Page images
PDF
EPUB

a

Mr. MAGNUSSON. Are any residence requirements that you have there not in the Social Security Act?

Mr. McLogan. The Social Security Act provides that no citizen of the United States shall be denied old-age assistance within a State. Under the act some States can be more liberal but cannot be more restricted.

President CRAWFORD. This is really a business meeting. We need more time to discuss these things and to digest them. We have not had that time during this conference, and I hope we may have an opportunity to do so next time. I think we had better refrain from asking any more questions.

Mr. Wilcox (Washington, D. C.). I would suggest that this report be accepted and made available in detail to the members of the association before so final an action as the adoption of the report is taken. I move that this report be accepted and made available to the members with the intention of adopting it later, after all the details have been gone over more carefully-not at this session.

Mr. McLogan. I have no objection. I appreciate the fact that members here have not had time, but I want to call attention to this one point-if it is intended by the motion that the next convention, a rear hence, take action, I am of the opinion that the usefulness of this report will be passed.

Mr. Wilcox. Is there any provision in our constitution for the use of a letter ballot?

President CRAWFORD. Not that I am aware of.

Mr. LOGAN. Does the executive board meet within the next few months?

President CRAWFORD. There is a recommendation being submitted that the executive board meet at least once within the coming year, before the next convention, and as early as possible after this meeting.

Mr. McLogan. I would suggest, then, that the report be sent out and then referred to the executive board for action. The reason for that is that all the State legislatures are going to meet, and if you wait until next September the report will not be effective at all.

President CRAWFORD. The executive board has power to act through the mail, and it could deal with it without a formal meeting. But can the executive board adopt a report on behalf of this association?

Mr. McLOGAN. I should think so, providing this convention gave it that power.

(Mr. Wilcox moved that the report be accepted and referred to the executive board with power to act in the matter of adopting it. Motion carried.)

Minimum-Wage Laws

Present Status of Minimum-Wage Laws

Report of Committee on Minimum-Wage Laws, by FRIEDA S. MILLER, Chairman

The 12 months since the last annual meeting of the International Association of Governmental Labor Officials has been a momentous period for minimum-wage legislation in the United States, although not altogether a happy one. The outstanding event of this period was the decision of the United States Supreme Court declaring unconstitutional certain vital aspects of the New York State minimumfair-wage law in a five to four decision.

This decision followed one by the highest court of New York State, which some months earlier had concluded, again by a divided vote, that the act under consideration could not be differentiated from the District of Columbia law which the Supreme Court had declared unconstitutional in 1923. The majority of the New York Court of Appeals felt itself bound by that earlier decision and passed the question of deciding the constitutionality of the current statute on to the Supreme Court.

The fate of the New York act, however, has not yet been completely determined, since a petition for a rehearing has been filed on the ground that the Supreme Court in its majority opinion has stated "he (the appellant] is not entitled and does not ask to be heard upon the question whether the Adkins case should be overruled." The Attorney General points out that "he sought to have these issues determined by" the Court and now asks for a consideration of the constitutional issues, urging,

Surely, before such statute is finally struck down, a deliberate and full reconsideration should be given of the issues on the merits, and a decision reached that will leave no doubt where the way lies and where action by legislation may or may not tread.

Other important court action involving the minimum-wage laws of the States of Washington, Illinois, and Ohio is at this moment pending. In April the highest court of the State of Washington upheld the wage claim of a woman seeking to collect wages due her under the law of that State. The case has now been appealed to the United States Supreme Court by the employer.

In Illinois, where three directory orders have been issued, a taxpayer filed suit last March to enjoin State officials from spending ironey for the operation of the minimum-wage law, but hearing on the suit was postponed. The act was alleged to be invalid for the following reasons: Violation of the State and Federal constitutions by unlawful delegation of judicial and legislative power; violation of the due process provisions of both constitutions; violation of unreasonable search and seizure provisions of both constitutions; violation of the Federal Constitution by impairing obligation of contracts; failure to set out the entire act when the amendment purporting to revive the act was adopted in 1935.

In Ohio a hearing has been held in a Federal court on an injunction suit brought by a woman working in the dry-cleaning industry against the application of minimum wage to her. She claims that her freedom of contract is interfered with by the application of the act. The Ohio court has granted 30 days for the filing of factual briefs by either side, to present what evidence can be assembled showing the actual effect of the wage order on the position of women coming under its terms.

A summary of the objective events in the field of minimum-wage legislation during the year 1935-36 must include also the record of the passage of a new law setting up minimum-fair-wage machinery by the State of Rhode Island and effective in March of this year.

Following the decision by the Supreme Court on the New York State statute, Massachusetts enacted a new law, designed to place its wage-fixing machinery on a health basis and making a commission comprised of the commissioner of health, the commissioner of public welfare, and the commissioner of labor as chairman, responsible for its enforcement. A directory order governing women and minors in retail stores went into effect July 1st in Massachusetts.

A record of administrative progress during 1935–36 in the States with the newer type of law where woman-employing industries are still being studied for the application of wage orders to them is encouraging despite the difficulties encountered. New Hampshire has issued its second directory order, which became effective April 1st, covering women in restaurants; also a new directory order, 1A, for the laundry industry, which allows for apprenticeship rates.

A new directory order was issued by Ohio for food establishments ard housekeeping. It became effective July 1st.

Wisconsin has recently included spinach under its order for the canning industry.

The sixth order to be issued by North Dakota on May 28 of this rear extended to minors (under 18) the provisions of the five minimumwage orders already in effect.

New Hampshire has made studies preparatory to new directory orders in the clothing and accessories industries, knit goods, and beauty parlors. A clothing wage board is expected to report on September 10th.

The New Jersey Legislature allowed an appropriation for the administration of the State minimum-wage law for the current year, thus making possible, for the first time, effective work under a statute which was passed in 1933. An advisory committee has been appointed and work has already begun on research, statistics, and the collection of data on labor conditions throughout the State.

In New York State, discussion naturally ranges all the way from concern about immediate and future action under the present law, to proposals for new laws and consideration of possible constitutional amendments. ' Already two quite different proposals for a new law have been made to the labor department-one for a new act from which all reference to cost of living has been removed, and another making the maintenance of unfair competition compulsory on employers and defining a minimum fair wage as a measure of fair competition. The department expects that there are likely to be still other proposals and plans to give complete study to everything that is suggested, because it wants an effective and workable measure ready for presentation to the legislature.

For this body, the most important aspect of all this activity is the unanticipated volume and force of the reaction in favor of minimumwage legislation and opposed to the nullification thereof by the Supreme Court which followed the decision of June 1st. This has expressed itself in a variety of ways. The newspaper commentnews, editorials, and letters from readers-is astonishing in its volume, its widespread origin, and the overwhelming support for such legislation which it expresses. I quote from an analysis published in the New Republic of July 15th of editorial comment alone:

Newspapers that had applauded the death of the N. R. A., the Guffey coalcontrol bill, and the A. A. A., admitted editorially that the Supreme Court was going too far when it killed the minimum-wage law. They went even further and declared that if it were impossible to pass legislation for the protection of women and children which would stand up within the present confines of the Constitution, then the Constitution would have to be amended.

Out of 344 editorials on the minimum-wage decision, there were only 10 that approved the decision. Of the nine newspapers represented (two editorials were from the same paper), six were from the deep South, two from New England, and one from up-State New York. All were from cheap-labor sections, the majority from textile-mill towns.

Editorials criticizing this decision came from such conservative newspapers as the New York Times, Washington Post, Richmond Times-Dispatch, Baltimore Sun, New York Herald Tribune, Kansas City Star, and Boston Herald.

The belief in the need for minimum-wage legislation expressed in the press is reflected also in the decisions of a conference called by the Secretary of Labor, Frances Perkins, of officials of State labor departments enforcing minimum-wage laws, which was held in Washington on June 16th. States with the older type of law expressed themselves definitely as convinced that the decision would make no difference in their enforcement activities and that they would be able to enforce their laws as formerly. States with statutes like the New York law also announced their determination to continue enforcement, pointing out that these laws represent the decision of their legislatures as to what they believe is a desirable measure of industrial regulation for the State. Since then, Rhode Island has developed a program of activity under its recently enacted statute and is launching a minimum-wage study of the jewelry industry.

I believe that the I. A. G. L. O. must face certain obvious conclusions from the events of the past year, namely, that public opinion more strongly and more generally than ever before is in favor of legislation which provides for the setting of minimum-wage standards, but that the way in which effect is to be given to the public will is neither clear nor simple. Massachusetts came to a prompt decision by revising the basis on which its legislation rests, making the issue of wages as a health measure its principal reliance. Other bases have been suggested for new legislation and doubtless additional ones will be brought forward. On the other hand, the future of minimum wage has been linked with the proposal of a constitutional amendment. Not, howerer, with one form of amendment but with a great variety of proposals all the way from a proposition giving explicit authority to the States, or to the Federal Government, or to both, to fix wages, to general-welfare amendments of very wide scope, and not omitting a series of proposals for technical amendments that would limit the application of the due-process clause and of still others proposing changes in the power, structure, etc., of the Supreme Court as the most direct and effective way of promoting social legislation.

Your committee, considering the future of minimum wage at this point, is of the opinion that the constitutional aspect of such legislation is in fact the foremost question in this field today. It believes that the machinery set up in the acts recently adjudicated is well suited to accomplish the purpose intended, and can, for the time being, be accepted as adequate. It recommends that attention be given rather to the methods by which such legislation can best be put on a secure constitutional foundation. To that end it recommends specifically that this association go on record in favor of new State legislation for minimum wage on whatever bases the States involved regard as adequate. It recommends further the appointment of a special continuing committee to study the question of constitutional amendment between now and the 1937 meeting, and that the committee include in its study the question whether minimum-wage legislation should cover men as well as women and minors in the sweated industries, and report its recommendations.

« PreviousContinue »