Virginian in 1910--Strike

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Sun Apr 18 20:22:10 EDT 2010

Bluefield Daily Telegraph
November 2, 1910

Walkout in Virginian Shops at Princeton Brought About by Disagreement Over Time Recording System
Yesterday the Virginian Railway experienced its first strike, when about a hundred machinists and boiler makers [sic] walked out of the Princeton shop a 7:30 o'clock a. m. The walkout was brought about by a disagreement over a new time recording system inaugurated by the railroad. The railroad company recently posted a bulletin announcing that after the first of November all men employed in the shops at Princeton should go to the company office, secure a check which would be numbered, take the check to the shops, which in the case of the machinists and boilermakers were about 200 yards from the office, and hang them upon a board provided for that purpose where they were to remain during the day. At night the checks were to be taken from the board and carried out to the office where they were to be again placed in the office to show to the company which men had checked in and out.
All of the employes with the exception of the machinists and boiler- makers agreed to the plan. These men went to the shops yesterday and after some talk refused to adopt the plan. They were given their choice of adopting the plan or quitting. The men then walked out and left the shops. Later they held a meeting in the Masonic hall at which ways and means were discussed. It was learned that as a result of the meeting the men decided that they would accept the checks on their own time, but would feel it incumbent on the company to permit of the checks being returned on the company's time. Superintendent Taylor is out of town and could not be seen but it is understood that the officials who were in charge refused to accept any plan except that adopted by the company.
A semi-annual report from the railroad company states that the company found that it would be necessary to inaugurate a time recording system of some kind to make the work of keeping track of the men easier and to adopt some system which was generally in vogue for keeping track of the men employed. The company posted a bulletin to that effect and the men were to adopt the plan yesterday. About three hundred men worked under the system, these being the carmen, painters, blacksmiths and others. The machinists and boilermakers walked out without going to work.
It is understood that the company considers the men at this time as non-employes. It is stated semi-officially that the men have quit and other men will be employed, although it may be possible that the men may be taken back. This cannot be officially stated, however. An officer of the road said yesterday that it was the plan of his company to eventually fence in the whole yards of the road at Princeton, at which time a gate will be provided for the men to enter.
When that time comes the checks will be secured at the gate and the men will check in and out as they leave their work. For the present the men were not asked to check in and out at noon. When the fence and gate are constructed the company will have an international time recording system which will do away with some of the present objectionable features. For the present, according to this official, the company designated the office as a place to get checks as it claims the office is as centrally located as any other building which can be secured.
The men claim that the office is so located that the employes would have to stand out in all kinds of weather and form in line. They would then have to wait for their turn to get a check and after it had been secured they would have to walk through all kinds of weather to the shops where the checks would be deposited. This same plan would also be in effect at night.
One of the men employed at the shops, who said he was among those who quit work, was called to the telephone last night and said the strike was caused by a disagreement among the men and the company with reference to securing checks before going to work and carrying the same back to the office, which was an unreasonable distance from the shops. He said the machinists and the boiler makers have no local at Princeton, although a local is being organized. The move apparently from the information is an independent one and is not a strike by any of the union locals.
It was reported in this city and generally throughout Princeton yesterday that the union machinists and boilermakers had gone on strike. It may be that a great many of the men are affiliated with different unions but in all fairness the Daily Telegraph made an effort to find out if the strike was recognized by the locals. This brought out the information that no local is located at Princeton for machinists and boilermakers, although organization has commenced. The men have no working agreement with the company and the strike is not a union strike in any sense of the word.
[Judging by this article the Virginian's Princeton shops had a unionized work force even though the shops had been in operation less than six months (since May 1910; see BDT article May 17, 1910) posted Nov. 10, 2009). So it is likely that Roanoke Shops, which had been in operation about 28 years in 1910, was unionized also.]

Gordon Hamilton
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