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26. For the settlement of jurisdictional disputes (or demarcational disputes as they are called in England) some of the national federations of unions, in industries where the disputes are most likely to occur, have created their own internal agencies of settlement. In addition, since 1920, under the standing orders of the Trades Union Congress, the general council of the congress has had power to summon any contending unions to appear before a disputes committee of the general council, the committee being composed of members having no connection with the unions involved in the controversy. The disputes committee decides the case, and in case of noncompliance the general council may suspend the offending union until the next annual congress, the congress having final authority to deal with the case whether by way of readmission, further suspension, or exclusion from membership. Furthermore, if a given situation becomes sufficiently serious a court of inquiry may be appointed by the Ministry of Labor to investigate the matter. These methods have been generally, but not entirely, successful in avoiding stoppages of work from jurisdictional difficulties.
27. As to the organizational disputes, it should be noted that there are three main types of unions in Great Britain: (1) The craft unions, some of which are federations of two or more separate craft unions; (2) unions which are substantially industrial in form, of which the National Union of Railwaymen and the local and district miners' unions are the chief examples; and (3) the so-called general unions, which take in unskilled workers from all industries and which are open, also, to skilled or craft workers in unorganized areas. There are two large unions of the latter sort, the Transport and General Workers Union and the National Union of General and Municipal Workers. These two unions have arrived at a working arrangement regarding the men that each will take in, and they have, on occasion, transferred memberships from one to the other in accordance with that arrangement.
28. Several principles have been laid down for avoiding organizational disputes, the most important of which are:
(1) The Trades Union Congress, composed as it is of craft, industrial, and general unions, has consistently taken the stand that no union has an exclusive right to organize any class of worker. This principle has not been formally embodied in resolutions, but it has been repeatedly applied in the decisions of the disputes committee, which the congress has endorsed.
(2) By formal action of the general council, endorsed by the 1924 congress, further principles were adopted: (a) That all union membership applications "should contain an inquiry to be answered by the candidate as to whether he is or has been a member of any other union, and, if so, what his financial relationship to that union is"; (b) that no member of any union should be accepted by another without inquiry from the union concerned, or be allowed to escape his obligations by leaving one union while in arrears and joining another; and (c) "that under no circumstances should a union accept members from any other union which is engaged in a trades dispute." 29. This settlement machinery works well and stoppages of work do not result from organizational disputes. In the year immediately preceding the adoption of the 1924 principles, 23 organizational dis
putes were referred to the disputes committee, and thereafter the number steadily declined, only 3 being referred in 1937. We were informed that one factor reducing the number of disputes heard has been the insistence of the general council 10 that the national officers of the unions concerned should first make every effort to settle the matter by negotiation: An insistence similar in character to the provisions in collective agreements which seek to exhaust all possibilities of direct settlement between the parties before recourse is had to other agencies.
(e) LEGISLATION RELATING TO THE EXISTENCE AND ACTIVITIES OF TRADE-UNIONS
30. In Great Britain the term "trade-union" is not limited in its meaning to labor unions. It embraces combinations of employers as well as combinations of workers to regulate the relations between employers and workers, or among workers, or among employers; or to impose restrictive conditions on the conduct of any trade or business, or to provide benefits for members. In appendix B, prepared for the Commission by Messrs. Davis and Garrison, the status and development of the law relating to trade-unions is set forth, and the text of the statutes is appended. What appears below is a summary of the material in the appendix, supplemented by information obtained in conference with employers, trade-union representatives, barristers, and others.
(1) Legal status of unions and strikes.
31. From a state of affairs in which trade-unions (whether of employers or of workers) had no legal status, and their activities were banned by law, the English law has been brought by a series of acts (the most important of which are the Trade-Union Acts of 1871 and 1913, the Conspiracy and Protection of Property Act of 1875, and the Trade Disputes Act of 1906) to a state in which trade-unions not only have a recognized legal status but have been given immunity from any charge of restraint of trade and, with respect to their activities in contemplation or furtherance of a trade dispute, from any action for civil or criminal conspiracy or for any tortious act. Of course, the courts are not thereby closed to appropriate legal action against individual wrongdoers and, although a trade-union as such cannot be sued for a tortious act, its trustees may be sued for an act touching or concerning the property of the union, provided it is not an act done in contemplation or furtherance of a trade dispute. Although the 1871 act legalizes trade-union contracts in restraint of trade, it provides that such contracts cannot be directly enforced in court. The practical effect of all these statutes is that agreements between employers' associations and labor unions or associations of unions rest upon good faith rather than upon legal enforceability. The statutory immunity of trade-unions from suit for acts done in contemplation or furtherance of a trade dispute is denied only in the case of illegal strikes or lock-outs, as defined in the Trades Disputes and Trade Unions Act of 1927; i. e., a strike or lock-out having an object other than or in addition to the furtherance of a trade dispute within the industry in which the strikers are
engaged and designed or calculated to coerce the Government, either directly or by inflicting hardship upon the community. From the beginning, in 1875, up to and including the act of 1927, the British laws have contained special penalties with respect to certain acts of individuals likely to deprive the public of essential services (particularly water, gas, and electricity) during industrial disputes.11
32. We found a complete unanimity of opinion that the act of 1927 does not forbid, or destroy the immunity of unions from suit in the case of sympathetic strikes extending beyond a given industry, unless such strikes are also designed or calculated to coerce the Government, either directly or by inflicting hardships upon the community. Nor does it forbid or destroy the previously granted statutory immunity of unions from suit in the case of sympathetic or other strikes within a given industry, even though they may be designed or calculated to coerce the Government, either directly or by inflicting hardship upon the community. The act, according to this consensus of opinion, was intended to prevent a repetition of the general strike of 1926, and it fully "delegalizes" everything done in support of such a strike. But for ordinary industrial strikes the immunity of trade-unions is preserved.
33. These provisions of the act have not been interpreted in courts of records, and there is a great latitude for interpretation in the provisions prohibiting sympathetic strikes which are (1) not "within the trade or industry" and (2) are "designed or calculated to coerce the Government either directly or by inflicting hardship upon the community." How the courts will construe the italicized words, if cases should be presented, no one can venture to say. Among the persons who met with us, opinions differed as to whether or not this uncertainty had been a deterrent to sympathetic strikes. In the years 1923, 1924, and 1925 there were 43 sympathetic strikes, involving a total of 71,000 workers; and in the years 1934, 1935, and 1936 there were 39 sympathetic strikes, involving a total of 120,000 workers. No concrete examples were brought to our attention of unions which, desiring to engage in sympathetic strike action, refrained from doing so for fear of what the courts might hold. Until such examples have been afforded, it will not be possible to say that the act has been of any practical effect in this direction, nor is it possible to prophesy whether or not such examples will be afforded.
(2) Picketing and intimidation.
34. Permissible picketing is defined by successive acts of Parliament (the acts of 1875, 1906, and 1927) as attending by one or more persons acting on their own behalf or on behalf of a trade-union or of an individual employer or firm in contemplation or furtherance of a trade dispute (act of 1906) at or near the house where a person resides, or works, or carries on business or happens to be, or the approach to such house or place, in order merely to obtain or communicate information, or to peacefully persuade any person to work or abstain from working (act of 1906; provided that they do not so attend in such number or otherwise in such manner as to be calculated to intimidate any person in such house or place, or to obstruct
*The words not italicized are the original provisions of the act of 1875. The italicized phrases were added by the acts of 1906 and 1927 as indicated.
the approach thereto or egress therefrom, or to lead to a breach of the peace (act of 1927).
35. When, in 1825, Parliament repealed certain provisions of the combination laws and thereby partially lifted the ban upon tradeunion activities, it simultaneously penalized the use of violence, threats or intimidation, molestation, or obstruction in connection with such activities. Certain doubts arose as to the true meaning of the words "molestation" and "obstruction" and the act of 1859 defined these words so as to permit peaceable and reasonable persuasion "without threat or intimidation, direct or indirect." The subsequent definition of permissible picketing in the Conspiracy and Protection of Property Act of 1875 (see italicized words in preceding paragraph) was associated with an express prohibition of rioting, unlawful assembly, breach of the peace, use of violence or intimidation, and the like. This prohibition has been preserved by the subsequent acts and, additionally, the 1927 act defines the words "to intimidate" as "to cause in the mind of a person a reasonable apprehension of injury to him or to any member of his family or to any of his dependents or of violence or damage to any person or property"; thereby excluding any idea that its meaning might be restricted to infliction of actual property damage or bodily harm.
36. For the most part the conduct of strikes has been accompanied, at least since collective bargaining became generally accepted, by relatively little violence or provocation. In the case of strikes involving at the outset enough workers to make a continued operation of a plant impractical, employers almost invariably shut down their plants and do not attempt to operate until the controversy has been settled by negotiation. Several reasons for this practice were given us. In the first place, in the strongly organized industries it is difficult to obtain replacements, but even where organization is not extensive there is a general feeling among workers and employers that "the job belongs to the man" and that it is not right for men to take, or to be asked to take, the jobs of their fellows. Secondly, collective bargaining having been generally accepted, there is confidence on both sides that the controversy will be settled by peaceful negotiations, and a desire on both sides to effect a resumption of work under circumstances as free from bitterness as possible, so that future strife may be avoided.
37. It follows from these policies that discrimination against strikers and their leaders, if not wholly eliminated, is reduced to insignificance. In the case of strikes involving only a portion of a plant, the plant may be operated with the men who remain at work, but they are not usually asked by the employer to do the work of the men on strike; order is generally preserved and men are not forcibly prevented by picket lines from going to or coming from
38. All of these statements are subject to qualifications in exceptional instances, particularly where the community may consist chiefly of workers and their families engaged in the industry where the trouble has occurred. But it is certainly true that violence on the part of the workers, and provocative tactics on the part of the employers, have not for a long time played any significant part in industrial disturbances, and that the chief reliance for the main
tenance of industrial peace in Great Britain is placed on the settlement of all issues and differences by the voluntary collective-bargaining methods already described.
39. To most of the union officials, and to the employers and their representatives with whom we met, we put the question whether and to what extent the act of 1927 had affected their relations, and the answer was that it had not made any difference in the processes of collective bargaining, which had substantially all been established prior to the passage of the legislation.
(3) Political objects.
40. The British Labor Party was created by trade union action (although membership in the party is open to citizens generally), and close relationship has always been maintained between the party and the trade-union movement, represented by the Trades Union Congress. We were informed by several competent observers that the existence of the Labor Party afforded a means of focusing public opinion on matters concerning labor and on conditions which labor seeks to remedy. The law does not place any restrictions upon the pursuit of political objects by trade-unions, but what has been restricted is the application of the funds of a trade-union to certain political objects. In 1910 the expenditure of funds for political objects was declared by a decision of the House of Lords to be beyond the powers of a trade-union. This decision was followed by the Trade-Union Act of 1913, which legalized such expenditures provided that the furtherance of political objects had been approved by majority vote of the union members present at a meeting, under balloting rules approved by the registrar, and provided further that any member could by a written notice to his union ("contracting-out") relieve himself of all obligation to contribute. Annual accounts of its political funds must be filed with the registrar by every tradeunion, whether it be a registered or unregistered union.
41. The act of 1927 substituted for the "contracting-out" proviso the "contracting-in" proviso, which means that a member must sign and file with the trade-union a written notice of his willingness to make a political contribution. We were informed that this proviso was aimed to weaken the Labor Party. The act of 1927 has undoubtedly reduced its revenues from the unions. The estimated percentages of union members who now "contract-in" varied widely in the different unions whose officials we met. No exact statistical comparisons could be made without a study of the records, including a study of the percentages in the different unions who before the act of 1927 "contracted-out;" and even then the comparisons would not be exact, since union members may affiliate locally with the Labor Party as individuals and pay their dues directly in that way instead of through the unions. The act of 1927 is resented by the Labor Party, which is pledged to the repeal of the act; when the party returned to power in 1929 it did not have a majority in Parliament and did not succeed either in repealing the act or in obtaining acceptable amendments.
42. By the Police Act of 1919 membership in a trade-union was prohibited to a policeman; and, by the act of 1927, "established civil