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Letter: What labor wants

In his column headlined “Union bashing,” Donald Kaul states “of course unions are greedy.” In support of this, he quotes the labor leader Samuel Gompers as saying “More” in reply to the question “What does labor want?” Gompers recognized the desire in all of us for “more” (call it “greed” if you will) having said, “You ask a workingman who makes two dollars a day and he will say he wants 10 cents more. Ask a man who makes five dollars a day and he will want 50 cents more. The man who receives five thousand a year wants six thousand a year, and the man who owns eight or nine hundred thousand wants one hundred thousand more to make it a million, while the man who has his millions will want everything he can lay his hands on and then raise his voice against the poor devil who wants 10 cents more a day.”

But when asked “What does Labor want?” Gompers did not talk of money, or narrow personal advancement. This is what he said: “What does labor want? We want more schoolhouses and less jails; more books and less arsenals; more learning and less vice; more leisure and less greed; more justice and less revenge; in fact, more of the opportunities to cultivate our better natures, to make manhood more noble, womanhood more beautiful, and childhood more happy and bright.” Doesn’t sound much like greed to me.



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