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Call the Sun Life representative in your district for more information about the Sun Life “money-back” plan, or mail this coupon today., SUN LIFE OF CANADA MARTIN ELFANT 201 Century Building Houston, Texas CA 4-06116 Without obligation, I would like more details of the new Sun fafieSecurity Fund plan. NAME ADDRESS AGE John McCully Dr. Ruth Allen An Essential to History EARLY ORIGINS OF UNIONS IN TEXAS AUSTIN The notion that organized labor came to Texas with the depression in the 1930’s does not hold up long when an economic historiannamely, Dr. Ruth Allen, professor of economics at the University of Texas starts talking about “early chapters in Texas labor history.” “You just can’t write the history of Texas without writing the history of labor,” Dr. Allen said. As for the future history of the state, she said, “There isn’t any doubt that the labor group will become more and more powerful, because after all that’s all there is. All of us are becoming laborers in the sense that we all collect pay checks. It depends on how you define laborers.” Dr. Allen, addressing the concluding session of the Texas AFLCIO summer institute in Austin, carried the history of unions in Texas from the 1880’s when stonecutters struck against labor practices in the construction of the present state Capitol, through the end of the first World War. Eighty court cases grew out of union disputes with the syndicate which built the Capitol, she said. In each case the court fined the syndicate $1,000. However, President Harrison remitted the fines just before he left office. Dr. Allen said that in each of these cases, the International. Granite Cutters had a complete victory. Cowboys in. West Texas also went on strike off and on for a year about this time, she said. “This is interesting due to the romantic picture of the cowboy… The cowboys won.” However, labor did not win the Great Southwestern Strike of the railroad workers. She said the strike was part of “the first experience of American workers with the corporations” and the last of the great railroad strikes. The loss of the effort was one of the principal causes for the disintegration of the Knights of Labor. The strike was broken after 1,300 court injunctions were issued, “the first widespread use of the injunction as a means of dealing with unions.” Concurrent with these economic THE TEXAS OBSERVER Page 6 August 14, 1959 clashes in the 1880’s, Dr. Allen said, were political movements affecting labor, especially Populism. which reached maximum strength in the ’80’s and ’90’s. The populists’ demands “were demands by farmers to help farmers.” Also by 1900, Texas laws and Texas attitudes “were very friendly to organized labor. The blacklist law forbade the bringing in of outside strikebreakers. The state in general accepted organized labor groups in the craft unions as more or less a part of the economy.” The largest organized group of workers in the early 1900’s in Texas, she said, was the mineworkers. “Mining districts were 100 per cent organized,” and the unions were especially strong in West Texas lignite mines. When some of the mines were closing down, she said, the union hired two cars to take laid off Mexican workers back to Mexico. In 1901, the federal Department of Labor conducted the first national investigation of the way workers lived, including Texas workers, and obtained “some fascinating information,” the professor continued. “The cost of living in Texas-Arkansas-Louisiana was higher than in any other area of the country. Sowbelly and cornbread really was the primary of Southwestern and Southern workers.” The state Bureau of Labor Statistics was established in 1905. “The first report said there was not enough money to do much, and that’s been the report ever since,” Dr. Allen said. “It is simply a fact-finding agency -, and in a state as large as Texas it takes money to find facts.” Sharecropper Socialism The Social Democracy movement in Texas followed Populism but was not its heir. “Social Democracy is American Socialism it has little to do with Karl Marxlittle to do with theoretical socialism. Americans are just not theorists,” said Dr. Allen. There came to Texas a firebrand Irishman named Thomas Hickey. “Thomas Hickey must have been quite a person,” she said. Expelled from the Socialist Labor Party, he went to Hallettsville and edited a socialist paper, “The Rebel.” “Hallettsville already had two socialist papers. It had a strong populist background,” she said. “Most of the Germans who came to this country were German Social Democrats … ‘The Rebel’ became the largest English socialist weekly in the country except the two national publications of the party.” Dr. Allen said, a complete file of “The Rebel” is held by the University of Texas Archives. One of Hickey’s favorite lines, she said, was “It’s hell to be poor and awful unhandy.” Up to 100,000 copies of some issues were circulated. “Hickey had a gaiety that labor leaders or reformers seldom have,” she said. The Social Democrats became the second party in Texas”they beat the Republicans in the election of 1912.” But this was not a new rising of Populism. Social Democrats, she said, were tied to the sharecroppers; populists were for farm landowners. Hickey demanded abolition of private ownership of land which enabled people to have tenant farmers, which Dr. Allen thought was “unfortunate.” “The Social Democrats organized a tenants’ union. Nobody could belong who hired a worker. That upset the state of Texas considerably,” she said. Tenants were evicted; there was considerable violence. “The German Social Democrats’ in Texas developed a camp meeting technique,” she said. “They had these huge socialist camp meetings. Believe it or not, the railroads gave special reduced rates to go to these socialist camp meetings!” Out in West Texas, she said, “the situation became desperate, with the ranches becoming farms,” and there formed out there, after World War I, “The Farmer and Labor Alliance.” About 150 of its members were rounded up by the FBI and Texas Rangers and “charged with subversion.” “Thomas Hickey was one of them. He was never indicted. According to his widower,” who still lives in West Texas, “they just came around and picked him up every little.bit. All of them were turned loose except the president, who served a prison term.” One of the labor students asked Dr. Allen about the Farmers’ Union. She laughed and said “The Social Democrats weren’t their kind of people. The difficulty is that the farmer is really an entrepreneur, a businessman. His interest is in the difference between wages and price. Anybody who tries to get higher wages for farm workers is met with the same kind of hostility as from any other employer. “And of course,” she added, “we know that farm workers today have less protection than any other workers.” Lumber Workers Fail IN 1912, the U.S. Department of Labor again studied the way workers lived, and “they found the same thing,” Dr. Allen said. In this second investigation, considerable attention was given to the lumber workers in East Texas who worked for “the big lumber companies.” “They turned in some reports on lumber towns in Texas. The report was never published. The report on the tenant farmer was two of the 30 committee volumes, but that material became available about two years agoon microfilm,” Dr. Allen said. “The lumber workers probably did a great deal to set the pattern of industrial relations in Texas, because most Texans lived in East Texas in those early days,” she said. East Texas was one of the great lumbering areas of the United States. In the 19th century Texas lumber workers were not well paid, but after 1900 “big corporations” took over, especially John H. Kirby, “the great one,” and also others, she said. “The situation of the lumber workers economically became worse and worse. There were so many workers attached to the industry that they had very little time to work, so wages were low. The company deducted from wages a cost for hospitalization. Until 1917 they deducted workmen’s compensation cost from the wages of the workers. “The workers lived in company towns… These investigators described three lumber towns. On one they gave a judgment. They had been to South Texas the millsmining camps in Colorado but they had never seen anything approaching the situation in this town.” Dr. Allen said the lumber workers in Texas were paid, not in money, but in scrip; they lived in houses owned by the companies, which deducted the rent out of their salaries; they had to trade at the company stores. In 1910 there were sporadic strikes among them. That year “The Brotherhood of Timber Workers” began to form in the “Sabine pine woods in Texas and Louisiana,” and it gathered, Dr. Allen said, considerable strength. Then “one of those things happened.” One Sunday, just across the Louisiana line, during some union speeches at a meeting there was a riot. Fifty-nine workers were indicted; two employers were arrested but were not indicted. The cases came to trial in Louisiana. “Somebody tried to suborn the jury, the judge heard about it, and dismissed all the cases.” Dr. Allen also said the court records contain a statement from “a spy for a firm in Dallas” who had become a union organizer and organized several of the lumber locals himself. ‘Wobblies’ End It Having hired the best, and therefore the expensive lawyers, the Brotherhood of Timber Workers was exhausted at the end of the trial. “So many of them had been arrested. The workers be. gan to be afraid to join.” The I.W.W. of that time, the “Wobblies,” offered to help, “so they joined the I.W.W. So that ended …In the South, and the Sabine not tolerated at all.” Why had the lumber workers’ efforts failed? Dr. Allen suggested: The hostility of the employers. Labor costs were 30 per cent of the lumber companies’ total costs, so a labor strike could gravely affect the profitability of the venture, she said. “There were no foreigners they were all native born, several generations in Texas. Another student says the South needed more foreigners.” “The race question. Only onethird of the lumber workers were Negro. But the race question was always there. One reason the I.W.W. couldn’t begin to operate in the South was because they were militant anti-segregationists. “The lumber workers have not organized to this day,” Dr. Allen said. Teachers, Oilworkers The first teachers’ union was organized in Texas in San Antonio in the early 1900’s, Dr. Allen noted, and teachers’ unions spread through the state. After World War I there were 19 locals of the American Federation of Teachers in Texas. “For several reasons they didn’t stay around very long.” One of the labor men in her audience asked Dr. Allen what the reasons were. “Well,” she said, “a few judicious removals.” Oilworkers’ unionizing, she said, started in both California and Texas. There was, she said, a great division between the California and Texas groups. During World War I 10,000 Texas oil workers struck. Their wages were low; the price of oil was going up but not their wages. “This strike caused the President’s mediation commission to come to Texas to hear the case,” Dr. Allen said. “It decided in favor of the strikers. The employers refused to accept the decision. That more or less destroyed the oilworkers’ union.” The oilworkers, she said, are “still potentially the largest organiied group in the country.” The main reason, she said, is that labor costs are only three to five percent of the cost of production in the industry. “What would a ten percent increase in wages amount to,” she asked”if it came to a choice -between being faced with a strike and granting it?” R.D. Subscribe to The Texas Observer