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Reasons for employing immigrants General conditions of employment at Whiting

Hours of employment-Regularity of employment—The immigrant and organized labor—[Text Tables 45 and 46 and General Table 23.]


Immigrants have been employed at the Whiting refinery for two reasons: (1) Because of the scarcity of other labor and (2) because of desirability of immigrant labor. When the refinery was established in 1889, it was found necessary to bring in labor to construct the plant and later to place it in commission. Among the first laborers brought into the community were a number of Irish secured in Cleveland, Ohio, who, together with a group of native Americans, operated the plant until the entrance of the Slovaks, Poles, and other southern and eastern European races, who had been attracted to the community by the prospect of securing employment. As the industry developed the plant was enlarged from time to time and a greater demand for labor created. There were very few natives in the locality, and the officials of the refinery were forced to turn to the immigrant labor applying at the gates for employment in increasing their force. This labor, in addition to being at hand, could be secured without the often heavy cost of transportation.

The number of occupations were increased as the plant was enlarged, and the European immigrants were found to be very desirable workmen as well as easily secured. They were physically strong and often possessed highly developed mechanical ability. In addition to this, they would work in the lowest occupations without objection, and would willingly perform the very disagreeable work of the refinery. At the present time the natives who are employed are found in the highest grades of work, while the races of recent immigration are found, with but few exceptions, in the lowest occupations.

The reasons for the employment of immigrant sabor have, with some exceptions, been the same as those in Whiting. With the expansion of the refineries and other industrial interests of Bayonne, inability to secure native labor led, as in Whiting, to the introduction of immigrant employees.

Reference has already been made to the boiler makers' strike at Bayonne in 1904, when a large number of Poles and a few Slovaks were brought in to take the place of the striking Irish. It is asserted that the Polish priests assisted the officials of the boiler plant in securing these laborers. From this fact and other information secured it appears that in a quiet way the priests exert considerable influence in securing employment for their parishioners. One Italian

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priest stated that he had been active in this work and had been able to get employment for many of his people. The priests have undoubtedly acted as agents in many cases in bringing in men for work in the oil refineries. The coal-dock strike in 1887, when Slavs were brought in, has also been discussed. Moreover, it is said that when an oil refinery eliminated its striking hand coopers in 1884–85 by the establishment of a more complete and extensive barrel factory, it brought in a number of Poles and Bohemians. When the manufacture of barrels was carried on largely by hand the skilled coopers were in a position to dictate the conditions of employment. The establishment of the barrel factory thus brought about an evolution in the method of work, as well as a change in the races employed. With the expansion of the industrial interests of Bayonne inability to secure sufficient native labor has led to the importation of immigrants. It was as much for this reason as for any other that an oilrefining company brought in a supply of Poles in 1884–85 upon the enlargement of its barrel factory. Similarly in 1880–1882 a number of Swedes were secured to meet an expansion in its refineries.

Various officials of the oil refineries state that Poles and Slovaks are employed because no other labor has been available. Immigrants are also preferred because, being less inclined to strike and more tractable, they render the employer more independent. On account of their docility and submission to authority some employers express the opinion that the Slav races are more efficient as unskilled la borers. On several occasions immigrant laborers have been brought to Bayonne through the removal of oil refineries and manufacturing establishments to the community, bringing in a large proportion of the laborers employed at the former locations. The skill and training of these employees, who were principally Irish and Germans, made their retention desirable. A review of various opinions leads to the conclusion that the greater number of the foreign laborers have come to Bayonne of their own volition, attracted by the opportunities for work. With the exception of the Italians, they have usually succeeded in obtaining regular employment. "Proximity to New York and Ellis Island has also been a factor of some influence in bringing the immigrants to Bayonne. It has been suggested that the Slavonic races like Bayonne because it is near the ports of entry and they can return to the old country with greater facility than would be possible from interior cities. It is thus prob ably true that the greater number of the immigrants have come to Bayonne for reasons other than the direct influence exerted by employers. Once there, unquestionably their availability, willingness, even desire to work, and lack of other labor led to their employment. Underbidding on the part of the immigrants does not appear to have been an important factor at any time.


The general conditions of employment at the Whiting refineries may be set forth as representative of the conditions which largely prevail in the industry. Work in the refinery is regular and little affected by industrial disturbances. Employment is available all the year round and no discrimination is made in regard to races or nationalities of the persons applying for work. Wage payments are


made every two weeks by checks drawn on local banks. These checks are accepted at face value at most of the stores in the town and carry no discount. The company conducts no stores of its own and all employees have the privilege of trading where they will, as the stores of the town are within easy reach of the homes of the employees. In addition to this, the company furnishes free medical treatment for all employees who are injured at their work through no negligence of their own. Employees injured while at work are sent to a hospital in Chicago and there cared for until fully recovered. No limit is set for the length of time such employee shall receive free medical treatment, and full wages are paid by the company during the period of confinement. Should an employee be injured while in the performance of his duties, through his own negligence, the company pays for the necessary medical treatment, but only one-half of the current wages of such employee while prevented from working. In the event that an employee who had received an injury should sue for damages arising out of such injury the company foregoes the above policy and pays the claimant only the amount of the judgment, should there be

But few of such cases have arisen in the history of the plant, however, and the general policy of the company is to care for its injured employees free of charge.

The only special liability to accident or disease to which the employees of the refinery are exposed is that of "lead colic,” which often affects the men working in the sealing department in the occupation of lead burning. The disease when fully developed forces the patient to stop work, and in many cases the sufferer is permanently prevented from returning to work in the occupation of lead burning. The general sanitary conditions found in the establishment are excellent. The company does not at this time own any houses that could be rented to its employees. In the first year or two after the plant was established the company erected about 85 dwelling houses which it sold to its employees at cost on the installment system. Payments are still being made on a few of these houses by the company deducting a certain amount each month from the wages of the purchaser. As a result of this condition the majority of the refinery workers are forced to provide living accommodations for themselves and quite a number of them have purchased homes in the city, while another large group are found living in rented homes or in boarding houses run on both the “American” and “boarding-boss” systems. Intoxication while at work is not tolerated in the refinery. If an employee reports for work under the influence of liquor he is not allowed to enter the plant, and should the offense be several times repeated the offender is dropped from the rolls of the company. This policy of the company is rigidly enforced, and no group of employees are made an exception because of position, race, or nationality.

Among the employees of the refinery will be found about 35 women, who are employed in the candle-packing department. German, Polish, Irish, Slovak, and American girls compose the number, and it is claimed that they applied for work without the intervention of any members of their respective races on their behalf. The work which is performed by these girls consists in assorting candles as they are delivered to them from the molds and packing them in small pasteboard boxes containing a varying number of candles for the

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retail trade. The Irish and American girls are considered the most efficient in their work.

It is a policy of the companies to work mixed gangs in all departments, as clannishness is thereby prevented, and, in the opinion of the officials, better work secured. Due to this fact, all races associate freely while at work. Outside of the plant, however, there is but little association between the Americans and the immigrants and between the several foreign races.

No discrimination for or against the immigrants is made because of the fact that they are immigrants. The preference of the company is given to English-speaking persons in employing labor, but such persons need not be of American or British nationality. For instance, should two men apply for a position which is open, one a Magyar with a speaking knowledge of English and the other a Pole unable to speak English, both possessing equal qualifications in all other respects, the Magyar would be given the position. Persons who are unable to speak English are not refused work, but it is the aim of the officials of the company to eventually have only Englishspeaking labor in the establishment. This standard in the labor corps is desired by the company for a number of reasons, the most important of which are, first, because the cost of operating certain departments of the refinery can be reduced; second, because an important contributory cause of accidents will be eliminated; and, third, because a higher standard of efficiency among the employees can be maintained through an easily effected discipline.


In all departments of the companies operating at Bayonne except in the refining department the hours of labor per week and per day are nine and fifty-four, respectively. In the refining department, the weeks are divided into day and night shifts. The first week the day shift works ten hours per day for four days, the night shift fourteen hours per day for two days, and the two shifts work an aggregate of twentyfour hours on Sunday, making a total of ninety-two hours for the week. The second week the night shift works fourteen hours per day for four days, the day shift ten hours per day for two days, and no work is performed on Sunday, making a total of seventy-six hours worked the second week. Under this arrangement the employees in the refining department, with the exception of the firemen, work a total of one hundred and sixty-eight hours in two weeks, or an average of eighty-four hours per week. For the firemen the day shift is only nine hours, lowering the average to eighty-one hours per week.


The regularity of employment offered, as well as the relative industriousness of the several races and nativity groups, is set forth in the table next presented, which shows, by general 'nativity and race of individual, the months worked during the past year by males in the households studied who were 16 years of age or over.

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