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Never has the world been confronted with a more serious situation than now. Millions are in want, facing starvation. The children of Europe, half-fed, underdeveloped, appeal for help. Only with infinite pain, unnecessary loss of life and slowness of result can Europe rebuild her industries, restore her agriculture, and re-establish her commerce, without the help of America. The treaty setting forth the terms of peace has not been ratified by the United States. Boundaries are not fixed. People are uncertain as to their allegiance.
Under such conditions exchange and credit have lost voltage and in turn have paralyzed industry. The Labor interests feel that our nation can not with honor and humanity maintain a policy of isolation and disinterestedness from the distress and suffering of the peoples of Europe. Even if the necessity of the peoples of Europe did not have a compelling appeal, the interrelated economic interests of the world would prevent our limiting our attention solely to this hemisphere.
Treaty Provides for Reduced Armies.
The Peace Treaty includes provisions in an international agreement to prevent war among nations, with all its cruelties and sacrifices of human life, with its burden of indebtedness and taxation; for reduction in standing armies, the diminution of great navies, and the limitation of the production of arms and ammunition. Inasmuch as the Senate has failed to ratify the treaty of Versailles, our nation may be isolated from other countries of the world which at some time might be pitted against us. Such isolation and possibilities would make necessary the creation and maintenance of a large standing army and a greater and more effective navy in order in some degree to protect the Republic of the United States from aggression by those countries which were our allies in the great war and which were and are now our friends.
In addition, the workers of America have a deep interest and concern in the Labor Draft Convention of the treaty and in its purposes to raise to a higher standard the conditions of life and labor among all the peoples of all countries. Its cardinal declarations and provisions are: that labor should not be regarded as a commodity; that the eight-hour day and the forty-eight-hour week are standard; that there shall be one day of rest, preferably Sunday, in each week; that child labor shall be abolished, and continuing education for young workers assured: that men and women shall receive equal pay for equal work; that industrial betterments shall be enforced by proper inspection, in which women as well as men shall take part; that wages shall be sufficient to maintain a reasonable standard of living, as this is understood in each time and country, and that employees as well as employers have the right of association for all lawful purposes.
The United States is protected by this draft convention in two ways: (1) That the recommendations which international labor conferences under the Treaty may recommend may be accepted or rejected by our government; (2) That no recommendation that would set a lower standard for the people of the United States than already exists within our borders can be at any time presented for consideration and action by the United States.
Victory Must Not be Wasted.
The great victories for human freedom must not have been won in vain. They must serve as the instruments and the inspiration for a greater and nobler freedom for all mankind. Autocratic, political and corporate industrial influences in our country have sought, and are seeking, to infringe upon and limit the fundamental rights of the wage-earners guaranteed by the constitution of the United States. Powerful forces are seeking more and more aggressively to deny to wage-earners their right to cease work. Labor denounces these efforts as vicious and destructive of the most precious liberties of our people.
There is a wide-spread belief that wages should be fixed on a cost of living basis. This idea is pernicious and intolerable. It means putting progress in chains and liberty in fetters. It means fixing a standard of living and a standard of life and liberty which must remain fixed. America's workers cannot accept that proposition. They demand a progressively advancing standard of life. They have an abiding faith in a better future for all mankind. They discard and denounce a system of fixing wages on the sole basis of family budgets and bread bills. Workers are entitled not only to a living, but modern society must provide more than what is understood by the term, "a living." It must concede to all workers a fairer reward for their contribution to society, a contribution without which a progressing civilization is impossible.
Workers Must Be Own Masters
Labor is fully conscious that the world needs things for use and that standards of life can improve only as production for use and consumation increases. Labor is anxious to work out better methods for industry and demands it be assured that increased productivity will be used for service and not alone for profits. Wage-earners aspire to be something more than numbers on the books of an industrial plant, something more than attendants of a machine, something more than cogs in an industrial system dominated by machinery owned and operated for profit alone. The workers insist upon being masters of themselves. Labor understands fully that powerful interests today are determined to achieve reaction in industry if possible. They seek to disband or cripple the organizations of workers. They seek to reduce wages and thus reduce the standard of living. They seek to keep free from restriction their power to manipulate and fix prices. They seek to destroy the democratic impulse of the workers which is bred into their movement by the democracy of the American Republic.
To give the united support of our Republic and of the allied countries to effective machinery, to raise the standard of the workers' condition in backward countries, to help humanize industry for the common weal is a paramount duty which our Republic must perform.
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