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that do appear. The commission secretaries, if adequately paid and
endued with double membership on board and commission, as has
been previously suggested, could take the lead in this work of
standardization and education.


fWithin the past six months a most remarkable and hopeful develop-
,'ment has taken place in the direction of standardization of rates — ■
I a standardization within states and between neighboring states as
^well.^ Whereas formerly awards have always been made separately
for separate trades (and often for different sections of the state),
in the latter half of 1919 Wisconsin, California, and Oregon have fol-
lowed the example (then .unique) set by Washington a year ago, in
establishing uniform rates for all industries throughout the^ state.
In the case of the Pacific group, moreover, these rates are practically
identical for all three states — $13.20 and $13.50 per.forty-eight-hour
week. For learners California and Oregon retain trade distinctions,^
but for experienced adults the rates all read alike. The significance
of this new departure can scarcely be overemphasized. It, more than
anything else we have hitherto had to record, marks the breakdown
of the old system of local business protection and the erection of
living standards that can be scientifically impartial.


^This is quite proper in view of the varying international advantages of
different trades. See sections XIV and XV below.



The final difficulty attending the decisions of board and commis-
sion is that of equating the nominal-wage rate to actual income.
Nearly everyone would agree, on the one hand, that it would be
absurd to pay a woman deliberately choosing part-time work a full
week's wage. On the other hand, nearly everyone would agree that
it would be equally unfair to pay a woman engaged for full-time
work, and required to be on the premises all through working hours,
for say only twenty-five hours of her time, if slack production, per-,
haps in another part of the factory, kept her machine unexpectedly
idle at irregular intervals. But between these two extremes there are
many gradations which prove most elusive to handle.

The great majority of our commissions have made no attempt to
solve the difficulty. They have frankly adopted the hourly-rate
scale throughout the industries with which they have had to deal,
making no variation for chronically part time or seasonal industries.
That is, the so-called "weekly wage rate" they enforce is based on
the assumption that all workers work the full legal number of hours
each week ; it is only by so doing that they are to be enabled to
support themselves. If they work less, no matter by whose fault,
they will receive less than the week's minimum income that has been
agreed upon as necessary decently to support life. Thus Massa-
chusetts's order (November, 1918) for the wholesale-millinery in-
dustry contains the express proviso: "These rates ($11 for the
experienced adult) are for full-time work, by which is meant the full
number of hours per week (fifty-four) ^ required by employers and
permitted by the laws of the Commonwealth."^ This is for one of
the most seasonal industries in existence, where almost anyone would

1 Since then (1919) the legal hours of work in Massachusetts for women and
minors have been reduced to forty-eight.

- U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Monthly Labor Review, Vol. VIII, No. 2
(1919), p. 19s. In the Arlcansas flat-rate law the same principle is expressed
even more rigidly: "All female workers working less than nine hours per day
shall receive the same wages per hour as those working nine hours per day "
(italics mine) ; while the very recent state-wide Wisconsin order (June, 1919)
omits the mention of a weekly norm at all : " No employer shall employ any
experienced female at a wage rate of less than 22 cents per hour."


agree it is impossible to expect the employee to iind full supplemen-
tary occupation in the short stretches between seasons.^

A slightly more hopeful position is shown in two orders of Oregon
and Washington. The Oregon order (April, 1918) reads:

When business conditions render it impracticable for an employer
to furnish to any employee full-time employment (fifty-four hours),
the employer shall not be required to pay such employee any greater
sum than the hourly wage for the number of hours of actual employ-
ment, provided such employer shall so arrange consecutive hours of
continuous employment that each employee may have a fair oppor-
tunity [sic ! ] for securing such employment as will enable her to
earn a full week's wage.

Washington is a trifle more explicit as to what constitutes "em-
ployment," but fails to specify that the hours be consecutive. Among
the 1915 rulings we read:

(4) When an employee is required to hold herself at certain hours
at the call or service of an employer, such hours shall be included as
hours of employment.

(5) . . . any arbitrary condition imposed by the employer which
prevent her from earning ... [a living] wage is contrary to the in-
tent and spirit of the law. In exceptional cases, where business con-
ditions offer less than full-time employment (eight hours a day,
forty-eight a week), a regular schedule of hours shall be arranged
between employer and employee . . . [so] that she may not be
deprived of arranging for additional employment elsewhere.^

In striking contrast to these half-hearted attempts at amelioration
is the November, 19 18, decree of the California Commission. Here
for the first time we have a recognition of the principle that it is the
employer who is responsible for keeping the employee's supply of
work steady. The decree reads :

1 The same provision is to be found in the more recent decreases for canning
and candy-making, also seasonal (July, 1919). (See Massachusetts Minimum-
Wage Commission Bulletins 18 and 19.)

2I.W. C. Rulings, Form 17A (italics mine). The general War Emergency
Order of September, 1918, adds the following clauses: "Every . firm
offering less than full-time employment to female employees in any . . trade
. . . shall post in a conspicuous place in the establishment a proper schedule
of hours to be observed, for such period of time in advance as the Industrial
Welfare Commission shall in its discretion determine, not later than noon of
the preceding day" (I. W. C. Order No. iS, September 10, 1918; italics mine).


No person, firm, or corporation shall employ, or suffer, or permit
an experienced woman or minor to be employed in any manufacturing
industry at a rate of wages less than $io for a forty-eight-hour week
(21 cents per hour). // any employer does not provide the juU
forty-eight hours of employment during any week, he must pay to all
experienced adult and minor workers not less than 25 cents per hour
for the time worked.^

It will be seen, of course, that this California scheme, a "penalty
differential" we might call it, does not help the worker who is laid
off for a full week or more. In fact, if the differential were made
very pronounced it might well encourage an employer in a seasonal
industry (such as candy, millinery, or paper boxes) who was faced
I with the alternative of using all of his force on part time or using
only a portion of them on full time, to choose the latter and lay off
jas many as possible so as to be able to employ the remainder at
jthe full-time rate. Employments with a "peak load" on certain
days of the week would, however, be materially bettered. Thus the
laundry industry could not longer dock its employees for the short
time provided them on Mondays and Saturdays.

A more drastic step in the same direction has since been taken by
the Minnesota Commission. Their July, 19 19, decree establishes a
flat weekly wage of $1 1 " per week of forty-eight hours or less."' The
short-week employer is thereby penalized by the full amount of his
underemployment .

A method that indirectly attacks the longer-time seasonal industries
has, however, recently been introduced by the Wisconsin Commission.
Their noteworthy first-wage order (June, 19 19) provides that "in
seasonal industries operating only for a few months during the
year no learning period is recognized, and all female and minor
employees . . . shall be paid ... [the full experienced adult mini-
mum]."^ Since in ordinary establishments lower rates may be paid

'^U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Monthly Labor Review, Vol. VIII, No. 2,
p. 192 (italics mine). Even more elaborate provisions are made in the Mer-
cantile Order of June, 1919, whereby part-time workers receive 35 cents an
hour instead of 28.

2 Italics mine. Above forty-eight hours the rate is no higher, namely, still 23
cents an hour.

^Industrial Commission of Wisconsin, Order of June 27, 1919, sect. 4. It
should, however, be noted that the order explicitly omits all provision for the
chronically short-hour industry. In section i of the "Findings of Fact"


to as many as 25 per cent of the employees, this means a very real
penalty for the seasonal trade.^

It would, however, doubtless be advisable to assess industries that
are notoriously seasonal even more directly by raising their general
minimum for experienced workers as well. This, on a weekly basis,
was the system adopted by Australian boards for the highly irregular
occupation of dock laborer. "In setting the minimum hourly rate
. . ., the necessary cost of a week's living was divided by the average
number of hours of work obtained weekly." -

This system has also been adopted by Massachusetts in a recent
ruling on office-cleaners (January, 1919).^ This ruhng is in its way
quite as remarkable as the ones quoted from California and Wiscon-
sin. Here the Commission had found by previous investigation that
the average number of hours worked per week at the occupation was
only thirty-six, and. that four fifths of the women worked at night.
The new ruling provides a 30-cent hourly rate for night work and
a 26-cent rate for day work. On the basis of the full legal fifty-
four-hour week, even the day rate would yield $14, whereas the
budget agreed to by the board amounted to only $11.54. It was
therefore the typical thirty-six-hour worker whose case was really
being provided for. True to Massachusetts tradition, she would re-
ceive somewhat less than the budget allowed, namely, at the 30-cent
rate, f 10.80 a week, and at the 26-cent rate, $g!l^. These are not
very munificent sums, but the recognition they show of the short-
time problem is extremely important.

However, the idea suggested by the California decree, of making
the rate directly enforceable upon the individual employer who fails
to provide full work, and upon him alone, seems too good to lose sight

wo read : " Many items in the cost of living of female and minor employees
vary directly with the number of hours they are required to work. Those who
have short hours of labor . . having time to do much work for themselves

." etc. Section i of the order proper accordingly reads baldly : " No em-
ployer shall employ any experienced female or . . minor . . at a wage rate
of less than 22 cents per hour."

iQn the Wisconsin scale it would amount to about 3 to 4 per cent of the
wages bill.

'^Neii) Statesman, June 6, 1914, p. 263, quoted in Commons and Andrews,
Principles of Labor Legislation, p. 182.

3 See U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Monthly Labor Review, Vol. VIII,
No. 4 (i9i9)>PP- 186-187.


of. Perhaps a combination of both methods would be possible ;
namely, a slight penalty for the habitually seasonal or short-time
industry as a whole in the shape of a higher hourly rate, and an
additional differential for the employer whose work was unusually
irregular/ *

A point which it is important to stress, while dealing with the
matter of hourly rates, is that it is closely bound up with the ques-
tion of the legal hours of employment in each state. The same
weekly minimum may mean very different things to both employer
and employee if the number of hours for which it is being paid is
different. Thus Oregon in April of 1918 changed her minimum for
manufactures from $8.64 to $11.61. Meanwhile her neighbors,
Washington and California, were paying only $10.'' At first the
employer members of her board protested at this disproportionate
advance, but it was successfully pointed out to them that, since both
Washington and California were limited to a forty-eight-hour week,
while Oregon worked fifty-four, the respective wage rates for the
three states would be rendered practically equal, thus :

Washington and California . . $io.oo a week -=- 48 hours = 21 cents per hour '
Oregon $11.61 a week -^ 54 hours = 2i| cents per hour

^This could be assessed in some such way as the one originally outlined by
the chairman of the first Massachusetts brush board (quoted in Annual Report
of New York Factory Investigating Commission, Vol. VI (igij), Appendix IV,
p. 633): "Each weekly pay day the minimum weekly rate set by this board
shall be multiphed by ten, and if the total earnings during that ten-week period
immediately preceding each weekly pay day do not equal that amount, the
difference shall be paid her each week." A simpler method, however, in the
opinion of the writer would be to assess each employer at an hourly rate that
roughly corresponds to the average per-capita short time that he had pro-
vided during a specified period in the recent past. Thus an employer who
had averaged 20 per cent fluctuation above that allowed for in the general trade
estimate would have to pay a 20 per cent differential on his minimum hourly
rate. (Needless to say, "short time" in the above sense does not include time
lost by the worker's own fault, i.e., voluntary absenteeism.)

2 The California decrees at this time did not cover manufacture, but $10 was
the rate for stores, etc.

2 Incidentally the Oregon members were made to realize that hitherto the
advantage had lain very heavily on the other side and that, nevertheless, their
neighbors had not been ruined. Up to this time, when the Washington and
California rates were already $10, or 21 cents per hour, the Oregon rates for
manufacture had ranged from $8.25 to SS.64, or iS54-i6 cents per hour. (The
higher rate was for the city of Portland.)


The close connection between hours of work and wages per hour
is doubtless one very important reason why so many of our states
have assigned hours as well as wages to the jurisdiction of their
minimum-wage ("industrial welfare") commissions. Where no di-
rect connection between the hour-fixing and the wage-fixing machinery
of a state exists, it is always possible to reduce the hourly wage by
increasing the number of hours for a given industry. Thus a repre-
sentative of the Washington Commission writes : " During one session
of the Legislature the . . . Association . . . attempted to secure an
amendment to the woman's eight-hour law providing for an emergency
clause allowing overtime. Had this passed, it would have indirectly
reduced wages, as all wages are based on an eight-hour day and six-
day week."^ And again, "The question of seasonal industries, such
as fish and fruit canning, do not come under the Factory Orders and
the wage ^applies to them." The converse of this connection is seen
where the legal hours of work are suddenly reduced. The wage per
hour .is automatically raised. Thus Massachusetts's adoption (1919)
of a forty-eight-hour week in place of a fifty-four gives her women
nearly a 13 per cent hourly increase.


Besides the difficulties attendant upon the setting of the regular
rate for normal adult women, our minimum-wage commissions have
to face the problems of three special classes of workers generally
recognized as substandard: the young, the inexperienced, and the
defective. Of these the defective have thus far proved much the
easiest to deal with.

In all our states save Massachusetts, Wisconsin, and Kansas the
class is narrowed to include only adult women who are physically
defective.'' The method of handling these cases is always by individ-
ual license, issuable by the commission direct. The wage boards
naturally have nothing to do with them. Each license sets a special

^Letter to the writer, October. 26, 1918.

2 I.e. the rate per hour. This gives a higher weekly wage to these long-
hour industries.

3 In Wisconsin, however, it applies to "any female or minor unable to earn
the living wage," and in Massachusetts and Kansas to "any employee ... of
less than ordinary ability. . . ."


substandard rate for the worker concerned, which may be temporary
or permanent according to the nature of the defect and the wording
of the law. Some laws limit the proportion of defectives that may be
employed in any one establishment to one in ten.

So far the total number of licenses issued by the active minimum-
wage states has been surprisingly small. As one secretary writes,
"Employers evidently do not want to ask for defectives' permits
unless there is no question about the employee's being unable to make
a living because of . . . her defect." Washington reports only fifty
in five years of commission activity. The California Commission
states in respect to the laundry industry, where infirm workers are
more easily accommodated than elsewhere: "No license has bden
granted to any woman except upon the signed statement of a licensed
physician that the applicant was not able to work to normal capac-
ity at ordinary tasks, either because of age or physical disability.
Even then no license is granted for less than $8. . . . In No-
vember, 1918, less than 3 per cent of the total employees . . .
[held] such permits."^

None of these states report any difficulty because of applications
from the mentally defective. In many cases, of course, the mentally
defective would also be physically handicapped and thus receive
their classification without question. Of the six licenses thus far
issued by the Minnesota Commission three were for women thus
doubly handicapped. Our informant states that no case of purely
mental defect has as yet arisen. The Washington Commission
reports similarly, "We have had no application from a mentally
subnormal person."

In view of the large number of mental defectives known to be at
large in our population, this state of affairs is certainly surprising.
Perhaps the majority of them find their way into simple piecework
operations where their reduced output can affect no one but them-
selves.^ Others doubtless drift about from job to job, never making
themselves valuable enough to an employer to cause him even to try

1 Third Biennial Report, I. W. C. of California, p. 70.

2 However, in a state like California they would probably be discovered even
there if large numbers congregated in any one branch of piecework, for
California has the provision in her ruling on manufactures that 66 f per cent
of all pieceworkers employed by any one establishment must earn over the
weekly rate (I. W. C. Order No. 11, amended 1919, sect. 8, (d)).


for a license for them. But a large remainder appear to be still un-
accounted for. Can it be that much of our industry is so simplified
and routinized that even a moron is good enough to support herself
at it ? Nay, possibly that she may in some respects be preferable to
her normal and therefore more restless sister ?

In the future without doubt the problem of the defective will grow
more acute, as minimum-wage legislation is extended to our more
thickly settled industrial states and as the minimums in our existing
rulings are raised to something nearer a full living wage. A clear
understanding of the ground of licensing would then be imperative.
The Massachusetts- Kansas- Wisconsin system of "wide open" licenses
would doubtless offer increasing dangers, while a definition that
strictly excluded all but the physically incapacitated would doubtless
err' equally on the other side.

As the number of licenses grovvs, opportunities for constructive
social work on the part of the commissions should grow also. They '■
can become the logical centralizing agency, the clearing house, for
putting adult women ' defectives in touch with other appropriate
agencies. The system of renewable licenses will enable them to keep
track of the progress of each case, while threat of forfeiture gives
them unusual persuasive power.


The problem of the untrained and the immature worker is far
more puzzling. How long does it take a woman to learn a trade?
(What trade?) How much longer does it take her if she is not a
woman but a young girl ? (In which trades does age count for
most?) Are there any trades in which an experienced girl under
eighteen is as useful as if she were grown ? What is a trade anyway ?
How far shall one go in subdividing our complicated industry to tell
when a woman who is changing her position must begin at an appren-
tice wage over again ? These are some of the questions that have
gradually been brought home to our commissions in the course of
their operations.

The method of administering the problem is unfortunately some-
what complicated. In most of our laws it is provided that both these
classes of workers shall receive special rates, but that, while the rate


for minors shall be fixed by the commission direct, that for adult
learners shall be reached by the usual board 'machinery.^ It may
well be that some of the planlessness of which we shall hereafter have
cause to complain is due to this divided responsibility. On the face
of it the two problems are so closely related that it seems only reason-
able to have the same agency responsible for both. That agency, in
view of the extreme complexity of the subject, would naturally be
the central commission. However, the technical trade advice of the
lower boards could be made extremely valuable to the commission,
provided it were not made finally binding.

The Oregon apprenticeship rulings show very interestingly how
one commission, or, if you will, one group of boards, has gradually
been awakening to the complexity of its task. In the 1913 ap-
prenticeship conferences Oregon merely issued a flat-rate minimum
of $6 per fifty-four-hour week for all industries, " and the maximum
length of time such workers shall be considered inexperienced in any
one industry shall . . . be . . . one year."^ Here we have no at-
tempt to define what is to be considered "one industry" and no
distinction between apprentices who are brand-new and those who
are almost completely experienced. Moreover, the learning period
itself is extremely long. If such length had any justification at all,
one would suppose it could only be on the ground of acquainting the
learner with a good many branches of a rather difficult trade.

The commissioners themselves, however, apparently had no clear
idea on the subject, for they seem to have done nothing to prevent
employers from taking advantage of the loose wording of the ruling.
By 19 1 6 such grave abuses had sprung up that the new conference
then in session was instructed to consider a refinement of terms.
" Some employers dismissed girls as soon as the first year had ex-
pired or shifted them to slightly new work in different departments,

1 The laws of two states, California and Washington, make no express dis-
tinction between the wages to be paid the skilled and the unskilled; and
California makes no distinction between minors and adults. Both these states,
however, empower the commission to issue individual apprenticeship licenses.
In practice this provision appears to have made for greater flexibility of rul-
ings. (Note, however, that in her general War Emergency Order of November,
1918, Washington chose to ignore all differences of skill — the flat rate of $13.20
being supposed to apply to all women and the $9 to all minors.)

^Quoted in "The Oregon Minimum Wage Law" (Reed College A. B. thesis)
by Samuel B. Weinstein, p. 21 (italics mine).


thus starting them on a second year of apprenticeship at $1 a day."^
It apparently never occurred to the conference to go so far as to re-
quire the new employer to pay the girl what she had last been receiv-

Online LibraryJohn Rogers CommonsTrade unionism and labor problems; → online text (page 75 of 83)