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CHAPTER IV

WORKING CONDITIONS.a

Hours worked per day and per week-Regularity of employment-Liability to acci

dent or disease—Labor organizations Labor disputes-The immigrant and organized labor-[Text Tables 58 to 63 and General Table 26).

HOURS WORKED PER DAY AND PER WEEK.

For most of the employees of the packing industry the working period consists, at the present time, of sixty hours per week or ten hours each day. There was formerly much uncertainty as to the hours of work required of some of the workmen, and particularly of those constituting the “killing gangs. Cattle were generally brought into the yards at night and in the morning the packers made their purchases for the day. It was often 9, 10, or 11 o'clock in the forenoon before the cattle could be driven through the chutes and to the killing floors. The men were required to report at 7, and if, as was frequently the case, there was no work to be done at the time, a sign would be displayed stating at what hour the slaughtering of the animals would begin. The men received no compensation for time spent in waiting. As the packers were charged 50 cents a head for steers left in the yard over night, it was the rule that all cattle should be slaughtered on the day on which they were purchased, and the men, in consequence, often had to work late at night. These difficulties seem to have been done away with without a strike upon an appeal by the members of the butchers' union to the packers. The men now report at the yards regularly at 7 in the morning and work not later than 5.30 in the afternoon. If at the close of the ten hours' work there are still some cattle that have not been slaughtered, these are held over until the following day. The hours of labor are the same at all the principal packing centers of the country.

REGULARITY OF EMPLOYMENT.

One of the distinctive features of the packing industry consists in the variability of the demand for labor, the number of men employed varying according to the seasons. This situation is, of course, due to the requirements of the cattle and meat markets. In general, but few cattle are received at the yards at the beginning or at the end of the week, and consequently Monday and Saturday are often half days at the packing plants, while on the other days of the week the men may

be required to work full time. As the demand for certain kinds of meat, particularly pork products, is much less active in the summer than in the winter, the packers materially reduce their output

« Attention in this connection is called to a detailed article entitled “Labor conditions in meat packing," by John R. Commons, in Quarterly Journal of Economics, vol. 19, pp. 1-32; to a Report on Conditions in Chicago Stock Yards, by James Bronson Reynolds and Charles P. Neill, submitted to the President June 2, 1906, and also to the annual reports of the Illinois Bureau of Labor Statistics.

during the former season. There are also considerable minor variations in the amount of work done from week to week in all seasons, These weekly and seasonal variations, of course, determine the amount of labor required at any given time. When business is slack the employers find it necessary to adjust their force to prevailing conditions, either by letting a portion of the employees go and working the others full time or by retaining all the men and working them part of the time. The second alternative is the one usually favored by the workmen and by the labor organizations, as it leaves none of the men entirely without employment. The packers, upon the other hand, formerly preferred to employ a smaller number of men full time, feeling perhaps that these men would then become attached to the interests of their employers. It was pointed out also on the occasion of labor controversies, by the packers, that it was the short hours of work that gave force to the constant demand for higher rates of compensation, but the general preference of the workers seems generally to have prevailed.

The weekly changes in the number of hours of work available for some of the men is very great. This is true particularly in the case of the cattle butchers, who have employment only when killing is actually going on. The maximum week for these men, as well as for the other employees of the industry, consists of sixty hours' work, but there are very few weeks in the year when this maximum is reached or even closely approximated. It is probable that, considering the industry as a whole, the number of hours per week for which the members of a killing gang are busy does not amount on the average to more than two-thirds of the possible sixty, and that during many weeks the men are employed less than half time. a

The above statements relate only to the cattle butchers. While these men probably have shorter and less regular hours of work than certain of the other employees of the industry, it is still true that the majority of the workers are employed less regularly than the employees of most industries. As nearly all of the packing-house workers are paid either by the hour or by the piece, the effect of irregularity of employment upon the amount earned is, of course, direct and not advantageous.

The following table shows months worked during the past year by males 16 years of age or over in the households studied who were employed away from home in the slaughtering and meat-packing industry. The presentation is by general nativity and race of individual.

a This subject has been worked out in considerable detail by C. W. Thompson in an article entitled “Labor in the packing industry,” which appeared in the Journal of Political Economy, vol. 15, pp. 88–107.

TABLE 58.— Months worked during the past year by males 16 years of age or over employed

away from home, by general nativity and race of individual.

(STUDY OF HOCSEHOLDS.) [This table includes only races with 20 or more males reporting. The totals, however, are for all races.]

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Of the 1,447 males reporting, 54.7 per cent worked twelve months, 80.1 per cent worked nine months or more, 96.8 per cent worked six months or more, and 99.4 per cent worked three months or more. Native-born of native father show the highest per cent who worked the full twelve months or nine months or more, they are followed by native-born of foreign father and foreign-born in the order mentioned. Native-born of native father also show the highest per cent who worked six months or more and three months or more, being followed by foreign-born and native-born of foreign father as named.

Of the native-born of foreign father Germans show the highest per cent who worked twelve months, Irish, Bohemians and Moravians, and Poles follow in the order named, only 51.4 per cent of the lastnamed race having worked the full year. Irish show the largest proportion who worked nine months or more and six months or more, followed by Germans, Bohemians and Moravians, and Poles. Irish and Poles show the highest per cent who worked three months or over followed in order by Bohemians and Moravians and Germans.

Of the foreign-born races Swedes, Lithuanians, and North Italians show over 80 per cent who worked twelve months, Irish and English between 60 and 80 per cent, and Poles and Germans between 50 and 60 per cent. Slovaks, Bohemians and Moravians, Japanese, and Croatians all show less than 50 per cent who worked twelve months. North Italians and Lithuanians show 100 per cent who worked nine months or more, Swedes, English, and Irish between 90 and 100 per cent, Japanese and Poles between 80 and 90 per cent, and Germans, Bohemians and Moravians, Croatians, and Slovaks between 60 and 80 per cent who worked nine months or more.

English, North Italians, Japanese, Lithuanians, and Swedes show 100 per cent who worked six months or more, Germans, Bohemians and Moravians, Irish, Poles, Croatians, and Slovaks following in the order mentioned, the last named being the only race showing less than 90 per cent. All of the races except Germans, Poles, and Croatians show 100 per cent who worked three months or more.

The following table shows, by locality and by general nativity and race of individual, the per cent of males in the households studied who worked nine months or over:

Table 59.Per cent of males 16 years of age or over working 9 months or over, by locality

and by general nativity and race of individual.

(STUDY OF HOUSEHOLDS.) [This table includes only races with 20 or more males reporting in each of two or more localities. The

totals, however, are for all races.]

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As might be expected, the table immediately preceding shows a falling off of the proportions of those regularly employed as compared with the showing as to the proportion of individuals working six months or over. Upon referring to the totals, it is also significant that, although all three classes according to general nativity show about an equal proportion working nine months or over in South Omaha, in each of the other two cities the foreign-born show a considerably lower proportion working regularly during the period specified as compared with the native-born and the persons nativeborn of foreign father; and have a slightly smaller percentage in Chicago and a considerably smaller proportion in Kansas City who work nine months or over as compared with the total native-born. Moreover, the employees of native birth and of native father in the two cities in which they are represented, as in the table last presented, indicate a slightly higher degree of industriousness than the total native-born.

The table next presented shows by locality and by general nativity and race of individual the per cent of males in the households studied working six months or over.

Table 60.Per cent of males 16 years of age or over working 6 months or over, by locality

and by general nativity and race of individual.

(STUDY OF HOUSEHOLDS.) [This table includes only races with 20 or more males reporting in each of two or more localities. The totals,

however, are for all races.

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The preceding table discloses small differences in the tendencies exhibited by the native-born, foreign-born, and native-born of foreign father. In comparing the total in the three classes, with the exception of the falling off in the proportion of native-born of foreign father in Kansas City, the relative industriousness of each class is seen to be about the same in each locality. The persons native-born of native father, who are shown for Kansas City and South Omaha, show in these two cities greater regularity of employment than either the total native-born or second generation. It also may be noted that all of the Poles in both Chicago and South Omaha work regularly for six months or over.

LIABILITY TO ACCIDENT OR DISEASE.

The nature of the packing industry is such that many of the employees are compelled to work under conditions unfavorable to health. Much of the handling and cutting of fresh meats is done in refrigerating rooms, and the men and women employed in these departments must therefore work constantly in temperatures within a few degrees of freezing. The rooms are frequently lighted only by artificial means. In some instances, at least, the floors are wet and soggy, and the ceilings damp and dripping, while the air, because of insufficient ventilation, is often damp, close, and unwholesome. In certain departments the employees work with their hands wet in hot or cold water or the materials of the industıy the whole or the greater part of the time and with their clothing wet and unclean. Such conditions are necessarily detrimental to the health of the workers, among whom tuberculosis, rheumatism, and other diseases are very prevalent. Upon the other hand, the proportion of industrial accidents is probably lower in packing than in most industries of like importance. It appears from the reports issued by the Illinois Bureau of Industrial Statistics that in the six months ending December 31, 1907, only 5 of the employees in the packing houses of the 48296° -1

-VOL 13--11---7

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