable to compensate his workmen for all accidents 
suffered by them in the course of their employment, whether 
caused by negligence or not. Thus, without expressly 
abolishing the doctrine of " common employment," the law, 
by securing a certain limited compensation for every acci- 
dent whatsoever, now puts the workman in an altogether 
different position from the injured stranger, who can claim 
only in case of the employer's real or constructive negligence. 
And although "contracting out" is nominally permitted, 
provided that the scheme is certified by the Chief Registrar 
of Friendly Societies as being not less favorable to the 
workman than his position under the Act, so wide is now 
the scope of the law and so stringently is this exception 
guarded, that most of its attractiveness to the employer will 
have disappeared. The Trade Unionists were, accordingly, 
well advised in accepting Mr. Chamberlain's bill, notwith- 
standing its limitations and defects. The right to compen- 
sation for all accidents, now granted to about a third of the 
manual workers, cannot permanently be withheld from the 
other two-thirds, and the numerous flaws that will certainly 
manifest themselves in the working of so novel and so 
far-reaching a statute, may be confidently left to the 
amending bills to which one Government after another will 
find itself committed. 

The particular employers upon whom the new law im- 
poses a large and indefinite pecuniary liability have, we 
think, a real grievance. Certain industries have been thus 
burdened, whilst others, no less liable to accidents, 2 have 

1 For a bitter attack on this measure from the Conservative employer's point 
of view, see J. Buckingham Pope's Conservatives or Socialists (London, 1897). 

2 Besides all the processes of agriculture, the building or repairing of houses 
less than 30 feet high, and all workshop industries, the Act excludes seamen and 



Sanitation and Safety 389 

been left free. Even within the bounds of a single trade, 
establishments using one process are made liable to pay 
compensation for casualties which no care or precaution 
could prevent, whilst others, using a different process, escape 
any but the illusory liability of the old law. The novel 
penalty for accidents to which some employers are thus 
subjected bears no relation to the degree of their guilt in 
trying to prevent them ; a casualty due exclusively to the 
" act of God " will cost them no less than one due to their 
own personal negligence. In practice the liability to com- 
pensation is simply insured against, and employers within 
the scope of the new Act find themselves saddled with an 
extra insurance premium, constituting an addition to the 
cost of production from which other capitalists are exempt. 

The two- thirds of the manual workers whom the Act 
now excludes are suffering from an injustice which can- 
not easily be redressed on the lines of the present law. 
It may be practicable to put a liability to pay com- 
pensation for all accidents upon a railway company, a 
coalowner, or the registered occupier of a steam factory. 
Even in these cases, if the employer neglects to insure, 
the sufferers in an extensive accident may sometimes find 
their claims baulked by the firm's bankruptcy. But a large 
proportion of the excluded workmen are employed by small 
masters, themselves often little removed from the status of 
wage-earners, or by migratory contractors of one kind or 
another, only just living from hand to mouth. Insurance in 
such cases would be unusual, if not even impossible. Any 
serious accident in their little industry would, on the one 
hand, reduce them to bankruptcy, and, on the other, deprive 
the sufferers of any real chance of extracting compensation 
from them. Yet the two-thirds of the wage-earners thus 
employed cannot permanently be denied the compensation 
for all accidents now granted to the other third. If it is 
socially expedient to compensate the workers in the great 

fishermen ; carmen and drovers and others dealing with horses and cattle ; and 
such riverside occupations as boatmen and lightermen. 



390 Trade Union Function 

industries for all accidents, there is neither equity nor good 
sense in withholding a like compensation from those who 
suffer accidents in other trades. 

In our opinion, there must inevitably be a development, 
either towards the formation of compulsory trade groups, 
collectively responsible for the accidents occurring in the 
establishments of their members, or else towards simple State 
compensation. The former plan, adopted in Germany and 
Austria, has the economic advantage of making each in- 
dustry self-supporting, and thus avoiding the disastrous con- 
sequences of the growth of " parasitic trades," on which 
we dwell in the subsequent chapter on " The Economic 
Characteristics of Trade Unionism." It would, moreover, 
emphasise the Trade Unionist principle that an industry 
should be regulated not by the will of individual employers, 
but by its own Common Rules. Organisation among em- 
ployers, and therefore Collective Bargaining, would be greatly 
promoted, with the result that a great impulse would prob- 
ably be given to Trade Unionism itself. But the necessary 
regimentation of employers and their control by rigid rules 
would be extremely distasteful to English capitalists, whilst 
there would be real difficulty in adapting any such organisa- 
tion to the remarkable variety, complexity, and mobility of 
English industry. Simple State compensation avoids all 
these difficulties, and requires no more regimentation or regis- 
tration than is already submitted to by every mine or factory 
owner. If it is desired, as the Marquis of Salisbury declared in 
the House of Lords in support of Mr. Chamberlain's bill, to 
create a great life-saving machine, State compensation affords 
the most effective means to this end. The fact that the Treasury 
paid for every casualty would change the official bias about 
dangerous trades, and we should promptly have the Govern- 
ment setting its scientific advisers and factory inspectors to 
work to devise new means of preventing accidents, to be 
enforced by the Factories, Mines, Railways, and Merchant 
Shipping Acts. The public inquests into all serious cases 
would themselves do much to make the capitalists take 



Sanitation and Safety 39 1 

every possible precaution, and the Factory Inspector's 
criminal prosecution of careless employers, which could not 
be " insured against " or avoided by bankruptcy, would do 
the rest. Nor would the employers object. Now that Mr. 
Chamberlain has, in most of our staple trades, made them 
individually liable for all accidents, a Government which 
proposed, as the only practicable way of extending compen- 
sation to the other industries, to place the liability directly on 
the State, and to spread its cost impartially over the whole 
body of income-tax payers (requiring, perhaps, an additional 
threepence in the pound), might count on the powerful sup- 
port of the great capitalists in the coal, iron, and railway 
industries, who would find themselves relieved of the special 
and exceptional burden now cast upon them. 



CHAPTER VIII 

NEW PROCESSES AND MACHINERY 

A GENERATION ago it was assumed, as a matter of course, 
by almost every educated person, that it was a cardinal tenet 
of Trade Unionism to oppose machinery and the introduc- 
tion of improved processes of manufacture. " Trade Unions," 
said a well-known critic of the workmen in 1860, "have 
ever naturally opposed the introduction of machinery, such 
introduction tending apparently to reduce the amount of 
manual labor needed, and thus pressing on the majority. 
No Trade Union ever encouraged invention." 1 In support 
of this opinion might have been quoted, for instance, the 
editor of the Potters' Examiner, an influential leader of the 
Potters' Trade Unions, who in I 844 could still confidently 
appeal to experience in ascribing all the evils of the factory 
operatives to this one cause. " Machinery," he wrote, " has 
done the work. Machinery has left them in rags and with- 
out any wages at all. Machinery has crowded them in 
cellars, has immured them in prisons worse than Parisian 
bastilles, has forced them from their country to seek in other 
lands the bread denied to them here. I look upon all 
improvements which tend to lessen the demand for human 
labor as the deadliest curse that could possibly fall on the 
heads of our working classes, and I hold it to be the duty of 

1 "Trades Unions and their Tendencies," by Edmund Potter, F.R.S., in the 
Transactions of the National Association for the Promotion of Social Science 
(London, 1860), p. 761. 



New Processes and Machinery 393 

every working potter the highest duty to obstruct by all 
legal means the introduction of the scourge into any branch 
of his trade." 

Nowadays we hear no such complaints. When in 1892 
Professor Marshall published a careful criticism of Trade 
Union policy and its results, he deliberately refrained from 
taking into account or even mentioning, the traditional 
hostility of Trade Unions to inventions or machinery. 1 And 
when in 1894, the Royal Commission on Labor reported 
the result of its three years' elaborate and costly inquiry into 
the claims and proceedings of the workmen's organisations, 
it found no reason to repair this significant omission. The 
Commissioners heard the complaints of employers in every 
trade, and certainly exhibited no desire to gloss over the faults 
of the workmen. But if we may trust the summary of evi- 
dence embodied in the lengthy Majority Report, resistance to 
machinery no longer forms part of the procedure of British 
Trade Unionism. Although the Commissioners analysed the 
" rules and regulations " of hundreds of separate Trade 
Unions, in none of them did it discover any trace of antag- 
onism to invention or improvement. 2 

The fact is that Trade Unionism on this subject has 
changed its attitude. It is quite true that during the first 
half of the century the Trade Unionist view was that so 
forcibly expressed in the Potters' Examiner. But in 1859 
it was noticed by a contemporary scientific observer that 
neither the Trade Unions in general, nor even those in the 
same industry, showed any real sympathy with the 
Northamptonshire bootmakers' strike against the sewing- 
machine, " deeming it neither desirable nor practical to resist 
the extension of mechanical improvements, although very 
sensible of the inconvenience and suffering that are sometimes 
caused by a rapid change in the nature and extent of the 

1 Elements of the Economics of Industry (London, 1892), Book VI. ch. xiii. 
" Trade Unions." 

2 See, in particular, the voluminous analysis of Rules of Associations of 
Employers and of Employed, C. 6795, PP- xu - 5 X 3' 1892. 



394 Trade Union Function 

employment afforded in any particular trade." 1 In 1862 the 
Liverpool Coopers, who had formally boycotted machinery in 
1853, resolved " that we permit any member of this society 
to go to work at the steam cooperage." 2 During this decade 
the Monthly Circular of the Friendly Society of Ironmoulders 
contains numerous earnest exhortations by the Executive 
Committee to the members not to resist " the iron man," the 
new machine for iron moulding. " It may go against the 
grain," they say in December 1864, " for us to fraternise with 
what we consider innovations, but depend upon it, it will 
be our best policy to lay hold of these improvements and 
make them subservient to our best interests." 3 The United 
Society of Brushmakers, which had in 1863 and 1867 sup- 
ported its members in refusing to bore work by steam 
machinery, and had formally declared that they must " on no 
account set work bored by steam by strangers," * revised its 
rules in 1 868, and decided " that should any of our employers 
wish to introduce steam power for boring, no opposition shall 
be offered by any of our divisions, but each division shall have 
the discretionary power of deciding the advantage derived 
from its use." 5 These conversions gain in emphasis and 
definiteness from decade to decade, until, at the present day, 
no declaration against innovations or improvements would 
receive support from the Trade Union Congress or any 

1 " Account of the Strike of the Northamptonshire Boot and Shoe-makers in 
1857, 1858, 1859," by John Ball, F.R.S., Irish Poor Law Commissioner and 
(1855-1858) Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies; better known as the 
founder of the Alpine Club. Printed in the Report of Social Science Association 
on Trade Societies and Strikes, 1860, p. 6. The same volume refers (p. 149) to 
the fact that the organ of the Chainmakers' union " did not hesitate to condemn 
as foolish the strike of the shoemakers in the Midland Counties against the intro- 
duction of machinery." 

2 MS. Minutes of the Liverpool Coopers' Friendly Society, July 1853 and 
September 1862. 

3 Friendly Society of Ironmoulders, Monthly Circular, December 1864. 

4 Annual Report of the United Society of Brushmakers for 1863. See also 
Report for 1867. 

6 Rules of the United Society of Brushmakers, edition of 1869. Such few 
disputes as have since occurred in this society have arisen (like that at Norwich 
in 1892) over the exact amount of the piecework rate to be paid on machine 
work. 



New Processes and Machinery 395 

similar gathering. 1 Among all the thousand-and-one rules 
of existing Trade Unions we have discovered only a single 
survival of the old irreconcilable prohibition, and that in 
a tiny local industry, which is rapidly fading away. The 
Operative Pearl Button and Stud Workers' Protection 
Society, established at Birmingham in 1843, an d numbering 
about 500 members, enjoys the distinction of being, so far as 
we are aware, the only British Trade Union which still pro- 
hibits working by machinery. Its latest " Rules and Regula- 
tions " declare " that the system of centering by the engine 
be annihilated in toto, and any member countenancing the 
system direct or indirect shall be subject to a fine of two 
pounds. Any member of the society working at the trade 
by means of mill-power either direct or indirect, shall be 
subject to a fine of five pounds." 2 

But every newspaper reader knows that the introduction 
of machinery still causes disputes and strikes ; and no doubt 
many excellent citizens still pass by the reports of such dis- 
putes as records of the old vain struggle of the handworker 
against the advance of industrial civilisation. An examina- 
tion of the reports would, however, show that the dispute 
now arises, not on the question whether machinery should 
be introduced, but about the conditions of its introduction. 
The change has even gone so far that there are now, as we 
shall show, instances of trouble being caused by Trade Unions 

1 The latest case in which a union has ordered a strike simply against the 
introduction of machinery into a hand industry is, so far as we know, that of the 
Liverpool Packing Case Makers' Society in 1886. The strike failed, and the 
men have since worked amicably with the machine, and have now become com- 
pletely reconciled to it on finding, as their secretary informed us, that it had 
largely increased the trade. 

2 Rules and Regulations to be observed by the members of the Pearl Btitton and 
Stud Worker? Protection Society, held at the Baptist Chapel, Guildford Street, 
Birmingham (Birmingham, 1887), Rule 26, p. 14. 

We believe that two or three of the old-fashioned trade clubs in branches of 
the Sheffield Cutlery trades, such, for instance, as the File Forgers and the Table- 
blade Forgers, still refuse to recognise the new machines which are largely at 
work in their trades, and which are therefore operated by a new class of workmen. 
On the other hand, other local unions such as the File cutters, Sawsmiths, and 
the Pen and Pocket Blade Forgers, have made no objection to the machines, and 
liave encouraged their members to take to them. 



396 Trade Union Function 

putting pressure on old-fashioned employers to compel them 
to adopt the newest inventions. The typical dispute to-day 
is a dispute as to terms. The adoption of a new machine, 
or the introduction of a new process, in superseding an old 
method of production, usually upsets the rates of wages based 
on the older method, and renders necessary a fresh scale of 
payment. If wages are reckoned by the piece, the employers 
will seek to reduce the rate per piece ; if by time, the workers 
will claim a rise for the increased intensity and strain of the 
newer and swifter process. In either case the readjustment 
will involve more or less higgling, in which the points at issue 
are seldom confined merely to the amount of remuneration. 
The degree of difficulty in any such readjustment will 
depend on the good sense of the parties to the negotiations ; 
and in this as in other matters good sense has to be acquired 
by experience. Some industries, cotton -spinning for ex- 
ample, have had a century of experience of readjustments 
of this kind, which have accordingly become a matter of 
routine. But in trades in which the use of machinery, 
and even the factory system itself, are still comparatively 
new developments, the readjustments are seldom arrived at 
without a struggle. 

As a typical instance of a trade in this stage, take the 
modern factory industry of boot and shoe manufacture, which 
is notorious for incessant disputes about the introduction of 
machinery. In this trade the compact little union of handi- 
craftsmen, working for rich customers, has long since been 
outstripped by its offshoot, the National Union of Boot and 
Shoe Operatives, formed exclusively of factory workers, and 
numbering, at the end of 1896, 37,000 members. We have 
here an industry which is being incessantly revolutionised 
by an almost perpetual stream of new inventions and new 
applications of the old machines. The workmen are noted 
for their turbulence, want of discipline, and lack of education. 
The employers, themselves new capitalists without traditions, 
exposed to keen rivalry from foreign competitors, are eager 
to take the utmost advantage of every chance. The disputes 



New Processes and Machinery 397 

are endless, and the prolonged conference proceedings, the 
elaborate arguments before the arbitrators, and the complicated 
agreements with the employers are all printed in full, afford- 
ing a complete picture of the attitudes taken up by the 
masters and the men. 

The employers' indictment of the operatives has been 

graphically summed up by their principal literary spokesman. 

(< It is true," says the editor of the employers' journal, " that 

objection does not take the form of rattening or direct refusal 

to work with the machines ; experience has taught the union 

a more efficacious way of marshalling the forces of opposition. 

To say openly that labor-saving appliances were objected to 

would be to estrange that public sympathy without which 

Trade Unionism finds itself unable to live. So other methods 

are adopted. The work done by the machines is belittled ; 

it is urged that no saving of labor is effected by their use ; 

the men working the machines exercise all their ingenuity 

in making machine work as expensive as hand labor. 

There exists among workmen what amounts to a tacit 

understanding that only so much work shall be done within 

a certain time, and, no matter what machines are introduced, 

the men conspire to prevent any saving being effected by 

their aid. It is of no use to mince words. The unions are 

engaged in a gigantic conspiracy to hinder and retard the 

development of labor-saving appliances in this country. 

The action of their members in failing to exercise due 

diligence in working new machines is equivalent to absolute 

dishonesty. It is, indeed, positively painful to any one who 

has been accustomed to see, for example, finishing machinery 

running in American factories, to watch English operatives 

using the same machines. In America the men work, they 

run the machines to their utmost capacity, and vie with each 

other in their endeavor to get through as much work as 

possible. But in an English factory they seem to loaf away 

their time in a manner which is perfectly exasperating. If 

they run a machine for five minutes at full speed, they seem 

to think it necessary to stop it and see that no breakage has 



398 Trade Union Function 

occurred. Then they walk about the shop, and borrow an 
oil-can or a spanner, wherewith to do some totally unnecessary 
thing. This occupies anywhere from five minutes to an hour, 
and then the machine is run on again for a few minutes ; 
and if the operator is questioned, he says, ' machines are no 
good ; I could do the work quicker and better by hand.' 
And so he could, for he takes care not to allow a machine to 
beat a shopmate working by hand on the same job, and, in 
short, does all he can to induce manufacturers to abandon 
mechanical devices and go back to hand labor. The spirit 
of comradeship is carried to a ridiculous extent, and no man 
dare do the best he can, lest his fellow-workmen should be, 
as he foolishly thinks, injured. ... It seems to be a settled 
policy with the men, not to try to earn as much money as 
possible per week, but as much as possible per job, in other 
words, to keep the cost of production as high as possible." l 

Assuming all this to be true in fact and, so far, at any 
rate as times of strained relations are concerned, there is no 
reason to question its accuracy let us supplement it by two 
other facts which would hardly have been inferred from it. 
First, that in the American boot factories which work at such 
high pressure, the high pressure is invariably paid for by 
piecework rates. Second, that in England it is the workmen 
who demand that, in conjunction with the new machines they 
should be allowed to work by the piece, as they have hither- 
to been accustomed, and that it is the employers who have 
resolutely insisted on taking the opportunity of changing to 
fixed day wages. 2 Here lies the clue to the whole difficulty. 
We have already explained, in connection with the Cotton- 
spinners, how piecework is the only possible protection of the 
Standard Rate for men who are working machines of which 

1 The Shoe and Leather Record, ipth February 1892. 

2 Thus one of the so-called " Seven Commandments " the ultimatum of the 
employers against which the great strike of 1895 took place was the following 
"That the present is not an opportune time for the introduction of piecework in 
connection with lasting and finishing machinery "(Labour Gazette^ November 1894). 
The lasters and finishers have been accustomed to work by the piece ever since 
the beginning of the factory boot industry. 



New Processes and Machinery 399 

the rate of speed is always being increased. On such machines 
payment by the hour, day, or week involves the exacting 
from the operative an ever-increasing task of work in return 
for the old wages. In the case of the boot operatives the 
question is complicated by the fact that the new machines 
have introduced a new organisation of the factory, the work- 
man steadily becoming less and less of an individual producer, 
working at his own speed, and more and more a member of 
a " team," or set of operatives each performing a small part 
of the process, and thus obliged to keep up with each other. 
This enforced " speeding up " would be all very well if the 
old plan of paying by the piece were continued. But when 
the " more efficient organisation of labor " is coupled with 
the introduction of a fixed day wage, the workmen see in it 
an attempt to lower the Standard Rate of remuneration for 
effort, by getting more labor in return for the old payment. 

This position the employers fail even to comprehend. 
" I know," said the President of the Employers' Association 
in 1 894, " that it will be said it is slavery, pace-making, and 
driving, and that sort of thing. . . . But the manufacturers 
contend that that is not so. For instance, when men are put 
to work in a team, they are waited on hand and foot, and 
they are never kept waiting for anything, whereas when they 
have to ' shop ' their (own) work a waste of time is involved. 
That time is saved under the team system." l It is part 
of the brainworker's usual ignorance of the conditions of 
manual labor that the leaders of the employers could naively 
imagine that, to be " never kept waiting for anything," is an 
advantage to the man paid a fixed daily wage. To the 
workman it means being kept incessantly toiling at the very 
top of his speed for the whole nine hours of the factory day. 
When this high pressure is demanded for the old earnings, 
it amounts to a clear attempt to lower the Standard Rate. 
How this attitude strikes an employer in the same trade, 

1 Report of the National Conference between employers and employed, 6th-8th 
January 1894; reprinted in Monthly Report of the National Union Boot and 
Shoe Operatives, January 1894. 



400 Trade Union Function 

conversant with American conditions, may be judged from 
the following instructive letter written in reply to the editorial 
first quoted. " Let us take a look into an English machinery- 
equipped factory. What do we see there ? Precisely what 
you state, only much worse. The workmen, or very often 
boys, who work on weekly wages, try how little work they 
can do and how badly they can do that little. They don't 
seem to care a scrap so long as they get the time over, 
and are glad when the time comes to clear out of the factory 
and the day's monotony is over. They are continually medd- 
ling with their machines and throwing them out of order. 
Then the engineer has to be called in. The result is a loss 
of time, a loss of work, and expense also. All this to my 
mind arises from a mistaken policy which English manufacturers 
adopt in employing so much boy labor and the weekly wages 
system. If the piecework system were adopted, and only 
expert men employed on the machines, better work would be 
the result, at less cost, and the workman would earn higher 
wages. Is not that the secret why an American manufacturer 
can produce his goods at a lower labor cost than similar 
goods can be produced in this country, while at the same time 
the American operative is earning much higher wages than 
his English brother?" 1 

It will not unnaturally be asked why the English em- 
ployers should wantonly raise difficulties by choosing the 
awkward moment of the introduction of new machinery, to 
compel their workmen to abandon the piecework system of 
remuneration, which has for several generations been custom- 
ary, and to substitute for it a fix