Chicago. Mayor's Commission on Unemployment.

Report of the Mayor's Commission on Unemployment online

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The Governor, by this same method, shall appoint a superintendent, as-
sistant superintendent and a clerk for each one of the offices created by section
1 of this Act.

The assistant superintendent or the clerk in each office shall be a woman,
and tenure of such appointment shall be for four years (unless sooner re-
moved for cause through the recommendation of the said State Board of Com-
missioners of Labor after a full hearing of any charges).

The salary of the general superintendent shall be four thousand dollars
($4,000) per annum. In cities of one hundred thousand (100,000) or over, the
salary of the superintendent shall be thirty-six hundred dollars ($3,600) per
annum. In cities of one hundred thousand (100,000) or over, the salary of the
assistant superintendent shall be eighteen hundred dollars ($1,800) per an-
num. In cities of less than one hundred thousand (100,000) the salary of the
superintendent shall be two thousand dollars ($2,000) per annum. In cities
of less than one hundred thousand (100,000) the salary of the assistant su-
perintendent shall be twelve hundred dollars ($1,200) per annum. The salary
of each clerk shall be one thousand dollars ($1,000) per annum; and they shall
devote their entire time to the duties of their respective offices. All addi-
tional help required by such offices, together with proper amounts for de-
fraying the necessary costs for maintaining the respective offices shall be pro-
vided upon the recommendation of the aforesaid State Board of Commis-
sioners of Labor.

SKCTION 3. The State Board of Commissioners of Labor and the general
superintendent of free employment offices shall cause to be opened, as soon
as possible in each city coming within the provisions of this Act, an employ-
ment office; such office to be provided with a sufficient number of rooms and
apartments to enable them to provide, and they shall so provide, a separate
room or apartment for the use of women or juveniles registering for situa-
tions or help.

Upon the outside of each office, in position and manner to secure fullest
public attention, shall be placed a sign which shall read in the English lan-
guage "Illinois Free Employment Office," and the same shall appear either
upon the outside windows or upon signs in such other language as the loca-
tion of each such office shall render advisable.

The superintendent of each and every free employment office shall re-
ceive and record in books kept for that purpose, names of all persons apply-
ing for employment or help, designating opposite the names and addresses of
each applicant, the character of employment or help desired.

Separate registers for applicants for employment shall be kept, showing
the age, nativity, sex, trade or occupation of each applicant; the cause and
duration of non-employment; whether married or single; the number of de-
pendent children, together with such other facts as may be required by th
Bureau of Labor Statistics to be used by said bureau : Provided, that no spe-
cial registers shall be open to public inspection at any time, and that such
statistical and sociological data as the Bureau of Labor may require shall
be held in confidence by such bureau, and so published as not to reveal the
identity of any one : And, further, provided, that any applicant who shall


decline to furnish answers as to questions contained in special registers shall
not thereby forfeit any rights to any employment the office might secure.

SECTION 4. Each superintendent shall report on Thursday of each week to
the State Bureau of Labor Statistics and to each free employment agency in
the State, the number of applicants for positions, and for help received during
the preceding week; and the number of positions secured, also those unfilled
applications remaining on the books at the beginning of the week.

It shall also show the number and character of the positions secured
during the preceding week. Upon receipt of these lists and not later than
Saturday of each week the secretary of the said Bureau of Labor Statistics
shall cause to be printed a sheet showing separately and in combination the
lists received from all such free employment offices.

SECTION 5. It shall be -the duty of the general superintendent of free em-
ployment offices to immediately put himself in communication with the princi-
pal manufacturers, merchants and other employers of labor, and to use all
diligence in securing the co-operation of the said employers of labor with the
purposes and objects of said employment offices. To this end it shall be
competent for such superintendents to advertise in the columns of newspapers,
or other medium, for such situations as he has applicants to fill, and he may
advertise in a general way for the co-operation of large contractors and em-
ployers, whether such trade or special journals are published in Illinois or not.

SECTION 6. It shall be the duty of the general superintendent to make report to
the said Bureau of Labor Statistics annually, not later than August 31st of
each year, concerning the work of his office for the year ending June 30th of
the same year, together with a statement of the expenses of the same, in-
cluding the charges of an interpreter when necessary, and such report shall
be published by the said Bureau of Labor Statistics annually with its annual
report. Each superintendent shall also perform such other duties in the col-
lection of statistics of labor as a secretary of the Bureau of Labor Statistics
may require.

SECTION 2. All Acts and parts of Acts in conflict herewith are hereby repealed.

On November 21, 1913, the Secretary called the attention of His Honor,
Mayor Harrison, to the urgency of the problem of unemployment during the
winter. Many of the unemployed were asking for some kind of relief and
the pressure on some of the relief agencies was severely felt. The Mayor re-
sponded promptly by sending a message to the City Council, as is shown in
the following letter:


The Mayor thereupon reconstituted the Commission by filling vacancies,
so that the following persons were its members in December, 1913. when the
work was taken up anew:

Alderman John Czekala, Alderman Martin J. Healy, Alderman John
Haderlein, Alderman J. H. Lawley, Judge E. O. Brown, H. G. Adair, Oscar G.
Mayer, Edward Tilden, J. J. Sonsteby, W. F. Schultz, Frank P. Danisch, Jud-
son Lee, James H. Bowman, O. G. Finkelstein, W. H. Cruden, Graham Taylor,
Rev. M. J. Dorney, Rev. R. A. White, Charles R. Crane, President; Charles
Richmond Henderson, Secretary.

At a meeting of the City Council, November 24, 1913, Mayor Harrison's
recommendation to re-appoint the Commission was adopted, in view of the
testimony of the philanthropic societies and city officials that unemployment
again presents a very serious situation. The Commission met on December
9, 1913, and decided: (1) to postpone the general study of legislation for a
few weeks; (2) to prepare their former studies and conclusions for publica-
tion; (3) to attack at once the problems of emergency relief of homeless, indi-
gent and unemployed people. The Mayor, the Commissioner of Public Works
and the Commissioner of Health, in conference, agreed upon a policy of relief
which they proceeded to put into effect. This policy did not pretend to be
more than palliative. It includes the following factors:

1. The Department of Health will use all its powers to prevent physical
injury by exposure to cold, hunger and communicable disease;


2. The Municipal Lodging House will be enlarged temporarily by open-
ing sleeping halls under the control of the Department of Health, with cots
sufficient for the men who are absolutely without means to pay for sleeping
places in the cheap lodging houses;

3. A trained man is placed in charge of the employment office in the
Municipal Lodging House, whose duty it is to secure odd jobs of all kinds and
in all ways for those who apply for lodging and meals. Able-bodied men will
be offered work as far as possible and given meals and bed three days in re-
turn for the work of one day, until each man can do better for himself. Those
who refuse to work will come under police control at once.

The Department of Public Works is able to put on a limited number of
men to clean streets, without taking the places of the regular laborers who
are under civil service rules of appointment and tenure.

4. The various societies which deal with homeless and unemployed men
will be asked, so far as possible, to send men out of town if work can be
found for them or if they have friends able to help them. Every effort will be
made to prevent abuse of the relief and the congestion of tramps attracted
by the news that gratuitous food and lodging are provided.

5. The funds to meet the emergency will be supplied partly by the earn-
ings of the men, partly by the City, partly by public outdoor relief, partly by
private charity, organized and impulsive.

When the time of stress and trouble has passed, the more permanent
problems of unemployment will receive deliberate consideration of the Com-

The Commission voted to recommend to the Mayor and City Council the estab-
lishment of a Bureau of Welfare, similar to that in Kansas City and Cleveland.

On the suggestion of officers of the Chicago Federation of Labor arrange-
ments were made to try another experiment the temporary opening of stores
of food materials and fuel to be sold at cost to persons who are liable to
become a public charge unless they can economize their meager savings.
The County Commissioners authorized the County Agent to provide direc-
tion and investigators. The City* provided a credit of $25,000 to purchase the
food supplies and meet incidental expenses. Efforts were made to ascertain
whether the County Commissioners and the Commissioners of the Sanitary
Drainage Canal could provide work for the men out of employment and resi-
dents of Chicago.

Journal of the Proceedings of the City Council of Chicago, Regular Meet-
ing, Jan. 19, 1914, p. 3509: "Commission on Non- Employed. For amount to be
withdrawn from Corporate Purposes Fund and placed in a special fund to be
known as the 'Commission on Non-Employed Capital Account' to be expended
under the direction of the Commission on Non-Employed, which fund is to be re-
imbursed by those receiving the benefit of such expenditures, . . . $25,000.00."


On December 23, 1913, the Commission voted to instruct the Secretary to
prepare the report of the investigations and recommendations of the Com-
mission for publication; to include the study of Professor E. H. Sutherland,
who had assisted the Secretary in gathering and compiling materials for the
study. (This paper is printed as an appendix to the report.)

On February 8, 1914, Mr. G. W. Overton reported to the Commission
stating that the municipal labor office had been closed by order of the Mayor.

He was appointed December 18, 1913, Municipal Labor Agent and imme-
diately started an office in the municipal lodging house annex. The newspapers
called attention to the office and 444 applied for jobs in one day; but when men
found there was no work they ceased to apply. The agent visited many em-
ployers of labor, but found few places. Notices were sent to 4,000 business
men; 10 or 12 direct replies were received. Advertisements in farmers' jour-
nals brought better results. From December 22, 1913, to January 30, 1914,
employment was obtained for 233 men; 190 temporary, 43 permanent. There
were 1,627 applications, 873 from the lodging houses and 754 others. The
following reports from the trades unions indicate the conditions of the labor
market during this period:


Total Out of
Union Membership. Work.

International Association of Machinists, No. 8 6,000 400

International Association of Machinists, No. 63 7,000 500

Teamsters Joint Board 20,000 500

Bakers' Union, No. 2 2,000 400

Hod Carriers and Building Laborers 16,000 10,000

Bridge and Structural Iron Workers, No. 1 800 200

Cigar Makers' International Union 2,400 000

Building Trades Council 75,000 10,000

Besides these the Machinists' Union, No. 63, stated that there were about 5,000
non-union machinists out of work. None of the unions stated that there were more
men than usual out except the machinists.

Having now before the authorities, the public and the members of the Mayor's
Commission on Unemployment the materials thus far collected, the Commission is
engaged in the task of a further critical study of the situation. It is hoped that
before the meeting of the next Legislature it will be prepared to offer a bill for
a law which will show the influence of criticism, discussion and deliberation.

For the Commission,
CHARLES R. CRANE, President.

On recommendation of the Commission the Mayor appointed the Secretary of
the Commission a delegate to the National Conference on Unemployment in New
York City, February 27-28. This Conference, under the auspices of the American
Association of Labor Legislation, was called by the American Section of the In-
ternational Association on Unemployment. The Proceedings will be published.


The Extent of Unemployment. The questionnaires which were sent to
employers and labor unions did not cover the entire industrial field, and
therefore furnish no indication of the entire amount of unemployment in
Chicago; they made a study of particular industrial establishments and par-
ticular labor unions, however, which will throw light on the quest of the
extent of unemployment.

Of 46 employers who replied to this question. 56.5% stated that they
could always secure all the help they want, 28.2% that they could generajly
get all they wanted, 8.7% that they could not get all they wanted, and 6.5%
that they could not always get enough competent help. If 56.5% of the em-
ployers can always get all the help they want, whenever they want it, there
must be a considerable number of persons unemployed at all times of the
year. This conclusion is substantiated by the reports from the labor unions;
fourteen of the nineteen unions that replied (72%) stated that at all times of
the year some of their members were unemployed. It is evident, however,
that there is for the employers generally no chronic lack of labor, since only
8.7% of the employers reported that they could not always get all the help
they wanted.

Twenty-four unions reported definitely in regard to the amount of time
lost by the average member; the average member in four unions lost less than
one month at his trade; the average member in one union lost from one to
two months; the average member in five unions lost from two to three months;
the average member in eight unions lost from three to four months; the aver-
age member in three unions lost from four to five months; the average mem-
ber in two unions lost from five to six months; the average member in one
union lost six months. This does not show whether they were unemployed
when not working at their trades; but the period of the greatest amount of
unemployment in eighteen unions was in the winter, in two unions in the
spring or summer; this indicates a lack of dove-tailing.


Twenty-seven labor unions reported in regard to the percent, of their mem-
bers working the entire year; the reports are as follows:

In 6 unions less than 10% of the members.
In 4 unions from 10 to 19% of the members.
In unions from 20 to 29% of the members.
In 1 union from 30 to 39% of the members.
In union from 40 to 49% of the members.
In 2 unions from 50 to 59% of the members.
In 5 unions from 60 to 69% of the members.
In 4 unions from 70 to 79% of the members.
In 1 union from 80 to 89% of the members.
In 1 union from 90 to 99% of the members.
In 3 unions 100% of the members.

The total of the least numbers of members of labor unions employed in the
winter of 1911-12 was 4,383; the total of the greatest numbers employed was
7,380; these are the total for twenty-three unions which reported in regard to
this. This would show that about 3,000 were unemployed at their trades at
some time during the winter while they were employed at their trades at other
times during the winter; it does not show what percent, of the entire mem-
bership was employed even at the best time during the winter; nor does it
show what percent, of these members secured work at other trades.

The extent of unemployment is indicated, also, by a comparison of the
conditions of one year with those of other years. Forty-six firms reported
the number of employees in the winter of 1911-12, forty-three firms for 1910-11,
and forty-four firms for 1909-10; the average number of employees per firm
was as follows:

1911-12 1,772

1910-11 2,038

1909-10 1,720

-If the number of employees per average firm is taken as 100%, the decrease
in the number of employees in 1911-12 was 13%, and in 1909-10 it was 15.6%.
That would mean that if they did not secure work elsewhere, 13% of those
employed in 1910-11 were unemployed in 1911-12. Fourteen firms reported
that they employed fewer men in 1911-12 than in 1910-11, the total number by
which their rolls were decreased being 9,940; seventeen firms reported that
they employed more men in 1911-12 than in 1910-11, the total number by
which their rolls were increased being only 2,728. Though more firms re-
ported an increased number of employees in 1911-12, two of those which re-
ported a decrease had very large decreases one employed 5,044 fewer in
1911-12, the other 2,000 fewer.

Nineteen employers reported that more men had sought employment of
them in 1911-12 than in former years, twenty employers reported that no more
had sought employment.

Twenty-three unions reported that the number of unemployed members
in 1911-12 was greater than usual; four unions reported that it was not greater
than usual.

There is a very great disparity between the reports from employers and
the reports from labor unions in regard to the amount of slack or part time
work. Nine firms reported that they were closed down one week or more
(of which only three were for more than two weeks); one other firm reported
it was closed down for three days; thirty-four firms reported they were not
closed down at all in 1911-12. Ten firms reported they worked part time
during the year; thirty that they did not work part time at all; of those re-
porting part time work, the following number of days was given it! which
there was part time work: 15, 19, 20, 52, 61, 72, 96, 96, 175, 215. The labor
unions reported that about 7.75 months of the year are busy, 3.5 months slack,
and 1.5 months are periods of no work. (These make a total of more than
twelve months, because some of the unions reported slack seasons and no-
work seasons together.)


These figures give no indication of the absolute number of persons in
Chicago who were unemployed at any one time; but they do indicate that
unemployment is a serious problem for the workmen particularly, and that
the situations which result in unemployment for the workmen to a certain
extent mean that employers are unable to secure employees when needed.

The Nature of Unemployment. The employers were asked in regard to
the class of labor which was most subject to seasonal fluctuations; twenty-
nine employers replied to this question. Seven employers reported that all
classes of laborers were affected equally; sixteen that unskilled labor is most
subject to fluctuations of work; the others gave special classes of workers
peculiar to their industries. This does not mean that these individuals fail
to retain their work because they are lacking in skill; it means that the class
of work which does not require skill is most capable of expansion and con-
traction, and therefore the workers in that part of the plant are most subject
to unemployment. This is substantiated by the fact that all but two of the
employers stated that their employees were generally reasonably skilled,
intelligent, steady and sober. Unemployment is not due to the individual's
lack of skill, but to the economic system which demands expansion and con-
traction of industry and to the fact that the part of the work which requires
little or no skill is the point at which the contraction or expansion can most
easily come.

Three employers reported that they found common labor most scarce,
twenty reported that they found common labor over-supplied; fifteen employ-
ers reported that they found skilled labor scarce, two that they found it over-
supplied; eleven employers reported that they found no kind of labor scarce,
five that they found no kind over-supplied. This difference is partly, at least,
due to maladjustments in the labor market; the fact that some employers find
skilled labor scarce and others find it over-supplied may be due to the differ-
ences in the kinds of skill required; but the fact that some employers found
common labor scarce and others found it over-supplied can be accounted for,
probably, only by lack of organization of the labor market.

The Effects of Unemployment. The effect of unemployment will depend
somewhat, though not entirely, on whether the person has a surplus which
will carry him until work can be found, and on whether his wages are suffi-
ciently high to furnish him a decent living through the year, after the allow-
ance has been made for the average period of unemployment.

Nineteen of the forty-six employers failed to state whether their employees
have surplus funds; one replied that they did not, six replied unreservedly that
they did, twenty replied that some of them do. One of these employers stated
that his employees own and operate a savings bank, in which they have sav-
ings, to the amount of $40,000.

Twenty-five labor unions replied in regard to the surplus funds of their
members; eleven replied that very few of their members had a surplus, seven
that some of their members had, one that the members had no surplus, two
that they had a surplus, one that the majority are buying homes, one that
20% of the members own their own homes, and one that almost all own prop-

Both sets of replies give very indefinite information in regard to the sur-
plus funds of workingmen; the only conclusion is that some employees have
funds to carry them over periods of unemployment and some do not; there is
no indication of the relative proportion of the two groups. Only one of the
unions pays any out-of-work benefits to the unemployed.

More definite information is secured by contrasting the actual earnings
of the average member with his possible earnings if steadily employed. In
the year 1911 the average member in

4 unions lost less than 9.9% of his possible earnings.

3 unions lost from 10 to 19.9% of his possible earnings,

4 unions lost from 20 to 29.9% of his possible earnings,
6 unions lost from 30 to 39.9% of his possible earnings,

unions lost from 40 to 49.9% of his possible earnings,
4 unions lost from SO to 59.9% of his possible earnings,

1 union lost from 60 to 69.9% of his possible earnings.


None of the members of these unions would receive less than $700 a year
at their trades if they worked full time; but, actually, the average member
in 40.9% of those reporting received less than $700 from his trade. This does
not take account of the wages that might have been received from other em-
ployment than in their own trades.

Causes of Unemployment. Thirty-two employers answered the question
in regard to the reasons for the fluctuations in the number of employees
within the year; of these twelve gave "seasons" as the cause, eight gave "busi-
ness fluctuations," six gave "lack of orders," and six gave -special reasons, It
is possible that "seasons," "lack of orders," and "business fluctuations" mean
the same thing.

Twenty-seven labor unions replied to the question in regard to the gen-
eral cause of unemployment; general business depression or lack of work
was given in eight answers, seasons in six answers, inefficiency of workers,
migration to the city and machinery each in three answers; long hours during
rush seasons in two answers; seven other miscellaneous answers were made.

Fifteen employers gave reasons for the increased number of persons ap-

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