A look back at our front page stories from the year 1916.

Chamber of Commerce favors the open shop

June 17, 1916

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Yes sir. Portland is to be an open shop town hereafter. The Executive Board of the Chamber of Commerce says so. As the Evening Telegram puts it, “a majority of the Executive Board has unanimously decided in favor of the open shop.”

Suffering cats. Whoever said the town was anything else than an open shop town except, perhaps, in rare instances. So far as the action of the Chamber of Commerce is concerned it will not hurt organized labor in this city in particular, and neither will it do the Chamber of Commerce any good.

Everybody knows that the Chamber of Commerce is about on its last legs anyhow and it is presumed that it was thought necessary to do something desperate in the hope that the action might attract some support.

Tommy McCusker was on the job and saw an opportunity to pull a stunt for his bunch of union haters and at the same time bolster up his chances of holding onto his job.

All right, now we are going to have an open shop town. Then what? Do you propose to reduce wages, or make the men work longer hours for the same pay? Just what do you think will be accomplished by declaring for the open shop?

You certainly don’t think for a moment that the you will stop organization do you?

You might move Council Crest over on the Washington side of the Columbia and make it easy for the real estate speculators to plot the Tualatin Valley. You might move Mount Hood down close to the Columbia River Highway. You might induce John Yeon that there are just as good pavements in the world as Warrenite, but you CAN’T STOP ORGANIZATION. Don’t forget that.

And there are only a very ­few that want to stop it or would stop it if they could. Most people have come to realize the absolute necessity of organization both of capital and labor, and it will take more than the “unanimous action of a majority” of the Executive Board of the Chamber of Commerce to convince them otherwise.

There’s nothing to get alarmed about in the action of the Chamber of Commerce. It would be just about as exciting if the Central Labor Council would adopt a long resolution declaring for the closed shop.

There are a few members of the Chamber who have long wanted to have a fight with organized labor and no doubt their wish will be gratified.

Following is a copy of the resolution (resolves) “unanimously adopted by a majority of the Board”:

Resolved by the Board of Directors of the Portland Chamber of Commerce, assembled in special meeting Thursday noon, June 15, That we will insist upon at least as low a wage in the handling of business on the waterfront of this port as is paid on the waterfront of any competitive port with which we are struggling for business, regardless of any settlement that is reached in the conference now pending in San Francisco, or such as may be later inaugurated for an adjustment of the strike conditions; and be it further

Resolved by the Board, That the action taken by the longshoremen in attempting to tie up this port in the efforts to raise the standard of wages in other ports of the Pacific has interfered with the commerce of this port and is an act of ingratitude and lack of appreciation of the fact that the longshoremen have been paid in this community for many years a higher wage than the average wage rate of the Pacific Coast; and be it further

Resolved by the Board, That we oppose in most vigorous manner any effort at the present time to stir up industrial strife within this community which must have the effect of increasing the difficulties confronted by the port in re-establishing its business to normal conditions; and be it further

Resolved by the Board, That we will oppose the carrying out of the apparent plan to establish the principles of closed shop to such extent as prevents the laborers at one stage of commercial movement from handling commerce that has been handled at another stage of the movement by what is termed by organized labor as “unfair” or “non-union” help, and that the principle of a closed shop as applied to the business of this port, which would have the effect of limiting the work of industries and any commercial organizations to only a limited number of men, who under the guise of organized labor, seek to restrict selfishly the work to its own members, and to the detriment of others who desire to engage in the work, is opposed to the best interests of the community and is an infringement upon the rights of citizenship guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States and the State of Oregon, and should be overcome by the business people and all other elements of the community who believe in the principle of personal liberty and individual rights, and in the largest possible opportunity for all people to labor, regardless of their affiliations.

Ocean and river shipping tied up

June 3, 1916


There’s a little trouble along the waterfront of the Pacific Coast just now. It all came about because the men employed in handling the cargoes wanted a little more money.

It’s a strange condition of affairs in the minds of some people that believe in “free and independent” workmen and all the rest of the rot that goes with non-union labor, that a few thousand men can effectually tie up the shipping of the entire Pacific Coast, as has been done in this case.

The ship owners set a price for hauling freight and passengers, and if the public don’t pay it, the ship owners don’t operate the ships and shipping is tied up.

But, of course, that is different. Somehow or other the man who owns the ship seems to have a God-given right to do as he pleases.

So when the men who work for the ship owners conclude they want a larger share of the money they earn, the ship owner ties his vessel up and calls for the police to “protect his property,” while he scurries around to fill the places of the strikers with men who are “free and independent” and therefore ready to assist the boss to starve some men into a frame of mind where they will in turn be ready to take the places of the strikebreakers.

According to reports there are about 15,000 men directly involved.

The difficulty in Portland is over the wages of the river steamboat men who ask for a raise in wages of $10 per month, which amounts to about 35 cents per day per man. In addition they want one day’s rest in seven and some other minor adjustments of working conditions.

Charles Bennett, representative of the River Steamboat Men’s Union, says: “We have the situation well in hand and expect to win. Our men are standing firm because they believe that our demands are just and that eventually the vessel owners will realize the fairness of the demands. We don’t want any violence and are not advocating it. We think when the public understands the conditions under which we work they will be on our side.”

According to newspaper reports the tie-up all along the Coast is complete. About 300 men are out in Astoria, 5,000 in San Francisco, about 6,000 on Puget Sound, 1,500 at San Pedro and a number of others at minor ports.

The strikers will have the solid support of the organized labor movement and we hope for a speedy settlement.

California Avoids Paving-Price Inflation

April 1, 1916


You can make the round trip from Los Angeles to San Diego, a distance of 270 miles, for $4.50. This trip is made in a first-class, seven passenger touring car, not in a sight-seeing stage. Moreover, the price is not the result of cut-throat competition as these rates have applied for months. They are merely equitable fares made possible by the system of good roads that the state of California is constructing. Neither is this two cents a mile an exceptional rate for auto travel along these roads. The truth is that in California, good roads have put an automobile outing within the reach of even a workingman’s pocketbook. Everyone is getting the benefit of California’s good roads, for the state is spending the people’s money economically so as to get the most out of it. These roads are not merely to entice tourists to California. They are to serve all branches of the community. City dwellers, farming people, visiting automobilists, pleasure seekers, all benefit greatly from these roads, for their use is not confined to passenger cars; a great deal of auto truck freighting is done along them. In fact, these roads now form the main arteries of trade and traffic that bind the different outlying communities together.

Permanent hard-surface roads are destined to be the making of this Western country. They are to do the most toward solving its transportation problems. In a state like Oregon, where, throughout a large portion of the as yet thickly settled part, the soil is deep and inclined toward clayiness, agricultural development is dependent upon good roads, especially when we have such a magnificent system of rivers as has Oregon. For the solution of our local transportation problems is to be through hauling our farm products on auto trucks over hard-surface roads to trolly line feeders extending either from the rivers or from main-line railroads, according to conditions.

Good roads it has just been said, will solve one of this state’s greatest problems. What good roads have already done for California proves this. In that state you can ride by automobile at two cents a mile. In Oregon you pay three cents a mile upon a railroad train. Why? Because we have as yet few good roads in Oregon. California’s good roads not only make it possible for automobiles and auto trucks to compete with the railroads; they also bring­ people to the agricultural parts of that state so that California has a population sufficient to give an impetus to competition in transportation. Oregon needs population, especially agricultural population. Unless we construct a system of

permanent, hard-surface roads throughout this state, Oregon will not get its proper portion of the newcomers who are seeking farm homes on the Pacific Coast. This is a self-evident truth that no Oregonian can afford to ignore.

Two years ago the people of Oregon began to awaken to the importance of this road problem. Multnomah County became aroused and last year voted $1,250,000 for hard-surface roads. Now we have the Columbia Highway which is destined to make Oregon’s scenery famous the world over. But this Highway­ is only a forerunner of the road-building that is to, and must, follow. Last year many Oregonians visited the San Francisco Fair, some keeping on as far as San Diego. Every one of these sightseers who got even a fleeting glimpse of California’s excellent road system came back a booster for good roads. California’s example crystalized good road sentiment in this state. As a result, Oregon is about to put out a big good-roads bond issue, and it is well, for the state as a whole needs good roads as badly as Portland itself needs factories.

How Paving Clique Operates

The danger in all this is that Oregon’s good-road campaign will not follow along the lines of California’s successful venture. Not because Oregonians are not just as intelligent as Californians, but because in Oregon we have a certain  element— paving grafters thoroughly organized— with which we must contend that Californians did not have.

The Oregon campaign for good roads is being shaped at the present time by paving companies that hope to fatten at the public trough. Long skilled in such work, these insiders are pulling the wool over the eyes of men having good intentions, but, unfortunately, not of sufficient depth to go to the bottom of this rather complicated problem. In this statewide campaign for good roads, Oregonians will for many years to come have the same clique to contend with that Multnomah County has kept in affluence these many years. Moreover, unless the citizens of this state give much thought to paving problems, and take a more-than-surface interest in this matter of getting good roads, there will not be for years to come, any more competition in paving contracts on state work than there was in Portland in city work, before the Ellis amendment was passed compelling conditions that permitted of competition in city paving.

Must American Workers Reap Cyclone Sown by the American Plunderers?

March 18, 1916


By Chester M. Wright

With American soldiers in Mexico for fighting purposes, this country is perilously near to war with all of Mexico, for if there is one sentiment upon which a majority of Mexicans can unite, it is dislike for the American.

This is natural. American political and financial plunderers have sown the whirlwind in Mexico for decades. Long before the war of 1847 in which this country’s desperate slavocrats plotted and brought on war between the two countries and then bribed Mexican leaders into shameless betrayal of their armies, Americans have been working havoc in Mexico.

The capitalists and political crooks of the United States have done everything possible in Mexico to inspire hatred for the “Gringo.” In the face of this it is fair to assume that an armed United States expedition in Mexico will before long meet with universal opposition, despite the assurances of Washington and taking them at their face value.

American labor must be on the alert! There must be no war with Mexico! American workers do not want to fight Mexican workers! Workers of both countries have a big enough job fighting the looters of both countries!

Congressman Meyer London says that this country ought to police Texas and not Mexico. He didn’t say enough. He didn’t say it all. This country ought to police its financial marauders! This country ought to police Standard Oil and Guggenheim and the big copper interests. It ought to police Wall street.

This country ought years ago to have begun to police its financial brigands. Almost every particle of friction between the two nations can be traced to the grasping of American privateers after the natural wealth and the cheap labor power of Mexico.

What American workingman wants to be drawn into a war brought on by such causes? What American working man wants to fight brother workers under those conditions—or any other? Mr. Hearst and Mr. Rockefeller and Mr. Morgan and the Guggenheims may have something to get in Mexico that they will care to fight for—but what workingman has anything to get there that he wants to fight for?

Washington says it wants [Pancho] Villa and will stop when he is caught. Wall street wants all Mexico. Will Washington or Wall street give the order when to stop?

John Lind charges— and he ought to know— that Villa was financed by Americans. No American money, no Villa and no Villa raid. Washington is after Villa, but what about his American partners?

What effort will there be to “get” the Americans whose money made Villa’s aggression possible? That is the thing that American workers are interested in. But there will be no expedition sent to Wall street under the redoubtable Fred Funston. Wall street just now is being patriotic; it is waving the Stars and Stripes overtime. And Mr. Hearst is printing the Stars and Stripes in his paper lavishly.

This whole Villa affair is a rotten mess. It ought to make every thinking American sick at heart. It ought to make every American workingman resolve that his own country must clean up. And that is the workers’ job. We must clean America.

Look out! No war with Mexico! No worker has any fight with Mexico! Our job is in America! And if we take care of America there will be no excuse for war with any other country! Let us wipe the mud off our own map!

What Cigar Industry Means to Portland

March 4, 1916



Editor Labor Press: In your issue of the 26th inst. I read with satisfaction that the Portland grocers have decided to boost “Home Industry,” and as an evidence of good faith have through their organization taken practical steps to that end.

The cigar industry can be made a valuable asset to Portland if the grocers and other dealers in cigars will carry out the program, which the Retail Grocers’ Association declares is the proper method of aiding Portland manufacturers.

In order to bring forcibly to the attention of retail merchants, and also to the users of cigars, I want to show just what it means to Portland when a “home made” article is given the preference (the same logic applies to all commodities made here, whether they be candies, brooms, shoes, furniture, clothing. food products, or cigars), but I will illustrate by giving a few figures dealing with that branch of our industry.

In Portland there are some 250,000 people. Of that number about 50,000 are male adults, and of the latter number about 30,000 use cigars. A conservative estimate of the number of cigars used every day in Portland is 100,000 — 3,000,000 a month—36,000,000 a year. The average cigarmaker turns out about 50,000 cigars a year, working 48 weeks, which means that it would require 720 cigarmakers to supply the Portland trade. At the rate figured the average weekly wage would be about $18 per man, or $622,080 a year—a payroll not to be sneezed at.

Of course there is no likelihood of the complete success of a home industry, but if one-half of the cigars used here are made here, it means in round numbers a yearly payroll of $300,000 distributed among more than 300 workmen.

We see in the great dailies of the city, occasionally, that the Chamber of Commerce is boosting “Home Industry”; that the Ad Club is doing good work for the city; but Portland, despite its mild climate, its wonderful highway, its attractive scenery, its splendid location, will never be a successful city in the broad sense, until it becomes a city of “industries”; and it will never become a city of industries until its citizens conclude that home-made goods are worthy of preference, all things being equal.

The grocers are to be commended upon their initial, practical step. The manufacturers and the consumers should co-operate.

Feb. 19, 1916, Page 2

Preparedness For Women

By Lena Pittman Stahl, “Women’s Department”


There is one question to which every woman should be able to answer yes. It is this: “Can you earn a living if you should need to do so?”

If there is one lesson more than another that has been emphasized in recent years, it is that the untrained suffer most when a pinch comes. Another lesson that is not sufficiently understood is that there is practically no security in fortune.

Preparedness should be the watchword for women. Train your daughters, your mothers, to something that will pay a return sufficient at least for a livelihood. It can do no harm, and it may mean just the difference between happiness and misery in later life.

There is nothing more pathetic than the sight of some unfortunate woman, brought up utterly unprepared to support herself, who has been suddenly reduced to poverty. We all know some such woman. Pottering along at things that are of no real use, at work given by pitying friends or strangers, more ore less dazed by contract with a world that is foreign to her, sinking little by little to meaner surroundings and more desperate make-shifts, she at last disappears, sucked under in the maelstrom she has neither the strength nor the training to resist.

Surely you don’t want to run even the faintest chance of becoming such a derelict: you don’t want your daughter to run any such risk. So be prepared. Be fit for something, trained to something, ready to take hold if you must.

Know at least one thing so well that people will be glad to pay you for doing it. Be able to say yes if the world should ask you if you can return fair value for a living. It is the surest of human safeguards.

The knowledge that, in any eventuality, one need not suffer, will add confidence, pleasure and assuredness to every undertaking in life.

Feb. 5, 1916

Labor’s Letter-Writing Week

T.H. Burchard, president


Resolution Number 17, adopted by the thirteenth annual convention of the State Federation of Labor, deals with “Letter Writing Week.” The resolution says in part, “The motive and intent of the promoters was only to attract tourist travel;” further the resolution instructs the officers of the State Federation to prepare a concise letter containing information, first, relative “Wages and conditions in Oregon industries;” second, “Labor supply;” third, “What Interests control the natural resources of the state.”

In Oregon’s basic industry, lumbering, there is scarcely any activity at the present time. The depression in logging and manufacturing still continues. Weather conditions preclude the possibility of operations. Though some might have been misled by the action of the Ad Club, which paraded the streets of Portland in shirt-sleeves and palm-leaf fans to deposit their letters to “Eastern tourists,” this in spite of the rigor of an unusually severe cold snap. They are to be congratulated upon their hardihood if not upon their sincerity.

There has never been a shortage of labor in Oregon despite the low wages paid. The Winter of 1914-15 saw more suffering and unemployment  than in previous years. This Winter the same conditions prevail.

The Y.M.C.A. advertises, “Labor at your own price.” In the Morning Oregonian, of February 1, these head-lines appear, “Thousands of men with families are idle.” Men have stood in line for hours waiting for a job shoveling snow.

This is enough to serve the purpose of the resolution relative to wages and labor supply.

In Governor West’s message to the Legislature the following relative to ownership and control of natural resources appears. “One holder of timber acreage, the Southern Pacific Railroad Company, controls 22.5 percent. Thirty holders control 19.5 per cent. Not over 5 per cent of the holders of timber acreage reside on the land. Sixty-eight holders are reported to control 56 per cent of the privately owned timber acreage.”

In Oregon 58 per cent of the developed water-power is controlled by the General Electric Co. In Washington 55 per cent is held by the same company.”

The above is quoted from “Other People’s Money” by Louis J. Brandeis, who in turn quotes from the United States Bureau of Corporations.

Relative to the ownership of the land and wealth the following will suffice: “In Multnomah County,” say Roadmaster Yeon, “1.5 per cent of the taxpayers own 75 per cent of the wealth and only 20 per cent of the entire population are taxpayers.” Mr. Yeon doesn’t say, however, where the 1.5 percent of the population gets its money to pay taxes with.

In keeping with the spirit of the resolution you are therefore urged to write to friends in Eastern states conveying this information in order that the workers of the East may understand true conditions in Oregon.

Master Butchers Ask Court For Injunction

Jan. 15, 1916


As is usual and customary in cases of this kind the Master Butchers’ Association, or that portion of it which has turned over to the walking delegate of the Employers’ Association, has appealed to the courts for assistance.

M.J. Jones, proprietor of Jones Market, has asked for an injunction restraining the officers of the Central Labor Council and the Meatcutters’ Union from maintaining pickets in front of his place.

The application for the restraining order was made last Saturday and the officers were given ten days to show cause why the order should not be issued. The boys secured W.S. U’Ren as attorney to defend the suit and the case will come up for hearing some time in the near future.

The suit is the result of a desire to try out an idea of Tom McCusker’s that he can prevent picketing and bannering unfair places by claiming that the public streets are used unlawfully in these cases.

Here is a quotation from the lengthy complaint: “That at all times since said defendants established said patrol, said patrol, and the members thereof, have interfered with, hampered and impeded, and are now interfering with, hampering and impeding public traffic in the streets in front of said premises, have obstructed and are now obstructing the public in ingress and egress from said premises, and have obstructed and interfered with, and are obstructing and interfering with the full and free use of the streets and sidewalks in front of said premises by making it difficult for vehicular traffic to halt in front of said premises.

The complaint also sets forth that the patrol, or pickets, are keeping customers out of the store and have thereby damaged the business of Jones.

It is said that Jones’ attorneys will endeavor to convince the court that when the streets are being used for the purposes set forth in the complaint they are not being used for traffic, and that the title to the streets rests in the owners of the abutting property, and that the streets were dedicated to the public for traffic purposes only.

Incidentally Jones asks that he be given a judgment for damages.

The outcome of the suit will be watched with considerable interest.

In the meantime the pickets are still on the job and they intend to stay there until they are forced to quit.

Appeals sent out to the unions for aid of the locked out meatcutters have met with a hearty response and a considerable fund is now on hand to support them.

And just a reminder that all the fuss is raised because the employing butchers refused to grant the demand of the meatcutters that they be allow-ed to work TEN HOURS PER DAY instead of 10.5 to 12 hours.

It may take a long time but the strikers will win because they are right.