The Jungle Chapter 8
Marija and Tamoszius, the fiddler, have started courting. Tamoszius is a terrific fiddler, and able to make a nice amount of money playing at local parties. The couple plans on marrying in the spring. She is the capitalist of the family and, with her job, she feels she has her "hand on the throttle." Then, Marija's high-paying canning job is pulled out from under her. The factory shut down with no explanation and no warning. Her co-workers tell her that this is common-after the holiday rush, things slackened and the factory was forced to shut down. Sometimes, it stayed closed until the summer. This, the girls tell her, turned the job into a swindle. While you are wild with joy for the high pay, you ended up using the difference to keep yourself alive during the off time. Marjia looks, in vain, for another job.
The workers on the killing beds feel a similar slouch during this period. The beds run for shorter hours. They might have men show up for work at seven in the morning and not have work for them until late afternoon. They stay in the frozen beds, standing around-and not getting paid for their time. When work does arrive, the terrible "speeding up" will take place. Jurgis might spend a full day at work and only be paid for two hours work. Thirty-five cents. If the cattle arrived on the beds in the early evening, they have to be slaughtered that day. It is an ironclad rule at the packinghouse. That means Jurgis might be at work until one in the morning. In addition, the bosses do not pay the workers for "broken time."
Jurgis is no longer confused when he hears his co-workers talk of union action and of their rights as workers. Now Jurgis feels like fighting, and when the union delegate approaches him again, Jurgis signs up. The delegate explains that success depends on the union's ability to get every worker to join and stay loyal. Soon, all members of the family have union cards. They think belonging to a union will end their troubles, but when Marija's factory closes, it's a confusing blow. Why didn't the union prevent the shutdown, they wonder. Marija promptly attends her first union meeting and makes a stirring speech in which she vents her outrage at the injustice in local labor. Her speech is in Lithuanian, and because the meeting is conducted in English, it is not noted.
Though Jurgis's first union meeting is confusing and raucous, he is hooked. His prior suspicion of the unions melts when he finds he has "brothers in affliction." He sets about to bring everyone he knew into the unions, though he often met with resistance. "He forgot how he himself had been blind, a short time ago-after the fashion of all crusaders since the original ones, who set out to spread the gospel of Brotherhood by force of arms." Chapter 8, pg. 107