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BRANDEIS, J., dissenting.
244 U. S.
$2. In the Seattle free municipal agency the cost of operation, per position filled, was reduced to a trifle over 4 cents. The preliminary steps for establishing "Distribution Stations” under the federal system, including one at Seattle, had been taken before the passage of the Washington law. Later branch offices were established in thirteen other cities. 4
Washington State Bureau of Labor Report 1913–14, p. 291.
W. D. Wheaton, Labor Agent.—“The complaint against the private office is almost universal. The experience of this office is that private agencies charge all that the traffic will bear and that in hard times, when work is scarce and the worker poverty stricken, the fee is placed so high as to be almost prohibitive, and the agencies take longer chances, sometimes sending men on only a rumor, depending on their financial straits to make it impossible to return.
"The fees charged run from $1.00 for the poorest job of uncertain duration to as high as 10 per cent. of the first year's salary in educational lines, and 30 per cent. of the first month's salary in office or mercantile lines. Most of the agencies catering to the better class of positions charge a registration fee which is worked to the limit-or rather without limit. Advertisements for attractive positions are placed with the newspapers and registration is made of all that apply, irrespective of whether the position has been filled or not, and generally at a fee of $2.00 or more. This registration fee is always followed by a percentage of the earnings when a position is secured, but only a small proportion of those registering are placed in positions. "The average charge per position in all agencies will run high, and
the applicant cannot having a feeling of security in the position obtained for the reason that the great majority of private agencies are primarily interested in the fee and are not as careful in placing applicants as they would be did the possibility of another fee not exist." a United States Bureau of Labor Bulletin No. 109, p.
136. “The extremely low cost of each position filled is noteworthy, as is the large number of positions secured. A total of 37,834 positions were filled in 1906, and in 1909, 38,846. The cost per position was lowest in 1906, only 4.03 cents. Only twice since 1897 has the average cost gone above 6 cents."
• See Report of Secretary of Labor, 1914, p. 51.
* Aberdeen, Bellingham, Custer, Everett, Friday Harbor, Lynden, Noosack, North Yakima, Port Angeles, Port Townsend, Spokane,
BRANDEIS, J., dissenting.
4. The Fundamental Problem. The problem which confronted the people of Washington was far more comprehensive and fundamental than that of protecting workers applying to the private agencies. It was the chronic problem of unemploymentperhaps the gravest and most difficult problem of modern industry-the problem which, owing to business depression, was the most acute in America during the years 1913 to 1915. In the State of Washington the suffering from unemployment was accentuated by the lack of staple industries operating continuously throughout the year and by unusual fluctuations in the demand for labor with consequent reduction of wages and increase of social unrest.? Students of the larger problem of unemployment appear to agree that establishment of an adequate system of employment offices or labor exchanges 3 is an in
Takoma, Walla Walla. Monthly Review of U. S. Labor Statistics, July, 1915, p. 9. See Report of Secretary of Labor, 1915, p. 36; 1916, p. 54. Hearings Committee on Labor, on H. R. 5783, to establish a National Employment Bureau. 64th Cong., 1st sess., February, 1916,
1 The Unemployment Crisis of 1914-1915, 5 American Labor Legislation Review,
475. Washington State Bureau of Labor Report, 1913–1914, pp. 13, 16–17. Unemployment Survey, 5'American Labor Legislation Review, 482, 483 (1915).
• Recent Advances in the Struggle against Unemployment, by Prof. Charles R. Henderson, 2 American Labor Legislation Review, 105, 106 (1911). "The point of starting ameliorative effort is the employment agency or 'labor exchange.'
“When we compare the ordinary employment office with the board of trade for cotton or grain, or with the bankers' clearing-house, we begin to realize how belated, rudimentary and primitive our present labor exchange is. Yet the issues at stake are quite as vital in the case of demand and supply in the labor market as in the stock and grain exchange."
A Problem of Industry, 4 American Labor Legislation Review, p. 211: "The labor market is unorganized, resulting in confusion, waste and BRANDEIS, J., dissenting.
dispensable first step toward its solution. There is reason to believe that the people of Washington not only considered the collection by the private employment offices of fees from employees a social injustice; ' but that they considered the elimination of the practice a necessary
loss to employers and employees. It means suffering to individual workers and their families, a lowering of the standard of living, impaired vitality and efficiency, and a tendency for the unemployed to become unemployable, dependent, degraded. In fact, the demoralizing effect of unemployment upon the individual is matched only by its wastefulness to society.”
The Prevention of Unemployment, 5 American Labor Legislation Review, p. 176:
“An essential step toward a solution of the priblem of unemployment is the organization of the labor market through a connected network of public employment exchanges. This is vitally important as a matter of business organization and not of philanthropy. It is of as much importance for the employer to find help rapidly and efficiently as it is for the worker to find work without delay. The necessity of organized markets is recognized in every other field of economic activity, but we have thus far taken only timid and halting steps in the organization of the labor market. The peddling method is still, even in our 'efficient’industrial system, the prevalent method of selling labor. Thus a purely business transaction is carried on in a most unbusiness-like, not to say medieval manner.”
Public Employment Bureaus, Charles B. Barnes, 5 American Labor Legislation Review, p. 195:
"Unemployment is no longer intermittent in this country; it has come to be a chronic condition which needs to be dealt with in a regular and systematic manner. The first step in properly dealing with this situation is the establishing of a series of coöperating public employment bureaus."
The Unemployed in Philadelphia, Department of Public Works (1915), p. 113.
What is done for the Unemployed in European Countries, U. S. Bureau of Labor Bulletin No. 76, pp. 741-934; The British System of Labor Exchanges, U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, No. 206.
Washington State Employment Agency Referendum, by W. M. Leiserson, 33 Survey, 87 (October 24, 1914):
“Any one who knows the employment agency business and every
BRANDEIS, J., dissenting.
preliminary to the establishment of a constructive policy for dealing with the subject of unemployment."
It is facts and considerations like these which may have led the people of Washington to prohibit the collection by employment agencies of fees from applicants for work. And weight should be given to the fact that the statute has been held constitutional by the Supreme Court of Washington and by the Federal District Court (three judges sitting)—courts presumably familiar with the local conditions and needs.
In so far as protection of the applicant is a specific purone who has tried earnestly to regulate private agencies will testify to the futility of regulation.
“But the inherent justice of the proposed Washington act can be shown in a better way. Ask the employment agent to whom he rondered the service and he will answer 'to employer and to employe.'
"Then why don't you charge the employer?'
"It is impossible. If we depended upon employers for our fees, we would have to go out of business. They simply will not pay.'
"Every time this question is put to employment agents the answer is the same: 'We charge the worker because we can get the fee from him and we cannot get it from the employer.'
“This is the downright wrong against which Washington initiative No. 8 is directed."
1 General Discussion on Unemployment, 5 American Labor Legislation Review, p. 451; T. S. McMahon, Univ. of Washington.
“The people of the state of Washington are not indifferent to the problem of unemployment nor do they show any tendency to offer charitable panaceas as a permanent remedy. They are trying to work out some constructive policy, and as a preliminary step have made it illegal for employment offices to charge fees for jobs.
"A bill will be presented to the next legislature for the establishment of a network of public employment offices all over the state. This will make possible the complete organization of the labor market, which we hope is the first step toward the organization of industry itself.
“The aggressive attitude of the leaders among the workers has impressed upon the mind of the people the fact that the problem will have to be met in another way than by providing food and clothing for a period of distress such as we are passing through at the present time.
"I believe that this attitude on the part of the working people, which
pose of the statutea precedent was furnished by the Act of Congress, December 21, 1898, 30 Stat. 755, 763 (considered in Patterson v. Bark Eudora, 190 U. S. 169) which provides, among other things:
“If any person shall demand or receive, either directly or indirectly, from any seaman or other person seeking employment as seaman, or from any person on his behalf, any remuneration whatever for providing him with employment, he shall for every such offence be liable to a penalty of not more than one hundred dollars.”
In so far as the statute may be regarded as a step in the effort to overcome industrial maladjustment and unemployment by shifting to the employer the payment of fees, if any, the action taken may be likened to that embodied in the Washington Workmen's Compensation Law (sustained in Mountain Timber Co. v. Washington, 243 U. S. 219) whereby the financial burden of industrial accidents is required to be borne by the employers. As was said in Holden v. Hardy, 169 U. S. 366, 387:
in view of the fact that from the day Magna Charta was signed to the present moment, amendments to the structure of the law have been made with increasing frequency, it is impossible to suppose that they will not continue, and the law be forced to adapt itself to new conditions of society, and, particularly to the new relations between employers and employés as they arise.”
In my opinion, the judgment of the District Court should be affirmed.
MR. JUSTICE HOLMES and MR. JUSTICE CLARKE concur in this dissent.
is characteristically western, will do more towards the solution of this problem than perhaps we, who discuss it in a theoretical way, can accomplish. They do have some plan of action, and some definite program. Either we shall have to work out some program of ultimate solution of unemployment, or we will have to accept the solution they are offering us. The one they are offering us is socialism.”