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The lower line shows what textile workers received for the work they did. Even before the depression this wage line was declining, and in 1929 was lower than in the base year of 1926. By 1932 weekly wages declined to 68.6 percent of the 1926 level.
Some increase during the N. R. A.—nothing like the 70 percent which the employers talk of, brought the weekly wage index to 79.1 in 1934. As was brought out earlier in the hearings, wage rates are again being cut, and weekly wages will decline sharply as soon as the current spell of heavy production activity weakens.
What is most significant is the constantly growing spread between the two lines, the growing spread between what the employers get out of the workers, and what the workers get in return. Even when we received slightly higher weekly wages in 1933 and 1934, most of the increase was taken by the employers through the stretch-out. In fact, the increasing stretch-out, and declining wages are closely related. Stretch-out increases unemployment and part-time work, so, directly decreases labor's income. Through creating unemployment, it weakens labor's bargaining power, and makes it easier for the employers to reduce wage rates.
Complete figures for 1935 are not yet available, but it appears from data for the first 10 months that in spite of improved business in the cotton textile industry, employment has averaged 15,000 men less than in 1934, and pay rolls just about the same.
This means that due to rising living costs, the real income of cotton textile workers declined further last year.
It is necessary to drastically increase wages and to eliminate stretch-out in order to insure for textile labor a decent and reasonable share of the product of their industry, as well as a sufficient share to enable them to live like human beings.
I will now present this statement which is headed Cotton textile statistical indexes.
(The statement referred to is as follows:)
Mr. GORMAN. Mr. Chairman, we have two more witnesses from branches of the industry that have not been heard from, the rayon and synthetic yarn industry and the dyeing industry.
Mr. KELLER. How much time will they take?
Mr. GORMAN. The representative of the dyers will not be here until this afternoon at 1:30. The representative from the rayon and synthetic yarn industry, and his statement will be very. brief.
Mr. KELLER. We will now call Mr. Woodard.
STATEMENT OF ALBERT R. WOODARD, PRESIDENT, UNITED
SYNTHETIC YARN WORKERS
Mr. WOODARD. Mr. Chairman and gentlemen of the committee, this is the report, in general, of the past and present development in the rayon manufacturing industry which shows the necessity and desirability for the regulations and protection which the National Textile Act affords textile manufacturers and textile labor.
The largest break-down in the rayon industry is in the stretch-out or increased machine and production load per operator.
Some of this has been brought about through the introduction of so-called modernized machinery. Where this is the case, the work
load of the operator has not been decreased but in most cases attempts have been made to increase the work load greatly over the former status. The worker has not gained, even partially, in the benefits of the modernized machines.
I refer you back to the term "modernized machinery." A better name, so far as I have seen in the rayon industry, is "Labor Lay-off Machinery.”
My frank opinion is that most of the machinery is designed not to run at a lower power and maintenance cost but primarily to operate mainly with a greatly reduced operating force. These machines do operate at a lower power and maintenance cost. That is the only logical reason for calling them modernized machines. The managements are not satisfied with acquiring just this saving in power and maintenance costs. They, at least most of them have to go a great deal further and gobble up a great deal more savings or increased profit by stretching out the employee and increasing his production and work load over his or her former status. They then say they want to pick out this one or that one and lay him off because he cannot keep up with the requirements of the new modernized work load. This operator was doing a good, satisfactory job before; but now we must modernize and he cannot take it, so he must go.
I wonder who is going to take care of all these unfortunates who cannot seem to become streamlined.
At one time prior to the N. R. A. the plant where I am employed operated, for example, one department with 56 men per shift at a wage of an average of about 54 cents per hour. Since that time they have reduced each shift to 32 men, which makes an approximate saving in this one department of $250 per 24 hours. That is one example of stretch out with an example in increased profits. This occurred in other departments and other mills. At the time they employed 56 men per shift they carried on extensive machine repairs which since then have been deemed unnecessary. They were unnecessary at the time, and the management knew it, but they were selling their rayon for around a dollar a pound then so did not mind throwing away around $50,000 a year on needless expenditures.
The managements are continually throwing it up to the workers that they should be more efficient. People who live in glass houses
should not throw stones. At least, they should practice what they preach.
I know one plant which has a chemical engineer who recently made a mistake in chemical calculations and timing which caused a loss of about $20,000. This has happened plenty of times before. Yet this same plant has been running in the red, at least they say so, for several years. They have come to their employees several times and said, "You must help us to survive. You must let us lay some of you off and the rest do more work or we will have to go out of business."
They politely ask labor to pay for the losses caused by the inefficiency of the supervisory force.
Recently the production manager of the plant where I work asked me to formulate a plan whereby the production department of the plant could be run with a force of 215 men, and asked how much I would pay them.
This plan for running the department on 215 men calls for a lay-off for 98 men. He did not ask what I would do with the men laid off. He didn't care what became of them.
He has made several proposals for reducing the employee force with the simple explanation that there are too many men in the plant. He is only an example of many more in the rayon plants.
I might add here that he also offered to pay my expenses on a trip to several rayon plants to get data for him on working conditions, the work load, and wages. He also offered me a job as supervisor in the plant. But I want to recall that the offer was at a time when we were then having labor trouble, and I was one of the officers of the union.
Thank Heaven, there are some humane, broad-minded, Christian men in charge of some rayon plants.
Our general manager, Mr. Bierne Gordon, is, I believe, as liberal toward labor as anyone in the rayon industry. But he has been forced to present some proposals of stretch-out because the price manipulations and grasping policy of some of the large companies have forced him to do so.
The production manager is of the other type, however, and the only thing, I believe, which keeps him from being about the worst employer in the rayon industry is the pressure of Mr. Gordon, and our union, which is about 93 percent strong.
Until recently our plant was producing and selling at a loss, partly because the price had been forced down to such a low level by the large financially strong companies. These large companies could still make a profit while our plant could not because our manager has been humane enough to keep our work load lighter than his competitors.
I say the industry should be investigated and something done to prevent the market price going down to such a low level that the small plants cannot exist. The only way to do this, in my opinion is through National Government regulation. Laws such as this Ellenbogen bill provides are needed not only for labor but for the protection of the small plants which are in danger of being eaten up by the actions of the large market controlling companies.
Some of the small companies say they want no Government regulation but admit something is needed for their protection. If these plants are allowed to close because the large companies will not let them run at a profit, all their employees which, altogether amounts to thousands, will be forced out of work onto Federal, State, or local relief. This is decidedly against the general welfare of the people and calls for action and laws to prevent such a thing happening.
The employers will not get together voluntarily nor will they stand by any voluntary agreement made by them. Some of them would revert back to the old stand-by-cutthroat competition, and the rest would have to follow to a greater or less extent.
This is not my opinion but the stated opinion of one of the manufacturers. This is proof enough, I think, that Federal Government protection and regulation is needed as soon as possible before the situation gets any worse.
In the summer of 1935, our organization, the Synthetic Yarn Workers of America, offered to cooperate with the small companies to get protection for them from the developments and policies which were forcing them to run in the red.
They refused our cooperation, so they are unwilling to cooperate openly with labor. The only out is Federal Government protection.
Some plants, mainly in the South, which seem to act in the same way as most of the mills in the South and in other branches of the textile industry, pay wages that do not allow for any luxuries nor emergency funds for sickness nor old age.
There is a wage which results in a bare existence for some workers. The managers of these mills are making thousands while their employees barely live. That is a good example of the Golden Rule in any language.
There are no two plants with the same work or production load or wages. All are expanding or contemplating it. Some are working some employees as much as 16 to 24 hours' overtime per week at straight-time pay. I dare say all plants are contemplating further stretch out.
Leveling out and regulation of wages, work load, and production is needed and has been needed for some time in order to put all plants and employees on a more even, competitively fair basis.
Having a different wage or work production load for the operator in one plant than in another plant places the plant having the greatest work load and the resulting lower labor cost per unit of production in a very unfair competitive position. Other plants cannot compete long under this condition. They are forced to reduce their cost of production nearer to the level of their most ruthless competitor. Labor is always the one to bear the brunt of the reduction in jobs and income as a result.
If an operator or any employee does a certain amount of work or produces a certain amount of goods he should get the same pay as an operator in any other plant who produces the same amount under the same conditions. It makes no difference whether he is in the North or in the South. He is getting paid for work done and skill performed, not for living in this State or that State or this section or that section. Whether the southern worker is efficient or not, he should get the same pay as his fellow worker in the North for producing a like amount.
No doubt you will hear the argument forwarded later by the company representatives, who, for some reason or another, I believe will oppose this bill, that the rayon industry does not need regulation nor is in a
position to allow regulation to occur because it is a new industry; it is only in the experimental stage and is not ready for stabilization.
I agree that the industry is in an experimental stage. The process was developed by chemical experiment. The process is a chemical process in every respect up to the last step of winding onto cones or skeins or bobbins, as the case may be. Being a chemical process, it will always be in the experimental stage.
Experiments are constantly being performed to improve the strength, texture, variations, and uniformity of rayon. Experiments are being performed to try to find varied uses for rayon and its byproducts." All companies are trying to find a wider market for their product.
However, this is not the only industry where experiments are being performed. The automobile, steel, oil, paper, or any of the other branches of the textile industry are also continually experimenting to improve their product and to widen the demand and market for their products. They have always experimented and they always will. That is the reason for what advancement we have. It is part of any business program,
I cannot agree that the rayon industry is a new one. The first rayon produced on a manufacturing scale was produced about 1880. Some was produced in this country before the World War. When it started and grew, the manufacturers had imported machinery, chemists, and supervisors from foreign countries who had had years of experience in technical and executive lines in connection with the manufacture of rayon. Most of these are still connected with these rayon plants. Some employers will probably say that their employees do not want regulation nor a union. I would not believe anyone who says such a condition exists in any plant.
The union is the only real, frank, fearless voice the employee has, and this applies to the rayon industry as well as any other industry.
Past experience would make any employee keep silent and take what he got if he had no union. Nine times out of ten he would be demoted or fired if he even complained individually. The only way, in my opinion, to overcome this intimidation and fear on the part of the employee is by having a strong union in every plant which will guarantee the employee the right to express his real opinion and views without fear of getting thrown out of a job. Free speech is a constitutional right of all Americans. But you have to have a union in most plants in order to be able to use that right in labor discussion.
Our manager says he would believe the answers given by our union committee but cannot rely on the expressed opinion of the individual in the plant because he believes that the individual would be a yes man because of fear of results if he disagreed.
He also admitted that by having meetings with the union committee he has found out things about his plant which he never knew before. He also admitted the union has saved the company thousands of dollars in various ways.
There is no rayon plant which can be called a healthy place in which to work. There is the danger of explosion and asphyxiation from carbon gas in some departments. There is the danger of inhaling chlorine gas in some departments. In other departments the floor is extremely wet or slippery. Some have to work in a spray consisting of sulphuric acid and other ingredients. There is great danger of