ORGANIZATION OF THE UNSKILLED.
By Arl'TIN LEwis, in "The New Review."
The foregoing (attempts and failures of the A.
F. of L. to organize the unskilled workers) represents
th,: work given to the organization of the migratory
unsl:illed in the State of California. It shows that the
:ctiviti'e of the American Federation of Labor in this
regard proceed from two main theories, the one being
that the migratory unskilled are capable of organiza
tion by the A. F. of L., the other that this class of
workers mIuLIst be organized for the benefit of the
skilled craft.smIen i hose province they threaten to
Ac,rding to the underlying conception of organi
zatioln of the A. F. of L., unskilled labor must be
regarhi d as a craft. In fact the report of the com
inittee quoted at the beginning of this article de
clares that it is so and says, "your committee firmly
bciie\cs in the possibility of organizing this craft."
But unskided labor of the sort described is no craft.
'1 he man who is handlling a shovel to-day may to
morrow be workng with a machine, and six months
from now be taking his place with a gang of lumber
n oraers. If these men constituted a craft the work
of organizing them in the A. F of L. would not be
,o dan. uit for the scope of their employment being
....ited, tlhey could, wituout more than ordinary dif
,,. u., be brought into such a position that a union
Sousu appear advantageous to them. Moreover, if
they really constituted a specific craft with recog
inzed limitations on the scope of their employment,
tue A. F. of L. wouldnot be very anxious to organize
I1 he mere fact of their poverty would by no means
be suaicient ins eutive for the spending of money and
the pjaciug of organizers in the field by an orgam
zation whath is not engaged in the business of gen
eral charity to the working class. It has a very
dl.tixict policy in such matters, namely, that the com
ponent factors of its organization must be capable of
muintaining themselves intact as separate individual
If the unskilled were such they would need no
assistance beyond the use of the skilled organizer.
'They would organize spontaneously in terms of their
specific crai. and thus form a part of the Federation
Speaking of the disbanding of the Los Angeles
union and the reason given, that it so disbanded be
cause the other unions did not support it, the com
mittee said, "If the organization of migratory work
ers is ever going to be really successful and a power
in the land it must learn to depend upon its own
strength rather than the support of other unions."
But that is just what these unions have not done
since their inception. They have come into being
artificially as the product of the labor and money of
the other A. F. of L. unions, and have perished
wherever artificial sustenanpe has not been forth
Brietly the organization of the unskilled is not com
patible with the A. F. of L., for the reason that the
latter in its essence is a federation of individual
crafts, whereas the unskilled cannot be by any means
Moreover, the organizations themselves recognize
this fac·t. They are anxious to organize the unskilled,
not. as has been already remarked, because they are
poor and ill-used, but because they are dangerous.
Andrew Furuseth and O. A. Tveitmoe, than whom
there are no two better informed labor men in the
entire West, reg;ard the organization of the unskilled
as an obsolutely necessary step. Toward what? The
devlopmennt of labor and the merging of all factional
and juridictional differences in one great solidified
labor organization By no means. The object is the
maintenance of the crafts as they now exist against
The unskilled, for the most part, are products of
the imachine industry and operate in terms of the
new .system. The crafts are tottering before the as
srults made upon them by the machine industry.
Therefore the unskilled must be organized to form a
screen hbetween the crafts and the operation of the
machine industry. The unskilled must remain classi
fled as unskilled,. in order that the crafts may main
tain the r presage as skilled, and their pay in pro
And this notion is by on means confined to the
Amnrican representatives of the craft notion in labor
organization. Even such a radical syndieahlst as
Tom lMann canont rise above the notions of a life
time wh·n he deals with the unskilled labor problem.
lII,' regardsc the proh,.m from the point of view of
the skilled cr;ifstnan, hlie appears to concern himself
as to how far this unskilled labor group actually
threatens the existence of trades organization, as at
present constituted, and there is evident the same lack
of ability to really comprehend the position of the
unskilled laborer. The reader will easily dstset the
weakness. Mann says in No. 3 of the "Industrial
"The reason that many men are graded as semi
skilled or unskilled is because the capitalist system
will not permit of all engaging in skilled work--o
matter what the amount of skill men may posses.
There must be no lowering of the standard of the
skilled, but there must a raising of the standard of
the lower-paid man. The position of the latter must
be made worthy of a man; and as he serves society
not in the manner he desires, but in the manner
society compels him, he must in future be counted
as a man and a brother. The skilled men must throw
off that silly notion of superiority which still char
acterizes a number of them."
That the same notion is generally prevalent among
trade unionist, even the most radical, appears also
from the pamphlet entitled "Synlicalism" by Earl
('. Ford and Wm. Z. Foster (Chicago, 1912). These
w riters are affiliated with the Syndicalist Educational
League, which is the American counterpart of Tom
Mlann's English orgaalization. Its purpose is the
extension of Syndicalist action and organization
among the unions as they already exist. The Syndi
c.alist League denounces the formation of any labor
organization outside of the A. F. of L. In accordance
with this idea the unskilled laborers must be brought
into the Federation, and the Syndicalist so-called
are confronted by the same set of circumstances and
the same difficulties as the California State Federa
t ion of Labor has faced.
It is easy to say that the unskilled must be taken
into the unions. The question after all is, will they
join the unions ? The above writers say:
"The skilled workers in the large industries are
in such a minority that they cannot seriously dis
organize these industries-and without this disorgani
zation of industry they cannot win concessions from
their employers. To be able to win they must pool
their demands with those of the unskilled workers.
and by sticking with them bring whole industries to
a standstill. This involves letting the unskilled
workers into their union.'
It would appear as if these writers already regarded
the matter as accomplished, as if all that had to be
done is fo,r the unions to declare their readiness to
accept the unskilled and the question would be'im
mediately solved. But as we have seen, this is not
the case. The unskilled do not see their way to
joining the unions even when they are actually per
suaded to do so and even when the unions have ex
pended money on behalf of their organization..
The organizers admit this and attribute the refusal
to a callous indifference to their own degraded con
dition on the part of the laborers and a refusal to
recognize the benefit which would arise from asso
ciation with the A. F. of L.
This is hardly the case. It may apply to a certain
extent to that portion of the unskilled proletariat
which has, so to speak, become sodden with misery
and which has lost the impulse to struggle, owing
to the continued pressure of miserable circumstances.
lBut such people form but a very small fraction of
the great army of the migratory unskilled.
On the contrary, this body of men consists for the
most part of young bachelors in the full flower of
youthful vigor. No others could do their work or
endure the hardships which they daily face. It is
the poorest sort of sophistry to speak of these men
as passive and disinclined to rise. On the contrary,
they form some of the very finest fighting material
as passive and disinclined to rise. On the contrary,
odds, if once they have learned the trick of solidarity
and organized movement.
The consciousness that they cannot achieve their
solidarity within the American Federation of Labor
is one of the chief reasons why they do not join
the IUnited Laborers' Locdls which have been insti
tuted in their special behalf. They know that there
is no identity of interest between themselves and the
craft organizations; that the latter will use them
when it is conveilent to do so, otherwise they will
repudiate them or will refuse to make any effort to
help them gain better conditions.
This has been made apparent time and time again
The molders not so long ago had a strike in which
were involved also the molders' helpers. The latter
were ignored when the time of settlement came. The
crafts, when a strike is dec·lared, do all in their power
to persuade the unskilled men in the shops to quit
their employinent. Indeed, they must do so, for if
the unskilled remained at work it would be useless
ifor the crafts to strike, for as has bee'l already
shown, the position of the craftsmen is so uncertain
that their places can be readily filled by the unskilled.
But when the time for settlement comes these un
skilled men whose sacrificees have been necessary to
the success of the strike are completely left out of
consideration. It cannot be expected that men who
see this sort of trick constantly played upon them
will show any great enthusiasm for the organization
whose members so believe.
Besides, the unskilled men are not fools. They
know that the margin of skill upon which the crafts
rest their claim to superiority and to their higher
wages is very slight. The helper and the unskilled
iman knows that is the great majority of cases he is
able to perform the work or could perform it satis
factorily with a slight amount of practice. He sees
in the United Laborers an attempt to keep him in a
perpetually subordinate position. The union rules
are such that he eannot join the silled crafts, for
he cannot pay the required initiatien fee. He may
be discriminated against in the matter of the techni
cal examination required by the membership as a
necessary preliminary to admissio to the craft. He
may be, and in fact is, placed at a great diedvantage
at every turn.
This man sees, or thinks he sees, in the United
-Laborers an attempt to bring him Into permanent
subjection as a member of the unskilled class, and
to discipline and control his union by the united
forces of the associated crafts either in the Central
Labor Council or in the Building Trades. Thus,
in my particular locality, the United Laborers are
attached to the Building Trades, the great organiza
tion of so-called highly skilled craftsmen, which is
actually by virtue of its own well-established posi
tion and petty-bourgeois tendencies, the one least
able to comprehend and sympathize with the un
The prospect of permanent subjection does not ap
peal to the imagination of the unskilled, particularly
when he recognizes that such position is purely arti
ficial, that the superiority of the crafts does not pro
ceed from an inherent quality, but that it is tran
sient. evanescent, and only maintains itself to-day
by a designed partial monopolization, that it will
,be obliterated by the natural process of economic
Besides, the unions have been by no means im
partial in their attention to the organization of the
laborer, and in cases where they have aided such
organization they have been inclined to favor such
elements as could offer direct assistance to the leaders.
This has been very apparent in San Francisco, where
such laborers in the Building Trades as could readily
exercise the electoral franchise or were affiliated with
such an organization as the church have received
special attention. The difference in the treatment
of the Irish and Italian laborers is clearly in point.
The former have been assisted so that the hod-carriers
form a really very important organization while the
laborers in cemnt who are for the most part Italians
are in no such comfortable state. The former are
of course for the most part voters, the latter are not.
(To be concluded.)
WE SHALL COME as comes the cyclone-in the
stillness we shall form
From the calm your terror fashioned we shall hurl
on you the storm;
We shall strike when least expected, when you deem
Toil's route complete,
And crush you and your hessians 'neath our brogan
shodded feet! -From "Us The Hoboes."
FREE TRADE AT FULLERTON.
I am bound to relate to THE VOICE readers an
other act of the Gulf Lumber Company at Fullerton.
La. I was informed by some of the men, both black
and white, that the Companyls building a new Bull
pen around the Negro quarters, so as to keep pro
'duce peddlers out, and forbids the Negros to buy
anything outside the commissary. I asked these
people what they were going to do about that sort of
bosh and they said: "Well, they tell us if we trade
with the produce people we will lose our jobs. but
we ain't got much jobs nohow, so we intend to buy
as we have been buying, if we do have to walk." I
said, Why don' you get in the I. W. W. and help
better your condition? And the answer was: "You
need not fret; if you knew how many I. W. W's. are
at work in these mills you sure would be surprised.
and so would the Boss."
I told them that was right, for all of them to put
their shoulders to the wheel and it would sure turn.
but if they did not help better their conditions they
would be like a wagon in the mire-they would never
So come, your Lumberjacks, white and colored, join
the I. W. W., help the I. W. W. and the I. W. W.
'will damn sure help you. Else, how can any of
you expect a good thing when you don't demand it ?
And I want to say to all you old Lumber Workers,
your wages are a matter of nothing now, then how
are you going to provide for your families when
your wages are cut. as they are being cut: Why
don't you say "I Won't Work when my wages are
cut," and MEAN IT? Why should YO" suck anti
I am still here and never sucked or sc.abbed in my
life and I am still true to the I. W. W. and still yours
in the cause of freedom. J. R. STROTHIER.
SEND US SOME NAMES
Help THE VOICE spread the battleline and at the
same time increase its circ.ulation by sending in the
names of working people you think might subscribe.
Write names and Postotfice address PLAINLY, using
only one side of a sheet of paper.
If you can chip in a few coppers to help send out
these samples, that too will be a great thing. Do it
ADDISON MILLER NOTICE.
Fellow-worker Addison Miller last heard of in San
Pedro, California. will greatly relieve fears of his
father by writing at once to Fellow-worker Nett Mil
ler, Rosepine, Louisiana.
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Fellew Rebels. THE VOICE thanks you. It has
been only by your help that the paper has pulled
through the last fey hard months and the fights that
have been made upon it. Slowly but surely, a sub
here and another there, its circulation growing into
the South and carrying ever farther the call for ONE
Only by your help have we come thus far. Only
by your continued support can we go on with the
tight. for THE VOICE is absolutely in the hands of
the Rebels who support it. It has no other resources
and we want no other. • At all times it is up to you
to say whether it shall live or die, THE VOICE.
DON'T FORGET TO
SUBSCRIBE TO THE VOICE.
To the Public-Merryville would be heard from
more, and evei ybody look, lison, read The Voice, for
you ore going to get som interestig facts about wat
has hapened wat is and wat are gointo happon in and
around Merryville, and would all so giv the SAW
DUST RING a small dose of pills just to see how
they like um the justis as delt out by the Louisiana
corts would not be over looked eather. For they
hav don there worst and we mUst do our best to rite
the rong that they hav don. I would handle this subjie
with gloves but the kind that I have been useto pick.
ing corn with in Iowa. This artickle would tel you
all about the sab cat and her fine bunch of kits
that ore causing their misteris so much worry just
now. And how the American Lumber Company had
to shet one of their mills down so the company mite
hay all the good slaves to help keep them bunched
as nu(h*l as posible, this would tel you wat the I. W.
W. has is and(l ore gointo do in Merryville we would
all so see who has fought the I. W. W.. Why they
don it for and wat they got for it also who went on
strike at Merryville and the clas of citisons that they
got in return for themn and their good work of last
spring? Who they deported and why they don it
kind of a bull pen they bilt and the kind of ne
gros they put in it, .1. L. Estes and his gang has had
twelve months to plant potatoes in we must dig in
som of their potatoes hills and see if their is any
thing in them.
This artic·kle would run twelve weeks in The Voice
of The P'eople and no one that is intersted in the
kind of justis that has been delt out here for the last
year 'can aford to mliss it for we ore only gointo deal
out soe cohl1 faits and if the SAW I)IST RING
dont like them we would telum whereto go later.
Yours for the One Big I'nion.
Maxcey Wopez, 1779.
CRAWFISH, KINK OF THE CHINKS.
In a hlaze of glory, "loking every inch the king,"
in all the tinsel splenIdor of capitalist majesty, fol
,lowed by his tleet of .ijunks nanined by Chink, Nigger
and Whitetirash selbs. ('rafish. Rex, King of the
('arinival. Kinik of the (Chiiniks. iunna of Bluefields,
('on of 'Colon, "'arrived"'' in New Orlehns, La., on
.1rndaiy. February 23:lrd. andl was handed something
that already belonged to him and his gang--"the
ke/ys of the c·ity."
The Stingaree. the Eel. the Kipper, the Jewfish.
the Gairfish, the I'. S. ('onunissioner and Ilis Britanie
lMajestiy's Consul., also the .shieroes l)unn and Dill
man muist hlave been toladying somewhere, in the
servants qltIarters. we suplpose.
If this is lese iIajteste. ,'ll--we donl't eareadamn.
BEHIND AlLL Kings and P'residents, all Govern
mcnt and Law,
Are army corps and cannoneers to hold the world
For Might is Riht wheil emnpires sink in storms of
steel and flatme.
And it is ;,tldu whenl wakling hre.,(ds are hunted
d(lown like gtrlillt. - From "Might is Right."
DON'T FORGET TO
SUBSCRIBE TO THE VOICE.
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