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been able to get large contracts from the railroads. It must therefore divide its gains with some larger agency which has succeeded in getting contracts. On the other hand, there is every reason to believe that the large agency in its turn pays heavily for its contracts, so that the secondary agencies lose not so much as at first seems.

There are two distinct movements to the Northwest during the year: in the spring the labor gangs move westward, especially northwestward, to points beginning in the Chicago suburbs and extending into Minnesota, the two Dakotas, Iowa and Montana. In August and September a lull in the labor-agency business occurs. In October the men begin swarmi g back to Chicago, those who can afford it to winter in the colonies. The Bulgarians return to Granite City, Illinois, altho there is also a colony of them in Chicago. Then the agencies are busy sending gangs southward into Kansas, Missouri, Mississippi and Louisiana. One agency, as an instance, has a permanent contract with three different railroads. The Southwest movement is not so heavy, partly because many of the immigrants prefer wintering in the cities, and the construction work in the South is not so seasonal in its nature, and also because there are large cities, such as Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and New York, nearer than Chicago from which immigrant labor can also be drawn.


The padrone system is the outgrowth of the inability to speak English, and the lack of knowledge of American methods and customs, which prevail among the immigrant laborers who seek employment. Some form

of the system is found among all non-English-speaking races. It is most highly developed, however, and is most usually followed, by the South Italians. In the majority of cases the padrone is a labor agent, who agrees to furnish and control a certain supply of labor for a specified work, in return for which he is to receive certain privileges, as, for example, the commissary or housing privileges in a railway or other construction camp. In other cases he acts merely as the representative of the laborers in negotiations with employers or other persons, and for this service each laborer in his gang regularly pays him the specified and understood amount.

Racial Classification of Railroad and Other Construction Laborers

Disregarding geographical lines, it may be said, in general, that foreign-born wage-earners constitute slightly more than three-fourths of the entire number of persons engaged in railway and other construction work. Native white Americans and native negroes each make up about one-tenth of the working forces. The remaining part consists of English, Irish, Germans and other wage-earners of the second generation, or of persons of native birth but of foreign father. Thirty-seven races were represented among the immigrant wage-earners of these classes. Scarcely any English or Germans are found in the railroad construction camps, but a small proportion of Irish, amounting to about 3 per cent. of the entire operating forces, are found in supervisory and responsible positions. Of the recent immigrants the South Italians, North Italians, Croatians, Poles and Greeks, in the order named, are employed in the greatest numbers.

The South Italians, as a rule, constitute about onethird of the unskilled workers, the North Italians and Croatians each one-tenth, and the Greeks, Poles and Bulgarians about one-twentieth each. Other races which appear in considerable numbers are the Russians, Rumanians, Magyars and Herzegovinians. In all sections of the country, the South Italians form the highest proportion of laborers employed on railroad construction work. The Bulgarians, Greeks and Rumanians are principally employed in the Middle West, Northwest, South and Southwest. The Slovaks, Russians, Poles, Magyars, Lithuanians and Herzegovinians are almost exclusively at work in the Eastern States. The Croatians are found in largest proportions in the East and the Middle West, and the North Italians in the Eastern and Southern States. About one-third of all the employees in the South are native negroes.

Period of Residence of Immigrant Workmen in the United States

Most of the Southern and Eastern construction workers are of recent arrival in the United States. About three-fourths of all the races combined, and all of the Herzegovinians and Rumanians, have been in this country under five years. Sixty-nine per cent. of the Croatians and the North and South Italians in the East, 86 per cent. of those in the Middle West and Northwest, 84 per cent. of the same races in the South and Southwest, have been in this country for a shorter period than five years. The laborers of more recent arrival in the United States have usually been first employed in the East and South and have afterward moved westward.


A study of more than 5,000 wage-earners in all sections of the country showed that the average daily earnings of native white Americans were $2.43 and of immigrants $1.68. The highest average daily earnings of any race of southern and eastern Europe were shown by the North Italians, the members of this race earning on an average $1.86 each day, while no other recent immigrants had average daily earnings in excess of $1.59. The Irish of foreign birth averaged $2.33 per diem. Very few southern and eastern Europeans, as contrasted with native white Americans and British and northern European immigrants, appeared in the higher classification of earnings. More than three-tenths of the native white Americans and more than one-fourth of the Irish of foreign birth, as against only one-twentieth of the recent immigrant employees, earned $3.00 or more each day. About onetenth of the native Americans and foreign-born Irish, and practically none of the recent immigrants, showed daily earnings in excess of $4.00. Three-fifths of the recent immigrant laborers in the East, South and Southwest, and more than four-fifths of those in the Middle West and Northwest, earned as much as $1.50 each. On the other hand, none of the southern and eastern Europeans in the Middle West and Northwest, only 7 per cent. of those in the South and Southwest, and 20 per cent. of those in the Eastern States, earned $2.00 or more each day.

Characteristics of the Labor Supply

The recent immigrant laborers are marked by a high degree of illiteracy. More than two-fifths, 44 per cent., could not read or write. The greatest illiteracy was exhibited by the South Italians, of whom one-half in the East and three-fifths in the South and West could not read in any language.

Fifty-five per cent. of the immigrant wage-earners were married, but more than three-fourths of these had left their wives and families in their native countries. Practically all of the married Bulgarians, Greeks, and Rumanians had migrated to this country without their wives and children. About three-fifths of the immigrant employees were under thirty years of age.

As regards the small extent to which the southern and eastern Europeans exhibit any tendency toward progress and assimilation, it was found that practically none of the recent immigrants except the North and South Italians, and only one-tenth of these, were fully naturalized. Moreover, only about one-third of the southern and eastern European wage-earners could speak English. In the case of some races the proportion was much smaller, only 12 per cent. of the Russians and Rumanians, 8 per cent. of the Bulgarians, and 6 per cent. of the Greeks being able to speak the English language.

Housing and Living Conditions in the West

Housing and living conditions vary little, or not at all, even among the various communities in the Middle West and Northwest. Freight cars, fitted up inside

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