William Bauchop Wilson
Strike of 1899 - 1900
The Blossburg Advertiser June 30, 1899, Vol.15, No. 30
All week rumor has assumed in this town varigated, elongated and fantastic shapes. Ananias has put a new hand at the bellows and he is doing the best he can. A sample statement: The Morris Run ball club, he says did not go to Elmira for fear of trouble. That is all moonshine and set afloat by the persons interested in getting the men in the two towns by the ears. Again, Lincoln, Jim Thompson and Chester Martin had got 150 miners in Blossburg to sign the agreement to go to work. Booh! There are not 50 miners in Blossburg; they have gone to cities, where they got work in car shops and other industrial plants. The race hatred racket has been worked to its fullest extent. The Polish people are grossly slandered. We say to Supt. Lincoln that he is playing with fire. He is getting into a place like the man who caught hold of a tiger's tail - he will need somebody to help him let go. If Lincoln can break this strike by fair means, all well and good. There are other things he will do well to let alone.
A letter was received from W.B. Wilson this week in which he states that a settlement is not far off. That the Erie will concede the advance as soon as the B.R.& P. does, which he thinks is only a matter of a few days.
The Magee miners in Cambria and Centre counties have been conceded the advance. In this county they did not ask for it.
A thousand miners are wanted in the Flat Top region, West Virginia. They get 45 cents a ton and the coal is from 8 to 10 feet thick.
That the Erie can pay the price is evident from the following: it is getting a dribble of coal at Elmira from the Pittsburgh district. The distance from the nearest mine in Westmoreland county to Elmira is 203 miles. The price paid for digging a net ton is from 73 to 86 cents. The Pennsylvania railroad company does not haul coal over 200 miles just for fun.
The thing which has hastened the settlement is the desertion of miners from the mining towns. The coal companies had marked out a harsh policy, but when they found their men leaving by the hundreds, they changed their tune. What has been going on in this region for the past six weeks, has been going on all over the soft coal regions of the state. The rolling mills, steel mills, bridge works, brick works, are snapping up these miners and giving them the preference, because their intelligence, industry and strength. A bidge works in Connecticut took a lot of them last week. The miners are glad to get away from the tyrannical and wholesale abuses to which they are subjected in mining towns - tired of being cheated at the weigh scales and pluck-me stores - tired of having to stand in a state of armed neutrality in order to secure the civil and religious rights guaranteed to them by the State - tired of being compelled to work in foul air and wet places when the state pays an inspector to remedy these things - tired of resisting the efforts of the petty boss of to-day the worm of to-morrow to reduce American free men to the condition of serfs - tired at the efforts of jay superintendents to make a record at the expense of their children's food and clothing. The Advertiser wishes these departing men God-speed as it knows that their brains and stout hearts and strong arms will put them to the top wherever they go.
This exodus has seriously alarmed the big coal companies in Central Pennsylvania. If they settled with the men to-day they cannot get enough men to keep up with their contracts.
The policy of setting up a triangular hate play with the miners of Arnot, Morris Run and Blossburg in the star parts has failed. It would be a good thing for the companies if the men got to fighting among themselves as then the company would get the meat. The astute policy adopted by Supt. Lincoln would win applause at Qouqogue or Slabtown. But its different. First, the Blossburg miners were discharged under conditions calculated to set them and Arnot men by the ears. Then men were taken back from Blossburg under circumstances calculated to split the Blossburg men into two warring factions. Avertising a game of baseball at Elmira between Arnot and Morris Run teams and then giving out with great profusion that a riot would grow out of it, and the last and dirtiest part, - all this shows how easy it is for a rural Bismarck to get tangled up in the guy ropes.
The Frick coal company, of Pittsburgh district, want 8,000 miners. Its agents are scouring the Pennsylvania soft coal regions for miners. The coal is over five feet thick but the price paid we do not know. In the face of this and similar other facts Lincoln has adopted the "see me personally" policy. If the exodus from here continues much longer he won't be able to get men to dig his low, dirty coal under any conditions.
The Blossburg Advertiser July 7, 1899, Vol.15, No. 31
Some oracle has said that "strikes are evidence of prosperity." What a prosperous condition the country must have been in in 1893-4-5, when there was a strike from Maine to Oregon.
The Fall Brook miners worked six days in June. Those at Morris Run eighteen half days, and at Antrim seven days. There wages averaged $1.25 per day and the rent from $4 to $6 per month.
The trackmen who worked for $1.10 a day earned more money in a year than a miner. A miner seldom gets a chance to work over 200 days in a year, at an average of $1.25 per day which makes the average yearly earnings $250. A trackman averages 300 days at $1.10 a day, making him $330, giving him a yearly average of $80 more than the miner.
What are the miners striking for? is frequently asked. Well, they are trying to raise the price back to that paid in 1893. On Saturday, Dec. 30, 1893, a notice was posted at the mines stating that on Monday, January 1st, 1894, the price of mining would be that paid prior to May 1, 1890. This notice gave the men one day to consider a reduction of 10 per cent. It will be recalled that on March 4, 1889, a reduction of 10 per cent had been made, but the strike of 1890 raised it back. So the men are working for less than panic prices. And this, too, when the papers are filled with the cries of prosperity till you can't rest.
The Advertiser has carefully analyzed this prosperity talk. It finds that all this cry about raising wages 5 and 10 per cent which is being howled from one end of the country to another, when compared with the facts shows that in all departments of labor, mills, mines, shops, etc., the men are still working for less than they did in 1894. During 1893-4 wages were cut anywhere from 15 to 30 per cent. The present advances in wages of from 5 to 10 per cent still leaves the men working for less than panic prices. Hence the strikes. The working men have taken this prosperity cry seriously. They think that when day after day they see it stated in the papers that a tidal wave of prosperity is sweeping over the land that they are entitled to some of it. But when they apply for the advance the mill and mine operators tell them that it is "only newspaper talk." "But more men are being employed," they state. "Not so we are only suppling the places of 250,000 men enlisted in the army in Porto Rico, Cuba, the Philippines, at army camps, etc."
The Advertiser had hoped that this prosperity wave had come. It is sorry that it is not a real fact, instead of the chatter of a newspaper cabal. We wanted to see the working men of this country prosperious. But if the war ended to-morrow the same old conditions would pervail.
The Beech Creek miners have received the advance. So have the Erie miners at Dagus and though the Toby Valley. We have it on reliable authority from Arnot and Elmira that the order granting the advance had been received by Supt. Lincoln the first of the week.
The Blossburg Advertiser July 14, 1899, Vol.15, No. 32
Reports have come in all week from over the state very favorable to the miners.
After the miners and operators had met at DuBois this week to settle their difference, one P. Doland rushed in and attempted a little grand-stand play by dramaticly announcing that he Pittsburgh district would fill not orders for the central operators. Kind of Mr. Doland, wasn't it, after filling the orders for three weeks. As a red-fire and sheetin Blucher, P. is the document.
The Erie, the Beech Creek, the B.R. & P., and the Berwind-White company have granted the advance. Some small operators are still holding out.
It is safe to say that the strike will be ended in this county in a few days, possibly by Monday with the men getting the advance. This will please everybody except Jim Pedalty, who is in training for a gnashing of teeth turn and a rag-chewing stunt.
It is worthy of note that the Beech Creek operators sustained their former reputation of being the first to offer to concede the advance and express a willingness to meet their miners. An honorable record the Beech Creek has.
Be it remembered that on June 1st, 1899, the average price paid for mining coal was the lowest in its history.
It is said the "Czar" smiled when he heard the news.
This strike has been the most peculiar we ever saw. That the Erie miners could win a strike in this county with the Fall Brook miners at work, shows two things. First, that the Fall Brook miners are no longer a factor, and second, that is the imperative duty of the Erie miners in this county to enter into an offensive and defensive alliance with the Erie mines in Jefferson and Elk counties. If they neglect this important duty they will have reason to rue it, as this day is the day of jay superintendents with bucolic schemes of hay-loft and cheese-press mining to exploit.
Any landlord will tell you that the hardest man to suit at mealtime is the one reared on the three p's - pork, pancakes and potatoes. The angel food aint just right; the mint sauce is a triffle too thick for the roast lamb, six kinds of pie only, shows a desire to skimp the boarders, and, Col. Murray used to say, "Here's to the day when all beggars can ride." Though you braw a fool and a mortar, etc. The application of this will be taken to mean that a short horse is soon curried.
The Blossburg Advertiser July 21, 1899, Vol.15, No. 33
When the Tyrone convention met on March 23, 1899 there was not a well organized local of the U.M.W. of A. in the Central Pennsylvania mining regions. But few tipples had checkweighman at the scales. A ton of coal was anything from 2,500 to 3,500 pounds. A man who served on a mine committee stood in danger of discharge and blacklist. Coal was being mined from 27 cents to anything they could get. "Free click and bosses' favor" were the ruling conditions. In a word the miners were getting the full results of an unorganized condition and they were getting it without stint.
That convention elected W.B. Wilson, president of the district, Bernard Rice, vice-president, Richard Gilbert, secretary-treasurer, George Wilson, Simeon Hartshorn, Ernest C. Rever, James Cosgrove, Andrew Melota, Thomas Moriarity as the executive board, and the national organization sent Edward McKay, of Pittsburgh to assist. These officials set to work without any beating of the drums or blaring of trumpets, and behold: over 15,000 men belong to the organization. Over 60 local unions have been formed. Out of 45,000 men fully 44,000 of them have the price paid in 1893. That is to say, 44,000 men have had their wages raised anywhere from ten to sixty percent. The price of mining is uniform through out the district. Favoritism is a thing of the past - everyone stands on a level. Checkweighmen are on most tipples and a ton of coal is 2,000 pounds. What is more significant the operators have agreed over their signature to recognize the mine committees, collect the wages of the checkweighmen and the organization dues in the office. There never was a more complete victory since men joined hands to mutually aid one another. This splendid state of affairs does not apply to Tioga county. And why?
This battle was only won by the exercise of brains and courage, hardwork and over difficulties sufficient to daunt any but the most resolute. It was wrung from reluctent fortune; it was a triumph over as heart-breaking adversity as every confronted man. The Advertiser enters no eulogy upon these district officials - they need none. They have written their names in the hearts of their fellow-workmen so deeply that all the embittered vemon of corporation curs cannot erase a line or blur a letter.
The watchword, "say nothing and take to the woods," was a trump card. When you heard nothing and saw nothing, what could you do? Ax El Senor Kinsloe of the Grit's Guessing department.
"Youse kin git work at denort' drift, Jamesy." "Wat t'ell, an' me got a chans ter go ter Cuvy an' git de yeller fever."
A terrible deed was enacted at Arnot last Saturday night at dinner time on Sunday. A short fat, tall thin man, who light complexion is very dark, and who wore a dark suit of white clothes and had long straight short curley black red hair was caught at Liberty near Covington with the Arnot schutes in his pocket. He was going to pawn them for some of Frost's best or Scotch Jenny's worst. At any rate, lots of watchmen have been put on to prevent any more such work.
The Grit's Guesser gave out last week that the scales adopted at DuBois and Clearfield did not go into effect until August 1st. It went into effect July 17th. The condition was that if the miners accepted it before August 1st, it would continue for one year from that date, but if not accepted by that time only till April 1st. Kinsloe has by his mistatements and doctored facts kept the men divided and by the ears until he is denied any admittance to the meetings and refused recognition. He is enjoying the position of a man "who is found out."
There has been a rupture. Possibly "a wiot, a wumpus, a wow." The Czar, Peterkin and Jack O'Clubs do not speak as they ride by. Some think the kindergarten was dissolved because of lese majestie on the part of Peterkin.
Wilson and McKay came to Blossburg Monday night. They both show the effects of the terrible strain they have been under for the past six weeks. Wednesday evening they addressed a large mass meeting at Morris Run, Wilson acting as chairman. McKay's speech was a labor classic. It went to mark like a ball from a Kentucky rifle and for home-thrust arguement and clear statement of fact left nothing to be desired. At its conclusion a committee was chosen with a shout to wait upon Supt. Nearing and ask for the restoration of the price paid in 1893. By an unanimous vote the meeting agreed to stand by the committee and at a meeting held last night the committee made its reports. The committee reported that Mr. Nearing received them cordially and treated them like gentlemen. In reply to their request Mr. Nearing said he would at once write to the company and do all that he could to procure the advance for them, and would let them know by Saturday. He also stated that he was willing to meet a committee from his employees, but outsiders-nit. It was agreed to meet at the same place Monday night. Bully for the committee.
"Blank an'blast me bleedin' hyes, thon flamin' chaps har bloomin' cheeky to hask the poverty-strickin' Wanderbilts to pye a few - a few more cents 'ere in Morris Run. Wy them Wanderbilts couldna' buy a r'ileroad once a fo'tnight hif them pyed the adwance 'ere." Jim's fidelity ought to rewarded by making him watchman at the feather-factory to keep the kids from swiping the sawdust. We are sure Mr. Nearing will give the suggestion serious consideration as he always heeded the advise of the Advertiser.
The Blossburg Advertiser July 28, 1899, Vol.15, No. 34
At the meeting Monday night the committee sent to see Nearing and request the advance report that he had not received an answer from the company. After a stirring speech from Edward McKay it was agreed to give him until to-night - and then?
Edward McKay left here on Tuesday morning for Cambria county to continue the work of organizing the miners, a work he is eminently fitted to do. There is a warm spot for him in this county.
When the glass companies, iron companies, and manufacturing companies generally, make an oral or written agreement with their employees they carry out that agreement both in spirit and letter, until the determination of the contract. Not so with a coal company. The ink on the contract is not dry before they seek excuses, or make them, to destroy effect of their agreements, and the result is, strikes, with all of its concomitant evils. Ninety-nine per cent of the strikes among coal miners arise from a breach of faith by the operators. When one considers what is done at the average coal scales and the various pluck-me stores it is the inevitable conclusion that the average Pennsylvania coal operator decended lineally from the impenitent thief on the cross.
It is the imperative duty of every miner to join the organization. The Erie and Magee miners in this county should at once become in touch with their fellow Magee and Erie miners in Central Pennsylvania. Messrs Lincoln and Nearing, for plain reasons, prefer to have Tioga county classed as a distinct district. If their employees felt the effects of Nearing's and Lincoln's acts in Morris Run and Arnot, over in Elk, Cambra, Jefferson and Centre counties, they would give these two gentlemen less string to their kites.
Supt. Lincoln sent for the mine committee of Arnot to meet him at the office yesterday afternoon, but no settlement was arrived at.