Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

The miners' union officials and committee then called a convention for May 14, at Wilkesbarre, Pa., in which about 400 delegates of the miners participated.

In the meantime, and following the rejection of the agreement, there ensued a period of unrest among the miners. An ugly feeling developed among them, as reflection showed that though the union demands had been formulated long before the expiration of the contract, negotiations had been conducted by the operators with "extreme leisureness," apparently, that the operators might profitably sell their accumulated surplus of coal; that the miners' strike funds were very low; that the operators seemed inclined to drive a very hard bargain, granting 10 per cent increase, but taking away half of it by eliminating the sliding scale, and refusing to grant the privileges asked by the unions. The so-called "radical" element got in temporary control, and though the representatives of the United Mine Workers everywhere worked for and counseled peace, a mischievous element was undermining their efforts, as the Washington Star, May 10, said editorially:

"Wherever trouble arises between labor and capital, representatives of this body (Industrial Workers of the World) appear and foment disorder. . . . Throughout the anthracite mining district, especially at Minersville, where a man was killed the other day in a fight between a mob and the State constabulary, agitators are hard at work trying to induce the miners to reject the strike-settling agreement at the Wilkesbarre convention next Tuesday. It will be remembered that in the course of special correspondence to The Star from Scranton a few weeks ago mention was made of the fact that agents of the Industrial Workers of the World were then active throughout the anthracite region distributing circulars and evidently trying to wean the miners away from their allegiance to the existing organization, the United Mine Workers."

Groups and crowds formed, first, as a demonstration to keep men away from the collieries; then collisions followed. The police and constabulary engendered more bitter feeling, resulting in exchange of shots and bloodshed. The crowds were made up of men, women and children-foreigners, forming their first estimates of American justice, civil, industrial and social. Feeling the whole game was against them, unlearned in the lessons of selfcontrol, spurred on by evil counsel, they gave vent to their uncontrolled emotions. Everywhere the officials of the United Mine Workers addressed crowds, urging peace, constituting the one persuasive educational force at work to turn the misguided from violence and give them their first lessons in the self-control necessary for true, permanent unionism and good citizenship. And yet, it was this force the operators wished to curb, to refuse to recognize, lest a strong union should militate against peace! By refusing to co-operate with the constructive force of trade unionism, they were opening up another avenue of attack and opportunity to so-called "radical" and destructive elements.

As already stated, the Wilkesbarre convention met May 14. The fact that the inexperienced element was in control gave reason for apprehensions. A conception of the personnel may best be gained from the fact that it was found necessary to present amendments in five languages,

English, Slavic, Italian, Polish, and Lithuanian. The temper of the convention was indicated by shouts of "Down with the agreement!" which came from the so called "radicals."

President White arose from his sick bed to attend the convention. Plainly and forcefully did he present the alternatives to the delegates-acceptance of the agreement or a strike. He gave statistics showing that from a membership of 70,000 in 1902, the tri-district organization had fallen to a membership of 29,223, and as compared with a strike fund of $1,027,120.29 in 1902, the organization had now $107,216. When he had forced home these plain, unvarnished truths, he stated that the agreement was not ideal, but it was the best obtainable. The real cause of the inability to obtain more was the past failure of the miners to stand true to the union.

Frank J. Hayes, the International Vice-President, pleaded with the men to stand by their officials; that failure to ratify the agreement meant the repudiation of their officials. Thomas L. Lewis endorsed President White and his administration, and counseled the ratification of the agree ment. This was apparently a bomb-shell in the camp of the so-called “radical” element. William Green said: "I can see men on a strike go hungry and not be touched, but when flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone come to me hungry and I am forced to tuck them into their beds without food, then I am touched and realize that to fight without the means of warfare is to fight a hopeless cause."

On May 18 the anthracite mine workers' convention ratified the agreement by a vote of 323 to 64. When the result was announced President White was given a rousing ovation when he took the floor. The delegates, to a man, stood several minutes shouting themselves hoarse in their ecstacy of enthusiasm.

It was unanimously ordered that the colliery hands and repairmen return to work the following Monday morning to get the mines in readiness for the resumption of coal production on Wednesday, when every man should report for duty.

Representatives of the anthracite mine workers and operators met at the headquarters of the Reading Company at Philadelphia, May 20, and signed the agreement ratified by the Wilkesbarre convention.

There was great joy in the anthracite fields as the men and boys went back to work. They had faced an awesome crisis; black fear had clutched at their hearts, as danger and starvation confronted them. Now, they had work, had held their own, and had won higher wages and four years of peace.

But, if the anthracite miners have understood their lessons, they will not let those four years slip by without ceaseless agitation for organization and unification, and for all the methods by which the heterogeneous foreign elements may be amalgamated into a homogeneous group of American trade unionists of American citizens, representing American standards of character, living, independence, and higher ideals.

The representatives of the anthracite operators, at a special meeting May 28, named as members of the Conciliation Board provided for by the

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

agreement: S. D. Warriner, Vice-President of the Lehigh Valley Coal Company; N. J. Richards, Vice-President of the Philadelphia and Reading Coal Company, and W. L. Connell, an independent operator.

And thus ends another and a most important chapter in the struggle of the miners of America to come into a larger share of the product of their labor, to approach a nearer realization of their rights as men and as citizens, and to take their places in the vanguard of the struggle of Labor for that brighter and better day which is but the day after this and the day after that, and every day which follows. In the inception of this miners' movement and in the execution of its every detail, there were brought into play the intelligence, strength, experience, and strategy which trade. unions and trade unionism develop, not only in their officers and leaders, but also in the great rank and file.

"Attacked and denounced as scarcely any other institution ever has been, the unions have thriven and grown in the face of opposition. This healthy vitality has been due to the fact that they were a genuine product of social needs-indispensable as a protest and a struggle against the abuses of industrial government, and inevitable as a consequence of that consciousness of strength inspired by the concentration of numbers under the new conditions of industry. They have been, as is now admitted by almost all candid minds, instruments of progress. Not to speak of the material advantages they have gained for workingmen, they have developed powerful sympathies among them, and taught them the lesson of self-sacrifice in the interest of their brethren, and, still more, of their successors. They have infused a new spirit of independence and self-respect. They have brought some of the best men to the front, and given them the ascendency due to their personal qualities and desirable in the interests of society."John K. Ingram, LL. D.

"Organization, co-ordination, co-operation, are the right of every body of men whose aims are worthy and equitable; and must needs be the resource of those who, individually, are unable to persuade their fellowmen to recognize the justice of their claims and principles. If employed within lawful and peaceful limits, it may rightly hope to be a means of educating society in a spirit of fairness and practical brotherhood.”— Bishop Potter.

RAILROAD STRIKES SINCE 1877.*

A TRIUMPHANT RECORD OF TRADE UNIONS.

By ARTHUR E. HOLDER.

PART II.

[Continued from last issue.]

Strike of Railway Employes on the Gould Systems,

1885 and 1886.

The first strike recorded for the year 1885 on the Gould system of railroads was by the employes of the Wabash Railroad shop at Moberly, Mo., against a reduction of wages. The strike commenced February 27, 1885; it lasted seventeen days, terminating successfully for the men March 16, 1885. Four hundred and fifty men were employed before the strike; 444 men were employed after the strike; 444 men were involved in the strike; $1.50 per day was the average wage of the employes before the strike; $1.50 per day was the average wage for the employes after the strike.

Forty hours per week were the working hours (because a slight depression in business existed at that time); $10,125 is estimated to be the employes' loss of wages; $1,250 was contributed towards their assistance; $60,000 is estimated as the loss of the railroad company.

The second strike among the railroad employes on the Gould system of railroads was for an increase of wages. It commenced in St. Louis, Mo., on March 9, 1885; it lasted eight days, terminating successfully for the employes on March 17, 1885; 16,000 men were employed before the strike; 3,900 men were involved in the strike. No new employes were engaged after the strike. The average pay for all employes before the strike was $1.67 per day. The average wage for all the employes after the strike was $2 per day. The average pay for the striking employes before the strike was

$1.75 per day. The average pay for the striking employes after the strike was $2.10 per day; sixty hours per week were the working hours. It is estimated that the employes lost $50,000 in time and the railroad company suffered an estimated loss of $125,000.

The third strike on the system occurred among the switchmen and yardmen of Kansas City, Mo., and was simultaneous with the second strike above recorded. This strike was against reduction of wages, and was called on March 9, 1885. It terminated successfully for the men March 17, 1885. Three hundred and forty-five men were employed before the strike; 136 men were involved in the strike; 345 men were employed after the strike, no new employes being engaged; $2.40 per day was the average wage for all employes before the strike; $2.43 per day was the average wage for all employes after the strike; $1.74 per day was the average wage of the striking employes before the strike; $1.83 per day was the average wage for the striking employes after the strike. This result shows that the switchmen and yardmen were not only successful in preventing a reduction of wages, but by acting simultaneously with the other employes they actually secured an average increase for the striking switchmen and yardmen of 9 cents per day, and for all the employes in that department an average increase of 3 cents per day. Time worked was seventy hours per week. It is estimated that the switchmen and yardmen suffered a loss of $6,619 in time,

*The first part of this article appeared in the June, 1912, issue of the AMERICAN FEDERATIONIST. The introductory enumerated under several heads the great accomplishments of the workers through organization-one of the most important being that under the seventh head; namely, "The Maintenance of Industrial Peace Through Collective Bargaining." This will be verified in later articles which will show that the organization of labor upon railroads has successfully made headway and secured innumerable advantages for the workers without the necessity of resorting to strikes. Industrial peace has been maintained and successful progress has been made by means of direct negotiation between accredited representatives of railroad interests and authorized representatives of the workers in their several organizations.-Ed.

and the railroad company included their loss in the former item of the general strike of $125,000.

The fourth strike on the system took place again among the machine shop employes on the Wabash Railroad at Moberly, Mo., and was called against "violation of agreement." This strike was the only one of the four that is credited in the statistical report of the United States Commissioner of Labor as being "ordered by a labor organization," although this must be construed as a technical expression. It took place March 25, 1885; it lasted three days and terminated successfully for the strikers March 28, 1885. Four hundred and forty-four men were employed before the strike; 444 men were involved in the strike; 444 men were employed after the strike; $1.50 per day was the average wage for all striking employes before the strike; $1.50 was the average daily wage for the striking employes after the strike. Time worked per week was forty hours.

The following is the comment by Commissioner of Labor, Carroll D. Wright, on the railroad strike of March, 1885:

"In the spring of 1885 the shopmen on the Missouri Pac fic Railway in Missouri, Kansas, and Texas became greatly dissatisfied with the wages they were receiving, and on or about March 9, 1885, nearly 4,000 men struck for a restoration of the wages that had been paid up to September 1, 1884, and since which date several reductions amounting in the aggregate from 10 to 15 per cent had been made. The strike was inaugurated at Sedalia, Missouri, March 7, 1885, and by March 9 it became general all over the system, and during its continuance freight traffic was virtually suspended."

The strike was terminated at 10 p. m. March 16, 1885, and work was generally resumed on the next day, March 17, the company agreeing "to restore to its working employes .

the same wages paid them in September, 1884, including one and one-half price for extra time worked, and to restore all said striking employes to their several employments without prejudice to them on account of said strike." The company also agreed that "hereafter said rates will not be changed except after thirty days' notice thereof."

It is generally conceded that in this strike the employes had justice and right on their side, for the reductions of wages complained of were made at times when there was no corresponding decrease in the business or

earnings of the company, and as a consequence of this state of affairs the strikers generally had the sympathy and moral support of the public.

Subsequent to this strike there was a gradual reduction of the force of shopmen on the Wabash, St. Louis and Pacific Railroad (part of the Gould system), which was then in the hands of a receiver. The force of employes in the shops was reduced to the lowest possible limit, resulting, in the shops at Moberly, Mo., Springfield and Decatur, Ill., Fort Wayne, Peru and Andrews, Ind., in what is known as a "lockout." This state of affairs continued from about the middle of June until August 18, 1885, on which date those employes who were Knights of Labor in the employ of the Wabash system, were "ordered" by the general secretary of the Executive Board of that organization, "to quit work and remain out until further orders." This action was taken by the Knights of Labor under the belief that the prior reductions in force had been directly aimed at that organization. The following letter was issued by the National Executive Board of the Knights of Labor, introducing the boycott feature at the office of the G. S. T.:

"ST. LOUIS, August 18, 1885. "To Whom it May Concern-Greeting:

"Owing to the persistent fight of the Wabash Company against the Knights of Labor, the General Executive Board deem it advisable to issue the following order to all assemblies:

"All Knights of Labor in the employ of the Union Pacific and its branches, Gould's Southwestern system, or any other railroad, must refuse to repair or handle in any manner Wabash rolling stock until further orders from the General Executive Board, and if this order is antagonized by the companies through any of their officials, your Executive Committee is hereby ordered to call out all Knights of Labor in the above systems, without any further action.

"By order of the General Executive Board:
(Signed) FREDERICK TURNER,

[blocks in formation]
« ForrigeFortsett »