To the citizens of Colorado Springs in the year 2001.
I have been requested by those who originated the idea of a "Century Chest," to write for you on the Present Conditions of Labor Organizations." This I do most cheerfully, knowing that the conditions under which we live and labor, and which we are trying to make better by our organizations, will be appreciated by you who are interested in organizations, and will be able to contrast your conditions with ours.
Labor organizations speaking in the general sense, have grown to be recognized, and have become a factor in the business world in the last twenty years. Prior to this, there were branches that had their "Labor Guilds," their Societies, etc., but each independent from the other, organized only for the purpose of bettering their own craft, or work. They were disconnected from all other trades, or kind of work, having no affiliation with others in an organized way. Their obligations as far as we can know, was more or less severe in its nature, and elaborate in its process. Such being the case it was a hindrance to its growth, an objection to its fellow workers, and a failure of the purpose for which it was intended. The organizations of recent years have modified this objection in many ways and today it [is] recognized by nearly all craftsmen and generally recognized as one of the benefits that have come to the employer of labor. Some of the results that have been obtained thus far through organization are, a higher intelligence, greater efficiency, more consideration, better wage, shorter hours. There is also a feeling of protection under organization, as well as a representation of strength. Many organizations have come into existence as a matter of necessity, having been forced down to a small pittance for a wage, by other organizations that employ labor. The fact that there is organizations of both capital and labor, is an evidence that there are forces at work on each side, and that questions are being settled today by organization meeting organization. That there have been many mistakes made by labor organizations we all admit. The most serious ones having been made by over zealous leaders or leaders with wrong ideas, and hasty dispositions. Also many things are layed at the door of labor organizations that does not belong there. If we were to discuss the question further, whether organizations were meeting the needs of the conditions, as they exist in the world of labor, and capital today, we would all say only in part.
The writer believes it would be necessary to introduce into this great problem another spirit than the spirit of self-interest; it would be the spirit of brotherhood, as manifested by Him who "went about doing good." In regard to the present conditions in the United States of labor and capital there is considerable strife and struggle. This has been a year in which great combinations of capital have been made, along all branches of business. Steel, Iron, Tin, Hoop Steel, Sheet metal etc. have combined under one management representing as we are told, five hundred millions of dollars an enormous sum of money for this age of our country. The movements of this wonderful organization must necessarily be met with other large organizations or else come under their force. Consequently the various trades engaged in the manufacture of the products of this organization have combined under a national head, and have met this organization and refused propositions. The natural result follows business is suspended, men idle, and between them are growing bitter feelings that time can only heal; today in the East and South, in the States of Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and Virginia there is trouble.
I must tell you of the local condition of labor organizations. There are in our city the following labor organizations: Carpenters, Brick masons, Stonemasons, Stone cutters, Granite cutters, Plasterers, Painters, Electricians, Hodcarriers, Building laborers, Federated laborers (all kinds of labor work), Blacksmiths, Tinsmiths, Cornice workers, Lathers, Plumbers, Roofers, Barbers, Clerks, Cooks, Waiters, Streetcar employees, Motormen, Conductors, "Sheldon Union" (Domestic help the first of its kind in the west) Printers Engineers, Firemen, Conductors, Stage Employees, Teamsters, Expressmen, Newsboys. Then there are the Master Builders, Master Painters, Master Plumbers, Master Masons, Master Plasterers each their own organization, then they have a central body. The various building trades have a central body called "The Building Trades Council," composed of delegates from the various building trades. There is also another central body called the Federated Trades Council in which all are represented by delegates. Through these central bodies difficulties are adjusted.
Organized labor represents about fifteen hundred men in our city. They take no part as an organization in Politics, and are not interested in religious affairs; are interested in municipal affairs, are interested in educational matters, are harmonious along all lines of these organizations. No difficulties exist between employer and employee. All past difficulties have been settled by arbitration.
Only one case of trouble between capital and organized labor not settled without trouble and in which the authorities took part, was that which occurred in the year 1894 between the miners and the mine owners at Cripple Creek, then a new gold camp, over a question of wages. The miners took possession of the mine under arms and the authorities sent armed deputies, and State troops were also called out. Several lives were lost. Davis H.Waite was then Governor of the State of Colorado and was elected by the Populist party that then had part control of the State. His actions, and sympathies were with the lawless element and considerable criticism was expressed upon his conduct. The entering wedge toward settling the trouble was that of a citizens committee from Colorado Springs consisting of Wm Slocum D.D. Colorado College, Rev. E. Evans Carrington ME Church (South), two carpenters Wm Bates and Chas Geisler, and Chas G. Collais then President of the Central labor body of the county. With effort committee gained the top of Bull Hill, the strong hold of miners. Being held up with Winchester rifles in the hands of Sentinels eight different times finally they were taken out of their carriage and marched between armed men as Guards to the little town of Altman, (then only one street mostly Saloons) to the log cabin Headquarters of the miners. There peace negotiations took place and it was the beginning of the end of the trouble. The whole trouble lasted about sixty days in which valuable property was destroyed, and lives lost by mines being blowed up with dynamite.
Wages for miners at present are $3oo for eight hours work. The eight hour day has been unanimously established. Carpenters wages are $350 Plumbers $400 Painters $350 Brickmasons $500 Stone masons $450 Hodcarriers $250 to $300 Building laborers $250 Common laborers $200 teamsters $400 Electricians $350 Tinners $350.
A movement is now being made among organized labor to raise money for the new Y.M.C.A. building that is now being erected in our city. There have been pledges to the amount of $2500 coming from all branches of the organizations. While there is very little religious sentiment among organized labor, yet there seems to be a disposition and a desire to counteract evil influences that are at work around our young men and to assist them to higher and better lives. Among some of the rules that govern labor organizations is the one prohibiting persons from joining, who are disposed to drink liquor to excess or deals in it. There is also sick benefits, a funeral benefit varying from $5000 to $20000. At the present time there is a disposition among wage earners both in the organization and out to adopt more or less the Socialistic idea of thinking and conducting affairs, but it does not at all times predominate. Ministers from the various churches of our city often visit the different organizations during the hours of meeting and talk to them on some interesting subject. They are always welcome. Apprentices are taken in under certain conditions and cared for by the union under which they join and the number of apprentices are governed by the number in membership. The unions differ in this one point.
There is a happy condition now existing in our city, for the wage earner and labor and capital are at peace, but the same thing cannot be said all over our broad land. Labor and capital can congratulate each other on the present condition and earnestly plan for the future. I might tell you here that a small per cent of the wage earners today own homes all not paid for, but earnestly striving to be free.
To you who shall take our place in one hundred years from now and who will as we believe be more efficient in your various branches of work as present indications point--because of the advancement the world makes in its discoveries made in Science assisted by methods that now are being introduced and that will appear from the introduction of these now in sight--to you I will say, voicing the sentiments of my fellow workers in organized labor, will come the added responsibility along with your advanced privilege of carrying on the struggle in your various branches of trades to a higher and more dignified plane instilling in the minds of weaker ones more and better courage, counseling with hasty and wayward ones "a more and better way", encouraging the slothful ones to more diligence and in the great whole to seek only the best way. Not because of organization alone but because of the principle which will add strength to strength, and influence to influence, until the common people shall stand as a whole mighty Phalanx all over this great land of ours holding out and living the truth of Him who "went about doing good." To this we would add the blessing that "maketh rich and addeth no sorrow."
Charles G.Collais. Builder, member local union #515 Carpenters and Joiners of America. #617 East Cache La Poudre St. Colorado Springs Colo.
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