Pictures and Illustrations.
Report of the Special Committee on Labor to the Illinois House of Representatives.
On February 7th, 1879, Hon. Chris. Meier, of Cook county, offered the following resolution which was adopted:
WHEREAS, The Trade and Labor Council of Chicago and vicinity have expressed their desire to have a special committee appointed to examine into the condition of the working classes; and
WHEREAS, said Trade and Labor Council is composed of twenty-two trade and labor unions, representing the entire working people of this state; therefore, be it
Resolved, That the speaker of this house shall appoint a special committee of five, who shall visit the city of Chicago and Braidwood to obtain such information as may be required for the members of this House, to enact such laws as will ameliorate the condition of the working people of this state.
In compliance with the above resolution, the speaker of the House appointed the following committee to serve in this special case:
Hon. Charles Ehrhardt, of Cook; Hon. B. H. Trusdell, of Lee; Hon. John W. Savage, of Cass; Hon. John R. McFie, of Randolph; Hon. David H. Harts, of Logan.
On the twenty-seventh day of February, the following members were added to the committee:
Hon. John B. Taylor, of Cook; Hon John W. Foy, of Henry.
On Saturday, March first, the committee visited the city of Chicago, where they were waited upon by a committee of working men from the Council of Trades and Labor Unions of Chicago and vicinity, who accompanied the legislative committee on an inspection tour through the different portions of the city of Chicago, where the working class reside. On the route several industrial establishments were inspected, the stock yards were visited, where thorough examinations were made into the general condition and requirements of the wage-workers who were employed therein.
At 3:30, p. m., the legislative committee met at the Palmer House in parlor "O," and were called to order by the chairman.
Present: Hon. Charles Ehrhardt, chairman; Hon. B. H. Trusdell; Hon. John W. Savage; Hon. John R. McFie; Hon. John B. Taylor; Hon. John W. Foy.
The chairman inquired if the representatives of the Trades Unions were present and prepared to submit their statements to the committee.
The following list of delegates composing a committee appointed by the Council of Trades and Labor Unions of Chicago and vicinity was presented, who were authorized to submit documents and make statements on behalf of the wage-working class, pursuant to their instructions:
T. J. Morgan, D. R. Streater, John Ehman, Samuel Gold water, Frank Gilmore, W. Seavy, A. R. Parsons.
The chairman inquired if there were any other delegations representing labor organizations who desired to make any statements before the committee.
The following list of delegates comprising a committee appointed on behalf of the Socialistic Labor party was presented:
Benjamin Sibley, Frank Hirth, T. J. Morgan, Henry Stahl, George A. Schilling, Paul Grottkau.
On behalf of the Council of Trades, and Labor Unions of Chicago and vicinity, Mr. T. J. Morgan stated that the working class appreciated the action of the legislature in appointing this special legislative committee in response to their request, to inquire into the condition and requirements of the wage-working class who asked for such legislation at the hands of the Illinois legislature as was necessary to protect their rights and interests, and secure to them the just rewards of their labor.
Mr. T. J. Morgan then proceeded to read the following statement on behalf of the Trades Unions, which had been prepared for the information of the committee, as follows:
Changes in the Mode of Production.
Reaping grain, in our father's time, was done by the use of the sickle, in the hand of the worker, but at this time reaping is performed by perfected machinery, which cuts, threshes, winnows and sacks the grain, and the filled sacks are left in the rows where but a few minutes before stood the golden grain.
Planting grain in the past was done by sowing it broadcast or dropping it singly by the hand; at present all this labor is performed by machinery.
Cultivating in the past was performed with the hoe; at present, a boy with a cultivator and pair of horses does with ease the work of twenty men.
Shelling corn in the past was done by drawing the ear of corn across the edge of the shovel, the result was, after twelve and sixteen hours hard work, only twenty bushels shelled; at present, two men, with a hand machine, in a short day's labor shell two hundred and forty bushels, or with the best horse-power machine, two men in ten hours' labor each, can shell three thousand bushels, showing that one man can now do the work which formerly required the labor of seventy-five men without the aid of machines.
Hay in the past was cut with the scythe; at present, one man with machine and team does the work of twelve men. In turning and scattering, one man and horse do the work formerly required of twenty-eight men with the pitchfork, and so much better that twenty-four hours are saved between cutting and harvesting. In raking, one man and horse, do the work formerly required of ten men. In sowing one man does the work of three men in the past. In planting, one man does, the work of twelve and a half men, and in cutting and harvesting one man does the work of three hundred and eighty-four men without the aid of machinery.
Machinery digs the potatoes, milks the cows, makes the butter and cheese, in short there is nothing now in food production, without its labor saving process. Our fathers, their families and servants had full winter's work, threshing wheat, shelling corn, and getting their stuff to market, which was in many cases a long distance off. Now the machines and the iron horse do all this. There is no more constant work for the farmers' families or servants, and to get this they must seek work in the large cities. To-day one with tools can produce as much food, as twenty men in our father's time.
Spinning yarn. In the Frankfort Yarn Mills, Philadelphia, Penn., 151 persons of both sexes and ages, made 35,000 miles of yarn per
6day from the raw material. To do this work fifty or sixty years ago would have required 61,603 women with the old machines.
To further show the rapid changes that are going on: in this same mill five years ago, it required three hundred and two persons to do that which is now done by one hundred and fifty-one persons, and now with the improved machines one person does the work that required four hundred and eight persons to do sixty years ago.
In weaving cotton fabrics, a girl with improved machine loom, does the work that would have required one hundred women in our mother's time.
In woolen fabrics, without going back more than ten years, such has been the improvement in machines, that forty men can do now, what it then required one hundred to perform. In this branch, in forty years, machinery has displaced seventy per cent of all hand labor.
Wood work with the circular saw: one man can do more than ten men with the hand saw; one man with the moulding machine, can do more than ten men with the hand tools. One man with planing machine can do more than twenty men with hand planers.
With mortising and tonging machinery, one man does more than eighteen men formerly; with jigsaw, more than eight; with band saw more than twelve. Thus ten men can now do as much as one hundred could do fifty years ago.
Fifty years ago the utmost a shoemaker could do was to make two hundred pairs of boots and shoes per year, at fifteen hour's work per day. At that time only men were workers. Thirty years ago men, women and children were making shoes, working twelve hours per day with machinery, and the number of boots and shoes per hand per year had increased from two hundred to four hundred and fifty-five pairs. Twenty years ago the number had increased to five hundred and seventy-nine pairs; thirteen years ago it had increased to six hundred and three pairs; but three years ago it had increased to two thousand five hundred and ninety-eight pairs for each hand per year, and a recent California invention will save seventy per cent in bottoming boots and shoes, turning out from twenty to thirty pairs per hour.
Mr. Fairbairn estimated that the 3,650,000 horse power obtained by steam in England in the year 1865, was equal in productive results, to the labor of 76,000,000 of workmen. Reckoning the number of English families at 5,000,000, each one of them would thus have in its service fifteen slaves with muscles of steel, incessantly working under steam, and not to be tired out.
says that the seven and a half millions of workers of England with the present means of labor, can produce as much in six months as would have required one hundred years ago, the entire working force of the whole world one year to equal. In speaking of the improvement and advance in the natural knowledge in the two-hundred years or so, "since the founding of the Royal Society of Great Britain," he tells us that if Lord Bouncker, the first president of that society could revisit the upper air, and gladden his eyes once more with the sight of the familiar mace, he would find himself in the midst of "a material civilization" more different from that of his day than that of the seventeenth was from that of the first century. The fictions of the oriental imagination, the feats of genii performance of the marvels of Aladdin's lamp are realized; the wild dreams are becoming sober facts of history. But the changes of the past are not all. The same spirit is moving forward, with added interest and momentum, to new advances and conquests, perpetually. Fresh improvements are constantly being brought out, exalting and perfecting the old, this is a strength that grows with the using and goes on and on without end. But what effect has this marvelous change had upon the condition of the people? Has it brought peace and contentment? Has it helped to feed the hungry and clothe the naked? Or has it proved a mockery and curse?
has carefully estimated that the production of wealth in Britain, since the opening of this century and up to the year 1870, equals the aggregate that had been acquired, during the entire time from the landing of Julius Caesar, fifty-five years before the birth of Christ, up to 1800. Furthermore, that the wealth produced since 1850, has been equal to all that had been made in the fifty years preceding.
in his work entitled "Fragments of Science" says such wonderful progress has been made under the present and past condition of society, where only one in a thousand is in a position favorable for the development of new ideas and possessed of the means and appliances necessary to put his or her ideas into practicable shape, then whose imagination is capable of grasping the wonderful change that will be possible when society is reorganized on an equitable basis and each individual has equal rights and opportunities? In 1789 the people of France threw off the aristocratic incubus and took a long step toward "Liberty and Equality." What was the result? Speaking of the times immediately after the Revolution, he says, "the single city of Paris counted a greater number of discoveries than any country in the world. These peopled colonies; these ships that furrow the seas; this abundance (the capitalists call it over-production), this luxury (enjoyed exclusively by the few), all this comes from discoveries in science by men who have been animated by the noblest ambition of the human
8heart, that is to have an honored name, and die with the knowledge that they had done something to make the world better for their having lived in it."
says, "It is questionable if all the mechanial inventions yet made, have lightened the day's toil of any human being. They have enabled a greater population to live the same life of drudgery and imprisonment and an increased number of manufacturers and others to make fortunes; they have increased the comforts of the middle class, but they have not begun to effect those great changes in human destiny which it is their nature to accomplish."
says there is not a single mechanical invention which has not been a subject of anguish and a cause of distress to thousands of fathers of families, from the moment it began to work in July, 1835, — and how many more examples might be cited? It was admitted in the British House of Commons that 840,000 human beings, men, women and children had been almost literally condemded to death by the substitution of mechanical for hand weaving. There was no question of compensation. The State compensates the owner of house or land when his property is required for the public good, but the unfortunate who is deprived by a useful invention of that which is his only property, is left to starve. Their employes are at their mercy. Every new invention or improvement in machinery calls for a reduction in wages, the dismissal of operatives, or both — in many cases the latter is the result. With all these mighty productive powers, the worker's reward is wages which are insufficient to allow of civilized life, a miserable struggle for existence, a future without hope.
author of a recent work entitled "Our Labor Difficulties," in speaking of labor-saving machinery and its effects upon wage-workers, says:
"1st. It has destroyed the system of family and household manufacture, etc., and now compells us to labor in jail-like factories, from 10 to 12 hours per day, or ply the needle 18 or 20 hours per day in tenement houses, or turns us out upon the streets to starve.
2nd. It has destroyed individual and independent action in production and compells us to work for others, with no voice, no right, no interest in the productions of our hand and brain, but subjects us to the uncontrollable will of our employers, whose only interest is to force from us all that can be produced.
3d. It has developed our producing power to a marvelous extent, and reduced our power to consume to the lowest possible limits, so that half the workers can produce everything that is needed, in abundance
9working 10 hours per day, leaving the other half to become tramps, paupers or criminals.
4th. It has destroyed regular and constant employment for any considerable class, crushed out all hope. Breeds discontent and strife, that if not cured will cause a revolution."
The Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics of Ohio, in his first report says: "This vast increase in wealth and wealth producing power with the small relative increase in population did not prevent our industries becoming paralyzed. Working men by the thousands are denied the right to earn honest bread for themselves and families.
The wealth and wealth producing power not only remains intact, but increases six times faster than the populations. Brains and muscles are eager for employment and nothing prevents prosperity, but the poverty of the masses. Their wants are unsupplied and their inability to supply them is keeping the workshops of the State closed, or nearly so. They must have work and wages before their wants can be supplied, but they cannot under existing conditions commence production and increase consumption except by the will of others who possess the wealth and machinery. The great and growing evil in the United States is the poverty of the masses. A month's idleness in almost any laborer's household reveals the fact that poverty exists in all it's hideousness. The family, the community, or the nation of wage workers who are dependent on their day's wages for the same day's bread, and yet living in a country where wealth increases six times faster than population, are fair exponents of the poverty that gives life and being to a labor question. Years of steady employment coupled with health and strength and the will to labor was not, and is not a guarantee to the laborer that if sickness once overtakes him that he shall not become a pauper, or when death comes, that his children shall not be thrown upon the charity of the community.
Poverty is a crime — not that the individual poor are criminals (though it is so considered by the capitalists). Far from it. But poverty is the greatest crime of society against the individual, and is the progenitor of nine-tenths of the criminals in the country. There can be no peace unless the power and will to labor will secure the laborer food, clothing, education for children, decent homes and a comfortable old age, when labor ceases to be possible. There can be no permanent prosperity unless labor is secured these conditions, for it is not prosperity where wealth increases and men decay.
Our government structure rests upon the intelligence of the people and their happiness and contentment under the laws and systems under which they live. The laboring population are a vast majority of the people, and whatever tends to their contentment and happiness without infringing upon the rights of others, also tends to the prosperity of our institutions. The power this majority holds cannot be ignored, and that power will always be exercised for good, as long as they are content with their condition. That they are not content at the present time; that the spirit of discontent is ripe and open revolt only prevented by the hope of a speedy change, needs no elucidation."
Mr. Morgan then said: — Gentlemen of the Legislative Committee, we trust that your action will be such as to increase this hope. Treat the subject with the consideration its importance commands, and when you return to your duties as legislators urge upon your colleagues the necessity of prompt action in this matter before it is too late. Should they so act, then there will be need of an increase in the army or militia. But should they refuse to properly consider this question and allow the present condition of affairs to develop, and endeavor only to uppress the manifestations of discontent then the inevitable revolution will soon come though the capitalistic class place an armed hireling at the side of every worker.
There being no labor statistics in the State of Illinois, of an official character, Mr. Morgan asked leave to submit a tabulated statement taken from the bureau of labor statistics in the states of Ohio and Massachusetts, for the year 1878, as follows:
Bureau of Massachusetts Labor Statistics.
|In 1875, the females in the cotton trade by 238 days labor earned per year,||$199 00|
|The males by 252 days' labor earned||$443 00|
Two years later, in 1877, wages had decreased 9 per cent., and the working time had increased five days; the average working days were 10 Ë hours.
|The average earnings of females for 1877||$182 00|
|The average earnings of males||412 00|
|An average for all workers||275 00|
|The average yearly earnings divided by the number of living days in the year (365) allows each worker per day||.75|
Bureau of Labor Statistics of Ohio.
|Average wages skilled labor per week||$10 06|
|" " unskilled labor per week||7 32|
|" " boys||3 28|
|" " girls||3 84|
|" earnings per worker per year||318 50|
|" yearly earnings divided by the number of living days in the year (365) gives per day to each worker||.87|
The following statement taken from official documents was submitted, showing the difference between allowances made by the state for the support of its charitable institutions, as compared with wages paid for labor performed by the wage-working class:
|In Asylum for Feeble minded children per week||$ 6 50|
|" " " " " year||342 12|
|In Elgin Insane Asylum, per year||238 00|
|" " " week||4 50|
|In Central Insane Asylum, per week||5 00|
|" " " year||266 00|
|In Southern insane Asylum, per year||208 00|
|" " " week||4 00|
|In Soldier's Orphans Home, per week||3 25|
|" " " " year||165 00|
This is for board only, and does not include expenses for grounds, buildings, furniture, livestock, implements and other furnishings.
The following resolution adopted by the "Council of Trades and labor Unions of Chicago and vicinity," setting forth what measures are desired to be enacted into laws, and asking for the appointment of a special committee of inquiry was then read:
Resolved, That we demand in the name of labor that the following labor bills be passed: An act reducing the hours of labor; an act for the establishment of a bureau of labor statistics; an act for the abolishment of contract convict labor; an act for the sanitary inspection of food, dwellings, factories, workshops, and mines; an act for the abolition of child labor; an act to make employers liable for all accidents to employes caused through the employers neglect; an act to give wages priority over all other claims; and an act to abolish the truck system and make it incumbent upon the employer to pay all wages in lawful money.
Resolved, That we demand that a special committee be appointed, with full power to act, to obtain the following information: Why is it that, with all the resources of life that the Creator has provided in such abundance; with all the marvelous facilities provided by man's ingenuity for turning this natural abundance into the forms necessary for man's use and enjoyment, that the comforts of life are removed beyond the reach of so many, and that thousands are even deprived of the bare necessaries of life, and are forced to become tramps and paupers? Why is it that there is a conflict between employers and employes, as expressed in strikes, etc.? Why is it that as man's ability to produce increases, his chances of obtaining constant and remunerative employment decreases?
Mr. Morgan was then interrogated by members of the legislative committee, with regard to the measures enumerated above, during which, that portion of the report of the Ohio bureau of labor statistics was submitted for the information of the committee, bearing on the subject of contract convict labor, and the clerk was ordered to make it a part of the committee proceedings as follows:
All persons sentenced to serve a term of months or years in the state penitentiary, or in the work-houses at Cincinnati or Cleveland, in addition to the imprisonment are sentenced to hard labor. At the present time, there are but few persons who object to the prisoners being compelled to labor, as such compulsion is both just and politic. The prisoner should be compelled to earn sufficient to pay all the expenses attending his safe keeping, and for the further reason that his health requires the exercise attending hard labor.
In what manner the prisoners should be employed, whether by the state direct under its proper officers, or whether the labor should be sold under contract, are questions that within the past few years have attained considerable prominence, and numerous investigations have been had, asking light upon the subject.
The system most prominent in this and other states, is that of the contract system, by which the labor of the prisoners is sold to certain persons known as contractors, for a stipulated period, commonly five years, at so much per diem.
The law of the state fully recognizes and enforces, so far as possible, the contract system, and no matter how much the board of directors or the warden might be disposed to try any other system, the law itself would prevent such an experiment.
There are three prominent questions to be considered in investigating any system of prison labor:
1. Is it the best for the prisoner?
2. Is it the most likely to be self-sustaining?
3. Is it the best for the community?
The old idea, that a prison was a place of punishment only, has given way to the more modern idea, that while the transgressor should be punished, he should also, if possible, be reformed. The best interests of society, as well as of the prisoner, require that he leave the prison a better man than when he entered, and every power of the state should be brought to bear to secure that end. To that end, labor itself was introduced into the prisons on the assertion that many prisoners, having led a life of idleness and vice, should be trained to habits of industry, that to "make men diligent would make them honest," or that the acquisition of a trade would secure to the former idler a sure means of securing a livelihood when once again permitted to mingle with the outer world, and with trained habits of industry, the chances for his total reformation would be greatly enhanced. The best interests of the prisoner and of society are therefore served by his doing daily labor, provided that such labor is not performed under circumstances calculated to destroy the primary objects of imprisonment, punishment, and reformation.
In every investigation made in this and other states, the contractors have asserted that they gave no thought to the question of reformation; that they contracted for the labor of the prisoners for the purpose
13of making money, and as they usually succeeded, they were content. Contracts, as a rule, call for ten hours labor per day, and thus the prisoners are placed under the control of men, for ten hours out of the twenty-four, who in every case acknowledge that they have no interest in the reformation of the prisoners.
The contractors in person seldom visit the prison, their presence being required elsewhere, hence a number of persons are employed by the contractors, who have access to the prison as instructors, foremen, etc., selected without any reference to their moral characters, or their fitness to be daily companions of men that the state is seeking to reform. No doubt the prison authorities could exercise some supervision over the class of men selected to act on behalf of contractors as foremen, etc., but such supervision has never been reported as very strict.
These foremen, etc., are selected solely for their supposed ability to secure from the prisoners a large amount of productive labor (and while they do not carry a whip, yet they exercise to a considerable extent the power of the late slave overseers in the Southern States). The foreman's position, under the contractor, depends on his ability to make the contract pay, and woe to the prisoner who does not daily perform an amount of labor sufficient to satisfy the requirements of the foreman.
The Committee of the last Legislature, during their investigation of this subject, ascertained that at the penitentiary an order had been issued by a contract that prisoners making hollow-ware (an occupation at which an apprenticeship in outside shops is required of from three to four years) should, for the first week they were employed, have no fixed amount of work; the second week, they would require twenty-five per cent. of a regular day's work; the third week, seventy-five per cent., and the fourth week, would require the full day's work, and that sixteen men were, in one night, placed in the "hole" for not doing a sufficient amount of work.
Dr. A. G. Byers, in his testimony before the same committee, said he had been Chaplain of the penitentiary for six years, and that hungry men, after a hard day's work, had been locked in a cold, dark cell at night, and that prisoners were often punished for not doing the amount of work required by contractors. The charge of refusing to work or spoiling work was not uncommon. Within the past year he had stood at the door of a dark cell and saw a colored man standing with his wrists chained to the wall so that he could not move, and heard him plead to be released — that he had done his best — that he could do no more work than he had done. He was being punished for not doing his full task for the day. A prisoner working in the hollow-ware foundry, for failure to perform the necessary amount of work, was, according to the committee's report, subjected to the most inhuman treatment for a period of three months. The report says:
"The punishment meted out to him during the period referred to was confinement in a dark cell or dungeon with no ventilation, and no atmosphere except that which he breathed over and over again; without a mouthful to eat, and compelled to remain during the entire night, when in the morning he was taken out to a tank of cold water
14divested of all his clothing, his feet shackled and his arms pinioned behind him; this completed, two stalwart men plunged him in the water and held him under until nearly suffocated, when he was taken out and permitted to dress, and then compelled to go to work, with but his crust of bread, weak and exhausted from starvation and punishment. If he then again failed to perform the amount of work required by the contractor he was subjected to a repetition of the punishment here described."
Another question of importance in connection with the reformation of prisoners, is the condition their families are left in when deprived of their support and protection.
Many of those sentenced to the state prison have been affectionate husbands and fathers, have cared for and loved their families as truly as perhaps the majority of those who never saw the inside of a prison. The most terrible punishment of such a man is the knowledge that his family must suffer. He cannot help them; his sons may become street "Arabs;" his daughters — God knows what they may become; possibly they become a burden on the county poor fund, possibly the house of refuge or the work house will receive extra tenants from that family. Under any conditions the husband and father cannot aid them. He might be willing to toil day and night, even within the prison to aid them; but such a thing would not be permitted. His family must also suffer for a crime of which they were innocent, and the sins of the father are, by the state laws, visited upon the first generation at least.
Can such a man be reformed under the present system? He may conform to every prison rule; he may be patient and deserving of every leniency possible; he may be good in conduct, receive the fullest benefit of the commutation law of the prison, and be turned adrift with the documents to secure his restoration papers as a good citizen; but when he finds his home destroyed, his children outcasts and beyond control, his becoming a practical criminal is not to be wondered at.
Why should the prisoner be denied the right to help his family? Why should the family or the community be punished for his wrong doing? Should the prisoner, as a matter of justice, be compelled to earn not only sufficient to remunerate the state for keeping him, but also enough to keep his family from becoming a charge on the county? This of course is impossible under the present system of labor. The labor that would be done willingly for the state and for their families, must be done willingly or unwillingly for contractors. The men who are taken from their families the first time are never beyond being reformed, and undoubtedly the ability to return, after having satisfied the law, to an unbroken family would be among the greatest possible of reformatory measures, and those earnestly seeking light in that direction must know the power of home influences. Broken families have sent as many convicts to our penitentiary as any other cause, and the destruction of the family because of the imprisonment of its head is in itself a crime against society.
Men without families, without home ties, who have satisfied the law by more or less years of penal servitude, may possibly come forth
15with high resolves for the future. They have worked faithfully and well, and would accept employment if it was to be had. They have been literally coining money for a contractor, although hardly paying the state for their guardianship.
They leave the prison doors without a decent suit of clothing, and for all their labor they receive possibly a five or ten dollar note. They know not where to go; or if their objective point is beyond the small sum in their pockets, they must tramp, starve, or steal. The five or ten dollars disappears, and with it their high resolves, and a few weeks or months find many of them either in jails, work-houses, or back once more in the penitentiary! Why? They are the victims of the contract system. Out of the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of dollars they have earned over and above their maintenance, not one dollar is theirs. The small proportion of their earnings that would, in many cases, carry them beyond temptation is denied them, and they fall again, just as inevitably as does the stone thrown into the air.
In 1876 five hundred and twenty prisoners were discharged from the penitentiary; and they received $5,234, a trifle over ten dollars each on an average; and on this amount they are expected to commence the world, to overcome the brand that is upon them, to overcome all the difficulties and temptations under the contract system.
Section 36 of the law of 1877 provides that for each month, commencing on the day of his arrival at the penitentiary, during which he has not been guilty of a violation of discipline, or any other rules of the prison, and has labored with diligence and fidelity, he shall be allowed a portion of his earnings not exceeding one-tenth of the average price of convict labor. This law was in force in 1876, when the average amount to each convict was a trifle over ten dollars. The amount is paid by the state and not by the contractors, who from a pecuniary standpoint, are alone benefitted by the prisoners laboring with "diligence and fidelity."
At the prison reform conference held at Newport, R. I., August 1st and 2nd, 1877, the following was among other matters of deep import adopted:
"No contractor should be permitted to obtain a footing in this class of institutions. The superintendent must have the supreme control of the discipline and the industries and he cannot have the former without the latter. Indeed the great objection to the contract system of prison labor everywhere is that it tends to interfere with and subvert the discipline. It introduces into prison, an outside disturbing element which may possibly be controlled and its injurious influence neutralized by a skillful and able head, but which it is extremely difficult to control, and which nine out of every ten prison governors fail utterly in the attempt to master and counteract. In that proportion of cases at least, it has hitherto gained the mastery instead of yielding it; or, if it has not absolutely secured the upper hand, it has held the balance so evenly poised that it amounts practically to much the same thing. While we believe contract labor to be open to other objections, we urge only now that the system does not, and practically cannot, in the vast majority of cases, coexist with a considerate, firm, and equable reformatory disipline. The interest of the contractor is one thing, and that of the state and prisoner is often quite an other thing. It is
16unjust to the warden, and oft time destructive of his influence and self-respect, to place him in a position in which he must have a daily struggle between his convictions of duty and the claims, the importunities, perhaps even the menaces of contractors. The late General Pilsbury, though claiming for himself a complete control of the system in his own prison, has been heard to say that there was not a state prison in New York whose warden could not and would not be removed in twenty-four hours if the contractors willed it."
It must not be supposed that the prisoners themselves do not feel an increased degradation under the contract system. They are, many of them men of intelligence, and when opportunity offers, boldly assert that they expected to work for state, and would willingly do so, but find that they are sold to make a contractor rich.
With the punishments inflicted to enforce a certain amount of labor, with a knowledge they have of the conditions under which they labor, is it to be expected that such men can be elevated? Treated as mere machines, they would be less than human if by every means in their power they did not resent the wrong done them. Instead of the better nature that is supposed to exist in the most vile, being reached, all the fiery elements of their natures are fostered, and nothing but the rigorous prison rules prevent its breaking out at once. At the end of their imprisonment, instead of being reformed, they are worse than when they entered; instead of their following habits of industry, they hate the very name; instead of becoming good citizens, they become beasts of prey upon society, to be again imprisoned, and pass through the same experience; certainly such a system is not for the benefit of the prisoners.
The question of expense is a very important one. The prisons should be made self-sustaining, if possible, but those prisons that have succeeded in securing an income from the labor of the prisoners sufficient to meet their expenses, have not been afflicted with the system of contractors and contract labor, but the industries have been managed by the regular officials in the interests of the prison funds. Under the contract system the penal institutions of this and other states have not been self-sustaining, and it is very doubtful if they ever can be made so under that system.
The usual argument made against a change in the system of prison industries is that the state could not secure, as business manager, a person fully competent to manage such industries. Who would devote the same time and attention to them that he would to a private business in which he had a pecuniary interest. To a certain extent this may be true, but the reason therefore is the uncertainty of official life. Take the management of our penal and reformatory institutions entirely away from the possible influences of politics; let men be placed at their heads on account of their peculiar fitness, with the assurance to them that it is a life occupation so long as their duty to the state is done fully and fairly; give them full control over their subordinates, making them responsible for their subordinates, and under such conditions the state could, and would secure the services of men as fully and as closely devoted to its interests as they would be if the business was conducted for their own pecuniary benefit.
In fact under no system can the finances of the prison be managed to the best interests of the state when every two years, more or less, there is a complete change in its management. No private business could thrive under such conditions, and the public business certainly will not.
As the state increases in population, and crime and prisons and prisoners increase in proportion, the prisons will necessarily become vast industrial establishments, in active operation more days in the year than ninety-nine out of every hundred industrial establishments on the outside. If this labor of prisoners continues to be sold on contract, the parties having such contracts undoubtedly become the controllers of the particular branch of industry carried on by them to the destruction of those engaged in a similar business outside. The individual, firm, or company engaged in business outside will not consent to sacrifice their labor and capital without making strenuous efforts to meet the unjust competition forced upon them. Expenses will be cut down, economy in its every phase will be practiced; but sooner or later the inevitable and greatest sufferers are the mechanic and laborer, who, on the outside, are endeavoring to earn an honest living.
The state law provides that the labor of the prisoners shall not be sold on contract for less than seventy cents per day, and at the expiration of those contracts now existing, calling for a greater per diem, then the minimum, it is reasonable to suppose but few new contracts will be made for a sum exceeding the lowest limit of the law. Seventy cents per day will not feed, clothe, and house a mechanic or laborer on the outside, and yet the tendency is to force the outside laborer to work for prison contract prices. In fact, the evidence before the committee of the General Assembly that investigated the subject, was to the effect that able-bodied men were compelled to work on the outside for four and five cents per hour less than prison prices, their employer being a competitor of a prison contractor.
It has been asserted, and is a favorite argument with the contractors, that the prisoners do not perform as much labor as the outside man, and that the profits from his labor are no greater. One witness before the committee above referred to, said: The great advantage in that is, when you get them broke in they don't leave or strike on you; they are more steady — they are compelled to be. No contractor in this or any other state has been found to admit that the labor is more profitable to him than labor on similar work would be outside. Their chances for making money are very precarious, yet men have steadily held contracts in prison — one for forty years, now making hardware, chains, etc., one making barrels for thirty-nine years, one for twenty-five years, making tools, and one for twenty years, making carriage material; and no doubt, despite all the drawbacks they so lucidly explain, they will continue as contractors, so long as the laws of the state permit.
Outside the penitentiary, there is but one establishment in the state making hollow-ware a specialty. Nearly every stove foundry, however, makes hollow-ware, but of late years the production has fallen off, and manufacturers decline to make the ware in any beyond their own requirement for the selling of stoves. As an article of merchandise
18separate from stoves hollow-ware is now only made, to any extent in the penitentiary and one outside shop. This outside shop has passed through several hands in its efforts to acquire a standing, and, as at present conducted, employs sixteen men and twenty-four boys; the only hope of competition resting on the ability of boys at $5 per week, doing similar work to that done by the prisoners under contract.
A co-operative foundry, started by a number of molders at Linndale, Cuyahoga county, failed after a short effort to compete with prison, and is now idle, and a total loss to its stock holders.
Among the questions in the "blank" sent to the proprietors of the stove and hollow-ware foundries, were the following: What effect has the competition of prison labor on your business? and also, give assessed valuation of the real estate and buildings necessary for your manufacturing establishment. To the first question the following answers were returned:
Return No. 5. — Cuts prices.
Return No. 6. — Worst possible effect in reducing reasonable profits to a pittance making the pressure upon the mechanic for lower wages. It has been our opinion for many years that prison labor should be worked upon public works, such as improving the navigable waters and harbors, the state taking the appropriation by the general government, and doing the work herself. The wisdom of political economist should be directed to this subject, to devise means to prevent unwholesome competition against the honest laborers outside the prisons, and especially skilled labor.
Return No. 7. — It has almost ruined the hollow-ware trade.
Return No. 8. — Somewhat injurious in Ohio.
Return No. 10. — Very detrimental. We come in direct competition with the prison labor, and honest and skilled labor must succumb. They make an inferior article, but the price gives them the trade. Honest labor must be protected, or you must build your penitentiary larger. We opine, having in our mind's eye honest and skilled labor, that it would be better to keep convicts idle than have their labor to rob the honest outside laborer. May the problem be solved, and honesty get its just reward.
Return No. 11. — Honest moulders ought not to be compelled to compete with prison labor.
Return No. 12. — Quite injurious.
Return No. 13. — Depressing getting down fair prices.
Return No. 18. — Reducing the price of products below a living rate.
Not only do the contractors in the prison get their labor done for one-third the cost to the outside manufacturer, but they also have the immense advantage of having no capital invested in buildings and real estate, no insurance to pay upon buildings and no taxes to pay. To the outside manufacturer these are heavy and continuous expenses, and to be compelled to meet not only the competition of cheaper labor,
19but also forced to furnish the capital for such competition in the shape of taxes, is a grievous wrong, which will yearly become greater as our prison increases population, and contractors therein extend their business. Ten thousand dollars is a small estimate of the value of grounds and buildings used in the manufacture of hollow ware in the prison, and add to this an exemption of two hundred dollars in taxes, one hundred dollars for insurance and labor at seventy cents per day and the quantity of work made equal to that made in outside shops (the contractor testified the quality was equal) and the unfairness of the competition the contractor could force upon the outside manufacturer, must be apparent. An answer usually given to the claim of the unjust competition of prison labor, is that the bidding of such labor is free to all and if there is so much money to be made from contracts why are bidders so few? The manufacturers who complain of this competition have invested thousands of dollars in real estate, buildings, machinery, etc., in our cities and towns, and if no other reason actuated them the fact that their outside property would have to be abandoned at great loss, is a sufficient answer as to why they do not compete for the contract of prison labor. They have established a business and trade, a reputation for first class goods that they do not feel justified in imperiling for the prospect of a few additional dollars of profit. Their failure to become bidders and thus run up the price of prison labor, even if they did not become contractors is no reason why the State should continue a system that is injurious to the prisoner, injurious to the tax paying manufacturers and laborers, and injurious to the State in the increased cost of maintenance of prison.
One branch of the foundry industry is being rapidly transferred to the penal institutions of this and other states, making the small castings known as hardware. In the Cincinnati workhouse one hundred and twenty-five prisoners are under contract making hardware and light castings, and a large number of prisoners in the penitentiary are employed at the same business, and in almost every state the same industry is carried on, and to such an extent that prison goods rule the market, and those making the same class of goods on the outside will eventually be driven out of the business, as wages cannot be reduced much lower while the competition is constantly increasing. At the present time the only way in which outside manufacturers maintain their ground is by discharging a majority of the journeymen and employing in their place a number of boys ostensibly as apprentices, but to a trade at which the possibilities of making a livelihood in the future depend altogether on the continuation of the contract prison labor system, the acquirement of a trade in this particular branch of industry is no longer a safeguard against being led into criminal acts and the learning of such a trade in the penitentiary is no guarantee of ability to earn an honest livelihood on the outside. One of the largest manufacturers of hardware in the city of Cincinnati, has reduced wages largely, and yet says that prison competition is very disastrous to us and our men, and although in business for twenty years and with one hundred thousand dollars invested in real estate and buildings necessary to carry on the business, has been compelled to cease the manufacture of certain lines of goods because of the prison labor competition. J. H. Tackenberg, of Cincinnati, in his testimony before the investigating committee of the last general assembly said he could not compete with
20prison labor. He employed two hundred men paying them from $2 to $2.50 per day, having reduced them from $3 to $3.50 per day since he was forced to compete with prison labor that at least twenty-five per per cent was due to competition. Certain classes of work he was forced to cease manufacturing and twenty-five men were discharged on that account. P. Y. Brown, another manufacturer of hardware testified before said committee that the wages of his employes had been reduced 50 cents per day and the greater part of was due to competition with prison labor. He employed forty men, and his manufacturing property was worth $30,000. A manufacturering firm of Tiffin, employing forty-one persons, having $24,000 invested in real estate and buildings says: The competition of prison labor has a very bad effect on our business. The system we think, is an outrage on honest labor of the state and country. A manufacturer of hames, an industry also carried on in the penitentiary, testified before the committee that a certain kind of hames we put upon the market at $8.50 per dozen, the penitentiary folks are putting up for $6.25. He further testified that three manufactories in the state had closed, one each at Norwalk, Toledo and Akron, and he had no doubt the prison competition had something to do with it. It was possible just now to compete with the prison, because we can hire men for a soup dinner. Another manufacturer testified, I have seen samples of their work sent here, fifty per cent less (in price) than we can get it up here at the wages we have to pay.
Governor Edward F. Noyes, in his message to the general assembly, dated January, 1874, said:
"Under existing laws, the labor of convicts in the Ohio penitentiary, is not for the most part, employed directly by the state, but is let to the highest bidder therefor. The contractors pay for so much labor, on an average, about ninety cents per day, per capita, and the prisoners are clothed and fed at the expense of the state. It necessarily happens that manufacturers who obtain labor at so low a rate, go into the market with great advantage over all competitors less fortunate in this regard. They are enabled, it is believed at a profit, to undersell the market price. The result must inevitably be that all kinds of business similar to those carried on in the penitentiary are embarrassed, while convict labor is open to competition. Nominally it is so; practically, it remains for many years in the same hands, and is not fully paid. I am of the opinion, after some investigation, that it would be more profitable for the state to utilize and control the labor of all the prisoners than to adhere to the contract system. At all events the prison could be so conducted as to interfere less with the legitimate pursuits of business men, who pay the ordinary wages for work.
The state looking to the interests of all its citizens, could have no inducement to sell its manufactures below the market price, for its plain duty is to encourage business everywhere, and to embarrass it as little as possible."
The warden of the Ohio penitentiary, J. H. Grove, furnishes the following information in relation to contracts. On October 31, 1877:
|Total number of prisoners||1,598|
|" " under contract||539|
|" " employed by warden||375|
Leaving 693 not steadily employed.
|Occupation.||Number Employed.||Average wages per day.|
|Stove contract||20||87 c.|
|Hollow ware||100||70 c.|
|Agricultural Implements||50||40 Ë c.|
|Children's carriages||40||76 Åº c.|
|Carpenter's tools||60||73 5/6 c.|
|Wire hardware and hames||150||61 5/6 c.|
|Carriage bodies and wheels||50||40Ë|
|Hours of labor 10.|
The foregoing number of prisoners under contract is not the total number employed under contract by the warden, but are employed by the contractors, whenever they need them, and a large number are thus employed daily at prices arranged between the board and contractors. The total amount received for the 517 prisoners as above reported working under contract is $324.67 per day. An average of 62.8 per cent. per diem per prisoner.
In the list of contracts it will be noticed that three of them pay an average price per day less than 70 cents.
The sixth paragraph of section 27 of the law governing the penitentiary says:
"But no bid shall be received or shall any contract be made for less than 70 cents per day for the labor of each convict, nor shall the labor of convicts, excepting convicts sentenced for one year, cripples, females and minors, and those disabled by disease or old age be temporarily hired for less than that rate."
The average rate falling below the minimum price, 70 cents, is accounted for by the employment of cripples, etc., at rates less than able bodied men. Whether cripples, minors, etc., are employed when able-bodied men are idle has not been ascertained; but the fact is that while 693 prisoners are not under contract, there are a number employed by contractors for whom they do not pay seventy cents. The average in the two contracts is down to 40 Ë per cent.
1. The board of directors to be appointed for five years; the term of office of one of them to expire each year; the director whose term of office has expired to be eligible to reappointment.
2. Such board shall appoint the warden, whose term of office shall
22continue during good behavior, and not removable except by impeachment for misconduct or incapacity.
3. The warden to have the appointment of and be held responsible for all subordinate officers.
4. No new contracts for the labor of prisoners to be entered into. The present contractors to be required to remove their machinery at the expiration of present contracts.
5. The warden, by and with the advice and consent of the board of directors, shall commence at once the manufacture of such articles as may be determined upon; such manufactured articles to be diversified as much as possible compatible with a sound financial policy.
6. A store room shall be erected either within or without the prison walls as may be determined upon, in which all goods manufactured shall be stored.
7. Monthly, semi-monthly or weekly, all such manufactured goods shall, after due publication, be sold without reserve to the highest bidder for cash.
8. No contracts for future delivery shall be entered into, the object being to give the entire mercantile and consuming public an equal opportunity to purchase these goods, and to enable the warden to secure the highest market prices.
9. All the moneys received for such manufactured goods shall pass directly into the treasury of the state; and when such receipts exceed the cost of maintaining the prison and the necessary repairs and additions, then such surplus of receipts shall be placed to the credit of the prisoners, under such rules as may be prescribed by the warden and board of directors; provided, that no prisoner shall receive any of such money until he is discharged, but that, under regulations a portion of all thereof placed to his credit may be paid to his family.
Payment of Wages.
With regard to the Truck system Mr. Morgan submitted the following extract taken from the report of the Ohio bureau of labor statistics, the operations of which in that state are found to be identical with those in the state of Illinois:
The question as to when and how the laborer shall receive his wages, is of equal importance with the question of what the wages shall be. Some few establishments in the cities, and almost everyone outside the cities, pay wages but once in each month. This is noticeably the case in large establishments and many coal mines and iron works; the reason usually assigned for a failure to pay weekly, is that it would require extra office help — perhaps in the large establishments one clerk would be necessary. To save this five or six hundred dollars per year, the workmen are compelled to suffer losses that, in the aggregate, would pay half a dozen clerks.
The rule is to pay on or about the fifteenth of each month the wages due on the last day of the previous month, and even that rule is too often stretched a week or even two weeks, or, as in the case of some of the railroads, two or three months. The system of paying on the fifteenth of the month, for the month previous, works a double injustice — it is unjust to the employes and it is unjust to the employer who pays his employes weekly. To the workman the withholding of his wages for thirty days, with a forced deposit, so long as he continues in his employment, of two weeks wages in the hands of his employer, is a practical reduction of the wages of the workman of not less than ten per cent., as compared with similar wages when paid weekly.
In the purchase of the necessaries of life, it requires no elaboration to prove that the cash buyer can secure the articles at least ten per cent. cheaper than can he who is obliged to purchase on credit. While the workman who receives his wages weekly is almost invariably a cash buyer, enabled to choose his market, his custom is sought for, and securing the very lowest prices; he who is paid but once in each month is, on the contrary, almost always a purchaser on credit, must confine himself to the store or stores, and must pay whatever prices may be determined upon by the proprietors thereof: they fear no competition, the trade is assured, even if the pay thereof is not assured. There are, no doubt, exceptions, both in the case of employes, obliged to purchase on credit, and the proprietors of stores, who put on the percentage for the credit given; but they are exceptions. There can be no greater wrong to the workman than the withholding of his wages, and forcing him to be supplicant, when he should, at least, command. This is a wrong that should be righted by the employers themselves; public opinion should frown down the imposition, and as far as possible, the law should intervene and compel, at least, the payment of wages in full up to the date of payment, and not permit the forcing of a loan from employes without interest, for months, and even years.
Now that wages have fallen so low, and employment has become so uncertain, the hardship of monthly payment of wages has been greatly increased, men working but half or three-quarter time should have every opportunity given them to make their scanty earnings purchase as much as possible.
The system is unjust to the employers who pay wages in full every week; such employers are under the expense of preparing weekly pay rolls, they must labor to secure the amount necessary to foot the pay roll, and no doubt their profit and loss accounts would show a considerable amount charged yearly for the discounts paid to secure the money to meet such weekly payments, instead of having a forced loan of two week's full pay of their employes, and the use of a full month's wages, without interest.
An establishment employing two hundred men, whose wages would average ten dollars a week, and paying monthly, has a forced loan of four thousand dollars from such employes, from, the date of the opening of such an establishment to the closing thereof, besides the forced loan of their weekly earnings for four weeks. This is an immense
24and unjust advantage engaged over the employers who pay monthly in cash.
The payment of wages in cash, once in each month, is far preferable to the system growing in this state, by which wages are paid without cash. The Bureau had but commenced operations, when it was urgently requested to investigate what is known as the "Truck System," by those who suffer under it. Under the system, the largest percentage of wages is not paid in cash, but in merchandise. "Truck" stores are of two kinds: First, the company store, a general merchandise store owned by the firm or company, which has a large number of employes; said employes being directly or indirectly compelled to trade at such store. Second, the firm or company employing a large number of men, and paying the men in orders, or checks upon particular stores.
Considerable attention has been given to the investigation of the subject, but some difficulty was experienced in getting the facts, as those who had most reason to complain, feared to give publicity to their grievances, because, if it were known who gave the information, their discharge from employment would follow, and such discharge, too often, meant banishment from the locality in which perhaps they were born, or had for years resided. However, after patient endeavors, and positive assurance that no names would be made public, enough had been ascertained to show that the system requires prompt attention of the Assembly, unless it is proposed that a system of serfdom shall be permitted to grow up in the state, to the great injury of its working population.
Taking into consideration the very small wages earned by working-men, the very few of the common necessaries of life that such wages would purchase, even if work was constant and wages paid weekly in cash, the fact that such wages are not paid in cash, but are paid in groceries, dry goods, boots and shoes, at prices fixed by the employes, and when such prices, as will hereafter be shown are fully twenty per cent. on the average, above the prices charged for similar goods when purchased for cash, surely the greatness of the wrong done to working men, compelled to take their hard-earned wages in that way, cannot be overestimated.
Low wages and unsteady employment may be, and no doubt are, the periodical results of the system, under which the industries not only of this state but of the civlized world, are carried on, but the system of paying wages other than in cash, current legal tender money, is an excressence upon the system, and needs the application of the legislative pruning-knife.
Before 1861, the system of paying in store orders, or in "checks" payable in merchandise at a company store, had obtained considerable foothold, especially in some of the Eastern States, but with the issue of legal tender money, and the great demand for labor incident to the war, workingmen everywhere were enabled to demand cash for labor performed and were also able to enforce the demand, resulting in the reduction of hundreds of company stores as such, the destruction of the order system, and the system of checks.
It was generally supposed those systems had died never to be resurrected, but the dearth of employment and the necessities of labor have been taken advantage of to bring them once more in full force.
Usually wages are valued by the number and the amount of the necessaries of life such wages will purchase at the usual retail rates in our towns and cities. The man with cash can always purchase in the cheapest market, his trade is sought for, and efforts made to retain it when once it is secured, hence the cash purchaser can always be assured of getting the necessaries of life at the lowest cash prices. Knowing what such prices are, and knowing the amount of wages received, it can be readily ascertained how the individual can live, but when wages are not paid in cash, but are paid in "truck" all calculations are at fault, for instead of the laborer being able to take his wages and purchase in the cheapest market, his wages are literally forced from him in purchases at the dearest market, so that while his nominal wages may be as great as the wages paid elsewhere in cash, yet in reality the wages are from twenty to forty per cent. less in value because of the system of payment.
Truck originally meant barter, by which the laborer took his pay in a portion of what his labor produced, which he could dispose of to the best advantage if not suitable to his wants. Under our truck system the laborer does not receive pay in what he consumes. Both these forms of truck are as old as labor, but in the earliest times they were generally found not separate but united. What the workman produced he also desired to consume, and for his labor in tending sheep and cattle, and sowing and reaping grain, he received wool for his clothing, and meat and bread for his food. But when distinction came to be made of labor as agricultural and mechanical, and when employments came to be much sub-divided, it would happen that a laborer's production was calculated to supply but a part only, or perhaps none at all of his wants. Hence, if he were to be paid in kind he would be obliged to sell or exchange the same for commodities more suitable to his necessities, and this, as will be seen, he might have to do at a very great disadvantage, having no place to trade, no business acquaintance, and no time to spend on bartering his wares.
To such an extent had the evil grown in England that in 1464 an act was passed in which occurs the following: "Therefore it is ordained and established that every man and woman being cloth-makers, from the feast of St. Peter shall pay to the carders, spinsters, and all such other laborers in any part of such trade lawful money for all their lawful wages."
In England money payments have only been secured by vigorous legislation, and great vigilance in administration. The system of truck was in full force in England up to the year 1831, when an act was passed that "in all contracts for the hiring of any artificer in any of the trades enumerated, the wages of such artificer shall be made payable in the current coin of the realm, and not otherwise." The trades enumerated were the manufacturers of iron and steel; the mining of coal, iron lime-stone, salt, rock; the working or getting of clay, stone or slate, and the manufacturers of hardware, salt, brick, glass, leather, etc. There was, however, the right given to masters to supply artificers with
26medicine and medical attendance, fuel, materials, tools, and implements in mining; also to furnish tenements, the rent to be reserved.
The coal and iron mining interests made strong pleas to be permitted to continue the truck system. In the nature of the case, works of this character are found principally at considerable elevations upon difficult and unbroken ground, and often at considerable distance from market towns. Hence the proprietors were not without a show of reason in holding that the prompt and sure supply of a large and fluctuating body of workmen required that shops for the sale of the necessaries of life should be established in immediate connection with the works themselves. But the opportunity to add to the profits of manufacture, ("though the unscrupulous exercise of the influence and authority of the employer") more than the ordinary profits of trade, did not suffer truck to be confined to departments of industry presenting so much of an excuse for the system, as the building of canals and railways, and the mining of coal, and iron. Truck long prevailed to a vast extent in connection with many branches of manufacture, and in many communities where no reason but the greed of employers existed for the practice. Workmen were compelled to purchase at the master's store, on pain of discharge. Sometimes hints accomplished the object; sometimes threats were necessary; sometimes example had to be made. However strong the disapprobation of the workmen, or of the larger community around, the profits of the truck were so enormous as to overcome the scruples and the shame of many employers. Those pofits were five fold.
First, the ordinary profit of the retail dealer, large as that is and larger as we know it becomes in proportion to the ignorance and poverty of the customers.
Second, there was a great diminution of ordinary expenses, due to the compulsion exercised; the trader who was also the manufacturer did not have to resort to costly advertising to draw custom, to maintain an attractive establishment in a convenient location, or to keep up an efficient body of clerks and attendants; the only advertisement needed was the ominous notice to trade there; the store might be the merest barn, the service might be reduced to a degree involving the greatest inconvenience and even hardship to the customer.
Third. It seems to be abundantly proved by the evidence before the several committees, that the charges at the truck shops were generally higher by five, ten, fifteen per cent. than at the ordinary retail stores.
Fourth. The employer having absolute control of the laborers' wages incurred no bad debts, such as eat up the profits of the open trader.
Fifth. The quality of the goods furnished was likely to be as best suited the interest of the employer, who, for the best of reasons, feared no loss on custom.
That was the truck system of England, which was put down by the strong hand of the law; whether it is also the truck system of Ohio, let the evidence hereafter given determine. If it is the truck system of Ohio, then surely the pleas sent up by the sufferers will be heard, and the evil remedied.
The system is an importation from Europe — not the Europe of today, but the Europe of half a century ago, for in England the law is imperative and is enforced; and the industrial code (1869) of Germany provides that "the payment of wages of mechanical labor otherwise than in the coin of the realm is forbidden."
The system of paying wages in "orders" upon stores not owned by the person issuing the orders, is equally as shameful an imposition and deserving of as severe condemnation. It is purely an American method of defrauding the laborer, as is also the system of "checks" issued by the proprietor of a store and loaned to the employer of labor to be by him paid to his employes instead of cash, thus compelling the employes to purchase his necessities of life at the store of him who originally issued the checks. The wages of the employes are made the subject of barter and sale before they are earned, by parties who have no claim, legal or moral, upon such earnings. The trade of the employes is sold to the highest bidder to the employer, not the highest bidder in the interest of the employer not to him who will bid to furnish first class goods at the lowest cash prices, but the highest and best bidder is he who will pay the employer, or his agent, for his own private use, the largest percentage on the sales made to such employes. Many of the minor evils of the system will be set forth in the evidence upon which the foregoing statements are based.
The revised statutes of the United States section, 3,583 provides:
"No person shall make, issue, circulate or pay out, any note, check, memorandum; token, or other obligation, for a less sum than one dollar, intended to circulate as money, or to be received, or used in lieu of lawful money of the United States, and every person so offending shall be fined not more than five hundred dollars, or imprisonment not more than six months, or both, at the discretion of the court."
Section 5,462 provides:
"Every person not lawfully authorized, who makes, issues, or passes, or causes to be made, issued or passed, any coin, card, token, or device, in metal or its compounds, which may be intended to be used as money, for any one cent, two cent, three cent or five cent pieces now or hereafter authorized by law, or for coins of equal value, shall be punished by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars, and by an imprisonment not more than five years."
The first quoted section would appear to have been enacted especially to cover the issue of checks similar to those issued by the company stores and truck shops in this state. The men who are paid their wages in such checks certainly are entitled to receive their wages in lawful money of the United States, and yet they are forced to receive these checks, memorandums, tokens, etc., in lieu of lawful money.
The Bureau has been unable to ascertain whether it has ever been judicially decided that these checks, etc., did not come under the statute quoted, but in 1876 an attempt was made to compel the issuers of these checks to pay tax upon circulation.
A case was presented to Hon. D. D. Pratt, then Commissioner of Internal Revenue, as follows:
Wall, Pancoast & Craven, glass manufacturers at Salem, New Jersey, employ in their business a large number of operatives, the margin in the manufacture of glass is very small, and almost the only profit in the business arises from the general store kept by the manufacturers. To facilitate the keeping of their accounts with said employes, which would consist of very small items, and to dispense with the number of clerks which the pass book system would require, they deliver to each employe from time to time, merchandise orders, one of which is above annexed, for the amount of their several wages contracted to be paid in merchandise. These orders, as their faces show, entitle the holder to goods at the store to the amount of one dollar; and if the holder does not desire to deal out all the order at once, he can get goods to the value of not less than five cents, or such amount under one dollar which five cents will divide into and leave no remainder. The amount dealt out is then punched out, as shown above, which is only an easy way of receipting for such amount, and the order is good for goods at said store for the balance. It will thus be seen that these orders are not intended as a substitute for money, but are simply a system of keeping accounts. The greater proportion of them never leave the premises of the firm, but are carried at once from the office where they are delivered to the store, to be at once dealt out. The employes receive them Saturday night, at the close of their week's work, and take them at once to the store to get the necessaries for their families. The balance of their wages are paid in money. The question submitted is, are these orders liable to taxation by the United States government. Commissioner Pratt decided as follows:
"I have again examined the question of liability in this case with care, and have concluded that as long as evidence of indebtedness of precisely this character are neither payable in money, nor redeemable in money, they are not liable to circulation."
The laws of the United States not covering, or through some technicality being construed as not prohibiting or taxing this inflation of the currency, the Legislature of New Jersey, at its late session, passed the following law, whether it has been enforced or whether its terms are comprehensive enough to destroy the system by which workingmen are compelled to trade at a particular store, without reference of good qualities therein contained and the prices charged, the Bureau has not been informed:
An act for the better securing of wages to workmen and laborers in the State of New Jersey, approved March 9, 1877.
1. Be it enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey, That it shall not be lawful for any person or corporation in this state to issue for the payment of labor, any order, or other paper whatever, unless the same purports to be redeemable for its face value, in lawful money of the United States, by the person giving or issuing the same; provided, however, nothing in this act contained shall be held to prevent any employer from making any deduction for money due him from any laborer or employer.
2. And be it enacted, that if any person or corporation shall issue for payment of labor any paper in violation of the first section of this act, he, she, or they shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and
29upon conviction thereof shall be fined in any sum not to exceed five hundred dollars, at the discretion of the court.
3. And be it enacted, That this act shall take effect immediately. The act has no doubt prevented the issuing of checks, or store orders, and that is perhaps as far as the law can go in that direction, but it does not prevent the truck system; employes can be compelled, under the pain of discharge from employment, to trade out all or nearly all their earnings from the store of the employer and the act gives the employer the first claim on such wages. The law does not reach the greatest evil, although it was no doubt well intended. The laborer's wages are not secured to him beyond the claim of his employer, as they should be. Such a law would be valuless to the sufferers in this state, as it would only change the manner of inflicting the evil, without in any degree lessening its intensity.
Under certain conditions the truck system might be a great benefit to the employes, but those conditions do not exist, and are not very likely to be brought into being. An employer who would be content with the regular profits accruing from his regular business, and who retains in his possession during the whole year not less than two weeks earnings of his employes, could, with those two weeks wages, furnish his employes the whole year with first class provisions, at the lowest cash prices, without either risk or loss, making contentment reign where now all is discontent. Many of these stores require no investment of capital, beyond the retained wages of employes, and to the thinking man the fact that his own earnings are used against him but adds to the feeling of degradation. Philanthropy and business do not as a rule go hand in hand, but justice and business should be inseparable, and either company stores, and store orders should cease to exist because of the injustice done to labor, or company stores and store orders should inure only to the profit and benefit of the laborer.
There is not a store keeper in the state supplying at retail the wants of a community, who would not, under the same conditions, be satisfied with one-fourth of the profit upon his sales that is regularly charged by the proprietors of company stores, and those dealing in checks and orders. Suppose the following proposition as being made to a retail grocer in any of our cities whose fine store, advertising unsaleable goods, and bad debts render his business precarious, and forces him to charge extra price to meet his several outlays: At what rate of profit would you be willing to sell groceries, etc., to one or two hundred families for one year; the articles they consume will be made known to you; you will not need to advertise, and your pay will be secured beyond a peradventure, as each family will advance you from fifteen or twenty dollars for the whole year without interest, and pay in full in cash once in each month for all goods received?
Would not such a proposition cause goods to be furnished lower than the lowest cash prices now attainable? And that proposition is the exact condition under which company stores, and those dealing in check's and orders are supplying whole communities, but instead of the communities receiving the benefit of the conditions, it is actually made to suffer because of the conditions.
In the localities where company store goods, checks, and orders are used in payment of wages, the testimony is almost unanimous that no credit is given, wages being very low, and the cost of provisions forced to the highest figure, requiring steady employment to meet expenses, yet if employment is not to be had, or sickness comes, the store is closed to the sick and idle, they may steal or starve. Years of trading at a particular store has not established a credit that will bridge over any dark days. In no other condition or relation of life does such a state of affairs exist, the poorest machanic or laborer in our cities can establish a credit by confining his purchases to a single store, and even if the prices charged are high, he is assured of an accommodation that is denied the forced customer of a company store.
Under such circumstances, who need wonder at the many revolts of labor in localities where the truck system hold sway? As a correspondent aptly says, "a strike can hardly make matters worse."
Here follows statements concerning the practical operations of the Truck system, which is in vogue in the following named counties: Athens, Belmont, Columbiana, Coshocton, Gallia, Gournsey, Hocking, Jackson, Lawrence, Jefferson, Lucas, Mahoning, Meigs, Muskegon, Perry, Sumit, Stark, Tuscarawas, and Trumbull, making nineteen counties in the State of Ohio, where the Truck system is practiced to a very large extent. To give the statements and comments from all these counties would extend this report to too great a length, and for the purposes of information in this case, would be unnecessary.
A general summary of the relative values or purchasing power of wages when paid in cash or in store orders is shown by the following table, which is obtained from the actual prices of goods in those sections where the Truck system is in operation:
|Articles.||For Orders||For Cash.|
|Flour, per barrel||$8 25||$7 60|
|Corn meal, per 100 pounds||1 75||1 50|
|Potatoes, per bushels||50||45|
|Coal oil, per gallon||30||25|
|Coffee Rio, per pound||28 to 30||25 to 30|
|Tea black, per pound||40 to 80||45 to 60|
|Soap, per pound||10||07 Åº|
|Sugar, brown, per pound||10||10|
|Sugar, white per pound||12 Ë||12 Ë|
|Butter, per pound||20||20|
|Lard, per pound||12 Ë||12 Ë|
|Eggs, per dozen||14||12|
|Molasses, per gallon||90||85|
|Men's boots||4 50||3 75|
|Women's shoes||1 25||1 25 to 2 25|
|Children's shoes||1 25||1 20|
Samuel Goldwater, on behalf of the trades council asked leave to submit the following table of statistics prepared by the cigarmakers union.
|Months — 1878||Amount of cigars made in each month, at 10 hours per day.||Number in employm' t in each month||Number unemployed in each month.|
|Total||57, 846, 250|
|Number of manufacturers||385|
|Number of cigar makers||1,400|
|Average number in employment||1,204|
|Average number unemployed||196|
|Price per 1, 000||$3 00 to $14 00|
|Average price per 1, 000||6 00|
|Average wages earned||4 76|
|Average to support||2 persons|
That leaves $2 38 for seven days, or 34 cents for one day for each person.
JOHN SIEBENALER, Com. On Statistics
Mr. Goldwater then proceeded to explain how manufacturers paid their employes in cigars and the evil effects of the system upon the cigar-makers. He stated that the latter had to peddle the cigars received in payment for wages around town and sell them for what they could get. As a rule they got very little, became destitute and desperate, and in consequence, frequently resorted to drink, committed crimes themselves, and their poverty often drove their wives, sisters and daughters to lives of shame. He showed the evil effects of the contract convict system not only upon his own trade but upon others in forcing all wage-labor, through competition to the level paid for the labor of convicts. On being questioned as to what remedy should be had for the evils of the convict labor system he replied that, in his opinion, under no circumstances should convict labor be allowed to compete with and thereby reduce to a common level all other laborers engaged in the same kind of work.
The following table prepared by the delegates representing the Typographical union was submitted for the information of the committee:
|Average earnings per week when steadily employed (union men)||$14 00|
|" " " " " (non-union men)||8 00|
|Time lost during year (union)||One-sixth.|
|" " " (non-union)||One-third.|
|Reduction in wages per week since 1872 (union)||60 per cent|
|" " " " (non-union)||100 per cent|
|Rent average per month (union)||$12 00|
|" " " (non-union)||10 00|
|Amount expended for education, including newspapers (union)||20 00|
|" " " " " " (non-union)||12 00|
|Sanitary condition of workshops||Bad.|
Diseases incident in this employment — catarrh, consumption, liver and kidney diseases and lead poison. A permanent reduction of the hours of labor to eight per day would be a great benefit. The cause of difference in the price paid union and non-union printers is (1) the acknowledged superiority of workmanship of the former over the latter, and (2) the completeness of the typographical union organization.
The legislative committee of inquiry then adjourned till 7:30 p. m.
The Legislative Committee of Inquiry, pursuant to adjournment, met in Parlor O, of the Palmer House at 7:30 p. m.
Present — Charles Ehrhardt, Chairman; John B. Taylor, John R. McFie, B. H. Trusdell, John W. Foy, John W. Savage.
The chairman announced that the committee was prepared to receive further statements and documents on behalf of the Trades Unions:
Mr. D. R. Streeter, on behalf of the Typographical Union, stated that wages in the printing business were sixty per cent. less at present than they were three years ago, while at least one-fourth of the men working at that trade were unable to procure employment.
Mr. A. B. Adair, on behalf of the Typographical Union, corroborated the statement of Mr. Streeter, and stated that it was unjust and very injurious for the Legislature to enact laws in the interest of contractors and employers and thus practically legislate printers out of work, and that the general practice of employing child labor and earning them the trade, and afterwards discharging the journeymen
33operated to the constant reduction of wages. The interests of his trade demanded the abolition of child labor under fourteen years of age, and the demands of the Trades Council should be enacted into laws, for the reason that all such ameliorative measures benefitted the printing trade either directly or indirectly.
Mr. Ehman, on behalf of the Silver Gilders' Trade, complained of the injurious effects upon wages caused by the employment of child labor and convict labor, and of the evil effects upon their health caused by inadequate ventilation of the work shops. He stated that the average wages earned in his trade was at the rate of $7 per week, at which work could only be had on the average during seven months in the year, the total earnings for a year average in wages $210, which divided into three hundred and sixty-five days, allowed on an average to each wage-worker in his trade, the sum of fifty-seven and one-half cents per day.
Mr. Gilmore, of the Crispin's (Shoemakers) Union, stated that his trade was almost entirely destroyed by convict labor and labor-saving machinery. Wages averaged about $7 per week, for seven months in the year. A large number of the journeymen in his trade were unable to obtain employment at any price.
Mr. C. J. Safford, of the Shoemakers' Trade, testified substantially the same as the previous gentleman.
Mr. Sevey, on behalf of the Horse-Collar Makers trade, complained of the competition of convict labor and machinery, reducing wages to the lowest standard.
Mr. George A. Schilling, on behalf of the coopers' union, stated that the coopers' trade was about ruined by convict labor, that it was not the quantity or quality of the work which produced this result, but the manner in which this kind of work was thrown upon the market. Men were forced to compete with convict labor, and that to do so their wages were lowered to conform to the penitentiary rates. His trade desired a law to prevent the competition of convict labor with honest labor; also a law reducing the hours of labor.
Mr. Henry Stahl next testified concerning the upholsterers' trade. He stated that in his trade the wage-worker suffered from the effects
34of child-labor, machinery, bad ventilation, and the general lack of fire escapes. He urged upon the committee the importance of prohibiting child-labor, and reducing the hours of labor by legal enactments.
Mr. J. Dilg, of the upholsterers' union, testified to the same effect as Mr. Stahl.
Mr. Grams, of the wood-carvers' union, complained of the evil effects of the competition of child-labor and machinery, and bad ventilation. Many men were unable to find employment.
Mr. Flasher, of the tailors' trade, said that men in his trade suffered from long hours of labor, and low wages.
The committee from the Council of Trades and labor unions of Chicago and vicinity submitted about one thousand blanks which had been filled out by wage-workers, representing various branches of industry, showing the rate of wages, hours of labor, and the general condition of the different industrial pursuits in which they were employed, and explained that owing to the shortness of time, and on account of the large amount of labor required to do so, they had been unable to tabulate and codify these reports.
The committee stated further that two thousand of these blanks had been printed by the Trades Council and distributed, over one thousand of which had been returned, after having been filled out by persons engaged in the following branches of industry: carpenters trade, printers, silvergilders, upholsterers, shoemakers, tailors, harness-makers, stone-cutters, tanners, cigar-makers, laborers, machinists, blacksmiths, brick-layers, wood-carvers, moulders, plasterers, bookkeepers, butchers, horse-collar-makers, clothing-cutters, cigar-packers, wood-turners, bakers, tinners, and others.
Following is a sample copy of these blanks, with answers to the same:
Hon. Christian Meier (Socialist) introduced the following resolution into the Springfield House of Representatives on February 6th, 1879:
WHEREAS, The Trade and Labor Council of Chicago and vicinity has expressed a desire to have a special committee appointed to examine into the condition of the working classes; and
WHEREAS, Said Trade and Labor Council is composed of twenty-two Trade and Labor Unions, representing the entire working people of this state; therefore, be it
Resolved, That the speaker of this house shall appoint a special committee of five, who shall visit the city of Chicago, and such other places as may be deemed necessary, to obtain such information as may be required for the members of this house to enact such laws as will ameliorate the condition of the working people of this state.
In compliance with the above resolution the Illinois Legislature have appointed a special committee to obtain information in regard to the condition and demands of the wage-working class in order that such legislation as is necessary may be enacted. The Trades Council has had printed the following blank which you are requested to fill out at once, as far as you can, and return the same to Robert List, Room 27, No. 94 South Market street, or to the Trade Council, at its next regular meeting, on Friday, February 28th, at 7:30 p. m., No. 7 South Clark street. The Legislative Committee will begin its work on Saturday evening, March 1, 1879, by which time all necessary information should be placed before them. Let your action be prompt in this matter, and thus improve your present opportunity to remedy some of the evils from which you and your class suffer.
Trades and Labor Council of Chicago and Vicinity.
1. Name? Charles Korby.
2. Residence? 149 East Ind. street.
3. Occupation? Cabinet-maker.
4. By whom employed? Fiedler & Co.
5. Length of time in present employment? Six months.
6. Do you work by the day or piece? By the piece.
7. Average earnings per week, when steadily employed? Eight dollars.
8. Are you paid your wages weekly or monthly? Weekly.
9. Are all payments for wages in cash? Cash.
10. Has your employer a store connected with his establishment in which employes are expected to trade? No.
11. If so, how will prices compare with prices charged in other stores? —
12. Does your employer pay any portion of wages in orders on stores in your locality? No.
13. How much of your wages remain in the employer's hands at each pay day? One dollar.
14. Hours of labor per week, when fully employed? Sixty hours.
15. How much time have you lost during the year? One month.
16. Cause of lost time for year? No work.
17. Give your actual earnings for year 1878: $380.
18. Give earnings per week in 1878: $7 50.
19. The reduction of your wages per week since 1872: $8.
20. Do you own your own working tools? Yes. If so, what is their value? Seventy-five dollars.
21. Number in family: Adults, — ; young persons, —
22. Number in family earning wages: Adults , — ; young persons—
23. Wages for year of adults other than yourself:—
24. Wages for year of young persons:—
25. Total earnings of family for year: $—
3626. If possible, give actual (if not, give estimated) expenses for year, as follows:
|Clothing and dry goods:||$35.|
|Education, including newspapers,||$10.|
|All other expenses:||$25.|
|Wear of tools:||$10.|
|Total expenses for year:||$344.|
27. Have your earnings for five years covered your expenses? Yes.
28. How many children have you at school? — ; Give their respective ages: —
29. Do you occupy a whole house? If so, give number of rooms, — ; and monthly rent, $ —
30. If not occupying a whole house, give (1) number of rooms you occupy, 1; (2) the number of rooms in the house, 22; (3) the number of families in the house, —; (4) the rent of your rooms, —per month; home and surroundings, are the streets paved and drained? Drained.
31. What is the sanitary condition of the work-shop in which you are employed? Good.
32. How many stories high is the work-shop? 2. How many persons employed therein? 6. Are the means of escape in case of fire ample? No, very bad!
33. Are there any diseases incident to your employment? If so, name them: Consumption.
34. Has new machinery been introduced in your trade within the past five years? Yes.
35. If so, has it caused less workmen to be employed? Yes. Has it caused a reduction of wages?
36. How many machines or tools stand idle in the shops? Two.
37. Has any employer in your trade, and in your town, failed in business within five years? Yes. If so, is he now in the same business? Yes.
38. Has any new firm or company started business in your town, and in your trade, during the past five years? If so, state number of hands employed therein? Yes, cannot name number.
39. Has any establishment in your trade, within five years, permanently suspended operations? Yes. If so, how many employes were thrown out of employment? Don't know; about two hundred. Did they leave the town, or become distributed among the other establishments? Partly left and partly in other shops.
40. Do you belong to a Trade Union or other Workingmen's Association? No.
41. Have you been engaged in a strike within five years? No. If so, give (1) cause, — ; (2) duration, — ; (3) date, — (4) result, —
42. Do you own any share or stock in the establishment in which you are employed? No.
43. Are there any young persons under sixteen years old employed in your establishment? If so, give number boys, 1; girls, —
3744. As a rule have the wage laborers of your acquaintance kept clear of debt during the past five years? No.
45. Do you know of any wage laborers who acquired a competence from savings out of their individual earnings? No.
46. What in your opinion would be the result of a permanent reduction of the hours of labor to eight per day?
As long as a man is able to work, yet he can just keep over water, providing he has good luck in obtaining employment. But when he gets old or disabled, there is no other prospect for him than to go to the poor house.
Being forty years old now, I never could marry, as I did not see the possibility to give wife and children bread, and my children a decent education.
The improvements in machinery every year is the cause of reduction of wages, therefore a universal law should be made to reduce the hours of labor — thus regulating the supply to the demand.
The following table was submitted, showing the average wages paid for unskilled labor during the years 1873 and 1878 respectively, based upon the actual rates paid during those years:
Comparative Statement showing the rate of wages paid for the years 1873 and 1878.
|Kind of work.||Wages paid unskilled labor.|
|For staging pig iron||75 cents per hour.||30 cents per hour.|
|For handling pig iron on vessels and steamboats||60 " " "||30 " "|
|Handling railroad iron||25 " per ton.||12 " per ton.|
|Handling railroad iron on vessels||25 " "||12 " "|
|Handling salt on steam boats||3 " per barrel.||1" per barrel.|
|Handling salt on vessels||2 " "||85 " per 100 bls|
|Shoveling hard coal||20 " per ton.||8 " per ton.|
|Shoveling soft coal||23 " "||9 " "|
|Wheeling coal||60 " per hour.||30 " per hour.|
|Dumping coal||60 " "||30 " "|
|Shoveling bulk salt||20 " per ton.||6 2/3 " per ton|
|Wheeling bulk salt||50 " "||30 " "|
|Dumping bulk salt||4 " "||3 1/3 " per ton|
|Handling merchandise||40 " per hour.||15 " per hour.|
|Handling barrel salt||60 " "||25 " "|
|Trimming grain vessels||$ 2.50 per 1000.||75 " per 1000.|
|Trimming steam boats||$ 2.00||30 " "|
|Plumber's labor||$ 2.25 per day.||$ 1.50 per day.|
|Average earnings during summer months||$ 25.00 per week.||$ 9.00 per week.|
The delegates from the Shoemakers' Union submitted the following paper:
To the Honorable State Legislative Committee for Labor Statistics:
GENTLEMEN: We take leave to recommend to the committee for accumulation of statistical notices, the following for their careful consideration:
During the last seven years the middle and working classes sustained the heaviest losses by the numerous bankrupts of banks and other crooked associated corporations. In this manner the working people of the United States are robbed of more than hundreds of millions of dollars, whilst in the same time business and wages become lower continually. The market has been glutted with cheap products, and by the contract system of prison labor the small dealers were driven out of the market, the laborer was made unable on account of his small wages to buy or consume as before.
It follows now that the middle class who are dependent upon the laboring class, is facing its ruin.
Besides, the middle and working class have to bear the whole burden of taxes and interest.
All compromises, drawn up during the last twelve years by laborers, have failed; and we see now, that this great country is overburdened with debt amounting to nearly twenty thousand millions of dollars, to-wit: over two thousand millions of United States debts, three thousand millions debts of cities and counties, and over fifteen thousand millions private debts, an indebtedness nearly equal to one-half the total wealth of this country.
This is indeed a very sad fact, which must lead to the result that one-half of this indebtedness undoubtedly will consume one-half of our present wealth, in time.
To illustrate the mentioned debts, it may be remarked:
All cities and counties are overburdened with debt to such a degree that, in some cases (for instance, Memphis, Tennessee) the interest cannot be paid.
Amongst those states that are in a similar condition, may be mentioned: South Carolina, Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama and Georgia.
Your honorable body will please to regard the following: there exists no railroad or steamboat line from the Atlantic to the Pacific which has not its rotten shares in the market.
Nearly every farm or house of a member of the middle or working class is overloaded with debt.
The debts of those unemployed laborers, who are compelled, in the hope of better times, to obtain trust in order to prolong their miserable existence, are not counted in the above calculation. The interest of these colossal debts have been swallowed up by the capitalists and the church without offering an equivalent for the benefit of the commonwealth.
We submit these statements to your committee, hoping that you will take them into consideration in order to find out the cause of the increase of pauperism among the greatest part of the population.
The undersigned respectfully, is at your disposition, to give further particulars in the matter, with the full agreement of the Socialistic Shoemakers' Union.
277 S. Clark Street.
Secretary of the Committee.
The Committee of the Trades Council having furnished their statements and submitted their documents on behalf of the Trades Unions, the chairman inquired if there were any other persons present who desired to have a hearing before the committee.
In response to this invitation Mr. Benjamin Sibley, as one of the committee appointed to represent the Socialistic Labor Party, made a statement setting forth the fundamental causes of our labor difficulties, which were ascribed by him to the existing industrial system of private capitalistic production, claiming that free competition was directly opposed to the interests and common welfare of the working class, and as a remedy for these evils he stated that it was the aim of the Socialistic Labor party to place the means of labor into the hands of the whole people, and thus establish a system of co-operative industry, by abolishing the present wages system.
He was interrogated by members of the committee concerning the existence and purposes of military organizations, to which he replied that there did exist in the city a military organization of workingmen, but that he was not a member of it; that he understood its object to be mental and physical instruction and amusement. He did not know the strength of this organization.
Mr. D. R. Streeter, of the committee, volunteered the information that while not a member himself he had seen it stated by the Chicago Tribune that the military organization numbered three hundred, which he thought was about the right figure, but the Chicago Times had put the number down at ten thousand.
Mr. Benj. Sibley, on being questioned, attributed the present low wages to competition, which had been greatly intensified by the introduction of labor-saving machinery, child labor and convict labor.
Mr. Frank Hirth next testified before the committee, making substantially the same statement as Mr. Sibley. He argued at some length on the existing modes of production, claiming that the present distress was world-wide, and resulted from the same cause everywhere, it being the direct result of the present system of private capitalistic production. Only when the means of labor became the common property of the whole people, would the conflict between labor and capital cease.
Mr. George A. Schilling spoke next on behalf of the Socialistic Labor party. He stated that the existing system of private capitalistic
40production contained elements within itself that were rapidly bringing on its own destruction. He referred to the slanders and misrepresentations of the intentions of the Socialists in regard to their efforts and designs, which he stated to be false in toto. He referred to the evils of free competition, to the increasing application and invention of labor-saving machinery, and showed their results as affecting the condition of the workingmen, whom they reduced to the common level of starvation. He stated that it was useless to attempt to remedy these evils until the cause was understood. That the country was to-day threatened with a revolution, which would surely come sooner or later, either peaceably or forcibly. He stated that a reduction of the hours of labor would bring relief if it was rigidly enforced, but that the means of production must become the property of the whole people before any permanent relief could be had. He claimed that to the wageworkers competition was death, while on the other hand, co-operative industry would secure to every one the full fruits of his labor.
Mr. T. J. Morgan also testified substantially the same as those who had preceded him.
Mr. Paul Grottkay, on behalf of the Socialistic Labor party, submitted the following document, which had been prepared for the information and consideration of the Legislative Committee of Inquiry, setting forth in consise form, the aims and desires of the working people:
The Causes of the Depression of the Labor Market, and the Remedy to be Applied.
The fact that, within a populous, industrial and commercial city, many citizens, both able and willing to work, find it impossible to obtain employment, whereby to acquire the necessary means of subsistence, clearly demonstrates that society in its present form is not properly organized.
It is the duty of the commonwealth, as the moral representative of the aggregation of all citizens, to facilitate the progress of human civilization, and to aid in its consummation. Hence, it also becomes the duty of governments to investigate the causes of existing impediments to the welfare of any of its citizens, and to apply the necessary remedies.
In order to accomplish this, we must first realize the nature of the prevailing causes for social discontent, such as:
1. Involuntary idleness on the part of many citizens, and the consequent lack of the necessaries of life.
2. Insufficient remuneration for those actually employed.
3. The general depression of business consequent upon the reduced purchasing power of the laboring and unemployed population.
4. The unsatisfactory condition of the public treasuries, resulting from the lessened ability of the people to bear the burden of current taxation, whereby (in Chicago) it has been found imperatively necessary
41to pay municipal officers and employes in "scrip," which the money market refuses to pay except at heavy discounts.
5. The existence of a criminal class vastly exceeding all reasonable proportions.
The five causes of complaint above enumerated have a common origin.
It is the prevailing planless mode of individual capitalistic production, accompanied, as it necessarily is, by absolutely unrestricted competition.
During the prevalence of this mode of production, controlled by private capital, the latter in the hands of its owners and subject to the whims and vagaries of free competition, naturally becomes inimical to the interests of laboring men.
Men without capital are forced to the alternative of either seeking employment with the capitalist at rates of wages fixed by the latter, or starvation, in case they will not steal.
The capitalist himself is forced by unrestricted competition to produce as cheaply as possible. Hence, free competition is eventually the sale of labor to the lowest bidder.
As a matter of competition, wages are decreased to so low a standard that workmen are reduced to the most indispensible necessaries of life, and the purchasing power of the people is commensurately depressed.
Free competition also necessarily demands free trade as a national policy, which, in turn, by the accumulating power of capital, creates commercial monopolies.
Cheapness, the vaunted boon of free competition, does therefore really exist only during the warfare of competing capitalists, and as soon as the stronger capitalist has vanquished its weaker opponent, prices will rise again. Free competition, then, continually depresses the labor market, while on the other hand it causes the purchasing prices to rise. It increases production to colossal dimensions, and at the same time lessens consumption by weakening the purchasing power of the people. It is consequently contrary both to the objects of economic science, and the interests of the masses of the people.
The present capitalistic mode of production, based on the theory of free competition, thus shows this deplorable result, that while in consequence of the continual progress and development of technical advantages, it does increase the quantity of the products of labor; it not only fails proportionately to better the condition of the laboring people, but on the contrary causes it to become worse and worse, because it decreases the chances for remunerative employment, and thus continually augments the sufferings of the laboring masses.
This conclusion, logically arrived at from the above argumentative statement, is further sustained by the fact that while the productiveness of labor has been steadily increased during the last decade, the condition of the laboring population has gradually become less prosperous, and in many cases reached or even passed the border of actual distress.
42A most shameless abuse of labor has lessened the purchasing power of the people, and caused the markets, the warehouses and store-rooms of the country to be overstocked with finished products, and this accumulation, in turn, has become the cause of the scarcity of employment experienced by working men. Lessened consumption has cunningly been designated as over-production; both terms, however, are incorrect, for what is generally called over-production in reality simply means involuntary loss of purchasing power, superinduced by unrestricted exploitation of productive labor on the part of private capital which actually is at the very root of the present unsatisfactory condition of society.
It is thus shown that the present distressing condition of the laboring population is the natural result of an unjust system of production, and furthermore that laborers and tradesmen do not suffer as consumers — for all men are equal before the salesman — but that they do suffer in their position of producers. For a sum of money previously acquired the laborer A is enabled to purchase quantitatively and qualitatively the same amount of a given commodity as the manufacturer B. As consumers, then, they are equal. But as producers their relation immediately changes in the following manner: A is employed by B. Of the fruits of his labor A receives as much as is absolutely necessary for his subsistence, while all the remainder is considered the capitalist's gain and becomes the absolute property of B. It is in this connection then that the existing relations should be changed as a matter of public justice. Labor must be liberated from the yoke of capitalistic exploitation. The actual slavery in which those without property are at present held by the property owners and capitalists, ought to be speedily replaced by a co-operative system of productive labor, organized by the government, which would guarantee to the producer an adequate remuneration for the labor performed by him. So radical a reform of our entire economic structure, the legislature of the State of Illinois of course has not the power, nor probably any desire to accomplish. Still it was necessary clearly to describe the main objections to the prevailing system of economic organization, so that we may now proceed to detail several of the measures which, even under the present system can be adopted and should be adopted, in order to alleviate the sufferings of the people and to avoid in the future the return of a similar condition of affairs. In this we shall endeavor to be as clear and concise as possible, lest we might be misunderstood by the gentlemen of the legislature, whom we desire to feel that on the part of the socialists at least, there is no lack of clearly defined purposes.
In order to permanently do away with the prevailing suffering and continued distress among working people, the state — that is the government as the representative of the commonwealth — must first and above all things guarantee to all its citizens the right to be remuneratively employed. Poverty, furthermore, should never be treated as a crime, which at present (the laws to the contrary notwithstanding) it actually is. If the poor man is not to be held responsible for the fact of his birth at a time when all the gifts of fortune had already found their
43owners, then certainly he is not to be treated as an enemy to mankind, but on the contrary he should be recognized as a co-equal member of human society, entitled to life and happiness like all the rest. As a matter of consequence, then, organized society, as represented in the various branches of government, should vouchsafe him work wherewith to earn the means of his subsistence. Men who are poor by circumstances over which they had no control, find that all the land surrounding them has been taken possession of. But even though the government should grant them the bare land, they would not be able to cultivate it, for they are destitute of food for the first period of cultivation; they have not the implements wherewith to clear the land, nor do they even possess seeds to sow in their fields.
May the poor man reap the fruits that nature caused to ripen, with or without the help of human labor? No! for the products as well as the soil have become the property of the land owner.
May the poor man, when exhausted by hunger and thirst, reach out his hand to his fellow man and ask for help? No! for the law then calls him a beggar and subjects him to dishonoring punishments.
May he, when tired and without shelter, rest himself on the pavement of our streets? No! for the law then treats him as a "tramp."
May he, when perishing from privation and destitution, take what is absolutely necessary to save him from starvation, wherever he finds it? No! for the law holds him a thief, and a felon's punishment is inflicted upon him.
May he who was born too late, and finds himself disinherited of all the boons enjoyed by his race, in order to save his life from utter destruction, forcibly take what is most necessary for him from another, who while living in more than affluence is yet unwilling to assist his fellow man? No! for the law brands him a robber and punishes him.
May the unfortunate who is refused the means of subsistence, and thus himself doomed to death by starvation, kill the refuser in attempting to evade his cruel fate? No! for the law stamps him a murderer, and visits punishment upon him accordingly.
There we have an explanation for the vast number of crimes committed in modern society, the same society that has made the whole earth with all its boundless resources the private property of a minority of men, at the same time robbing those born without property of even the means of subsistence.
The present unjust organization of society creates crime!
The poor man cannot even attempt to take up his family and leave the country, or the locality that refuses him employment, in order to better his fortunes in other parts more likely to grant him shelter and sustenance, for he lacks the means to pay for the expenses of emigration.
Then, what can the man without property do to keep himself and his family alive, without becoming a criminal?
According to the theories of those who profit from the irrational system of free competition, because by means of their wealth they remain victors in the war of competition, the unfortunate poor should apply to municipal charities for aid and support, and thus be fed at the cost of their fellow-men and out of the public funds.
A man willing and able to work is condemned to beg his crust at the doors of the public treasurers, while the productive power of his labor remains in forced idleness instead of being utilized in the creation of new values. Is not this contrary to all human reason?
But it will be said: Civilized society does not require a man to beg for public support, he is not made the recipient of a charity gift, he has a right to ask for and obtain such support. Is not this again contrary to reason?
Modern society has assumed the duty of protecting all its members whether able to work or not, at least against starvation.
Reasonably, however, society has the duty of assisting from the public treasuries disabled persons only.
It is absurd to grant able-bodied and willing laborers a right to be fed at the expense of their neighbors, as a matter of charity.
The assumption of a duty not willingly performed, and not based upon a real obligation, cannot be called anything but sickening hypocrisy.
The real purpose, for which this alleged duty, not founded on justice or reason, has been assumed by modern society, is the desire to evade the recognition of the just and inevitable duty of human society to vouchsafe to all its able-bodied members constant employment, and consequently the right to earn their daily bread by their own efforts, and to allow this duty to remain unperformed for the benefit of a privileged minority.
Men able to work, however destitute, do not ask the legislature to establish their right to receive public alms, but they do ask a recognition of their right to be set to work, at all times and under all circumstances, in order to be enabled to earn their living by productive labor and the creation of new values.
The right to work is essentially less exacting in its nature than the alleged right to public support. And yet modern society recognizes the latter, tacitly at least, for otherwise it would have to order all paupers and persons destitute of the means of subsistence in consequence of his being out of employment, to be either locked up in the penitentiaries or summarily killed.
We repeat, then, that able-bodied workingmen do not want the legislature to recognize their claims on public charity; what they want established is their right to be permanently employed.
Society must be reorganized so as to enable each one of its members to earn his daily bread by his own labor.
Every able-bodied citizen must be offered an opportunity to work.
It is unreasonable to refuse a man work and then recognize his right to draw the means of his subsistence from public funds.
It is unjust to confiscate all earth and say to the late comers, "You are entitled to live but you have no right to get the means of sustaining life."
It is unjust and unreasonable to say to the man without property, "You may live, but you shall not work; if you beg you will be punished; if you steal you will be punished; if you rob or murder, again you will be punished," etc.
What can a person so situated do? Can he live on air and sunshine? No! Shall he content himself with the part of a parasite on the social body, drawing his sustenance therefrom without returning service or value? Should this be the position of a man able and willing to work and become a useful member of human society?
The working people refuse to play the contemptible part of parasites upon the body politic, and for this reason they demand the recognition of their first, their most sacred, their innate right — the right to work.
As long as the individual man remains in undisputed enjoyment of the right to exist, to live at all, and until it shall be demonstrated that a man without property can live on sunshine and air, so long will it remain a duty of human society in its various organizations — the state government in our case — to guarantee constant employment to all men, that they may earn for themselves the means of sustaining life.
A Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Supposing the legal recognition of the right of obtaining work to have been accomplished, it then becomes necessary, in order to obtain therefrom fruitful results, to create a bureau of labor statistics.
The officers of such bureau ought to be elected directly by the people.
The purposes of the bureau should be the following:
1. The gathering of exact returns concerning the total production of the commonwealth.
2. The obtaining of the exact number of persons and machines employed in the various industrial pursuits. The same concerning agriculture. Information concerning the selling prices of machinery.
3. Investigation in the prices of raw material.
4. Statement of wages paid to workmen.
5. Statement of the value of materials used in the production, but not apparent in the finished product.
6. Statement of lessened values of buildings, and tools or machinery, by means of wear and tear.
7. Statement of prices of ready-made goods.
8. Information about the traffic in such products, whether used within or out of the state.
9. Statement of total number of persons able to work, living in the state, according to occupation, age and sex.
10. Statement concerning the productiveness of labor in the state, when employing all possible technical advantages.
11. Statement of the productiveness of labor employed in small trades, industry and agriculture.
12. Information concerning the rise of the value of real estate and buildings consequent upon the growth of the population, and the improvement and extension of means of communication.
13. Statistics on the duration of life and prevalent maladies in the various classes of the population and different pursuits and occupations.
14. Statement of the capital stock of, and capital actually employed by the corporations, as well as to total receipts and disbursements of said corporations.
15. Statement of the cost of the administration of corporations, with special reference to the salaries of prominent officers.
Such should be the special purposes of the bureau of statistics. But the usefulness of the bureau is not to end here. After gathering all necessary information concerning the number of unemployed workmen within the state, the officers of the bureau should propose to the legislature the execution of certain public works, the nature of which should be left to their judgment, and after the ratification of such proposals by the legislature, the officers of the bureau should conscientiously superintend the execution, and carefully report on the progress thereof.
Another object of the bureau would be the enlightenment of the people on the subject of the production, the exchange and distribution of the products, together with all conditions and circumstances influencing the same, for the previous year, and the demonstration of all errors in our present economic system as shown by the statistical returns on hand.
A thing greatly to be desired is a state law prohibiting the municipalities of the state from having their public works performed under the contract system. All such works should be executed under the superintendence of competent professional men by the communities themselves.
The contract system should also be abolished in the purchase of large supplies, especially in the case of regularly recurring purchases of all kinds of supplies.
The state government itself should be legally bound to proceed in the same manner in all public works undertaken by it.
In order to impartially and fairly distribute political power among the various classes of the population, and the different interests they represent, proportional representation should be extended to the municipal councils and county boards.
If the General Assembly is to do anything at all in the direction of progressing civilization, and a fair and just amelioration, of the condition
47of the down-trodden laboring masses and those who are without employment without any fault of theirs, then it must be the recognition and legal establishment of the right to work.
This right, the establishment of a bureau of labor statistics, the abolition of the contract system in public works, and the extension of proportioned representation to municipal councils and county boards, belonging together and supplement one another.
There may be persons willing to make the absurd declaration, that the recognition of the right to work would be tantamount to feeding the people by the state government, without any care or endeavor on their part. The answer is simply this, that the present system is the same as supporting idlers from the public funds, for society has assumed the obligation of supporting the starving without their rendering any equivalent whatsoever.
The present organization of public charities is unjust, inasmuch as it pretends to support persons able to work. Alms should not be distributed except among persons totally unfit for work. The present system is not only very costly, but it also offers advantages to many worthless persons, while it allows many worthy and destitute people to go to slow but sure ruin. But the most important faults of the system are the disgrace it entails upon the recipients of support and the demoralization incumbent upon it.
An opportunity to work is what the people desire, not dishonering alms as dealt out at present.
But it will be remarkable: you do ask support at the hands of the state, for must not the latter furnish you with work and material? And it is not right to create a privileged class of people even though the class to benefit were a suffering one?
To this we answer: All we advocate and desire in the interest, not only of those suffering without any fault of theirs, but of all other citizens of the state, is that all citizens should be measured by the same measure.
The United States have lately granted one single individual a subsidy of three millions of dollars for the purpose of running a line of steamers to Brazil. Is not this intervention of the government for the benefit of private persons? All large railroad corporations received subsidies in cash, in privileges and in enormous land-grants, and the most bare-faced abuse of the interests of the people by the monopolists.
Now if the people, willing to work but unable to obtain employment, demand at the hands of the state an opportunity for work, that is for the creation of new values larger than the wages received by them, such demand should certainly not be considered a desire for unjustified support at the hands of the state. So to consider it, would be rank injustice.
When the state government shall have adopted the plan of doing away with contracts and of executing public works under the immediate
48supervision of competent public officers, it will then be necessary to adopt a better and more just system of paying wages than that which has prevailed under the regime of private capital.
It is a peculiar trait of the present historical epoch that in consequence of the continual improvement and increase of machinery, production on a large scale is steadily increasing. This undoubtedly is a great social progress, for the productiveness of human labor increases in proportion to the development of such production. Regarding human society as an individual this is certainly a cause for congratulation, but when you consider society as an aggregation of individuals, divided into different classes and representing different interests, in fact as that which in reality it is, then there appears this sad truth, that all persons working for wages, which is the majority of the population, are excluded from the blessings of increased productiveness of labor.
Furthermore, the increased productiveness of labor becomes a curse upon small tradesmen and workers for wages, because it widens the chasm between capital and labor, and steadily forces the latter into a greater state of dependence upon the former.
Production on a large scale means an increase in the mass of products, and through the application of all manner of machinery it facilitates the greatest possible division of labor. The increase in the productiveness of labor is due to both the application of machinery and the consequent division of labor.
The greater productiveness of labor engaged in mass-production ruins all small competitors, and necessarily affords the capitalist-producer great advantages over the capitalless laborer. By reason of this preponderance of the capitalist manufacturer over the workingman, and by reason also of free competition, wages are reduced so as to afford the laborer the most indispensable necessaries of life only, thus reducing the purchasing power of the people to a minimum.
Thus working men are not only excluded from the benefits of the increased productiveness of their own labor, but they also suffer from the fact that, while by reason of this increased productiveness immense quantities of manufactured goods accumulate in the markets, yet the ability of the laborers to purchase such goods has been so weakened that he cannot avail himself of the immense quantities of goods on hand. As a matter of consequence employment for working men steadily becomes more scarce and the suffering among the masses not only increases but becomes permanent. Such a system must lead to revolution in the end.
The wealth of human society, which by the present system is concentrated in the hands of a few men, has actually become a curse to the masses of the people. What benefit can an indigent citizen derive from the wealth stored in other people's magazines, the only influence of which is to prolong the crisis. The mode of paying wages which prevails under the present system of private production, therefore is irrational and most unjust.
It is the duty of the state to set a good example to private producers, and consequently the legislature should endeavor, even though the present state of rent and the usual rate of interest on capital
49should be left intact, at least to allow laborers the benefit of the increased productiveness of their own labor. This, in the course of time, would diminish the terrible disparity between wealth and poverty, and would ensure the peaceful development of the society of the future.
The most efficient means for the consummation of this great purpose, it seems to us, would be the regulation of the system of wages.
This might be accomplished in the following manner: The state government, primarily as regards public works, and always recognizing eight hours as a day's work, would have competent professional men determine the amount of labor performed in eight hours by the average working man with the aid of machinery and all technical advantages.
The amount as ascertained would then be considered as a normal day's work.
This normal day's work could easily be established for all important industries. This would be really a great progress; for the normal working day measured by time, which always does injustice to some, would be replaced by a normal day's work — that is, by a normal amount of labor performed.
Here the statistical bureau would be able to render the most important services, and private producers would soon conform to the new system.
For the normal day's work of course normal day's wages would be established, and by "normal day's wages" we mean an amount sufficient to satisfy all demands upon life justified by reason and the present state of human civilization. Wages should be sufficiently large to afford the working man and his family an ample supply of wholesome food, good lodgings, good clothing, according to the respective climates, educational advantage, entertainment, and a surplus sufficient to pay for insurance against disease, loss of ability to work, fire, and for endowment purposes, etc.
The productiveness of labor itself, as well as the purchasing prices of the necessaries of life being variable, the statistical bureau, aided by local officers elected for this purpose, would annually renew its investigations and re-establish the normal wages according to ruling prices, and the quantity of a normal day's work according to technical developments. It would, in this connection, be an easy matter, of course, to preserve intact the present rent and rate of interest, and at the same time to allow the productiveness of labor, which increases proportionately to the development of civilization, to revert to the benefit of the working men themselves.
Such action on the part of the legislature would simply be a matter of justice, and justice in its action toward the people certainly is the plain duty of the state government.
By adopting the regulation of wages in the sense detailed above, all future strikes would be avoided, and we should have a system of wages at least approximately just, even in the present social system founded upon private capital.
If, under the new system, a workman by greater skill or industry should succeed in performing more than the normal day's work, his
50pay would be proportionately greater. In the same manner, whoever should through laziness or inattention perform less than the normal amount of labor, would receive proportionately smaller pay.
This standard of paying wages would have the advantage of being both just and universal, and in case of its adoption all the many instances of injustice in the payment of wages would be done away with, which at present not only exist but have the tempting effect, that whoever oppresses his laborers most is sure to have an advantage over his competitors.
Regulation of labor as above advocated would be the first practical step in the direction of a thorough organization of all production, and consequently should attract the attention of all fair-minded and thinking people.
One of the main blemishes upon modern society with all its boasts of humane and civilizing tendencies, is the habitual use of children's labor in the present mode of production.
The property-owning class of citizens do not allow their children to labor for money, for they know that all the time of their offspring ought to be utilized towards their physical as well as their mental improvement.
Why then does anybody assume to rob the children of the poor not only of their educational opportunities but also of the sweet and innocent pleasures of childhood?
Is it that there are not adult laborers in the world sufficient to fill all necessary demands? No! For there is a superabundance of them, and many grown-up working men remain in forced idleness!
Why then are these children employed? Because child's labor is cheaper; because a child can readily be utilized at a machine; because it is feasible to replace the father by his boy, and the mother or the spinster by the infant girl.
Child's labor depresses the wages of adults. Producers after the present system are only too well aware of this fact, and it is for this reason mainly that they do employ children.
Free competition pants for cheap labor at all hazards, even though it robs children of their vitality, even though it throws the young man just beyond the years of boyhood, whom it has left ignorant and probably frivolous and tired of the efforts of life, upon the heartless worlds without mercy or scruples, even though it educate half-grown girls for the purposes of the brothel.
The very fact that children are employed in manufactories and other industrial pursuits at a time when thousands of adults vainly seek for work, is the worst imaginable taunt to our vaunted civilization.
For these reasons a law should be passed to prohibit the habitual employment of children below the age of fourteen years.
Children below the age of fourteen should not be allowed to perform regular work for wages in the service of persons not belonging
51to their families, for children ought to be in school instead of the factory.
Violators of the law prohibiting children's labor should be punished by a fine of $50 for the first transgression. The repetition of the offense ought to be punished by imprisonment.
There should be "inspectors of manufactories" to ascertain all the facts concerning such law and to report the transgressor to the competent authorities.
Such prohibition of children's labor would serve a threefold purpose, namely:
1st. The rising generation would be enabled to get a better education than they are enabled to acquire under the system of children's labor.
2d. It would be an improved generation in physical as well as mental and moral attainments.
3d. Adults would not be forced to compete with children's labor and would more readily find employment themselves.
The prohibition of children's labor for wages ought to be accompanied by a law establishing compulsory education, and to make the mass of the citizens both intelligent and versatile as to their occupation. Industrial schools ought also to be established.
Such schools should make it their purpose to impart to young persons of from twelve to sixteen years of age an adequate knowledge of the use of all sorts of machinery, and also to develop in their pupils the skill necessary for the performance of useful labor. Such schools furnished with tools, machines, and other technical apparatus have lately been established in various parts of Europe and have everywhere achieved the most distinguished success. Not only did the pupils without efforts as it were acquire a useful knowledge of the application of the technical sciences, but they also universally distinguished themselves in their chosen branch of work by zeal as well as skillful work, so that a large part of the cost of maintaining such schools could be realized from the sale of the products manufactured by their pupils.
At any rate nobody will doubt the wholesome moral influence exercised upon children by a stimulating self-chosen, useful and voluntary occupation.
Regulation of Women's Labor.
A legal regulation of the employment of women, in manufactories, has become a pressing necessity in the interest of justice and humanity.
As regards protective measures in the case of young persons between fourteen and eighteen years of age, as well as in the case of pregnant women, the authority of the government of the State of
52Illinois is a matter of course. In this connection it is necessary, in the first place, to pass a law to prohibit the employment of women in manufactories, between the hours of 8 p. m. and 6 a. m., under all circumstances.
Furthermore, young women between the ages of from fourteen and eighteen, ought not, under any circumstances, to be allowed to work more than eight hours a day; exclusive of a pause at noon-time to last an hour and a half.
Thirdly, a law should be passed prohibiting the employment of pregnant women, at least four weeks before confinement; the prohibition to be in force until six weeks after the confinement.
Fourthly, women ought not to be allowed to work in chemical or other establishments using poisonous or unwholesome materials, nor at public works, in quarries, mines, or at other occupations detrimental to their moral and physical welfare.
The inspectors of manufactories above mentioned should watch over the execution of such legal enactments.
The unrestricted power of private producers over the laborers in their employ is stimulated to the worst by the system of free competition, for in the competitive struggle, which is war to the knife, the cutting down of wages is a most effective weapon. In the endeavor to utilize the latter, producers have decreed the arrant injustice of confining female labor to a much smaller standard of wages than that of men employed in the same pursuits.
Not only is the pay for the kinds of labor almost exclusively performed by women, most miserably low, but women are also paid less for work in which they compete with men, and which, in the open markets of the world, is of exactly the same value.
All of this proves that under the system of free competition there is never a question of justice, and that the present mode of production, by private capital in its relation to labor, is nothing but an overconfident speculation upon the inability of the laboring masses to resist.
Such a system, for its monstrous injustice alone, ought to be destroyed.
Free competition is the root of all that is bad in our social condition. It is based upon the principal of "every one for himself," and means war of every one against all.
This disgusting warfare is universally carried on, on a large scale, and a thousand times repeated in a small way.
The boy competes with his father, the daughter with her mother, the wife with her husband, and the natural consequence of so irrational a competition, is the impoverishment of the people.
The government of the State of Illinois alone cannot, of course, change this deplorable condition of affairs, but it is none the less necessary to acknowledge and discuss what there is wrong in our system, and then to insist upon having a thorough reform inaugurated by the United States of America.
The value of all commodities is expressed by the necessary labor they represent. Then, female labor really required by society and representing a certain definite amount of necessary human effort, should certainly be paid for at the same rate as an equal amount of labor performed by men.
There is no possibility of justly defending the practice of paying women smaller wages than men for the same given amount of work. Does not a woman need shelter like a man?
And why should a woman be able to live upon less money than a man?
She is weaker, less capable of resistance, and yet modern society forces her to suffer more, to endure more privations than man.
Aye, more than that! The legislators of civilized commonwealths, who boast of justice, of liberty and humanity, suffer this disgrace to continue by simply ignoring it. The people demand justice for all, and it is for this reason that they insist upon a just regulation of female labor.
We have previously advocated the legal recognition of the right to work, and the regulation of the system of wages by the establishment of a normal day's work together with normal day's wages. Such normal pay equally applied to female labor would be the first step towards an efficient amelioration of the condition of working women. It is the duty of the state to take the initiatory steps in this reform, as a matter of justice, and whenever this is done, whenever the principle of the equality of working people without regard to sex shall have been established, then the whole population will take sides in favor of it, and private producers even will not be able to refuse its recognition.
The truck system should be abolished, wages for labor should be declared preferred debts as against all other liabilities, in suits for wages the claimant should have lawyers' fees allowed from the defendant, his debtor; wages should not be garnished.
It is against public policy to allow any further the pernicious system of paying laborers and employes in store orders on firms belonging to or connected with the employers, instead of paying wages in legal tender.
This modern system of exploitation of labor is a covert system of fraud and robbery, and is under certain circumstances worse than slavery used to be to its victims.
Such working-men must work to their utmost and receive therefor a miserable accommodation to live in, and orders on stores belonging to or carried on in the interest of the mining or factory proprietors, the goods are of an inferior quality and dearer than in the open market. As the workmen cannot get their pay in legal tender, they are at the mercy of their employers and his shop-keeper, the workmen are in time and by degrees made inextricable debtors to the employers who equalize the wages and store prices to suit themselves and take undue advantages of their workingmen and employes, who get indebted to their employers. In such cases people live from hand to mouth, and become indebted to their bosses, who regulate their wages and get the
54full benefit of their working power, until they get old and disabled, and then their employers get rid of them at the cost of the tax-payers, who are burdened with poor rates, which ought to be levied from the factory bosses and captains of industry or from the rich corporations, which fatten on the fruits of labor. Our employers of the army of workingmen do not give sufficient pay to enable their workers to bring up their children as intelligent artisans, nor do their workers earn enough to keep a sufficient amount for the time, when their strength and working ability will have failed them. Our great employers and soulless corporations get their laborers from the labor market of the great immigration movement, and after squeezing them like a lemon throw them away on the poor rates of the community, who had not received any pecuniary benefits from the labor of these crowds of factory and mining people. These employers do not pay in the rate of wages the necessary cost of acquiring a skilled trade; they pay for the time being just about enough to enable a man to barely support himself; but his children must get their schooling at the public expense, and the old and decrepid must depend on the poor rates or on the little help from benevolent people. In countries, where human slavery is an established institution, the owner of the slave has to pay the living expenses of his human chattel for all time, although he can only derive profitable labor for certain years and times of his working ability, while under our so-called civilized system the employer of labor gets all the benefit of the working capacity of the working-men without having to pay anything for the expenses of acquiring a trade, and for the cost of maintenance in old age.
This infernal system of modern slavery by means of the diabolical truck system should be abolished, heavy fines should be imposed on the perpetrators of such wrong to the helpless workingman.
Every workingman and employe should be paid in legal tender money at least twice during the month, and in all bankruptcy cases debts for wages should be paid in full before all other debts due to other creditors.
Convict labor should be worked on public account for the state institutions and should not be auctioned off to the highest bidding contractor, who, with the cheap convict work, underbids free labor in the open market.
A law should be passed compelling all manufacturers to mark their goods and wares with their full address, so as to enable the public to identify the manufactory from which the goods are turned out.
There should be state inspectors of all meats, provisions, milk and other food and drink offered for sale. The sale of quack medicines should be prohibited under heavy penalties.
The duties of the state board of health should be enlarged so as to make it conform with the state board of health of the State of Massachusetts.
All indirect local taxation should be abolished and the property of the churches and religious corporations should be taxed.
1st. The right to employment and living wages.
2d. The establishment of a state commission for labor statistics.
3d. Abolition of the system of awarding contracts for public works, the public improvements should be executed by the workers, without middlemen and contractors.
4th. Minority representation in the legislature, county and city boards of legislation and administration.
5th. Regulation of labor, according to a legal day's work and a legal day's wages.
6th. Inspection and regulation of factories.
7th. Responsibility of employers for accidents to their employes.
8th. Abolition of labor of all children under a certain age, and compulsory education of children up to a certain age.
9th. Industrial schools for the masses.
10th. Regulation of the labor of females, protective measures for young persons and pregnant women. Night work should be forbidden to all females in factories and other industrial institutions.
11th. In suits for wages there should not be any fees in courts, payable by workingmen.
12th. Wages up to $5.00 should not be garnished.
13th. Wages should be a lein on the property of the employer, and should be paid in full before all other debts.
14th. Abolition of the truck system.
15th. Abolition of the competition of convict labor with free labor.
16th. Abolition of the perambulating auctions.
17th. Compulsory trademarks for all industrial works.
18th. Adulteration of food and drink should be forbidden by heavy fines.
19th. Advertisements of quack medicines should be forbidden.
20th. Regulations of public health and appropriations for public baths.
21st. The fire insurance business and other insurance business should be undertaken by the state.
22d. Railways and telegraphs should become public institutions, owned and controlled by the state.
23d. Our revenue system should be so amended as to exempt the small homestead from all taxation.
24th. Assessment and taxation of church property.
25th. The transactions of boards of trade and stock boards for mining and railroad stocks should be taxed, either by license or by stamp duties.
Mr. Henry Stahl, as a member of the committee appointed to represent the Socialistic Labor Party, said he hoped that the legislative committee appointed to inquire into the condition of the wage-working
56class, would, after all the testimony which had been submitted, see the justice of granting the reform measures demanded, such as a reduction of the hours of labor; the entire abolition of the contract convict system, and the truck system; the creation of a bureau of labor statistics; the prohibition of children's labor; compulsory education; the sanitary inspection of mines, work shops, dwellings, food and factories; and an act making employers liable for all accidents to employes caused through the employer's neglect; and in placing the results of their investigations before the members of the legislature, he hoped that then with a full knowledge of their importance, the Illinois Legislature would grant the request of the working people, and afford them the relief to which they were justly entitled.
The chairman inquired if there were any other citizens present who desired to be heard before the committee, in response to which the following papers were submitted:
To the Honorable State Legislature Committee of Inquiry:
GENTLEMEN: The committee appointed by the Northwestern Harness Manufacturers' Protective Association to wait upon your honorable committee, present the following statement for your consideration, and pray, if it lies in your power to abolish prison labor in its present form, that it shall no longer come in competition with free labor, to use all the moral influence in your possession to abolish it for the following reasons:
1st. State prisons should be reformatory and not a cause to further crimes.
2d. No private individual should be permitted to receive the surplus products of prison labor as contractors now do.
3d. No state prison should be a detrimental cause to the community at large or to any of its members.
4th. And last, no prison labor should come in competition with free labor nor be the cause of discharging honest laborers.
How can criminals be reformed when at their arrival at state prison the unscrupulous contractors already begin to quarrel who shall get the most of the prisoners, which means undoubtedly — he who receives the most makes the most money, regardless of any reformatory principles to be guided by, their (the contractors) guide is, "we make all we can, no matter whether out of prison laborers, and manufacturers suffer thereby or not."
It is generally acknowledged that free labor cannot compete with prison labor, and which often causes involuntary idleness. Enforced idleness has led to dissipation and crime.
The contract system ought to be done away with — it would do away with bribery to a great extent; no individual could revel in luxury of prison labor profits if a system would be inaugurated by which the prisoners become self-sustaining, reformed, and not a stumbling block in society.
That states prison labor is a detrimental cause in its present form every one must acknowledge, who are affected thereby, and who is not?
57the one directly, the other indirectly. Let us see for a moment how it operates: here is a manufacturer who formerly employed fifty hands, but finding that he cannot hire free labor at twenty-five and forty-five cents per day, which is paid in states prison, consequently he cannot compete in the market, and gradually, but surely, looses his customers, which forces him to discharge some of his help, they then seek work in some other shop; but finding that the same cause affects them in the same manner, now try a different branch of trade. Doing so they are forced by circumstances into a position which is the same towards other branches of trades as states prison labor is towards themselves. First the manufacturer suffers, and the mechanic is placed in such condition as to be unable to buy or consume the goods which are stored on shelves and ware-houses to wait for shrinkage until after they are rotten.
The above shows that prison labor comes in competition with free labor, that it throws honest mechanics into forced idleness, which places the latter in such circumstances as to be unable to buy of the small dealers as before, the small dealer cannot patronize the wholesale dealers as he did. The majority probably do not look at it in this light, but they who understand its true workings know that prison labor in its present form is very dangerous to society.
We hope the honorable committee on labor statistics will consider the merits of our statement, although too short to explain all details of the damage done by the contract system of prison labor.
JOHN McKEOWN, }Committee
CHICAGO, March 4th, 1879.
Gentlemen of the Legislature of the State of Illinois:
We take the liberty in submitting to you our grievance in regard of our hosiery manufacture in this state, to say that it is ruined by convict labor. As the committee of investigation of the labor question visited our city and got introduced to them, as manufacturers of hosiery, we gave them a full explanation of our difficulty to compete with convict labor. There is, in our city, about twenty-five knitting firms, and have been employing about 1,200 or 1,500 hands. Now it had decreased within three years so that we can't employ no more than about a one-third, and will come pretty soon to that, we can't employ them even if the convict labor is not put away.
Now we ask your kindly body of legislatures, from State of Illinois, for your kindly assistance of our manufacturing interests, in protecting our manufacturing business, and if your honorable body desires to have a petition drawn up and signed by all knitters, and by so informing us, we will call a meeting of all hosiery manufacturers for their signature to such a petition.
A. LIEBMAN, 485 S. Union street,
J. BERKSON & BRO., 523 S. Canal street. }Committee.
There being no further business before it, the legislative committee of inquiry adjourned at 11:30 p. m.
The Braidwood Session.
At four o'clock p. m., the legislative committee of inquiry, appointed by the house of representatives of the Illinois legislature, met in the town hall in the town of Braidwood, Will county, on March 3d, 1879, and was called to order by the chairman.
Present: Charles Ehrhardt, B. H. Trusdell, John W. Savage, John B. Taylor, John W. Foy.
The chairman stated that the committee was prepared to hear any statements which the workingmen desired to submit.
Mr. John Kear informed the committee that he desired to submit a list of the names of persons who had been appointed to act as a committee for the miners' union, and other workingmen of Braidwood, to represent their case before the committee of inquiry, as follows:
John Kear, Frank Lofty, George Dale, John Creely, jr., William Cunningham.
John Kear was called, and testified concerning the necessity for mine ventilation. He said there was practically no ventilation at all in the mines at present, which, besides being very unpleasant and disagreeable, was productive of much sickness and distress, consequent upon the loss of health. He stated that for digging the coal, miners were paid by the ton, which, when brought out, is placed upon a sieve or shifter, through which the smaller pieces fall; that this small coal amounted to fully one hundred and fifty pounds for every ton mined; that they were not paid for this one hundred and fifty pounds; and he complained of this practice as being very unjust to the miner; that this small or "nut" coal was sold by the company at two-thirds of the price of large or "lump" coal. He claimed that the miner was justly entitled to every pound of coal dug by him and sold by the company. He stated that the lack of timbers with which to prop up the roofs of the mines, which were liable to cave in and injure the miner — only that day a miner had been killed by the roof falling on him and burying him. There was nothing to compel mine owners to furnish such timbers, and if the miner complained and found fault he was discharged and victimized. He stated that during the winter months persons working in the mines never saw any daylight for the entire week. That the miners wanted the hours of labor reduced; they had asked the mine owners to reduce the working hours, but they refused to do so. He testified that the miners worked from twelve to fourteen hours each day. He was asked the question, "How many cubic feet of air per minute is required in order to furnish a miner with pure air?" Answer: "One hundred cubic feet." Question:
59"How much air do you now get?" Answer: "Very little. A lamp goes out for want of oxygen."
Mr. Kear continued his statement, that wages were very low, that children were employed in the mines, and men had to compete with them.
Question. (By Mr. Trusdell.) The real trouble, then, is that there are too many men to do the work, or too much competition? Answer. That's it.
Q. How many children work in the Braidwood mines? A. About one hundred and fifty.
Q. Would the men object to a law prohibiting such work? A. They would.
Q. Are there plenty of school facilities? A. Yes.
Q. Do children attend these schools? A. No; they have to work.
Q. Why do children work in mines? A. Because parents cannot support them. It is not greed but necessity which requires them to do this.
Q. You say a miner was killed to-day. What becomes of his family? A. The people, through sympathy, raise a subscription: employers do not give anything.
Q. Do you accumulate anything? A. No, sir; wages are too low.
Q. How often are wages paid? A. Once a month.
Q. Are you paid in truck? A. Yes; to a certain extent.
P. (By the chairman.) What do you think of "strikes?" A. Never made anything by them, but it checks our employers in their demands. Strikes are an evil. We look for other things in another direction.
Q. You struck in 1877. Did you threaten to destroy property, or did you destroy anything or hurt anybody? A. No, sir, we did not.
Q. Was there any cause for bringing the militia here? A. No, sir.
Q. How long had you been on "strike" before the militia came to Braidwood. A. Four months.
Q. How much pay was due you from the company when you went on "strike." A. One month.
Q. What brought the militia here? A. Don't know, unless to intimidate the strikers.
George Dale testified as follows:
Question. What about wages? Answer. That's what I want to know about. I have worked for the Vermilion coal company for the past seven years, I have been sober and industrious, but I havn't earned enough to keep myself and family in comfortable clothing and wholesome food. The wages question is the one I am most concerned in.
Q. What are the average wages of a miner for an entire year? A. About $300.
Q. What laws do you want enacted? A. We want an eight-hour
60law; a law ventilating mines; the abolishment of the truck system; the abolishment of child labor under fourteen years of age; the abolishment of the contract convict system, and a bureau of labor statistics, — the latter law will show to every one who it is that does the work and thus makes civilization possible, and also show how much they get for doing it, and where the balance of the productions of labor goes to.
John Crelly, Jr., of the miners' committee, was then called by the chairman:
Question. (To John Crelly, Jr.) What are the average hours of labor in mines? A. The work hours average from twelve to fourteen, but during the summer months we only have on the average but three days' work per week.
Q. Can the mines be ventilated? A. Air can easily be supplied on account of the shallowness of the mines.
Q. What facilities have the mines for escape in case of fire? A. If our mines were to take fire all lives would be lost.
Q. What have you done to remedy these things? A. If we complain, we are told that we need not work, and if we leave one mine to go to another for work we must first obtain a permit from the company we leave before any other company will employ us.
Q. Do you take wages in truck? A. We must take it or nothing.
Q. What would a "truck" check for $10 bring if sold or shaved? A. Perhaps one-half.
Q. What laws do you want? A. We want mine inspection and ventilation; prohibition of child labor under fourteen years of age; eight hours as a work day, and abolition of the truck system, and a bureau of labor statistics; but we believe also that the land, mines and all natural wealth belongs to the whole people.
Q. Would reduced working hours entice men to come to a single state? A. No, because it would force the same system upon all the other states.
Mr. Frank Lofty was called:
Question. What laws do you want? A. A state inspector of mines should be appointed. He must be a practical miner. The truck system is very injurious not only to the wage-workers, but ruins business and enterprise by monopolizing the trade into the hands of one corporation. We want compulsory education, abolishment of child labor, bureau of labor statistics, and the hours of labor reduced.
Q. How much, if any, is wages lessened by taking truck. A. A pair of mits for my child, which cost in truck forty cents, I bought for twenty-five cents in cash. It has a most decided, tendency to reduce wages.
Q. What proportion of your wages do you have to take out in truck? A. Two-thirds.
Q. How many truck stores are there? A. There is only one, at which all the miners trade.
Q. Do children work in the mines? A. Many children work in the mines.
Q. What do you know about the Braidwood troubles, or strike in 1877? A. There was no riot. The Eureka mine refused to pay the wages due the men.
Q. Was there any intention to antagonize state or county authorities? None.
Q. What do you think of a lien law, and a law giving wages priority? A. They should be enacted into laws.
Q. What do you think of the convict system? A. Competition of this kind of labor punishes the innocent wage-workers.
Q. What effect would reduced hours of labor have? A. It would increase wages by lessening competition among workingmen, but co-operative production would cure all these ills. I believe the people should own the land and all natural wealth: Land, should not be bought or sold. A co-operative system of industry would abolish poverty among the working class.
Q. How are you paid for mining coal? A. By the ton, but the "nut" coal is sifted from the "round" coal, and we are not paid for mining this "nut" coal. We ask pay for all saleable coal.
Q. If we pass a law making it a fine not to pay for this coal, would not mine-owners reduce wages in proportion? A. Perhaps so, but we would rather have a reduction of wages than be made to do work and not get paid for it.
Q. Do you want the legislature to fix your wages? A. We don't expect the legislature to fix wages.
Mr. Wm. Cunningham was next called:
Question. What wages do you earn? A. On an average about $27 per month, for twelve to fourteen hours labor per day.
Here the witness offered the following table which he said had been prepared for the information of the Legislative Committee of Inquiry, in which was shown the actual average earnings of every miner for each month during the entire year:
Earnings. — January 1878, 60,000 pounds, ninety-five cents per ton, $28.50.
Expenses. — Coal, $2.50; house rent, $4; blacksmithing, fifty cents; oil, eighty cents. Earnings for January 1878, net after expenses deducted, $20.70.
Earnings. — February 1878, 40,000 pounds, ninety-five cents per ton, $19.
Expenses. — Coal, $2.50; house rent, $4; blacksmith, fifty cents; oil, eighty cents. Earnings for February 1878, net after expenses deducted, $11.20.
Earnings. — March 1878, 38,950 pounds, ninety-five cents per ton, $18.50.
Expenses. — Coal, $2.50; house rent, $4; blacksmith, fifty cents; oil, eighty cents. Earnings for March 1878, net after expenses deducted, $10.70.
Earnings. — April 1878, 60,700 pounds, eighty-five cents per ton, $25.81.
Expenses. — Coal, $2.50; house rent, $4; blacksmith, fifty cents; oil, eighty cents. Earnings for April 1878, net after expenses deducted, $18.
Earnings. — May 1878, 47,600 pounds, eighty-five cents per ton, $20.23.
Expenses. — Coal, $2.50; house rent, $4; blacksmith, fifty cents; oil, eighty cents. Earnings for May 1878, net after expenses deducted, $12.43.
Earnings. — June 1878, 47,850 pounds, eighty-five cents per ton, $20.34.
Expenses. — Coal, $2.50; house rent, $4; blacksmith, fifty cents; oil, eighty cents. Earnings for June 1878, net after expenses deducted, $12.54.
Earnings. — July 1878, 45,400 pounds, eighty-five cents per ton, $19.31.
Expenses. — Coal, $2.50; house rent, $4; blacksmith, fifty cents, oil, eighty cents. Earnings for July 1878, net after expenses deducted, $11.51.
Earnings. — August 1878, 48,100 pounds, eighty-five cents per ton, $20.44.
Expenses. — Coal, $2.50; house rent, $4; blacksmith, fifty cents; oil, eighty cents. Earnings for August 1878, net after expenses deducted, $12.64.
Earnings. — September 1878, 69,300 pounds, eighty-five cents per ton, $29.40.
Expenses. — Coal, $2.50; house rent, $4; blacksmith, fifty cents; oil, eighty cents. Earnings for September 1878, net after expenses deducted, $21.61.
Earnings. — October, 1878, 88,200 pounds, ninety-five cents per ton, $41.50.
Expenses. — Coal, $2.50; house rent, $4; blacksmith, fifty cents; oil, eighty cents. Earnings for October, 1878, net after expenses deducted, $33.70.
Earnings. — November, 1878, 105,150 pounds, ninety-five cents per ton, $49.95.
Expenses. — Coal, $2.50; house rent, $4; blacksmith, fifty cents; oil, eighty cents. Earnings for November, 1878, net after expenses deducted, $42.15.
Earnings. — December, 1878, 84,300 pounds, ninety-five cents per ton, $40.04.
Expenses. — Coal, $2.50; house rent, $4; blacksmith, fifty cents; oil,
63eighty cents. Earnings for December 1878, net after expenses deducted, $32.24.
Average wages per month, during the year, $27.
William Cunningham (continued).
Q. What wages did you earn in the month of February? A. $40. During the summer months from $10 to $20 per month.
Q. What about ventilation? A. It is very bad. We have a delegation of miners at Springfield getting a law passed compelling mineowners to ventilate their mines, also to "timber" a mine, and thus prevent accidents. Without "timber" to prop, the roof is liable to fall in, and this stops the miner's work, who is compelled to clear it out at his own cost, taking from one to two weeks to do so, which is equivalent to a loss of $10 in wages. It also stops ventilation.
Q. What do you think of an eight-hour law? A. It would increase wages by stopping competition — Competition reduces wages. The convict contract system of labor ruins us by its competition. Reduced hours would give us mental, physical and financial benefits. It would increase wages by giving more men employment.
Q. What about the truck system? A. The truck system is a fraud. We lose at least ten per cent. by it.
Q. How much truck does an unmarried man have to take on an average? A. A young man who earns $25 per month, would take on an average $10 of it in truck.
Q. How do the miners feel toward the colored miners who come here during the strike? A. We have no hard feelings toward the colored miners. We blame those who brought them here.
Q. Did you gain that strike? A. No, we lost it.
Q. What do you think of strikes? A. We don't believe in strikes. They do no good in the long run.
Q. Do you want compulsory education? A. We favor compulsory education.
Q. Are the Catholic workingmen opposed to compulsory education? A. They are not. Catholics are only opposed to sectarian teachings in public schools.
Q. What have you to say about a bureau of labor statistics? A. We all want a bureau of labor statistics. It is very necessary. The United States census for 1870 showed that of the five productive industries in mining, agriculture, manufacture, fisheries and live stock, there had been six billion dollars of wealth produced, and that labor received as its reward only one billion, two hundred million dollars.
Thomas Newman then testified as follows:
I favor the eight-hour law — eight for work, eight for sleep, and eight for recreation. I believe the truck system to be a good thing. Miners in the past have earned as much as $160 per month. The stores got it all then, and they get it all now. The truck system is good because it teaches the merchants the valuable lesson that they should have been more reasonable in their prices in the past, besides the workingmen are nearly all in debt to these merchants, and if they
64were paid in cash their wages would be garnished by them. I believe in mine ventilation, compulsory education, bureau of labor statistics and abolition of child labor.
Thomas Dickerson then testified as follows:
We want a ventilation law. In the mine where I work the foul air would kill any man, however strong, in two years. Low wages compels men with large families to work their children. Two boys' labor is equal to one man's. I am opposed to the truck system, it compels a person to trade at a certain store, and is a species of slavery. We have to sign a contract before we can go to work in the mines. The following is a copy of the contract we are compelled to sign, and attached to it is a copy of the rules and regulations by which we are governed, and the same contracts, rules and regulations are enforced by all the other mining corporations:
This agreement, made this twentieth day of April, A. D. 1878, between the Chicago, Wilmington & Vermilion coal company, of the first part, and — of the second part, witnesseth, that the said party of the second part has agreed, and by these presents does agree, to enter into the employment of the said party of the first part, as a miner of coal, to commence on the first day of May, A. D. 1878, and continue therein until the first day of May, A. D. 1879, and to abide by, adhere to, and observe the rules and regulations hereto appended, which are made a part of this contract, and to abide by and observe all other rules and regulations promulgated from time to time by the said coal company, for the purpose of regulating mining and other employment in and about the coal mines of the said coal company, and not to be absent without leave, except in cases of sickness or other unavoidable contingency that would prevent him from work; also to keep his roadway properly brushed down, and his room in good working order.
The said party of the second part further agrees to keep the track in his roadway clear, and to remove such irregularities in its surface as may be caused by the upheaving or swelling of the bottom of said roadway, so that the track may at all times be in a good condition for cars to pass safely over it without delay. Also, to keep sufficient room in his roadway, near the face of the coal, for placing an empty pit car on edge outside of the rails, so that it may be passed by a loaded car, and to assist the pusher, employed by the party of the first part, to place the empty cars in said position to be passed, and to help him to start the loaded cars from the face of the coal for such distance as may be necessary, provided it shall not exceed ten (10) yards.
The said party of the first part agrees to pay the said party of the second part for each ton of coal mined by him and delivered on pit-cars at the face of the room where the same is mined, as follows, viz: for mining, seventy cents per ton from May 1st 1878, to Oct 1st., 1878, and eighty cents from Oct. 1st. 1878, to April 1st., 1879, and seventy cents for the month of April 1879, and the further sum of fifteen cents per ton for brushing and keeping his room and roadway in good working order, four feet high to first parting.
All coal to be weighed after passing over the screens in use for the time being at the mines. Said first party hereby reserves the privilege, however, of closing the mines at any time, or of reducing the number of miners by discharging them, or such of them as the Superintendent or person having charge of the mines for the time being may think proper, including said second party. All payments to be made at the regular pay-day, and in accordance with the rules and regulations aforesaid. And the pay-day will be on the 20th day of each month, except when the 20th occurs on Sunday, then the pay-day will be on the 21st.
And it is hereby expressly agreed to, and understood, by the party of the second part, that should he become a tenant of the party of the first part during the term of this engagement, that in case of its termination, either by his discharge from the said company's employ, or in any other way, he will vacate the premises so occupied by him as practicable thereafter, upon verbal notice from the company's agent or superintendent, and that he will not be entitled to receive any part of the wages due him for labor performed, should the party of the first so, elect, until the premises are vacated, and the keys of the same delivered at the company's office. And the party of the second part further agrees that he will not stop work, join any "strike," or combination, for the purpose of obtaining, or causing the company to pay their miners an advance of wages or pay beyond what is specified in this contract, nor will he in any way aid, abet, or countenance any such "strike," combination or scheme, for any purpose whatever, during the time specified in the first clause of said contract. And if the second party shall violate any of the provisions of this contract in this regard, at any time, he shall thereby forfeit all claim for coal previously mined and not paid for, and the first party be released from liability therefor.
In witness whereof, the said parties have hereunto set their hands and seals the day and year first above written.
THE CHICAGO, WILMINGTON & VERMILION COAL CO.
By A. L. HUNT, Agent and Superintendent. (seal.)
Witness. — J. W. GILMAN.
(Signed in Duplicate.)
I. — Every employee of the Company will be required to be ready for duty when the whistle blows for work, every morning, and will be expected to perform a full day's work of ten hours, in his respective line of employment, unless the foreman of his department orders less time to be worked. Engineers are strictly forbidden to lower any miner, or underground laborer, into any pit after seven o'clock a. m., without orders from the Superintendent or pit-boss.
Il. — No suspension of work shall take place during working hours except in case of actual necessity.
III. — Any employee feeling aggrieved in any respect, must present his claim to the pit-boss, in person. If they fail to adjust the matter in a manner satisfactory to the employee it may be referred to the superintendent of either party desire), whose decision, upon a hearing of both sides of the question, will be final. Any employee who is not willing to abide the decision of the pit-boss or superintendent on any disputed point, or who is unwilling to conform to any and all of the company's rules and regulations, made from time to time, will be required to quit the works at once.
IV. — Any employee may be discharged at any time without previous notice; and any employee wishing, in good faith, to leave the company's service, may do so at any time without giving previous notice, but all arrearages of pay will be due and payable on the next regular pay-day after leaving said employment; Provided, when any employee is discharged by the company, a due bill, maturing on the next pay-day, will be given him for his balance.
V. — No person will be allowed to interfere in any manner with the employer's just right of employing, retaining and discharging from employment, any person or persons whom the superintendent or pit-boss having charge of the mines for the time being; may consider proper; nor interfere in any way by threats, or menace, or otherwise, with the rights of any employee to work, or engage to work, in any way, and upon any terms, and with whom he may think proper and best for his interest or the benefit of his family.
VI. — All persons in the employ of the company, either by the day or by the month, are positively prohibited from absenting themselves from their respective duties without proper authority. Those working under ground must report to the pit-boss in person, and obtain his consent to be absent. Surface men must obtain permission from the superintendent to leave their stations. No employee will be permitted to fill his place by another man without the consent of the superintendent.
VII. — Every employee will be paid once a month, at the regular pay-day, all wages or moneys he may have earned during the last calendar month previous to such pay-day, after deducting any indebtedness which such employee may owe the company, or which the company, with the consent of such employee, may have assumed to pay to any other person.
VIII. — It shall be the duty of every miner, working in the mines, to keep his room in said mines in good order and repair; and any such miner who shall willfully, negligently or carelessly suffer his room to get out of order or repair, and who shall not, upon request, immediately put the same in repair, the company may put such room in repair at the expense of the miner in default, and may retain the amount of such expense from the next or any future payment to which said employee would be otherwise entitled, until fully reimbursed for such expense.
IX. — No miner who has left the employment of the company, whether voluntarily, or by discharge, will be entitled to receive any arrearages of pay due him for labor performed, whether on the regular pay-day or during the interval preceding pay, until he shall have put his room and roadway in perfect working order, as required by his contract with the company. All miners leaving said employment will be required to procure the certificate of the pit-boss that they have complied with the requirements of this rule, as aforesaid, before making application at the company's office for final payment.
X. — Any tenant of the company, upon leaving its service, whether voluntarily or by discharge, will not be entitled to receive any part of the wages due him for labor performed, until he shall have vacated the premises occupied by him (should the superintendent, or other person in charge of the mines for the time being, so elect), and present the key of the same at the office.
XI. — The miners may, at their option and expense, employ a check weighman, whose duties shall be to see that the coal is weighed correctly by the weighman employed by the company; provided that the party so employed shall be a miner in the employment of this company, and in good standing at the time he may be selected for the position.
The witness continued: — These contracts are the same in all mines. In regard to ventilation, I would state for your information, that 100 cubic feet of air is required and absolutely necessary for the preservation of health. The price of an anemometer or "air guage," ranges from $5 to $35. In regard to the militia being here in 1877, I will say there was no occasion for it. They searched every citizens house
66and seized upon every weapon they could find. Col. Stambaugh took a valuable gun from me. It has never been returned. I got a receipt but he gave me a wrong one. The receipt was for a two-barreled gun, when my gun was a single-barreled, Damascus gun. I have hired a lawyer, and he can't get it. The gun cost $17 in England, but I would not take any price for it, as it was a present to me, besides being very valuable.
Several other persons then testified that they had pistols, guns, etc., taken from them by the military, which they have never been able to recover.
Members of the legislative committee suggested to these parties that they make out their claims against the state, and send them to the members of the legislature.
Mr. Wm. Maltby, superintendent of the Eureka coal company, then testified as follows: It is not impossible to force 100 cubic feet of air into a mine. It can be done, but it costs too much. An anemometer can be placed anywhere where a current of air is sufficient to move it, by which the amount of air in the mine can be measured. I favor one state inspector of mines, and let him ask for what he wants. If we have to pay for the "sittings," or nut coal, then we must reduce the price for mining round coal. If we go into any expense of ventilating the mines, etc., we must be reimbursed for the outlay; it is simply a question of cost. I favor compulsory education; child labor should be abolished. The truck system is a good thing.
Mr. Thomas Dickenson was called to the stand again.
Q. How long have you lived in Braidwood? A. Eight years.
Q. Do you own your home? A. No sir.
Q. What proportion of the workmen own their homes. A. About one-third, but many of them are still mortgaged. I have worked here for eight years, have been sober and industrious, and economical, but I have not been able to buy a home, and this is the case with nearly all of us.
The chairman inquired if there were any other persons who desired to make any statements before the committee.
Several responded and testified substantially the same as those who had preceded them.
At 11:30 p. m., the legislative committee of inquiry adjourned.
SPRINGFIELD, ILL., March 12th, 1879.
The special committee of inquiry met at 3:30 p. m.
Present: Charles Ehrhardt, Chairman; B. H. Trusdell, John R. McFie, John W. Foy, and John W. Savage.
The minutes of the previous session were examined and approved.
The following report was then agreed upon:
To the Hon. Wm. A. James, Speaker of the House of Representatives of the 31st General Assembly:
Sir: — Your special committee appointed in compliance with a resolution adopted on the 7th day of February, which says: "That the
68speaker of the house shall appoint a special committee of five, who shall visit the city of Chicago and Braidwood to obtain such information as may he required for the members of this house to enact such laws as will ameliorate the condition of the working people of this state," respectfully report that we have complied with your instructions; having visited the places designated, and given a patient hearing. We have obtained as much information as was possible, within the time allotted to us, and we deem the information thus obtained to be of such importance that your committee recommend that one thousand copies of this report, embodying the result of your committee's investigation, be printed for the information and use of this house, and your committee ask to be discharged.
Signed, Charles Ehrhardt, chairman; B. H. Trusdell, John R. McFie, John W. Foy, John W. Savage and John B. Taylor.
On motion the special committee adjourned, sine die.