Chicago. Mayor's Commission on Unemployment.

Report of the Mayor's Commission on Unemployment online

. (page 24 of 27)
Online LibraryChicago. Mayor's Commission on UnemploymentReport of the Mayor's Commission on Unemployment → online text (page 24 of 27)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

unions and employers or employers' associations in order to develop this
unified system. The appointment of a state superintendent, whose duty is
to study the entire situation with reference to unemployment, promises a
better adaptation of the agencies to the needs of the labor market, while
the removal of these agencies from the control of the politicians by civil
service makes possible a greater continuity of plans and policies. The bul-
letins in regard to the labor market in Wisconsin, as, also, in Massachu-
setts, are evidence of the possibilities of securing wider information in re-
gard to the labor market, though these bulletins are not sufficiently ex-
plicit and frequent to be, up to date, of great value in the actual direction
of the workers. The Chicago Commission on Unemployment has made
recommendations that aim at the breaking up of the three competing and
distinct state agencies in Chicago and the substitution of co-ordinated efforts.
The State Immigration, Land and Labor Officials have made demands for
a nationalization of the work of employment agencies and a co-operation
between the states. The formation recently of the American Association
of Public Employment Agencies of the United States and Canada is an
indication of increased co-operation between the agencies. A number of the
states have been extending the agencies to the smaller cities, thus making
possible a net of agencies covering the state; Indiana started its system
with one agency in 1909, and then added four more in 1911; Michigan started
with two agencies in 1905, added two more in 1907, one in 1908, and author-
ized five more in 1911, though no appropriation was made for them, and they
have not yet been established.

These five agencies were to be located in Battle Creek, Bay City,

Flint, Muskegon and Traverse City. Michigan, 29th Annual Report

of Bureau of Labor, 1912, p. 18.

All of these movements have been or seem very likely to be productive of
increases in the number of positions secured, in the patronage by employ-
ers and employes, and in general efficiency. They are all approaches to the
ideal held by the students of unemployment. But these changes are com-
paratively recent and it is not yet possible to appraise accurately the results
of such changes. It is, therefore, necessary to analyze more concretely the
situation with which the agencies are attempting to deal in order to deter-
mine the possibilities of successful functioning.

A very fundamental factor in determining the possible success of em-
ployment agencies in reducing the number of unemployed is the distribu-
tion of unemployment. The general assumption on which employment
agencies are based is that much unemployment is due to the maladjustment
of labor, to the fact that there are demands for labor which, if known, would
absorb many of the unemployed. There is no doubt of the existence of such
maladjustment, but there is no statistical verification of the extent to which
this is the cause of unemployment. TKe usual proof is a comparison of the
statistics of unemployment kept by trade unions with the newspaper or
other popular assertions in regard to demands for labor. Thus it is found
that some members of the unions are unemployed at all times during the


year, and at some periods in the year employers through the newspapers
spread the information that they are suffering from lack of labor.

The trade union statistics represent the number of members of the
unions who are out of work on the last day of the month. This is not an
assured representation of unemployment as a whole; moreover it does not
represent pure unemployment alone, i. e., such as is caused by inability to
find work when willing and able to work; it is complicated by such things
as the desire to remain out of work for a short time between jobs, trade
union standards which prevent members from working for certain employ-
ers, standards of workmanship which prevent skilled workers from accepting
unskilled employment, etc. But there are no statistics with the least sem-
blance of accuracy in regard to the demands for labor. It is necessary to
rely on vague reports of lack of labor, on newspaper accounts which are
often exaggerated.

This may be illustrated by the fact that the newspapers related
that the Commissioner of Public Works of Detroit in a time of dis-
tress set afoot public works which called for 5,000 men, and that
only 10 applicants applied and they all wanted to be bosses. Corre-
spondence with this commissioner revealed the fact that only 500
jobs were offered and 3,000 men applied for them. E. A. Ross, At-
lantic Monthly, 105:307-08, March, '10.

and on statements of employers which are made for the implicit purpose
of inducing immigration and, by other means, securing a sufficiently large
number of competitors for employment to keep down wages. There can
be no doubt, of course, of the extreme need of employers for labor.

According to the newspapers the steel corporations and coal
companies were hunting the prisons for workmen and paying their
fines in order to secure them for employment. New York Times,
June 27, '12.

but there are no statistics which will make it possible to determine the
length of time for which such labor is demanded, or the extent of the un-
satisfied demand for labor. Since there is no definite knowledge in regard
to the extent of unemployment due to this maladjustment, there can be no
certainty as to the extent to which unemployment can be prevented by ef-
ficient public employment agencies. Any decision in regard to this is largely
assumption, made on the basis of scattered and inadequate statistics which
treat labor as homogeneous and impersonal. In addition the theoretical
question of the regularity of the demand for labor in general is compli-
cated by assumptions in regard to the wages paid for such labor.

No one knows whether the demands for labor, even if regular on the
whole, are of such a nature that it is possible to secure a complete dove-
tailing of occupations. Before definite knowledge in regard to the possi-
bilities of transference of labor from one occupation to another can be
had, it will be necessary to study not only the variations in the demands
for labor in different occupations and even that has not been done in an
intensive way but also the degree to which the skill required in different
occupations is similar and can be transferred.

It is noteworthy that Webb first worked out his plan for organi-
zation of the labor market (Webb, Public Organization of the Labour
Market, 1909), and then later made intensive studies of seasonal trades.
(Webb, Seasonal Trades, 1912.)

The statistics of unemployment show that for the United States as a
whole, and for each principal industrial state, the number of persons em-
ployed in the industries fluctuates regularly, with one crest in May and an-
other in September or October. Whether this industrial variation would be
off-set if non-industrial occupations were included in the statistics is un-
certain. Likewise there are definite surpluses for the United States as a
whole, and for each industrial state, in the number employed in busy
years over the number employed in years of depression. Both the seasonal
and the cyclical surplus of labor is reduced, to a certain extent, by variations


in immigration and by emigration, for, as Hourwich has stated, "Unem-
ployment and immigration are the effects of economic forces working in
opposite directions; that which produces business expansion reduces unem-
ployment and attracts immigration; that which produces business depression
decreases unemployment and reduces immigration."

Immigration and Labor, p. 145. Fairchild, however, states that
emigration has a very trifling palliative effect on unemployment in times of
crises. Immigration, p. 352.

Thus there is, on the whole, some doubt in regard to the extent to which
public employment agencies, with an ideal organization and administration,
could make a material reduction in the amount of unemployment, for it is
agreed that public agencies could furnish employment only when there are
positions offered by the employers.

But the public employment agencies are not undertaking to prevent all
unemployment; they are merely a part of the more general program for the
prevention and alleviation of unemployment. The particular function of
the employment agency is to organize the labor market, and by that means
to reduce unemployment as much as possible. Consequently, uncertainty in
regard to the extent to which unemployment can be prevented by public
agencies is not fatal to the efficiency of these institutions in the performance
of their assigned function.

One of the ideals of the public employment agency is to promote a con-
trolled mobility of labor, and thus to prevent the aimless wandering in
search of employment, or the hawking of labor. In regard to this ideal it
may be asked, Is it possible for public employment agencies to prevent the
custom of wandering in search of employment? And, To what extent is an
increase in mobility of labor probable?

There is no doubt that it' is possible for the public agencies by means
of more complete information in regard to demand for labor to reduce
the habit of hawking labor, but the pressure of unemployment would ap-
parently maintain the custom to some extent as long as it proved profitable,
and it would be rendered unprofitable only by monopolization of the work
of placement, and by some assured means of support during unemployment,
such as insurance. It may be concluded, then, that any efficient employment
agency will reduce the hawking of labor, that employment agencies which can
secure a monopoly of placement will eliminate most wandering for em-
ployment, except when there is pressure of extreme unemployment, and
that wandering in search of employment can be completely eliminated only
by a supplementation of the public agencies by some other parts of the
program for dealing with unemployment, such as insurance against unem-
ployment. The success of the agencies in preventing this hawking of labor
depends, therefore, largely on the ability of the agencies to secure, either
by greater efficiency or by law, such a unified control of placements as to
grant them a virtual monopoly. The possibility of securing such a monopoly
depends, in turn, on the attitudes of the possible patrons of the agencies.

The purpose of increasing the mobility of labor is based on the belief
that unemployment in one community does not mean unemployment in other
communities, that the facilities for finding employment are at present better
in the city than in the small towns and open country, and especially that
the facilities for securing work in one community are much better than the
facilities which exist in any community for finding work in other communi-

Devine, op. cit., pp. 7-9.

Of 176 employers in New York City 71.0 per cent reported that they
could always secure all the help they .desired, while of 547 employers in
the rest of New York a smaller proportion, 60.8 per cent, reported that
they could always secure all the help they wanted.

New York, Report of Commission on Unemployment, 1911, pp.
159-60; Devine, op. cit, p. 185.

Lodging house statistics show that during depression there is an increase


in the relative number of applications by persons who have been in the
city a short time.

Devine, op. cit, p. 194.

And some factories which have been moved from the cities to the suburbs
or to smaller towns have been compelled to return to the cities because
of the inability to secure labor in the suburbs or small towns.

E. E. Pratt, Industrial Causes of Congestion of Population in
New York City, Columbia Studies, Whole No. 109, 1911, pp. 74, 100-02.
Thus it appears that, on the one hand, the employers in the smaller towns
have the greater difficulty of securing help and, on the other hand, the em-
ployes in the smaller towns go to the cities when unemployed. This is ap-
parently because the facilities for finding employment in the smaller towns
are fewer, because more people, in absolute number, are finding employment
in the cities, and hence, there is a better gambling chance in the cities to
secure work, and because the opportunities for employment in the smaller
towns and open country are scattered.

In view of these facts it is proposed that the public employment agen-
cies, by securing information in regard to a wider area, will be able to in-
crease the mobility of the workers, and thus to reduce the unemployment.
Some of the skilled workers and the unskilled workers to a much greater
extent have developed habits of mobility.

New York, Report of Commission of Immigration, 1909, pp. 121-22;
William Hard, Unemployment as a Coming Issue, American Labor Legis-
lation Review, 2:96-97, '12.

One hindrance to greater mobility has been the lack of definite, accurate and
trustworthy information in regard to employment in other localities, and some of
the foreign public agencies, by furnishing such information, have succeeded in
promoting mobility.

Rowntree and Lasker, Bulletin de 1'association pour la lutte contre le
chomage, 1 :407, Oct.-Dec., '11.

Nevertheless it has been a general experience that many of the workers ex-
hibit an extreme disinclination to employment in the smaller towns or open coun-
try, and prefer to remain unemployed in the city and take chances on securing
employment later.

Massachusetts, Report of Board to Investigate the Subject of the Un-
employed, 1895, Part V, pp. 87-99; National Employment Exchange, 1st An-
nual Report, 1910, p. 23 ; New York, Report of Commission on Unemploy-
ment, 1911, pp. 102-03. There is a large number of articles in regard to
the migration of workers to the country in Europe. See, on this, particu-
larly, B. K., Les migrations ouvrieres et la placement agricole, Bulletin de
1'association pour la lutte contre le chomage, 2:381-410, July-Sept., '12; L.
Paperin, Le placement agricole, ibid., pp. 429-32. Each of these articles
contains a bibliography on the subject.

This attitude is due not only to the dislike of the open country, but also to the
desire to maintain a family life, to the fear that employment in other communi-
ties will be temporary, as well as to a more fundamental disinclination to mobility
and to the breaking away from personal group relationships. The extent to
which mobility can be increased in view of this attitude is questionable. While
the unskilled and unattached workers may submit to transference from one com-
munity to another, there is doubt both in regard to the extent to which that
would relieve general unemployment and the extent to which the skilled or at-
tached workers would be willing to develop similar mobility.

The attitude of the trade unions is another .factor in the possibilities of or-
ganization of the labor market by the public employment agencies. There is, at
present, no consistent trade union policy in regard to public employment agencies,
but there are indications of such a policy contained in the statements which have
been made and in the probable effects which public employment agencies will
have on other trade union policies. It has been unnecessary for the unions to
take a very vital interest in these agencies because of the fact that the applicants
for employment in such agencies have not generally been in the skilled trades in


which unions are organized. The previous expressions of attitudes have been
various and have been in general uncorrelated with a general trade union policy.
But there are factors in the present situation and in the newer ideals of public
employment agencies which make it probable that the unions will manifest hos-
tility toward an extension of the agencies.

In the first place, the American Federation of Labor has undertaken a more
vigorous campaign for the organization of the unskilled and migratory labor.
They expect that one inducement which will affect these workers who are at
present unorganized is the possibility of assistance in securing employment by the
inauguration of union employment agencies. The preemption of this function by
the state would, therefore, take away one incentive for these unskilled workers
to form organizations and therefore would weaken the efforts of the American
Federation of Labor to extend its organization. Consequently the American Fed-
eration of Labor would be likely to insist on the preservation of this function of
placement for the workers themselves in order to retain the incentive to become
organized, and to shift their attention from public agencies, in so far as it has been
so directed in some localities, to "collective self-help.'' There are many indica-
tions of this recent attempt of the unions to solve the problem.

California, 10th Annual Convention of California State Federation of
Labor, 1909, pp. 45-46; statement by Victor Olander, President of the Lake
Seamen's Union, in report of Sub-Committee on Immigration to the Chicago
Commission on Unemployment; John Mitchell, Shingle Weaver, Oct. 4, '13,
p. 1 ; Gompers, Address to the Convention of the American Federation of
Labor, in A. F. of L. News Letter, Nov. 15, '13, p. 9.

In the second place, it may be expected that the trade unions will oppose the
public employment agencies as central agencies because, as such, they would de-
prive the unions of a weapon in the struggle against the employers. Placement
is a function which the American unions have performed since their origin, which
has assisted them in the control of the labor supply of their trades, and has been
valuable in the maintenance of such conditions as the closed shop. It is largely
through their employment agencies that the unions are able to -secure a control of
the personnel and to insist on the closed shop ; and both of these policies are
fundamental to trade unionism as at present organized. The agencies assist the
members of the union to secure positions in union shops, and they assist the em-
ployers to secure union employes. In public agencies the union members would
be on a par with non-union applicants for employment, except in so far as the
employers could be induced to demand union workers from the public agencies.
If the employer refused to make such demands, the state would lend its assistance
to him to secure employes without reference to membership in unions. Thus the
union would be deprived of this means of control. Though the union employment
agencies have not been highly efficient, the unions are not apt to surrender them
until compelled to do so, and are apt to manifest hostility to an attempt to de-
prive them of this weapon. There have been few expressions by unions in regard
to this, for it has hardly been contemplated in the United States as a possibility.
Conner found, however, that the trade unionists generally were indifferent or hos-
tile to an extension of public agencies to the skilled trades,

Loc. cit., p. 90.

and some of the Chicago unions, which were favorable to public agencies as gen-
eral institutions, stated in 1912 that they would oppose them in their own trades.
It seems utterly impossible that the trade unions would manifest any other atti-
tude than one of hostility toward an extension of the public agencies which were
so organized as to deprive them entirely of this function and as to promote inter-
occupational mobility without reference to union membership.

To this argument it would probably be replied that two of the state agencies
in Wisconsin and the municipal .agencies in Tacoma, Spokane and Portland are
managed by boards representing the trade unions, the employers and the city or
state. But these agencies exist in practice principally for the unskilled ; the
trade unions retain their own agencies for their trades ; the unions cooperate in
the management of such institutions almost entirely for the assistance of work-
ers who are still unorganized. The question of elimination of the union employ-
ment agencies and of a policy of inter-occupational mobility in opposition to the
trade union policy- of trade exclusiveness has hardly been considered in these
agencies, and in these localities such developments have not been significantly


dangerous to the trade unions. In Germany the trade union congress was ex-
tremely hostile to the jointly managed agencies in 1896 and warned the mem-
bers against any other form of control than that of the unions.

Protokoll der Verhandlungen des zweiten Kongresses der Gewerk-
schaften Deutschlands, Berlin, 1896, p. 124; There had been even before
this some jointly managed agencies. See R. Michels, Das Problem der
Arbeitslosigkeit und ihre Bekampfung durch die deutschen freien Gewerk-
schaften, Archiv fur Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik, 31 :467, 1910.
but in 1899 admitted the validity of that form of control under some circum-

Protokoll der Verhandlungen des dritten Kongresses der Gewerk-
schaften Deutschlands, 1899, p. 203 ; Michels, loc. cit., pp. 465-67.
and since 1903 have sometimes demanded such control in their trade agreements
and have even instituted strikes to secure it.

Beveridge, Economic Journal, 18:15, March, '03.

In many cities of Germany the trade unions have incorporated their own
agencies in the public agencies and especially in Stuttgart all the strong unions,
except the printers, have surrendered their own agencies.

Beveridge, loc. cit. p. 7.

Moreover in Germany the most prevalent and successful form of public
agency is that under the joint control of unions and employers. It is necessary,
however, not only to know the fact of the change of attitude, in regard to which
there is no doubt, but also to secure an explanation of that change. The em-
ployers' associations in Germany have been able to establish extremely successful
employment agencies, which have been virtual blacklists, and to which the work-
ers have manifested very great opposition ; the unions have been unable to secure
such complete control of the labor supply as to make it necessary for the em-
ployers to patronize their union agencies. Consequently it was to the advantage
of the unions to compromise on a joint control of the public agency, if the em-
ployers would consent or could be compelled to do so, rather than to maintain
what appeared to be a losing fight with the agencies of the employers.

Kessler, Die Arbeitsnachweise der Arbeitgebervefbande, 1911, passim;
B. K., La lutte pour le placement paritaire, Bulletin de 1'association pour la
lutte centre le chomage, 1:239-61, Oct.-Dec., '11, reproducing parts of
Sachsische Gewerksschaftskartelle, 'Protokoll viber die Verhandlungen der
ersten Konferenz, 1909, pp. 58-59; and Protokoll der Verhandlungen des
achten Kongresses der Gewerkschaften Deutschlands, 1911, pp. 305-06.

Jastrow has objected to this explanation of the change in attitude of
the trade unions and maintains that the change was due to a favorable ex-
perience with the public agencies in actual operation, rather than to the
struggle with employers. Arbeitsmarkt und Arbeitsnachweis, p. 168.
If this explanation is correct, this cooperation of the trade union in the joint
management of the public agency means that the unions have compromised be-
cause they could not compete successfully with the employers in the attempt to
control the labor market through their agencies, and that they have been willing
to surrender their independent and exclusive control of the agencies in considera-
tion of the elimination of the employers' agencies.

In England, where the union agencies are much stronger than in Germany
and the agencies of the employers' associations have had a slighter development,
the unions, though somewhat favorable to the public agencies before they were
established, have manifested general hostility since operations have begun. State-
ments have been made by trade unionists in their Congress that they would abolish
the entire system if possible, that the agencies are the worst evil that has befal-
len the workers and that the agencies have been of value to the employers in
securing strike-breakers but are not needed by the workers.

Beveridge, Compte rendu de la conference international du chomage,
1910, Vol. Ill, No. 26, p. 15; 42nd Annual Report of Trades Union Con-

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 24 26 27

Online LibraryChicago. Mayor's Commission on UnemploymentReport of the Mayor's Commission on Unemployment → online text (page 24 of 27)