Working in the Nineteenth Century

Document 1: Report of the Royal Commission on the Relations of Capital and Labor

Source: Report of the Royal Commission on the Relations of Capital and Labor in Canada, Evidence — Ontario. Vol. 5. Ottawa: 1889.

[Pages 1-2]

Toronto, 23rd November, 1887.

JOHN FALCONER called and sworn.

By the CHAIRMAN: —

Q.– What is your occupation? A.– I am a carpenter.

Q.– How long have you resided in Toronto? A. — Since sixteen years ago last May.

Q.– What is the standard rate of wages paid to carpenters in this city to-day? A. — Twenty-two and a half to twenty-five cents an hour, with the exception of foremen who get 27 1/2 cents.

Q.– Have you any standard number of hours for a day’s labor? A.– Yes; in the summer time we have nine hours. Of course, we cannot have that very well now, but according to the delay we have, we work eight or eight and a half, and some times nine hours just now in the fall of the year.

Q.– Is this for outdoor or indoor work? A.– Out and in too, as far as I know; it is in our shop at any rate.

Q.– What amount of lost time do carpenters experience on the average in the course of the year? A.– Well, in the position I am in, being what you would call a shop hand, barring bad health I am pretty well employed int he whole year. Outside men in all likelihood, taking it all through, weather, broken time, holidays and so on included, would average about one-sixth of their time. I do not think that they would average more than 45 hours work per week.

Q.– Have you any idea as to what proportion of the carpenters are outside men losing this time? A.– It is pretty hard to get at that. Perhaps one-third would be pretty near the mark for those who prepare for joiner work leaving two-thirds for outside work.

Q.– You think that two-thirds of all the carpenters in Toronto would lose one-sixth of their time and the rest would be full employed? A.– I think so, taking the year right through.

Q.– Has the rate of wages been increasing of late years? Say within the fourteen or fifteen years that you have lived in Toronto has the rate increased or decreased, or has it not fluctuated at all? A.– Wages have increased certainly.


Q.– Could you tell by your books what you have been paid during those years? A.– Yes, I could show by my books at home. Fifteen years ago, for instance, the wages were $1.75 and $2 per day.

Q.– How many hours’ labor were there then per day? A. — Well, putting it by the hour we were receiving twenty cents per hour. We have since then got as low as fifteen cents according to the amount of work, demand and supply regulating it. Last year we have not seen it go much below 22 1/2 for good mechanics — 22 1/2 to 25…

[Pages 28-30]

Toronto, 24th November 1887

***[Anonymous] Toronto, called and sworn.


Q.–What is your occupation? A.– I am a steam fitter.

Q.– How long have you resided in Toronto? A.– About three years.

Q.– where did you reside before that? A.– In Peterborough.

By Mr. FREED:–

Q.– During the three years that you have lived in Toronto, has there been any change in the rates of wages? A.– Well, the rate of wages rose when there was a reduction in the number of hours. The rate per hour rose when the hours where reduced from ten to nine.

Q.– Was there any strike when this increase took place? A.– There was a strike of the plumbers, and they got an increase and we got it at the same time. They are separate trades, but we work for the same employer.

Q.– Where there conferences between the employers and the employed? A.– Yes.

Q.– In these conferences was the discussion friendly or otherwise? A.– As far as I heard from reports they where friendly.

Q.– were you not present? A.– No; I was not a member of the deputation that waited on the employers.

Q.– The conferences were between the Labor Unions and the employers? A.– Yes; delegates from the Labor Unions, as well as from the Employers’ Union, were present.

Q.– The employers have a union or organization also? A.– Yes; but I suppose they would scarcely care to have it called a Union.

Q.– Was there anything in the nature of an arbitration? A.– No, it was left to no outside party; they came to an agreement betwen themselves.

Q.– Is your work done in what might be called factories? A.– No. There is, I should judge, two-thirds of our work done outside, and about one-third in the shops.

Q.– Is there much machinery in the shops? A.– No; it requires little machinery except machines for threading pipe.

Q.– What are the sanitary arrangements of the shops? A.– Satisfactory, as far as I have know.

Q.– No objection on account of dust, or cold, or heat, or ill ventillation? A.– I have heard none.

Q.– No large number of men working together? A.– No.

Q.– What are the rates of wages now paid? A.– They run from about twenty cents to thirty-three cents an hour.

Q.– Do you have a half holiday on Saturday? A.– During five months of the year.


Q.– Your work continues all the year? A.– No; for about three months it is very precarious employment.

By Mr. FREED:–

Q.– Are there many apprentices taken in your trade? A.– Yes.

Q.– Is there any limit imposed on the employers by the employés as to the number of apprentices they shall employ? A.– No.

Q.– What, within your knowledge, is the proportion of apprentices to journeymen? A.– About two apprentices to one journeymen.

Q.– Do the apprentices continue in one shop until they learn the trade, or do they go from shop to shop? A.– The majority finish their time.

Q.– Is there any indenturing system amongst them? A.– No; I do not think so. Generally indentures are signed after the apprentices become valuable, sometimes after two years or after three years. I know one who signed who had been doing journeyman work for a year before he signed.

Q.– And if he refused to sign what would happen? A.– He would be dismissed. I have understood that there is an arrangement between the employers not to employ apprentices from another shop.

Q.– Do you know this or is it hearsay? A.– I could not say positively, only I know that when apprentices have left a description has been telephoned from one shop to another. I was not at the telephone and could not swear positively, but to the best of my knowledge and belief it occurred; at all events the apprentices were refused at other shops.

Q.– That, to some extent they were blacklisted by the employers? A.– Yes.

Q.– When they sign indentures do they work for lower wages? A.– I do not know the arrangements with the apprentices regarding wages.

Q.– Of what advantage are indentures to employers? A.– Really I do not know that they are any.

Q.– You do not know, then, why they are so anxious to indenture them? A.– There are very few indentured, and it is generally after having served three years and become valuable that they are indentured.

Q.– Is there any difficulty in getting employment in your trade? A.– Yes, for about three months in the year. Many men are idle then.

Q.– What is the idle season? A.– It commences about Christmas or New Year’s and lasts about three months. I should say January, February, and March.

Q.– During the rest of the year is there any difficulty? A.– No. The majority of the workmen get employment, and it is rather rare for good men to be out of employment. In this busy season a good many men come in and work at the trade, and leave again, or go at something else; if a man is handy he can go out and do little odd jobs pertaining to the trade.

Q.– Do you think there are many idle plumbers during the busy season in Toronto? A.– No; I do not think there are any.

Q.– Do you know of foreign workmen coming in in any considerable numbers? A.– No; occasionally there are plumbers who come from the old country, but very few.

Q.– Do you know of any co-operative work being done by mechanics amongst themselves? A.– No.

Q.– Do you know of any profit sharing by the employers among the employed? A.– No, and I see no prospect of it.

Q.– Are any very small boys employed? A.– No; I do not know of any; they have to be big enough to carry the tools.


Q.– About what age are the youngest, do you think? A.– I should judge about sixteen.

By Mr. FREED:–

Q.– What is the rule as to paymnet of wages; are they paid weekly, monthly, or how? A.– They are paid bi-weekly.

Q.– Every two weeks? A.– Yes.

Q.– On what day. A.– Most shops on Friday; I think all pay on Friday, but I am not positive.

Q.– Is it your opinion that by-weekly payments are frequent enough, or should they be weekly. A.– As a matter of opinion I think that weekly payments would suit the majority of men best. Of course, that is merely a matter of opinion; as far as I am concerned myself it would make very little difference.

Q.– Is Friday as good a day for paying off hands as any other? A.– I think so.

Q.– What are your objections to Saturday as a pay-day? A.– I never had any experience in being paid on Saturday, but I should think the objection would be that most of the stores would be closed. That is the only one which occurs to me.

Q.– If the men were paid on Saturday would there be more drunkeness than if they were paid on other days? A.– I do not think it would make any difference; of course, I am only theorizing on that.

By Mr. WALSH:–

Q.– Might there not be another objection; do not the working people do their marketing on Saturday morning? A.– Yes; I should think that would be an objection with regard to dealing on the market.

Q.– Friday would be more advantageous? A.– Yes; I should think it would.

By Mr. FREED:–

Q.– Has any change within your knowledge taken place in the purchasing power of money within the three years you have been in Toronto? Will a dollar go as far as, or farther than it did three years ago? A.– Well, from what I have observed, I do not think it will go as far with regard to rents or purchasing land.

Q.– How about food and clothing? A.– I have noticed no alteration in prices within the three years, but rents have increased to my own knowledge, and the price of land has increased.

Q.– Is it within your knowledge that the Labor Unions secure better wages, the advantages of shorter hours, &c., to the workingmen than if there were no Labor Unions? A.– Yes, they do. It has been my experience with them. We organized a union before we got the reduction and it would have been necessary to have a union in order to be able to treat or have conferences, so as to be unanimous in our opinion with regard to what we require.

Q.– Do you think the average workman can work nine hours a day — substantial continuous work — without impairing his health or strength? Is nine hours a day too much to work in your trade? A.– That is a question upon which it would be very hard to given an opinion, especially by one like myself. I think that that length of time devoted to hard work would certainly shorten a man’s days, but, of course, that question would be more properly put to one who has collected statistics in that regard.

Q.– Is your labor fatiguing? A.– Yes.

Q.– If you work nine hours you go home pretty tired at night? A.– Yes, it is all pretty heavy work. I may say that, speaking from a mechanical point of view, our trade is not affected by foreign competition, only from effects of other trades in driving apprentices into ours and making the competition amongst us. That is the only way in which our trade comes in competition with foreign labor. Practically there are no steam fitters coming here from other countries. In the United States trade is better, and in the old country it has not been reduced to a trade the same as it has here, except, I may say, that during the busy season men who are classed as handy men are doing the work…

… By Mr. HEAKES:–

Q.– Are members of Trades Unions as far as you know opposed to the interest of employers? A.– No; I don’t think so.

Q.– Do you think that organization amongst the workingmen tends to better feeling with the employers? A.– Well, with regard to the feeling, that is a matter which depends on the state of their minds.

Q.– Speaking generally of the feeling existing between employers and men, do you think organization helps it? A.– I have not known that these feelings were at all strained with the workmen, but I think as a matter of opinion that employers would more kindly feelings personally towards the men, but —

Q.– I mean from the effects of organization have the relations between employers and men been any worse than before? A.– Their relations in what regard?

Q.– I wish to know whether organization injures workmen at all with their employers? A.– No; I think wiht regard to the relations to their employers, organization is to the benefit of the workingmen.

Q.– It is claimed by some people that workmen’s organizations antagonize the interest of employers and I want to know if it has in your trade? A.– No; I think not.

Q.– Has it not rather tended to draw the men an dtheir employers together? Do they not generally get a better understanding of what the men want and what the employers want? A.– Yes; of course they can interchange opinions better and get a better understanding with regard to each other’s ideas.

Q.– What is the general practice in your trade in the settlement of any dispute? A.– I have never had any except one and it was settled by a conference between the delegates from the employers and from the men.

Q.– Conciliation — that is meeting together and discussing it in that way? A.– Yes.

Q.– Is it the practice for employers to engage boys and then discharge them? A.– Yes.

Q.– They engage them as helpers? A.– Yes.

Q.– And they take a great many more boys than they require as apprentices? A.– They take on more in the busy than they can profitably employ during the slack season.

Q.– There are more boys engaged in the trade than there are apprentices? A.– I don’t know whether you call them apprentices or not; they are learning the trade but they are discharged in the slack season.

Q.– Can you give an estimate of the proportion of the boys taken on to learn the trade? A.– I could not, because I have not been in the city five years, which is the time they are supposed to serve.

Q.– You are of opinion that organization is a benefit all around. A.– Yes…

Toronto, 27th January, 1888

[Pages 347-348]

Miss HELEN GURNETT, Dressmaker, Toronto, called and sworn.


Q.– Will you please tell the Commission the average weekly wages of a first-class milliner or dressmaker, or are both trades combined? A.– They are separate.

Q.– Take, then, a first class dressmaker; please state what would be her average wages? A.– I have never been in anyone else’s workroom besides my own, and I run only a small business. My best hands receive $5, $6, or $7; $7 is the outside a week.

Q.– How many hours will a woman work per day for those wages? A.– From 8 until 6, with one hour at noon.

Q.– Take young firls going to learn the business; are they apprenticed? A.– Usually they are.

Q.– How many years have they to serve before they become experienced hands? A.– They think it dreadful if they have to serve six months.

Q.– What do they generally receive per week when they first go to the business? A.– They are supposed to serve six months without receiving anything. They are usually little girls who come right out of school. We have to teach them to sew; they cannot even so much as use a needle. My experience has been that sometimes a girl can be very useful in two months, but then she has been taught to sew at home. Q.– Then you would consider a young girl who has never been taught that branch? A. — Certainly.

Q.– Are there many dressmakers idle in Toronto at the present time, to your knowledge? A.– I could not say; there are none of mine idle; this is what we call the dull season.

Q.– What would be the average wages of a first-class milliner, to your knowledge? A.– I used to work at the millinery myself, and the wages — of course it is difficult to give you the average, but the best wages were about $8 or $9 a week. That, however, lasts a very short time; it would only be about four months in the year.

Q.– Are they employed a larger part of the year at less wages? A.– Yes; we keep on the cheap hands and teach them while business is dull, because we have more time ourselves to show them how we want the work done.

Q.– Is there any idle season in the year with dressmakers when they are completely idle, and have nothing whatever to do, and if so, how long is that season? A.– I have been in business in Toronto for about seven years — not for myself, but altogether. We have never been obliged to close down for want of work, but I have usually given from two to three weeks in August to the girls for rest. I think we all need a rest. I do, I know, for I get worn out.

Q.– Could you tell us the difference between the wages for a first-class dressmaker in Toronto and the wages paid to a similar hand in the United States? A.– Yes; I have known girls who were working at $4 a week to get $7 there; and I have known others working here at $2 a week, or $2.50, to be paid $5 or $6 there. Those are the wages of two girls who have worked for me who have gone there and tried it and come back again.

Q.– You think, considering all things, that a young girl working at the dressmaking business in Toronto will, after taking all things into consideration and other expenses, be as well off here as in a similar city on the other side of the lines? A.– Living is cheaper here. A skilled hand can get higher wages in the United States and does not have to pay much more for board.

Q.– Do you think the millinery business is interfered with much from immigration from the old country? A.– They do not bring out any one who can do the work, except they are taught after coming here.

Q.– It is a new business here to them? A.– It is very different. We have old country girls who work for us, but we have to teach them their business over again. The first-class hands do not come out here. occasionally an experienced hand comes out with a family, but as a rule they do not come out, except with a family.

Q.– You have to teach them, I presume, the styles, and there are more changes here than in the old country? A.– Yes; there is a quite different way of making dresses here.


Q.– You have mentioned the rate of wages paid by yourself. Do you think that the general rate paid will be about the same as that you have mentioned? A.– There are more fashionable places than mine where the hands will obtain larger wages, and establishments that keep more hands and do a more select business, although in larger places they do piece work.

Q.– Do you think that which you have given us would be a fair average of a dressmaker’s wages, say $5 per week? A.– I have girls to whom I give more than that, but the trouble is with girls that they are always looking to getting married; they do not make a business of dressmaking. I do not know why it is, but you can very seldom get young women to make up their minds that they are going to spend their lives in this business. They do not take enough interest in it, the interest in it they might take. The trouble is in the girls themselves, and of course with most of my good girls the trouble is they get married just when I get them where I want them. They leave me and I have to begin again.

Q.– They all believe in the principles of union? A.– Yes.

[Pages 348-349]

Miss M.J. Watson, Dressmaker, Toronto, called and sworn.


Q.– You are a dressmaker. A.– Yes.

Q.– Do you agree with the evidence of the last witness? A.– Yes.

Q.– Do you know of anything of interest in connection with people engaged in a dressmaking which has not been spoken of? A.– Well, of course the subject of wages. I think girls would be better paid if they were more competent. The trouble is, we cannot get competent people. I think that comes from the want of an apprentice system. My experience has been, in fifteen years we have not had an apprentice inside of the house.

Q.– How long should a young person serve at dressmaking before becoming competent? A.– I don’t think they could be first-class without serving three years; but, as it is, they come without any knowledge at all, and they are supposed capable right from the first. We have to look after our own interests, and, of course, they are not taught.

Q.– Doesn’t it frequently happen that young people, taken on as improvers during the busy season, as discharged after the busy season is over? A.– Not if they are competent.


Q.– Do you know of anything of the position of young women employed behind counters as clerks in stores of the cities? A.– Only from hearsay.

[Pages 358-359]

Miss BURNETT, Milliner and Dressmaker, Toronto, called and sworn.


Q.– How many hands do you employ in your establishment? A.– I never employ more than twenty-five.

Q.– What, to the best of your knowledge, is the average weekly wages of a first-class milliner? A.– A first-class milliner receives about $40 a month.

Q.– Take a young girl going to the millinery business, who has an adaptability to the business — how long would it take her to become a good hand? A.– As a general rule, it would take her three or four years.

Q.– Could you inform the Commission the age a young woman should go to the business, in order to be most serviceable to herself and her employer? A.– I think about fourteen or fifteen years.

Q.– You have had some experience with apprentices, I suppose? A.– I take very few apprentices.

Q.– Do you find any difficulty with young women going to the business first who have no knowledge of needlework? A.– Yes; that is one reason why I do not like to take apprentices, because we likely have to teach them needle work. That is a great want in the schools now, that the girls are not taught what is really the most useful thing for a young woman to know, a knowledge of needlework.

Q.– Is there any surplus of unemployed milliners or dressmakers in this city? A.– Yes; I think there are a great many unemployed milliners. Some of those hands are taken into the warehouses. Some of the shops take more apprentices than there are positions to fill. The result is, that those hands get a trifling knowledge of the business, not sufficient to enable them to fill positions well, and the consequence is, there are a great many going around idle looking for situations.

Q.– I presume it depends upon the custom of the establishment as regards the amount of work they receive in a season or a year; or are there dull and busy seasons in the trade? A.– There are just two seasons the year; the spring season is by far the best for millinery, particularly. It commences about March and lasts from March to the end of June. The seasons are short and a great many of the milliners employed get employment only for the seasons — they get about six months’ wages during the year.

Q.– Do you think those women of the millinery business who only receive six months’ wages in the year receive sufficient during those six months to keep them for the other six months when they are not employed? A.– I do not think and average milliner would. Their wages are only small, they do not get large wages, that is for a season hand. They are generally not very good hands. In most shops there are only two good milliners, and they retain their situations the year round. The others are season hands, who are there three or four months, and who are then out of employment, and if they have not homes to go to they are in rather a bad position.

Q.– Can you speak from a practical knowledge of the business in the United States or Great Britain as compared with the business in Canada? A.– I do not know very much about Great Britain now. I go home to buy, but I do not as much as formerly. I have not been there for fifteen years, except going to buy.


Q.– Can you suggest any means by which continuous employment can be given to those girls? A.– There seems to be really more to fill the positions than there are positions for. I think too many girls go to learn the business. There is a class of girls who go to learn millinery and dressmaking in this country who, in the old country, would be in domestic services, which, indeed, they are far better adapted to than they are for the positions which they are endeavoring to fill now. If they depend on their own earnings while they are employed in filling situations of this kind they must live very poorly indeed.

Q.– Can you give any reason why a young woman in this country objects to go into domestic service so much? Have you ever thought of this subject? A.– I have often wondered why they do object so much, and I suppose it is because sometimes they do not get a good mistress. I dare say a great many of the girls have a hard time in service, and they like to have their evenings to themselves — I suppose that is the real reason.

Q.– Do you think that the system of education pursued in our public schools has anything to do with diverting the minds of the pupils from such work as domestic service? A.– I do not know very much about the system of education pursued in the public schools. Generally, farmers’ daughters who come here to go to service and the daughters of mechanics who would make very good servants and fill those positions well, seem to be a little above this kind of work. I do not know whether it is the character of the education or what it is that causes this feeling.


Q.– Do you know, if in addition to girls in stores having their evenings to themselves, there is this fact, that the girls look upon domestic service as being somewhat menial? A.– Yes; I think so, but in reality it is not so, because taking into consideration the homes some girls have who are operatives and filling situations in factories, taking the home life they have in the boarding houses in which they live, it would be far more respectable to be in domestic service, if thy only knew it. But the difficulty is to make them believe it.

Q.– Have you any knowledge of young girls serving as clerks in dry-goods stores? A.– I have in my store four girls.

Q.– In those large establishments on King and Yonge streets, what is the number of hours they work per day? A.– There is a great variety of times: in large places on Yonge street the hours are very long, but in the higher-class places there are shorter hours; in fact, the higher class the store is the shorter are the hours.

Q.– Generally speaking, is it optional for a young girl, when there are no customers in the store, to sit down and take a rest or is it compulsory to stand? A.– I do not know. I think in all respectable shops the girls can sit down if they are not working. I know there are some shops — Eaton’s, and places like that — where there is a constant run of customers — where, if a girl is seen sitting down I dare say she will be dismissed; but I think where there is not a very great rush of customers, the girls could generally sit down.


Q.– Is it necessary for the girls to stand all day in the store? A.– There should be seats in the shops, and no girl should be required to stand all day. They could easily have small seats at the back of the counter where, when the girl is not actually serving, she could sit down. It is injurious to a girl to be kept standing all the time; it injures her health very much.

HAMILTON, Wednesday,  18th January, 1888

[Page 797-798]

JAMES STEPHENSON, Moulder, Hamilton, called and sworn

By Mr. FREED:–

Q.– You have a statement to make to the Commission, I believe. Please make it? A.– A committee of our union considered the questions sent by the Commission, and the feeling of our body is expressed briefly in the statement I am prepared to make. The answers we give are as follows:–

1. Regarding iron-clad contracts.– We have suffered much in the past, but have overcome the evil by organization.

2. Regarding child labor.– We have no children in our trade. the work is too laborious; we believe there are a great many children under fourteen years of age working in the city, and think it wrong. We condemn the practice of pauper children being imported into this country, and look upon it as being no better than a mild form of slave trade, when we take into consideration the treatment that many of them are subjected to. We know by experience that there is no scarcity of children in this country, finding it difficult to place our own.

3. Regarding the Employers’ Liability Act — We approve of the Ontario Act and would like a Dominion Act of a similar nature.

4. Regarding the truck system.– We disapprove of it.

5. Regarding foreign contracts.– We endorse the Ontario Act and ask for a Dominion Act.

6. Regarding rents.– There is no great change. Rents are slightly higher, but there is better accommodations for the money.

7. Regarding weekly payments and pay days.– We approve of weekly payments and think Friday the best day.

8. Regarding apprentices.– We think they should be legally bound, and would like a Dominion Indenture Act.

9. Regarding hours of labor and wages.– We believe eight hours should constitute a day’s work. At present $2.25 a day is the rate of wages. Taking into consideration the loss of time, over which we have no control, the average wages in our body does not exceed $1.35 a day by the year.

10. Regarding the purchasing power of wages.– Not much change, but less to purchase with.

11. Regarding wages in Canada as compared with Great Britain and the United States.– Not much difference between Canada and the United States; not as well paid for amount produced as in some parts of England.

12. Regarding arbitration.– We have no experience; can see no good in it.

13. Regarding the effects of organized labor.– Through organization we are enabled to care for our sick, bury our dead and ge compensation for our labor, which we could not get without it.

14. Regarding strikes.– Though our last resort, still we believe that all labor agitation tends to benefit all classes of toilers, even though those directly engaged in the strike might fail.

15. Regarding trusts.– Think trusts needful, as your living is made so precarious that most men would find it difficult to live without trust– if that is the meaning of the word “trust” there.

By Mr. FREED:–

Q.– What is meant by the word “trust” there is a combination or ring. Does such exist in Hamilton? A.– Yes; we know where it does exists.

16. Regarding the fining of employés.– Don’t approve of it.


Q.– Does it exist? A.– I could not tell you; I don’t think it exists in our business to-day. I have seen employés fined in our business for the breaking of an article. You would be fined so much, and if you didn’t like it you could quit.

Q.– The men don’t have anything to say in regard to the reduction of the fines? A.– No; fining was the case in dry-goods stores in the city.

17. Regarding Sunday labor.– Think all Sunday labor should be abolished.

18. Regarding industrial schools.– Don’t see the need of them, as children would have to serve an apprenticeship at any trade they might work at afterwards. We especially object to industrial schools for the foreign element.

19. Regarding tenement houses.– We have non; don’t want any.

20. Regarding immigration.– We are opposed to assisted immigration.

21. Regarding sanitary arrangements.– In dwellings, generally fair; in shops and factories, room for great improvement.

22. Regarding conspiracy laws and black-listing.– Don’t believe in either; think both should come under the power of law.

23. Regarding workingmen’s co-operative and benefit societies.– Believe in them; Iron Moulders’ Union is one.

24. Regarding convict labor.– Think convicts should be employed at something that would least compete with free labor; condemn the practice of letting prison labor to contractors; what they produce shold be sold at the same price as the product of free labor…

[Pages 807-808]

JAMES SHAREKEY, of Hamilton, called and sworn.

By Mr. FREED:–

Q.– You work for Messrs. Tuckett & Son? A.– Yes.

Q.– How old are you? A.– I will be fifteen next April.

Q.– What do you do there? A.– Stem tobacco.

Q.– How many hours a day do you work? A.– Then hours a day.

Q.– What time do you go to work in the morning? A.– Half-past seven.

Q.– When do you get through at night? A.– Six.

Q.– How long a time have you for dinner? A.– One hour.

Q.– It is nine and a-half hours from the time you begin till you quit? A.– Yes.

Q.– Are you paid by the week, or by what you do? A.– By the week.

Q.– How much can you earn there? A.– Wages run from about $2.50 to $4.50 and $5.

Q.– Do you make that much? A.– I make $3.50.

Q.– Do you live with your parents? A.– Yes.

Q.– Do you take your money home to them? A.– Yes.

Q.– How old were you when you quit school? A.– I can hardly tell.

Q.– Were you fourteen? A.– No.

Q.– Thirteen? A.– No; I was about then or eleven.

Q.– How did you come to quit school at so early an age? A.– I went to work with a tailor on James street as a message boy.

Q.– How long have you been working with Mr. Tuckett? A.– Nearly two years.

Q.– Were you fourteen when you went there? A.– Not quite; very nearly.

Q.– Do you take your money home to your father. A.– Yes.

Q.– What does your father do? A.– He is a laborer.

Q.– Are you very tied when you go home at night? A.– Not very; it is not very tiresome work.

Q.– Are you learning the trade so that you will be able to earn more money? A.– Yes.

Q.– Do the men around you try to teach you anything, so as to help you on? A.– Yes; they try to teach you how to roll.

Q.– Is there much bad language used there? A.– Not very much.

Q.– Do you like the work? A.– Yes; very well.


Q.– Did Mr. Tuckett give you any presents at Christmas time, or any time? A.– Yes; the Christmas before last he did.

Q.– How much was it? A.– He gave 25 cents to all the stemmers.


Q.– Are there many boys working there? A.– Yes; a good few.

Q.– Are there many younger than you? A.– I hardly know any.

Q.– You are the youngest? A.– There may be one that is about as young.

Q.– Are there any little girls there? A.– Yes; girls of fourteen or fifteen.

Q.– Do they sit down at their work all day? A.– Not all day; they can sit or stand, just as they like.

[Pages 808-809]

WILLIAM HOBDEN, Hamilton, called and sworn.

By Mr. FREED:–

Q.– You are employed at Mr. Tuckett’s also? A.– Yes.

Q.– What do you do? A.– I am a stemmer.

Q.– How long have you been there? A.– About three years and a half.

Q.– How old are you? A.– Eighteen next month.

Q.– What can boys earn who have been there as long as you have? A.– About $4.50 a week.

Q.– Are you constantly employed the year through? A.– We have holidays in summer time.

Q.– Do you live with your parents? A.– Yes.

Q.– Do you take your money home to them on Saturday night? A.– Yes.

Q.– What does your father do? A.– He is a tailor.

Q.– Do you expect to remain long at stemming; or have you promotion in your mind? A.– I think I will learn the trade.

Q.– Do you consider you are learning the trade now? A.– I consider they will put me in another year at making lumps for plugs.

Q.– You think then you can earn more wages? A.– Yes; I think so.

Q.– At what age did you leave school? A.– I hardly know– about thirteen, I think.

Q– Did you think it was necessary to go to work when you were thirteen? A.– I would sooner work than go to school.


Q.– Do you expect to get more wages when you are more advanced? A.– I expect to get a little more.

Q.– You are just working there now as an ordinary hand? A.– Yes.

Q.– Is it customary in that concern to give you more as one of the rules of your apprenticeship? A.– I do not know.


Q.– Do you know what boys generally get when they first go to learn as apprentices? A.– I do not.

Q.– Are the rooms nice and comfortable to work in? A.– Yes.

Q.– Plenty of light and heat? A.– Yes.

By Mr. FREED:–

Q.– Are they ever too warm for comfort? A.– Not that I know of.

Q.– Are you learning the trade as you go along? A.– Not that I know of.

Q.– Do you not get odd chances? A.– Yes.

Q.– It gives you a little help? A.– Yes.

Q.– So that when you come to serve an apprenticeship you are not a green hand, — you know something about the business? A.– Yes.

Q.– Do they ever take on apprentices who have not worked at stemming? A.– They never take them on unless they have worked there a long time.

[Pages 817-818]

THOMAS BRICK, Carter, Hamilton, called and sworn.

By Mr. FREED:–

Q.– What is the usual pay of carter in Hamilton? A.– Fifty cents per hour.

Q.– How many hours per day can a man work one day with another all the year round? A.– A good, healthy man can work from eight to ten hours a day all the year round.

Q.– Have you anything of which you wish to complain in regard to your business? A.– Yes.

Q.– What is it? A.– It is in regard to monopolies. We have a great complaint to make in regard to the Sheddon Company and the Hendry company, and those of railway monopolies, whose waggons in the season of the year when the moving of households goods is going on turn in and take goods for the same rate of wages as we get. They will take loads of goods in Grant Trunk waggons for you or any other gentlemen for 50 cents an hour, and we don’t think it is right.

Q.– How would you prevent that? A.– The only way we see of preventing it is to give us the chance to compete with those companies as regards the railways. There are lots of private individuals who send their goods by freight on the Grand Trunk and the Northern & North-Western and delivered by the Hendry and Sheddon companies, while at the same time they would be very glad to give you the work to carters such as we are. They would, however, have to pay double cartage if they did so.

Q.– If the railway companies choose to make those arrangements with the Hendry and Sheddon companies how can we interfere to prevent them? A.– I don’t know whether the law or the Government could interfere. The Government, as a general thing, always favors monopolies of any kind.

Q.– Has the Government favored these monopolies? A.– I believe so.

Q.– In what way? A.– They give the general trunk railway business and everything else to the Hendry Company.

Q.– How did they give it to the Hendry Company? A.– The Hendry Company gets a share of the Government money that is distributed around for the railways.

Q.– In what way does the Hendry Company get Government money? A.– I don’t know whether I am right or wrong, but if William Hendry goes before the Railway Committee of Parliament he will get privileges that Thomas Brick would not get. I went once as a deputation from Hamilton to the Railway Committee, and I had the pleasure of having William Hendry and some other gentleman along with me, and I found that the Government always fears such men.


Q.– Is it not a singular thing that Mr. Hendry should get from the Government grants without any consideration? A.– I could not tell you; I don’t know.


Q.– Did individual carters in Hamilton do a larger volume of business previous to the introduction of the Hendry and Sheddon companies? A.– Yes.


Q:– Will the railway companies accept freight delivered by carters other than their own? A.– They receive it, but we have a great deal of trouble. If a private carter goes with a load of merchandise he has to wait till a man comes down and makes out shipping bills, and everything like that; in fact, they will not take it from our waggons unless we run over to the freight department.

Q.– Do they object in any way to private carters delivering freight? A.– They throw those obstacles in the way and they will hardly receive it.

Q.– Can the Sheddon Company deliver the freight at a cheaper rate than ordinary carters get? A.– I don’t think they can; I think we can handle freight at as cheap a rate as they can. Of course, we have not the capacity to carry it — they have larger and better conveyances; but as regards furniture moving, or anything of that kind, I think we are superior to them, for we understand the handling of it better and we can handle it more carefully.

[Pages 842-843]

BENJAMIN CAMERON, Moulder, called and sworn.

By Mr. FREED:–

Q.– You are a machinery moulder, I believe? A.– I am.

Q.– How long have you worked in Hamilton? A.– For five years.

Q.– What are your hours of labor? A.– Fifty-four hours a week.

Q.– Do you believe in shortening the hours of labor? A.– Yes.

Q.– For what cause? A.– I think it would reduce the production and, so doing, you would increase the wages, because when we have an over-supply of labor on the market labor is always cheaper; and for that reason I think the hours of labor should be reduced.

Q.– Provided a system of shortening the hours of labor was in existence and there was a public library established here, do you think, to the best of your knowledge, the men would take advantage of that library? A.– Provided the hours were shortened, I believe they would. Speaking my own views, I think it would be of great advantage. I was in Hamilton, when the vote was taken on the free library question, and I worked hard in favor of it; and I found there were a good many men opposed to it on account of the expense that would be involved, and there were a great many who would like to have it, except for the expense.

Q.– Have you anything to add to the evidence already given in your branch of trade? A.– I don’t think I have; I think it has been very well ventilated. There was a big strike last summer, and a great many moulders were under the impression that if they accepted the advance of 5 per cent, they would get steady employment. They thought it would give more steady employment, and therefore they would accept the terms of the bosses; but it has proved that the men have got no more work, as some of them expected they would do. The shops have been shut down — some for a week and others for a longer time, and in fact, some for nearly as month; and I don’t know when they will start up again. The masters gave us no definite answer on that point. It would be an advantage to the employé if he knew that the shop was going to be closed for a length of time, because it would give him a chance of getting out of the city and finding work elsewhere for the time being; but this the masters do not do. They just lay the men off, and when they are ready to work they send for the men. The men are here with their families and they don’t like to move out of the city, and although they want to better their condition they don’t know whether the works will start up soon or not. That is the position in which they are placed.

Q.– Do you know if at the time of the 5 per cent compromise the men were promised steady work for a certain period if they would accept those terms? A.– Not that I am aware of; it was not so; but I think it was the general conclusion that that would be the eventual outcome of it — that being closed so long last summer they manufacturers would have got behind with their stock. It seems now that they work has been decreasing this winter. The men who have been in Hamilton many years say that the foundries used to run steadily all the year round, while now they shut down at Christmas and keep idle two or three months. There is one great evil I see in connection with the strike last summer: so soon as the shops got started again the masters got new hands, in addition to taking back all their old hands. They did this in order to be able to turn out as much work as possible and therefore the men are left idle now; whereas, if they had continued with the old hands and kept the shop running steadily the men would have been better off, because they would now be at work instead of being idle. Lots of men came here from the other side.

Q.– Is the moulding trade troubled with immigration? A.– Yes; as I think all other trades are. We had a case of that in Toronto some few years ago. When there was a strike at Gurney’s the firm imported some men from the old country.

Q.– Were you at work at Gurney’s at the time? A.– No; I was in the country at the time.

Q.– Do you know it as a fact? A.– Yes.

Friday, 20th January, 2 p.m.

[Pages 865-867]

GEORGE METCALFE, Painter, Hamilton, called and sworn.

I am here on behalf of the Brotherhood of Painters and Decorators to give information in regard to the painting trade in Hamilton. The wages in the city at the present time are from $1.50 to $2.50 a day.

By Mr. FREED:–

Q.– How many hours constitute a day’s work? A.– Ten hours in summer; in the winter time, about eight hours here.

Q.– And how much do you receive per hour? A.– From 15 cents to 22 1/2 cents per hour.

Q.– According to the ability of the man? A.– That was the agreement we entered into last February with the bosses in the city.

Q.– Does that hold good still? A.– Yes.

Q.– During how long a portion of the year can a man work at painting? A.– A man could work th eyear round provided he got the right kind of work — provided he got inside work during the winter time; but as a general thing the average time put in by men amounts to about eight months in the year.

Q.– Do you not think the average painter will work longer than eight months in the year? A.– No; we have averaged it up, and the average amount received by a man who receives 20 cents per hour was about $360 for last summer. There are some who have earned more; some have made $500; there are others who have not made over $300, but the average is about $360.

Q.– Is painting very hard work? A.– In the spring time it is, that is in the house cleaning time, when there is much harder work than the rest of the year.

Q.– Are the men much exposed to heat and cold while they are doing outside work? A.– Yes.

Q.– Is there danger to the painters in regard to the scaffolds? A.– Yes; there is danger from the breaking of scaffolds or ladders. In fact, as a rule, painters have worse scaffolds and ladders to work on than any other mechanics.

Q.– Is that to any extent their own fault? A.– The scaffolding is always put up for them. In the case of scaffolds and of ladders they have to work on whatever the bosses give them.

Q.– Is the trade unhealthy? An.– Some men appear to think so, but there are men I have known who have worked at the trade up to seventy years of age. Of course, they had ery strong constitutions.

Q.– Are painters very subject to lead poisoning? A.– It depends on the class of work. If it is inside work, what we call flatting, they are likely to get lead poisoning, provided they are kept at it for any length of time, as the turpentine carrying the fumes of the lead goes into the lungs with every breath they draw.

Q.– A witness in another town told us that if the men were careful to wash their hands and not to put their hands to their mouth they would not be subject to lead poisoning. What do you think as to that? A.– Of course, I have not had experience to say whether such would be the case or not; but from what I have heard and from what I think myself, I believe that a man working on flatting will be liable to get lead poisoning in the course of a few years, as there is always a certain amount of odor arising from poisonous material, and lead and some greens are very poisonous. Of course, at the present time the paints used are not so poisonous as they were in the past.

Q.– Why? A.– Because the manufacturers make up the paints by a quicker process and without using so many poisons.


Q.– Is it not to some extent because barytes is used instead of lead? A.– Yes; but there has been more lead used in the city now during the past three years than during the past twenty years.

Q.– Have you a trades union? A.– Yes.

Q.– Do most of the painters belong to it? A.– We have only been organized since May last into a new organization called the Brotherhood of Painters and Decorators. Before that we were attached to the Knights of Labor, but we did not think we could have an organization on a satisfactory a basis in that way as if we were by ourselves, as in the case of arbitration we would have men to arbitrate for us who did not know anything about the business.

Q.– Are the rates of wages fixed by compromise between the men and the employers? A.– They were last winter. Most of us wished to have a basis of 20 cents per hour all round for good and bad, as it has been know to be a fact that where there was a graded scale of wages a poorer class of men received more work than the better class did; and as in the winter time, when there is mostly ordinary painting to be done, men receiving 15 cents per hour would be kept on in preference to men receiving 20 or 22 cents per hour, for one could do that class of work as well as the other.

Q.– If employers send men out to do work do they charge by the hour for the men’s time or do they charge by the job? A.– In some cases they charge by the hour and in other cases they take the job by the lump.

Q.– If they send out men whose time they charge by the hour will they send the highest priced man or the cheap man? A.– It depends on how busy they are, I suppose, and the ability of the men to do the work required.

Q.– If they send a low-priced man out to do the work will they charge the same rate per hour as if they sent a high priced man? A.– I have reason to believe they would.

Q.– Do you know it as a fact? A.– I am not sure.

Q.– Are there many apprentices taken to your trade? A.– Last spring, in February, when we had a meeting with the bosses we had an understanding that no shop should have more than two apprentices at the trade, and that all the apprentices should be bound for four years.

Q.– Did the employers agree to that? A.– Yes; at least their deputation did.

Q.– They have carried out that agreement, I suppose? A.– They have not.

Q.– In what respect have they voided the agreement? A.– Some shops have taken on more apprentices than that number, and none of the shops have, so far as I know, bound any apprentices.

Q.– Is it not reasonable that employers having a larger number of men should have more apprentices than those who employ a smaller number of men? An.– It is reasonable in one way, but it is desirable to look at both sides of the question. We do not wish to have the trade over-run with young men who have put in a couple of years at the business, and who then start out as journeymen painters, which is the case at present.

Q.– How long do you think a boy should work at the trade before he becomes sufficiently skilled to become a good journey man painter? A.– Four years.

Q.– You think he cannot acquire the requisite skill and training before that time, taking a boy of fair average ability? A.– Some boys learn quicker than others. While one would be a good painter in three years another boy would take five years to learn the trade, and there are a great many who never learn what some others do.

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