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Pennsylvania : Allegheny Valley, Delaware County (Chester), Indiana County, Philadelphia, and Reading.
South Carolina: Charleston.
Washington: Bremerton, Clark County (Vancouver), Everett, Olympia, Raymond, Spokane, Twin City (Centralia and Chehalis).
West Virginia : Kanawha Valley.
Wisconsin: Eau Claire, Milwaukee, Watertown, and Wisconsin Rapids.
The activities of these committees have been quite varied. In Camden, N. J., the committee has been in existence for 2 years, and has been the informal local sponsoring agency for a very large P. W. A. project.
Our committee represents every kind of labor group in the many consumers' organizations and probably represents about 75 percent of the families in Camden, and in other cities, notably in Washington, D. C.; Milwaukee, Wis., and Cincinnati, Ohio, the housing services have been carried on through our committees, which have helped the Resettlement Administration to get the necessary facts on housing in connection with their own projects.
Perhaps the reality of this movement can best be appreciated from certain samples of correspondence I have received. I have a letter here, which is typical of a dozen or more which I have received after I spoke at the United Mine Workers convention last month. This is a letter from a miner in Tagore County, W. Va., in which
DEAR Miss BAUER: I just want to give you a small view of the housing condition here in Tagore County. I was at the convention in Washington and heard your speech, and I realize that without help you can do nothing, so I am willing to do my part to help this cause along or any other cause that our great President is for.
Now, the little place here where I live, and am forced to live, you might say, there are nine houses all in a bunch hardly fit for rats to live in-no lights, and we just got water here last fall. We pay enough rent for a good house$8 a month for the shack, $1 for water, $3 for transportation to work, and from $4 to $8 for coal. And the little camp at the mines where I work is in the same condition. Both of these are controlled by the same man or company. The same man checks off through the company office. His name is W. M. Glover. He lives in a nice brick house 1 mile below where I live. You will tind plenty of these camps in Tagore County if you only just come and go to the right place; but if you liave some of these company men tell you about the conditions, they will have you believe the people are all in good houses and living like kings. The way to find out is to come and see.
Now, if you want the names of all of the camps and little bunches of huts, it will take time, but I will, on request, get near all of them that I can and send the names to you. Sincerely yours,
John CURTIS. This is typical of perhaps a dozen or 20 letters I received after making a very brief speech at the United Mine Workers' convention.
The following are typical remarks that come in every day from the same area.
From J. N. Danz, secretary of the Central Labor Union of New London, Conn. [Reading:]
There is a complete stoppage of building in New London during the past 4 years, with the exception of a new post office; 90 percent of the building tradesmen are on W. P. A.
From Morton E. Crist, secretary of the Building Trades Council of Muscle Shoals, Ala. [Reading:
An extensive labor housing program is badly needed in this community. We will be glad to furnish you with any authentic information that we have that will aid in securing legislation to improve the present condition.
It is not just any kind of housing program our groups are interested in, and they object to your proposed groups of unified and educational affairs under the administration today of the Federal Housing Administration. I say the Federal Housing Administration because all of the local groups with whom I am acquainted are unanimous in one thing; it is not what they want, it is not what they call a housing movement.
I made a trip about a year ago around the country and talked in the central labor union, and its councils in almost every place; although I had very good labor credentials, someone would arise, and there would be a general atmosphere of suspicion, and someone would get up and say, "Miss Bauer, do you by any chance represent the Federal Housing Administration?" and I would say, "No", and they would say, “O. K.; go ahead.” That happened over and over again and proved that whatever labor wants, they do not want a continuation of the expansion of the Federal Housing Administration, because it does not provide low-rent housing, and it does not provide construction which pays prevailing wages. In connection with the latter, I would like to quote a few statements I have had recently in letters received by me, as follows:
From John Locher, president of the Washington, D. C., Building Trades Council:
I do not know of a single job put up with Federal Housing Administration assistance where the prevailing wage rate was paid. At Colonial Village, the top was $0.70 per hour, or about half the prevailing rate. Moreover, they worked there 50 to 60 hours per week. By and large, the Federal Housing Administration works with the chiseling gyp-building contractor who could not compete with the better-class contract if he had to pay fair wages. As for modernization, it has been done with transient unskilled labor, at $2 and $3 per week.
From Charles Hollopeter, president of the Camden County Central Labor Union:
I do not know of a single job that went to regular skilled building-trades men at the prevailing wage rate, with the Federal Housing Administration.
From Charles Fox, secretary of the Building Trades Council of Essex County, N. J.:
The Federal Housing Administration is of no benefit to trades in Essex County, and we know of no work done by Federal Housing Administration. Home Owners' Corporation do some work, and very little of it was done by union trades.
From Michael Thal, secretary of the Building Trades Council of Detroit, Mich.:
May I say that up to the present time, as far as union labor is concerned, we have liad but very little consideration; personally, I am not aware that in the
new construction field, that this Administration (Federal Housing Administration) has done anybody a great deal of good. I believe this Administration is going practically in the hands of the so-called speculative real-estate sharks and is of no real value to prospective home owners.
The wages that are paid on the construction work where this Administration is active does not compare very favorably with union wages, and I might say, in fact, the wages are somewhat deplorable.
From the Building Trades Council of Birmingham, Ala.:
The Federal Housing Administration program as functioning now has ample protection for the bankers, real-estate manipulator, insurance companies, appraisers, building-material men, and everybody but the poor workman who actually does the work on the property on which the loan is made. Not one case of where the organized building craftsmen have been benefited could be shown; on the other hand, the material supply houses have waxed fat through a legitimate profit on their materials and made an additional profit on the workmen's wages.
The council voted unanimously to deny an endorsement of the Federal Housing Administration program for two very good reasons: That the program is entirely administered in Birmingham by the same old crowd of labor-hating, antiRoosevelt big shots that dominate all other governmental agencies in this district; and that the workmen are not protected in the last as to wages, hours, or working conditions.
The labor housing conference has also received a rather interesting letter, again typical of the many, from a building-trades man in Miami, Fla., and I think perhaps I will read it, because it shows the type of change which is going on locally in connection with the housing movement.
The letter reads as follows: Subject: Low-cost housing.
GENTLEMEN : With all power at my command I wish to endorse the housing program adopted by representatives of the building-trades organizations and approved by the American Federation of Labor.
Further, I wish to urge the earliest possible consideration of the program by the present Congress, and definite action toward its establishment before adjournment.
My reasons for favoring this plan over others are as follows:
1. A tremendous national shortage of decent, low-cost housing, already measured and known by the Government through recent surveys.
2. Obvious failure of all past and present plans of Federal aid to provide or stimulate true low-cost building.
(a) Even in the Miami area, which is witnessing a vast building program, Federal assistance has been relatively minor and has failed to produce more than a few homes within reach of the vast majority of population with income of $1,500 per year or less.
3. Admitted necessity of restoring the huge building program and construction industry to normal before Nation-wide unemployment can be relieved.
4. Because in my capacity as a city commissioner of Miami I have seen at first hand the almost impossible delays due to centralized authority and needless red tape attached to such Government agencies as the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, Public Works Administration, Work Progress Administration, and others, no matter how worthy their objectives nor how vital the need for prompt, efficient action. These or similar agencies cannot possibly do the job.
5. As a member of the Miami Housing Advisory Board of the Public Works Administration, I am very much aware of the urgent need for low-cost housing, especially for those unfortunate victims of the depression who have lost not only their homes and possessions, but, worse still, have meanwhile passed the age where they can ever earn a decent living again and are not yet old enough to receive old-age benefits under any social-security program thus far available. In Miami alone there are more than 3,000 of such families today.
6. Some plan providing localized authority with discretionary powers to meet local conditions of living, building, labor, and material resources, a plan
positively free from politics, with minimum of bureaucratic intereference, is vital.
The A. F. of L. program looks toward this goal. Therefore I ask your favorable action in its behalf.
I read that letter into the record, because the gentleman represents not only the building trades but he is a city commissioner of Miami.
The Labor Housing Conference speaks for this movement, which extends all the way from several cities in the State of Washington to Florida, to several cities in New England, endorses the entire administration and policy set up in this bill, and as a matter of fact a great many of the policies have many similarities with the actual American Federation of Labor housing program promoted by the American Federation of Labor housing committee and ours.
We particularly recommend the section which recognizes better housing societies. This will stimulate a form of democratic initiative which, in our opinion, will give a three-way administration of policy and really lead to the long-term working out of the housing program. In this connection I have another letter from Portsmouth, Va., which I think perhaps I would like to read, because it shows the exact concrete problem which these local groups interested in housing have to face. This gentleman is chairman of the labor housing committee in Portsmouth, Va., and he wrote to Mr. John Edelman, research director of the American Federation Hosiery Workers, as follows:
DEAR MR. EDELMAN: I have been appointed chairman of a housing committee of the Portsmouth, Va., Central Labor Union to cooperate with the Labor Housing Conference of Washington, D. C., which was created as a result of action taken at the Atlantic City convention of the A. F. of L. last October,
You are, no doubt, familiar with the contents and purposes of the resolution adopted at the convention, so I will not discuss that here. Our committee feels that there is little or no prospect of getting any money from our city council or the State legislature, and for that reason we find it difficult to find a starting point, and as a result I have been instructed to try and get some helpful information relative to building projects. In discussing the subject with Miss Edith Christenson, organizer of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers, she suggested I write you. I understood her to say you had much to do with the erection of apartments for hosiery workers in Philadelphia.
Portsmouth is a city of about 45,000, a large majority being workers in the navy yard, railroad shops, and offices, and some mills and factories, with wellorganized crafts in most cases in the navy yard, all of the railroad-shop crafts, and some of the clerical force in the railroad offices, but with limited experience in cooperative action outside of shop conditions. It appears to our committee that, if we are able to do anything at all, it would have to be under some wellestablished cooperative plan. However, we will appreciate it very much if you will send us any suggestions or plans which you think will aid us in getting started, for we know there is plenty of room for home improvement here.
Thanking you in advance for any suggestions offered, and hoping to hear from you soon, I am, Fraternally yours,
WILLIAM BONCER, Chairman. You see, he makes it clear and the same thing comes in every day in the mail—that they cannot go to the State or to the city for money, but here is a well-organized, responsible, active group who would like to get some housing for themselves, and they have to look to the Federal Government and the provisions in this bill, which recognize public housing societies, and which, in my opinion, provide just exactly the initiative that a group of that kind needs.
In connection with housing under the Resettlement Administration, I have many communications from groups from all over the country, particularly groups who have had cooperative experience in many places in Minnesota, Indiana, and Wisconsin, and who are eagerly looking for some means whereby they can work directly and in a responsible manner with some such agency as the United States Housing Authority.
I said we endorse the entire administration and policy set up in this bill; but we do, however, feel the financial provisions are inadequate. We feel, in view of the great shortage and the very bad housing conditions existing in this country, today, which are growing steadily worse, that the actual provision which is in the bill should be increased to at least a hundred million dollars, that the bond issue authorized for the first year should be increased to at least $250,000,000, and that the authorization for ensuing years should be increased in proportion.
In conclusion there are just two specific points which I would like to say a few words in regard to, with special reference to some of the testimony given in this room in the past few days.
In some of his testimony a great deal of nonsense has been talked about rent subsidies. This term has come to have a kind of magical sense, something that will cure everything, fix everything up so that everybody will love housing, and it is even seriously proposed that what this term “rent subsidy” really means, would be actually carried out, apparently would be what most people mean by it, that a subsidy should be provided directly to each family in accordance with that family's need.
That means a variable subsidy changing with each family in each apartment or each house, and also changing, presumably from one month to another, or at least one year to another.
That is absolutely impossible of administration, there would not be any way to carry out such a subsidy. The management problem would be a matter of individual social cases every month, and if anybody wants to take the responsibility for carrying out a housing program on that basis, I am sure I don't.
This has been given a certain amount of presumed reality by the experience in England. As a matter of fact there is only one case of an experiment of a differential rent subsidy in England, and that is in the city of Leeds, and in that particular city the success cannot be proved.
As a matter of fact, Mr. Walter Morrison, chairman of the London council, who was in Washington the other day, at lunch, said he would not consider it an unqualified success.
This project was inaugurated by the labor element of the council, and since the experiment has been carried out about a year, labor has lost its majority in the council, and Mr. Morrison said it lost its majority because of the tremendous difficulties in administering the rent subsidy in housing.
That ought to make it clear that the English experience does not prove
this kind of social-work subsidy is practical in carrying out a low-rent housing program.
On the other hand, it is also a very unbusinesslike kind of subsidy. Perhaps it may be presumptuous in a representative of labor to point out to businessmen and real-estate men, who have claimed great merit