A VALUABLE EXPERIMENT
"If the owners cannot operate the workers will," says W. J. Kelly, National Secretary-Treasurer of the Amalgamated Iron Workers of America. This organization has decided to make a demand upon owners of plants, now idle, to turn them over to the workers so they may demonstrate the value of such action. This demand is the result of wide unemployment and wage reductions among the metal workers, which according to Mr. Kelly is without reason.
At first sight this seems to be only an other of labors propositions to be scorned by employers as entirely impracticable. It has, however, one saving grace perhaps two: the workers do not propose to seize private property by force; and they propose to take over plants now idle, not those making profits. In other words there is the recognition that capital and labor are partner. Labor simply asks to be allowed to demonstrate that, if its partner falls, the partnership can be dissolved without loss to itself. If it succeeds in proving the truth of the assertion, the employer will be forced to admit that his relation to labor must be different in the future; if it falls he has lost nothing.
From North Carolina comes the news that this experiment is actually taking place in a large Iron Works and Supply Company. During a meeting called to discuss a disagreement over a twenty percent wage reduction, one of the employes suggested that the plant be managed by the workers and the profits distributed among them. The suggestion was accepted by the company and the experiment has begun.
Even the most optimistic of labor's friends will hardly agree with Mr. Kelly that "if the owners cannot operate the plants the workers will." They may succeed in North Carolina--and they may not. Most persons agree that labor and capital must continue to be partners, each dependent on the other. Yet even the failure of the iron workers in their experiment will bring partial success: for both sides in dispute will have learned to know each other. Capital will have learned that workmen are human beings interested in management and profits; labor, that a twenty percent reduction in wages does not mean that the president and his friends are buying new houses and automobiles. Slowly but surely the new partnership is coming into existence, and with it industrial peace.