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Then I went to work in the mines. I tried to get a job in the mine, but the doctor turned me down. Then I thought up an idea of getting another fellow who could pass the doctor's examination to pass the examination for me, to stand the examination for me. He did that, it worked, and I got a job in the mine.
Mr. Dunn of Pennsylvania. What do you mean by that?
Mr. ROBISON. I got a fellow who didn't have silicosis to stand the doctor's examination for me; he brought the papers showing he had passed the examination to me, and I took them to the office and they put me to work. I worked there 3 months, when I took sick and had to go to the doctor myself.
Mr. GRISWOLD. Did your friend turn you down on going to the doctor again for you?
Mr. ROBISON. He couldn't go the second time for me. The doctor asked me, "Didn't you work in that tunnel ?” and I said, “Yes.” He stripped me. He put me in class B and told me to carry the potice to the office and tell them I was ready and willing to go to work.
I went to mine in Montgomery and when they examined me the doctor asked, "Haven't you been working in the tunnel ?" I said, "No", and he told me, "Now don't lie to me like that, I know you have.” Then I said back at him, “Yes; I have worked a little there." Then he told me, “You are not strong enough to work in the mine."
Then I went to Fayetteville to the relief people for help. They said they could not do anything for me unless I would get a certificate from the doctor saying I was not able to work. Dr. Rucker, of Charleston, had examined me in connection with my case when Townsend, Bock & Moore took it. I went to Dr. Rucker. Or, first, I went to Mr. Bock and told him I could not get work; and he told me he didn't think I could do the work. He told me to go to Dr. Rucker and tell him about it. I went to Dr. Rucker and told him that Mr. Bock had sent me to him and that I had to have an order from a doctor; and he gave me such an order. Then I returned to Fayetteville and they put me on relief at $3.50 a week. They cut that down to $1.50 a week and it stayed there until about last Christmas week, when they raised it back to $3.50 a week. I have five in my family.
Mr. Dunn of Pennsylvania. You are supposed to support your family on $3.50 a week?
Mr. ROBISON. That's what they allowed me; but the family would starve to death on that.
Mr. Dunn of Pennsylvania. What did you do when they reduced your relief allotment to $1.50 a week!
Mr. ROBISON. It so happens that there are some pretty good white people around that place. Mr. Brackett has given me a great deal with which to live. There is another good family there that has helped me. I mean to say, I have lived mostly from the help good people have given
to me. Mr. Dunn of Pennsylvania. Are your children under 16 years of age ?
Mr. ROBISON. I have two grown children, a son and a daughter. Mr. GRISWOLD. What do your son and daughter do?
Mr. ROBISON. My daughter cooks at the bus station and my son works in the mine.
Mr. RANDOLPH. How were you first approached in your native State of Georgia about this work being carried on in West Virginia?
Mr. ROBISON. I wasn't in Georgia when the thing came up. I was then in Tennessee.
Mr. RANDOLPH. Then how were you approached in Tennessee?
Mr. ROBISON. I had not had a job for 2 years when I heard about this work in West Virginia. One couldn't get a job anywhere else then. A friend of mine had been up to West Virginia and he found this job. He returned to the South and told me about it, and wanted me to go to West Virginia. I didn't go at first. Then he returned to the South again and then again insisted that I come to West Virginia for this work. I didn't go back with him but I did go there later. He worked on that job and he told me he knew I could get work there, too.
Mr. RANDOLPH. Did he paint a glowing picture of the situation or did he tell you the exact facts?
Mr. ROBISON. He just told me about the work there.
Mr. RANDOLPH. Did you know what the wages would be before you left the South ?
Mr. ROBISON. Yes. I had to have some work and I couldn't get anything there in the South.
Mr. RANDOLPH. You were desperately in need of work?
Mr. MARCANTONIO. And during those 12 hours you worked persistently and there was no let-up?
Mr. ROBISON. If one let up the boss at once wanted to know what was the matter. A fellow simply had to keep on the move all the time.
Mr. MARCANTONIO. That is what I would call a speed-up system underneath the silica rock.
Mr. ROBISON. The foreman could be 30 or 35 feet from a driller, and if the drill stopped the foreman would know it. Whenever one of the drills stopped he could, in all that noise and dust, know it. It seemed like a gang of airplanes going through that tunnel, yet when one of those drills stopped for any reason whatever, the foreman would notice it and then make an investigation. He would ask, “What's the matter?” Even whenever a driller was just changing steel the foreman would know the drill was not running, and he would inquire why.
Mr. RANDOLPH. Did you ever see a man named McLoud, the rouster, strike anybody in calling him back to work?
Mr. ROBISON. I never did, but I have heard it. I never did see him strike anybody. He always had the two pistols and the blackjack. I did, though, see a foreman beat a boy with a pick handle at the tunnel.
Mr. RANDOLPH. Why did he beat him?
Mr. ROBISON. Because he told him to go back to work, and the boy gave him some back talk. The boy ran, though, and got away from him.
Mr. DUNN of Pennsylvania. How far do you live from the Federal relief headquarters?
Mr. ROBISON. About 15 miles.
Mr. ROBISON. I have to walk or go on the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad. I have to go to the Fayettville Station and walk across the mountains.
Mr. Dunn of Pennsylvania. Unless some good, fortunate creature is willing to give you assistance you have to walk?
Mr. Robison. They don't pick up a fellow on the road in that country. They used to mail the relief checks, but they say now that the Government quit furnishing stamps and we must come for our checks.
Mr. MARCANTONIO. In your opinion, about how many persons have died from working in that tunnel?
Mr. RoBison. That I know personally?
Mr. ROBISON. I know about 118 who have died-close to that, I believe. They are colored people.
Mr. GRISWOLD. Colored people only—you have no knowledge of such white persons?
Mr. ROBISON. I know several white people who have died from that work. I know some foremen who have died. The foremen had to stay in the dust to keep the men there.
Mr. MARCANTONIO. You know foremen too who have died ?
Mr. ROBISON. I don't know about all of them, but I know that a bunch of them are dead.
Mr. Dunn of Pennsylvania. Would you make the same statement as the preceding witness, namely, had the company used wet drills instead of dry ones, there would not have been so many deaths ?
Mr. ROBISON. All wet drills and kept the gasoline motors out of there. The gasoline motors were brought in there. On a cloudy, still day the smoke stays in there, and the smoke will do more harm than a pint of potash whisky, The smoke won't go out. That dampness drives the smoke back and down up and down the tunnel all the time.
Mr. Dunn of Pennsylvania. The statement has been made before this committee that shortly after men died, within an hour after they died they were buried. Is that a fact?
Mr. Robison. I knew a man who died about 4 o'clock in the morning in the camp and at 7 o'clock the same morning his wife took his clothes to the undertaker to dress her dead husband, and when she got there they told her the husband had already been buried.
Mr. DUNN of Pennsylvania. Who paid the undertaker's bill?
Mr. RANDOLPH. And the officials had knowledge that the man married, yet he was buried about 2 hours after his death?
Mr. ROBISON. From 4 to 7, which is about 3 hours. When his wife got down there with his clothes the undertaker said he had been buried already. It would have taken an hour to drive up there and back. The wagon could not have gotten back.
Mr. RANDOLPH. Did the undertaker know the man was married, that he had a wife ?
Mr. ROBISON. He went to the house and got the body. He should have known the man was married.
Mr. GRISWOLD. How long have you had the wheeze?
Mr. GRISWOLD. Is it growing worse or better or does it remain about the same?
Mr. ROBISON. It is growing worse every day. At times at nights I have to get up so that I can catch my breath. If I remained flat on my back I believe I would die.
Mr. Dunn of Pennsylvania. Tell me this—the men with whom you are acquainted and who have this disease have been told that sooner or later they are going to die?
Mr. ROBISON. Yes, sir.
Mr. Dunn of Pennsylvania. How does that seem to affect the majority of the colored people ?
Mr. ROBISON. It don't work on anything but their wind. When one has silicosis he loses weight. I have two friends back there that I expect to be dead before I get back. I have another friend named Johnson who I expect to die very soon.
Mr. Dunn of Pennsylvania. Do they seem to be living in fear or do they, in view of their serious condition, wish to die?
Mr. ROBISON. They are getting to breathe a little faster.
Mr. Dunn of Pennsylvania. Do they seem to fear death; or do they want to die on account of their suffering!
Mr. Robson. No, sir; they don't want to die. They want to go on and live as long as they can.
Mr. DUNN of Pennsylvania. But they know their time here is short?
Mr. ROBISON. Yes, sir; they know that. Mr. MARCANTONIO. Do you know how many of these colored men who came from the South went back there?
Mr. ROBISON. A good many of them did. When Hubert and Bacon paid off, everybody who got money went back South. I have got letters from people in the South saying that some of the men from the South who worked in that tunnel work had died after they got back South.
Mr. MARCANTONIO. Relatives of these colored men who came to that work and then went back south and died have written back to West Virginia and said the men have died?
Mr. ROBISON. Yes, sir.
Mr. MARCANTONIO. There were about 2,000 persons working at this tunnel?
Mr. ROBISON. Two thousand or more. They had four heads; then they had men on the outside as well as the inside. They worked all the time, night and day, except Sundays and Sunday nights.
Mr. MARCANTONIO. These workers scattered after the work was completed, did they not?
Mr. ROBISON. They had to scatter.
Mr. ROBISON. They ran them out of the houses. They even burned down the houses in which the workers used to live.
Mr. MARCANTONIO. Who did that.
Mr. ROBISON. After Rinehart & Dennis got through with the houses, if they could not sell them and they did sell some of them, they would burn them. The company men burned them.
Mr. Dunn of Pennsylvania. Îhey drove the men out after the tunnel was completed ?
Mr. ROBISON. Yes, sir. They put some of the men in jail because they wouldn't vacate the houses of the company.
Mr. MARCANTONIO. They jailed those who would not readily get off the company's property?
Mr. Robison. Yes, sir; they jailed them for trespassing.
Mr. Dunn of Pennsylvania. Did they feel better off in jail than when living in the shacks? Was there much difference?
Mr. ROBISON. I really don't know about that.
Mr. ROBISON. Different numbers. In some shacks one could find six or eight and in others only two to a shack. Some would have 12 or 14. They had double decks in the shacks. The shacks were made about 12 by 20 or something like that.
Mr. MARCANTONIO. Were women and children also living in those shacks?
Mr. ROBISON. Yes.
Mr. MARCANTONIO. That 50 cents was paid by only one person living in a shack or was it paid by each person living in a shack? If five men were living in one shack, would each pay?
Mr. ROBISON. Yes, sir; each one paid.
Mr. MARCANTONIO. In other words, if a shack held 10 persons the company collected 10 quarters a week for electricity ?
Mr. ROBISON. Yes, sir.
Mr. RANDOLPH. How many men do you think died as a result of working in that tunnel?
Mr. ROBISON. I think there were more than 500.
Mr. DUNN of Pennsylvania. There were more colored persons working in the tunnel than white persons ?
Mr. Robison. Yes, sir; very few white people could they get to go into that tunnel.
Mr. Dunn of Pennsylvania. You think there were more colored people because they could not find employment elsewhere?
Mr. ROBISON. That company knew what it took to do a job like that. They always employ colored people.
Mr. Dunn of Pennsylvania. Because they work for less wages? Mr. ROBISON. Yes, sir; and it is faster and quicker labor.
Mr. GRISWOLD. It is considerably past adjournment time. A very important witness is to come before the committee tomorrow morning, and I would like to have your prompt attendance at that time.
We thank you, Mr. Robison, for coming before the committee; and the committee will now adjourn, to meet tomorrow morning at 10:30.
(Thereupon, at 1:15 p. m., Monday, Jan. 20, 1936, the subcommittee adjourned, to meet at 10:30 a. m. Tuesday, Jan. 21, 1936.)