The True Mission Of Labor-Unions -- By: Charles William Eliot

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 060:237 (Jan 1903)
Article: The True Mission Of Labor-Unions
Author: Charles William Eliot

The True Mission Of Labor-Unions

Pres. Charges William Eliot

[Under the sharp criticism aroused by various informal remarks made by President Eliot reflecting upon some actions of labor-unions, he was moved to present on November 22 a carefully prepared statement of his views to the Colonial Club of Boston. Both from the distinguished reputation of the author and for its intrinsic worth, this must take a permanent place in the literature of the subject. We therefore have pleasure in presenting it entire.—Ed.]

I make no apology for speaking on an unusual subject to-night; I mean for me—because labor-unions have been to all of us a very interesting subject during the last six months, and they are quite sure to be more and more interesting as time goes on. I want to speak of labor-unions from the educator’s standpoint. What is that standpoint? I belong to a class of men who are employed under humane conditions. University teachers in general are employed under humane conditions, and in that calling I have been both employed and employer—indeed, I combine these functions to-day.

I admit, however, at once, that the point of view of the educator is a peculiar one. He is a man devoted to systematic education, which means devoted to a continuous process intended to transmit the accumulated learning and experience of former generations to the rising generations as they succeed each other, and, therefore, to a process of gradually uplifting the human race, or that particular portion of the race to which he himself belongs. It is natural, therefore, for one whose profession is education to sympa-

thize with other efforts to uplift the race—to make the lot of average mankind more satisfying and happier.

That being the ultimate object of education itself, an educator necessarily sympathizes with other broad efforts to produce the same result that he seeks. Among these must be counted the work of the labor-unions. They heartily believe that their work tends to uplift the laboring classes. They heartily believe that even when they engage in industrial warfare their object is to raise their class, though at a present sacrifice. This belief is their strength.

Work, The Basis Of Civilization

It is, however, clear that education is not the primary instrumentality of civilization. The primary instrumentality is work—regular, daily work. On that must be founded all other instrumentalities for uplifting mankind. This clearly appears in the history of our race. No savage people, no nomad tribe, can be lifted into civilization until it adopts as a habit a regular, daily, settled work. The...

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