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PREFERENCES OF COAL OPERATORS FOR DIFFERENT RACES OF IMMIGRANT EMPLOYEES.
As regards the order of preference among races employed the opinions of employers differed, due to the employment of different races in different places. A general opinion on this subject could not be arrived at, but the opinions of individual employers representing different establishments located in the southern West Virginia fields were as follows:
Company 1.-As coal miners, Russians, natives, and Italians were preferred in the order named.
Company 2.-As unskilled laborers, native negroes, native whites, and Italians were preferred in the order named. In all positions of authority and responsibility native whites were preferred to the immigrants.
Company 3.-As laborers, native negroes, Italians, and native whites were preferred in the order mentioned. As foreman and trainers the native whites were preferred.
Company 4.-As miners, native whites, native negroes, and Italians were preferred in the order named. Italians gave complete satisfaction as coal miners.
Company 5.-Native negroes were preferred for all the occupations other than foremen and mechanical workmen. Magyars and Poles were satisfactory workmen, and were it not for the frequency of holiday celebrations among them they would make excellent coal miners.
Company 6.-Magyars were considered the most useful employees in mining coal, and the North Italian was next in order of preference. The only objection to native laborers was the fact that they could not be induced to work steadily. The immigrants were no more efficient in the unskilled occupations than the natives, but because of the irregularity of the supply of native laborers Magyars, Poles, and Italians were more useful and satisfactory.
Company 7.-As miners, Germans, North Italians, and natives were preferred in the order mentioned, there being little preference as between Polish immigrants and native whites.
Company 8.-Poles, Magyars, Lithuanians, and Slovaks were preferred to natives as coal miners, because they were considered better producers of coal than either the native whites or the negroes. Their tendency toward the use of intoxicants was the greatest objection to their employment, while the frequency of holidays celebrated by them was another distinct disadvantage.
Company 9.-The English and Scotch were regarded as the best miners and were preferred in this occupation to the Poles and the natives.
Company 10.--English, native whites, Poles, and native negroes were preferable in the order named for positions as miners.
Company 11.-Out of Polish, Spanish, and native employees, the Spaniards were given first preference and Poles second for places as miners.
Company 12.-Native whites, native negroes, Scotch, Poles, Magyars, and Italians were preferred in the order named for positions as miners.
HOUSING AND LIVING CONDITIONS.
General housing conditions-Systems of domestic economy-Rent in its relation to standard of living---Boarders and lodgers-Size of apartments occupied-Size of households studied-Congestion-[Text Tables 515 to 529 and General Tables 219 to 230].
GENERAL HOUSING CONDITIONS.
As regards general housing conditions in the Virginia and West Virginia fields, very little selection of houses can be made by employees because in almost every instance the mines are in isolated localities and the mining companies own all the houses in the immediate vicinity. Some houses are better located and in better condition than others, and there is always considerable demand for these dwellings. If one becomes vacant the first employee making application will be assigned to it, provided he is of the race located in that section or vicinity, for the reason that the different races employed, especially where they are in any considerable numbers, are colonized. The negroes,
as a rule, live in a section of their own, and the different races of southern and eastern European immigrants live together. The immigrants always prefer this segregation, and it is granted and considered as an inducement to their permanency.
The races of southern and eastern Europe found in this field concern themselves very little about the houses in which they live. This is especially true of the South Italians, and to a marked extent of the newer immigrants of other races. The principal item they consider is rent, and considerable sacrifices in appearance and comfort will be undergone if by doing so this charge is reduced. The negroes, and a great number of the native whites also seem to show but very little pride in the appearance of their surroundings.
The household conditions among the immigrant homes when taken as a whole are bad. This is very marked in the case of the South Italians. A great number of boarding groups consisting only of men are to be found, and such groups are usually crowded, and the house as well as such scant furnishings as may be found in it are very unclean. Where there are families large numbers of boarders or lodgers are kept, and in such homes conditions are far from clean, as it would be practically impossible to keep a house in a satisfactory condition where several men were constantly entering with their mining clothes, or in those worn about the coke yards. Comparatively few boarding groups composed of men only will be found among the Magyars and Slovaks, but a great majority of households of these races have boarders and lodgers. In many houses beds will be found in every room but the kitchen, and in a few instances they were found in that room. It is not unusual to find a family of three or four keeping
a For a discussion of housing and living conditions in the Alabama fields, see Chapter IV, pp. 196-200.
from four to ten boarders in a four-room house. In all such houses home life is absent, and the condition of the houses, especially of the rooms occupied by boarders, is very bad. In some few cases families were found where no boarders were kept, but they were usually families that had lived several years in this country, and conditions were much better than in the boarding houses. The knowledge of all races above mentioned as to sanitary conditions and their interest in proper sanitary precautions is very meager. Waste water and garbage are usually thrown out the door or a convenient window. The household conditions in homes of the negroes are not much better from the standpoint of cleanliness, than those of recent immigrants, but not so many boarders are found in the average household. The regard for good sanitary conditions is about the same with the negroes as with the races of foreign birth. houses of the immigrants, as well as those of the negroes, are very poorly furnished, both with regard to quality and quantity. This is due probably to the fact that the homes are generally considered more or less temporary.
There is a great difference in conditions in the homes of native-born white employees. In the first place, there are fewer boarders per family, and usually not more than two to the room where they are kept. In a great many cases there are no boarders whatever. In general, it may be said also that the homes of the American whites are kept much cleaner and there is more furniture which is of a better quality. There are some American whites who are exceptions, but they are representative of the more shiftless class.
SYSTEMS OF DOMESTIC ECONOMY.
Before entering upon the detailed study it will be profitable to consider briefly the general situation and the conditions which may be treated descriptively, but do not permit of statistical presentation. The racial composition of the Virginia and West Virginia coal fields has been treated in a preceding chapter, in which it has been seen that the Lithuanian, Magyar, Polish, Russian, Slovak, and North and South Italian races have contributed the largest quota of alien labor to the development and operation of the mines. The system of domestic economy adopted by these races differs but slightly from the systems in vogue among the same races in coal-mining industries in other sections of the United States, but in consequence of the small proportion of families to the entire immigrant population the boarding and lodging system enters to some extent into the economic condition of almost every household. A large proportion of the alien employees are unmarried men and form a floating population, constantly shifting from one mine to another, influenced by minor reasons often, but usually moving because of the belief that some advantage in wages or other conditions of employment will be gained by the change. In a community of 100 immigrant laborers there will probably be not more than a dozen families, and in almost every home boarders or lodgers will be encountered. The unmarried immigrant boards and lodges with a family of his own race where it is possible to do so, but lines are loosely drawn between the Slavic races, and frequently Slavs, Russians, and Lithuanians will intermingle in the same group. The
head of the household is generally known as the "boarding boss." He is usually a man of influence among his boarders, the recognized leader of the group, and advises them in their dealings with the coal operators.
Two general systems of domestic economy are practiced by the boarding and lodging groups in this section, and in these there is little difference in the general methods pursued, though there are occasional variations in the minor details. The group most frequently encountered is conducted on the usual boardinghouse plan with a few additions introduced by the southern and eastern European immigrant. The financial management of these groups is simple. The boarder pays a certain sum monthly to the boarding boss for board, a place to sleep, and for having his clothes washed. A uniform price is usually charged in each separate community, which varies from $15 to $18 per month in the different coal fields. When the second system is followed the lodger pays a certain sum monthly for having his food cooked, his clothes washed, and for a place to sleep. Three dollars per month is the usual rate paid by the lodgers where this system prevails.
Various methods are followed in buying the food. In some instances the lodger buys the food and takes it to the wife of the boarding boss, who cooks it for him. In other groups all purchases are made by the boarding boss, and at the end of the month or on pay day the grocery bill is apportioned into equal shares, each lodger, of course, paying one share. In some groups the boarding boss, if his family consists only of his wife and an infant child or two, pays only one share, his family receiving their food free as additional compensation for his wife's labor. In other groups, where the family is a large one, the boarding boss is assessed one and a half shares or often two shares, accounts of expenditures for the family and for the lodgers being usually kept separately. The earnings of any of his children who may be employed for wages are appropriated by the boarding boss until the child has reached the age of 21, and frequently it will be a few years later before the child asserts a claim to a portion of his wages, after which he is charged the same rate for board and lodging as the regular boarders.
The labor of washing and cooking for the group is all performed by the wife of the boarding boss, and the capacity of the Slavic or South Italian woman for such work seems practically unlimited. A group of 12 lodgers is not considered unusually large, and frequently 15 or 20 will be found occupying a four-room house, which must also shelter the family of the boarding boss. These boarders are, of course, usually kept at the sacrifice of family life and household cleanliness as well; the houses are frequently crowded to their capacity, with beds in every room, the kitchen included. In some communities the situation is relieved to some extent during the summer, the men sleeping in sheds built against the house. Aside from the expenses of food and clothing, the Slavic, Lithuanian, or South Italian coal miner spends little money except for intoxicants, but his bill for this item is large. The south European immigrant in the Virginia and West Virginia coal fields is a habitual drinker, and there is no social observance from a wedding to a funeral in which intoxicants are not used freely. The expenses
of every boarding group include one or two cases or kegs of beer weekly, and beer is always conveniently near for the refreshment of the laborer after a day's work in the mine. There is comparatively little disorder among this class, however, resulting from intoxicants, and their sprees are not followed by the "laying-off" spells which characterize the negro coal miner when drinking. In addition to the boarding and lodging households are the "batching" groups, some of which are found in every community. The South Italian adopts this system of living more often than the Slav, but occasionally groups of Poles and Russians are found. The financial arrangements of these groups are not usually complicated. A small house or shack is rented and the men buy and cook their own food, sharing equally in the expenses of rent, light, and fuel. The group is usually composed of three or four individuals and the most intelligent of the number is sometimes chosen boss, who has charge of all expenditures. More often, however, there is nothing in common between them further than the occupancy of the same house and the joint use of stove and cooking utensils.
With continued residence in this country the Slav or South Italian immigrant conforms more closely to American standards of living, and gradually places a higher valuation on the privacy and comfort of the family life in the home of the American laborer. In each community there are usually a few families without boarders or lodgers, and the neat and orderly interior of these households is in contrast to the uncleanly and congested boarding houses.
RENT IN ITS RELATION TO STANDARD OF LIVING.
The rent payments, both of the households and of the individuals of the bituminous mining localities of the South, throw a valuable light upon the prevailing standard of living and will be considered. before entering upon the discussion of housing and congestion. In this connection the following tabulation shows the average rent per month per apartment, per room, and per person paid by 305 households of the Virginia and West Virginia coal fields which were studied in detail. The presentation is by general nativity and race of head of household.
TABLE 515.-Average rent per month, by general nativity and race of head of household. (STUDY OF HOUSEHOLDS.)