Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER VIII: The American Labor Unions - Socialistic Fallacies
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
Also in the Library:
CHAPTER VIII: The American “Labor Unions“ - Yves Guyot, Socialistic Fallacies 
Socialistic Fallacies (London: Cope and Fenwick, 1910).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
The American “Labor Unions“
The “Western Federation of Miners”—Murder of Mr. Steunenberg—The “Martyrs in the cause of Labour”—Attacks upon Mr. Roosevelt—The “Western Federation of Miners” dictates a verdict—The Haywood case—Fear of being summoned to serve on a jury—Intimidation of magistrates—The right to commit crimes.
I have spoken on several occasions1 of the American “Labor Unions,” whose policy may be summed up as—monopoly of labour for the trade unionists and right to boycott non-unionists and employers who oppose their commands. They do not improve with age.
Mr. Steunenberg, Governor of Idaho, was killed by a bomb in the beginning of 1907. Moyer, the president of the “Western Federation of Miners,” Haywood, the treasurer, and Pettibone, a member of the executive committee, were prosecuted as accomplices in the murder, which was committed by one Orchard. The “Western Federation of Miners,” in conjunction with other “Labor Unions,” immediately organised demonstrations, in which the accused were represented as “martyrs in the cause of labour.”
Mr. Roosevelt, in a letter to Mr. Sherman, a Member of Congress, stated that the accused were “undesirable citizens.” These words redoubled the zeal of their partisans, at whose head was V. Debs, who had attained to notoriety by his violence in 1893 during the Pullman strike, as president of the “Amalgamated Railway Union.” They reproached the President with venturing to influence the jury, as though the conferences and meetings held in favour of the accused were not directed to any such purpose. Still, they declared that “death cannot, will not and shall not claim our brothers.” Did their brothers kill Governor Steunenberg, or not? That was not the question. The only question was that which President Roosevelt in his letter to President Jackson put in the following words: “You and your associates are not asking for a fair trial, but are dictating a verdict, and this cannot be approved.” What they required was that a fresh crime be added to the preceding ones and, in order to obtain this result, they incurred the guilt of exciting to violence and assassination. Can men be considered as ordinary labourers who lend themselves to such culpable proceedings? And do they deserve any other epithet than that of undesirable citizens?
The first case, that of Haywood, was tried at Boise City, Idaho. Orchard, who was prosecuted independently, gave evidence. He deposed to the complicity of Haywood, Moyer and Pettibone in the murders of a detective at Denver and of two mine superintendents, in the blowing up of the Independence Railway Platform, Colorado, which caused the deaths of thirteen non-unionists, and in the assassination of Governor Steunenberg. He obtained sums of money from the leaders of the “Western Federation of Miners” for each of his crimes. He made unsuccessful attempts upon Mr. Peabody, Governor of Colorado, upon Judge Gabbert, of the Supreme Court of Colorado, and upon several other persons who had incurred the displeasure of the “Western Federation.” Orchard's evidence was supported by evidence of comings and goings, both before and after each criminal act, which proved his relations with the leaders of the Federation.
The defence before the jury was in entire conformity with the proceedings at the meetings which had protested against the prosecutions. One counsel denounced the “vipers and vultures of Wall Street.” Another declared that the conviction of Haywood would be looked upon as “an injustice and as the consequence of a vile and murderous aggression on the part of unscrupulous capitalists.”
The “Western Federation of Miners,” after Orchard had given his evidence, identified themselves with Moyer, their president, Haywood, their treasurer, and Pettibone, a member of their executive committee, by re-electing them to their offices.
Senator E. Borah, an energetic supporter of the prosecution, put the matter in these words—“they have killed Steunenberg in order to show that they never forgive an enemy.” And he added that the defence was nothing but an apology for the murder of the representatives of the law.
On Saturday, July 27th, 1907, at eleven o'clock in the morning, the jury retired to consider their verdict. Their deliberations extended until the Sunday morning at eight o'clock. One knows that in the United States, as in England, the jury must be unanimous. Four jurors found Haywood guilty, while eight were in favour of an acquittal. Time was needed to convince the four jurors that Orchard's regular interviews at Denver, before and after the crimes, were merely coincidences, that Haywood had never known the character of the man with whom he had been on terms of intimacy for a number of years, and that the prosecution was entirely due to the machinations of capitalists.
The verdict of the jury was a surprise even to Haywood's friends and created a profound impression in the United States. No fair-minded man, whether friend or enemy, attributes it to concern for justice and truth; everyone looks upon it merely as a confirmation of the instructions given to the jury to acquit, given by the demonstrations against which Mr. Roosevelt protested.
The day after the acquittal, all the Labor Unions of Denver decided to give this “martyr in the cause of labour” a triumphal reception. On August 3rd a deputation appeared at the station. Haywood got into a car drawn by six white horses, from which he delivered an address to the 30,000 men who had met to do him honour. It was announced at the same time that the prosecutions of Moyer and Pettibone would be dropped. The members of the Labor Unions were confirmed in the conviction that they are inviolable because they are to be feared.
All jurors are not heroes. Mr. John Cummings, of Chicago, relates that in that city, seven hundred summonses were necessary in order to empanel a jury in a murder case in which trade union leaders were involved. In the same city men guilty of violence in the course of a strike of draymen were all acquitted.
The magistrates are intimidated by moral pressure as well as by material danger. Whosoever ventures to disapprove of the unlawful acts of a Labor Union is at once denounced as an instrument of capital, devoted to suspicion and contempt. The arrest is an “outrageous and impudent invention of a lawless plutocracy.” If a police officer arrest a member of a union who has committed a murder, he is denounced for having tried to distinguish himself “in order to earn blood money.”
On the other hand, the judge who has grovelled before a Labor Union is pointed out as “an able and distinguished lawyer, a magistrate full of sympathy with honest men and a terror to all criminals.” Even Mark Twain has never carried audacity and irony to this extent.
Each Labor Union constitutes a separate group, regulated solely by passions and interests which are opposed to those of the rest of the nation and of the human race. If it has the hypocrisy to disavow some of its acts, it none the less indicates to the judges, the juries, and the President of the United States that it has the right to commit crimes, and those who have the audacity to advance such pretensions do not represent one-tenth of the workmen of the United States.
See “Les conflits de travail et leur solution.”