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It must be evident to all that there must be a principal difference between a Christian Labor Alliance and a “neutral” or worldly Union, if there is any reason for the existence of the former.

A difference in degree can never be a sufficient reason for a separate organization.

If there is only a gradual difference, between the C.L.A. on the one hand, and the A.F. of L. and C.I.O. on the other, the inevitable result will be that the former will more and more approach the latter, cooperate with them, and be merged into them in the industrial struggle. The gradual difference will gradually be wiped out.

The C.L.A. must stand and operate on its own distinctive basis, or it must fall.

It must assume a standpoint fundamentally different from that of the worldly unions, it must have a different purpose, and, therefore, it must employ different methods.

Now, in what way does the fundamentally distinctive basis of a Christian labor union affect the methods it employs? My answer is: in this way that a Christian labor union never uses force to gain a certain end.

As soon as a Christian labor union assumes the stand that it will not employ force in a certain labor dispute until all other means fail, the difference between it and the worldly union is principally obliterated, has become one of degree.

Now, the editor of the Christian Labor Herald appears to agree on this point. He, too, condemns the employment of force. But we do not agree on the question whether or not the strike is a weapon of force that cannot and may not be employed by a Christian labor union. Ho defends the strike and denies that it implies the use of force; I condemn it and maintain that the very idea of any strike is to use force in order to gain one’s end. It must be, therefore, that he and I differ, either in respect to our conception of the strike, or in our definition of force.

In my opinion, there are only three possible means to settle a given labor dispute, viz. 1. that of arbitration until the end; 2. that of intervention by the government; 3. that of the employment of force by the organized laborers. The first two are, of course, legitimate means; the last one is to be condemned.

A strike certainly cannot be classified with either of the first two possible methods; it falls under the third category.

By force I do not mean only the use of physical violence, which is punishable by law; but I. mean the employment of any means that is calculated to compel the employer to yield to the demands of the union against his will, and regardless of the question whether or not he agrees to the justice of the demands.

In such a case the laborer only decides what shall be considered just.

If we can agree on this definition of force, it will be evident that the strike must be considered a weapon of force in the hands of the union.

If it had no power to compel the employer to comply with the demands of the laborer, a strike would never be called. To exercise compulsion is exactly the purpose of a strike. It is exactly because this is the purpose of the strike that picketing is instituted to add force to the means whereby the employer is to be compelled to yield against his will. And that this is the real purpose of the strikers is evident, too, from the physical violence that usually accompanies a strike, especially if it is prolonged or the employer attempts to “break” the strike.

A strike is not the same as quitting one’s job. It is not even an organized refusal to work under certain conditions. It is refusal to work with the claim that those who thus refuse to work have the sole right to the job they virtually quit. Those that strike do, not mean to quit their job; they intend to keep it; they deny that they quit; and they deny that anyone has the moral right to take their places. If others declare their intention to take their jobs, or if some refuse to cooperate with the strikers and continue to work, they try to persuade them that they have no right to do so; if they persist they heap reproach on the “scab”; if this does not serve the purpose they try to prevent them from entering the shop by physical violence. This is the purpose of picketing a plant. The purpose of the strikers, therefore, is not at all to quit their job, but to force the employer to yield to their demands by making it impossible for the plant to operate.

The strike, therefore, does not belong to the category of moral persuasion, but must certainly be classified as the use of force.

Hence, it must be condemned.

It is based on the principle of the class struggle. It is unchristian.

The objection is often raised: “but if we openly declare that we will consistently refuse to strike, we will never gain anything at all.”

My answer is twofold.

First, it all depends what end a Christian Labor Alliance has in view. If its ultimate purpose is material advantage for the time being, I admit that in this world the use of force will prove to be the most effective. If, however, it aims chiefly to be a Christian testimony and confession to the glory of God in the industrial world, it certainly will realize its purpose and can only reach its aim by refraining from all employment of force.

Secondly, if a so-called Christian Labor Alliance seeks material things and attempts to obtain them by the employment of force, it will surely fail, not only as a Christian Union, but also as a Union, for the simple reason that it will always be too small in numbers and, therefore, too weak to enforce its demands. In a city like Grand Rapids a C.L.A. might probably amount to something from the viewpoint of power, if all Christian laborers could be persuaded to join its ranks. But what about their brethren in a city like Chicago? In such places a C.L.A. that aimed at influence by force, would amount to exactly nothing.

What, then, will be the result if the C.L.A. insists on employing methods of force?

This, that it will quickly reveal itself as being principally no different from any other union.

It will manifest itself as being no distinctively Christian union at all. Nor will it be strong enough to maintain itself as a union at all.

The salt will have lost its savor. It is good for nothing.

I was present at the funeral rites for the last remains of a former attempt at a Christian Labor Union in Grand Rapids. The funeral was held in the basement of the Bates Street Christian Reformed Church.

If the present C.L.A. will have the courage of its convictions and will stand on a strictly Christian basis, it will be a glorious confession in the midst of a world of sin, unrest, hatred and revolution, that is hastening to destruction. It will have power, spiritual power, and will always be victorious, regardless of its small numbers.

But if it does not have the courage to stand on a distinctively Christian basis, it will die.

And I don’t think that I will be present at the funeral services.