Page images

seriousness of the situation is emphasized by the fact that it has continued and is continuing for such an extensive period of time. I know that most economists and experts in finance, and representatives of financial institutions were of the opinion in the beginning of this depression that it would not continue for such a long period of time; but, notwithstanding expert opinion, it has continued and is now continuing. Each day adds to the seriousness of the situation; each day makes it increasingly worse, because each day those who had possessed some means, those who had saved some money during the days when conditions were normal, have found their savings constantly dissipated and the end approaching, and more people are as a result of all that becoming dependent.

Perhaps I can emphasize this fact by stating that figures show that in the building-trades industry alone 69 per cent of all building. trades workers are totally idle; from 12 per cent to 13 per cent work part time, so that only about 18 per cent of the building tradesmen are employed approximately steadily, and these 18 per cent are working on modernization and reconstruction and very few of them are employed in new building and new construction.

Now, that presents an alarming, serious situation—69 per cent of a skilled industry completely idle. The situation in the building trades is hopeless. And that goes along in varying degress in other industries, such as coal, textile, metal trades, transportation industry, and other trades. For this reason I am convinced that something must be done. It is impossible under the distressing conditions that prevail to find employment for all who are ready, willing, and able to work. That condition was brought about by two factors; first, the economic situation, of course, has made a very large contribution toward this alarming situation, but back of it all is the mechanization of industry that has been going on for two decades and gradually men have been displaced and thrown out of work. It is clear that even though we could restore the normal conditions of 1929, with industry so highly mechanized as it is, it would be impossible to find work for all those who are entitled to work and earn a decent living. Some figures, which I believe to be accurate, have been shown to the effect that even if we could by some mysterious power over night restore conditions of 1929, when we were at the peak of consumption, when a balance between production and consumption had perhaps reached its highest point, that only 55 per cent of those entitled to work could be given work. That means, then, that an adjustment must be made.

We can not go along on the old basis of 6 days a week and 8 or 10 hours a day, or 60 hours a week, as applies in some industries. I am of the opinion that even though we introduced the 5-day week and the 6-hour day, as provided in your bill, there would still be some unemployment. We simply can not find places for these workers. There is no opportunity to put them back. We are faced by that inevitable fact, and for that reason we must make these adjustments; we must shorten the work day and shorten the work week for those who are willing and ready and anxious to work. If that is true, what should we do? Either face it constructively and bravely and do the thing that is needed or sit down and reconcile ourselves to living in a country where we must maintain constantly

a standing army of unemployed. I do not believe that we can continue such conditions indefinitely; I do not believe that we can maintain domestic tranquillity with a standing army of from ten to fifteen millions of unemployed. We must do one of two things, namely, adjust the working time and shorten the working week in order to take up the slack of unemployment or face this inevitable fact that we here in America must prepare to take care of a large standing, permanent, and perpetual army of unemployed. That develops other questions: How long can we continue this? The representatives of relief agencies now tell us that the machinery of relief is breaking down, and that it is more difficult to raise money for the purpose of taking care of those in distress; and it is quite clear that we can not keep it up. Obviously, we can not maintain people on a charitable basis. We may do it temporarily, but not permanently. It is simply out of the question. And if we could do it, it is socially wrong and morally indefensible from any standpoint.

Mr. Chairman, I am not prepared to express an opinion regarding the constitutionality of this proposed measure. I feel that that must be left to those versed in constitutional problems and constitutional law. There are those who express the opinion that, because of the decision of the United States Supreme Court in the child labor case, such a law as you propose would be declared unconstitutional. I am unable to express an opinion on that, because I am not an attorney; but it is reasonable to conclude that there has been some change in the judicial attitude of the Supreme Court toward social and economic problems since the child-labor case was decided; and the committee will probably remember that that decision was a 5-4 decision, and, owing to certain developments which had taken place, labor at least is of the opinion that if the same issue were presented to the court as the court is now constituted the court would take a far more liberal, progressive, and broader view of the question than it did when that decision was rendered. So that is one reason we hope and believe that if the legislation is favorably acted upon, as proposed in this bill, we have reasonable grounds for hope that the court would sustain it.

I want to present some facts regarding working time, and facts that I think may well be considered in connection with your measure. The CHAIRMAN. I should like to clear up one thing.

The newspaper men have asked me several times about it, and I have maintained all along that labor can get what is due it only by collective bargaining. In other words, it would not make any difference whether we provided a 2-day work week or a 3-day work week or a 4-day work week and that labor should not work longer than 30 hours a week, labor will see to it that labor would get the same for a 5-day week as it gets for a 6-day week. That is and has been my contention.

Mr. GREEN. It would be impossible to include in any legislation a standard fixed rate of wages for those employed in private industry. I feel sure that the courts would hold such legislation unconstitutional.

Mr. GRISWOLD. That was done in the Adamson law, was it not? In that law the rates of wages of railroad employees were fixed.

Mr. GREEN. I am not clear as to the decision of the courts in that case, but I realize that a court could do that in that instance becausethe law applied to those engaged or employed in interstate commerce. The Congress of the United States possesses full authority to fix the rates of pay of those engaged in interstate commerce or the rates of pay of those employed directly by the Federal Government. There is a difference in those classes of employees.

Mr. GRISWOLD. The Adamson Act was passed in 1912, was it not ! Mr. GREEN. I think it was passed in either 1912 or 1913.

Mr. GRISWOLD. It was taken to the Supreme Court and the men were as a result awarded back pay. The court fixed the rates of pay and, as I remember, the hours were fixed at eight per day and the employees received the same for eight hours' service as they had received on the old basis of a 10-hour day.

Mr. ELLZEY. If a man were employed by a railroad company 48 hours a week and this proposed plan should be put into effect, that man would be reduced to 30 hours' work a week. He would lose 18 hours' pay a week.

Mr. GREEN. No; I would not recommend that.

Mr. ELLZEY. You would expect the railroad company to pay the man the same for 30 hours' work as it had paid him for 48 hours' work?

Mr. GREEN. We maintain that the rates of pay should be maintained under the reduced time worked, because there is involved in that the development and maintenance of a purchasing power that will enable people to buy the goods produced by industry.

Mr. ELLZEY. Many railroad workers I have in mind feel that they would have to lose that amount of money. When the Illinois Central system was authorized to reduce wages 10 or 11 per cent, it was the understanding that the company would give more men employment, but the company continued to reduce the number of employees.

Mr. GREEN. Eight hundred thousand railroad workers have been displaced.

Nr. GRISWOLD. That was the result of the Chicago agreement between the railroad executives and the brotherhoods. I refer to the wage reduction.

Mr. ELLZEY. The agreement did not reach the goal they had anticipated. It worked the opposite way.

Mr. GREEN. Eight hundred thousand railroad workers have been displaced. How are they going to get back in employment under present conditions ?

Mr. RAMSPECK. For the sake of argument, suppose there should be a reduction in wages, that would not reduce the purchasing power if the same number of man-hours were worked.

Mr. GREEN. The general purchasing power?
Mr. GREEN. Yes; but it would the individual purchasing power.

The CHAIRMAN. Do you, Mr. Green, hold that the matter of wages for any sort of work week or workday is a practical matter usually settled between your organizations and the executives?

Mr. GREEN. Yes; that is what I was going to say. The question of wages is always determined through conferences held between employers and employees. I refer particularly to union working

men and women. It is based upon collective bargaining and of course the representatives of labor always contend vigorously that the rate of pay for the reduced working time should be the same as the rate was before the reduced working time. We have not always gained that for which we have contended, but that has been our uncompromising position all the way through. In this period of terrible distress wherein the working time has been reduced and the 6-hour day has been introduced we have contended that the hourly rate of pay must prevail, that there shall be no reduction in the standard rate of wage, and that means, having established the standard rates of wages, it is the purpose of organized labor to build back the wage scale so that the worker will receive the same pay for the shorter working day as he received for the longer working day.

Mr. ŘAMSPECK. In most cases have you not eventually gotten back the hourly rate of pay where hours have been reduced ?

Mr. GREEN. Yes; we have in most cases. It has worked out that way.

Mr. LOVETTE. What do you say to this proposition on the question of wages—take the railroad companies or any industrial company-the railroad companies to-day are broke, and that is the reason 800,000 men are out of railroad employment. If you say these men may be worked only five days a week and receive therefor pay for six days' work, the railroads will be broke worse. They are now begging the Government for money with which to pay their debts. Would we not saddle an additional burden upon the railroad companies when they are not in position to stand it?

The CHAIRMAN. The railroads are not embraced in this bill.

Mr. LOVETTE. I am merely raising the question of undertaking to collect six days' pay for five days' work.

Mr. GREEN. The adjustment, the change that would take place, would be to bring back into employment thousands of idle men, even millions of idle men, because of the shorter day and the shorter work week. The rates of pay must be determined by conferences between employers and employees. We contend, of course, vigorously that the rates of pay should be the same under the shorter working time as they have been under the longer working time. However, that is a problem for negotiation to be worked out between the representatives of labor and industry. Mr. ELLZEY. Do you refer to the rate per

hour? Mr. GREEN. Positively per hour, and the total earnings should be the same as a matter of right and justice.

Mr. LOVETTE. This 5-day week would still leave out of employment 55 per cent of the workers, I believe you stated. Even after we got back to the peak on the same theory, why not advocate a 3-day week and spread it out so that the 55 per cent could gain employment?

Mr. GREEN. You perhaps misunderstood me. I said that if normal conditions, such as existed in 1929, were restored, that would be the economic situation that prevailed then, the number of days per week and the number of hours per day, we could find work for only 55 per cent. I stated that those figures have been offered by economists and experts. I am not sure that they are right, but that is the statement.

week or per

We contend this: That if we could restore normal times of 1929 on a 5-day work week and a 6-hour day, then many more than 55 per cent could be given employment.

Mr. LOVETTE. To what extent do you think that foreign labor, cheap foreign labor, and foreign labor that is now cheapened by the manipulation of their currencies is affecting our unemployment situation in this country by the large amount of foreign goods coming into the country and underselling American manufacturers!

Mr. GREEN. I am unable to say definitely, but I think that is affecting the situation quite seriously. To what extent I am unable to say. There are two things entering into that situation which are the causes, in my opinion, for the increase in the sale of foreign goods: First, the wages paid labor in foreign countries and the long hours worked in foreign countries, and, secondly, the depreciation of the currencies of foreign countries.

Mr. ELLZEY. I agree with you in not wanting to see the wages of our workmen reduced, but I think you will force the reduction of wages by this proposed bill. It is possible that you might add more men to the employment rolls, but I believe you would force, a reduction in wages.

Mr. GREEN. That is not my opinion. Where we have experimented with the shorter work day and the shorter work week it has been discovered that the efficiency of workers has been greatly increased; that is to say, that the same number of workers are doing considerably more work in six hours than they did in eight hours.

Mr. RAMSPECK. That is, they do more work per hour.

Mr. GREEN. They do more work per hour, and as a result of that those who have introduced the shorter work day and the shorter work week have stated that they have found themselves to be fully justified in increasing the hourly rate of wage corresponding to the increase in efficiency. I can readily understand that because we know that men can go into work more vigorously and more cheerfully when they work only six hours a day than they can go into work involving more hours.

Mr. LOVETTE. To what extent has this 5-day week been adopted ?

Mr. GREEN. The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., of Akron, Ohio, and the Kellogg Co., manufacturers of cereals, operate under itunder a 6-hour day. The Standard Oil Co. of New Jersey is working under the 5-day week; and there are other companies working under that plan, but I can not recall their names.

Mr. HARTLEY. Several industries in my district have adopted it.

Mr. GREEN. Yes. The representative of the Kellogg Co. asserted that he found in an actual study of the experience gained in connection with a 6-hour day that every worker had become much more efficient and as a result that company increased the wages, in order to give the workers a fair and just reward in connection with the increased efficiency.

Mr. GRISWOLD. Agreeing with the experience in connection with shortening working hours and effecting greater efficiency of production, is it not as a matter of fact the general rule that in contracts with employers to fix wage scales you have found it rather hard to convince the employers that this increase is sufficient to warrant an increase in wages? Has it not always been hard to convince the employers that they should increase the rates of pay in accordance with the development of greater efficiency?

« PreviousContinue »