They Want an Eight Hour Law.
About 400 people, including about a dozen women, assembled at Vorwaert's Turner-Hall on West Twelfth street yesterday afternoon in response to a call by the Central Labor Union. The meeting was the first of a series that the Confederated Trades of the Unites States and Canada intend to hold to insure the enforcement of a State law fixing a working-day at eight hours next spring. As a matter of fact, however, most of the speakers reasoned against an eight-hour law. A. Bels occupied the chair. The first speaker was Samuel Fielden. He said an eight hour law would be of little avail. The employers would do as they had done in the Saginaw Valley in regard to a ten-hour law, where they had compelled their laborers to sign a paper virtually waiving their rights under the set. The property-owning class would take advantage of the necessities of the laborer. If any reduction of the hours of work was introduced the manufacturers and tradesman would raise the price of commodities, and the increased prices of provisions would more than neutralize the advantages of the reduction in the hours of labor. Only by a destruction of government could the laborer hope to gain anything.
A. W. Simpson, a delegate of Typographical Union No. 16 to the Trades Assembly, said the Eight-Hour law was just as great a fallacy as other measures introduced to orthdox political economists to relieve the conditions of the poor. It had the advantage that it would give the laborers more time to think about their wrongs and drive them into the hands of the Socialists.
Paul Grotikan spoke in German. He raised the point that it was not a question of justice but of society. This perfection of machinery made a reduction of the hands of labor necessary, as was proved by the existing over production and consequent enforced idleness of large number of laborers. He went into a long disgression on the corrupt state of society -- from Socialistic points of view -- and insisted that in the Eight-Hour law the laborers were demanding only a very small part of their rights. The system would give work to a number of persons now out of employment. Their consumption would be increased, the demand for labor would rise, and by this circle of interrelations the condition of the masses bettered a little. But with it would come an increase of women's and children's labor, creating in the end, the same misery that exists at present. He advised organizations, the collections of statistical material, and, finally, called upon all to arm themselves and be ready for active resistance.
The point of arming with all kinds of weapons, guns, and dynamite was enlarged upon by August Spies.
Resolutions were introduced and adopted declaring the necessity of landing weight to the demand of the laborers by arming and preparing for a general strike, if necessary, to insure Victory to the eight-hour measure: pledging all those present to assist the cause, and closing with the watch word: "Death to the hands of the human race -- our despoilers."
James K. Margie opposed the resolutions. He tried to dissuade the meeting from violence, and called attention to their means of manifesting their will -- the ballot-box. But, he was hissed bowed down.