Labor And Unity

Tom Talbot, First International President, 1888-1890

The very first “newsletter” ever published by the IAM, well by the “United Machinists and Mechanical Engineers” as it was called at that time, was published in February of 1889, nearly a year after our founding.  The very first monthly Journal was also written by the IAM’s founding father and first President of our Union,  Tom Talbot, one of the original 19 Machinists who started what would become one of the most powerful industrial Unions in the world.

I find it truly remarkable to see how these men thought and how they spoke about their trade and the value they placed on labor.  Several times I have referred back to this first issue of the Journal to read Tom Talbot’s words to try and gain some glimpse of what it must have been like back then.   One of my favorite articles from this first issue of the Journal was titled “Labor And Unity” and I have read it so many times now that I thought that everyone would like to have a chance to see how our founding father Tom Talbot looked at Labor and Unity.

Below, is a typed out version of Brother Talbot’s original article that I got from the Southern Labor Archives (The Official Archive of the IAM) at Georgia State University.  You can view a scanned version of the original HERE.


By: Tom Talbot | February, 1889

There is dignity in labor that carries with it respect, both the labor of the hands and of the head-providing for our bodily wants as well as toiling to develop some enterprise of world-wide reputation.  All labor that tends to supply man’s wants, to increase his happiness and elevate his moral nature, is dignifying.  Labor supplies daily sustenance for the nine hundred millions  of the human family; gathers the cotton from the field, the wool from the sheep’s back, weaving them in raiment for our use – the purple robe for the Prince as well as the coarse garment for the laborer – brings forth the gold and silver and iron from the bowels of the earth and converts it into many useful articles for mankind.  The iron is molded into many shapes, from the massive pillar to the tiniest needle, the mighty iron-clad vessel and locomotive to the most delicate and intricate piece of machinery; and then to sum up the whole matter, it is by labor alone that we live.

So, laboring man, walk worthy of your vocation. It maters not in what sphere it may be, your escutcheon is a noble one; disgrace it not.  Labor, allied with honesty and virtue, may well hold up its head, while all worldly dignities, wedded in vice, will have their owner without a corner to conceal his shame.  The man who is above labor, and who despises the laborer, shows the want of common sense – seemingly forgetting that every article he has is the product of labor.  Even the very air he breathes, and the blood that courses through his veins is the result of the labors of the god of nature.  The noblest thing in the world in honest labor.  No man has the right to expect a fortune unless he works for it.  “Luck!” cried a self made man!  There is no such thing as luck!  My luck consists of getting up at 5 o’clock in the morning and working until late.  From what we have seen of men convinces us that one of the first conditions of enjoying life is to have something to do; something great enough to arouse the mind, and noble enough to satisfy the hart.  There is nothing that will so effectually accomplish this as fellowship and unity.  It is where men meet and have the same aim and objects in life, and meet to discuss their own interests and try to elevate their positions, making their trade to rank among the first – a position that will demand the respect of their employers as well as every one else; and they will also have more respect for themselves.  Yes, we heartily endorse Labor Unions, and don’t think there ought to be a single trade without a Union.

We hope you enjoyed this article as much as we have over the years.  Many times while learning how to present the news to our member we refer back to the old Journals to learn from those who came before us.  After having done so as many times as we have, we decided to start a history section on our website.  Many of the stories may not be in the order that they happened but we are sure you will enjoy them as much as we have…. Stay tuned.

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