The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
British Whig (Kingston, ON), Feb. 2, 1884

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The Editor, British Whig.

Sir, - The Shovellers' Union was not organized to extort wages from vessels. All we ever wanted is fair wages for our labor. It was organized for the protection of the men employed in shovelling. Men were often tired after working in the holds of several vessels and did not wish to work at other outside work, but if the Manager had other work for them to do they had to do it or leave. Although there were plenty of outside men looking for this work they could not get it as long as the shovellers could be forced to do it. Some men are not as hardy as others (as is always the case in a big gang of men) and if these men refused they need not come back; others would be put in their places. It was for the purpose of protecting these men that the Union was formed. If one was discharged without a just cause all the hands all hands would leave.

Another object of the Union is to assist the sick. Any member sick or getting hurt or injured from any cause, except drunkeness, receives a sum per week from the Union on a certificate of disability from the physician attending him. We bury the dead, and leave a certain amount to the widow, so that it will be impossible for her to be left altogether in destitute circumstances. These are some of the features of the Union, therefore we fail to see anything very objectionable about it.

But, Mr. Editor, the Outside Manager says: "Men, you must break up this Union. I will have no Union men working for me." But the shovellers do not work for him. They are working for the vessel owners, and the owners pay us through collections made by the Manager. What work we do for the Company we do free gratis. We coal their elevators, shift them from vessel to vessel and make them fast in their places. For this we do not receive a cent. But this Company have two large lake barges, carrying about 75,000 bushels. These barges had to be shovelled out at 50 cents per thousand less than other vessels. The labor is just the same to the shovellers, and the Union thought they should be charged the same, so the tariff was raised to $3 on the barges, which other vessels coming to the port to be unloaded pay. Perhaps this is one of the reasons the Manager has for breaking up the Union. If so let him manfully say so.

The Union has always recognized the Manager as the boss, and all orders coming from him or from the men placed in position to boss those shovelling have always been obeyed. So we cannot see what object the Company can have in dissolving the Union. The Manager has already discharged five or six men working at the barges because they belonged to the Union, and others belonging to the Union he refused to employ. It seems as if he is trying to starve the Union out, but not this time, thank God, will it be in his power. All we want is fair play. We were born freemen and we intend to use the privileges of freemen, not of slaves. The tariff is subject to a raise and fall in the freights, so we will never allow the Manager of the Company to strike the rate of wages for us when the money we receive does not come out of the Company's pocket. It is no harm for an elevator firm to charge what they like, but if the poor dust-covered and half-choked laborer asks for an increase it is "go away, white trash." Now, brother shovellers, stick to the Union and live up to its principles. Don't be scared of those giant Spartans the Company has secured. They will be like our snow piles; there will not be much of them left in the spring.

Yours, etc.,

Feb. 1st My Johnny Is An Engine Driver

p.3 The First Wreck - Ontario on Lake Ontario, in 1780.

An Enlarged Canal System - wanted at Gananoque.

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Feb. 2, 1884
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Rick Neilson
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Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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British Whig (Kingston, ON), Feb. 2, 1884