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Mr. STEELE. In addition this bill says (reading):
The Commission shall have power to fix a fee for the issuance of such labels or stamps which shall not be greater than the proportionate cost of defraying the expense of issuing the labels or stamps and the cost of administration of this act.
This in itself again places further financial burden on an industry which is far from able to bear it. The textile industry is divided into so many classes that I know of no one man who could even be expected to know the entire problems of each branch. If I were asked to recommend a man for this Commission I would be at a loss to do so. I don't know a man in the textile industry who knows the problems of wool, silk, and all of those things that go with it. Therefore, it would be necessary for them to employ men to follow down each channel of the textile industry. And I want to say to you that by the time they got this complete organization that you would have an army of workers under this Commission. This in itself would place a further financial burden on an industry which is far from able to bear it. This bill written as it is, aims to give protection and benefit, and guarantees the rights of the employee, and makes no provision whatever for the rights of the employer, and in my estimation, will not only penalize the textile industry, but will also prove deterimental to those whom it seeks to help, and in addition, I believe it to be unconstitutional.
Again I say, gentlemen, that in order to be workable and to arrive at what you gentlemen hope to arrive at, it should benefit all concerned
Mr. ELLENBOGEN. Tell us what rights you would give the employer in that connection, please.
Mr. STEELE. I would not attempt to stand here now and specify what the rights are any more than I would attempt to stand up here and specify what the rights of the employees are.
Mr. Wood. What do you think about the collective bargaining feature of this bill?
Mr. STEELE. Mr. Wood, as a workman in a plant many times I have been dissatisfied, and many times I worked under a foreman of one temperament, many times I worked under a foreman of a different temperament, many times I got what I thought was satisfactory treatment, and many times I thought I was being shunted to one side. Since being placed in the position of the employer I can look back many times and see without trying very hard where my contention was based upon the fact that I did not know the other side of the story.
In our plant we have no objection to any man's coming in with any proposition either for himself or for others and presenting it to us. We have no objection to the secretary of the union to which he belongs putting before us his complaint. And we have no objection to the entire textile council bringing in a complaint. And it might be said, in justice to the textile council of the city where I am located, that they tried not only to be fair to their constituents but they tried to be fair to the emplover as well. And in many cases we have worked out of what looked like serious problems.
If you are going to put a label on it and call it collective bargaining, that is one thing. When you talk about collective bargaining and about bringing somebody, possibly from Pennsylvania, into my plant
who knows nothing about my problem, who knows nothing about the problem of my employees, I would not like it any more than you would like to have a doctor brought into your case, if you were sick, who knew nothing of the background of your case.
Mr. Wood. The Guffey Coal Act and the Transportation Act have a collective bargaining feature in them. In addition to that, we have the Labor Relations Board. The reason why I asked the question was that some of the former witnesses representing the employers objected to the collective-bargaining feature.
Í will ask if you do not feel that the employees should call in a representative of their own choosing. If you do not want to allow the employees to do that, then why does the employer assume the right to employ attorneys, professors and others who were never connected with the industry? Why do they assume the right to send representatives here to tell us something about the industry of which they know nothing?
Mr. STEELE. Speaking about the employment of the professor, we are trying to further our cause; we are trying to improve an industry that has been referred to as being sick. Unless the industry is improved so that the stockholder, who has made the industry possible with his investment may at some time get some return, it is going to be detrimental to the return of the employee. Therefore, we are trying to find out if there are ways to further our industry, and we bring a man in from your side whom we think will be broadminded enough to see all angles.
Mr. Wood. It is a poor rule that will not work both ways. In all labor controversies invariably the employer will inject an attorneyusually it is an attorney. And in the negotiations between employer and employee very frequently the employer has the attorney or some agent not at all connected with the firm but who is employed by them to negotiate the wage agreement or contract with the employees. The employer has that full and free right at all times. Why should not the same right be afforded to the employee?
Mr. STEELE. I have no objection to it, except that we just don't have it done; that is all.
Mr. Wood. Suppose they did have it; don't you think the employee should have a full right with the employer to select representatives of his own choosing?
Mr. STEELE. Yes, sir.
Mr. Wood. The employers themselves admit that they are not able at all times to defend their own position by the very fact that they employ specialists, technical men not connected with the industry, attorneys, and others to represent them. That is an acknowledgment on their part that they are not able to cope with the situation, so they employ somebody who can do it. Why should not the workers have the same right?
Mr. STEELE. I have no objection to their having the same right that we have.
Mr. Wood. That is collective bargaining absolutely, that is, that the employees shall have the right to select representatives of their own choosing in negotiating contracts, and so on.
Mr. STEELE. The term “collective bargaining” possibly means some things I know nothing about. But in dealing with my own employees, either in a group or a union to which they belong, if that is not collective bargaining, what is it?
Mr. Wood. In one sense of the word it is, but not in the broader sense of the meaning of collective bargaining.
Mr. KELLER. Do you have a shop union or an outside union?
Mr. STEELE. We have no company union. We make no endeavor to have a company union. Our employees belong to the various craft unions. And I say, Mr. Chairman, I don't know which ones of them belong to the union; it makes no difference.
Mr. KELLER. But is it a union shop? Mr. STEELE. Yes, sir; it is. Mr. KELLER. That is what I wanted to know. Are there any other questions you wish to ask, Mr. Wood? Mr. Wood. That is all just now. Mr. ELLENBOGEN. Mr. Steele, I believe you object to competition with employers in foreign countries who do not pay similar wage scales to that which you pay.
Mr. STEELE. By virtue of the good coming in from foreign countries that pay such extremely low wages that they keep down the price of our products.
Mr. ELLENBOGEN. In other words, you think foreign employers should be on the same level so far as wage scales are concerned?
Mr. STEELE. I don't know to what you refer.
Mr. ELLENBOGEN. You object to imports because they pay less in wages. Does the same objection not hold true against the South, if they pay less?
Mr. STEELE. The competition I have from the South is very limited; that is, my own personal competition. The price of the foreign goods about which I am speaking has the effect I mentioned. The only man who really has any edge on me in the South in the fine goods business, specializing in the fine goods business, specializing in dray goods, is the fellow who is getting his taxes free.
Mr. ELLENBOGEN. But you do not believe an employee in New Bedford should be dislodged from his employment by unfair competition from the South any more than from Japan?
Mr. STEELE. Or any more than in our own district, Rhode Island or Connecticut, or I don't care what State it comes from.
Mr. ELLENBOGEN. So you do not believe there should be a differential between the South and the North in wages, do you?
Mr. STEELE. Well, of course, if we were exactly the same price as the South in our fine goods business, I don't believe there would be much difference other than the matter of free taxes.
Almost every mill that Dr. Murchison has spoken about as going South received an invitation to come to some other State, but most of them were from the South. If we will move, then we are offered 10 years' taxes free, or something like that.
Mr. Wood. And free water, light, and power?
Mr. ELLENBOGEN. You do not believe that should be the case, do you?
Mr. STEELE. I could take advantage of that if I wished, but I do not want to do so.
Mr. ELLENBOGEN. I would like to have you answer my question.. Do you believe there should be a wage differential between the North and the South?
Mr. STEELE. I am on record on that. I have said that goods selling in the same common market should pay the same price. I am on record on that.
Mr. ELLENBOGEN. Against it?
Mr. ELLENBOGEN. I was very glad to hear you speak against the three shifts.
All mills in the Burlington chain, for instance, represent three shifts; also the Marshall Field Mill in Leaksville, N. C., and the Haw River Mill, Haw River, N. C.
The Edna Cotton Mill, Reeds ville, N. C., runs two 11-hour shifts at present on Government work.
The Sanford Manufacturing Co., Sanford, N. C., also runs two 11-hour shifts. And many other mills run three 8-hour shifts.
Mr. STEELE. No, sir. They are not competitors of mine, but it is not fair competition with the people who are in competition with them.
Mr. KELLER. This is outside of the bill, perhaps, but what can we do to put our 10 million idle men to work?
Mr. STEELE. Mr. Chairman, you have commissions, you have experts, you have men galore here in Washington who are trying to answer that question. And there is a saying that 'fools rus, in where angles fear to tread”; and I do not wish to assume the role of either.
Mr. KELLER. That is a nice way to put it. But there ought to be a way out of this, ought there not?
Mr. STEELE. There will be a way out.
Mr. STEELE. I don't know, sir. But when we consider the great depression that was caused by the world war, which came right down the line to one country after another, we must realize that it was bound to reach us. This depression was bound to come. It has cleaned a lot of us; it has cleaned myself as well as others. But now we are going through the reestablishment, we hope. The cycle will go around. It always has done so. But when and where, I don't know.
I don't know of any proposition that I could lay before you gentlemen right now that would solve the depression problem.
Mr. KELLER. Unless we can put those men back to work.
Mr. STEELE. Mr. Chairman, when you put the processing tax on us, how many men did they put out of work in the South?
Mr. KELLER. Did it put anybody out of work?
Mr. STEELE. If I am informed correctly, about 500,000 people were thrown out of employment.
Mr. KELLER. I do not find it so. But I am trying to get this over to you. I was hoping that when you men who do the big manufacturing of the country come here but are opposed to this going into
effect, that you would tell this committee what we can do to put our 10 million idle people back to work.
Mr. STEELE. That is another proposition entirely, sir.
Mr. KELLER. I realize that full well. Yet one of the principal objects of this bill is to put men back to work.
Mr. STEELE. That may be. But unless we can market our output and have an outlet for our problems we will not be able to put them to work. And please bear this in mind, that it not only involves the men whom we lay off in the textile industry but also the stevedore, the truckman, and everybody else who handles the bale of cotton all of the way down the line.
Mr. KELLER. Let me make this suggestion. I hope to have the very full proof of this statement—and I am promised it—that if we could restore or raise the income 50 percent above what it was in the prepanic days that it would enable us to use 20,000,000 bales of cotton here in the United States. And I believe that is true. And I suggest this to you for your consideration, because if we can do that it seems to me that it is the one way of solving the whole situation.
Mr. STEELE. Of course, our prosperity depends upon the prosperity of the country-at-large.
Mr. KELLER. Certainly it does. It depends not only upon one industry but upon all of them.
Mr. STEELE. This bill provides a minimum wage of $15. But it does not provide for any change in the economic situation; it does not provide for what is happening in other industries. We must bear in mind that this industry cannot pay premiums over other industries. None of my associates in the textile industry whom I know personally but hope for the time when we can have a much higher scale. I am opposed to low wages. I worked for them and I know what it means. I want to pay everything I can that is reasonable, that is in keeping with allied and other industries. And my associates are with me in that feeling.
Mr. KELLER. And if we can get to where we can raise the ability of men to purchase, they will do it. And they have always bought when they could buy.
Mr. STEELE. That is absolutely right.
Mr. ELLENBOGEN. Do you have competition from Greenville, N. C.?
Mr. STEELE. There are several fine good mills down there.
Mr. STEELE. They are entirely rayon, I believe. I may be wrong about it, but I think they are entirely rayon. I do not come across them in my market.
Mr. KELLER. I will now call Mr. Herman Cone, treasurer, Proximity Manufacturing Co., of Greensboro, N. C.