"3500 Thrilled by Labor Chief’s Plea Part 1," Oregonian, July 21, 1912, 6.






John Mitchell Tells of Purposes, Ideals and Philosophy of Unions.


Aims of Laboring Organizations Are Said to Be Primarily to Better Conditions of Living of Those Employed

GLADSTONE PARK, Or., July 20.—(Special.)—John Mitchell, noted labor leader and characterized as the “most modest big man in the United States,” thrilled a sympathetic audience of 3500 persons at the Chautauqua session today in his lecture, “The Philosophy, Purposes and Ideals of the Trades Union Movement.” The labor champion created a wave of sympathy that was remarkable for an audience consisting of comparatively few union men.

Whether it was forcible delivery, or his argument in favor of trade unionism, or his modesty in excluding from his talk any reference to his own achievements for labor, that enabled his hearers to see the labor movement from a new viewpoint, is difficult to say. Only once did Mr. Mitchell mention his own career and that was after the introductory speech of Secretary Young, of the Oregon Federation.

“Experience has taught me one thing,” said Mr. Mitchell. “Keep your eyes on the stars—but your feet on the gravel.”

Suffrage is Favored.

Only once did Mr. Mitchell digress from his subject—that was to congratulate the women of Oregon on their work for the cause of equal suffrage. The sentiment of unionism was for suffrage, said Mr. Mitchell, “primarily for its benefit to the 5,000,000 women who are at work in our American factories and are subject to the same factory regulations as the men, and secondarily, because women in general use the ballot for the moral welfare of this country.” Commenting on the talk of Dr. Clarence True Wilson at the Chautauqua last Tuesday when the Portland man argued that “woman’s sphere is the home—not the ballot,” Mr. Mitchell called the attention of his hearers to the “narrow home sphere” of the American working women of today.

Summarizing a history of the industrial revolution and the growth of the factory system from which the unions sprang, Mr. Mitchell set forth the disadvantage through lack of bargaining skill which the individual laborer must meet in “selling” his work to the skilled employer who has hired thousands, and this, according to Mr. Mitchell, very naturally brought about an approach to the ideal condition wherein employes [sic] must deal collectively, rather than individually with the buyers of labor.

“Our purposes are simple,” said the speaker. “To secure a minimum wage that we may live in accordance with the rightful standard of living in America, to insist on education of our and your children; to provide against a poverty-stricken old age; to secure the eight-hour day; to legislate against child labor; to provide for workmen’s compensation acts, and to secure sanitary housing of our families. These are the things we are working for.”

Mistakes Are Admitted.

Conservatism characterized his remarks. He admitted that the union made mistakes. Even as the church, sometimes the state, or any other great movements err,” he said. “Our unions are neither revolutionary nor destructive; our purpose is constructive, rather; our work evolutionary.

“Thank God our radical element is in the minority.” Then he read the pledge which is exacted of the laboring man when he joins the Federation. “There are not many men,” concluded the labor chieftain, “that could blow up buildings on a diet like that.”

He championed the eight-hour law on the argument that the man earns more in eight hours than he will earn in a ten-hour day. Reduction in the hours of labor he declared, means an improvement in the whole moral tone of the laboring community, a greater self-respect and an improved mental status. He disputed the argument of labor union opponents that shorter hours increased opportunity for dissipation, asserting that the rule worked the other way.

Mr. Mitchell said strikes were necessary, but suggested it as a remedy only when all other efforts to bring together employers and empoyes [sic], have failed.

“The strike is an evil. I willingly admit,” he continued, “and still it is not so great an evil as child labor, depraved manhood, or deprived womanhood. Our principles should not be assailed because of occasional acts of violence.

Accomplishments Are Cited.

“Our work has resulted in increased efficiency. We have raised the moral tone of our communities, we have defended the weak against the strong; we have uplifted the ignorant immigrant; we have protected the women and children of our factories; we have considered man rather than the dollar, and even with our ideals partly realized we have unquestionably committed error. Our work, however, is upward movement.

“We are working earnestly for the uplift of our workmen, and we are proud of some three million of our brothers who are striving to assist their fellow men.”

Mr. Mitchell’s concluding remarks were received with enthusiastic applause. Mr. Mitchell has a powerful stage presence, but he avoids the climax.

Tonight’s concert was a treat for Chautauqua patrons. The chorus was under the direction of Professor Chapman, and his assistant, Miss Thomson, of Portland. Soloists who were on the programme were: Mrs. Pauline Miller Chapman, mezzo-soprano; J. Ross Fargo, tenor; Francis Walker, baritone; Mr. Aue, ‘oellist.

The fireworks display by Professor Kelling was a feature of the closing festivities after the concert tonight, and the pyrotechnics were witnessed by more than 3000 persons.

Two sermons will complete the 1912 assembly tomorrow, one by Dr. Spurgeon, who has been here for two weeks in charge of the Sunday school work. Dr. Spurgeon, will preach on “Moses, the Hero of the Desert.” At night Dr. McGaw will speak. Other features of tomorrow’s programme are: 10:30 A. M.—Sunday school, Rev. C. A. Phipps, president of the State Sunday School Association, superintendent; 2 P. M.—Chautauqua chorus, soloist, Pauline Miller-Chapman; sermon. 4 P. M.—Sacred concert, Chapman’s Orchestra. 5 P. M.—Chautauqua chorus, Professor F. T. Chapman, director.

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