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deserve more and should have more money. But we are talking of the minimum wage for unskilled workers. A sweeper should receive $15.
I have never been able to understand how people think that because a person happens to be a sweeper in a cotton mill that he does not have to eat and does not have to buy all of the necessities of life just the same as any other person has to buy them.
In addition to the difference in the prices of foodstuffs, house rent has been increased. I am talking about company-owned houses now. The house rent has been increased from 10 cents per room to 25 cents per room. Of course, that sounds like a small proposition, but when you take into consideration a 4-room house cost a dollar a week in 1931 or 1932—and they never cost any more than that, you can see what it means. Since the N. R. A. came into existence the rent was increased from 10 cents per room to 25 cents per room.
In other words, we might say four rooms for $1 a week and four rooms for $2 a week.
As to lights and water, very few of the mills in the South charged for light and water until the latter part of 1932; but in 1933 the lights and water were put on the employee to pay for. And, of course, he pays just like anybody else pays, except that he pays through the office. Whatever he is told he owes is put on his wage envelope and deducted. It is not a question of his paying for it; it is a question of its being deducted. And very often when all of these deductions are made for the company store, the house rent, fuel, and so forth, there is nothing left in the wage envelope.
On one occasion I got 23 envelopes together and I did not select them. I asked that some wage envelopes be brought to me, and I just picked out at random the envelopes from different departments, and out of the 23 there was $1 cash drawn. One employee drew 5 cents and another one drew 95 cents, making $1 cash drawn on that pay day by 23 employees.
Of course, we do have nice houses down there and nice gardens. I am sorry I do not have some pictures to present here as evidence of what I might call exhibit A, showing the lovely little cottages down there.
When I say that I do not mean to be sarcastic. But the manufacturers come with their prayer books to Washington and they tell about how they take care of the people. And there are a few mill villages in the South that are all right. The Chicopee Manufacturing Co., near Gainesville, Ga., has a very nice mill village. It is very up to date. I would say that that ranks first in the South. Goldsville, S. C., I would say, is second of all those that I know of in the South.
Then there is the Merrimac Manufacturing Co. village at Huntsville.
As to the houses in many of these places, you can throw a baseball through them. I don't mean that you can hit a windowpane and go through in that way, but you can actually throw it through the weatherboarding.
I mention those matters for your information. It is not a question of my standing up here and making those statements. If those statements cannot be substantiated by actual facts I would be afraid to make them here. But they can be substantiated.
The wages should be increased and there should be some provision made to take care of those in the higher brackets.
There is another part in this paragraph or subsection of this particular section 16 which provides that employees shall receive their wages intact.
I think that that would be very beneficial to the workers in the South if some such universal law were enacted. And it must be Nation-wide. It cannot be just a State law. We are not going to get any laws passed in any States that are going to take care of the situation.
If the employees in the 98 percent of the mills in the South want cash money with which to have a prescription filled or to pay a doctor or to buy whatever they want to buy, it doesn't make any difference whether it is whisky or whatnot, they can draw a coupon book or metal disks that are worth a nickle, a dime, or a quarter, and so on, and they can discount those at the company-owned stores at a discount of from 10 to 25 percent. It is necessary for them to do that in order to obtain the cash money with which to have these prescriptions filled or to pay for whatever they want to buy. I am not going to be silly and stand up here and tell you that every employee does that. There are some who do not have to do it. Where there are four or five working in a family perhaps they can get by without doing it. But where you have a man with four or five in his family and his wages must provide for that family, then it becomes necessary for him to discount his wages at the company-owned store in order to receive cash money with which to make purchases.
The subsection dealing with the separation wage would prevent employees from being literally kicked out of the mill or evicted from their houses with no place to go and with no money. When they are kicked out, they have no money; they live from day to day. And this separation wage would prevent their having to go to the door of some charitable relief organization or to the Federal relief office and apply for food within the next day or two following their discharge. It would at least give them something with which they could go around in search of work and something with which to take care of their families while they were searching for work.
The wages are not going to be increased just because the manufacturers feel that they want to increase them. I have worked in a mill, and I have never received any wage increases except what we were able to demand and get. That is the only way we have ever received any wage increase in the South. And I am not expecting any wage increases in the future from them unless that is done by law and unless the workers themselves are in a position to see that that law is complied with by the management of the mill.
That was proved under N. R. A. Where the workers were organized they were able to get fairly good compliance with N. R. A. but where they were unorganized they were not able to do anything about it, and wages and the stretch-out were just whatever the management decided to give them.
In my feeble way I have tried to show why we want more money, because we are now paying house rent that we did not pay for at one time. I might tell you of one place in the eastern part of North Carolina, at Laurinburg and at other places in there where they did not charge any house rent until the N. R. A. came into existence, and when N. R. A. became effective they started charging house rent at 50 cents a room. I am referring to the Marlboro Cotton Mills.
I discussed that with one or two employers in this State and they just had to do it, they said, because they were having to pay a little more money-$12 a week. And, mind you, that was $12 a week for skilled spinners—$12.19 and $12.42. And then they very piously said that they were maintaining code standards because they were paying skilled workers $12.19 or $12.42.
On the matter of 35 hours a week I have no doubt that they will say to the members of this committee that they cannot operate 35 hours a week. And we are willing to agree with them that they cannot operate 35 hours a week. They have proved that they cannot operate 35 hours per week. They said they could not operate 80 machine-hours, that it would ruin them. In 1930, 1931, and 1932 they were unable to pay dividends. In 1933, 1934, and 1935 they were able to pay dividends. But in paying dividends they paid them by operating two shifts of 8 hours. And many times they were unable to operate two shifts of 8 hours. The code had been in effect only about 3 or 4 months when they were asking for a program of curtailment. They could not operate 80 machine-hours and they wanted to operate 60 machine-hours.
Since that time they have curtailed, and sometimes in this way: Those who ride along through the South in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee, and at night see the mills well lighted and hear the hum of machinery, may have a wrong impression. It does not mean that because you hear the hum of the machinery and see the lights that all of the machinery is in operation. Many times it is only 50 percent of the machinery or the equipment that is being operated at that particular time.
So we agree with them that they cannot operate 70 hours a week. We know they cannot do it. But if we had asked for 30 hours & week they would say that that was all wrong, that they would just have to go out of business because of the shorter hours.
The main object in that kind of an argument, as I see it, is this: They can operate by starts and bursts and jumps, and they can fill an order; but then the people are out of employment. They are out for a week, or 10 days, or 2 weeks, while the mill is getting another order.
So actually it should be 60 hours of machine operation instead of 70 hours of machine operation. They would come nearer being able to run 60 hours and furnish continuous employment than they would be to run 70 hours. And we are asking for the 35-hour week or 70 machine-hours of operation.
I am going to say something about the health of the workers in the textile industry in the South. However, I hope I will not be questioned too closely on this matter, because I am not a doctor.
We contend that the stretch-out is detrimental to the health of the workers. Of course, we have no way of actually proving that except by talking with the employees, with those who work in the mills, and their telling us their condition, telling us how they are so fatigued when they get through with the 8 hours of work, and when they come out of the plant they have to sit down and rest before they go home, or if they should go home they have to rest before they can eat because they are so tired and worn out. I have had plenty of them tell me that.
I believe it was in 1932 the General Assembly of the State of South Carolina did appropriate $1,000 for the purpose of making an investigation or study as to the effect of the stretch-out, as we term it in the South, or increased machine load, if you choose. That has to do with the effect upon the health of the workers.
A doctor was appointed to spend the thousand dollars or, rather, to make the investigation. Now, as to his report. And I would like to say also that all of us people in the South speak the same language. We speak the English language. Even the textile workers in the South speak the same language. His report was that it required approximately 4 months to learn the language of the textile workers. And that was the only report that he made. He doesn't know about it. So I don't think we can consider him competent to decide as to what the effect of the stretch-out is on the workers in the cotton mills in the South.
However, we do know this, that 99 percent of the cases of pellagra are in the mill villages of the South. I don't recall ever having heard of a case of pellagra anywhere else. I am not going to say that there are no cases elsewhere, but I do not remember ever having heard of a case except in the mill villages of the South.
Medical science says that this disease is not contagious. Medical science says that it does not come from uncleanliness, but that it comes from a one-food diet. I suppose they mean fatback, biscuits, and beans, the usual diet of us textile workers in the South.
Coming back to wages, if for no other reason than to protect the textile workers from this dread disease, pellagra, it would seem to me that the bill would be worth while if it accomplished nothing else but protected the workers against that disease.
I am going to say something about how they are maintaining the code standards now. In saying this I do not mean that every mill in the South has violated the code and is at this particular time violating the code provisions, and right at this time has slashed wages. But there is a tendency to break down wages. They have been brought down gradually 50 cents at a time for the past 2 years. I mean the wages of weavers and loom fixers. At this particular time when we are discussing the break-down of the code standards, there are many mills which are gradually reducing wages, stretching out the workers, and so on, and when they give them a few more machines to operate they do not give them any more money. If anything, they reduce the wage just a little bit.
The Mandeville Cotton Mills, of Carrollton, Ga.,-$6.36 for a spinner for 40 hours' work; for 40 hours' work, $3.55; and so on.
Mr. KELLER. For what work?
Mr. Peel. For spinners. Then, here is 16 hours, $2.12. If you ask me why there is a variation in the wage, I will not be able to tell you. The only thing I know is that the party who gave me these wage stubs put the hours that she worked on the wage stubs; and that is as far as I can go. I cannot swear that she worked the number of hours indicated. All that I know is that that is what she said, that she worked 40 hours for $6.36, and the number of hours mentioned for the other amounts listed.
Here is another one-32 hours, $3.73; 40 hours, $3.52.
And there is quite a bit of wage slashing in the State of Georgia. I might mention the Callaway Mills as being amongst the worst offenders, they having reduced wages, stretched the workers out, and they are still able to operate their mill, and they are considered very fine gentlemen. And I am not saying that they are not. I am only pointing out what they are doing to break down code standards. Yet, we read in the newspapers that they are maintaining code standards.
And these that we read about are by no means all of them; they are only some of them that have reduced wages. They stretched out the workers and have increased the machine load of the employees, and they are those who have lengthened the hours from 40 hours to 50 and 55 hours.
In North Carolina there are the Mooresville Cotton Mills, the Carter Mills
I might say that the Carter Mills, of Lincolnton, N. C., also secured a loan of $70,000 from the R. F. C. But never, so far as I know, have they complied with any provision of the N. R. A. They were going to reinstate the workers following the general strike, but they never did do it. I think they made a statement to the Textile Labor Relations Board that they would reinstate them, but they did not do it; they just let it drag along and did nothing about it.
I will mention the Alexander Mills, Forest City, the Groves Thread Co., Gastonia-and the Groves Thread Co. did not receive a loan. If they did, I have never seen anything of it in the newspapers. But they evicted quite a number of people because of union membership and union activities.
Then there is the St. Paul Manufacturing Co., of St. Paul, N. C. The management of the St. Paul Cotton Mills sold stock to their employees. They gave them $12 a week as a wage and then they sold them $4 of stock each week. And it was not voluntary on the part of the employees that they bought $4 of stock each week in the St. Paul Cotton Mills. The $4 was taken out of the wage envelope for approximately 4 months; and the employees were never able to recover any part of that wage taken out by the St. Paul Manufacturing Co.
Next is the Spofford Mill, Wilmington, N. C.; and then comes the Highland Cordage and Shuford, Hickory, N. C.; the Cone Mills, Greensboro, N. Č., where it is almost worth your life to go around and talk organization.
The bill provides that we shall have a right to organize and bargain collectively. We should like to have some collective bargaining; we should like to have some law passed that would give us an opportunity to bargain collectively, whether we get anything or not, because we are tired of collective arguments. We have had that since July 17, 1933.
Next come the Hannah Picket Mills, Rockingham, the Eton Mills, Phoenix Mills, Kings Mountain, the Canon Mills, at Concord and Kanapolis and the Pickett Cotton Mills, of High Point.
Mr. Wood. What State were those in?
Following the general strike, of course, there was a condition of chaos. The manufacturers in the States I am talking about appointed a policy committee, as I understand it, to cooperate with the Textile