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a separate corporation is organized, composed of some or all of the principal stockholders of the mining company, and this second organization engages in the supply business at the mining plants of the coal company. In a few instances the stores are owned by individuals who are members of the mining company. In still other cases a third company owns the stock of both the mining company and the supply company. While the stores are therefore not legally the property of the coal-mining company, they are usually the property of some or all of the same interests as is the coal company.
The reasons for the existence of the company store are quite plain. The officials of the coal companies say the supply store is a necessity; that their workmen must be furnished general supplies on a reliable business basis. They say it is not feasible for anyone entirely outside, or not connected with the coal company, to conduct such a business, since the mining companies are constantly involved in controversies between the managers of such stores and the workmen of the company over the settlement of accounts; that, owing to the shifting character and general unreliability of the people living in the coal-mining towns, it is necessary that a store be able to collect its bills through the coal-mining company, and this necessitates a frictionless relationship between the mining, and the supply companies. This contention may be true, but it is equally true that outside persons would voluntarily establish stores in these towns and run the risk of losses from bad debts were they permitted to do so by the mining company which owns the land and buildings of the company town. Here and there may be found an occasional small store, often managed by an immigrant, but in the more remote coal and coke towns this is the extent of competition to which the company store is subjected, and in some cases no stores even of this kind are permitted. The fact seems to be that a well-managed store will yield
very good profit and it is the intention of the members of the coalmining companies to retain this profit for themselves. The relation between the company store and the mining company is simple. When a workman or a member of his family desires to purchase goods at the store and has no cash, or does not wish to use such cash as he has on hand, he asks the pay clerk of the mining company for a check of such amount as he may wish. This check is a printed slip which, in form, is an assignment to the store company of money owed by the mining company to the workman, with spaces left blank for the amount and the assignor's signature. If the mine employee's earnings to date, less previous checks, equal or exceed the amount desired, the check is made out, signed by the man, and received at the store in payment for the goods bought. On pay day the total amount of these checks is deducted from the man's earnings and turned over to the store in payment of his bills.a.
It is presumed that the employees of the mining companies are free to patronize any outside store if they see fit. When company officials are asked if men are required to patronize their stores, the usual answer is that a man is free to trade anywhere he wishes. Since the company stores are operated for profit, however, and since . The extent to which employees purchase goods and the corresponding deductions made by the companies from earnings have already been shown by races in the preceding detailed exhibit. See pp. 318-320.
a greater volume of business means a larger profit, it is only natural that the companies should seek to make the trade at the stores as large as possible. Various means are employed to accomplish this end, ranging from overmanning the plants and practical coercion to simple dependence on lower prices and better goods. On the other hand, trade at many company stores is favored by the inaccessibility of competing stores. The plants are often remote from towns and villages. During the winter months especially the roads are usually bad, and because of convenience and sometimes of necessity, a large proportion of the employee's purchases must be made at the com
As already noted, competing stores of importance are usually not permitted in the company towns. Hucksters and peddlers of fruits, vegetables, and meats are excluded as far as possible. Where the company village is located on the company's own land this is very easily accomplished. Trespass notices are posted and such hucksters and peddlers are prosecuted. As showing the relationship between the mining and the supply companies it is of interest here to remember that the prosecution is conducted by the mining company owning the store, though the mining company as such has nothing to lose by the presence of these vendors. Under such circumstances fruits, vegetables, meats, and groceries are sometimes carried from hucksters' wagons which wait out on the public highway a mile or so away. There are companies which do not exclude hucksters, farmers, and other
persons from selling in the villages, and may even permit the establishment of some other small stores, but this is not the ordinary condition. The store check system also operates to stimulate trade at the company store. Such checks are good only for trade there. A workman is not permitted to draw his wages in cash at irregular intervals, but is given a store check which necessitates his purchasing his supplies at the company store. Their spending is not discouraged by the company so long as it does not involve more than is due the workman. Another very effective means of increasing trade at the store is that of having the manager and possibly some of the clerks “take orders” at regular intervals. Each housewife is visited and solicited to order from the store for the next week or two weeks such articles as she may desire. These goods are then delivered and the amount charged to the husband's store account. Not only does this give the store a definite amount of trade, but the manager also secures much valuable information as to the trade peculiarities of different families. He learns to know personally those families which are giving him all, or nearly all, of their trade, and those which are withholding a part of it and trading elsewhere. This enables him to concentrate to the best advantage his efforts at increasing the business of the store. No doubt his call to secure orders is sometimes considered by the housewife as more or less of a command to buy. In some instances this opinion is doubtless well founded, while in others it is a mistake, due to previous unhappy experiences under similar conditions or to a misinterpretation of the manager's speech.
At some stores other far less legitimate measures are employed to keep up the workman's store account. Cases are reported where each employee is expected to spend a certain proportion of his earnings each week in the store. A list is kept of those families which fall short of the expected amount. If purchases do not increase, the head of the family is given an unpleasant place to work, a wet heading, a room with a bad roof, or a place where the conditions are otherwise unfavorable. If the employee, under these conditions, does not move, or if his store account does not reach the approximate amount expected, he is discharged at the first opportunity and a more subservient workman substituted. The attitude of the employees under such a system is naturally a matter of interest. Briefly stated, as a body they are antagonistic to the company store and often buy inferior goods at higher prices at other stores simply because they feel free from compulsion. The quality of the goods and the prices charged vary with different companies. Many company stores handle first-class goods throughout and charge prices no higher than in the best-managed town and city stores. They buy in very large quantities, thereby receiving unusually favorable quotations. They have few or no bad debts and consequently are able to make more than the average profit at moderate prices. These prices are maintained fairly, although the store enjoys a practical monopoly of trade and might exact higher prices. At the other extreme are stores in which the goods are of poor quality, and frequently the prices charged are above those for the same brand or kind of goods as charged elsewhere. No general statement can do justice to this situation. In some cases the employee receives reasonable value for his money; in others he is unquestionably exploited. At a few company stores trade is not required. Every workman is distinctly told that he can buy anywhere he pleases and is asked to inform the store manager if he considers the prices unfair and the qualities of goods inferior. It is the effort of such stores to deal with the company employees on a commercial basis. The managers of such stores report a better trade and much better spirit on the part of the workmen than do the managers of neighboring stores, where it is tacitly understood that the man will trade at the company store.
BENEFITS RECEIVED BY EMPLOYEES IN ADDITION TO WAGES.
As regards benefits received by mine workers in addition to their wages, medical and hospital services may be mentioned. In this respect coal and coke companies can be divided into four general classes. The majority of companies pay all the cost of treating a workman injured while on duty, and furnish whatever hospital service may be necessary; others pay these items only when the man himself is unable to pay them; still others simply call a physician or send the employee to a hospital and pay for the first treatment; and a few furnish neither medical nor hospital service, leaving the employee to run the risk of fatal or permanent injury, and to pay the cost of any treatment he may require.
Some mining companies also maintain benefit societies for their workmen. Dues of these societies range from 35 to 50 cents per month. Benefits, generally of $5 or $6 per week, are paid for injuries suffered while at work, and in case the accident is fatal a death benefit (usually of $100) is paid. In some instances these companies provide that if the wife of an employee dies the husband is paid a benefit of $50. Membership in these societies is usually compulsory at the mines where they are organized.
For the most part there is no organized or concerted welfare work by the mining companies, though there are occasional exceptions. Here and there a company furnishes free coal to its workers and pays the funeral expenses of its fatally injured employees. Taken as a whole, however, there is almost a total lack of any organized effort along these lines. One company which is doing welfare work is a remarkable example of what might be done. The general aim of the company is to improve, so to speak, its human machinery. It wants the most orderly, efficient, and faithful workmen it can get, and is trying to secure a permanent body of employees as distinguished from the usual shifting labor force of the mining regions. It is attaining these ends by the following measures: Its wage scale exceeds that of its competitors, in some instances its rate being 25 per cent higher. It maintains a company store, but patronage is not required, and the people are distinctly told that they are free to trade anywhere they wish, and are asked, in case their wants are not met at the store, to explain what seems wrong to them, and if the grievance is real it is promptly remedied. Farmers and hucksters and others with legitimate business are free to enter the company village and sell their wares. Pack peddlers and beer and whisky agents alone are excluded. Good houses are also provided. Unde sirable buildings are being replaced by six-room, single-story cottages, with comfortable porches, large grounds, water in the houses, and electric lights. The standard two-story, double, frame, eightroom houses are being repaired and fitted with electric lights and water connections. It is the policy to encourage the better workmen by putting them in the better houses. Fruit trees are planted in the yards, which will eventually furnish fruit as well as shade, and will be cared for by the miner. Water is supplied by a 300-foot well and is filtered before being used. The toilets, at some distance from the houses, are fitted with removable boxes in place of the ordinary ground vaults, and are cleaned each week. In addition to the better physical conditions, the company is trying to maintain a decent and orderly village. To this end several rather remarkable plans have been adopted. No workman is called a "dago” or a “hunkie,” but on the contrary all are treated with consideration and respect. A deputy sheriff is employed at a regular salary to maintain order and supervise the sanitary conditions and general welfare of the village. He arrests offenders against the law, but does not receive the fees. These go into a charitable fund. This policy prevents any tendency on the part of the officer to “arrest for revenue,” and encourages him to have as little disorder as possible, since he is paid no more in troublesome than in peaceful times, and the retention of his position depends on his ability to prevent disorder. He sees in detail to the sanitary conditions of the town, reports & drain that needs repair or a house and yard that need cleaning, and the company furnishes him a team and the laborers and supplies needed for this purpose. He sees that the houses and grounds are kept clean and orderly and reports those that are not. In order to secure better order and higher efficiency and to reduce the number of accidents, the company controls the sale of intoxicating liquors in the village. A committee composed of the superintendent, the deputy sheriff, and some of the more intelligent foreign workmen, handles the entire beer and whisky business of the town. This committee employs a "beer agent" and pays him a fixed salary per month. He receives no commissions. He is permitted to sell several recognized brands of beer and whisky and is not permitted to favor one brewing or distilling company over another. No other beer or whisky agent is allowed on the premises of the company. It is the policy of this committee systematically to cut down the amount of beer and whisky consumed. To this end the agent takes orders on Tuesday morning after the men have gone into the mine, so that he receives the order from the housewife, not from the husband or from some irresponsible boarder. Then the superintendent and the police officer go over these orders and reduce those that seem too large. The efficiency of the agent is based on his ability to keep the amount ordered at a low figure. Each week a statement is prepared showing the amount of liquor each family and boarding group has purchased, the prices paid, the total receipts, total expenses, and total profits. These profits are turned over to the charity fund of the committee and are used for the aid of needy families in the village. The books of the committee are open to anyone at any time and show how the money has been spent. The company has adopted the policy of systematically eliminating the largest consumers of beer and whisky, and the whole campaign has resulted in reducing the consumption of the working force about 40 per cent. This has greatly improved the good order of the village and the general efficiency of the employees.
No cows or chickens are permitted in the yards. This is in the interest of the general cleanliness of the town. The company furnishes pure milk from inspected cows at 5 cents per quart. The company is also limiting the number of boarders that may be kept by any one family to four. This is done because there is a tendency to greater uncleanliness, disorder, and immorality where a larger number of boarders are kept. Children reared in a house of four rooms, with perhaps from 8 to 12 boarders, are considered to have little chance of becoming good citizens. All children in this village attend school if they are of school age. If the family is too poor to purchase books and other needed articles, the company furnishes them free, and the children may go to either the public or the parochial school as their parents choose. The village officer enforces attendance.
A benefit system is conducted for the company employees. In this the dues are 50 cents per month, with death and accident benefits of no absolutely fixed amount. If the family is large, the amount paid is often higher than the usual $5 or $6 per week. In case of death, a benefit of $100 is paid, together with free transportation for the widow and children wherever they may wish to go, even to their original home in Europe. An employee permanently injured in the company's service is given work about the plant so that he may support himself and family, or is furnished free transportation to any point he may specify, together with $100 in cash. The results of this system have been very gratifying to the operators. When other
a Just how widely this handling of the beer and whisky business differs from the usual situation can be seen by referring to the chapter on industrial progress and efficiency, pp. 419 to 422.