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thoughts as directly as possible, I shall read a résumé of the prevailing sentiment, which was approved by that meeting.

(The statement is as follows:)



Presented by J. W. NICKERSON, Cheney Bros, Before House Committee on Labor

Washington, January 28, 1936


It is a recognized principle of modern governments that new legislative proposals can be justified only when the need for them can be affirmatively demonstrated. There is no condition of distress in the Connecticut textile industry as a whole which would require, or could be remedied by, legislation of this type. From the standpoint of the Connecticut textile industry, therefore, the need is either nonexistent, or at least not acute and general, for the following reasons:

1. Our State labor laws are adequate to cover such elements in the proposed legislation as might be considered reasonable from the viewpoint of operating standards:

(a) Under chapter 291 of the Public Acts of 1935, the hours of labor for minors and wonem in manufacturing establishments are limited to 9 per day, 48 per week, with limited tolerance for peak, emergency, and seasonal requirements, upon prior approval of the State labor commissioner.

(6) Under chapter 215 of the Public Acts of 1935, the employment of women and minors is prohibited between the hours of 10 p. m. and 6 a. m.

(c) Under chapter 301 of the Public Acts of 1933, when wages in any occupation are found oppressive, the State labor commissioner can call machinery into play for the setting of minimum wages for women, and for persons under 21.

(d) l'nder chapter 8 of the Public Acts of 1935, the employment of minors under 16 is entirely prohibited in specified occupations, including manufacturing; and minors under 18 are barred from hazardous occupations.

(e) Under chapter 154 of the Public Acts of 1935, industrial home work is virtually outlawed, except in limited cases on certificate by the State labor commissioner.

(1) Under section 5205 of the General Statutes wages in specified occupations, including manufacturing, must be paid weekly.

(g) Under sections 5218–5222 of the General Statutes, as amended, Connecticut has a board of arbitration and mediation for labor disputes with adequate powers.

(h) Under section 6209 of the General Statutes, which has been on the books for over 35 years, Connecticut outlaws agreements not to join, or remain with, a labor organization.

(1) Under section 6297 of the General Statutes, Sunday industrial labor is outlawed, except in specified occupations, mostly maintenance and emergency.

(j) Under chapter 280 of the General Statutes, as amended, Connecticut employees are protected by complete workmen's compensation coverage, including a comprehensive occupational disease provision.

2. In the overwhelming main, good conditions prevail in employment relations of Connecticut manufacturers, as evidenced notably in the survey conducted by the N. R. A. organization to uncover departures from code norms after the Schechter decision.

3. Such departures from the typically good conditions as may be found in a relatively insignificant proportion of Connecticut plants could be corrected by adequate enforcement of existing statutes. If enforcement is not fully effective, neither the Ellenbogen bill nor any other statutory enactment will correct it.

4. Such aid as the bill purports to offer in the way of stabilization of competition through regulation of trade practices, is either not desired here at the price offered in the Ellenbogen bill, or has proven ineffective in application under the N. R. A. Experience under the N. R. A. indicates that the expected help in this direction, even if originally effective, will eventually be so far subordinated to the restrictions in the bill as to be practically nonexistent. Moreover, insofar as such provisions tend to monopolistic practices, they are contrary to American tradition and American jurisprudence.

5. When and if greater parity between competing States in labor restrictions is needed, Connecticut manufacturers would prefer the device of interstate compacts, now already well launched, rather than direct Federal statutory control.

6. If reemployment is the bill's objective, its provisions are unwarranted, misdirected, and cannot be effective. In the peak year, employees in the manufacturing industries of the United States averaged only 8,800,000, according to United States census figures. That figure constituted only one-fifth of the total gainfully employed persons in the country that year, leaving the remainder to be accounted for in commercial and financial occupations, distribution processes, agriculture, domestic service, the arts, the professions, etc. Therefore, asking industry to absorb the remaining 11,000,000 alleged to be still unemployed is asking it to take on over twice as many workers as it ever had, which is obviously unfair and impossible. Moreover, since the low point in March 1933, the manufacturing industries of the country have absorbed about 2,526,000_according to data compiled by the National Industrial Conference Board-an advance of 53 percent. Manufacturing employment in Connecticut made an even more rapid rise, showing a 62 percent advance in that period, according to monthly statistical reports gathered in seven industrial centers in the State. The textile mills of Connecticut, which are now employing over 40,000 hands, have participated in this general advance. In fact, the textile industry as a whole in this country appears to have been a substantial factor in the general revival, and it is interesting to note that, in the general decline shown in census figures from 1929 to 1931, textile mill employment increased from 127 percent of total and manufacturing employment to 1373 percent of the total, indicating a more tempered decline than the average industry.

II Some proposals offered for the control of industry are harmful only because of the competitive disadvantage they would entail to producers within the jurisdiction where they are effective. Many others are economically, mechanically, and practically fallacious. Excessive delimitation of hours of labor would fall in this class because it would increase costs to the point where the product of labor in that industry could not compete, from the standpoint of consumers' varied wants, with other commodities which they might purchase as an alternative, such as the choice between a new suit, using the products of the woolen industry, and an article which is the product of an entirely different industry, or even of foreign labor and capital. Moreover, if widespread, it would inevitably decrease the standard of living of the average worker because his real wages, in terms of purchasing power, would be so decreased by rising prices as to deny him many of the comforts and luxuries which he can enjoy under present-day conditions. The Ellenbogen bill is replete with such fundamental fallacies.


Connecticut textile manufacturers, therefore

1. Do not propose to become fogged in the details of the bill, like the 35-hour work week, because the bill would still contain objectionable principles from their viewpoint, even though such a rigid delimitation were slightly relaxed; and they, therefore, cannot be comforted by expressions of willingness on the part of the proponents to relax certain drastic features of the proposal.

2. Hesitate to lend endorsement to any phase of the bill, basing their hesitancy on their fate, after the promulgation of codes, when their eventual criticisms were rebuffed by the statement of the administrator that they themselves had lent endorsement to the N. R. A. principle.

3. Are not going to rely on the obvious unconstitutionality of the bill, because it could conceivably be rewritten to bring it within the limitations laid down or inferred in the Schechter and Hoosac Mills cases.

Instead, the textile manufacturers of Connecticut are opposed to the Ellenbogen bill as written, and to any colorable alternative therefor, for the following reasons:

1. Experience under the N. R. A. demonstrated the impracticability of inelastic schedules of hours or wages.

2. The bill proposes a complete divorce of management and ownership, and creates in its stead a forced partnership, in which one of the parties, management, has no choice as to the personnel or the conduct of either of the other two parties—the Federal Government and organized labor.

3. Excessive delimitation on hours actually hurts labor as a whole, not only in eventually lowering the standard of living, as recited above, but in the proven usurpation by short-time industrial employees of work and income which would normally go to persons employed in other fields, such as house repair, and auto repair.

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4. It creates a still greater bureaucracy in government. The expected freedom from this hampering feature after the Schechter decision was the beginning of the present revival in industry which is still under way, and which will probably proceed unless blocked or retarded by a measure such as the one contemplated here,

5. Export trade, where it still exists, will be further handicapped, because competing products produced in foreign countries will not be subject to the added cost burdens which this bill would impose on domestic producers and the products, therefore, cannot meet competition in the world market.

6. If the principle in the Ellenbogen bill is once enacted into law, and passes judicial scrutiny, it can be extended to other industries, thus multiplying the evil results outlined above until they cover the whole of the industrial United States. If the bill passes, and fails to hurdle the constitutional barrier, the intervening period before the constitutionality test will subject industry and the country generally to the same halting influence experienced under the N. R. A.

Mr. NICKERSON. That which I have just read, this résumé, is the product of about 24 manufacturers in many kinds of industry in the State of Connecticut, many of them being small business people.

Mr. SCHNEIDER. Were they really representatives of the manufacturers or did they come there as individuals?

Mr. NICKERSON. They came there in response to a request that was sent to probably 150 or 200 persons. Every one of the textile manufacturers in the State of Connecticut had an opportunity to come to that meeting and be heard. I felt that I could not do a job of representing the Governor from the viewpoint of management unless they came and I knew what they were speaking about. I knew but very few of them before they came to the meeting. This was an honest-to-goodness meeting.

Mr. SCHNEIDER. They represented the owners of the mills?

Mr. NICKERSON. Yes. I presume that if another 25 had come they would say the same.

Nr. MARCANTONIO. The Governor in sending out these notices notified all the manufacturers in this industry?

Mr. NICKERSON. The Governor did not send out the notices.
Mr. MARCANTONIO. Did you act for the Governor?

Mr. MARCANTONIO. Do you know whether or not labor was consulted—the labor of Connecticut?

Mr. NICKERSON. I was asked by the Governor of Connecticut to represent industry.

Mr. MARCANTONIO. To represent industry only.
Mr. NICKERSON. Yes; just industry.

This was the point of view of manufacturers who, although desirous of attaining the best and most stable industrial relations, have gone through a bitter struggle to keep their heads above water. They now see the light ahead. They believe that if they are allowed to go forward without undue restrictions, they may work out most quickly the results desired by both management and labor.

Connecticut manufacturers believe that this bill would be a backward step as would any amendment which retained its dictatorial provisions.

The proposed bill would instruct the President to appoint a commission, in whose selection neither management nor labor are given a choice, to enforce edicts involving the most vital management problems of the industry. The commission would be authorized to build up its necessarily large organization of attorneys, special experts, consultants, examiners, clerks, and other employees without regard to the provisions of the civil-service rules.

More serious even than the tremendous job assigned to this commission of enforcing the definite provisions is the authority delegated to it "to make such rules and regulations as may be necessary or appropriate” and which "shall be effective on publication.”

Perhaps the most Herculean task assigned to these seven men under section 18 is to establish minimum wages for the thousands of different jobs in scores of branches of the industry, basing their decisions upon what they determine to be the "skill required", the "historical difference between the occupations", and "changes in the cost of living.' Now an intelligent study of this problem would be well worth while. However, when we realize the manifold gradation of operations and the large variation in conditions which surround jobs that may be given the same general names and the combinations of several functions into one job in small mills, it should be clear that the placing of the power of decision and enforcement in the hands of seven dictators might well appall both management and labor.

Management would remain in continued uncertainty as to labor costs. Labor would constantly be disappointed regarding decisions as to relative wages, because with the fixing of differential minima, decreases of wages as well as increases would surely occur.

To the extent that the purpose of this bill is to obtain for textile employees a rate of pay high enough to provide a proper standard of living, stable enough to insure steady employment, equitable in the sense that skill, responsibility, and industry would be recognized-to that extent, any fair-minded employer would agree with its aim.

The problem is to determine the manner by which this purpose may be attained most expeditiously and with the highest degree of justice.

Although I have no reason to believe that Connecticut industry is desirous of Federal industrial legislation, as an individual I wish to bring out one idea.

The Silk Textile Work Assignment Board, appointed by President Roosevelt following the general textile strike in 1934, recommended, after 5 months' intensive study of the industry, that a rayon and silk adjustment board, truly representative of management and labor, be set up. This plan had the approval of representatives both of firms under the Silk Textile Code and of the United Textile Workers of America. Mr. E. L. Oliver represented labor in this proposal; the writer of this brief represented management.

The plan would have been similar in many respects to the Board of Mediation and Arbitration, established by the General Assembly of Connecticut in 1935.

The silk textile work assignment board realized that the vital issues at the root of every labor controversy are wages and work assignment. They are there together; one cannot be handled properly without the other. There is the most urgent need today for a mutual understanding between the employees and employers of the textile industry as to what is right concerning these two factors.

Quoting from the report of the silk textile work assignment board:

Such a board, however, should be established with the idea of serving both management and labor, rather than of dictating to either. We realize that the misunderstandings of a generation will require time for their healing. But with the patient cooperation of labor and management, the plan outlined herein should go far toward a solution of the outstanding labor problems in the industry.

Rather than relying on compulsions and prohibitions, the plan must depend on mediation, arbitration, and the facing of facts in the forum of public opinion. The prime purpose being to facilitate amicable settlement of disputes at the point of origin, every effort was to be made to encourage the settlement of disagreements by the individual managements and their employees. This failing, the next effort would be the attempt through mediation of bringing the two points of view together.

If a settlement were not reached in mediation, the board would offer its facilities for arbitration, such arbitration to be entirely voluntary on the part of both management and labor, but with an advance agreement to abide by the decision of the board.

If any dispute had not been settled by any of these methods, the board, upon the request of either or both parties, would undertake an investigation. Following the investigation, which should include every opportunity for presentation of evidence on both sides, the board would make a full report with its recommendations for an equitable settlement. In this case, neither party would be under legal compulsion to accept the findings.

Throughout its work, the basis of the effort of this adjustment board would be on an engineering foundation rather than merely on the unstable platform of conflicting opinion. In this manner, it is to be expected that with a board sincere in purpose and with a capable engineering staff, there would gradually be accumulated a store of scientific data. Thus an agency would be established whose decisions, although without legal power of regimentation, would carry sufficient weight on their own merit to commend the respect of the industry.

What is clearly needed is a mutual understanding of the vital factors in the relationship which should bind the industry together, rather than artificial stimulants of governmentally restricted production and forced industrial relationship. But neither the best of management or labor wishes to be the pawn of Government ownership or dictation.

If the time comes when a considerable portion of the industry feels Federal legislation is needed to assist the natural forces of recovery now in action, then the Government could perform a real service if it would establish with only a portion of the funds necessary for a bureau of control, an agency combining scientific research and arbitration, which might properly merit the cooperation and finally the trust of both management and labor.

Mr. KELLER. Industry, as I understand, has really failed to keep men employed; has it not?

Mr. NICKERSON. Certainly there has been a decrease in employment.

Mr. KELLER. We have approximately 10,000,000, outside of the present W. P. A. work, unemployed.

Mr. NICKERSON. There are approximately 10,000,000 persons unemployed, as I understand.

Mr. KELLER. Do you think industry can give employment to all these employable men and women?

Mr. NICKERSON. The thing that surprised me in reading the figures of the Bureau of the Census was that at the peak of production industry had only 8,800,000 workers. If there are 10,000,000 out of work at the present time and the peak labor consumption was, say, 9,000,000, industry should not be thought to be responsible if it does not employ more than it ever has.

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