The Labor Question

Performed by William Jennings Bryan
Recorded July 21, 1908

The wage earners constitute so large a proportion of our population that all political and economic questions effect them, but there are certain questions in which they feel a special interest. They’re interested, for instance, in an eight-hour day, and the Democratic platform declares in favor of eight-hour day on all government work. The laboring men are also interested in the Employers Liability Act, and the Democratic platform endorses this measure. The antitrust law has been so construed as to apply to labor organizations, but the distinction between an association of laboring men or farmers, or other citizens organized for mutual benefit -- and industrial combinations known as trusts, is so clear that the two subjects ought to be treated separately. And the Democratic platform puts the party on record against legislation which passes labor organizations with illegal combinations in restraint of trade. One of the most acute questions affecting labor is that which involves the issue of the written injunction. The Republican leaders have attempted to raise a false issue and have accused the laboring men of lack of respect for the courts. They do injustice to the wage earners. There is no lack of respect for the courts and there is no thought of interfering with the legitimate use of the written injunction. Courts, however, are creatures of law and it is their province to interpret the laws which the people make. Experience has shown the necessity for a modification of the law relating to injunction, and the Democratic party favors the enactment of a measure which passed the United States Senate 12 years ago, but which a Republican Congress has ever since refused to enact. This measure gives to the accused the right of trial by jury when the alleged contempt was not committed in the presence of the court. The demand for a jury trial in such cases is not revolutionary. It is simply a demand that those who are known as wage earners shall be given the protection always accorded to persons who are tried in a criminal court. The Democratic platform also insists that injunction should not be issued in industrial dispute in cases where the injunction would not lie if no industrial disputes were involved. In other words, the wage earner should not be discriminated against, and the industrial dispute itself should not be a sufficient cause for the issuance of an injunction. Before an injunction is issued in an industrial dispute, the conditions ought to be such as to justify the writ of injunction if there were no disputes between employer and employee. Our platform goes a step further and declares in favor of a Department of Labor with a cabinet officer at its head. This is but a reiteration of the position taken by the party in 1900, and who will say that the laborers of the country are not entitled representation at the President’s council table. They have so large a part in the production of the nations wealth in time of peace, and they are so prompt to offer their services in time of war, that no one should begrudge them a spokesman in the President’s cabinet.