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Before commenting upon the preceding table, it should be borne in mind that this section felt very strongly the effects of the industrial depression of the years 1907 and 1908, as well as the curtailment of employment during the same years because of the decreased demand for coal in the territory served by the mines. While the usual tendencies of certain races in this section may have been somewhat hampered by conditions imposed upon them, yet the exhibit made by the table will indicate in a rough way the comparative industriousness.
Upon referring to the totals in the table, it is seen that only 7.7 per cent of the native-born and 2.7 per cent of the foreign-born were employed for twelve months preceding the time at which the information was received; 19 per cent of the native-born and 14.9 per cent of the foreign-born worked nine months or more, and 64.8 per cent of the native-born and 77.9 per cent of the foreignborn were at work for a period of six months or more. Of the foreign-born employees, 10.6 per cent of the Irish and 25.8 per cent of the Welsh worked twelve months, and 46.8 per cent of the Irish and 45.2 per cent of the Welsh worked nine months or more. All the members of the Lithuanian race worked six months or more, while 2.9 per cent worked nine months or more and 1.5 per cent twelve months. Almost all of the Croatians were also employed six months or more, and 31.8 per cent of the same race nine months or more; 80.9 per cent of the South Italians worked six months or more, but none of the employees of this race worked as long as nine months. Slightly more than 80 per cent of the Slovaks and Poles, 63.8 per cent of the Mexicans, 100 per cent of the Lithuanians, and 67.5 per cent of the North Italians were employed six months or more.
THE WAGE SCALE.
The wage scale for mining varies in the different districts according to local conditions of mining. There is a standard scale which governs general conditions, but in many instances the coal is deficient, or, in other words, the vein on account of a fault or squeeze is not as thick as that in neighboring properties, and when this is the case the men are paid more than where conditions are normal. Where coal is harder to mine the prices paid are also higher. Taking the McAlester District in Oklahoma, from which about 50 per cent of the coal mined in that State comes, an approximate idea of prices paid for mining can be secured. Here the scale for pick mining ranges, with some exceptions, from 72 cents to 771 cents per ton. At Alderson, Bache, Carbon, Craig, and Dow the scale is 774 cents; at Lehigh, Oklahoma, screened 90 cents, and mine-run 72 cents. The Henryetta machine scale is 50 cents per ton, including shooting down and loading. The Oklahoma machine scale is 45 cents per ton on a piece basis, and where men are paid by the day it is $2.45. The general scale, however, in the two States for pick mining is 72 cents per ton on a mine-run basis. On account of the pitch of the veins and other adverse conditions, machine mining has never been successful, and most of the coal mined is by pick or hand work.
The prices quoted refer only to the actual mining, shooting, and loading of the coal. Besides those engaged in mining, there are
trackmen, timbermen, gasmen, rope riders, greasers, cagers, shot firers, motormen, trappers, spraggers, hoisting engineers, trimmers, and employees in other occupations. In all cases this class of labor is paid by the day, and the scale runs from $1.13 per eight hours work for trappers up to $3 for shot firers. Almost all of the day laborers employed receive $2.56 for eight hours work in the mine, and $2.02 for eight hours work outside. Miners are also paid by the yard for making “break throughs," driving entries or air courses, for pulling down rock from the roof, and taking up bottom. These prices vary according to conditions. In addition to the wage scale, pay days are also fixed by contract, and in all cases the men are paid twice each month, usually on the 15th and 30th, and in some cases on the nearest Saturday to the above dates.
Houses are rented to their employees by almost all of the coalmining companies. These houses are the property of the coal companies. They are frame structures, usually of the same size, 1-story buildings of 3 to 5 rooms being the typical company house intended for one family. Two-story houses and double houses with two
. kitchens for two families are less frequently seen. The rooms are of different sizes, from 12 by 12 feet to 18 by 18 feet, but the average room is about 14 by 14 feet.
The dwellings are in most cases badly constructed. A cheap grade of lumber is used and the workmanship is very poor. Windows and doors are not fitted and in a short time are in need of repairs. Flooring is poor and few houses are ceiled or carefully finished. The average cost of erecting the ordinary dwelling is $100 per room.
The general condition and appearance of houses depends greatly upon their location. In the larger settlements or near towns, where the mines have been in operation a long time, housing conditions are much better than in remote localities. In such places miners will, as a rule, not be satisfied with the inconvenience of occupying a shattered company house, as they have a chance to rent better quarters in private houses in the nearby villages or towns. In places where miners have an opportunity to occupy private houses, or to buy their homes, the renting business of the coal companies has received a hard blow. Not only are private houses built of better material and with greater skill, but they also look more desirable, display more individuality in their appearance, and usually have more space around them, ailording possibilities for gardening and privacy.
For this reason, in such localities, company houses are kept in better repair. Notwithstanding this, they are only occupied when no private housing facilities are obtainable. As a consequence quite a number of them can be noticed standing empty and approaching complete dilapidation.
In isolated and detached mining communities company houses are to be found at each mine. They are frame buildings of uniform design and are usually painted a dull red, placed in a row, or several rows, according to the size of the mine and the number of employees. Many of these houses have no solid foundations. They are elevated from 2 to 3 feet from the ground and rest at the four corners on piles
of stone or brick. In many instances window panes are out and large cracks are to be seen around the doors and windows. In cases where mines have been abandoned, houses have been moved to other localities, and this of course has greatly added to the dilapidated condition of the house. There is generally room for a garden. The water supply comes from wells, oftentimes one well supplying several families. The closets are dry and are well removed from the dwelling.
Company houses rent for $1.80 to $2 a room per month, the rent being deducted every two weeks from the amount due the employee.
The state of repair in which houses are found depends much on the company owning them. Some companies exercise more care in housing their men than others and the contrast is often very marked. Several companies employ a man who has charge of the houses, seeing that they are maintained in good repair and in a sanitary condition. These companies also employ a scavenger, whose duty it is to keep the closets clean and remove all filth from the premises. Operators declare that it is very discouraging to attempt to keep houses in good repair, for the reason that many families upon moving out will break window lights and otherwise deface the building. Instances were given where the last tenant had broken up the floor and inside woodwork for fuel.
The percentage of immigrants occupying company houses is smaller than that of Americans and negroes. A large percentage of Mexicans also occupy company property.
THE COMPANY-STORE SYSTEM,
Most of the coal companies operating in Oklahoma and Kansas either own stores or give the privilege of selling to the mine employees to some local concern for a certain percentage of the sales. It is not compulsory for miners to trade at these stores. They are paid in cash every two weeks, and can purchase their supplies where they choose. Between pay days, however, no employees are paid in cash, and the only way in which they can secure supplies is to draw scrip or get orders on the store, as the case may be. This system, of course, forces all employees to trade at these stores when they have no ready money.
The scrip and store orders are only good at the company stores, and such purchases as the miner or his family may make between pay days is held out of his wages when he receives his pay. In most cases the company stores handle as good if not a better line than other neighborhood stores and prices are no higher than elsewhere. Scrip, which can be drawn in lieu of money between pay days by employees, is honored dollar for dollar at company stores. It is stated by miné officials that immigrants draw little scrip and receive their full pay in cash on pay day. Managers of company stores say they frequently extend credit to immigrants and find them generally honest and prompt in settling.
The only articles which the coal companies insist that the employees shall buy from their stores are powder and other explosives. The reason assigned for this is that in order to insure the best results certain kinds of powder must be used in shooting to suit local conditions of coal. For example, in one mine a quickly igniting powder
will be exactly suitable, while in another the same explosive will be entirely unsatisfactory. It is claimed, further, that before this rule went into effect many miners did their shooting with dynamite. This explosive makes an output of inferior grade by shattering the coal badly, and producing a large percentage of slack or fine coal. Consequently the operators have insisted upon the regulation of the kind and quality of explosives used.
In almost all cases there are stores owned by private parties in close proximity to company stores, so that miners may have their choice as to which they will patronize.
It is the universal opinion of mine operators that natives and negroes draw a far greater percentage of 'scrip" than the immigrant. No instances were observed where employees were forced to trade at company stores or were charged excessive prices.
THE IMMIGRANT AND ORGANIZED LABOR.
All of the important coal-mining concerns in Oklahoma and Kansas employ union labor only, and all prices for mining and other work are fixed by an agreement between the Southern Mine Operators Association and the committee of the United Mine Workers of America. Membership in the union is a necessary qualification for securing employment in commercial or shipping mines. The almost universal extent to which different races hold membership in the unions is evident from the following table, which shows the affiliation with organized labor of male employees 21 years of age or over, by general nativity and race. Table 420.–Affiliation with trade unions of males 21 years of age or over who are working
for wages, by general nativity and race of individual.
(STUDY OF HOUSEHOLDS.)
21 40 164 47 66 17 56 46 51
100.0 88 9 97.6 97.9
98.5 (a) 100.0
97.9 100.0 (a)
Total native-born of foreign father..
9 92 535
a Not computed, owing to small number involved.
The union idea was first introduced in the Southwest in the early eighties. At that time there was no centralized organization, and the different mines were entirely independent of each other. Rules governing a mine in one locality were not observed on a neighboring property, and the operator had the local union of his employees to deal with rather than the general organization of the present time. This loose and disorganized condition worked a hardship not only to the mine operator, but to the men as well, and from 1890 to 1895 the whole field was reorganized by the labor leaders, placed on a firm basis, and affiliated with the national organization. From 1890 to 1895 there were several strikes throughout the Southwest designed to secure recognition of the union, higher wages, and shorter hours. These strikes were successful and since 1895 the whole field has been closely unionized.
The English, Irish, Scotch, and Welsh have always taken great interest in the organization of labor and have been leaders in all of the locals where immigrant races are represented. They, with Americans, have been agitators in most of the strikes and labor troubles and are prominently identified with the order.
As a general rule, the attitude of Italians toward the labor unions is one of toleration, and most of them belong to it because they are forced to do so in order to secure work. A few of the more highly Americanized members of the race generally control the remainder in all questions coming before meetings. It is said by Americans prominent in the affairs of the organization that Italians would not join the union if it were not necessary for them to do so in order to work in the mines, and very few of them show any interest in its affairs. Italians are frequently on "pit committees and hold offices, but in the important works of the union, Americans, English, Irish, Scotch, and Welsh are the leaders, though Italians and other races may hold the balance of power.
The Lithuanians, Poles, Slovaks, Magyars, and Russians really show less interest than Italians, and in many cases are antagonistic to the union. Many of them have expressed the opinion that they would have better work and make more money if they were not controlled by the organization. The reason for the lack of interest on the part of the immigrants from southern and eastern Europe is that they are unable to understand English and can take very little part in the discussions at meetings. They also claim that they are not treated fairly by the English-speaking races.
Members of the second generation of the southern and eastern European races are strong supporters of the unions and usually control other members of their particular race.
Coal operators state that they have often known of strikes in which the foreign element did not know on what grounds they were striking. They also assert that when the Italians, Lithuanians, or Slovaks are in control of a local, the demands are less extravagant and are not so radical as when the situation is controlled by the Americans, English, Irish, and Welsh.
American miners claim that the union is absolutely necessary to control the wage scale, hours worked, and conditions of employment. The immigrant would be willing, they say, to work at a price much below the present scale of wages and would demand no limit as to