The following document comes from the George F . Johnson Papers, George Arents Research Library for Special Collections, Syracuse University. It describes a meeting between Endicott Johnson Corporation's CEO, George F. Johnson, and angry (shoe) edge trimmers. Edge trimmers were shoe factory workers who trimmed the edge of soles to a smooth and finished edge. The job involved placing the sole edge against high-speed rotary cutters and moving it evenly around and against the cutters. It was a risky and good paying operation. This meeting took place in the context of several rate reductions and unfulfilled management promises for piece rate restorations.

Endicott Diner, Sept. 1st, 1927

Mr. Geo. F. Johnson: "I am disappointed not to see all the edge trimmers here, instead of a Committee. I haven't any way of knowning how friendly or unfriendly you gentlemen are, for a settlement of this trouble. We have here a Committee of 18, representing 69 people, all equally interested; which makes it doubtful if we can arrive anywhere, even after we have made an honest effort. Don't you think it would be better for all the interested parties to come here, and discuss the matter?"

Mr. Felix McQueen, Spokesman of Committee: "Mr. Johnson, we have been appointed out of the total number, and have been sent here to represent them."

Mr. Johnson: "I question the wisdom of that. It would be better if I could speak to all, equally interested."

Mr. McQueen: "Mr. Johnson, we also object to the presence of the shorthand operator."

Mr. Johnson: "You are not willing that I should address you, and have my remarks taken down, as a matter of record?"

Mr. McQueen: "I have been asked to say that we - all these men - do object to having this talk taken down."

Mr. Johnson: "What is your objection?"

Mr. McQueen: "We haven't brought anyone."

Mr. Johnson: "She will take down anything you say. I would like what I say recorded. Whatever may be the outcome of this trouble, I want to have a clean record."

(Objection to stenographer still sustained.)

"Then you eliminate me. If you mean what you say, there is no chance on earth for us to get together. You are determined to have trouble. You don't want harmony and peace. You want to destroy the work of many lifetimes. You mean that you want to go into a struggle that will mean a great deal, to a great many innocent people. And I am sorry.

"I came here to apologize to you for anything I have said or done, that was not gentlemanly and kind and fair. I wanted to retract it all. I wanted to start right, for the future.

"I don't know what influence you are under, but I know that it is a wicked influence. I know it is an influence that is going to make a lot of trouble in the years to come. It doesn't mean much to me. It means a lot to you. It means a lot to your wives and children. I have your real good at heart, and your attitude is distinctly and impossibly wrong.

"This is what I have to say to you. Are you now ready to have this lady remain?"

Answer: "All right."

Mr. Johnson: "I feel now, it is quite possible that we will get together. I am terribly hurt and disappointed by this whole thing. Let's try and work it out, happily. It is tremendously important to those we live for, labor for, and try to help to a happier life and existence.

"All this is contrary to the old E.J. spirit. I have never met up with it before. I am mystified. I wish to clear your hearts and minds of any prejudice. I wish you would listen with open minds and open hearts, while we discuss this thing.

"I pleaded with you the other day. I am pleading with you again, in the interests of harmony and good will. Go back to work. Let's adjust these differences from inside the factories. If any of the trimmers in these departments, have any real grievances, let's discuss them as we always have, freely and with open minds, and a real, honest desire to adjust these differences. Let's keep this Valley for the world to see, as a place where friendly human relations may exist, and the best Industrial conditions be made possible, and peace and harmony prevail.

"I have said I am sorry for my part in this unfortunate misunderstanding. If you will go as far, it's all right. We will adjust our differences as they arise. We will try to avoid such a breach of the peace, as has occurred."

Mr. McQueen: "Mr. Johnson, as I understand it, you mean we can go back, just as we were before we went to the Office?"

Mr. Johnson; "Just as you were before you came to the Office - with a candid, open heart, and an honest desire to pull together. There will be no punishments and no penalties. Everything that you were entitled to, you are still entitled to.

"We have made a mistake. It is not the way to get together. It means War, and everlasting trouble. It means tearing down what it has taken a lifetime to build up.

"Go back just where you left off, and let's start over again, and see if we can't be friendly, and adjust these things without this unnecessary trouble.

"Whatever occurs from this minute on, is in your hands, and I am not responsible for."

Mr. James Kinselle: "We have no prejudice against Mr. George F. Johnson. There is no friendship broken off. He has made mistakes and we have made mistakes. Mr. Johnson, we all understand that you don't know everything. This has been going on. This thing has not arisen in a day. It has not arisen in a week or two. It has been going on for a long time. We have spoken of going to see Mr. George F. We have been told different things: "It would be all right" - "Never mind." I have always said since I have been here (17 years) that we could get a square deal from Mr. George F. Johnson."

Mr. Johnson: "I don't think we can settle details here now. I am trying to explain. I am not pleading for myself.

"Now, all you have said, I think has perhaps a great deal of truth. Mistakes have been made. We have done many things that we would not have done, if we had our present knowledge. But "present knowledge" was not present yesterday.

"We can't remedy mistakes by additional mistakes. If you have made a mistake, the way to remedy it, is to recognize that it is a mistake, and don't make another one. All I can say to you, out of my heart, is - whenever we have seemed to err, it has been because we were trying to find better ways, to help the whole enterprise.

"Every man makes mistakes. But it takes a real man to stand up and say, 'It was a mistake, and I am sorry'. (Applause)

"You wouldn't get many employers who would say what I am saying to you, because I don't regard myself as your 'employer'. I am your co-worker, please God. I wish I could give you also, some of the cares and responsibilities.

"I want to say that I believe a better day is dawning. I think that times are not going to be so hard. We will have a better year. I believe I see possible vacations again."




Mr. Geo. F. Johnson (speaking to all the edge trimmers): "Sorry you didn't all come up in the first place, because I made a beautiful exhibition of an old man trying to be kindly. Showed considerable feeling, and the boys who saw it, i guess were sorry for me. But don't expect me to break down every time I speak to a few shoemakers.

"You came up here under representation by a Committee of three from each room. I objected to that. I wanted to talk to all. I think just as much of you as I do of your Committee, and I believed I could say the things I wanted you to hear, better than your Committee could repeat them to you. They can say things they would like to have you hear, better than I could; but I am certain I can say the things I want you to hear, better than they can.

"The next objection was, that the things I had to say should not be taken down. This settled the whole thing; because the things I had to say to you, I wanted recorded, so that whatever grew out of this trouble of ours, there would be a record. I am not ashamed of my part in it, after today. I was a little bit disturbed about my part a few days ago; and I apologized for my part.

"I have asked that you all go back to work. I have admitted our mistakes and errors. I have explained them briefly. any real grievance that exists, we will try, with your help, to adjust.

"You had a few clambakes lately. Next time you have a clambake, take me along. I used to go to your clambakes. Then we didn't have any trouble.

"Don't let's have them out in the woods, with a few people, building up doubts and suspicions. One of the worst things in this life, is suspicion - doubting one another. Sometimes a man doubts his wife. It is not a pleasant feeling to have. Sometimes a man doubts his employer. Sometimes he doubts himself - but not often, because most every man justifies himself. He is the one almighty right thing in the world. Mr. Myself. Those are the kind of people I can't get along with."

"Here comes some more of the fellows, and I will have to repeat it all over again. Some of you will think, 'I heard that stuff before.' Are you all here now?"

"You will admit that there are some things you don't understand. There are some things you don't know. You have been misjudging those who are responsible for the control of this business. You will admit that, I hope? None of us are infallible. The man who criticizes his neighbors and friends, does so sometimes because he does not know what he is talking about. He finds a lot of unnecessary fault with things he does not understand. I don't know your motives. You can't know my motives.

"But I know this: I am extremely anxious that you boys shall return to your benches - take up your work where you laid it down. There will be no penalties. You will be just where you were. Start in Tuesday morning, where you left off.

"Let's not find fault at one another. Let's get together and talk these things over. Be fair and candid and open-minded. Express our desires and our reasons and occasions for discontent. Don't let's harbor ill will. Don't let's build up grouches. Why can't we be what we think we are - real Christian gentlemen? This is not just an expression. It means daily actions. Let's be "Christian gentlemen" - not in professions, but in real acts.

"Someone said to me, 'A gentleman must be college bred.' I think a 'gentleman' must be a man with an honest heart and a sincere love for his fellowmen. That's the only kind of 'gentleman' I know anything about. He may be college bred, and he may not be. But the 'gentlemen' that I know most about, are good old-fashioned shoemakers. (Applause)

"That's what I want you to be. Let's stick together, and 'play the string out'. I hope you are coming back as I have asked you to. I want to say for your encouragement, that I believe, as it looks now, things will be a little better than last year. There will be a little more of that intangible thing called 'Bonus'.

"Now, these are the things I have been saying to the boys in the different groups as they came in. They have been taken down, and any man may have a copy, who desires one. Then you will know what was said before you came in, and what was said since you came in. You know a fellow doesn't always understand a thing just like his neighbor. Then arises discussion. I have said, 'We will save discussion, because here it is. Here is what you have said, and what I have said.' Everything is down there, and you can have a copy of it. That would be 69 copies. I believe it would be good to let your wives and children see a copy of this talk. Let them get acquainted with the 'Old man' who is trying to tell you some real Christian truths - who is trying to save you from making a very serious and very foolish mistake, and is going a long ways to show his honest, heartfelt desire to maintain peace and good will in this Industry."

"Does anyone else want to make a speech?"

(Mr. McQueen, Spokesman of the Committee, came forward to speak. Mr. Johnson took his seat, among the workers.)

Mr. Felix McQueen: "I am not a speaker. But I will tell you just this. Without a doubt, what has happened has hurt you, and hurt you badly. It is a bad thing, perhaps. But after this has happened, it may help you, and it may help us. It may give us a better feeling, all of us - which I hope.

"For myself, I suppose I felt a little bit hard to begin with, but I think I shall overcome it, with the good feeling that you have shown us this afternoon.

"I have worked in several shoe factories in the Country. Perhaps that is why I have been called a 'roughneck'. I have had to fight my own way. Perhaps I have a little more courage than the others.

"There is one thing I would like to say. I think if the men who work for you, would have just a little more nerve, and come out and say just the way they feel, things would be different. You can't hide behind a post, and have the other man know what you want, and what you mean."

Mr. Geo. F. Johnson: "There is one thing I want to add. Don't let anyone go out of this room with the idea that a 'victory' has been won, by anybody. Don't go out of this room with the idea that there is anybody who has 'given up', or anybody who has been 'licked' or 'beaten'. Let's go out of this room and say that the 'victory' that has been won here today, the victory that has come out of this occasion of trouble - is a victory for fair play and square dealing. It's a victory for the E.J. Labor policies and principles. They have won the victory."

"I join you in the wish that all people would speak a little more plainly, and a little more distinctly, what they really think and what they really want. But I don't think that the mere speaking what a man wants, will always produce. You want a lot of things, and so do I. The way to express these desires, is not to say, 'If I don't get it, I will right.' Listen to the other fellow. Find out what is right and what is wrong. Get the reasons. Count the cost."

Chas. F. Johnson, Jr.: "After everything that has been said, I don't see much left to be said. I think every man in this room feels a good deal as you have expressed, and as I know I feel: that the biggest thing we have here, and the thing we are all interested in, is to perpetuate the policies of Mr. Geo. F. Johnson, that have brought this business to its present status. The only way we can do that, is as Mr. Geo. F. Johnson has said: by confidence - confidence in one another.

"When anyone feels that they are not getting what they are honestly entitled to, they can take their grievances to their foreman or superintendent. If they are not satisfied, they can go farther. You can come to me. Or you can go to Mr. George F. You have heard how Mr. George F. has expressed himself, and in my humble way, I am trying to get these same things. I have them at heart - have had them for years. We can always get together, and settle things as this affair has been settled this time."

Mr. Geo. F. Johnson: "There has been a lot of worry over this thing. Our neighbors and friends have made a lot of talk over it. One of the things that persuaded me to try to get you boys to go back to work, was not only that you were injuring the business, of which you are all a part, but you were keeping a lot of shoemakers out of work. They were saying that you were not playing squarely. That was a serious thing.

"This is the first time in twenty-five years, that Endicott-Johnson has had anything like this happen. A whole lot of people in these Mills, have confidence in the old E.J. business and in the Management. They are not likely to be friendly with the idea that every little while there is going to be a 'strike'.

"You can go back, and tell your room mates, shop mates, neighbors and friends, 'It's all right. I am satisfied with what has been said.'

"This is not all lost time. It has been well spent. I believe there is more content, and a better feeling all around. Someone said the other day, 'What's the use of wasting time? We have made up our minds.' I said, 'My, God! Am I wasting time, when we are trying to avoid suffering and trouble and distress. No, we are not 'wasting time'. We are trying to create confidence and good will, for the present and the future, in this old business of ours." (Applause)

Mr. Glenn Brundage: "Mr. Johnson, I think you will find there is not a man here who is not willing to go to work. When we talked these things over, it was not with the object of organizing a strike. We thought we had some grievances, and that was the way to adjust them. Always there is some grumbling before a storm, and we had some grumbling. We don't wish to have any trouble in the future, but would like to have things adjusted, so we will know what we are working for, and have our employers understand it that way, also. Plainer than that we can't express ourselves, either in Committee or any other way."

Mr. Geo. F. Johnson: "Now, Brother, come up here. This young man makes use of a very good expression, when he says, 'When we have grumbling, and things wrong, we want them adjusted.' But I don't like the way you proposed to 'discuss it' with me, which means in effect, 'We demand certain things, or we quit work.' I am not trying to open up this thing again, but I want you to understand - you can't get anywhere by demanding a thing, when you want to discuss it. If you have any trouble or grievance or real occasion for dissatisfaction, you can go to Charlie, George, Runyon, or whoever happens to be around. Say, 'We think we would like to talk things over with you a little bit. We have certain things that are hurting a little, and we want you to discuss them with us.' Go at it in that spirit. But don't demand. That means trouble. It means a fight. It means what we are trying to avoid today.

Thank you for your kindness and consideration. Let's see if we can't avoid these unpleasant occasions for meeting.

Thank you.

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