Scene 1: Play begins as a husband and wife walk home together with their faces all dusty, sweaty and muddy from a long day of work at the steel factories of JP Morgan.
I just need to go home and take a drink. I’m so bloody exhausted right now.
I hate working here. It is so tiring and honestly boring. Not to mention that my clothes get all muddy and dirty and I smell terrible. (sniffs) ughh so do you.
Oh ya that’s a big deal huh. Poor Philip’s arm was crushed today when he-
How did that happen!!??!
Would let me finish? (wife rolls her eyes) He was lifting the heavy steel plate, u know the one that -
interjects ya, mhm, go on..
Well him and Willie were lifting it and Willie’s never been known for his strength. Eventually he wasn’t able to lift it anymore and it slipped and just dropped it. It fell on Philip’s arm. I could hear the crack across the room
Wife: (covers mouth with her hands)
(breaths) Oh my God!
It’s terrible working here. The only thing positive I can think of is that we’ll be getting our wages for the month tomorrow finally
Oh yeah, we do really need that! How much will we be getting?
Well that stupid thief only pays us 2 dollars a day, so that’s 60 dollars for me and 60 dollars for you, (sarcastic voice) so a grand total of 120 dollars.
Wife (turns to look at her husband)
You’re kidding right. For all that work and time waste, we’re only getting 2 bucks everyday?
(Exasperated sigh) and here I was thinking I might be able to actually be able to buy that dress (Husband stops dead in track) I really -; honey what’s wrong?
I think dresses are the least of our worries right now (points weakly at house and the landowner who’s getting out of his car.
(exchange worried glances and hurry up to their house)
Hello, Mr. Smith! How are doing today, my man?
It’s a fine day. You just come back from work?
Yeah it was a tiring day! (pauses for a second) Would you like to come in? Have some wine?
Sounds like a good idea
Scene 2: Husband, wife, and Mr. Smith sitting on the dining table and sharing wine
So Mr. Smith, what brings you here this Thursday afternoon?
Ahh, I think we both know the unfortunate reason why I am here. Your rent is due tomorrow, the end of the month. I’ve been giving you guys some leeway for the last few months, but I do need all my money within these next two months.
How much do we owe you exactly? Umm, I mean combined in the next two months?
Mr. Smith puts on his glasses, pulls out a parchment of paper from his pockets, and unfolds it. He stares at it for a second before looking up
It seems like the exact cost is around 260 dollars.
(Husband and Wife glance at each other looking scared)
That’s the combined cost for both months, so I’m guessing 130 dollars per month.
Is there no way, you could possibly lower than to 130? We’ll pay you over a three month span?
That’s what you said last time too. I granted you an extension but you weren’t able to pay it off. I really like you, husband, I do, but you know I can’t keep offering you these extensions.
Husband (mutters miserably)
Mhm I know. It’s just that I don’t think I’ll be able to pay it off.
Mr. Smith gazes pitifully at them.
How much do you earn in total? Both of you combined? And how much do you think you’ll be able to pay for rent?
(Husband and wife look at each other again)
120 dollars combined. And at best we can pay you 50 dollars for rent this month or else we won’t be able to sustain ourselves.
Husband (nods in affirmation)
Mr. Smith (looks at them for a second and sighs)
You’re really lucky your my favorites. How about this, you pay me 75 dollars this month, but then you pay me 150 next month?
I really don’t think we can pay 75 this month -
Well do you want to be homeless?
Husband (shakes his head)
Fine. We’ll do our best to pay you off.
Mr. Smith (gets up)
That’s great. By the way, where is it you work?
Morgan’s Steel Company
Oh. Why work with that sleazebag miser? He pays some of the lowest wages in the darn country?
Well the factory is close to home so it doesn’t require us to pay excessive costs for transportation. And compared to other factories, the steel industry is relatively safe. Not completely safe, but it isn’t as bad as the others.
Mr. Smith (heads to the door and husband and wife follow)
Mmm I guess. But I personally think it’ll be hard for you to pay off the debt just by working at his factory. Do you have any children?
Yup. We have a 14 year old boy, an 11 year old girl, and another 8 year old boy.
You should think of enlisting your son into the factory. Best chance you’ll have of paying back.
Husband and wife exchange fearful glances
Well farewell! I hope I don’t have to see you next month, though it does seem likely that I will! Have a great rest of the week.
Thank you! You too!
He closes the door. Husband and wife return to the dining table.
No don’t say it. I’m not letting our child work in those factories. You know how terrible they are. Do you want him working there?
No I certainly don’t. But do you want to be homeless. Do you want second child and third child to not grow up in a home? Would you want third child to be robbed of his education?
Wife (glares at him with eyes starting to tear up)
Husband (goes to console her)
I know. But it needs to be done, and you know it’s our only chance.
Fine. You’ll take him tomorrow and sign up. He can have his orientation on Saturday and start on Monday. But give him the least dangerous job. We’re not letting anything happen to him.
Don’t worry, I’ll make sure he’s safe.
Scene 3: Its Monday morning and first son had his orientation already. Wife, Husband, and first son have arrived at the factory.
Okay son, good luck at your first day. And remember, don’t talk to the drunk people. And stay safe from all the harmful machinery. And -
I know mom, I know. I’ll stay safe. Don’t worry about me.
Husband (hugs wife)
Don’t worry, I’ll make sure he’s okay.
Wife goes into separate direction from first son and husband and begins her work. Husband points first son to a man who greets son and takes him into his section of the factory. Son glances back and gives a tentative wave. Father waves and looks at his retreating back for a couple seconds. Then he heads to his region.
3 hours pass during the day and it’s now 11 AM
Man I’m tired. Wanna go get a drink of water.
Yea lets go.
All of a sudden all the machines come to a stop and the whirring dies down slowly. A congregation of men enter the observatory floor above. Everyone starts to look at them. The men are some of the people with the highest power who work directly under Morgan. One man takes a mic to speak
Morgan Assistant 1
Hello everyone! Happy October. We wanted to let you know of some changes that will be coming around and may affect you directly. First of all, work hours are down from 60 hours a week to 50 hours. (happy and enthusiastic murmuring grows among workers). Mr. Morgan wants everyone to spend time and enjoy with their families so that they can leave a bit earlier. (Applause rings across the hall). However in response to this, we have found it necessary to decrease wages from 2 dollars to 1 dollar and 50 cents. (Shocked outrage starts to yell). This decrease in wages is necessary for our company to continue to succeed and earn a profit.
(people start to scream and furiously yell insults at the assistants)
Morgan Assistant 1 (looks unfazed)
Anyone who is unhappy with the changes in these rules can leave the company. (he smirks) We wish you the best of luck in finding any job anywhere else. Have a great day!
(turns around and walks away with all assistants following him and the machines start to whir as they turn on)
Husband stands there, aghast, looking at the place where all the assistants were standing just a minute ago. His mouth is agape and he looks slightly dazed. He runs right outside where he immediately sees his wife running to him.
Wife (with big eyes wide open)
Did you hear what they -
Yeah, how the hell could they do this?
What are we gonna do? (starts sobbing and in between gasps) How will we pay off the rent?
Husband (holds her and hugs her)
Shhh, don’t worry we’ll find a way. Get back to work love, we’ll talk later
Wife nods and turns around back to her part of the factory. Husbands turns around and walks.
Scene 4: Husband and wife are sitting at the dinner table somberly. Kids have gone to sleep and its just them sitting sadly in the candlelight.
Oh, husband, what are we ever going to do.
I’ve been thinking about that all do. I really don’t know what to do. The only thing I could think of doing was going to talk to our boss, Mr. boss, and just tell him of our situation and plead with him to increase our wages.
He won’t say yes, he’s a rude man
But what do you suggest then? Do nothing about it?
What about all those strikes and protests that were occuring in those other companies a while back? I bet you could organize a group of people to protest with you.
Yeah they’d just end up firing us then, or even killing us.
Wife (in surprise)
Oh, you didn’t know. That’s how they dealt with all the protestors. They never really got their way. And these wealthy owners just resorted with violence. And I’m telling you, filthy Morgan’s the worst of the lot. He won’t give a second thought about us. I couldn’t let that happen to us.
Oh god! Ok, I guess we’ll follow your idea. Talk to the boss and we’re gonna have to look for other opportunities for paying rent.
Yeah, hopefully all goes well tomorrow though. Come on, let’s go to bed. We still have to go to work tomorrow.
Wife smiles sadly and they get up and go to the bedroom to sleep.
Scene 5: Husband is waiting outside the office of his boss the next morning, hoping to convince him of their plight
Mr. boss will see you now.
Husband (nods at him)
Thank you! (Opens the door and enters) Hello Mr. Boss!
Ah welcome! Take a seat, take a seat.
Thank you, takes a seat.
So, Mr. -
Mr. Husband, what brings you here today?
Sir, I live with my wife and three kids. Overall there are five of us to support. Me and my wife have been working here for a while. Just yesterday, my son started working here. He’s only 14. But we were desperate to earn income as we could barely support ourselves. We’re in debt to our landlord, and he may kick us out if we don’t pay him. We -
Mr. Boss (in a snobbish voice)
Get to your point. I don’t have all day to listen to your complaints.
Husband (taken aback a little)
errr , uhhh, well, well what I wanted to say is that with the decrease in wages implemented yesterday, I don’t think our family will be able to keep our house. We are gonna be homeless and we won’t be able to strive. Please sir, is there any way to bring our wages back up.
Mr. Boss (laughs scornfully)
Ha, your one of them aren’t you. Thinking you can make me sympathize with you just by telling some stupid sob story. Well let me tell you something you idiot. First of all, I don’t have the power to make these decisions. Second, if you’re unhappy here just leave.
No sir, I couldn’t do that -
Yeah you could. You know what, for wasting all my time, why don’t you just leave. Yeah get out. You’re fired. You won’t have to complain anymore.
Husband (looking aghast)
No, please sir, that’s not what I meant -
Did you hear me? I said you’re fired. Now stop wasting my time and get the hell out!
Husband looks at him with a shocked expression, then turns around and dismally walks out.
Scene 6: Back at home, he recounts the events of the day to his wife after the children are put to bed. The atmosphere is quite depressingly gloomy.
Wife (speaking dismally)
I can’t believe he fired you. I don’t believe it. How can anyone be so narrow-minded seriously. Just wow!
Husband (head in his hands just shaking his head)
We’re toast now. There’s no way we can pay off his rent. What do we do?
We’re gonna have to leave at the end of the month, there’s no choice now.
I can’t believe I was so stupid. I shouldn’t have gone and talked to that idiot.
Wife (moves and sits closer to him wrapping him in a hug)
Don’t worry babe, we’ll figure something out.
Scene 7: 3 weeks and four days pass by and the Husband greets his wife and child after they come back from work one day
Hey! (hugs son and kisses wife) Ughh go and take a shower both of you!
Husband goes and sits on the couch. Wife comes down 5 minutes later.
Hey! How are you feeling
Terrible. How’s your day? -
It was -
I’ve decided to work on the railroads.
Wife (face slackens)
What did you say?
I’m gonna have to work on the railroads. Carnegie’s in charge, but he’s a great man. Get this, the wage is 8 dollars per day.
Yeah! I’ve done some exploring over the last few days and there is a station to work at 30 miles south. We’re gonna get evicted tomorrow anyways, unless some miracle happened to you today. (He stares at her hopefully)
Wife (looks down)
We’re gonna have to leave.
Husband (depressed sigh)
Well, I found another place. It’s much cheaper than this one, but it’s terribly dirty and it will be rather small. We would barely be able to all fit.
How much does it cost?
Not bad at all. But what about the children’s schooling? And what am I going to do?
Children’s schooling is already taken care of. There’s another school neary. It’s definitely not as good as this one (wife’s face falls) but it’ll do. As for you, there is another branch of the steel factory less than a mile from the house I found. You could continue working there after we get settled in. Hopefully, you won’t have to, but you never know.
We’ll see. I’ll let them know I’m transferring tomorrow, while you pack then we’ll head out tomorrow afternoon.
Well that’s that.