"The conflict of opinion between the 'open' or 'closed' shop is one of both principle and policy", said Mr. James A. Emery in a recent interview for the CRIMSON. Mr. Emery is General Counsel for the National Association of Manufacturers. "It cannot be settled by mere pious ejaculations nor passionate shibboleths. It is much more than differences of opinion between organized labor and employers. The controversy does not rest upon mere economic circumstance. It has essential social and political aspects of fundamental importance to the citizen individually and as a part of the public, with paramount interest in the principles at issue, as well as an economic stake in the effect of right employment relations upon the continuity and efficiency of the agencies of production, distribution and communication, upon whose adjustment and operation depend social stability and progress. The rights at issue involve the most fundamental which the individual possesses and exercises in the furtherance of his own interest and that of the society of which he is a part. The policies are broad issues reaching into the individual and social value of free managerial control and direction of business method, and the encouragement, promotion, and stimulation of the worker's individual initiative.
"The right to associate is an inherent natural right. It express itself in the formation of every social group, form the family to the state. The vital part of it is the right to say with whom one will associate. Negation in this regard is quite as important as affirmation. Like all other rights it is relative and not absolute. It is exercised subject to the equal right of others to become part of or refrain from becoming a part of any association formed, and the paramount right of all the people to regulate association, and to distinguish combination from conspiracy, which is its illegal species.
Employment Relations Should Be Free
"The other fundamental right requiring consideration in our discussion is that which concerns the existence of all men. To select and pursue a business or occupation as a means of livelihood and to make with respect to it, individually or collectively, agreements with all who are willing to make agreements with all who are willing to make agreements with him, subject only to equal, just and impartial restraint through a representative government, is among the most fundamental rights of the American citizen. Each man's labor, mental or physical, is the original treasury out of which he pays his way and supports himself and those dependent upon him. The moment he begins to exercise his liberty in accordance with his condition, judgement, ability and character, economic inequality is natural and inevitable. These differences, upon which much emphasis is made in the discussion of employment relations, is not peculiar to them. It is equally true, as between all buyers and sellers, and exists between employers as well as between workers.
"The manual worker who strengthens his economic bargaining power by association with other into unions, provided his purpose and methods are legal, exercises an undoubted right of association. But the exercise of that right does not require or compel others who differ with him as to the value of the collective method for the promotion of his individual interest to refrain form joining such organization and it is this which the closed shop seeks to compel. The right to remain unassociated is quite as vital as the right to join any particular association, nor does this right destroy the other and different right to have or refrain from having contractural relations with the union when so formed. The right to organize a corporation or a partnership of one or many partners compels no one to deal with either. It merely authorizes the collective group to have relations with all who are willing to have relations with it. We thus come to that collision of interests and opinions between the 'open' and 'closed' shop.
Mr. Gompers' Views
"Mr. Gompers has defined the closed union shop on the editorial page of the March 'Federationist'. 'The union shop', he says, is a shop in which none but union workers are employed and in which there is a definite agreement between the employer and the worker as an organized unit. In union shops non-union workers sometimes are employed, but only when union men cannot be had. Most agreements provide that when no union workmen are to be had non-union workers may be employed, with the proviso that they make application for union membership within a reasonable period of time. 'The true open shop,' remarks Mr. Gompers, in the same editorial, and there are very few of them--is a shop in which union men and non-union men may work.'
"Mr. Gompers' commentary is some what upset by the finding of fact by the Naval Consulting Board, which examined the capacity of American establishments to manufacture munitions, that of 18,654 plans, substantially 10 percent were union, and that of 1700 odd plants engaged in the fundamental manufactures, substantially 4 percent were union Nor is it irrelevant to call attention at this point to the fact that one of the first acts of the British Ministry, at the out-break of the War, was to negotiate the famous Treasury Agreement. By that, Mr. Lloyd George, as Minister of Munitions, asked the trade unions of Great Britain, who, contrary to our condition dominated the metal trades, to agree with the Government that for the period of the war they would abandon their restrictions, work with non-unionists and admit a dilution of female labor. In other words, Great Britain, as a matter of public policy, sought the establishment of an open shop as the only means of meeting the requirements of national defense.
"The whole matter boils down to this--the closed shop seeks to deprive a man of his right to associate or not to associate as he sees fit, by compelling him to either join a trade union, and be governed by its decisions, thus giving up all his personal liberty, or to be deprived of the opportunity to earn his living. The open shop stands for giving the laborer a chance to exercise his right of discrimination in choosing the place and manner in which he shall earn his living, and the associate with whom he shall work."