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invest in such speculative enterprises as our bituminous mines are aware of their risk and have the sums which keep them from penury invested in bonds which return a steady interest instead of a chance profit. They are at least not hit in quite the same simple bread-and-butter way in which the miners are when the whistle stops blowing and there is no more work.
We have here a situation of permanent underemployment and low annual earnings which neither the advocates of "birth control of new mines" on one hand nor the advocates of greater efficiency on the other hand can stop. Even if no new mines had been opened in the last five years the country would still be overproduced, and any further increase in the efficiency of labor would have accentuated that overproduction and underemployment even more than it already has done.
I shall spend no time translating this into standards of living, community respect, education, and the like. This particular group probably knows better than any other one in the country what those words mean. Of course the lowered purchasing power of 700,000 workers, representing between three and four million people, has affected, and will continue to affect, adversely the workers in the other industries of the country.
To come to the essence of the miners' situation: they have left the industry to the financiers and managers. They have talked about reorganization of the industry, but never have brought serious pressure to bear anywhere upon the financiers, managers, or government toward that end. Where a mine was opened they came to work. They moved their families. They placed their trust in the wisdom of those whose wisdom is respected so greatly in this country at the present time. Mines closed. They were given to understand that they might open again. They stayed. They tried to patch out with other work. There are few other industries in many of the small mine towns. To some extent their craft training had incapacitated them for other jobs. On the whole they left the owners and managers of the mining industry free to control their destinies. Two things only they insisted upon: that there be a certain minimum standard of living below which they could not go, and that they have a union to protect that minimum standard, for they knew that without the union it would be taken from them.
Today unemployment has, in the main, taken away from them that minimum standard, and the union which attempted to maintain it for them has dropped from 72 per cent of the production to around 40 per cent in this year. What the northern union fields have lost has gone to West Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee. These fields now have the advantage of better coal, steadier operation, lower overhead, better machinery, a flexible wage scale, and lower labor costs..
Out of this description it is possible to draw the rough lines of the dilemma which will face us next April when the Jacksonville Agreement expires. There is very little chance of unionization of the whole industry now, but that is one of the alternatives. If the whole industry were unionized, the subsistence level
could be pegged at a certain point; the union might then change its thin-seam and freight differentials enough to eliminate some of the least efficient mines. It has never yet done these things, but it might take this way out of an almost impossible situation. It could also bar out new men from entering the industry. It could force the operators to unite, which they have never done yet, and agree among themselves to some policy of restriction of the overexpansion of the industry.
If the fields are de-unionized, on the other hand, in fact if not in name, we may expect a cut in wages to the lowest level which the southern workers would stand without unionizing. Just where this point is we do not know. That the standard of living in the mountains where many of the southern miners come from is much lower than that of our more urban and industrialized sections, we know. To cut the wages much lower would mean a close approach to starvation for many and a definitely lowered standard of living for the four million people directly affected, and also a lowering of wages in the adjacent industries under the labor competition of men leaving the industry. Thus by small decisions we would enter upon a national low-wage policy, which means low purchasing power, which would have an important effect upon the whole country. As a nation we cannot afford to go to the low-wage basis which many of the European countries have adopted.
The important thing to note is that a cut in the wage rates of the northern miners would not settle the situation. The northern operators will certainly demand this next spring-are, in fact, even now demanding it—but as a group it will not help them. The miners have no guaranty, and the operators are in no position to give them a guaranty, that lower day rates will give them the same annual earnings as they are receiving now. No sooner are the northern rates cut than the southern operators will cut rates, and the two fields will be on the same competitive basis, a little lower in the scale of living conditions for their miners, but otherwise quite the same. They cannot increase their market by lowering the price. If, at the end of another year or two, the northern miners were forced to take another wage cut, the southern workers might also take another to get enough work to keep their annual earnings somewhere close to their expenses. What will all this process accomplish? Cheaper coal? Yes, but that will not increase the market, and it is not the operators, but the purchasers, who will get the advantage of it. Greater employment for the miners? Hardly. After the lowest level of living which the non-union miners can stand has been reached there will be greater employment for the union miners, but lower annual earnings all around for all the miners. It will get some of the men out of the industry, of course. Where can they find employment? What effect will that have on the wages in the industries where they seek it? Will their departure really limit the overexpansion in the industry?
At present both the plan for unionizing the whole industry and the plan for accomplishing its reorganization by de-unionization do not have enough power
behind them to accomplish even the meager results they promise. In the end we will, as a nation, probably come to the union program because we cannot afford to go to a permanent low-wage basis. The length of time before we get there depends somewhat upon us. At present there is waste, confiscation of property values, and practical starvation. There will probably be violence. It is inherent in the situation and we should not let it divert our minds from the main problem when it comes. The question is whether these things shall result in a centralized control and responsibility in the industry or in the government or whether it is all another one of those wars which get us nowhere. So far all these things have gotten us nowhere. The "natural laws" of supply and demand of which much used to be made fifty years ago have not eliminated the inefficient mines nor the superfluous miners, nor provided decent wages. The policy of leaving everything to the industry in the last resort to settle, which is a temptation our politicians yield to with grace, fluency, and frequency, has not brought relief, nor is it likely to. The industry is torn into small parts. The operators are not united. The miners are not united. There is no coal policy.
In his book, Coal, Dr. Devine brings out the dilemma of the union in very interesting fashion. In speaking about the possibility of the workers getting "more satisfaction, more freedom, more security-more happiness, in shortout of the work itself," he remarks that
in the course of such a development the union would have to become an agency for the mining of coal instead of a belligerent organization for maintaining the wages and rights of the miners or rather, in addition to discharging that function. Restriction of output would cease. Loyalty to the enterprise would replace sullen hostility...
I am convinced that it is not impracticable. But I am equally convinced that it is not practicable in private enterprise under external financial control; in private enterprises conducted primarily for maximum dividends to stockholders. Private enterprise has still the oppotunity to show whether it can, in effect, socialize industry. . .
A little later he says:
The United Mine Workers should change their policy, not so much because it is monopolistic, in the sense that it looks forward to including all miners in it, but because it is too narrow. As long as the industry is primarily exploitive, however, controlled by outside financial interests for the sake of maximum profits to the big stockholders or manipulators . . . . there is very little reason to expect a change in the policy of labor. The industry must change altogether if the miners are to be expected to change. Indeed, it would not be amiss to say that while the exploiting, antisocial policies of the operators continue it would not be in the public interest for the miners to throw themselves in unreservedly to make the production as great and the cost as low as possible. If the result of such hearty cooperation on their part were to be only an increase in profits, speculation, irregularity, profiteering, and overdevelopment, the public might well be led to pray to be delivered from such excess of zeal on the part of labor. The main bulwark of humanity against the worst excesses of an acquisitive capitalism may prove to be the unwillingness of labor to play its game to such an unreasonable extent.
These are strong words, and yet one is inclined to say that there is a great deal to them. It is not impossible that the union miners may at times be con
fused; not aware of, or unable to cope with, the complications of this great and widespread industry, but when they go forth to peg the living of four million people at a decent minimum below which it must not be allowed to drop, they are raising a standard to which all liberal and humanitarian America can rally.
OBSERVANCE OF MEMORIAL DAY
Rev. Abba Hillel Silver, D.D., The Temple, Cleveland
I would be trespassing both upon your time and your patience were I to presume to speak at length upon any theme related to the great cause which has summoned you, since there are two distinguished guests here to address you. One of our guests will interpret the spiritual aspect of the ministry of social service to which you have dedicated yourselves, and another will interpret the message of Memorial Day. No more appropriate themes, and, I daresay, no more appropriate spokesmen, could have been chosen for the occasion.
In a sense there is a close concordance between the spirit of Memorial Day and that which informs your great Conference. It is, I believe, faith in the reality of certain imperative ideals in social life which are deserving of man's deepest loyalties and highest sacrifices. There are dark hours in human history when some of these ideals are in imminent danger of defeat. Then those who venerate them are summoned by destiny to lay down their lives for them. Such honored dead we memorialize in reverence today. But, there are other times-in fact the unbroken and endless years, in which these ideals require unfoldment and fulfilment, when they are in danger, not of being defeated, but of being forgotten. Their devotees are then summoned daily and hourly, not to die for them, but to live for them. These devotees are the social workers, lay or professional, who in a thousand great and humble ways are helping to realize these ideals, to give them, as it were, "a local habitation and a name," and to express them into concrete human institutions and relationships.
Memorial Day brings to grateful memory those who died in the wars of our Republic. Mankind has waged many wars, and most of them have been unnecessary, ignoble, and beastly cruel. But even those wars which were honestly waged for the sake of essential human ideals were never won except as the faithful men and women, the inspired "hewers of wood and drawers of water," in their patient, detailed labors after the wars, carried into partial fulfilment the purposes for which these wars were fought.
The Civil War did not emancipate the slave. Only in a very narrow and limited sense did the Civil War emancipate the slave. It will take decades more, and generations, before the Negro will receive his due of political and economic justice in this land. The Civil War only cleared the jungle and prepared the way for the slow, patient, often heart breaking campaigns which all the lovers of
freedom have carried on, and must still carry on, in behalf of his real emancipation.
Similarly, the Great War established none of the purposes for which it was avowedly fought. Europe has been made safe, not for democracy, but for autocracy; and the ideal of a lasting peace among the peoples of the earth is still traveling the dolorous road of frustration. How will these purposes ever be achieved? The faithful servants of men, here and abroad, working through the coming years, patiently and in sacrificial loyalty, each in his respective sphere of influence they will make real the ideals for which ten millions of men, wittingly or unwittingly, gave their lives.
It is, therefore, most salutary to surrender ourselves to the inspiriting influences of Memorial Day; for by recalling the high hopes of those who poured out the rich red wine of their youth upon the high altars we may become the more keenly aware of the great work still left undone. We shall be reminded that the dead are summoning us to take up the torch which their hands carried in glory and honor through the great tribulations of war; that they are demanding of us to safeguard the spiritual legacies which they have bequeathed unto us, and to make real that for which they gave all that life held dear.
There is one war, my friends, to which they, the dead, would summon us today—a war which has been waged since the beginning of civilization, and which will be waged until the Kingdom is firmly established; a war whose implements are not the sword or steel, but love and the spirit, whose soldiers are the meek and the humble of the earth, the prophet, the teacher, the seeker of truth; a war in which none is wounded, but all are healed; in which none is slain, but all are resurrected into the fuller and higher life; the only holy war of humanitythe war on poverty, physical and spiritual; the war on all that thwarts human life, all that renders life mean and narrow and ugly, all that keeps man from enjoying his divine patrimony of freedom and beauty and happiness, the war on ignorance, superstition, vice, oppression, and exploitation.
And may it be a relentless war! And may we, soldiers, never falter nor grow weary.
THE SPIRITUAL ELEMENT IN SOCIAL WORK
Rev. John A. Ryan, D.D., Washington, D.C.
The field of social work is presumably pretty well covered by the twelve divisions of the National Conference. Eight of them are concerned with various objects of social work, while the other four deal with methods, means, and organization. The objects are, primarily, relief and prevention of social distress, and secondarily, improvement of social standards. Analyzing the wide variety of topics which have a place on the program of the present conference, we find that the majority of them relate to physical distress, physical needs, and physical improvement. The other topics have to do with the moral and mental welfare