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period of five years, 1904 to 1908 inclusive, and of the number of employees classified according to race or nationality in 1908, the death rate per thousand is 8.89 for the natives of southern and eastern Europe, as against 4.80 for the northern and western Europeans and the native-born, and 5.99 for all employees.
Owing to the lack of comprehensive data as to the nationality of employees, to which reference has already been made, it is impossible to compute a death rate for any State or locality other than West Virginia.
While there are no complete data available as to the race or nationality of employees in the mines of Pennsylvania or Indiana, the mine reports of these states have in recent years contained tables showing the race or nationality of persons killed. The figures for Pennsylvania for the five years, 1904 to 1908, inclusive, are given in the following table:
TABLE 149.-- Number of fatalities in the bituminous coal mines of Pennsylvania, 1904 to
1908, by nationality or race of individual. (From Pennsylvania Bituminous Coal Report, 1907, p. LXIII; and Pennsylvania Bituminous Coal
Report, 1908, p. 85.]
In the following table the nationalities have been rearranged in groups and the percentages have been computed. Table 150.— Number of fatalities in the bituminous coal mines of Pennsylvania, 1904 to
1908, by racial groupse ; per cent distribution.
a For explanation of grouping, see p. 224.
6 Less than 0.05 per cent. c Not including 92 persons not reporting nationality. The data for Indiana cover but two years, 1907 and 1908. They are presented in the following table: TABLE 151.--Number of fatalities in bituminous coal mines of Indiana, 1907 and 1908,
by nationality or race of individual.
In the following table the nationalities have been rearranged in groups and the percentages have been computed. Table 152.-Number of fatalities in the coal mines of Indiana, 1907 and 1908, by racial
groupsa; per cent distribution.
a For explanation of grouping, see p. 224.
The foregoing tables are, for the reasons already mentioned, of no value for purposes of comparison. The figures and percentages are of interest, however, as indicating the large number of immigrant workmen killed or fatally injured in the mines.
OPINIONS OF STATE MINE INSPECTORS AND AGENTS OF THE FEDERAL
The indications of the foregoing statistics are sustained by the evidence of the men best informed with regard to existing conditions, as can be seen from the statements and opinions of agents of the Federal Government who have made a special study of accidents in mines, of the mine inspectors of different States, and of skilled mine workers, which are quoted below.
The following statement is taken from the Annual Report of the Pennsylvania Department of Internal Affairs, Bureau of Mines, for the year 1905:4
It is also a fact that 50 per cent of the employees, especially the miners and loaders, are men that can not understand the language of this country and are ignorant of the dangers that surround them.
Lack of experience and inability to understand instructions given them (on part of foreigners) cause frequent accidents.
It would be a most humane act if the foreigners could be prevented from working in the mines until they have acquired at least the rudiments of the English language, unless they can be put to work with competent men of their own nationality.
The department is unable to say what proportion of the employees in the mines are English-speaking persons, but it is evident that the fatalities among the employees designated as non-English-speaking are largely in excess of their proportionate number. This is not surprising, however, and will continue to be the case until these people acquire sufficient knowledge of the English language to understand orders given by foremen, and thus be able to protect themselves in the performance of their duties.
From the annual report of the state inspector of mines for West Virginia for the year 1902, the following statement has been selected:
It is the confirmed belief of the inspection forces of this State that this increase [in the number of fatalities) is due to the inexperience and carelessness of a very large number of the underground employees relative to existing dangers.
In this State the larger number of mine employees come from parts without the State and are composed of foreigners from Europe, and the negroes from Virginia and North Carolina. With this class of employees, many of whom have had no experience in coal mines prior to their introduction into the mines of this State, it becomes necessary that the mine foremen should exercise special care to see that these workmen adopt the proper precautions to keep their working places safe.
In his annual report for the year 1907, the chief mining inspector of West Virginia gives expression to the following opinion:
The mining industry of the State is passing through its most crucial period in the transition from English-speaking workmen to those who, speaking the tongue of many European countries, are a menace to the safety of a mine.
Until a new generation is had, which has taken on the intelligence of a practical mine worker and which embraces the teachings of American institutions, there will remain a factor of danger within our mines that legislation can not easily eliminate.
When the foregoing statements appeared in the West Virginia reports, Mr. James W. Paul, who is now with the United States Geological Survey, was chief of the state department of mines. Mr.
a Several of the Pennsylvania mine reports of recent years contain statements to the same general effect.
John Laing, Mr. Paul's successor in office, has discussed the situation in a letter to the Immigration Commission dated March 7, 1910. Mr. Laing says, in effect, that the mines have been developed much more rapidly than it has been possible to secure experienced labor, and that the employment of inexperienced labor has, therefore, been unavoidable. He states that, in the United States, coal mining is often a temporary occupation with those who engage in it; that men do not continue as miners long enough to become skilled in the
a The text of the letter is as follows:
“Your letter to Mr. James W. Paul, ex chief of department of mines for West Virginia, is handed me for answer. With reference to accidents in the coal mines throughout the United States, I believe these accidents are due largely to the very great development that has been going on during the last ten years in coal mining. It is a fact that we have been developing in this country much quicker than has been possible to get labor with sufficient experience to properly man our mines with safety, giving no heed whatever to economy.
“It does not take an expert to realize the fact that, in coal-producing countries of Europe, the men employed in and around mines are brought up and reared in the business, and follow no other vocation in life and none other is afforded. In the United States a man is mining coal to-day, to-morrow he is working on the farm, the next day he is possibly braking or is fireman on the railroad, the next day he is perhaps working on a steamboat on one of our great rivers, perhaps the next day he is working at one of our great lumber camps throughout the country; and many other vocations we might mention are open to him, and so many opportunities are presented to him for a livelihood that it has been the means of converting many of our best men into a spirit of discontent and has installed a disposition for rolling and rambling over the country; and I regret to say that a large percentage of the laboring element of this country, who are married and have families, have inherited this disposition until they keep their families continually on the move from one vocation to another until they have reduced their financial standing to a situation of almost absolute poverty, when the truth is, if they would settle down to one business and stay with it they would not only earn sufficient to support themselves and family but could educate them as well.
“In our own State coal mining is far in advance of any other line where labor is employed, and by simply referring to the growth of increased tonnage during the last ten years, one can readily see that we have been compelled, in order to man our mines at all, to employ labor of every kind and character without consideration for their past experience, and realizing that the ignorance of many of them and their indifference to their own welfare, safety, etc., made them a menace to all others engaged in the same mine, and because of the heavy death rate from explosions, fall of roof, accidents from mine cars, locomotives, etc., we have during the last year installed a system of discipline throughout the State that we believe will go far toward reducing to a minimum all accidents in the future. For instance, in our large mines where in the past labor was turned loose to shoot coal, load coal, and care for themselves, we have now an officer known as "assistant mine foreman” employed to every 35 men, who works in the mine and whose specific duty is to see that all coal is properly mined, that all places are timbered, that a system of ventilation is properly brought forward, etc., before a miner be permitted to do blasting of any kind.
"Great care is also being used in the hanging of electric wires, the operating of electric mining machinery and electric locomotives, and the results have been so satisfactory in this way that all operators throughout the State have determined to carry out in the future this policy without exception, and any operator who hesitated in the past is being shown the results of others, and while we do not wish to congratulate ourselves or to be boastful in the least, we do believe that West Virginia, under the discipline as quoted above, will in the future do herself much more credit as a mining State, by reducing casualties and making such a record that all of her citizens may well be proud.
“I believe that with the large number of foreign and inexperienced labor in general that must be employed in the mining business of this country, the only safe method and proper way to operate a mine with safety, would be to carry out a system such as has been enumerated above, and in such a way that every miner, regardless of his experience or inexperience, shall be closely guarded and compelled by law to comply in all measures to a system that will protect not only themselves but all others employed in the same mine.
calling. He further says that, in order to mitigate the evil consequences arising inevitably from the employment of workmen of this sort, and to lessen, if possible, the heavy death rate, it has been found necessary to introduce, in the mines of West Virginia, a system of mine discipline. Assistant mine foremen are to be employed, and ventilation, timbering, the installation of electric wiring, and the use of electric locomotives and mining machines, etc., are to be carefully supervised. In Mr. Laing's opinion, it is only by the introduction of some such system as this that mines in which a considerable proportion of ignorant and inexperienced labor is employed, can be operated with comparative safety. Mr. Laing says that many serious accidents have undoubtedly been due to overconfidence and willingness to take chances on the part of experienced miners.
The secretary of the state mining board of Illinois expresses himself as follows:
I believe that the accidents are materially increased by the employment of foreigners who have had no experience whatever in mining until coming to the United States.
There is no question in my mind that the discipline in the mines can not be as thorough as in former years because of the fact that 75 per cent or 80 per cent at least of all the miners in this State are coming from foreign countries and entering the mines at the ages of from 20 to 40 years. These men can not be as good miners as the ones who have had earlier training in the mines, and for these reasons I believe that the accidents have been materially increased through the ignorance of the mining business by so many of the immigrants who enter our mines at this time. I am merely giving you this as my opinion, having worked in the mines of Illinois for something like twenty-three years.
The secretary of mine industries for the State of Kansas, in a letter of recent date, says:
In answer to your question will say I am convinced the high death rate in mines in this State could be reduced 30 per cent if there were no ignorant immigrant laborers employed here.
The chief mine inspector of the State of Oklahoma, in response to a letter of inquiry, makes the following statement: C
* Ninety per cent of the people who are killed and injured in the mines of this State are foreigners.
The high death rate in the coal mines of the United States is caused by the employment of men who are ignorant of mining.
In Bulletin 333 of the United States Geological Survey, already quoted from, entitled “Coal-mine Accidents: Their Causes and Prevention,” the employment of foreigners is referred to as follows:
Another important factor in the United States is to be found in the nationality of the miners. Most of the men are foreign-born, a large proportion of them are unable to understand English freely, and a still larger number are unable to read or write that language. Some of them are inexperienced and do not take proper precautions either for their own safety or for the safety of others. This becomes a most serious menace unless they are restrained by carefully enforced regulations.
The Industrial Commission says: A more frequent explanation is to attribute the accidents not only to the natural conditions but to the presence of foreigners. The mixture of several nationalities who do not speak the same language and understand one another with great difficulty, is a disturbing condition and complicates things in the face of danger, where quick thought and promptness of execution are often able to prevent accidents.
a Letter to the Immigration Commission, dated March 4, 1910.