Washington, D.C. July 22, 1906.
To All Organized Labor and Friends in the United States:
Dear Sirs and Brothers:
Events in the industrial affairs of our people have rapidly changed and are rapidly changing. The trade union movement, as expressed by the American Federation of Labor, has kept and proposes to keep pace therewith.
The wheels of industry can not be halted or turned back, nor should they be, even if that were possible. Welcoming industrial progress, labor must be ever alert to meet new conditions, recognizing that eternal vigilance is the price of industrial as well as political liberty.
The working people can not hope to maintain their rights or a progressive position in the varying phases of modern society unless they organize and exercise all those functions which, as workmen and citizens, it is their privilege and their duty to exercise.
Labor makes no demand upon government or society which is not equally accorded to all the people of our country. It can and will be satisfied with nothing less.
The position of organized labor upon the question of political action by the working class, their friends and sympathizers, has often been declared, but was more clearly set forth in the following declaration, unanimously adopted by the Nashville Convention
of the American Federation of Labor, in 1897, and often reaffirmed since:
"Resolved, That the American Federation of Labor most firmly and unequivocally favors the independent use of the ballot by the trade unionists and workmen, united regardless of party, that we may elect men from our own ranks to make new laws and administer them along the lines laid down in the legislative demands of the American Federation of Labor, and at the same time secure an impartial judiciary that will not govern us by arbitrary injunctions of the courts, nor act as the pliant tools of corporate wealth.
"Resolved, That as our efforts are centered against all forms of industrial slavery and economic wrong, we must also direct our utmost energies to remove all forms of political servitude and party slavery, to the end that the working people may act as a unit at the polls at every election."
We have been ever watchful to carry the purposes of that declaration into effect. At times we met with partial success, yet, within the past few years claims and promises made in platforms or on the hustings by political parties and politicians, and especially by the present dominant party, have been neither justified nor performed. Little attention has been paid to the enactment of laws prepared by us and presented to Congress for the relief of those wrongs and the attainment of those rights to which labor and the common people are justly entitled and which are essentially necessary for their welfare.
Several Presidents of the United States have, in their messages to Congress, urged the passage of equitable legislation in behalf of the working people, but Congress has been entirely preoccupied looking after the interests of vast corporations and predatory wealth.
Congressmen and Senators in their frenzied rush after the almighty dollar have been indifferent or hostile to the rights of man. They have had no time and as little inclination to support the reasonable labor measures, the enactment of which we have urged, and which contained beneficent features for all our people without an obnoxious provision to any one.
Patience ceased to be a virtue, and on March 21, 1906, the representatives of labor presented a Bill of Grievances to the President and those responsible for legislation or the failure of legislation in Congress, reciting the failure or refusal of the party in power to adopt or enforce legislation in the interests of the toiling millions of our country. After setting forth labor's grievances and requests and urging early action, we closed that now famous document with this statement:
"But if perchance you may not heed us, we shall appeal to the conscience and support of our fellow-citizens."
The relief asked for has not been granted. Congress has turned a deaf ear to the voices of the masses of our people; and, true to our declaration, we now appeal to the working people, aye, to all the American people unitedly to demonstrate their determination that this Republic of ours shall continue to be of, for and by the people, rather than of, for and by the almighty dollar.
The toiling masses of our country are as much, if not more, interested in good government than our fellow-citizens in other walks of life. In line with the contention herein stated, the American Federation of Labor made its declaration of political policy as already quoted above. And in line therewith we hope, and have the right to expect, to arouse the citizenship of our common country, interested in good government, to the apathy or hostility of the party in power to the real interests of the people, so that men more honest, faithful and progressive may be elected as the people's representatives.
Attention is called not only to congressional and legislative indifference and hostility to the interests of labor, but also to the interests of the large mass of all our people. The press for months has been burdened with exposures of the corruption and graft in high circles. The great insurance companies, the trusts, the corporations, the so-called captains of industry, have indeed become the owners of the legislators of our country. Public officials, many of whom have the cry of "stop thief!" nearest the tip of the tongue, have been elected through these very agencies and the contributions from them.
If it has come to a condition in this, the greatest and wealthiest nation on earth, that the almighty dollar is to be worshipped to an extent of forgetting principle, conscience, uprightness and justice, the time has arrived for labor and its friends to raise their voices in condemnation of such degeneracy, and to invite all reform forces to join with it in relegating indifference to the peoples' interests, corruption and graft to political oblivion; to raise the standard of legislation by the election of sincere, progressive and honest men who, while worshipping money less, will honor conscience, justice and humanity more.
We recommend that central bodies and local unions proceed without delay by the election of delegates to meet in conference, or convention, to formulate plans to further the interests of this movement, and in accordance with the plan herein outlined at the proper time and in the proper manner nominate candidates who will unquestionably stand for the enactment into law of labor and progressive measures.
The first concern of all should be the positive defeat of those who have been hostile or indifferent to the just demands of labor. A stinging rebuke to them will benefit not only the toilers but the people of the entire country.
Wherever both parties ignore labor's legislative demands a straight labor candidate should be nominated, so that honest men may have the opportunity in exercising their franchise to vote according to their conscience instead of being compelled either to refrain from voting or to vote for the candidate and the party they must in their innermost souls despise.
Where a Congressman or State Legislator has proven himself a true friend to the rights of labor he should be supported and no candidate nominated against him.
This movement must not degenerate into a scramble for office. It should be a determined effort, free, absolutely, from partisanship of every name and character, to secure the legislation we deem necessary and essential to the welfare and happiness of all our people. As the present objects of this movement are purely in the line of legislation, all efforts should be concentrated upon the election of members of Congress and the various State legislatures.
To make this--our movement--the most effective the utmost care should be taken to nominate only such union men whose known intelligence, honesty and faithfulness are conspicuous. They should be nominated as straight labor representatives and stand and be supported as such by union men and their friends and sympathizers, irrespective of previous political affiliation.
Wherever it is apparent that an entirely independent labor candidate can not be elected, efforts should be made to secure such support by indorsement of candidates by the minority party in the districts and by such other progressive elements as will insure the election of labor representatives.
All observers agree that the campaign of our fellow workmen of Great Britain has had a wholesome effect upon the government, as well as the interests of its wage-earners, and the people generally of that country. In the last British elections 54 trade unionists were elected to Parliament. If the British workmen, with their limited franchise, accomplished so much by their united action, what may we in the United States not do with universal suffrage?
In order to systematically carry out the policy and work necessary to this campaign, the Executive Council of the American Federation of Labor has selected the following members as the "Labor Representation Committee":
Samuel Gompers. James O'Connell. Frank Morrison.
Those earnestly engaged in our movement must, we repeat, be guided by the fact that the principles for which we stand must be of primary consideration, and office, secondary. We ask our fellow-workers and friends to respond to this call and to make of it a popular uprising of honest men, and to see to it that the best, most conscientious men of labor or their supporters are chosen as their representatives.
Reports and returns should be made to the headquarters of the Labor Representation Committee (which will be located in the offices of the American Federation of Labor), who will give the best possible information and advice on uniform procedure.
Whatever vantage ground or improved conditions have come to the workers of our country were not brought to them on silver platters; they are the result of their better organization and their higher intelligence; of the sacrifices they have made and the industrial battle-scars of many contests. The progress of the toilers has not been due to kindness or consideration at the hands of the powers that be, but achieved in spite of the combined bitter hostility of mendacious greed, corporate corruption, legislative antagonism and judicial usurpation.
Labor men of America, assert your rights! and in addition to strengthening your faith and loyalty to your organization on the economic field, exercise your full rights of citizenship in the use of your ballot. Elect honest men to Congress and to other halls of legislation, and by so doing you will more completely and fully carry out your obligations as union men, and more than ever merit the respect of your fellow-citizens.
Labor demands a distinctive and larger share in the governmental affairs of our country; it demands justice; it will be satisfied with nothing less.
Samuel Gompers, President.
James Duncan, First Vice-President.
John Mitchell, Second Vice-President.
James O'Connell, Third Vice-President.
Max Morris, Fourth Vice-President.
Denis A. Hayes, Fifth Vice-President.
Daniel J. Keefe, Sixth Vice-President.
William D. Huber, Seventh Vice-President.
Joseph F. Valentine, Eighth Vice-President.
John B. Lennon, Treasurer.
Frank Morrison, Secretary.
Executive Council. American Federation of Labor.
PLSr, Executive Council Records, Vote Books, reel 9, frames 572-73, AFL Records.