To The Merchants by Arthur Brisbane

Story type: Essay

PLEASE LISTEN PATIENTLY TO A DISCUSSION OF THE LABOR UNION FROM YOUR POINT OF VIEW.

We invite the merchants to consider the question of unions and of high wages from THEIR OWN point of view.

If we err in our statements or conclusions we shall be glad to print replies and criticisms from responsible merchants over their own signatures.

This we maintain: THAT IN PROMOTING THE WELFARE AND INCREASING THE WAGES OF THE GREAT BODY OF WORKINGMEN, WE PROMOTE THE WELFARE AND INCREASE THE PROSPERITY OF ALL LEGITIMATE MERCHANTS AND BUSINESS MEN.

The unions make mistakes. The employers make mistakes. The unions are often unreasonable. The employers are unreasonable sometimes.

No doubt in America the workingman is more exacting and more highly paid than anywhere else.

But in America, also, the merchant is more quickly and numerously successful than anywhere else. —-

As a subject for our text to-day we shall take the street-car lines–surface, underground or elevated–of any great American city.

The success of every street-car system is made BY ALL THE INHABITANTS OF THE CITY. Every woman who brings a baby into the world in a great city adds so much value to the stock of that city’s street railroads. She increases the gross income of that railroad by about three dollars and sixty-five cents a year with each child to which she gives birth.

Therefore the street railroad should properly serve the public that gives the road its value.

Next in importance to the traveling public come the human beings that work on the street railroad–the conductors, motormen, gatemen, gripmen, engineers, etc.

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This newspaper fights constantly to improve within reason the pay and the hours of work of the street railroad employes.

This we do for the sake of the employes themselves, and for no other reason. We demand better pay for the men that they may lead decent American lives, feeding and clothing their wives and children, and educating their children properly. We demand short hours for them, that they may live part of the twenty-four hours WITH their families, knowing their own children and bringing a little pleasure and companionship into the lives of their patient wives.

We are proud of the fact that we have helped in a small way to increase the prosperity and happiness of many tens of thousands of honest families, that we have increased the OPPORTUNITIES of many thousands of children.

We want the merchants to remember that, while we have thus striven to protect those masses of the people whom we represent and whose ADVOCATE we are, we have also advanced enormously, although without premeditation, the fortune and quick success of every capable and legitimate merchant.

Who owns the stock in the street railroads? A few individuals–a Widener, an Elkins, a Yerkes, a Whitney, or some other energetic private individual.

One street railroad system, let us say, employs ten thousand men.

They struggle to add one dollar per day to their pay. We help them with moral support and publicity, and they succeed. TEN THOUSAND FAMILIES have each ONE DOLLAR a day more to spend, or ten thousand dollars a day in all.

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What becomes of that ten thousand dollars added daily to the living-money of ten thousand families?

EVERY DOLLAR OF IT GOES INTO THE HANDS OF THE MERCHANT, THE LANDLORD, OR THE SAVINGS BANK.

If the men had not got that increase in wages, what would have become of that ten thousand dollars daily, or $3,650,000 A YEAR?

Would it have gone to the merchants of the great cities? Would it have gone to build up thousands of comfortable little homes in all the suburbs of the great towns? Would it have enabled thousands of American boys and girls to stay in school instead of going in their infancy to the mills and factories?

No!

If that money were not distributed among the people in the shape of good American wages for good American work, it would go to build big race tracks, where thieves and gamblers are manufactured. It would go to buying foolish bogus antiquities that no man needs. It would go to building ridiculous and uncalled-for palaces where human mushrooms without a sense of humor imitate in their idleness the active types of the past. —-

When this newspaper adds to the payroll of a great corporation, it adds to the happiness of a great many families; and therein lie its pride and its excuse for being. And at the same time this increase in the payroll of the Trust or the monopolizer of public privileges means an increase in the income, the prosperity, the legitimate reward of the enterprising merchant, builder and general business man.

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We do not lack criticism from well-meaning friends who conduct great stores or other business enterprises. We appreciate all criticisms and suggestions. We offer a suggestion in return:

Let the builder who dislikes unions GO TO CHINA and build his apartment houses. He will find patient workmen at ten cents a day. He will find laws that suppress the unions, and laws that suppress the newspaper which takes the side of the poor.

He will find a non-union Utopia.

But he will not find tenants for his buildings, because in a land where men don’t get high wages they can’t pay high rents, and when the few Li Hung Changs have built their palaces the building boom is over.

Let the great merchant who deplores unions start a DEPARTMENT STORE IN CHINA.

He will never see a walking delegate; he will never be bothered by the dark cloud of unionism.

He will find a perfect heaven in the way of low wages.

BUT HE WILL NOT BE ABLE TO SELL GOODS.

His department store will dwindle into a store for selling rice, and while his velvets, silks, hats and muslins moulder he will get very sick of a hundred million women who don’t spend forty cents in a year.

In the land where men are not well paid THEY CAN’T SPEND MONEY.

The best friend of the American merchant, builder, lawyer, doctor, property owner, banker and general business man is the individual or the newspaper that helps the people to get high wages, AND THUS GIVES THEM MONEY TO SPEND.

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