Chicago. Mayor's Commission on Unemployment.

Report of the Mayor's Commission on Unemployment online

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telephones, with two or three operators ; they have rooms on which the rent may be
three or four times as much as on the offices of the State Employment Office;
they have a number of solicitors in the field all the time drumming up trade; in
some cases they send these solicitors to distant states to secure laborers : they ad-
vance the money required for transportation to the place where the employment is
to be had ; the agency of Clapp, Norstrom and Riley has equipped a free pool-
room, with tables for cards, and with a toilet,' in which the men may stay while
they are waiting for jobs; there were at least 200 men in this room when it was
visited ; some of the agencies hire persons to conduct the unemployed to the

The entire explanation of the success of the private employment agencies is
that they have used business methods and have made expenditures in order to se-
cure and hold the trade of their patrons, by doing their work more efficiently than
other agencies do it. The State Employment Agency has made a comparative
failure because it has failed to use such methods.

The attitude of the employment agents toward their work. The employment
agents quite generally expressed themselves to the following effect: (1) The
private employment agents are necessary in our present system ; they are performing


a very useful work ; they save time and trouble for both employers and employees.
(2) The employment agencies as a class are justified; people generally criticise all
employment agents without reference to the differences in the methods; there are
some unscrupulous agents in this business, but as a class employment agents are
not more unscrupulous than bankers, or merchants. (3) It should be made more
difficult for agents to secure licenses to run employment offices ; this would, shut
out a good many of the good-for-nothing agencies ; would make inspection of the
existing agencies easier; and would tend to establish the employment agencies as
a reputable and necessary business.

The attitude of the employment agents torvard the State Employment Office.
The private employment agents expressed their general attitude toward state em-
ployment agencies as follows: (1) The State Employment Agency would be a good
thing for the private agencies if it were successful enough to get employers in the
habit of getting their employees through agencies, rather than depending on the
crowd of surplus unemployed at their gates ; but at the present time some of the
large firms, such as the International Harvester Company, the Steel Mills, etc.
employ more new men in one day than all the men placed through the private,
state and charitable agencies of the city in a day. (2) The state agency can not
succeed in this country because of the feeling of independence of the people : they
will not patronize a free agency, because it is regarded as charity : only -those who
are "down-and-out" will go to it ; since these applicants are inefficient, the employ-
ers will not patronize it except as a last extremity.

The answer to these last objections made by the employment agents is: (1)
The employers of the city have as much independence as the employees ; neverthe-
less, the employers get almost all their help free through the private agencies ; it
is only in exceptional cases, such as domestic service, that fees are paid by em-
ployers ; in some cases the employer gets a part of the fee paid by the unemployed ;
the service to the employer is just as great as the service to the employee ; the
employee has to pay for it. This is charity to the employer, which his feeling of
independence does not prevent him from accepting.

(2) Many of the private agencies charge no fees when it is difficult to secure
labor; in summer time the labor agencies make very great efforts and offer large
inducements to laborers in order to get them to come to their offices; they offer
free transportation, charge no fees, give them provisions while they are on the'
way to the place of work, and offer other inducements ; if it were true that the
"feeling of independence" would prevent the laborers from taking something for
nothing, these methods would keep laborers away from the offices.

(3) A state employment office or a city employment office is no more charity
than the public schools; both employers and employees contribute through taxation
to -its support. It was prophesied that self-respecting people would not send their
children to charitable institutions, such as public schools; it is soon realized that
they are not charitable institutions, but are public institutions, in the control and
management of which the people are justified in demanding a part.






Kind of Agency



Labor agencies:
Great Northern ....


4 to $6 when laborers are plenty; no

Balkan Labor Agency

10 000

fees when scarce.
Same fees as Great Northern.
$6 to $8 when laborers are plenty; no
fees when scarce.
$10 to nothing.

Clapp, Norstrom and


$15 to nothing; the average fee for 1910
was $1.36.

Schmidt Empl. Ag. ...

Kaliszewski Emp. Ag.



$2 for girls; $2 to $10 of private families
asking for girls.
Same as Schmidt.
$2 paid by girls.



$1 to $2 paid by girls.

Chicago Empl. Ag. ...

Clerical and mercantile:


10% to 25% of first month's salary.
2% for positions paving less than $1,500

Business Serv. Co....

King's Mercantile Ag.

Merchants' Cler. Exc.
Theatrical agencies:
Western Vaudeville ..


60 per day In
good times

200 per week
500 per week

per year to 4% for positions paying
more than $3,600 per year; 7.5% of sal-
ary received for temporary positions.
Registration fee of $2; from one week's
salary for positions paying less than
$15 per week to. 60% of first month's
salary for more than $1,200 per year.
Registration fee of $2: 60 f / f of first
month's salary for permanent posi-
tions; 10% of salary for temporary po-
One week's pay; one-sixth of salary for
temporary work.

One week's pay.

5% of salary.
5% of salary.
5% of salary.

Nurses agencies


5% of salary.

Teachers' agencies:


5% of vear's salary.



5% of year's salary -f- $2.



5% of year's salary -4- $2.


By Mr. R. W. Foley.

The investigation upon which this report is based was made during the months
of April, May and June, 1912. among 25 organizations. Some among the number
are doing a work so similar as to admit of a distinct classification by themselves,
but because as a whole the work done by the organizations is so miscellaneous
they will for the most part be considered as a miscellaneous whole.

The organizations visited are as follows : The Volunteers of America, 1201-
1213 West \Vashington Street; The American Salvation Army, 1816 Lake Street;
The Chicago Christian Industrial League. 10-14 East Twelfth Street; The Salva-
tion Army Industrial Home, 211 North Green Street; The Parting of the Ways
Home, corner 22nd and Clark; The Central Howard Association, 509 Monadnock
Block, 312 South Dearborn Street: The Chicago Typothetae, 53 West Jackson
Boulevard; The National Founders' Association, room 842, 29 South LaSalle Street;


The Metal Trades Employment Bureau, 115 South Dearborn Street; The Remington
Employment Agency, 35 South Wabash ; The Underwood Typewriter Company
Employment Agency, 14 South Wabash; The L. C. Smith Brothers' Employment
Bureau, 123 North Wabash; The Chicago Business College, 132 North Wabash;
The Metropolitan Business College, 37 South Wabash ; The United Charities, 165
North LaSalle Street; The Masonic Employment Agency, 159 North State Street;
The Fellowship Association Royal League, 1607 Masonic Temple ; The Negro Fel-
lowship League Employment Agency, 2830 South State Street ; The Catholic Wom-
an's League, 7 West Madison Street; The Swedish National Association, 107 North
Dearborn Street ; The Swedish American Employment Agency, 465 West Chicago
Avenue ; The Norwegian National League Employment Bureau, 2742 West North
Avenue; The B'nai B'rith Free Employment Agency, 720 West Twelfth Street; The
Y. M. C. A. Employment Bureau, 830 South Michigan Boulevard ; Malcolm Mc-
Dowell, Agent, 125 West Monroe Street.

The first four organizations named in this list, namely, The Volunteers of
America, The American Salvation Army, The Chicago Christian Industrial League
and the Salvation Army Industrial Home are alike in that they all support them-
selves wholly or in large part (/. e. in the department where wagons are used)
by the sale of various articles collected from all parts of the city by wagons. In
the Volunteers of America regular men are employed to drive the wagons, but in
the other three organizations the drivers and other workers in the department,
including paper and rag assorters and furniture repairers, are transients, needy and
without work, to whom work is given for a time until other employment can be
secured. In all four of these cases the employment department itself is only a
part of the whole work done by the organizations. Much of their employment
work is done as a means of temporary relief.

The Parting of the Ways Home gives temporary lodging and board, and in
most instances clothes to men discharged from the Bridewell and other penal insti-
tutions, and secures employment for them as nearly as possible suited to their
capabilities. The Central Howard Association secures employment for and other-
wise assists men discharged from penal institutions, and men on probation and on

The Chicago Typothetae, The National Founders' Association, and The Metal
Trades Employment Bureau are labor bureaus operated by Employers' Associations
for the benefit of the members in the Association, with the object to be able to
secure at all times sufficient open-shop labor so that the employer will not be in the
grasp of the labor unions.

The Chicago Business College and the Metropolitan Business College are repre-
sentative of the labor exchanges necessary for the placing of graduates from such
schools into active business life.

The Remington Employment Agency, The Underwood Typewriter Company
Employment Agency, and the L. C. Smith Brothers Employment Bureau furnish a
clearing house for typists and stenographers and employers of such labor. These
bureaus are placed under the heading "Bureaus not for Profit," but in reality they
are operated directly for advertising purposes to the end that more machines may
be sold to the public.

The work done by Malcolm McDowell, as acting agent for some private parties
interested in the labor problem and the "down and outs" needs special mention.
Mr. McDowell's bread-line of last winter and his provision of w.arm clothes to
make it possible for many unemployed to work in the ice fields and elsewhere and
his activity in securing shelter on cold nights for many without a comfortable place
to sleep has been in part, at least, the means of awakening the city of Chicago to
the need of serious thought about the problem of unemployment, as evidenced by
the appointment of a Commission to study the Nature and Extent of Unemployment
in the City.

Brief mention will be made as to the purpose of the other organizations visited.
The United Charities seeks employment for people only as a means of relief. Some-
times it pays the fee for the use of one of the regular agencies operating for profit.

The Masonic Employment agency is operated for the benefit of Masons, the
Fellowship Association Royal League for members of the Royal League, the Negro
Fellowship League Employment Agency for negroes, the Catholic Woman's League
for working girls with a view to protect them from lives of prostitution, the Swedish
National Association and the Swedish-American Employment Agency for Swedish,


Danish, Norwegian and Finnish, the Norwegian National League for Norwegians,
the B'nai B'rith Free Employment Agency for Jews, and the Y. W. C. A. for work-
ing women.

How Supported. Of the four organizations making collection of old
materials by wagons, two are supported entirely by the sale in stores of this material.
These two are the Salvation Army Industrial Home and the American Salvation
Army. The other two, namely the Volunteers of America and the Chicago Chris-
tian Industrial League, are supported partly by the sale of materials collected and
partly by voluntary contribution. The three bureaus operated by employers' asso-
ciations are supported by membership dues, paid 'by the employers who are benefited,
in proportion to the number of men they have in their employ. The business
colleges and typewriter concerns pay directly out of their treasury for the mainte-
nance of their labor bureaus, counting this expenditure, as has already been indi-
cated, as profitable advertising. The other bureaus are supported either by the
nationality or class or society for whose benefit the bureau is maintained, or by
private contributions on the part of those who are interested in the particular kind
of work supported.

To Whom Accountable. Each bureau is accountable either to those
who give their support to the work, or to some sort of board of directors or mana-
gers who attend to the oversight of the use of the funds placed in their hands.
In 23 out of the 25 bureaus here represented there is a committee or board of
directors in charge representing the people who are behind the work.

Licensed and Why. Only four out of the twenty-five bureaus have state
licenses, namely: The Y. W. C. A., the Swedish American Employment
Agency, the National Founders' Association, and the Chicago Typothetae. The
Swedish American Employment Agency has a license because they say that
without a license and without the right to charge for services when people
were able to pay, they were too much imposed upon by unworthy people. The
Chicago Typothetae has a license so that union men will not keep running to
Mr. Cruden's office to make complaint about them. They feel that they can
be open to no criticism when Mr. Cruden, the State Inspector of Labor
Bureaus, has access to their office at all times.

How to Get in Touch With Employers. The Central Howard Association
and the Parting of the Ways Home, which deal with discharged prisoners and
men on parole and on probation, have a list of friends of the work who are
employers of men and upon whom they call when in need. Many employers
are glad to get such men, because in many instances the men give better service
than the average workmen in their desire to make good. Only the members
of the Employers' Associations are benefited by their bureaus, unless it happens
that there is an excess of workmen, in which case the associations try to keep
their men busy. At the other twenty bureaus application is made at the office,
and in thirteen out of the twenty some aggressive work is done to get in touch
with employers, either by advertising or by personal solicitation.

How to Get in Touch With Employees. The men on parole and on proba-
tion at the Central Howard Association are sent by the court or by the
prisons. The three employers' associations do some advertising for men. The
business colleges have the people with whom they deal in their schools. The
Negro League and the Catholic Woman's League also advertise their work;
the Negro League in the South and also the North and the Catholic Woman's
League in all Europe. With these exceptions application is made at the office
of the bureaus.

To What Extent is Business More Than Local? The National Founders'
Association sends about 95% of their men out of town. With the exception
that some men are sent to factories at Moline and Joliet and some to farms,
and some girls to out of town work as maids, most of the remainder of the
business is local.

Investigation of Applicants for Work. Thirteen out of the twenty-five
bureaus make some sort of investigation of the men who seek work, and
twelve make no investigation. In all cases where investigation is needed it is
made. It is not needed for very short jobs of manual labor.

Slack and Busy Months. The Y. W. C. A. Employment Bureau is very
dull in midsummer and midwinter. The Business College Bureaus are busiest
at the time of year when the largest number of students are being graduated,


namely in the months of March, April and May for stenographers. The type-
writer agencies are busy all of the time. What they lose in placing people in
permanent positions in the summer months, they gain in the placing of tem-
porary help to substitute for the many stenographers away on their vacations.
In the Metal Trades Employment Agency business is slack from the middle of
November until the first of February. In the National Founders' Association
Bureau business is said to be a feast and a famine. The heavy machinery
business has not picked up since the panic of 1900. In the Chicago Typothetae
Agency the slack months are May, June, July, October and November. Of
the remaining bureaus eight report more men than jobs in the winter time and
vice versa in the summer time.

Methods of Selecting Applicants for Positions Offered. Five of the bureaus
favor as much as possible applicants with no money, and hence most in need
of assistance. Three bureaus give employment first to the first men in the
office after the job is registered, provided of course the man is at all suited for
the position. The other seventeen bureaus use wholly their own judgment
in placing the men, endeavoring to place the men in such positions as they
can best fill and where they will remain for the longest time.

Co-Operation With Other Bureaus. The labor bureaus of the three em-
ployers' associations here listed co-operate with other agencies in the same
system in other parts of the United States. The typewriter agencies and the
business college agencies co-operate with each other for mutual benefit the
business colleges training the pupils to use the writing machines and the type-
writer companies helping to place the students when they have finished their
school training. Aside from some other very slight co-operation, which is
scarcely worthy of special mention, the other bureaus operate entirely inde-

Kinds of Work Offered. The three Employers' Association labor bureaus
offer work in line with the special trades represented. The Typothetae handles
printing and binding help; the Founders' Association moulders, core makers,
etc., and the Metal Trades Association machinists, pattern makers, black-
smiths, coppersmiths, sheet metal workers and iron workers. The graduates
from the business colleges are fitted to be bookkeepers, stenographers, or
office help. The typewriting concerns handle typists and stenographers. Six-
teen of the remainder offer nearly every kind of work, including a great many
odd jobs of manual labor. Some of these sixteen mentioned try to specialize
in some degree in certain kinds of work, but they do not specialize to the exclu-
sion of other kinds. They exist to help unemployed people and endeavor to
place applicants as nearly as possible in work suited to their working ability.

Number of People Placed in Jobs. The figures given in the following
table include in many cases repeaters, i. e., the same individual is counted as
many times as he has secured work through the bureau. In cases where
individuals are counted instead of positions given this fact will be indicated.

(1) The Volunteers of America secured work for 5,437 people in 1911.

(2) The American Salvation Army use about 500 per year in their work.
They have a capacity for 30 men at work at one time.

(3) The Chicago Christian Industrial League uses in its own work about
1,000 men per year. They have a capacity of 50 men at work at one time.

(4) The Salvation Army Industrial Home average 10 new men per week
the year round.

(5) The Parting of the Ways Home has secured work for 2,052 men in
two and a half years, since its organization. This work has increased greatly
from year to year.

(6) The Central Howard Association has secured employment for 6,000
in ten years. It secured employment for 1,456 in 1911.

(7) The Metal Trades Association secured work for about 10,000 per

(8) The Remington Typewriter Company places 700 per month.

(9) The Underwood Typewriter Company places about 8,000 per year.

(10) The L. C. Smith Typewriter Company placed 1,200 from January
1, 1912, to May 1, 1912.

(11) The Chicago Business College places from 15 to 40 per month.


(12) The Metropolitan Business College places about 2,000 yearly.

(13) The Masonic Employment Agency places from 40 to 50 per month.

(14) The Fellowship Association Royal League places from 50 to 75
per year.

(15) The Negro Fellowship League secured employment for 200 different
people in six months, from November 1 to May 1, 1912.

(16) The Catholic Woman's League between May 1, 1911, and March 15,
1912, placed permanently 450.

(17) The Swedish National Association places about 4,000 per year.

(18) The Norwegian National League placed 1,000 in 1911.

(19) The B'nai B'rith placed 2,575 in 1911.

(20) The Y. W. C. A. placed 533 women in the fiscal year 1910-1911.

(21) Malcolm McDowell assisted 12,000 men from December 12, 1911,
until March 18, 1912. For part of these he secured employment, but not for all.

Time of Waiting for Work. The Parting of the Ways Home and the
Central Howard Association always have on hand some sort of employ.rnent
for discharged prisoners and men on parole and on probation. Sometimes
men have to take work which is not suited to them until better work can be
secured. There is always a place for a really competent stenographer, and
many more girls could be used for housework than can be secured at any
time. In the spring and also at other times of year farm labor is scarce.
There is a dearth of first class skilled mechanics of all sorts. Many present
themselves as skilled workmen who are not good at their trades. Not enough
manual labor positions can be secured for men making application for work
in the winter time, and not enough men can be found for such work in the
summer time.

Fee Charged Employers. The members in the Employers' Associations
are assessed membership dues in proportion to the number of' men they em-
ploy. No charge is made to the members in addition to this membership fee.
The Swedish National Association and the Norwegian National League charge
$1.00 for girls but nothing for boys. The Swedish American Employment
Agency charges from $1.00 to $2.00 for women, but nothing for men and boys.
The Y. W. C. A. charges $2.00 which is good for three months. The other
bureaus charge employers no fee.

Fee Charged Employees. The Swedish National Employment Agency
charges from 50 cents to $1.00 and guarantees a position. No charge for mar-
ried people. Help just as willingly those who have no money. The Swedish
American Employment Agency charge women from $1.00 to $2.00, men nothing.
The Norwegian National League charges from 25c to $2.50. People who
cannot pay are also helped.

The Y. W. C. A. charges 50 cents if a position is secured.
The other bureaus have no fee.

Attitude Toward an Efficient State Agency. All of the superintendents
of the bureaus who were asked their attitude toward an efficient state agency
expressed themselves as thinking that it would be a very good thing. A num-
ber of superintendents thought that a state agency would make no difference
at all with the particular kind of work they were doing. Several superinten-
dents think that the one great objection to a state agency is that the state
agency will lose the personal human touch which is given to men and women
in the smaller partisan or sectarian agencies. They claim that the state will
not want to support with salaries enough workers in such an agency to give
each case as careful consideration as it deserves and must have for real effi-

Online LibraryChicago. Mayor's Commission on UnemploymentReport of the Mayor's Commission on Unemployment → online text (page 8 of 27)