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“Forty-Two Cents an Hour” for Twelve to Fourteen Hours a Day: George Milkulvich Describes Work in the Clairton Mills after World War I

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, George Milkulvich, an immigrant from the Croatian region of Dalmatia (along the eastern shore of the Adriatic Sea), gave a straightforward explanation of what he was striking for—“better treatment.”


The CHAIRMAN. What is your name?

Mr. MIKULVICH. George Mikulvich.

The CHAIRMAN. And what is your nationality?

Mr. MIKULVICH. Dalmatian.

The CHAIRMAN. And were you working down on the coke works before the strike?


The CHAIRMAN. How long have you been out on strike?

Mr. MIKULVICH. Since the first day it started.

The CHAIRMAN. September 22?

Mr. MIKULVICH. Three weeks.

The CHAIRMAN. Are you an American citizen?


The CHAIRMAN. How long have you been in this country, Mr. Mikulvich?

Mr. MIKULVICH. Seven years.

The CHAIRMAN. What is the strike for? How did you happen to go on strike?

Senator MCKELLAR. How much money did you get? How much did you get a day?

Mr. MIKULVICH. Forty-two cents an hour.

The CHAIRMAN. How many hours did you work?

Mr. MIKULVICH. Twelve hours and 14 hours.

The CHAIRMAN. Did you get time and a half overtime?


Senator MCKELLAR. You just get straight 42 cents an hour?


The CHAIRMAN. And after you worked 8 hours and worked on 14 hours, did you not get time and a half?

Mr. MIKULVICH. No, sir; none of us got time and a half.

The CHAIRMAN. Well, what are the reasons you struck? We want to know just exactly your side of it. We would like to hear from you why it was that you boys struck.

(Mr. Mikulvich did not answer, and the balance of his statement was taken through an interpreter.)

The CHAIRMAN. Can you interpret this man? We want an answer from him if he will give it, of the reasons why this strike was called. In other words, we would like to know just exactly their side of it and your side of it, if you are one of them.

The INTERPRETER. He tried to tell me where he was working two years ago. He did not understand you.

Senator MCKELLAR. No; what we want to know is now.

The INTERPRETER. He said that he wanted - that the reason why these people went out on strike and he went with them was because they wanted to work shorter hours and get more money and better conditions in the mill; better treatment from the bosses and the foremen.

Senator MCKELLAR. What he wants is better treatment?

The INTERPRETER. Yes, sir.

Senator MCKELLAR. What does he mean by that?

The INTERPRETER. The wrong treatment is given to him.

Source: Investigation of Strike in Steel Industries, Hearings before the Committee on Education and Labor, U.S. Senate, 66th Congress, 1st Session

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
"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
"Eight Hours a Day and Better Conditions": Andrew Pido Explains His Support for the 1919 Steel Strike
"I Witnessed the Steel Strike": Joe Rudiak Remembers the 1919 Strike