Sidebilder
PDF
ePub
[blocks in formation]

DEPARTMENT OF LABOR,

Washington, D. C., June 20, 1902. SIR: I have the honor to submit herewith a report on the causes of and conditions accompanying the present controversy between the anthracite coal miners of Pennsylvania and the coal operators. I undertook this investigation in accordance with your verbal request of the 8th instant.

The organic law of the Department of Labor provides that the Commissioner of Labor is “authorized to make special reports on particular subjects whenever required to do so by the President or either House of Congress.” Immediately after your request, as provided by the law quoted, I proceeded to the city of New York, for the purpose of ascertaining all facts possible relating to the present controversy. I have not visited the coal regions, but I have been represented there by a very experienced gentleman who has this is the conditions of the coal regions many times and who undertake ter make the necessary inquiries relative to the present strike.

I am very glad to say that in every direction I have been met with the utmost courtesy, and all the facts required were generously put into my possession. These facts have been gained from presidents of coal-operating railroads, independent operators, capitalists thoroughly familiar with the coal business, but not engaged in it, presidents of railroads not operating coal mines, officials of the miners' union, foremen, superintendents, business men, miners, and laborers.

One of the gratifying features of the investigation is that, so far as I have been able to ascertain, there has been no attempt to misrepresent, either willfully or otherwise, the facts as the individuals testifying understand them. The difference in point of view, in attitude to the whole subject, often leads to apparently conflicting statements, but these conflicting statements are the result of position and not of any desire to misrepresent.

The whole subject is surrounded by many complications-in fact, I know of no strike with which I have been in any way familiar that has presented so many varying conditions, conflicting views, and irritating complaints. In order that these varying conditions may be more clearly understood and studied with the least possible difficulty, I make my report topically. While this method involves some repetition here and there, it enables one more clearly to comprehend the whole situation as presented by the parties to the controversy and by others, and the conclusions that are legitimately drawn from a study of the entire question.

ORIGIN OF THE PRESENT STRIKE.

The present strike finds its root in the settlement of the strike which occurred in 1900, when the advance demanded by the miners in the anthracite regions was after considerable discussion conceded. Nearly all operators and many connected with the miners' union do not hesitate to say that since that settlement there have been increased sensitiveness and more intense irritation in the mining districts than during the previous twenty-five years or more.

The position of the operators in September, 1900, is very clearly stated in the accompanying document, marked “Appendix A” (see pages 1169, 1170, 1172, and 1173). In this document it is recited that the profit realized from the coal business was greater when the scale of wages was fixed, because the price of coal was higher in 1880 than it has been since 1881. In 1880 the average price at tidewater for all sizes was $3.73. Since that time it has declined, reaching as low figures is $2.71 in 1898. In September, 1900, it was $2.80 per ton, almost 1 less than it was when the scale of wages was fixed. The docuint also recites that since 1880 wages have never been reduced, but have constantly continued the same. In 1899, in the Wyoming region generally, it was found that the average daily net earnings of the miners had been $2.85. It is also stated that the profits of the company's business were no greater in 1900 than when the scale of wages was fixed, twenty years before; that, on the contrary, during the five years from 1880 to 1884 the average net earnings were 8.65 per cent upon the capital, while during the five years from 1895 to 1899 they were but 6.55 per cent; that while wages were constant, business conditions compelled the company to reduce and at times to pass its dividends; that its then rate of dividend was 5 per cent, making the total payment on that account $1,750,000, while it was paying out annually wages of all kinds to the amount of about $10,500,000.

The claim was made, as shown in the document, pages 1172 and 1173, that for the twenty years preceding 1900 the Delaware and Hudson Company paid to its employees at the collieries wages which never varied with the fluctuations in business; that while the mine workers are permitted to combine to raise the cost of production, the mine owners are prohibited by law from combining to raise the price of the product accordingly.

It can easily be seen, therefore, that the basis of the present strike was laid in 1900. In view of the increasing sensitiveness since that time, and recognizing the conditions as stated, Mr. John Mitchell, president of the United Mine Workers of America, February 15, 1901, approached the operators with the following proposition:

Would you kindly wire if your company will participate in a joint conference with anthracite miners during the month of March for the purpose of agreeing upon scale of wages for period which would be mutually agreeable to operators and miners.

The next day Mr. Olyphant, president of the Delaware and Hudson Company, sent the following reply:

I understood that matter of wages was satisfactorily adjusted last October, and we have no present intention of departing from the arrangements then made. I therefore see no object in the conference. which you suggest, even if that method of procedure were desirable which seems very doubtful.

Later on Mr. Mitchell sent a letter to Mr. Olyphant of date February 26, 1901. The history of this attempt to secure a conference as far back as March, 1901, is contained in the letter of the president of the Delaware and Hudson Company, dated March 6, 1901, and attached hereto as Appendix B. In this letter Mr. Olyphant claims that during the year 1900 his company paid out in wages of all kinds about $10,500,000, while it distributed among its stockholders $1,750,000.

DEMANDS OF THE MINE WORKERS.

The failure of the attempts to secure a conference in March, 1901, added to the irritation of the miners, and constant appeals were made to the officers of the union to make new demands, and, failing to secure compliance, organize a strike. It is generally believed by the operators, and many others, that the present strike was organized by the officers of the United Mine Workers of America and those of local unions having their allegiance to that body. The facts, so far as I can ascertain—and I believe they have been correctly reported to meshow that, in contradistinction to most strikes, the officers of the miners' unions, with perhaps one or two exceptions, persistently opposed the present strike. Their reasons for opposing it were that they had carefully weighed the chances of success and the possibilities

of defeat, and from what they learned in various interviews with railway presidents and operators they were satisfied that a strike, if engaged in, would last possibly all summer, and entail great hardship and suffering upon the mine workers and those dependent upon them, as well as work incalculable injury to the industrial and commercial interests of the country. They were also imbued with the belief that many of the alleged wrongs endured by the miners, and what were considered unfair conditions under which they worked, might be corrected by constant appeals to the presidents of the coal-carrying roads and independent operators. They had a slight hope that the strong prejudices of the anthracite coal operators might be softened by meeting them frequently, and by the presentation of the claims of the mine workers for better wages, and what they denominated more humane conditions of employment.

In their attempts to secure conferences and the frequent meetings of the representatives of mine workers and mine operators, the hopes of the officers of the union were not realized, and the men—the miners and other employees—themselves demanded that a strike should be organized, which was done. This was voted in the convention at Hazleton on May 15, although the strike was begun May 12, 1902. The specific demands, as given to me in writing by Mr. John Mitchell, the president of the United Mine Workers of America, were as follows:

1. That there shall be an increase of 20 per cent to the miners who are paid by the ton—that is, for men performing contract work. These men involve about 40 per cent of all the miners.

2. A reduction of 20 per cent in the time of per diem employees. The mines are operated about 200 days per year, ten hours per day. This demand, if granted, would result in reducing the day to eight hours (20 per cent), so that the mines would be operated 240 days at about the same pay; hence an equivalent of 20 per cent increase in the earnings, no increase in the rates of per diem employees being demanded.

3. That 2,240 pounds shall constitute the ton on which payment is based for all coal mined where the miners are paid by weight. This would apply in any district where weighing coal would be practicable, and to those miners who are paid by the quantity and not to those paid by the day.

These constitute the specific demands of the coal-mine employees, and there is no disagreement as to the substance of the demands. No grievances were presented. The powder question was practically settled in 1900. In their conferences the miners wished to have the matter of impurities and other local grievances taken up with the companies and their local employees for adjustment, these matters not constituting a part of the present controversy or the demands leading to it.

These demands being rejected, the miners subsequently offered to

« ForrigeFortsett »