The Union Label

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Steven T. Byington

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I believe in the label as one of the very best things we have. I believe in pushing it and in making temporary sacrifices for it. I don't believe in selling my manhood for it.

I don't like, therefore, to read statements implying that in a certain city certain candidates have been able to secure labor votes by putting the label on their printing. Yet that isn't necessarily bad. I can well understand the position of a man who thinks that a candidate's trustworthiness in the legislature is best proved by his friendliness to labor in business, and who looks for the label on the portraits as the handiest test of this. I don't admire the man's discretion if he puts deep faith in an evidence so easily faked by any vote-catcher who wants to make love to us at election time; but there may be an election when he doesn't expect to put deep faith in any candidate. I have other things to attend to than finding fault with a voter who pays attention to the campaign use of the label as indicating a candidate's attitude.

But I'll tell you what does grate on me, and I can't see why it shouldn't. It is when 1 read among The Journal's correspondence a paragraph intimating that a recent referendum was lost at the polls because its friends "put up a strong fight, but they didn't have the union label on their printing, and their opponents did." When it comes to a referendum vote, what excuse can there be for such action as this writer credits to his fellow unionists? Suppose that the campaign managers who put the label on their printing are friends of the union-which is unlikely; suppose that the managers who didn't use the label don't care whether there is a union or not—which is likely enough: what earthly difference does it make to the merits of the bill to be voted on? Is that anybody's idea of political honesty—to vote for a bill because a man who is pushing that bill is a friend of yours and does you a favor? If the voters on that referendum voted for what they thought was the best law, then they would have done the same without the label, and the label made no difference in the result. If the label made a difference, as the report implies that it did, then some men voted for what they thought was a bad law, and voted for it because its friends had hired their printing done in such a way as to strengthen the union. If that isn't selling your vote, what is selling your vote? And if many labor votes were secured in this way, as the reporter would have us believe, were they not bought for less money than any other votes bought at that election?

Cambridge, Mass. STEVEN T. BYINGTON.

  • Steven T. Byington, “The Union Label,” The Typographical Journal 21, no. 12 (December 15, 1902): 516.