« ZurückWeiter »
On this $5.00 basis there was a ten per cent sliding scale. For every ten cents above $5.00, for which the coal would sell at tidewater, the miner would receive one cent and the operator nine cents'; in case the price of coal fell below $5.00, the same rate was to apply in reducing the wages. In the mines of G. B. Markle & Company the rates were as follows: Oakdale first, 96 cents per car ; Oakdale second, $1.17 per car ; Highland first, $1.20 per car ; Highland second and Highland fifth, $1.24 per car. were to be as follows: Miners 21 cents per hour ; gangway labor, 18 9-10 cents per hour ; platform labor, 17 2-10 cents per hour ; company men and three mule drivers, 18 cents per hour; two mule drivers, 14 6-10 cents per hour ; single mule drivers, 12 8-10 cents per hour. Gangways were to be paid for at $4.75 per yard ; airways, $3.16 per yard ; cross-cuts, $1.88 per yard ; opening breasts, narrow, $24.80; opening breasts, wide, $8.00. The above prices and wages constituted the basis. When the prices (of the New York Lehigh Coal Exchange Monthly Circular) averaged $1.00 more or $1.00 less than the above $5.00 average, f. o. b. (at Perth Amboy, N. J.), there was to be a corresponding rise or fall of ten per cent on the above basis, except the gangway per yard, which was always to be the same as the average of the monthly prices, and airways per yard, cross-cuts per yard and opening breasts, narrow and wide, which rose and fell on the same percentage as the gangway rose and fell. There was to be no change in prices and wages of less than one per cent at any time.
The scale for the Schuylkill district affected about 55,000 men. It was adopted at the same time as the Lehigh scale, and differed from the latter in that it took as the basis for determining the rate of wages of the miner the selling price of coal at Port Carbon, with a 3373 per cent sliding scale.
The operator would not receive a net gain of nine cents per ton, as the other classes of labor in and about the mines would also get an advance of one cent. The illustration is to show the effect the sliding scale has on the contract miner.
When this scale was adopted Port Carbon, on the Schuylkill River two miles above Pottsville, was an important interior shipping point. When coal sold there for $2.50 per ton, the miners were paid $2.00 per day of ten hours for skilled labor, this being the basis price. The miners not working on contract (about ten per cent of the total number) were to receive $12 per week; inside laborers, $10.20; outside laborers, $8.10. When the price of coal went above the basis the miner was to receive one-third the increase (if the price advanced three cents, he was to get one cent); when it fell below that price he was to stand a reduction in his wages of one-third the price. The method of deciding upon the price of coal at Port Carbon was to choose by lot five collieries from the total number in the lower field shipping 30,000 tons or more. The collieries selected made returns of the prices paid them for their product, prepared sizes, i.e. from lump to chestnut, at Port Carbon. Then the average of these prices determined the wages for the month.
In the Northern or Wyoming and Lackawanna district and at those collieries in the Lehigh field where the sliding scale has never been in force a large percentage of the mining has been done on the car or volume plan at a certain fixed price per car. Some of the companies in these fields also paid according to the ton or weighing plan, a number of them in the upper Wyoming and Lackawanna district using the ton system exclusively. In the Northern field wages are admitted to have been higher than the basis rate under the sliding scale, but as to net earnings there has been practically no appreciable difference between the miner in the Northern field and his fellow worker in the Middle and Southern districts.
From a table published by Dr. Virtue, in the Bulletin of the Department of Labor, for November, 1897, it is shown that in the 108 months from January, 1888, to December, 1896, the average price returned from the collieries drawn to de termine the monthly rate of wages, was in 32 of them above the basis ($2.50), and in 76 below the basis. The highest the price ever went above the basis was 46 cents ($2.96), while the lowest below was 53 cents ($1.97).
The objection of the miner to the sliding scale was that since they were no longer represented at the drawing of the collieries upon which wages in the Schuylkill district depended the system could be used arbitrarily by the operators. It is enough to say that under the conditions they distrusted the returns made. The system, once the plan of the miners to secure what they thought their just share of the product of their labor, had become, from the miners' point of view, a means by which the operators could keep wages below the basis. Their feeling on the matter was tersely expressed by a transparency carried in one of the monster parades at Wilkesbarre which said: "Our wages are based upon an antiquated sliding scale that invariably slides downward."
Another objection was that certain changes had come about in the mining and marketing of coal since the scale was adopted which would make a lower basis necessary if they were to secure just wages. These changes, which were principally in the production of larger amounts of “ small sizes" of coal which sell in the market at lower prices than the former sizes, they claimed, kept the average price per ton at both Port Carbon and tidewater points below the basis price. In consequence their wages under the system would nearly always be below the basis rate. If the system was to be continued, they argued, the basis rate should be lowered to conform with the lower level of prices. It is true, as Dr. Virtue says, in the article before referred to, that these “ small sizes” are not “included in the average prices upon which wages are based in the Schuylkill region, but 'chestnut' is, and the proportion of this size which sells for twenty-five or thirty cents below stove coal has greatly increased compared with the higher-priced sizes." While this, in a way, is as much to the disadvantage of the operator as of the miner it must be remembered that now the
1 The destruction of their organizations in the strike of 1887-88 left the miners without the power to demand their right of representation at the drawings.
operator sells what was heretofore waste dug along with the coal and dumped in the culm banks and for which he formerly had to pay the cost of handling with no return.
The power the railroads have secured in recent years to fix the price of coal through freight charges has also made the sliding scale objectionable to the miners. The Lehigh miners found that tidewater prices, upon which their wages were based, were nearly always lower than prices in the interior markets, in which were sold two-thirds of the product. The Schuylkill miners, whose wages were based upon the price of coal at Port Carbon, were not long in finding out that with the product at a certain price at tidewater the higher the freight rate the lower the price of coal at Port Carbon. It was a scale that could be worked two ways by the railroads, and always to the detriment of the miners.
Such being the conditions of wages in the anthracite fields, it is difficult to get at the average wage. The operators claimed during the strike that “the wages of miners average from $2.00 to $4.00 per day. In fact the rates paid for mining labor compare favorably and are as high, if not higher, than the rates paid for the same class of labor by railroads and other industries.” The officials of the United Mine Workers of America, in their statement to the public, claimed that the average wages of the anthracite miner for many years had been less than $250 annually.
For the purpose of ascertaining what miners earn who are industrious and able to work whenever employment is offered, Mr. A. S. Bolles, in 1888 and 1889, made an investigation of the earnings of the most and of the least skillful miners during those years. He secured this information by asking the operator of each colliery for the monthly earnings of the ten most skillful and industrious contract miners employed in his colliery, and also the number of days they worked. The same facts were sought with respect to the
1 Report of the Secretary of Internal Affairs for Pennsylvania, Part III, for 1888 and 1889
least skillful. The result showed the aggregate earnings of the 450 anthracite coal miners in 45 collieries, who were classed as the most skillful, representing those who earned the largest amounts in such collieries, to be $330,327.80, or $734.06 per man. The average daily earnings were $2.98 per man, and the average number of days each miner worked was 246. The highest average daily wage paid by any one of the 45 collieries to the 10 most skillful miners employed therein was $4.08, an average yearly earning, working 203 days, of $804.40. The lowest average daily wage paid the 10 most skillful miners was $2.02, an average yearly earning, working 265 days, of $538.24. The highest daily wage paid the 10 least skillful miners was $2.75, an average yearly earning, working 217 days, of $597.32. The lowest daily wage paid the 10 least skillful miners was $1.31, an average yearly earning, working 231 days, of $302.24. In the inquiry continued in 1889, the miners in each colliery being divided into ten equal groups according to their earning capacity, the average daily wage for the different classes was shown to range from $3.55 for the first class to $1.79 for the tenth class. Some of the miners earned over $1,000 annually, in one case as much as $1,400. For the great majority of the miners, however, from $400 to $600 a year was the amount earned. Figures from the investigation show the average daily earnings of all the contract miners at eighteen representative collieries for the year 1889 to have ranged from $2,64 for the first class to $1.28 for the tenth class.
The accompanying table of wages of mine employees in the Lehigh district was prepared for the writer by Benjamin James, member from Pennsylvania of the National Executive Board of the United Mine Workers of America, and
1 These inquiries took no account of the earnings of those who were sick and did not or could not work regularly; nor of the earnings of those who died, or went away before the close of the year; nor of those who were employed to fill their places. These averages, therefore, are higher than the actual average wages for cach class.