Honorable Theodore Roosevelt, President of the United States;
Honorable Wm. P. Frye, President Pro Tempore, United States Senate;
Honorable Joseph G. Cannon, Speaker, House of Representatives, United States.
The undersigned Executive Council of the American Federation of Labor, and those accompanying us in the presentation of this document, submit to you the subjects matter of the grievances which the workmen of our country feel by reason of the indifferent position which the Congress of the United States has manifested toward the just, reasonable and necessary measures which have been before it these past several years, and which particularly affect the interests of the working people, as well as by reason of the administrative acts of the executive branches of this Government and the legislation of the Congress relating to these interests. For convenience the matters of which we complain are briefly stated, and are as follows:
The law commonly known as the Eight Hour Law has been found ineffective and insufficient to accomplish the purpose of its designers and framers. Labor has, since 1894, urged the passage of a law so as to remedy the defects, and for its extension to all work done for or on behalf of the Government. Our efforts have been in vain.
Without hearing of any kind granted to those who are the advocates of the Eight Hour Law and principle, Congress passed, and the President signed an appropriation bill containing a rider nullifying the Eight Hour Law and principle in its application to the greatest public work ever undertaken by our Government, the construction of the Panama Canal.
The eight-hour law in terms provides that those entrusted with the supervision of government work shall neither require nor permit any violations thereof. The law has been grievously and frequently violated
; the violations have been reported to the heads of several departments, who have refused to take the necessary steps for its enforcement.
While recognizing the necessity for the employment of inmates of our penal institutions, so that they may be self-supporting, labor has urged in vain the enactment of a law that shall safeguard it from the competition of the labor of convicts.
In the interest of all of our people, and in consonance with their almost general demand, we have urged Congress for some tangible relief from the constantly growing evil of induced and undesirable immigration, but without result.
Recognizing the danger of Chinese immigration, and responsive to the demands of the people, Congress years ago enacted an effective Chinese exclusion law; yet, despite the experience of the people of our own country, as well as those of other countries, the present law is flagrantly violated, and now, by act of Congress, it is seriously proposed to invalidate that law and reverse the policy.
The partial relief secured by the laws of 1895 and 1898
, providing that seamen shall not be compelled to endure involuntary servitude, has been seriously threatened at each succeeding Congress. The petitions to secure for the seamen equal right with all others have been denied, and a disposition shown to extend to other workmen the system of compulsory labor.
Under the guise of a bill to subsidize the shipping industry
, a provision is incorporated, and has already passed the Senate, providing for a form of conscription, which would make compulsory naval service a condition precedent to employment on privately owned vessels.
Having in mind the terrible and unnecessary loss of life attending the burning of the Slocum
in the Harbor of New York, the wreck of the Rio de Janeiro
at the entrance to the bay of San Francisco, and other disasters on the waters too numerous to mention, in nearly every case the great loss of life was due to the undermanning and the unskilled manning of such vessels, we presented to Congress measures that would, if enacted, so far as human law could do, make impossible the awful loss of life. We have sought this remedy more in the interests of the traveling public than in that of the seamen, but in vain.
Having in mind the constantly increasing evil growing out of the parsimony of corporations, of towing several undermanned and unequipped vessels called barges on the high seas, where, in case of storm or stress, they are cut loose to drift or sink, and their crews to perish, we have urged the passage of a law that shall forbid the towing of more than one such vessel unless they shall have an equipment and a crew sufficient to manage them when cut loose and sent adrift, but in vain.
The Anti-Trust and Interstate Commerce laws enacted to protect the people against monopoly in the products of labor, and against discrimination in the transportation thereof, have been perverted, so far as the laborers are concerned, so as to invade and violate their personal liberty as guaranteed by the Constitution. Our repeated efforts to obtain redress from Congress have been in vain.
The beneficent writ of injunction intended to protect property rights has, as used in labor disputes, been perverted so as to attack and destroy personal freedom, and in a manner to hold that the employer has some property rights in the labor of the workmen. Instead of obtaining the relief which labor has sought, it is seriously threatened with statutory authority for existing judicial usurpation.
The Committee on Labor of the House of Representatives was instituted at the demand of labor to voice its sentiments, to advocate its rights, and to protect its interests. In the past two Congresses this Committee has been so organized as to make ineffectual any attempt labor has made for redress. This being the fact, in the last Congress, labor requested the Speaker to appoint on the Committee on Labor members who, from their experience, knowledge, and sympathy, would render in this Congress such service as the Committee was originally designed to perform. Not only was labor's request ignored, but the hostile make-up of the Committee was accentuated.
Recently the President issued an order
forbidding any and all Government employes, upon the pain of instant dismissal from the Government service, to petition Congress for any redress of grievances or for any improvement in their condition. Thus the constitutional right of citizens to petition must be surrendered by the Government employe in order that he may obtain or retain his employment.
We present these grievances to your attention because we have long, patiently, and in vain waited for redress. There is not any matter of which we have complained but for which we have in an honorable and lawful manner submitted remedies. The remedies for these grievances proposed by labor are in line with fundamental law, and with the progress and development made necessary by changed industrial conditions.
Labor brings these its grievances to your attention because you are the representatives responsible for legislation and for failure of legislation. The toilers come to you as your fellow-citizens who, by reason of their position in life, have not only with all other citizens and equal interests in our country, but the further interest of being the burden-bearers, the wage-earners of America. As labor's representatives we ask you to redress these grievances, for it is in your power so to do.
Labor now appeals to you, and we trust that it may not be in vain. But if perchance you may not heed us, we shall appeal to the conscience and the support of our fellow citizens.