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About Omaha daily bee. (Omaha [Neb.]) 187?-1922 | View Entire Issue (June 14, 1917)
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THE BEE: OMAHA, 'THURSDAY, JUNE 14. 1917.
P" or "CLOSED SHOP"?
Which Shall It. Be?
The real issue in Omaha's present labor strike is: .
Shall Omaha remain an "open shop" town Or shall it
become in every trade a "closed shop" town?
What is the "closed shop?" As defined by the official
organ of the Bridge and Structural Iron Workers' Union:
'" 'Closed shop' is the term for a shop, factory, store or other
industrial place where workmen cannot obtain employment
without being members, in good standing, of the labor union
of their trade."
What is the "open shop?" The open shop is the term
for a shop, factory, store or other industrial place where work
men are free to secure employment, regardless of member
ship or non-membership in a labor union, with character and
efficiency as the sole tests.
TREND OF TIMES AGAINST "CLOSED SHOP"
The tendency of American cities today is for the
"open shop." Many cities have made or are making the
fight for freedom from "closed shop" rule Boston, Buf
falo, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Detroit, Duluth, Min
neapolis, Des Moines and others. Only a few of the larger
cities are still under the control of "closed shop" union
ism and these are restive under the yoke.
I Omaha is not a "closed shop" city. The unions are
trying. to make it sofThe question is Shall the "open
Effects of "Closed Shop"
The cities which are standing firm for the "open
shop" are doing so because they have found that the
"closed shop" is bad for the city, bad for employers and
employes alike, bad for all the citizens.
The "closed shop" brings lower standards of work
manship and reduced efficiency. It gives poor workmen
the pay of good workmen and denies to good men the
premium of their efficiency.
The "closed shop" denies to young men the oppor
tunity to learn a trade by restricting the number of ap
prentices. In San Francisco some unions forbid appren
tices except sons of journeymen in that trade.
Unions Quarrel Public Pays
"Closed shop" conditions in a city produces' the
sympathetic strike, because union leaders, arrogant withN
the power of being able to completely tie up a city
through calling out a combined strength of their unions,
use their power to enforce extravagant demands of in
dividual unions. "Closed shop" leaders in New York City
last year threatened to "pull out" every union workman
in the city in sympathy with striking street car men.
The "closed shop" unions, with a strength that fears
neither employers nor public, quarrel among themselves
and engage in "jurisdictional strikes" disputes entirely
among themselves as to what work each shall do, the
burdens Of which the employer and the pubnfmust bear.
The "closed shop" gives such power to a few lead
ers "walking delegates" and "business agents" that
its misuse for graft and extot-tion is easy and frequent.
Cities Lag Under Burden
Pittsburgh is a "closed shop" city, a "good union
town.Tt is likewise a hotbed of "jurisdictional strike."
The unions, having conquered the employers, fight among
themselves for power and control, each union seeking
to extend its jurisdiction over as much work as possible.
One such fight last year, between the Plasterers' Union
and the Lathers' Union, over which union should have the
doing of certain work became so bitter that union plas
terers refused to work at all with union lathers and work
was tied up by the strikes of these unions for three
In Pittsburgh 1 last year the Hoisting Engineers'
Union and the -Electrical Workers' Union fought and
struck over which craft should run electric motor
generators. The Carpenters' Union and the Sheet Metal
Workers' Union foughf" and struck as to who should set
"metal trim." The Sheet Metal Workers' Union and the
Steam Fitters' Union fought and struck over who should
install fans and air washers. The Carpenters' Union and
the Structural IronWorkers' Union fought and struck
over the putting up' of steel sashes and doors.
While these crafts fought and struck, other crafts
were forced out of work by the paralysis of the building
industry and the employers' hands were tied. Work could
not be done. Not because the wages were not high enough
not because the employers were not treating their men
satisfactorily, but because the unions could not agree
among themselves. And, having the "closed shop," the
unions had the power to make employers and public wait
while they struck and fought it out.
Frisco- Seeks Freedom
San Francisco has been known for years as "the
greatest closed shop town" in America. Limitations of out
put and apprenticeships went the limit there. Industry
was crippled. Factories could not compete with those of
other cities not because wages were much higher, but
because the "closed shop" restrictions kept workmen
from doing a day's work for a day's pay.
So seriously did these restrictions stiffle industry
that in five years the number of factories dropped from
2,250 to 1,796; the number of wage earners slumped.
26 Vi per cent.
The climax came last year. The Longsh.oresmen's
Union struck in violation of a solemn contract made six
months before, which had been approved and signed by
a representative of "The United States Department of'
Labor. The Secretary of Labor in President Wilson's
cabinet, himself a strong union labor man, sent a strong
appeal in favor of "keeping faith" on that contract. The
union refused and its members quit work.
"Permit" for Uncle Sam
There followed six weeks of assaults and other vio
lence. The United States Treasury had to get a permit
from the union to haul government property through the
This was typical of what San Francisco had experi
enced for years. The limit had come and San Francisco .
rebelled against "closed shop" lordism. A Law and Order
League was formed and today the fight is on for the
"open shop." This is not merely a fight of v employers.
A great mass meeting of 6,000 citizens indorsed the "open
shop," The people of the whole city are back of it. So
thoroughly are they aroused against "closed shop" inef
ficiency, intimidation and violence that an ordinance for
bidding picketing which had produced so much vio
lence in San Francisco was approved by the people at a
Chicago Graft Cases
Chicago is one of the most notable "closed shop"
cities in the country. And in the last year Chicago courts,
have been busy with cases wherein labor leaders have
been tried and convicted for extortion and conspiracy in
the misuse of the power given them by "closed shop"
One such case last year resulted in the conviction
of fourteen uVion leaders on charges of conspiracy to ,
destroy property and extort bribe money. The conviction
resulted from testimony telling of the smashing of big
plate glass windows by these men or their aids. Then, be
fore the windows could be reset the building owner had
to pay tribute to the union labor leaders.
In the famous "switch-board" case, where defend
ants were convicted in a federal court this spring, it was
alleged that the labor union leaders involved, in eight
years, extorted $300,000 from contractors, building own
ers and manufacturers. A certified copy of the conviction
in this case of one of the labor leaders since imported
to Omaha and still here is on file in the Douglas county
district court. y
In still another case, now under investigation, war
between two rival ujiions of motion picture machine
operators has, according to the Chicago papers, endan
gered the lives of thousands of citizens as a means to ex
tort more 4han a half million dollars. In this war theaters
and apartment buildings have been dynamited, theater 1
audiences imperiled by gas bombs,Nand, according to a
statement by the state's attorney's office, three victims
of this labor extortion gang are dead murdered by
agents of the blackmailers to silence their tongues, be
cause they refused subsequent blackmail demands.
Detroit and Los Angeles
Contrast with these conditions the development of
Detroit, the industrial marvel of the day. It has been ac
complished under "open shop" conditions," which exist"
in every trade and craft Industries have flocked to De
troit to prosper under the advantage of its freedom.
Workmen are glad of a chance to work in the free and
open shops of that city.
Contrast, too, Los Angeles, where the "open shop"
has been maintained by a hard fight and which has pass
ed San Francisco as an industrial city.
Up to the Citizens off Omaha
This issue of "closed shop", against "open shop"
is the real issue in Omaha today.
The Dezettel campaign, continued now by others,
is to .make Omaha a "closed union town." That meant
a town of sympathetic strikes, a town of "jurisdictional
strikes," where "the public pays while the unions quar
rel among themselves," a town where the opportunity
of young men to learn a trade is restricted, a town
where a premium is put upon "slackers" and there is no
reward for efficiency.
"MUST GO TO THE UNION"
That is the issue in Omaha today. Mr. T. P. Rey
nolds, president of the Omaha Central Labor Union, is
quoted in the World-Herald Tuesday: "The employers,
must learn that when they want a man in the building
trades they must GO TO THE UNION TO GET HIM."
That is the issue, direct and plain. Under the "open
shop" a man's own character and ability are the qual
ifications that land him a job. Under the "closed shop,"
such as Mr. Reynolds proposes, his standing in the union
is what gets him work.
Do you, citizens of Omaha, with the welfare of
yourself and your city at heart, want the employers of
Omaha to surrender to an aggressive demand for the
"closed shop?" . V
Business Men's Association of Omaha
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