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DEPRESSION IN LABOR AND BUSINESS.
Pursuant to the subjoined resolution, the committee met at the new post-office building, New York, in room 1, second floor, on Thursday, August 1, at 12 m.
Presept, Hon. Abram S. Hewitt, of New York, chairman; Hon. J. M. Thompson, of Pennsylvania ; Hon. W. W. Rice, of Massachusetts; Hon. Thomas A. Boyd, of Illinois.
FORTY-FIFTH CONGRESS-SECOND SESSION.
CONGRESS OF THE UNITED STATES,
In the House of Representatives, June 17, 1878. Mr. Thompson sabmitted the following, which was agreed to: Whereas labor and the productivo interests of the country are greatly depressed, and suffering 80Ferely from causes not yet fully understood ; and whereas our real and permanent prosperity is founded and dependent upon labor, as the source of all wealth; that when labor suffers from any cause which may be removed, or its rigor mitigated, our national harmony and prosperity are thereby imperiled; that it is, therefore, the solemn duty of Congress to inquire into and ascertain the causes of such progtration and to devise proper measures for their relief, that labor may be restored to its just rights, to the end that labor and all our varied interests may be encouraged, promoted, and protected, by liberal, just, and equal laws: Therefore,
Resolved, That a committee consisting of seven members of this House be appointed, whose daty it shall be to inquire into and ascertain the causes of general business depression, especially of labor; to devise and propose measares for relief; and that, to enable said committee to perform its important daties hereby conferred, it has leave to sit daring recess, to employ a clerk and such other assistance as may be needed; to exainine witnisses, and to report at next session the result of its investigations, and the measures for relief it may recommend, by bill or otherwise.
JUNE 19, 1878. The SPEAKER appointed on said committeeMr. A. S. HEWITT, of New York; Mr. H. Y. RIDDLE, of Tennessee; Mr. H. L. DICKEY, of Obio; Mr. J. T. JONES, of Alabama; Mr. J. M. THOMPSON, of Pennsylvania; Mr. W. W. RICE, of Massachusetts; and Mr. THOMAS A. BOYD, of Illinois. Attest:
GEO. M. ADAMS, Clerk.
VIEWS OF MR. THOMAS ROCK.
In response to the announcement of the chairman that the committee were ready to proceed with the investigation, and would hear such persons as inight desire to give evidence, Thomas Rock presented himself for examination, and was questioned as follows:
By the CHAIRMAN: Question. Do you appear in behalf of any organized body?-Answer. Yes, sir; the Journeymen Stonecutters' Association of the city and county of New York. My colleague (Mr. Cornelius Egan) and myself have been sent here by that association to see whether the work for the city of New York cannot be done in the city of New York, and given to the citizens of New York; we are sent specially in regard to the bargeoffice to be built at the Battery. We are citizens of the United States and citizens of New York, and think it is our right to have this work to do, instead of it being taken to Dick's Island and done there. The stone-cutting for this building that we are sitting in now was not done in New York.
Q. Your grievance, as I understand it, is that the Government of the United States in erecting buildings in the city of New York had a portion of the work done elsewhere -A. They had all the stone work done elsewhere, and brought it here; yes, sir.
Q. And you think it ought to be done in the city of New York; that the stone should be brought in the rongh, and cut in the city of New York ?-A. Yes, sir; and the same can be said of the country all over. The association we belong to is an association all over the United States. In Mallett's time the Chicago custom-house was done out of stone cut in Cincinnati. Another grievance that we have is this: That on these buildings citizens of the United States have not been employed at all, till very lately. About four years ago there was a lot of men discharged from one of the works in Rockland, Me., who were not citizens, and when the work was done they went and drew their money out of the bank, and very nearly broke the bank.
Q. You think that all work done for the government should be limited to those who are citizens, and not given to those who are not citizens ?-A. We think the citizens should bave the preference.
Q. Your view is tbat it should be limited to citizens. Is that it 1-A. Yes, sir; but our principal mission here is to see that the work done for the government here is dout in the city of New York. We were sent here principally in relation to the bargeoffice.
Q. Do you understand that the barge-office is to be built of stone ?-A. I don't know.
Q. I understand it is to be built of iron; and I would like to ask you whether you want the same principle to apply to the iron work; that the iron work in such cases should be done in New York ?-A. The iron-men should be able to talk for themselves.
Q. Your idea, ther, is that no work should be done out of the lace where the building is to be erected ?-A. Yes, sir. Q. And that that should be made compulsory by law ?-A. Yes, sir;
By Mr. RICE: Q. How is it in regard to stone work done in the city by private individuals, other parties than the Government of the United States ; where is that done?-A. Mostly all the work done by private individuals is done in the city of New York.
Q. You claim that the government pursues a different policy from what individuals who are doing a similar kind of work, though, of course, not pursued on so great a scale ?-A. Yes, sir; and I think our association are in favor of the strict enforcement of the eight-hour law. We are eight-bour men.
By the CHAIRMAN: Q. Do I understand that you want the eight-hour law enforced ?-A. The association is in favor of the eight-hour law, which was considered a law by the government at one time.
By Mr. RICE: Q. That is, for those employed by the government !-A. Yes, sir. 2. You would pot suppose that the government should do anything to protect you who are not in the employ of the government ?-A. O, no; we don't wish that.
By the CHAIRMAN: Q. The law now requires the work to be done by contract, by the lowest bidder. Yon would abolish that 1-A. They bave not instructed us about that.
Q. The law requiring the work to be given to the lɔwest bidder, if the lowest bidder came from some other place, how could the government give the work to New York 1A. I think the general government could make that a part of the specifications, that the work should be done in the city of New York.
Q. You would not allow competition outside the city of New York ?-A. People can come in bere and compete.
Q. You would limit it to people living in the city of New York 1–A. Not at all; any party can come from any part of the United States and contract and estimate and do the work here.
Q. You would let anybody bid, no matter where he lived, but the work should be done in the city -A. Yes, sir.
By Mr. RICE: Q. That is, as a railroad contractor, who contracts for a railroad which is to be built in a certain sectiov, must do the work on the road, so you suppose a contraetor would come and do the work bere ?-A. Yes, sir. It is certain if something of the kind is pot done the residents of the city of New York will have to emigrate out of it. It is no good to bave the work done down on Barren Island or Dick's Island, where the contractor gets the whole benefit of it.
By the CAAIRMAN: Q. The public officer takes the sum total of the bid ; all be bas to guide him is to know how much it is going to cost the government, and he takes the lowest bid. The people of the United States have to foot the bill ?-A. I don't think he took the lowest bid on this job. This job (referring to the post-office building, New York] was done on Dick's Island. It did not matter how much was done for a day's work at all. The less you did the better you were liked.
The CHAIRMAN. Fifteen per cent. was allowed on all disbursements ; that is, the contract law was not applied to that. In other words, there was no contract.
By Mr. RICE: Q. How is it about the other contracts in the city of New York ?-A. The courthouse was done under the Tweed ring, and I don't think it was done very profitably; but the men worked well enough.
Q. The building cost inore in pr even than this ?--A. I suppose it did, though this cost euough.
Q. Do you know anything abont the capitol at Albany ? Was the work done there ?-A. The work was done by the State in the city of Albany.
Q. How do you think it worked there ?--A. I think, as far as the work is concerned, it has worked very profitably to the State ; but I can give you an instance where they contracted for a portion of the capitals, and gave $150 to the contractor for the cutting of the capitals. The State hauled the stone; the contractor had nothing to do but cut it, and the contractor gave the men $85 for cutting the capitals, and the contractors did nothing, only received their money. The State might as well have had that profit. I was one of the men, and I got $85, and the contractor got $150. He did not have any expenses at all.
By the CHAIRMAN: Q. Do you think the State of New York can have its stone cut cheaper in New York tban in Albany ?-A. Yes, sir.
Q. And if the State of New York, in building the capitol, could get its work done cheaper in the city of New York, that it ought to be still done in Albany ?-A. I think the city where the job is done should have the right to the contract.
Q. Who pays for the capitol ?-A. The citizens of the State. Q. Why, then, should not the citizens of the whole State have a chance to supply the work an equal chance 1-A. Nobody is denying them, is there?
Q. Is it not in conflict with the principle you have laid down, that the work should be done in Albany, notwithstanding it can be done cheaper in New York ?-A. If you can do it cheaper outside, I don't think we should come here at all; stonecutters can go up there, if they feel like it.
Q. But you would compel the stonecutters to go up to Albany for it?-A. In the first place, I know it could not be done as cheap in the city of New York, and sent to Albany, as it could be done in Albany.
By Mr. RICE: Q. Sapposing the work conld be done cheaper at Dick's Island and sent there cheaper than it could be done in Albany, would you have it done in Albany rather than at Dick's Island, where it could be done cheaper !-A. Of course, we would be in favor of having it done in Albany; for the simple reason that in going to Dick's Island the mechanics of the country would be leaving their own homes and going to a place where it is not fit for a man to live.
Q. It would be a saving to New York ?-A. I don't know that it would be. I don't think they could do it.
Q. Is it not a law that we go to those places for our supplies where they can be obtained cheapest rather than otherwise; and would you have the government follow a different policy from that?-A. No; I suppose the government has a right to bave this profit; but still, at the same time, it is not giving the citizens of the country a fair show at all; it is giving it all into the hands of contractors. Q. And if a contractor has agreed to do a certain piece of work for a certain sum, that contractor will be apt to go for his work to the place where he can get it done to the best advantage, cheapest 1-A. In the first place, I don't think the government bas a right to let out a contract to any party unless bé can show he has sufficient to do the job. For instance, a contractor will take the job so low that the men who work on it will starve. You bave not to go out of the city of New York to see that. For instance, on the Forty-second-street arch
Q. Can the government prevent that? Have you any particular form of legislation in your mind that wi correct that, which we both agree is an evil! Can you see how it will be cured ?-A. I think the government is the judge of this work, and they know when a man puts in these bids that he is not fit to do the work. I think the government should allow every man a living.
By the CHAIRMAN: Q. The great fraud on this building was the payment of 15 per cent. to a private citizen without compensation. Would you apply a different rule to the government from that you would apply to an individual i "If a private individual wanted work done, you would not restrict him ? Would you restrict by law a private individual just as you propose to restrict the government ?-A. We propose this: if a private individual went out of the city of New York and paid for his work, he should pay the same as we receive here.
Q. Then you would have the government make a law to regulate wages !--A. No, sir.
Q. You say if he went out of the city ?-A. As a general thing they don't do it; but I think the men of New York would claim that right.
Q. You would apply the same principle to private individuals that you propose to apply to the government—that all work to be used in the city of New York be done in the city of New York ?--A. Yes, sir.
Q. And so in all, the cities in the Union, each city would be similarly dealt with ?-A. Yes, sir.
By Mr. THOMPSON: Q. If your organization were thorough, could not you control the price of your labor as well in the country as in the city of New York 1-A. I'suppose if times were good we could do it, but at the starvation point things are now you can control nothing.
Q. You can't confine them to the rules?-A. No, sir; there are mechanics in the city of New York to-day starving; and good, sober men starving; they have not got enough to eat.
By the CHAIRMAN: Q. Have you any means of giving to the committee the number of stonecutters out of employment in the city of New York ?-A. I could get them.
Mr. Thompson. We would like the whole number of stonecutters, and the proportion of employed to unemployed.
The CHAIRMAN. That is one important thing to get at—the number employed and unemployed; and if the other trades can give that data, we would like it.
Mr. Rice. Any statistics in regard to the number of stonecutters employed now, as compared with five or ten years ago, you may also furnish..
The CHAIRMAN. Stonecutters have suffered, perhaps, more than any other branch of tradesmen.
Mr. Rice. I would like to know whether, from the large operations which have been going on during the last few years, an extraordinary number of stonecutters have been attracted to New York, so that when these operations ceased they were left without employment. If you can ascertain that, or anything bearing on that point, I wonld like you to do it. See whether the supply of the stonecutters here at the present time is in excess of the ordinary demands of the business—not in excess of the extraordinary demands of the business for the last few years, but now,
The Witness. They are in excess of the ordinary demand now. Mr. THOMPSON. In other words, it involves this inquiry: Why is this depression? What has produced it!
The Witness. You can see the depression in our business now, for five hundred men of our trade are in England trying to get work, and they had to leave their tools as security for their passage.
The CHAIRMAN. 1 bey landed there last year, on the strike; and that raised the question whether workmen from this country should take the place of men on the strike there. I saw them myself.
The Witness. They went there because they were forced to.
Mr. Rice. That is what I wanted to know, whether any of them had come here in consequence of the demand a few years ago. The Witness. Five years ago many of tbem came; the Chicago fire brought them.
By tbe CHAIRMAN:
Q. Are there any of them working for less than $3?-A. That we can't tell; the supposition is there is.
Q. What is bricklayers' wages per day?-A. $2.50 and $3.
Q. And what is the wage of à carpenter?-A. I don't believe they have got any wages at all; most of them lump out, taking jobs.
Q. Still there must be journeymen carpenters 1-A. I understand the majority of them have got no stated wages at all. I don't know whether I am speaking the truth or not; that is what I understand. I don't think they have any organization at the present time.
By Mr. RICE Q. How long have you been familiar with the stonecutting business in New York !A. I think I have been in New York since about 1862.
Q. What were the wages of stonecutters when you began ?-A. 1862 was tbe second year of the war. They were $2.25 when I first came from Washington.
Q. They are $3 now?-A. Yes, sir.