The Premium System

The “premium system” is a curse to us - it ought not to be tolerated, and will not be by Christians or Philanthropists. I have worked under this plan, and know too well the base treatment of overseers in many instances—Often have girls been denied of receiving their friends, and been so afraid of the "Old man" they dare not ask to go out when sick; for they knew he would have a great deal to say. "The work must not be stopped, and if you are not able to work you better stay out all the time."

Some girls cannot get off as much cloth as others; such ones are apt to be treated unkindly, and often reminded by the "old man" that "Sally and Dolly got off several cuts more the last four weeks; they come in long before the speed starts up; and do their cleaning, and if you don't get off more next month I will send you off." 'Tis sometimes asked "why is it that the girls come to the gate before 'tis opened, if they are not willing to work so many long hours?" The premium is offered, the girls drove up, and they want to keep the "old man" good natured if possible. No overseer ever dared use the whip, but they give looks and words, sometimes, quite as severe.

This plan of giving overseers premiums, reminds me of what a fugitive Slave said in an account of her escape. "Massa gives de drivers a drink and reward if he gets the most work done, and then massa gives us all a Jubilee." Here the poor slave got her freedom so it seems these jubilees are most fortunate to slaves; but those got by the premium money will never elevate the operative, or meliorate their condition.

The principle of giving premiums to overseers, and getting up the party, seems to savor very strong of the above incident. Could my fellow operatives see this principle, they would despise an over- seer who would be made a tool of, to serve the interests of a Corporation. "Gentlemanly individuals" indeed! I should like to see liberality and generosity from the directors of the Stark mills, towards my sister operatives—should like to see it extended to some subjects of misfortune crushed by their machinery; for instance to the girl who but a few months ago, broke her arm in two places, in one of their weaving rooms; and I am told this day, in connection with scraps on the party, that "the poor girl never had received a mill from the Corporation."

I am heartily glad when anything is done to elevate that class to which it is my lot to belong. We are a band of sisters—we must have sympathy for each other's woes. It is woeful indeed that we are obliged to toil on, without time to improve our minds, and take our food properly.

—An Operative


The Voice of Industry is in the public domain.


Design by Gil Martinez for