(click image to read The New York Tribune for this day. Note the appearance of William F. Burns of the Detective Agency of the same name. Great rival of the Pinkertons, Burns achieved notoriety seven years later in the Harding administration as the head of the Bureau of Investigation, confidant of Attorney General Harry M. Daugherty, and supervisor of con artist and bag-man Gaston B. Means.)
THE WOOLWICH STRIKE
The sudden strike of ten thousand men in Woolwich Arsenal, and the equally sudden surrender of the Prime Minister and Secretary of State for War to the demands of the strikers, together constitute one of the very gravest incidents in the recent history of labour unrest. The strike turned on the usual story of tainted goods. It appears that a body of contractors prepared a concrete bed to serve as a foundation for some machinery, and employed some non-Union labour to do the work. Such employment of non-Union labour has frequently occurred in the past, and no notice has been taken of it. On this occasion, for the alleged reason that it was another ” move” on the part of the building trade masters, the Trade Union leaders determined to make a demonstration. An engineer named Entwistle was ordered to start work in erecting machinery on this tainted concrete bed. Acting upon instructions from his Union, he refused to obey the orders given to him. He was at once dismissed by Sir Frederick Donaldson, the head of the Arsenal. Within a few hours the whole of the engineers employed in the Arsenal had gone on strike, and shortly afterwards the rest of the men employed also came out. After this the politicians interfered. Mr. Will Crooks, who both represents Woolwich in Parliament and acts as the mouthpiece of the strikers, had a long interview with the Prime Minister. What passed at that interview has not been made public, but one may safely conjecture that the critical part of the conversation took somewhat the following turn. The Prime Minister pointed out to Mr. Will Crooks that the doctrines laid down by the strikers were entirely subversive of discipline in an institution which is, in effect, part of the British Army, and that to give way to their unreason- able demands would be to set an example which might have disastrous consequences to the country. To this Mr. Will Crooks probably replied that he and his party were pledged to the policy of eliminating non-Unionists, and meant to see that policy through. We may safely assume that he further added that a critical motion was coming before the House of Commons a few hours later, that it known that many Liberals intended to refrain from voting with the Government, and that if the Labour Party should also refrain from supporting the Govern- ment a Ministerial defeat would be inevitable. After that an understanding was rapidly reached. To save his face, or, rather, to pretend to save his face, Mr. Asquith announced in the House of Commons that a Com- mittee would be appointed to inquire into the original cause of the trouble at Woolwich Arsenal. But, to prove the completeness of his surrender to Mr. Will Crooks, he also promised that all those men who had without the slightest excuse broken their contracts and thrown down their tools without a word of warning would be reinstated as if nothing had happened, and that the man Entwistle, who had deliberately refused to obey orders, would also be free to go back.
By this announcement Mr. Asquith has now established the proposition that the employees of the Government, provided only they are manual workers, may at any moment break any contract of employment without render- ing themselves liable to any penalty. It is a curious position for a lawyer to take up ; it is a scandalous position for a Prime Minister and Secretary of State for War to tolerate. Parenthetically it may be remarked that Mr. Asquith, in his character of party leader, would never dream for a moment of applying the same doctrine to the Members of Parliament who by their votes—somewhat reluctantly given on occasion—keep him in office. If the rank-and-file of the Liberal Party were suddenly to go on strike and refuse to vote in critical divisions, a Dissolution of Parliament would follow and their salaries would terminate. It is hardly necessary to add that similar measure would with more justice be meted out to any employee of the Government who is not a manual labourer. If the clerks of any grade in a Government office deliberately refused to come to their work for any reason whatsoever, they would instant] y be dismissed, and there would be no chance of re-employment for them. It may safely be assumed also that Mr. Asquith would apply similar treatment to his own private secretaries.
The Spectator, London, July 11, on the July 6-8 Woolwich Arsenal strike