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of any use to us, he left it to me whether or not we could use the letter.
This letter was sent out on October 21, 1935, this is what it says, in part:
“Confidential-Not for publication. “National Textile Act.
"The former code authority, with its original chairman and vice chairman, met on Tuesday, October 8, to give careful consideration to this proposed legislation, after the act had been thoroughly analyzed by members of the staff.
"It was decided that the act contained so many radical labor provisions that no support of any kind could be given to it.
“Apparently, it was the consensus of opinion of the members of the committee who attended this meeting that some legislation is necessary fixing minimum wages, maximum hours and permitting at least a measure of production control, provided such legislation be constitutional and could be rigidly enforced. A resolution was passed requesting the staff to prepare a bill incorporating these feitures."
Then a little further it goes on discussing another subject.
“Comparing August 1934 with August 1935, the following interesting statistics were computed on the basis of a large number of reporting mills:
Percent increase 1. Wage rates:
or decrease in year Weavers
-11 Winders. Warpers
--3 Twisters and enterers..
-11 2. Raw material cost: A. Rayon
+4 B. Silk (September)
+22 3. Price level: A. Rayon fabrics.
- 12 to – 13 B. Silk fabrics.
+15 to +16 4. Sales volume..
+ 20 5. Production volume
+30 6. Production operations: Total number of looms operated..
--23 Number of hours operated..
+6 Number of persons employed.
--- 10 The decline in wage rates, employment and number of looms operated, concurrent with the increase in the volume of product on, operation of third shift and longer hours, would appear to indicate somewhat lower production cost.
There are two principal causes for the present deplorable low prices:
1. Overproduction-principally caused by three shift operations (over 10 percent of the looms which operated under the silk code and 20 percent of the looms which operated under the cotton code). This actual and potential condition of overproduction has demoralized market prices and will continue to do so.
2. Labor chiseling carried on in part by the converter-commission weaver manufacturing and selling groups, which undermine even the depressed prices resulting from overproduction indicated in no. 1 above.
The fact of the matter is that we will be told by many groups of employers that this bill must not be enacted into law. They are going to do what they have done in the past, when they went to the State legislatures and said: "We have no opposition to your bill. Fundamentally we think it is absolutely all right”, just as Mr. Nickerson said the other day, "We believe that some form of legislation should be enacted and that this should be done by the States, that the States rights are concerned in this matter and that the passage of any such law by the Federal Government we believe is unconstitutional."
I am not going to discuss the constitutionality of this bill. I am not a lawyer. But I think that in the many years that I have lived I have learned something about common sense; and I think I have also learned something about the activities of our employers in New England. Many speeches are made over the radio from time to time on the question of child labor. When we want the enactment of a law by the respective States that will safeguard the interests of labor, they refer us to the Federal Government and say, that if we ever presented any legislation to the Federal Government where it would affect all of the employers alike that they would be quite willing to go down the line with us. I have heard that said before the legislature of the State of Massachusetts, I have heard it said before the legislature of the State of Connecticut, I have heard it said before the legislature of the State of New Hampshire, and I have heard it said before the legislature of the State of Maine. And it is the same group that refers us to the Federal Government that is here today.
And they have as much right to be here as we have. And, in a sense, I am glad that they are here, because they have the opportunity to know first-hand at least what I think about it.
They do not want any legislation of any kind. They are not interested in safeguarding the States' rights. The question of States' rights with them is a question of low wages, long hours, and the continuation of their past opportunity to continue to exploit their workers, as they have done in the past, up North, as well as in the East. They will say, as they have said in the past, “This fellow is a bad man to come up here and say that about us." And then they have the audacity to deny these matters.
On the matter of the constitutionality, Mr. Chairman, yesterday you asked if such a law were passed and the Supreme Court throws it out, then what?
I said I am not a lawyer. But I have read the Constitution. I see where the Supreme Court has the right to interpret the Constitution; but I cannot see where they have the power to nullify an act of the Congress of the United States, although learned lawyers come here and tell us about that. But behind all that, Mr. Chairman, what is there?. There is the very thing I have referred to. It is all a question of their continuing to run their mills as they see fit. The American Woolen Co., for example, which company has mills in New England, are putting in the Bedeaux system. That is a bonus system. You might as well put a worker on a strap and keep it going. And he will keep going at that rate until he is 40 years of age or thereabouts, and then out he goes.
These people want to be permitted to continue with this system. That gigantic corporation all over 'New England has been reducing wages, they have increased the work load and speeded up the workers, and they have created an unemployment situation in New England that is greater than it would have been if they had not insisted upon putting into effect the stretch-out. That has continually been put into effect in their mills.
What is true of them is also true of the Uxbridge chain of mills. And before your committee is through, Mr. Chairman, you will be told that the bill is unconstitutional and we must not do anything to interfere with the States rights. But so far as I am concerned as an American, if the protection of the States rights means the exploitation of the men, women, and children in our industry, as it has in the past, then let's forget the States rights. And let us concentrate on Federal legislation. If the Supreme Court declares this bill unconstitutional, Mr. Chairman, it will be only one more added to the large pile of labor bills that have been thrown out, just one more. But, some of these days they will declare the last one unconstitutional; the American people will get sick and tired of it and they will do something about it. And the employers and the bankers will not stop them either. And it will be done in an American way, I say.
Mr. KELLER. Mr. Gorman, you may call your next witness.
STATEMENT OF J. A. FRIER, APPEARING FOR UNITED
TEXTILE WORKERS OF AMERICA
Mr. FRIER. Mr. Chairman and genetlemen of the committee, I will be just as brief as I can possible be with what I have to say. I have revised my statement and will eliminate a number of the things I had intended saying. But I do want to begin by saying, gentlemen, that
I , I do not appear here in my own behalf. I have already reached that age where textile workers are expected to go on to the scrap heap any day.
I am only actually 47 years old, but having spent 33 years of my life in a Southern cotton mill I am considered an old man.
I come before this committee today to ask you to give careful consideration to the legislation that you are now considering and to the many statements that have been made to you as to the need for such legislation in this Nation.
I am constantly in attendance on the general assembly of my State. Every year we make efforts to have labor laws passed. We are never confronted there by our employers, but we are confronted by a battery of lawyers who are in the employ of our employers. And they tell us that we must not with our laws invade State rights.
I want to cite an instance that happened in my State last week that brought me almost to the conclusion that we are too careful of State lines. I think probably last Thursday at 10:30 in the morning a bank in Aiken, a small town in my State, was held up at the point of machine guns by five men. There were 23 customers and employees in the bank. Then the men got into their automobiles and officers began to chase them, but they crossed the State line and before our officers could contact some officials in the other State they lost the trail. The last information I had was that that money was still gone and nobody had been arrested.
We believe we need national legislation to regulate the textile industry. It was said here at the very beginning of this hearing that the manufacturers were afraid. Gentlemen, I think it is high time that the manufacturers begin to be afraid, because they have always tried to keep their employees under a cloud of fear.
When I began working in the mills in 1903 I was told by my first employer that they were making no profit, that they were running on borrowed money in order to create jobs for the employees. And I have been told the same thing constantly while they have built up
great fortunes every year. They said that they were making no profits but were running at a loss on borrowed money in order to give the employees jobs.
Your committee has been told here--and told by men in position to know better than to make such a statement—that under N. R. A. the textile industry lost money. I am not prepared to speak for all the States, but speaking for the State of South Carolina these are their own figures made to the State Department of Commerce and Industry, And during 1933 where we had only 6 months of operation under the code, but during those 6 months they made a profit of $33,954,371 more than they did during the same period of 1932. I wonder just how much money it would take for the textile industry to say that they had made a few pennies.
Gentlemen, this is a need that has confronted us for many years. We have appealed to State legislatures, and we have waited patiently until patience has almost ceased to be a virtue. We have waited for the industry to adjust itself and govern itself and save itself from chiseling and unfair practices. And we now appeal to the national Congress for the relief in this situation.
There can be no question but that code provisions have been violated in my State. I remember a village that comes to mind just now. Somebody said that we ought to live out of our gardens and to work for accommodation in the mills. And some of our employees seem to do that and some of our employers seem to have that thought.
I moved into a little house in 1903. And I will give you the name of the village where it is located. The little town is Lexington, S. C. At that time the mill was owned by a local company, but it is now owned by the Martel chain. The house was numbered 16, and it had at some time been painted, but the paint was beginning to scale off. A few days ago I stopped a car in front of that little house and saw the stain of the very same paint. There was no improvement. I counted 11 panes of glass broken out of the windows. And the family of the textile worker was living in that house and working on a night shift in the mill for a living.
And let me say when I was living there I ran 14 to 16 looms. Today 1 weaver, i battery filler, and i loom-fixer run 100 looms to the section. On 400 looms they employ 7 weavers each shift to do smashing and everything else.
Gentlemen, I feel that enough has been said. I feel that you are going to give careful consideration to this legislation and bring to this largest group of workers that we have in my State some relief through national legislation.
Mr. Gorman. Mr. Chairman, may I place into the record this chart describing the trend of the so-called stretch out, of which we bave heard so much, and the trend of wages, using 1926 as a base, with a description and other material bearing upon the evidence we have submitted?
We were going to enter into a detailed explanation of this material, Mr. Chairman, but owing to the lack of time we will be satisfied with presenting it before your committee with this short discussion of it.
Mr. KELLER. Yes, you may do that.
(The chart referred to is as follows:)
COTTON TEXTILE STRETCH-OUT.
Mr. GORMAN. This chart shows how textile employers have solved their problem at the expense of textile workers during the past 10 years. The upper, rising line represents the number of active spindle hours per man-hour of employment in the cotton textile industry. The lower, declining line shows average weekly wages in the same industry.
The upper line shows how manufacturers have steadily increased the amount of work taken out of the hides of textile labor. It is a crude measure of the increased amount of machinery handled by each productive worker; in other words, it measures the stretch out.
This stretch-out line increased from a base of 100 in 1926, in every year but 1, to a figure of 128.7 in 1934, a total increase of 28.7 percent, and an average annual increase of about 3 percent.
It should be borne in mind that this line is constructed from data limping together the man-hours of all textile workers, including those whose jobs are such that little stretch-out or speed-up is possible, such as cleaners, fixers, and outside workers. As a result, it underestimates the rate of stretch out to which machine operators are subjected. This factor accounts for the temporary decline in the stretch-out line in 1930, when machine or productive employees were laid off or put on part time, while nonproductive employees were kept on for a while in hopes of returning prosperity.