The Steel Workers

The Steel Workers

JOHN A. FITCH
With a new introduction by Roy Lubove
Copyright Date: 1989
DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt6wrbvh
Pages: 432
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt6wrbvh
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  • Book Info
    The Steel Workers
    Book Description:

    This classic account of the worker in the steel industry during the early years of the twentieth century combines the social investigator's mastery of facts with the vivid personal touch of the journalist. From its pages emerges a finely etched picture of how men lived and worked in steel.

    In 1907-1908, when John Fitch spent more than a year in Pittsburgh interviewing workers, steel was the master industry of the region. It employed almost 80,000 workers and virtually controlled social and civic life.

    Fitch observed steel workers on the job, and he describes succinctly the prevailing technology of iron and steelmaking: the blast furnace crews, the puddlers and rollers; the crucible, Bessemer, and open hearth processes. He examined the health problems and accidents which resulted from the pressure of long hours, hazardous machinery, and speed-ups in production. He also anaylzed the early experiments in welfare capitolism, such as accident prevention and compensation, and pensions.

    One of the six volumes in the famous Pittsburgh Survey (1909-1914),The Steel Workersremains a readable and timeless account of labor conditions in the early years of the steel industry. An introduction by the noted historian Roy Lubove places the book in political and historical context and makes it especially suitable for classroom use.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7384-3
    Subjects: History, Business, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt6wrbvh.1
  2. CONTENTS
    (pp. v-vi)
    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt6wrbvh.2
  3. JOHN A. FITCH, THE STEEL WORKERS, AND THE CRISIS OF DEMOCRACY
    (pp. vii-xiv)
    Roy Lubove
    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt6wrbvh.3

    THE LIFE work of John Andrews Fitch (1881–1959) was determined by a single, dramatic event. He accompanied his University of Wisconsin mentor, Professor John R. Commons, to Pittsburgh in the fall of 1907 when the Pittsburgh Survey was getting under way. Fitch remained in the field for nearly a year, and in 1910 his classic,The Steel Worken,was published by the Russell Sage Foundation. The Pittsburgh experience resulted in a lifetime commitment to the field of industrial relations, and the book insured his immortality.

    Born in South Dakota, Fitch graduated in 1904 from Yankton College, taught history and...

  4. EDITOR’S FOREWORD
    (pp. xix-xxii)
    Paul U. Kellogg
    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt6wrbvh.4

    BOUND by a hundred ties to the dramatic story of the Pittsburgh people, this inquiry is, nevertheless, of more than local significance. Steel is a basic industry in America. It has been a beneficiary of the most fiercely contested governmental policies since Civil War times. Its products enter into every tool and structure and means of traffic in civilization. By the side of half a hundred mill sites along the Ohio and its tributaries, at our newest lake ports and above the old mineral beds of the Superior Basin; in the sun-baked Southwest, in the mountain valleys of the New...

  5. Table of Contents
    (pp. xxiii-2)
    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt6wrbvh.5
  6. CHAPTER I INTRODUCTORY
    (pp. 3-6)
    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt6wrbvh.6

    THERE is a glamor about the making of steel. The very size of things—the immensity of the tools, the scale of production—grips the mind with an overwhelming sense of power. Blast furnaces, eighty, ninety, one hundred feet tall, gaunt and insatiable, are continually gaping to admit ton after ton of ore, fuel, and stone. Bessemer converters dazzle the eye with their leaping flames. Steel ingots at white heat, weighing thousands of pounds, are carried from place to place and tossed about like toys. Electric cranes pick up steel rails or fifty-foot girders as jauntily as if their tons...

  7. PART I THE MEN AND THE TOOLS
    • CHAPTER II THE WORKMEN
      (pp. 9-21)
      DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt6wrbvh.7

      IT is estimated that between 70,000 and 80,000 men are employed in the manufacture of steel in Allegheny County. Their homes are clustered about the mills along the rivers, they are clinging to the bluffs of the South Side, and they are scattered over Greater Pittsburgh from Woods Run to the East End. Up the Monongahela valley are the mill towns—Homestead of Pinkerton fame, Braddock with its record-breaking mills and furnaces, Duquesne, where the unit of weight is a hundred tons, and McKeesport, home of the “biggest tube works on earth.” Here are countrymen of Kossuth and Kosciusko, still...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
      DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt6wrbvh.8
    • CHAPTER III THE BLAST FURNACE CREWS
      (pp. 22-31)
      DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt6wrbvh.9

      WHEN you consider the Allegheny County of today, with its acres of steel plants, its rows of blast furnaces, its quadruple railroad tracks with their unceasing traffic, its smoking, vibrant, roaring industry, it is hard to realize that the iron and steel plants have grown from comparative insignificance to their present stature within the memory of men not yet past middle life.

      The bituminous coal field which stretches in all directions from Pittsburgh, and the rivers which furnish cheap transportation, combine to make this one of the great workshops of America. The Great Lakes bring the iron mines of Northern...

    • CHAPTER IV PUDDLERS AND IRON ROLLERS
      (pp. 32-37)
      DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt6wrbvh.10

      PIG IRON, the product of the blast furnace, contains so large an amount of carbon as to be weak and brittle for purposes involving tensile strain. A further process of manufacture is necessary before it can meet the demands of industry.* As already noted, most of the pig iron produced in this country is refined in puddling furnaces, crucibles, Bessemer converters or open-hearth furnaces, the product of the puddling furnace being wrought iron, while that of the crucibles, Bessemer converters, and open-hearth furnaces is steel.

      There is not, however, so clear a line of division between iron and steel as...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
      DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt6wrbvh.11
    • CHAPTER V THE STEEL MAKERS
      (pp. 38-44)
      DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt6wrbvh.12

      THIRTY years ago, iron began to lose its hold upon the market. Making steel by the Bessemer process was so much cheaper than puddling iron that in spite of prejudice against it steel won its way, until today it takes the place of iron and wood in every conceivable form and in nearly all kinds of manufacture and construction. But for some purposes, steel has not yet been able satisfactorily to take the place of iron. For this reason, and because of the capital already invested, the puddling furnace persists, and seems likely to retain a place, subordinate though it...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
      DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt6wrbvh.13
    • CHAPTER VI THE MEN OF THE ROLLING MILLS
      (pp. 45-56)
      DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt6wrbvh.14

      BESSEMER men and open-hearth operatives, no less than the blast furnace workers, are craftsmen in heat. They deal with molten metal. The iron which the blast furnace men turn over to them in ladles or hardened into pigs becomes, in their hands, “ingots” of steel—the units with which the steel mills begin their work. From now on, not heat, but pressure, with heat as its ally, is the chief agent of production; for the ingot as it leaves the mold is not in condition to make a good finished article, on account of its lack of homogeneity and the...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
      DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt6wrbvh.15
    • CHAPTER VII HEALTH AND ACCIDENTS IN STEEL MAKING
      (pp. 57-72)
      DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt6wrbvh.16

      THE foregoing chapters have put in simple terms how iron and steel are treated in the mills of Pittsburgh. The story is only partly told, however, if we say nothing of the effect of the processes upon the men who control them. Yet in the labor conflicts that are to be discussed in the succeeding chapters, it will be seen that the points of controversy have been usually wages, hours, or the right to organize. Until recently, little attention has been paid by those most directly concerned to two other fundamental subjects,—health and accidents in steel making.

      What I...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
      DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt6wrbvh.17
  8. PART II THE STRUGGLE FOR CONTROL
    • CHAPTER VIII UNIONISM AND THE UNION MOVEMENT
      (pp. 75-89)
      DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt6wrbvh.18

      THE labor problem in the iron and steel industry is typical, in its most fundamental aspects, of the labor problem everywhere, and all of the remaining chapters of this book are devoted to its discussion. As in all industries, the underlying cause of friction has been the essential difference in the objectives of employer and employe. To the employe, the objective is high wages and a short working day; however interested he may be in the success of the establishment in which he is engaged, that is not his primary consideration. To the employer, output and profits are the things...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
      DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt6wrbvh.19
    • CHAPTER IX POLICIES OF THE AMALGAMATED ASSOCIATION
      (pp. 90-107)
      DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt6wrbvh.20

      THE policies of the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers that have most definitely marked its history may be divided into two classes: external, those designed to secure benefits, and internal, those relating to the character of the membership and the relations of members to one another. Under the first head are included those aims that are common to all labor unions,—the regulation of wages, hours and what may be vaguely denominated “general labor conditions.” Under the second are certain policies which, specifically, may be peculiar to this organization, but which are types of policies to be found...

    • CHAPTER X THE GREAT STRIKES
      (pp. 108-136)
      DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt6wrbvh.21

      IT has been pointed out that neither employers nor employes have worked with singleness of purpose toward a solution of the labor problem in the iron and steel trade. Each side has contributed something toward a solution, but the thing most desired by each and most sought after has been control. The organization of the Sons of Vulcan in 1858 was the real beginning of the struggle; before that the employer was supreme. The end is not yet in sight. There were evidences of unrest before 1858 when the first organized effort for control was begun by the workingmen. The...

  9. PART III THE EMPLOYERS IN THE SADDLE
    • CHAPTER XI INDUSTRIAL ORGANIZATION UNDER THE NON-UNION RÉGIME
      (pp. 139-149)
      DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt6wrbvh.22

      IN tracing the events in the struggle between employers and employes for control in the steel industry, I have devoted the greater space to the policy of the employes. Although the union never attained a position of absolute control, it was strong enough to put into practice many of its policies, and to that extent they could be examined and judged. The employers, on the other hand, have now throughout the greater part of the industry secured absolute control. It is accordingly possible to speak with more assurance regarding their labor program.

      Left free to manage their affairs as they...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
      DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt6wrbvh.23
    • CHAPTER XII Wages and the Cost of Living
      (pp. 150-165)
      DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt6wrbvh.24

      THERE are a few steel workers—perhaps a score—in the Pittsburgh mills whose earnings amount to $15 a day. That fact generally makes a stronger impression when heard for the first time than does the fact that there are thousands in the steel mills of Allegheny County who receive less than $2.00 a day. The old reputation of the steel industry as one of exceptionally high wages is false so far as the rank and file are concerned; neither, on the other hand, should it be singled out as an unusual type, as an industry in which the majority...

    • CHAPTER XIII THE WORKING DAY AND THE WORKING WEEK
      (pp. 166-181)
      DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt6wrbvh.25

      IT was pointed out in an earlier chapter that a fruitful way to reduce costs, from the production standpoint, is to eliminate wastes. To accomplish this, as well as to increase output per unit of capital, the steel mills operate day and night, and steel making is held to be essentially a “continuous industry.”

      In old fashioned iron mills, although continuous operation is possible, a period of idleness between shifts is not a serious matter. But the steel mills deal with larger tonnage and larger machines. The heating furnaces cannot be allowed to grow cold, lest they crack, and the...

    • CHAPTER XIV SPEEDING UP AND THE BONUS SYSTEM
      (pp. 182-191)
      DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt6wrbvh.26

      ONE of the most impressive things about steel mills is their seemingly limitless possibilities. The history of steel manufacture is a history of breaking records, and no sooner has some mill performed the “grea test feat ever known” than another mill performs a greater one. The record outputs of thirty years ago are insignificant in comparison with the average production of today. The growth in output of blast furnaces during the last fifty years has already been pointed out; in the last fifteen years alone the average tonnage per furnace has doubled. The Bessemer converter output has increased as rapidly;...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
      DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt6wrbvh.27
    • CHAPTER XV THE LABOR POLICY OF UNRESTRICTED CAPITAL
      (pp. 192-206)
      DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt6wrbvh.28

      THAT there has come about a reversal in relations between employer and employe in the steel industry is apparent. Before 1901 there was a national union which dealt with individual employers. Now there is one great corporation whose negative action, at least, practically fixes standards for the whole industry. This national corporation deals not even with local associations; it deals with individual workmen. In former years the Amalgamated Association had some advantage over employers because the latter were not organized. This advantage was greatly modified, however, by the existence of large companies, such as the Carnegie Steel Company and the...

    • CHAPTER XVI REPRESSION
      (pp. 207-220)
      DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt6wrbvh.29

      IT now becomes necessary to discuss the reasons for the apparent acquiescence of the steel workers in existing conditions. The obvious deterren t to collective action on their part is the fact that they are non-union. But that merely suggests the question: Why don’t they organize? To understand the absence of united action and resistance to the policies of the companies one must understand the obstacles that stand in the way.

      In the first place, there is the so-called profit-sharing system of the United States Steel Corporation. This plan was announced by the Corporation to take effect in 1903. There...

  10. PART IV THE STEEL WORKERS AND DEMOCRACY
    • CHAPTER XVII CITIZENSHIP IN THE MILL TOWNS
      (pp. 223-231)
      DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt6wrbvh.30

      THE question next arises—and the answer must determine our judgment of the employers’ policies—what does it all mean to the men and the families of the men who work in the mills? What is the effect upon standards and ideals, down deep in the heart of the community life?

      Steel making is carried on in a score of mill towns in the Allegheny and Monongahela valleys. In these towns, more clearly than in the greater city of Pittsburgh, the influence both of the labor conditions and of the policies of suppression are to be seen. With the men...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
      DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt6wrbvh.31
    • CHAPTER XVIII THE SPIRIT OF THE WORKERS
      (pp. 232-244)
      DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt6wrbvh.32

      UNDER common conditions workingmen are apt to develop common feelings with respect to some of the deeper and more fundamental questions of their lives. This is especially true in a crisis or a peculiarly aggravated state of affairs, when minor differences are forgotten and feeling is keen. This was so at Homestead in 1892 when H. C. Frick sent the armed Pinkerton guards to drive the striking workmen off the company premises; it was so in Homestead again in February, 1908, when with the panic at its height and the mills operating on barely one-fourth time, the Carnegie Steel Company...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
      DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt6wrbvh.33
  11. APPENDICES
    • APPENDIX I DOCUMENTS RELATING TO THE AMALGAMATION OF THE UNIONS IN THE IRON AND STEEL INDUSTRY
      (pp. 247-252)
      DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt6wrbvh.34
    • APPENDIX II THE AMALGAMATED ASSOCIATION
      (pp. 253-297)
      DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt6wrbvh.35
    • APPENDIX III UNIONISM AT HOMESTEAD SINCE 1892
      (pp. 298-299)
      DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt6wrbvh.36
    • APPENDIX IV WAGE FIGURES
      (pp. 300-305)
      DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt6wrbvh.37
    • APPENDIX V PROFIT-SHARING PLAN AND BONUS FUND OF THE UNITED STATES STEEL CORPORATION
      (pp. 306-324)
      DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt6wrbvh.38
    • APPENDIX VI SEVEN-DAY LABOR
      (pp. 325-329)
      DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt6wrbvh.39
    • APPENDIX VII ACCIDENT RELIEF PLAN OF THE UNITED STATES STEEL CORPORATION
      (pp. 330-335)
      DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt6wrbvh.40
    • APPENDIX VIII UNITED STATES STEEL AND CARNEGIE PENSION FUND
      (pp. 336-340)
      DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt6wrbvh.41
    • APPENDIX IX LABOR CONDITIONS IN THE MILLS OF THE BETHLEHEM STEEL COMPANY, AT SOUTH BETHLEHEM, PENNSYLVANIA
      (pp. 341-348)
      DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt6wrbvh.42
    • APPENDIX X Racial Make-up of Labor Force of Carnegie Steel Company, Allegheny County Plants
      (pp. 349-354)
      DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt6wrbvh.43
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 357-380)
    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt6wrbvh.44