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FIGHTING THE OPEN SHOP

NO WRITER ATTRIBUTED

Twenty million dollars as a starter that is what the American Federation of Labor proposes to spend in its fight against what it considers a capitalistic plot to further the "open shop." If its only opponents were the capitalists and employers this sum might be sufficient, but unless the Federation changes its beliefs it is likely that public opinion will be lined up with its opponents; and no amount of money can change that. Mr. Bohm, who is the secretary of the Central Federated Union, sees in the widespread unemployment the direct result of a conspiracy to force labor to take what work and wages it can get. "I am not a prophet," he says, "so I cannot say what the end will be. . . Take the cloth and hat and cap makers, for instance. This is usually the busiest time of the year for them, but three-quarters of them are out of work. . . . What does this mean? To me it seems to be but the beginning."

What does it mean? No prophet is needed to outline what has happened. Materials and labor are higher in price; the manufacturers have had to charge more for their goods; but now the public has reached the limit of its patience and its buying power. Prices must be reduced, for if the public will not buy how is labor to be paid. To do its part in reduction labor can either offer its services more cheaply or produce more. So far the unions show no signs of taking either step. The return to piece work asked by the cap manufacturers is not the undoing of all that the unions have fought for as Mr. Bohm thinks. It is a demand that value received for wages more nearly equal value given in wages. If the unions guarantee fair production piece work would pass away as a discarded doctrine; but as it is labor adopts the attitude of giving for wages as little work as possible. This will neither reduce prices nor satisfy public opinion.

As for the assertion that capital is trying to cause unemployment, it is seldom that we find an employer deliberately ruining his business. Unemployment will neither reduce his prices nor will it satisfy public opinion. The fact is that labor is largely the cause as well as the victim of present conditions. If the open shop is to go, something must take its place, some guarantee of production from the unions that will satisfy both the employers and public opinion.

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