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Thursday, 30 November 1905


The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN - I would ask the honorable member to refrain from repeating any statements which may have been previously made.


Mr JOHNSON - I assure you, sir, that I have made the statement only once. Whilst the enactment of the union label may be justified in countries which do not possess industrial legislation, such as these States possess, for the special protection of workers in various ways, there is no justification for its enactment in Australia. Our Wages Boards, Arbitration Courts, and factories laws are designed expressly to insure to the workers those very conditions, which it is urged the enactment of the union label will secure. It will introduce what are known in the United States as "closed shops." On that subject, I propose to read a short extract from an article which appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, of October, j 904. It is from the pen of Mr. Charles J. Bullock, and is entitled " The Closed Shop." The concluding paragraph reads as follows: -

A little reflection should convince any one that the conditions under which a man shall dispose of his labour are of such exceeding importance to society that, if freedom is to be denied, the restrictions imposed should be determined by the. Government, and not by any other agency. Such regulations should be just, uniform, and certain ; they should not be subject to the possible caprice, selfishness, or special exigencies of a labour organization. Here, as elsewhere, we should apply the principle that when it is necessary to restrict the freedom of labour or. capital to enter any industry, the matter becomes the subject of public concern and public regulation. If membership in a labour organization is to be a condition precedent to the right of securing employment, it will be necessary for the Government to control the constitution, policy, and management of such associations, so far as may be requisite for the purpose in view. Only upon these terms would the compulsory unionization of industry be con- ceivable. Of course, before such legislation could be enacted, a change in the organic law of the States and the nation would need to be effected, for we now have numerous constitutional guarantees of the right of property in labour. These guarantees include the right to make lawful contracts, and the individual freedom so ordained can be restricted by the Legislature only when the restraint can be justified as a proper exercise of the police power. Time and effort might be required for securing such constitutional amendments; but ov.r instruments of Government provide a lawful and reasonable method of accomplishing this result.

Coming to the question of the repeated rejection of the union label in Canada, I propose to read some extracts : -

A Bill to legalize the union label was first introduced in 1895, and has been reintroduced almost every year since. It does not appear at any time to have been a Government measure, but was in the hands of private members, its latest sponsor being Mr. Ralph Smith, M.F.

In Canada, as in Australia, the union label cannot be registered as a trade mark under the existing law. Therefore, special legislation is required to legalize it. Up to and including 1903 the Bill to effect this purpose was introduced as an amendment of the Trade Marks and Designs Act. When the Bill of that year was discussed in the Upper House (where it was first brought in), the principle involved in' recognising the label as a trade mark was declared to be unsafe and undesirable, and the measure was thrown out.

In this year's Bill all reference to the Trade Marks Act was dropped, and it was styled " The Union Label Bill." It was introduced in the Canadian House of Commons on 30th January, 1905.

The Case for the Label.

The Bill seemed harmless, and the reasons urged for its adoption looked specious enough on the surface and at a first glance. Its promoters claimed that its intention was to prevent the use of bogus labels, and to protect' the community from the products of prison labour and the sweat-shop, and to legalize a guarantee that all goods bearing the label represent fair wages, reasonable working hours, and good sanitary conditions.

The Case against the Label. .

The case against the label was presented to members by the Canadian Manufacturers' Association. While offering numerous and weighty argument's against the label and its use, as shown, in the United States and in Canada, the employers really rested their case on the principle involved. They claimed that the questions for the Dominion Parliament to settle were - 1

1.   Whether or not any labour union should have a legal sanction to use or abuse any light which history had shown to be used to the detriment of the whole community?

2.   Was it desirable to forge a weapon to be placed in the hands of erratic, capricious, and financially unsound organizations to enable them to coerce employers to practically surrender the control of their factories to them, and to intimidate free and competent workmen, comprising more than seven-eighths of the 400,000 workpeople of Canada, to adopt union principles or be driven from employment?

3.   Was it desirable to give indirect Parliamentary support and sanction to labour unions in proceedings, such as have recently occurred in connexion with the union label and other matters, whereby the city of Chicago was practically tied up, because of trouble in a small garment factory, or to provide such bodies with further powers ?


Mr Isaacs - Who signed the document from which' the honorable member has quoted ?


Mr JOHNSON - The document is circulated by the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures, and is not signed.


Mr Isaacs - It is very important to know whose language the honorable member is quoting. He will recollect that on behalf of a number of persons, Mr. Walpole signed some statements which were repudiated.


Mr JOHNSON - The Victorian Chamber of Manufactures has not yet repudiated this document ; therefore, it may be assumed that it is authentic. I should like the Bill to be referred to a Select Committee, in order to get sworn evidence as to what is a union label, and the effect of similar legislation in other countries. I hope that before the Bill is accepted, some such action will be taken with a view to the recommendations of the Select Committee being embodied in a separate Bill.







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