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lost money for some time, due to the competition of the nonunion fields paying lower wages.
I am very glad to hear that the United Mine Workers have no intention to call a strike in the bituminous coal fields because of these grievances. Cordially yours,
CALVIN COOLIDGE. Mr. John L. LEWIS,
President United Mine Workers of America, Indianapolis, Ind. The CHAIRMAN. How long have you been president of the United Mine Workers, Mr. Lewis? Mr. LEWIS. Vice president and president since 1917, Mr. Chairman.
The CHAIRMAN. Roughly speaking, can you give us the number of strikes that have occurred in the coal fields since you became associated with this organization as its president or vice president?
Mr. LEWIS. Well, the number of national strikes have been limited. There were the six weeks' strike in 1919 in the bituminous industry; the five months' strike in the bituminous industry and the anthracite industry in 1922; and the strike of six months last year in the States of Illinois and Indiana and the southwestern districts of Missouri, Kansas, and Oklahoma in part, and others.
In addition to that, Senator, we have had more or less constant strikes in the border districts bordering on the nonunion fields. For instance, beginning in 1924, as I have previously stated, the operators in the Kanawha district of southern West Virginia and western Kentucky elected not to come under the provisions of the Jacksonville agreement, and they sought to resist the making of any agreement, and they sought to eliminate the United Mine Workers from those fields by the usual strike methods, and they succeeded in doing so after many long weary months of industrial warfare, following which came the repudiation of contracts in northern West Virginia, affecting some 25,000 men in the area, following which came the repudiations in western Pennsylvania and in central Pennsylvania; so that since the Jacksonville agreement was executed there has been warfare in the bituminous industry.
The CHAIRMAN. Has the question at issue been one of wages? Have these strikes occurred over wages, as a rule ?
Mr. LEWIS. Where the operators have resisted the making of contracts because of their desire to operate the mines at a lower-wage scale so they might have an advantage over their competing operators in the adjacent fields. It is a continuous struggle in the competitive markets on the part of these operators. - The CHAIRMAN. What is the difference in the union-wage scale, according to the Jacksonville agreement, and the average nonunion
Mr. LEWIS. Of course, there is no specific average nonunion scale. No one can ascertain what it is. But wages in the nonunion fields at the present time, after being reduced from time to time and upon occasion, run from about $4.50 a day as a maximum to as low as $2 and $1.90 a day, depending upon the degree of isolation of the mine workers affected and depending upon the character of the operations and the economic needs of the employer to get his coal into the market.
If an operator has a mine that produces an excessive amount of water that makes his costs higher, he tries to reduce his wages. If
days a year.
he has a poor sales organization that is operated at an excessive cost, he tries to reduce the miner's wages to make up the difference. If he has obsolete mining equipment, he tries to reduce the miner's wage. If he is situated in a remote district he tries to reduce the miner's wage.
Senator Couzens. In reading your own statement and later referring to the report of the Department of Commerce, you used the language " stabilization of the industry.” Will you define that?
Mr. LEWIS. By stabilization, Senator, I mean to put some order into the badly disorganized and confused bituminous industry, by eliminating, if possible, some of the mines that they are now endeavoring to operate that constitute a drag upon the industry and constitute an excessive charge upon the public in the price of the coal, by bringing into the industry a greater opportunity for the men to work, to increase the opportunity for employment, to eliminate some of the intermittency of employment. By and large and as a whole, it is doubtful if the industry to-day is furnishing employment to the men engaged in it any more than about 150 year, and some of our best producing fields do not go beyond 200
The economic loss in maintaining those mines in idleness and the number of men in idleness constitutes a surcharge upon the industry that is reflected in the price of coal that the small consumer pays.
Senator COUZENS. You had not in mind a stabilizing of the prices!
Mr. Lewis. Not so much as the stabilizing of the methods of operation and the questions of employment, which, in effect, however, would probably bring some stabilizing of prices.
Senator COUZENS. So long as they have extreme competitive methods due to excessive competition, how can you bring about a stabilization in the industry?
Mr. Lewis. I have some sections in my address devoted to that matter which I will refer to later, if I may, Senator.
Senator GOODING. At this point, Mr. Lewis, will you give the committee the average number of days employed per year, taking the number of miners as a whole? You gave the minimum and practically the maximum. What is the average ?
Mr. LEWIS. I have not any preparation upon that point this morning, but it is my opinion that the average number of days employed for each miner in the industry will not now exceed 150 days per annum, and I say that in some of the districts that do even better than that the average will not exceed 200 days.
Senator Fess. Mr. Lewis, before you go on with something else, what has been the general result of the many strikes which you have mentioned? Has it been an advantage to the industry?
Mr. Lewis. It has been a grave disadvantage. The strikes have left many evils in their train. To some extent the result has been the development of fields far remote from natural markets, and they in turn become fierce competitive factors in the consuming markets of the country.
In addition to that, it has brought into the industry many thousands of excess miners. In 1920 the operators of Alabama, for instance, refused to come within the purview of the wage award made by the United States Coal Commission; they refused to be bound by it. They undertook to eliminate the union and they'discharged vast
numbers of the employees who belonged to the United Mine Workers. A lock-out occurred that affected practically 23,000 men in Alabama. That lock-out or strike lasted for seven months, and the United Mine Workers of America during that seven months' period fed 42,000 people in the Alabama mining camps day by day and housed a great majority of them because they were evicted from their homes. We furnished them with food, we furnished them with clothing, and we housed them in tents. We took care of the babies when they were born and we buried the dead when they died, at an expense of several million dollars.
The net result was that those coal companies imported into their mines vast numbers of unskilled laborers to work under the direction of a few skilled men. They gradually trained those men to become miners of a sort.
The net result was that probably 15,000 to 18,000 men in Alabama, miners, were displaced and forever forbidden employment in those fields. Naturally, under such conditions, they overrun other districts and go elsewhere to earn a livelihood.
The same thing happened in Connellsville coal and coke field in 1922, when some 25,000 men were on strike resisting a cut in their wages. The coal companies in that area imported men by the tens of thousands, and the net result was that from 18,000 to 20,000 men in that field were displaced and compelled to go to other areas in the mining industry. We had more miners in the industry when the strike was over than before the strike began.
Senator Gooding. Mr. Lewis, that same condition is going on in the Pennsylvania fields at the present time, is it not?
Mr. LEWIS. It is going on right now, Senator, and has been ever since the Pittsburgh Coal Co. repudiated its contract.
Senator GOODING. Men are employed just on their own word that they are miners? There is no investigation made by the company as to whether they have performed a day's labor in a coal mine; and, of course, they displace experienced men in doing so? Mr. LEWIS. Quite true. The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Lewis, what is the relative number of members in your organization now as compared with, say, 1920 ?
Mr. LEWIS. We have at the present time, Mr. Chairman, somethin in excess of 400,000 members. I think that the high point of our membership in about 1920 was perhaps around 520,000. It constantly fluctuates. In our organization we exempt the men on strike from payment of dues, and the men who do not work at least five days in any one month are exempted from monthly payment of their dues; and we have tens of thousands of them in communities where there is a contract that do not work five days in one month. Yet the operator of that property insists upon having a complete personnel at that mine so that on the days he may operate he will have 100 per cent efficiency and no increased cost because of the shrunken personnel. Senator Fess. How many coal miners are there? Mr. LEWIS. In the bituminous industry in 1919 there were 621,988 men employed in the mines. In 1920 there were 639,547. In 1921 there were 663,754. In 1922 there were 697,958. In 1923 there were 704,793. In 1924 there were 619,604. In 1925 there were 588,493. In 1926 there were 593,647. We have not the figure for 1927.
Senator Fess. How many coal miners would be required to supply the trade if they were employed all the time?
Mr. LEWIS. Conservatively, three-fifths of these men could take care of the demands and supply any emergency.
Senator Fess. There is the problem, is it not?
Senator WAGNER. Mr. Lewis, the consummation of the Jacksonville agreement probably would not have been accomplished except for governmental aid. Is that your view!
Mr. Lewis. That is precisely my opinion, Senator.
Senator WAGNER. Did you ask for governmental aid to bring the groups together? Is that my understanding of your letter to the President at the time they were threatening to abrogate the agreement or to refuse its continuation?
Mr. LEWIS. Yes, sir; in 1921 in this letter to the President I pointed out that there had been certain abrogations by certain companies. These abrogations were bringing distress to those honorable operators who were trying to carry out and keep the contracts, and I asked the Government of the United States, through the President, in consideration of the fact that the Government had helped to make the Jacksonville agreement, would it now help us to keep the Jacksonville agreement.
Senator WAGNER. Was there a conference held after that?
Mr. LEWIS. Not after this exchange of letters between the Gov. ernment officials and our organization.
Senator COUZENS. Has any attempt been made in the courts to enforce the contracts ?
Mr. LEWIS. We have filed no suits, although we gave very grave consideration to that proposition for a number of months. Certain difficulties presented themselves, because the United Mine Workers is a voluntary and an unincorporated association of employees, and we were hopeful all the time that some means might be secured whereby, through moral influence or governmental influence, we might have the industry come to a recognition of its obligations and honorably keep its agreements.
Senator COUZENS. So you have made no attempt in the courts to enforce the contracts?
Mr. LEWIS. We have not entered the courts. However, we still have the question under advisement.
Senator WAGNER. You have had some experience with the courts in Pennsylvania, have you not?
Mr. LEWIS. A great deal, Senator. We have been harrassed tremendously; more so than any other labor organization in America; and there is no organization in America that can stand the litigation which has devolved upon the United Mine Workers of America.
Senator GOODING. Regardless of all that, do you not think that you should have presented your case to the courts?
Mr. LEWIS. We would have done so if we could have seen a practical solution of the matter, but we have not been able to see that. At the time this letter was written, Senator, the Jacksonville agreement had not expired. Since it has been written it has expired by limitation. We think that presents a slightly different legal question.
Senator Couzens. What were the practical objections to your taking the matter to the court? You say you gave it considerable consideration and could not find a practical means of applying to the court. Can you state what stood in the way of your doing that?
Mr. LEWIS. For instance, if we had sought to enjoin--and we were reluctant to use the injunction power that had been used upon us, and we shrunk from its exercise—but if we had sought to enjoin these coal companies to prevent them from using their mines except under the scale in the Jacksonville agreement, we would have been compelled to file an enormous bond, beyond our means to file, to guarantee the coal company against loss in the event that our position was not sustained. That was one practical reason. On the other hand, there were diverse opinions among our attorneys as to the practicability of filing a suit for civil damages. We have had a great deal of experience in those civil suits. We have been sued in the Federal courts and in a great many cases in the State courts; for instance, in Arkansas and Alabama; and we have been reluctant to engage in a long battle in the courts that might take years to decide. We preferred to determine whether or not there was some manner in which the thing could be adjusted and the obligations of the contract come to be recognized.
Senator GOODING. Did you test the Jacksonville agreement in the State courts of West Virginia ?
Mr. LEWIS. We had one piece of litigation in the State courts of northern West Virginia, and I am frank to confess this morning that I am not competent to discuss the details of that. If the committee wants that information I will have some of our attorneys give them the facts.
Senator GOODING. Mr. Chairman, I think the committee should have that information, as the question has been raised.
The CHAIRMAN. Very well. Mr. Lewis, has there ever been a time when all the members of your organization were employed ?
Mr. LEWIS. Only during the war, Mr. Chairman, and we were then burdened with car shortage and other things.
The CHAIRMAN. Is there anything connected with the mining of coal as an occupation that prevents a man from working six days a week at it?
Mr. LEWIS. Not a thing.
The CHAIRMAN. Is there anything in the charge frequently made and generally heralded, and I think quite generally understood, that a coal miner will not work more than four days a week?
Mr. Lewis. I think the charge is absurd and can be easily disproved by the facts. One thing that happens to the coal miner is the great number of accidents that make him frequently lose time. Lost time in the mines is beyond ordinary comprehension, and it is exceedingly difficult to get any adequate figures on it. We do have, however, in our anthracite industry certain definite figures coming through the State department of compensation that show that out of 168,000 men employed in the anthracite industry 500 are killed every year, and from 22,000 to 27,000 of them are injured enough to come within the compensatory features of the State law. In other words, one man in six in that industry is injured every year on a mathematical basis, and he has to take his chance whether his injury is merely the loss of a finger or a mashed digit, or a broken back, or a broken leg, or the loss of an eye. So you can imagine the tremendous loss of time there is among the men in that industry.