Excerpts from the Proceedings of the
1906 Convention of the AFL in Minneapolis
EIGHTH DAY-- AFTERNOON SESSION. [Nov. 20, 1906]
. . .
Labor's Political Campaign.
have considered at some length, and with great care, that part of the report of President Gompers and the Executive Council bearing upon this subject, together with the various resolutions having reference to the same general topic.
We recommend that the action taken by the Executive Council during the past campaign be heartily indorsed; that we declare the issuance of the bill of grievance was amply justified by the contingency which had arisen, and that we express our approval of the energetic campaign carried on against the enemies of labor with the small means at the disposal of the officers of the Federation. We recommend that this convention join in protesting against the attempt made to deprive public employes of the constitutional right of petition for redress of grievances.
In the various resolutions submitted to it, your committee finds itself confronted with a somewhat comprehensive task. In one
, for instance, it is asked to provide a plan by which some specific party may receive the indorsement of our movement. In another
we are asked to determine the most effective plan of political organization, etc.
. . .
Our members in each territorial division, state, municipal, congressional or assembly, know best how to use the independent ballot. Our corresponding divisions of state and central bodies may safely be trusted to take the initiative as to methods. Let the principle be proclaimed in every community that associated labor will hold hostile individuals and parties responsible for the defeat of labor measures, and if there be really an independent spirit among our membership it may be entrusted to work out to our ways of achieving results.
We are, however, of the opinion that it is the legitimate function of this organization to carry on an aggressive educational campaign and to furnish all possible assistance upon these lines, whether by statistics, literature, committees before legislatures, speakers upon the public platform, etc.
We recommend the adoption of the suggestion that information should be collected
as to the results of the campaigns initiated during the last election, and we further recommend that the Executive Council be entrusted with this work.
We hold, with the President, that the economic function and power of trade unionism is by far its greatest instrument for good. We further hold that the solidarity of our movement must not for a moment be permitted to be endangered by the attempt to identify it with a partisan political movement. We must have with us, in our economic movement, men of all parties as well as of all creeds, and the minority right of the humblest man to vote where he pleases and to worship where his conscience dictates must be sacredly guarded. We may properly furnish him the facts as they occur in the legislative field, the records of legislators, etc., and then leave him to use his own political judgment.
Your committee, therefore, does not feel called upon to even ask this convention to say whether an independent labor party is a desirable thing or not. Our membership can settle that matter for themselves. We do say, however, that the attempt to delegate any authority, by this convention, to form political organizations on any specific lines, would to that extent identify the Federation of Labor with a party movement and inevitably vitiate one of the most fundamental principles of trade-unionism. . . .
. . .
We, therefore, recommend to trade-unionists everywhere the duty of independent voting and the formation of such organizations outside the trade-union as, in the judgment of the membership, in each locality, may be deemed most effective.
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. . . .
Notwithstanding the laudation that has been heaped upon the Executive Council for its action preceding the last election, it terminated on election day in a miserable failure compared with what could be done. I have no doubt the Executive Council did what it thought was best for the interests of the movement. We have, today, in the United States the power in the hands of the working people, and we can well afford to go into political action. The Executive Council or this convention can issue forth to the world today a declaration of principles upon which all the states and localities may stand, and they can issue forth the groundwork for a labor party platform upon which all working people, union men and non-union men alike, can stand and work together. The working people will then control the government, and legislation will be along working-class principles only. The man who is not a working man should be outlawed and out-legislated. When you adopt a policy of party principles along these lines for the working people of the country, you will have rallied to your stand every working man--young and old, black and white, skilled and unskilled; and the phalanx rushing into politics will be so strong and powerful there will be no interests in the country able to withstand it.
. . .
-- The question now before the house being of such vast importance, and the report of the committee being so exhaustive, I believe better action could be had if further discussion of the question could be deferred until such time as the report of the committee could be printed and placed in the hands of the delegates. I move that that be done.
The motion was seconded by Delegate Barnes
. . .
The motion was voted on and lost by a vote of 131 to 90.
and Delegates: I rise to put in a substitute for a part of the report. I will say that this is one of the best reports it has ever been my pleasure to listen to in any convention of the American Federation of Labor. Most of the report I endorse with all my heart and soul. It is a splendid piece of work. There is one part, however, I cannot endorse, and that is the part upon political action. The report not being before me, I do not know where my substitute will fit, but probably somewhere in the last three or four paragraphs. I would like to have that part stricken out, and the following
Resolved, That true labor politics can never be non-partisan, and must always be partisan. And it must always be partisan to labor; and, furthermore, be it
Resolved, That only by uniting politically on class lines in like manner as we are now economically organized on class lines can the American proletariat compel recognition of its rights and finally secure the full product of labor to the workers.
Vice President Duncan--The chair decides the substitute not in order. Section 8 of Article 3 of the laws governing this convention provides that party politics, whether they be Democratic, Republican, Socialist, Populist, Prohibition, or any other, shall have no place in the conventions of the American Federation of Labor. The substitute offered by Delegate Berger declares for party politics, and has no place on the floor of this convention unless you direct your Committee on Laws to report a change in the laws.
Delegate Berger--My substitute being knocked out, I will have to work on new lines.
. . .
. . . I say as long as you are in politics at all, you must work on absolute labor lines. As long as you vote the Republican and Democratic tickets you are working on the lines of the capitalistic class. You say you will bring pressure to bear on the Republicans and Democrats, that you will make them promise to stand for labor. I have never known a Republican or Democrat who would not promise everything before election, but they never kept those promises after election. They have broken every promise they have ever made in the past; but if you want more promises you can get them; they have more promises just as good.
You know what kind of a deal you get before Congress. A great many of these people have promised you things. I say a union man who is voting for any of the capitalists' tickets is not doing his duty.
I know the building up of a political organization on class lines is not an easy thing. I have been through it. We have built up our organization from nothing to 19,000 votes, and have elected six members
of the legislature. We had only five members two years ago. We never had any labor legislation that amounted to anything in Wisconsin until those five men were elected, and then we passed nine very good laws. Now that we have six members, we will pass other laws.
How about the political action of our President, Sam Gompers? How about Littlefield? How about Joe Cannon and the rest of them? Two men
have been elected to Congress, but the miners elected them. It was not the action of the Executive Council.
The reason for this change in the policy of the Executive Council was because they had success in the political movement in England. I am afraid our Executive Council would never have gone into politics if they had not had the example of England before them. They did not go into politics this time because it was necessary or good; they did it because similar action was taken in England. We were rolling up our pants because it was raining in England.
A year ago this question of politics was tabooed in our convention
in Pittsburg, but a few months later the Executive Council was in politics. Mr. Gompers is not Keir Hardie
--Keir Hardie could make it go. The English Trade Union Congress did make it go; they elected fifty men, thirty of whom were Socialists. Our fraternal delegate
said the enthusiasm came from the Socialists, while the trade unions furnished the battalions.
. . .
. . . We don't ask for the endorsement of any political party, no matter what that party is. We don't ask for the endorsement of the Socialist party, but we ask for action on class lines, and only on class lines. We say that as long as you elected Democrats to Congress, no matter how good men they are--and my friend Wilson
is a most excellent type of man--but he will be under the control of the Democratic chief, Williams
. That is what he will be, and you will find that out. Within a year or two he will either do as the Democratic bosses say or he will not be in it. He will not amount to much.
. . .
. . . Suppose you elect a dozen or two dozen men to Congress, who are Republicans, you will simply have sent Cannon some more troops. You elected a Republican in Milwaukee
, and defeated a Social Democrat. The Social Democrat is a member of the Typographical Union
. He is also a member of the Central body, yet his opponent, Mr. Cary had a letter from Mr. Gompers
as an endorsement. Mr. Cary has not worked at his trade for a long time; he is a professional politician. He is sheriff of the county, but purchases non-union bread for the prisoners in the jail. I do not impute any ill-will to Mr. Gompers in this matter; he simply had not investigated. If he had asked the Milwaukee Central body for its opinion he would not have made that mistake. If you go on like this, your independent action will amount to nothing; you simply furnish some more recruits for the capitalist party.
. . .
Delegate Wilson (W. B.)--I had not intended to enter into this discussion and would not have done so if my name had not been brought into it in a manner that was unsatisfactory to me. My friend, Berger, in discussing the question before the house intimated that when I became a member of congress I would be under the lash of the leader of the Democratic side of the house. I want to say for the information of Berger, who ought to know me better, and for the information of the other delegates to this convention, that neither as a member of congress, as a trade-unionist, nor as a private citizen, will I ever be under the lash of any one. It is true that, having been elected on the Democratic ticket, I am going to the Democratic caucus, and while there I shall endeavor as best I can to sway that caucus in the interest of labor legislation. But if I fail in that, and if that caucus undertakes to commit the Democratic congressmen in opposition to labor legislation, then it will become my duty, and a duty I will readily perform, to serve notice on that caucus of my opposition to its position and to withdraw therefrom.
Some of us seem to have very short memories, and as a result we hear, year after year, the statement made upon the floor of this convention that the trade-unionists have accomplished nothing by independent political action. As a matter of fact, we have accomplished a great deal. I can go back to the days of my childhood and recall that, as a son of a coal miner, I was taken into the mines to mine coal before I was nine years of age. By independent political action and agitation on the part of trade-unionists that has been made impossible in every coal-producing state in the Union. When I first went into the mines we did not have a solitary law in any state of the Union relative to the sanitation of the mines. Men worked in the mines without ventilation, without any sanitary regulation, and without any inspection to require sanitary regulation. As a result of independent political action that condition is changed, and while we have not the sanitary conditions we ought to have, we have very much better sanitary conditions than prior to the time we took independent political action. What is true of the mines is true of the mills and the factories. In my boyhood days there were no sanitary regulations in any of our states relative to mills and factories. There were no inspection laws and there were no child-labor laws in those days. Those things have been brought about by independent political action and agitation. Years ago, our school system was very much inferior to the system we have today. The greatest force in furnishing us free text-books, in states where we have them, has been the independent political action and agitation of the trade-unions.
We could go along this line and cite a number of instances; but I simply make these citations to demonstrate that we have been making progress, and if we have not made greater progress than we have it has been due, not to the fact that we did not enter into partisan politics, but to the fact that we had millions of men and women who should have been associated with us in our trade-union movement who were outside of it. The trade-union movement brings together men and women who have common ideals along certain lines. They come together in their trade-unions because of those common ideals; but those same men and women may differ radically upon other subjects. The man who believes in a high protective tariff, the man who opposes him and favors a tariff for revenue, and the man who occupies any of the positions between these extremes, all agree in opposition to the tyranny of government by injunction. So while one man may be nominated upon a Republican ticket, another upon a Democratic ticket, and another upon a Socialist ticket, all three having different ideas on certain lines, may be able to concentrate their efforts on lines along which the trade-union movement is working. Instead of committing this organization to a partisan movement, the proper thing to do is to urge our members to independent political action that will enable them to secure the adoption of those things we are commonly agreed upon.
There is one other point I want to bring out in justice to our trade-unions as well as the Executive Council. Mr. Berger made the statement that it was not the Executive Council that succeeded in securing the election of two members of congress from Pennsylvania; that it was the miners that did it. I am not here at this time to speak for Mr. Nicholls. When the occasion offers, Mr. Nicholls is perfectly able to speak for himself; but I do say for myself that if it had not been for the circular issued by the Executive Council of the American Federation of Labor, I would not have been a candidate and consequently could not have been elected. The district I come from is not a large industrial district, in the sense in which industrialism is used. In that district, out of a total of between 30,000 and 40,000 votes, we have a total in the mining towns of 1,621 votes. In the city of Williamsport there are 37 different local unions of other trades. Normally, the city of Williamsport goes from 700 to 800 Republican. There is not a miner in Williamsport. The city of Williamsport goes normally from 700 to 800 Republican, and yet it gave to me, a Democratic candidate, because I was a trade-unionist, a majority of over 500. I want to give credit to the other trade-unions as well as the miners, although the miners stood loyally by me. In my opinion the proper course to pursue at this time is the course outlined by the committee. I am heartily in favor of it and hope it will be adopted.
Delegate Dold--I desire to offer an addition to the report of the committee. It reads as follows:
"Resolved, That the Executive Council of the American Federation of Labor be, and the same is hereby, instructed to submit to a vote of the affiliated national and international unions, local trade-unions and federal labor unions, the following questions, the result of their votes to act as guidance for future political propaganda of the American Federation of Labor:
["](1) Shall the past political policy of the Executive Council be continued?
["](2) Shall an independent political party be formed?"
I offer this as an amendment to the report of the committee. (Seconded.)
. . .
Delegate Dold--The amendment intends to provide for a future political policy of the American Federation of Labor, if the plan is endorsed by the rank and file of the organization. Personally, I have always been in favor of an independent political party. In the organization I represent
the membership differs vastly upon this proposition. We have Socialists, Anti-Socialists, DeLeonites, pure and simple trade-unionists, and others, and they believe that no matter what political action may be taken by the American Federation of Labor, they should have some voice in saying how they shall comply with the rules and regulations of the American Federation of Labor. We are loyal to the American Federation of Labor, and we ought to be loyal; but we believe we should have an opportunity to express at least our sentiments as to what the important policies of the American Federation of Labor shall be.
. . .
--I want to say to the delegates and to those they represent, that there is no political policy of the Executive Council of the American Federation of Labor. The policy that has been pursued by the Executive Council is that which has been formulated by the conventions of the American Federation of Labor and by the trade-unions of this country since there has been any central organization at all. The only thing we did recently was to accentuate, insofar as our influence might go, the power of the working men who are organized in this country along the lines that had been declared for, since the very foundation of the American Federation of Labor. In addition to that, the Executive Council, not even being desirous of going to the extent we did, upon our own volition and upon our own initiative, called in to be consulted, the executive officers of all the international unions of this country. Most of these officials responded and joined with us in presenting the protests to congress, the President of the United States and the President of the Senate. They co-operated with us in declaring at the end of that protest that if, forsooth, they did not hear our protest, we would then call upon the working men of the country to exercise their right as citizens to carry forward the work the trade- unions had stood for for so long a time.
The report of the committee does--what? It leaves this matter in the hands and under the control of the states, the cities and those who may find it essential to control the action and take action along independent political lines as set forth by many declarations of the American Federation of Labor. . . .
. . .
--I am not going to speak as secretary of the committee, because the report speaks for me as a member of the committee; but there is a phase of this matter as it has been discussed that I feel inclined to mix somewhat in. Several statements have been made that I do not agree with. The idea has been expressed by several delegates that the working people have a majority of the votes. If you will take the trouble to look up the census and then take the map of the United States, as it is laid out in political districts, you will find your independent political party will not get a corporal's guard in Congress while you live. . . .
. . .
. . . . It has been said if we enter the political field we can accomplish nothing, because members of organized labor are in the minority. Delegate Furuseth seems to forget that all previous independent movements in this country have drawn their strength, not from organized labor, but from the farmers. The day is coming, in fact, it is here now, when the farmers realize that their interests are common with ours and that we can depend upon securing greater support from the farmers' organizations than some organizations within the American Federation of Labor.
. . .
Delegate Foster--This little exchange of fraternities between different representatives of political organizations is rather conclusive argument in support of the committee's report. It is not my purpose to discuss the question at issue, excepting insofar as the amendment relates to it. I think it is rather unfair to the committee to attach an amendment of that kind to its report. We tried to be as concise as possible and to make our meaning clear as to just what this body can do. We don't want to borrow trouble, and we have endorsed the action of the Executive Council, approved their bill of grievances and commended them for their work. The amendment contemplates asking a couple of million people, incidentally, whether they approve the past policy of the Federation. That is rather superfluous. Then, again, we have not had from any of the component parts of this organization a request to form an independent labor party. We have had some individual resolutions in here to that effect. Some people like trouble; they will go after it, but why should we assume a power we do not possess to go into the membership of the international unions and catechize them upon their preferences for an independent labor party. . . . The movement has done things; it has achieved practical reform and the power that has done this work, that is doing this work and is to continue this work, is too sacred to be chanced upon the cast of a political die; and we refuse and say plainly, no matter what the people of the Continent or Great Britain have done, we prefer to continue the policy of guarding the constitutional freedom of our members to vote how they please and we will not stake the existence of the economic trade-union movement upon any political party, no matter by what name it may be called. Is not that sufficiently definite? Why should we go out and ask the printers, the granite cutters, and other organizations, "Do you want us to form a political party?". . .
. . .
Vice President O'Connell27--I happen to be one of the men who were quite closely associated with the late campaign. I was one of the committee of three selected by the Executive Council to conduct the affair. I did not have the pleasure of hearing all the addresses on this subject as our committee did not come to the hall until four o'clock. I heard the amendment read, and it struck me as peculiar that this great convention, that the men who are here representing every phase of the trades-union movement of the country, who deal and treat with every subject, who pass upon resolutions and motions of every possible character and give back to our people the result--should not be able to settle this question. There is no question too great or too small to be decided here by the delegates; but now, when we have the question of politics--a side issue--to treat with, a delegate here moves that we are not competent in this convention to judge on the question. It is too big a question for us to decide here whether we shall or shall not go into politics! We will do all the other business, no matter how small or how great; we are big enough to handle that, but this question we are apparently too small to handle, and we must go back and ask our people at home what we shall do. I say this convention is capable of judging what we shall do in the future. I maintain that the delegates here are able to decide what we shall do for the interests of our people at home. We are here and we have heard every discussion on the matter. We know what has been done in the past, and that is a very good guide for the future, and if we are not capable, after sitting down day after day and listening to arguments on various subjects, and this one in particular, of calmly and coolly judging what is best to be done for the people we represent, how do you expect them to judge it without any consideration at all?
. . .
President Gompers--First, let me say something I want every delegate in this convention to know. I never for one moment had a consultation with any member of the Committee on President's Report during this entire convention. I have not appeared before the committee, and have not directly or indirectly communicated with them concerning the subject-matter of my report. I say this so that you may understand there had been no effort on my part, either by reason, by argument, by persuasion, or in any other way, to influence the minds of the committee. I permitted them to discuss the report made by both the Executive Council and myself without in any way influencing their judgment. The report of the committee takes into consideration the report of the Executive Council upon the subject under discussion. To my mind, the report is comprehensive and is calculated to enhance our movement, to advance it, and to keep it on such lines as will absolutely safeguard it from any danger which might otherwise, and would inevitably, confront it.
Insofar as the amendment of Delegate Dold is concerned, let me say that if it was the result of his mature thought, he should have presented it before; if it was an afterthought, prepared since the committee submitted its report, the matter involved is too divergent for ample consideration by the delegates at this time. One part of it says the policy of the Executive Council of the American Federation of Labor, in the recent campaign, shall be submitted to the membership. It does not say what policy that is. Every man can in his own local union place his construction upon what that policy is. This campaign was not the policy of the Executive Council; it is the policy declared for, time after time, by the American Federation of Labor. It is the policy declared for in our local unions, in our central bodies, and in our state federation and international union conventions. You will notice that the report of the Executive Council calls attention to the successive steps and the successive declaration of policy of the American Federation of Labor, and the instructions given the Executive Council from time to time as to what policy it should pursue.
I want now to present to you some of the things that have been said, and some of the things that have been left unsaid, in this convention and elsewhere. I want at the onset to say to Delegate Walker28 that I exclude him from the consideration of the matters I want to present. I believe he would act as he has declared he would29 in the event the labor movement determined upon any political party policy; but I call his attention to the fact when he goes home he may find himself in the position in which another delegate to this convention found himself in quite recently. I refer to Delegate Whitlam30 of the Cleveland Central Body, who made a similar declaration.
A member of the local to which Mr. Whitlam belonged was nominated as a member of the Ohio legislature. Mr. Whitlam declared he was going to vote for the member of his union for the legislature and for that he was expelled from the Socialist party.
Let me call attention to the fact that the report of the committee deals, in the most practical way, with the very thing Delegate Dold has in mind in his amendment. It is that, practically, the subject-matter is referred to the central bodies and the local unions in the various localities to do what their judgment tells them to be wise, and to leave undone the things they believe to be unwise.
But to revert to the things that have been said and left unsaid here and elsewhere: I hold in my hand a clipping from a Socialist paper, and I want to call your attention to the statements made to a delegate to this convention. A week after the close of the Pittsburg convention of the American Federation of Labor, Delegate Berger of Milwaukee, who is the editor of the Social Democratic Herald, makes this complimentary reference to your humble servant, and to another:
"And most undoubtedly the American Federation of Labor shows signs of decay in spite of the mighty numbers marched forth in the reports of Gompers and Mitchell. All its proceedings are senile. Sam Gompers, the President and leading spirit, has more and more developed into an empty, self-complacent old fool."
I want you to note that complimentary reference.
He goes on to say further, "and Gompers never cared as long as President McKinley deigned to speak to him, or Mark Hanna slapped him on the back and called him a good fellow. Yes, Gompers always was a good fellow--for the capitalists."
Further on he says:
"Gompers himself wants to uphold and protect the present capitalist system against the economic system of labor, against Socialism. That is his mission in life, besides holding a well-paid, fat and mighty easy office."
I hold in my hand copies of other papers of a similar calibre, with the names of which I shall not attempt to burden you. I want to call your attention to the similarity of language used by divergent persons. First I will read a clipping from the Social Democratic Herald of which our friend Berger is editor:
"It is the only kind of politics that pays--for the leaders."
Then I want to read a statement made by the Parry-Post official journal:
"Mr. Gompers is as strong in his great mission and is inspired by as lofty a purpose as his salary pays for." You will note how exactly similar are the views and expressions of the gentleman who wants to direct the policy of this organization and the views of Mr. Post in his official paper.
I quote this that you may know whether the men in the labor movement who are entrusted with its affairs are slandered at every opportunity that presents itself to these people.
Is it true that I have forced or dragged this movement into the political arena? Are all the declarations of this Federation reported to you as nothing? Is it not true that this is simply a parrot-like repetition of the accusations of every enemy in the capitalist class against our movement?
If other countries are to be compared to ours and to be held up as examples for us to follow, we ought to inquire into the tangible results achieved by the working men of those countries and the working men of our own. No man in this country or elsewhere is more dissatisfied and impatient with the results achieved than am I. It is because we are determined to secure the very best results for our working people that we pursue policies and make declarations and carry them into execution. This country of ours is not half good enough for the American working man and woman, and we intend to make it better; but because it has not attained the standard that we aim to achieve is no reason why we should befoul our own nests.
We are asking from Congress and from our legislatures only the things we cannot secure ourselves, and one of the principal things for which we are contending is, what? A free play for the lawful and natural functions of the trade-union movement. And one of the great, conspicuous opponents to that right have we sought to defeat. Well, we did not defeat him, but it was not through any assistance of the party of which Mr. Berger is a member that our effort resulted, even in a moral victory. I shall not go into the details of that campaign, but men have said to me, and I shall say it here before this convention, as something I have not yet said, "How can you advocate the election of Mr. McGillicuddy?31 Mr. Littlefield's conspicuous opponent, the only man who had a chance to defeat him?"
Let me tell you. I never said one word in print or upon the platform that could be construed into an advocacy of the election of Mr. McGillicuddy. He was the only man who stood any chance of defeating Littlefield, if he was to be defeated at all. Mr. McGillicuddy had pledged himself to the American Federation of Labor to stand for the labor measures for which that organization stands. That was one of the things I could not say on the platform, for there was quite a disaffection in the district that might have retained for Mr. Littlefield votes which might otherwise be cast against him. Was I going to drag in that utterance and hurt the opportunity that presented itself of trying to defeat the man who was the sponsor for all the things against which our movement protests? Because this man was re-elected, even by a small vote, a few nights ago32 in New York City he denounced me and he denounced every man in this country who stands for a bill that will relieve us from the obnoxious injunction. Don't you think it would have been, not only a gracious act, but an act in the interest of the working class, and an act in the interest of our country, if for the time being the Socialist party had said:
"We will defeat this man by all means, and temporarily at least, we will cast our lots with you to do it."
But they did not do that.
I went into Indiana and one of the gentlemen who was most courteous to me and most cordial, a member of the reception committee, was our friend and brother Delegate Skemp. I spoke there not for the Democratic candidate,33 but against Judge Crumpacker's34 election, because he had not only opposed special legislation in the interest of labor, but he had juggled with a measure and deceived the Congress of the United States with a pretended investigation of the labor condition of the women and children of our country. I confess my astonishment that Mr. Skemp should have seemed so pleased with my going to his district to pursue the course I did and then finding that he later attacked that very course.
Mr. Berger says I wrote a letter to Mr. Carey, candidate for Congress. I think that if Mr. Berger will refresh his memory he will admit that the letter addressed to Mr. Carey was favoring his nomination. I did not say a word after he had secured the nomination. Mr. Carey is a member in good standing of the Order of Railway Telegraphers,35 an organization affiliated with the American Federation of Labor. The national officers of that organization declared he was trustworthy in every way and true to the interests of labor. Later I learned that he had been elected sheriff of the county and that he did not have the union label upon the bread he fed the prisoners. Surely, I regret that, but I remember also that in California there was a Congressman elected by labor, and by the people of one of the districts, Edward J. Livernash. No man in the entire history of legislation in any body stood more steadfastly or more ably than did Edward J. Livernash for the interests of labor. For more than four months he was engaged in arguing the case of street railway men before an arbitration board,36 and it is common knowledge to all those whom it may concern that he devoted that entire time without a dollar of compensation, practically speaking, without care of himself, to win that case. Then when he was coming away from a conference meeting to go to a public speaking, he went into a store to buy a collar. He went to a store which kept open later than the union rule provided for, but he bought the collar in order to make a presentable appearance at the meeting he was going to address in the interest of labor. That caused his defeat. The defeat of Congressman Livernash in the election two years ago gave labor the severest blow it ever received, as far as consideration at the hands of Congress is concerned. There is not a congressman who either favors or opposes labor who has not held that up to every one with whom he has come in contact, myself included.
It is said that light has dawned upon our benighted minds. Well, we are not beyond learning. The difficulty with some people is that they know it all. When a man reaches the stage where he knows it all, it is impossible for him to learn anything.
It is true we did not defeat as many men as we should like to have done, but I want to tell you what we did. We put the fear of God into them. We cut down their majorities, we cut down their pluralities, and I have delegate Walker's statement for my warrant in saying that he, as candidate of the Socialists in Uncle Joe's district, as the candidate endorsed by the labor of the city and of the state, was approached by smiling Uncle Joe, both before and after the election. Uncle Joe was never more profuse, no man was ever more profuse in his declaration as to what he would do for labor than was Mr. Cannon. I refer to this to contrast it with the boastfulness of the man in the beginning.
I tell you this campaign has had magical results. I want to stake whatever reputation I have as a prophet that not only in the Sixtieth Congress will this campaign be felt, but it will be felt in the last days of the present Congress. Our opponents will not be so arrogant toward the representative of labor as they have been in the past.
It is an improper aspersion upon the honor and manhood of the representatives of this Federation to say that we ever bent the knee to any man, no matter whether he was a Congressman, a Senator or the President of the United States. The representatives of labor have manfully, and with whatever ability they are possessed, presented the cause of labor with dignity and strength of character, and under no circumstances have we ever truckled the good name of our movement to any of them. Let any one who imagines we have, read the reports of the hearings, and I venture to say he will be imbued with the notion that we stood for what we believed to be right and for the measures we were instructed by you to advocate.
In my judgment, the report of the committee covers the subject fully, safely, and means progress and success, giving to us every opportunity to do that which will bring tangible results in the advancement of our movement.
. . .
On motion of Delegate Warner37 debate was closed.
The amendment offered by Delegate Dold was lost.
The motion to concur in the report of the Committee on President's Report was carried.
. . .
AFL, Proceedings, 1906, pp. 183-88, 191-93, 195-204.