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Americans to Quit Aqueduct Work is Engineer's Opinion.
Los Angeles Herald | June 6, 1909.
"In the opinion of practically all the Americans on the aqueduct work, if the bonus system of paying is not restored as it was, fully 90 per cent of the aqueduct force will be foreigners by October 1," declared F.J. Newton, a civil engineer, who came down from the Saugus division last night. "The opinion is general along the aqueduct that the change will have the effect of driving Americans off the job and replacing them with Italians, Greeks and other foreign workmen."
Mr. Newton said that a general desertion of camp No. 2 on the Saugus division was started yesterday morning through dissatisfaction of the men with the payment system and the commissary, but that the foreman, T.J. Nolan, induced the men to remain until their grievances could be presented at the office of the aqueduct bureau, which will be done Monday.
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Aqueduct Meals Make Trouble.
Men Ready to Quit if New Order is Enforced.
General Chaffee Admits Conditions Are Deplorable.
All Employes Shortly to Be Asked to Sign Contracts at $5 a Week Whether They Work or Not.
Los Angeles Herald | July 13, 1909.
The advisory committee has made its report to the board of public works on the Desmond contract for feeding aqueduct employes [cq] and the board will send the report to the council today as an answer to the council's demand for information on the matter.
The report is a bare statement of fact and does not attempt to deal with the complaints that have been made against the quality of food served by Desmond at some of the camps. One section of the report, which covers about twenty typewritten pages, says that on some sections of the aqueduct the complaints have been made in the hope that the board of public works would cancel the contract with D.J. Desmond and again assume the task of feeding the men itself.
The board is not likely to do this, for the figures compiled by the aqueduct department show that, while the board of public works was feeding the men, nearly 6 cents a meal on each man is lost. These figures show that the cost per meal per man was 29.8 cents, and the men were fed for $5 for twenty-one meals.
Admits Better Service
The report admits that meals served by the city were better than those served by Desmond, but points out that the contractor cannot afford to serve meals that cost more than he receives.
In a day or two all the employes on the aqueduct will be asked to sign new contracts with the city. The last clause in this contract provides that the employe permits the deduction of $5 a week from his wages to be turned over to the subsistence contractor, whether he eats his meals at the messes of the contractor or not.
C.S. Dudley, a former newspaper man, employed on Los Angeles papers, but who has been employed as construction clerk on the aqueduct for several months, declares the aqueduct employes have determined to resist this order and, if it is enforced, that about half of them are prepared to leave the service.
He declares that he was compelled to give up his position as construction clerk because he could not eat the food served by Desmond. He found a boarding place at Newhall and walked two miles from Camp Five, where he was employed, to his meals each morning and evening and carried a tin pail filled with lunch for his noonday meal.
Board Is Insistent
The board is prepared to insist that every man employed on the aqueduct, except married men with their families on the ground, must eat at the Desmond camps, or pay for three meals a day at this camp, whether they eat or not. The advisory committee of the aqueduct, of which Gen. A.R. Chaffee is the head, declares this order is imperative, or the contractor will be unable to maintain his organization.
The report, which will be submitted to the council today, says that, in some instances along the line "bachelor" quarters have been established by some of the employes and that food has been purchased for these quarters from dishonest employes of Desmond for about 20 per cent on the dollar.
In April, the report says, Desmond was in financial straits and kept his stores pretty low, and that it was during this time that most of the complaints originated. But he now has sufficient backing, according to the advisory committee, and the same cause for complaint will not again exist.
Chaffee Makes Complaint
Attached to the report is a copy of a letter sent by General Chaffee to D.J. Desmond, under date of June 21, 1909, which makes fourteen complains. Boiled down they are: The supply of salt meats so low as to excite apprehension of starvation rations in case the fresh beef supply should fail; sanitary conditions of kitchen, pantry and meat safe at San Juan hill not good and men at this mess not tidy.
At this mess, the general found a baking of sour bread on the floor, five sacks of worthless potatoes under foot and ordered it all carted off to the pig pen. Man in charge at San Juan hill not capable in control of employes; storeroom and bakery at Cinco disorderly, untidy, unswept.
The general appends this warning: "For some time there has been strong opposition to your mess at Cinco, and to overcome it due attention to cleanliness and service must be forthcoming from your employes."
Complaint against open cesspool for kitchen water at Pine Tree camp and to location of meat house, which was under floor of kitchen; pink beans used too often while navy beans are preferred; o0rdered to use navy beans more frequently; pink beans not sufficiently cooked at camp 1A of the Saugus division.
Cook Found Slovenly
Mess at Austin excavator camp unsatisfactory; cook slovenly, dirty, if nothing more or worse. Storeroom of Mojave mess house not tidy. Many flies in kitchen at dry canyon. Cups and saucers at camp 4, Saugus division, in bad condition. Beets and turnips found wilted and worthless at points on Saugus division, because sent out before matured. Found no fresh fruits, canned or uncanned as pie filling to take the place of dried fruits, which were not properly prepared. Suggests frequent personal inspection to see that provisions of his contract calling for food in reasonable variety and well cooked are carried out.
Following is the average menu that is served at all the aqueduct mess tents:
Choice of rolled oats, cornmeal mush or milk toast
German fried or mashed brown potatoes
Steak, five times a week
Hamburger and bacon once a week
Bacon and eggs on Sunday morning; two eggs per man.
Hot cakes and coffee morning.
Hot biscuits or rolls when possible.
Soup every day — Rice, bean, macaroni, vegetable, split pea, pearl barley, chili con carne, lentil or any good heavy soup.
Roast, with brown gravy when possible, or short ribs of beef with browned potatoes, or boiled beef with onion sauce.
Mashed potatoes four times a week
Beans four times a week.
One other vegetable.
Pie or pudding.
Sunday, bread pudding and pie.
Two meats, pot roast, braised beef, stewed beef with dumpling, stewed beef Spanish, hashed beef on toast, baked hash, Irish stew, stewed beef with vegetables, baked meat pie, baked beef croquettes, hamburger steak, hamburger roll, beef steak with onions, cold roast beef, cold boiled beef, cold corned beef.
Cold ham for supper, Sundays only.
Potatoes with jackets not oftener than three times a week.
German fried, hashed brown or lyonnaise, baked or boiled potatoes.
Cold slaw [sic].
Potato salad or other vegetable
Hot rolls or biscuits.
One kind of cake.
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Tunnel Men On Aqueduct Strike.
Miners on Saugus Division Walk Out.
Discontents All Belong to Western Federation.
Local May Be Organized on Municipal Project — Eighteen Workers Refuse to Accept Cut in Wages.
Los Angeles Herald | August 7, 1909.
Following a cut in wages of 50 cents a day, from $3.50 to $3, eighteen miners employed in the south end of tunnel No. 1 on the Saugus division of the aqueduct walked out yesterday, threatening to take the matter to the Western Federation of Miners, of which all the men who left were members, including two shift bosses, James Kane and Frank Chapman. There are thirty-two other workers in the same tunnel, who remained at work, as the cut did not affect their wages. Among these are "muckers," "mule skinners" and "jumbo men," none of whom belong to the Western Federation of Miners.
The wages of the men were raised from $3 to $3.50 a day July 15 on account of the difficulty of working in the tunnel fact, caused by the bore being so wet that conditions were disagreeable. Wednesday the advisory committee of the aqueduct ordered the cut in wages, when the engineers in charge informed it that the workings were dry and that the extra was no longer necessary. When the men were informed of the reduction yesterday morning they refused to begin work.
May Organize Local
"The wages of the men were reduced because the drift was no longer wet," said Gen. Chaffee of the aqueduct commission last night, "and there was no reason for continuing the increased wage. I know of no serious disaffection among the tunnel workers and nothing of any strike."
There is no local union of the Western Federation of Miners on the aqueduct, although an unsuccessful attempt to organize them was made a few weeks ago.
"It is not likely the cut in wages on the Saugus division tunnel may result in the organization of a Western Federation local," said a member of that organization last night. "The recent attempt to organize the men was unsuccessful because the agent who was on the ground was not in good standing with the union. So far the union has no serious complains, but there are a number of reasons why the men should be organized. Nearly all the men on the aqueduct are Western Federation men, the Industrial Workers of the World and the American Federation of Labor being practically unrepresented.["]
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Aqueduct Men In Ugly Mood.
War to Knife is Begin On Boarding Houses.
Threats Are Made That Giant Powder Will be Used.
Stark Bourke, Formerly Commissary Clerk, Tells of Serious Situation Along Line of the Big Ditch.
Los Angeles Herald | August 13, 1909.
"There is war to the knife between Desmond, who conducts the boarding houses on the Los Angeles aqueduct, and the employees on the big work. Hundreds of the latter absolutely refuse to comply with the city's compulsory order making them board with Desmond, and they are incensed to such a degree that the boarding house man has found it necessary to arm hi commissary clerks and assistants, fearing an outbreak of violence."
Stark Bourke, who was connected with the Desmond outfit on various parts of the aqueduct for several months, and who arrived in the city the other day on a brief vacation, made the above statement to a Herald representative last evening. He also made the startling prediction, based, he claimed, on an intimate knowledge of the situation, that unless there is a radical change in the boarding house conditions in the majority of the camps, and a court decision approving the city's compulsory order, there will be a complete tie-up of the big undertaking for a considerable time.
Threats of Dynamite Made
Mr. Bourke says that many times during July the exasperated miners, particularly at the Elizabeth lake tunnel, threatened to blow up the boarding house and commissary with giant powder if Desmond persisted in charging them with board which they refused to take. W.C. Aston, the superintendent at the big tunnel, south portal side, conveyed their threats to Commissary Clerk C.J. Flower, and the latter, since that time, has slept constantly in the store with a gun under his pillow.
"Desmond has had a hard up-hill fight since the compulsory order went into effect," said Mr. Bourke last night.
"He has made a vigorous effort to correct the really lamentable conditions that exist in some of the camps, but has been heavily handicapped by his inability to get good cooks, and the extreme distance of some of his desert camps from the base of supplies. South portal, where the men are making the biggest fight against the boarding house, is nearly twenty-five miles from Saugus, the base of Desmond's supplies, in a district which holds twelve of his camps.
Indignation at South Portal
"Perishable stuff at times reaches the boarding house in a shocking condition, particularly vegetables and fresh meat. I saw a whole carcass of beef reach the camp in a state of semi-putrefaction. This was shortly after the compulsory order went into effect. The cook immediately 'walked out.' A hurry-up order for a new man to take his place was sent to Saugus, Desmond's headquarters, late in the evening. Some of the meat in the meantime had unfortunately reached the table, and the men held a midnight mass meeting, at which they decided to wreck the meat house if the remainder of the carcass was not at once destroyed.
"In the morning three trembling flunkies and a very much perturbed commissary clerk made a bluff to get breakfast. Just at a critical time the 'traveling chef' arrived and got busy.
"'De beef she is correc, bring her in,' he ordered, and it was only when the flunkies, fearing for their lives, refused to work unless he destroyed the 'dead horse,' as they termed it, did he decide to substitute bacon. It was fortunate that things turned out as they did, as I afterward learned that the men who came off work at breakfast time had secured enough giant powder to blow the meat house out of the canyon, and they said they were prepared to use it."
Holds a Hard Job
Mr. Bourke says that the lot of a commissary clerk in the Desmond outfit at present is anything but a pleasant one. It does not lack plenty of excitement, however. A few days after the men were informed at the Elizabeth lake tunnel that they would have to board with Desmond, they made a formal protest to Superintendent Aston. He said he was powerless to help them, although he knew that they "had a kick coming all right." That night an explosion of giant powder in proximity to the boarding house and commissary alarmed the whole camp, and shook the buildings like a small earthquake.
"What possible solution is there for the present deadlock between Desmond and the men?" Mr. Bourke was asked.
"It apparently is a matter entirely for the courts to settle," he replied. "The men consider that they are being unjustly dealt with in regard to the compulsory order, in the first place, and in the second place, they say that Desmond, in most of the camps, is not putting up a meal worth 25 cents. They do not consider the difficulties a contractor encounters in catering to out of the way camps. They simply say they want good grub, and they will fight till they get it.
Men Are Standing Together
"Unlike the situation at most construction camps, the men are sticking together in this fight, and in the Saugus division alone, I was informed, several thousand dollars have been contributed to fight the matter in the courts. The men's case is now in the hands of a well known Los Angeles lawyer, and the testing of the compulsory order of the city will be watched with the keenest interest by the thousands of workers, who have been, and are now, engaged on the big project."
When Mr. Bourke left Elizabeth lake tunnel the board bills of the men for July were being made out, and in every case they were charged with 70 cents a day, whether they boarded with Desmond or not. This was done in every camp along the line, and he says that when the men receive their checks showing this deduction there will be lively times for the commissary clerks. In fact, he says he prefers the climate of Los Angeles for awhile, as he has seen the temper of the men on several occasions since the order went into effect.