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Soft coal, hard choices : the economic welfare of bituminous coal miners, 1890-1930

Author: Price Van Meter Fishback
Publisher: New York : Oxford University Press, 1992.
Edition/Format:   Print book : EnglishView all editions and formats
Summary:
Did miners really owe their souls to the company store? Did they receive lower pay than in other jobs, despite the constant danger they faced? Was the quality of life in mining towns uniformly dismal? Soft Coal, Hard Choices answers these and other questions. The book contradicts many myths using evidence ranging from company records to oral histories to statistics collected by state and federal governments. While  Read more...
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Genre/Form: History
Document Type: Book
All Authors / Contributors: Price Van Meter Fishback
ISBN: 0195067258 9780195067255
OCLC Number: 24009628
Description: xi, 279 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Contents: 1. The Miners' Choices: Voice or Exit --
2. The Analytical Framework. The Implications of Competition. The Impact of Collective Action and Unions. Summary of Implications --
3. The Coal Labor Market, 1890-1930. Long-term Trends in the Coal Product Market. Exercising Voice Through the Union. Competition Among Employers for Labor. The Miners' Mobility. The Miners' Information. Summary --
4. Working in a Coal Mine. Tonnage Men. Daymen. Management. Rewards in the Occupational Hierarchy --
5. Methods of Wage Payment. Piece Rates, Time Rates, and Transactions Costs. Piece Rates and Quality Control. Piece Rates and Variation in Mine Conditions. Summary --
6. Dig Sixteen Tons and What Did You Get? Earnings. Why Become a Miner? High Hourly Earnings. Annual Earnings. The Worker's Choice. Trends in Real Earnings. Regional Comparisons Within Coal Mining. Summary --
7. Death's Taken a Mighty Toll for Coal, Coal, Coal. The Extent and Nature of Coal Accidents. Wages and Accident Rates. Unions and Safety. Government Regulation of Safety. Changes in Liability Laws. Compensation and Accident Prevention. Summary --
8. Did Coal Miners "Owe Their Souls to the Company Store"? The Limits on Store Monopoly. Why Did Companies Own Stores? Store Prices. Were Miners Forced to Buy at the Store? Conclusions --
9. The Company Town. The Nature of Company Housing. Why Did Companies Own Housing? Monopoly Ownership? The "Necessity" of Company Ownership. A Device to Prevent Collective Action. Model Towns. Sanitation in Coal Towns During the 1920s. Sanitation in Company Towns. Sanitation in Company versus Independent Towns. Conclusions --
10. Coal Mines as Melting Pots. The Geographic Location of Blacks and Immigrants. The Limited Nature of Discrimination in West Virginia. Wage Rates and Earnings. Differences in Workplace Safety. Positioning in the Job Hierarchy. The Impact of Competition on Segregated Schools. Housing Segregation. Segregation Across Mines. Black Workers in Alabama. Black Workers and the UMWA. Summary --
11. What Did Miners Gain from Strikes? Strike Activity in Bituminous Coal Mining. Differences in Strike Activity Within the Coal Industry. The Pecuniary Gains and Losses from Strikes. Violence During Strikes. Conclusions --
12. Conclusions --
Appendix A: Calculating Earnings for Workers in Coal Mining and Manufacturing. Annual Earnings. Hourly Earnings. Appendix B: Sources of Data for Panel of Twenty-three Coal States from 1901 to 1930. Accident Rates. Coal Prices, Technological Variables, Strikes, Union Strength, and Mine Size. Wage Rates. Workers' Compensation Legislation. State Mining Legislation and Enforcement --
Appendix C: Estimating the Relationship Between Wages and Accident Rates --
Appendix D: A Theoretical Model of Accident Prevention by Miners and Employers. The Representative Miner. The Operator. Combining the Results --
Appendix E: Measuring Segregation in Job Hierarchies --
Appendix F: An Empirical Test of the Influence of Coal Companies on Equalizing Black and White Schools in West Virginia --
Appendix G: Piece Rate Regressions for West Virginia Counties.
Responsibility: Price V. Fishback.
More information:

Abstract:

Did miners really owe their souls to the company store? Did they receive lower pay than in other jobs, despite the constant danger they faced? Was the quality of life in mining towns uniformly dismal? Soft Coal, Hard Choices answers these and other questions. The book contradicts many myths using evidence ranging from company records to oral histories to statistics collected by state and federal governments. While most studies of labor in the coal industry focus on union struggles, Fishback discloses the beneficial impact of competition among employers for labor. He further examines the impact of legal environment and the development of institutions like company towns. Careful analysis using economic theory and statistics reveals numerous insights about the welfare of coal miners in the early 1900s. Unions helped miners obtain higher wages, but so did competition among employers. Employers were unable to exploit local and housing monopolies because the miners had the option of moving from town to town. Workers choosing between mining and other jobs faced a hard choice between similar alternatives. High hourly earnings and freedom from close supervision in mining helped compensate miners for accepting more risk of accidents and layoffs. The combination of narrative and analysis in Soft Coal, Hard Choices will interest historians, economists, and the general reader alike.

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'a stimulating and lucid reassessment of a major area of US labour history ... this is an excellent example of historical economics ... There are very few British labour historians who would not Read more...

 
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