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History of the United States by Charles A. Beard and Mary R. Beard

«·CHAPTER XXIV · Coöperation between Employers and Employees·»


The New Economic Age.—The spirit of criticism and the measures of reform designed to meet it, which characterized the opening years of the twentieth century, were merely the signs of a new age. The nation had definitely passed into industrialism. The number of city dwellers employed for wages as contrasted with the farmers working on their own land was steadily mounting. The free land, once the refuge of restless workingmen of the East and the immigrants from Europe, was a thing of the past. As President Roosevelt later said in speaking of the great coal strike, “a few generations ago, the American workman could have saved money, gone West, and taken up a homestead. Now the free lands were gone. In earlier days, a man who began with a pick and shovel might come to own a mine. That outlet was now closed as regards the immense majority.... The majority of men who earned wages in the coal industry, if they wished to progress at all, were compelled to progress not by ceasing to be wage-earners but by improving the conditions under which all the wage-earners of the country lived and worked.”

The disappearance of the free land, President Roosevelt went on to say, also produced “a crass inequality in the bargaining relation of the employer and the individual employee standing alone. The great coal-mining and coal-carrying companies which employed their tens of thousands could easily dispense with the services of any particular miner. The miner, on the other hand, however expert, could not dispense with the companies. He needed a job; his wife and children would starve if he did not get one.... Individually the miners were impotent when they sought to enter a wage contract with the great companies; they could make fair terms only by uniting into trade unions to bargain collectively.” It was of this state of affairs that President Taft spoke when he favored the modification of the common law “so as to put employees of little power and means on a level with their employers in adjusting and agreeing upon their mutual obligations.”

John D. Rockefeller, Jr., on the side of the great captains of industry, recognized the same facts. He said: “In the early days of the development of industry, the employer and capital investor were frequently one. Daily contact was had between him and his employees, who were his friends and neighbors.... Because of the proportions which modern industry has attained, employers and employees are too often strangers to each other.... Personal relations can be revived only through adequate representation of the employees. Representation is a principle which is fundamentally just and vital to the successful conduct of industry.... It is not consistent for us as Americans to demand democracy in government and practice autocracy in industry.... With the developments what they are in industry to-day, there is sure to come a progressive evolution from aristocratic single control, whether by capital, labor, or the state, to democratic, coöperative control by all three.”

«·CHAPTER XXIV · Coöperation between Employers and Employees·»