Sidebilder
PDF
ePub
[blocks in formation]

Small Investment Brings Returns in Reduction in Working Hours.

It will be observed that the return on the investment ranges from 264 per cent in the case of the lathers to a fraction over 2,777 per cent in the case of the bartenders. This striking difference is explained by the fact that the lathers have been thoroughly organized for many years and have received substantial increases in wages every one, two, or three years, but in the case of the bartenders their conditions have been so deplorable that only complete organization and aggressive action could bring them relief.

The accomplishment this year is a striking illustration of the benefits arising from organization, because in addition to the increase in wages they have been able to

Dues, 1912-13.

Wage Increase, 1912-13.

$9.00

$150 to $250

9.00

9 60

13.00

7 20

60 00

15260

78 00

6.00

68 00

12.00

120 00

52 to 57{

55 00 60 00

Dividend, 1912-13. 1666 2-3 to 2777 7.9% 577 7-9 to 8662-3% 572 34% 461 7-13% 833 1-3% 500% 1133 1-3% 1000%

9.00

78 00

13.00

34 32

866 2-3% 264%

[blocks in formation]

reduce the working time of their members from two to twelve hours. Many of their members have been working as many as seventy-two hours a week, but under the agreement signed by the majority of the hotel keepers no member of the union will work more than sixty hours a week and the increase in wages will range from $3 to $5 a week. Even the most pessimistic political economist will have to admit that the bartender will be in a much better position to meet the increased cost of living, for which he is unquestionably indebted to organized labor. The coal wagon drivers can also thank their union for getting them pay for all Saturday afternoons and public holidays, a concession they did not enjoy previous to this year. If they work Saturday afternoons or public holidays now they

will receive wages at the rate of time and a half, or for every dollar received in the past for overtime they will now receive a dollar and a half. If it could be estimated how much overtime they will be called upon to work during the year it would be seen that the return upon their investment would be much greater than the table shows. Increases in Wages.

The increase in wages to the members of the street railway employes' union alone will approximate $140,000 for each year of a three-year agreement. In this instance there is no fear that it will affect the cost of living because street-car tickets will be sold at the same price till the end of the company's agreement with the city. In giving the figures for the printing pressmen and printing press assistants only the international unions are mentioned. Their agreements with individual employers are more satisfactory than the agreement entered into with the Employing Printers' Association by the seceding or National Printing Pressmen and Printing Press Assistants' Unions.

Practical Benevolences.

If this article only dealt with wage increases and reduction of working hours a good case has been made out for the organized labor movement, but some of the other advantages offered by international unions are as follows:

Bricklayers and Stonemasons- Death benefits, six months' membership (local and international), $125; one year's membership, $300; five to ten years' membership, $350; ten years' membership, $450.

Street Railway Employes-Sick benefits of $3 a week for twelve weeks, with free doctor and medicine; death or disability benefit rising to $800 when eight years a member; superannuation allowance of $800 when a member has reached the age of 65 and has been a member for twenty years. This organization has also obtained legislation reducing the hours of the working day from twelve to ten, and compelling the company to place vestibules on the street cars to protect the motormen and conductors during the severe weather.

Plumbers and Steamfitters-Sick benefit of $5 a week for thirteen weeks; death benefit, $100; superannuation allowance of $300 when twenty years a member; $400

when twenty-five years a member, and $500 when thirty years a member.

[ocr errors]

Carpenters (Brotherhood) - Member's wife's funeral benefit, $50; permanent disability benefit, $400; death benefit, $200. Carpenters (Amalgamated) Unemployed benefit, tool insurance, accident benefit, trade privileges, sick benefit, superannuation benefit, contingent and benevolent fund, contingent and benevolent fund to help members when in distress, or to aid them to obtain compensation for injuries sustained while following their employment, when entitled under act of Parliament, and also for the recovery of wages; funeral benefit.

Cigarmakers-Sick benefit of $5 a week for thirteen weeks; out of work benefit, $3 a week; traveling loan benefit to $20 a week; death benefit of $250 when seven years a member, $350 when ten years a member, and $550 when fifteen years a member.

Plasterers' Laborers-Death benefit of $60 by assessment of 10 cents on each member. Patternmakers--Sick benefit of $4 a week for fifteen weeks; death benefit, $50 to $400; superannuation allowance, from $12 to $16 a month when twenty years a member; tool insurance.

Bartenders-Death benefit, $100; sick benefit, $4 for thirteen weeks. Medical attendance provided on payment of $1.50 a year.

Electrical Workers (outside men)-Sick benefit, $4 a week; death benefit, $100.

Printers-Old-age pension of $5 a week when twenty years a member and incapacitated or sixty years of age, or when ten years a member and seventy years of age, or when afflicted with disease which makes a member inadmissible to the Union Printers' Home at Colorado Springs; mortuary benefit of from $100 to $400; local sick benefit of $4 for fourteen weeks, and local death benefit; free admission to the Union Printers' Home when old or sick; supplementary instruction in the printing trade through the correspondence school on payment of small fee.

These extra advantages gained through labor organizations are in no way complete, but serve to inform the unorganized workers and many of the organized workers as to what is being accomplished by the collective action of the members of the different unions.

"Yo

A "HEN TOWN" WAKES UP.

By GERTRUDE BARNUM.

OU never find a 'hen town' any good for trade unions," said a discouraged business agent of a men's organization to an officer of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union, who in the beginning of 1911 had come to aid the striking women workers of a town in Michigan. "Eleven union men in this town are white-livered, six-dollar-per-week suckers who thank God and the Boss for a job and enough insurance to pay for a bargain burial lot! It's the worst burg for organization I ever struck!"

Yet a few months later, when the same business agent "struck" the same "hen town," he rubbed his eyes and questioned his senses as he handled a stack of membership applications for his own trade union. "What's the reason?" he asked.

"Hen-town" was in a flutter. The malebirds were wildly flapping their wings and crowing vociferously. The "hens" had not only waked up the "cocks" of that town; they had waked up a regular chanticleer chorus among the labor cocks of the entire State of Michigan.

Woman's power in a true democracy is as yet an unknown quantity. What part is she to play, politically and industrially? This is perhaps the most important question of our day. And this question it is, which gives significance to such little incidents as the strike of the women workers of the town to which I have referred.

The company against which the women struck is a stock company, employing mainly pretty, young country girls. Starting with practically nothing, it has reaped a fortune in a generation. It has carried on a business not only profitable but also pleasurable for the men managers, superintendents and foremen. The girls have been industrial bargains and social bargains as well, being in the main unsophisticated, and vulnerable by reason of their youth, their distance from home influences, the inadequacy of their wages, and the "liberal" social traditions of the ill-famed town. There has been an ugly undercurrent

beneath the surface of the company's business and social prosperity, but stockholders did not trouble themselves about that. Beautiful and popular young "models" might pass from the automobile of the junior members of the firm and disappear entirely out of notice by way of the hospital after a few more or less successful surgical operations. History repeats itself. Thus it was that passing favorites of the eastern harem disappeared beneath the waves of the Danube whose whisperings were soon forgotten. Where are the flowers of yesterday? Who stops to ask while other flowers bloom today, fresh and fragrant?

Into this pleasant Michigan garden of profits and pleasure there stepped one day a "disturber of the peace," an "agitator," a gardener who discovered and exposed the worm in the bud, and tore things up by the roots. They landed her in jail, but not before she had made changes in that garden of Eden and given a warning which will be passed on by Eve's daughters there from generation to generation.

It is a thrilling story what women of a "hen town" can do. So thrilling that one despairs of putting it in terms of everyday life. However, it may be suggested to some extent.

Remember that as the great majority of employes of the company are girls and women, labor has been cheap and "manageable." (The old-fashioned idea of "womanly woman" is one always cheap and manageable.) According to the company's figures, the average wage among the 900 employes has been $7.61 per week. In other words, considering the present cost of living, the company has admitted by this figure that at least one-half of the workers received less than a living wage. But the company's figures do not reveal the whole unvarnished truth.

The workers themselves tell a different story, calling attention to various manipulations and twists in the company's figures, which take no account of charges of from $1.25 to $2.25 or more per week for thread

and needles, nor of slack time, favoritisms, etc., etc., etc. The true average, they show, has been less than $5 per week, and a criminally large number of young girls living alone in a strange city receive $3 and under. Many a week-end, because of slack work or discrimination, their pay envelopes contained but $1.45, $2.05, or thereabouts. The most sinister significance lurks in the recent reluctant agreement of the firm to guarantee two weeks' board and lodging to girls coming from the country in response to luring advertisements, and to further guarantee a minimum wage of $5 per week, after three months. One of the questions which partially accounted for the jailing of the "woman agitator" who came to "disturb the peace," was "what becomes of the girl after the two weeks' paid-up board and until the three months has elapsed before the minimum wage of $5 is due? Who furnishes board and lodging to this pretty stranger during the two and a half months when, even according to the company, she can not earn $5 per week?

A very apple-blossom of a maid from an Indiana town, answered this question in this wise: "Oh I don't worry. Mr. Q. has promised to fix things up for me; he'll forget the thread charge, for one thingMr. Q. is a superintendent whose favorit. isms are ardent but shortlived.) A pale, young Michigan girl, with care-lined face, answered the question with less confidence, a despairing shrug of the shoulders expressing her plight; while a dashing brunette from "up State" had apparently found a temporary solution, for she only laughed noisily under her willow plumes, as she left her cheap hotel to promenade the electric lighted streets with a new found "blondined" friend. To quote the firm, "Oh, they manage-one way or another.'

Reductions in wages in this factory are not called reductions. Instead, from time to time there come "changes in style," which almost invariably amount to "cuts." One year, for example, the products were suddenly made twice as long as those of the previous style, and although they required twice as much work and there was twice as much thread to pay for, the piece price per dozen articles remained the same as before. To employes this looked strangely like a reduction in wages of more than 50 per cent.

A raise in wages, on the other hand, was

not necessarily dependent upon skill or industry. The proper trick, known to the sophisticated, was to bribe or flatter the "examiner," to grant favors to men, foremen, and superintendents, or to "stand in" with a forelady by supplying her delectable bits of damaging gossip about her rival for the manager's attentions.

Besides the pecuniary reasons for making one's self agreeable to the "powers that be," there grew up in this workshop a distinct. social code and ambition, similar to that of the social climber's ambition to "get in with the four hundred."

The midnight dream of the youthful worker was to reach the tip-top rung of the factory's social ladder, where honors were dispensed by no less a personage than the junior partner of the firm, a gay Lothario with a jaded and fickle appetite for affairs of the heart. This young over-lord was the "matinee idol," and fair "models," selected in turns by him for "joy rides" to neighboring week-end resorts, were the envied of romantic maids and merry widows.

There are some little girls in the factory too young for such dreams and ambitions, though, in the opinion of the company, not too young to work long hours per day. Many of these child laborers, twelve, thirteen, fourteen years of age, were obligingly furnished by the superintendent of public schools, who waived some of the formalities of the State law regarding requirements of certificates of birth, parents' inability to furnish support and other legislative items carefully compiled and inserted by some "crank" or other to guard little girls from premature exploitation.

The town Fathers, generally speaking, seemed glad to encourage industry at any such trifling cost to humanity. In the matter of sanitation and morality for example, the city Fathers did not care to insist upon the strict letter of the law. All the best physicians in the city could testify to the alarming prevalence of venereal diseases among salaried as well as wage-earning employes; but apparently the Board of Health was reluctant to shock the community by an exposure. Moreover, there were other evils which the Board of Health must have overlooked entirely, such as the supply of an average of two hand towels daily in common for each 250 men and women workers. Surely it the Board of

Health had kept itself posted as to both the diseases and the scarcity of the towels common to men and women, even consideration for industrial prosperity could hardly have prevented interference from these public guardians.

Bearing in mind the sex and youth of the vast majority of the 900 workers, and also their social distractions, it seems remarkable that a trade union could gain any strength in these weak aud flighty ranks. But a trade union did actually struggle up at length, and, in spite of the blight of apathy, the weeds of corruption, and the canker of immorality it gained a membership over six hundred in 1911-12. This was the result of the Herculean efforts of officers and agents of the organization who worked and preached, day and night, for years to arouse among their companions a spirit of protest and courage to stand together for a chance of better living. These officers and agents were doomed to martyrdom from the moment their efforts began to meet with success. But it was due to the heroic stand of this self-sacrificing band of women, and the remarkable leadership of the woman representative of the international union, that, later, practically all the workers in the town, male and female, awoke to the need of organization for selfhelp. Almost from the first the union of these women workers had great inspiration and aid from the international organizer, the young woman denounced by employers as an "outside agitator" and, later, thrown into jail for her efforts to lift the economic and moral status of her working sisters. The first blow fell upon the officers of the union when this organizer presented for the consideration of the President of the company a "trade agreement" drawn up by the union and calling for an increase in wages. The proposed agreement was refused by the firm and a few days later eight "ring leaders" of the union were discharged for continually plotting against the interests of the company." The union asked for the reinstatement of their fellow members, and this being denied they voted to strike. On the day of the strike nearly 200 who had voted for it became timid or treacherous and refused to keep their union pledge. Many of these traitors were promptly rewarded for their "loyalty" by the superin

ts with promotion to better paying

places left vacant by their former friends and relations who had acted especially in behalf of the lowest paid workers. Such "loyalty" is singularly like that of Benedict Arnold.

Now, it was indeed a serious situation for the union, as those on strike were less than the majority of the entire working force, nevertheless the strikers courageously prepared to carry the struggle on to the end, and to try to coax out other workers by earnest persuasion. To this end they began to picket the factory. Within a fortnight another blow fell, in the form of an injunction issued by a circuit court judge— a blanket injunction restraining anybody and everybody from in any way striving to influence employes or possible employes to quit the employ of or refuse to take em ployment with the company. The court, as well as the Board of Health and superintendent of schools and all other guardians of public interest, seemed more concerned for property than for human interests. So sweeping was the injunction that by its terms a mother might be arrested for warning her daughter against the moral and sanitary conditions of the plant. No worse infringement of the constitutional rights of free speech has ever been known in this "home of the brave," yet the union obeyed the injunction absolutely for seven long weeks. During this disheartening period the strikers suffered and waited peaceably in their meeting hall hoping for a relenting of the company for whom many of the frail, elderly women had devoted a life-time to skillful work, the profits on their labor being enjoyed by idle stockholders and their worthless relatives on the salary lists. The only offense of these worn and poverty stricken women was their stand for a living wage, yet they found themselves under ban of law and with no support from press, pulpit, philanthropists or club women. The only form of appeal permitted them was prayer, and this seemed of no avail. Daily they knelt at vesper time and petitioned heaven to reward their peaceful and patient efforts to better the cause not only of themselves but of all who labor and are heavy laden.

"Oh God, our Father," they prayed, "You who are generous, who said 'Ask and ye shall receive,' we, your children, humbly beseech you to grant that we may receive enough wages to clothe and feed our bodies, and just a little leisure, O Lord, to give our souls a chance to grow.

« ForrigeFortsett »