France Has Learned Her Lesson by Arthur Brisbane

Story type: Essay

The employes on the Paris underground railroad had a strike and have settled their strike.

The terms of the settlement amaze the outside world. The terms are especially amazing to the American–and well they may be.

The employes of the underground railroad in Paris are GOVERNMENT employes.

Their strike inconvenienced the public, and even the radical French people were annoyed with the strikers.

In other European countries and in this country, as the news reports very truly say, the strike of those Government employes would have been dealt with very summarily. Three engines of civilization would have been brought into play effectively.

“First the police, second the cavalry, third Gatling guns.” —-

But the police, the cavalry and guns were tried on the French people long ago, and that little matter was fought out and settled. The men who govern France know that at a certain stage in the proceedings a courageous people will not stand Gatling guns, cavalry or police. They have found out in France that the way to deal with striking workmen is just the way the Government official would like to be dealt with himself if he were a striking workman instead of a well-paid public officer.

The striking men complained that their day’s work was too long and their pay too small. The pay was increased and the day shortened–which was perfectly right.

Each employe is now allowed one day off in seven, and ten days’ vacation every year with full pay–which is perfectly right.

The young men employed on the road are compelled to do twenty days’ work in the army each year. Their wages are paid while they are doing this compulsory military work–which is perfectly right.

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If a man is ill through no fault or vice of his own he gets his pay as long as he is ill up to three hundred and sixty-five days, and the company in whose service he has become ill pays his doctor’s bill, his drug store bill and any extra expenses involved–which is perfectly just and fair.

No striker is to be dismissed because of having taken part in the strike. A benefit fund is provided for the employes of this Government enterprise–and the company pays the membership subscription to the benefit fund with NO DEDUCTION FROM THE WORKMEN’S PAY.

The above seems a horrible narrative to the energetic American exploiter of labor.

It would have seemed very stupid, in fact quite incomprehensible, to the French Government at any time before the Revolution.

But the Revolution taught France and some other people that a nation, like any other structure, is insecure when its foundation is agitated. The foundation of a nation is the enormous mass of working people, and that foundation the French have learned to respect and treat well.

We shall learn as much here some day. Let us hope we shall learn it more peaceably than the French did.

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