The Impossibilists by Larry
Selected articles from the press of the
Socialist Party of Canada and the One Big Union, 1906-1938
[Return to Part One]
The wretched working
conditions often found in the “Roaring Twenties” are exposed in Loggers
Live In SqualorLoggers,
Prostitution Demanded Of Girl Waitresses and Young
Slaves Are Cheap.
Loggers Live In Squalor, OBU Bulletin,
December 20, 1927
From the Atlantic to the Pacific, conditions in any
of the lumber camps in Canada could not possibly be worse than those that
exist in the camps of Northern Ontario. It is high time the workers took
action to remedy these conditions, and there is only one action they can
take which will be successful, that is: Organize. At the present time, no
organization exists and the workers are at the complete mercy of the
lumber barons. Groups of workers keep shifting from camp to camp hoping
that the next camp would possibly be fit for a human being to live in, but
alas, they look in vain, for they find the next camp just as bad as the
one they left.
The bunkhouse is the most important of conditions
to a lumberjack, for this is the only home he will have during the long
winter months. To call this bunkhouse a home would exceeding the human
imagination, for workers are jammed into small boxes made of logs, 38
persons to each one, which allows six foot of space per man. No washroom
is provided, consequently one tub on the bunk house stove has to do the
duty for all. This results in the bunkhouse being full of steam and stench
from the clothes and socks hanging up to dry. Moreover, the space being so
limited, the men cannot walk upright. There is no ventilator, and the
windows are all nailed down. This is not an extreme case but is typical of
all the camps… The Gibson camps are well known for these same conditions
and also leaky roofs which permit the water to continually drip on the
men’s beds… What a comparison between these sleeping quarters of the
slaves and the sumptuous sleeping quarters of their masters, who wine and
dine on the parlor cars between here and Ottawa.
[ Top ]
Prostitution Demanded Of Girl Waitresses, OBU
Bulletin, Sept. 20, 1928
New York—(F.P.)—Prostitution is demanded of girl
waitresses sent out to many hotels in the summer months. Others are robbed
of their wages. Boys are frequently beaten up by their employers. Workers
of both sexes are sent long distances, at their own expense, often to find
that no job awaits them.
These evils of the private employment agencies and
summer hotel keepers were revealed to the Industrial Survey Commission by
Mrs. Lillian Sire of the State Labor Department, during hearings conducted
to frame a state license law for job sharks.
Flappers from 16 to 20 are at a premium in these
resorts, Mrs. Sire testified. If she refuses to yield to the demands of
customers and bosses, she finds herself stranded 100 to 300 miles from the
city. Older women sent to these waitress jobs are turned down, or fired
soon after they go to work.
Sent to work as a busboy, a youth was made to do
porter work too heavy for him. He was beaten, turned out penniless and
walked 135 miles back to New York, living on apples picked by the wayside.
Many resort keepers fire their workers after the
first week, splitting job fees with the employment agencies back in the
city. This is known as the three shift system, with one crew on the job,
one on the way back and another coming. One boss made $100,000 in this
A woman with a small child had wages deducted for
the baby’s food. Then she was denied any food at all for the child.
Finally her clothes were thrown out the window and she was forced to leave
without any money. The woman complained to the Sheriff, who becoming
impatient knocked her down with his fist. She set out down the road
carrying her baby. Her feet swelled so she had to discard her shoes.
Tottering along, she was hit by a bus. A leg was amputated but
nevertheless she died and the tot was sent to a public institution.
No redress exists for these workers, Mrs. Sire told
the commission. It takes six days for a hearing, and then the employer may
ask a continuance. In the meantime the complainant may be beaten up or
threatened to leave town.
[ Top ]
Young Slaves Are Cheap, OBU Bulletin, May
The Labor members have recently attempted to obtain
a minimum wage for boys employed in Manitoba. In the course of the
discussion of this matter, S.J. Farmer quoted from a report prepared by
the Bureau of Labor and declared that there were scores of boys working
for $4.00 a week or less, and stated that their hours of labor were as
high as 69 a week. We do not know what our readers think of this
deplorable state of affairs, but it certainly should receive attention at
the hands of the working class.
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