WHEN reports of shootings and burnings and assaults began to arrive from coal strike districts, the public had already wearied greatly of the strike. Such a strike is a heavy public burden, and violence increased the offense. The whole disturbance demonstrated from the first that whoever was responsible for it has helped the agitation for public ownership of the coal supply, and indirectly other forms of socialism, for it is not to be expected that such conflicts can fail to suggest in certain minds even unwisely drastic remedies for the chronic evil of strike after strike. That a milder remedy will serve, the facts appearing up to the time of writing will serve to show.

However befogged the issues of the strike may become as it continues, the fact stares the public in the face that the United Mine Workers, after formulating specific grievances last March, postponed a threatened strike for a month to discuss them with the operators and with members of the Arbitration Department of the Civic Federation, and then offered to leave their demands to arbitration. In a notable and important disagreement, involving a vast industry, a body of organized workmen endeavored to be conservative.

The terms the miners asked were these: a ten-per-cent increase in their wages; an eight-hour day for their laborers, who by the customary arrangement receive one-third the gross receipts of the miners, who work by contract; an eight-hour day for other men on " company account, " such as engineers, pump men and so on; the privilege of having a checker at the weighing of the coal; a new ton of 2,240 pounds instead of 2,700; and recognition of the union. They were willing to accept as a compromise a five-per-cent increase in wages, says Senator Hanna; and when the operators refused to grant even that, President Mitchell of the Mine Workers still urged the 145,000 miners not to strike, simply because he believed the occasion inopportune. This, too, showed conservatism, not on the part of the miners who struck, but on the part of their leader.

Now, viewing the whole anthracite region the conditions giving rise to the miners' demands are found to be such as to furnish in different mines arguments both for and against the granting of such demands as were made. In no industry can conditions vary more than in anthracite coal-mining. The pitch of tunnels, the proportion of slate or sulphur in the coal, the honesty of the "checkers" and weighers, the matter of company stores, the efficiency and industriousness of the miners and laborers, the character of foremen, and the number of working days in the year: all these, making the condition of the workingmen harder or easier as the case may be, differ so widely as to furnish circumstantial arguments on both sides of the question. But citing specific instances of unreason on either side in any single case or in any single locality simply confuses the issue: no facts avail to clarify the subject except those that effect the coal region as a whole. One alone stands out with convincing force. Dr. Peter Roberts, author of "The Anthracite Coal Industry, " a recent exhaustive treatment of the subject, computing an average of wages paid before the ten-per-cent. increase of 1900, shows that the miners—whatever may be their wages from time to time— have for twenty-five years received an equivalent of $1.50 a day for the three hundred working days of the year. Their wages are higher than this, of course, but as the men work on an average but one hundred and ninety days a year, this $1.50 a day for the three hundred working days normally spent in employment in other industries has represented the miners' living income. Since they won their strike of 1900 it has been $1.65 a day, under an arrangement, however, by which thirty-seven per cent of the miners, as for a long time past, are met with the company store system. It is true, of course, that many of the men average for the year more than $1.65, just as it is true that many average less; but the $1.65 represents what the miners as a whole receive on an average: the laborers receive smaller wages still. The present strike, accordingly, however the situation may be confused, was primarily for the purpose of raising this standard of living: this supporting a family on an average through the industry of $9.90 a week or less.

The United Mine Workers of America, however, are affiliated with the American Federation of Labor, whose avowed purpose it is to secure the best possible condition of its members by a series of skirmishes aimed to secure one advantage after another. Interested this year to gain one, the Mine Workers will be interested next year to gain another. Having gained one, that would tighten their ranks for another, with out a strike if possible,—for that is the policy of the whole Federation of Labor,—but, if necessary, with a strike. Accordingly, taking the natural, and quite logical, point of view of the coal operators,—the officials of the railroads controlling the anthracite coal industry,—the Mine Workers, after securing a ten-per-cent. increase in wages in 1900, demanded before the present strike not only a better standard of living, but a firmer foothold for demanding a better standard still at some time in the future. The whole matter, analyzed, became a question of unionism, for it was clear that any concession granted to the miners now would make them stronger to ask greater concessions at a time when it would be more dangerous or even impossible to refuse, say in the Presidential election summer of 1904. It will be remembered that political reasons had a share is settling the strike of 1900 in favor of the miners. In this light, the operators by refusing to yield at all, adopted the soundest possible selfish business policy. A small concession would have strengthened the union for presenting new grievances next year; it was inconceivable that any arbitration board would decide that workmen protesting against a $9.90 a week scale of living, were making exorbitant requests; if the union must be broken, this was the time to break it.

The public, accordingly, is suffering because vast business syndicates, preferring to set themselves the wage scale of employees, have refused to permit an entering wedge of the community-of-interest arrangement that labor unions at their strongest insist on establishing. This arrangement means the settling of all business dealings—for wages and for other conditions of employment—between workmen and employers by collective bargaining: representatives of labor with representatives of employers. How much the public is made to suffer while the contest is waged for the arrangement, or in this case for the first step toward it, has already come home to consumers.

The anthracite mines produce about five million tons a month, practically all of which goes into household consumption, except in cities like Boston and New York which, to avoid the soot that disfigures Pittsburgh and Chicago, forbid the use of soft coal in industries. It has never been profitable to store anthracite: it has been found more economical to produce just enough to supply the probable demand; and the syndicate of railroads controlling the anthracite fields amicably decide just what proportions of the amount needed each shall produce every year. When the strike came, therefore, although the companies are believed to have employed the month of discussion accorded them in piling up an unusual supply, the demand began at once to draw on a fixed quantity, and with the growing scarcity the price to the consumer went up and up—from $5.35 a ton at the beginning of the strike to $7.50 a ton three weeks after. With New York City alone using normally 30,000 tons a day, a positive anthracite famine is not far off, and in any event the public pays a large share of the operators' loss through the strike, dollar after dollar as the shortening supply grows dearer and dearer. Nor do the strikers lose as much as would appear, for after the great bituminous coal strike of 1898 in which the miners were for a long time idle, the yearly average of working days showed no falling off: time lost in the strike was made up by an increase in the working days for the rest of the year. It is the public that pays for a strike like this. Just as deeply interested, then, as the warring sides, the public has become a party to the anthracite strike; it faces a famine in an absolute necessity; and is forced, as the famine approaches, to give aid and comfort to the operators by buying expensive coal. Nor can it be maintained that the operators are obliged to keep the miners poorly paid in order that the public may not have to pay too much for coal; the fallacy of this sort of reasoning was shown in clothing manufacture when the degraded sweat-shop was abolished.

It is a public problem, therefore, just as it was a public problem in 1893 when the clothing makers were striking, to decide not merely whether a certain body of workmen are justified in demanding for their labor an American rather than a European standard of living, but whether the public are willing to suffer in order to crush the power of a labor union. For each side in the coal strike is fighting for a principle. President Baer of the Reading Railroad, one of the leading operators, declared in February that labor unions are a menace to American industry; the Mine Workers, as members of the American Federation of Labor, constructively declare that it is the laborer's province to share equally with the employer in settling the conditions under which industry shall be carried on, and that this sharing is for the best ultimate interests of society.

Now on the part of the public two things have been done to furnish sound evidence on the broad question and to offer machinery —in default of any hampering law of compulsory arbitration—to settle disputes. The Industrial Commission was organized to make the most thorough investigation into the labor question that ever was made, and the Arbitration Department of the Civic Federation was formed to assist adjudication of disagreements.

The Industrial Commission, after taking volumes of testimony, came to the following conclusion:

"By the organization of labor and by no other means is it possible to introduce an element of democracy into the government of industry. By this means only the workers can effectively take part in determining the conditions under which they work. This becomes true in the fullest and best sense only when the employers frankly meet the representatives of the workmen, and deal with them as parties equally interested in the conduct of affairs. . . . In such conferences as those between the United Mine Workers and the coal mine operators (in the bituminous coal industry) this real industrial partnership is frankly recognized and made the basis of negotiations.

"The general tenor of the testimony before the Commission seems to be that employers view the organization of labor with increasing tolerance, even where they do not view it with marked favor. The unions seem themselves increasingly to deserve the respect of the employers and of the community.... So far as employers take a long look ahead and act in the interest of the ultimate welfare of society, that they will encourage rather than repress the growth of democratic government in their industries. . . . If they adopt a repressive policy they may perhaps succeed in it; but as long as the tradition of freedom is strong in the minds of the working people they cannot destroy the aspiration for a measure of self-government in respect to the most important part of life."

Nor is machinery lacking for such settling of working conditions as the Commission suggests. The Arbitration Department of the Civic Federation in no way sets itself up as a tribunal, nor does it even suggest the arbitration of disputes, though it is widely, but wrongly, believed that this is the purpose of the Board. It merely offers an opportunity for labor representatives and employers to throw aside the unreasoning, uncomprehending hatred that has caused most strikes in the past, and to meet to discuss labor difficulties in the judicial fashion in which other business affairs are settled. It hopes for a settlement without recourse to either strikes or arbitration. If no agreement can be reached, it still deprecates costly strikes and presents in its committee of thirty an absolutely unimpeachable roll of men from whom arbitrators can be chosen. The whole raison d'etre of the Department is to furnish, with no attempt at arrogance, a means of settling industrial disputes with honor, and with no trenching on the rights of either side.

As for the violence reported from the strike region, it needs no pointing out that in no way can strikers lose public sympathy more quickly than by making attacks on persons or on property. At the same time it may be asked how a class of men, many of them foreigners, who have spent their lives in supporting families on $9.90 a week can learn the necessity of orderliness. Considerate treatment and a better standard of living will teach them that far better than repression ever can.