In answer to the article by Mr. J. Gritter in the August number of our paper, the following may suffice.
1. I wish to point out that nowhere did I make the statement that “employees, if dissatisfied, may collectively cease working.” Nor would I subscribe to this statement without important qualifications. Even if a man quits his job he has certain obligations before God, both with regard to his employer and to those that are dependent on him. The fact that he is dissatisfied with his job does not justify his quitting, unless he is sure of another job. And if his quitting would seriously handicap his employer, he would certainly have to serve notice of his intention to quit some time in advance to provide opportunity to his employer to find someone in his place. And what is true of the individual laborer is true with greater emphasis of an entire union or group of workingmen. But I will not elaborate on this point, because it is not the point at issue at present. If it is only understood that I am not responsible for the unqualified statement that “employees, if dissatisfied, may collectively cease working.”
2. The position of the C.L.A., so I wrote, with regard to the strike, does not differ principally from that of the worldly unions. This statement still stands after I read the article by Mr. Gritter, in spite of his attempt to prove the contrary. According to the secretary of the C.L.A., the position of the Christian Labor Alliance regarding the strike is as follows: “when Christian workers collectively cease working in protest against an injustice by their employer, which he has obstinately refused to remove in spite of repeated and earnest appeals to do so by the workers, such employees retain a moral claim to their jobs and they may, in a peaceful manner acquaint the public with their grievances and request it not to lend support to the employer in continued imposition of the injustice by taking employment with him. At the same time the workers must uphold their promise to return to work when the injustice is removed. That is their moral obligation.”
Now, this is exactly the position of all worldly unions. They advocate the use of the strike weapon only after all peaceful attempts at settlement of the issue involved have failed. Mr. Gritters tries to point out a real difference between the C.L.A. and the worldly unions by saying that the latter “usually strike first and talk afterwards.” But this is by no means the official stand of the unions as defined in their constitutions. On the contrary, they usually have a clause insisting on arbitration first and the strike as a last resort. Let me adduce a few quotations in proof of this statement.
The following is from the Constitution and Bylaws of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Stablemen and Helpers:
“Sec. 60. When any difficulty arises between the members of any Local Union and their employers, the members; shall lay the matter before their Local Union, and, if approved by the Union, the President shall appoint a committee to wait upon the employers and endeavor to adjust the difficulty; said committee shall report to the next regular or special meeting, and the Local Union shall then take such course as is prescribed in this constitution.”
Here follows a quotation from the Constitution of the International Union, United Automobile Workers of America:
“Sec. 3. (of Art, L3). If the Local Union involved is unable to reach an agreement with the employer without a strike, the recording Secretary of the Local Union shall prepare a full statement and history of the matters in controversy and forward the same to the General President;, who shall thereupon in person or by deputy visit the Local Union where the controversy exists and investigate the controversy and if possible effect a settlement.”
One more quotation from the Book of Laws of the International Typographical Union, Art. XXV:
“Sec. 1, In the event of a disagreement between a subordinate union and an employer, which in the opinion of the local union may result in a strike, such union shall notify the president, who shall repair in person or by proxy to the place where said union is located, investigate the cause of the disagreement and endeavor to adjust the difficulty. If his efforts should prove futile, he shall notify the Executive Council of all the circumstances, and if a majority of said council shad decide that a strike is, necessary, such union may be authorized to order a strike.”
Now, this is exactly the position of the C.L.A. as explained by Mr. Gritter in his article of Aug. 1, There may be practical differences in regard to the execution of a strike. Mr. Gritter writes: “The worldly organization does not always have a moral claim but strikes nevertheless and will use violence, terrorism and bloodshed if necessary to impose its will. Surely there is a real difference between that and the position of the C.L.A.” We have no dispute with the brother about this. We were arguing, not about, accompanying circumstances of the strike, but about the strike as such. And then it should be plain that there is no principal difference between the conception of the strike as offered us by Mr. Gritter and that of the worldly unions.
3. Mr. Gritter defends picketing. It- stands to reason that, as I cannot agree with him about the strike, I must differ with him on the question of picketing. Condemn the strike, and the question of picketing does not arise. But I, nevertheless, wish to point out the thoroughly unchristian character of this evil, even as advocated by Mr. Gritter. He writes: “But do such employees when they cease working retain a claim to their jobs and are they justified in using peaceful means to persuade others from taking employment?, or, do they by ceasing work simply quit and relinquish all claims to the jobs they have left? The answer of the C.L.A. is: that all depends. If the employees are in the wrong, then there is no real justification for the strike, they must be considered as having quit their jobs, and they should not try to keep others from taking their former jobs in order to strengthen them in their unjustifiable action. If, on the other hand, the employer is in the wrong, and sincere efforts have been made to persuade him to deal justly, then if the employees strike they do have a moral claim to their jobs and they may by truthful and peaceful means seek to persuade others from taking employment so that they will not by so doing strengthen the employer in his unjustifiable action.”
Now, this is a very strange method of reasoning. Mr. Gritter takes the position really that “peaceful and truthful” picketing is Christian just because it is peaceful and truthful. In other words, just because the pickets do not use violence, and do not hit the would-be “scabs” over the head with a club or stone him, picketing is the Christian way of defending righteousness.
But let us see.
The job of the picket is to put the employer in such a bad light that no one will work for him. He walks in front of a store with a double sign on his back and stomach, proclaiming that the storekeeper is “unfair to organized labor.” Or he stands at the entrance of a factory informing everybody that would seek employment there that the employer is so evil and unjust a man that no one ought to work for him, and that it is positively immoral to seek employment in his place.
On whose authority does the picket spread this evil- report of the employer? Who decides that the employer is unjust in his dealings with his workingmen? The union. No one else. It is the sole judge in its own case. And who guarantees that the picket tells the truth? Perhaps, the picket himself; perhaps, the union. But is it Christian ethics to spread one’s evil report behind his back and that, too, without any authority whatsoever? Is it Christian to let a man be the sole judge in his own case, and act accordingly?
Peaceful picketing to me is, at best, a method of peaceful backbiting, and probably also of peaceful slander.
And they are not Christian activities, but the very works of the devil.