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Textile workers, Passaic, N.J.-On February 18, 1919, the Department was advised of a serious textile strike at Passaic, N. J. Commissioners James L. Hughes and Charles J. Fury were assigned by the Department to take up the matter. About 15,000 workers were found to be on strike. The demands were for a 44-hour week with the same pay as they were then receiving for 55 hours, which would amount, approximately, to a 35 per cent increase. The strikers were also asking recognition of the union known as the Independent Union of General Workers of the Textile Industries. The strike had been pending for a number of weeks and various conciliatory efforts by the mayor and other local officials had been unsuccessful. Commissioners Hughes and Fury put forth every possible effort to bring the strike to an end, but all efforts were unsuccessful until March 21, when an adjustment was brought about. The settlement was reached through the decision of both sides to submit the wage scale to Commissioner Fury for decision, all other questions having been previously adjusted.
Mahoning & Shenango Railway & Light Co.-The linemen employed by the Mahoning & Shenango Railway & Light Co. of Youngstown, Ohio, who had been working under a contract which expired on March 31, on the termination of the agreement, struck. The linemen, under the contract, had been receiving an hourly wage of 534 cents and working a nine-hour day. On October 15, because of changed conditions, the hourly wage had been increased to 65 cents, which rate continued until March 31. Prior to the expiration of the contract, the men had demanded 95 cents per hour for the same day. This demand the company rejected, with the above-mentioned result. The company appealed to the Department of Labor for assistance. Mr. W. D. Davidge, commissioner of conciliation, was assigned to the case and reached Youngstown on the 12th. After a series of negotiations with the employer and employees, he succeeded in arriving at an agreement between them, under which the wages and other conditions should be submitted to an arbitrator to be appointed by the Secretary of Labor, the award of the arbitrator to be binding upon both parties.
In the meantime, at the request of Mr. Davidge, the company agreed, pending the appointment and decision of an arbitrator, to increase wages from 65 to 80 cents per hour, this appearing to him, under all the conditions and circumstances, to be a reasonable rate for the work to be performed. The arbitrator subsequently established the wage which the commissioner of conciliation suggested. On the execution of the agreement to arbitrate the men returned to work.
Pittsburgh Street Railway Co.-A strike of the street car men of Pitt hurgh, Pa., in August, 1919, brought about an entire suspension of operations in that great industrial center. Commissioner Charles P. Howard was assigned on behalf of the Department. Upon his arrival at Pittsburgh, Mr. Howard found that a strike had existed two weeks and various unsuccessful efforts had been made to bring about a resumption of operations. The Pittsburgh Railway Co. was in the hands of receivers. The National War Labor Board had already handed down a decision in this case. The court recommended that the award of the board should be submitted to the State court, with the recommendation of the receivers that they be empowered to carry out its terms. The demand of the employees was for an increase of 12 cents per hour to bring the maximum rate to 60 cents, this being the rate paid in Detroit, Cleveland, and other cities of similar size. The award of the National War Labor Board was for a 12 per cent increase, which by adding fractions as directed, gave practically a 6-cent per hour increase instead of the 12 cents asked for. The employees had refused this proffered advance as being inadequate and had gone on strike for their original demands. All appeals to the strikers to return to work failed and an order from their international officers was ignored. The attempts to operate the cars with strike breakers were unsuccessful. Some damage to property had resulted and several arrests of strikers had been made upon warrants charging violation of the order of the court. A suit for damages in a large sum had also been filed against the Amalgamated Association of Street and Electric Railway Employees of America for breach of contract. Vice Presidents Fitzgerald, Reardon, and McGrath of the association conferred with the receivers for the purpose of agreeing upon terms upon which the strikers could return to work. Terms were finally arranged by which all men should be reinstated in their old positions with seniority rates restored. The men who had been arrested were to take their old places until such time as they should be proved guilty. Strike breakers who had been imported into the city were to be returned to the places from which they came as soon as practicable, no attempt being made by the receivers to operate cars until every opportunity had been given the strikers to return to work. A secret ballot was taken to decide the issue. After all possible pressure had been brought to bear upon the strikers a vote upon the proposal to return to work was taken and resulted as follows: In favor of ending the strike, 2,082; against, 408.
British Ministry of Food in the United States v. Chicago Egg Inspectors' Union. -A case of peculiar and unusual interest arose at Chicago affecting the supply of food under contract for the British Government. It appears that a contract had been given for the candling and shipping of eggs to the Davies company, of Chicago. This company was alleged by the Chicago Egg Inspectors' Union to be employers of ponunion labor, mostly Negro girls. The union threatened to suspend all work being done for the British Government unless the Davies company were compelled to employ union help. Commissioner Oscar F. Nelson was assigned to the case on October 24, 1918. Mr. Nelson conferred with the British official representative and from him learned the situation. The contracts in Chicago were for an enormous shipment of eggs for the hospitals in France. Delay of any kind was serious, as arrangements for the shipping of the eggs had been made. A conference was arranged between the
A British representative, Mr. Horrocks, Mr. P. F. Donlan, business agent of the egg inspectors' union, and Commissioner Nelson. It was learned that the Davies company had sublet their contract to an egg broker who had had trouble with the union in the past; that he had employed Negro girls at wages decidedly less than the union scale; and that he had advertised his intention of teaching these girls the egg-candling business for the purpose of breaking up the egg inspectors' union. Such announcement had aroused the union and caused them to threaten strike.
As the Chicago Egg Inspectors' Union is a Federal labor union affiliated with the American Federation of Labor, Commissioner Nelson called into the conference Mr. John Fitzpatrick, president of the Chicago Federation of Labor, and invoked his good offices in bringing about an understanding. An agreement was finally drawn up and signed by Mr. Horrocks, Mr. P. F. Davies, representing the Davies company, John Fitzpatrick, president of the Chicago Federation of Labor, and Commissioner Nelson. This agreement provided that the egg inspectors' union agree to supply egg inspectors sufficient in number to do the work—which was approximately 21 to 3 cars per day, 500 cases per car, packed for export. It was further understood that the British Government would take up the matter of either having the company employ the members of the egg inspectors' union or secure cancellation of the Davies company's contract. These arrangements were to be consummated within 10 days.
Restaurant and theater employees, Washington, D. C.-During the period of the war, the various recurrent controversies between the waiters' union and the Washington hotels were handled to the satisfaction of all parties by Commissioner of Conciliation Rowland B. Mahany. He also adjusted all disputes during this time between the street railway companies and their employees. Mr. Mahany likewise brought about industrial peace between the theatrical managers and the men employed in the Washington theaters. Periodical controversies between the bakers' union and the different baking establishments of Washington arose from time to time, and these difficulties, too, were composed in a satisfactory manner by Commissioner Mahany. These were all cases of first importance, a great number of minor ones being brought to the same happy conclusion. So that during the war period no city in the United States was freer from industrial unrest than the Capital City of the Nation.
Meat packing industry in Chicago; agreement between the packing houses of Chicago and their employees.-On April 12, 1919, the Secretary of Labor was notified by the presidents of five large packinghouse plants in Chicago that they were willing to continue the agreement existing during war time for one year after the declaration of peace. The agreement mentioned was the one executed by the President's Mediation Commission, of which Secretary Wilson was chairman, in the winter of 1917–18, under the terms of which certain wages and conditions were agreed upon and Samuel Alschuler, of Illinois, judge of the Circuit Court of Appeals, was named as administrator.
The proposal for a continuance of the agreement was submitted to the representatives of the various crafts employed in the packinghouse industry of Chicago and by them taken up for consideration with the workers. The workers, through their representatives, submitted a counter proposal providing for a continuation for one year after the declaration of peace, with some suggested changes as to methods of rehiring former employees, hearing grievances in the first instance, etc.
The Secretary of Labor selected Col. J. L. Spangler, of Pennsylvania and Ernest P. Marsh, of the State of Washington, members of the President's Mediation Commission, and Hugh L. Kerwin, director of conciliation, as his personal representatives, to proceed to Chicago and endeavor to harmonize the differences in order to continue the existing conditions in the packing industry. The representatives of the Department held conferences in Chicago for several days with the presidents of the packing houses and their representatives, and with the president of the Amalgamated Association of Meat Cutters and the representatives of the other crafts involved in the packing-house industry, and finally worked out a plan which was satisfactory. to both sides. Approximately 50,000 workers are involved under this agreement. This result marks a new era in peace time in one of the most important industries in the country, and it is felt that the effect of this plan will be far-reaching.
Among the most important elements contributing toward the newer and better relationships in this industry has been the great service rendered by Judge Alschuler. There has not been a decision of his that has not been religiously lived up to by both sides, and not a single thing has occurred during the entire period of his administration which has held up production in any of the packing houses in Chicago. It should be borne in mind that this plan completed to-day will carry with it not only a continuation during the period of one year after the declaration of peace of the present arrangements with the 5 big packers, but that 15 other packing plants in Chicago will come under the same arrangement.
Summary.—During the fiscal year the Department of Labor has assigned commissioners of conciliation to 1,780 cases, made up of 587 strikes, 1,113 disputes and threatened strikes, 63 lockouts, and 17 walkouts. Of these it has succeeded in adjusting 1,223, not including 219 referred to the National War Labor Board. In only 111 instances have the commissioners failed to make settlements. Thirteen cases are still pending. The number of disputes and the disposition of each is shown in the following tables, together with a summary by months, a record of the action taken in cases pending at the time of the last annual report, and a statement of the geographical distribution of cases as reported by months.
Statement showing number of labor disputes pending at end of fiscal year 1918.
Controversy: Agricultural workers and em- F. C. Roberts........
ployers, Porto Rico.
Machinists, Symington Machine Co., Roch- J. Purcell...
ployers, Allegany and Garrett Counties, liams,
Md. Strike: Baltimore Bargain House, Cumber. J. Purcell, T.J. Williams land, Md.
1 Case closed. Letters of Departmen' to paper hangers representative remain unanswered. • Case closed. President of company declined to confer with commissioner.