Company scrip

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Scrip minted by Olga Coal Company, Coalwood, WV

Company scrip is a substitute for government-provided legal tender or currency, which is issued by a private business, organization, or local government. Such scrip can only be exchanged by wage-earners in company stores owned by their employers.[1][2] [3] In the UK, such systems have been formally outlawed under Truck Acts[citation needed].

In the United States, mining and logging camps were typically created, owned and operated by a single company.[4] These remote locations were cash poor[1][2] [3] and workers had very little choice but to purchase goods at a company store. With this economic monopoly, the employer could place large markups on goods, making workers dependent on the company, thus enforcing employee "loyalty".[4]

Lumber company scrip[edit]

In nineteenth century United States forested areas, cash was frequently rare[1][2] [3] and hard to come by. This was particularly true in lumber camps, where workers were commonly paid in company-issued scrip rather than government issued currency.[3]

In Wisconsin, for example, forest-products and lumber companies were specifically exempted from the state law requiring employers to pay workers' wages in cash.[3] Lumber and timber companies frequently paid their workers in scrip which was redeemable at the company store. Company-run stores served as a convenience for workers and their families, but also allowed the companies to recapture some of their labor expenses. In certain cases, employers included contract provisions requiring employees to patronize the company stores. Employees who wanted to change their scrip to cash generally had to do so at a discount.[3][4]

Lumber company scrip was redeemable in lumber as well as merchandise. According to the Wisconsin Historical Society, such an option may have appealed to new settlers in the region, who worked in the lumber camps in winter to earn enough money to establish a farm. Taking some of their wages in lumber may have helped them build a much-needed house or barn.[3]

Modern practice[edit]

The practice continues today. On September 4, 2008, the Mexican Supreme Court of Justice ruled that Wal-Mart de Mexico, the Mexican subsidiary of Wal-Mart, must cease paying its employees in part with vouchers redeemable only at Wal-Mart stores.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Ginsburg, David (2006). "Chapter 2: How Gold Coins Circulated in 19th Century America". In Winter, Douglas. Gold Coins of the New Orleans Mint: 1838-1909. Zyrus Press. 
  2. ^ a b c Taylor, George Rogers (1951). The Transportation Revolution, 1815–1860. New York, Toronto: Rinehart & Co. pp. 133, 331–4. ISBN 978-0-87332-101-3. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "Lumber Company Scrip". Wisconsin Historical Society. January 24, 2008. 
  4. ^ a b c Green, Hardy (2010). The Company Town: The Industrial Edens and Satanic Mills That Shaped the American Economy. Basic Books. 
  5. ^ Shaulis, Joe (2008-09-05). "Mexico Supreme Court orders Wal-Mart to stop paying workers in store vouchers". Jurist. Retrieved 2011-06-10.