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“The Men Seem To Be Pretty Well Satisfied”: John Anderson on the 1919 Steel Strike

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, John Anderson, a helper in the open-hearth furnace at the Homestead steelworks in Pennsylvania, maintains that the steelworkers were satisfied with conditions. Although born in Scotland, Anderson identified himself as an“American” in distinction from the (also) foreign-born laborers who are out on strike.


The CHAIRMAN. What is your name?

Mr. ANDERSON. John Anderson. . . .

The CHAIRMAN. Are you Irish?

Mr. ANDERSON. No; I am not.

The CHAIRMAN. What are you?

Mr. ANDERSON. I am Scotch.

The CHAIRMAN. What is your business?

Mr. ANDERSON. I am a helper in the open-hearth furnace.

The CHAIRMAN. And how long have you been there?

Mr. ANDERSON. Five years.

The CHAIRMAN. And what wages do you get?

Mr. ANDERSON. Well, I am paid about $12 or $14 a day.

The CHAIRMAN. Are you married?


The CHAIRMAN. Have you any children?

Mr. ANDERSON. I have five children.

The CHAIRMAN. And do you own your own home?

Mr. ANDERSON. Yes, sir.

The CHAIRMAN. You do not belong to the union, do you?

Mr. ANDERSON. No, sir; I do not.

The CHAIRMAN. Have you ever belonged to the union?

Mr. ANDERSON. No, sir.

The CHAIRMAN. Have they ever tried to have you join the union?

Mr. ANDERSON. Well, they haven’t spoke to me; they thought it was no use.

The CHAIRMAN. Have they threatened you if you did not join the union?

Mr. ANDERSON. No, sir; nobody ever said union or anything to me.

The CHAIRMAN. How many hours a day do you work?

Mr. ANDERSON. From 7 in the morning until 5.30 in the day time.

The CHAIRMAN. Ten hours and a half, is that?

Mr. ANDERSON. Yes, sir.

The CHAIRMAN. Do you have any time off?

Mr. ANDERSON. No; we are busy all the time.

The CHAIRMAN. Do you think that the men here are dissatisfied with their hours of work?

Mr. ANDERSON. No; I do not think it.

The CHAIRMAN. The men seem to be pretty well satisfied.

Mr. ANDERSON. So far as I understand, they are satisfied.

The CHAIRMAN. How many men have gone out on strike, out of this plant?

Mr. ANDERSON. I don’t know, sir. The laborers is mostly all that went out on this strike. I think that there is one first helper that went out of the plant; they are mostly laborers.

The CHAIRMAN. What do you mean by laborers?

Mr. ANDERSON. The general labor all over the plant.

The CHAIRMAN. And they are getting about how much?

Mr. ANDERSON. Well, 42 cents an hour for the first eight hours, and after that they get 63 cents an hour.

Senator PHIPPS. Are there many Americans out on strike?

Mr. ANDERSON. I do no think there is any Americans that is out on strike. There are none that I know of, English-speaking people.

The CHAIRMAN. You are a naturalized American, are you, Mr. Anderson?

Mr. Anderson. Yes, sir.

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
"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
"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