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Mr. EDWARDS. I was president of it for three years. I was elected in 1868, and re-elected in 1869 and '70.
The CHAIRMAN. What is the object of the Boilers' Union ?
Mr. EDWARDS. The object, according to our constitution (and we endeavored to live up to it), is to elevate the condition of the workingmen. The CHAIRMAN. That is, of your own members ? Mr. EDWARDS. Of our own members, of course. The Chairman. You did not propose to go beyond your own membership? Mr. EDWARDS. Yes; to elevate the condition of our helpers also. At the same time to ask for nothing but what was right.
The CHAIKMAN. You proposed to do that by what means ; by getting them more wages ?
Mr. EDWARDS. No, not altogether that. To get what we thought a fair remuneration for our labor, at the same time to rub out a great number of evils that existed among ourselves resulting partly from our own indiscretion and partly from evils that had been forced upon us by employers in the past in the old country and brought into this country. I know that as workingmen we were subject to many errors; and that this was true to a greater extent than it is in a number of other trades. The ironworkers of this country at one time would all have been pretty well off if they had only carried on as they should have done.
The CHAIRMAN. That is, saved their earnings ?
Mr. EDWARDS. That is, if they had saved not any great sum, but only a moderate portion of their income instead of wasting it. As most of you are aware, the ironworkers at one time did not have the advantage of an education as we have in this country now. In some places, of course, there were better facilities for that than in others. The iron-masters of England and Wales, I must say, did a great deal toward demoralizing the iron-workers of the world in this way. There, every large works had a large store, and in connection with that a beer-hall or drinking-house; and when a man would perform a certain labor over and above his ordinary labor, they would recompense him in drink. I am speaking now partly from hearsay and partly from recollection of the time when I was a child, when I saw a great deal of it. They would say to a workman, “John, we want a certain portion of work done, and we want you to do it in addition to your day's labor; if you will accommodate us we will give you a quart of ale,” or “ I will give you a half gallon of ale.” That was the national drink. In Scotland they would call it a “wee gill.”
The CHAIRMAN. Of whisky?
Mr. EDWARDS. Yes; of whisky. They would pay the man the value of the work, not in money, but in drink; and, as a consequence, the men came to look regular for their liquor. They would say, “ We will all have a quart apiece," and after that would club together for another quart apiece. It finally came about that everybody thought a man could not work in a rolling-mill unless he had four or five quarts of ale a day. This custom was carried to this country, and followed here. Now we claim that since we organized the Boilers' Union we have done more to eradicate that evil than could have been done by all the temperance lecturers in the land.
The CHAIRMAN. In other words, you have encouraged self-respect and discouraged the use of intoxicating liquors ?
Mr. EDWARDS. Yes, while the men were at work. One thing that I maintained was that no man could do his duty to himself, to his family, or to his work, in any branch of business, while under the influence of intoxicating liquors.
The CHAIRMAN. Is there any necessity in any branch of the iron business for the use of intoxicating liquors ?
Mr. EDWARDS. No; there is not. There may be in cases of sickness, but ordinarily there is no necessity for it. I can take a glass of liquor with any man in this country; but I can assure you that I worked at the iron business for thirty-two years and never lost one heat nor one hour in my life from the influence of liquor. I made it a rule that I would never leave my work on any consideration, if only to go across the street, to take a dram of liquor.
The CHAIRMAN. One object, then, was to discourage the improper use of intoxicating liquors. What was your law?
Mr. EDWARDS. We had a rule--and I endeavored to make that a law and got it inserted in the constitution myself—that any man caught stealing stuff or found in an intoxicated condition should be punished. I will explain what is meant by “stealing stuff.” Every puddler is allowed a certain allowance of metal with which to make a given quantity of iron, say so much to the ton, and that is wheeled in to him. In some instances, owing to carelessness or incompetency, the quantity allotted to certain men would prove insufficient for them, and then they would go secretly to the stock and steal more to make up their deficit. In that way they could make up their losses. The law prohibited stealing stuff, and also required that any man who would get intoxicated while at his work should be fined not less than one dollar nor more than five or be suspended or expelleil, as the members should desire. You will say that we could not always collect the fines. That is true. Then we did this. Suppose that you are our employer and that here is a man who was drunk at his work the other night. We have tined him one or five dollars. It may be his first offense. lle will never pay it. We come to you and say, “Well, we throw him upon your hands, you can keep him if you like; we do not wish yon to drive this man away, but he is in your hands; we have tried to make him quit this drunkenness, but he will not "
The CHAIRMAX. You did not insist, then, upon dictating to the employer what men should be employed in the mill?
Mr. EDWARDS. That never was my object.
The CHAIRMAN. Nevertheless it has been one of the abuses, that the men have insisted that particular men should not be employed; that they did not want a particular man to work any longer.
Mr. EDWARDS. I have seen that done, but the organization cannot be said to have been the cause of that. That is one of those prejudices that belong not to that trade alone but to all trades. Ostracism is not peculiar to any one branch of industry, but may be met with in all branches alike.
The CHAIRMAN. Then that formed no part of the constitution of the body of which you have been speaking ?
Mr. Edwards. We could not do it. We dare not ostracise any man by a law of our own in that way.
The CHAIRMAN. When you say you “dare not,” you do not mean to be understood as saying that there was any law on the subject ?
Mr. EDWARDS. I mean to say that I could not go to work to deprive that man of his way of making a living. It would not be just nor right.
The Chairman. But there is no law to prohibit any number of men from saying they would not work with a particular man any more than there is to prohibit that man from saying he would not work with them?
Mr. EDWARDS. No, sir.
Mr. EDWARDS. Yes; there did during my administration.
The CHAIRMAN. That is to say, the men refused both to work under particular foremen and with particular men ?
Mr. EDWARDS. Yes.
The Chairmax. How, then, conld a strike originating from such a cause be authorized under the rules of the organization ?
Mr. Edwards. Let me explain. The president of the organization could not authorize a strike. It required the vice-president or the deputy of the particular district or locality with the presidents of the local bodies in that neighborhood; they had the right to authorize a strike. When they had done that, then they might communicate that fact to the president of the organization.
The CHAIRMAN. If I understand you, the members of this organization, which was a national one, could not, of themselves, make a strike in a particular locality!
Mr. EDWARDS. No.
Mr. Edwards. To a vice-president or to the deputy of their district. Each locality working under particular prices for puddling, &c., was called a district, and the der uty of that district was an executive officer. The presidents of the several lodges within the district would communicate with the deputy of that locality before a strike would take place and be legalized. Then they would have to communicate with the president of the organization for the United States. Then, if the strike was unconstitutional, he could declare it so.
The CHAIRMAN. Did the strike ever take place before his decision was made!
The CHAIRMAN. Then suppose he declared it to be unconstitutional, and that the strike should come to an end and the strikers would not stop, what was the practical result of that?
Mr. Edwards. It was that he would not aid them any.
Mr. Edwards. There was a protective fund created all over the United States by a pro-rata assessment.
The C'HAIRMAN. That is, the men made contributions ?
Mr. EDWARDS. Yes.
The CHAIRMAN. Whenever a strike took place you lovied an assessinent of a certain amount, larger or smaller, as the case might be.
Mr. EDWARDS. Yes, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. I did not know but that you had adopted the English system of keeping up a regular fund.
Mr. EDWARDS. No; we did adopt it for a short time, but it did not work properly.
Mr. EDWARDS. It was originally organized in 1858, but did not get upon a solid basis until 1864 or '65, when it began to have a national system. We were all hardworking men, and of course it required some time before we could get to systematizing that thing and could get our papers and books in proper form.
The CHAIRMAN. Were there many strikes after your organization had assumed its national character!
Mr. EDWARDS. No; I believe we did more toward killing strikes than ever before had been done in this country.
The Chairman. In other words, you think that the effect of your organization was to reduce instead of to increase the number of strikes?
Mr. EDWARDS. Yes. I will give you my reason for that: We worked hard toward getting up a scale of wages which should be based upon the market price of iron. We worked upon that in Pittsburg for some time, and finally, after a good deal of struggling, we succeeded in having it adopted all over the West.
The CHAIRMAN. That is to say, you got the employers to agree with you, and to make the rates of wages paid by them in accordance with the prices of iron; in other words, to establish a sliding scale.
Mr. EDWARDS. Yes. It was proposed that we should have the rate of wages made as uniform as possible all over the United States. The object was not to increase wages so much as it was to secure uniformity ; so that we would have less strikes in the future; and at the time at which the demand was made the effect was to decrease our wages to a certain extent. During the period of which I speak, some seven or eight years, we had less strikes than ever before.
The CHAIRMAN. Was the whole of that period of seven or eight years, running up to 1872 or 1873, a tolerably prosperous one!
Mr. Edwards. A part, but not the whole of it, was.
Mr. EDWARDS. You know very well that during the time of the Franco-Prussian war the demand for iron showed a very material difference from that of other years.
The CHAIRMAN. I know that for one portion of the period you refer to there was comparative prosperity; and it seems that prior to that there was an era of a year or two when the demand for iron was slack.
Mr. EDWARDS. It was slack for a year or two.
The CHAIRMAN. This is the point that I want to get to-whether this arrangement for a sliding scale was broken up by the Puddlers' Union or by the employers.
Mr. EDWARDS. It has not been broken up yet; it still exists.
The CHAIRMAN. And since it has been adopted you have never had any strikes in the West:
Mr. EDWARDS. There was a strike in 1874 or a movement on the basis of a strike. They wanted to change the basis of the arrangement.
The CHAIRMAN. Who wanted to change the basis of the arrangement !
Mr. EDWARDS. The manufacturers. They did alter it to a certain extent; they reduced the rate somewhat. That is the system under which they are working to-day.
The CHAIRMAN. Have you, in the course of your experience with the manufacturers, met with any trouble by reason of their indisposition to listen to your demands, to consult with or negotiate with you, and to arrive at a mutual conclusion ? Did they at any time refuse to treat with you, or have they generally been ready to treat with Font
Mr. EDWARDS. In some localities they have been very willing to treat with us, and they say this is true all over the West. I have never worked in the East, but the employers and employés in the West, as far as I have seen, have generally co-operated together in a very friendly way.
The CHAIRMAN. Then you think that as far as the puddlers generally of whom you
speak are concerned there has been a good understanding, and that this has existed for some years between employers and employés ?
Mr. EDWARDS. There has been to a great extent. I speak of it, of course, as a general rule.
The CHAIRMAN. You think there has been in this country much less dissension or antagonism than there has been in England, Scotland, and Wales during that period?
Mr. EDWARDS. I could not say as to that, but I know this, that I have read commnnications from England stating that they were far better pleased with our system of a sliding scale than with the arbitration they had there.
The CHAIRMAN. You know, I suppose, that at one time they tried a sliding scale in England and that it was broken up through the objections of the employers, not of the workingmen. I will say here, now, that I never have known a case in which the workmen have rebelled against their bargain or broken up the arrangement. I want to say that, because it is but simple justice that I should say it. While I have found thein unreasonable enough in some matters, I have never found the workmen unwilling to submit to the conditions of the compact into which they had entered. At the present time, I understand, the only trouble existing between employers and employed is not a question of wages but a qnestion of getting work enough to do?
Mr. EDWARDS. That is the trouble.
Mr. EDWARDS. Yes; it is, so far as I understand it. Of course, since I have been a foreman, I do not communicate with the men all over the country; and when I was president of the organization I had my own duties to perform as you are well aware, and I attended to them; but I believe that I may say now there can be no feeling but for want of work. There is not enough work in any branch.
The CHAIRMAN. Then you consider the relations between the employers and the employed in the iron works, as far as your knowledge extends, to be in the main friendly and satisfactory?
Mr. EDWARDS. Friendly and satisfactory, when there is plenty of work to do.
The CHAIRMAN. Do you believe that it is possible for combinations to alter the prices of commodities for any considerable period ?
Mr. EDWARDS. No.
The CHAIRMAN. You think the prices of commodities are determined by demand and supply?
Mr. EDWARDS. I do.
The CHAIRMAN. You think, therefore, that a combination of employers to put up prices, unless it is something in which a monopoly has been established, must fail
. Mr. EDWARDS. I do not think that a combination of manufacturers could establish prices for an article unless there is a demand for that article.
The Chairman. Then do you think that combinations of workmen can put up the price of labor (which is the product they have for sale) when the employers are unable to put up the price of their commodities?
Mr. EDWARDS. No, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. You think, therefore, that employer and employed are bound together by a common tie, that both must accept the situation, and that neither can exercise any absolute authority over the law of demand and supply.
Mr. EDWARDS. I do. I have always entertained that feeling.
The CHAIRMAN. Is that a general feeling, so far as you know, among the men engaged in the iron-worker's trade?
Mr. EDWARDS. I cannot say it is general; it obtains to a great extent.
Mr. Edwards. I could not say, as I have not been in immediate communication with a great portion of the men in late years. Of course, I differ with them in opinion on many subjects.
The CHAIRMAX. Let me put to you another case: Suppose that a manufacturer of a certain article is located in Pittsburg, where his coal is laid in his mill at $1 per ton, and another manufacturer of the same article is in Philadelphia and pays $5 per ton for his coal. These two manufacturers are competing for a common market, say at Harrisburg between the two points. Both are anxious to keep their men employed. Would it be possible for the man in Philadelphia to pay as much wages to his workmen as it would be for the man in Pittsburg to pay to his workmen, each getting his pig-iron at the same rate, but one paying tive tinies as much for his coal as the other Mr. Edwards. I conld not answer that question in any shape. The CHAIRMAN. Not in any shape!
Mr. Edwards. What I mean to say is that I would not put myself upon record on a question about which there is so much dispute as there is about that one.
The CHAIRMAN. I will state the question then in a general way. Certain manufaeturers enjoy advantages in procuring the raw material from which their manufactures
are made, while the factories of others are disadvantageously situated. The latter would prefer to have a better location, but there they are and there are their workmen. Now, is it not obvious, in view of the smaller profits of the less favored manufacturer, that there is less money to be divided between him and his workmen than there is in the other case? And is it not equally obvious that somebody, either the workmen or the employer, must be compelled to take into account the disadvantages of location and like considerations?
Mr. Edwards. It is obvious, but there are other things to be considered.
Mr. EDWARDS. As far as the coal is concerned, I could not say whether it is or is not dearer in Philadelphia than in Pittsburg.
The CHAIRMAN. I will state, as a matter of fact, that it is. The question, therefore, is whether, when the product of two manufacturers is sold for the same price, and one is compelled to pay more than the other for his raw material, the workmen shall take less of value for their work or the employer shall shut up his works; and does not the question between them often assume that phase?
Mr. EDWARDS. The question does often arise.
The CHAIRMAN. As an employer I have been in a condition such as that which I have described. I have had a mill and have had to shut it up. The case was stated to the men and they were told, “now, here are the facts," and the question put to them, “Shall we shut up the works or go on at a lower rate?” And I confess I have always been ready to show the figures to the men. The question with which I have generally been met was this, whether, where there was such an understanding, and the men and the employers were willing to go on, they could be allowed to do so, or whether there was something in the laws of your trades-unions which would prohibit the men from taking lower rates.
Mr. EDWARDS. Yes, I think there is something in our rules which would prohibit it.
The CHAIRMAX. Would it not make more trouble to prohibit any such arrangement than it would to have the men go on at less wages in the way in which they had been going on?
Mr. EDWARDS. The trouble with the workingmen is this: They are suspicious about this cutting down of wages by detail, in different localities of the United States. They do not know where it will stop. That is the trouble.
The CHAIRMAN. They want, then, to have uniform wages without reference to the ability of an employer to pay the wages ?
Mr. EDWARDS. I do not think they would object if they understood the case in that shape; but they do not understand it in that shape. There are things connected with it that they do not understand. Now, the manufacturers in the East, we will say, make this argument and the manufacturers in the West make the other argument; and of course we cannot find the facts out. The Western employers say to us that the workingmen of the East are working for so much, that “they have advantages over us," and you will say that the Western manufacturers have advantages over you, and so it goes. But, as I was about to say before, our organization has never sought to interfere with any rules in the different districts whereby they would be doing an injustice. I never saw any interference of that kind attempted. That was the object of the districting system. In some of the districts, for instance, they have six heats to each turu. We made a law prohibiting that in the West, because it was too much for one man to do. In the East we left the matter open to themselves.
The CHAIRMAN. Did you allow them to regulate their local wages ?
The CHAIRMAN. That is what I wanted to get at. Then you have answered my question as to that. Your answer is that in the districts you did make arrangements by which the wages could be regulated in accordance with the necessities of a case. Mr. EDWARDS. Yes, sir. Mr. RICE. Was that the case in the district of Massachusetts ?
Mr. EDWARDS. Yes, as to any district. But the limits of the districts were not determined by State lines; there might be two or three States in one district or two districts in one State.
Mr. Rice. The wages in Massachusetts might be different from what they were in Pittsburg?
Mr. EDWARDS. In conseqnence of the difference peculiar to different localities in tho same branches of work, each locality having its own mode of working, a difference in wages would not necessarily indicate that a higher or lower rate for the same work was paid in one locality above or below another.
The CHAIRMAN. I remember that on one occasion there was an impending strike in eastern Pennsylvania, which included Trenton, and the president of the Puddlers' Luion came there and it was all settled. I do not remember whether it was you who came or not.
Mr. EDWARDS. No; it was not me. That must have been about 1871 or 1872.