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repairing houses for laborers, machine-shop work, and running and maintaining electric and irrigation plants. A force of common labor is required to build and maintain flumes and railways, fences, bridges, and plantation roads, to handle sugar and freight, and to take care of live stock.
CONDITIONS OF EMPLOYMENT AND WAGES OF PLANTATION LABOR.
The condition. of employment and the rate of pay of all these classes of workmen vary; but all employees, from the manager downward, are subject to certain general requirements which are practically uniform, and enjoy certain privileges and advantages which vary in degree, but not in kind, for the whole plantation force.
The hours are long, and work begins early. Every conscientious manager, though his salary may be $1,000 a month, is up and “on his job” by sunrise. Plantation work involves some social isolation—and this is probably most felt and most truly occurs in case of white employees. The field hands are numerous enough to form their own society. Practically all plantation employments are physically laborious. Even the manager must be a man of good physique and constitution to stand the long hours daily in the saddle and exposure to the climatic inclemencies peculiar to the Tropics. Stripping cane—now less practiced than formerly—is one of the hardest and most disagreeable kinds of field labor in the whole range of agriculture. On the other hand, one would be likely to suffer more from heat in a New England hay field during the course of a normal summer than in any of the regular planting and cultivating operations of a Hawaiian cane field during the entire season. There are no occupational diseases in plantation work, and very few recorded accidents. Such injuries to employees as occur are mostly on the railways or in the mill.
Plantation employees are under no expense for rent or fuel, and many of them can have gardens and keep fowls and pigs on plantation land. Where such privileges exist no deduction is ever made from wages on their account. The diversity of occupations and of rates of pay is sufficient to afford opportunities of promotion about equal to those in most mainland industries. White men rise from field bosses or mill assistants to managers. Orientals and Hawaiians are promoted from the hoe to the shop bench, the engine throttle, and the saddle.
A majority of the skilled employees, especially of white men, are paid salaries, and their time is not checked as it would be in a mainland manufacturing establishment of equal size. White mechanics and engineers, being themselves bosses over other employees, are not subject to as minute direction and probably on the whole are more independent in their work than in similar positions in other parts of the country. But in other ways—in matters of conduct and opinionsome of them feel under more restraint, especially outside of working hours, than do mechanics in America.
The pay of unskilled employees is rated on a monthly basis, 26 days constituting a month. The lowest time rate is $18--for recently arrived Filipinos and orientals or those past the prime of life. Though this is nearly 50 per cent more than was paid in the days of contract labor, it is at present prices little more than a subsistence wage for an oriental with a family. The per capita cost of food, for an adult plantation laborer in Hawaii, according to the dietary now prevailing among them, is between $6 and $7 a month. This estimate is based on the actual cost of boarding laborers, by oriental contractors, and by employers in different places, as shown by their own accounts. Tropical laborers, even the orientals, having no winter rest season, do not work every day; and the average actual earnings of these employees probably do not much exceed, if they exceed at all, $15 monthly.
Nevertheless the Japanese and Chinese plantation hands in Hawaii manage to travel about a good deal from plantation to plantation; they support various purveyors of amusement and luxury, as well as of vice, and they send to Asia yearly large sums, said in the aggregate considerably to exceed $1,000,000.
The reason for this apparent discrepancy between the standard rate of pay of field laborers and their actual economic status is found in the system of bonuses and of contracts, that has everywhere been introduced to relieve the hard and fast conditions established by the uniform wage scales fixed by agreement among the planters. Bonuses are paid on several plantations to all laborers working 20 days or more in a month and amount to $2 or over. Thus a laborer at the $18 rate working 21 days would receive $16.58, instead of $14.58. More important than the bonuses are the contracts. These fall into three main classes.
The simplest are merely a substitution of piecework for time work. The operations that most easily lend themselves to this mode of payment are, in the field, cutting seed cane, planting cane, cutting and loading cane, and laying portable track; and in the mill filling, sewing, and marking bags. At many of these operations it is quite possible for a laborer to earn a dollar a day without more than normal exertion, and in some instances workers earn far more than this. It is dangerous to cite exceptions, because of the false impressions they often leave; but a maximum is sometimes worth quoting to show the possibilities of a system. On one plantation visited in 1910 a Japanese man and wife, working as a team in loading cane-one gathering together the stalks into bundles and the other packing the bundles to the car-actually earned on contract $70 in one month.
An extension of this piecework system exists in the custom of paying an agreed rate per acre for certain operations, such as stripping cane, or cutting
The second form of contract was fully described in the report of 1902. It consists in allotting to a gang of laborers a certain area of planted cane-after the first fertilization or watering-allowing the gang a certain “advance,” which is less than the regular time wage, for each day's work done on the plat, and upon the completion of the harvesting paying an agreed sum for each ton of cane raised, from which total the total advances, without interest, are deducted. Thus if a gang raises upon 20 acres of land 1,200 tons of cane, and has put 1,500 days' labor upon the land, for which 60 cents a day advance has been allowed, and received $1.10 a ton for the cane, the account of the workers will stand in its simplest form as follows: Debit: 1,500 days, at $0.60 per day..
$900 Credit: 1,200 tons cane, at $1.10..
420 Actual earnings per day, $0.88.
This is at the rate of $22.88 for a month of 26 days, and is in addition to rent and fuel. It is probably rather less than the actual earnings of cultivation contractors during an average season. Meantime these contractors may have been employed part of their time in other plantation occupations, at either a higher or a lower rate than that just given, and their income may have been correspondingly modified. In actual contract accounts there are more complications, because the manager may hire outside labor to help out a gang unable to keep the whole area contracted for in good condition, and there are charges for fertilizers and the use of animals to be deducted from the laborers' account in the final settlement. The outcome, however, is usually that the laborer earns between 80 cents and $1 for each day worked on his contract.
The third form of contract general enough to deserve mention is really a form of tenancy, where a laborer takes a small piece of land and produces a crop, like an independent landholder, selling his cane to the plantation at a contract price, which varies usually from $3.50 to $4 a ton, and is often scaled according to the price of sugar at the date when the sugar from the cane in question is manufactured or marketed. The lands thus quasi leased to laborers are usually either wild lands, which are cleared in lieu of rental and later taken into the plantation proper, or gulch lands, which the laborers are allowed to use free and cultivate at odd hours and which on account of their difficulty of access it would not pay the plantation to cultivate in the regular manner.
1 Pages 59 to 79; also pages 736 to 750, Bulletin No. 47.
As bearing upon the matter of wages the race or nationality of plantation employees is of considerable importance. The following table shows the nationality of plantation employees from 1901, the first year after annexation for which there are reports, to the year 1910 (except 1903). The proportion of Japanese increased without interruption until 1905, when there was a decrease due to migration to California and a larger employment of Koreans. After falling off more than 6,000 in two years the number of Japanese employees rapidly rose the following two years by an even greater number, reaching a maximum of 32,771 in 1908. Since that date a decrease has occurred, which is probably permanent, the Japanese being replaced to some extent by Filipinos. But even including Filipinos, a decrease in the proportion of Asiatics has been the leading feature of labor conditions during the past two years.
NUMBER AND PER CENT OF PLANTATION EMPLOYEES OF EACH NATIONALITY,
1901, 1902, 1904-1910.
The figures for 1909 are abnormal, because a strike of Japanese plantation workers was in progress when they were secured. This strike was confined to the island of Oahu.
The figures for 1904 and 1905 are for July 31. For subsequent years they are for June 30. The number of employees does not vary materially throughout the year, but the distribution of employees in different branches of the work is quite different at different seasons.
The following table shows the proportion of the field employees on all the Hawaiian plantations who were, in 1902, 1905, and 1910, respectively, paid on a time rate, by piece rate, and as cultivation contractors. Those holding the third form of contract (p. 686) are omitted, as they either are not on the regular pay rolls of the plantations or are engaged part of their time at time wages. NUMBER, PER CENT, AND AVERAGE EARNINGS OF FIELD EMPLOYEES (MALE) ON HAWAIIAN PLANTATIONS PAID AT TIME RATE, PIECE RATE, AND AS CULTIVATION CONTRACTORS, 1902, 1905, AND 1910.
1 Earnings reported for 9,286 employees only. 3 Not reported.
Earnings reported for 3,437 einployees only. • Earnings reported for 6,867 employees only. This table affords data for the following table showing the percentage increase or decrease of average wages of adult male field employees for the three years ending with 1905 and the five years ending with 1910. NUMBER AND AVERAGE DAILY EARNINGS OF ADULT MALE FIELD EMPLOYEES,
1902, 1905, AND 1910.
1 Includes only those whose average daily earnings were reported.
: See introduction to tables, Chapter II, Table V.
Food prices have risen faster, however, than the wage of day hands.
The number of contract cultivators and their rate of earnings decreased rapidly between 1902 and 1905, principally because labor