"Although much publicity has been given to labor unions in this country in the past few years, there is still a great deal of misunderstanding as to the aims of such organizations," Mr. Robert Fechner, a member of the General Executive Board of the International Association of Machinists, who is lecturing at the Graduate School of Business Administration for six weeks on "Labor Problems" stated in a recent interview with a CRIMSON reporter. In many cases "this misunderstanding is due to the deliberate attempt on the part of certain persons to mislead the public by misinterpreting the purposes of labor organizations. To be sure, their primary aim is to better the working and living conditions of their own members, but just as important an aim is the betterment of people generally. A little investigation of the matter will convince any fair-minded person that this is so.
"For some reason, the press often features the discreditable acts that labor unions commit and the mistakes that occur but gives little or no publicity in most cases to the good things that the unions are continually trying to do. The public should appreciate that labor unions are far from perfect and should not judge them so harshly when these scare stories, which are usually far from accurate, appear in the newspapers. In all fairness, more emphasis should be laid on the good that such organizations are accomplishing.
Explains Constructive Efforts
"The labor union was one of the first and most important agencies to support laws to prevent the abuses of woman and child labor. In addition the union started a campaign for better public schools, advocating that education until a certain age be compulsory, that text books be supplied free and that extension facilities such as night schools be introduced. Ever since then the trade union has carried on an active campaign to secure better education facilities.
"Although hardly any recognition has been given to the trade union for the part it has played and is playing in the Americanization work, it has done much to help the immigrant in many ways. Long before the rest of society began to give this matter serious thought, the union was busily at work 'Americanizing' foreigners. In addition it has been and is engaged in many other humanitarian efforts.
"The attitude of employers in former years has proved to be a serious hindrance to the work of the trade union. Fortunately many such men are now showing a more tolerant spirit, often meeting the workers to discuss the conditions under which they work and occasionally permitting them to have a part in the management. That element among the employers that is typified by Mr. Gary of the United States Steel Corporation is disappearing, and the element represented by Mr. Schwab of the Bethlehem Steel is becoming more prominent.
Mr. Schwab's Attitude Favorable
"In an address at the convention of the National Manufacturing Association in Atlantic City, Mr. Schwab said that the time had come when employers must recognize the right of employees to have a larger share in determining the conditions under which they work, stating that the human element in industry must be recognized and that the workers are justified in resenting being considered as machinery and treated as such.
"Labor unions in general hold the same view and are continually striving to induce all employers to take the same view. The struggle of the unions to have labor recognized as something more than merely a commodity will be persisted in until the unions succeed in their aim. Although court decisions may delay a realization of this aim for some time, the unions are confident that public opinion will finally force a recognition of the true position of labor.
Unions Welcome Cooperation
"Labor unions all welcome the cooperation of the public in the development of the best possible social and industrial systems and hope that people will appreciate why the unions oppose all the so called 'efficiency' systems that seek to force workers to exert themselves beyond all reasonable limits and that will result in their physical and mental harm. In these days of highly developed machinery, it is inconceivable that ample production cannot be had on an eight-hour basis. At the present time, at least, it is hypocritical to ask laborers to work longer hours and produce more with hundreds and thousands of men out of work.
"In times of unusual business depression, it is only natural that unemployed men fall an easy prey to unscrupulous theorists who are trying to force their unworkable schemes on the people. As a man who is out of work through no fault of his own is disgruntled and looks with envious eyes on those in more fortunate circumstances, he heeds proposals for more equal distribution of material things, whereas such thoughts would never enter his mind in normal times when he is in possession of a job that provides with reasonable sufficiency for himself and his family. The efforts of such organizations as the American Federation of Labor are directed to try to prevent a development of this spirit of despondency and to maintain conditions that will allow the worker to maintain his self-respect and not to be dependent on charity in any form for existence.
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USEFUL UNIONSIn another column of the Crimson appears an interview in which Mr. Fechner, lecturer at the Graduate School of Business