In the early 20th century, CF&I administrators supported what we consider to be “welfare capitalism,” in which the company made available services beyond just a job, but included a home, medical care, recreational opportunities, and education for the employees and their families. Believing that happy and contented workers would remain loyal to the company in good times and bad, John Osgood, president of the company in 1901, created the Sociological Department for “the social betterment of the workers.”
In the summer of 1901, the Sociological Department launched adult education classes to teach employees how to improve themselves and their families. Specific examples of classes for employee wives related to sewing, home decorating, and cooking classes in how to prepare nutritious and wholesome food. The program’s weekly newsletter, Camp and Plant was circulated to employees providing cultural and social information about individual and community activities, secular and religious customs of the ethnic groups that made up the CF&I community, short stories and anecdotes on various topics.
The program also brought both permanent and rotating libraries to the employees in Pueblo and in the many mining communities which were filled with books. Works included classic literature by Shakespeare and Dickens, reference manuals such as Encyclopedia Britannica and “technical manuals on engineering, mechanics and kindred subjects.” A traveling painting and sculpture collection and frequent lectures on health and hygiene were also part of the Sociological Department’s educational focus.
By 1925, the company’s partnership with the YMCA had taken responsibility of educational classes. The classes must have created quite a stir as the Steelworks Blast newspaper noted that there was such an excitement for the classes that some people signed up for two or three classes at a time. The Blast reporters urged people to stick with one class at a time to prevent fatigue and give diligence to their studies. By 1926, 350 employees were registered for regular classes. These classes, also offered to employee families, included academic and household related subjects and those to help them on the jobsite. Examples included blueprint reading, typing, mechanical drawing, and salesmanship and advertising. The cost of each class was $1 which was paid by the employee. The company paid for the balance of the $1.50 tuition.
More physical, “on the job” training through an apprentice program was also made available to company employees in November of 1925. Outlined in the Steelworks Blast, there were three reasons for the apprentice program: to bring cordial relations between workers and management, allow more men to become efficient and skilled workers, and, because of a four year work commitment following graduation, it helped hold men to their jobs with little turnover of skilled labor. Through the program, apprentices earned $0.25 per hour with a $0.05 increase each year and apprentices agreed to work worked 2,488 hours per year. At the end of four years, the apprentice earned a $100 bonus. The apprentice program at CF&I trained thousands of workers over the next five decades.