Labor and the War


WHAT happens to labor when a country embarks on a modern war, and what is likely to happen to it in this country as a result of the war in Europe? Some conception of what the war has done to labor is gained from the experience of the petroleum industry in Great Britain. Within a week after hostilities commenced, great oil companies, whose employees had been numbered in the thousands the week before, had to all intents and purposes no employees at all. The government had taken over the entire complex range of operations of the industry and transferred them to what is known as the petroleum pool. A bare handful remained on the companies’ payrolls to deal with indispensable accounting transactions and similar matters. Practically all service stations were closed. Brands of gasoline and oil on which companies had spent thousands of pounds in advertising were, so far as the British motorist was concerned, only a memory. Gasoline was being rationed, and motorists were allowed to buy only enough to permit of two hundred miles of driving a month.

Something of what this meant in terms of dislocations, of unemployment, of drastic economic change, was graphically illustrated by a photograph of Piccadilly Circus taken on the morning after the petroleum-rationing regulations went into effect. The traffic heart of London was empty of vehicles, except for a motorbus, a horse-drawn wagon, and a pushcart. Government control of all petroleum products not only had uprooted the traditional relations between primary employers, the oil companies, and their employees, but had suddenly affected the livelihood of thousands of bus drivers, taxicab drivers, and private chauffeurs, workers in garages, and employees of collateral industries. An economic whirlwind had wiped out overnight practically all automotive transportation except such as directly served the war objectives of the government.

This recasting of the petroleum industry to the new mould of the requirements of a war economy, with its profound effect upon normal employer and employee relations, has probably been duplicated in a dozen or more other fields which are as vital to the prosecution of a modern war. It is not unlikely that in each instance the effects have been as radical and far-reaching.

From the standpoint of both employers and their former employees transferred to government service, or momentarily jobless, a host of special problems were created — problems hardly less serious than those obvious surface ones flowing from the government’s assumption of activities which had traditionally been almost exclusively within the province of the employer or had been the subject of joint consideration by him and his employees or their representatives. What is to be the course of wages and hours, and how are they to be determined? What happens to employees’ seniority? Does it continue to accumulate as though there had been no change in the employer-employee relationship, or does it terminate with the transfer of the employee to the governmental agency? If the seniority of the employees is to be considered as continuing, does not this impose some sort of obligation on the employer to guarantee a position and reëmployment at the termination of hostilities? Can such a guarantee be more than a highly contingent expectancy in view of all the uncertainties that surround the future? What is to be done about pension plans and annuities which the employer and his employees had been purchasing jointly against the day of the employees’ retirement on account of old age or long service? Shall they remain frozen at the point, that had been reached when the employment was broken, or shall it be considered that the employment has not been broken but that there has been only a temporary transfer? And in this event how are arrangements going to be made for the continuing payment of the annuity premiums? What of group insurance with or without war-risk clauses in the policy? Are employers going to make up the difference between the wages or salaries of their employees who enter the military service and the military pay they receive, and if so for how long? Are those with dependents to be treated under such a formula more liberally than those without?

These, and a host of other similar questions that cannot even be touched on here, are being faced daily by employers in Great Britain and probably to a lesser degree in France. However, it is not to be supposed that only British and French employers are searching for the answers to these and similar questions. Already many American firms with branches or subsidiaries in these two countries, in Canada or the other British dominions, have had to attempt to find answers to them. Already these firms have had the war brought home to them through the necessity for the promulgation of special regulations for their employees overseas. While the number of such concerns is not great, their experience probably represents the first important impact of the war on employeremployee relations in this country. It has necessitated a degree of specifically realistic thinking in the field of industrial relations that has not been required of any other group in this country since the outbreak of the war.


No similar problems have yet forced themselves on the thinking of labor, whether organized or unorganized. As this is being written, live American Federation of Labor is holding its annual convention in Cincinnati, and the Congress of Industrial Organizations is meeting in San Francisco. Such questions related to the war as have come up for consideration at the Federation meeting have, in contrast to the problems that have faced employers, been general rather than specific. Resolutions touching on profiteering, neutrality, the arms embargo, are before the convention. The keynote address of President Lewis at the CIO meeting — while it touched on the war, urged support of the Administration’s neutrality legislation, and called for non-participation by the United States — was largely confined to consideration of the domestic economic scene, with particular emphasis upon such matters as the continuing failure of the Federal Government to adopt policies and establish agencies that would tend to absorb the unemployed. And yet signs are not lacking that within a comparatively short time pressing and specific problems will begin to bulk large and will force labor groups to make important and detailed, rather than generalized, decisions of policy.

Already it is fairly apparent that, should the war continue for any considerable length of time, shortages of labor supply will begin to manifest themselves, These will create a series of problems that will have to be faced both by workers and by employers. As to these, the final and important decisions of policy would appear to rest largely with the workers. Many of the evidences of business revival which are contributory to this impending labor shortage are already beginning to manifest themselves.

For example, it is known that on one day about mid-September the railroads of the country recalled in excess of 14,000 shopmen who were on furlough. Further evidence of a strong business revival is the record of freight-car loadings. By the end of September, loadings had reached a point only slightly below the peak of 1937 and exceeding loadings for any other week since the early days of the depression in 1930. During September, activity in the steel industry advanced more rapidly than at any time in its history. Trade papers report as of early October that the major steel companies were practically sold out for the remainder of the year and refusing to book any more orders at that time. Part of this demand can undoubtedly be credited to orders in anticipation of sharp price increases after January 1, but such price increases, should they develop, would be largely a reflection of enlarged demand.

Among the heavy buyers is the railroad industry, which has either placed orders or issued inquiries for more than 1,000,000 tons of steel to be used in almost. every type of equipment and including heavy orders for rails. Even the building industry, in which activity has largely been confined to residential construction, has shown sharp advances in orders for structural steel. One sure sign of the effect of the war on the steel industry has been the unprecedented increase in the demand for tin plate. Most of this business represents export demand and is a direct reflection of the inability of South American and other buyers to book their orders with European mills. The machine-tool industry, which has been extremely active for months, has shown still further increases in orders, with the result that many companies were without tools to exhibit at the annual convention. Automobile output for the last week in September was the largest for this period since the final week of September 1929, with almost 63,000 cars rolling from production lines as compared to slightly more than 25,000 in the same week of last, year and with estimated September production which will total about 290,000 cars.

Precisely how much of this improvement should be credited to general business revival and how much to the effect of the war it is impossible at this time to state. The major indices for several months past have shown signs of recovery from the 1937-1938 slump. It appears likely, however, that in a considerable number of lines of business indirect war orders — that is, export orders to non-belligerents which would normally have been placed with belligerents but are now placed in this country — have been superimposed on increasing domestic business and have contributed materially to the steadily improving business tone.

But, it may be asked, how can we have a shortage of labor in this country, no matter how sharply business may recover, when there are some ten millions of unemployed looking for jobs? Will not the enormous supply of potential workers hanging over the labor market prevent any serious shortages from developing? Will not the effect of a steadily increasing demand for workers merely serve to draw down the level of this reservoir of unemployed, with beneficial effects on relief rolls and the budgets of special governmental agencies set up to meet the problems of unemployment?

If, in times like these, all that business men required to meet their labor needs was a certain number of units of man power, the problem would be a simple one and shortages could not possibly develop. Under such circumstances an industry would draw on the labor market for as many workers as were necessary without specification as to their occupation, skill, experience, or age. But there is never such a non-selective demand for labor, and just as the impact of the revival that we are now experiencing is not uniformly spread among all industries and occupations but is producing high levels of production in such lines as shipbuilding, the manufacture of automobiles and machine tools, and the production of steel, so is the demand for workers a highly differential one with extreme pressures for certain types and occupations and little or no change in demand for other types.

Thus it now appears likely that the demand for welders already exceeds the known supply, with the result that firms are bidding against one another for workers skilled in this trade. It is impossible to conceive of any similar shortage developing, for example, among carpenters. Electricians who understand the highly complex problems of modern industrial installations are in great demand, but ordinary electricians who know only how to wire a residence or other building are something of a drug on the market.

It must also be borne in mind that a substantial number of the vast reservoir of unemployed have only recently reached the age where they are employable. It is possible that something over 25 per cent of those now on the rolls of the unemployed were too young to have had a job before 1929 and practically none of these have had an opportunity to learn a trade since.

The subject of training for those skilled trades in which shortages are already apparent or will shortly appear is one which revival and the war are going to press home on labor and employers. Before 1929 there was no adequate apprentice training in the United States and since that time many of the limited programs which had been undertaken have been abandoned. Contrary to popular impression, apprentice limitations and quotas which are a regular feature of the controls established by most unions cannot be held responsible for these conditions. For, with negligible exceptions, employers operating under union conditions have never availed themselves of the maximum number of apprentices which they were permitted by union regulation. Companies not having contractual arrangements with a union — and this, of course, was the typical situation before 1937 — were, as a whole, equally indifferent to training problems. This country had for so many decades looked to immigration to meet its needs for both skilled and unskilled workers that business executives as a group never became conscious of the inevitable depletion in the ranks of the skilled due to promotions, normal retirement on account of old age, and death, or to the fact that many of the best enter the ranks of employers.

The 1930 census figures point to the total inadequacy of apprentice training at the close of a decade of prosperity and high employment. Out of more than 12,000,000 males in manufacturing and mechanical industries there were only some 73,500 listed as apprentices by the census. This was hi the ratio of about one apprentice to 165 workers, skilled and unskilled. However, the true ratio for industrial employment as a whole was even less satisfactory. One of the few industries that has really undertaken a comprehensive training program is that of the printing trades. More than 10,500 of the apprentices were listed as being connected with the printing industry. Some 14,000 were in one or another of the building trades. Of 13,600 listed as machinists’ apprentices the Census Bureau notes that probably many were machine tenders and not apprentices at all.

It would seem likely, therefore, that in 1930 there were not over 35,000 apprentices in training in manufacturing and allied industries, or about one apprentice to each 300 workers. The ratio of apprentices to skilled workers was substantially smaller than this, — how much smaller it is impossible to determine from the census data, — but if we assume that not more than one out of four workers in the manufacturing and mechanical industries was skilled, the country-wide ratio of apprentices to skilled workers in 1930 would have been somewhere in the neighborhood of one to seventy-five. It is safe to assume that there are fewer apprentices today than was the case in 1930, just as there were only about half as many in that year as in 1920. Likewise there are undoubtedly fewer skilled workers, so that there is actually a greater net deficiency of skilled workers than there was ten years ago.


How is this deficiency going to be met? In view of the probability of pressing needs for workers in certain highly skilled lines, can industry rely on customary training programs running for several years to supply the deficiency? Will not the demand have been dissipated long before the new mechanics are trained? Are there other devices that can be used to meet the need? How will unions, now more strongly entrenched than ever before, react to such proposals? What effect will these shortages have on this country’s rearmament program, which it seems certain will be launched with great vigor shortly? What will be the effect of these real or prospective shortages on wage rates for the occupations immediately involved and for other occupations connected either directly or remotely with these occupational groups?

No peacetime or normal training program is going to meet those shortages which are today the most pressing, since it usually requires about four years to develop skilled workers. In some occupations it is possible to shorten this time materially through highly intensive training and through specialization and subdivision of the craft into its more important elements, with effort placed on supplying only enough of craft content and manual skill to permit the worker to perform certain portions of the work under highly skilled supervision. The same end may be attained by upgrading workers already partially grounded in the content of the trade and providing specialized and advanced instruction for them. Finally, in some instances, it is possible to invent new machine tools which will perform the most highly skilled tasks with machine tenders of only limited skill employed to operate them. All of these methods separately and in combination were employed in Great Britain during the last war and were known under the general name of ‘ dilution.’

The strongly entrenched unions of Great Britain, particularly in the metal trades, were firmly opposed to the early efforts to increase the output of munitions through dilution. Gradually, through a combination of wise tolerance and the uncompromising exercise of wartime government powers, this opposition was overcome, and unskilled men beyond the age for military service and women were employed to perform tasks that had always been regarded as belonging to a highly skilled male worker. It is probable that at least a million men of military age were thus released from war industries. Because there have never been similar union restrictions in this country, and because here the craft traditions are far less firmly entrenched owing to the dynamic character of the heavy and mass-production industries, it seems likely that a similar program of dilution applied in such limited areas as might be necessary would not meet with the extreme opposition that marked the early stages of dilution in Great Britain. It is idle to suppose, however, that there would not be serious opposition in crafts where dilution would appear to constitute a threat to effective quasi-monopolistic control of the market.

When our own armament program is launched, with its combination of enlarged aircraft construction, increases in ordnance manufacture, and important naval shipbuilding programs added to our already heavy program of aircraft production and merchant-vessel construction which is even now taxing existing facilities to the limit of their capacity, it seems certain that shortages of labor which have already shown themselves will be enormously magnified, and that an organized national program of labor dilution will become a vital necessity. It is also obvious that should there be a repeal of the arms embargo, with placements of aircraft, ordnance, and munition orders in this country, the problem will have to be faced at a much earlier date, with magnified strains on our existing skilled labor supply.

One thing seems certain in any event. Wherever these shortages of labor manifest themselves, it is inevitable that wage increases will follow. In some instances these increases will result from the normal operations of the labor market. In some instances what might be called labor ‘highjacking’ will be resorted to by hard-pressed employers who will offer bonus rates as an inducement to persuade workers to leave present jobs and accept employment with them. In their efforts to retain such workers, employers will meet and more than meet such offers. Wage increases growing out of shortages in limited areas of employment will not be confined to such areas but will gradually spread beyond them to workers in occupations in which there are no shortages.

There is a high degree of interrelationship between wage rates. Movements which tend to alter or modify existing or traditional differentials cannot be limited to the small groups in which shortages have driven up rates. Forces are engendered which tend to restore old differentials and relationships, with the result that there is a gradual creeping up of rates throughout the entire industrial structure. Such increased rates — originally limited, as they would be in this instance, to the heavy industries and those engaged in the processing of producers’ goods — gradually spread to consumers’-goods industries and to the distributive and service trades. Somewhere along the way, prices of durable goods and consumers’ goods begin to rise. This is only another way of saying that the cost of living is increasing. Further demands for wage increases will be made, in some instances in an effort to restore real wages to their previous relationship to prices, in some instances in an effort to use the increases in living costs as a springboard from which to attempt to secure improved standards for workers over and above those to which they have normally been accustomed.

Whatever the real or ostensible motivation may be, it is at this point that there will be a call for real statesmanship on the side of both workers and employers. Quite aside from the question of how best to lubricate the inevitable areas of friction so that the least heat will be created, there are basic and important questions and differences of policy that will have to be reconciled.

The divergent approaches to policy as between labor and employers will, in all probability, centre around the questions as to the form in which increased wages will be given quite as much as the quantitative amounts of such increases. The disposition of workers and their representatives will be to demand that such increases in wages as are obtained shall be considered as constituting new base rates — new minima for wage standards. Employers, on the other hand, will apparently attempt to treat the wage increases as bonuses to compensate for increasing living costs and as given only for the duration of the emergency. Because employers will be certain that downward adjustments to meet world conditions will have to be made once peace has been restored, they will want to be in a position more readily and swiftly to make such adjustments. Consequently they will be eager to avoid finding themselves in the position where the new rates have been recognized as permanent in character. Some employers will also probably attempt to inaugurate or revive plans for profit sharing as another means of attempting to avoid new and permanently higher wage levels. While labor organizations probably will not oppose profit-sharing plans, it seems likely that they will ignore them in presenting for consideration demands for increases in wages for their members.

Workers, on the other hand, will feel that their short-run advantage certainly, and their long-run advantage probably, will lie in doing everything within their power to retain the money wages that they will receive, to consider them as representing a new and enduring level and through this new level to increase permanently their real wages. It seems certain that they will oppose bitterly any suggestion that wage increases be given in the form of cost-of-living bonuses and will insist on outright and unequivocal recognition and payment of their claims for higher wages.

Labor objects to cost-of-living bonuses on several grounds. In the first place, changes in wages geared directly to increases in living costs deny to workers a right to share in the expanding national income that usually goes with increased prices, and, in addition, wages tied to a cost-of-living formula imply a static and unchanging standard of living. Labor also finds objection to such a formula, since it feels that any such plan partakes of the nature of a gratuity rather than a negotiated wage increase. Workers do not want to be the recipients of a gratuity. A gratuity can be revoked or modified, it is felt, as readily as it can be established in the first place. The possibility of such revocation adds an element of uncertainty to workers’ living standards, and makes the planning of the worker’s budget, particularly as regards expenditures for semidurable and durable goods, a matter of great uncertainty. Workers are not strangers to uncertainty. It is a regular feature of their day-to-day lives. But they will not willingly accede to a proposal which adds new uncertainties to those they must continually face.

More difiicult questions arise when an effort is made to determine the effects of the two divergent policies in the light of the probable long-run course of economic events. That sooner or later there will be international post-war economic collapse seems certain. As to when it will come, and in what form, it seems idle at this time to speculate. One thing appears to be reasonably certain, however. None of the nations of the world, whether belligerents or otherwise, has entered this war with its monetary system in as good condition as was the case during the period of World War I. If, following that war, there was an almost fatal strain put on monetary systems, it seems reasonable to assume that even more serious strains will follow the present war, assuming that hostilities are not shortly terminated. This means that there will be, in all probability, a period of chaotic international monetary dislocation followed by devaluations of many currencies. During the war period, however, our international transactions will become an increasingly important factor in our domestic economy. Foreign currency devaluations following peace, without compensatory adjustments in cither domestic currencies, domestic prices and costs, or both, will tend seriously to disrupt the continuation of such international transactions. The greater the inflexibilities introduced into our own cost structure, the greater the difficulty of making adjustments, the more serious the dislocations flowing from the inability to make such adjustments, and the more far-reaching and enduring the effects domestically of the post-war collapse. Viewed from such an approach, the position which employers are likely to take would appear sounder than the proposals for which labor will contend.

In a time of rapidly expanding economic activity such as this country is now apparently facing, labor can contribute a major share toward recovery by adopting a realistic marketing policy so far as the pricing of labor is concerned. Under such a realistic policy it should not be the objective of labor only to assure better standards for those who have jobs, but, of far more importance, to attempt so to market and price labor that the largest number of persons will be employed at the highest practicable wage. Rapid advances in wages, which run far ahead of increases in productivity, can stifle recovery just as surely as can too rapid advances in any other important price. When labor, through its entrenched position, is able to effect unwarranted wage advances, this is no less profiteering than unwarranted increases in the prices of other goods and services.


Up to this point no attention has been given to the problems which will arise in the held of employer-employee relations should this country become involved directly in the war. Under such circumstances it is obvious that the impact of the war would take on an entirely different character than would be the case should we remain at peace. Wage problems would become far more pressing and economically sound decisions as to wage policies would be far more important, just as in Great Britain there have been sharp dislocations of normal employer-employee relationships, it is to be expected that similar dislocations would occur in this country. Protective labor legislation — such, for example, as the Fair Labor Standards (Wage and Hour) Act and the National Labor Relations Act — would immediately be subjected to demands for drastic modification, if not for total repeal. Problems already discussed in connection with prospective shortages of skilled workers would tend to become far more acute. How the country’s human resources could be most effectively mobilized would immediately become a vital problem.

It seems certain that enormous pressure would be built up behind demands for complete military and industrial mobilization of all available man power. There is an important school in the military services thoroughly wedded to the idea that only through such complete industrial and military mobilization can a war be successfully prosecuted. Arrayed against any such proposals would be not only all workers, whether organized or not, and all liberal forces in the country, but, it is believed, most employers as well. If war could be conducted in a vacuum, or if productive processes could be carried on by robots without the employment of human beings, the position of those who support the idea of industrial mobilization would be beyond criticism. But war is not carried on under these conditions. In war the basic and underlying necessity is the maintenance of morale both at home and at the front. This is quite as important as the creation and training of armed forces, or the supplying of those forces with the necessary materiel to carry on a military campaign. Final victory is inconceivable in the face of a serious and enduring decline in morale. In their opposition to industrial mobilization, business and labor leaders would be standing shoulder to shoulder. For there can be no question but that in both groups there would be complete and unequivocal agreement that nothing could be more destructive of morale, and nothing more certain to prevent the attainment of that maximum of production which war requires, than would the mobilization of industrial workers and the placing of business and industry under a military regime. The only assurance that the maximum output of goods and services necessary for the successful prosecution of a war can be obtained lies in the willingness of labor to work wholeheartedly and unreservedly to attain this end. Regimentation, with its limitations on the liberties which the individual has normally enjoyed, is completely destructive of morale.

Attempts to draw an analogy between military and industrial life, and to argue that because regimentation and the strictest of discipline are successful and indispensable in the one case they will be equally so in the other, fail entirely to grasp the fundamental differences between the military services and industrial employment. In the military services the life of the individual is necessarily controlled day after day around the clock. Any such control is impossible in civilian life, if for no other reason than that the housing problem alone presents an insuperable obstacle. Coördination of action between large numbers of individuals is absolutely necessary for military success. Regimentation through discipline is vital in order to secure such coördination. The very lives of all may depend upon the rigid control of the individuals composing the group. No such imperatives are present in industry. The soldier takes it for granted that he is going to be separated from the environment to which he has been accustomed. Quite the opposite is true of the worker. He continues by force of circumstance to live in the environment to which he is used. By its very nature the relationship in the military service of those who order and those who receive the order is based on command. In industry, on the other hand, the idea of command is subordinated; for the essence of the art of controlling men in industry is understanding.

If the purpose of industrial mobilization is to prevent strikes and interruptions in vital productive undertakings, it should be obvious that this objective will not be attained through conscription. Losses due to strikes and stoppages will be far less disastrous from the standpoint of production for war needs than would be the losses which would follow from a nation-wide force of sullen and discontented workers. The patriotism of the American workman cannot be questioned. Given a chance, he will more than carry his share of the burden of war. But to stifle and strangle that patriotism through regimentation and military controls which are foreign to the entire experience of the industrial world would do far more to jeopardize eventual victory than would the maintenance of those normal relations which are traditionally a part of our industrial life.

In view of what has already been said as to labor shortages and bottlenecks, it would appear to be inevitable, if we entered the war, that the hour limitations as contained in the Fair Labor Standards Act would have to be modified, if not abandoned. It is always possible to increase the size of the military establishment by the addition of more men. But to supply these men with the necessary equipment is no such simple matter. Industrial establishments cannot be expanded overnight. The productivity of machine tools is largely determined by factors inherent in their design. This productivity can be increased only through better methods, or utilization for more hours per day. The possibilities from improved methods having been exhausted, either the same men have to work longer hours or new men have to be recruited to operate the machines. If shortages of skilled workers to run such machines become serious, longer hours for those with the necessary skills present the only alternative. First steps in modification of the Wage and Hour Act would undoubtedly relate to increasing the permissible number of hours per week without the imposition of overtime. Later modifications might affect the permissible hours to be worked per day. Such modifications should be effected under legislation limited to the duration of the emergency, as was the case in Great Britain in 1915, when the unions consented to a relaxation and in many instances to complete abandonment, for the period of the war, of regulations which they had established only as the result of years of intensive economic struggle and sacrifice.

As to the minimum-wage provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act, which are now thirty cents per hour, it is probable that a national emergency would make them of no significance, as normal increases in wage rates, even in the trades now paid the least, would undoubtedly carry them beyond the minimum wages now provided in the Act.

Modification of the National Labor Relations Act for the period of the emergency might also be imperative. While the right to bargain collectively should be neither prejudiced nor jeopardized because of a national emergency, but rather should be extended, the present fetish which is made of the right to strike might easily have to be abandoned. It is not unlikely that, at least for the period of the emergency, mediation procedures similar to those now established for railroad labor would have to be applied to all labor affected by the war. This would mean that, while labor’s right to strike would not be denied, such strikes could not be called until opportunity had been presented to federal agencies for adjustment of the differences and with a waiting period provided during which tempers might cool and antagonisms and misunderstandings might be reconciled.


The Federal Government is now far better equipped, through existing agencies, to meet the innumerable problems that would be created by a war than in the past. It is inevitable, however, that many new and special agencies would have to be established. Adequate worker representation should be provided in whatever existing agencies could be adapted to the government’s needs in time of war, as well as in those which would have to be organized, wherever such agencies would be faced with questions in the field of industrial relations. That such representation could not be effective so long as the present division in the labor movement in America remains seems obvious. Even in the face of a war emergency, it would not be easy to subordinate the rivalries and antagonisms which have marked the struggle for power between the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations. The American people would not tolerate a continuance of these rivalries in wartime. If a speedy reconciliation were not effected, the American labor movement as we now know it might easily be engulfed in a wawe of federal regulation and control. The more tolerant and farseeing leaders in both camps recognize this possibility, and are strongly urging a position of reconciliation. But at this writing it would appear that the contingency of this country’s being involved in the war is still too remote to bring the majority of the leadership in the two labor groups to heed this counsel.

The high degree of mobility of American labor has always been one of its most important characteristics. Workers have been free to move and have moved from job to job and from place to place, as their fancy might dictate or as opportunities for increased earnings or better conditions might lure them. In the face of a serious national emergency, the question is bound to be raised as to whether such extreme mobility of labor could be permitted. No more difficult problem than this would be presented under the exigencies of war. That it would be possible to prescribe any limitations on the mobility of workers without imposing what to all intents and purposes would be the equivalent of industrial conscription is unlikely. Great Britain struggled with this problem and tried various plans to meet it, almost from the beginning of the last war to its conclusion. The best of these plans proved only partially satisfactory; all of them were viewed by workers with the utmost suspicion. When, however, the regulations requiring so-called ‘leaving certificates’ — that is, certificates obtained by the worker from his employer and stating that he was leaving his place of employment with the employer’s consent — were abandoned as a part of the government’s munitions-production program, insubordination of workers became a regular feature of industrial life, and a chaotic wage structure plagued both employers and the government from the time the use of the certificate ceased until the end of the war. How to reconcile production necessities with worker reactions, attitudes, and habits will be no mean task for the best brains that government, industry, and labor can bring to bear.

If limitations are to be placed upon workers, and they are to have taken from them rights and privileges for which they have struggled and which they have long enjoyed, it is not to be expected that these alterations in their status wall be even grudgingly accepted unless it is clear beyond question or doubt that the government in the mobilization of its entire resources for the purpose of achieving victory has imposed similar or comparable regulations and limitations upon employers. As one author, Humbert Wolfe, said in discussing labor supply and regulation in Great Britain during the last war: ‘When that scheme [the Derby scheme] broke down, Labor (as the rest of the community) was face to face with compulsion. Neither the trade-unions nor the workingmen themselves were opposed, when all else had failed, to compulsion for strictly military purposes. But, though they might be willing to be conscribed to die for an idea, they were not willing to be conscribed to live (as it might have been put) for private profits.’

How limitations may be placed on profits without at the same time imposing impossible limitations on the government’s war-procurement program is a problem of the utmost complexity on which it is not possible to touch here. But if from labor are to be taken conditions to which it has been accustomed, and for which it has struggled and fought for decades, if protective labor legislation already on the statute books is to be modified or suspended, and if limitations having the elements of conscription are to be placed on the ability of workers to move freely from place to place, labor — whether organized or unorganized — will accept such losses and limitations as a patriotic necessity only if it is convinced that its losses are not the employers’ gains and that its sacrifices are not for the benefit of profits.