30) FT to SG, April 15, l897.
No. 143 Higashi-Kata St.,
Hongo, Tokyo, Japan, Apr. 15, '97.
My dear Mr. Gompers,
I have, at last, the honor to inform you that the first public meeting ever held in this country with the sole object of advocating the cause of labor was held under the auspice of "the Friends of Labor" on the 6th inst. at the Kinikikan, Kanda, this city, when several hundred workman attended despite a pouring rain and addressed by Messrs T. Sakuma, owner of a large printing establishment in this city and a hearty sympathizer to the cause of labor, K. Tajima, a graduate of the Imperial University, T. Takeuchi, a student of social problem and myself. Mr. Sakuma broached on the national necessity of bettering laborers' condition and gave many a valuable advice to the audience, a large majority of which was working people. Messrs Tajima and Takeuchi advocated, the former cooperation as the only means to promote the welfare of working people, the latter thc habit of thrifty among workers. I myself advanced the organization of workers as the best means to promote the interest of workers, dwelling at a great length upon the method of formation of the trades unions, explaining the plan of American trade unions and the A.F. of L. It can not be said that the meeting has done much toward the labor movement in this country but it serves as a foundation of future work. Repeated meetings of this character, it is believed, will finally awake the spirit of independence among our workers, and a step toward the amelioration of labor will be achieved. "The friends of workers" under whose auspice the meeting was held, consists of 4 remnants members of an association formed years ago in San Francisco by some dozen Japanese living there. The remnant members are a tailor, two shoemakers and myself, all of them, I assure you, are staunch advocators of the trade-unionism.
At the meeting a pamphlet written by me, was distributed in which the benefit of organized action, the plan of formation, and the beneficiary system in vogue in the United States were fully set forth. I have enclosed a copy of it since it is the first of its kind published in this country. In the copy where it is marked "A" is the point where the plan of your federation and affiliated bodies was disclosed, the mark "B" denote where the great sum of money distributed by the Cigar-makers Int. Union during 15 years ended 1894 and the mark "C" of the plan of beneficiary system were set forth.
It is greatly hoped by us that we should continue the meeting and some means should be devised to raise a fund to carry out its purpose, yet we know too well this can not be done. It is altogether too large an expense to be borne by ourselves, a single meeting costing as much as 40 yen, while it is equally out of question to raise the fund among the workers. At the same time, we are not able to find any sympathizer who is willing to contribute toward the fund. Hence, it is very likely that we will be forced to abandon the idea of holding the meetings for a time being.
Within the past months, two strikes were reported in this country, one was by the coopers employed in the distilling establishments of Nada, a well known distilling district in this country and located a few miles off from Kobe, demanding a raise of 10% on their wages and after 3 days cessation of work, it ended victoriously to the workers; the other was by 1,500 umbrella makers of this city, who after 2 days strike succeeded to gain 15% raise of their wages. There is one conspicuous fact in connection with the strikes so far occurred in this country, viz. all the strikes ended favorably to the strikers and this goes to show that employing class is not quite ready yet to resist any concerted action on the part of employers. This may have been brought about by the lack of the supply of labor on one hand and the utter incapability of employers to unite themselves. Whatever the cause it may be, this is a golden moment for the workers to assert their right but the workmen themselves do not know it or rather they are not capable to recognize it, -- can you help but pity them. The necessity of organizing and educating the workers was never before been so apparent as at present but those who are enlightened (?) on the subject of labor are reluctant to admit the necessity of unions, giving a great emphasis on their mistaken idea that to give to the workers the mighty power of unions will lead repeated strikers and industrial disturbances. So prevalent this idea is that I shall not be surprised at all to find myself alone on the field advocating the trade unionism during a few years to come.
The presentation of petition to the Lower House of Diet of which I have referred before was abandoned owing the advice I have received from a member of the House. He, however, promised to present to the House at its next session a bill encouraging formation of trades unions.
The March number of the Federationist is on hand. Your article on eight hour work day is most interesting.
Excuse my hurried writing. It is so near to the closing hours of mails.