Item no. 10008
|Collection: Bread & Roses|
Drawing by Edward Sorel, inspired by a quote from George Baer, on a poster from the Images of Labor poster series.
"They don't suffer. They don't even speak English." (Response to reporter's question about intolerable wages and conditions during the 1902 coal strike)
George Baer (1824 - 1914), president of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad, was famous for being anti-union. In 1902, the United Mine Workers of America declared a strike which idled 150,000 Polish, Hungarian, Lithuanian, Ukranian and Romanian immigrant miners in north-eastern Pennsylvania. The anthracite miners demanded shorter hours, higher wages and union recognition. The coal operators saw these demands as threats to the managerial prerogatives and refused to meet with the union. Of all the operators, George Baer was the most virulently anti-union.
In addition to his remark that the strikers "don't suffer" because "they can't even speak English," Baer insisted that "the rights and interests of the laboring man will be protected and cared for not by the labor agitatiors, but by the Christian men to whom God in His infinite wisdom has given the control of the property interests of the Country..."
Expressions of arrogance and obstinance such as these arrayed public opinion against the coal operators and encouraged President Theodore Roosevelt to appoint a Commission to help arbitrate the dispute. Although it did not grant the union formal recognition, the Commission did set a precedent for collective bargaining between the union and the operators.
Image from the Images of Labor Collection, Bread and Roses, artist Edward Sorel.