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Some difference is noted in the racial make-up of mines in the union and nonunion districts of the State. Many small mines throughout all the district included in this report employ only native white labor, and many others have only native whites and negroes. There are, however, no large mines or companies without a rather large complement of either negroes or immigrants, and in a majority of cases, especially in the southern field, of both.
The proportion of native white employees is much higher in the union districts even with large establishments than in the nonunion. The following table gives the racial make-up of two companies in the same county in one of the southern fields, employing about the same number of men. One of these companies operates under agreement with the miners' union and has a nine-hour day. The other employs nonunion men exclusively and has a ten-hour day.
TABLE 514.-Racial distribution of employees in a union and in a nonunion mine.
a "Other races" include Lithuanian, Slovak, and Roumanian.
It will be noticed that the percentage of American white miners is much less in the nonunion than in the union mines. Prior to the strike of 1902 very few negroes, and no immigrants other than a few English, were employed in the mines that are now nonunion. The Italians and negroes employed at the mines included in this table are principally in rough labor positions and loading coal after the machines, occupations that American whites will not enter generally.
In 1908 wages for all classes of positions were from 8 to 20 per cent higher in the union mines included in the above table than in the nonunion ones, and other conditions of employment, including hours and the absence of the company deputy, were better. These facts are directly responsible for the greater number of American whites employed at these mines.
WORKING CONDITIONS IN VIRGINIA COAL FIELDS.
The general conditions of employment in the Virginia coal fields. are practically the same as those obtaining in West Virginia, with the exception of some changes in working conditions arising from the more recent developments in Virginia. The question of an adequate supply of labor has always been an important one in the Big Stone Gap field, and more or less competition on the part of operators has existed at all times. Immigrants have been employed practically from the beginning, and operators have gone to considerable expense through advertising and other channels to get them established. Considerable vigilance has been exercised on the part of employers to keep the miners and other employees from organizing. At one time, when an attempt was made to organize, guards were maintained at some of the plants to keep labor organizers out, and great care was exercised in examining all who sought to gain access to the properties of the coal companies. At present, deputies or marshals are kept at some of the larger plants, whose duty it is to preserve order and to inspect or inquire into the nature of any trespasser's or visitor's business.
The hours of work per day in practically all mines in this field are ten for company shift men or, in other words, men who receive a certain wage per day for their work. The miners and coke drawers, and, in some instances, coke forkers, are paid on a piece basis, and there are no regulations as to the number of hours they work, except that all work is required to be between certain hours. Under normal conditions, the mines run six days per week, but in 1908, owing to the financial depression, many operators did not average more than half time, and some even less. In every establishment in the field short time was worked from October, 1907, to June, 1908. Some establishments were entirely closed for several months at a time, and others operated throughout the period, but on short time of from two to six days per week, with an average of probably three or three and one-half. In practically all cases the labor force was substantially reduced, and the population was constantly shifting. The recent immigrants left the field in considerable numbers, especially the single men and those not accompanied by their families. A great many returned abroad. Those who remained moved about the field in search of plants offering the most regular work.
There is no uniform wage scale for this region, and the prices paid for the different classes of labor vary. In 1906 and 1907 there was great demand for labor in all lines of work in and about the mines, and a great deal of competition existed. Wages were constantly being raised in order to induce men to enter the employment of the different companies, and this condition kept the laborers in a state of unrest and tended to make employees migratory, especially those not accompanied by families. It had the further effect, a great many employers claim, of making the more shiftless element of the native whites and the negroes more irregular, for the reason that the wages paid were so high that it was only necessary to work from two to four days per week to earn enough money to supply their wants.
The operators furnish medical service to employees, for which a charge of 50 cents for individuals and $1 for famílies is deducted from
each man's pay. All companies have at least one resident physician, and some of the larger concerns two, the fee paid entitling the employee or any member of his family to all medical attention. Two of the companies maintain, in addition, well-equipped hospitals, with trained nurses to attend any cases of serious accident or sickness. No extra assessment is placed upon the employees for such service. One company maintains a free library or reading room for the benefit of all employees, but very few of the immigrants patronize it. Two companies have built churches for their immigrant employees, and all have contributed to the erection of churches without regard to religious denomination.
In practically every case the employers have given considerable assistance toward the improvement of the public schools. This has been done both by substantial contributions to the erection of good schoolhouses and by increasing the length of the school term. The average length of the public school term in most of the villages is from five to seven months, and in a number of cases the companies. supplement the public funds in sufficient amount to make a nine months' term possible. In one of the larger coal-mining villages of the field the company erected a large modern school building, equipped it with modern desks, steam heat, electric lights, and turned it over to the public school authorities of the county.
In most instances all employees live in houses rented to them by the company. None of the employees have ever shown a tendency to buy homes. This has probably been due to two causes. mining villages are all in isolated localities and if work should cease or an employee be discharged or desire to change employers that locality would not be convenient to any other work; and very little land convenient to the mines is for sale, the companies usually controlling large tracts of adjacent property which they do not care to sell.
Topographically the country composing the Big Stone Gap field is very broken, being a deeply dissected region made up of ravines and steep ridges which attain an altitude of 4,000 feet above sea level in some sections. There are no towns of importance in the region. Norton, the terminal point of the Norfolk and Western and Louisville and Nashville railways, is a town of probably 2,500 inhabitants and constitutes the business center as well as the largest town of the field. In all the mining localities the companies operating the mines control large tracts of land and own all houses used by employees. Business activity in the mining villages is confined solely to the company store. There are no industrial enterprises of any nature in the region outside of the mines and coke works, and the opportunities to engage in agricultural pursuits are very limited.
In the level valley lands is always located the company store, usually as near the center of the whole village as possible. The coke ovens, mining stables, machine shops, and such other buildings as may be necessary are also located on the low lands along the banks of the streams.
The houses for employees are built on the surrounding hillsides, or, if sufficient room is available after other company buildings have been located, some of them are in the valley. In some cases the villages are located on main streams where some small tributary
enters, and in such cases houses are often found along the banks of the streams. In many cases the valleys are so narrow that the villages are considerably scattered and available space for the location of houses is very limited.
As can be readily understood from the foregoing description the villages have no general plan, but are of necessity irregular. All companies employing any considerable number of different races have their employees colonized by races, principally because of the desire of the employees themselves for segregation.
In the majority of instances there are no yards surrounding the company houses, but in some cases the houses are inclosed by a fence built of rough boards. There is no uniform distance between houses, and conditions are rarely such that as many as two parallel rows of houses can be built. An average rent for the whole district would be about $2 per room, including the cost of coal for household purposes. For houses of more than four rooms the rate per room above mentioned is usually reduced. The houses are of many types and sizes, and practically no village in the whole region has a uniform type. Three general types are found throughout the region under which will fall a majority of the houses, and all types will be found together in some towns. Many of the houses are of two or three rooms, one story high, and built of rather cheap material. Often the house is weatherboarded with 10 or 12 inch boards, undressed and nailed on vertically, with a narrow strip over the cracks. These houses are, as a general rule, painted red or some other color which does not show dirt readily. They are always either ceiled with dressed and matched lumber or rough ceiled and papered. They are heated by open fires and coal stoves, and, although they have the appearance of temporary structures, are comfortable. When placed on the side of hills, there is no grading of the ground for the foundation, but pillars of brick, stone, or wood are built so as to make them level. Very often one side of the house is several feet above the ground while the other is very close to the ground. In some communities double houses are found. These are of two sizes and are two stories high. They are either of six rooms to the house or three to the section, or eight and four, respectively. Where these houses have six rooms, the front rooms are built two stories high, with a back room of one story, and a dividing wall from front to rear cuts the house into two sections. The only difference between this and the eight-room types is that in the latter the back rooms are two stories. Houses of this type whenever found in the region are constructed of dressed lumber, painted on the outside, and ceiled with regulation 3-inch ceiling, dressed and matched. They are heated either by open fires or by coal stoves.
In two villages types of houses were found which were a distinct improvement over those described above. These were the four-room single houses, one story in height, built of a good quality of lumber and well painted. The houses have an 8-foot hall and are either plastered or papered on the inside. They are usually found in new plants which have been constructed within recent years. The quality and appearance of houses built in more recent years are very much better than those built within the first half of the region's development. Very little attention is given to sanitary conditions in the mining villages.
There is no town government of any kind, and all movements for civic betterment must come from the company, Very little attention is given to cleaning their own premises or the village by the employees themselves. The drainage is surface, and owing to the general contour of the country, if not obstructed, all water soon runs off naturally. No waterworks of any kind exist in the various company towns, and all toilets are necessarily dry. In many places the toilets are rather close to houses and are on higher elevations than the houses.
An apparently inseparable adjunct of the bituminous coal mine in the Big Stone Gap, Clinch Valley, and Pocahontas fields of Virginia is the so-called company store. No mining company is without at least one store, and where mines are operated in different localities there is a store for each mine. Located usually within a short distance of the mine tipple, and flanked on either side by the company houses, it is generally both the social and geographical center of the ordinary mining community. The most familiar type of building is a large one-story frame structure. A wide porch extends across the front and at one side, and under the same roof are often located the offices of the mine superintendent and the clerical force. Frequently the office of postmaster is filled by one of the employees, in which case the postoffice is also located in the building.
A large and varied assortment of merchandise is carried. Such prime necessities of the coal miner as powders, mine oil, drills, and picks are, of course, always in stock, and in addition to these articles almost every commodity for which a demand exists in a mining community may be purchased. Although the store is patronized to some extent by all classes, the bulk of its patronage is supplied by the employees of the mining company. The greater portion of the purchases are made through the medium of company scrip which is issued in lieu of money to the employee who wishes to draw on his wages in advance of pay day. On the first of the month the employee is given what is known as a stoppage card. The name of the mining company is printed at the top of the card, beneath which is written the name of the employee. The days of the month in figures are printed consecutively on the face of the card. When scrip is desired the card is presented to the pay roll clerk and the amount of scrip issued is written in after the date of issue. The scrip is in denominations of $1, $2, $3, $4, $5, $6, $8, and $10.
When the purchases are made the scrip is presented at the store with the stoppage card and the price of the articles purchased is punched out on the margin of the scrip. Scrip is seldom issued in excess of the credits due the employee on the books of the company. Criticism is often directed by the employees against the company stores, but the charges made are usually without foundation. In the more isolated communities where other stores are not accessible the smaller companies sometimes take advantage of the situation. and charge extortionate prices, but the larger companies seldom exact more than a reasonable profit, and by purchasing their goods in large quantities are frequently able to sell the employee a better article than he could obtain elsewhere for the same price.
In almost every community will be found independent stores, which, if not as convenient as the company store, are easily reached, and the employee may trade at such stores if he desires to do so. He