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Wages and Hours of Labor. - With the industrial depression of the preceding year practically eliminated and very little actual unemployment existing, a noticeable dissatisfaction regarding both wages and hours of labor was evidenced, particularly in the machine and metal trades.
A concerted effort by machinists and toolmakers, particularly those engaged in the making of war munitions for export, was made to secure increases in wages generally throughout the Commonwealth. The success of this movement varied according to localities; as a direct result of the action of the Machinists' and Toolmakers' Unions of Springfield, the wages were substantially increased and the hours reduced, so that at the close of 1915 many of the larger establishments and a majority of the machine shop employees were working on the 48-hour a week basis. In other localities metal trades employees secured important changes in rates of wages and hours of labor. In the City of Worcester, through the action of the Machinists' Union, the wages were increased in a number of establishments and hours of labor were reduced from 55 hours weekly to 54, 52, 50, and in some cases to 48.
Efforts made by employees in certain occupations to secure a "40hour week" marked the beginning of an important movement in this Commonwealth. Four organizations succeeded in securing a five-day week of eight hours per day (no work being performed on Saturday) instead of the forty-four hour week (eight hours on five days and four hours on Saturday). These organizations were: Boston-Operative Plasterers; Somerville-Operative Plasterers; Boston - Plasterers Tenders; and Boston Wood, Wire and Metal Lathers. In each case the reduction in hours was secured with only a slight reduction in the total weekly compensation.
GENERAL REVIEW OF THE LABOR MOVEMENT IN MASSACHUSETTS IN 1915.
1. PRINCIPAL INDUSTRIAL DISPUTES.
Records on file in this office1 show that there was a surprisingly small number of strikes in Massachusetts during the year 1915, and of those which did occur, there were none that were attended by the disturbances and turbulence which characterized so many of the labor disputes of former years. The occupation most affected by strikes was that of machinists, and a close connection is traceable between the demands for increased wages made by machinists and the large orders for munitions which have been placed with companies in this State; the employees. naturally wished for and demanded a share of the enormous profits which were reputed to be involved. As for locality, Springfield appeared to be the storm center.
The State Board of Conciliation and Arbitration, during the year ending December 31, 1915, investigated 209 disputes, many of which might have been the occasion of open conflict. That a distinct success has attended these efforts to settle controversies by more peaceful methods than the strike or the boycott, is evidenced by the fact that of the 209 cases investigated, 86 were voluntarily submitted to the Board to be determined by arbitration, 100 cases were amicably adjusted as a result of the Board's conciliation, and of the remaining 23 cases, all except five were finally settled in accordance with the recommendations of the Board. The most important of the strikes in 1915 are briefly described 2 as follows:
1. A strike of about 4,000 employees occurred at the plant of the United States Cartridge Company in Lowell, and lasted nearly three weeks. For about two weeks of this time the factory was closed, resulting in a loss of employment by those of the 5,000 employees who had not gone out. The strikers were organized into a union by a representative of the American Federation of Labor.
1 Although this Bureau discontinued its detailed statistical reports on Strikes and Lockouts following the year 1912, it has endeavored to prepare a general review of the industrial disputes which have occurred since then, basing this review on reports by other boards and organizations which have given careful attention to this subject, and upon numerous press clippings which have been subjected to thorough analysis.
2 For a fuller description of these and other strikes which were investigated by the State Board of Conciliation and Arbitration, see the Thirtieth Annual Report of that Board for the year ending December 31, 1915.
2. About 600 machinists went on strike at the factory of the Becker Milling Machine Company, in the Hyde Park section of Boston. One week later, the strike had spread to the works of the National Machine and Tool Company in South Boston, where 300 machinists walked out; several days later, at another Hyde Park plant, that of the B. F. Sturtevant Company, a large number of employees was called out. After about six weeks, the employees of the Becker Milling Machine Company began to return to work; in the case of the other two plants, the men returned in a few days.
3. A strike of freight handlers in Boston affected three roads and 1,200 employees, and continued several weeks. It began with a strike of 550 men employed by the Boston & Maine Railroad; within two days they were joined by 450 from the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad, and about 200 from the Boston & Albany Railroad. In the case of the Boston & Albany Railroad, the strike was settled in about three weeks. The strike on the other two roads had not been definitely settled at the close of the year, although 180 of the employees of the Boston & Maine Railroad had returned to work.
4. A strike of machinists employed by the Union Twist Drill Company, at Athol, lasted about fifteen days. The number called out was estimated as high as 572, but it was claimed that not all of these were skilled machinists, as many other employees had quit in sympathy. There were rumors, in the early days of the strike, that leaders of the Industrial Workers of the World were about to gain control - rumors which later proved groundless.
5. A strike of 1,100 machinists of the Hendee Manufacturing Company of Springfield affected the whole plant and continued for 10 days. Besides the unorganized employees who were rendered idle, the strike affected members of the Machinists', the Sheet Metal Workers', the Blacksmiths', the Drop Forgers' and the Polishers' Unions.
6. A strike of 350 employees of the Springfield Metal Body Company, at Springfield, lasted about 10 days. A large number of the men were members of one of several unions - Carpenters, Sheet Metal Workers, Painters, Blacksmiths, and Machinists and they received the support of the Internationals with which the local unions are affiliated.
7. A strike occurred at the plant of the Fiberloid Company, in Springfield, when 25 of the 600 men and women employed there went out from the roller department. Four days later, their number was increased by 450, and the factory ceased to operate. The strikers were organized into a Federal Union, and their cause was supported by the Central Labor Union. In a little less than three weeks, the strike was settled.
2. LABOR LEGISLATION IN 1915.1
Each year there comes before the Legislature a great number of bills which affect industrial conditions, and in which the workingmen of the State are vitally interested. Organized labor, in supporting such measures, works largely through the Legislative Committee of the Massachusetts State Branch of the American Federation of Labor, and the following descriptive list of the more important measures is based principally on the report of that Committee.
Relieving Congestion of Population and Providing Homes for Citizens (Resolve 129). This is a constitutional amendment authorizing the Commonwealth to take land, and to hold, improve, subdivide, build upon, or sell it, for the purpose of relieving congestion, and of providing homes for citizens. (This amendment was ratified and adopted by the voters at the State election in 1915.)
Weekly Payment of Wages (Chapters 75 and 214). By the former act, Chapter 514 of the Acts of 1909 was further amended to include laborers in the building industry. The latter act makes possible a prompt appeal to the courts when wages are not paid at the time they fall due.
Lien for Labor (Chapter 292). — This is a general revision of the Mechanics' Lien law. One of the chief provisions of this act (Section 9) establishes substantially the form of bond which may be recorded in the registry of deeds as surety for the payment of wages. This legislation was secured to aid in the collection of wages by men engaged in the building industry.
Workmen's Compensation. The specific amendments offered by the State Branch to the Workmen's Compensation Act were lost, but nine amendments were passed, the most important of which were:
Chapter 236, providing that in case of an injury to a minor, future increases in his
wages may be taken into consideration in determining the amount of his weekly compensation.
Chapter 179, allowing suit to be brought at common law when death results from the negligence of the employer and is preceded by conscious suffering.
Chapter 132, providing for payments to the injured workmen while an appeal to the courts is pending.
Chapter 244, obliging each city and town to appoint an official to be responsible for the payments under the Workmen's Compensation Act:
1 Under this caption have been discussed only those more important measures which received the support of organized labor. For a list of the labor laws enacted and of bills introduced during the session, see Massachusetts Labor Bulletin No. 110, entitled "Labor Legislation in Massachusetts, 1915."
See Report of the Proceedings of the Thirtieth Annual Convention of the Massachusetts State Branch, American Federation of Labor, pp. 58 to 63.
Women and Children. - Six acts were passed relating to the labor of women and children, as follows:
Chapter 27, relative to the moving by women of boxes and other receptacles in mills and workshops.
Chapter 57, forbidding overtime work because of stopping of machinery for the celebration of a holiday.
Chapter 70, providing a penalty for altering employment certificates.
Chapter 81, providing that the compulsory school age shall begin at seven years instead of at five.
Chapter 216, requiring manufacturing establishments employing one hundred or more persons, to provide suitable accommodations for the treatment of persons injured or taken ill upon the premises.
Chapter 266, providing for the establishment of day classes and further regulating evening classes in practical arts for women.
Penalties for Violating the Laws Relative to Sanitary Devices in Factories (Chapter 69). This act provides punishment for violating the laws relative to sanitary and protective devices in manufacturing establish
Drinking Water to be Provided for Employees (Chapter 117). — By this act, all industrial establishments are required to provide fresh and pure drinking water for employees during working hours.
Posting of Information in Places of Employment (Chapter 65). – Employers are by this act compelled to post in conspicuous places such notices as the Minimum Wage Commission may issue for the information of employees.
Electricians and Certain Electrical Workers to be Licensed (Chapter 296). -This bill, providing for the registration and licensing of electrical workers and contractors, was introduced with the support of the State Branch, and was enacted.
Among other measures which received the active support of organized labor was the constitutional amendment authorizing a tax on incomes from intangible property.
With reference to non-contributory old age pensions the Legislative Committee reported as follows:
The growth of sentiment in this Commonwealth for non-contributory pensions to the aged is reflected in the fact that the House of 1915, on roll call, showed 97 in favor with 120 in opposition. The need for such pensions to the workers who have given their strength and energy in upbuilding the material welfare of the state is almost a universally acknowledged fact. Difficulties confronting such legislation should simply serve as a spur to action. The State Branch at this convention in our judgment might well take notice of this growing movement and lend its influence by direct initiative to the establishment of legislation in this respect.