The Jungle Chapter 5
At work, Jurgis learns more and more about the bitterness he sees in his co-workers. The pace on the slaughter lines is excruciating and Jurgis isn't sure how such a pace is humanly possible. He identifies the "pacemakers" immediately. They are huge, highly paid men who work like men possessed, always under the eye of the boss. This is a practice called "speeding up the line," for every man down the line must keep up with the pacemaker's pace or he'll be thrown out for another worker. But Jurgis still loved his job and is surprised to find that most of the men hate their work, hate the bosses, hated the factory, and even hate the city. When Jurgis asks for specific reasons, they tell him to stay and find out for himself.
Jurgis is approached by a delegate from the butcher's helper's union who asks him to join the union. Jurgis is unfamiliar with unions and when he finds out he'll have to part with some of his wages, he refuses to join. Someone has to explain to him that unions are groups of men banded together to fight for their rights in the workplace. Jurgis asks, "what rights?" and that makes the workers angry. Little by little, Jurgis finds out that the unions want to put a stop to the "speeding-up" practice. It is killing some of the men. Jurgis is not sympathetic. If they couldn't keep up, they had better go somewhere else. Antanas finally finds a job, in the pickle room at Durham's. It is shady: a boss has offered Antanas the job only if he parted with a third of his wages. It is a case of graft, the boss trying to add a little extra income to his own wages.
The whole plant is corrupt-the bosses graft off the men and off each other. Durham's owner is corrupt and so on, down the line of managers, superintendents, and foremen. Jurgis thought he'd rise through the virtue of his good work. But no one rose in the yards by good work. "So from the top to bottom the place is simply a seething cauldron of jealousies and hatreds; there is no loyalty or decency anywhere about it, there is no place in it where a man counted for anything against a dollar." Chapter 5, pg. 70
Antanas takes the boss's offer and starts work in the damp pickling rooms as a "squeedgie" man, mopping the filthy floors. After two days of work, Antanas is as bitter as any of the men in the plant. Antanas has seen terrible things in pickling room where men prepared beef for canning. The beef had been in vats of chemicals and the men speared the beef out and dumped it into trucks. After they have speared out as much as they could reach, they emptied the vat on the filthy floor and shoveled up the scraps into the truck. Antanas then has to mop the "pickle" into a hole that connected to a dirty sink. There is a trap in this pipe where the scraps of refuse caught and every few days, Antanas has to clean this out and shovel it into the truck with the rest of the meat.
Jurgis, as a shoveller, sees even more terrible things. Sometimes pregnant cows will come through the lines and as a rule, the flesh of pregnant cows is not fit for food. But the boss will push the pregnant cow through the line and the inspector will be distracted and the cow will be butchered. Unbelievably, the fetus will also be butchered for meat. In addition, Jurgis has witnessed the processing of "downers," injured cows or sick cows, even cows that arrived on the railcar dead. These cows are processed at night after the inspector leaves. Jurgis is slowly beginning to understand the bitterness in the yards.