Page images
PDF
EPUB

a

stress here the main facts as to recent developments and the current situation.

The year, as we all know, has been a crucial one in this field. In the first place, it was encouraging to see gradual progress in some respects being made throughout the year. Rhode Island passed a minimum-wage law last March and appropriated money for administration of the law. The New Jersey Legislature also appropriated money for the establishment of a minimum-wage division to administer its minimum-wage law passed in 1933. Several of the minimum-wage States have established and put into effect rates in certain industries. On the other hand, the United States Supreme Court's 5-to-4 decision June 1 invalidated the administration of the New York law for adult

However, the Attorney General of New York has asked the Supreme Court to grant a rehearing on this case. In Washington and Ohio also the State law was brought into the courts. In Washington the constitutionality of the law was upheld in the higher tribunal in the State; the case has now been appealed to the United States Supreme Court by employers. In Ohio, where the case was taken directly into a Federal court, no decision has as yet been handed down.

Two minimum-wage conferences were sponsored by the Women's Bureau of the United States Department of Labor and attended by representatives from minimum-wage States. The purpose of these conferences was to establish uniform standards for the effective administration of minimum-wage laws. A conference on the minimum-wage situation was called by Secretary Perkins after the Supreme Court decision and attended by representatives from 11 of the minimum-wage States. The conferees agreed that they had no choice but to enforce the laws of their States, which are an expression of the will of their citizens. It was decided that investigations of wages paid in industries not yet covered by minimum-wage orders will be continued and the results of these studies made public.

Following the Supreme Court decision invalidating the New York law, the Massachusetts General Court amended its law in several fespects, chiefly by placing minimum-wage administration in the department of public health, under a three-headed commission composed of the commissioner of public health, the commissioner of public welfare, and the commissioner of labor and industries, the last Duned being designated as chairman.

At present 17 States have minimum-wage legislation. These laws are broad in their coverage of industries and were enacted to apply to women and minors, except in South Dakota where only women and girls are covered. The law is in operation for minors only in Minnesota, the attorney general of the State having ruled in 1925 that the law was unconstitutional for adult women.

Other Developments During the Year

Interstate compacts.- Related to the question of minimum-wage legislation is the interstate-compact movement, which during the past year received some impetus. In May, Rhode Island ratified the interstate compact on minimum-wage legislation entered into in 1934 by seven States-Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island, in which these States agree as to the general administrative standards to be included in their minimum-wage laws. Rhode Island is the third of the seven States to take this step, Massachusetts and New Hampshire having already done so.

Bureau of women and children. During the year Louisiana in reorganizing its department of labor established a bureau of women and children. The Walsh-Healey Act. It is a matter of interest to women to point

. out another important labor act passed by the Seventy-fourth Congress. We refer to the Walsh-Healey Act, which stipulates that in the future the Federal Government can award contracts only to firms conforming to fair labor standards in connection with its orders for the manufacture or furnishing of moterials, equipment, articles, and supplies in amounts exceeding $10,000, other than contracts of such materials as may usually be bought in the open market, of perishables, of agricultural or farm products (transportation and communication contracts also being exempted). The act requires that the employees to be used in the performance of the contract shall be paid not less than the prevailing minimum wage; that no such employee will be permitted to work in excess of 8 hours a day, or 40 hours a week; that no boys under 16 years of age and no girls under 18, and no convict labor will be employed; that no part of the contract will be performed under working conditions which are unsanitary, hazardous, or dangerous to the health and safety of employees, and that the contractor is the manufacturer of or a regular dealer in the materials to be manufactured. The Secretary of Labor is vested with authority to administer the act. The minimum wage to be paid by such contractors are those wages which the Secretary of Labor determines to be “the prevailing minimum wages for persons employed on similar work or in the particular or similar industries

operating in the locality.” In any contract where an increase in maximum hours of labor is permitted by the Secretary of Labor, the rate of pay shall be not less than one and one-half times the basic hourly rate. The Secretary of Labor shall have authority from time to time to make, amend, and rescind all rules and regulations necessary to carry out the provisions of the act, and to make exceptions when justice and public interest will be served thereby.

*

This act will prove particularly helpful to woman workers. In the past the Government in awarding contracts has been forced to accept the lowest bid, and has had no authority to specify under what labor standards the orders should be filled. As a result the employer who used sweat-shop methods of long hours and low pay could underbid the fair employers with better labor standards. Thus the Federal Government was in the deplorable position of being forced to accept goods made under unfair conditions, while it was doing all in its power to raise labor standards in private employment. Where contracts had to be placed with firms having low standards, this injustice fell heavils on woman wage earners, since they are employed to such a great extent in factories making many of the kinds of goods which the Federal Government uses.

Secretary Perkins announced July 18 that “As a matter of practice the first industries which will be studied with a view to fixing the minimum wages will be those in which the minimum wages are known by practical experience to be below a decent standard of living.” The law goes into effect on September 28.

Legislation Affecting the Employment of Women in the Canadian Provinces

in 1935 and 1936

It seems proper to include in this discussion the following report submitted by Miss Margaret McIntosh of the Department of Labor of Canada:

Apart from amendments to minimum-wage legislation in nearly all the Canadian Provinces in 1935 and 1936, there was little provincial legislation concerning the eiu ployment of women in Canada during these years.

In Quebec, the Industrial and Commercial Establishments Act was amended in 1935 to enable women and young persons to be employed on a two-shift system in factories if the system is authorized by the factory inspector. Before this amendment, these classes could not be employed between the hours of 9 p. m. and 6 a. m. Work could continue until 9 p. m, on not more than 36 days in a vear but, normally, women could not be employed after 6 p. m. Under the 1935 amendment, women may be employed on one of two shifts of not more than 8 tours each. The two shifts may not exceed 16 hours in all and must fall within the period between 6 a. m. and 11 p. m. Wherever women are working on the Śwo-shift system, an hour for a meal must be allowed between 10 a. m. and noon and between 6 p. m. and 8 p. m.

A similar provision was made in the Ontario law in 1932.

In Ontario, the sections of the Factory Act dealing with home work were Terised in 1936 to give some protection to the wages of home workers as well as to public health. In recent years, home work has been resorted to as a means of ezariing minimum-wage laws. Employers giving out work to be done at home and home workers must have permits from the factory inspector. A permit may be granted to an employer only if the inspector is satisfied that he is likely to comply with minimum-wage orders. Registers of workers must be kept by employers showing the names and addresses, articles given out, dates of employment, and wages paid. Wages must be in accordance with minimum-wage orders. Provision is made for safeguarding the public health as in the old act.

Conclusion In conclusion it need scarcely be emphasized what responsibility rests with the men and women who are representatives of the State labor departments to act in the capacity of both guides and sponsors in regard to the legislative program for women in industry that should be carried on in their States during the coming year. The value in helping to meet this responsibility of special women's divisions within the State departments of labor needs to be stressed. At present such divisions have been established in only about one-fourth of our States, but experience has been sufficient to show that they have done much both to insure adequate enforcement of the existing laws and to aid in pointing the path to the need for new legislation.

All except a few of the State legislatures are scheduled to hold regular sessions in 1937 and possibly the others may meet in special session. A concerted and uniform drive in all States against long hours, unfair wages, and the evils of industrial home work should result in substantial legislative advances. Judging from certain straws in the wind, we have reason to believe that conditions are ripe for the success of such a procedure. We know that many employers are still adhering to the 40-hour week of the N. R. A. codes and would not oppose reduction in the maximum hours for women allowed by law in their States, provided adjoining and competing States took similar steps. Public opinion in all sections of the country, as reflected in newspapers and periodicals just after the Supreme Court decision last June on the New York minimum-wage case, seemed preponderantly in favor of minimum-wage legislation for women. The sentiment against industrial home work has been growing as the public has become increasingly aware of such evils. Moreover, in view of the upturn of business and industry in so many directions, it seems practicable under such conditions to push in a widespread way the enactment of laws to guarantee to a much greater extent the welfare of women. Also it is well to take such steps while the devastating effects of exploitation of workers, resulting from lack of adequate labor legislation to safeguard their interests during the depression, are a matter of such recent experience.

In this whole program the State departments of labor can look to the Federal Department of Labor for every possible assistance. We can cooperate by making special investigations, by furnishing information concerning conditions in particular States, by serving as consultants, by calling conferences to give impetus to State efforts, and by acting as a general clearing house. Any or all of these we shall be more than glad to do.

Discussion

Chairman Powers. I next introduce Mrs. Daisy L. Gulick, of the Commission of Labor and Industry of the State of Kansas.

Mrs. Gulick. As Miss Anderson has so well covered the report of all the States, I thought it might be of interest to touch upon some phases of women in industry that concern our own State.

So much has been said and written about women in industry that it would seem there was no further need for discussion of this subject. The fight for better working conditions has been as long as our industrial life, but owing to the apathy of the great majority in regard to rules and regulations for female workers this subject is ever before us. It has been said that more than 10,000,000 women in the United States leave homes daily to go to work for pay. Legislation of some sort concerning the employment of women has been enacted in practically every State in the Union. The State of Kansas, exercising its police and sovereign power, has declared that long-continued hours and insanitary conditions of labor exercise a pernicious effect on the health and welfare of women, learners and apprentices, and minors. It is unlawful to employ women and minors in any industry or occupation within the State of Kansas under conditions of labor detrimental to their health or welfare.

Our courts generally have upheld reasonable statutes or orders of authorized commissions with reference to the hours of service and working conditions made to promote the general welfare under the police power of the State.

The first act relating to labor of women in Kansas was the law concerning the rights of married women, which was passed in 1868. That sume year the legislature passed a law concerning minors for service. The first apprentice law was passed in 1868. The first real childlabor law was passed in 1889, and in 1903 the law was changed. In 1901 a law was passed prohibiting boys under 12 from working in mines. In 1909 more legislation was passed in regard to minors, but in 1917 several laws were passed which made a marked change in the conditions of employment of children. At the present time no children under 16 years of age are permitted to work in any mine, factory, or any place detrimental to their health or welfare.

The departments of state which have had charge of the administration of labor laws in Kansas are: Bureau of labor, 1885-98; State society of labor and industry, 1899–1912; department of labor and industry, 1913–19; court of industrial relations, 1920–25; public service commission, 1926-28; commission of labor and industry, 1929 on.

Jurisdiction conferred by law upon the industrial welfare commission was transferred to the commission of labor and industry, and all orders and rules made by the industrial welfare commission are now in full force. The commission of labor and industry may establish such standard of hours and conditions of labor for women and minors employed within this State as shall be held reasonable and not detrimental to their health and welfare. The commission may establish

« PreviousContinue »