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MARK HANNA AND HIS EMPLOYEES
The relation between Mr. Hanna and the men who worked for him in his various enterprises demands special treatment, not only because of its intrinsic interest, but because of the importance which it came to have during his subsequent political career. In no phase of his business life are the essential traits of the man more clearly revealed.
Mark Hanna's business career began, as we have seen, in jumpers and overalls. When he told the students of the Western Reserve College not to be ashamed of overalls, he was not posing or offering an insincere piece of advice. No doubt he had graduated quickly from overalls himself, and he never was an ordinary day-laborer, but he started with and always retained a hearty sympathy with the wearers of overalls and a real understanding of them. As his interests multiplied and as he gave more and more time to politics, he was obliged to delegate to a large extent the management of his business; but until the end Mr. Hanna was more likely to interfere in questions relating to the treatment of the employees than in any other branch of his affairs.
I have described him as fundamentally an industrial pioneer, and in no aspect of his business life is the description more correct and more instructive in its implications than in his relations with his employees. The social life of the pioneers was essentially homogeneous. It was based upon good-fellowship and a freedom and frankness of intercourse. There were inequalities of wealth and position, but they did not interfere with ease and completeness of communication and with mutual sympathy and understanding. Before the ninth decade of the nineteenth century the early pioneer society of Ohio had disappeared. A vast difference had developed between the manner of life of a prosperous business man like Mr. Hanna and that of his coal miners and freight handlers. But while the earlier homogeneity of life had vanished, no man could be true to the pioneer tradition without keeping a bond of communication with the ordinary day-laborer. The fact that Mark Hanna did do so distinguishes him sharply from the common run of very successful business men of his own generation. It is the final and best illustration of the fundamental humanity of his disposition, his practice and his point of view.
It is literally and not merely figuratively true that he kept in touch with his employees. Everybody in his employment felt free to go to him at any time. No matter whether the man was the head of a department or a common laborer on the docks, he had access to his employer. "I never knew," says Mr. Leonard C. Hanna, "my brother to turn any man away. In our business we dealt almost entirely with common, unskilled labor, and in all the interests which the firm owned and directed I suppose we had six thousand employees. We never had serious labor troubles. On our docks we occasionally had local and temporary disturbances among the ordinary employees; and whenever these occurred it was always my brother's custom to go right among the men. He would not ignore the superintendent, but would take the latter with him to the dock and hear what the men had to say. Then he would take such action as he thought to be necessary." The following despatch from Ashtabula, printed in the Cleveland Leader of April 28, 1876, may serve as a comment on the foregoing statement: "This morning Mr. Hanna, of Rhodes & Co., met the striking laborers on the docks at Ashtabula Harbor, and after consultation the men accepted the terms offered and resumed work."
Mr. Hanna's accessibility to his employees was not merely physical. When they reached him he always heard patiently and considered fairly what they had to say. If they had any real grievances, reparation was promptly and freely made. If they were making demands which in hiS opinion were neither fair nor possible, he had the gift of telling them so frankly, while at the same time not arousing any hard feeling. He could talk their language, and he could establish a common ground of good feeling which permitted full discussion of differences and which usually resulted in their adjustment.
The case of the street railway offers the best illustration of the way in which they felt towards him. The railroad was, as I have said, his hobby, and his constant use of it enabled him to know the men better than he could the workers in the mines or on the docks. When he travelled on the cars, he usually boarded the front platform and joined the motormen. They were always glad to see him, would give him a stool on which to sit, and would talk freely to him. During the eighties he knew almost every employee by name; and later, when he was less in Cleveland and there were nine hundred men on the pay-roll, he continued J to remember a large part of them. From the day on which he became connected with the road there never was a strike, and never did the crew of a car refuse to take it out. The superintendent of the road, George G. Mulhern, states that at least onethird of the men who worked on the old Rocky River dummy road and who came to the West Side Street Railroad remained in Mr. Hanna's employment until he resigned as president at the final consolidation of the Cleveland City and Cleveland Electric companies — a period of over twenty-five years.
He was always ready to receive the men in his office and talk to them. The delegation or committee which went to him about grievances usually departed either convinced or satisfied. Captain O. D. Brainard, a car-despatcher on the road, states that Mr. Hanna would allow his street railroad employees to see him when he would allow no one else. "I have gone," says Mr. Brainard, "with committees to his office when there would be scores of people waiting in the reception room to see him. He would have us brought in by a side door ahead of all the rest. One day when a committee wanted to see him, he was about •to take a train and had only fifteen minutes to spare. But he saw them and made his other callers wait until another time. It made no difference whether he was in his office, his house, what he was doing or whom he had as guests, he would always honor the card of an employee. He usually knew us, for if he once heard a man's name, he rarely forgot it."
Peter Cox, who was a conductor on the Detroit Street line for seventeen years, gives an interesting account of his relations with Mr. Hanna. Although working on the route used by Mr. Hanna himself, he never spoke to his employer until after an accident which had befallen Mr. Hanna during a trip on the Great Lakes. He had been going around on crutches, but on this day he walked with a cane. "When he boarded my car I said to him that I was glad to see him without crutches. He then told me the story of his accident, being as friendly and going into as many details as he would in case I were a close business associate. He said he had been to Duluth or some other northern port, that he had left the vessel at the dock, and and while returning to it he had fallen from a long ladder. I had the whole story. I never saw a man like him and I have worked for many. He always talked freely and confidentially to his men, no matter who they were."
The same conductor gives an account of an interview between Mr. Hanna and an employee with a grievance. "The barnmen wanted an increase of wages. They had gone to the company's offices and had sent in petitions for a raise of pay, but they had not received an answer. Times were good and the trackmen were all getting raises, but the barnmen were not. In those days each barnman had fourteen horses to take care of; they had to be cleaned and watered — other men did the feeding — and the harness had to be thrown on and off. One of the barnmen waited at Detroit Street and Lake Avenue, where Mr. Hanna took the car, and when he came up the man said, 'Mr. Hanna, I have appointed myself a committee of one to wait upon you and see about a raise of wages.'
"Mr. Hanna looked at him a minute and replied, 'I am hardly the one for that; you ought to see Mulhern.' [George G. Mulhern, superintendent.]
"'Well,' the man went on to say, 'we have sent petitions and got no answer. So I thought I would go to the fountainhead myself.' Then the man told how the trackmen had had their wages increased. 'But your job,' Mr. Hanna answered, 'is good for three hundred and sixty-five days a year if you want to work. The job of the trackmen is only good in summer, and in rainy weather they can't work.'
"'Yes,' the barnman replied, 'but our work can't be done by your high-priced trackmen. Put them in our places and they would fail.'
"Mark Hanna stood there and argued with that man as he would have argued with President McKinley. After a while he said, 'I will talk with George and James and you will hear from me.' [George G. Mulhern and James B. Hanna, son of Kersey Hanna and cousin of M. A. Hanna, who was general manager of the road.] Afterwards Mr. Hanna asked the general manager, referring to the man who had talked with him, 'Who is that old fellow?' And he was told it was Frank Hunter, one of the best barnmen they had. Mr. Hanna said, 'He is a damned smart old fellow.' And the first thing the men knew they got their raise."
The management of all of Mr. Hanna's enterprises was liberal to injured employees. When one of the stage hands of the theatre fell ill, he was paid eighteen dollars a week for a year and a half. A workman who had been injured on a dock of M. A. Hanna & Co. was put on the Opera House pay-roll until he recovered — which was a mixture of kindness and prudence. The man was taken care of in this way so that his fellow-workmen should not know of it. On the street railway the men who met with accidents or fell ill drew half pay as long as they were laid off. The company had its own physician and surgeon, whose services were at the disposal of any employee, free of charge. Mr. Hanna personally loaned money to the men, with which to buy homes; and they were allowed almost to name the terms on which they paid him back. The motormen and conductors always had a lay-over of ten minutes at each end of the line — with a lounging room to spend it in, a billiard table and reading matter. No employee was allowed to drink while on duty; but whenever a man was dismissed for disobedience of this or any other rule, he was given a second chance. Mr. Hanna would frequently reinstate a man over the head of the superintendent.
The street railway employees repaid the kind and fair treatment they received by an unusual feeling of loyalty; and on one occasion this loyalty received an effective expression. In the spring of 1899 Mr. Hanna had planned to go to Europe, chiefly for his health; but at the last moment he hesitated, because of probable labor troubles in Cleveland. His own employees were content; but a strike was threatened on the lines of his larger competitor—the "Big Consolidated." He did not