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Full text of "The coal miners' insecurity [microform]; facts about irregularity of employment in the bituminous coal industry in the United States"

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Author: 



Bloch, Louis 



Title: 



The coal miners 
insecurity 

Place: 

New York 

Date: 

1922 



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MASTER NEGATIVE « 



COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY LIBRARIES 
PRESERVATION DIVISION 

BIBLIOGRAPHIC MICROFORM TARGET 



ORIGINAL MATERIAL AS FILMED - EXISTING BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD 



Business 

.264 ' 

1562 



Bloch, Louis. 

... The coal miners' insecurity; facts about irregularity 
of employment in the bituminous coal industry in the 
United States, by Louis Bloch, for the Department of in- 
dustrial studies, Eussell Sage foundation. New York, 
Russell Sage foundation, 1922. 

50 p. diagrs. 23*". ([Russell Sage foundation, New York. Division of 
industrial studies. Pamphlets] IS 7) 

"The basis of this report is a manuscript which was prepared for the 
Russell Sage foundation by Louis Bloch." 



1. Coal-miners — 
the l/nited States. 



Library of Congress 
Copy 2. 



I. Title, ti. Title: Bituminous coal industry in 




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THE COAL MINERS' 
INSECURITY 



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1913 1914 t9K 1916 1917 1918 1919 1920 1921 



THE IRREGULAR PRODUCTION OF SOFT 
COAL IN THE LAST NINE YEARS 



RUSSELL SAGE FOUNDATION 
NEW YORK 



April, 1922 



Price 50 cents 








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THE COAL MINERS' 
INSECURITY 



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FACTS ABOUT IRREGULARITY 

OF EMPLOYMENT IN THE 

BITUMINOUS COAL INDUSTRY 

IN THE UNITED STATES 



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By 
LOUIS BLOCK 

FOR THE DEVA^TMSNf CF INDUSTRIAL STUDIES 
•" • itlJSSElLL ^AGE* FOUNDATION 



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1922 



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PREFACE 

The purpose of this pamphlet^ is to bring together, in small 
compass, dependable data drawn mainly from publications 
issued by state and federal bureaus, which show some of the 
economic facts behind the unrest of the miners in the bituminous 
or soft coal industry. No solution of the problem of human rela- 
tions in this industry, nor any satisfactory wage adjustment, will 
be possible until industrial leadership has proved itself competent 
to give to the men employed a reasonably continuous oppor- 
tunity to work while supplying coal to the country in the quanti- 
ties required. This report does not undertake to suggest the 
methods by which efficiency and stability may be attained in 
bituminous mining, but merely to outline certain vital facts which 
affect the daily working life of the coal miner and explain his 
willingness to strike in defense of his wages. Only by under- 
standing these facts can the public exert its influence toward 
more co-operative human relations in the industry. 

For thirty-two years, from 1890 through 1921, the average 
number of days of operation of the bituminous mines of the coun- 
try has been only 214 a year. The miners, of course, can neither 
work nor earn when the mine is not operating. Meanwhile the 
number of new bituminous mines has steadily increased. Instead 
of digging coal regularly throughout the year in those mines 
already in operation, many more have been opened than were 
required to supply the country's needs, with the result that mines 
and miners are idle for nearly a third of the working days of the 
year. 

The miner has naturally sought rates of pay sufficiently high 
to enable him in his 214 working days to earn enough to maintain 
himself and his family throughout the year. The operator, 
seeking to keep down costs, compares these rates with the hourly 

» The basis of this report is a manuscript which was prepared for the Russell 
bage Foundation by Louis Bloch. Later the diagrams were constructed and 
some additional material supplied by members of the staff of the Foundation. 

3 



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or daily earnings in other industries as evidence that the miner 
is over-paid, but he does not usually take into account the more 
r^ular employment in other occupations. The public, eager for 
lower prices for coal, is not in sympathy with any demand of 
labor which would seem to lead to higher prices. Thus the atten- 
tion of all three groups is fixed upon the wage rate, over which a 
conflict of interests develops, while the irregular operation of the 
bituminous mines, which is the cause of the unfortunate com- 
bination of high rates and low earnings, receives no effective 
consideration. 

Every two years a wage contract is negotiated in the mining 
industry between the United Mine Workers of America and the 
operators, and every two years the public faces the danger of a 
widespread strike if the representatives of miners and operators 
cannot reach an agreement satisfactory to both sides. Yet no 
basis for a permanently satisfactory contract between miners and 
operators in this branch of the coal industry can be attained 
through merely changing the wage rates, while employment con- 
tinues to be intermittent and uncertain. If too many mines are 
in operation and too many miners are scantily employed in them, 
the condition is not one to be improved through periodic contests 
between the operators and the union over rates of wages per ton 
or per day. Over-development can be remedied only by a careful 
plan of regulation to limit the bituminous mines in operation to 
a number which could supply the country's need if reasonably 
full use were made of their capacity. In such a plan there would 
be no permanent conflict of interest, since the public, the operator, 
the investor, and the miner would all profit by a more efficient 
organization of the bituminous coal industry, which would make 
possible more regular employment for the miner, reasonable prices 
to the public, and wise conservation of the country's soft coal 
supply for the future. 

The facts in this report relate solely to the mining of soft 
coal, not anthracite. Instability and irregular operation are 
much less characteristic of the anthracite industry. The natural 
supply of anthracite coal is limited, while bituminous coal de- 
posits are abundant. In the anthracite fields, therefore, over- 
development does not exist as it does in the bituminous areas. 
Increase in the selling prices of soft coal results in the opening of 
more bituminous mines, and once open, deterioration of the 



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property and loss of capital can be prevented only by operation 
of the mine. The number of miners at work under the more favor- 
able conditions of anthracite mining is very much less than the 
number in the disorganized industry of bituminous mining. The 
men in the bituminous coal mines number about 600,000, while 
only 150,000 are at work in the anthracite mines. 

Not the wage rate only but the opportunity to earn wages regu- 
larly is vital to the miner. Not wage rates only but stability 
and efficiency of production affect the public interest. All in- 
dustry pays tax for capitalizing and operating more bituminous 
mines than are required for the country's needs. The improve- 
ment of human relations in industry which the public conscience 
now demands can be attained in the bituminous mines only by 
such thoroughgoing reorganization of the entire industry as will 
stabilize production and make employment regular. 



April 15, 1922 



Mary Van Kleeck 

Director, Department of Industrial Studies 



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... 



TABLE OF CONTENTS 

« , PAGE 

Preface * 

List of Tables ^ .. 1 .!.!.!.!.!]!!! ! 8 

List of Diagrams g 

The Coal Miners' Insecurity jj 

The Country's Use of Soft Coal !!.!.! 12 

The Capacity of the Bituminous Mines 14 

Increase in Mines 17 

Increase in Miners 20 

Intermittent Employment and its Causes 22 

Seasonal Variations 95 

Earnings of Bituminous Miners 32 

Miners' Statistics of Earnings. ! . . 32 

Operators' Statistics of Earnings '37 

Absenteeism ^ 

Earnings in 1921 44 

The Miners' Estimates of Cost of Living 4^^ 

Summary ^7 



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LIST OF TABLES 

NO. PAGE 

1. Mines, tonnage, men employed, and average days of mine operation, 
by classes of mines, Illinois shipping mines, year ended June 30, 1919 ... 15 

2. Average annual production and estimated full year production of bi- 
tuminous coal mines in the United States from 1890 to 1919, by five- 
year periods 18 

3. Number of bituminous coal mines and tonnage produced in the United 
States in 1913 and in 1917, by classes of mines 19 

4. Average and relative number of employes and of days of operation for 
bituminous coal mines in the United States from 1890 to 1919, by five- 
year periods 21 

5. Average and relative number of employes and days of operation for 
bituminous coal mines in Illinois from 1890 to 1919, by five-year periods 2 1 

6. Days lost by the bituminous coal industry each year, 1890 to 1921 22 

7. Bituminous coal produced in the United States in the months of highest 
and lowest production each year from 1913 to 1921 27 

8. Monthly production of bituminous coal by shipping mines of Illinois 
from 1906 to 1913 28 

9. Average annual earnings of miners and average days of mine operation 

in the four districts of the central competitive field, 1913 to 1918 34 

10. Actual earnings and estimated full year earnings of miners in the four 
districts of the central competitive field in 1913 and in 1918 37 

11. Average daily earnings of miners working full opportunity during the 
ten months, January to October, 1919, in selected mines in the fields 
comprising the central competitive field, by fields 39 

12. Advantage taken of full opportunity to work by employes in selected 
bituminous coal mines in the central competitive field in the ten 
months, January to October, 1919 40 

13. Average full-time hours, hours of mine operation, and hours worked by 
miners in selected bituminous mines, in one half-month pay-roll period, 

in 1919 42 

14. Cost of a health and comfort budget for one year for a family of five in 
mining communities at price levels of January, 1920 47 



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LIST OF DIAGRAMS 

^^- . PAGE 

1. Bitummous coal consumed in the United States in 1915, by uses 13 

2. Number of shipping mines in Illinois operating specified number of 
days during the year ended June 30, 1919, by size of mines 16 

3. Miners employed, tonnage produced, and average number of days oper- 
ated by the bituminous coal mines in the United States, 1890 to 1921, by 
years * ^g 

4. Days operated by bituminous coal mines in the United States each year 
from 1890 to 1921 compared with full working year 23 

5. Relative importance of three primary causes of lost time as estimated 
by the United States Geological Survey 23 

6. Monthly production of bituminous coal in the United States. 1913 to 

, »'21 26 

7. Seasonal fluctuation in the production of bituminous coal in Illinois 
mines, 1906 to 1913 3Q 

8. Time worked by miners and time the mines operated compared with full 
time 43 



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THE COAL MINERS' INSECURITY 

"They have opened three mines where only two were 
needed ; they have employed three men where only two 
were necessary. These mines and men can find pro- 
ductive work only during 175 instead of a possible 300 
days in a year . . . 

"This idle time of the miners is not confined to one 
season or period during which they can find employ- 
ment elsewhere. To the contrary, the men are always 
subject to call, for which reason they urge a greater daily 
wage that their annual income may be sufficient for their 
needs. "1 

This statement was made not by coal miners but by their 
employers, the coal operators of the bituminous coal fields. If it 
is accurate, it reveals a perplexing dilemma. A miner is paid 
for the number of tons he sends out of the mine. The men in a 
mine earn no wages on days when the mine is closed. Is it true 
that the miner is given opportunity to work less than three days 
out of five working days? Is this intermittency in work so 
uncertain that he never knows from week to week, or even from 
day to day, how often the whistle will blow to tell the men in 
the camp that the mine will be open for work? If the industry 
must keep too many men "subject to call," can the wage rates 
be made high enough to pay the cost of living for the miner and 
his family the year round? How great a tax does this inter- 
mittency of coal production levy upon the possible earnings of 

Illinois Coal Operators' Association and the Indiana Bituminous Coal 
Operators' Association. A Statement of Facts Concerning the Conditions in 
the Bituminous Coal Industry in the States of Illinois and Indiana. December, 
1914, pp. 2, 6. — This statement was addressed to the President of the United 
States "for his consideration in connection with the appointment of the Federal 
Trades Commission. " In it the operators besought relief from "the conflicting 
regulations of the states and the nation," which, they said, rendered them 
powerless to prevent waste in the industry. " Only the nation, " they declared, 
"can reverse this tendency and provide against it." 

11 






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the miner, upon the pockets of the buyer of coal, and upon the 
profits of investors in the industry? 

To outline the pertinent facts as a basis for discussion is the 
purpose of this pamphlet. The statistics which are available in 
governmental publications show how much soft coal the country 
uses; how rapidly the number of mines in operation has been 
increasing; how many days in the year bituminous coal mines 
are operated ; what causes are responsible for lack of opportunity 
to work; and how employment varies from season to season. 
Concerning the most important of all the facts about employ- 
ment in the industry, — the miner's actualjearnings in a year com- 
pared with what he is capable of earning if he had the opportunity 
to weadtrggularly, — the information is unfortunately very meagre, 
but such statistics as are available will be set forth in later pages. 

The Country's Use of Soft Coal 
"At the present time America requires less than 500,000,000 
tons of bituminous coal a year, while the capacity of the mines 
in operation is over 700,000,000 tons.''^ This comparison of 
needs and capacity for production was made in 1920 by the 
United States Bituminous Coal Commission appointed as the 
means of ending the miners' strike for higher wages which 
occurred in November, 1919. A decidedly larger estimate of 
excess in capacity has been made by F. G. Tryon of the United 
States Geological Survey, a thoroughly competent specialist on 
mining statistics. In December, 1920, in a speech before the 
American Economic Association, he said: "Since 1915, when 
the spot price began to rise sharply in response to the war-time 
demand, there has been an extraordinary increase in capacity. 
In 1915 the annual capacity of the soft coal mines was about 
675,000,000 tons. Today it is certainly 800,000,000 tons, and 
there is evidence pointing to a figure of 900,000,000 tons. The 
increase in five years has therefore been between 125,000,000 
and 225,000,000 tons, or between 19 and 33 per cent. . . . The 
bituminous industry was probably never more heavily over- 
developed than it is today."* 

* United States Bituminous Coal Commission, Majority and Minority Re- 
ports to the President, 1920, p. 26. 

* Tryon, F. G., The Irregular Operation of the Bituminous Coal Industry; 
in American Economic Review, Supplement to Vol. XI, No. 1, March, 1921, 
p. 62. 

12 



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Unlike anthracite coal, which is largely used in households, 
bituminous coal is the fuel of transportation and industry. Dia- 
gram 1 shows how the country's output of bituminous coal is 
consumed. The facts are for the year 1915, which was fairly 
typical of other normal years in the proportionate demands of 
the several industries for soft coal, though the total consumption 
in that year was somewhat less than normal. 

TONS 

Industrial establishments* 159,745,000 

Railroads 122.000.000 

Coke manufacture 61 ,832 ,000 

Household 55,000,000 

Export 18.776,000 




Bunker 

Used at mines 
Gas manufacture 
Total 



11.777,000 |t.T 

9,799,000 I ta 
4.563,000 I 1.0 



443,492.000 



Diagram 1.— Bituminous coal consumed in the United States in 1915, by 

uses^ 
* Includes electric utilities. 

foio^^^?°SV"K^-^^'/^^'^' Administration. Report of the Distribution Division. 1918- 
1919, Part I, Distribution of Coal and Coke, p. 12. »«»«"". x^Ktr- 

The significance of the figures for our discussion is their evi- 
dence of the close connection between the soft coal mines and the 
other industries of the country. The regularity of demand for 
the goods and services of business in general largely determines the 
regularity of operation of the mines. General business depression 
speedily affects the employment of the miners. On the other 
hand, efficiency and economy of management of the bituminous 
mining! industry directly influences primary costs in all other 
businSs. The fact, shown in Diagram 1, that over 77 per cent 
or more than three-fourths of the soft coal purchased in a typical 
year was used by industrial establishments, by railroads and in 
coke ovens, shows how dependent are the soft coal mines upon 
general business conditions. Only 12 per cent was used as house- 
hold fuel and only 1 per cent for gas production.^ While the 

1 Coal used for production of electricity is included in the diagram with that 
used by industrial establishments, because the principal use of electric power is 
for industrial purposes. 

13 



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purchase of soft coal by householders in advance of need, instead 
of waiting until production is at its highest point, would help to 
make employment regular for the miners, it would nevertheless 
affect only 12 per cent of the total output. More important to 
the bituminous mining industry is regularity of purchase by 
manufacturers, railroad companies, and makers of steel. 

The Capacity of the Bituminous Mines 

The largest soft coal fields are found — in order of the amount 
of their production — in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Illinois 
and Ohio, with smaller fields in Kentucky, Indiana, Alabama, 
Colorado and scattered areas in other states.* 

How far their combined capacity for production exceeds the 
needs both of industries and of households for coal has been 
pointed out in the statements, already quoted, of the United 
States Bituminous Coal Commission and of the statistician of 
the Geological Survey, that the bituminous mines actually in 
operation can produce 700,000,000 or more tons a year while the 
nation requires approximately 500,000,000. This over-develop- 
ment is reflected in the spreading of work over too many mines 
and among too many men. 

The facts for Illinois, which is the third largest producing 
state, may be regarded as roughly representative of other large 
bituminous coal fields. The working time in Illinois has aver- 
aged less than in the Appalachian coal regions but the difference 
is merely one of degree. Table 1 shows the amount of coal pro- 
duced, the number of men at work, and the days of employment 
in mines of various sizes in Illinois for the year ended June 30, 1919. 
The table includes data for shipping mines only. These are the 
mines which distribute coal outside the immediate locality. Of 
all the coal produced, a small part is used at the mine for steam 
and heat, a part is made into coke at some mines, and a small 
part is sold locally. The "local" mines produce an inconsider- 
able amount of the total tonnage. 

Table 1 shows that the average number of days of operation of 
all the Illinois shipping mines was only 190 in the year which 
ended on June 30, 1919.* The small mines averaged fewer 

* United States Geological Survey, Coal in 1918, Part A, Production, Insert. 

* The period covered in this table is not the calendar year but the last half 
of 1918 and the first half of 1919. Comparison with the average days of opera- 

14 



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TABLE 1.— MINES, TONNAGE, MEN EMPLOYED, AND AVERAGE 
DAYS OF MINE OPERATION, BY CLASSES OF MINES, ILLINOIS 
SHIPPING MINES, YEAR ENDED JUNE 30, 1919a 





Mines 


Tons produced 


Men employed 


Aver- 


Mines producing 










age 
days 
















Num- 
ber 


Per 

cent 


Number 


Per 
cent 


Num- 
ber 


Per 
cent 


oper- 
ated 


Less than 50,000 
















tons 


91 


24.4 


2,400,238 


3.3 


4,836 


5.5 


169 


50,000 and less 
















than 100,000 
















tons 


60 


16.1 


4,557,564 


6.2 


7,336 


8.3 


180 


100,000 and less 
















than 200,000 
















tons 


93 


24.9 


13,723,060 


18.6 


19,881 


22.6 


195 


200,000 and less 
















than 400,000 
















tons 


78 


20.9 


22,877,039 


31.0 


26,573 


30.2 


205 


400,000 and less 
















than 600,000 
















tons 


33 


8.9 


15,936,120 


21.6 


16,744 


19.1 


201 


600,000 tons and 
















over 


18 


4.8 


14,257,700 


19.3 


12,592 


14.3 


215 


Total 


373 


100.0 


73,751,721 


100.0 


87,962 


100.0 


190 



e* / 9*J?,P'^^ ^j;?™ ^'^^ ^°^ individual mines presented in the Annual Coal Report for 1919 
State of Illinois, Department of Mines and Minerals, pp. 4-9. 

days of operation than the larger ones, and for those producing 
less than 100,000 tons a year the combined contribution to pro- 
duction was 9.5 per cent of the total for the state, while the same 
small mines employed a slightly disproportionate number of 
men, 13.8 per cent of the total. The size of the mine is, however, 
not the controlling factor in production. The thickness of the 
seam of coal, the use of machinery, and other surrounding condi- 
tions are probably more important than the size of the mine, and 
these differences do not appear in the statistics quoted. The im- 
portant point brought out in the table is the wide variation in the 

tion for the country as a whole, which are given for the calendar year, is there- 
fore, impossible. The average days of operation of all bituminous mines in the 

^SVJ^'^^T l^^ '\^^}\^?^ i^^ ^" ^^^^' (S^^ Diagram 4.) In the last half of 
1918 and the first half of 1919, production of bituminous coal fell off greatly as 
compared with the other six months of each of these years. (Diagram 6 ) 
Illinois average of 190 days for the twelve months ending June 30, 1919 there- 
fore, was probably not very different from that of the country as a whole. 

15 



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average number of days of operation of the mines, from 169 to 215 
in the same year for the different groups of mines. 

Even in regularity of operation, however, the size of the mine 
is not the cause of differences. Some small mines work as 
regularly as some of the large producers, and some large mines 
are idle as many days in the year as their smaller competitors. 
This fact is brought out clearly in Diagram 2, which shows the 
days of operation for the same mines for which statistics are 
given in Table 1. 

38 Mines produdns 

Less than 50.000 tons 




50.000 to 100,000 tons fTTTTTl 

100.000 to 200.000 tons g^^ 

.. 200.000 to 400.000 tons m 

■^ 400,000 to 600.000 tons g^ 

Over 600.000 tons ■■ 



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Diagram 2. — Number of shipping mines in Illinois operating specified number 
of days during the year ended June 30, 1919, by size of mines 

In Diagram 2 the variation in the number of days of operation 
in a year is even more startling, since it is not obscured in aver- 
ages. Some mines, both large and small, were open as few as 120 
days in the year, while one was recorded as having "less than 70" 
days of operation. The largest group operated between 190 and 
199 days. Only one mine worked as many as 300 days in the year. 

16 



<: 



h 



^- 



iW 



,. 



4' 



Clearly the supply of coal was obtained from more mines than 
were necessary, operating, therefore, only part of the year. 
Other conditions being equal, fewer mines could have produced 
the 74,000,000 tons of coal in Illinois, had they been operated 
regularly throughout the year. To illustrate this possibility, 
it may be pointed out that the Illinois mines having an annual 
production of 200,000 tons or over in the year 1919, produced 
53,000,000 tons in the twelve months considered in Table 1. 
These mines were operated, on an average, 205 days during that 
year. Had they been operated a full year of 304 days,^ at the 
same rate of production, they could have turned out 79,000,000 
tons of coal, or 5,000,000 tons more than the output of all the 
mines together. In other words, if the same rate of production 
had continued for 304 days, the state's output of coal in that year 
could have been secured from about 35 per cent of the mines with 
steady work for 64 per cent of the miners/^hus, the facts seem 
to show that insecurity of employment for the miner of bitumin- 
ous coal results from the operation of more mines and the employ- 
ment of more miners, than the industry can reasonably support.^ 

Increase in Mines 

That the bituminous coal industry has grown steadily during 
the three decades since 1890, and also that unemployment of the 
miners during a large part of the working year has been a con- 
stant feature of the industry, is shown in Table 2. Diagram 3 
shows the increase in number of miners, as well as in the tonnage 
produced and the days of operation year by year since 1890. 

Table 2 shows that the average annual output of coal during 
the five-year period ending with 1919 was in round numbers 
507,000,000 tons. This output of coal was accomplished in an 
average of 224 working days. If a working year of 304 days had 

1 We shall assume that 304 working days is a fair standard of measurement 
?i o® "i*'"™"™ possible working year for the operation of a mine, allowing for 
52 Sundays and 9 holidays out of the 365 days in the calendar year. The 
absenteeism of individual workmen, such as accidents or illness, would reduce 
further the reasonable expectation of days of employment for the miner. 
Moreover, conditions inevitably affecting an industry like bituminous coal 
would make it unreasonable to expect that this maximum number of days of 
operation would be an easily attainable standard. We are concerned here 
with the possible number of days of operation of the mines as a standard of 
measurement of regularity of operation of the industry rather than with the 
average days of employment which may reasonably be expected for the individ- 
ual miner, or a reasonable expectation of practice for the mine. 

17 



\ 



i 



I 

I MA 
HI 

if 



.1 



TABLE 2.--AVERAGE ANNUAL PRODUCTION AND ESTIMATED 
FULL YEAR PRODUCTION OF BITUMINOUS COAL MINES IN 
THE UNITED STATES FROM 1890 TO 1919, BY FIVE-YEAR 
PERIODS^ 



Period 


Average 
tons pro- 
duced per 
year 


Aver- 
age 
days 
oper- 
ated 
per 
year 


Average 

tons per 

day 


Possible ton- 
nage at same 
rate per full 
year of 304 
working 
days 


Excess of full year 
over average an- 
nual production 




Tons 


Per 
cent 


1890-1894 
1895-1899 
1900-1904 
1905-1909 
1910-1914 
1915-1919 


120,653,153 
156,058,560 
251,954,028 
353,002,993 
434,852,490 
506,876,698 


211 
205 
223 
213 
216 
224 


571,816 
761,€61 
1,129,839 
1,657,291 
2,013,206 
2,262,842 


173,832,064 
231,423,344 
343,471,056 
503,816,464 
612,014,624 
687,903,968 


53,178,911 

75,364,784 

91,517,028 

150,813,471 

177,162,134 

181,027,270 


44 
48 
36 
43 
41 
36 



• Data for production and average days of operation for each year from United States 
Geological Survey, Coal in 1918, Part A, Production, pp. 711, 717; and subsequent publications 
of United States Geological Survey. 



600 












^ 




500 






(ft] 


or 


\M)j 


• 




n 


1 


400 






/ 




Ia 


/ V 


\ 


300 


• 




A 


M 


fon 
■uiioa*} 






200 


X' 


--_r/> 


A 


DftTS 

AH 


fo^^gp 


^ 


V 


100 


V 


:y 










\ 




















1890 



1895 



1900 



1905 



1910 



1915 



1920 



1925 



Diagram 3. — Miners employed, tonnage produced, and average number of 
days operated by the bituminous coal mines in the United States, 1890 to 
1921, by years 

18 



/- 



-'\ 



i~ 



• w 



t 



been maintained the average annual production at the same 
daily rate would have been about 688,000,000 tons, an excess of 
181 ,000,000 tons, or 36 per cent. This excess of capacity over pro- 
duction represents a surplus of many thousand men employed in 
the industry. For instance, in 1918, when the average output per 
miner was high, 942 tons was the average amount of coal pro- 
duced per man,i and at that rate it would take about 192,000 mine 
workers to mine the 181,000,000 tons, which was the difference 
between actual and full-time production in 1919. 

The increase in demand for coal has not resulted in the more 
regular operation of mines already open. New mines have been 
opened and more men employed, while the number of working 

TABLE 3.— NUMBER OF BITUMINOUS COAL MINES AND TON- 
NAGE PRODUCED IN THE UNITED STATES IN 1913 AND IN 
1917, BY CLASSES OF MINES* 





Mines 


Tons produced 


Mines 


1913 


1917 


1913 


1917 


producing 












Num- 
ber 


Per 
cent 


Num- 
ber 


Per 
cent 


Number 


Per 
cent 


Number 


Per 
cent 


Less than 
















10,000 


















tons 
10,000 and 


1,728 


29.9 


2,193 


31.7 


6,280,271 


1.3 


8,824,023 


1.6 


less than 


















50,000 


















tons 
50,000 and 
less than 


1,558 


27.0 


1,966 


28.5 


42,292,052 


8.9 


51,596,000 


9.4 


















100,000 


















tons 
100,000 and 


959 


16.6 


1,044 


15.1 


69,018,483 


14.4 


74,894,269 


13.6 


less than 


















200,000 


















tons 
200,000 tons 


837 


14.5 


914 


13.2 


118,475,544 


24.8 


129,485,524 


23.5 


and over 


694 


12.0 


792 


11.5 


241,463,241 


50.6 


285,365,741 


51.9 


Total 


5,776 


100.0 


6,909 


100.0 


477,529,591 


100.0 


550,165,557 


100.0 



loialS?? &°^t"^^*'*k^*?^^^ ?"^' Administration, Report of the DistribuUon Division. 
1918-1919, Part I, Distribution of Coal and Coke, p. 19. 

» United States Geological Survey, Coal in 1918, Part A, Production, p. 717. 

19 



V 



^ 



<A 



rl 



days has shown no appreciable increase. Diagram 3 shows the 
dead level of days of operation while total tonnage and the num- 
ber of miners have both grown steadily larger. 

Moreover, as Table 3 shows, the small mines increased in num- 
bers in the period between 1913 and 1917 more rapidly than the 
large ones, — a fact which makes more complicated the problem 
of stabilizing the industry, since regulation of small, scattered 
and unstable operations is difficult. Table 3 shows the changes 
between 1913 and 1917 in the number of mines and in the total 
production of coal in mines of different sizes. In these facts for 
the period through 1917, the full effect of our participation in 
the war was not yet evident. 

Table 3 shows that in 1917 the mines in the United States 
numbered 6,909, which was an increase of 1,133 mines or 20 per 
cent over 1913. In 1917 the smaller mines were more numerous, 
in proportion to large ones, than in 1913, when the number pro- 
ducing on the average less than 50,000 tons annually was 3,286, 
or 57 per cent of all mines. By 1917 this number had increased 
to 4,159, or 60 per cent of the bituminous mines of the country, 
but these 60 per cent produced only 11 per cent of the total ton- 
nage. In 1917 the mines with an output of 100,000 tons or 
more constituted 25 per cent of all the mines but produced 75 
per cent of the total output of coal, while the other 75 per cent 
of the mines together produced only 25 per cent of the coal. 

Increase in Miners 

That the increase in mines has been accompanied by an in- 
crease in miners, rather than by more regular employment for 
those already in the industry, is clearly indicated again in the 
following table. Table 4 shows how the number of employes in 
the bituminous industry has increased and how the days of opera- 
tion have varied since 1890. As in Table 2, the figures are given in 
five-year periods and the average number of days of mine opera- 
tion is brought forward from that table. 

The number of employes in the industry has increased since 
the five years ending with 1894 from 217,000 (in round numbers) 
to 592,000 or 173 per cent. All through those five-year periods 
from 1890 to 1919, the average number of days of mine operation, 
or, expressed in terms of the miners* interest, the opportunity 
for employment, has remained depressingly low, the averages for 

20 



/- 






• 




> 



iA 



TABLE 4.— AVERAGE AND RELATIVE NUMBER OF EMPLOYES 
AND OF DAYS OF OPERATION FOR BITUMINOUS COAL MINES 
IN THE UNITED STATES FROM 1890 TO 1919, BY FIVE-YEAR 
PERIODS* 



Period 


Employes 


Days of operation 


Average 


Relative 


Average 


Relative 


1890-1894 
1895-1899 
1900-1904 
1905-1909 
1910-1914 
1915-1919 


217,174 

251,739 

373,655 

492,144b 

561,866 

591,801 


100 
116 
172 
227 
259 
273 


211 
205 
223 
213 
216 
224 


100 
97 
106 
101 
102 
106 



• Data from United States Geological Survey, Coal in 1918, Part A, Production, p. 71 7, and 
subsequent publications. v, 

*» Average for four years. Data for 1909 lacking. 

the five-year periods varying from 205 to 224 days in the year. 
Again the facts show work spread thin over the year and covering 
not much more than two-thirds of it. Although a slight increase 
is shown in the number of days of operation during the period 
from 1915 to 1919 as compared with 1890 to 1894, the year 1921 
has shown the greatest loss of working time of any year in the 
last three decades. 

These figures are for the country as a whole. In Illinois, as 
Table 5 shows, the opportunity to work has actually decreased 
while the number of men employed has more than doubled. 

TABLE 5.— AVERAGE AND RELATIVE NUMBER OF EMPLOYES 
AND DAYS OF OPERATION FOR BITUMINOUS COAL MINES 
IN ILLINOIS FROM 1890 TO 1919, BY FIVE-YEAR PERIODS* 





Employes 


Days of operation 


Period 








Average 


Relative 


Average 


Relative 


1890-1894 


33,610 


100 


186 


100 


1895-1899 


36.251 


108 


173 


93 


1900-1904 


46,825 


139 


182 


98 


1905-1909 


66,400 


198 


178 


96 


1910-1914 


78,197 


233 


166 


89 


1915-1919 


82,937 


247 


169 


91 



* Data from State of Illinois, Department of Mines and Minerals. Annual Coal Report. 
1919, p. 100. 



N, 




TIB 



%. 



From an average of 186 days of operation of the mines in the 
five years from 1890 through 1894, the opportunity to work and 
to earn fell in these mines to 169 in the five years from 1915 
through 1919, while in that period the number of miners increased 
from 33,610 to 82,937. The increased demand for labor has not 
lengthened the excessively short working year. 

Intermittent Employment and its Causes 
The data given in several tables thus far in the discussion have 
covered long periods in order the better to show broad tendencies 
as measured in total capacity for production, numbers employed, 
and the regularity of operation of mines. These statistics have 
obscured the fluctuations within shorter periods which reveal the 
influence of general business depression, and of seasonal variation 
in demand. 

Table 6 shows the number of days lost by the bituminous 
mining industry throughout the country each year since 1890, 
and Diagram 4 shows in graphic form the days of mine operation 
each year.^ 

TABLE 6.— DAYS LOST BY THE BITUMINOUS COAL INDUSTRY 

EACH YEAR, 1890 TO 1921a 



Year 


Days lost 


Year 


Days lost 


Year 


Days lost 


1890 


78 


1901 


79 


1912 


81 


1891 


71 


1902 


74 


1913 


72 


1892 


85 


1903 


79 


/1914 


109 


/1 893 


100 


C1904 


102 


; 1915 


101 


11894 


133 


1905 


93 


1916 


74 


/l895 


110 


1906 


91 


1917 


61 


1 1896 


112 


1907 


70 


1918 


55 


^^4897 


108 


C1908 


111 


(-1919 
\l920 


109 


1898 


93 


1909 


89 


84b 


1899 


70 


1910 


87 


1921 


134b 


1900 


70 


1911 


93 


• • 


• m 



• Based on figures of the United States Geological Survey for average days of mine operation, 
assuming a full year of 304 days. The figures from which Table 6 has been derived are those 
for average days of mine operation, of which use has already been made in Tables 4 and 5 and 
in Diagram 3. The days lost were ascertained by subtracting the days of operation from the 
standard of a full operating year which we have adopted, that is, 304 days. 

*» Based on preliminary figure for days operated. 



* In Diagram 4 the average days of operation each year are illustrated by 
the upright columns, and the distance between the tops of these columns and 
the "full year" line at the top of the diagram represents the number of idle 
days. Both in the diagram and in Table 6 the recurring business depressions 
of the last three decades stand out conspicuously. 

22 



< 



I 



i 



Days 



Full Tear 



^ 



^ - 



^ 



1^ 




Diagram 4. — Days operated by bituminous coal mines in the United States 
each year from 1890 to 1921 compared with full working year 

The statisticians of the Geological Survey have estimated the 
relative importance of the various causes of the loss of time in the 
decades from 1890 to 1919. They found three principal factors 
and measured their comparative influence as shown in graphic 
form in Diagram 5. 

Per cent of Total Days Lost 



Through business depression 



Through over-development 



Through seasonal demand 



H 




Diagram 5. — Relative importance of three primary causes of lost time as 
estimated by the United States Geological Survey 

23 



I ! 



ml 



General business depression, as Diagram 5 shows, is estimated 
as accountable for 16 per cent of the loss of time in the operation 
of the mines. Over-development accounts for 37 per cent, and 
seasonal fluctuation for 47 per cent, of the lost days. The effects 
of general depression are evident in Table 6 in the large number of 
idle days in the years from 1893 to 1897, in 1904, 1908, 1914, 1915, 
1919 and 1921. Obviously the remedies for this cause of idleness 
lie largely outside the coal industry. 

"Only a sixth of the time lost in the past thirty years has been 
due to this cause, however," said Mr. Tryon of the Geological 
Survey, commenting upon these statistics. "If the maximum 
effect possible is allowed for these secular fluctations there is still a 
residue of lost time — on the average 78 days* per year — ^which 
must be due to other factors."* This residue, as shown in Dia- 
gram 5, which is based on Mr. Tryon 's estimate, he would attrib- 
ute to over-development and seasonal variations. Over-devel- 
opment has been discussed in the preceding pages. Seasonal 
fluctuations, according to the Geological Survey, account for an 
even larger loss of time. 

The reader may be surprised to find in this analysis no reference 
to "railroad car shortage," or to strikes as causes of idleness, 
since these are named frequently in the public press as the chief 
troubles of both operator and miner. In an article in the Survey 
Graphic,' two members of the statistical staff of the Geological 
Survey, explain why they do not regard car shortage and strikes 
as primary causes of the miners' "broken year." 

"Losses due to strikes," they say, "are spectacular when they 
occur, and in the last 20 years have mounted up to the enormous 
loss of 125,000,000 man-days.* But the time lost on account of 
strikes is only 10 per cent of the total time lost, and it may be 
questioned whether much more coal would have been produced 
in the aggregate during that 20 year period if there had been no 

^ Mr. Tryon 's standard of "a theoretical full year" is 308 days, and it is 
with this number in mind that he states the average annual loss of time as 93 
days, of which 15 are the result of business depression. 

* Tryon, F. G., Irregular Operation of the Bituminous Coal Industry; in the 
American Economic Review, Supplement to Vol. XI, No. 1, March, 1921, p. 58. 

* Tryon, F. G., and McKenny, W. F., The Broken Year of the Bituminous 
Miner, "published by permission of the director, United States Geological 
Survey," Survey Graphic, March 25, 1922, p. 1012. 

* "Includes strikes in the anthracite region which account for 33,000,000 
man-days. " 

24 



< 



4 






vk 



Strikes. ... More commonly strikes have been discounted 
in advance by accumulating large reserves of storage coal. . . . 
In terms of man-days lost because of strikes, the year 1910 was 
the record. Yet it also set a new record of production, and the 
average sales realization f. o. b. mine — the best index of prices, 
all things considered — did not differ greatly from that of the year 
before nor of the year immediately after. Strikes and labor dis- 
turbances, therefore, like car shortage, must be classed as second- 
ary rather than primary causes of non-operation." 

Of car shortage they say: "No doubt we need more cars, but 
simply increasing transportation facilities will not mend the 
broken year of the coal miner. . . . More cars . . . 
will not sell more coal. They will merely affect the distribution 
of working time through the year, tending to increase it in the 
periods of peak demand, and to make it still less than now in 
periods of low demand. Car shortages have occurred not in- 
frequently; but it is a curious fact that rarely have they curtailed 
the actual consumption of coal. For the most part their effect 
has been to limit the quantity of coal which could be produced 
in the fall and winter, thereby forcing some consumers to pur- 
chase earlier in the year." Thus in the opinion of these experts 
car shortage is merely a secondary cause of lost time in the coal 
industry, and actually tends to limit extreme fluctuations in 
seasonal production. 

Seasonal Variations 

We have noted that, in the estimates of the United States 
Geological Survey, the seasonal demand for coal is the cause of 
the largest proportion of loss in working time. Records of 
monthly output, which are available for the country as a whole 
from the year 1913, will serve to indicate the extent of the fluc- 
tuations month by month through the years. Diagram 6 pictures 
these variations in the period from 1913 through 1921. 

Both seasonal and annual variations are shown in Diagram 6. 
In seven of the nine years included in the diagram the tendency of 
production to fall to relatively low levels in the spring and sum- 
mer is clearly shown. It is to be recalled, however, that this is 
not an entirely normal period because it includes the war years. 
The war demand buoyed up production during the summers of 
1917 and 1918, and the fluctuations in those years were much less 

25 






/ 



< .■ 



violent than in the so-called "normal years" before the war or 
in the period since the armistice. Table 7 shows the variations 
in production between the months of highest and lowest output 
during the same period which is included in Diagram 6. 



Million 
tons 

60 



55 



50 



45 



40 



35 



30 



25 



20 



15 



10 




f 



4t 



1913 



1914 



1915 



1916 



1917 



1918 



1919 



1920 



1921 



Diagram 6. — Monthly production of bituminous coal in the United States, 

1913 to 1921 

The month of October, it will be observed, appears five times 
in Table 7 as the highest production month, while the month of 
April appears five times as the month of lowest production dur- 
ing the nine years from 1913 to 1921. In 1917 and 1918 there 
was continuous demand for coal due to war production and the 
normal seasonal fluctuation was largely obscured. The rela- 
tively low output of coal in December, 1918, followed the signing 

26 



of the armistice in November and was also the effect of an in- 
fluenza epidemic; while the extremely low production in Novem- 
ber, 1919, was due to a wide-spread strike. With these excep- 
tions, however, the figures presented in this table may be read as 
depicting a tendency to produce coal in largest quantities in the 
fall, while low production is characteristic of the spring. The 
fluctuations between the extremes in output in fall and spring 
are wide. For instance, in the year 1915, over 16,000,000 more 
tons were produced in December than in February, and in 1920 
and 1921 the output in October was 37 per cent higher than in the 
preceding April. A wide variation like that between March and 
April, 1914, or between October and November, 1919, appears 
to be due to the stimulated demand for coal in anticipation of a 
strike in connection with the discussion of a new wage agreement 
in union mines. This cause of fluctuations will be discussed more 
fully later. 

TABLE 7.— BITUMINOUS COAL PRODUCED IN THE UNITED 
STATES IN THE MONTHS OF HIGHEST AND LOWEST PRO- 
DUCTION EACH YEAR FROM 1913 TO 1921a 





Highest month 


Lowest month 


Excess of highest 
over lowest 


Year 


Month 


Tons pro- 
duced (in 
thousands) 


Month 


Tons pro- 
duced (in 
thousands) 


Tons (in 
thousands) 


Per 
cent 


1913 
1914 
1915 
1916 
1917 
1918 
1919 
1920 
1921 


October 

March 

December 

January 

October 

August 

October 

October 

October 


46,164 
45,455 
45,814 
46,593 
48,337 
55,114 
56,243 
52,144 
43,733 


April 

April 

February 

April 

February 

December 

November 

April 

April 


34,169 

23,609 

29,321 

33,628 

41,353 

40,184 

18,688b 

37,939 

27,553 


11,995 
21,846 
16,493 
12,965 
6,954 
14,930 
37,555 
14,205 
16,180 


35 
93 
56 
39 
17 
37 
201 
37 
37 



• Data from the United States Geological Survey. 

*• Low production in November. 1919, was due to the general strike in the bituminous 
industry in that month. 

While monthly figures for the entire United States are avail- 
able only since 1913, a longer record of monthly figures can be 
secured for Illinois mines. The data for the eight years from 1906 
to 1913 inclusive are significant because all the abnormal condi- 

27 



I 



4 

I 

I 



tions of the period of the war and afterward are excluded. It is true 
that Illinois is an extreme illustration of seasonal variations in the 
bituminous fields. Most of the eastern districts show some sea- 
sonal rhythm but the range from high to low is less marked than in 
the Mississippi valley and the peak does not always come in the 
same month. Illinois is also affected, as are its neighboring states, 
by the fact already noted that the most violent extremes occur 
just before and after the dates of expiration of the biennial wage 
agreements, which normally occur on April 1st in the "even 
years." The sequence was interrupted during the war. Table 8 
shows the comparative output in the mines of Illinois each month 
in each of the years from 1906 to 1913, when seasonal fluctuations 
were unaffected by war production. 

TABLE 8.— MONTHLY PRODUCTION OF BITUMINOUS COAL BY 
SHIPPING MINES OF ILLINOIS FROM 1906 TO 1913* 



Month 


1906 


1907 


1908 


1909 


1910 


1911 


1912 


1913 


Average 




Amount in Thousands of Tons 


January 

February 

March 

April 

May 

June 

July 

August 

September 

October 

November 

December 


4.289 
4.336 
5,378 
392 
659 
2.556 
2,884 
3,245 
3.479 
4.283 
4.344 
4.613 


4.852 
4.255 
3,731 
3,572 
3.785 
3.394 
3.545 
4.113 
4.223 
5.279 
5.098 
4.837 


4.408 
4.567 
6,055 
1.401 
2.082 
3.463 
2.978 
3.809 
4.299 
5.020 
4.523 
4.748 


4.641 
4.108 
4.149 
3,470 
3.146 
3.067 
3.304 
^.739 
t.413 
5.235 
5.219 
5.243 


5.722 
5.552 
7.026 
24 
110 
1.637 
1.770 
2.414 
3.580 
5.451 
5.877 
5.769 


5,038 
3,957 
4,209 
3,671 
3,549 
3.474 
3.688 
4.449 
4.583 
4.293 
5,«00 
5,810 


6,005 
6,435 
7.836 
43 
2.890 
3.365 
3.914 
4.857 
4,944 
6.318 
6.125 
6.370 


6,020 
4.941 
4.965 
4.263 
3.924 
3.875 
4.347 
4.692 
5.360 
6.358 
6.152 
5.862 


5.122 
4.769 
5,419 
2.104 
2.518 
3.104 
3.304 
3.915 
4.360 
5.280 
5.380 
5.406 


Total 


40.458 


50.684 


47.353 


49.734 


44,932 


52,421 


59,102 


60.759 


50.681 




Per cent of Annual Production 


January 

February 

March 

April 

May 

June 

July 

August 

September 

October 

November 

December 


10.6 

10.7 

13.3 

1.0 

1.6 

6.3 

7.1 

8.0 

8.6 

10.6 

10.8 

11.4 


9.6 
8.4 
7.4 
7.0 
7.5 
6.7 
7.0 
8.1 
8.3 
10.4 
10.1 
9.5 


9.3 
9.6 

12.8 
3.0 
4.4 
7.3 
6.3 
8.0 
9.1 

10.6 
9.6 

10.0 


9.3 

8.3 

8.3 

7.0 

6.3 

6.2 

6.7 

7.5 

8.9 

10.5 

10.5 

10.5 


12.7 

12.4 

15.6 

.1 

.3 

3.6 

3.9 

5.4 

8.0 

12.1 

13.1 

12.8 


9.6 
7.6 
8.0 
7.0 
6.8 
6.6 
7.0 
8.5 
8.7 
8.2 
10.9 
11.1 


10.1 

10.9 

13.2 

.1 

4.9 

5.7 

6.6 

8.2 

8.4 

10.7 

10.4 

10.8 


9.9 
^8.1 
8.2 
7.0 
6.5 
6.4 
7.2 
7.7 
8.8 
10.5 
10.1 
9.6 


10.1 

9.4 

10.7 

4.2 

5.0 

6.1 

6.5 

7.7 

8.6 

10.4 

10.6 

10.7 


Total 


100.0 


100.0 


100.0 


100.0 


100.0 


100.0 


100.0 


100.0 


100.0 



• Data from State of Illinois. State Mining 
Minerals). Annual Coal Reports. 1906 to 1914. 

28 



Board (now Department of Mines and 



V 



4i 



I 



Table 8 shows that in Illinois production and employment are 
concentrated in the winter months. The average annual pro- 
duction of bituminous coal in Illinois in the eight years covered 
in Table 8 was, in round numbers, 50,681,000 net tons. Over 
three-fifths of this tonnage, namely, 62 per cent, was produced in 
the six months of January, February, March, October, Novem- 
ber and December; while the remaining 38 per cent was taken 
out of the mines in the slacker months of April, May, June, July, 
August and September. Inevitably for the miner this means 
lost, or reduced, opportunities to earn during the year. The 
mines in Illinois were equipped with men and machinery for an 
average maximum production of nearly five and a half million 
tons in the busy fall and winter month, while their average 
monthly production was a little less than four and a quarter 
million, and the average in the month of least demand, April, 
was little more than two million. 

To attribute all of this difference between the extremes in 
March and April to seasonal variations in the demand for coal, 
however, would not be accurate. It ignores the effect of the 
biennial wage adjustment, to which reference has already been 
made. In Diagram 7 two sets of facts are shown for comparison : 
(1) the average monthly production in the entire period, as al- 
ready given in Table 8; and (2) the average monthly production 
in the four alternating years when wage adjustments were not due. 

Comparison of the^averages in the odd and even years shows 
that in the "even" years of biennial negotiation the swing up or 
down from average production is much greater than in the "odd" 
years, when seasonal demand is not accentuated by forced buying 
in anticipation of a strike. With revision of wages expected on 
April first every other year, the abnormal buying of coal forces up 
production in March and earlier, while output is correspondingly 
decreased in April and May, even though no strike occurs.^ The 
lower portion of the diagram which eliminates this disturbing 
factor may be said to picture accurately the seasonal variations. 



* In a statement issued for the newspapers by the Bureau of the Census of 
the Federal Department of Commerce on March 23, 1922, appears this para- 
graph : "Coal production continued to increase during the second month of the 
year. Even with the smaller number of working days the output of bitum- 
inous coal was 3,000,000 tons greater than in January. This increase was in 
response to the demand for consumers' stocks in case of prolonged labor diffi- 
culties." 

29 



'V 



■u> 




f 




s. 



4 



Jan. Feb. March April May June July Aug. Sept. Oct. Nov. Dec 

Average Monthly Production in Per Cent of Totel Annual Production in Eight Years. 

1906 to 191 J • 




_, March AiMril 

Average Monthly Production in Per Cent of Total Annual Production ''^/.^^^"^'^^^* 
1M7. 1909. 1911. and 1913. in which the Biennial Wage Adjustment did not Occur 

Diajrram 7.— Seasonal fluctuation in the production of bituminous coal in 

Illinois mines, 1906 to 1913 
30 



Seasonal variations in the coal industry and the remedies for 
them have been discussed frequently by engineers and official 
commissions. These comprise such measures as storage at the 
place of use to make purchases feasible in advance of need, and 
lower freight rates from the mines during months of least con- 
sumption in order to encourage buying. Seasonal variations 
constitute a major cause of irregular employment. The increased 
demand in winter tends to keep more men in the industry than 
would be needed if the work were more evenly distributed 
throughout the year. This excess in numbers of men employed 
tends in turn to make employment irregular and uncertain, re- 
gardless of variations in market demands. It is important to 
realize that increased storage facilities, reduced transportation 
rates during the slack months, and other means of eliminating sea- 
sonal fluctuations, desirable as these improvements are, would not 
wholly regularize the operation of the coal industry. From esti- 
mates of the Geological Survey already quoted it is shown that 
seasonal fluctuations are responsible for 47 in every 100 days of 
idleness in the mines during a year, but 37 in every 100 are lost 
through what the Geological Survey calls "sheer over-develop- 
ment." These estimates are more or less speculative, because the 
three big problems of seasonal demand, over-development, and 
recurrent business depressions are so related to one another that 
the effect of each on the industry cannot be accurately deter- 
mined. It is safe to conclude, however, that the soft coal industry 
is functioning irregularly, and that its instability causes unem- 
ployment and uncertainty for the men who earn their living in 
digging coal. 

Instability affects also the efficiency of the coal business and 
tends to raise the price of coal and hence the cost of all articles 
dependent upon coal for manufacture or transportation. So little 
information is available, however, on the various factors entering 
into the price of coal that it is possible only to suggest, but not to 
demonstrate the effect of instability in bituminous coal mining 
upon business in general. That the coal miner and his wife and 
children are the first to feel the effects of this irregular functioning 
of the industry needs no elaborate proof, despite the fact that 
data on earnings are as meagre as are many other relevant facts 
about the coal industry. 



31 



V 



Earnings of Bituminous Miners 
Facts about miners' earnings, and the suflFering which unem- 
ployment causes, can be understood only if conditions of life 
in a mining camp are known. In many mining communities 
the mine is the only place of employment. To find another job 
in dull periods means moving to another town. Moreover, a 
miner's family lacks the economic safeguards of life in a com- 
munity with several varied industries, in which other members 
of the family, including wife and daughters, find work to help to 
secure the necessary income. However desirable, or undesirable, 
the employment of women and young girls outside the home may 
seem to the public, it is still the means of maintaining the 
households of many wage-earners, when dependence upon the 
insecure employment of one bread-winner in a seasonal indus- 
try becomes too hazardous. For many coal miners, this resource 
is lacking. The industry necessarily becomes responsible for 
insuring sufficient income to the men in the mines to maintain 
their families throughout the year. This fact must never be 
forgotten when comparisons are made between the rates paid in 
mining and those in other industries. 

What, then, are the earnings of miners in the bituminous coal 
industry, and what effect has the irregular operation of the indus- 
try upon the miner's annual income? 

Available facts concerning actual earnings are incomplete. The 
Geological Survey collects data on production, but does not 
include wage statistics in its reports. Special inquiries into 
wages have been made from time to time by the Bureau of Labor 
Statistics, but these have been limited to comparatively few 
mines and have not covered a period as long as a year. 



< 



Miners' Statistics of Earnings 

Information concerning annual earnings was presented to the 
President's Bituminous Coal Commission in 1920 by the organiza- 
tion of the miners, the United Mine Workers of America. These 
facts related to the union scale of wages as agreed upon in con- 
tracts between the United Mine Workers and the operators' 
associations in the unionized central competitive field, which 
includes the states of Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and the western part 
of Pennsylvania. Non-union mines were not included. As the 
material was compiled before the increase in wages which fol- 

32 



'\fi 



'S. 



lowed the award of the Bituminous Coal Commission, it does not 
show the earnings under the wage scale in effect from 1920 to 
1922 and similar data are not available for this period.^ The 
main point in which we are interested, however, is the effect of 
instability and irregularity of employment upon the miners* 
earnings, and for light on this point a comparison of actual and 
possible earnings in the years from 1913 to 1918 is as useful as if 
it covered the most recent period. 

The wage data presented to the Bituminous Coal Commission 
by the United Mine Workers of America^ were based on the 
amounts paid as dues to the organization by its members in the 
bituminous mines. Through the offices of the coal companies by 
the so-called "check-off" system, the local unions of the miners in 
the various districts collect from their members a percentage of 
their gross earnings for the support of the national organization. 
This assessment affords a basis for calculating the annual average 
gross earnings of the miners. Out of his gross earnings the miner 
must pay for powder, and for certain other expenses in connection 
with his work. The actual contents of his pay envelope are, there- 
fore, less than the gross earnings upon which the union dues are 
calculated. 

Table 9 shows annual earnings as computed by the United 
Mine Workers from assessments and size of membership in each 
of the four districts constituting the central competitive field, and 
also the average number of days of mine operation in these 
districts as given by the Geological Survey for the six years from 
1913 through 1918. 

The average annual earnings for the period of six years in 
Western Pennsylvania, where they were highest, were only $988. 
In the war year of 1918, when the days of operation were at a 
maximum of 260,' the average earnings in that district were 



* In a forthcoming report of the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, 
data on earnings in this period will appear, but they are not available as this 
manuscript goes to press. 

' The same data were presented to the Senate Committee on Manufactures 
in the hearings on the Caider coal regulation bill, in testimony by William 
Green, Secretary-Treasurer of the United Mine Workers of America. His 
testimony has been published by the union in a pamphlet, — Statement of 
William Green, International Secretary-Treasurer, United Mine Workers of 
America, to the Senate Committee on Manufactures, January 24, 1921. 

* The reason for the larger number of days of operation in Western Pennsyl- 
vania, not only in the war period but in every year considered in Table 9, in com- 

33 



vm*^ 



$1,583. Indiana miners came next in that year with an average of 
$1,5 16, while in Illinois the men averaged $1,390 and in Ohio $1,364. 

TABLE 9.— AVERAGE ANNUAL EARNINGS OF MINERS AND AVER- 
AGE DAYS OF MINE OPERATION IN THE FOUR DISTRICTS 
OF THE CENTRAL COMPETITIVE FIELD, 1913 TO 1918 





Western 
Pennsylvania 


Illinois 


Indiana 


Ohio 


Year 


Aver- 


Aver- 


Aver- 


Aver- 


Aver- 


Aver- 


Aver- 


Aver- 




age 


age 


age 


age 


age 


age 


age 


age 




annual 


days 


annual 


days 


annual 


days 


annual 


days 




earn- 


oper- 


earn- 


oper- 


earn- 


oper- 


earn- 


oper- 




ings 


ated 


ings 


ated 


ings 


ated 


ings 


ated 


1913 


$867 


237 


$705 


189 


$708 


190 


$766 


206 


1914 


776 


207 


650 


173 


630 


168 


405 


108 » 


1915 


781 


210 


672 


179 


672 


179 


528 


142 


1916 


895 


229 


775 


198 


732 


187 


771 


197 


1917 


1,027 


251 


995 


243 


904 


221 


859 


210 


1918 


1,583 


260 


1,390 


228 


1,516 


249 


1,364 


224 


Average 


$988 


232 


$865 


201 


$860 


199 


$782 


181 



i 



* Low number of days operated in Ohio in 1914 is partly explained by the strike in Ohio 
mines in that year. 

The average annual earnings varied from state to state with 
differences in the number of days of mine operation. The simple 
average for the six years was lowest in Ohio, $782 with 181 days 
of operation, as compared with Indiana's $860 and 199 days, 
Illinois' $865 and 201 days, and the maximum of $988 and 232 
days in Western Pennsylvania. 

Differences from year to year in days of operation are also re- 
flected directly in differences in earnings. In the period covered in 
Table 9, the miners of the central competitive field received in- 
creases in their rates of pay in 1914, 1916, and twice in 1917. In 
spite of the increase in rates in 1914, the average wages were 
lower in 1914 and in 1915 than they had been in 1913. This was 
evidently because the days of mine operation decreased in 1914 
and 1915 owing to the business depression in those years. The 

parison with other states, is probably the wider market for coal of this district, 
which includes Canada, New England, and the entire Atlantic seaboard, as well 
as the iron, steel and other industries of Pennsylvania. 

34 



i 



\. 



V 



significant point is that the average annual income of miners, like 
that of wage-earners in other irregular industries, is reduced by 
lack of opportunity for employment, and irregularity of work may 
more than nullify increases in rates of pay. This should not be 
understood to mean that increases in rates of pay are unimportant 
to the miner, or that he can be indifferent to decreases. Quite the 
contrary is true. The fact that he works so much less than full 
time is his justification for seeking higher rates. 

Aside from the effect of irregular employment upon earnings, 
which Table 9 has been used to indicate, the facts are important 
as showing actual annual income. To be sure they are averages, 
and they are compiled by one side in the wage controversy, the 
miners. How closely they correspond to the operators' figures 
will be shown later. Meanwhile it is interesting to compare them 
with data for 1919 derived from the United States Census. These 
are for the same states, except that the census figures are for the 
whole of Pennsylvania and not merely the western district. In 
1919, according to these calculations, the average earnings of the 
miners in Pennsylvania was $1,318 and the days of operation 218; 
in Illinois $1,110 in 160 days; in Indiana $1,062 in 148 days; and 
in Ohio $1,102 in 164 days.i 

These earnings are distinctly lower for each state than those 
given by the union for 1918. The year 1918 was more prosper- 
ous for the miner than 1919, because he had more days of work 
and this would account mainly for the differences. Certainly it 
does not appear that the union understated the miners* earnings 
in order to make a case for an increase. The data both from the 
union and from the United States Census give no evidence of high 
annual earnings, even in Western Pennsylvania, where the earn- 
ings were highest.^ 

In order to picture the effect upon income of the loss of so many 
working days, which characterizes the industry, the facts about 

» Fourteenth Census of the United States, Mines and Quarries, 1919, Bulle- 
tins for Pennsylvania, pp. 16 and 17; Ohio, pp. 6 and 7; Indiana, pp. 10 and 11; 
Illinois, pp. 14 and 15. The average earnings were ascertained by dividing the 
total wages paid in the year by the average number of wage-earners in 10 months, 
January to October, 1919. This avoided the months affected by the strike, 
November and December, 1919, when the number employed was not normal. 
The data on days of operation were supplied by the Geological Survey. 

' Earnings are affected by conditions in the mines, such as thickness of the 
seam of coal, efficiency of machinery, availability of mine cars, etc. To 
some degree conditionsare equalized by the differentials in rates which are agreed 
upon in applying the general wage scale to a particular district. 

35 



<^ tv 



. Iji 1 



V ' 'f 



^Il 



average annual earnings in Table 9 are used as the basis for esti- 
mating the difference between the income which the miners 
actually earned and that which they would have received had 
they worked 304 days, losing no time because of the failure of the 
mine to operate. It should be pointed out that since Table 9 shows 
the average earnings, which were actually received by the miners, 
allowance is already made in those averages for all causes of lost 
working time, whether due to the idleness of the mine or to the 
absence of the miner from work for illness or other personal rea- 
sons. These averages include the earnings of men who were not 
employed regularly every day when the mine was in operation. 
In every wage-earning group days are lost through sickness, 
through change of job from one place of employment to another, 
or through other personal causes. The days of employment shown 
in Table 9 were not days worked by the men but days when the 
mines were open for work. How many days of work these miners 
in the central competitive field actually put in, we do not know, 
but the amount which the men individually failed to earn through 
not working every day when coal was coming over the tipple is 
already discounted in the averages of actual earnings. If then, 
from these statistics of the wages actually received by the men in 
the specified days of mine operation, the possible earnings be esti- 
mated for a full-time working year of 304 days, the difference be- 
tween actual and possible earnings represents fairly though roughly 
the tax upon the miners* income made solely by the idleness of 
the mine. 

The result of this estimate of possible full-time earnings as 
shown in Table 10 should be regarded merely as a viv\d picture of 
what irregular employment means in reduced earnings. It has 
all the weakness of trying to prophesy what might happen if con- 
ditions of employment were radically different. Actually, greater 
stability might produce even more startling possibilities in in- 
creased output for the miner, or wage rates might be decreased 
without any disadvantage to the miner provided his opportunity 
for employment were substantially increased and made more 
certain. Thus Table 10 becomes a measure of present waste 
rather than a prophecy of a future possibility. 

According to Table 10, the miners in Illinois earned in the year 
1913 only 62 per cent of the amount which would have been possi- 
ble had they dug as much coal per day in 304 days as they dug in 

36 



V 



the 189 days when the mines were open. They actually averaged 
about $705 in annual earnings. At the same rates of pay and with 
the same regularity on their part, with full-time operation of the 
mines, they might have averaged $1,134. The difference was 
$429 in the year. In Western Pennsylvania, where the mines 
were open for work the largest number of days in the year, 237 in 
1913, the estimated difference for each man was $246. In 1918, 
which was the year of maximum production during the war, the 
days of mine operation were decidedly higher than in 1913. 

TABLE 10.— ACTUAL EARNINGS AND ESTIMATED FULL YEAR 
EARNINGS OF MINERS IN THE FOUR DISTRICTS OF THE 
CENTRAL COMPETITIVE FIELD IN 1913 AND IN 1918 



District 



Average 

annual 

earnings 



Days of 

mine 
operation 



Average 
earnings 
per day 
of mine 
operation 



Possible 

earnings 

at this 

rate in 

304 days 



Difference 

between 

actual 

and full 

year 
earnings 



Per cent 
actual 

earnings 
are of 

full year 

earnings 



1913 



Illinois 
Indiana 


$705 
708 


189 
190 


$3.73 
3.73 


$1,134 
1,134 


$429 
426 


62 
62 


Ohio 


766 


206 


3.72 


1,131 


365 


68 


Western Pa. 


867 


237 


3.66 


1,113 


246 


78 



Illinois 
Indiana 
Ohio 
Western Pa. 




1918 








$6.10 


$1,854 


$464 


75 


6.09 


1,851 


335 


82 


6.09 


1,851 


487 


74 


6.09 


1,851 


268 


86 



Nevertheless, though higher basic rates and more regular work 
resulted in higher average earnings in 1918 than in 1913, the days 
of operation were still considerably less than a full working year, 
and the actual earnings were less than the estimated possible 
earnings for 304 days by $268 per miner in Western Pennsylvania, 
$335 in Indiana, $464 in Illinois, and $487 in Ohio. The estimated 
possible annual earnings in 1918 were $1,854 in Illinois and $1,851 
in each of the other districts. 

Operators* Statistics of Earnings 
The National Coal Association, on behalf of the operators, 
submitted to the President's Bituminous Coal Commission data 

37 



1 1 



li 



il 



/ 



^l 



regarding the earnings of miners in certain selected mines in the 
ten months from January to October, 1919. These mines were 
located in the same districts, the central competitive field, for 
which the statistics of the union were given though they were not 
for the same year. The operators stated that many of the men 
did not take full advantage of the opportunity to work while the 
mines were open and that this voluntary idleness accounted for 
low earnings. In their statistical tables they classified the earn- 
ings separately for several groups, according to the regularity of 
their attendance at work on days when the mines were operating. 
The number of calendar days each mine loaded coal was taken as 
" 100 per cent opportunity for labor to work." A certain pro- 
portion of the men in each occupation were recorded as "working 
more days than the mine loaded coal," which means that these 
men worked in the mine every day of mine operation and also on 
days when coal was not being hauled out. 

The operators' figures were for daily and monthly earnings, 
classified to show the " percentage of full opportunity " which each 
group worked. We have compiled from the tables, which the 
operators submitted, figures showing the earnings of those men 
only who worked "more days than the mine loaded coal." The 
average daily earnings of this group were closely similar to those 
of the group "working from 75 to 100 per cent of full oppor- 
tunity," but they were distinctly higher than the daily earnings of 
the men who worked less regularly during the time that the mines 
were operating. We have used in Table 11 the average earnings 
of the group working at least all the days the mines were open, 
because their wages presumably show the maximum opportunity 
for earnings offered to the men by these mines in 1919. 

According to the table, the machine miners, who are relatively 
few in number, had the highest earnings and they averaged daily 
$7.07 in these fields. The hand miners averaged $6.34 daily, the 
loaders $5.99 and the day laborers inside the mine $5.13. The 
highest average in any field included in the table for machine 
miners working "full opportunity" was $8.72 a day and the low- 
est, $5.32. Hand miners averaged $7.28 daily in the best field, 
and $4.90 in the field of lowest average earnings. 

The union's figures showed a daily average for all occupations 
in 1918 of $6.09 in three states and $6.10 in the fourth. The 
operators did not give a general average for all occupations but 

38 



the range of their averages for the four groups of "inside" mine 
employes in 1 1 sub-divisions of the central competitive field was 
from $4.86 to $8.72 for those groups only who worked the full 
time that the mines were open. The resemblance between the 
operators* figures and the daily averages obtained in Table 10 
from the union data is sufficiently close to indicate that the union 
did not underestimate the annual earnings. In making this com- 
parison of daily earnings in 1918 and 1919 it should be recalled 
that the wage rates remained the same during those two years. 

TABLE 11.— AVERAGE DAILY EARNINGS OF MINERS WORKING 
FULL OPPORTUNITY DURING THE TEN MONTHS, JANUARY 
TO OCTOBER, 1919, IN SELECTED MINES IN THE FIELDS 
COMPRISING THE CENTRAL COMPETITIVE FIELD, BY 
FIELDS » 



Field 


Number 
of 


Hand 


Loaders 


Machine 

■ 


Inside 
day 




mines 


miners 




mmers 


labor 


Pittsburgh Thick Vein 


7 


$7.15 


$5.77 


$8.04 


$5.21 


Pittsburgh Thin Vein 


14 


6.02 


5.90 


6.80 


5.23 


Eastern Ohio 


18 


6.06 


5.55 


6.15 


5.22 


Southern Ohio 


32 


7.28 


5.95 


7.04 


5.04 


Indiana 


23 


7.20 


6.93 


7.47 


5.21 


Southern Illinois 


15 


• • 


7.14 


7.88 


5.37 


Southern Springfield 


9 


6.53 


6.62 


7.60 


5.04 


Northern Springfield 


9 


5.54 


5.56 


5.32 


5.05 


Fulton-Peoria 


6 


6.23 


5.41 


8.72 


5.01 


Northern Illinois 


4 


4.90 


4.86 


6.40 


4.89 


Fifth and Ninth Districts, 111. 

• 


13 


6.46 


6.22 


6.36 


5.18 


Average 11 fields 


• • 


$6.34 


$5.99 


$7.07 


$5.13 


Highest field 


• • 


7.28 


7.14 


8.72 


5.37 


Lowest field 


• • 


4.90 


4.86 


5.32 


4.89 



Annual earnings at these rates in 249 days, the average number 
of days bituminous mines in the United States operated in 1918 



Average 11 fields 
Highest field 
Lowest field 



• • 


$1579 


$1492 


$1760 


■ • 


1813 


1778 


2171 


• • 


1220 


1210 


1325 



$1277 
1337 
1218 



• Compiled from tables furnished by the Bureau of Coal Economics. National Coal Associa- 
tion, showing average daily earnings as reported by the operators of selected mines in each field, 
by occupations, and by percentage of full opportunity worked. The number of days each mine 
operated is counted as full opportunity. 

The operators made no statement of annual earnings. If their 
daily averages be multiplied by the average days of mine opera- 

39 



^ A V 



tion in 1918/ as is done at the bottom of Table 11, the resulting 
range of average annual earnings is from a maximum of $2,171 for 
the most regularly employed of the machine miners in the field of 
highest earnings to $1,210 for the loaders in the field of lowest 
earnings; while the average in all fields is $1,579 for hand miners 
and $1,492 for loaders. 

Absenteeism 
The chief difference in the testimony regarding earnings 
offered by operators and union officials to the President's Bitu- 
minous Coal Commission was that the operators stressed the 
effect of voluntary idleness of the miner, which they contended 
was the chief reason for low earnings. We have already noted 
that in their statistics of earnings the operators classified the daily 
wages according to the time which the miners worked in pro- 
portion to the days the mines were open. Table 12 shows the 

TABLE 12.— ADVANTAGE TAKEN OF FULL OPPORTUNITY TO 
WORK BY EMPLOYES IN SELECTED BITUMINOUS COAL 
MINES IN THE CENTRAL COMPETITIVE FIELD IN THE TEN 
MONTHS. JANUARY TO OCTOBER, 1919 





Average number of men working specified portion 
of days the mines loaded coal each month 




Less 
than 25 
per cent 


25 to 49 
per cent 


50 to 74 
per cent 


75 to 100 
per cent 


More 
than 100 
per cent 


Total 


Miners 
Company men 


1,650 
1,158 


2,989 
1,126 


3,457 
1,005 


16,808 
4,329 


1,677 
7,030 


26,581 
14,648 



Per cent 



Miners 
Company men 



6.2 

7.9 


11.3 
7.7 


13.0 
6.9 


63.2 
29.5 


6.3 

48.0 



100.0 
100.0 



proportion of miners and of "company men" who worked the 
various percentages of "full opportunity," according to the 
operators' reports. Miners here include only the men who dig 
coal, — the hand and machine miners and the loaders. " Company 
men" are the other groups of mine employes who are paid at 
daily or monthly rates. 

* The year 1918 is used in order to make possible comparison with the figures 
given by the union for that year. 

40 






V 



Thus, the group who worked more days than the mines loaded 
coal, and for whom the statistics of earnings have already been 
given, constituted 6.3 per cent of the miners, but nearly half of 
the company men. The largest group of miners worked 75 to 100 
per cent of the days that the mines were open. 

A special inquiry would be necessary to analyze the causes of 
absenteeism. The Bituminous Coal Commission in its final re- 
port to the President pointed out a weakness in these figures of 
the operators, and made the following comment upon them : 

"The contention of the operators has been that the miners 
do not make full use of the opportunities for labor afforded 
them and that those of the miners who work at least three- 
fourths of the available time earn sufficient wages. In support 
of this contention the operators submitted figures collected 
from a representative number of mines showing the number 
of men working each specified number of days, with their 
daily and monthly wages. 

"We realize that a certain proportion of time is lost by the 
miners voluntarily. At the same time, we find that the 
figures submitted by the operators do not afford a measure 
of the amount of time so lost by the miners, for the reason 
that these figures make no allowance for the turnover. In 
these tabulations every man who worked at a mine at any 
time during the month is counted on the same basis as one 
who was on the roll every day the mine was in operation, 
regardless of the fact that many miners may have obtained 
employment on the last day of the month or been discharged 
at the end of the first day or moved to another mine in the 
middle of the month or died some time during the period. 

"A man who worked 13 days out of a possible 26 at one 
mine and 13 at another would be counted in these figures as 
two men with an aggregate voluntary absenteeism of 26 
days or 50 per cent of the 52 working-days for the two 
mines."^ 

The report then goes on to discuss the psychological causes of 
absenteeism : 

"But even after allowance has been made for all the factors 



* United States Bituminous Coal Commission, Majority and Minority Re- 
ports to the President, 1920, p. 44. 

41 



*c? 



entering into the problem a margin remains between the 
number of days that the miners actually work and the num- 
ber when they have an opportunity to work. A fair inter- 
pretation of this margin is that an irregular industry breeds 
irregular habits among the workers. When the men are not 
accustomed to going to work regularly every morning the 
incentive for regularity becomes less potent and a certain 
amount of absenteeism inevitably results. This is the psy- 
chological factor of irregularity, and it may be expected that 
it will disappear in large measure as the industry becomes 
more stable."* 
These statements of the Commission can be supplemented by 
the results of a special investigation made in 1919 by the U. S. 
Bureau of Labor Statistics. Careful records were kept of the 
actual hours of labor of the men in the mines investigated. The 
proportions of full time worked by the mines and by the men 
are shown in Table 13 and pictured in Diagram 8. 

TABLE 13.— AVERAGE FULL-TIME HOURS. HOURS OF MINE 
OPERATION. AND HOURS WORKED BY MINERS IN SELECTED 
BITUMINOUS MINES, IN ONE HALF-MONTH PAY-ROLL 
PERIOD. IN 1919 a 



month pay-roll period, and the result constituted "full-time 
hours" in the period considered.^ 





Average 

full-time 

hours 


Average 
hours of 

mine 
operation 


Average 

hours 

miners 

worked 


Hours lost by 
miners out of 


Occupation 


Full 
time 


Actual 

time 

mines 

operated 


Hand miners 
Machine miners 
Loaders 


102.5 
104.3 
104.7 


71.1 
77.9 
81.2 


60.0 
73.2 
65.3 


42.5 
31.1 
39.4 


11.1 

4.7 

15.9 



• Data from Wagea and Hours of Labor in the Coal Mining Industry in 1919, United 
states Bureau of Labor Statistics. Monthly Labor Review, December, 1919, p. 223. 

In making the inquiry the Bureau of Labor Statistics defined 
"full time" as "the number of hours which are regarded by 
employer and employe as constituting a day's work." This 
was multiplied by the number of days constituting the full half- 

» United States Bituminous Coal Commission, Majority and Minority Re- 
ports to the President, 1920, p. 45. 

42 



1^ 






Per Cent of Full Time 
Miners Mines 
worked operated Full time 



Hand miners 



Machine miners 




Loaders 



Diagram 8. — Time worked by miners and time the mines operated com- 
pared with full time 

The significant facts of the table are summed up as follows in 
the report of the Bureau of Labor Statistics*: 

"From the figures given ... the immediate re- 
sponsibility for idle time may be roughly apportioned be- 
tween the management and the employes. Thus, the aver- 
age full-time hours of all mines in which hand miners were 
found were 102.5 for the half month. Hand miners actually 
worked an average of 60 hours. The difference, 42.5 hours, 
was the amount of lost time on the part of the hand miners. 
But of these 42.5 idle hour^ there were on the average 31.4 
hours during which the mines were not in operation. For 
that amount of idleness, therefore, the operators were im- 
mediately responsible.' The remaining 11.1 hours of idle- 
ness represent the time during which the mines were in 
operation and opportunity for work was given of which the 
employes failed to take advantage. For that much idleness, 
therefore, the miners were immediately responsible. 

1 United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. Monthly Labor Review. 
December, 1919, p. 210. 

» Ibid., p. 224. 

' Presumably this statement is a broad and general one, merely indicating 
that the individual miner could not be charged with voluntary idleness when 
the mine was shut down. Of course, there are reasons for the failure to operate 
a mine,-;-shortage of railroad transportation, or "no market," or physical con- 
ditions m the mme (fire or flood, for instance), or sometimes a strike,— for 
which It is not fair to hold the operator "immediately responsible." But in 
relation to the point at issue, namely, voluntary absenteeism of miners, the 
distinction is clear between operators ' responsibility and miners' responsibility 
for time lost. 

43 






t; 



r^ 



"For all machine miners combined the figures show 
average hours of idleness 31.1, of which the operators were 
responsible for 26.4 hours and the miners for 4.7 hours. 
The corresponding figures for loaders are 39.4, 23.5, and 
15.9, respectively." 

Earnings in 1921 

The award of the President's Bituminous Coal Commission 
resulted in increases of 27 per cent, on a general average, in ton- 
nage rates, and a dollar a day for day workers or so-called "com- 
pany men." In August, 1920, the operators granted an addi- 
tional $1.50 a day to company men, making the standard rate for 
them $7.50. These increases in rates would have increased the 
annual earnings of miners had employment continued to be no 
more irregular than in the past. No thoroughgoing inquiry into 
earnings in bituminous mines has been made since these increases 
took effect,^ and we can estimate only very generally how the 
miner has fared. 

As has been shown in Diagram 4, the year 1920 was better than 

1919, with 220 days of employment as compared with 195 in 1919. 
This greater regularity with higher rates of pay doubtless brought 
the miner a higher income in 1920 than in 1918 or 1919. The 
year 1921, however, was the worst in 30 years, with only 170 days 
of employment (if the preliminary estimate of the Geological 
Survey remains unchanged). Thus the average days of mine 
operation decreased about 23 per cent in 1921 as compared with 

1920, and 32 per cent as compared with 1918 with its 249 days 
of operation, so that the earnings in 1921 could hardly have 
averaged as high as in 1918, even with the higher rates in 1921. 

Further light on irregular operation in 1921 and early in 
1922 is given by an analysis of the working time in bituminous 
mines made by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics from 

» See footnote, p. 33, for reference to an investigation by the U. S. Bureau of 
Labor Statistics which is not yet published. In reply to our request for 
recent data the National Coal Association wrote that "the National Coal 
Association has not collected any wa^ statistics of bituminous coal mine 
workers since the award of the Bituminous Coal Commission m 1919. In 
some states estimates have been made by officials of state bureaus but these are 
not satisfactory because they represent no analysis of pay-rolls. The Illinois 
Coal Operators' Association has recently begun the periodical collection of 
data on employment from its members and reference will be made to these 
in the text. We have been unable to discover any information concerning 
earnings in non-union districts. 

44 



data furnished by the Geological Survey for each week from 
October, 1921, to February, 1922.^ In no week of that period 
did more than 10.7 per cent of the mines give employment for 48 
hours or more. The number of mines reporting ranged from 2,086 
to 2,584. In only two weeks in that period did more than 20 
per cent of the mines work more than 40 hours a week and the 
maximum group working more than 40 hours in any week was 
only 25.1 per cent of the whole number. The Bureau says of 
these figures: "The number of mines reporting varied each week, 
and the figures are not given as being a complete representation of 
all mines, but are believed to fairly represent the conditions as to 
irregularity of work in the bituminous mines of the country." 

The Illinois Coal Operators' Association has been issuing statis- 
tical tables for bi-weekly periods since the autumn of 1921. Of 
those which its secretary furnished us, from October 16, 1921, 
through January 15, 1922 (with one missing for the two weeks 
ending November 30), none covered more than 29 per cent of the 
mines of Illinois. Full data for wages are not presented; all 
miners earning less than $50 in the two weeks' period are omitted 
from consideration and the tables give the average earnings only 
of those earning $50 or more in two weeks, together with the per- 
centage which they constitute of the whole force. The average 
earnings in two weeks of these employes are reported as $92.76 
for the two weeks ending October 31, 1921; $86.85 for Novem- 
ber 15; $82.46 for December 15; $80.81 for December 31; and 
$79.36 for January 15, 1922. These appear to be gross earnings, 
from which must be deducted the amounts payable for powder, 
small tools, and other "occupational charges." These average 
charges are stated. This higher paid group is recorded as con- 
stituting a varying percentage of the total employes, from 91.3 
per cent on October 31, 1921, to 59.5 per cent on December 15. 
The Association intends to publish fuller details, but in their pres- 
ent form the data do not include in the picture the group with 
lower earnings which in one of the two-week periods included 40 
out of each 100 miners. Their earnings would depress the aver- 
age. Moreover, the data do not yet cover a period long enough to 
show the effects of irregular employment in a year. The Associa- 
tion in its publications is emphasizing " the excess number of men 

» Data of U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to be published in the Monthly 
Labor Review for April, 1922. 

45 



detained in the industry," and the fact that this results in lower 
average earnings than if the number were less.^ 

The United Mine Workers have no comprehensive figures on 
earnings since 1918, but data have been given by W. Jett Lauck, 
from information supplied by the United Mine Workers for the 
men actually employed in a few districts. According to these 
figures, the average earnings during the year 1921 were only $763 
in the Pittsburgh district; $550 in the Ohio district; $500 in West 
Virginia (New River) ; and $420 in Tennessee.* 

The Miners' Estimates of Cost of Living 

These facts about annual earnings are significant only if they 
are measured in terms of the cost of living. In the hearings be- 
fore the Bituminous Coal Commission the miners* representatives 
gave two estimates of the cost of living, one for a so-called "mini- 
mum of subsistence, ** and the other for a "minimum of comfort. " 
For the minimum of subsistence an annual income of $1,603 was 
estimated as necessary, in January, 1920. This was to cover 
barest living necessities for a family of five. The detailed items of 
this budget were not published, but the total estimate was based 
on a number of earlier investigations in industrial centers revised 
to cover subsequent changes in retail prices. The "minimum of 
comfort" budget, which was estimated with a view to the needs 
of families living in mining communities, called for an annual 
income of $2,244. This latter estimate was prepared by Professor 
W. F. Ogbum of Columbia University, at the request of the 
United Mine Workers. Table 14 shows the principal items of this 

budget. 

This budget is simply an estimate. Moreover, it was prepared 
at a time of higher prices than the present. The cost of living in 
mining communities is one of the many import;^ant subjects con- 
nected with human relations in this industry about which exact 
facts are not available. The estimate made by Professor Og- 
bum serves, however, to illuminate the effects of irregular opera- 
tion of the mines upon the lives of the miners. The miners 
might earn a reasonably comfortable living if they could work the 

»See, for instance, the pamphlet, ♦'Coal, a Few Thin^ the Public >yants to 
Know," issued by the Illinois Coal Operators' Association. (Undated.) 

•Signed article, by W. Jett Lauck. with head-line. "Says Miners Wish 
More Work, Not Less and Must Get It," in Baltimore Sun, March 23. 1922. 

46 



year round. The lack of opportunity to work so many days in a 
year reduces their income to what the miners contend is often 
not even a bare subsistence. 

TABLE 14.— COST OF A HEALTH AND COMFORT BUDGET FOR 
ONE YEAR FOR A FAMILY OF FIVE IN MINING COMMUNI- 
TIES AT PRICE LEVELS OF JANUARY, 1920- 

?^hi„g *^''' 

Husband $146.81 

Wife 130.92 

Boy (11 yrs.) 77.40 

Girl (5 yrs.) 66.13 

Boy (2 yrs.) 34.00 455.26 

Housing, fuel, and light 286.00 

Miscellaneous ; 576.30 

Total $2,118.94 

Average saving on garden and chickens 15.00 

0^ 

IT 1 • vu. $2,103.94 

£.xplosives. smithing, etc 140.00 

Total $2,243.94 

» Prepared by W. F. Ogburn and presented by the United Mine Workers of America in 
their report. The Case of the Bituminous Coal Mine Workers, to the Bituminous Coal Commis- 
sion m 1920. 

In brief, the alternative to raising rates of pay is to increase the 
regularity of the opportunity for work at the present rates. The 
miner might well ask for a guaranteed minimum of employment 
as more important than higher rates of pay. The necessity for 
regarding a minimum of employment as a fixed charge upon the 
industry would probably make operators more reluctant to open 
new mines or unduly to enlarge those already open. To make 
employment regular is important not only for the miner, but for 
the economical conduct of the industry. Capital, as well as men, 
is wastefully used when money and energy are invested on a scale 
which could produce much more coal than can be sold. 

Summary 

1. The capacity of the bituminous mines to produce coal has 
been conservatively estimated as 700,000,000 or 800,000,000 tons a 
year compared with actual requirements of about 500,000,000 tons. 

2. The bituminous coal mines have operated on an average of 
only 214 days a year in the 32 years from 1890 through 1921. If 

47 



J 



• f 



If 



ll 



Ki 



I 



I!. 



I,i 



I 



we accept 304 days as a full working year, the lost days of employ- 
ment in bituminous mines have averaged 90 in a year. 

3 Of these lost days 37 per cent, according to the estimates ot 
the United States Geological Survey, have been due to the over- 
development of the industry. The short working year has con- 
tinued through times of prosperity. The excess of capacity over 
production in the bituminous coal mines makes employment 
intermittent for miners even when business in general is most 

''T'rhrproduction of coal has increased from 120.600,000 tons 
per year in the five-year period from 1890 through 1894 to nearly 
507,000,000 tons a year from 1915 through 1919. The number of 
employes has increased from an average of less than 200,000 in 
1890 to about 600,000 in 1921. The days of employment in a 
year have shown no appreciable increase except temporarily dur- 
ing the period of the war. The increased demand for coal has 
resulted in opening new mines and employing more miners rather 
than in giving more regular employment in the mines already 

*"1!*Sonal variations, according to the United States Geolog- 
ical Survey, account for 47 per cent of the lost days in bituminous 
coal mining. In the period from 1913 through 1921 the «cc^ ^^ 
production of coal in the month of greatest output over thatof the 
month of least output in each year varied usually f«'";11^.0«> 
to 16,000,000 tons or more and was never less than 6,900,000 tons. 
These seasonal variations result in keeping more men m the in- 
dustry than would be needed if work were more evenly distributed 
throughout the year. This excess in numbers of men employed m 
the industry tends in turn to make employment more irregular 

and uncertain. . v uv 

6 With employment intermittent and uncertam, the bitumin- 
ous miners are forced to seek higher rates of wages to offset the 
periods of idleness and lack of earnings. The mme workers re 
ported to the Bituminous Coal Commission that m 1918 which 
was a year of unusual regularity of employment owing to the war 
demands, the average annual earnings of their members in the 
central competitive field varied from $1,364 m Ohio to a ma^- 
mum of $1,583 in Western Pennsylvania. Data derived from the 
United States Census indicate that in 1919 the ^;^^'^^^^;^^^^^ 
earnings of the miners in the same area varied from $1,062 in 

48 



V 



Indiana to a maximum of $1,318 in Pennsylvania. Estimates of 
annual earnings derived from average daily earnings reported by 
the National Coal Association to the President's Bituminous Coal 
Commission indicate that the average annual earnings in the 
central competitive field for men working the full time of mine 
operation were about $1,277 for inside day labor, $1,492 for load- 
ers, $1,579 for hand miners and $1,760 for machine miners. The 
general average increase of 27 per cent granted by the Bituminous 
Coal Commission would have increased these earnings had em- 
ployment continued to be no more irregular than in the past. 
Even in the comparatively prosperous year of 1920, however, 
employment was 12 per cent less than in 1918, while in 1921 
employment decreased 23 per cent as compared with 1920, and 
32 per cent as compared with 1918. This shows that opportunity 
for employment as measured by the number of days the mines 
are operated is of primary importance to the miner, since irregular 
employment nullifies the advantage of increased rates of pay. 

7. Estimates of the cost of living, prepared for the United Mine 
Workers, and presented by them to the Bituminous Coal Com- 
mission, showed that in January, 1920, $1,603 was required for a 
budget to provide a "minimum of subsistence*' for a family of 
five. The cost of providing a " minimum of health and comfort " 
for families living in mining communities was estimated as re- 
quiring an annual income of $2,244. Even in the prosperous year 
of 1918 the miners' average annual earnings were not equal to 
the "minimum of subsistence," except for the annual income 
of a comparatively small group of machine miners employed 
"full opportunity," as estimated from the operators* figures, and 
their earnings were neariy $500 less in a year than the miners' 
"minimum of comfort" budget. An allowance for a decrease 
in the cost of living and an increase in the miners' rates of pay 
probably would not cover the difference between a reasonable 
budget and the annual income of the miner in his short working 
year. 

8. Present conditions in the bituminous coal industry render 
precarious and difficult the lives of more than half a million miners 
and their wives and children. The adjustment of wage rates is 
sure to produce conflict and bitterness until the equally impor- 
tant questions of stability for the industry and security of employ- 
ment for the miner receive effective attention from operators and 

49 




JJ^^AA^ 



public. Greater security in employment must be made the foun- 
dation of better human relations in this industry. 

Wasteful over-development is a problem of organization ot 
the industry as a whole in which either the operators or the pub- 
lic must take the initiative. The cost of living of everybody .s 
increased by disorganization in the basic industry of coal. The 
public, the operator and the investor, and the coal ™ner have 
a common interest in making bituminous mmmg efficient and 
, economical. 



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