In the dramatic 1919 steel strike, 350,000 workers walked off their jobs and crippled the industry. The U.S. Senate Committee on Education and Labor set out to investigate the strike while it was still in progress. In his testimony before the committee, Slavic steelworker Andrew Pido described the discrimination faced by some immigrant workers and how that discrimination - along with long pay and poor conditions—encouraged them to unionize and strike.
TESTIMONY OF MR. ANDREW PIDO
ANDREW PIDO was thereupon called as a witness and, after being duly sworn, testified as follows:
Mr. RUBIN. How old are you?
Mr. PIDO. I am 23 years old.
Mr. RUBIN. Are you a striker?
Mr. PIDO. Yes, sir.
Mr. RUBIN. Where do you live?
Mr. PIDO. 101 First Street, Clairton.
Mr. RUBIN. Did you have any trouble?
Mr. PIDO. Yes; I did have trouble. I have been arrested.
Mr. RUBIN. Tell what happened after you were arrested.
Mr. PIDO. On the 23d of September I was in a show and the other two guys with me—-
The CHAIRMAN. Who were the other two guys?
Mr. PIDO. They were my friends, the best friends of mine, and the third one is a good friend of mine, and he was one of the borough officer’s sons.
Senator PHIPPS. Was this in McKeesport?
Mr. PIDO. No; it was at Clairton. When we got out off the show, we started to walk down the street, and we stopped at the corner once, and the officer’s son said that he was going to work. Well, when he said he was going to work, we told him “You do not have to tell us about it, that you go to work. If you are going to work, you can hurry along and go about it. You do not need to tell us about it. Some one is likely to jump you with a brick, and one might turn up.”He said “You had better watch out and keep your clam shut.” I said“did I tell you anything wrong?” I just told him what might happen. He went away for four or five minutes; and later he came around with a deputy sheriff and one state trooper; and they came around here under corner and they took me in and they took me into the jail and they locked me in there, and they went out and in about 10 minutes later, Mr. Cunningham, the officer of Clairton, he comes back with his son, and he asks him, “Who is the fellow that told you that somebody might knock you in the head with the brick?” and he pointed me out in the cell. He said “Are you the one that is going to kill my son?” I said “No; I never killed anybody and I never want to.” He said “I will show you right over here. Don’t you try to make any noise.” I did not say anything, and he told his son “You take your coat off and get ready and I will go in and get the key, and I will open that door, and we will knock the hell out of the son of a bitch”; and he did, too. And he opened that cell, and he told him, he says “Now, you go in there and beat him up good.” And he says “I will.” Then he says “If he touches you, I will knock him with that club I have got,” and he had a little club there, a blackjack or whatever it is called. I did not move and I did not try to do anything, and I stand still and he stand around and punch me with the fist. I did not want to fight; if he hit me with a club, he would make me bleed then; and I was standing there and he punched me in the face, and my face was all punched up.
Senator STERLING. Where was this?
Mr. PIDO. Clairton
The CHAIRMAN. You were under arrest?
Mr. PIDO. I was under arrest.
The CHAIRMAN. And he opened up the cell? Who opened up the cell?
Mr. PIDO. George Cunningham. He is an officer of Clairton.
The CHAIRMAN. He is a jailer? He had charge of the jail?
Mr. PIDO. I don’t know. He ain’t got no charge of the jail.
The CHAIRMAN. He had the key?
Mr. PIDO. He find the key in the desk some place and he opened it up.
The CHAIRMAN. I s the boy bigger than you are?
Mr. PIDO. He is bigger than you are?
Mr. PIDO. He is bigger than I am; 20 years old. If I was outside I would not let him beat me up; but I said I could not do nothing. The old man was there.
Senator MCKELLAR. You were at a slight disadvantage, weren’t you?
Mr. RUBIN. How badly were you beaten up?
Mr. PIDO. I couldn’t open my mouth for three days.
The CHAIRMAN. You were pretty badly beaten up.
Mr. PIDO. And he beat me over here (indicating the face).
Mr. RUBIN. How long were you in jail?
Mr. PIDO. Eleven hours, from 11 in the evening until 10 in the morning. The next morning I called my cousins, two of them, and they come in and got me out and when they tried to bail me out, he asked how much the bail would be, and they told them $2,000 and it would not be any less. I says “I will stay here; I have not got that much money.” Then he says, “You have got to go to Pittsburgh.” And I says, “I will go down there.” When I said that he called the burgess over, and the burgess said “Sixteen dollars will do,” but the chief, Fred Young, said that would not do, and he got two charges against him; he said assault and battery and disorderly conduct, and $30 will do therefore.
Senator WALSH. How much?
Mr. PIDO. $30. And he took the $30 and he told me to come back on the 6th of October in the evening. I come in there and I thought I was going to have a case and they postponed it until the 13th.
Mr. RUBIN. What happened to those that came to bail you out. Were they arrested, too?
Mr. PIDO. No.
Senator STERLING. Did you pay $30?
Mr. PIDO. I put up a forfeit of $30.
Senator MCKELLAR. What nationality are you?
Mr. PIDO. Slavish.
Senator MCKELLAR. Are you naturalized?
Mr. PIDO. I have got my first papers; that is all.
Senator MCKELLAR. Are you going to finish those and become an American citizen?
Mr. PIDO. Yes, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. When did you get the first papers?
Mr. PIDO. In February, I think, the 25th.
Mr. RUBIN. This year?
Mr. PIDO. This year; yes.
Mr. RUBIN. Have you bought any Liberty bonds, to $500?
The CHAIRMAN. You were not in the war?
Mr. PIDO. I was in the war. I tried to enlist in the Army this year, but they would not take me on account of an operation.
Senator STERLING. What wages do you get?
Mr. PIDO. I have been getting 50 cents for the last 16 months, and when they heard the strike was coming out they raised me to 55 cents and told me to work. I said to the boss, “If you did not raise me when I asked you a couple of times I can not work now. It is too late to give me a raise. I will do what the rest of the people do.” I like it better if I get eight hours a day. I don’t go much after hours.
The CHAIRMAN. And you got 50 cents an hour——
Mr. PIDO. I got $7 a day.
The CHAIRMAN. Did you strike because——
Mr. PIDO. I never did. It is the first strike.
The CHAIRMAN. What is the reason you struck this time?
Mr. PIDO. I strike on eight hours a day and better conditions.
Senator MCKELLAR. What sort of conditions do you want better?
Mr. PIDO. This better: I think that a man ought to work eight hours to-day and have eight hours sleep and eight hours that he can go to school and learn something; and I think that an education is much better than money.
Senator MCKELLAR. Are there any other matters that move you to strike except the eight hours a day?
Mr. PIDO. Well, when was working I had a partner; he was on one shift and was on the other, and I was doing all the job, and he was getting the pay. I was getting 50 cents an hour and he got 61.
Senator MCKELLAR. How did that happen?
Mr. PIDO. Because he was a better friend of the boss than I was.
Senator MCKELLAR. What are your relationships with the boss? Are they white to you?
Mr. PIDO. Well, I do not have much kick; but I was not very satisfied with them either. The first thing that was wrong, they would call me a Hunky. “If you don’t think that is right you know what you can do.”
Senator STERLING. You got 50 cents and your partner——
Mr. PIDO. Sixty-one.
Senator STERLING. Did you do exactly the same work?
Mr. PIDO. The same work.
Senator STERLING. And there was no difference in the work at all?
Mr. PIDO. There was no difference in the work at all.
Senator STERLING. Had he been working for the company longer than you?
Mr. PIDO. It may be—no; I do not think he did.
Senator STERLING. When did you begin to work for the company?
Mr. PIDO. I began—when I started in Clairton it was July 1, 1918.
Senator STERLING. 1918. And you do not know what time he started?
Mr. PIDO. He started in August, sometime.
Senator STERLING. In August, 1918.
Mr. PIDO. In August, 1918.
Senator STERLING. And you have been working longer than he had?
Mr. PIDO. One month.
Senator STERLING. And you do not know of any reason why he got more?
Mr. PIDO. The reason was that he was American born and I was not.
Senator STERLING. What was his name?
Mr. PIDO. Mickey Jones.
The CHAIRMAN. Have you been going to school?
Mr. PIDO. I have been going to night school in Clairton for a while.
The CHAIRMAN. Have they a night school out there?
Mr. PIDO. They had in 1914.
The CHAIRMAN. Did a good many of the men go to night school?
Mr. PIDO. They don’t have any chance. They work 12 hours a day, and they do not have any chance.
The CHAIRMAN. How long did you go to night school?
Mr. PIDO. I went about 20 nights altogether.
The CHAIRMAN. Is that all of the schooling that you ever had?
Mr. PIDO. I did not have any chance.
The CHAIRMAN. Is that all of the schooling that you have had in your life?
Mr. PIDO. That is all the schooling I have had in my life.
The CHAIRMAN. Do you want to go to school?
Mr. PIDO. Do I want to go to school? Certainly I want to go to school.
The CHAIRMAN. Did you learn anything at the night school of the Constitution of the United States?
Mr. PIDO. I read the first grade of the book, because I did not know how to sign my name.
The CHAIRMAN. Is the school free? Do you have to pay?
Mr. PIDO. We pay a dollar for three months; that is all.
The CHAIRMAN. How many men went to the night school?
Mr. PIDO. Not very much. There were about 28 altogether.
The CHAIRMAN. Do you think they would go to night school if they had an opportunity?
Mr. PIDO. I think they would if they had a chance to go, but the way they are now there have no chance to go to school.
Senator MCKELLAR. Not with the 12 or the 14-hour shifts?
Mr. PIDO. They work 10 hours a day and 14 a night, and they work a week about, and some of them work for two weeks, too.
The CHAIRMAN. What country are you from?
Mr. PIDO. I am from Galicia, Austria.
The CHAIRMAN. Under what government is that?
Mr. PIDO. I do not know where it now is. They are still fighting over there.
The CHAIRMAN. Your answer is a very good one. When it last had a government, what kind of government was it?
Mr. PIDO. Francis Joseph, Austria.
The CHAIRMAN. How does that government differ from this one?
Mr. PIDO. Well, it is so different. Out there they have a king and here we have a superintendent.
Mr. RUBIN. A superintendent?
Mr. PIDO. A superintendent or president.
The CHAIRMAN. Here they have what?
Mr. PIDO. A president.
Senator PHIPPS. Which plant were you working in at Clairton?
Mr. PIDO. At the coke works, Clairton Steel.
Senator WALSH. You say that you would like to have or that you are on strike because you want an eight-hour work day?
Mr. PIDO. Yes, sir.
Senator WALSH. Do you think that your fellow workers prefer an eight-hour day, with less pay, than a 10 or 12 hour day with more pay? Do you think that they would want that?
Mr. PIDO. Well, I think the eight hours and more money.
Senator WALSH. Yes; you would want the eight hours with a little more money than you are getting now for the eight hours?
Mr. PIDO. Yes, sir.
Senator WALSH. But you would not expect 8 hours with the same pay that you would get for 12 hours?
Mr. PIDO. Of course; no.
Senator WALSH. Is that your feeling and is that the feeling generally among the men with whom you work, that they would like to have an eight-hour day?
Mr. PIDO. Yes; it is.
Source: Investigation of Strike in Steel Industries, Hearings before the Committee on Education and Labor, U.S. Senate, 66th Congress, 1st Session. Pursuant to S. Res 188 and S. Res. 202, Pt. II: 589–603.
See Also:"We Do Not Understand the Foreigners": John J. Martin Testifies on the 1919 Steel Strike
"The Men Seem To Be Pretty Well Satisfied": John Anderson on the 1919 Steel Strike
"They Are Mostly All Foreigners on Strike": Joseph Fish Speaks on the 1919 Steel Strike
"It Is Entirely the Bolshevik Spirit": Mill superintendent W. M. Mink Explains the 1919 Steel Strike
"Forty-Two Cents an Hour" for Twelve to Fourteen Hours a Day: George Milkulvich Describes Work in the Clairton Mills after World War I
"We Did Not Have Enough Money": George Miller's Testimony about the 1919 Steel Strike
"We Ought to Have the Right to Belong to the Union": Frank Smith Speaks on the 1919 Steel Strike
"I Witnessed the Steel Strike": Joe Rudiak Remembers the 1919 Strike