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Mr. WELCH. Is $6 and $7 the minimum at the present time?
Mr. WELCH. During what period was it that tne men referred worked 40 hours a week in every city for $4 or $5 or $6?
Mr. SCHWEITZER. That was not an average, Mr. Chairman. I would not say that that was an average.
Mr. WELCH. Well, when they earned $4 or $5 or $6 a week, then.
Mr. SCHWEITZER. That condition existed during any period you might mention, even during the time of the code, although the code provided the minimum wage should be $13 a week. But the manufacturers got around it in this particular way; the worker might be working on only one loom at a time, and they claimed they were losing money. And there is no question about that.
So in order for the weaver to get as much as he could possibly get, he continued to work one loom. If he refused to do it he would probably lose his job. So he had to do it.
Mr. Welch. What was the purpose of limiting the employee to one loom?
Mr. SCHWEITZER. It was not the purpose; it was the necessity. It would mean the employer did not have orders. Let us say we start off with four warps, and one warp will run out 2 weeks prior to the last one. So at times he is working on two looms, and sometimes on one. You also have the condition where he may be running three warps, and the other one is stopped because of a serious break-down of machinery or because that one warp has run out, and he does not have the harness or the warp. And that is the evil of the industry.
Mr. WELCH. We will next hear from Miss Elizabeth Nord.
STATEMENT OF MISS ELIZABETH NORD, APPEARING FOR UNITED
Mr. WELCH. Will you please state your name and who you represent?
Miss NORD. My name is Elizabeth Nord. I am an organizer for the United Textile Workers.
Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, the Ellenbogen bill is designed to create stability in the textile industry to the benefit of the men and women employed therein. While the skilled men and women in the trade are saying, and rightly so, that "It is time we had our inning”, nevertheless it is the women in the industry, unskilled, semiskilled, and skilled alike who stand most in need of protection against the effects of present conditions in the industry.
The textile industry has always been a traditional feminine calling. Women and girls are particularly desirable because most processes require light, dextrous movements of the hands. Nearly one-half of the million workers employed in the industry are women. It is the manufacturing groups which employs the largest number of women wage earners. They are employed for the most part in unskilled and semiskilled jobs, many of which require constant standing and under present conditions of rationalization and efficiency, constant attention.
While indispensable to the industry, they have been traditionally and continue to be an exploited group. Long hours, low wages, and unsanitary conditions of work have been their lot, particularly in cotton. The married woman in industry who is forced to work because of economic necessity brought about by her husband's death, incapacity, or inability to earn an adequate wage for himself and his family must take whatever job she can get without too much question of wages or hours.
It has been pointed out that low-wage groups and areas are a constant menace to organized workers and shops where better wages prevail. The vast number of low-paid women workers further menace and complicate this situation. Establishing a shorter workweek and minimum wages as provided for in this bill would correct this situation. In 1928, according to United States Government figures, wages in cotton averaged less than $7 per week in one southern State. Women in the plants, being a lower wage group, would average less than this amount.
In a study made by the Children's Bureau in manufacturing towns in the East, the mortality rate among infants whose mothers were employed away from their homes was 40 percent higher than that among infants whose mothers were not so employed. Insufficiency of family income was found to be another contributing cause of unusually high infant mortality.
That the wages of decent living may be insured to textile workers the commission created to administer the law is authorized to establish and protect minimum wages for classified skills above the unskilled minimum.
Excessive physical and nervous strain make girls and women susceptible to nervous diseases.
In seeking to correct another abuse of the textile industry the bill also provides for the regulation of work assignment. We have too often experienced increased work loads or speed-up without consideration of the human element involved. If the speed-up and stretch-out constitute a hazard against which we seek protection for men, what of the women in the industry with their more delicate physical make-upmost of whom perform the double duty of breadwinner and housewife?
The work load in most textile plants is too heavy and requires constant physical effort to keep up with it-noise and vibration contribute further to fatigue. A prominent physician has said that fatigue has a larger share in the promotion or transmission of disease than any other single condition you can name.
I can perhaps best give you the general effect of the stretch-out system on women from my own experience as a silk weaver. Weavers were running four nonautomatic looms, the usual number in broadsilk mills, when the plant where I was working closed for an “indefinite” period. When the workers went for their wages a notice was posted on the door to the effect that the plant would reopen soon and workers desiring a job must reapply to the employment manager. On reapplying the workers learned that they would be required to run six looms and the most efficient were chosen. There was much talk against this and much harsh criticism, but the system was being introduced into other shops and the workers thought it useless to make a formal protest. Gradually the shop resumed a three-shift schedule with 1,000 looms running with a reduced labor force.
The first few days under this system I remember very clearly. One day I had mastered those six looms and I stood for a moment watching them run. All in good order—all running smoothly. At a moment such as this there is a rhythm to the clattering thunder of a thousand
looms that is music to a weaver's ears. As I stood listening, watching, I became conscious that my body was wet with perspiration, every muscle taut, every pulse beating hard, and my heart pounding within my breast. 'I felt for a moment that I wanted to shriek and make my voice heard above the clattering thunder. I thought: "I can't stand this long", but my mind did not dwell on it for my trained eye went instinctively back to the loom where I saw work to be done. And so it was day after day, a constant effort to master the machine.
Perfect cloth was not demanded at first under this new system, but as the weavers became more accustomed to operating more looms the management became more exacting until perfect cloth was demanded constantly. Weavers were fined for imperfections, often they were told not to report for 1 day, 2 days, and sometimes more, this being the managers' method of teaching weavers to be more careful. Oftentimes the imperfections were not the fault of the weavers, but of the loom—but this was not always taken into consideration. Fines and lay-offs were imposed just the same and weavers were often fired.
For 2 years I worked under this strain, as did every other weaver, of fear of being laid off, fear of losing my job, and the constant physical effort necessary to keep the looms running. Finally, having difficulty with two of my looms, for which I was repeatedly blamed, I told the foreman that I had done my best, could do no better, and left the job.
Textile workers do not object to efficiency. We accept the fact that healthy, contented workers are an employer's best asset. We do, however, object to efficiency being carried beyond the limits of human endurance.
Stretch-out, speed-up, and wage cutting are again rampant in the industry—particularly in cotton and silk. I know of no plant running at present, in silk, which is not practicing or instituting one or more of the above charges. All textile workers need to be
protected against them, but it is particularly important that the provisions of the Ellenbogen bill should apply especially to women who are for the most part a low-wage group, forced by economic circumstances to accept employment under conditions over which they, individually, have no control and which are oftentimes detrimental to their health.
Most of the women in the industry are potential mothers.
The question of the health of half a million future mothers of the Nation cannot be ignored. Excessive physical and nervous strain coupled with postural strain (long standing and walking about) constitute a grave hazard to the child-bearing woman of the future. One of the slogans coined by the Women's Bureau is "America will be as strong as her women.” It may be good efficiency to increase production 53 percent in 8 years, but it is false economy to do it at the expense of the human element involved.
May I say that in my particular city we were successful in reducing the number of looms in that city and in reducing the work load back to four. But again right at this minute the plants in that city are again instituting the stretch-out. On unautomatic looms the weavers are being put on 6 looms, and on automatic looms in some cases the looms are being doubled, with the wage rate the same, or not much more, in most instances, than they were for 8 automatic looms as against the 14, 16, and 18 today.
Every organizer and every textile worker can recount many stories of speed-up and stretch-out. I talked to a girl who returned to her work not long ago after a year's absence. She does coning in a yarn-making plant. She went back to the same operation, but she said it is a new machine doing the same job and it is running five times faster than the machine that she ran a year ago.
In another situation in which I am working at present the men report to me that their machines today on spinning make 22 changes. That means they take 22 full bobbins off of the machines a day, 22 full sets, whereas in 1929 the machines fill the bobbins in an hour. It was 8 in 1929 as against 22 today.
Another situation which comes to my mind at the moment is one that I am familiar with at the present time. A new machine is being installed in an acetate department which will in 1 hour, with fewer men, produce the same amount of work which it takes eight men 8 hours to produce at present.
That is all I have to offer, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Wood. As to this new machine, how many workers would that take the place of?
Miss NORD. I understand the machine will require the attention of six men. The operation as it is being conducted in the plant at the present time requires eight men. But the 6 men in 1 hour will produce what it takes 8 men to produce now under the old process.
Mr. WELCH. I will now call Mr. Riviere.
STATEMENT OF HORACE A. RIVIERE, VICE PRESIDENT, UNITED
TEXTILE WORKERS OF AMERICA Mr. RIVIERE. Mr. Chairman and gentlemen of the committee, a very comprehensive picture of conditions in the textile industry has been presented so far, and an illustration of the suffering of the workers and the destruction of business, showing conclusively that there is an imperative need for the passage of the National Textile Act by the present session of the Congress.
The New England district, which I represent as vice president, is the birthplace of the textile industry in America. And it is from this district I shall present hard, cold facts to show that unless the National Textile Act becomes law, the textile industry will be dealt a far stiffer blow than this so-called depression has yet recorded.
THE RUSSELL MANUFACTURING Co.,
Middletown, Conn., February 11, 1936. Hon. KENT KELLER, Chairman, Ellenbogen Bill Subcommittee,
Washington, D. C. DEAR SIR: I am taking the liberty of enclosing herewith copies of correspondence between the Manufacturers Association of Connecticut and this company with regard to the Ellenbogen bill, H. R. 9072.
While I believe that the enclosed letters are self-explanatory, I should like to emphasize that the information leading to the testimony provided by Mr. Riviere must have come from unreliable sources as we can find no record of any change made in the agreement between this company and the United Textile Workers of America, Local Union, No. 1997, on March 30, 1935. The earnings, as outlined in the schedule attached, are guaranteed minimum earnings, and I would further emphasize that there has been considerable cost involved in the main
tenance on these minimum earnings, particularly in cases where we endeavor to keep employed men and women of indifferent ability. Inversely, skilled employees usually earn amounts considerably in excess of the minima. At times there are certain jobs where the actual piece-work rates are changed during the course of the contract. Sometimes these are raised, and, in other cases, lowered, but in no case do these changes give any effect to the minimum guaranteed earnings.
It has been suggested that our position in this matter be drawn to your attention directly in order that you may have available our point of view in contemplating the situation. Thanking you in advance for your consideration of the foregoing, I am, Very truly yours,
THE RUSSELL MANUFACTURING Co.,
THE RUSSELL MANUFACTURING Co.,
Middletown, Conn., February 11, 1936.
Re: Ellenbogen bill, H. R. 9072.
I am glad of the opportunity at this time to emphatically deny the statement made by Mr. Riviere as the facts do not correspond with the testimony. There has been no change whatever made in the agreement made with our employees, dated March 30, 1935, which is as follows:
1. Asbestos weaving, for 40-hour, full time, full job, $21 per week. 2. Cotton weaving, for 40-hour, full time, full job, $18 per week.
3. Asbestos weaving, full time, 40 hours, but less than full job, $17.60 per week.
4. Cotton weaving, full time, 40 hours, but less than full job, $14.30 per week.
5. Productive employees, except weavers, on asbestos, $17.60 per week, full time, 40 hours, for men, and $15.40 per week, full time, 40 hours, for women.
6. Productive employees, except weavers, on cotton, $14.30 per week, full time, 40 hours, for men and women.
The foregoing earnings are guaranteed.
I would be very pleased if you would find it possible to bring the foregoing statement of fact to the attention of the House Labor Committee as a matter of record. Should it be necessary to do so, I will be glad to arrange for one of our officials to attend any of the sessions in order to make further representation of the facts of the case. Very truly yours,
The RUSSELL MANUFACTURING Co.,
Hartford, February 7, 1936.
Ellenbogen bill, H. R. 9072 MY DEAR MR. WILLIAMS: Testimony on this bill before the House Labor Committee last week included a statement by Horace Riviere of the United Textile Workers purporting to demonstrate the need for the regulations contemplated in