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Wages of Mine Employees in the Lehigh Distrid.
Wages paid per day of ten hours.
gives the miners' side of the question. It was made up from the wages paid by the operators in the Middle field, which may be taken to be about the same as those paid in the other districts.
Eighty per cent of the miners in this district work on contract and 20 per cent by the day. Engineers and firemen receive on the average $40.50 per month. As a rule the miner cuts six loads of coal for $6.00 ($1.00 a car being a fair average). Out of this he pays for powder, oil and repair of tools and the wages of his help. Where the laborer's pay is fixed at so much per day, as is generally the case, the miner must pay him $2.00 in the Northern and $1.75 in the Middle and Southern districts. After all these expenses are deducted the miner's net earnings are about $2.30.
The striking miners did not claim that a general reduction in their wages had been made in recent years, but they argued that there had been a decrease in their earnings due to their being compelled to load larger cars without more pay, to put more "topping' on the old cars, to increase the yardage and the number of pounds required for a ton under old rates and to submit to more and more dockage of that which they did mine. They were compelled to mine more coal under greater difficulties at the same price. They claimed also that exorbitant charges for mine supplies, such as powder, oil, cotton, fuses, etc., and in some cases increased charges at the company store, went to lessen their earnings. In this way and by an increase in the prices of necessities their real wages were reduced to such an extent, they stated, that they were no longer able to support themselves and
1 Taking $30.00 as a fair average of the monthly earnings of the anthracite miner, the cost of living for a family of five, as given to the writer by an intelligent miner whose reputation for truthfulness can be vouched for, is as follows: Rent, $4.00; shoes, $1.00; clothing. $5.00; household goods, 82.00; doctor and medicine, $1.50; church or priest, 50 cents; coal, $1.50; insurance, 50 cents; total, $16.00. This leaves $14.00 for food for five during the month-a little over three cents for each of five persons for three meals a day. The laborers average about $20.00 a month,
their families, that they were compelled to take their children from school at a tender age, and were even forced to swear falsely to the age of their boys so that these might earn money in the breaker. They submitted the fact that the miners in other regions had their wages increased, those in the bituminous field as much as 40 per cent along with a reduction of the daily hours of labor to eight hours. After expressing the belief that the increase in the market price of coal should be shared with them in better wages, the miners demanded a fair share of the increased profits which they said had been and were being secured for the product of their labor
To these statements some of the operators replied in the newspapers. They denied that the prices of necessaries had risen or that the earnings of the mine workers had been reduced. “The facts are," they said, “that the scale of wages has not been reduced in over twenty years notwithstanding the numerous periods of business depression and repeated reductions in the soft coal mining regions, which enabled the soft coal operators to mine at such low cost as to take away a large percentage of business formerly supplied by anthracite coal. Not only has there been no reduction in wages or earnings of the men in the anthracite region but advances have been made in a great many mines to meet changing conditions, and it is a fact that this year anthracite labor has been more fully paid, getting more days' work and consequently larger earnings than has been possible in many years.
“The statement of the mine workers that the market prices of coal are higher than in years is not true. The average prices are not higher now than in recent years and are much below the prices received in 1892. The profits of the business have decreased largely,' due to the increased
A comparison of figures given by the tenth and eleventh census seems to substantiate this claim, in that it is shown that the cost of mining per ton has increased 31 cents ($1.03 in 1880 to $1.34 in 1890), while the value per ton at the mine has increased only 11 cents (from $1.47 in 1880 to $1.58 in 1890).
cost of mining coal from the lower depths and long distances under ground, and have also been materially decreased, due to the rise in price of materials used around the collieries. This has affected all the companies very severely. As to their demand that we increase the price of coal to the public in order to increase their wages, we cannot do this under existing conditions and retain the market for anthracite coal against bituminous coal. A strike and a suspension of mining would have a very injurious effect on the anthracite trade, losing trade to bituminous coal that could never be
The other demands of the miners may be divided into two classes, those to prevent indirect reductions in wages and those to prevent a lessening of earnings after wages are paid. They demand that no miner shall have at any time more than one breast, gangway or working place or get more than his proportional share of cars or work; the abolishment of the system of having 3,360 pounds to the ton; the employment of a checkweighman, to be paid by the miners, who shall be allowed to represent them on the head of each breaker to see that the weight is correct and the dockage fair, and a reduction in the price of powder. All these are to prevent indirect reductions in wages after the nominal rate has been determined. Their demands that the operators comply with the state law in regard to semimonthly cash-pay and that the company store and compulsory payment of the company doctor be abolished are aimed at the devices which now prevent the miner from enjoying his full earnings even after his wages are paid.
Under the conditions of employment drawn up by the Hazleton convention the miners demand the ton or weighing system for all three districts, and they want the ton to be of 2,240 pounds, as provided for by the laws of the state. In their scale of wages they want the pay for mining fixed at from 717 to 8672 cents per long ton. Under the weighing system in use before the strike the price paid was from 65 to 71% cents per ton of from 2,750 to 3,360 pounds. The operators insisted that where the miner was paid by weight the price must be fixed on the basis of paying so much for a quantity sufficient to produce a ton of prepared coal. This, he claimed, took as much as 3,200 pounds, and in some cases even more. There would have been some justice in this claim but for the fact that the impurities loaded in a ton by the miner were allowed for by the dockage system in vogue at all the mines by which the miner was docked ofttimes ten, fifteen or twenty hundred pounds in one day for refuse. This was in addition to being compelled to load the heavy ton. The refuse the miner must necessarily load in a ton of coal was thus counted against him twice. The same was true where the rate of mining was fixed at 4374 cents to 4974 cents for 48 cubic feet. Forty cubic feet usually make a ton and the extra eight feet were to be counted as refuse, making docking unnecessary. Nevertheless the miner was subjected to the dockage system here also, and from 3 to 25 per cent of his coal was taken from him in this way along with the extra eight feet. There were also cases where the miners, instead of furnishing a well-rounded heap on the car at the breaker, as was originally agreed, were compelled little by little to increase the amount of coal in each car by building the same perpendicularly from six to eighteen inches above
The system of dockage, it will readily be seen, has much to do with determining the wages of the miners. Usually the docking boss is an English-speaking miner. He has absolute authority to determine how much refuse and how much clean coal is in a car. In most cases he is stationed at the top of the breaker, and when the car-load is brought to the top to be dumped he marks the amount with which the miner is to be credited. That such a person holding such a position will be without prejudice or feeling toward the miners is expecting too much of human nature. Usually the boss is disliked by the miners. He is regarded in nearly