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is not required to patronize the company store. The employee who has collected his earnings in scrip during the month and has no balance due him on pay day may be compelled to trade at the company store because of his inability to obtain credit elsewhere, but aside from the fixed charges for house rent and medical attendance assessed against the employee, there is no influence exerted by the company to prevent him from drawing his entire earnings in cash and spending the money as his inclination dictates. Among the boarding groups of the immigrant coal miners it is sometimes the practice to order groceries in large quantities from cities. Others frequently buy the greater part of their supplies from the grocery stores and markets conducted by members of their own race, which spring up in nearly all communities settled by immigrants.
THE DEMAND FOR IMMIGRANT LABOR AND THE EFFECTS OF ITS EMPLOYMENT.
Reasons for employment of immigrants in Alabama coal mines-Methods used to secure immigrant labor for Alabama mines-Reasons for employment of immigrants in West Virginia-Methods used to secure immigrant labor in West VirginiaReasons for employment of immigrants in Virginia coal fields-Effect of employment' of immigrants in Virginia and West Virginia coal fields.
REASONS FOR EMPLOYMENT OF IMMIGRANTS IN ALABAMA COAL MINES.
In general, it may be said that immigrants have been employed in the Birmingham district because of three reasons. In the first place, some have been employed because of their peculiar skill in certain occupations. These are almost entirely Scotch, Welsh, and English, with a few Italians who have had experience in the mines in northern Italy. A second cause for the employment of immigrants. has arisen from labor disturbances. Two strikes have occurred in the history of the district as the result of the activity of the United Mine Workers of America. The first, which occurred in 1904, was caused by the effort of the unions to continue the wage scale of 1903 with the operators. This scale was a sliding one, based on the price of pig iron, as follows:
Sliding scale of miners' rates per ton mined, 1903.
[Rates based on the Pratt vein.]
This scale was refused as a basis for wage payments by all of the operators except the smaller firms which mined coal for local consumption. In the strike that ensued many representatives of the southern European races were brought in. The presence of immigrants, the fact that a large number of negroes were employed, and the failure of the union men to stand by the union, caused the strike to fail.
The second strike occurred in 1908. In the intervening time the mine workers had been actively engaged in organization. When the operators announced that, on account of the industrial depression, a cut of nearly 20 per cent per ton of coal mined would be made, a "walkout" took place over the entire district. The larger companies imported a number of immigrants for employment in their mines. Very few of these men remained. Another demand made by the strikers was
the abolition of contract labor and the payment to each miner of a wage graded according to the difficulty of the vein. The operators refused, as they did in 1904, to recognize the union, and on account of the difficulty of obtaining work elsewhere and the hard times, as well as the fact that the operators could afford to suspend work during the depression, the strike failed in every particular. Many of the immigrants brought in as strike-breakers during the strike of 1908 went away after the strike failed, because in a majority of instances the old employees were taken back by the operators on condition that they sever their connection with the unions.
The immigrants are considered less troublesome in strikes than are the negroes. Their serious violations of law are chiefly by the Italians, a number of whom have been convicted for offenses committed during the strike of 1908. The negro is considered difficult to handle in a strike because of his ignorance and excitability.
The third and principal reason for employing immigrants has been the general scarcity of labor. This involves a consideration of the normal labor supply and the general labor situation in the Birmingham district. The salient points of the labor situation may be outlined as follows:
There is a residual or basic supply of labor fairly distributed throughout the district. This residue is present at every mine, and in some cases is sufficient to supply the needs of the employer. For example, at practically all of the smaller mines a scarcity of labor has not been felt to any great extent, while at the larger mines this residual or basic supply has not been sufficient. This residual supply may be summarily described as follows:
(1) A very few native whites from the vicinity and the southern States.
(2) Skilled workers drawn from the coal industries in other sections of the United States, principally from Pennsylvania.
(3) A considerable number of negroes from the Birmingham district, augmented by others drawn from various localities in the southern States, chiefly from the plantations.
Certain conditions have arisen which render the above-described residual supply" either insufficient or unsatisfactory for the demands of the employers. These conditions may be outlined as follows:
(1) The demand for labor has outgrown the supply, as stated above, by reason of the development of coal and other industries. It is worthy of note that this demand has come almost exclusively from those companies which have had the greatest expansion. The coal operators, for example, who have not increased their capacity to any great extent have not experienced the scarcity to the same degree, and their experience has been due more to an indirect drawing away of a portion of their labor supply to the larger employers. On the other hand, the new mines have felt the severest scarcity and have been forced to take measures toward increasing the supply by artificial means.
(2) These new operators practically agree as to the unsatisfactory qualities of the ordinary or residual labor supply. The native white
a It is important to take these elements into account. The term residual is simply suggested so as to distinguish it from that portion of the labor supply of the district called into existence by other causes.
who comes from the small farm is at best only a temporary employee who is enticed by cash wages during certain seasons of the year, and who as a general rule is a shiftless person. Furthermore, the number of these whites is very small. On the other hand, the negro, while possessing many excellent qualities, such as a capacity for heavy work and tractability, is too irregular and shiftless in his habits to be exclusively depended upon. He is usually a good miner, because in that occupation he can work whenever he chooses and as long; but as a day worker he is unsteady, because he will work only long enough to make a living wage. At times of greatest demand, when work is most plentiful and wages are highest, he is most irregular, at the very time when he is most needed. Moreover, it is believed by some employers that the negro, as a worker, is deteriorating physically. It is asserted that members of the younger generation, through dissipation and the influences of city life, are less capable of hard work than those who came from the plantations. Finally, it is stated that a large number of the negroes are emigrating from this district and other sections of the South, to the North and West.
As the result of the foregoing considerations the employers claim that they are at the mercy of the labor supply of the district, particularly of the unskilled portion, which is, of course, the largest. Because of this shortage of labor in normal times the companies (1) are in constant danger of being tied up by strikes, and are hampered by the fact that the laborers are aware of the situation, and (2) are at a disadvantage as compared with other localities where similar industries are carried on, by reason of the inefficiency of the unskilled labor. Because of the labor situation, as well as of other conditions, a change in the labor supply has taken place in the following way: (1) English, Irish, Scotch, and Welsh miners, to some extent skilled, have come in of their own accord.
(2) The larger employers have brought in Italians, Greeks, Macedonians, Slovaks, Bulgarians, and other southern European races during the past ten years for use as unskilled laborers in the mines, and, to a lesser extent, as miners. This has been due more or less to the adoption of a steady policy, and is entirely distinct from the policy of occasionally importing immigrants as strike-breakers.
The net gain to the labor supply due to the coming of immigrants has been the settling of the Scotch, Irish, Welsh, and English, and to a small extent of the Slovaks, Greeks, and Italians. To this net gain may be added the fact that immigrants, especially of the southern European races, come more frequently of their own accord than they formerly did. But as a general rule this immigration is very shifting, never becoming to any great extent settled or dependable. In this connection some of the employers complain that the southern States are discriminated against by claims of unhealthfulness, low wages, and so forth. Aside from this, it seems to be unquestionably true that immigration of the southern European races has not lasted long enough as yet to cause large colonies of immigrant communities to develop the racial community characteristics which would overcome the tendency of recent immigrants to return to their native lands, as they have done in other sections of the United States. In short, for some reason, as employers claim, the immigrant of this class is not satisfied, and does not hesitate to say so, especially when he knows