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Scripto | Transcribe Page
Hampton Negro Conference. Number III. July 1899.
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and unskilled laborers receive $2.00 per day of eight hours, the same as unorganized colored bricklayers for 9 hours work.
Although your committee did not succeed in getting expert testimony as to conditions in cities other than those named, other sources of information were open to them which warrant them to report the following as the
GENERAL STATUS OF COLORED WORKMEN
The trade unions along the border line of slavery have, generally, pursued a policy of exclusiveness on account of color, and refused to include the colored craftsman in their scheme of organization. In this way they have compelled him to seek work at his trade outside the union and on the best terms he could get. This policy has been going on ever since the Civil War and if colored men do not rush blindly into every scheme of labor organization is thrown open to them the reason is not hard to find.
The reason usually assigned by white union men for not admitting colored men into their unions, as stated by Mr. E. E. Clark, President of the Railway Conductors, and by many others, is that 'Colored men are always willing to work for wages which white men cannot, and should not be asked to work for." What an astounding argument! They refuse to admit colored men to the union, force them to seek a living by foraging on the outside, deny them the benefit of the union's protection and discipline, and when, in order to live, they are forced to accept work at the employer's terms the white union man says, 'No, we won't receive the colored man into our union because he is always willing to work for less wages than a white man." The injustice and unfairness of this argument are too plain to require further elaboration. We would like to ask the men who advance this argument, if it is not the "union" that enables them to secure a "white man's wages." The testimony from labor leaders is overwhelming that colored men make good union men.
There have been instances where the colored workmen have attempted to organize separately. But, as a rule, when they come in competition with the white union in the same trade, the colored unions have not been able to with stand the opposition of the employer, the white union of the same trade, and race prejudice, and have not been able to keep up their organization. And yet, there are in these border states thousands of colored mechanics and skilled workmen outside the unions who are making a good living; some of the most reliable and competent are bosses and contractors and earn much more than they could possibly earn as journeymen in a white union.
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