Copyright
Chicago. Mayor's Commission on Unemployment.

Report of the Mayor's Commission on Unemployment online

. (page 22 of 27)
Online LibraryChicago. Mayor's Commission on UnemploymentReport of the Mayor's Commission on Unemployment → online text (page 22 of 27)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Iowa, 5th Biennial Report of Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1893, p. 11.
The commissioners of labor in other states had similar attitudes toward
the purpose of such agencies, for the Commissioner of Labor of Missouri
stated in 1903 that the "important reason and sufficient justification for the
free offices" is "the existence of the poor unable to pay fees,"

Missouri, 25th Annual Report of Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1903,
p. 357. The Commissioner of Labor of Connecticut said somewhat sim-
ilarly: "If there are sufficient unemployed in a state so that private
agencies flourish, then there is a class of unfortunates which needs the
assistance and the protection from imposition which a public office would
give." 16th Annual Report of Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1900, p. 163.
and the Secretary of the Illinois Bureau of Labor Statistics has claimed that
the system of public agencies in that state is due entirely to his report of
1898 in which the problem is stated as the exploitation of the unemployed,
rather than as unemployment itself.

Seventeenth Annual Convention of Officials of Bureau of Labor Sta-
stistics. 1901, p. 160; Michigan, 25th Annual Report of Bureau of Labor,
1908, p. 471.

Investigations of private employment agencies have been made in many
states as the necessary prerequisite of recommendation of the establishment
of public employment agencies.

Sargent, loc. cit., 39; California, 29th Assembly, Appendix to Journal,
1891, Vol. VII; Colorado, 1st Biennial Report of Bureau of Labor Sta-
tistics, 1887-88, pp. 344-69; Connecticut, 16th Annual Report of Bureau
of Labor Statistics, 1900, pp. 164-65; Iowa, 4th Biennial Report of Bureau
of Labor Statistics, 1890-91, pp. 217-37; Maryland, 5th Annual Report
of Bureau of Statistics, 1896, pp. 64-78; Ibid., 2 Annual Report, 1894, pp.
185-96: Massachusetts, 34th Annual Report of Statistics of Labor, 1903,
pp. 207-13: Missouri, 13th Annual Report of Bureau of Labor Statistics,
1891, pp. 30-58; Ibid., 19th Annual Report, 1897, pp. 486-88; Nebraska, 3rd
Biennial Report of Bureau of Labor, 1891-2, pp. 573-85; New York, 4th
Annual Report of Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1886, pp. 23-61; Ibid., 17th
Annual Report, 1899, p. vii, 1222-27; Ohio, 12th Annual Report of Bu-



146 REPORT OF THE MAYOR'S COMMISSION ON UNEMPLOYMENT

reau of Labor Statistics, 1888, pp. 262-67; Wisconsin, 10th Biennial Report
of Bureau of Labor, 1900-01, pp. 762-70.

But also in the states in which special local investigations were not made,
there were reports in regard to the evils of such agencies in other states,
on the assumption that similar evils existed or might come to exist in the
states in question.

Colorado, 7th Biennial Report of Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1899-
1900, pp. 292-314; Illinois, 10th Biennial Report of Bureau of Labor Sta-
tistics, 1898, pp. 46-64; Minnesota, 3rd Biennial Report of Bureau of
Labor, 1891-92, pp. 20-32; Rhode Island, 14th Annual Report of Bureau
of Industrial Statistics, 1900, pp. 82-89; Tennessee, 3rd Annual Report of
Commissioner of Labor, 1894, p. 6.

In these reports the most severe epithets were applied to the private agen-
cies, including such as "unscrupulous double-dealing villain," "spider and the
fly," and the "most perfect expression of man's inhumanity to man."

Iowa, 4th Biennial Report of Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1890, pp.
217-37.

On the basis of the information secured in such studies the passage of acts
to establish public agencies was recommended by the commissioners of
labor and in some cases by the governors of the states.

Message of Governor Boies of Iowa in 1892, in 5th Biennial Report
,of Iowa Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1893, pp. 7-12; Message of Governor
Turner of Illinois in 1899, in Illinois House Journal, 41st Session, 1899,
p. 23.

There is further evidence of the purpose of such public agencies in the
fact that there were frequent reports of the amount saved to the people of
the state or the city, in the difference between the cost of such offices and
the fees that would have^ been paid if the same number of persons had been
located by private agencies.

California, 7th Biennial Report of Bureau of Labor Statistics. 1895,
p. 33; Colorado, 12th Biennial Report of Bureau of Labor Statistics,
1909-10, p. 194; Massachusetts, 34th Annual Report of Statistics of Labor,
1903, p. 170; Missouri, 30th Annual Report of Bureau of Labor Statistics,
1908, p. 850; Oklahoma, 3rd Annual Report of Department of Labor,
1909-10, p. 504; Washington, 2nd Biennial Report of Bureau of Labor
Statistics, 1897-98, p. 157.

The Secretary of the Illinois Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that fees
amounting to $1,000,000 were paid to private agencies in Chicago in one year,
and that the same number of persons could secure positions through public
agencies at less than half the cost.

Illinois, 10th Biennial Report of Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1898,
p. 135.

While these estimates are of slight value in showing the actual saving to the peo-
ple of a state.

See above, pp. 60-88; Massachusetts, Report of Commission to In-
vestigate Employment Offices, 1911, pp. 12-13, 74.

. they are of immense value in showing the purpose and aims of the institu-
tions, and consequently of explaining their failure to organize the labor
market.

Wide publicity was given to the success of the Ohio public agencies in
eliminating and regulating the private employment agencies, and at the same
time there were reports of the futility of attempts to regulate private agen-
cies by direct legislation, for it was alleged that the charges for licenses
and bonds were merely shifted by the agencies to their applicants, thus
injuring them still more.

Illinois, 10th Biennial Report of Bureau of Labor Statistics. 1898,
pp. 129-32; Nebraska, 3rd Biennial Report of Bureau of Labor, 1891-92,.
p. 578.



REPORT OF THE MAYOR'S COMMISSION ON UNEMPLOYMENT 147

Likewise in other states, after public agencies were established, there were
similar reports in regard to the regulation and abolition of the private agencies
by this competition.

Conner, loc. cit., p. 73; Illinois, 10th Biennial Report of Bureau of
Labor Statistics, 1898, pp. 130-31; Michigan, 24th Annual Report of
Bureau of Labor, 1907, p. 398; Michigan, 2nd Annual Report of Depart-
ment of Labor, 1911. p. 29; Missouri, 20th Annual Report of Bureau of
Labor Statistics, 1898, p. 219; Ohio, 16th Annual Report of Bureau of
Labor Statistics, 1892, p. 17; ibid., 20th Annual Report, 1896, p. 405; ibid.,
24th Annual Report, 1900, p. 440; Rhode Island, 24th Annual Report of
Bureau of Industrial Statistics, 1910, p. 223; Washington, 2nd Biennial
Report of Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1897-98, p. 161.
When the state agencies have failed to exterminate the private agencies,
the superintendents have in some cases urged that the private agencies be
outlawed and abolished either by excessive license fees or by direct legisla-
tion, and when the state agencies were first established in Illinois they were
accompanied by regulations of private agencies intended to eliminate them.
Ohio, 20th Annual Report of Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1896, p. 405;
Michigan, 2nd Annual Report of Department of Labor, 1911, p. 47; Illi-
nois employment agency laws of 1899 and 1903.

In some cases the superintendents have admitted their inability to compete
successfully with the private agencies and have urged the regulation of pri-
vate agencies by licenses and bonds and inspection, while the superintendent
of one public agency urged that a larger appropriation be granted in order
to enable the public agency to compete successfully with the private agen-
cies.

Colorado, 12th Biennial Report of Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1909-
10, p. 198.

There were other more objective indications of the police protection and
charity purpose of the public employment agencies. One of these is the fact
that it has been generally assumed, without any consideration of the ques-
tion, that these public agencies are necessarily free agencies. Until 1906 the
question was not raised at all, except in Los Angeles, where a fee of 25 cents
was charged to the applicant for employment after 1904; previously the ab-
sence of fees was merely assumed as a necessary part of the public agen-
cies. There were arguments against public agencies on the ground that be-
cause they were free, they would attract the shiftless, that the applicants
would be careless about going to the positions offered, and that they would
not be patronized by the self-respecting workers.

See, especially, California, 9th Biennial Report of Bureau of Labor
Statistics, 1899-1900, pp. 79-80.

Such arguments were not raised, however, to prove that fees should be
charged in the public agencies, but to prove that regulation of private agen-
cies by licenses and inspection was preferable to the competition of public
agencies. After 1906 the question of whether fees should be charged by pub-
lic agencies was raised and is an indication of a change in attitude toward
the purpose of such institutions.

Conner, loc. cit., pp. 4, 8-10 ; Sargent, loc. cit., p. 39 ; Massachusetts,
Report of Commission 'to Investigate Employment Offices, 1911, pp. 77-79;
Massachusetts, 38th Annual Report of Statistics of Labor, 1907, pp.
430-32.

Another indication of the relationship between the movement for the es-
tablishment of public agencies and the imputed evils of the private agencies
is the failure to establish such public agencies during the industrial depres-
sion of 1892-95. During this period, in which there was a vast amount of un-
employment and studies were being made in several states to determine the
extent of unemployment and the best means to reduce^ it, little success ^at-
tended the efforts to establish public employment agencies. But at the time
of the depression the attention was centered on unemployment rather than
on the protection of the unemployed. Consequently, the contention was
raised more during this period than at any other time that public agencies



148 REPORT OF THE MAYOR'S COMMISSION ON UNEMPLOYMENT

had succeeded in doing little more than take the places of some of the pri-
vate agencies and had not succeeded in reducing the amount of unemploy-
ment. Unemployment in itself did not seem to be a sufficient reason for the
establishment of such offices. In Massachusetts a careful study was made of
the various solutions of the problem of unemployment, and in both 1893 and
1895 it was recommended that the expense incurred in the maintenance of
public agencies did not justify their existence, and in 1895 it was urged in
addition, that instead of attempting to drive out the private employment agen-
cies, as had been attempted in Ohio, the state should have a series of reports
from different parts of the state in regard to the labor market, so that thereby
it would be possible for workers all over the state to have information regard-
ing the possibilities of work.

Massachusetts, Report of Board to Investigate the Subject of the
Unemployed, 1895, Part. V, pp. lii-lxiii.

In addition, the failure of bills for the establishment of public agencies in
Iowa, California, Massachusetts and Missouri during this period is to be ex-
plained by the fact that when the attention was centered on the means of
reducing unemployment, the public employment agency offered to them no
solution of the problem.

The Rhode Island state agency, however, was established as the direct
result of the industrial depression of 1907-08; a census of the unemployed was
taken, and the information secured in this census was the basis for the de-
mands for public agencies which should have the function of decreasing the
amount of unemployment. This same tendency was manifested previously in
Massachusetts in the law of 1906, which was passed after seven previous bills,
introduced into the legislature during the period from 1893 to 1905, had failed.
Aside from these two agencies, there are no clear cases of the establishment
of public employment agencies for the purpose of preventing or decreasing
unemployment.

Conner states, loc. cit., p. 67, that the Seattle municipal agency was
established without reference to the evils of the private employment agen-
cies. There is little evidence accessible in regard to the establishment of
this agency, but there are evidences, to which reference is made above,
pp. 146-147, that it was maintained partly, at least, as a competitor of pri-
vate agencies.

It would be fallacious, however, to assume that the movement for the
establishment of public employment agencies can be explained entirely in
terms of the evils of the private employment agencies. Various other factors
appear, and the entire situation must be taken into consideration for an ade-
quate explanation of the movement. But these other factors are vague, in-
definite and distinctly secondary in the ideals of the agencies before 1906 and
in mos't of the agencies since 1906.

There were some assumptions that the public agencies would reduce the
amount of unemployment.

California, 5th Biennial Report of Bureau of Labor Statistics. 1891-92,
pp. 12-13; Colorado, 1st Biennial Report of Bureau of Labor Statistics,
1887-88, pp. 368-69; Illinois, 10th Biennial Report of Bureau of Labor Sta-
tistics, 1898, pp. 44-45; Maryland, 9th Annual Report of Bureau of Sta-
tistics, 1900, p. Ill; Michigan, 29th Annual Report of Bureau of Labor,
1912, p. 18; New York, 14th Annual Report of Bureau of Labor Statistics,
1896, p. 1023; Ohio, 14th Annual Report of Bureau of Labor Statistics.
1890, p. 25; Oklahoma, 3rd Annual Report of Department of Labor, 1909-
10, p. 504; Rhode Island, 22nd Annual Report of Bureau of Industrial
Statistics, 1908, p. 563.

but there was no definite argument to show how such public agencies would
accomplish this, and practically no attempt to show that public agencies would
have any advantage over other kinds of employment agencies, except in the
fact that they were free which fact was merely taken for granted as a nec-
essary part of the public agency and that they would not be fraudulent. In
one case it was argued that they would be more efficient than private agen-
cies because disinterested, but even by this it was not meant that they would



REPORT OF THE MAYOR'S COMMISSION ON UNEMPLOYMENT 149

be more efficient in decreasing unemployment, but only in serving the em-
ployers, since their disinterestedness would enable them to choose workers
who were adapted to the positions offered by employers, while private agen-
cies sent any available -worker in order to get the fees.

Connecticut, 17th Annual Report of Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1901,

p. 12; Ohio, 14th Annual Report of Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1890, p. 25.

And more recently the Commissioner of the Department of Labor of
Oklahoma, has claimed that the public agencies of that state saved $51,252
to the state in one year because positions were filled more quickly than they
would have been in private agencies.

Oklahoma, 3rd Annual Report of Department of Labor, 1909-10, p.

504. This claim, however, has no justification from any facts presented

in the report.

There were other arguments that such public agencies would be a net
financial saving to the people of the state,

California, 5th Biennial Report of Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1891-
92, pp. 12-13; Connecticut, 15th Annual Report of Bureau of Labor Statis-
tics. 1899, pp. 137-70; Ohio, 14th Annual Report of Bureau of Labor Sta-
tistics, 1890, p. 19; Washington, 2nd Biennial Report of Bureau of Labor
Statistics, 1897-98, p. 157.
would reduce the amount of charity and crime,

California, 5th Biennial Report of Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1891-92,
pp. 12-13; Connecticut, 15th Annual Report of Bureau of Labor Statistics,

1899, pp. 137-38; Maryland, 9th Annual Report of Bureau of Statistics,

1900, p. Ill; Massachusetts, 34th Annual Report of Statistics of Labor,
1903, p. 210; New York, 14th Annual Report of Bureau of Labor Statis-
tics, 1896, p. 1023; Ohio, 14th Annual Report of Bureau of Labor Statis-
tics, 1890, p. 25; ibid., 16th Annual Report, 1892, pp. 12-13; Oklahoma, 2nd
Annual Report of Department of Labor, 1908-09, p. 13; West Virginia, 7th
Biennial Report of Bureau of Labor, 1901-02, pp. 93-94.

and would decrease the necessity of tramping in search of work.

Iowa, 4th Biennial Report of Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1890, pp.
2-3; North Carolina, 7th Annual Report of Bureau of Labor Statistics,
1893, pp. 629-30; Rhode Island, 24th Annual Report of Bureau of Industrial
Statistics, 1910, p. 223; Wisconsin, 10th Biennial Report of Bureau of
Labor, 1900-01, p. 761.

In these arguments there seems to be a vague conception of something
else than protection of the unemployed from the private employment agen-
cies, but there is no specific indication of how it was expected that these re-
sults would be accomplished by the public agencies, or what advantage the
public agencies would have over the non-public agencies except in regard to
the greater honesty of the public agencies and the free service.

In Massachusetts and a few of the other states, since 1906, it has been
claimed that public agencies would assist employers and employes to meet
and would thereby be of service to both parties. It was contended in Iowa
very indefinttely,

Iowa, 4th Biennial Report of Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1890, pp. 2-3,
and in Massachusetts, in 1895, much more definitely that the private and phil-
anthropic agencies did not secure definite information in regard to the gen-
eral labor market of the state; the Massachusetts Board of 1895, however, con-
sidered that public employment agencies, also, would be inadequate to secure
such information.

Massachusetts, Report of Board to Investigate the Subject of the Un-
employed, 1895, Part V, p. Ixii.

The Michigan Commission of Labor made a still more definite approach
to the question of unemployment in the argument that labor is a perishable
commodity, that both employer and employe suffer if all the opportunities
for employment are not filled and that therefore it is necessary to supplement
the industrial organization by means of public employment agencies.

Michigan, 29th Annual Report of Bureau of Labor, 1912, p. 18.



150 REPORT OF THE MAYOR'S COMMISSION ON UNEMPLOYMENT

It is undoubtedly true that the public agencies were expected to help em-
ployers as well as workingmen, but there have been no attempts to show definitely
how this would be accomplished, except in the efforts to assist farmers to secure
agricultural laborers, in which case the expected assistance to the farmers has
been concisely formulated.

Conner, loc. cit., pp. 52-53; Kansas, 1st Annual Report of Director of
Free Employment Bureau, 1901, pp. 6-8; New York, 17th Annual Report
of Commissioner of Agriculture, 1910, pp. 162-73; Ibid., 19th Annual Re-
port, 1912, pp. 334-40; Sargent, loc. cit., p. 140.

It may be concluded, then, that the public employment agencies have
been established and maintained primarily and almost entirely for the pur-
pose of protecting the unemployed against the private employment agencies,
and of enabling them to secure employment without paying fees. They have
not had the purpose, characteristically, of reducing unemployment, nor have
they been established to solve the problem of unemployment. Their meth-
ods have, consequently, been determined with reference to competition with
private employment agencies. Therefore, it is not difficult to understand why
the public employment agencies have not succeeded in organizing the labor
market as the students of unemployment demand.

Failure of the public employment agencies to organize the labor market
is explained, also, by the fact that there has been no general and active
public demand for them. It is reported that the Seattle agency was the result
of an almost unanimous vote of the people of the city,

Conner, loc. cit., p. 67.

and there has been competition between cities in Connecticut, Massachu-
setts, Minnesota and Ohio to secure the location of agencies;

Conner, loc. cit., pp. 11, 38-39; Ohio, 29th Annual Report of Bureau
of Labor Statistics, 1905, pp. 9-10.

this interest seems to be confined, however, largely to the rivalry between
cities in the desire to have equal facilities, for it is reported that the public in
general in Connecticut and Massachusetts have shown no desire for such
agencies,

Conner, loc. cit., p. 11; Massachusetts, Report of Board to Investigate
the Subject of the Unemployed, 1895, Part V, p. Ixii,

while in other states it has been complained that the public was apathetic and
ignorant of the existence of these agencies, or even slightly hostile.

Conner, loc. cit., pp. 32, 42; Indiana, 14th Biennial Report of Depart-
ment of Statistics, 1911-12, p. 69; Maryland, 15th Annual Report of Bureau
of Statistics, 1906, p. 125.

There has been no vital connection between the general public and the
movement for the establishment of the public employment agencies.

Conner has stated that "the active supporters of this movement are the
labor unions."

Loc. cit., p. 88.

The Ohio law was drafted by the Municipal Labor Congress of Cincinnati,
the central labor organization of the city;

Ohio, 14th Annual Report of Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1890, pp.
20-21.

in Portland the idea of a municipal employment agency was presented to the
mayor by the Central Labor Council, which, also, has assisted in the man-
agement of the agency since its establishment;

Oregon, 4th Biennial Report of Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1908-10,
p. 73.

in Tacoma the unions secured the sanction of both political parties to a bill
for such agencies and pushed it through the council;

Conner, loc. cit., p. 72.
while in Montana.

Conner, loc. cit., p. 50.



REPORT OF THE MAYOR'S COMMISSION ON UNEMPLOYMENT 151

Colorado,

Colorado, 12th Biennial Report of Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1909-
10, p. 194.
and Los Angeles,

Conner, loc.- cit., p. 8..

the public agencies are reported to be the result primarily of the activities
of the labor unions. The unions favored the passage of laws or were more or
less active in urging them in Connecticut,

Conner, loc. cit., p. 11.
in Iowa in 1893 and again in 1906,

Iowa, 5th Biennial Report of Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1893, p. 12;
Downey, History of Labor Legislation in Iowa, p. 189.
in Indiana,

Sargent, loc. cit., p. 42.
Nebraska,

Nebraska, 4th Biennial Report of Bureau of Labor, 1893-94, p. 529.
Rhode Island,

Sargent, loc. cit., p. 119.
and Wisconsin.

Conner, loc. cit., p. 78.

But these reports of agitation and demand by trade unions are not speci-
fic; the demands seem to mean in many cases only that some unions passed
resolutions in favor of such agencies, which may mean only that the unions
were not hostile to them. In California the unions assisted the Commis-
sioner of Labor, who had opened a public employment agency in San Fran-
cisco without specific legislative enactment, by collecting funds from the pub-
lic for the maintenance of such an agency.

E. L. Bogart, Quarterly Journal of Economics, 14:359. May, 1900.
In Oklahoma the State Federation of Labor, the Central Trades and
Labor Council of Oklahoma City and the Painters' and Decorators' Union of
Oklahoma City urged that the first state agency be moved from Guthrie to
Oklahoma City.

Oklahoma, 1st Annual Report of Department of Labor, 1908, pp.
171-72.

In Missouri the unions were not influential in the establishment of
public agencies, but have urged an extension of the services to other cities.

Conner, loc. cit., p. 42.

In Illinois, where, also, the unions were not active in securing the pas-
sage of the act, they have in some cases urged an extension of the system;
in 1913 at a joint meeting of eight organizations of cooks and waiters in
Chicago a resolution was adopted demanding the abolition of private em-
ployment agencies, and the extension of the state employment agencies; this
resolution was endorsed by the Chicago Federation of Labor on March 2,
1913, and the legislative committee of the Federation was instructed to use
efforts to secure the passage of a bill to that effect.

Minutes of meeting of Chicago Federation of Labor, March 2, 1913.

On the other hand the trade unions have been quite definitely hostile

to the establishment of such agencies in other cases. In New Jersey a bill

presented to the legislature in 1907 failed, mainly because of the opposition

of the trade unions.

Letter from Chief of Bureau of Labor Statistics of New Jersey,
May 6, '12.

In 1896 a citizens' committee in Grand Rapids, Michigan, had plans under


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 22 24 25 26 27

Online LibraryChicago. Mayor's Commission on UnemploymentReport of the Mayor's Commission on Unemployment → online text (page 22 of 27)