Sabotage, as it aims at the quantity, is a very old thing, called by the Scotch ``ca canny.'' All intelligent workers have tried it at some time or other when they have been compelled to work too hard and too long. The Scotch dockers had a strike in 1889 and their strike was lost, but when they went back to work they sent a circular to every docker in Scotland and in this circular they embodied their conclusions, their experience from the bitter defeat. It was to this effect, ``The employers like the scabs, they have always praised their work, they have said how much superior they were to us, they have paid them twice as much as they have ever paid us; now let us go back to the docks determined that since those are the kind of workers they like and that is the kind of work they endorse we will do the same thing. We will let the kegs of wine go over the docks as the scabs did. We will have great boxes of fragile articles drop in the midst of the pier as the scabs did. We will do the work just as clumsily, as, slowly, as destructively, as the scabs did. And we will see how long our employers can stand that kind of work.'' It was very few months until through this system of sabotage they had won everything they had fought for and not been able to win through the strike. This was the first open announcement of sabotage in an English-speaking country.
I have heard of my grandfather telling how an old fellow came to work on the railroad and the boss said, ``Well, what can you do?''
``I can do 'most anything,'' said he -- a big husky fellow.
``Well,'' said the boss, ``can you handle a pick and a shovel?''
``Oh, sure. How much do you pay on this job?''
``A dollar a day.''
``Is that all? Well, -- all right. I need the job pretty bad. I guess I will take it.'' So he took his pick and went leisurely to work. Soon the boss came along and said:
``Say, can't you work any faster than that?''
``Sure I can.''
``Well, why don't you?''
``This is my dollar-a-day clip.''
``Well,'' said the boss, ``let's see what the $1.25-a-day clip looks like.''
That went a little better. Then the boss said, ``Let's see what the $1.50-a-day clip looks like.'' The man showed him. ``That was fine,'' said the boss, ``well, maybe we will call it $1.50 a day.'' The man volunteered the information that his $2-a-day clip was ``a hummer''. So, through this instinctive sort of sabotage this poor obscure workingman on a railroad in Maine was able to gain for himself an advance from $1 to $2 a day. We read of the gangs of Italian workingmen, when the boss cuts their pay -- you know, usually they have an Irish or American boss and he likes to make a couple of dollars a day on the side for himself, so he cuts the pay of the men once in a while without consulting the contractor and pockets the difference. One boss cut them 25 cents a day. The next day he came on the work, to find that the amount of dirt that was being removed had lessened considerably. He asked a few questions: ``What's the matter?''
``Me no understan' English'' -- none of them wished to talk.
Well, he exhausted the day going around trying to find one person who could speak and tell him what was wrong. Finally he found one man, who said, ``Well, you see, boss, you cutta da pay, we cutta da shob.''
That was the same form of sabotage -- to lessen the quantity of production in proportion to the amount of pay received. There was an Indian preacher who went to college and eked out an existence on the side by preaching. Somebody said to him, ``John, how much do you get paid?''
``Oh, only get paid $200 a year.''
``Well, that's damn poor pay, John.''
``Well,'' he said, ``Damn poor preach!''
That, too, is an illustration of the form of sabotage that I am now describing to you, the ``ca canny'' form of sabotage, the ``go easy'' slogan, the ``slacken up, don't work so hard'' species, and it is a reversal of the motto of the American Federation of Labor, that most ``safe, sane and conservative'' organization of labor in America. They believe in ``a fair day's wage for a fair day's work.'' Sabotage is an unfair day's work for an unfair day's wage. It is an attempt on the part of the worker to limit his production in proportion to his remuneration. That is one form of sabotage.
Interfering With Quality of Goods