Jurgis got himself a place in a boardinghouse with some congenial friends. He had already inquired of Aniele, and learned that Elzbieta and her family had gone downtown, and so he gave no further thought to them. He went with a new set, now, young unmarried fellows who were “sporty.” Jurgis had long ago cast off his fertilizer clothing, and since going into politics he had donned a linen collar and a greasy red necktie. He had some reason for thinking of his dress, for he was making about eleven dollars a week, and two-thirds of it he might spend upon his pleasures without ever touching his savings.
Sometimes he would ride down-town with a party of friends to the cheap theaters and the music halls and other haunts with which they were familiar. Many of the saloons in Packingtown had pool tables, and some of them bowling alleys, by means of which he could spend his evenings in petty gambling. Also, there were cards and dice. One time Jurgis got into a game on a Saturday night and won prodigiously, and because he was a man of spirit he stayed in with the rest and the game continued until late Sunday afternoon, and by that time he was “out” over twenty dollars. On Saturday nights, also, a number of balls were generally given in Packingtown; each man would bring his “girl” with him, paying half a dollar for a ticket, and several dollars additional for drinks in the course of the festivities, which continued until three or four o’clock in the morning, unless broken up by fighting. During all this time the same man and woman would dance together, half-stupefied with sensuality and drink.
Before long Jurgis discovered what Scully had meant by something “turning up.” In May the agreement between the packers and the unions expired, and a new agreement had to be signed. Negotiations were going on, and the yards were full of talk of a strike. The old scale had dealt with the wages of the skilled men only; and of the members of the Meat Workers’ Union about two-thirds were unskilled men. In Chicago these latter were receiving, for the most part, eighteen and a half cents an hour, and the unions wished to make this the general wage for the next year. It was not nearly so large a wage as it seemed—in the course of the negotiations the union officers examined time checks to the amount of ten thousand dollars, and they found that the highest wages paid had been fourteen dollars a week, and the lowest two dollars and five cents, and the average of the whole, six dollars and sixty-five cents. And six dollars and sixty-five cents was hardly too much for a man to keep a family on, considering the fact that the price of dressed meat had increased nearly fifty per cent in the last five years, while the price of “beef on the hoof” had decreased as much, it would have seemed that the packers ought to be able to pay it; but the packers were unwilling to pay it—they rejected the union demand, and to show what their purpose was, a week or two