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♦ Ibid., pp. 35-36. t Ibid., pp. 291 ff.

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least three months, she had found employment as
an operator in a handkerchief factory, where her
maximum wages, by piece work, were jPs-oo a
week. Her total earnings in a year, allowing for
irregular piece work in both trades and for loss of
time between jobs, amounted approximately to
jf5230. She had suffered from eye strain and had
had no proper examination or care, and this made
machine operating as well as millinery work espe-
cially difficult.

Her estimate of an adequate budget was $410
for the year, or approximately ?8.oo a week, with-
out any loss of time. To be sure, she included such
luxuries as pictures of herself at $2.00, gifts to other
people at ii53.oo, earrings, and six boxes of writing
paper. She also included a weekly sum for laun-
dry, which she must now do for herself after her
day's work. I n addition, experience had taught her
that some money ought to be set aside for eye-
glasses, which she needed and could not buy,
for medicines, for dental care, and doctor's bills.
In reality she received in a year j5i8o less than
her estimate of her needs. Allowing $150 for the
first big item of board and lodging, small as it
was, because she lived with friends and had only
a third of a room, she had but $80 left for all neces-
sities in the year. Her sister and her friends were
obliged to help her when work was slack. Yet in
making out her budget she echoed the words of
another milliner who sent us hers in writing with
this statement: "I am just giving you an item of

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myself. Just what I think I need and nothing
more." The girls themselves were as cautious in
their statements as though they had been official
investigators.

A thrifty German girl who had lost only a week
and a half in the year, told us how she managed to
live on $5 12 a year and save a little money. She
paid $2.00 a week for a furnished room and by
careful buying she managed to spend not more
than 354.00 a week for her meals. She had been in
this country only a year, and as she had brought
with her a good supply of durable German cloth-
ing the necessary expenditures for that item were
reduced. She makes all her own dresses and much
of her underwear, buys remnants, some of them
from factories where her friends work, and gets
reductions in her own factory for millinery ma-
terials. She walks to work, does most of her own
laundry, and cooks her own breakfast in her room.
She estimated $425 as the necessary minimum.
Her rate of pay is J5i2 a week, but when slack
season comes, she is one of the few girls kept at
work, although at a wage reduced to $8.00. The
steadiness of her employment brings her annual
income up to ?5i2. The very thriftiness of her
management makes her case the more convincing
as showing that the estimate of jjJg.oo as the mini-
mum living wage stands the test of experience.
Moreover, this amount must be regularly received.
Irregularity not only reduces income but makes
management difficult, and gives a worker the feel-

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ing of dread and uncertainty which inevitably
undermines health and efficiency.

Such is the evidence in story after story, — ^an in-
adequate wage and irregular employment keep
the workers constantly near the margin where
going into debt or obtaining assistance from others
becomes necessary. After all, the cost of living is
so much a matter of common knowledge, one
of those subjects which makes the whole world
kin, that extensive demonstration seems unneces-
sary. Perhaps it is sufficient to say that the
fundamental needs of human beings are much
alike whatever their trades may be, and that the
cost of necessities does not vary downward to
suit slender pocketbooks. Precarious incomes for
workers whose wage at best is inadequate even
when employment is steady, is, indeed, a grave
social problem worthy of the consideration of
state legislatures. The first step is to know the
facts that we may thereby determine whether the
community itself may exert any control over these
conditions. It was the opinion of the Factory In-
vestigating Commission of the first manufacturing
state of this country that state control was possible
and should be tried as a remedy for low wages.

A summary of the facts disclosed in our investi-
gation of the millinery trade may serve to forecast
the possible relation of such state control to the
conditions discovered.

Uncle Sam, or Uncle Sam's wife, requires the
services of 154,000 milliners. They are scattered

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throughout the country from Florida to Alaska,
and from Maine to Texas, in order to be near their
customers, but in no place are they so numerous
as in New York City, which employs more than
one in ten of their number. Moreover, no other
place serves so many different communities. The
products of New York millinery shops are shipped
to every state in the Union. Its wholesale trade is
much larger than its retail business. If the buyer
be ultimately responsible for conditions of labor,
as the Consumers' League has been telling us in-
sistently for more than twenty-five years, then the
responsibility for the conditions among New York
milliners is as widespread as the country itself.

Shop conditions and even processes of work
differ widely, not only between wholesale and re-
tail work, but between different establishments
in the same branch of the trade. Hat trimming is
primarily a hand industry, and as such it lacks the
standardizing influence of machinery. As a result
it continues to be in part a home occupation, and
a milliner working alone may compete more or
less directly with a large establishment employing
a hundred or more workers. To be sure, much of
the work of our grandmothers' milliners, the sewing
of straw and the making of velvet or silk or felt
bonnets can now be done by machinery in facto-
ries, and certain tailored hats are almost entirely
machine products, but trimming is still a hand
process, and so long as women wear trimmed hats,
milliners will continue to be subject to the con-

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ditions of hand workers. In the industry as a
whole, these isolated workers in small shops or at
home constitute a group whose conditions of
employment cannot be controlled or standardized
as could the work of a large shop. It is from the
large shops, however, that the main currents of
influence proceed. Moreover, the independent
workers are all found in the retail branch of the
trade. Wholesale work is entirely under shop
control.

Two in five of the workers are under twenty-
one, a proportion of young workers twice as large
as in the allied trade of dressmaking. Three in
five are native born, but the great majority are of
foreign parentage. Many nationalities are repre-
sented. Russian Jews predominate, especially in
the wholesale shops. Milliners as a whole come
from homes varying greatly in standards of living,
but in very rare cases are a girl's earnings unim-
portant in the maintenance of a home or in self-
support away from home. Like the workers in
other industries,* milliners are at work in order
to earn a living, and to this end two conditions
are essential, — a living wage, and steady work.

The great outstanding fact in the millinery

* In the summary of the federal report of 1907-08 on Woman and
Child Wage-earners in the United States, it is stated that the in-
dustrial employment of girls sixteen years of age and over in families
investigated was almost universal, and the report adds: "It seems
certain that they are at work either because of economic necessity
or because the standards of their class demand wage-earning from
daughters as completely as from sons, or, which is probably the real
situation, from both reasons combined." — U. S. Department of Labor,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, Bulletin No. 175, p. 19.

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trade is its appalling irregularity. Women wear
two kinds of hats in a year, and this fact is re-
flected in two seasons, spring and fall, — a classi-
fication which still holds true for the sake of con-
venience, even though the present tendency seems
to be to wear winter hats in August and summer
hats in January. Moreover, the buying, and con-
sequently the making, is thus concentrated in a
period of approximately three months in spring
and three months in the autumn. This means for
milliners a search for work four times in every
twelve months, twice in the busy seasons in milli-
nery and twice in other occupations to fill in the
dull time when for the majority of workers
wage-earning in the millinery trade becomes im-
possible. In slightly less than half the year,
twenty-five weeks, was the force in the shops in-
vestigated equal even to three-fourths or more of
the maximum number employed in the busy sea-
son. Less than three in every hundred of the
workers whose names were found on the payrolls
received wages from one position for fifty-two
weeks in the year. Forewomen had the longest
periods of employment and apprentices the
shortest, but no group from learners to designers
escaped the constant shifting and the irregular
work indicated in so reliable a document as the
payroll.

These facts related to a single calendar year
without regard to previous duration of employ-
ment in the same shop. Nevertheless, the ques-

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tions answered by the workers themselves showed
how frequent must be the shifts from shop to shop.

Only six in every hundred had had less than a
year's experience in the trade, and yet as many as
31 in every hundred had been in the same shop
less than a year. As many as 58 per cent could re-
port that they had been milliners five years or
longer, but only 22 per cent had been so long in one
establishment.

Difficulty in finding positions in other shops in
millinery or in other trades when millinery work
is slack increases the amount of lost time and lost
income. These are facts not shown on the pay-
rolls. They are obtainable only from the workers
themselves. Those whom we interviewed reported
an average loss of nine weeks' income in the year,
or 17 per cent of the normal working period. Some
of this loss was due to illness, some to quitting
work voluntarily and some to other causes of vari-
ous kinds, but in the large majority of cases the
biggest losses were due to slack season.

Rates of pay in millinery vary widely from 50
cents or nothing a week for learners to J5i50 for
designers. The median rate for week workers as
shown on the payrolls was j5 10.77, ^^d the median
actual earnings for both week workers and piece
workers as revealed on the payroll of a single week
was Ji59.69. Median rates varied from $4.14 for
workers under sixteen to $20 for women of forty-
five or older. But the higher wages are attained
by only a very small proportion of the workers.

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The wage rate is reduced by numerous small
losses even while the worker's name continues to
be carried on the payrolls. We were not content
to know merely the rates or even the actual earn-
ings for one week, and so we pursued the inquiry
further, figuring for each worker on the payrolls
at any time in the calendar year, the average
weekly wage in her pay envelopes in any one shop.
This showed that half the workers averaged less
than $8.2^ a week during the period of employ-
ment in one shop. Moreover, the payrolls showed
that half the workers received a total of less than
3599 from any single position during the year in the
shops investigated.

This did not, of course, represent the total earn-
ings from all positions during the year, a fact which
could be secured only through personal interviews.
Fortunately the comparatively few girls who gave
us full information on this point were a thoroughly
representative group in their earning capacity, as
shown by the fact that the median weekly earn-
ings for them were $9.^6 as compared with median
earnings of $9.69 for the much larger number whose
names appeared on the payrolls. We may safely
assume, therefore, that the annual earnings of
the milliners whom we interviewed are a fairly ac-
curate indication of the annual earnings of all
milliners in New York City. The appalling fact
disclosed is that, although the earning capacity of
these girls, as represented by their median wages,
was $9.56 a week, which should yield through

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Steady work an annual income of about jf5500, yet
the actual median annual earnings from all posi-
tions in all occupations during the year, as shown
in these interviews, were but $36^, or about $7.00
a week. Half the workers, it should be noted, re-
ceived even less than that sum.

An income of a dollar every day in the calendar
year is clearly insufficient for self-support, yet
half the milliners have less than that when the
wages of the busy season are spread over the long
dull months. Proof of its inadequacy is merely a
matter of arithmetic. One week's expenses: Board
and lodging, $5.00; carfare, 60 cents; laundry,
50 cents; all other, 90 cents; total, jjJy.oo.

Sixty cents a week for carfare is a fixed charge
for most workers. Fifty cents for laundry is a low
estimate. An allowance of $5.00 for lodging and
food is not sufficient for health even through the
most strict and continuous economy. After these
three expenditures only 90 cents out of $7.00 a
week remains for clothing, an important item in
a wage-earning girl's equipment, and for medical
care, dentistry, and contributions to relatives
here or abroad. Even if 90 cents be made to stretch
over these items, there is still nothing left for
stamps and stationery, newspapers, vacations,
recreation, church contributions, dues to club or
union, insurance, or savings. Indeed, even a bud-
get of Ji59.oo a week, carefully figured by the girls
themselves on the basis of their own experience,

could not be stretched to cover these expenditures,
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none of which can be regarded as unreasonable or
extravagant.

This estimate is the budget of a girl living alone,
but no great change need be made in the figures
for the girl who lives at home. In the normal
family there are usually some members who do not
work for wages, so that the income of those who
work is needed for more than one person. This is
clearly an oflFset to the economies made possible by
co-operative living. Moreover, many items, such
as carfare, clothing, insurance, dentistry and doc-
tors' bills, and savings, are fixed needs, whether one
boards or lives at home.

This brief independent inquiry into the cost of
living of milliners is confirmed in the results of the
wider study in other trades made at the same time
by the New York State Factory Investigating Com-
mission. Their conclusion was that "the very low-
est sum upon which a working woman can decently
maintain herself in that city of the State where the
rents and food prices seem about the lowest,
namely, in Buffalo, is $8.20 per week the year
round, and in New York City, $9.00.''* Ample
confirmation of this estimate can be found in the
detailed report of the commission. It corroborates
the estimate reached in the study of milliners.

The great outstanding fact in this investigation
of the millinery trade is, then, that the career of a
milliner yields less than a living wage for more than

* New York State Factory Investigating Commission, Fourth Re-
port, 19 1 5. Vol. I, p. 38.

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half the workers, and that the most important
cause of low earnings is irregular employment, due
to seasonal fluctuations. This twin problem of low
wages and unemployment would be serious enough
if it were found only in the millinery trade. The
fact that it is characteristic of nearly all of women's
trades, as many investigations, official and un-
official, prove, increases its significance and its
urgency a thousandfold.

The conclusion of the New York State Factory
Investigating Commission, reached after exhaus-
tive investigation and comprehensive public hear-
ings, is clearly stated in its final report to the
legislature:

After careful deliberation and study of the results of its
investigation and the testimony taken, the Commission has
come to the conclusion that the State is justified in protecting
the under-paid women workers and minors in the interest of
the State and society. It finds that there are thousands of
women and minors employed in the industries throughout the
State of New York who are receiving too low a wage ade-
quately to maintain them in health and decent comfort. The
Commission believes this injuriously affects the lives and
health of these underpaid workers, and that it is opposed to
the best interests and welfare of the people of the State.

In order to remedy this evil, the commission
recommends:

The enactment of a law creating a Wage Commission,
which, after investigation, shall establish Wage Boards, com-
posed of representatives of employers, employes and the
public, in any industry in which it has reason to believe.

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women and minors are receiving less than a living wage.
Wherever possible, the employers and workers are to be
elected by their respective groups; but if this is impossible,
employers and employes shall be notified of meetings at which
the work of the Wage Commission shall be explained, and the
representatives of the trade asked to present recommenda-
tions to the Wage Board. The Wage Commission, after
public hearings, and upon consideration of the report of the
Wage Board, shall determine the amount of the living wage
necessary for such women and minors, and recommend to
employers payment thereof.*

The bill did not provide for compulsory enforce-
ment. It merely empowered the commission to
"recommend" to employers the payment of wages
which the wage board should determine to be
adequate. In this respect it followed the precedent
already set in the Massachusetts law. In explana-
tion of thus leaving the teeth out of its bill the
New York Commission declared that it had made
acceptance of recommendations voluntary, first,
because the constitutionality of wage legislation
was a question still pending in the Supreme Court
of the United States, and, second, because "in an
initial measure as provided in the bill recom-
mended herewith, the question of wages should be
adjusted by voluntary mutual action of those most
directly concerned, aided by an enlightened public
opinion. If, however, it should prove, after a fair
test, that this method is ineffective, the Legis-
lature should have unquestioned power to pro-
vide effective penalties to secure the proper

* Ibid., pp. 47-48.
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enforcement of the determination of the Wage
Commission."*

The application of such a measure to the mil-
linery trade would be, then, to create a machinery
for the adjustment of wages "by voluntary mutual
action of those most directly concerned, aided by
an enlightened public opinion." Had the bill be-
come law in 191 5 and had the wage commission
thus created decided to apply it at once to the
millinery trade, employers and employes would
have been asked to elect representatives who, with
disinterested outsiders appointed by the commis-
sion, would have formed the milliners' wage board.
The duties of such a board would be to instigate "a
careful investigation and after such public hearings
as it finds necessary, endeavor to determine the
amount of the living wage, whether by time rate
or piece rate, suitable for a female employe of ordi-
nary ability in such occupation or any or all of the
branches thereof, and also suitable minimum wages
for learners and apprentices and for minors below
the age of eighteen years. In determining such
living wage the board may take into consideration
the financial condition of the industry and distrib-
ute any advance in wages that may be found
necessary, to take effect at specified intervals."!
With their recommendation as a basis the com-
mission would then make its own determinations,
recommending to employers the rates which they
ought to pay. The only penalty for the failure of

* Ibid., p. 48. t Ibid., p. 295.

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employers to comply with these recommendations
would be the publication of their names in news-
papers, a measure of publicity, depending for its
effectiveness upon the strength of public opinion on
this subject.

Briefly, the bill would have brought together
Employers and employes to determine collectively
what the wages should be and would have given
publicity to their conclusions. We are dealing,
then, not with regulation of wages by law, but with
the organization of employers and employes for
mutual agreement, acting with the sanction of the
state. This feature of minimum wage laws, that
usually they provide, not for an ultimatum by the
legislature, but for investigation and conference
by employers, employes and representatives of
the public, is widely misunderstood. Clear under-
standing on this point, however, transfers the dis-
cussion from the question of whether or not it is
possible to regulate wages by statute, to the much
less theoretical question of whether or not the
present careless, individual bargain is better than
careful, official investigation, and free and frank
public discussion on equal terms by the same peo-
ple who now make the individual bargain without
careful study, without publicity, and without equal-
ity in bargaining power.

Discussion of the theoretical aspects of such
legislation or a forecast of its probable results is
much less profitable than a summing up of actual
experience. In Victoria, Australia, the millinery

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trade has been included since 1907 among the
trades in which minimum rates of pay are officially
determined and prescribed by wage boards estab-
lished by act of government. In 19 15, the chief
inspector of factories in Melbourne sent us some
first-hand data regarding the effects of the wage
legislation.* These data are not final or conclusive
as to the possible results of similar legislation in a
city like New York, but they reveal certain ten-
dencies in the trade in a community in which wages
have been under public control for a period of
nearly ten years.

Victoria, containing Melbourne, the largest and
most important commercial city of Australasia,
manufactures more millinery than any other state
in the commonwealth. About 1,500 girls are em-
ployed, of whom the majority work in small shops.
Of the 157 shops reported by the factory inspector,
only one employed more than a hundred workers,
while in 83 the force numbered less than six. As
in New York state the trade includes both whole-
sale and retail branches, and since the seasons in
these two do not coincide some milliners are able
to prolong their employment by working in retail
shops after the wholesale season has begun to
decline.

The method of selecting the wage board is illus-
trated by the procedure followed in 191 3 when new
members were appointed, preparatory to revising

*This correspondence and statistical tables will be found in
Appendix D, pp. 254-263.

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the Standards which had been set in 1907. The
government office published notices in the news-
papers asking for nominations. More names were
submitted than were required. The Minister of
Labor selected from the list five employers and five
employes and nominated them publicly. Had one-
fifth of the employers or employes in the trade ob-
jected within three weeks to any of those who had
been nominated, an election would have been held
conducted by the chief inspector of factories. In
191 3, however, no objection was made, and the
nominees were appointed by the Governor-in-
Council, without an election. These ten, of whom
five represented employers and five employes,
nominated a chairman who was then appointed
by the Govemor-in-G>uncil.

They were guided in their deliberations by
the fundamental principle of wage legislation in
Australia, namely, that the wage should be equal
to the cost of living. As the chief inspector of fac-


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