Why I Am A Union Man – 1907
Because I am not afraid to line up with fellow workers and make an honest demand for that which is ours by heritage.
Because I want to see every man, woman and child have plenty to eat, plenty to wear and plenty to enjoy it.
Because I am opposed to filth and ignorance and in favor of health and knowledge.
Because I think more of an honest heart under a ragged shirt than I do of a block-headed bloat with a bank account.
Because a union man is never disrespected by any one except a lot of red-eyed rounders with more money than kindness.
Because when I pay my dues into the union I realize that I am stirring some “thicking” into a bowl of soup for some poor, hungry woman or child.
Because I had rather be unpopular with a lot of double-chinned dough-heads than to show the white feather to my fellow workers.
Because I am in favor of more bread and less bruitishness; more pie and less pomp; more cozy cottages and fewer cowards and criminals; more soup and less superstition; more health and happiness and less hell and hellishness; more honest women neatly dressed and fewer foolish women overdressed; more live, loving husbands and fewer dirty, drunken drones. —Exchange.
True in 1907, true today.
Why I Am A Union Man – 1913
I am a union man because in the words of John Mitchell: “I was reared in a working man’s home and never expect to get out of the working class.”
I am a union man because I realize that the trades, professions, business and Industry are all organized today and that standing alone I am a menace to my fellows and can never improve my own conditions.
I am a union man because I note the difference in conditions between those who are organized and those who are unorganized. I read, for instance, that the members of the painters’ union, during the last four years, increased their wages sixty cents per day, an average, counting 250 work days for a year, of $150 for a single year. I note that the unorganized workers seldom ever work less than ten hours and frequently twelve, unless union men have secured legislation limiting the length of their working day.
I am a union man because I note that employers everywhere are in league to keep wages down, to make men cheap. They purchase labor, and the buyer always wants to purchase an article – whether it be shoes, powder, steel or labor – cheap. I have nothing but my labor to sell and I want to get a good price for it. If the seller can control the market price of his product he always secures better terms than if he has to take whatever the purchaser sees fit to give.
The Steel Trust seeks to monopolize the production of steel. The Oil Trust, the Tobacco Trust, and the Meat Trust buy large quantities of the articles they deal In. They seek to control both ends of the game. They rob producer and consumer alike.
Labor unions are denounced, by certain associations and individuals, as a trust. They have no likeness to the trust. They bear no resemblance to it in their operations. The trust takes from those who have but little and puts it in the coffers of a few. That makes swollen fortunes for a few in society and poverty for the many. The labor union enables those who produce wealth to retain a larger part of their product. The union equalizes opportunity, raises wages, shortens hours and enables all to enjoy something of the advantages of civilization. The trust builds a thousand hovels and one palace. The union would change those hovels into homes. The trust seeks to establish feudalism —the union extends democracy.
The trust is a corrupter of government, a destroyer of free institutions, because it centralizes wealth in the hands of a few and enables them to make or unmake laws.
The able and unscrupulous once ruled with the sword. The trust rules with the purse but its hand is just as heavy, yet it reaches farther and strikes harder than the sword ever did and it still commands the sword.
I am a union man because of the education it gives its members;
because I realize the opportunities for self-government and study that it offers;
because I realize that every great problem confronting the race today grows out of the labor problem;
that the working class must solve those problems alone;
that to withstand the constant aggressions of the employer the workers must be united on every field, but particularly in industry because there is where the battles are fought. The school room prepares for life, but the union is labor’s life in action.
I understand fully the great obstacles in the way of the union. You will say that the chief obstacle is the ignorance of the worker himself. That is the reason I believe in educating him; but the ignorance of the worker is balanced by the intolerant ignorance of the employer who feels that he cannot treat with his employees as an organized body of men, that it would lower his dignity. He prefers to take advantage of the weak and helpless rather than to allow them to combine so that they may have something to say about the conditions of labor.
I am a union man because on every hand I see the necessity of curbing the rapacity of greed, of extending the rights of labor, that workers must enjoy the benefits that flow from the progress of science and the march of invention. I see that if they do not unite, they gain nothing from either; they remain hewers of wood and drawers of water, beasts of burden.
I am a union man because I know that every other agency in the world has failed to emancipate labor. Yea, the most of them are engaged in welding chains for labor and attempting to lull the workers into contentment with their lot.
I am a union man because I recognize the progress of the race depends upon the elevation of labor; because I find freedom, fraternity and intelligence developed within the ranks of the union; because I know that the union speaks for all labor; that it is only through the union that labor can find a voice. Labor, silent through the centuries with no language but a groan, has found a tongue, recognized her goal, is uniting the forces of mankind to reach that goal. Labor, that has given wealth, science, literature and art, to the world is reaching out to enjoy these things for herself. She only asks for the worker that which labor has already given to others.
This is the greatest work man has ever been engaged in. What does it matter to build pyramids, Parthenons, Saint Peters’, railroads, skyscrapers and dynamos if the worker is to be helpless? What does it matter if the world is filled with beauty and the worker is unable to enjoy it? The union is labor’s engine of achievement. It unites the mighty force of numbers in pursuit of a common purpose. It realizes the dreams of bards and prophets.
It is a prayer in action, its fruits are happy homes and cheerful firesides. Its heralds are men who have learned the meaning of liberty and the road to its achievement.
These are just a few of the reasons why I am a union man.—Michigan Miners’ Bulletin