Page images

abroad, to the countries named in the annex to the League of Nations covenant. The invitation was in the following terms:

The President of the United States, in accordance with the provisions of Part XIII of the treaty of peace between the allied and associated powers and Germany signed at Versailles on June 28, 1919, and under authority vested in him by Congress, hereby convenes the first meeting of the annual labor conference therein described to assemble in Washington at noon on the 29th day of October, 1919.

The Government of the United States extends to each nation which is or which prior to the said meeting shall become a member of the international labor organization as defined in article 387 an invitation to send its delegates and other representatives to Washington for the purpose of attending such conference.

Meanwhile, by oral direction of the President, the Department of Labor had undertaken informally the administrative details of the work to be done by the United States in making arrangements for the convening and the organization of the first meeting of the general conference described above. By order thereupon made by the Secretary of Labor, of date July 24, 1919, Nathan A. Smyth (alternate to Samuel Gompers on the International Organizing Committee for the International Labor Conference) was appointed Assistant to the Secretary of Labor to act for the Department of Labor in working out the details hereunder outlined; and by subsequent order of the Secretary, E. H. Greenwood was appointed to assist and represent Mr. Smyth. The details so intrusted to Mr. Smyth and Mr. Greenwood were as follows:

1. Preparation, in connection with the State Department, in readiness for transmission so soon as the President may deem it possible, of

(a) The call convening the conference.
(6) The invitation to the International Organizing Committee to meet in this

country. 2. Consideration and preparation of such legislation, if any, as may be necessary(a) To authorize the President to invite the labor conference to meet in this

country. (6) To authorize the President to invite the International Organizing Committee

to meet in this country. (c) To provide funds.

(d) To authorize the President to appoint delegates. 3. Preparation of a plan of organization to be put into effect as soon as action is authorized covering

(a) The organization of necessary committees on arrangements, reception, etc.

(6) The securing of space in buildings, translators, stenographers, printing, etc. 4. Suggesting to departments and bureaus of the Government concerned and to such organizations as the American Federation of Labor, manufacturers' associations, etc., the compilation of data concerning the agenda for the next meeting, for the use of our delegates when appointed.

5. Such other details as may be found necessary.

All preliminary details having been attended to in anticipation of the first meeting of this general conference, the Secretary of Labor, under date of October 11, 1919, made the following announcement through the Secretary of State:

In view of the uncertainty as to just when the peace treaty will become effective and as to how many nations, if any, will be members of the League of Nations by October 29, the date set for the convening of the International Labor Conference, I beg to announce that the following policy has been determined upon:

1. The Secretary of Labor, in accordance with the call issued by the President, will open the conference at the time specified in the call and receive the credentials of the delegates if any are there presented.

2. If, at the date of the opening of the conference, the treaty has become effective through ratification by the requisite number of powers and a League of Nations is in existence and properly authorized representatives of any members of such league are present at the time of the opening of the conference, the Secretary of Labor will proceed to call such conference to order and to organize it. It will then be within the province and power of the duly qualified representatives then and there present to take such adjournment, if any, as they may deem wise in order that, before proceeding with the agenda, a more complete membership of the league may be secured.

3. If the treaty has not become effective by October 29, or if it has no qualified representatives of members present, the Government of the United States will adjourn further steps in the organization of the conference until a date when it may be expected that sufficient duly qualified representatives of members can be present so that the organization of the conference may be perfected.

The foregoing policy is based upon the following considerations:

There is no provision in the treaty under the authority of which any Government, or any body of representatives of any Government, can postpone the conference or authorize its convocation other than in the month of October. If the conference is not convened in October it can not be convened at all without an amendment to the treaty.

Under the treaty, the conference has complete power to determine its own mode of procedure. If, therefore, there are any duly qualified members of the conference present when it is convened they have unquestionable authority to provide for such adjournment as they may deem advisable. Under ordinary parliamentary procedure less than a quorum may adjourn a meeting from time to time until a quorum is present.

Under the treaty the Government of the United States is given authority not only to make arrangements for convening but also for the organization of the conference. The conference has been duly called for a date within the month of October. The power to organize the conference impliedly and necessarily carries with it the power to hold the conference open until such later date as it may be possible to fully organize it. While the power to convene ends with the convocation of the conference, which must under the treaty take place in October, the power to organize is a continuing power which is not specifically limited in the treaty and necessarily must last on until such time as the conference is sufficiently organized with qualified members to be able to take over the direction of its own procedure.

The general conference convened in its first meeting on Wednesday, October 29, 1919, in the conference room of the Pan American Union at Washington. There were representatives present from 32 nations. In behalf of the United States the Secretary of Labor formally opened the first meeting of the general conference with the following address:

Ladies and gentlemen, members of the International Labor Conference, on behalf of the Government that is to say, the people of the United States of America, and in the name of the President, I bid you welcome to our country and to this great conference. Our latchstrings are out, our homes are your homes, our hearthstones are your hearthstones; we want you to feel that you are not strangers at the gate but part of us.

The questions with which this organization as a continuing body will have to deal constitute the great unsolved, but not unsolvable, problem of spiritual and material development. From the days when Moses, as the spokesman, the agent, the walking delegate of the brickmakers of Israel, until the present time, the relationship that should exist between employers and employees, the best means of securing the acme of production while safeguarding those who toil, and the equitable distribution of that which has been produced, have been ever-present questions. Upon the proper solution of these questions depends the future progress of the world.

Nor is it to be expected that they can be solved by the struggles and clash of contending interests, though these may help bring into the light the different factors that have to be taken into consideration. No one can expect that we can build overnight the machinery that will move us from the chaos of to-day to the universal justice, harmony, and happiness contained in our ideals.

We must proceed by the slow process of experiment, of building one block upon another, of discarding that which is found to be bad and retaining that which is good, and our experiments should be so adapted that no explosions will take place which will destroy the basis of the structure of modern civilization, the democratic institutions that exist in numerous nations of the world; for, after all,

“Of what avail the plow and sail,
Or land, or life,

If freedom fail?" To you is intrusted the scientific analysis of the labor question. On the accuracy with which you consider all the elements will depend the value of the result. It is not sufficient to consider only material things. The great human struggle of the race has achieved a condition of society where the individual can find the fullest measure of the expression of his spiritual nature and the highest standard of material comfort that the energy and intelligence can produce, commensurate with the well-being of the man. And in all of this the prime factor is the man himself. Any conclusion that this conference may arrive at that does not give full consideration to the fact that the workers of the world are living, moving, sentient human beings, with all the hopes and aspirations that God has implanted in the human breast will fail of the purpose for which this body has been created.

This institution represents the first concerted effort on the part of the nations of the earth to deal with the problems of labor in a comprehensive manner. We are all glad that the hostilities of the world conflict have ceased. We are glad that the treaty of peace has been signed and is about to be ratified. We are endeavoring to find means by which future wars may be eliminated or reduced to a minimum. War is waste. As Sherman said, “War is hell.” If it is worth while to put forth our greatest efforts to promote peace amongst the nations of the earth, it is well worth while also to promote industrial peace-to work out our problems by the process of reasoning rather than by the arbitrament of the sword. To the accomplishment of that great task you have been called.

In the treaty of peace two distinct functions have been intrusted to the United States: First, that of convening this conference, and, second, that of organizing it. The treaty specified that it must be convened in October, and the first function intrusted to us is an accomplished fact.

The second function, that of organizing the conference is a continuing process until the organization has been completed. The completion of the organization can not take place until the League of Nations has been created. While the final technical steps have not been taken, the creation of the League of Nations is now an assured fact. We can, therefore, go on with the definite assurance that it will be ultimately completed, and I take the liberty of suggesting that this conference proceed during the process of organization to the consideration of the questions it has before it.

The Secretary's address was immediately followed by the following address of welcome from the Director General of the Pan American Union, in behalf of those countries to whose courtesy the Government is indebted for its use of the commodious and appropriately dedicated convention hall:

Mr. Chairman, officers, members, and guests of the International Labor Conference, it is a great honor and pleasure, as well as a delightful duty, to extend to you, in my capacity as executive officer of the Pan American Union, and hence as the official host, so to speak, of this house, a sincere welcome to its use for your session. May I correct the interpreter and say that I have not the honor of being president of the Pan American Union, for if there were a president, the Secretary of State of the United States would ex officio occupy that office. I am simply executive officer and director general. That you may appreciate the significance of this environment, permit me to state that you are assembled in a unique structure, an international building in every respect, the only one in the wide world belonging to a large group of nations, and also the permanent home of a great and successful league of nations which has been in practical existence for nearly 30 years, and during that period has known no serious armed conflict between any two or more of its constituent members.

The Pan American Union, defined in a sentence, is the official international organization of the 21 independent American Republics devoted to the development of friendship and intercourse, commerce and trade, good will and peace among them all, controlled by a governing board, or supreme council, composed of the diplomatic representatives in Washington of the 20 Latin American Governments and the Secretary of State of the United States; maintained by their joint contributions of quotas based on their population, and conducting a vast work of spreading helpful information and beneficient knowledge throughout the world relating to every American country by the aid of a staff of experts in international affairs, statistical and educational sections, a comprehensive library and reading room containing a collection of maps and charts, numerous publications, reports, and other informative data, all of which you are respectfully invited to enjoy or to inspect or study.

This noble edifice was erected through the munificence of the late Andrew Carnegie and the contributions of all the American Republics, and dedicated forever to the cause of Pan American peace and progress. In this hall of the Americas you will note that the dominating suggestion is found in the word “Pax” high up in the four corners. In yonder council chamber meets every month the governing board of the supreme council of the Pan American Union-around the same table, elbow to elbow, the plenipotentiaries of 21 nations and 200,000,000 people bent upon preserving the peace and prosperity of the new world and aiding thereby in preserving the peace and prosperity of all the world. May the tradition, the record, and the achievements of such an organization, the combination of the beautiful and the practical in this building, and the environment which it suggests of peace and progress be an inspiration and help to you in working out the intricate problems that are before you. The building is yours.

After response from Baron Mayor des Planches, of the Italian delegation, on behalf of the conference, the regular business of the first meeting proceeded.

The following persons were chosen as the permanent officers of the conference: President, William B. Wilson, Secretary of Labor of the United States; secretary general, Harold B. Butler, secretary of the British ministry of labor; deputy secretaries general, Dr. G.

142901-LAB 1919-2

Pardo, of the Italian ministry of labor, and Mr. Ernest H. Greenwood, of the United States Department of Labor.

The conference then proceeded to discuss the admission of certain other States which had made application for admission and of certain others which had been proposed. Of these, Germany and Austria were admitted at once, there being but a single dissenting vote. With respect to Finland, however, much controversy arose, with the final result that the conference took the view that its power to admit Finland was debatable. It therefore merely invited the delegates of that country to take part in the conference on the same conditions as obtained in the case of other countries which had not adhered to the covenant. With respect to Mexico, Luxemburg, and the Dominican Republic no action was taken, nor was there any ruling with respect to their admissibility, it being felt that since no formal application had been made by any of those three countries, no action taken by the conference looking toward their admission would be proper under the circumstances.

The conference then undertook discussion of the five subjects set forth in the agenda as specified in the treaty of peace with Germany. Those subjects are as follows:

1. Application of principle of the 8-hour day or of the 48-hour week.
2. Question of preventing or providing against unemployment.
3. Women's employment:

(a) Before and after childbirth, including the question of maternity benefit
(6) During the night;

(c) In unhealthful processes. 4. Employment of children:

(a) Minimum age of employment;
(6) During the night;

(c) In unhealthful processes. 5. Extension and application of the international conventions adopted at Berne in 1906 on the prohibition of night work for women employed in industry and the prohibition of the use of white phosphorus in the manufacture of matches. At the date of this report the conference was still in session.

THE NATIONAL INDUSTRIAL CONFERENCE. Second only in potential importance to the International Labor Conference, and far transcending it in potential consequence to our important domestic affairs, was the National Industrial Conference. During the war industrial peace had been maintained by a patriotic spirit on the part of both employers and wage earners which made them more willing than they would ordinarily have been to sink all except their most pressing disagreements in order that we might present a united front against the common enemy. Many of their agreements ran only for the term of the war. The greater part of them, if not actually terminated in fact by the armistice, were at least terminated in spirit. The truces which had been declared during

« PreviousContinue »