Frank Albert Fetter.

Source book in economics, selected and ed. for the use of college classes online

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fested but a small degree of permanent interest in their em-
ployment or in the industry. They have constituted a mobile,
migratory, and disturbing wage-earning class, constrained
mainly by their economic interest, and moving readily from
place to place according to changes in working conditions or
fluctuations in the demand for labor. This condition of affairs
is made possible by the fact that so large a proportion of the
recent immigrant employees are single men, or married men
whose wives are abroad, and by the additional fact that the
prevailing method of living among immigrant workmen is
such as to enable them to detach themselves from an occupa-
tion or a locality w^henever they may wish. Their accumula-
tions also are in the form of cash or are quickly convertible
into cash. In brief, the recent immigrant has no property
or other constraining interests wliieh attach him to a com-
munity, and the larger proportion are free to follow tlie best
industrial inducements.

This characteristic has both a good and a bad influence.


It creates a certain flexibility in the labor supply, and to
a certain extent brings about an exodus from the country in
times of depression and curtailment of employment. It also
causes an increased pressure and competition within the coun-
try. Probably the bad effect of this characteristic is greater
than the good, all things considered.

Tractability of the immigrant. . . . The members of the
larger number of races of recent entrance to the mines, mills
and factories have been tractable and easily managed. This
quality seems to be a temperamental one, acquired through
past conditions of life in their native lands. In the normal
life of the mines, mills and factories, the southern and east-
ern Europeans have exhibited a pronounced tendency toward
being easily managed by employers and toward being imposed
upon without protest, which has created the impression of
subserviency. This characteristic, while strong, is confined,
however, to the immigrant wage-earners of comparatively short
residence in this country, and results from their lack of
training or experience abroad, and from the difference be-
tween their standards and aspirations and those of older im-
migrant employees and native American industrial workers.

If the characteristics of the recent immigrant labor supply
to the United States, as outlined above, be carefully borne
in mind, the conditions which have been produced by its
employment may be quickly realized.

Effect upon the use of machinery. . . . The lack of skill
and industrial training of the recent immigrant to the United
States has stimulated the invention of mechanical methods and
processes which might be conducted by unskilled industrial
workers as a substitute for the skilled operatives formerly
required. This condition of affairs obviously must have been
true, or the expansion of American industry within recent
years would not have been possible. A large number of
illustrations of this tendency might be cited. Probably three
of the best, however, are the automatic looms and the ring spin-
dles in the cotton-goods manufacturing industry, the bottle-


blowing and casting machines in bottle and other glass factor-
ies, and the machines for mining coal.

Change of the form of industrial organization. Another,
but more minor, general industrial effect of the employment
of the southern and eastern Europeans is observable in the
increase in the number of subforemen in many industries.
This situation arises principally from the fact that the recent
immigrants are usually of non-English-speaking races, and
therefore require a larger amount of supervision than the
native Americans and older immigrants from the United
Kingdom and northern Europe. The function of the subor-
dinate foremen is chiefly that of an interpreter.

As regards other changes in industrial organization and
methods, probably the most important effect observable is
seen in the creation of a number of special occupations, the
incumbents of which perform all the dangerous or responsible
work which before the employment of southern and eastern
Europeans was distributed over the entire operating force.
The best example of this tendency is to be found in the
newly developed occupation of "shot-firer" in bituminous
and anthracite coal mines. The mine worker in this occu-
pation prepares and discharges the blasts or shots for bring-
ing down the coal. Until within recent years each miner did
his own blasting, but with the employment of the untrained
southern and eastern Europeans in the mines, it was soon
found that the safety of the operating forces and the main-
tenance of the quality of the output required that blasting
should be done by experienced native American or older
immigrant employees. . . .

Working conditions. The lack of industrial training and
experience of the recent immigrant before coming to the
United States, together with his illiteracy and inability
to speak English, has had the effect of exposing the original
employees to unsafe and unsanitary working conditions, or has
led to the imposition of conditions of employment which the
native American or older immigrant employees have cou-


sidered unsatisfactory and in some cases unbearable. When
the older employees have found dangerous and unhealthy con-
ditions prevailing in the mines and manufacturing establish-
ments and have protested, the recent immigrant employees,
usually through ignorance of mining or other working meth-
ods, have manifested a vs^illingness to accept the alleged un-
satisfactory conditions. In a large number of eases the lack
of training and experience of the southern and eastern
European affects only his ovrn safety. Ou the other hand,
his ignorant acquiescence in dangerous and unsanitary work-
ing conditions may make the continuance of such conditions
possible and become a menace to a part or to the whole of an
operating force of an industrial establishment. In mining,
the presence of an untrained employee may constitute an ele-
ment of danger to the entire body of workmen. There seems
to be a direct causal relation between the extensive employment
of recent immigrants in American mines and the extraordinary
increase within recent years in the number of mining acci-
dents. It is an undisputed fact that the greatest number
of accidents in bituminous coal mines arise from two causes:
(1) the recklessness, and (2) the ignorance and inexperience
of employees. When the lack of training of the recent im-
migrant abroad is considered in connection with the fact
that he becomes a workman in the mines immediately upon his
arrival in this country, and when it is recalled that a large
proportion of the new arrivals are not only illiterate and
unable to read any precautionary notices posted in the mines,
but also unable to speak English and consequently without
ability to comprehend instructions intelligently, the inference
is plain that the employment of recent immigrants has caused
a deterioration in working conditions.

No complete statistics have been compiled as to the con-
nection between accidents and races employed, but the figures
available clearly indicate the conclusion that there has been
a direct relation between the employment of untrained for-
eigners and the prevalence of mining casualties. The mining


inspectors of the several eoal-producing States, the United
States Geological Survey, and the older employees in the in-
dustry, also bear testimony m this respect to the effect of
the employment of the southern and eastern European. The
opinion of the Geological Survey is of especial interest and
may be briefly quoted:

Another impoitaiit factor in the United States is to be found in tlie
nationality of tlie miners. Most of tlie men are foreign-born, a large
proportion of them are unable to understand English freely, and a
stUl larger number are unable to read or write that language. Some
of them are inexperienced and do not take proper precautions either
for tlieir own safety or that of others. This becomes a most serious
menace unless they are restrained by properly enforced regulations. . . .

The immigrant and labor organizations. The entrance into
operating forces of the mines and manufacturing establish-
ments, in such large numbers, of the races of recent
immigration, has also had the effect of weakening the labor
organizations of the original employees, and in some of the
industries has caused their entire demoralization and disrup-
tion. This has been due to the character of the recent immi-
grant labor supply, and to the fact that so large numbers of
recent immigrants have found employment in American in-
dustries within such a short period of time. On account of
lack of industrial training and experience, low standards of
living, as compared with native American wage-earners, their
necessitous condition on coming to this country and their
tractability, southern and eastern Europeans, as already
noted, have been willing to accept the existing rates of com-
pensation and working conditions. The thriftiness and in-
dustriousness of recent immigrants have also made them
unwilling to enter into labor disputes involving loss of time,
or to join labor organizations to which it is necessary to pay
regular dues. As a consequence, they have not affiliated with
labor organizations unless compelled to do so as a preliminary
step toward ac(|uiring work; and then, after becoming mem-
bers of the labor union, they have manifested but little in-


terest in the tenets or policy of the organization. In the
instances where they have united with the labor organizations,
on the occasion of strikes or labor dissensions, they have usu-
ally refused to maintain membership for any extended period
of time, thus rendering difficult the unionization of the indus-
try or occupation in which they are engaged.

Furthermore, the fact that recent immigrants are usually
of non-English-speaking races, and their high degree of
illiteracy, have made their absorption by the labor organiza-
tions very slow and expensive. In many cases, too, the con-
scious policy of the employers of mixing the races in different
departments and divisions of labor, in order, by a diversity
of tongues, to prevent concerted action on the part of em-
ployees, has made unionization of the immigrant almost im-

The significant result of the whole situation has been that
the influx of the southern and eastern Europeans has been too
rapid to permit of their absorption by the labor organizations
which were in existence before their arrival. In some indus-
tries the influence and power of the labor unions are con-
cerned only with those occupations in which the competition of
the southern and eastern European has been only indirectly
or remotely felt, and consequently the labor organizations
have not been very seriously affected. In the occupations
and industries in which the pressure of the competi-
tion of the recent immigrant has been dii*ectly felt, either
because the nature of the work was such as to permit of the
immediate employment of the immigrant or through the inven-
tion of improved machinery his employment was made possible
in occupations which formerly required training and appren-
ticeship, the labor organizations have been, in a great many
cases, completely overwhelmed and disrupted. In other indus-
tries and occupations in which the elements of skilled train-
ing and experience were requisite, such as in certain divisions
of the glass-manufacturing industry, the effect of the employ-


mcut of recent immigrants upon labor organizations has not
been followed by such injurious results.

Racial displacement. Competition of the southern and
eastern European has led to a voluntary or involuntary dis-
placement, in certain occupations and industries, of the native
American and of the older immigrant employees from Great
Britain and northern Europe. These racial displacements
have manifested themselves in three ways:

(a) A large proportion of native Americans and older
immigrant employees from Great Britain and northern
Europe have left certain industries, such as bituminous and
anthracite coal mining and iron and steel manufacturing.

(b) A part of the earlier employees who remained in the
industries in which they were employed before the advent of
the southern and eastern European, have been able, because
of the demand growing out of the general industrial expan-
sion, to rise to more skilled and responsible executive and
technical positions which required employees of training and
experience. In the larger number of cases, however, where
the older employees remained in a certain industry after the
pressure o£ the competition of the recent immigrant had be-
gun to be felt, they relinc^uished their former positions and
segregated themselves in certain other occupations. This
tendency is best illustrated by the distribution of employees
according to race in bituminous coal mines. In this industry
all the so-called "company" occupations, which are paid on
the basis of a daily, weekly, or monthly rate, are filled by
native Americans or older immigrants and their children,
while the southern and eastern Europeans are confined to
pick mining and the unskilled and common labor. The same
situation exists in other branches of mannfacturing enter-
prise. A stigma has become attached to the working in the
same occupations as the southern and eastern European so
that, in some cases, as in the bituminous coal mining industry,
the older class of employees segregate in occupations wliich.


from the standpoint of compensation, are less desirable than
those occupied by recent immigrants. In most industries the
native American and older immigrant workmen who have
remained in the same occupations in which the recent immi-
grants are predominant are the thriftless, unprogressive
elements of the original operating forces.

Another striking feature of the competition of southern
and eastern Europeans is the fact that in the case of most
industries, such as iron and steel, textile and glass manu-
facturing, and the dift'erent forms of mining, the children of
native Am by 130 per cent.,
his expenditures for food and rent combined, on the British
standard of living, are the higher by only 52 per cent. A
much greater margin over the expenditures for food and
rent is, therefore, available in the United States than in
England and Wales. This margin, says the report of the
Board of Trade, "makes possible a command of the neces-
saries and conveniences of life that is both nominally and
really greater than that enjoyed by the corresponding class
in this country (England)."


[From the Tariff Board Report on Cotton Manufactures, the follow-
ing extracts are taken, showing the use of automatic machinery in
America as compared with England. (House Document No. 643, 62d
Congress, 2d session, p. 468.)]

Factory organizations compared. Contrary to the pre-
vailing organization in the cotton industry in England, the
mills in this country have both spinning and weaving de-

The spinning mill is, as a rule, equipped with sufficient
machinery to produce all the yarn, both warp and filling,
necessary for the continuous operation of the weaving mill.
There are a few mills manufacturing specialties, where, on
account of the variety of yarns required and the small quan-
tity of each number used or the special processing necessary,
it is impracticable to operate a spinning mill, and in such
cases the yarn is purchased from spinning mills manufacturing
special numbers of yarn, for which they find a ready market.
Where it is necessary for a spinning mill to manufacture
a wide range of yarns for the supply of the weaving mill, it
follows that the manufacture cannot be carried on as eco-
nomically per unit of production as in the mill where the pro-
duction is limited to the manufacture of but few numbers
of yarns.

Many American mills, especially in the North, produce a
wide variety of cloths, involving the use of many different
kinds of yarn from coarse to very fine. On the other hand,
some mills M^eaving principally plain constructions are re-



quired for their own needs to spin only a narrow range of
yarns, frequently but one warp and several fillings. In the
case of the former mills, the American practice puts them at
a disadvantage with English spinning mills which produce
yarns of more uniform count for a regular market. In the
case of the latter class of mills the advantage of the specializa-
tion which exists in the English industry seems to be fully

In the United States most of the yarn is manufactured on
ring spindles, as against the English method of mule spin-
ning. The production of yarn by ring spinning is greater
per spindle than mule spinning, though the mule-spun yarn
is more even in density and softer in finish. . . .

Cotton waste. Only a part of the raw cotton input of the
mills reaches the yarn in its finished state. Through each
operation, as picking, carding, spinning, etc., there is a loss
of some of the original stock known as waste. A part of
this waste, which is chiefly due to evaporation, is not re-
covered, and this is termed "invisible waste," The percen-
tage of waste in a mill is a varying quantity, due in part to the
length of the fiber of the raw cotton and the fineness of the
number of the yarn spun. In mills producing coarse yarns
where it is possible to rework part of the waste the loss is
not over 10 per cent, of the input of raw cotton, while in
the mills producing higher or finer numbers of yarns the loss
will approximate 35 per cent. All of the waste, except that
known as invisible waste, which does not amount to more
than 3 or 4 per cent., is recovered and reworked or sold. . . .

Conditions influencing efficiency. The efficiency of the
weaving mills is affected by numerous conditions, making it
impracticable to accurately present these conditions in any
tabular statement. No two weaving mills are affected by
exactly the same conditions, there being a difference either in
the loom equipment, the size and breaking strength of the
yarn used, or the organization of the cloth produced.


During the course of the inquiry the agents of the Tariff
Board found that a number of mills originally constructed to
manufacture plain print cloth are now producing fancy cloth
of simple design or construction. The manufacturers stated
that this change was necessitated by a lack of demand for the
print cloth, and that while the production of each loom appro-
priated for fancy constructions was decreased, the better
demand for fancy cloth more than offset the loss due to de-
creased production. This change often made it necessary to
weave a much narrower cloth than that for which the loom was
best adapted, and there is also a loss that must be reckoned
due to idle looms where any considerable amount of changing
from one construction to another is necessitated.

The breaking of a warp or filling yarn requires that the
loom be stopped and the difficulty be adjusted. Some of
the looms are equipped with automatic stop-motion attach-
ments, which automatically stop the loom whenever a warp
or filling yarn is broken. This makes it possible for a weaver
to attend a greater number of looms, a lesser degree of watch-
fulness being required.

Some of the factors which affect the efficiency of a cotton
mill are discussed in connection with the following tables.

Weaving costs with automatic and plain looms. In or-
der to show the exact difference in cost of production that can
be directly attributed to the efficiency of a plant, the follow-
ing illustration is given:

(In . . . the comparisons of costs which follow, the labor
cost of yarn per pound of cloth includes the total labor in
the "spinning mill," or through the spooling process, and
the labor cost of weaving per pound of cloth includes all the
remaining productive labor in the mill. This also applies
to the division of the works expense in the cost of yarn and
weaving) . . . [One table omitted here.]

The exact difference in the cost of manufacture between
plain and automatic looms under similar conditions is shown
in the following illustration:


Automatic Plain

looms. looms.

Width, linear yards per pound 38i/^ — 5.50

Sley X picks 64 X 64

\\ urp and lilling yarns

Labor cost of yarn per pound of cloth 0.0:]3012 0.033254

Labor cost of weaving per pound of cloth 028110 .046250

Total labor cost per pound of cloth 061122 .079504

Works expense cost of yarn per pound of cloth .016710 .017036

Works expense cost of weaving per pound of cloth .013300 .014660

Total works expense per pound of cloth.. .030019 .031606

Depreciation cost per pound of cloth 0179SS .018765

Total conversion cost per pound of cloth 109129 .120965

Cotton cost per pound of cloth 165067 .165067

Total cost per pound of cloth 274196 .295032

Total cost per yard of cloth 049494 .053255

In this comparison two costs are given on the same cloth
woven in the same mill, but one on automatic looms and the
other on plain looms. It will be seen that the total cost per
pound of cloth on plain looms is a little over two cents higher
than that on automatic looms, this difference being almost
entirely in the labor cost of weaving. Reduced to a yard-
age basis, this results in the cost on plain looms being over
one-third of a cent per yard higher than that on automatic

Age of machinery. Another factor which determines the
efficiency of a mill is the age of machinery. Table 147
[omitted here] shows the age of the spinning spindles and
looms in the mills covered by the investigation of the Board.

The age of machinery aft'ects the cost of production in a
number of ways:

(1) The older a machine gets the more frequently it is
subject to breakdowns, thus reducing the productive capacity
of the mill during the time the machine stands idle, and
thereby increasing the overhead charges per unit of product.

(2) It increases the repair expense of the mill.

(3) To the extent that new machines are put on the market
capable of a greater output within a given period of time,



either through greater speed or through improvements which
make it possible for one employee to attend a greater number
of machine units, the old machine tends to increase the rel-
ative cost of production of the mill, as compared with mills
using more modern machines.

To this extent a knowledge of the age of the machinery
in a mill is of great value as tending to explain differences
in cost of production for the same products in different mills,
and also aiding in arriving at a conclusion as to the up-to-
dateness of the industry as a whole in so far as it has been
covered by the investigation.

In this connection it may be added that while the investiga-
tion of the Board covered only about 20 per cent, of the total
number of cotton spindles and looms in operation in the coun-
try, it is fairly representative of the conditions in the industry
as a whole. . . .

As will be seen from table 147 [here omitted] over 39 per
cent, of all the spindles and over 46 per cent, of all the looms
investigated were not over 10 years old, and 78 per cent, of all
the spindles and over 74 per cent, of all the looms were not
over 20 years old. Twelve and five-tenths per cent, of the
spindles and 17 per cent, of the looms were from 20 to 30
years old, while 9.3 per cent, of the former and 6.9 per cent,
of the latter were from 30 to 40 years old. Over 10,000
spindles and 532 looms, constituting 0.2 and 0.4 per cent,
of the respective totals were from 60 to 65 years old.

Proportion of domestic to foreign machinery. It will
be seen [from table 148, omitted here] that by far the greater
part of all kinds of machinery, except mule spindles, is of
domestic make. Thus, of the looms, at least 99.7 per cent.
is of domestic make, and only 0.3 per cent, foreign. Of the
ring spindles, 99.9 per cent, is domestic and 0.1 per cent,
foreign. Of the roving or jack spindles, 85.8 per cent, is
domestic and 14.2 per cent, foreign. The only exception, as
stated, was in the case of mule spindles of which 83.1 per

Online LibraryFrank Albert FetterSource book in economics, selected and ed. for the use of college classes → online text (page 16 of 30)