I will proceed now to another branch of inquiry, in reference to one of the most hardworked class of people under the sun, the freight-handlers of the city of New York. They are a body of men . . . working for $.17 an hour for the railroad corporations. Last year they had the hardihood to ask for three cents more an hour, making $.20 an hour, when the railroads informed them that they would not pay it. The freight-handlers were, after a struggle, starved into submission, and are working now for $.17 an hour.

Question: What sort of life does a freight-handler have on $.17 an hour?

Ans. He generally lives in very poor quarters; his home is but scantily furnished; he can eat only of the coarsest food; his children, like to many others, are frequently brought into the factories at a very tender age; in some instances his wife takes in sewing and does chores for other people, while in other instances that I know of they work in a few of the remaining laundries where women are still employed, the work not having been absorbed by the Chinese. By this means the home, of course, is broken up; indeed there is hardly the semblance of a home, and in these instances where the wife goes out to work no meal is cooked. Many of the stores have for sale dried meats or herrings, cheese, or some other article which does not require any cooking. Of course, when the wife is at home . . . she cooks what can be purchased with the portion of the $ .17 per hour remaining after the payment of rent, and the cost of light, fuel, etc.
Samuel Gompers' Testimony before the Education and Labor Committee of the U. S. Senate, 1883


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