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that the employer wants him. There exists also a local prejudice against the immigrant of this class on the part of the natives, both whites and negroes, and an unfavorable impression against him on the part of many of the smaller employers in the coal and steel industry. For this reason, therefore, the immigrant is difficult to retain. Consequently, from the standpoint of the employer, it would seem that there is a necessity for more labor. Whether this is a legitimate demand from the standpoint of wages and of living conditions is, of course, a matter of dispute.


Bearing directly upon the question of the labor supply in the Birmingham district is the growing practice of the coal operators of using convicts in the mines. Of recent years there has been a decided tendency toward the employment of convicts in this capacity, eight or ten communities being composed of them. The usual arrangement made with the state and the county authorities requires the company to pay a certain rate into the public treasury for each miner. This is based upon the amount of coal mined. The company must furnish stockades, guards, and housing for the convicts. The rates vary between $10 and $12 per month per convict.

In the opinion of some of the employers this system presents a partial solution of the labor question in the coal mines for two reasons: First, the convicts, who are almost altogether negroes, are forced to work steadily, their output may be depended upon, and their cost is less to the company.

Second, as the result of the policy, there is a steadily increasing supply of efficient, steady, and trained negro miners. After the convict has worked in the coal mines for several years he has learned a trade thoroughly. Not only does he become a trained miner, but owing to the system of rigid discipline and enforced regularity of work, he becomes through habit a steady workman, accustomed to regular hours. When his term ends he almost invariably, according to the statements of the employers who have used convict labor, continues to be a coal miner for the reason that he does not know how to do anything else, and because he has been taught how to do one thing well and to earn a good wage. The result of the practice of using convicts on the lease system, as stated above, is that every year there is set at liberty a number of experienced and efficient miners, and at the same time there is being trained a larger number for future years. Of the best negro miners, it is stated, the ex-convicts are in the majority wherever they have been employed, and it is estimated that 50 per cent of the negro coal miners in the district are ex-convicts.

In recapitulating the labor situation in the Birmingham district, which is so closely bound up with the question of immigration, it may be stated that a very small proportion of the miners and the outside men are immigrants. Immigrants at the time of the investigation composed not over 10 per cent of the total number of mine employees and probably less than 5 per cent of the miners. The consensus of opinion among the larger operators seems unquestion ably to be that immigration of foreign labor will be necessary in the great development which is expected in the future of coal-mining operations in the district, as it is indeed necessary under present normal conditions.


Where the immigrants do not apply for employment along with the natives the companies usually secure this class of labor by one of three methods: (1) Through employment bureaus, (2) through company agents sent to cities or industrial centers, and (3) through contracts with labor agents in other cities. This applies to the races from southern and eastern Europe, but not to the English, Irish, Scotch, and Welsh, who invariably make application as do the natives.


A considerable percentage of the labor in the Fairmont and Elk Garden districts of West Virginia or the northern field of the State has been composed of immigrants for about twelve or fifteen years. This has been due to two causes. The strikes occurring in 1894 and 1895 determined that the field was nonunion, and many of the American miners left for the Middle West or other organized mining districts. At the same time there has been a pronounced tendency among the Americans to enter industries other than mining. This has left openings which bave been filled by immigrants from southeastern Europe. This field is not so conveniently situated with respect to the large centers of negro population as the other two fields in the southern portion of the State, and fewer members of this race have been employed as compared with the other fields.

The employment of immigrants in the New and Kanawha rivers districts arose from two causes. First, as already stated, " the strike of 1902 caused a great many of the better class of American white miners to leave the field; their places had to be filled and the labor most available at the current mining prices was that of immigrants. Second, even if the strike had not occurred, the immigrants would have been ultimately necessary because of the great extension of the coal-mining industry in this field. The strike occurred at about the beginning of the period of greatest development. It would have been impossible to procure American laborers to carry out this development, because of their tendency during the past ten years to leave the mining industry in this locality of their own volition.

In the Pocahontas field practically the same influences have been at work as in the New River district. The primary reason for the employment of immigrants in the Pocahontas field has been the remarkable expansion of the industry. Although the strike of 1902 did not reach as large proportions in this field as in the New River territory, for the reason that the Pocahontas field was unorganized, it had some effect, and considerable numbers of native miners left the region, creating vacancies which were filled by recent immigrants. The extraordinary expansion of mining in the region for the past fifteen years, however, has been the chief factor in the introduction of immigrant employees. During the past seven years alone employment has been found for 10,000 men. An illustration of this unusual demand for labor is seen in the fact that one company, which has developed since 1903 along the Tug River branch of the Norfolk

a See p. 152.

and Western Railroad, employs 3,000 men at the present time. The development in Mercer, Mingo, and Logan counties, West Virginia, has covered about the same period and has been equally rapid."

Under these conditions it has been necessary to draw on other communities for labor. The operators of the region have secured labor extensively from three sources: First, from the negro population of North Carolina and Virginia; second, from the immigrants in the coal fields of Pennsylvania; third, from abroad, through immigrant friends and relatives who settled in the field.

The same conditions in the northern part of the State, as in the Pocahontas and New River fields, have made necessary the employment of recent immigrants. The primary reason in all the coalmining districts, as already pointed out, has been the remarkable expansion of the industry and the impossibility of securing other labor of a satisfactory character. The situation has been intensified by unfavorable labor conditions at various times. After the strikes of 1894 and 1902 native miners emigrated to coal fields in other States, leaving their places to be filled by immigrants.

Briefly summarizing the forces which have been operative over the entire State, the wide extent of employment of immigrant labor may be said to be due to the following causes:

(a) The remarkable expansion of mining operations in the State within a short period of time, making necessary a very large increase in the number of employees.

(b) The lack of a native labor supply for the following reasons: (1) The native whites from the mountain country near by are irregular, being willing to work in the mines only at certain periods of the year when the farm and cattle grazing do not demand their presence at home. A large portion are also unsatisfactory as miners because of their lack of efficiency. (2) The negro miners are not sufficient in number and are not reliable, their habits of work being very irregular. It is claimed that they will ordinarily work only a few days per week, thus making necessary a large number to keep the mines in full operation.

(c) The existence of strikes and labor controversies has at times accentuated the normally keen demand for labor, and the immigrant employed at first temporarily, on his own application or as a strikebreaker, has remained permanently in the field.


The methods adopted to secure immigrant labor have been the same in all sections of Virginia and West Virginia. They may be summarized as follows:

(a) During seasonal periods of shortness in the labor market foremen or representatives of the various companies have been sent to the cities in the East, or to other mining localities, to offer inducements to miners and other immigrant laborers to enter the employ of the company seeking labor.

(b) Miners and other laborers have been secured through labor agencies. The price paid these labor agencies varies. It usually ranges from $1 to $2 per head, or $5 per family, with the company paying all transportation charges.


At the risk of repetition it may be profitable to set forth in detail the situation which has called for the employment of labor in the Big Stone Gap field of Virginia. Immigrants have been employed in this field for three distinct reasons, viz: (1) Their experience in coke production; (2) the inefficiency of native labor, and (3) the scarcity of other labor and the development of industry.

When the production of coke in the region was started, considerable difficulty was experienced in getting efficient labor. All work connected with its production is hard and rough. The difficulty of breaking and drawing the coke from the oven is intensified by the heat. In order that the best results may be obtained, both in quality of product and in maximum production, the coke must be drawn regularly. The employees who were available in this locality were both irregular and unadapted to the work, and none of them was very anxious to work on the coke yards in any capacity.

In 1896 the largest operator in the field sent to the Connellsville coke region in Pennsylvania and procured 50 Magyars and Slovaks, and they were practically all used in the coke yard either as drawers or laborers. Once established in the region the different races increased, at first gradually and later rather rapidly, until they reached their present proportions-about 35 per cent of all labor.

The country throughout this section was sparsely settled when the mines were opened, and there were no centers of population within a reasonable distance from which men could be drawn. Throughout the period of greatest development in this and other coal fields, the question of labor was acute at all times and it has been one of the greatest causes for the employment of recent immigrants.

When immigrants were being introduced into the district there was a disposition on the part of employers to select races which conformed to their standards of efficiency, but as the industry developed and the men began to scatter while demand increased, almost anyone seeking employment was given work. This, in a large measure, accounts for the diversity of races found in the district. In the earlier days the employers, as a rule, tried to get only Magyars and Slovaks, and the South Italians, at present second in numbers among all foreign races, were not employed as long as a supply of men belonging to the other races was available. This is probably one reason why the Italians were not employed earlier than was actually the case.


As regards the effect of the employment of immigrants upon former employees, there has been a decidedly marked tendency on the part of the American whites throughout the two Virginias for the past six years to abandon the occupation of coal digging and to enter the better class of positions about the mines. The American whites employed in the Pocahontas and New River fields are used almost

a The Pocahontas field, so far as it lies in Virginia, has been treated in discussing the situation in West Virginia. See p. 156.

exclusively as foremen, subforemen, or in other positions of more or less managerial ability or skill, for which the companies pay a stipulated price per day or per month. On the other hand, there has been a strongly marked tendency for native miners to leave the coal fields and seek employment in other coal-mining sections. A constantly diminishing number of natives are found employed as pick miners. In the northern section of the State, where machines are largely used, it may be stated in general that the Americans cut and haul the coal, lay the tracks, and do all the skilled work both inside and outside the mines, and are usually paid by the day or month. The immigrants and negroes are the pick miners and coke pullers. They are also engaged in doing all the rough work around the mines and coke ovens and in loading the coal after the machines. At the same time there has been a constant abandonment of the field by the native miners who have usually sought work in the Middle West or other unionized districts. It is also a matter of general comment that the second generation of native miners are not entering the coal mines in any part of the State.

This displacement of the native American as a miner may be said to be due to the following causes: (1) The expansion of the coal industry has made available a large number of executive or other positions requiring a knowledge of English or some skill which the American possessed and the immigrant or negro did not; (2) these positions, whether or not they carried as large a compensation as that of the miner, have been considered the higher class of positions about the mines; (3) the necessary employment of the immigrants as miners or laborers, because of the development of the industry, produced working conditions or working relations unsatisfactory to the native miner. Consequently, a large part of the native whites abandoned the field entirely to the immigrant, as evidenced by the exodus of native miners on the occasion of the unsuccessful conclusion of various strikes. On the other hand, the native whites who remained in the coal fields have preferred employment in occupations other than that of digging coal even when such employment brought smaller earnings. As the result, the immigrants and negroes have more and more extensively been employed as miners and inside workmen, while the natives occupy the executive, skilled, and other positions carrying a fixed compensation by the day or month. The resultant situation is the same as that which obtains in other coal-mining sections of the country, but has been more a cause of comment in the West Virginia and Virginia mines for the reason that the displacement of the American has been unusually rapid and has been attended by numerous and bitter strikes and labor controversies. There is a tendency now toward the displacement of the negro in all grades of work by the recent immigrant, due in large measure to the irregular working habits or lack of industry of the negro. Although it is not clear that the employment of the immigrant has reduced wages or produced more unsatisfactory working conditions, it is obvious that if immigrant labor had not been available either a much higher wage would have been paid, more labor-saving devices used, or less development would have been possible. It is also apparent that efforts toward the organization of the miners in the two States have been largely unsuccessful because of the availability and employment of immigrant labor.

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