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Organizer Blocks Legislation

From Horology magazine, July, 1939

Organizer Blocks Legislation

California's recent experience in the attempt to pass a licensing law for horologists is one which should be carefully studied by all horological and jewelry organizations engaged in such activities. Two factors were responsible for the killing of the California bill in committee, the opposition of a small San Francisco union representing approximately one hundred members and the failure of the members of the committee to perform their duties through fear of offending some of their constituents.

Two hearings were scheduled before the Assembly committee. At the first hearing, the proponents of the bill were allotted two and a half minutes to present their case and notified of the time of hearing on such short notice that only President W. H. Morrison of the Horological Association of California was able to be present.

The only opponents present were George Allen, business agent of the union and his aides. After listening to Allen, who is not now and never has been a horologist, the committee voted to table the bill.

Immediately there began a fight to reopen the matter and hold another hearing at which the advocates of the bill could be properly represented. After several weeks a new hearing was finally granted. In the meantime, representatives of the horologists met with Allen to find out what his objections to the bill were and to see if they could be ironed out. Allen made it quite clear that he was opposing the bill in order to force horologists throughout the state to join his union. Furthermore, he is seeking as dues paying members not only the relatively small percentage of employee horologists, but all the small jewelry store owners, in spite of the fact that the union's by-laws bar all but wage earners from membership.

The opposition of Allen became of such influence, not because of the number of members which his organization represents for they are few, but because of the indirect affiliation with the American Federation of Labor and the assistance of their lobbyists. Secretary Vandeleur of the California Federation of Labor, when asked the reason for his opposition to the horology bill, admitted that he was unfamiliar with its provisions and was against it only because he had been informed that it was an "anti-labor" bill.

When the second hearing was to be held, the members of the committee, although present in the corridors of the capitol building, refused to remain in the committee room and consequently it was impossible to get a quorum. This violation of the rights of citizens to be heard can be explained only on the ground that legislators were unwilling to be placed in the position of offending a number of their constituents.

Against their wish, the several thousand jewelers and horologists of a state have been temporarily thwarted in their attempt to solve the problems of their industry by one man whose interest is not in doing something for the few employed horologists he controls, but to see how many dues paying members he can get.

The best defense against such tactics is a better organized industry. In some states the drive for licensing legislation may be a long drawn out affair but progress will not be stopped. Success is inevitable. 

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