Cape Breton's Magazine

> Issue 59 > Page 48 - Fr. Fraser Fights for the Miners, 1909

Page 48 - Fr. Fraser Fights for the Miners, 1909

Published by Ronald Caplan on 1992/1/1 (343 reads)

the award which was rendered and which would be binding on all parties. With the sincere expression of my regret, Believe me, dear Father John, Yours very sincerely,... Fr. Fraser Writes Yet Again, Oct. 15,1909: Dear Sir Wilfred: • Your two last letters came to hand some days ago and I wish to thank you with all my heart for your warm expression of friend? ship towards me. I am indeed sorry that you do not see your way clear to interfere in the strike raging here with a view to put an end to it. It is hard to think that the officials of the Coal Compa? ny here can shoot down like dogs inoffensive and innocent peo? ple with impunity and that the govemment or the Courts cannot interfere to give them protection. You cannot form an idea there of how your loyal people are outraged and ill-treated by the Coal Co. They are assuredly looking for nothing unreasonable, but the very smallest measure of justice which is never denied to any one who is not a most abject slave. All they want is to be al? lowed to accept such protection as will assure them justice and British fair play against ill treatment and oppression on the part of their employers. You are under the impression that these peo? ple have been fairly treated by their employers. I have no doubt that strong misrepresentations have been made to you to that ef? fect. But I assure you that I know better, living as I am among the poor people, and I would cut off my hand before I would pen you a deliberate untruth. Let me tell you frankly that you did not seem to understand the nature of the bills that I sent you in my former letter. After ex? amining these bills, you had made this remark: "In all these bills, when men were paid at the rate per day, they were paid from $1.52 to $2.20.1 repeat that this seems to me the highest rate of pay in the Eastern market." I grant that this seems all right, but what is the reality? Take for instance the first bill that you examined • Pat Walsh. Count what he received in all dur? ing the two weeks of emplo)'ment and what is kept off him and how much has he at the end (Saturday evening) to buy food for himself and family on Sunday. Is not 50 cents per d'y better for a man if he gets work six days of the week than $1.50 per day where he only gets work two days in the week? And how about the off-taxes? What is the use for a man to get even $20.00 per day from his employer, if the latter can succeed to keep from him at the rate of $20.00 per day? You can see that poor Pat Walsh did not live very luxuriously. His store bill was $7.54. Living here costs more than it costs in Ottawa or any other city in the Dominion. One of the reasons is that we pay double freight here • one to the I.C.R. and the other to the Dominion Coal railway. But the Coal Co. may tell you that the men are la? zy and do not want to work 6 days in the week. If they do, they simply lie to you. The native employees of the Coal Co. are a most superior class of labourers and there is not a lazy bone in their bodies. The fact of the matter was that the Coal Co. kept around them an ar? my of the scum of European cities evidendy in order to show their independence of the natives, so that they had not constant employment for all. You say that the matter in dispute was sub? mitted to arbitration and that the men should submit to the award. This was really what I advised them to do before the ar? bitration as I felt great confidence in Judge Wallace; but let me tell you with all candour that that arbitration proved to be great? est farce possible. The judge decided that there was no discrim? ination shown by the Coal Co. against the men who joined the new Union. He might as well tell me and the people here that black was white as to tell us that there was no such discrimination. I really felt ashamed of Judge Wallace who is a Catholic and whom I esteemed very highly. He said that no doubt preference was shown to the men of the old union but no discrimination against men of the new. Was not this really a distinction with? out difference and unworthy of a man who had to decide upon a most practical issue that involved so much? Even the General Manager Mr. Duggan himself admitted on oath that there was a discrimination against the men of the new union and I know and I am sure there was. I am afraid dear Sir Wilfred that I have written too long a letter and that you will not be pleased. I know very well that you are a good and kind man and a friend to the poor and that you like to help them. You have shown a high appreciation of Alex Johnstone's integrity. I hope you will not be disappointed in him some day. If you know him as I do • I do not think you would be in a hurry to have him canon? ized. Thanking you again dear Sir Wilfred for your assurance of your esteemed friendship and praying and wishing God al? ways to bless, guide, and protect, I remain yours very sincerely, John Fraser P. P. AFTERWORD: The United IVIine Worlcers lost the strike. Not only did they fail to win recognition, but they were unable to retain members after the striite. By the end of 1913 they had only 176 dues-paying members in District 26, and the district charter was revoked by the International. It would be 1919 before the U. M. W. of A. would come to represent Cape Breton miners. Fr. Fraser remained in Glace Bay until 1916, when, due to ill health, he was transferred to Mulgrave. He died in 1918. St. John's Church, New Aberdeen (Beaton Institute, UCCB) Our thanks to Dr. David Frank, Dept. of History, University of New Brunswick, for bringing Paul Steele's work to our attention. And to Paul for allowing us to publish his work. Paul's father, John, was named after Rev. Fr. John Fraser, because he was one of the children born in the basement of St. John's Church, while his parents were among those who lived there after being evicted from company houses during the 1909 Strike. Year 'Round Christmas Shop Le .Brignolet L ' FINE GIFTS i Maritime and Canadian Handcrafts and Souvenirs Folk Art and Country Gifts Quality Brass and Imported Gifts Kitchen and Bath Shop 15 PRINCE STREET SYDNEY BIP 5J4 539-7338
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