« ZurückWeiter »
employment were to apply as far as possible to the whole region. These conditions of employment were:
(1) “An advance of 20 per cent on all day labor now receiving less
than $1.50 per day; 15 per cent over present prices on all classes of day labor now receiving $1.50 and not over $1.75 per day, and 10 per cent advance on all day labor receiving more than
$1.75 per day." (2) “Abolishment of the sliding scale system now in practice in the
Lehigh and Schuylkill regions." (3) “No miner shall have at any time more than one breast, gangway
or working place, and shall not get more than his equal share of
cars or work." (4) “Abolishment of the erroneous system of having 3,360 pounds to
the ton, and that 2, 240 pounds shall constitute a ton." (5) A checkweighman shall be hired by the miners, and allowed to
represent them on the head of each breaker, and see that the
weight is correct, and that the dockage is fair.” (6) “Reduction in the price of powder to $1.50 per keg." (7) "Abolishment of the company store system.” (8) “Abolishment of the company doctor system for miners and com
pulsion to pay one." (9) “Compliance with the State law which says that all industrial concerns shall
pay their employees semi-monthly and in cash."
These conditions of employment, taken separately or collectively, are in their final analysis demands for an increase in wages.
The wage problem in the anthracite coal fields is a most complicated one. The difficulties in the way of a satisfactory treatment of it are almost insurmountable. Here are at work not only the natural forces tending in most occupations continually to force wages to a lower level, but also artificial means to complicate and aggravate the situation and to keep the earnings of the miner at the lowest possible point.
In the first place the cost of production is not the same in 1 In the Schuylkill district powder was already selling at $1.50 a keg. The sliding scale had never been in use in the Wyoming and Lackawanna district. company store and company doctor systems were not in force at all the collieries.
any two mines.' This is due principally to natural conditions, i.e., the formation of the seams and the quality of
In some mines the coal lies horizontally, as in parts of the Wyoming and Lackawanna district. Here the coal is taken out mostly by sinking shafts from the surface to strike the coal in the basin or centre of the valley, so that it may be run by gravity to the foot of the shaft from either side of the basin. In other places the coal lies in an inclined position and is reached by slopes sunk from the surface and run with the pitch of the seam. In still other places the deposit comes so near the surface that the upper crust of dirt and stone is removed and the coal is then mined in what is called a stripping. Then again there is the drift mine, in which a tunnel is driven horizontally through the seam into the mountain side where the coal outcrops. The cost of mining varies in these different kinds of mines. A difference in the cost of mining in different mines is also due to the quality and quantity of coal in the seam. In some places the deposit is of the very best anthracite, containing comparatively little slate or other refuse, while in other places it is so full of impurities as to barely pay the cost of mining. The seam also varies in different mines, being only two feet wide in some and as thick as 100 feet in others. In some mines the coal has to be mined from a greater depth and in more dangerous places. Besides these and other natural conditions, there are many artificial causes making a difference in the cost of production in the various mines. In some, more timber is needed than in others; in some, more coal has to be left for pillars; in others, more water has to be pumped out; there are also differences in cost in tracks, haulage, ventilation and supervision. In every district, however,
1“There are few published reports as to the present cost of mining and market. ing anthracite coal, but figures are available for some of the companies. Mining costs the Delaware & Hudson Canal Company $1.34 per ton; the Lehigh Coal & Navigation Company, $1.31; the Lehigh Valley Coal Company, $1.90; and the Philadelphia & Reading Coal and Iron Company, $1.71. It costs the Delaware & Hudson 41 cents per ton additional to market the product, and the Philadelphia & Reading $1.13.-The Mineral Industry, Page 167, Vol. VII.
there are several mines operated that barely pay their owners for being kept in working. These are the marginal mines. The day the strike went into effect and the men left the collieries, announcement was made by several of the operators that they would allow certain of their mines to fill with water and abandon the plants for good, the reason being that the cost of keeping the mines in repair, free from the accumulation of gas and the collection of water, would be more than the plant was worth. For a year or more these mines had barely been meeting expenses.
The conditions of mining, it will thus be seen, are different not only in the several districts, but even in different collieries in the same field. This makes a uniform rate of wages for the entire region or a general plan for determining the rate almost impossible. Such a plan would in some cases work to the injury of a particular operator, and in others to the detriment of the employees of certain companies.
These natural differences are partly but not wholly responsible for the different systems of paying the wages of the mine workers. The rate of wages is arrived at by one scale in the Lehigh district and by a different scale in the Schuylkill, while a third plan is employed in the Wyoming and Lackawanna district. The rates in consequence differ in all three fields, as well as between different collieries in the same field. Even in the same colliery the same rate is not paid to all the men. The inside employees get one price for their work, the outside employees another, and the breaker boys and old men are paid a third. Of the inside employees the miners get one rate, the laborers another, the drivers and runners a third, door boys and drivers' helpers a fourth, while other inside men get still another. So it is with the outside men. Engineers and firemen get one rate, carpenters and blacksmiths another, slate pickers a third and other outside men a fourth. Even among the miners themselves in nearly every colliery men may be found working some at so much per yard, and others at so much per ton and still others at so much per car.
Nor do all the men working by the yard receive the same rate, the kind of passage driven and the use or non-use of timber affecting the price. Even the time worked, which is a very important element in determining the wages of the miner, is not the same in all the collieries nor for all classes of workmen in the same colliery. In fact, at the time of the strike, a general inequality of wages existed throughout the districts even where the seams, mode of working and general conditions were similar. Different men doing similar work, even in the same colliery, were paid differently.
For years, indeed ever since 1869, the miner of the Lehigh and Schuylkill districts has had his rate of wages determined by the selling price of coal. The miner was and is still an employer of labor as well as an employee. The gross wages he receives depends upon the number of days he works, the presence of little or much slate or refuse in the coal he mines, the number of pounds he has to dig to make a ton and upon the temper of the docking boss. His net wages depend upon the rate he is compelled to pay his laborers' and the number of laborers he has to employ, the prices he has to pay for powder, squibs, oil, and for keeping his tools in repair and on numerous other conditions beyond his control. As a consequence of these complications the miner may put forth the same amount of energy to-day as yesterday without obtaining the same wage for both days. The same man working in different seams will make different wages ; two different men working next to each other in the same seam will not make the same wage. No miner not under the day-wage system, and not always the latter, can tell how much his earnings will be at the end of the month or when pay day comes around.
Despite all this confusion, it can be said generally that
? In the Wyoming and Lackawanna district the miner is compelled to pay his helper or laborer one-third of his gross earnings. It must be remembered that the laborer is not employed by the operator but by the miner himself.
there are two systems of paying wages in the anthracite fields of Pennsylvania—the contract and the day-wage systems. The former includes the car or volume, and the yard or measure plans, which are in use in all three districts, and the ton or weighing plan, which is used only in the upper Wyoming and Lackawanna field. About 90 per cent of the miners in both the Wyoming and Lackawanna and the Schuylkill districts and 80 per cent of those in the Lehigh field work under the contract system. The others are paid day wages. The miners working under contract are the best paid workmen about the collieries.
The car or volume plan of paying the miner is generally in vogue in the Lehigh and Schuylkill districts and in certain collieries in the Wyoming and Lackawanna field. The price paid the miner for mining and loading a car ranges from 80 cents to $1.22, the cars containing from 96 to 161 cubic feet each. In those mines where the car plan is in use the price paid the miner is fixed, depending on the character of the vein and the size of the car. This price must of necessity be different in different collieries. Under the yard or measure plan the rate of mining in the Lehigh district was fixed at 4374 cents to 4972 cents for 48 cubic feet, the extra eight feet (40 cubic feet of coal making on the average a ton) counted, so it was understood by the miner, as refuse. Where the ton or weighing plan was in use 65 to 71cents was the price paid per ton of from 2,750 to 3,360 pounds the extra weight (2,240 pounds making a ton) being for refuse.
In the Lehigh field, where about 15,000 men and boys are employed, the rate of wages has been regulated since 1869, by what is known as the sliding scale. According to this scale, when the prices of anthracite coal averaged $5.00 per ton at tidewater points, miners were to receive for mining and loading coal, 87 cents per car. Generally skilled miners working by the day received 21 cents an hour, or $12.60 a week of 60 hours, and first-class laborers $10.80 a week.