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RECENT BRITISH LEGISLATION AFFECTING WORKINGMEN.
An order originating in the Massachusetts Senate and adopted by the House of Representatives, in concurrence, on March 28, 1907, provided for the appointment of a joint special committee to consist of three members of the Senate and eight members of the House, to sit during the recess of the General Court and to report to the Legislature of 1908 relative to the expediency of legislation within the scope of the following petitions (among others):
To limit and define the powers of courts in equity relative to trade disputes between employers and employees and to regulate proceedings upon contempts therein; and such kindred subjects of legislation, if any, as may hereafter be referred to it by concurrent vote of the two branches.
To provide for compensating workmen who are accidentally injured in the course of their employment.
The vital importance of the questions to be considered by this committee, to both workingmen and employers of labor, can scarcely be overestimated. This Bureau therefore deemed it expedient and proper to publish for the information of the legislative committee and the interested public the results of an exhaustive inquiry made by the British Royal Commission on Trade Disputes and Combinations, the text of the principal British acts affecting the legal status of trade unions, and the most recent British legislation on the subject of workmen's compensation for injuries sustained in the course of employment.
The Commission on Trade Disputes and Combinations was appointed by His Majesty, Edward VII, on June 6, 1903, and was composed of The Right Honorable Andrew Graham Murray, Secretary for Scotland, Sir William Thomas Lewis, Sir Godfrey Lushington, Mr. Arthur Cohen, and Mr. Sidney Webb. This commission began its labors at once and prosecuted them with diligence, and on January 15, 1906, made its report, which is given on the following pages with other matter essential to a perfect understanding of the recommendations made. The commission gave exhaustive consideration to the subject of the rightful acts of trade unions, picketing and other incidents of strikes, the law of conspiracy, the liability of unions for damages in suits such as the famous Taff Vale case, and other cognate matters.
The Trade Disputes Act of 1906 which was the fruit of the commission's labors is the culmination of a century-long controversy in Great Britain as to the extent to which the demands and princi
ples of trade unionism might, consistent with the public welfare, be recognized as the law of the land. A brief chronological survey of English legislation bearing on the legal status of trade unions, was therefore considered relevant and, together with the text of the more important recent enactments, is given on the following pages. It has not been deemed necessary in this connection to rehearse at length the history of the agitation for legislation to grant compensation to workingmen for injuries, an excellent treatment of the subject having appeared in the Bulletin of the United States Bureau of Labor for May, 1907. The text of the new law, in force July 1, 1907, is however given hereinafter for convenience of reference.
REPORT OF THE BRITISH COMMISSION ON TRADE DISPUTES AND COMBINATIONS.
The majority report was signed by The Right Honorable Andrew Graham Murray, Mr. Arthur Cohen, and Mr. Sidney Webb; Sir Godfrey Lushington objected to some of the recommendations of the majority, and a full minority report was made by Sir William Thomas Lewis. The report as published consists of the following sub-divisions:
The majority report; memorandum by Mr. Webb; note on the Mogul Case by the Chairman, with a note appended by Mr. Cohen; memorandum on the Civil Action of Conspiracy by Mr. Cohen, concurred in by the Chairman, Sir Godfrey Lushington, and Mr. Sidney Webb; memorandum on "Allen v. Flood" by Mr. Arthur Cohen, concurred in by the Chairman, Sir Godfrey Lushington, and Mr. Sidney Webb; report by Sir Godfrey Lushington; note by Mr. Arthur Cohen, concurred in by Mr. Sidney Webb, to Sir Godfrey Lushington's report; and the minority report by Sir William Thomas Lewis.
The Majority Report.
We, the undersigned Commissioners appointed to inquire into the subject of Trade Disputes and Trade Combinations, and as to the law affecting them, and to report on the law applicable to the same, and the effect of any modifications thereof, have the honor to submit to your Majesty our Report.
1. We had first to consider what evidence we should invite to be given before us. After discussion we came to an unanimous conclusion on the following propositions:
That we were not concerned with the general policy of the law in sanctioning trade unions as institutions, but that our business was to take them as they existed.
That the scope of the reference did not suggest any inquiry
into the law relating to trade combinations known by the name of "Trusts," and other similar combinations.
That as the decisions of the Courts, and especially of the House of Lords, were alleged to have created hardship, which allegation was denied, and as various proposals for the alteration of the law so, as to nullify or modify the effects of the said decisions had been mooted, it was right to give those who maintained or denied the said allegations, and who made or opposed the said proposals, an opportunity to be heard before us.
2. We therefore thought it desirable to invite evidence not generally but on certain specific points, and we caused a circular letter to be issued by the Secretary in the following terms:
1 DEAR SIR I send herewith the names of the members constituting the above Royal Commission, and the Terms of Reference.
I am desired to say that the Commissioners will be glad to receive, in the first instance, evidence on the following points:
1. As to the consequences of the judicial decisions which bear on the subject of Trade Combinations and the conduct of Trade Disputes, and the status and liability of Trade Unions, particularly with reference to cases relative to the Trade Union Acts, 1871 and 1876, and the Conspiracy and Protection of Property Act, 1875, and the Common Law of Conspiracy.
2. As to any facts of importance in connection with Trade Disputes and Trade Combinations which have occurred since the Royal Commission on Labour issued their Report in 1894.
The Commissioners wish to receive evidence on these matters in order to assist them in the investigation whether any, and if so what, amendment of the existing Law, Civil or Criminal, relating to Trade Disputes and Trade Combinations, is desirable.
I am desired to ask you whether you would be willing to give evidence on any of the points above indicated.
3. These letters were sent to 227 representatives of employers, to 72 leading representatives of trade unions, and to 18 other persons who either desired to be heard on specific points, or were known to have expert knowledge of the subject.
4. In response, some 50 representatives of employers volunteered to give evidence in addition to 15 miscellaneous wit
This circular letter was sent out by the Secretary of the Commission at various dates during August and September, 1903.
5. While this was the case with the employers of labor, on the other hand we received, with some trifling exceptions, no response from those representing the trade unions.
6. The reason for this attitude was due to the following fact: Shortly after the announcement of our appointment the matter was discussed by the Parliamentary Committee of the Trade Union Congress, and a resolution was framed that no member of a union should give evidence before us. This resolution was discussed and adopted by the General Congress of Trade Unions which met in the month of September.
7. We do not think it incumbent on us to discuss or to criticize the reasons which influenced the trade union representatives in coming to this decision. It imposed on us the duty of facing the situation with the knowledge that the trade unions were of set purpose refusing to assist us in the inquiry which had been committed to us. Our duty to pursue our investigations remained plainly unaffected by the attitude of any society or individual. Nor indeed did the refusal of the trade unions. to give evidence really involve us in any difficulty as to discovering what were the objections raised by them to the law as it stood, and what were the proposals acceptable to them for its amelioration. These objections and proposals already stood conspicuously revealed to the world not only by the reported speeches delivered in the course of their deliberations, but by the bills introduced avowedly on their behalf in Parliament. During the duration of our sittings these bills have been reintroduced in successive sessions, and in the debates and discussions arising thereon we do not hesitate to say that we consider there will be found every possible argument in favor of the proposals there put forward, and that no trade union witness, had he come before us, could have added greatly to the case in his favor which from other sources we have already before us.
8. But while this is so with regard to proposed legislation the case is somewhat otherwise as regards the practices prevalent in the practical conduct of strikes, and the effect of the present or proposed state of the law on those practices. On this branch of the subject we do regret the absence of trade union witnesses. But as that absence was self-imposed we came clearly to the conclusion that we should not be right on that account to
reject the testimony of those who were willing to come. therefore decided that it was incumbent on us to hear at least
a selection of those witnesses who had expressed their willingness to attend.
9. The inquiry even to this limited extent was protracted, but we did our best to narrow its limits both by the terms of the circular already quoted and by steadily refusing to go into such general topics as were covered by the Report of the Royal Commission on Labour, 1894. We also endeavored to take a fair sample of the various kinds of trades and employment.
10. As we understood we had been selected in respect of our being familiar with the law of the subject we did not think it necessary or advisable to invite the testimony of lawyers generally. We, however, did avail ourselves of the special inquiries which had been made by Mr. Askwith.
11. The main subject of our inquiry may conveniently be divided into three branches:
A. The liability of trade union funds to be taken in execution for the wrongful acts of agents of the union.
B. The statute law relating to picketing and other incidents. of strikes.
C. The law of conspiracy as affecting trade unions.
12. The division lines between these branches of the subject are not rigid, and as will be seen the topics with which they deal are interlinked at many points. At the same time we think it will conduce to lucidity to discuss the subject under these three heads. Broadly speaking it may be said that the trade unions demand a change of the law in regard to each of them; and further allege that the present state of the law differs from that in the past and is due to the effect of the well-known decisions of the House of Lords in the Taff Vale Case, 1901, A. C. 426, and Quinn v. Leathem, 1901, A. C. 495, and of the Court of Appeal in Lyons v. Wilkins, 1896, 1 Ch. 811, 1899, Ch. 255.
A. The Liability of Trade Union Funds to be taken in Execution for the Wrongful Acts of the Agents of the Union. 13. In the case of the Taff Vale Railway Company, the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants, being a trade union. registered under the Trade Union Act of 1871, and its officers,