Page images

On March 6 the employer reported by telephone that the difficulty had been settled, and that the 350 employees had returned to work.


On February 26 a strike occurred in the Eagle Mills, North Adams, because of an alleged reduction in pay. All the mule spinners quit work, and the whole factory, 120 employees, all told, was idle in consequence. The Board laid the grievances before the employer on the following day, together with advice concerning such conciliatory efforts as were proper to make at the outset. On that afternoon the parties met, and, acting on the advice of the Board, a settlement was reached. All hands returned to work on the 28th.


During the week preceding March 11 the firm of E. & A. H. Batcheller, engaged in the business of manufacturing men's shoes at North Brookfield, proposed to their help a reduction of 10 per cent. in the wages, to go into effect March 11. It was claimed that the competition in the market prevented their paying the present rate of wages. The operatives in each of the 7 departments of the factory held meetings to consider whether they would accept the reduction, and appointed a committee of 5 in each department to constitute a general committee of 35 to meet their employers. Having decided not to accept the reduction, the whole body of employees, to the number of 1,180, refused to go to work on the 11th, and in consequence the factory was shut down. On the same day the Board went to North Brookfield for the purpose of inquiring into the situation, and met the committee of the employees, who were evidently fully determined not to accept the reduction. They claimed that some two years before they had accepted a similar reduction, and that their earnings were not sufficient to meet their expenses of living. The committee expressed a desire to meet the firm in conference, and at the request of the Board the superintendent of the factory communicated with the employers in Boston, who replied that they would meet the full committee of their employees in the office of their factory on the following day. On the afternoon of the next day the parties met in conference, and a settlement was effected.


A strike occurred in the Ipswich Mills, March 25, 1901, in the carding and boarding departments, involving about 150 persons of the 750 employed in the mill. This action led to a suspension of business in all departments of the mill. The cause of the trouble was the enforcement of a 10 per cent. reduction in wages, which the agent had announced some two weeks before would go into effect on March 25. The 10 per cent. reduction applied to nearly all who received an advance of 10 per cent. voluntarily given by the mill in January, 1900. The weekly pay roll was reported to be about $6,000, and the reduction would mean a loss to the operatives of about $2,500 a month. On the morning in question the mill opened as usual, but the operatives in the carding and boarding rooms refused to begin work under the reduction in wage.

On the next day the Board went to Ipswich to investigate the trouble, and met a committee of the strikers in the office of the selectmen in the town hall. They claimed that several times in the past wages had been reduced without any resistance on their part, but on this occasion, as the mills were running over-time, they thought there was no occasion for a reduction, and proposed to contest it. The operatives further claimed that fines were imposed for imperfect work which was caused not by themselves but by the imperfect condition of the machines, for which they were not themselves responsible. The committee appeared to be determined not to accept the reduction, and stated that the help were imbued with the same feeling; but, if the company would make it clear to them that the reduction was necessary, they would accept it, and return to work forthwith. An interview was had with the agent of the mill, who stated fully the reasons for the reduction, and added that, if the reduction was accepted, he would endeavor to have the wages returned to their former standard as soon as the conditions of business should warrant it. Both parties were then invited to meet the Board in the town hall in conference, and the matter was fully discussed on all sides. The agent showed to the strikers that the reason for running over-time was in order that goods might be produced for a future market rather than for orders already obtained. After the conference the committee reported back to their body at their next meeting, which was largely attended, and where it was unanimously voted not to return to work under the 10 per cent. reduction. In view of this fact, the Board again went to Ipswich on the 28th of March, and met the committee of strikers and learned from them the situation. They stated that they had decided to leave their case in the hands of the Board, and would agree to abide by whatever decision the Board might make touching the question of reduction. Subsequently, by invitation, a member of the Board was present at a meeting of the strikers, and advised the observance of good order and sobriety during the continuance of the strike. On the following day a further interview was had with the treasurer and agent of the mills in Boston. They explained fully the conditions of the market, the fall in price of cotton, and the necessity of running the mill at the reduction that was proposed to be made. They claimed that, even with the reduction, the prices and earnings were still higher than those of competing factories in other States. Their position in regard to the reduction was unchanged. In regard to the claim of faulty machines and other matters which resulted in fines, the opinion was that such things, if they existed, would be remedied.

On April 1 the Board went again to Ipswich, and met the committee of strikers at the town hall. The interview with the representatives of the mill was reported to them, and they were advised by the Board to carefully weigh the situation, report the facts to the main body of the strikers, and, after discussion, to decide the question of return by secret ballot, in order that each person might independently express his view upon the matter. The recommendation met the unanimous approval of the committee, and a meeting was held by them on the 3d, in which they voted whether to accept the reduction on the following conditions:

1. That the wages be restored as soon as the conditions of business should warrant it. 2. That the machines should be kept in proper

condition by a competent machinist, and fines imposed by reason of faulty machines should be done away with.

3. That there should be no discrimination against anybody for taking part in the controversy.

A secret ballot being taken, it was decided, by vote of 94 to 7, not to accept the reduction imposed by the management. On being informed of the vote, the Board again met the treasurer of the mill, and informed him of the then state of affairs, and inquired if they could do anything further in the matter. The affair remained unchanged until the 13th of April, when the strikers again voted, 110 to 28, not to return to work. On the morning of the 15th a final meeting was held, to reconsider this vote. A member of the Board was present at the meeting by invitation, and, together with two of the selectmen, urged the acceptance of the reduction under the conditions proposed in the meeting of the 3d. At the close of the meeting a ballot was taken, which resulted in a vote of 93 to 46 to return to work forthwith. This vote was made unanimous, and the strike was at an end.

In this case, Mr. Schofield, chairman of the selectmen, rendered valuable assistance by calling the attention of the Board to it in the first instance and by aiding materially throughout the controversy.


Twelve machine shavers employed in the leather factory of the National Calfskin Company of Peabody left work on the 19th of March to enforce a demand for increased price for work performed on larger skins than they had been accustomed to handle. On investigation by the Board, it was found that the places of the strikers had been immediately filled, and that there was no industrial difficulty existing at the factory.

« PreviousContinue »