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STATEMENT OF HON. H. P. FULMER, A MEMBER OF CONGRESS
FROM THE STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA
Mr. FULMER. Mr. Chairman and gentlemen of the committee, I am delighted to have this opportunity of coming before your committee.
I want to say in behalf of the wage earners of the country that they are fortunate indeed to have these members who compose this committee which is now holding hearings on this bill because of their interest in the wage earners of the country and their deep desire to be helpful to them.
I agree with the statement made by the chairman some days ago that, if this is not the proper bill to take care of that great class of people who need the assistance of the Federal Government today, you and your committee will work out something to take care of the situation.
I find that a great many of the people who oppose any legislation proposed by the Congress in the interest of unorganized classes have no objection to these unorganized groups doing the same thing intended under these bills. And, in that agriculture and labor are unorganized, they have not been able to compete with well-organized industry to the extent of getting a square deal. It is my belief that the Congress of the United States should pass legislation to enable that great class of people to do for themselves that which they are unable to do now, in that they are not organized and never will be thoroughly organized. In other words, it is an easy matter for industrial groups to organize, monopolize, fix prices and wages, in that they are composed of a small group of people, in a great many instances who are well educated and well financed. On the other hand, agriculture and wage earners, being composed of millions of individuals, in many instances uneducated (through no fault of their own but because of their financial condition), are absolutely helpless in trying to organize so as to bring about bargaining power in selling farm products and demanding fair wages.
I have not had an opportunity to study the Ellenbogen bill, and, naturally, would not be able to speak on its real merits. But I wanted to appear before your committee and tell you that I am very much concerned about and in sympathy with that class of people who, as I said a few minutes ago, need the protection of the Government in the passage of legislation that will enable them to take care of their interests, especially when they have to go up against these well-organized and well-financed groups.
In my State we have a number of textile mills and in my district there are quite a number of them. I believe that the operators of the mills in South Carolina are trying to be just as fair as they can possibly be to the employees; but without some national legislation so that we can make the fellow who is not willing to cooperate or who is not willing to be fair with his employees, naturally the people in my State, perhaps, would not be able to do that which they would like to do or that which they should do.
Something has been said about the problem of passing legislation coming within the Constitution of the United States, especially after the decision of the Supreme Court some days ago on the A. A. A. It is my belief that the Constitution is elastic enough to pass legislation to take care of the interests of the great masses of the people who, as I said a little while ago, are unorganized and, apparently, helpless at this time. It is my contention that the Constitution of the United States was so written that we can legislate today to take care of the masses of the people and still remain within the Constitution. I would not like to think that in this day and generation the Congress would not be able to pass legislation to take care of the unorganized who have to go up against the rules and regulations of these well-organized groups.
However, I can easily understand that, perhaps, although the men who wrote the Constitution of the United States were capable, outstanding, patriotic citizens at the time of the writing of this great document, they could not visualize the tremendous increase in population, communication, and other developments that we have at this time so as to be able to write a constitution 150 years ago which would take care of every situation that might arise at the present time. And, if the present Constitution is not elastic enough to take care of these problems, although I believe it is, there is only one thing to be done that is, let the people decide whether or not they want to amend the Constitution of the United States so as to take care of this situation.
I want to say to you that I am deeply interested in any type of legislation that will look to the welfare and protection of the great masses of the people who really need to be placed on an equal basis with these well-organized groups. I have this feeling largely because of the understanding I have for suffering humanity. I have had to go up against a great many of the problems which are now confronting the agricultural interests and the wage earners of this country. I was born and reared on a farm. I had to walk 4 miles to secure a highschool education. I started life's work as a young man behind a grocery counter at $10 per month and board. During all of these years I worked, as stated, first, as a wage earner, then engaged in the mercantile business, country banking, and farming. And, during all of this time, I had to go up against well-organized and wellfinanced groups. I am in a position to understand and sympathize with the people for whom I am speaking here today. I have had a long and stumpy road to travel because of not being able as an individual to cope with these well-organized and well-financed groups I am talking to you about.
Tberefore, as previously stated, I am deeply interested in seeing to it that this great group of innocent toilers of the soil and wage earners of the country get a square deal to the extent that they are placed on an equal basis with these well-organized and well-protected groups.
We have heard much about the policy of some people in regard to "sharing the wealth of the country. The policy I am interested in is
. to protect the people we have been talking about to the extent that they may be able to make for themselves a name and a reasonable livelihood to which they are clearly entitled. It is unthinkable to me, knowing as I do the conditions under which the farmers of this country have been operating as well as the conditions under which the wage earners of the country have been operating, knowing that they are not able out of their experience to demand for themselves a square deal, that the Congress of the United States, under the welfare clause of the Constitution of the United States, is not able to pass legislation to do
that which these people should do for themselves but which they are unable to do because of not being able to organize. My father and his father and renerations of the past have submitted to this unfair procedure. Many of them lived in poverty, were unable to secure for themselves a home, education, and many of the good things in life that other people were receiving and to which they were clearly entitled. But it is my belief and contention that the generation of today and unborn generations will not submit to this unfair and uneconomic treatment at the hands of these organized groups, the Congress, and tie decisions of the Supreme Court.
It is my belief that some of the highest type citizens and some of the best brains to be found in the country can be found in the rural sections and the industrial centers. But because of the handicap brought about under the present situation that we have been talking about, these people are not permitted to exert and develop themselves to that extent to which they are entitled and which would enable them to become a real asset to their community, State, and Nation.
I realize that there are a great many people on the farm, in the factory village, as well as many who reside in the great cities of the country, that, if today the wealth of the country were divided and turned over to them, the days would not be many before it would go back to those who control the finances of the country at this time. But I do contend that there are millions of citizens who today are unable, as stated, to own their own homes, educate their children, and take their places in this great Republic to which they are entitled and wbich position they would possess if they had a fair, square deal that I am interested in having the Congress of the United States provide or give to them.
I thank you.
Mr. Wood. I appreciate the statement made by our colleague, Mr. Chairman. It was a very valuable addition that he has made to the testimony already given.
Mr. KELLER. I am very glad you expressed that compliment. It is my own sentiment.
Mr. Wood. I think it expresses the view of every member of the committee.
Mr. KELLER. I will now call upon Mr. George Taylor.
STATEMENT OF GEORGE TAYLOR, VICE PRESIDENT, WOOLEN
AND WORSTED FEDERATION OF AMERICA
Mr. KELLER. Will you please state your name and your occupation?
Mr. TAYLOR. My name is George Taylor. I am first vice president, Woolen and Worsted Federation of America.
Mr. Chairman and gentlemen of the committee, I will have to go back to the time of the first employment I had in a woolen and worsted mill. I have spent 19 years in the woolen and worsted mills, and I have seen the changes, and I have worked from the dye house up, with the exception of the spinning department. I am at the present time a weaver in a woolen mill.
During the years of the war a great volume of production in the textile industry was of vital necessity to provide not only Army clothing for the soldiers, but also to maintain production to take care of the ordinary market. Action was needed at once. And what was
done? First, there was the addition of and speeding up of machinery and the lengthening of hours; second, the hiring of women and children in a great many instances to take the place of enlisted men to meet the demand for extra production; third, the addition of second and third shifts, the "graveyard shift", on which I have worked and which, if not stopped, surely will be a graveyard shift. During the war these factories that had already added the additional machinery and, in many instances, automatic machinery to take the place of the regular hand machinery, continued the practice. The operation of the machinery was still kept going with a decrease in the necessary production.
Naturally the market was flooded to such an extent that this depression in the textile industry was inevitable. Coupled with this overproduction was the increase in the use of automatic machinery which has been going on, I should say from the early 1920's, and is still going on, and it threw thousands of workers in the textile industry out on to the street or into other jobs, if they were lucky enough to find them.
This bill will probably not regulate the making of automatic machinery, but probably it will mean that they will not be able to add any more.
As to child labor, everyone will agree with me, I think, and with what I have to say about long hours and putting children into the mills at the age of 13 or 14 and working them these long hours. It not only affects their physical power and health but it retards their education and, in fact, it hurts their chances of ever becoming very much more than a workman in a mill before they die. Therefore I believe that passage of the Ellenbogen bill is of vital necessity. And I hope this committee will take care of it. I have children whom I do not want to go to work at 14 if it can be prevented.
The National Textile Act provides a minimum wage of $15 for 35 hours a week. I refer to the work-assignment board, before which I have appeared, and the records show that the textile worker during the period of their looking into matters for the Government, that is, looking into conditions of the textile workers, does not average 35 hours a week. And this, of course, must be taken care of.
We also believe that $15 per week for 35 hours for unskilled workers is fair remuneration. Of course, it could be better.
Now, this is something I wish to stress as a skilled worker. This provides for differentials for the semiskilled and the skilled. Under the National Industrial Recovery Act these differentials were not maintained by the manufacturer. And by that I mean that instead of using the minimum wage as it was intended by the Congress they used it as a maximum, and the skilled worker or semiskilled worker took the minimum. He received in some instances lower than the minimum wage.
The result of this unfair practice was that they called many strikes in the industry. Until this unfair practice is eliminated we can never expect industrial peace.
In these Government records it is also shown as a fact that we must have a basic work week, that is, a standard set of 35 hours or less that
. cannot be broken, because if that is not done, then at the present time in these large corporations or syndicates they have sufficient machinery, if allowed to operate more than that, to squeeze the smaller
manufacturer right out of existence. In other words, these smaller manufacturers operate in the small towns throughout the New Eng. land section, from which I come, and the towns and communities themselves are dependent upon these manufacturers for the general welfare of the whole community. We are all in small groups. There are no big masses like there are in Philadelphia or in similar places.
I will say, Mr. Chairman, without trying to take up too much of the time of this committee, that if the textile industry is to prosper we must have a balanced production in connection with the consuming power of the labor.
If I am not able to purchase with the wages I get the cloth that I am producing, then the industry can never attain a healthy condition. This act will not tell a manufacturer how he will produce or what he will pay, and there is no price-fixing provision; but I believe it will aid in connection with price cutting, which is detrimental so far as the competitive situation is concerned.
I cite this case of what has happened to me personally. During the peak of the depression the manufacturers would come to us with this story: "Well, we have rush orders and we have so much time in which to get them out, but you will have to take a 10-percent cut or a 15percent cut in order for us to take this work.”
Naturally in our section of the country we were not very well organized at that time. And they would say, "If you don't like to take the cut on these rush orders you can just simply go home.”
And that resulted finally in gradual cuts. Taking weavers, for example, they would put on the automatic looms, and in some cases the width of the cloth was doubled. Therefore they were weaving double the width and three times the amount, if not more.
We shouldered hours ranging from 60 to 70 hours a week during this period. And I don't mean day work; I mean night work.
I have gone to work five nights at 6 o'clock in the evening and worked until 6 o'clock in the morning and then had to go back at 6 o'clock Saturday evening and work until midnight, go back at midnight on Sunday and work until 6 o'clock Monday morning, running three automatic looms on heavy cloth, not light clothing. And then I would have to go back at 6 o'clock Monday evening and start the work over again. That was 72 hours for about the same amount of money that I am getting at the present time for 40 hours' work.
I am still working what we call the night shift. But in the prcduction end, I will say that in my section of the country they do not dare put into effect those conditions. If they did dare, they would do it.
The licensing of manufacturers under Government supervision will keep out the so-called chiseler. We have that up in Massachusetts and in this section of the country as well as in the South.
We believe the chiseler will not dare take the chances because of the penalties provided.
We believe the flow of interstate commerce would not be violated by the National Textile Act, and that it will pass the Supreme Court. If not, we would like to take some of these justices and put them on the 72-hour work week, even if they worked days, to see how they like it.
I am not going to take up more time except to say this: I had the pleasure of appearing before Mr. Walters. I don't know whether I