BRISBANE, JUNE 8, 1895.
The Boot Trade Dispute.
The Members of the Boot Trade Union assembled at the Trades hall on Monday evening at 7 o'clock, and to the number of nearly 500 marched to the old “screaming ground” at the corner of Wharf and Adelaide streets, headed by a splendid brass band. Torches were not allowed by the mayor, therefore the procession was not so brilliant as it might have been. The absence of lights, however, had a most striking effect on the spectators, who could not help remarking the determined appearance of the men as they marched along in the shadows cast across Queen-street by the rising moon. Arrived at Wharf-street, the president of the union, Mr. A.W.Stenner, immediately jumped into the dray availed of as a platform, and he was following by Messrs. D. Brown, D. Levey, and Messrs. M. Reid and C. M'Donald, M.M.L.A., their appearance being the signal for cheers from the assembled crowd.
Mr. Spencer briefly opened the proceedings, and called on Mr. D. Bowman to address the meeting. Mr. Bowman was in excellent form, and ably dealt in detail with the matters connected with the origin and continuance of the strike. Mr. Levey followed and emphasised the fact that the employers would not grant the conference, which, he believed, would settle the strike in twenty-four hours.
The chairman here announced that if any boot manufacturer was present the meeting would be glad to hear his views, but there was no response to the invitation.
Mr. C. M'Donald, M.L.A., followed Mr. Levey, and delivered a strong and characteristic speech. “With 400 men on one side and only half-a-dozen on the other it did not seem an extraordinary request to make that the operatives should have a voice in the conditions under which they were to work. If the employers were trying to stop unionism, they might as well try to keep back the tide with a pitch fork.”
Mr. M. Reid, M.L.A., gave a humorous yet forcible address, in which he advised the public to boycott the shops connected with those factories from which the men were out on strike.
At the conclusion of the meeting a collection was taken up and the sum of £6 realised – one contributor giving £1. The meeting closed with cheers for the men on strike.
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Messrs. Neighbour and Schoenheimer, the only two boot manufacturers in favour of a conference with the men, have been sent to Melbourne and Sydney by their fair-mined colleagues to look for blacklegs. They left by Tuesday's train. Mr. Reid, M.L.A., followed them on Wednesday for the purpose of inducing them to return. Messrs. M'Donald and Fisher have also gone South to warn the boot operatives that a strike is on, and, in conjunction with Mr. Reid, to make an appeal for funds for the men on strike.
When Dave Bowman and Dave Sharp put in an appearance at the Sydney mail Train on Tuesday evening last on behalf of the union it was amusing to see the surprise on the faces of the boot manufacturers assembled on the station platform to see Messrs. Neighbour and Schoenheimer off on their blackleg scavenging expedition. There were present Messrs. W. Baldry (of John Hunter's) G. Rose and J. Slade (of Rose's). G. Spencer (of Schoenheimer's) W. Harris and J. Fennell (of Christensen and Fennell's), and Joseph Silver Collings, junr. (clerk of Neighbour's), L. F. Schoenheimer and H. Peal (of Field and Co's). The most crestfallen of all was Joe Collings, who seemed to feel his position after so many professions of radical principals.
“No surrender!” is the motto on the flag which the Boot Trade Union have run up to the masthead. No surrender! And the gallant sons of St. Crispin, roused to indignation by the boastful intentions of the boot manufacturers to starve them into submission, have, like the warriors of old from whom they spring, dared the foe to do their worst. In one solid phalanx, bound by the ties of a common brotherhood, the bootmakers have nerved themselves to endure the torments of starvation rather than surrender their rights as men.
The demonstration on Monday night brought back memories of '90 and '91, the days when unionism flourished in Brisbane previous to the defeat of the great maritime bodies – a defeat which was brought about, not because the seamen and allied unions were not staunch unionists, but because the unemployed of all grades were marshalled from every corner of Australasia by the recruiting agents of Capitalism, shipping laws evaded and Government aid invoked until the end came.
Ever since the bootmakers fought for and obtained their uniform statement of wages in 1890 many encroachments have been made on their apprenticeship regulations. It was agreed by the employers that only one boy to five men should be taught the trade; now in many factories as many as five boys are employed to every man.
The bootmakers have a very clear case; they are not fighting for increased wages – they are even willing to submit to reductions on the 1890 statement – but not till they are given a voice in conference can any settlement be made unless the manufacturers are willing to let the men return to work under old rates, and draw up new ones in conference. Surely this is moderate enough.
No attempt have been made by the employers to justify their position. The only thing the public have heard of the employers for the past two weeks was a notice in the paper of a meeting held in the Courier building on May the 29th where, after the usual congratulations on the gallant stand they were making (never mind if homes are made desolate and children cry for bread), a resolution was unanimously carried that two employers be sent South to seek for blacklegs.
Nothing is left undone by the “masters” to break down the solidarity of the men. Their homes are visited and promising offers made to them, but up to the present every man is as true and as loyal as on the day the men came out – three weeks ago.
A Deserving Cause.
At the public meeting in connection with the boot trade strike an appeal was made for funds to assist the most needy cases amongst married men during the continuance of the struggle, and in response thereto a sum of £5 14s. 1.1/2d. was subscribed. Since then sympathisers have unsolicited sent to the secretary (Mr. Strickland) various sums, amounting to about £5. The WORKER is authorised to say that any donations (large or small) will be thankfully received. There is no body of unionists in Brisbane who have given more generously to any of the past Labour troubles from their funds, and certainly there is no body of men more deserving of the assistance of friends at the present juncture. Money sent either to the general secretary A.L.F. Or the secretary Boot Trade Union, Trades Hall, will be thankfully acknowledged.