Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub
[graphic][subsumed][merged small][merged small]

Nike Industrial Pioneer

Vol. I.

NOVEMBER, 1923

No. 7

The Packinghouse Workers' Plight

Cries Aloud for Publicity and Reform; Conditions Cause Widespread Discontent

By HENRY L. STODDARD

M

.

P

EASURED by value of goods sold, the meat packing industry is the largest in the country. The

next largest industries in importance are iron and steel works and rolling mills, automobiles, foun.

dries and machine shops, flour mills and cotton goods.

In 1919 the number of people engaged in the packing industry was 196,000; ten years earlier there were only 106,000 people. Chicago engages approximately one-third of the entire number. The Big Five -Swift, Wilson, Morris, Armour and Cudahy—at present employ in the neighborhood of 40,000 men in “the metropolis of the west.” This includes the clerical force as well as those doing manual labor.

Although Illinois ranks fourth among the states having the largest number of packinghouses, it ranks first as a meat producer. And practically all of the Illinois houses are in Chicago.

Recently, murmurs of discontent have come out of Packingtown, as that section of Chicago in which the packinghouses are located is called. The workers there are very much dissatisfied. They complain of their hours and wages. They are not permitted to organize into labor unions. They are opposed to the Assembly plan and declare stock-sharing a loss. They want better homes and living conditions . They are anxious to have the outside world know their plight. Publicity, they believe, will help them.

News of this discontent having reached The Industrial Pioneer, Henry L: Stoddard was delegated to go to Packingtown and learn the facts. The results are given in the article that follows.

ACKINGTOWN is a highly ramified institution. It is the greatest stockyards, abbatoir,

smoke-house and meat refrigerating center in the world. Its financial backing is of the largest and most powerful. Its railroad terminal companies are among the most potent and profitable. And its corporations extend to many corners of the country and the globe. It is the quintessence of big capitalism. This is apparent, not only in the glamor of greatness, but also of poverty which surrounds it. In its residential fringe reside its workers. And there the evidences of low wages and long hours abound, in overcrowded living conditions and bad housing generally. There the children of its workers, who should love Packingtown best, shun it worst. They want none of the ill-requited labor that curses their progenitors. Packingtown, or the stockyards, is one of Chicago

PART OF PACKINGTOWN show places. The packers have special guides to conduct visitors through their plants for the pur

The Assembly Plan pose of counteracting what they term “red prop- One can readily ascertain, when interviewing the aganda." The visitors see only what the packers different heads, that the packers' executives are want them to see, however. Tons and tons of liter- busily engaged in keeping the workers from organature are published and distributed to the "public" izing a union of their own. For instance, let us in order to keep the packers in its good graces. see what the gentleman who speaks for the AssenOne is accorded every courtesy when interviewing bly Plan of Representation has to say. Let us heads of the different departments. They advertise hasten to say that the Assembly Plan is the packers' their courtesy and it advertises them. However, alleged solution for labor troubles. There are 70 you are asked whom you represent, before you are packing plants in the country that have adopted accorded an interview.

this plan.

[graphic]
[ocr errors]
[graphic]

"Just how is the Assembly Plan of Representation formed?” I asked him.

"Each department elects a representative to the Assembly, which comprises sixty men besides a chairman. Thirty of these men represent the workers and the other half represents the employers.”

“What qualifications must one have in order to represent the workers ?

“He must be in the employ of the company for one year” he replied.

“And who represents the employers?” I asked.

“They are made up of the foremen of each department. Each department has two representatives, one for the employe and the other representing the employer. They meet once a month to take up grievances that arise among the men from meeting to meeting. They have three large committees within the assembly in order to expedite matters. Each committee has different functions. For instance, the grievance committee attempts to thresh out differences that the two representatives are unable to do in their respective departments. If the committee fails, then it is brought before the whole assembly.

Vetoing Assembly's Vote “Before anything becomes final, however, it must have the two-thirds vote of the assembly. I don't mind telling you that we inform them from the start that we haven't turned the plant over to them."

“Let us suppose that the assembly voted for a large increase in salary; would the company abide by their decision?"

A CLOSE-UP OF PACKINGTOWN

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

"Well, if we wish we can put it to the workers via a referendum vote, and if they concur with the wishes of the assembly and we feel that we cannot meet their demands, then everything is declared status quo.” “Which means

-?“That the same relations exist as before the assembly plan came into existence. It is up to the men, of course. If they decide to strike, we shall attempt to persuade them to return."

"Have the men obtained an increase in wages through the plan?"

“Yes, recently. But prior to that we submitted to the assembly a wish to reduce the wages. They voted favorably, and a referendum was issued to the workers who concurred in the action of the assembly. Some time later, requests came to the representatives for an increase. The grievance committee consented to an increase. The assembly then acted favorably to the employes.

"We could have given them the increase three weeks sooner."

You wanted the workers to believe that the assembly was fighting in their behalf?"

That's about it." So there you are.

Assembly a Company Union The Assembly Plan of Representation, as will be seen, is merely another name for a company union. The men who supposedly represent the workers are hard-working dependable men. The packers realize that anyone who has worked for a year continuously in the packinghouses will not do any. thing that will incur the wrath of their foreman, who is the representative of the employer. This fact, together with the fact that the employers have 50 per cent of the representatives looking after their welfare kills any chance of the workers obtaining a two-thirds vote in their favor.

The average worker is not fooled by the assembly plan. He will readily tell you that nothing is acted (Continued on page thirty-three.)

[graphic][merged small]

The Great New Orleans Strike

By SIDNEY TERRY

[ocr errors]

NEW ORLEANS LEVEE SCENE

N the night of September 12th the colored and white longshoremen of New Orleans

held a joint meeting regarding wages and working conditions. Their agreement had expired the end of August, and they had been working for a few days with no agreement. At the meeting a vote was taken and a strike declared, to take effect the next morning. All foremen were notified of the action of the meeting, and told not to hire men the next day. Not one longshoreman was working on the waterfront Tuesday September 13th.

The shipowners were electrified, no notice of the strike had been given, just a vote, and like a flash, every longshoreman on the waterfront was on strike. The bosses were frantic, they were caught unprepared. For two days they tried to get the longshoremen to go back and let their demands be arbitrated. This was refused. The longshoremen wanted their demands, and would not go back until they got them.

While the shipowners were trying to get the longshoremen to go back, five hundred cotton screwmen walked out for more wages. Conditions on the waterfront were critical, the boss had not been notified of a strike, and had no strikebreakers in readiness.

MTW Acts Just when the bosses were going to hire scabs, the MTW of the IWW acted. Dodgers were broadcasted along the waterfront on every ship advertising a mass meeting. The meeting was held, and unanimously declared a sympathy: strike with the longshoremen and screwmen, only one demand was made, the release of Class-War Prisoners.

Like a thunderbolt out of the sky came the strike call. The papers came out with big headlines, and large editorials were written denouncing the IWW for its action. But the IWW was in the fight with all the power at its command.

The IWW immediately got committees functioning, including one which got the news right

[graphic]

from the waterfront, and published it daily in bulletin form. The bulletin had a good effect, and served its purpose by counteracting the lies of the daily press.

Bulletin Makes Hit The bulletin met with such an outburst of approval from the strikers that the press published the contents of the bulletin for three days. Everybody wanted a bulletin, there was a steady stream of workers coming to the hall for them. The number of bulletins was doubled, trebled, and then there was not enough.

A piece was published in the bulletin to the effect that the Yellow Cabs had been seen hauling strikebreakers. This met with instant denial by the road superintendent of the company, who declared he would dismiss any driver carrying strikebreakers. The superintendent used to come to the hall every day to see if any drivers had been reported to the bulletin, a few were reported, and the drivers dismissed.

A bakery advertised as supplying bread to scabs, sent a letter to the bulletin denying any such thing, also stating that they would not supply scabs with bread at a dollar a loaf. The sentiment in favor of the strikers was tremendous.

The IWW took advantage of the nervous tension of other marine workers to propagate the necessity of a general strike in the whole industry. On September 25 the teamsters took a vote, and a sympathy strike was declared. The ranks of the strikers were swelled by six hundred. Would it never stop? Craft after craft coming out and no settlement in sight. On September 26th one thousand two hundred freight handlers walked out in sympathy, followed the next day by one thousand one hundred plate handlers. The general strike on the New Orleans waterfront was on.

Membership Increases The press quoted the IWW as the instigators of the strike. The cap fitted. One hundred new

[graphic][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

1

[graphic][subsumed][subsumed][merged small]

members were taken in the first three weeks of the strike. An attempt was made to get the cotton screwmen's hall for an IWW meeting, the president refused the use of the hall. The next day the white longshoremen's hall was obtained for the meeting. The meeting was a great success, each IWW speaker was greeted by terrific applause. The officials of the craft unions were powerless to stop it. Four hundred were at the first meeting, and several were turned away.

A bigger hall was needed, so the colored longshoremen's hall was obtained. This meeting was attended by eight hundred black and white strikers. The meeting will be remembered as the greatest meeting ever held with colored and white present. New Orleans was talking IWW and literature was in great demand. 200,000 pieces of literature have been distributed since the strike started. The IWW commanded the respect of all workers. An IWW card worked wonders. The card was abused to a certain extent, by irresponsible individuals, but a piece inserted in the bulletin soon stopped this.

Tied Up Solid

the majority accepted. All the reporters had to do to make money was to be at a certain place when asked by the agent. About one hundred scabs would be placed on a ship, and then the reporter would be called upon to take pictures and make a story. The "planted” story was supposed to be an example of how every ship in the harbor was being worked. The reporter got fifteen dollars a column for his story. Wishing to "make money” quick, it was an every day occurrence to see a story about a ship working cargo, covering four and five columns. The plan was uncovered a few days after it started, and was advertised both at meetings and in the daily bulletins. The solidarity of the strikers could not be broken. The costly "planting" of stories was discontinued. The grossly exaggerated statements, and the barefaced falsehoods which appeared in the daily press, did more to solidify the strikers than to weaken them.

A few days ago an injunction was applied for by the Steamship Owners' Association. The injunction went into effect immediately. A counter-injunction has been applied for by the strikers, it has been delayed for ten days, for a hearing. Several conferences have been held between the strikers and the steamship owners during the past few days, but the strikers are standing solid behind their every demand. The steamship companies have lost over four million dollars since the strike started, and are losing about one hundred thousand a day now. The strikers are standing more solidly now than they did when the strike started. Everybody who went on strike must be reinstated. All demands must be granted. The cry is,“We came out in a body, we will go back in a body".

New Orleans, La., Oct. 13.-Judge Boatner, in civil district court, today made permanent the injunction obtained by striking harbor workers against the dock board to prevent enforcement of a rule of the board barring strikers from the wharves. The court declared there was nothing unlawful in abandoning work to obtain higher wages, that the docks are public places and that "the ex-employes have the right to enter them and communicate with men at work in lawful efforts to persuade them to join their ranks in an economic struggle."

As this article is being written, it is the first week of October. There are about seven thousand men on strike, and there are less than three hundred strikebreakers on the waterfront. The harbor is tied up solid. Ships are laying two and three abreast. All one can see when looking up the river is ships. No crews, no longshoremen, desolated like a graveyard. "When is it going to stop?” cries the press. “When the longshoremen and screwmen get their demands," answer the strikers.

The strikers are standing solid, very few have broke ranks. The morale of the strikers is wonderfull. Strikes on the New Orleans waterfront are usually very violent. This strike is almost free from violence. Violence is being condemned by the IWW both by bulletin and by word of mouth. It is severe in restraining some of the more foolish strikers from committing acts which would only harm themselves.

Agents of the steamship owners visited the reporters of all the daily papers and asked them "if they wished to make money?' Some refused, but

[blocks in formation]
« НазадПродовжити »