Labor And Its Rights

Performed by William H. Taft
Recorded August 5, 1908

We come now to the question of labor. One important phase of the policies of the present administration has been an anxiety to secure for the wage earner an equality of opportunity and such positive statutory protection as to place him on the level in dealing with his employer. The interests of the employer and the employee never differ except when it comes to a division of the joint profit of labor and capital into dividends and wages. This must be a constant source of periodical discussion between the employer and the employee, as indeed are the other terms of the employment. To give to employees their proper position in such a controversy, to enable them to maintain themselves against employers having great capital, they may well unite because in union there is strength and without it each individual laborer and employee would be helpless. The promotion of industrial peace through the instrumentality of the trade agreement is often one of the results of such unions when intelligently conducted. There is a large body of laborers, however, skilled and unskilled, who are not organized into unions - their rights before the law are exactly the same as those of the union men and are to be protected with the same care and watchfulness. In order to induce their employer into a compliance with their request for changed terms of employment, all workmen have the right to strike in a body. They have a right to use such persuasion as they may, provided it does not reach the point of duress, to lead their reluctant co-laborers to join them in their union against their employer, and they have a right if they choose, to accumulate funds to support those engaged in a strike, to delegate to officers the power to direct the action of the union, and to withdraw themselves from their associates from dealings with or giving custom to those with whom they are in controversy. What they have not the right to do is to injure their employer’s property, to injure their employer’s business by use of threats or methods of physical duress against those who would work for him or deal with him, or by carrying on what is sometimes known as a secondary boycott against his customers or those with whom he deals in business. All those who sympathize with them may unite to aid them in their struggle but they may not through the instrumentality of a threatened or actual boycott, compel third persons against their will; and having no interest in their controversy, to come to their assistance. These principles have for a great many years been settled by the courts of this country.