Adoption of Children by Labor Unions


A peculiar feature of trade unionism which has come to light in connection with the recent agitation in North Carolina for a law forbidding the employment of child labor is the "adoption" by several unions of Charlotte of children who had previously been compelled to work in the cotton mills of that city.

The first to take action in the matter was the Typographical Union, which in July, 1902, authorized its secre-tary to find the most deserving child and to place her name on the pay-roll of the union. After some investigation he selected a girl nine years of age who was then working "from daylight till dark" at $2.40 a fortnight. This child was the bread-winner of a family consisting of herself, an invalid mother and a brother too young to work. For some time the union continued to pay her an allowance equal to her former wages, with the understanding that she was to go to school instead of to the mill. Her spare time was to be devoted to recreation. Besides the allowance paid by the union, the members supplied her with books and cloth-ing purchased by voluntary contributions. The printers were so well pleased with the results of their experiment that her allowance was increased from time to time until, according to latest accounts, she was receiving $4 a fortnight.

Several other unions soon followed the example of the printers, but none seem to have chosen more wisely the object of their altruism. In no case does the girl thus adopted appear to be the daughter of a deceased member of the union or to have a special claim of any sort upon it. In one instance the child has two sisters who work in the mills, but are not members of any union.

The method of caring for the children is the same with all the unions. They continue to live at home, and receive an allowance which is at least equal to their former wages. In most cases the children are expected to go to school, and in any event they are not allowed to continue their work in the mills.

Vanderveer Curtis

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Labor unions
100 E Trade Street
28202 Charlotte , NC
United States
35° 13' 36.7284" N, 80° 50' 35.1816" W
North Carolina US