Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

Some of the miners have testified that if they can be paid by honest weight they do not care anything about the increase of wages. They say they would rather work nine hours a day with a decreased wage than on the old basis.

So there are all sorts of conflicting statements from both sides. Nevertheless, considering all the testimony that has been offered, and weighing it as carefully and as impartially as I can, and listening to the statements of operators, miners, capitalists, bankers, students, and others—to all of whom I am grateful for their generous assistance-I can not help feeling that there are certain suggestions that are reasonable and just in the premises.

SUGGESTIONS THAT SEEM REASONABLE AND JUST.

i

1. That the anthracite employees should organize an anthracite coal miners' union, in its autonomy to be independent of the United Mine Workers of America. The new union might, of course, be affiliated with the United Mine Workers and the American Federation of Labor, but in the conduct of all the affairs relating to the anthracite coal regions the new union should preserve its own autonomy and be financially responsible for its agreements.

2. That, considering all the facts relative to production, cost of coal at the mines, profits, freight traffic, etc., it would be reasonable and just for the operators to concede at once a nine-hour day, but that this should be done for the period of six months as an experiment, in order to test the influence on production, with the guaranty that if production is not materially reduced thereby the agreement shall be made for a more permanent reduction of time.

3. That under a new organization consisting of anthracite employees there shall be organized a joint committee on conciliation, composed of representatives of the operators and of the new union, to which all grievances as they arise shall be referred for investigation, and that when two-thirds of the committee reach a decision that decision shall be final and binding upon both parties. (For practical illustration see Appendix H—“Contract of bituminous coal miners and operators.”)

4. That the first duty of such joint board of conciliation shall be to enter upon a thorough examination and investigation of all conditions relative to mining anthracite coal, to question of weighing, to discipline, to wage scales, and to all matters that now form the burden of the complaints and grievances of both operators and miners, such investigation or examination to be made through the employment of experts to be selected by the joint committee, the results of such investigation not to be considered in the nature of an award of a board of arbitration, but as verified information on which future contracts can be made.

5. That whenever practicable and where mining is paid for by the ton, and until the joint committee referred to shall have made its report, coal shall be paid for by the ton and be weighed by two inspectors, one representing the operators and one representing the men, each side to pay its own inspector.

6. That there shall be no interference with nonunion men.

7. That whenever practicable collective bargains shall be made relative to wages, time, and other conditions, under rules to be established by the joint committee referred to.

The proposition has been made that with the experience of the past the operators, in agreement with the miners, might establish a uniform or fixed percentage of deduction from all coal mined as representing, on the average, the impurities, the result of which would be that every miner would know that a certain fixed percentage is to be deducted from the coal mined without reference to its purity; that such a rule, while it would be unfair and absurd in some cases, would be generous in others, and thus an understanding reached which would avoid all the irritations which now accompany the subject of weighing and the deduction for impurities. The question is full of difficulties, and it may not be possible to crystallize the proposition into a fixed rule; but it may be worth consideration by a joint committee such as has been suggested.

The conclusions stated above, Mr. President, seem to me, in the light of all the evidence that has been furnished me, to be reasonable and just, and should they be adopted, with some modifications, perhaps, here and there, they would lead to a more peaceful and satisfactory condition in the anthracite coal regions. They may not lead, even if adopted fully, to perfect peace nor to the millennium, but I believe they will help to allay irritation and reach the day when the anthracite coal regions shall be governed systematically and in accordance with greater justice and higher moral principles than now generally prevail on either side. I am, Mr. President, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

CARROLL D. WRIGHT, Commissioner. The PRESIDENT.

APPENDIX A.-STATEMENT OF THE DELAWARE AND HUDSON COMPANY SHOWING POSITION OF THE OPERATORS, SEPTEMBER, 1900.

[Draft-not completed or published.] The following statement of the facts regarding the present labor disturbance in the collieries of this company has been prepared for the information of parties interested:

The present strike in the Wyoming anthracite coal region, where the collieries of this company are situated, is caused solely by the demands of an association calling itself the United Mine Workers of America. This association has never been known in the anthracite regions until the last few months. It is an organization of bituminous coal workers which has recently had considerable success in raising wages paid to such workers and consequently prices charged to the public for such coal. Very recently its organizers came into the anthracite regions, where there were no expressions of discontent, and stirred up the present strike, with the purpose of securing to this association control of the entire coal business of the country, with the resulting power and profit.

The ostensible ground of the strike is failure by the producers to comply with a demand on the part of the United Mine Workers that there shall be an advance in the scale of prices which has been in force since before 1880, with the slight changes which will be stated below. The Mine Workers have, it is true, alleged some other grievances, but it will be shown later that they are without merit and have no application to this company.

In order to insure safety in its handling and also the use of a quality suitable for work the practice has been for the miners to buy their powder from the mine owners. The price at which the powder shall be charged to the miners is therefore necessarily an element in fixing the amount to be paid to them. What is known as the sliding-scale method of fixing wages-namely, relatively to the price of coal per ton-has never prevailed in the Wyoming region, and the Mine Workers now demand that it be abolished everywhere. The wages paid by this company have always been a fixed sum per mine ton or carload of coal mined, without regard to fluctuations in the price of coal. The amount of this mine ton was originally fixed at an amount which it was found would produce 2,240 pounds of merchantable coal above the pea or three-quarter inch size. It has been somewhat reduced as the smaller sizes have become merchantable, thus somewhat decreasing the amount of coal to be produced by the miner as the unit of payment. When payment is made by the carload this mine ton is the basis-the payment for the carload is regulated by the number of mine tons which it contains.

If the coal which the miner sends out of the mine contains more than an average amount of slate or other stone a corresponding deduction is made from the gross weight. If this were not done the mine owner would be compelled to pay the same for mining unmerchantable stone as merchantable coal. The amounts thus "docked," as it is called, are determined by experienced men who have no object in committing injustice. Any complaints regarding their decisions in individual instances always receive prompt attention. The amounts thus deducted from the gross weight of the coal are not considerable in the aggregate. In 1899 they amounted to less than 3 per cent, namely 2.79 per cent of the coal mined.

The present scale of wages has prevailed, with very slight changes, since before 1880. The basis was originally the rate to be paid for the top vein at Carbondale, which now stands at 67 cents. All other mining work is arranged by variations in that rate proportioned to the difficulty of the mining. The scale is therefore complicated and varies with the different veins and the different collieries according to the character of the work. The average result is shown hereafter. In addition to extracting the coal, payment is made to the miners at fixed rates for different kinds of development work. As already stated, the price of powder was a necessary part of the scale of wages and at the beginning of 1880 it was fixed at $2.75 per keg. In 1889 the question of reducing the price of powder and readjusting wages accordingly—as has been done in the Schuylkill region—was submitted to a vote of the miners and was decided in the negative. In 1893 there was a slight increase in the rate of wages. Substantially the same scale of wages has therefore prevailed since 1880. The variations in the cost of powder to the company have had no effect upon the wages paid. They have constantly remained the same. The fact that this scale of wages has continued in force so long without disturbance indicates that it is not unfair to the miners.

It is well known that the price of living was considerably greater when this scale of wages was fixed than at the present time, so that the purchasing power of the wages was less than at present. A careful examination shows that the price of living is less at present than it has averaged during the past ten years. On the other hand, the profit realized from the 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. For example, the average price at tide water for all sizes in 1880 was $3.73; since that time it has declined, reaching as low figures as $2.71 in 1898; at present it is $2.80 per ton, almost $1 less than it was when the scale of wages was fixed. At the same time the cost of mining has increased by reason of the exhaustion of the upper and larger veins and the consequent necessity of working lower and smaller veins, requiring more extensive machinery for hoisting and pumping and the payment of higher wages relatively to the amount of coal produced. The rates of royalty paid upon leased coal lands, also, have increased, and latterly there has been a considerable rise in the price of materials. The fact that the cost of powder to the company has fallen has somewhat offset those charges. But the effect of these conditions is likely to continue and increase.

During all this time, since 1880, wages have never been reduced, but, as already said, have constantly continued the same. A very thorough examination was made regarding wages for the year 1899 in the Wyoming region generally, and it was found that the average daily net earnings of the miners had been $2.85; that 80 per cent of the miners employed by this company had earned more than $500 net during the year, and that the average for all was considerably above that sum. This is over and above payments for powder and the estimated amount paid by miners to laborers employed by them to load the cars. The employment of these laborers arises from the fact that the miners do not load the cars themselves. When working at full time the miner does not remain underground more than six to seven hours, and his laborer loads the coal which the miner has blasted down in that time. The wages thus earned were quite as high as the wages paid to similar classes of labor, and were higher than the average earnings of the wage-earners of the country engaged in manufacturing, which average was placed by the last census at $445. As regards labor other than the miners, the wages vary considerably with the character of the work and of the laborers. The company has always paid the full current rates. At present the wages paid to ordinary unskilled laborers are $1.69 per day.

During the present year employment has been more steady and the aggregate of wages paid larger than usual. One of the present active members of the Mine Workers' Union, who has been in the employment of this company, has earned daily wages during the eight months of the present year of $3.96 and an aggregate of $812.62 over and above all expenses. His dockage amounted to but sixty-eight onehundredths of 1 per cent of the coal which he mined. The pay rolls of the company for last August, covering all its collieries, show that the average rate of net daily earnings of the miners was $2.61; the average number of days worked was 171, and the average net earnings during the month were $45:01.

The profits of the company's business generally are no greater now than when the scale of wages was fixed in 1880. On the contrary, during the five years 1880–1884 the average net earnings were 8.65 per cent upon the capital, while during the five years 1895–1899 they were but 6.55 per cent. While wages have been thus constant, business conditions have compelled the company to reduce, and at times to pass, its dividends. Its present rate of dividend is 5 per cent, making the total payment on that account $1,750,000, while it pays out annually in wages of all kinds about $10,500,000.

Under these conditions the United Mine Worker's demand an increase in the wages, which, as already stated, have prevailed for twenty years past. The increase is demanded upon every species of work connected with mining, and its result would amount to an increase of about 70 per cent over the present rates. In the case of this company, it annually pays out in wages at the mines about $5,000,000, so that the increase demanded would be $3,500,000, or 10 per cent upon the company's capital stock and considerably more than its present earnings. Capitalized at 5 per cent, the company's dividend rate, this

« ForrigeFortsett »