Abbildungen der Seite

market and sell their coal at the best price obtainable at any and all points.

For years bitter wars have been waged by the individual operators against the railroads on account of the exorbitant freight rates. In 1898 the charges by the roads for the transportation of coal became such a serious burden to the towns in the coal region that an organization, called the Anthracite Association, was formed among the chambers of commerce of a number of the cities for the purpose of securing lower freight rates to New York and Philadelphia, and doing away with alleged discriminations. In this way they hoped to lower the selling price and stimulate the consumption of hard coal. The association met with little success. About the same time individual operators in the vicinity of Scranton and Wilkesbarre also took active steps to break away from the conditions imposed by the railroads by having surveyors lay out a road from Scranton to New York. This road when completed was to be called the New York, Wyoming & Western. Nothing beyond surveying the route has yet been done. In one instance, that of Coxe Brothers & Company, also known as the Cross Creek Coal Company, operating in the Lehigh district, the Lehigh Valley Railroad was forced to grant the company the special privilege of running its own cars and engines, manned by its own employees, in special trains over the tracks of that railroad to tidewater. This privilege was secured, however, only because this company built a railroad (the Delaware, Susquehanna & Schuylkill) connecting with all its mines and enabling it at any time to transfer its entire custom to a competing road. As a general thing, the railroads are in a position to charge the highest rate the traffic will bear, making good any losses they suffer as coal mining companies out of their profits as transportation corporations. They charge more for carrying a ton of hard

j"The Philadelphia & Reading Coal and Iron Company reports the running expenses nearly equal to receipts, leaving nothing to pay interest on its liabilities,


coal one mile than is charged in Western Pennsylvania for carrying soft coal four miles.

But there is an even worse phase to this railroad domination in the anthracite coal fields. The demand for hard coal has always been, year in and year out, less than could be supplied. More mines are opened and in operation than are necessary to meet this demand. The total production of all the mines now open, if run the year round, (taking 300,000 tons, the daily output for each producing day in 1899, as a fair estimate of the daily capacity and 250 as the maximum number of producing days in a year), would be 75,000,000 tons. In 1899 the total production was only 54,000,000 tons, the average number of working days being only 180. The competition among the railroad mine-owning companies is so keen that none of them are willing to close down anyone of their mines so long as there is enough profit to pay for running it for only half the year. Here is an enormous waste both of capital and labor. The greater part of the former is fixed capital and the charges on it are but little changed, whether the plants are running or idle. During the time when the mine laborer is out of employment there is no other occupation in the coal fields to which he can devote his energies so as to increase his earnings. He must make enough during the days he does work to support himself and his family through the whole year. while the Lehigh Valley Coal Company's product costs it more than it receives for it. However, most of these concerns transport their own coal and realize their profits in its carriage. The Pennsylvania Coal Company, which confines itself strictly to mining, obtains low rates of freight from the railways, and pays regular dividends. This company, however, has the exceptional advantage that its coal lands were bought many years ago at a small cost and it is not obliged to pay heavy royalties or interest on extravagant first-cost of property, as "many of its competitors do."— The Mineral Industry, Page 167, Vol. VII.

1 If the miner worked 250 days the daily capacity would decrease. The time the men work at the different collieries is judged by the time the breaker is in operation. But the miners and other mine employees work during days when the breaker is idle in cleaning up their working places or breasts and in getting the product in such condition as to be able to get out the greatest quantity possible on the days when the breaker is running. Under these conditions the miner, it is estimated, works on the average four-fifths of the year, while the time, as given by the operation of the breaker, may be put at a little over one-half the year.


With a capacity to produce anthracite coal so much above consumption, some form of agreement among the operators was absolutely necessary. It is plain that the tendency of such an agreement would be to keep the poor mines, which should be shut down, running and to limit the good mines in their output. An agreement of this nature does exist among the operators.' Whether it be called a “trust,” a

combine,” a “pool,” or by some other name less unsavory to the consumer is immaterial. Among the operators it is known as "an understanding among gentlemen.” By this agreement each colliery has" allotted” to it monthly a certain number of tons as its product for the ensuing month. In this way the entire output, estimated beforehand by the salesagents at a general meeting, is distributed among all the collieries. These sales-agents at the same meeting agree upon “circular” prices, and recommend to the operators a restriction of the total tonnage to the amount they have estimated that the market will take at the prices fixed. This understanding, appearing so nicely on paper, does not and cannot, so long as there is no stronger sanction back of it, successfully regulate the output. All that is necessary to break it is for a given colliery to increase its output above the “allotment” in consequence of a special order for coal placed with it. The fact of the matter seems to be that these " recommendations" are continually ignored. In any case the statistics of production show that the collieries rarely, if ever, keep within the allotments.

This operating of too many mines has a disastrous effect upon the miner.

It keeps constantly on hand an oversupply of labor, thus limiting the number of working days and

1 The first step among the operators to combine to restrict production and maintain prices was taken as far back as 1872. Prior to that year, however, the miners tried, in 1869, to "make such arrangements as will enable the operator and the miner to rule the coal market," and the way the miners went about this was to propose to the operators that after that time their wages be based upon the selling price of coal. It was with this object in view that the sliding scale was adopted in the Schuylkill and Lehigh fields.

The anthracite miner did not average more than 204 days from 1890-93; 100 days were about the average from 1894 to 1897; he worked 150 days in 1898 and 180 iStatistics on this very important subject collected by the census of 1900 are not ready for publication. My conclusion is drawn from personal observation during A seven weeks' stay in the anthracite coal region.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

causing irregular employment to prevent over-production. But worse even than this, it has led to the introduction of the cheap pauper labor of Europe with its low standard of living.

All the blame for the introduction of Hungarians, Poles, Slavs and Italians into the hard coal region cannot perhaps be laid at the door of the operators. The miner may be, in part, held responsible, in that in order to make the most out of work in the mines he has taken under contract, he has striven to secure the cheapest labor possible. The miners themselves claim that this course has been forced upon

them by the operators. In substantiation of this claim it is certain that these low types of European labor, about which so much complaint is heard to-day, did not begin to come into the anthracite coal fields until about 1875, four years after the railroads began to become coal-operating companies. This class of labor was increased no doubt by the act of Congress passed in 1874 “to encourage immigration." It is well-known that at that time companies were formed to carry out the intention of Congress. Within five years, by 1880, the Huns, Poles, Slavs and Italians had begun to increase in such large numbers as to threaten to drive out the English, Irish, Scotch, Welsh and German miners. With their low standard of living they soon forced down the rate of wages, and it was this that caused the strike of 1887–88.

These foreign laborers are still pouring into the coal region in an ever-increasing number. They have invaded every district and even every mining town throughout the three fields. The English-speaking miner with his higher and better ideals and wants is unable to compete with this new labor and is being forced to abandon his occupation for some other or sink to worse conditions in life. In nearly every breaker old men-men appearing very old even when in middle life-can be found seated alongside the breaker boys

[ocr errors][ocr errors]


picking slate for seventy-five to ninety cents a day. They passed from the cradle into the mines as breaker boys : they pass out of the mines into the grave as breaker boys. The English-speaking miner demands a neat two-story frame house with from four to seven rooms, with a front porch and yard attached. He wants none but his own immediate family or very near relatives with him. The non-English-speaking miner will live in a one-room hut built by his own hands on a hill-side, of drift-wood gathered at spare moments from along the highway. In not a few of these huts the most conspicuous articles of furniture are mere bunks built in rows along the wall. He is not particular with whom or with how many he lives except that they must be of his own nationality. Nor is he as fastidious about his dress as his English-speaking brother. The foreigner seems to have no particular objection to cast-off clothes. In a funeral procession of over 5,000 strikers, nearly all of whom were foreigners, at Shenandoah, nearly every man wore clothes long out of fashion-hats, coats and trousers either bought by some second-hand dealers in the large cities and sent to the coal fields to be disposed of or purchased by the foreigners upon landing in this country. The English-speaking miner, as a general thing, wants his suit to be new even if it must be of a cheaper grade of cloth. As to material the foreigner is the best clothed miner in the anthracite fields.

These are a few of the many differences between the English-speaking miner and the European laborer, showing the source of the advantage of the latter in competition. Another advantage, especially on the side of the Poles, is that they will venture into dangerous places to mine coal where few of the other nationalities will go. The Italians, on the other hand, will not, as a rule, go into the mines at all. Their competition is thus confined to outside work. Under the laws of Pennsylvania the foreigner, as well as others intending to become miners, is required to spend two years as

« ZurückWeiter »