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title: 'The Day book. (Chicago, Ill.) 1911-1917, December 08, 1911, Image 21',
meta: 'News about Chronicling America - RSS Feed',
Image provided by: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Library, Urbana, IL
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WHOLESALE ROBBERY OF WORKERS JUST PLAIN,
RAW LARCENY CAUSE OF BIG BUTTON STRIKE
Does This Sort of Thing Breed Hate and Incite to Violence?
t ti I IH l H r V
By E. C. Rodgers.
Muscatine, la., Dec. 7. Sixty
five per cent of all the pearl but
tons used in America are made in
Muscatine. Eight factories. 3,000
men, women and children.
But did you know also, that
most of the Muscatine pearl but
tons on your shirt, or-shirtwaist,
were made, by native born Amer
ican men and women who got ab
solutely nothing for the labor of
The manufacturers pay a cent
to a cent and a half a pound for
the mussel shells. A pound will
make many buttons.
The shells soak a week or two,
while the bodies of the mussel in
side rots away. Then machines
cut many little round button
blanks from each shell. The cut
ters who operate these machines
have their hands in and out of
this fetid, vile-smelling "water all
They get $7to $10 a week
also they get "shell poisoning"
a scurvy-like disease resulting
from soaking their hands contin
ually in the poisoned water.
Some cutters made as much as
$3 a day,' the employers say. t
found they were the few favorites
of the "weighers. And this weigh
ing is the big injustice, the cut
ters say. Here's how.
Blanks cut from the thin edges
of a shell make, poor buttons. So
years ago it was estimated that
14 dozen would yield about a
gross 12 dozen good buttons.
Cutters are paid by the dozen.
Thus arose a custom of calling 14
dozen a gross. ' '
-Then the manufacturers- adopt
ed another trade custom. When a
cutter turned in 14 dozen blanks
they called it a gross. Then they
eliminated the "bad" blanks all
over again, deducting from the
gross credited to the cutter. So,
in reality, he got a net credit of,
say, 9 or 10 dozen for the 14 .
dozen he turned in.
That is, he would but for yet
another "trade'custom." It's im
possible to count all the buttons,
of course, so the logical methods
is to count a few handfuls of a-,
given. lot, weigh them and esti-j
mate the rest by weight. Finely
That's what they did.
The weigher counted a gross,,.,,
and dumped 'them in one side offj
a balance scales. Then he filledg
up the other pan not so it bal-$
anced, but so it dropped clear
down to the 'bed of the scales?
That probably added a dozen orir
two to the second "gross".
Then he put the contents of the.
two pans together in one pan and0
repeated the process, again filling0
the second pan s"o it hit the bot- "
torn. By the time he had repeateda
the process several times the cut-0
ter had been robbed of his work r
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