We have otten thought that most of the difficulties between employers and employes resulting in strikes and consequent dist(sss to workmen and their families, with embarrassment as well as loss to the employers, might be adjusted by some system of arbitration, in which both parties should be ably and equally represented, and the result of which should be regarded as binding upon each. The difficulty has been to suggest a feasible plan for such a system, as it is always easier to point out faults than to suggest remedies ior them. We have therefore been, and doubtless our readers will be, interested in an account of two different systems now in very satisfactory operation in England. Both these systems arc based upon the principle of direct and equal representation of all the masters and workmen of the particular trade for which boards of arbitration are formed. In one system both masters and workmen choose their own mode of conducting elections. In the other, elections are conducted according to prescribed rules. In one system the president is an independent umpire, whose decisions . are final upon all points upon which the board is equally divided ; in the other he Is a member of the board, but has the casting vote in case of a tie. The London Mining Journal, to which we are indebted for the particulars of tl10se organizations, states that " another difference in practice between the two systems, is, that in the first the board meets at fixed periods, whether any dispute has arisen or not ; and under the last it only meets to settle some dispute ihen pending. A third difference is, that on the Wolverhampton plan the board forms a code of trade rules, which are to he taken to be the foundation of the contract of service in the particular trade for a given district ; while on the Nottmgham system the trade rules are not m-corporated with, and do not form part of, the constitution of the arbitration system. As to these three heads of difference, it is found, as the result of a now very extensive experience, that the best parts of each of the two systems are generally combined. In reference to the first, an independent umpire is usually preferred. The system of regular meetings is undoubtedly best. In fact, where meetings have been held at fixed periods it has been found that differences of opinion are reconciled, and disputes prevented, before any warmth of feeling is excited between the contending parties. Upon the third point the difference is rather in form than substance. VYhere workmen pass frequently from one locality to another it is found expedient to have written codes of trade rules, but where the whole trade is grouped in and about one center, then by a tacit understanding certain regulations are accepted as binding, without being formally declared to be so by the arbitration board." In one system all compliance with the action of the board on the part of individuals is voluntary ; in the other the submissions to the decisions are. considered as absolutely binding upon individuals. '' Many such boards of arbitration, organized in accordance with one or the other of these systems, have been established in England, and have proved admirably adapted to the amicable settlement of trade disputes. The question as to whether such boards will be able to permanently settle the relations of labor and capital, need not, we think, be raised at this time. It would certainly seem that a long step is taken toward such a settlement, when labor and capital can thus meet on common ground, acknowledging a community of interest, and by equal representation tacitly admit equal rights for both. We should rejoice to see the plan of arbitration tried in America, as we believe it to be, even if considered in the light of an experiment, one which tends to bring labor on to a higher plane, and which, by the promotion of free discussion of labor topics, must inevitably result in the enlightenment of both labor and capital.
This article was originally published with the title "A Remedy for Strikes" in Scientific American 21, 25, 393 (December 1869)