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rule and untidiness and insanitary conditions are everywhere evident. In general, it may be said of all the negro tenants that extreme carelessness marks their houses and grounds, due not only to their own lack of care, but also to the lack of any attempt on the the companies to keep the houses in good repair.
In none of the mining communities were there furnished other than dry closets which were usually in an insanitary condition. For each house there was a closet, without much regard for drainage or distance from dwellings.
In addition to the 4 and 5 room houses, and to the 2-room cabins occupied by negroes, there occur occasionally 3-room cabins as well as 6 to 9 room 2-story dwellings. The former are occupied by negroes as well as native whites, and the latter are used by immigrant boarding groups. As in the cases already noted, these houses are also frame, painted or whitewashed, although kept in a rather untidy condition. In the case of all of the houses occupied by miners no weatherboarding is used; all of them are boarded and stripped. None of the company quarters give the impression of comfort, although this unfavorable view is enhanced by the smoke and dirt from the mines and tipples. The soil is generally very poor and the smoke and dust, as well, should be taken into consideration with the lack of cultivated gardens or of improved grounds. No attempt at welfare work in beautifying grounds, or in fact in any direction, has been made in any instance. As a general rule, however, the houses in this district are better than those in the coal regions of Pennsylvania. There is less congestion, more space is given between the houses, and they are kept in better repair. The 3 and 4 story tenement in the mining communities in this district is never found, and hence the opportunity for the grouping of a large number of families is made impossible, and sanitary conditions are rendered greatly superior to those existing in Pennsylvania.
The average rents of the houses in the mining districts are as follows:
The rents, of course, vary according to the company owning the house.
While there are only two large communities in the district in which immigrant miners form any considerable portion of the population, it is important to note that in these, as well as in those where native whites and negroes live, the tendency toward racial segregation is quite evident. The most distinct segregation in all instances is the almost absolute separation of negroes from other races. This is more clearly evident in company quarters than it is in the sections of cities and towns occupied by workingmen.
In general it may be stated that the type of company house varies more with the company than with the race of the tenant, with two exceptions: (1) The housing conditions of the Italians, Greeks, and Macedonians are better than those of negroes; (2) in most instances
the English, Irish, Scotch, and Welsh live in better houses than does any other race except the native white.
In every mining community, with the exception of a few immediately adjacent to towns, the company store or commissary is found. These are owned by the companies outright and operated directly by company employees. The method of conducting these stores is based upon a credit system whereby the laborer is given dollar sets of coupons in five and ten cent denominations, or else his time book is kept in the store and the laborer is allowed an amount of purchases equal to the time worked. A careful investigation of prices in several of these commissaries, as compared with the market prices in the workingmen's districts in Birmingham, reveals very slight differences. It was stated by a number of employers, however, that the companies operated their commissaries with the expectation of making about a 20 per cent profit, and it was further stated that negroes were considered cheaper laborers because they showed a decided tendency to spend all they made in purchases at the company stores. The stores themselves are operated in a cleanly manner, are well stocked, and are lenient, as many instances showed, in the matter of credits. In no case was it discovered that the companies impose any obligation upon the employees to patronize the companies' stores to the exclusion of others. As a matter of fact, other stores are accessible enough in the Birmingham district to have a considerable patronage among the miners of outlying communities, and such seems to be the case. On the other hand, when it is realized that the companies have only one pay day a month on which they settle with their employees in currency, issuing scrip or store orders in the interim, good only at their own stores or at that of the individual with whom an agreement exists, it is apparent that the patronage of the employees is more or less compulsory. This is but a natural conclusion when it is realized that the mine worker, as a rule, purchases the necessities of life from day to day.
Instances are rare where the operatives do not receive benefits from the companies in one form or another in addition to their wages. These benefits are usually in the form of churches, schools, and lodge rooms. Each company has its own method of dealing with this situation, some giving more liberally than others. By way of illustration, one company donates a certain sum each year toward the maintenance of churches and schools; another provides the land upon which these buildings may be erected; others erect and maintain buildings free of cost for the above-mentioned purposes. By some companies every employee is assessed a fixed sum each month to be added to the county school fund, thereby making it possible to have a nine instead of a six months' school term. These assessments range from 35 cents for each employee, in some of the mines, to 50 cents and $1 in others, the head of a family paying the larger assessment. In addition most of the companies furnish hospital and medical service at a very small cost to the employee. One company furnishes such service in most cases free to its employees. The usual rate of assessment for medical attention for a single man is from 50 to 75 cents per month and $1 per month for a family.
Another benefit received by the operative in most companies is the payment of a certain amount in case of accidents, the amount paid. being based upon the wage received by the employees. In some instances a monthly payment is required of each employee; in others no charge is made, the company in both cases protecting itself from loss by carrying insurance on its employees in some employer's liability company.
With one or two exceptions, there has been very little friction among the races employed. In one instance, where Italians and negroes were employed, and not segregated at work, the feeling became so strong that the Italians were compelled to leave the mine. Had it been possible to separate these races, the employer is of the opinion that the Italians would have proven satisfactory. Any effort on his part, however, to retain the Italians would have resulted in the loss of his trained negro miners, a loss that would have seriously crippled operations at the time. Dissension occasionally arises among the southern European immigrants. In one instance it became necessary to employ interpreters to manage them.
In general the segregation of races at work which shows most clearly in the majority of the mines is that of the native white from the negro. This is very pronounced, even so far as to put the two races not only in separate rooms but in different parts of the mine, except where contract labor is employed. This separation of the negro element is confined largely to the natives, as in only a very few cases are any of the immigrant races separated from the negro.
WORKING CONDITIONS IN WEST VIRGINIA COAL FIELDS.
Because of the nonunion or "open-shop" regulations under which most of the mines of West Virginia are operated, the ten-hour day prevails in a vast majority of cases. Of 613 mines of West Virginia reporting to the United States Geological Survey as to men employed and hours worked in 1908, 403 mines employing 39,550 men worked ten hours per day; 180 employing 14,426 men worked nine hours; and 30 employing 1,242 men eight hours per day."
Many of the mines in the Kanawha field of the New and Kanawha rivers district are operated under agreements with labor organizations, and in these mines the hours per day are never more than nine. This is the only section of the State where any number of mines worthy of consideration are operated under union agreements. Within the past few years many vigorous attempts have been made to organize the coal mines of West Virginia, but in a majority of cases these attempts have been unsuccessful.
There is considerable difference in the number of hours worked per day or week in the same mines by men engaged in the different occupations. Pick miners, machine runners, scrapers, and coke drawers may not work the full ten, nine, or eight hours, as the case may be, as their work is on a piece basis and they may stop work at their own discretion. In most cases, however, they enter the mines simultaneously with the company men and quit at about the same time. Such employees as loaders (when employed by the
a Production of Coal in 1908. E. W. Parker, United States Geological Survey, Mineral Resources of the United States.
day), road men, drivers, and most others who are paid a stipulated price per day, work ten hours in practically all nonunion mines, and eight and nine in the mines where organized labor is employed. Engineers, firemen, and pumpers often work seven days per week, and eleven or twelve hours per shift. Hours are usually irregular with coke drawers. They are assigned to a certain number of ovens per day and the time required depends on the individual ability of the laborer. Other outside men, such as laborers and chargers, work the regulation hours adopted by the company employing them. Under normal conditions a great many of the employees, with the exception of coke drawers and outside laborers, work two shifts or
At a majority of the mines of the West Virginia fields the employees are paid once a month. At the mines where agreements with the union are in force they are paid twice a month, and outside of the union districts there are individual companies which pay twice a month. The payments are ostensibly in cash, but as a matter of fact the employee receives only a part of his wages in cash because various deductions are usually made from his gross earnings. These deductions cover as a rule a large variety of items, prominent among them being the store account, medical fees, and rent and smithing. In addition to these more or less fixed charges the miners have to bear the cost of powder, which usually amounts to a considerable item in the course of a month.
Every mining company has a company store, and if one company operates several mines, even in the same locality, there is usually a store for each locality, or at least there is one for each village. These stores are always situated so as to be convenient to employees. They carry a varied and well-assorted stock of general merchandise. The prices of provisions vary at the different stores, and in some isolated communities are excessive. In many localities there are independent stores in near-by towns, and in stores so located they usually meet the prices of their competitors on all articles. Many of the companies are large, and by buying in large quantities are able to underbuy their independent competitors, and can therefore offer a better quality of goods at the same or lower prices. The stocks carried by the company stores are in many instances larger, more varied, and of better quality than those carried by independent dealers having the same class of trade.
It is very convenient to trade at the company stores. In most instances the companies own large tracts of land and keep out competitors very largely. If the operation is near a small town, the company store is located more conveniently to the residents of the mining village than the independent one. Another convenience furnished to the employee by the company is trading scrip, which is good only at the company stores. This scrip is issued between pay days to cover the whole or part of the working time which the employee may have to his credit. It is issued by the company pay-roll clerk in $1, $2, $3, $5, $8, and $10 denominations, and whenever a purchase is made the amount is usually punched out of the scrip. When the scrip is issued the pay-roll clerk charges the amount against the employee's time. In some cases employees have store books, and when goods are purchased a ticket representing the amount of the 48296°-VOL 7-11-14
purchase is given the pay-roll clerk by the store clerk, and this is charged against the employee. The name of the article purchased and its cost are entered on the purchaser's store book, which is kept by him. The system most in use in West Virginia is the one where scrip is issued.
This scrip is always worth its face value in trade at the company store, and it is the only form of payment made between pay days. In some cases individuals, saloons, and independent storekeepers buy the scrip at from 65 to 85 per cent of its face value and use it in buying provisions from the company store. In some cases small independent storekeepers get a large portion of their goods by buying scrip at from 65 to 75 per cent of its face value from thriftless employees and using it in the purchase of goods at the company store. Because of the fact that in a great many cases small dealers were thus buying goods which they used in establishing competition with them, many companies have ruled that the scrip shall not be transferable. In a majority of communities the selling of scrip is not allowed, but the method outlined is still practiced in some focalities.
The Americans, both white and colored, usually spend a greater percentage of their earnings at the company store than do the recent or southern and eastern European immigrants. This is especially true with regard to the negro, who usually can draw but a small percentage of his earnings in cash each pay day.
The following statement shows the average earnings and the average deductions for provisions at the company store of 58 pick miners of the five most prominent races employed by one company in southern West Virginia. Thirty-five of the 58 men worked twenty-six days, or full time, and the others worked almost every day in the month.
The store at which the purchases indicated in the table were made is located near independent stores, and the lowness of the expenditures made by all immigrant races is accounted for in part by the fact that they draw most of their earnings in cash and trade at these independent stores. Another fact which makes the accounts of the American whites and negroes higher than those of other races is that practically all of the men have families, while in the case of the Italians only one family is represented, and but six of the men included in the group of Magyars and Slovaks have families. The differences in the case of the Italians and Magyars and Slovaks is explained by the fact that all the Italians live together under the boarding-boss system, and each man buys his own food. The other two races board at a stipulated price per month for board, lodging, and washing. The Italians here buy about one-half of their provisions from the company store, while the other immigrant races buy only in very small quan