THE steel strike of September 22, 1919, to January 7, 1920, in one sense, is not over. The main issues were not settled. The causes still remain. Moreover, both causes and issues remain uncomprehended by the nation. The strike, although the largest in point of numbers in the history of the country up to the first date, exhibited this extraordinary phase: the basic facts concerning the work and lives of the 300,000 strikers were never comprehensively discovered to the public. . . .Put tersely, the public mind completely lost sight of the real causes of the strike, which lay in hours, wages and conditions of labor, fixed "arbitrarily," according to the head of the United States Steel Corporation, in his testimony at a Senatorial investigation. It lost sight of them because it was more immediately concerned with the actual outcome of the great struggle between aggregations of employers and aggregations of workers than it was with the fundamental circumstances that made such a struggle inevitable. This investigation and report deal primarily with the causative facts,--with abiding conditions in the steel industry--and only secondarily with conflicts of policies and their influence on national institutions and modes of thought.Out of the first set of undisputed facts, these may be cited in the beginning:
i. The number of those working the twelve-hour day is 69,000. (Testimony of E. H. Gary, Senate Investigation, Vol. I, p. 157.)
ii. The number of those receiving the common labor or lowest rate of pay is 70,000. (Letters of E. H. Gary to this Commission.)

This means that approximately 350,0001 men, women and children are directly affected by the longest hours or the smallest pay in that part of the industry owned by the United States Steel Corporation, which fixes pay and hours without conference with the labor force.

Since this corporation controls about half the industry, it is therefore a reasonably conservative estimate that working conditions of three quarters of a million of the nation's population have their lives determined arbitrarily by the twelve-hour day or by the lowest pay in the steel industry.

This nub of the situation, the Commission found, was subordinated, and after the strike remained subordinate, to the industry's warfare over collective bargaining. Both sides were enmeshed. The huge steel companies, committed to a non-union system (and offering no alternative) and the masses of workers, moving as workers do traditionally, seemed both to be helpless. Espionage replaced collective bargaining or cooperative service.


From The Interchurch World Movement, Report on the Steel Strike of 1919, pp. 3-18, 31-36, 38, 39, 41, 44-48, 50-52, 57-60, 65, 144-45, 147-153, 219, 226-27, 233, 236, 238-40. Copyright, 1920, by Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc.

The average American family, the so-called statistical family, consists of five persons.


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The Steel Strike of 1919


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