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SEPTEMBER 8, 1904. TO THE PRESIDENT:
Referring to your letter of August 4, transmitting a communication from Mary E. McDowell, appearing in the Chicago Daily News of Friday, July 29, and to your letter of August 10, inclosing an editorial from the Chicago Tribune, entitled “The Union and the Immigrant," and asking that in the investigation conducted relative to the meat strike in Chicago the statements in these two inclosures be investigated, I have the honor to report that they have been taken up by our agent, Mr. Ethelbert Stewart, with the following results:
The article of Miss McDowell and the editorial relate practically to one supposed influence of the trade unions among the foreign element employed in the packing business in Chicago. This influence is exceedingly interesting and throws a valuable side light on the whole question involved. The immigrant is, in the first instance, a wage-reducer, either directly or indirectly, although the extent of his influence upon Wages can not well be stated; but as a prospective wage-reducer he is met by the trade union in self-defense, just as the trade union meets female and child labor, except in this, the union seeks to organize the immigrants, while it seeks by legislation to prohibit or limit the work of women and children--that is, the union seeks the aid of the State to prevent wage reductions by means of female and child labor, and it seeks by organizing the immigrants to prevent reduction of wages by immigration. It makes no claim of undertaking any charitable or primarily civic education among the immigrants, but the secondary effect of the union on the immigrant is distinctively civic in character. It is the first, and for a time the only, point at which he touches any influences outside his clan. Even the progressive
forces inside the nationality lines consider the immigrant hopeless and seek only to reach his children-as, for instance, the officers of the Polish National Alliance direct their effort toward getting the Poles to send their children to American public schools and to have them mix up with and become a part of the whole people. The trade union, however, must deal with the immigrant himself, and the immigrant, when he learns that the union wants to raise his wages, decrease his hours of labor, etc., begins to see the necessity of learning the English language, of understanding the institutions he hears talked about in the union meetings, and other matters which interest him.
At the risk of taking up too much of your time, let me state a bit of history. From 1880 to 1886 the nationalities employed in the stock yards, in the order of their numerical importance, were Irish, Americans, Germans, and a few Scotch. The great strike of 1886 disrupted the only organization of workmen in the yards—that of the Knights of Labor-and after the failure of the strike a notable exodus of Americans and the more active men among the Irish began. Whether this was entirely voluntary, or in part resulted from activity in the strike, is not germane to this subject. The Poles began to come into the yards in 1886, after the settlement of the strike, but not as strike breakers. This appears to have been a voluntary immigration, increasing in volume until by 1890 the most of the unskilled occupations were filled by Poles, who by 1894 had practical control of the common labor.
The Bohemians began to affect noticeably the situation in 1894, going first into the inferior positions, which they shared with the Poles. There were two minor strikes between 1890 and 1894, which in a measure aided in bringing about this result. There was some movement upward among the Poles—that is, from lower to higher occupations, but not so marked as among the Bohemians. The Bohemians, coming in later, began under thé Poles-that is, took the lower positions as the Poles went up, and divided the entire unskilled labor possibilities with the Poles. The Bohemians, however, soon outstripped the Poles in the movement upward from unskilled to skilled occupations.
The strike of 1894 unsettled these movements temporarily. Negro labor was employed to break the strike and has been an element in the situation ever since. In 1880 but one Negro was employed in the yards, and be worked in Armour's killing gang. While few of the strike breakers of 1894 were retained, yet that event marks the real beginning of the employment of Negroes. At the beginning of the present strike some 500 Negroes worked in the yards, many of whom belonged to the union.
After the strike of 1894 was settled the Bohemians were introduced more rapidly, and this continued up to 1896. In 1895 the Lithuanians began coming in, followed by Slovaks in 1896, and this continued steadily until 1899, when the number began to increase rapidly. Two years ago an enormous influx of Lithuanians, Slovaks, and Russian Poles occurred, swamping the labor market in the yards. This was caused largely because of the threatening war between Russia and Japan, and the consequent rush of people to escape compulsory military duty. This has been appreciably checked within the last six or eight months.
The proportion of workmen of the various nationalities in the yards at the beginning of the present strike (July 12) was, approximately: Irish, 25 per cent; Americans and Scotch, about 2 per cent; Germans, 15 per cent; Poles, 20 per cent; Bohemians, 20 per cent. The remainder were Lithuanians, Slovaks, a very few Krains, and, among the most recent arrivals, Finns and Greeks, the latter, however, not being appreciable in number. No attention has been paid in this investigation to immigrants having a representation fewer in number than the Lithuanians and Slavonians.
Of these nationalities, excluding the Irish and Germans, which are not here considered as immigrants, the Bohemians are the most progressive, and have the industrial advantage in this, that many of the foremen are Bohemians and give preference to their nationality when taking on new men. There is no apparent surplus of Irish, Germans, Americans, or Bohemians in the labor market of the district affected, the surplus being composed of Poles, Slovaks, and Lithuanians.
Among all the immigrants mentioned, except the Irish and Germans, the clan spirit is at first all-powerful. The Bohemians, while Catholics, are Bohemian Catholics, and the Poles are Polish Catholics. This is even more true of the Lithuanians and the Slavonians, who are the most clannish of all. No doubt difference in language has much to do with this, but it is by no means the most serious feature. Each nationality has not only its own church, but its own school system, the Lithuanian schools making no pretense of teaching English, some of the teachers not being able even to speak it. The Slays and Galicians have not as yet opened schools of their own. While the religion of these different nationalities may be said to be one, the associations are along exclusive nationality lines. They settle or rent properties by districts, and in branching out to occupy more territory one side of the street will first become Lithuanian for a block or so, and then the other side of the street will be occupied by the same nationality. The single men invariably board only in families of their own clan. Language has something to do with this, but really less than might be apparent on first consideration, and less than might seem to be true. When organizing building and loan associations, it is done along strictly clan lines. The Bohemians have four of this class of associations, the Poles three, and the Lithuanians one. The Slavs as yet
have none. There are other clannish distinctions, as Lithuanian Republican clubs, Lithuanian Democratic clubs, Bohemian Socialist clubs, Bohemian Democratic clubs, everywhere and always along the strictest lines of nationality.
It is currently reported that before the organization of the union this condition occasionally threatened riots along clan lines, owing to the fact that foremen showed such preference for men of their own clan. The union was organized by trades and departments, and the officials refused to permit nationality lines to be recognized. In the sheep butchers’union are to be found all the men connected with sheep killing, regardless of nationalities. So severe was the fight made upon this plan by the clan leaders-those who drew emoluments or secured social prestige as leaders of the various strictly clan societies—and so seemingly insurmountable was the objection raised by the Lithuanians to the union that in 1900, when the Lithuanians were first organized, it was permitted in one case to organize a Lithuanian union. The experiment, however, was a signal failure. No subsequent experiments have been permitted.
The unions in the stock yards are controlled by the Irish, ably assisted by the Germans. As a Bohemian or a Pole learns the language and develops, he is elected business agent or other official. In the pork butchers' union, for instance, there are about 1,800 members, 600 of whom are Irish, 600 Germans, 300 Poles, and 300 Lithuanians and Slars. This union recently elected a Pole as president of the local. In their business meetings the motions made, resolutions read, and speeches delivered are usually interpreted in five languages, though in some locals in only three. All business, however, is transacted primarily in English, although any member may speak to any motion in the language he best understands, his words being rendered into English for the minutes of the meetings and into all the languages necessary for the information of members. It is here that the practical utility of learning English is first brought home forcibly to the immigrant. In all other of his associations not only does his own language suffice, but, for reasons that can be well understood, shrewd leaders minimize the importance of learning any other. (The only notable exception to this is the National Polish Alliance, and even here only the Polish lan guage is used. There is no apparent influence exerted, however, to create the impression that the Polish is all-sufficient.)
In his trade union the Slav mixes with the Lithuanian, the German, and the Irish, and this is the only place they do mix until, by virtue of this intercourse and this mixing, clannishness is to a degree destroyed, and a social mixing along other lines comes naturally into play. Not only is the Amalgamated Meat Cutters' Union an Americanizing influence in the stock yards, but for the Poles, Lithuanians, and Slovaks it is the only Americanizing influence, so far as could be determined in this investigation. It is true this Americanizing is being done by the Irish and the Germans, but it is Americanizing nevertheless, and is being done as rapidly as the material to work on will permit, and very well indeed. Again, the reaction is good in its results. The feeling among the Irish against the Dutch and the Polack is rapidly dying out. As the Irish in Chicago express it, “Association together and industrial necessity have shown us that, however it may go against the grain, we must admit that common interests and brotherhood must include the Polack and the Sheeny.” It is also admitted that when the speech of the Lithuanian is translated in the meeting of the trade union the Irish and the German see in it the workings of a fairly good mind. Some of the best suggestions come from Bohemians, and mutual respect takes the place of mutual hatred. L The investigation disclosed the influence of the union in teaching the immigrant the nature of the American form of government. The records of this office, independent of this investigation, show that during an investigation of building and loan associations a few years ago information from the Bohemian, Polish, and other clannish associations of that character could be obtained only through the services of an interpreter. It was found that as soon as a Bohemian or a Pole heard the word “government,” or “government agent,” he closed his mouth, and it was impossible to secure any information.
This has been true in other investigations, notably in collecting family budgets; but with an intelligent interpreter, using their own language, the nature of the work was explained, and no further difficulty experienced. The union is breaking down this trait of character in the foreigners of the nationalities mentioned. This it is doing not as a matter of philanthropy, but from a selfish necessity. The immigrant must be taught that he must stand straight up on his own feet; that the ward politician is dependent on him-on his vote, etc.—and not he on the ward politician. In this way he first learns that he is a part of the Government, and while this is done by indirection, in a large sense, there is no other force that is doing it at all. The Pole, the Bohemian, the Lithuanian, the Slovak, and to a much lesser degree the Galician, have inherited the feeling that somehow government is a thing inimical to their natural development-a power forcing itself upon them from afar; an intrusive power for repression, taxation, punishment only; a thing which they must stand in awe of, obey, pay tribute to, and wish that it had not come among their people, even if they did not secretly hate it-a thing, in short, which ought not to be. Being weaker than it they must be silent in its presence, and if forced to speak, lie, as for them to tell the truth would mean imprisonment or death.
It is not necessary for these things to be true in order that the illiterate peasants should have believed them for generations. Seventyfive per cent of the stock-yards immigrants are of the peasant and agricultural laborer class of Europe, and comparatively few of them