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Bridge shops, St. Louis, Mo.-A controversy having arisen in the bridge shops of St. Louis, Mo., and vicinity, the good offices of the Department were requested on April 9 by Mr. D. M. Gayton, representing the employees. Thirty shops with a personnel of about 7,000 men were involved in the controversy. Commissioners F. J. Rohde and James J. Barrett were assigned by the Department. Prior to the arrival of the conciliators, the companies had refused to meet any labor representatives, stating that there was nothing to discuss. This action had been the cause of a bitter feeling between the contending parties. Eleven of the companies involved were members of the Iron Workers and Erectors' League Association. The members of the league refused to admit any present or impending controversy, stating that their employees were happy and contented. These concerns not only declined the good offices of the Department but went so far as to refuse to meet committees of their own employees. A conference was arranged, however, of all shops not affiliated with the association, and a scale of wages was finally drawn up and approved. The following is the scale as agreed upon:
Cents per hour. Skilled mechanics..
561 Semiskilled mechanics..
40 While the agreement secured was not altogether satisfactory to either side, it secured a temporary adjustment and allowed the strikers to resume work. The extreme bitterness shown by the employers in this case was due to the action of the union in placing the employers' association on the unfair list some two years prior to the outbreak of the strike. The temporary adjustment of the strike, however, gives rise to the hope that this bitterness of feeling may eventually die out and that pleasant relations may again be resumed.
Magnolia Petroleum Co., Beaumont, Tex.-Federal Labor Union 15338, Beaumont, Tex., notified the Department on July 24, 1918, of a serious controversy which had arisen between the Magnolia Petroleum Co. and its employees at Beaumont, Tex., and the assignment of a conciliator was requested with a view to bringing about an adjustment. Commissioner Joseph S. Myers was named. About 250 boiler makers and 1,000 other craftsmen were found to be on strike. After a number of protracted conferences had been held, an agreement was reached which was satisfactory to all but the boiler makers, and the strike was declared at an end. The boiler makers, however, remained on strike. The issue between the boiler makers and the company was that of collective bargaining, the policy of the company having been to treat with its employees individually. The company finally agreed to meet committees of its own employees, and an election was held to designate members
to act upon these committees. This had the effect of satisfying the men, the strike was declared off, and a much better feeling engendered.
McEwen Manufacturing Co., Tulsa, Oklu.-On May 5, 1919, the Department received a telegram from Edward Tegtmeyer, vice president of the International Brotherhood of Blacksmiths, advising of a strike of blacksmiths and machinists at the plant of the McEwen Manufacturing Co., at Tulsa, Okla., and requesting the good offices of the Conciliation Service in making an adjustment.
Commissioner Robert M. McWade, who was then at Tulsa, was assigned to take up the matter. The trouble at this plant was caused by a demand of the management that each employee sign a document agreeing that in the event he spoiled the work upon which he was engaged he should lose the time spent on that job, the company standing the loss of material. All the employees who refused to sign were advised to get their pay and leave the plant. This brought about a strike of all craftsmen engaged at the works with the exception of a few laborers.
Commissioner McWade conferred with Mr. J. H. McEwen, president and largest stockholder of the company, and prevailed upon him to compromise the difficulties. A "gentlemen's agreement” was drawn up which provided for an open shop, with a proviso that there should be no discrimination against union employees. An eight-hour day was also granted with an understanding that there should be no strikes or lockouts, and such questions as wages, working hours, etc., to be referred to Commissioner McWade and President McEwen for adjustment. This arrangement was satisfactory to the employees, who agreed to resume work at once. Two hundred and twenty-five men were directly or indirectly affected.
Mooresville Cotton Mills, Mooresville N. C.-The discharge of 300 union employees by the Mooresville Cotton Mills of Mooresville, N.C., was reported to the Department on April 6. It was intimated that these textile workers were discharged because they had recently joined a labor union and affiliated with the American Federation of Labor.
Commissioner Charles Bendheim was assigned to represent the Department. It appeared that the mill owners in this case had posted notices notifying their union employees that unless they severed their membership at once their dismissal would follow. . In pursuance of this notice 300 employees were summarily discharged. This action by the company had aroused much excitement in the town, which was a small community and undergoing its first labor disturbance. Commissioner Bendheim arranged a conference with the officials of the company and finally persuaded them that their actions were unjustifiable, and secured a promise that the action would be reconsidered After having the matter under consideration
for some time the company concluded that its former action had been unwise and agreed to reinstate its former employees with the understanding that they had a right to retain their membership in the union but that no coercive measures should be used to induce any workers to join the organization. This action of the company was received by the employees with manifestations of delight and the best of good feeling was engendered.
Milk drivers, Chicago, II.-A strike of milk drivers in Chicago, Ill., was reported to the Department on May 6, and the good offices of the Conciliation Service solicited. Commissioner Fred L. Feick was immediately assigned to the case. A deplorable feature of this strike was the threatened cutting off of the supply of milk to hospitals, infirmaries, and children's institutions, as well as the threatened interruption to the delivery of milk to invalids and children generally throughout the city. Commissioner Feick exerted his energies particularly in reference to this feature of the situation, and arrangements were soon made whereby milk would be delivered to such institutions. In the meanwhile conferences were arranged and efforts made to arrive at some solution of the difficulties. Three thousand drivers were affected, and an equal number of other employees were forced from their positions in consequence of the strike. The demands of the men were for a flat increase of $9 per week plus certain commissions. The milk dealers' association was willing to grant an increase of $4 per week. The price of milk in Chicago had recently been reduced from 14 to 13 cents per quart, and the dealers maintained that they could not possibly grant the demands of the men without restoring the former price. A feature of the strike was the advertising campaign carried on in the press, both sides carrying full-page advertisements explanatory of their respective positions. A joint conference of all the contending parties was finally arranged by the commissioner, both sides submitting all data in their possession. It was argued that the price of milk in Chicago was from 1 to 3 cents per quart less than the price in New York, Boston, Detroit, Cleveland, and Washington, and that the restoration of the price to 14 cents, which would allow the companies to pay the increase demanded by the strikers, would not be excessive. This view of the situation was finally accepted by the milk dealers' association, and the demands of the men were granted in their entirety. An agreement was signed which provided for an increase of approximately $9 per week, which brought the weekly wages of these men up to about $34. It was also agreed that eight hours should constitute a night's work and 10 hours a day's work.
Kelleys Island Lime & Transport Co. settlement.-An adjustment was effected of a three weeks' strike at the Kelleys Island Lime & Transport Co.'s operations at Marblehead and Kelleys Island, Ohio. The financial loss to the men and company was at the rate of $20,000 a week. The New York Central Railroad had laid off six train crews and suffered a loss of freight receipts estimated at over $30,000 a week. The workers had recently organized and demanded a signed agreement recognizing their union, elimination of Sunday work, and a reduction from 10 hours to 9 hours for a workday, with 10 hours' pay. These demands were met by a diplomatic refusal of the company to sign any agreement or grant other concessions. The strike resulted.
The commissioner in this case, Mr. Frederick G. Davis, suggested a plan that overcame the employers' objection to a settlement. The committee representing the union had informed him that the workers were able and willing to produce as much in a 9-hour day as was previously produced in a 10-hour day. The rate per hour was 35 cents, so that a 39-cent rate was necessary for 9 hours in order to equal the previous 10 hours' pay. An hourly rate of 37 cents was established, and an additional 2 cents per hour was to be paid if the average tonnage previously produced in 10 hours is produced in 9 hours. In lieu of a signed agreement with the union, a letter was addressed to the representative of the Department of Labor, signed by John A. Kling, president of the Kelleys Island Lime & Transport Co., embodying this new wage rate for a 9-hour workday, and other provisions satisfactory to the employees. To prevent possible loss in the future by unnecessary stoppage of work, the following paragraph was included:
It is mutually agreed that in case of failure to agree upon the provisions of this agreement no stoppage of works shall take place until all agencies for mediation and conciliation have been utilized.
Rath Packing Co., Waterloo, Iowa.—In March, 1919, the employees of the Rath Packing Co., Waterloo, Iowa, requested the company to put into effect the provisions of the award handed down by Judge Samuel Alschuler in the Chicago packing-house controversies. The company refused acquiesence with these demands and this was followed by a vote to strike. Mr. John Blaha, representing the employees wired the Department for the assignment of a conciliator to assist in bringing about an adjustment of the dispute. Commissioner Patrick F. Gill was detailed to effect an adjustment if possible. A joint conference of the contending parties was arranged by Commissioner Gill and the points in dispute were discussed in detail. A proposed agreement was drawn up by the conciliator and after some discussion was finally agreed upon by both sides. This agreement provided for an eight-hour day, time and one-half for overtime, a minimum wage of 42 cents per hour for men and 27} cents for women. It was also agreed that any future disagreement arising should be submitted to the Department of Labor before the employees would go on strike.
On May 5 the company wired the Department that the agreement entered into with its employees had been broken and the men had struck without giving the 30 days' notice which was stipulated in the agreement. Commissioner Gill's services were again requested, but because of an assignment upon which he was then detailed it was necessary to designate another conciliator. Mr. Thomas J. Williams was therefore assigned to the case. The renewal of the controversy was occasioned by a demand for an increase in wages of 10 cents per hour. This demand being refused, the employees went out on strike. Joint conferences were arranged by the conciliator, which lasted three days. A plan for the classification of the workers in the packing plant was agreed to by the joint conference, and the company agreed to pay the average rates paid by the six packing companies in the vicinity of Waterloo and also pay a bonus of $2 to all the employees. This proposal necessitated a special meeting of the entire organization of the workers, at which it was voted to accept the proposal. A new general agreement was drawn up, covering wages and working conditions, which was signed by the company officials, representatives of the workers, and the conciliator. The employees returned to work Monday, May 12.
Machinists, Niagara Falls, N. Y., Tonawanda, N. Y., and Bradford, Pa.--In December, 1918, the Industrial Relations Division of the War Department requested the Department of Labor to assume jurisdiction in the machinists' controversies in the cities named above. The Industrial Relations Division of the War Department had been successful in keeping the machinists at work, but upon the signing of the armistice this service ceased to function, and the dispute automatically came to the Department of Labor for disposition. Commissioner Joseph R. Buchanan was delegated by the Department to work out an amicable adjustment. In this case the machinists were demanding the “Buffalo award,” i. e., the scale of wages which had been put into effect in the city of Buffalo and to which industrial concerns engaged on Government orders had subscribed. The slackening demand for the output of these shops, incidental to the cancellation of war contracts since the signing of the armistice, had strengthened the determination of the employers to resist all further demands. This stand of the employers had incensed the men, who maintained that they had been tricked, inasmuch as they had remained at work at the request of the Government upon the assumption that their demands would receive recognition. Nearly 10,000 men were employed in the shops affected.
Commissioner Buchanan conferred with representatives of the men and urged that owing to the unsettled conditions prevailing they should not press their claim for increased wages, but should endeavor to secure a reduction in the number of hours worked per day, in order that a larger percentage of the workers could remain