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It will give the decent, fair contractor a break with those contractors who are not decent in the treatment of their employees.
Unless there are questions, I thank you.
The CHAIRMAN. Next witness? Nobody in favor of the bill? FURTHER STATEMENT OF HON. DAVID I. WALSH, UNITED STATES
SENATOR FROM MASSACHUSETTS
Senator Walsh. Mr. Chairman and gentlemen of the Committee: I would like first of all to review the history of this legislation. Up to the Supreme Court decision every person doing business with the Federal Government had to comply and agree in writing when they made the contract to meet these stipulations that are mentioned in this bill; not only these stipulations but many more which I will refer to directly, because they had to solemnly agree to abide by and live up to and support the terms of the code. So we are not dealing with a new proposition of Government contracts requiring some stipulations in regard to labor conditions.
The Finance Committee conducted the investigation into the operations of the N. R. A. Not a single, solitary witness, with possibly one exception or two, which I cannot think of, appeared before that committee without saying it is desirable and important to retain the three things, the labor features of this bill. There were severe and bitter criticism of the N. R. A., but it related to various other features of it that are not embodied in any way in this bill.
There were bitter attacks upon it because of price fixing. There were bitter attacks upon it because in the code making the bigger industries monopolized and injected terms into the codes that were a disadvantage to the small ones. There was a bitter attack upon the way it was being administered by code authorities in the various states, bitter attacks upon the assessments made and the wages paid to those who were conducting the code authorities. And there were bitter attacks made on some of the terms of the codes, and some of the terms which they had relating to fair competition.
But in all these hearings no one ever said that the wage provisions were not satisfactory. Indeed, one of the witnesses who has appeared here—and most of the witnesses who appeared against this appeared before the Finance Committee protesting the N. R. A.Mr. Edgerton when he appeared before the committee was asked by Mr. LaFollette-I refer to page 1594:
Mr. LA FOLLETTE. Would it be a fair statement that questionnaires showed practical unanimity of opinion in favor of some proper application of minimum wages?
Mr. EDGERTON. Yes.
Mr. EDGERTON. Yes, sir; those two things. Those two things were the two things on which all of them, practically all of them, expressed an interest.
The CHAIRMAN. “ Expressed an interest”—do you construe that to mean that they were in favor of it, Senator?
Senator WALSH. Yes. I did not continue the reading of it. But they were in favor of it, yes, in all of the questionnaires.
It was really interesting the zeal and earnestness with which every manufacturer who took the witness stand began his first sentence“Of course, I have nothing against the minimum wage provisions. I have no protest to make against the maximum-hours provision." It was, as I say, with great unanimity.
Now, when the Supreme Court decision came, apparently the administration determined to make an effort to preserve the labor conditions that had been incorporated under the N. R. A. Therefore, this bill was drafted by the Solicitor General and was presented to me as chairman of the Committee on Education and Labor. It ordinarily would have gone to the Finance Committee, but the Finance Committee had so much work that it was impossible to take. I introduced the bill, bearings were held, and the bill written and rewritten and rewritten; because it was necessary to deal with every bureau and every department of the Government to get their different viewpoints, and I am happy to say now, as the bill is written, it practically has unanimous support of every bureau or department that is engaged in the business of purchasing supplies for the Government.
The CHAIRMAN. Senator Walsh, there was a suggestion, I believe, by Mr. Reed when he appeared that there should be two or three amendments. Will you speak on those ?
Senator Walsh. Yes; I will be glad to talk about those directly. I want to say just a little about the philosophy of the bill, because that is exceedingly important. Then I am going to speak briefly about the main features of the bill.
If Henry Ford should, tomorrow, announce that in the future whenever he deals with a subcontractor, whenever he purchases supplies, in the management of his great institution, he is going to require certain minimum-labor conditions, he would be hailed as the greatest leader in industry in the world, and he would be recognized as a great philanthropist and the man, perhaps more than any other living human being, who was helping lift up and perpetuate the principles of this bill.
All this bill does is substitute for the word “Henry Ford” the • United States Government.” If I were contemplating the building of a house tomorrow, and I said to the builder of that house, * Here is the cement. Here is the lumber. Here is the iron. Here is the brick that should be used ”, I would say I have specified those and done all I can do. But if I said, “Mr. Contractor, I want to put some provisions in this contract to take care of the human elements. I want to write in there that no man can work more than minimum hours and I want a minimum wage", what would you think of me? Would it not be received with unanimous approval?
Mr. Chairman, there are two features in every contract, materials that go into the contract and the human side, and all through these years we have failed to put into our contracts the human element, the invisible item.
Mr. PERKINS. Senator, do you mind an interruption ?
Mr. PERKINS. Why does the Government have to put the human element into its contracts?
Senator WALSH. It should do it.
Mr. PERKINS. Then do you favor an amendment to this bill as suggested here by someone to that effect ?
Senator WALSH. It should do it.
Mr. MICHENER. You want to put section 10 back?
Senator WALSH. Yes. It was modified by the Navy Yard. The reason it was lifted from the bill was because private shipping interests objected to it, because it shifted them from 40 to 36. Now the President will take care of that by his executive order under this bill.
Mr. Robson. Senator, if you will permit me-
Mr. Robson. Some years ago in Congress we helped to pass the Cooper Act excluding convict-made goods in interstate shipment, and the States now are bound by that in their penal institutions. But if I understood you, you are willing to put in this law a provision to permit the United States Government to use its convict-made goods. Now, why shouldn't the same kind of law apply to the Government?
Senator WALSH. I have expressed no sentiments. I am not in sympathy with that.
Mr. ROBSION. You are not?
Mr. Robson. I am glad to hear that. But that is in this bill, is it not, Senator? That provision is in this bill?
Senator Walsh. There is no provision in this bill—the omission from the bill might be construed to lead to what you say, the fact that there is not a provision in the bill.
I wanted you to think of this bill in terms of injecting the invisible into it; and as Senator Borah said, regardless of N. R. A. and he is a bitter opponent of N. R. A., a bitter opponent-he says, “I marvel in all these years there has not been a law like this upon the statute books."
It has nothing to do with the N. R. A. We did learn from the N. R. A. that minimum wages and maximum hours were important and helpful. And why have we a maximum hour! Listening to these manufacturers, they would seem to forget what the purpose of the maximum hours is. It is to spread employment during this depression, to stop people being worked 56 hours and 60 hours and 48 hours, and try to get down to 40 hours, so they could employ more people. That is the reason. It was not to hamstring industry. It was not to put industry in a strait-jacket. It was for the purpose of taking care of people who were unemployed and try to obtain employment for them.
Now, Mr. Chairman, if I have said sufficient about the objective of this bill—and I feel certain that everyone here will agree that it is desirable if possible to improve human conditions I cannot conceive, gentlemen, as I have worked over this bill, of my making a greater human contribution in all the years of my public life than that I was able to have written in every Government contract provision for the protection of the human elements-not for the kind of steel but the treatment of the human beings that work on the steel—and I conceive that that is just as reasonable and just as possible in the operation of this bill.
What does the bill do? It deals, first of all, with no living human being except one who deals with the Government. Any other individual, unless he wants to make a contract with the Government, can run his factory as he sees fit, irrespective of the principles of minimum wage and maximum hours. It is when that individual or company comes to the Government and asks a favor, if I may use the word, asks permission to enter into a contract where it knows it will be certain to receive its money; and when that time comes or when the time comes to ask for a loan, it is proposed to say, "We intend to ask you in that contract to abide by ”—what? By a few of the labor conditions that you already have abided by, that you already agreed to, that were in operation for over a year, until the Supreme Court decision.
There has not been a dollar loaned by the Federal Reserve bank up to the time of the Supreme Court decision where they did not stipulate in writing that they not only would comply with these terms of the code but with the additional terms that I have referred to that have been eliminated and that were protested against. It was in writing.
This is no new proposition. It is a question of whether we will retain the conditions we imposed, because since the Supreme Court decision there has been a mad rush here, there, and everywhere to break down all the standards. It is an honest effort to retain the conditions and the terms that were made in Government loans and in Government contracts.
Now, it is going to be hard to administer. It is going to be hard for Henry Ford, to use the illustration, in every detail, in every particular.
When it comes to imports, of course, it has to be abandoned. I cannot apply those conditions to imports, so the Government has that to contend with. But when it is possible to do so, when it is practical to do so, they will be applied. And we expect, after all, administrative officers to be practical. They are practical when they are dealing with the strength of the steel; they are practical when they are dealing with the kind of lumber; they are practical when they deal with the nature and character of the plumbing, and comply with all the sanitary laws and rules and regulations.
Can't they he practical, too, when they are required to conduct their operations under these minimum labor requirements?
So it is provided that when the Government presents a petition or presents a request for bids, it shall set forth, if it chooses because There will be cases where the President cannot do so, or the bureaus who act through him—certain minimum wages and maximum hours. There will be cases where there will only be maximum hours possible in the request for bids. There will be cases where there is only minimum wages.
In the codes in the fixing of minimum wages, in the basic-material group, there was one code where the minimum wage was 20 cents. There were 15 codes where the minimum wage was 21 to 29 cents. There were 39 codes where the minimum was 30 to 39 cents. There were eight codes where the minimum wage was 40 cents per hour. That is just in one group alone, basic material.
In the chemical group, there were 7 codes where the minimum was 21 to 29 cents; 59 where it was 30 to 39 cents; 6 codes with a ininimum wage of 40 cents an hour.
Of course, that is why the codes have to be referred to and were referred to, because in determining the written proposal the President expected to take into consideration the cost of living, the con
dition of the industry during 1934, and what the codes did say about minimum wages, because they were all worked out, it is assumed, with the cooperation of the employers and the employees, and that is the standard under which industry operated during that time.
The President of the United States had to make 96 exceptions to one Executive order in the administering of the N. R. A. He would have to make exceptions in this, but his exceptions must be before he asks for the bids. That is why there is no hardship done. The bid in writing say's what the hours of labor shall be. The written proposal or request for bids says what the minimum wage shall be. If the employer does not want to abide by it he does not have to bid. If he does desire to bid, he must comply with those terms and agree that he not only will comply with those terms but that he will agree that the subcontractors under him will comply with these terms.
Mr. Perkins. Pardon me, Senator. Did I understand you to say the exception had to be made before the bid?
Senator Walsh. No exceptions. The preparation, the determination of what shall be the minimum wage and what shall be the hours of labor must all be set forth in the written request for bids, because of which, therefore, it has got to be determined before. Then there is a contractual relation where both parties have legal rights.
Mr. PERKINS. But section 6 says that the contract may be modified.
Senator Walsh. It can be modified, of course. Any contract can be modified after it is entered into; can be modified and changed. When a party who has a contract with the Navy Department comes to the Navy Department and says to them that it is impracticable, impossible, to comply with the 40 hours, it can be waived, as is provided in section 6.
I don't want to have this committee think, as was suggested on the floor, how unfair it would be if we put in the provision for 40 hours, as the 30-hour bill does. I can see how unfair it would be, in the face of a great divergence of codes where the maximum hours varied from 30 to 48 hours, some 42, some 40, some 38, some 36.
It is impossible, of course-impossible—to write into a law that +0 hours shall be the maximum, as we would like to do, and give no discretion to anybody. It is impossible to put in that the minimum wage shall be 20 cents, because I have just shown you figures where it varies in almost every kind of industry.
So it is expected that in the preparation of the written requests for bids that shall be carefully determined, just as it is determined what kind of lumber, just as it is determined what kind of plumbing, just as it is determined what kind of coal will be consumed, when it comes to the question of buying coal the kind and quality and nature and type of it, and what kind of granite will be desired.
All of that we hear no complaints about. It is not a charge against bureaucracy to entrust a bureau chief with determining the kind of graz'te that shall go into this building or the nature and kind of coal the Government uses, or the kind of plumbing. Ah. but it is bureaucracy when we ask that in a Government contract there shall be some consideration for the men who work and the women who work and toil in the making of the goods for the Gorernment.
Mr. Robsion. Will the chairman permit a question?