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DEVOTED TO THE INTERESTS AND VOICING THE DEMANDS OF THE TRADE UNION MOVEMENT

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DARY

No. 7.

THE SHADOW OF A GREAT STRIKE
THE MINERS' VICTORY.

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By SAMUEL GOMPERS.

ARLY in the year of 1912, the industrial world passed under "the shadow of a strike." Through this revealing shadow the commonplace things of life take on new values. Some have long realized, and the remainder begin to realize, our mutual dependence under the present industrial organization; to realize that that which we have taken so lightly is essential to comfort and life; and to appreciate somewhat the real human and industrial cost of the commonplace things. Workmen, employers, consumers, needs must ponder, revise their standards of evaluation, and count the cost, for the strike means disorganization, discomfort, ofttimes. suffering, and frequently loss. The big-scale organization of industry; the universal fraternal feeling and co-operation among workingmen that have been engendered and nurtured by organization, amalgamation and federation; the world-wide organization of markets and regulation of prices,conditions that had indicated our industrial and social progress, achievements of men who thought in world-terms and dreamed dreams of world-power and world-wide control and regulation-all these demanded a halt to consider whither they were drifting. As this world-organization in which the laborer, the capitalist, and the consumer had exulted, came under the strike shadow, the achievements of "big business" seemed its own undoing, for something was wrong with the industrial basis of the vast super-imposed organization of "big business."

In England and in the United States, the men who dig and delve beneath the earth were restive under heavy burdens, pricked by injustice. into a determination to substitute demands for forbearance. Cost of living had soared so infinitely higher than their wages, that no longer could they

afford the decencies. Itving for themselves and their families. Feeling their grievances were intolerable, the miners formulated their demands. The coal operators.assumed an attitude of aloofness and unquestionable virtue. The "third party," the consumer, shuddered at the possibilities of what an extended coal strike might portend. As the situation became more acute, the issues were more clearly defined.

The anthracite miners of the United States were working under the conditions awarded by the Anthracite Coal Strike Commission which was appointed by President Roosevelt as the result of the strike of 1902. The award of the Commission was adopted in 1903 for three years, was renewed in 1906, and again in 1909. This trade "award" was to lapse March 31, 1912. As the contract of the bituminous miners also expired on that date, the general organization gained in strategic position. Since they were not so well organized, the anthracite miners had more to gain from this than the bituminous; their union was not officially recognized by the operators; their rank and file had lost solidarity by the heterogeneous mass of European immigrants who had not yet lost their varying European standards, customs, and languages; racial antagonisms and so-called "radical theories" still further widened the demarcations between the groups. Of the 180,000 men and boys employed in the anthracite mines, 150,000 were not affiliated with the United Mine Workers. The long period of peace in the field, the changing personnel of the miners, their ignorance of the English language, American customs, standards, ideals, and organization, were factors that militated against the maintenance of a strong union in Districts Nos. 1, 7, and 9 of Pennsylvania.

On the other hand, the coal operators consisted of seven or eight great coal-carrying roads running and operating the mines through their affiliated coal companies. Since 1871 the railroads have been buying up the mines. For the purpose of preventing the abuse of the railway power and putting an end to the consolidation of all the anthracite coal lands in the railroad hands, the people of Pennsylvania, in 1873, adopted a constitutional provision forbidding common carriers to mine or manufacture articles for transportation or to buy lands except for carrying purposes. It is common knowledge that this provision of the constitution has been thoroughly and persistently violated. In addition to the power accruing to the coal operators from wealth and organization, the anthracite coal mines partake of the characteristics of a natural monopoly, as practically all the anthracite coal in the country is located in the Pennsylvania districts.

The anthracite miners from Districts Nos. 1, 7, and 9 met in tri-district convention at Pottsville, Pa., during the first week in November of 1911. They drew up specific demands. The coal operators had ample time to consider them before the expiration of the existing "award." Under the terms of the award of the Commission there was a raise in wages of 10 per cent above those obtaining before the strike. A sliding scale was adopted by which 1 per cent was added to the mine workers' wages for every 5 cents increase in price (of domestic sizes of anthracite coal at tide water) above $4.50 a ton. The miners' union was not officially recognized by the opera

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tors, but machinery was provided for the adjustment of questions in dispute or other grievances. Conciliation boards, composed of three representatives of the miners and three of the operators, and of an umpire in the event of a failure to agree, were established. Until 1912 wages remained what they had been in 1903; they had failed to keep pace with industrial progress and the higher cost of living. The miners charged the conciliation board with dilatory methods and rendering decisions favorable to the employers only. They demanded an agreement to cover a shorter period of time, to gain thereby a better strategic position, to hold the interest of members in the organization, and to make them realize more fully how necessarily were they dependent upon it for protection and for economic welfare.

The demands were formulated as follows:

"We demand that the next contract be for a period of one year, commencing April 1, 1912, and ending March 31, 1913.

"We demand a workday of not more than eight hours for all inside and outside day labor, with no reduction of wages.

"We demand recognition of the United Mine Workers of Districts Nos. 1, 7, and 9, as a party to negotiate a wage contract and the right to produce a method for the collection of revenue for the organization.

"We demand a more convenient and uniform system of adjusting local grievances within a reasonable time limit.

"We demand an advance of 20 per cent on the rates of wages for all employes over and above the rates awarded in 1903.

"We demand a minimum rate of $3.50 a day for miners and $2.75 for laborers, for consideration work.

"We demand that the system whereby a contract miner has more than one working place or employs more than two laborers shall be abolished.

"We demand that the rights of the check-weighman and check-docking bosses shall be recognized, and that they shail not be interfered with in the proper performance of their work.

"We demand that all coal shall be mined and paid for by the ton of 2,240 pounds wherever practicable."

Classified, these demands meant fewer hours, more pay, better safeguards and protection of the miners' rights and interests, as well as an improved position for the union.

The nine years of the Anthracite Conciliation Board forms an interesting study. During its existence the board heard 200 cases: 150 in the period 1903-06; 23 in the second period, 1906-09; 29 in the third period, 1909-12. The method of procedure was, first, to present the grievance to the foreman in charge of the mine; if a satisfactory solution was not reached, the employe, or a committee of employes, could take the matter to the superintendent or manager of the mine; if the disposal of the griev ance was still unsatisfactory, it could then be presented in writing to a member of this board representing the district in which the mine was located. The party complained against must have an opportunity to defend. himself. Witnesses might be called, although red tape was eliminated as much as possible.

The 130,000 non-union workers gained by the award with no expense to themselves. It was originally believed that the grievances of the nonunion workers would be heard and their abuses remedied with the same

freedom as those of the union men. Results did not work out that way. Few or absolutely no grievances were presented by them, either because they felt that they had no friend at court, or, being foreigners, they did not understand the board or its workings. The unions tried to meet this difficulty by disseminating information among all the miners, union or nonunion, and, whenever possible, taking up their cause.

The union men felt that the board had been an advantage through eliminating strikes and securing more stable working conditions. Under the old method, the strike was the only way of gaining a hearing before the operators; later, they had an organized channel through which grievances could be thrashed out. On the other hand, they found the expense an objection; half of the salary of the secretary of the board was paid by them and half by the operators; the three labor representatives on the board were officials in the unions and were paid by the union men; wages of laborers appearing before the board as complainants or witnesses were paid from union funds. Only one man out of every four or five was a member of the United Mine Workers, yet all alike were benefited by the general awards of the board.

In the second place, the United Mine Workers charged delay in acting upon grievances. The records give force to this claim, one-fourth of all grievances received final attention within one month, while one-third required two months or more for settlement. Twenty-one cases hung fire for over a year, two of them spanning a period of over two years; and one ran for more than three years.

The union raised the question of the limited powers and scope of the board. It had not been possible to establish a uniform wage-scale, for the Anthracite Commission felt that conditions made it impracticable to attempt to untangle the rates paid for work under the varying conditions. Therefore, it merely required companies to file schedules as a basis for judging the merits of later grievances involving wages. Also, many matters were brought before the board which were not essentially grievances, but were either new bargains or re-adjustments of wage-scales to suit new working conditions. In considering all such questions the board held that its power did not extend to matters upon which the award did not touch.

In the fourth place, the union believed that the Conciliation Board militated against a strong bona fide labor organization in that district. Organizers could go to a colliery and act as a go-between for a union man having difficulty with his foreman, and thus protect him from retaliation. Disintegrating forces were in the field in the form of unskilled foreign workers and race antagonism. The apparent peace-making régime made the need of union membership less obvious.

These objections to the Conciliation Board were specified in the demands for recognition of the union, for a fixed method of collecting union dues, for the checking system, and for the annual renewal of agreements.

The effective, democratic system of the bituminous miners appealed to the anthracite leaders as more desirable than their own. As the bituminous veins are more uniform, a fairly equable scale has been worked out. In

every bituminous mine there is a pit committee to which complaints are first presented. This pit committee takes up the matter with the foreman; if his settlement is unsatisfactory the complaint is carried to the superintendent. The next recourse is to send for the representative of the district organization of the miners who negotiates with the superintendent, or a commissioner, who represents all the operators. Thus, grievances are taken up immediately by responsible men. This method has these advantages: quick bargaining, getting men into the union, distributing expense, and, through its stronger backing, enabling the officials to secure better wages and working conditions for the miners.

The crux of the situation is pointed out by Mr. Shelby M. Harrison, in the Survey of April 20, 1912: "Stated in extremes, the present suspension is a clash between, on the one hand, a régime predicated on a weak union and the decision of a tribunal, and, on the other, a régime founded on a strong union and collective bargaining."

Bituminous Agreement.

According to their democratic union custom, the bituminous miners inet in convention in Indianapolis, Ind., January 16, 1912, to decide upon the policies and demands to be set forth in the Joint Scale Conference. The miners determined to demand a 10 per cent increase on coal mined on the "mine-run" system, a seven-hour day, a half-holiday on Saturday, the wage-scale agreement to be effective for two years, 20 per cent advance in the pay for "dead work" and day labor in and around the mines.

On January 26, the Interstate Joint Wage Scale Conference began its sessions at Indianapolis. The Miners' Joint Conference Committee consisted of eight members from each of the four States, respectively, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Western Pennsylvania. Able and experienced men were chosen. Hitherto the Joint Conference had been an open meeting, attended by all operators who might wish to come and all the delegates of the United Mine Workers' Convention in session at the time. The reduction of members meant that business could be conducted in a more satisfactory and expeditious manner, though the passing of the old picturesque conference with its democratic atmosphere, where the rank and file of the miners might sit down with the operators, gave some occasion for a feeling of regret.

When President White read the demands of the miners, John H. Walker moved that they be adopted. To a man, the miners voted for them; solidly, the operators opposed. The miners considered the operators' formal demands but a parody on their own. After two joint sessions, they still were unable to agree upon even the most unimportant questions. At one period, for almost an hour and a half, a death-like silence fell upon the conference room. Neither side had anything to say, each waiting for the other to make a new offer.

On January 30, in order to expedite business, a sub-committee was chosen, two miners and two operators from each State, as follows:

For the miners: Francis Feehan, Van Bittner, Pennsylvania; John Moore, Thomas L. Lewis, Ohio; W. D. Van Horn, James Holden, Indiana; John H. Walker, Duncan McDonald, Illinois.

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