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the immigrant in the industries of the Birmingham district may be stated as follows:

First. The rather gradual development of the district as a mining and steel center did not create a demand for labor which was strong enough to necessitate the importation or the immigration of foreignborn labor. The surrounding country in the State, and possibly in the adjoining States, possessed a sufficient surplus of labor supply to allow enough additional employees to come to Birmingham to satisfy the slowly growing demand. Thus, up until about 1894, the labor employed in the district was composed almost entirely of native whites and negroes. A very few English, Welsh, and Scotch drifted in from northern mining and steel centers. As a matter of fact, no urgent demand upon the general labor market of the nation at large was made until about 1905, when in a period of unusual activity which lasted until 1908, it was found that the usual number of available native whites and negroes in Alabama and the adjoining southern States was not sufficient to supply the rapidly growing demand. It was discovered also that other industries in the South and the North were depleting the southern labor supply.

Second. The demand for immigrant labor made itself evident upon the following occasions:

(1) During the coal-miners' strike of 1904.

(2) During the coal-miners' strike of 1908.

(3) During the periods of unusual industrial activity, 1905 to 1907, and 1909, until the present time.

The first two periods will be seen to be unusual, or rather periods not postulated by the normal development of the district, but the last two are unquestionably the results of natural conditions. The largest employers of labor in the district state that under normal conditions, at the present stage of the industrial development of the district, the ordinary labor supply which may be relied upon continuously affords about 50 per cent of the total necessary to operate all plants and mines at their full capacity. The smaller employers, on the other hand, assert that so far as they are concerned the supply of native labor is sufficient. The truth of the situation appears to be that there is what may be termed a "residual" supply of native labor fairly well distributed all over the district. This residual or basic. supply is sufficient for the needs of the smaller operator or the small iron and steel producer. The operation of these mines, a large majority of which produce for the retail trade alone and the special iron and steel producers, is not subject to great increases or reductions. They employ from 25 to 100 and 150 men each, and are not disturbed by fluctuations in the supply of labor. The larger plants and coal operators, as well as the newer ones, who have expanded the most rapidly and have constituted the chief growth of the district, are most affected. They are dissatisfied with the situation for the following reasons:

1. The "residual" labor supply is unsatisfactory. In the first place, the number of native whites who can be drawn upon to furnish additional labor as the demand grows is very small. Secondly, they are, for the most part, not adapted to conditions. They come from the agricultural districts, and the majority are willing to work only during the winter months. Thirdly, the negroes, it is claimed, while possessing many excellent qualities, such as capacity for heavy work

and tractability, are too irregular and shiftless in their habits to be depended upon without a considerable admixture of other races. At the time when the demand for labor is the highest, for instance, and premiums are offered in wages to secure additional labor, the negro is willing only to make a living wage and will work only a sufficient number of days in the week to earn that amount. Fourthly, some of the employers assert that the younger generation of negroes is deteriorating physically, and is less capable of hard work than the older generation which came from the plantations. Finally, it is asserted that a migration of negroes is taking place from the South into the North and West, thus decreasing the supply available to the industries of the Birmingham district.

2. The employers claim that as the result of the increasing demand for more labor, and of the decreasing supply of labor in the section tributary to the Birmingham district, they are seriously handicapped in periods of normal activity. This attitude has been manifested not only in statements made by them in the course of this investigation, but also in conferences on the question of securing immigration into the district from other States and countries. The alleged handicap has existed, they state, in three ways: (a) The Birmingham operators are forced to increase the wages of employees by adding premiums, as was done during the prosperous period of 1907-8, and thus to increase the expenses of production in comparison with other localities in the United States; (b) they are in constant danger of being tied up by strikes, without an available supply of labor to draw upon; and (c) they are at a disadvantage as compared with other localities by reason of the inefficiency of the unskilled labor which is available.

Because of the labor situation, which is an outgrowth of the industrial expansion of the district, a change in the labor supply has already taken place to the following extent:

(1) English, Irish, Scotch, and Welsh miners and steel workers, to some extent skilled, have come into the district of their own accord, as shown by statistics in another section of this report.

(2) The larger employers have brought in Italians, Greeks, Macedonians, Slovaks, Bulgarians, and representatives of other southern European races during the past ten years for use as unskilled laborers in the steel plants and the mines.

(3) The net gain to the labor supply by the coming of these immigrants has been the settling of the Scotch, Irish, Welsh, and English, and to a small extent of Slovaks, Greeks, and Italians. To this net gain may be added those who have come of their own accord because friends and relatives preceded them to this locality. In proportion to the total number of employees, however, the number of immigrants is insignificant, and they have really done very little toward solving the question of a settled labor supply. The immigrants who have already come do not show a tendency to stay, and the difficulty experienced in securing enough of them to form large communities, which would serve to draw others of the various races in those communities has so far been well-nigh insurmountable. In brief, therefore, a survey of the industrial history of the district brings the present situation down to a statement which may be expressed as follows: The rapid industrial expansion of Birmingham as an iron and steel center has far outgrown the labor supply. According to the

larger and newer operators of mines and plants, immigration of some nature must be brought about in order to allow the Birmingham district to retain what natural advantages it possesses in the production of iron and steel and other products.


From an economic standpoint, and aside from other consideration from the point of view of the immigrant, the greatest inducement offered to immigrants is the demand for labor on the part of the newer and larger coal, iron, and steel industries in the district. This is evident from the standpoint of the employer, as shown in a preceding section of this report. As compared with iron and steel centers in other sections of the United States, the climate in the Birmingham district presents a second inducement. On account of the lack of congested conditions and probably superior housing, a third inducement exists over other centers.

Obstacles may be summarized in the following manner:

(1) The lack of established community life among the various races, particularly in the case of southern and eastern European races. (2) The long distance from the chief ports of immigration.

(3) Prejudice against the immigrant on the part of negroes and native whites. There seems to be a natural prejudice against Italians, as expressed in the term "dagoes," and against other southern European immigrants, as expressed in the term "hunkies," which has been accentuated on the part of native employees on account of the use of immigrants of this class as strike breakers. The same natural prejudice appears in the attitude of the employers, who, with few exceptions, adopt a contemptuous attitude toward immigrants from southern Europe and regard them as desirable only from the standpoint of the lack of an alternative as a solution of the problem of labor scarcity. Employers, too, other things being considered equal, have stated that they prefer negroes to immigrants of this class, because they are better patrons of the commissaries, and in this manner practically receive lower wages.

(4) Slightly lower wages offered in the Birmingham district as compared by occupations with other coal and steel centers of the country.

The obstacles appear to have outweighed the inducements in the past. Immigrants who have been brought into the Birmingham district from New York as they landed or from communities in other States have been brought in only by special inducements, such as free transportation, during the periods of the greatest demand. They have not settled to any considerable extent, except in the case of the Scotch, English, Irish, and Welsh, who came of their own accord years ago, and except a community of Slovaks who have settled because members of this race were present in numbers large enough to establish a community. Finally, the greatest obstacle to immigration into this section should be noted as the general tendency on the part of immigrants, for whatever purpose, to go elsewhere in the United States. The flow of immigration has not been toward the South, and Birmingham employers believe that immigration into their district will not become natural until the immigration movement, in a national sense, is turned toward the South.

48296°-VOL 9-11-11


In addition to the collection of other data, 661 households, the heads of which were engaged in the iron and steel industry, were investigated in the Birmingham district. The following table shows the number and percentage of households studied, by general nativity and race of head of household:a

TABLE 654.-Households studied, by general nativity and race of head of household.

[merged small][graphic][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][merged small][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][merged small][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed]

The above table shows that of all households studied in this locality 80 per cent were households the heads of which were foreign-born and 20 per cent those the heads of which were native-born of native father. As regards the households the heads of which were of foreign birth, the South Italian households constitute a larger proportion than do the households of all other races combined. The number of Slovak households studied in this locality is slightly in excess of the French or Scotch and largely in excess of the Greek and Bulgarians, while the households of other foreign races constitute a very small proportion of all households studied. Among those households the heads of which were native-born of native father, the whites constitute a very small proportion, while those the heads of which were negroes make up 18.3 per cent of the total number of households.


The table next presented shows, by general nativity and race of head of household, persons in households studied and persons for whom detailed information was secured.

a The study of the coal mines in the Birmingham district appears in detail in the report upon immigrants in the bituminous coal-mining industry, and of the ironore mines in the district in the report upon immigrants in iron-ore mining.

TABLE 655.-Persons in households studied and persons for whom detailed information was secured, by general nativity and race of head of household.

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Of the 3,203 persons in the 661 households studied in this locality, 85.4 per cent are in households the heads of which are foreign-born, 13 per cent in households the heads of which are negroes native-born of native father, and 1.7 per cent in households the heads of which are whites native-born of native father. Among those households whose heads are foreign-born, it will be noted that the persons in South Italian households constitute 37.9 per cent of all the persons in the households studied. This, it will be noted, is a very much larger proportion than is found for households the heads of which are of any other race. Those in Slovak households constitute the next largest proportion, or 11.2 per cent, a proportion slightly in excess of that shown in Scotch, considerably in excess of that shown in Bulgarian, Greek, or French, and largely in excess of that shown in North Italian, Macedonian, Polish, or English households, in the order named.

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