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Mr. ELLENBOGEN. Suppose we have a law that provides for minimum wages, maximum hours, and similar safeguards.
Mr. BESSE. As an individual I have no objection to minimum wages or maximum hours, and I think the same is true of our industry.
Mr. Wood. Mr. Besse, I did not intend to interrogate you any more, but just a little while ago you said your industry was maintaining a uniform minimum wage and practically uniform maximum hours. Why did the textile industry and nearly every large industry in the Nation come to this Congress in 1933 and plead with Congress to enact some sort of legislation that would set up Government regulation of the industry? They invited us and pleaded with Congress to come in and adopt some legislation with restrictive powers that would eliminate the cutthroat, ruinous competition that was then rampant throughout the country. Why did they come here at that time and tell us that? If they were maintaining these beautiful and normal minima, why did they do it? It seems to me they did not have any minima at that time. They testified here that cutthroat competition was so rampant that nobody could maintain a minimum price, and that today he did not know why he would pay tomorrow because he did not know what his competitor was going to do. He wanted regulation then.
Mr. BESSE. There are two observations I would like to make. The conditions in 1932 were somewhat different than they are now. The second observation I make is that the possible change in viewpoint has something to do with unfortunate experiences under the legislation we got and which you state that some people asked for.
Mr. Woop. All right. What unfortunate experience did you have? Then I imagine the textile industry is in worse shape than it was in 1933? Is that true?
Mr. Besse. Our own branch is in very much better condition.
Mr. Wood. Of course, you do not attribute that to the N. R. A. or anything that this Congress has done; you just think that naturally came about through a cycle?
Mr. Besse. You are putting forth as mine an idea that I do not entertain. I think the N. R. A. was of considerable benefit to our industry.
Mr. Wood. I am taking it from your own evidence and drawing my conclusions from that.
Mr. BESSE. All I am prepared to say at this time is that we do not want another N. R. A. I think the N. R. A. did good to our industry:
Mr. Wood. Then why do you not want it, if it did good and saved your industry?
Mr. BESSE. In our industry the only sort of complaint that we had was lack of enforcement.
Mr. Wood. And what was the reason for the lack of enforcement.
In fact, that was the fundamental reason for the failure of the N. R. A. to reach the object that it was intended to reach, because we left the regulation of the codes up to the employers themselves; and they showed that they were of the same frame of mind that they were in prior to 1933.
Mr. BESSE. We did not want that. We tried to get enforcement in Washington. We got no assistance whatsoever.
Mr. Wood. You insisted upon it, certainly. The Manufacturers Association and the National Chamber of Commerce were both very much wedded to that idea, and in their convention here of the National Manufacturers Association and the National Chamber of Commerce they passed a resolution asking the Congress to set up the tribunals where a majority of the industry could force the remainder of the industry to comply with the minimum standards.
Mr. BESSE. Yes; I think we embraced them with alacrity. The cotton textile industry had Code No. 1 and we had Code No. 3.
Mr. WOOD. And you wrote your own code without any interference by the employees or without any assistance at all. Mr. BESSE. No; that is not right.
Mr. Wood. So if the N. R. A. was in any way unsuccessful, or if the code was, it was due primarily to the employers having the absolute authority in the writing of the code.
Mr. BESSE. We had no authority whatever. That is one of the difficulties.
Mr. Wood. You wrote your own code and set up your own rules and regulations.
Mr. BESSE. That is not correct.
Mr. Wood. That is correct; absolutely. Because who else did it? I would like to have you tell me that. If you did not write your own codes, who else did it?
Mr. BESSE. We did write our own codes. But we were told in what respect we could write our own codes and what provisions had to be in them.
Mr. Woon. You practically policed it yourselves.
Mr. RAMSPECK. Mr. Besse, I have a conviction in my mind that about the only benefit that we got out of the N. R. A. came from the establishing of minimum wages, maximum hours, and the elimination of child labor, and the limitation on machine operation. What is your opinion about it?
Mr. BESSE. I think that covers the ground.
Mr. RAMSPECK. And those things with the possible exception of the limitation of machine hours, were in the President's Reemployment Agreement, were they not?
Mr. BESSE. In one form or another, yes.
Mr. RAMSPECK. All of those things that came afterward in the codes just created confusion and led to trouble and broke down the thing? Isn't that true?
Mr. BESSE. We had nothing in our code that was complicated or led to any particular difficulty.
Mr. RAMSPECK. What was it that changed your opinion about the N. R. A., then, if you had no difficulty with the code?
Mr. Besse. I think the particular thing that caused the change in point of view is what I tried to point out to Mr. Wood, that I expressed in a different way. Perhaps we mistakingly understood when the N. R. A. was written that we could write our own code. And after we received the governmental approval we understood the Government would enforce it. It appeared to us later that what was going to happen was that we had to enforce a code that they wanted to write in the N. R. A. Board. We were constantly struggling against the imposition of general orders and particular orders affecting some provision of our code.
Mr. RAMSPECK. I gathered from the statement you made a little while ago that it is your opinion that the members of your particular branch of the industry would not object to minimum wages and maximum hours if they had nothing else imposed upon them?
Mr. BESSE. I think there would be no objection. Mr. ELLENBOGEN. On that score, Mr. Besse, how many members of the industry are members of your association?
Mr. BESSE. On the basis of the amount of machinery in the industry, it is about 91 percent.
Mr. ELLENBOGEN. If we pass an hour and wage law along that score that the gentleman from Georgia suggested, will the members of your association go into court and try to have it declared unconstitutional?
Mr, BESSE. I do not think so.
Mr. ELLENBOGEN. You know members of the coal industry that favored the code have done that.
Mr. BESSE. Members of what industry?
Mr. ELLENBOGEN. Members of the coal industry who came before the congressional committee and asked for its adoption, but after it was adopted they went into court and they are now endeavoring to enjoin it.
Mr. BESSE. I did not know that.
Mr. ELLENBOGEN. I think if the industry would unite upon minimum wages and maximum hours and would come before Congress with a program like that they would find a lot of sympathy.
Mr. BESSE. We have no objection to either one. In fact, it is quite the reverse.
Mr. ELLENBOGEN. As a matter of fact, don't you think that is essential if the industry is to be carried on orderly and without recurring depressions?
Mr. BESSE. I think it is desirable, Mr. Ellenbogen. I would qualify it by saying that in our industry—and the same thing may be true in other industries—some provision must be made for flexibility.
Mr. ELLENBOGEN. Under the N. R. A., flexibility was used for the purpose of defeating the hour limitations. That is correct, is it not?
Mr. BESSE. Not in our industry. We had no flexibility other than certain exceptions.
Mr. ELLENBOGEN. You are pretty busy just now, are you not?
Mr. ELLENBOGEN. Can you give us the average hours per week in 1935? I do not mean the maximum but the average amount actually worked?
Mr. BESSE. The average hours per week per employee?
Mr. ELLENBOGEN. No; over the year. You are now on a 40-hour basis, as I understand it.
Mr. BESSE. Yes.
Mr. ELLENBOGEN. But actually the employees did not have an opportunity to work 40 hours throughout the year, did they?
Mr. BESSE. I can only give you that for the last month. As I recall it it was around 36.
Mr. ELLENBOGEN. That was for 1 month?
Mr. ELLENBOGEN. As an average for the year it would be less, would it not?
Mr. BESSE. Yes; it would be less than that. The early part of the year was less active than the last part of the year.
Mr. ELLENBOGEN. Then 35 hours would be a pretty good amount, would it not?
Mr. BESSE. Not as a maximum; no, sir.
Mr. ELLENBOGEN. You did not work 35 hours in 1935 as a yearly average?
Mr. BESSE. No. But you are losing sight of two factors. The first is the difference between some mills who have a very small amount of business and others that have a large amount; and second, the fact that a mill that fluctuates as between seasons.
Mr. ELLENBOGEN. I am not losing sight of that at all. You still have unemployment in your industry:
Mr. Besse. We employ more people than we did in 1929.
Mr. ELLENBOGEN. But you have a lot of these Government contracts from the C. C. C. camps, have you not?
Mr. BESSE. We have had some.
Mr. ELLENBOGEN. But you could not sell any of those under this bill unless you would live up to the standards of the bill. I was over in Japan a few months ago, and I want to tell you that the woolen industry is just developing in a tremendous way, and they can sell for much less than you can. And, as you said in your direct testimony, they are just beginning to show samples of Japanese woolens here. They are making sweaters, coats, and all kinds of woolens, and very good ones. Do you think the members of your association are in favor of going before Congress and asking for protection against that condition?
Mr. BESSE. Yes; if it becomes an item of importance.
Mr. ELLENBOGEN. You believe in Government aid in that respect but you are not so sure that you believe in it in other respects?
Mr. BESSE. If I were prepared to accept the definition of “aid”, yes. Mr. ELLENBOGEN. Isn't that Government aid?
Mr. BESSE. What you think might aid the industry, Mr. Congressman, I might or might not think would aid the industry. If it aids the industry, my answer is "yes."
Mr. ELLENBOGEN. If you were in my place and if you were a public official, a member of Congress, and would endeavor to find out what is good for the textile industry and for the United States as a whole, would you consult only the employers or would you consult the employees also?
Mr. BESSE. You might also consult the customers.
Mr. ELLENBOGEN. And you cannot do it by using your way and the employees cannot do it by their way; and we are sitting in between the two, representing the public, and we are trying to do the best for all three.
Mr. BESSE. I have no doubt of it. There is only the difference of opinion as to the efficacy of the methods proposed.
Mr. ELLENBOGEN. Of course, you represent the point of view of the employers and do not come here to represent the point of view of the employees nor that of the public. Still you must admit, if you are fair, that we must consider all of those viewpoints.
Mr. BESSE. I do not quarrel there, Mr. Ellenbogen.
Mr. KELLER. You say you have more men at work now than you had in 1929?
Mr. BESSE. Yes, sir; we have. Mr. KELLER. Proportionately what is it now as compared with 1929?
Mr. BESSE. The hourly pay?
Mr. KELLER. I mean during the year. If Bill Jones worked a year in 1929 and then worked a year in 1935, in which year would he receive the more money?
Mr. BESSE. Assuming that he was steadily employed?
Mr. KELLER. And what were the facts? That is what I am trying to get at. Was he more steadily employed in 1929 than now or was he more steadily employed in 1935 than in 1929?
Mr. BESSE. Taking the year as a whole I would say there is not very much difference. But the difference in his wages arises from the fact that while the hourly wages now are substantially equivalent to what they were in 1929, in 1929 he worked more hours per week, so that he took home more in his pay envelope than he takes home today.
Mr. KELLER. That is what I wanted to find out.
Mr. KELLER. You say you believe that industry can control itself better than a Government commission?
Mr. BESSE. I did not say that, Mr. Keller. I said that to date we had done a pretty good job. I am not saying that I may not come on my knees to you a year from now and ask for help. I am simply giving you the situation as it appears to exist at the present time.
Mr. KELLER. I am trying to get from you the view of all industry put together when I ask this question. Unquestionably, as has been stated here, in the Seventy-second and Seventy-third Congresses the industries of the country did come before the Congress and admit they had made a tremendous failure of running the country and asked
a the Congress to save the industry of the country. And the Congress did that. And at that time in a little talk on the floor of the House I called attention to the fact that the fingers of industry were crossed when they were making these requests and that as soon as we put them on their feet again they would turn around and not want Government interference. In other words, business asked for Government interference strenuously in 1932 and 1933 but just as strongly object to it in 1934, 1935, and 1936.
Mr. Besse. The difficulty, as I see it, is finding exactly the amount of Government control that is good for the patient. The difficulty is we might suggest 40 hours, but if you fix 40 or 35 or some other figure,