Lapas attēli

companies have been handicapped by a shortage of labor supply, this company has turned men away. It sells its product for more money, and is able to pay higher wages. As a result, more and better work is done, greater care is taken of the company property, and much better order and general living conditions prevail in its village than in those of its competitors.


The following table is suggestive as regards the extent of membership in labor organizations of representatives of immigrant races, though it does not give a complete showing because most of the men included in the tabulation were working in nonunion districts: TABLE 198.-Affiliation with trade unions of males 21 years of age or over who are working for wages, by general nativity and race of individual.

[blocks in formation]

The greater part of the persons represented in the foregoing table were employed in regions where they had no opportunity to become affiliated with labor unions. This is true of all the races enumerated except the North Italian, Lithuanian, Magyar, Russian, and Ruthenian. Most of the individuals of these races were in a unionized locality, and this accounts, in part at least, for the seemingly greater tendency to join the unions.

The table immediately following shows the number of foreign-born males in the households studied who are members of labor organizations, according to period of residence in the United States:

TABLE 199.-Affiliation with trade unions of foreign-born males 21 years of age or over who are working for wages, by years in the United States and race of individual.


[This table includes only races with 50 or more persons reporting. The total, however, is for all foreign-born.]

[blocks in formation]

The first effectual organization among the bituminous coal operatives of Pennsylvania was that of the Knights of Labor. In the early seventies this body grew rapidly and by the latter part of the decade had attained a strong position in the bituminous region. Its decline was almost equally rapid, and by 1885 it was no longer powerful enough to bargain successfully with the operators, though it continued in existence until 1890. In the year 1885 the Miners' National Progressive Union was formed and quickly spread through the mining regions of the western part of the State until it was finally equal in strength among the miners to the Knights of Labor. Constant friction between the two organizations, however, so hampered the activities of each as to make it evident that neither would long survive if the struggle continued. This resulted in 1890 in the union of Lodge No. 135 of the Knights of Labor with the National Progressive Union to form the present United Mine Workers of America, which took over the local unions of both the older organizations throughout the western part of Pennsylvania. Since that time it has been the predominant organization among the mine operatives in that section.

As Slovaks, Poles, Lithuanians, Magyars, Croatians, Italians, and other immigrants of different race and speech began to enter the industry in great numbers, the union quickly found that if it was to live it must organize these newcomers. This was a difficult task. The new workers were coming from lands where labor organizations were considered revolutionary. They were, therefore, naturally suspicious and slow to join them here. Very few could understand the English language, and agitation among them had to be conducted through interpreters. Most of them were new to the industry, and it is said did not know what hours, wages, and conditions of employment they should expect, but arrived with practically no funds and were obliged to accept work immediately. Moreover, the operators were opposing organization among these new workmen, and, it is claimed, were using one race or faction against another, and other means to prevent their organization. In spite of these hindrances, however, the unions were successful in enrolling many of the immigrants, and at present in those districts where the unions still exist many members are from races of recent immigration.

In some respects the members from races of recent immigration are considered less satisfactory than the native-born or the members from races of older immigration. The presence of different races and nationalities, some of which may be more or less hostile to each other, such as the North and South Italians, and most of which differ in language and customs, not only from one another but from the older employees, prevents the formation of a compact homogeneous union and gives rise to some troublesome problems of organization and administration. In strikes the recent immigrant members are generally faithful and loyal, but are often inclined to resort to violence and other methods that bring the union and its cause into disrepute, while in peaceful times it is often difficult to make the immigrant worker see the need of contributing steadily to the union. He is prone to save the amount of his dues by letting his membership lapse. This undermines the organization not only numerically and financially, but morally as well, and requires constant work to offset its weakening effects.

It is claimed by some of the older operatives and labor leaders, and apparently with good reason, that the unions are the best means of effecting general improvement in working and living conditions among the coal-mine employees. They are able, it is argued, to effect this improvement through securing shorter hours, better wages, safer mines, and safer methods of mining. They are further able in some degree, it is also asserted, to prevent exploitation of workmen through store, rent, and other deductions, and, by insisting on proper living conditions, to improve the surroundings and housing of the company villages. In addition to these specific forms of betterment they purport to serve another excellent purpose in accustoming the immigrant at the outset to American standards on these subjects, so that he learns quickly to measure his own condition, not by what he has been accustomed to abroad, but by what is taught him he should expect here. It is urged that this makes his competition with the American and other older operatives less disastrous to them, and therefore improves conditions not only for the immigrant, but for the older operatives as well. The older employees further claim that in general the immigration of southern and eastern Europeans has been very disastrous to the labor unions in the coal-mining industry. In some districts the unions have been entirely disrupted, and old operatives assert that this was directly due to the coming of the later immigrants. They contend that some of the operators consciously and deliberately displaced their American, British, and German workers with the later immigrants in order to break down the unions, and that, after succeeding in this endeavor, they have kept their workers of several different races so as to make organization difficult among them.

A fair illustration of the disruption of the unions following the arrival of the recent immigrants is seen in the case of the Connellsville coke region. In that section the earlier employees, as already pointed out," were Americans, Irish, German, English, and Scotch, who proved themselves apt at organization and prompt to strike for better wages and conditions. Expansion of the industry created a demand for many more workmen, and Slovaks, Magyars,

a See p. 256.

Poles, and Italians were employed in large numbers. This movement began about 1882. At that time the labor organizations among the men were under the leadership of the Americans, English, and Irish.

The history of these labor organizations is the history of a series of strikes, each of which left the organizations weaker than before.. The American and Irish leaders induced many of the immigrants to join in the strikes, but they found difficulty in restraining them from violence during the strikes and in retaining their membership after the strikes were settled, so that the unions were not able to form any powerful organization for use in the next strike. The first of these general strikes occurred in 1884. At that time the percentage of recent immigrants was relatively small and the men held their own. More recent immigrants were employed, however, some English-speaking workmen were discharged, and many others left the region to seek work in other fields. There was another strike in 1886 which was really a defeat for the labor organization.

In 1890 the local organizations of the Knights of Labor were taken over by the newly organized United Mine Workers of America. The next year, another general strike occurred in the coke region, into which the local unions entered without the sanction of the general council of the organization, and the men were defeated. In this case also the immigrants joined the strike, but did much rioting, and after the defeat of the strike left the union. After the strikes of 1884 and 1886 many of the older English-speaking workers began leaving the district. More left after the strike of 1891, and with the loss of immigrant members at the same time the United Mine Workers' organization was completely demoralized in the Connellsville region.

In 1894, when the United Mine Workers of America were conducting their general strike, the organization in the coke region was revived and the men struck again. This was the final struggle. The rate at the time was 19 cents per ton for mining coal. The strikers asked 25 cents. The operators refused the demand and in the southern part of the region the strike began April 2, 1894. The Americans, English, and Irish were leaders of the strike, and the immigrants very generally joined the organization which had been effected only two weeks previously. On April 27 the central and northern portion of the region also joined the strike. By May 1 only 8 plants out of 85 in the region were operating. The following table shows, by weeks, the number of ovens which were operated and those which were idle, and indicates the success of the miners in stopping the industry: "


TABLE 200.-Active and idle ovens in Connellsville coke district, May 1 to September 1,

[blocks in formation]

a Compiled from the reports of the Uniontown, Pa., press during this period.

It will be seen that the strikers were most successful during the month of May. By the middle of this month, however, begging committees were soliciting aid for the strikers, many of whom were enduring severe hardships. About this time, the general strike of the United Mine Workers of America was ended, but the strike in the coke region still continued. It came to a close September 7, with the complete defeat of the men and the disruption of their organization. This ended the existence of labor organizations in the coke district. In considering the connection between the destruction of the unions and the presence of the recent immigrant, certain factors in the case must be observed. The differences in race, language, and religion gave the operators opportunity to play off one faction or race against another, and it is charged by the labor unionists that this was frequently done. The immigrants would not keep up their membership in the unions during the periods between strikes and consequently the labor organizations had no adequate funds to carry on long strikes. Moreover, the workmen themselves, especially the more newly arrived immigrants, had little or no savings on which to depend, and members were soon forced to choose between starving with their families and accepting work at the terms offered. Under these conditions many soon resumed work. Another element of importance was the fact that after each strike numbers of the natives, and British and German immigrant workmen, refusing longer to tolerate the conditions imposed, left the region and found work in the fields of the Pittsburg district, of Ohio, the Middle West, and the Southwest, where wages and working conditions were better, and where the employees were not subject to such competition from recent immigration as in the coke region. Not only did this lower the numbers of the older operatives who remained in the coke region, but since the hardiest, most resourceful, and most aggressive were the ones to leave, and since these were the chief strength of the unions, the resultant moral weakening of the organization was out of all proportion to the numbers of those thus lost. In short, the unions here were inundated by the flood of immigrants and the various strikes were merely the convulsions that marked their advancing dissolution.

What occurred in the Connellsville coke region occurred elsewhere throughout the State. In other fields where the unions were not so well organized the coming of the recent immigrants served rather to prevent than to destroy organization, but the result in either case has been to create large areas in which to-day there is no semblance of labor organization among thousands of employees. At present the union is recognized on an open-shop basis by the operators of the Clearfield and Pittsburg districts and in a few isolated districts, such as the town of South Fork, and the scale and working agreement of the United Mine Workers of America is observed in these fields. Elsewhere the bituminous coal mines of Pennsylvania are unorganized.


The primary reason for the employment of recent immigrants was the development of the coal industry in western Pennsylvania. This development was rapid and on a large scale. At the same time the expansion of the industry in other fields gave opportunity for experi

« iepriekšējāTurpināt »